Actions

Work Header

Caught In A Web

Chapter Text

****
This was it. After nearly four agonizingly long months, everything would be over. He’d be safe. He’d be okay. They had the right place this time. They would rescue him. Everything was going to be alright.

Edgeworth’s heart pounded violently as he kept pace with Detective Gumshoe and the unit of officers swiftly moving through the large abandoned building. Maya was behind him, having taken off her geta sandals in order to run easier as they all moved up the flights of stairs from one floor to the next. She insisted on coming along, refusing to abide by his order of staying outside with the many other officers surrounding the area. He couldn’t deny her; she cared and loved him just as much as he did, had endured just as many sleepless nights worrying about and crying over him. Now that they had good reason to believe this was the right location, he couldn’t tell her she’d have to wait to see him, to have confirmation that he was at least alive.

Swarming over the seventh and final floor, there was no trace of anyone found. Both Edgeworth and Maya felt their hopes falling, the helplessness and grief mounting exponentially.

“No sign of anyone, sir,” an officer reported to Gumshoe.
“There has to be some sort of mistake!” Edgeworth shouted angrily. “He’s here! He has to be!”
“We’ve searched this whole place,” Gumshoe stated despondently. “He’s not here. I’m sorry.”

The room began spinning, causing the prosecutor to stumble towards the nearest wall to slide down and sit on the floor. He believed he was going to be sick at any moment from the way his stomach was doing flip-flops. Remembering Maya, he glanced at her to view her reaction to the news and was surprised to find her in one of her spiritual stances – eyes closed, head slightly bowed, and index fingers pressed together.

Please tell me you have some sort of link to him, he thought desperately. Or perhaps Mia, and she has one to him. Anything.

“There’s a basement,” she suddenly said. “He’s there.”
“A basement?!” Gumshoe exclaimed. “How did we miss it?! Let’s go! Move! Move! Move!”

Taking Maya’s offered hand, Edgeworth got to his feet and the two raced after the officers.

“I hope you’re right about this,” he huffed, all the running making him winded.
“I’m fairly certain. Mia has been with him. And….”
“And?” He noted the distressed expression she bore, resulting in his anxiety skyrocketing.
“He’s not well. He’s in a lot of pain.”
Edgeworth clenched his jaw and was able to hold back the tears that threatened to escape. Hang in there, Phoenix. We’re coming. We’re right here. Please stay strong.

-****-
-Four months prior-

It was ten after seven when his phone rang. He smiled at the sight of Edgeworth’s name showing on the screen and answered, “Calling to congratulate me on another job well done in the courtroom?”
“Hardly,” was the unamused reply.
“You know, we do work pretty well together, uncovering the truth as a team instead of you always insisting on a guilty verdict.”
“I suppose that’s true, but you still have a long way to go.”
“Gee, thanks.” He really can’t ever give me credit, can he? he thought amusedly.
“I was calling to see if you wanted to accompany me to dinner this evening.”
“Are you buying?”
“Isn’t it your turn?”
“Well that’s rude.”
“What?”
“You’re the one who invited me! I shouldn’t be the one you assume is paying.” He nearly laughed from the silence on the other end of the line, knowing he was being successful at annoying his friend.
“Very well,” Edgeworth at last replied. “How does eight sound?”
“Can we make it closer to nine? I’m supposed to be meeting with a potential client around eight about a case.”
“Why so late?”
“Apparently he doesn’t get off work until that time and can’t meet in the mornings either.”
“Alright then. I can pick you up from the office, if you’d like.”
“Sure, sounds good. It’s a date.” Phoenix could see the eye-roll in his mind without Edgeworth even being in front of him, prompting him to grin in amusement.
“You know I dislike when you say that.”
“Which is why I do. Besides, why not just call it what it is?”
“I’ll see you at nine, Wright.”
The frigid farewell almost caused Phoenix to burst out laughing. “I’m looking forward to it.” Not until after he hung up the phone did he chuckle and say, “I wish he’d lighten up a bit. He makes it too easy to push his buttons.”

-****-
There was a knock followed by someone calling out, “Hello? Mr. Wright?”

Phoenix stood up from his desk and hurried to the door, finding a person he assumed to be his potential client in the reception area. The man wore jeans and a white t-shirt, was slightly taller than him, and incredibly muscular, making the defense attorney wonder if he was in the construction industry due to his build and the fact that he apparently worked long hours during the day.

“Daniel, I presume?” Phoenix asked, extending his hand for the other man to shake.
“That’s correct,” he replied, taking the greeting.
Jeeze, he’s got quite the grip! Phoenix thought, wincing a bit from the powerful squeeze the man gave. “I’m Phoenix Wright.”
“Daniel Lackey. Thanks for meeting with me. Sorry it had to be so late.”
“That’s alright. I’m here to help if I can. Come in and let’s talk.”

He led Daniel into his office and motioned toward one of the couches, which the man accepted the gesture and sat down.

“Can I get you something to drink before we begin? Coffee? Tea? Water?”
“Coffee, please, if it’s not too much trouble.”
“None at all. Sugar or anything with it?”
“Straight black is fine.”
“Alright. I’ll be right back.”

Phoenix went to the small kitchen and poured two cups. When he returned and set them both on the table, just before he took a seat across from the other man, Daniel tentatively said, “I’m sorry, but I think I would actually like some sugar if you have some.”
“Oh, okay. Let me go grab a few packets.”

He ventured to the kitchen once more, put several packets of sugar into a small bowl, and went back to his office.

“Here we go,” he said, placing the dish on the table and sitting on the couch opposite his company. “I usually have an assistant here to help me with all this, but she’s currently away visiting family. My apologies for not being better prepared,” he said with a kind smile.
“So it’s just you here? I hate to have kept you after hours alone.”
Phoenix waved his hand politely in a sign of dismissal. “Not to worry. I don’t mind. Now, how can I possibly assist you, sir?”
“Well, I have a friend who’s in a bit of trouble. There was a murder that happened a few nights ago, and he ended up being a prime suspect. I know he’s fallen in with a questionable group of what he calls ‘friends,’ but I just don’t think he would do such a thing.”
Phoenix took a few large sips of his coffee before asking, “Was he arrested for it?”
“Not yet, but it’s only a matter of time. That’s why I wanted to meet with you to see if you’d be willing to take on his case. I’ve heard you’re the best defense attorney around.”
“Oh, well, I do try my best,” Phoenix said with a shy smile, his hand going to the back of his neck briefly in response to feeling slightly awkward from the compliment. “I would need to meet with him before I make a decision, as well as get the details about the incident.”
“I understand.”
“Is there any way he could come in tomorrow? Or I can meet him somewhere. I’ve got some time in the morning.”

It was subtle at first after the initial tasting, though the instant he took another drink of his coffee and swallowed, Phoenix realized something was undoubtedly amiss. Steadily, he became horribly dizzy, and his limbs felt as if he was moving underwater when he set the cup down on the table. He could see and hear the other man was talking yet couldn’t understand what he was saying.

What’s going on? he panicked. Did he put something in mine when I wasn’t looking? But why? Maybe it’s just coincidence?

“Could you excuse me for a second?” he inquired the best he could with the way his words were heavily slurred and hard to speak.

He wasn’t sure if Daniel responded or not as he struggled to stand up and all but stumbled out of the office into the adjacent room. His vision was becoming blurred, almost as if he was severely intoxicated, and his fingers fumbled around in his pocket to retrieve his phone before his legs buckled and he collapsed onto the floor.

Have to call Miles. Need help….Something not right….

The phone slipped from his grasp, his eyes slowly closed, and he blacked out.

-****-
When there was no sight of Phoenix outside the building, Edgeworth ventured inside and rode the elevator up to Wright & Co. Law Offices. It was shortly after nine, and he half-expected the other man to be waiting on him to arrive, yet it appeared that the defense attorney had either lost track of time or the meeting was running long. The main door was unlocked, and he casually stepped in and went straight for Phoenix’s office. His expression changed to surprise when he found it empty.

“Wright? Are you here?” he called. He strolled around the area, noticing the man’s satchel that he carried every day on the floor behind the desk. That’s odd. Why wouldn’t he take it home with him? Did he really forget it like he apparently forgot our dinner plans?

He picked up the bag and headed for the door.

I hate to leave everything unsecured, but I can bring him back afterward to lock up. It should be alright.

-****-
Walking up the stairs to Phoenix’s apartment, he found it strange that there weren’t any lights on. The windows were dark, and when no one answered the door after he knocked several times, he began to worry.

Where could he be?

He called him only to receive his voicemail message and hung up.

What is going on?

He wasn’t sure where else to search for him. Rummaging around in the bag, he found a set of keys and went through each one until the door unlocked. He hesitated a moment before opening it and moving inside.

“Wright?”

It was obvious the place was empty, intensifying his unease, while at the same time making him rather irritated. There was no sign revealing that Phoenix had been back recently, prompting him to once again try calling with no answer.

It’s not like him to be so inconsiderate. “You better have a good reason for disappearing like this, Phoenix,” he muttered hotly.

-****-
Pain. Throbbing, terrible pain. Uncomfortable. Cold.

A familiar tune reached his ears, echoing in the area all around him. Emitting a tiny groan that was muffled by the duct tape covering his mouth, Phoenix reluctantly opened his eyes, blinking several times to clear the haziness that clouded his vision, and lifted his head. The room was spacious and empty, approximately the size of a decent department store, with several circular columns forming a line down the center. He was seated on the cement floor, his back against something solid and his hands tied tightly behind it; he guessed it was one of the pillars. His clothing had been stripped off, save for his boxers, and he noticed drops of blood on his stomach and underwear that he assumed came from the source of why his head pounded unbearably.

Where am I? What happened?

The song ended, and it was only then that he realized it had been his cell phone. He looked in the direction it had sounded from, off to his left, and saw a group of six men seated around a large desk. They appeared to be approximately his age, and though it was difficult to see from the dim lighting, he believed he recognized one of them as the client he’d just met with before he passed out.

“Finally awake?” one of them asked upon noticing he’d regained consciousness.
“It’s about time,” Daniel commented. “I didn’t give him very much.”
“Maybe the extra blow to the head was a bit excessive….”
“Did your phone wake you up? Someone’s been trying to get a hold of you real bad.”

The ringtone began again, and the one in possession of the phone held it out towards Phoenix as if he could take it from him.

“M. Edgeworth. Would that be the Miles Edgeworth, the esteemed and fearsome prosecutor himself?”
Phoenix’s heart sped up, foolishly hoping his friend would somehow get the message that he was in trouble.
“Should we answer it? He’s called like, seven times. Must be something important. It’s already two in the morning.”

Two in the morning? He has to know something is wrong, Phoenix thought confidently. Surely he went up to the office to get me when he didn’t see me outside and found some sort of clue to tip him off that something happened. He knows I wouldn’t skip out on him without an explanation.

“I guess there’d be no reason to answer. You can’t really talk right now, can you?”
Phoenix attempted a response, yet it was completely indiscernible.
“You’ll have to speak louder. We can’t understand you.”

They cackled, and Phoenix could feel his face flush from the anger, frustration, and undeniable panic coursing through him now. The phone went silent, and as the group stood to approach him, the latter emotion intensified, fearing what they were intending to do next. He winced as his hair was pulled, yanking his head to the side.

“I hope you’re comfortable, Mr. Wright,” Daniel commented casually, kneeling in front of him while someone unbound his wrists. “It’s unfortunate it has to be this way. You actually seemed like a really nice guy, almost had me fooled, but….you’re going to be here for awhile.”

He whimpered as he was dragged by his hair to the more open area, away from the columns, and the pained noises continued for the next twenty minutes as they proceeded to beat him relentlessly.

-****-
With his final attempt made, Edgeworth locked the door to Phoenix’s apartment and went home. He thought about leaving some sort of note to let the defense attorney know he had his keys yet concluded that the numerous missed calls and voicemails he’d left saying as much would be sufficient.

While he felt bothered by the whole situation, he was able to fall asleep by three. When his alarm went off at eight, he wished he hadn’t stayed so late at Phoenix’s place waiting around for him. The first thing he did was check to see if there were any responses from his friend. Upon finding none, the worry began creeping back into his mind.

Could something have happened to him?

Deciding there was one more lead he could exhaust, he called Maya, who had been staying at Kurain village for the past week.

“Good morning!” was the chipper answer. “Maya speaking!”
“Hello, Maya. It’s Edgeworth.”
“Oh wow! This must be super important! You never talk to me! What is it?!”
“You haven’t by chance spoken to Wright lately, have you?”
“Just yesterday, as a matter of fact! He told me he had a date with you later that night.”
Edgeworth covered his face with his hand and shook his head. “I don’t understand why the two of you insist on using that term.”
Maya giggled. “For a prosecutor, you sure are pretty clueless sometimes.”
“And what is that supposed to mean?”
“Nothing! So what’s up? Why do you ask?”
“Well….I was wondering if he came to visit the village last night or said anything about going anywhere.”
“Nope, not here. I haven’t seen him.” Catching the hint that he wasn’t divulging the entire story, she inquired more seriously, “Is something wrong?”
Damn it. I didn’t want to alarm her. What do I say?
“Edgeworth? Is Nick okay?”
“I’m sure he’s fine. I’m just not sure where he is.”
“What?!”
“He seems to have vanished for the time being. I arrived to pick him up last night at the office and he wasn’t there. Since he left his bag, I went to his apartment and let myself in. He wasn’t there either. I’ve tried calling him, but he won’t answer his phone.”
“You better find him! You know he doesn’t just disappear! He’s not like you!”
Edgeworth frowned, though let the insult pass. “I’m sure everything is fine and there is no reason to be concerned. I imagine he’ll show up later today.”
“I certainly hope so! That’s not like him; he wouldn’t do something that would make us worry about him.”
“I know….” Everything she said was true, making it hard to argue that there really was nothing to fret over.
“You better let me know what you find out. I’ll come down there myself if I have to.”
“Alright. I will.”
“Promise?”
“I promise.”
She made a small noise of acknowledgement, serving as her approval to his word.
“Goodbye, Maya.”
“Bye.”

After hanging up, he bowed his head and sighed. He was already dreading the return call to her that he knew he’d no doubt have to make and confirm their worst fears.

Chapter Text

-****-
After cancelling all of his appointments for the day, Edgeworth returned to Wright & Co. Law Offices to begin what he reluctantly believed would inevitably turn into a full criminal investigation. For the time being, however, he chose not to involve anyone since there was still no concrete answer as to Phoenix’s whereabouts. No reason to cause a fuss when there could be a possibility that it was nothing more than a big misunderstanding.

Upon entering, he proceeded to forge a slow, meticulous path around the area, taking in every detail he could in hopes of discovering any slight thing that would seem unusual. Nothing caught his eye in the front room, to which he felt disappointment, and he moved into Phoenix’s office.

From an initial glance around the area, everything was intact here as well – nothing out of place or disturbed. He sighed and began another thorough walkthrough. The more space he covered, the deeper his heart sank. If he couldn’t acquire any evidence that something went horribly wrong, then he had no idea where to get answers. The furniture in both rooms was unharmed, nothing was broken, the books were all on the shelves, the defense attorney’s desk was a complete mess of scattered papers and folders as usual, and there wasn’t anything that seemed like it didn’t belong. There were no signs that a struggle had occurred; the entire office appeared to be just as Phoenix always left it.

I don’t understand. Where would he have gone? And without his belongings? He certainly didn’t go home.

Knowing it was rather unethical, he commenced skimming over the many papers spread across and piled on Phoenix’s desk with the intent on learning who the last client was that he saw. It was the only solid chance he had for now. Even if he eventually had to involve the police, he assumed there wasn’t much they’d be able to do. Trying to collect fingerprints on anything and everything would surely yield inconclusive results; without a particular item that the culprit had touched, it would be impossible to get a good lead.

How does he work in such conditions? he scoffed, debating on whether he should organize the paperwork himself or not. There’s no rhyme or reason to this unsorted mess.

The more pages he looked at, the more frustrated he became. While he was determined to go through every single sheet of paper, he already knew the likelihood of coming across the name of the client was absolutely none.

I’ll have to remember to check his bag. Perhaps he has something in there.

Unexpectedly, he heard the door open in the front room, resulting in him hastily setting down the pages in his hand and almost tripping over himself as he backed away from the desk. The idea of hiding under it occurred to him; however, he instead decided to collect himself, straighten his posture, and greet the visitor properly.

“Is anyone here? Mr. Wright?”

That voice. I recognize it. But why would she be here?

He crossed over to the doorway and found the defendant from the previous day’s trial, Summer Falls, waiting near the front couch. She was a gorgeous young lady with blonde hair down to her waist and an adorable awkwardness to her that made him wonder if she even knew the potential power of her looks. There was an added aura of nervousness to her today, and if it had been under any other circumstances, he wouldn’t have paid it any thought – right now though, anyone connected to Phoenix in some way was a suspect.

“Good morning, Miss Falls,” he greeted, approaching her. He spotted a bottle in her grasp, further piquing his interest in her purpose for coming.
She jumped in surprise upon finding him instead of her attorney. “Prosecutor Edgeworth? What are you doing here?”
“I had some things I needed to discuss with Mr. Wright, but he had to leave for an emergency. I am waiting for his return.”
“Oh no!” she exclaimed, holding a hand to her mouth as her expression morphed to concern. “Is he okay?”
“Yes, he’s alright. He didn’t provide the details of the situation, however. I’m sure it’ll be fine.” Unbeknownst to her, he was carefully scrutinizing her mannerisms in hopes of catching anything suspicious or out of the ordinary. So far, she genuinely seemed to be upset at the prospect of Phoenix in trouble. “Is there something I can perhaps assist you with in his absence?”
“Well, I….” She glanced away, a blush coming to her cheeks, and he wondered what could possibly make her suddenly so bashful. “I wanted to thank him for defending me during my trial. I really appreciate everything he did for me and wanted to give him this.”

She held up the bottle in her hand, and Edgeworth recognized the label as a rather expensive brand of French wine.

That’s quite an impressive gift, he thought to himself. There was a hint of envy creeping into his mind, though he rapidly shoved it aside.

“Do you know him very well?”
The question caught him entirely off guard. “I’m sorry?”
“Mr. Wright – do you know him well?”
“I suppose you could say that.”
Her anxiety was intensifying before she finally dared to ask, “Do you know if he’s seeing anyone?”
Jealousy abruptly exploded within him, and he had no explanation for it. “I don’t believe he is,” he responded stiffly.
“I wanted to ask him out to dinner to celebrate….like a date,” she added timidly.

Edgeworth could feel his own face becoming flush, and he inwardly scolded himself for having such a reaction. It was absolutely uncalled for. He should’ve felt pleased that someone so beautiful as she would be interested at all in someone as childish and naïve as Phoenix Wright. At best, he’d describe his friend as having boyishly cute looks, nothing that should constitute attention from a woman of her caliber.

He didn’t dare acknowledge the fact that he honestly found Phoenix rather attractive, nor would he ever confess that even though he’d always get annoyed at the defense attorney saying they were going on dates whenever they went out to dinner together, he secretly hoped his friend was being serious. While he didn’t think Phoenix would accept her advances had he been there – making up some sort of excuse like not wanting to compromise or take advantage of a professional relationship – her interest nevertheless made him suddenly possessive of the other man.

Get it together, Miles, he admonished himself. What in god’s name is wrong with you? There is no reason for you to feel this strongly about her expressing an interest in him. You act as if you have some sort of hidden desire for him, which would be entirely preposterous.

The commotion he felt internally as a result of her harmless statements happened within seconds and went unnoticed by her. Donning a charming grin, he replied, “I will be sure to pass the message and gift along to him when I see him again.”
Her expression brightened and she handed over the bottle. “Thank you so much! Please tell him he can call me anytime. I don’t mind.”
He felt his eyelid twitch yet retained his calm demeanor. “I shall.”

As he watched her leave to get on the elevator, he wondered how it was possible that he was practically more flustered and distressed now than he was when he’d first arrived.

-****-
There was no clock on the wall to give away the time, no windows to see if it was day or night.

Similar to before, Phoenix groaned in response to becoming aware of the awful throbbing and anguish he felt head to toe. It made him long for unconsciousness once again. Now that he was awake, he knew the pain would undoubtedly prevent him from mercifully falling back asleep.

Slowly, he opened his swollen eyelids and found himself lying on his back atop something that wasn’t the cool, concrete floor. It was an old, shabby, twin-sized mattress, and while it didn’t feel very comfortable, he knew he should be thankful for any cushion at all. Taking his time, it was several attempts before he was able to stand up and remain standing.

They must’ve left, he concluded, surveying the area. A sense of relief flooded through him. I should have a look around, see if there’s a way out of here.

With a severe limp, he began wandering the empty space that seemed much more vast now than it had previously due to how much effort it was taking to simply walk. He approached the desk across from the mattress he’d been left on, the same one that the group had been sitting at when he awoke the first time. There, he found his suit jacket slung over the back of one of the chairs. His attorney’s badge was missing from it, and although he knew it would be without even having to search the pockets, his cell phone was absent as well. Sighing heavily, he carried the jacket over to the mattress, believing it would serve as a decent pillow or blanket, and then commenced moving toward the other side of the room. More than once he had to pause and brace himself against one of the pillars, the excruciating pain in his head debilitating him to the point where he couldn’t focus on anything else and felt sick to his stomach.

When he finally reached the far wall, there was a windowless, locked door that he assumed must be the exit, and off to the right of it, he was surprised to find a hallway.

I wonder what this place is….or was….

There was a set of elevators, which he got excited upon discovering, yet his hopes quickly sank when nothing happened from pushing the up-arrow button to activate them.

Of course. I should’ve known.

At the end of the hallway, he found a bathroom with a single toilet and sink, no mirror; luckily, there was soap and a washcloth, and he was tempted to scrub his face right then and there, knowing it had to be speckled with a decent amount of blood. Deciding he could wait, he ventured to the final door opposite the elevators and found a sizeable custodial closet. A couple of brooms and mops remained, as well as other various cleaning supplies, and he spotted a drain in the floor near the back, along with a deep-basin sink with a detachable faucet hose.

Guess I can use that as a shower if I have to. Hopefully the water didn’t get shut off.

Needing confirmation, he hobbled towards the sink and twisted one of the knobs. Water gushed out of the hose, and he found himself feeling overly grateful for it. Not only did he have the option of bathing available, he also had something to drink, which was quite significant considering he had no idea if they’d give him anything.

Having explored the area the best he could, he returned to the dilapidated mattress and laid down, his body exhausted from the exertion of wandering around. As he gazed at the ceiling, the hurt still resonating everywhere, he felt the urge steadily building until at last, tears spilled from the corners of his eyes.

“I’m sorry, Miles,” he whispered. He smiled a little and added, “I hope you can forgive me.” Spreading his suit jacket over his torso to cover himself, he murmured, “I really hope you can find me.”

-****-
This time, Edgeworth didn’t even bother knocking on the door. He entered Phoenix’s apartment like he lived there himself, went straight for the defense attorney’s bag that he’d previously brought home for him, and started fishing out the papers inside. He needed a name. Just a hint. Something. Anything.

He came across a planner; however, it didn’t serve any useful purpose. The notes written in it made no sense to him, and of course, there was nothing scribbled under yesterday’s date referencing a late meeting.

Angrily, he slammed the book onto the table. It was hopeless. There was nothing. The mysterious client might as well not even exist at this point. Phoenix had no record of this person, and Edgeworth was furious at him for it.

Damn it, Phoenix! How could you not leave me with a single strand to unravel?! What if this carelessness costs you your life?!

He rested his elbows on his knees, clasped his hands together, and sat on the couch for a long while in silence. He didn’t know what to think. Was it possible that his friend merely got summoned away on an emergency, like his lie to Miss Falls, and he failed to alert anyone? Certainly. Was it also possible that the true reason the client had wanted to meet so late was due to more sinister purposes? Absolutely. It made practical sense; the building was more likely to be empty at night, leaving Phoenix alone – an easy target.

But why? I’m sure he’s made some enemies, though I never would’ve expected him to turn up missing. He sighed and rested back against the sofa. Why didn’t I ask him who it was, press him for more information on the person? I should’ve arrived sooner. I could’ve waited for him. I would’ve been able to see who it was….How did they manage to kidnap him without anyone witnessing it?

By this point, it was late afternoon. He was putting the moment off as long as he could, though with his main question seemingly answered, he knew he had to keep his word. With a heavy sigh, he reluctantly placed a call to Maya.

After three rings, a young girl’s voice answered, “Hello? Mystic Maya’s phone.”
Edgeworth was quiet for a few seconds, not sure who he was speaking to, and responded, “Yes, hello. Did you say Mystic Maya?”
“I sure did! Who is this?”
“My name is Miles Edgeworth. And who might you be?”
“I know you! I’m Pearl, her little cousin.”
“Oh, of course. Yes, I believe I know you as well. May I please speak with Maya?”
“That’s Mystic Maya.”
“My apologies, Mystic Maya.”
“Hold please!”

He heard her shout Maya’s name, and there was a noise that followed shortly after that sounded like a large splash of water. Almost a minute later, a familiar voice came on the line.

“This is Maya!”
“It’s Edgeworth. Is everything alright?”
She giggled and explained, “I’m working on my spiritual training and slipped off the rock when little Pearls caught me by surprise. But I’m fine! A little water never hurt anyone! So! What’s the scoop? Did he say why he scared us like he did?”
“Well-”
“I mean, that’s so rude of him! The least he could do was say he was sorry!”
“Well he-”
“I swear, the next time I see him-”
“Maya,” he interrupted firmly.

There was a period of silence, and he knew he had her attention. When she finally replied, her voice was strained and tiny.

“Please don’t say it.”
Edgeworth hung his head and closed his eyes. “I’m sorry. I’m afraid something has happened to him….I believe he’s been kidnapped.”
“No,” was the almost inaudible response.
“We’ll find him. I’m sure of it.” I just don’t know how, he thought, defeated.
“I’m coming down there tomorrow.”
“Maya-”
“I’m coming. There has to be something I can do to help. He did whatever he could to save me, now it’s my turn to try and do the same for him.”
Edgeworth nodded and said, “I understand. I’ll await your arrival at the train station tomorrow morning.”
“Okay. Goodbye.”
“Goodbye.”

He hung up and all at once felt exhausted. Saying it out loud made it so much more real. Phoenix was missing. Gone. He was nauseous as a result of his imagination running rampant with various scenarios involving what all could be potentially happening to the other man, wishing desperately that none of them were true. Guilt spread its way into his mind like wildfire, reiterating the same points he’d previously dwelled on, but with greater ferocity now. Being in Phoenix’s apartment – alone – wasn’t helping assuage his conscience either. There’d been a handful of times when he’d pictured himself being at his friend’s place like this; he just never expected it to occur under such tense circumstances.

Hesitantly, he stood and went into the bedroom.

Just for a few minutes, he told himself.

The feeling of wanting to leave and the need to stay confounded him. After a short debate, he went ahead and laid on the mattress, stared at the ceiling, and let out a deep breath. He didn’t like acknowledging it, but he had thought about lying in his friend’s bed on more than one occasion in the past; whenever he did, it usually included actions that went far beyond the limits of friendship. It almost felt wrong now, being there without Phoenix beside him; nevertheless, he justified it with how tired he suddenly was from so many emotions overwhelming him.

I won’t stay long. I’m sure he wouldn’t mind. A smile quirked the edges of his lips. In fact, I’m certain he would consider it a date.

Closing his eyes, he thought determinedly, I’ll find you, Phoenix. I will not abandon you again.

-****-
For the seventh time, Phoenix leaned over the toilet bowl and vomited. By this point, it was nothing more than clear liquid. The nausea hit a few hours after he’d laid down, and he wasn’t sure if it was because of a potential concussion, stress, or a combination of both. His head hurt more than any other part of his body, though his abdominal muscles were catching up with how much they had been clenching.

Please no more. Let that be the last of it.

He flushed the contents, scooted towards the wall and rested back against it. He felt both hot and cold, his breathing was heavy, and fresh tears that he didn’t even have the energy to wipe away streaked his bruised cheeks. The first few waves came one right after the other; presently, there was a lull between each for approximately ten minutes before he would have to inch closer to the toilet and puke again. The thought of eventually having to crawl all the way back to the mattress in the other room made him feel even more drained, knowing just how much the effort was going to cost him.

Since the surroundings were rather quiet, he was able to catch the sound of the main door being unlocked and opened. Immediately, his stomach tightened, and he rushed at the toilet. He felt horribly pathetic, terribly vulnerable, and dreadfully frightened. Unable to suppress it, he began sobbing through the many dry heaves he couldn’t control. The footsteps were getting closer, and there was nothing he could do.

He didn’t look at the person who entered the bathroom; perhaps avoiding eye contact would grant him some clemency. When nothing more than the noise of a rustling plastic bag occurred, he stole a glance upward to see the man standing at the sink and placing what appeared to be additional toiletries onto the counter. He didn’t turn away quickly enough, however. Their eyes met, and he felt whatever color remained in his complexion vanish. To his surprise, the man didn’t demonstrate any intimidating qualities or appear threatening whatsoever. Now that he could see him more clearly, he recognized him as the one who hadn’t struck him nearly as powerfully, or as often, in comparison to the other five.

“Brought some stuff you might need,” the stranger said quietly, his tone almost shy. He looked younger than the others by a few years at least and was around the same height, though whereas his comrades were quite muscular, he was lanky and seemed a bit awkward. He wore glasses, which only seemed to enhance his adolescent appearance, and had shoulder-length, light brown hair. His voice was light and unexpectedly kind, causing his captive to be thoroughly confused.

While Phoenix wanted to ask questions, he didn’t have the capacity to do so. With everything his body was currently suffering from, he realized it was practically impossible to form a coherent sentence. He knew his expression and the state in which he was found in must’ve given such information away, for the stranger proceeded to try and answer some of the unspoken inquiries.

“Paige,” he declared. “My name is Paige. They wanted me to bring you some supplies since you’ll be here awhile. I have shaving cream, razors, soap, shampoo, toothpaste, toothbrush, toilet paper, and some snacks since they – I mean, we – don’t know if we’ll be by with actual meals anytime soon.”

What’s with this guy? Phoenix wondered, observing him cautiously and noting how he seemed to be every bit as uncomfortable about the situation as he was. I don’t get it. He doesn’t really fit the type of someone being an accomplice to kidnapping….

“I, uh….I’ve been following your work since you defended the Steel Samurai. I’m….kind of a fan of yours,” Paige confessed, embarrassed.
Phoenix’s eyes widened. What the hell is going on?!
“Don’t tell them I said that,” he hurriedly added. Mumbling more so to himself, he went on, “She’d turn them against me if they knew.”

Phoenix’s posture straightened. He caught the statement and instantly, his mind went crazy trying to think of who this mystery “she” could be.

Recognizing his blunder, Paige quickly said, “I have to go,” and rushed out of the bathroom.

Phoenix didn’t even have the strength to object. He heard the main door close and lock, prompting him to sigh regretfully from letting his chance at information slip away.

Tiredly, he curled up on the floor and closed his eyes. There would be plenty of time to dwell on the hint later. Right now, his body demanded rest. Fortunately, the nausea was at last waning, and he was able to fall asleep within the hour.

Chapter Text

--****--
Though the door was closed quietly, it was enough to rouse Edgeworth from his sleep. He remained motionless for the most part, only turning his head to have a better view of the person who came in. Fresh from a shower, Phoenix let the towel fall from around his waist, slipped into a clean pair of underwear, and rummaged in the closet for a t-shirt.

“You can leave that off,” Edgeworth teased, yet serious at the same time.
Phoenix jumped, letting out a startled, “Jeeze!” and whirled around to find his friend snickering. “I thought you were still asleep. Don’t scare me like that.”
“My apologies.”
“How long have you been awake?”
“Long enough to catch a rather intimate view of you.”
“You make it sound like you never get to see me like this.”
“It’s merely something I won’t ever take for granted.” He could see the other man’s eyes light up delightedly, making him smile in return. “Come lie here with me.”

Accepting the request without hesitation, Phoenix crossed over to the bed and before he could fully crawl over the prosecutor’s body, Edgeworth pulled him down and kissed him. There was a muffled, pleasant noise of surprise that came from Phoenix, and he couldn’t help but grin against Edgeworth’s lips. Gentle hands cupped his face, and he rested one of his own delicately against the man’s neck.

After several long, drawn out kisses, they broke away and stared at one another.

“You want me to stay here like this?” Phoenix asked, referring to his current position on top of his friend.
Spreading his legs farther apart so that the defense attorney was more comfortably nestled between them, Edgeworth affirmed, “Yes.”
With a content smile, Phoenix whispered, “Okay,” and rested his head against Edgeworth’s chest. He closed his eyes, the relaxing sensation of the other man petting his damp hair tempting him to fall asleep. “I can’t believe it took you so long,” he sighed happily.

Edgeworth’s eyes opened wide, and he found himself greeted by an empty room lit only by the mild glow of the street lights from behind the curtains. He sat up, glanced around and then beside him, and felt the sadness returning. It was far later than what he’d initially planned on; considering this, along with the incredibly affectionate dream he’d had, he sincerely regretted staying.

Hastily, he left the apartment to return home, the imaginary scene haunting him the entire way.

-****-
When the alarm went off at seven in the morning, Edgeworth was already awake; he never was able to fall asleep again during the remainder of the night. Regardless if his eyes were opened or closed, he couldn’t stop seeing Phoenix’s face in his mind.

Adhering to his promise, he traveled to the train station to wait for Maya. Her insistence on coming into the city gave him the impression that she’d be on the first one in. He admired her tenacity for wanting to help, though he truly couldn’t think of what she might be able to do. Granted, she’d been in the office far more often than he had, so there was a chance she might discover something he’d overlooked.

It was shortly after nine o’clock when the train arrived and she stepped off amid the small crowd of passengers. She spotted him and rushed over, and without her even saying a word, he knew that she too had had a rough night.

“Alright, Edgeworth,” she said with more vigor than he expected. “We’re going to find Nick and bring him home. You and me. Let’s do this.”

-****-
When they arrived at the building, Edgeworth was confused by why she started walking around toward the back of it instead of through the main door. He didn’t question this, however, and her reasoning was soon revealed. Situated all by itself on the rack was Phoenix’s bike, the chain still securing it to the metal bar. In their eyes, it was yet another confirmation that the defense attorney hadn’t left by choice.

“Oh Nick,” Maya sighed dejectedly. “Where could you be?”

The elevator ride up to the office was silent, and he could feel the uneasiness emanating from her quite strongly. It made him realize that he didn’t want to be there either, not when it was technically a crime scene for his friend’s disappearance.

He went into the office first and said, “I was unable to gather any leads here. Everything looks to be in its place. Nothing stood out as odd or not belonging. I’m hoping perhaps you’ll be able to catch something that I missed.”

She nodded and repeated the process he had done the day before – moving about the area at a slow pace, searching for anything they could use. Nothing turned up in the front room or the small kitchen, and while he knew what the probable outcome would be from her investigating Phoenix’s office, he followed her into it nonetheless and was quiet.

After almost twenty minutes, she took a seat in Phoenix’s chair, folded her arms on the desk, lowered her head, and wept softly. The reaction, though understandable, caught Edgeworth by surprise. He had no idea how to comfort her, what to say, nothing. He barely knew how to handle his own feelings, let alone try and help someone else process theirs. Luckily for him, she eventually broke the emotionally charged air by exclaiming, “Who would do such a thing?! Why him?!”

He sighed and responded sadly, “I can’t answer that. I haven’t the slightest idea how or why this could’ve happened to him.”
She sat up, though kept her head bowed. “He’s like family to me….like a big brother to both me and little Pearls. I don’t want to lose him like everyone else.” Her voice cracked as another wave of tears hit her.
“And you won’t.”
“I didn’t think that would be the last time I’d get to talk to him. If only I’d been here, maybe they wouldn’t have done it.”
We can’t blame ourselves, Maya, Edgeworth sympathized, yet he knew he would continue to do exactly that to himself. “You had no way of knowing. When you spoke with him, did he mention who he was meeting with?”
She shook her head. “No. He just filled me in on what happened at the trial, asked how my training was going, and said he made you mad at him again for saying you invited him on a date.” The last part brought a smile to her face, accompanied by a small giggle.
Instead of becoming flustered like he normally would, he smiled as well and stated not-so-convincingly, “I do wish he’d stop calling it that.”
“He really likes you, Edgeworth. Whenever he talks about you or mentions your name, he lights up. It’s really cute.”
Edgeworth could feel an unfamiliar blush coming to his cheeks. “Well, I….”
“I’m sure he feels bad for standing you up this time,” she joked, though her tone was gloomy.

Letting out a heavy sigh, he knew that for both of their sakes, they needed to get away from the familiar place; without Phoenix being there, it was too much to bear, and the current atmosphere of despair was solving nothing. They needed neutral territory, some place that wouldn’t suffocate them with the reminder of their friend’s absence.

“Why don’t we go for a cup of coffee,” he offered kindly. “We could use some clarity and discuss our next course of action. What do you say?”
Wiping away the remnants of her tears, Maya nodded and whispered, “Okay.”

-****-
The two of them ended up at a small bistro several blocks away and sat at one of the tables outside the storefront. Maya sipped on a hot cup of herbal tea, while Edgeworth added cream and sugar to his coffee.

“I’ll alert Detective Gumshoe today to commence an investigation,” he stated matter-of-factly, settling back into his procedural routine for handling cases. “If we’re fortunate, perhaps one of the security cameras captured something useful.” He noticed her glance aside uncomfortably at this. “What is it?”
“Well….Nick mentioned he’d gotten notice from the building landlord that they were having trouble with them working properly. Everyone was told to be more alert until they got fixed.”
Wonderful. The odds seem to perpetually stack against us. “I see….We don’t have to solely rely on those. I’ll have him speak with the other tenants of the building to find out if they were there the night of his disappearance, as well as talk with residents in the surrounding area. Surely there has to be a witness to him leaving.”
Latching on to his optimism, Maya’s expression changed to reveal confidence. “Yeah! There’s gotta be someone who saw him leave!”
“Another item to consider would be a motive. With your assistance, I believe we should compile a list of the trials he’s worked on. There may be a link among them, perhaps connecting someone he exposed in the past to whoever did this.”
“Right! You can count on me! We won’t let him down!”

Edgeworth smiled, and while doubt still lingered immensely, there was a newfound ray of hope shining through the darkness.

-****-
Maybe it was all a nightmare. A very realistic nightmare. I’ll open my eyes and I’ll be in the office. I fell asleep. It was a really, really bad dream….

Inhaling deeply, Phoenix slowly opened his eyes to find himself on the floor in a place that was nothing like the one he’d hoped for. He was shivering slightly and felt awfully weak, though he was glad that his head and the rest of his body weren’t hurting quite as much as they had been before he’d fallen asleep.

Damn it.

He sat up, granted himself a moment to adjust to the new position, and then carefully managed to get to his feet. He turned around to grip the edges of the sink in order to steady himself before proceeding to brush his teeth and delicately wash his face. The water was ice cold no matter which way he turned the faucet, making him shudder even more, and without a mirror, he couldn’t tell if he was actually helping himself look better or just smearing the blood around.

When there was minimal red showing on the washcloth after numerous light scrubbings, he decided it was good enough.

No one’s around to see me like this anyway, he thought with a smirk.

The few steps to the doorway proved to be strenuous due to how shaky he was, causing him to lean against the wall for a minute or so to support himself. While he stood in place, he spotted a bag in the hallway of random snack foods, resulting in his stomach voicing its hunger.

“I don’t know if I’m ready to take that risk yet,” he mumbled, the memory of being terribly ill making him wary of eating anything.

Scooping up the bag, he shuffled into the main room, pushed the mattress towards the wall so that he could sit more comfortably on it with his back against a solid surface, and set the snacks nearby. Even though the movement wasn’t very physical by any means, it was enough to drain him significantly. The pulsating ache in his head was also returning, eliciting a whimper from him.

“Too bad he didn’t bring anything to help me feel better.”

He wrapped his suit jacket around himself and hugged his knees to his chest. Resting his chin on one, he sighed and reflected, I hope Maya was telling the truth when she said she was just bored and hungry when de Killer had her. I’d never forgive myself if she had to go through something like this. Hopefully that was the worst of it….

Who in the world could ‘she’ be? Did I really piss someone off so badly that they’d resort to kidnapping and assault?....April May? I know she hates me, and she could still have some friends at BlueCorp, but I don’t think she has it in her. Plus, I think she’s still in jail, so this would be way too elaborate even for her to pull off. Maybe Dee Vasquez? But if she’s in jail too, her goons don’t really have a reason to protect her from someone finding out the truth or help her with intimidating others to comply anymore.

He chuckled at the next person who came to mind.

Franziska von Karma. Now there’s a woman who hates my guts. Even so, she wouldn’t do something sinister like this. She can play dirty, but she’s not a criminal. And here I was just thinking she was finally starting to warm up to me, he concluded sarcastically.

He winced as the headache intensified, resulting in him lying down and closing his eyes.

Apparently thinking too much isn’t good for me right now….I know they hit me hard, but I didn’t think it’d still be hurting like this. At least it seems like they’re wanting to keep me alive; I guess there’s that to be grateful for. I’m sure Edgeworth has told Maya by now that I’m gone. I hope she’s handling it okay. We may not be actual family, but I still consider her as a part of mine. I don’t want her to be sad from losing someone else in her life….

Why am I so tired? I feel like I slept pretty well, though who knows how long. I wish there was a clock in here, or a window would be great. I suppose it doesn’t matter. It’s not like there’s anything else to do….

_****_
By early evening, the entrance to Wright & Co. Law Offices was crisscrossed with yellow caution tape and buzzing with police scouring the place for evidence. Edgeworth had already given Gumshoe fair warning that there may be none to be found, as well as filling him in on the last conversation he’d had with the defense attorney.

When he and Maya returned the next morning, there were several news reporters attempting to make their way into the building and shouting questions at the handful of officers lingering outside; witnessing the chaos, Edgeworth couldn’t help but feel that all of this wasn’t real – this couldn’t be for someone he knew personally and cared deeply about. Phoenix Wright couldn’t be this week’s headlining victim….

They pushed their way inside, dodging the line of questioning and cameras, and headed up to the office. Just seconds after the elevator doors opened, they were met with a curt, “It’s about time you showed up.”

Franziska was standing by the entryway with Gumshoe, her expression icy as usual, yet there was a touch of concern that went unnoticed by everyone except Edgeworth.

“I expected better from you, Miles. He’s your friend, after all.”
“Give him a break, lady!” Maya exclaimed hotly. “We’ve both been worried sick about him and it’s really hard to think straight right now!” She glared angrily at Franziska, who did the same without flinching, prompting Edgeworth to break the tension.
“It’s alright, Maya,” he assured. Turning his attention to the other woman, he said, “I should’ve told you sooner.”
“Yes, you should have. Instead, I had to hear the news from Scruffy.”
“I’m sorry.”
“Hmph. He was just about to give me an update. So out with it!”
Gumshoe stood at attention and saluted. “Yes ma’am! We’re still in the process of interviewing everyone who works in the building. As it stands now, no one saw a thing.”
Edgeworth glanced at Maya, who bowed her head sadly.
“We checked the security cameras,” the detective went on, “but no luck. They’ve been out of commission for a week or so and still on the fritz.”
“I thought you told me you had something useful!" Franziska interjected impatiently, cracking her whip to the side and making Gumshoe yelp reflexively. “So far, you’ve told me you have nothing!"
“I’m sorry! I do have something! We talked to some people in the building next door and were able to get footage off their security camera!”
Edgeworth felt his stomach drop. “You did?!” he asked, shocked and cautiously hopeful.
“Yes sir! I haven’t seen it yet myself, but the boys down at the precinct say you can definitely see something!"

Swooping her arm outward toward the elevator, Franziska offered, “Let’s go have a look then, shall we?”

_****_
At the police station, the two prosecutors and Maya huddled around Gumshoe as he brought up the recording on the computer screen.

“Alright, here we go!” he announced and pressed play.

Edgeworth was already losing faith in this new evidence from how dark and grainy the feed was, not to mention being positioned somewhat far away from the entrance. There were a handful of figures going in and out of the building; however, there was no way to discern who they could potentially be.

“Ah jeeze, I’m sorry,” Gumshoe apologized, disappointed. “I thought it’d be better quality.”
After half a minute, Edgeworth’s eyes widened. “Hold it!”
“Ack! What?!”
“Right there!”

The detective paused the video and they all peered closer at the screen. While it was impossible to identify the person exiting the building, there was clearly a limp body dangling over his shoulder.

“It’s him!” Maya cried. “That has to be Nick he’s carrying!”
“He’s not even fighting back,” Gumshoe chimed in confusedly.
“Fool,” Franziska scolded. “Obviously, he’s unconscious and therefore, lacks the ability to do anything.”
“Ah yeah, I guess that would make sense.”

Gumshoe enlarged the picture to where they could at least determine that the culprit was tall and burly and apparently executed the kidnapping alone. Once he printed off a still shot of the unknown suspect, he resumed playback, and they watched as the man hurried out of the camera’s viewing range and presumably to a car nearby.

What did he do to you? Edgeworth wondered. It couldn’t have been by force. Surely, there would have been at least a drop of blood if that had been the case and there was nothing….

“Have your men search the premises for any sign of drugs,” he commanded. “He must’ve given Wright something to cause him to pass out.”
“Sir, yes sir!”

As Gumshoe dashed away, Franziska crossed her arms and stared at Edgeworth sternly.

“I’ll relinquish this case to you on one condition,” she stated.
“Name it.”
“You keep me informed of anything that happens.”
“You have my word.”
“And one more thing. Phoenix Wright may be your friend, but he’s now a victim in a kidnapping case. Don’t let your feelings for him cloud your judgment or interfere with your other work. I won’t tolerate any sloppiness from you. Got it?”
Edgeworth nodded. “I understand. Thank you, Franziska.”
Her expression faltered to something uncharacteristically softer as she added, “If there’s something I can do to assist you in all of this, you need only to ask it of me.”
Knowing the significance of her revealing a sliver of compassion, he bowed and replied, “I shall not forget such a generous offer. My sincerest gratitude.”

The coldness returned seconds later as she glanced from him to Maya before giving a sharp nod and leaving. Watching her walk away, he reflected on her words.

She’s right. I can’t allow myself to be consumed by emotions. It’s a case just like any other, one that I intend to see through to the end with a guilty verdict declared for all involved….One that I will uncover the truth, no matter the cost.

Chapter Text

-****-
Phoenix’s body refused to stop shivering while he rinsed off from head to toe one last time. The water was just as freezing in the supply room as it was in the bathroom, making him reluctant to finish the shower. There wasn’t a spare washcloth, but there were plenty of paper towels that he used to better scrub his skin with soap. The spray nozzle was less than half the size of a normal showerhead, which amounted to more time spent washing away the shampoo and lather. Unable to handle the ice water all at once, he did it in short bursts with a small break in between, beginning with his hair and working downward.

Once he was done, portions of his skin felt numb while other parts pulsed uncomfortably. His teeth chattered, hands trembled as he patted himself dry with more paper towels. He’d planned to wash his boxers too, yet with how cold he was from the shower, he needed anything he could get to provide warmth, no matter how little.

Choosing not to make the mattress damp with how wet he was, he sat beside it and huddled against the wall with his suit jacket pulled tightly around himself.

So cold….Why did they have to take all of my clothes? Would it be too much to ask for at least a shirt? Maybe a blanket?

He cupped his hands in front of his mouth to thaw his fingers and worked on steadying his breathing.

Things could be worse. And I bet Edgeworth has already made some headway on the case. If anyone can find me, it’s him. He smiled and closed his eyes as a different kind of warmth spread throughout him. He’s the best for a reason. I never thought I’d need his help like this, but I’m glad I have it. He’s thorough, he’ll discover something. I can count on him. He chuckled. I’ll really owe him a good dinner after this.

With his mind somewhat distracted by thinking of his friend, he began imagining the ways in which they could get warm together. Through his constant shaking, he could almost feel Edgeworth’s strong arms enveloping him from behind and holding him tightly against his body. Hands would rub up and down his biceps to create friction, and hot breath would heat his neck from the prosecutor saying something along the lines of, “Not one word about this to anyone, Wright.”

Phoenix giggled to himself at the scenario. If only I could get that close to him. He hates it when I call our dinners “dates;” I’d never be able to get him to actually hug me. I’d probably have to be freezing like I am now to have him touch me….I’m sure he’d feel amazing….

Suddenly, there were muffled voices in the stairwell, causing him to sit upright as panic replaced the cheery thoughts. He stood and considered his options – fighting them the best he could or barricading himself in the bathroom or custodial room until they inevitably forced their way in. The first seemed absurd considering his weakened state from the initial beating and subsequent vomiting; the second was just as ridiculous since he knew whatever strength he had to keep the door closed was no match for six of them if they’d all returned.

Once he heard the bolt unlock and watched the door open, he swallowed and broke out in a cold sweat. Upon seeing the whole group, his heart sped up from the staggering amount of dread coursing through him.

“Well well, hello again, Mr. Wright. It’s nice to see you awake and about. You’re looking somewhat better than how we left you.”

The defense attorney could feel his eyes were wide and knew he must be revealing how frightened he was, the unpleasant frigidness of his entire being now seemingly forgotten. The one who’d spoken, Phoenix estimated him to be the leader of their little gang since he’d been the one holding his phone and encouraging them to beat him harder the last time. He glanced at each of their faces, viewing them clearly for the first time. Save for Paige, every one of them possessed the qualities of prime masculinity – attractive looks, youth, strength, charisma, confidence – and his estimate of them being around his age still seemed accurate. Surveying each one in turn, he soon realized he didn’t even know half of their names; among the six, he only knew two. The semi-regret Daniel had displayed previously was gone and replaced with curious intrigue, while Paige appeared just as uneasy as he did when he’d briefly met him prior.

“You’re free to go, if you’d like. Consider it an act of generosity.”
Phoenix raised an eyebrow and made an audible noise of surprise. He can’t be serious. There’s gotta be something more to it.
“Well? Are you leaving?”

Hesitantly, Phoenix took a step forward. When none of them moved, he started walking cautiously towards the door.

Something isn’t right. It has to be a trap….

They stepped aside to allow him to pass, and the instant he reached the threshold, he began to run. He bounded up the stairs as quickly as he could, tripping before he’d even made it halfway and continued scrambling on his hands and feet. It wasn’t long until he heard at least one chasing him.

Shit! Come on, Phoenix! Move it! This is your only chance!

He burst through the main level door, his eyes frantically scanning for the exit. Mere seconds later, a vice-like grip latched onto his arm and flung him down the stairs as if he weighed nothing. Falling with a feeble groan onto the intermediate landing, he didn’t have time to react before he was kicked powerfully enough to send him rolling down the remaining steps. Every bit of him hurt to the point he couldn’t stand up on his own. His head was reeling, his vision blurred and wavering, making him worry that he’d sustained more damage.

“Let’s have a chat, Mr. Wright.”

Unable to resist whatsoever, the defense attorney was easily dragged over to the desk and gruffly hoisted up to sit in one of the chairs. He diligently worked on trying to focus on the leader who took a seat in front of him, embarrassment and disappointment soaking in due to recognizing his gullible mistake and from watching the amused grin spread onto the other man’s countenance.

“Why are you doing this?” he questioned, hating that his voice sounded so pitiful.
“Ah-ah, I don’t think you’re in a position to ask anything. This isn’t the courtroom you’re used to. The only rules that apply here are the ones we create. Your trial begins and ends here.”
“For what? I don’t understand. I didn’t do anything!”
“What a shame. You don’t remember. That’s alright. You will.”

At the sensation of something sharp pressing ever so delicately against his throat, he stiffened and didn’t dare say anything more.

“By request, we’ll start simple today.”

Two of them quickly bound his wrists to the armrests with rope, and the one in possession of the knife stepped around and swiped the blade against his right arm. He winced, though otherwise remained unresponsive. The stranger proceeded to decorate his flesh with cuts varying in depth and length from his shoulder down to his wrist, all the while donning a malicious grin as he did so. More than once, Phoenix emitted a hiss or a faint whimper, though he didn’t struggle to liberate himself from fear they’d punish him more. The blade sliced along his skin as smoothly as a hot blade through butter. His left hand gripped the armrest to the point his knuckles turned white, his toes curled and feet fidgeted, while his right arm was eventually freed from its restraint, held up, and rotated to ensure the inflictions thoroughly covered it.

“See? This isn’t so bad, is it?” the leader cooed. “You’re not even screaming.”

The defense attorney didn’t answer, save for an unexpected yelp he couldn’t contain in response to a rather jagged laceration that felt more like he’d been stabbed. For the most part, they were like awful paper cuts. Every now and then, however, there’d be one that penetrated deeper, almost making him wail. Perspiration began to lightly coat his face and neck from the struggle to retain control. He refused to look at what was happening, didn’t want to view the blood and marks that he knew would undoubtedly remain and become a permanent part of him.

There was a break in the violence as the tip of the knife traced along the contours of his jaw and cheeks, occasionally gliding down over his neck. He nearly held his breath, waiting apprehensively for the sharp puncture.

“You’re being awfully strong. I like that. It’ll make this so much more enjoyable when we finally break you. Whatever we do to you won’t ever be enough for what you did.”
Closing his eyes to prevent the frustrated, pained tears, Phoenix proclaimed resolutely, “I didn’t do anything! It wasn’t me!”
“But it was. It was you, Phoenix Wright.”

Red liquid dripped onto the floor and along his skin, the vivid crimson lines painting a macabre picture amid the fresh wounds. By the time the leader declared enough, there was a total of twenty slashes. With his head bowed, Phoenix didn’t even move when the rope was untied; however, he did flinch at the gentle touch of someone stroking his cheek.

“Don’t fret, Wright. We’ll have the rest of you matching how your arm is now in no time.”

There was a rustle of pompous cackling that came from most of them, and he gritted his teeth to keep himself in check; he knew it wouldn’t be wise to push them further by saying something stemmed from anger.

“We’ll go ahead and leave, give you the chance to get cleaned up. Like I said, we’re starting simple. No need to rush things. We’ve got time.”

Not until he heard the door close and lock again did Phoenix cover his face and sob uncontrollably. He wasn’t even sure what for, couldn’t keep track of all the emotions crashing around inside of him.

They don’t know what they’re talking about. They have the wrong person. I didn’t do anything…..It wasn’t me….

He shook his head and repeated aloud in a less than convinced whisper, “I didn’t do anything….did I?”

_****_
Roughly twenty minutes after they’d left, Phoenix sauntered to the custodial room. He searched for any sort of disinfectant yet found none. Instead of utilizing the detachable faucet head there to wash off his arm, he retrieved a package of paper towels and went into the bathroom. The wounds were still bleeding and had begun to sting fiercely. Soaking a few of the paper towels with water, he gingerly dabbed them against one of the lengthier gashes on his forearm, not knowing what else to do. Without any medical supplies, he wasn’t sure how he was going to take care of them all.

The longer he stared at the angry markings, the more self-conscious he became. Even if only a handful left a scar, he worried about how noticeable they’d be to others.

At least none of my clients will ever have to see them since my suit will hide them. I’d hate to scare someone away….

Abruptly, he thought of Maya and felt nauseous.

I’ll have to make sure she doesn’t see them either. She doesn’t need to know. I don’t want her to feel bad on my behalf.

And Edgeworth….

With a heavy sigh, he lifted himself up to sit on the sink countertop, chucked the dirtied paper towels into the trashcan nearby, and closed his eyes.

He won’t see them. It’s not like any of my stupid fantasies will ever happen. No matter how much I try, I’ll never be good enough for him in that way….At least I have him as a friend again.

Lost amid his own thoughts, he neglected to hear the main entrance opening, though he caught the sound of it closing. Immediately, he sprang to the bathroom door, slammed it shut, and pressed himself firmly against it.

There’s no way they’re back already!

He waited apprehensively for the forceful shove, but it never came. Instead, a tentative voice spoke to him through the barrier.

“Mr. Wright? It’s me….Paige….Just Paige.”
Phoenix swallowed, unsure if he could truly believe that statement.
“I thought you might need some help.”

There was a prolonged pause as Phoenix debated whether or not to let him in. Taking a deep breath, he reluctantly turned the knob and opened the door. Luckily, it was only Paige, who stared at him with both concern and bashfulness – nothing like how the others looked at him.

“Um, do you want me to help you? I brought some stuff to clean your cuts with.”
Almost as if in a trance, the defense attorney nodded slowly.
“Okay. Have a seat.”

Obeying the words, Phoenix sat on the closed toilet lid and observed the younger man remove the contents of the bag he’d been holding. There were cotton balls, rubbing alcohol, regular sized adhesive bandages, rolls of gauze bandages, and antiseptic ointment – the makings of a healthy first-aid kit.

After a couple of minutes, Paige held up the first cotton ball drenched in alcohol and asked, “Are you ready?”

With a nod, Phoenix braced himself for the burn he knew would come. He sucked in a quick breath and almost snatched his arm away the moment Paige commenced dabbing the liquid onto one of the fresh wounds, but caught himself and stayed still. The painful sensation mixed with the already increasing, intolerable discomfort from the slices themselves, making him squirm and occasionally let out a soft whine.

“I’m sorry,” Paige said earnestly.
The apology caused Phoenix to recognize an opportunity to not only get his mind concentrating on something else, but the chance to uncover potential information too. “It’s okay,” he assured. “Thanks for doing this.”
“Mmhm.”
“So, uh….You said before that you started following my work after the Steel Samurai case. Were you a fan of the show?”
Paige nodded. “It’s such a shame they cancelled it.”
“Yeah, I have a friend who was pretty upset about that too. She loved it, hated to see it go. For a kid’s show, it seems like a lot of adults enjoyed it too. I wouldn’t really call my friend an adult, though. She might be younger than you.” He was hoping the other man would take the bait just to gather any sort of hint he could about who he was.
“Maybe. I’m twenty.”
Great! He’s opening up! Let’s see what else I can get. “You don’t have her by many years, then. Do you go to school?” He could sense the reluctance Paige had for giving an answer, yet he also felt like it wasn’t completely stemmed from a desire to protect his identity. There was a genuine shyness about him that Phoenix wanted to be careful with and not press him too much.
“I attend Ivy University.”
“That’s a good place. It’s where I started when I was studying the Arts, before I switched and went to law school.”
“What made you change?”
Phoenix grinned sheepishly and rubbed the back of his neck. “It’s kind of a complicated story. I, uh….Let’s just say I really wanted to meet up with an old friend.”
“Must be quite a friend.”
“He can be….I’d like to think things are getting better between us.”
“He’s lucky to have you.”

More and more, Phoenix was becoming aware of the lingering, soft caresses Paige’s hands were giving him before retrieving another wet cotton ball for the next incision. He didn’t understand it, couldn’t determine if he was uncomfortable with it or if having someone showing him a smidge of affection during a time like this was alright. Choosing to change the subject from the person he wished would provide such similar tender touching, he asked, “So how long have I been here?”

“Six days.”
That’s it?! I thought for sure it’d been at least a week by now. “Oh. I don’t suppose you could tell me what else they plan on doing with me or why I’m here?”
Paige shook his head sadly. “No, I’m sorry. But I think he plans to eventually.”
“Is ‘he’ the one who orchestrated this whole thing?” The stressed expression that crossed onto Paige’s visage made him rapidly re-phrase the question. “Is ‘he’ the guy who told me I could leave?”
A nod.
Okay, that’s something. “Could you tell me their names?”
“Well….I guess it wouldn’t really give anything away. His name is Hunter. You met Lackey before. Then there’s Lemming and Herdin and Packe.”
At least I know who they are now….

Several more minutes ticked by until Paige announced, “All done.”

Phoenix glanced at his arm, glad to see nothing but the gauze bandage wrapped around from the shoulder down instead of the raw openings in his flesh.

With a gentle smile, he said, “Thank you for this. I don’t know what I would’ve been able to do alone.”
An intense shade of red came to Paige’s cheeks, and he managed to squeak out an almost incoherent, “You’re welcome, Mr. Wright.”
The defense attorney chuckled and offered, “You can call me Phoenix, if you’d like. I don’t mind.”
The blush intensified. “Okay….Phoenix. I’m gonna go. Please don’t say anything about this to them.”
“I won’t, I promise.”

A tiny smile found its way onto the younger man’s countenance, and he nodded a farewell before leaving the captive alone once more.

Well, that went a lot better than what I could’ve hoped for. I still don’t know who “she” is, but at least I have their names….

….Maybe next time I should ask him for a blanket….

Chapter Text

-****-
--Prominent Defense Attorney Phoenix Wright Still Missing--
--No Leads on Missing Defense Attorney-Police Claim Possible Kidnapping--
--Foul Play Suspected in Disappearance of Defense Attorney Phoenix Wright--
--“Once again in tonight’s top stories, the defense attorney known for such high-profile cases involving the successful convictions of Prosecutor Manfred von Karma and Matthew Engarde has still not been found. Phoenix Wright began making headlines almost a year ago after exposing BlueCorp CEO Redd White for murder and various counts of blackmail. Police continue to ask the public for help in locating Wright; sources state that the circumstances involving his disappearance have baffled authorities, with little to no clues being discovered. As of now, there are currently no known suspects. If you have any information regarding Phoenix Wright, detectives request that you please contact the police department. We will continue to provide updates and monitor the situation as it unfolds.”--

The television screen went dark, and Edgeworth all but threw the remote across the room. There was seemingly no escape from the news outlets reporting on the subject that made him queasy and infuriated every time he saw his friend’s name printed or spoken. It was going on the second week of Phoenix vanishing, and the prosecutor was more incensed with himself than anything. There were no leads. No suspects. No concrete evidence. Nothing. He had absolutely nothing. Such an intense blow of failure and helplessness was devastating.

After everything he risked to defend me, to set me free….I cannot allow myself to abandon him. He always fights so passionately for the sake of his clients; I shall not deny him the same treatment in return. I only wish I had something to work with….

The surveillance footage had circulated on the news reports, despite how poor the quality was. Of course, there hadn’t been any calls coming in on possible identification for the person who’d taken Phoenix. Once the police had finally cleared out of the office after two days’ worth of investigation, Edgeworth and Maya diligently combed over every single case file; compiled a list of people involved in each, no matter how small the role was that they played in it; and commenced planning how they would track them down. There weren’t nearly as many as Edgeworth expected; for how well Phoenix proved himself to be, there were just thirteen. Only two of them were smaller cases regarding theft that he’d never heard Phoenix mention; the others were indeed somewhat famous in part due to either the shenanigans that’d transpired in the courtroom, the defendants themselves, or both. The files ended with the most recent defense of Ron DeLite.

“Hey, Edgeworth?”
“Hm?”
Maya glanced down at her restless hands and inquired sincerely, “Do you think we’ll find him?”

The prosecutor set the page he’d been reading aside, his heart and logic once again conflicting with one another in a territory he was not accustomed to. He knew most people would placate the obviously upset girl with statements based on nothing but pure emotion, that it would be easier to say “yes” than to return the grave question with an equally as grim answer. The reality was he had no idea if they would or not, a truth that pained him more than he ever thought possible. All he knew for certain was that he’d do whatever he could to save the man he’d reluctantly allowed back into his life, who had shaken his world so severely to the point of forcing him into a journey of self-discovery.

As he gazed at Maya, he couldn’t deny the effect Phoenix had had on her, too. In a way, he was envious of their friendship – the two of them were so candid with one another, so unguarded. The banter and joking around they did with one another was something Edgeworth wished he could have, longed for just a shred of such familiarity with Phoenix, despite having known him for years.

She deserved the honest, frank response. It wasn’t his place to deny her the opportunity to prepare herself now for the worst.

“I don’t have an answer for that,” he said, his usual cool tone inflicted with remorse. “We can only work with what we have, and at the moment, it’s not sufficient to even begin pinning down a suspect or a location. Do I want to find him? Without a doubt. Will we find him? There isn’t enough evidence to grant me permission to say ‘yes’.”

Edgeworth rested back against the pillows on his bed, the distraught, yet thankful glint in Maya’s eyes seared into his mind. Having not previously known that she’d reside either at the office or Phoenix’s apartment whenever she was in town, he had offered to pay for her stay at a hotel nearby for as long as she wanted to remain. Not surprisingly, she accepted; it was understandable that the other locations possessed too much emotion for her to rest comfortably at either one alone.

He hadn’t been sleeping well, or much at all, and his appetite waned often. Tomorrow, he’d be back in rotation for cases, regardless of what the current status was with Phoenix’s. He was less than thrilled. Regardless of lack of evidence and nothing to do but interview people who’d come into close contact with the defense attorney, he wished to devote every minute he had to solving the kidnapping, hungered for resolution and swift justice with an extreme fervor for “guilty” like so many trials previously. This time, however, it wasn’t merely to maintain a perfect record.

This time, it was personal on a whole other level.

-****-
It was like he’d been stung by a swarm of angry wasps.

The pain brought on by the rips in his skin and the bruises from his fall down the stairs prevented Phoenix from going back to sleep. When he’d glanced at his appendage to ensure it wasn’t visibly pulsating and on fire, he saw the bandage was thoroughly saturated.

Currently, he was seated on the countertop in the bathroom, willing himself to unwrap the gauze and let the cuts breathe for a bit, perhaps splash some water on them to cleanse them as well.

Grasping the end at his wrist, he leisurely proceeded to remove the dressing. Before his entire forearm was exposed, he was already regretting his decision. The slices were worse than he remembered, more vivid and repulsive to the point he almost wept. By the time his arm was entirely void of the bandage, he couldn’t stomach looking at it for quite awhile. Silently, he sat there alone, arm resting daintily in his lap like a slaughtered slab of meat.

At last, he drew in a shuddering breath and slowly let his eyes take in the mutilation. He could instantly tell which ones would leave behind a reminder of what’d happened, while others had him hoping they’d heal and leave no trace of the abuse.

I can’t ever forget now….

He faintly allowed his fingertips to brush along the torn flesh, flinching every now and then from how tender the wounds were.

How do I explain these? They’re not going away, and I can barely make myself look at them.

He bowed his head and buried his fingers in his hair, frustrated.

Think, Phoenix. What did you do? Who was it that you enraged to have them do this? Think! If you figure it out, there’s a chance you can save yourself by making amends. There has to be something! Please!

….What if I turn my thinking around a bit?....What if this is because of something I didn’t do? But what?...

….These guys seem to know what they’re doing. Everything was planned, deliberately done. Maybe they were hired to do this. That could mean they made sure not to leave anything out of place at the office….Which would make it basically impossible to get a lead….

A shiver went down his spine, his eyes widened, and he registered his fatal mistake.

“I didn’t tell him,” he whispered, aghast. “I didn’t tell Edgeworth his name. He’s got nothing….Unless Daniel messed up and forgot to discard the coffee cup….”

I’m screwed.

He hopped off the counter, stood in place for a minute as if in a daze, eyes darting about, seeing nothing but the memory of the night it happened and replaying the dialogue in his mind.

I’m such an idiot. I can’t believe I didn’t mention his name. I don’t think I even wrote it down anywhere….

Feeling his nerves skyrocket, the emotional wave swelling, he took a deep breath and repeated over and over, “It’s okay. It’ll be fine.”

He continued muttering the words as he walked back to the mattress in the other room. Once his gaze landed on the bag of snacks, his stomach announced its neglect. He reached in and pulled out the second-to-last remaining item. There hadn’t been much by any means to start with; he’d realized that the first time he poked around to pick something to eat. It’d been nothing more than granola bars and plain rice cakes. Even with limiting himself to eating one or two each day, he hadn’t anticipated the supply depleting this quickly.

Peeling down the wrapper on the rice cake, he clenched his jaw and closed his eyes in an attempt to ward off the aggravated, discouraged tears.

“It’s okay. It’ll be fine.”
What if they’re ordered to kill me or just decide to do it the next time they come back?
“It’s okay. It’ll be fine.”
I told them ‘goodbye’ on the phone, but that doesn’t count. Not to mention I didn’t even talk to Larry one last time….
“It’s okay. It’ll be fine.”
Edgeworth is good, but he can’t conjure miracles. And until I die, Maya has no way to channel me so I can tell them who to ask about where my body is….
“It’s okay. It’ll be fine.”
I didn’t get the chance to tell him how I really feel-

The rice cake snapped apart from the strength of his grip, sending random crumbs everywhere. Inhaling deeply, he opened his eyes, allowing a couple of tears to escape.

“It’s okay. I’ll be fine.”

-****-
Two days passed with no food; his mind wasn’t helping matters by concocting images of anything and everything he wanted to sink his teeth into and savor.

On the third day, the door unlocked and opened quietly. The intruder closed it behind himself, not surprised when he saw that the captive was asleep at the far end of the room. Moving with care so as to not disturb the slumbering man, Paige crossed the dimly lit area, set the bag of new snacks down by the foot of the mattress, and let his eyes roam over the prone form. Phoenix was sleeping on his left side, curled into a ball, and shivering slightly. His suit jacket had slipped off him, leaving him more exposed to the cool air.

Kneeling in front of him, Paige gingerly inspected the defense attorney’s sloppily bandaged arm, pleased that none of the visible cuts appeared to be infected. He spread the jacket over the man’s upper body, and after brief consideration, he rested his fingertips against Phoenix’s cheek, slowly trailed them along the smooth skin to his lips and jawline, and then re-traced the path from the beginning. It was mesmerizing, observing Phoenix while he slept and touching his face, reveling in how peaceful and pure he looked. In all of the pictures that’d been printed in the newspapers or the video clips Paige had watched with the defense attorney in them (like the cringe-worthy commercial for Wright & Co. Law Offices, for example), they didn’t come close to capturing how attractive he was. His affable, resilient personality didn’t go unnoticed either, causing a twinge of guilt to gnaw away at the younger man’s heart.

“I’m sorry….Phoenix,” Paige murmured almost inaudibly. “I know it’s just going to get worse for you….They believe and do anything she says….”

He petted the disheveled, damp black hair for a while before at last standing up and reluctantly moving to the door.

“See you again soon….Phoenix.”

-****-
Someone had been murdered. A doctor. By his patient. Or was it the other way around? What happened and who was taken into custody again?

Edgeworth was physically present at the crime scene, yet his mind was in a vastly different space. His eyes were watching, but not seeing. He hardly paid attention to anyone who approached him, nodding every now and then whenever it seemed appropriate to do so.

“Hey Edgeworth?”
I wonder how Maya is coming along with the list. Junior detective Barnaby has proven himself competent to aid in her search and questioning.
“Sir?”
If this doesn’t yield any results, I don’t have any more ideas.
“Edgeworth!”

The prosecutor whirled around, startled, to meet Detective Gumshoe’s concerned gaze.

“You okay, sir?” Gumshoe asked frankly. “You’ve been awfully quiet and just standing in the same spot this whole time.”
Edgeworth blinked blankly, gathered his composure, put forth the effort to actually concentrate this time on the person speaking to him, and replied, “Yes, I’m alright. I apologize for my distracted behavior.”
“It’s about him, isn’t it?”
The prosecutor glanced away and sighed, embarrassed that he had allowed his unease to show.
“Don’t worry. We’ll find him. I’m sure of it.”
“I only hope we won’t be too late, detective.”

With Gumshoe’s insistence, Edgeworth returned to his office with the intent of starting a new file for the case. It took less than a minute for him to recognize how futile an objective that was. Wherever he was physically didn’t make a difference; his thoughts were always invested in Phoenix.

Folding his arms on top of the desk and resting his head on them, he closed his eyes. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d gotten any decent sleep. Both days and nights were consumed by his fears of what was happening to his friend, wondering if he was even still alive. Two weeks was too long….

Crack!

Edgeworth shot up, his heart pounding, and his wearied eyes landed on Franziska scowling at him from where she stood in front of his desk.

Gathering her whip neatly into her hand, she inquired tartly, “Napping at a time like this? I didn’t believe it when Scruffy told me you were completely unfocused and useless at the crime scene today.”
I doubt he used those specific words to describe me; however, she’s not wrong….
“Didn’t I give you the Phoenix Wright case on the condition that your others wouldn’t suffer from sloppiness?”
Edgeworth’s eyelids fluttered shut briefly. “Yes, that was part of your terms,” he agreed dryly.
“And here it is, your first one since then, and you can’t be bothered to participate in the investigation.”
“I know. I’m sorry.”
“Sorry? Since when does Miles Edgeworth roll over in defeat so quickly and easily? You two weren’t even that close. Not to mention he was the one to tarnish your perfect record. Tell me, Miles-” She slammed her hand onto his desk and demanded, “-why are you allowing yourself to obsess over that man?!”

The statements struck him more powerfully than he would’ve liked, and he knew it was because she was right. He was never one to simply give up, was averse to admitting when he’d lost, but the part that wounded him most was the fact that he really wasn’t as close to Phoenix as he was painting himself to be. He’d spent fifteen years in silence, ignored the heartfelt requests to meet with him, and treated their reunion with icy indifference. Despite all that, Phoenix had been the one to risk everything to defend him, continued to make attempts to repair the damage from years lost, and even forgave him after being profoundly shattered from his vague suicide note. It’d only been in recent months that the two of them had begun spending more time together, trying to reconnect and regain the friendship that he himself had long since deemed irreparable.

The silence and distressed expression Edgeworth bore prompted Franziska to sit in one of the chairs across from him and soften her demeanor by a fraction.

“I spoke with father, as you requested,” she said to break the stillness. “He denies any involvement. He believes it’s highly unlikely that someone could devise and execute something this extravagant from prison. You’re more than welcome to visit the others Phoenix Wright has put behind bars, though I doubt you’ll get anywhere.”
Edgeworth nodded and responded sincerely, “Thank you, Franziska. I am grateful to you for asking him.”
“I heard you had all of the cups from the office tested for any traces of foreign substances.”
“Yes, that is correct. Since there were no signs of a struggle, I inferred that he ingested something to render him unconscious. A cup would be the most likely source. The suspect could’ve laced his drink while he was preoccupied; he’d never know until it was too late.”
“Have the results come back?”
Edgeworth frowned and answered disappointedly, “Yes. Nothing was detected. Not even a partial fingerprint on any one of them.”
“Sounds like whoever we’re dealing with isn’t a novice.”
“I’m certain of that. It’s what troubles me the most.”
“How is the girl holding up? His assistant?”
“She’s doing her best to remain optimistic. It’s weighing on her quite heavily, though. I think we’re both struggling to accept what could be the worst possible outcome.”
“It would be incredibly tragic. However, you can’t continue to neglect yourself and the present, Miles.” She stood and regarded him fixedly for half a minute before saying, “You don’t look well. Go home, get some rest, and I expect you to return tomorrow ready to prepare for this trial.”

Edgeworth nodded, and only after she left did he allow himself to think, If only I could sleep without seeing his lifeless face nearly every time I close my eyes….

-****-
The group was rowdy tonight, though Phoenix was glad he was safe for the time being. His arms were outstretched behind him and wrists tied together, keeping him seated snuggly against the column closest to the large desk that they were gathered at. Occasionally, he’d glance at them to watch the games unfold, straining to view the cards in Paige’s hand, who sat nearest to him. The dread from their initial entrance was finally diminishing. None of them had said a single word to him; two had gruffly maneuvered him to sit at the base of the column and secured him to it when they’d arrived, while the others took up spots at the desk, cracked open bottles of beer from the many packs they’d brought, and dealt out the cards for poker. Phoenix wasn’t sure why they’d chosen this as their venue tonight, but since he was basically being ignored, he knew better than to ask.

They were loud and obnoxious, yet as usual, he noted how reserved Paige was. The young man seemed rather out of place amongst his crass friends, to which Phoenix pondered how he’d managed to fall into such a crowd. His mild-mannered personality carried over into how he played as well; he demonstrated an analytical mind from what the defense attorney could gather. He was a silent observer of his fellow players, carefully considered the cards he had and took his time calculating numerous possibilities before ever making a move, and he didn’t distract himself with a drink or chit-chat in comparison to the others, who jeered and chugged the alcohol freely.

Game after game, Paige proved himself to be the best by consistently winning. When Daniel eventually commented about it, the younger man at last faltered and lost the following hand. After the third loss in a row, it was then that Phoenix realized he was throwing the game on purpose.

He really doesn’t like to be the center of attention, Phoenix concluded. All these guys seem larger than life, but he’s the complete opposite. How did he get entangled in this mess? He felt a decent amount of sympathy for him at the notion of the others bullying him into complying with their plans.

He began drifting to sleep after a couple of hours, the motion of his head falling forward always waking him up for several minutes before the process was repeated. Because of his drowsiness, he neglected to realize how quiet it had become, the current discussion at the desk occurring in hushed tones. At the abrupt sound of chairs moving against the concrete floor, Phoenix felt a burst of energy surge through him in response to his anxiety returning. Herdin unbound his wrists and dragged him by one of them over to the group, where Lemming assisted in hoisting him up onto the desk and forcing him to lie on his back. His calves dangled over the edge since he was taller than it was long, his arms were held in place above his head by Lemming, and both Daniel and Herdin had firm grips on his thighs. Instinctively, he valiantly struggled against them, twisting and thrashing about in a vain effort to free himself. Despite it being plainly evident that it was of no use, that he was considerably overpowered, he continued to fight until he saw Packe hold up what he could only assume was the same blade that was used on him previously.

“There there, now,” Hunter began pompously. He loomed over him, an excited grin plastered on his face and a malevolent sparkle in his eyes. “Be a good boy and this might not be so bad. You didn’t actually think we wouldn’t have fun with you tonight, did you?”
“Tell me what this is about!” Phoenix shouted more confidently than he felt. “I can’t make it right if I don’t know what I did wrong!”
“It’s too late for you to make it right. That power belongs to someone else now. All you are is leverage. But, I guess you are making amends in a way by finally taking some punishment.”
“For what?! Who hired you?!”
“No one did. And it’s not time for that reveal just yet. Don’t you worry, Mr. Ace Attorney. We’ll have plenty of time to learn about one another. Now, remember how I said we’d get the rest of you matching how your arm looks? Let’s go ahead and work on that.”

The hands on his thighs moved to his ankles, extending and holding his legs outward. He tried kicking, the grips intensified, and Hunter snickered.

“I’d lie still, if I were you,” he suggested. “Unless you want us to really butcher you.”

Phoenix glared at him angrily, his heart racing and breathing heavy. He longed to throw out some sort of insult or snarky comment, anything to show he wasn’t as weak and subservient as they seemed to believe he was, but he also didn’t want the disfigurement to be even more atrocious. He took the advice and fixated his gaze on the ceiling, blocking Hunter’s sadistic countenance from his view.

I have to think about something else. Something pleasant-

He sucked in a shallow breath at the sensation of the sharp weapon sinking into the tender underside of his right leg.

….The three of us playing Signal Samurai-

He winced, bit his lip, and clenched his hands into fists as the blade dragged along his shin.

….Camping out together under the stars in Larry’s backyard-

A tremulous whimper sounded, and a tear trickled down to his hair while the knife tore into his flesh more deeply.

….Miles, please find me….

He abandoned the plan of distraction, resigning himself to being fully aware of the pain and sense of loss. His body would never look the same; every inch would be a reminder of this nightmare, of his ignorant mistake and whatever past transgression he had committed.

Packe was halfway done with the defense attorney’s right leg when Hunter suddenly interjected, “Well well, what do we have here?” His tone was surprised amusement.

Phoenix glanced at him nervously, wondering what had caught his attention. He very soon felt it. Instantly, a fierce blush colored his cheeks from the obscene amount of embarrassment and shame he had. He squirmed uncomfortably in an effort to get away from the fingers lightly touching and prodding his erection. It made no sense to him how his body could betray him so appallingly; the torture was by no means pleasurable, eliciting confusion and disgust within himself due to such a poorly timed display of false arousal.

“Liking it a bit too much, are we?” Hunter taunted. “I didn’t know Phoenix Wright was a slut for punishment.” He slid his hand underneath the fabric of the man’s boxers to tease his cock, stroking and kneading the firm flesh without any inhibitions.
“Stop,” Phoenix protested shakily. “Don’t touch me.”
“But you’re enjoying it. I’ve got the evidence to prove it right here.”

The captive cried out as the blade continued to slice apart his skin. When it forged a gash high up on his thigh near where Hunter’s hand was currently positioned, the group leader sneered from feeling Phoenix’s cock twitch in his grasp.

“You’re really enjoying it. Paige, are you getting this?”

At the mention of who he considered to be a loose ally, Phoenix frantically searched for him, his eyes finding the younger man standing by his feet and holding something just below his face. His stomach lurched the moment he discerned it was a small video camera.

Oh god….

He closed his eyes, drowning in the mortification overwhelming him. No matter how much he attempted to keep from vocalizing his responses, it was impossible to contain the moans stemmed from the continuous stimulation of his cock and the sounds of anguish borne from the slashes being created along both of his legs; they blended together so perfectly that none of them could tell the difference between what was pleasure and what was pain. He could feel the blood seeping downward from the wounds, just as he eventually felt the precum leaking onto the fingers squeezing his sensitive head.

“What do you think, boys? Should we let him finish? How many more you have left, Packe?”
“Ten if you still want him to have twenty on each.”
“Yeah, twenty is still good. What d’ya say, Wright? Want me to let you come?”
“Nnnhh….” Phoenix’s expression was tense, his climax building within him. He hated that it felt so good amidst the agony suffered by his legs, despised himself for craving release, especially under such horrific circumstances.
“Well? You’re really close.”
He was practically panting now, a constant stream of breathy noises escaping between his parted lips.

Without warning, Hunter pulled his hand out from his boxers and punched the tremendously delicate area. A lengthy cut was simultaneously carved into the back of his thigh, producing a scream that reverberated in the room. Phoenix tried to shift onto his side and cradle himself, but the hands pinning him down were unrelenting and kept him securely in place.

“How was that for a finish?” Hunter chuckled. He caressed Phoenix’s flushed cheeks, relishing the sight of the incessant tears flowing from his eyes. “I thought you were a masochist, dirty lawyer boy. Why are you crying?”
Phoenix turned his face in the opposite direction, away from Hunter, and wished for nothing more than to be alone.
“It’s not a bad thing. I like seeing you cry. I’m sure I’ll get to see you do it even more in the future.”

Once the final laceration had been made, the three men sedating the defense attorney released him, and in the same fashion as when they’d arrived, they all left without saying a word. For approximately ten minutes, Phoenix was frozen, unable to summon the strength or desire to move. He wept quietly, struggling to cope with what’d happened to him. His legs, and especially the area in between them, were in a great deal of pain, though they were far less bothersome than the humiliation he couldn’t rid himself of. Not only had he been shamed in front of them, he panicked at the thought of them sharing the recording of the traumatic event with the public.

Slowly, he got up, shuffled over to the mattress, and rested down atop it. He didn’t care about staining it with blood, didn’t have it in him to bother with tending to the newest afflictions to his body. Right now, he yearned to lose himself in sleep in hopes of forgetting everything.

After adjusting his suit jacket on top of himself, he took a deep breath, exhaled, closed his eyes, and whispered, “It’s okay….Everything will be alright….It’s okay….”

Chapter Text

-****-
“Phoenix?....Phoenix?....”

Gently, Paige shook the sleeping man’s shoulder, hoping to rouse him. It’d been two hours since they’d initially left, and his concerns about Phoenix leaving his wounds uncared for were magnified now that he’d returned to check on him. The pale legs were streaked with blood, rendering the sight of him and the new stains on the mattress to resemble something out of a horror film. Paige hated to disturb him, had even thought of treating the slashes while the man was asleep, but he knew that would most likely not be the best feeling in the world to wake up to.

“Phoenix….”

All at once, the defense attorney jerked upright with a gasp, his eyes frenzied as he blindly shoved the person away who had been touching him. When he realized who it was and that he hadn’t sustained any new damage, he quickly apologized.

“I’m sorry,” he said quietly, his voice wavering slightly. “I didn’t….I didn’t know it was you. I’m sorry.”
Paige positioned himself once more in front of Phoenix and assured, “It’s okay. I didn’t mean to scare you.”
“Are they here too?”
“No, just me.” He noted the visible relief overcome the other man as the tension in his muscles went away and his body relaxed. “I wanted to make sure you got these taken care of.”
Phoenix bit his lip, which had started to quiver, and glanced away. “I’m fine. I can do it myself.”
“Please let me help you-”
“I’m fine.” The words were repeated in hopes of sounding more believable, but they resoundingly conveyed the exact opposite sentiment.
Getting to his feet, Paige held out his hand and instructed kindly, “Come on. I’ll help you.”
The defense attorney kept his gaze diverted and pleaded, “I just want to be alone.”
“I promise I’ll leave right after.”

There was a weighty silence as neither moved; Paige’s hand remained extended in invitation, while Phoenix refused to look at him. The air was charged with emotions – mortification and immense despondency emanating from one, contrition and pity from the other. Neither showed signs of caving to the other’s wishes, until Phoenix at last lifted his arm and accepted the offer.

Gently but firmly, Paige pulled him up to stand and escorted him to the hallway, being sure to keep his hand out and ready for the man to grab onto in case he needed it.

“Let’s stop in here and wash them first,” he said once they arrived at the custodial room. “There’s a faucet hose in here, right?”
Phoenix nodded.
“Okay. Let me grab a washcloth and soap.”

While he wandered out to fetch the items, Phoenix resisted the urge to have another breakdown. He shut his eyes tightly, hid his face in his hands, and forced himself to take several deep breaths. The pain was intensifying, along with the dread of someone touching the sore injuries.

It’s okay. I’m sure he’ll be careful. He hasn’t shown himself to be very aggressive or having any real impulse to seriously harm me. Unlike them….

The memory resurfaced tenfold: the vice-like grips preventing him from escaping, the knife dragging along his skin, his own body betraying him –

“Phoenix?”

Dropping back to reality, the defense attorney peeked through his fingers to find the other man regarding him with evident pity.

Come on, get it together, he chastised himself. I can’t keep embarrassing myself in front of these guys. I can be tough. I can handle this.

Exhaling a heavy sigh, he withdrew his hands from his face, announced, “I’m ready. I’m fine,” and stood over the metal grate to the drain in the floor.
“Do you want to take off your clothes in case they get wet?”

The mere question caused Phoenix to suffer from a minute panic attack. After the humiliation of having a stranger molest him not only in front of a crowd, but caught on camera as well, there was no way he was willing to part with the only thing keeping him covered.

“No, I’d rather not,” he replied, his voice small and shaky.
“Okay. I’ll be careful, I promise.”

While the soft fabric of the washcloth felt better against his skin than the coarse material of the paper towels he was growing used to, it still wasn’t pleasant by any means on his highly sensitive lacerations. He hugged himself for both warmth and comfort, consciously made an effort to remain stationary, and grimaced with every dab and scrub. Contrary to what it seemed like, he could tell that Paige really was being as cautious as he could, to which he was enormously thankful for.

Nothing was said during the entire cleaning. Phoenix stared straight ahead, eagerly waiting for it to be over and thus granting him the chance to return to the mattress and huddle under his jacket. He refused to look down. Remembering his arm was bad enough. He wasn’t ready to deal with the appearance of both his legs yet.

With one last thorough rinse off, Paige let the faucet head retract, gingerly dried the wet limbs with an actual bath towel, and announced, “All done. Ready for the next part?”

Phoenix nodded and obediently followed the younger man into the bathroom. The sense of déjà vu settled in as he sat on the closed toilet lid and waited for his caretaker to finish doctoring his gashes. This time, however, he couldn’t refrain from vocalizing his discomfort, and a few curse words slipped out amid his hissing and groaning.

Not until his left leg was disinfected and bandaged did Phoenix dare to ask, “Did you really record it?” It was the first time he ventured to gaze directly at the younger man for more than a few seconds, and it was now Paige who was the one wishing to avoid eye contact.

Keeping his attention solely on treating the defense attorney’s right leg, Paige responded reluctantly, “Yes.”
Phoenix took a deep breath, his heart beating faster, and he knew he had to pose the question he wasn’t sure he could handle the answer to. “What are they planning on doing with it?”

There was a long pause, making Phoenix sick to his stomach from the implications of it. If it became public, his career would be over. His life would be over. There’d be no way he could ever show his face again in the same city, and absolutely no way in Hell that he could ever bring himself to be around Maya and Edgeworth. He’d have to move. Have to start a new life. Have to hide.

“I don’t know,” Paige at last replied. “He didn’t say. Maybe they’ll just keep it for themselves.”
The last statement, Phoenix understood, was meant to assuage his fears. It failed, but he appreciated the effort and went along with it. “Yeah, I hope so.”

The uneasy silence continued even after Paige finished and walked with him to the main room. Immediately, Phoenix draped his jacket over his shoulders and held it securely around himself, treating it almost like a protective barrier and not just merely something to get warm with.

“Thank you,” he mumbled quietly.
“You’re welcome.”
“Hey, um….could you leave the extra washcloth and towel?” He caught the uncertainty that crept into Paige’s eyes and quickly added, “It’s okay if you can’t. I’m sure they’ve got strict rules for you to follow….”
“Well, uh….Yeah, I guess that would be fine.”
“Thanks. They’ll be a lot better than trying to wash and dry myself with an absurd amount of paper towels.”
A small smile turned the corners of Paige’s mouth and he nodded. “I bet.”
Maybe I should ask for a blanket too….No, I better not press my luck…. “Seeing as how I asked last time, can you tell me how many days it’s been now?”
“Eleven or twelve.”
It hasn’t even been two weeks….It feels like it’s been so much longer…. He swallowed and tears sprang to his eyes from the realization that his birthday was approaching and inevitably, he’d be spending it trapped in such awful conditions, away from his dearest friends.

His wordless reaction was enough to have Paige prompt earnestly, “Phoenix? Are you okay?”
With a slight shake of his head, the defense attorney put on a smile and swallowed down his sadness. “Yeah, I’m fine. Just stings a lot still. At least my arm doesn’t feel so bad now,” he concluded with a light chuckle.
“That’s good then. I’ll get going. See you….sometime, I guess.”
“Yeah, I’m sure. Thanks again for your help.”
“My pleasure, Phoenix.”

When he was alone once more, Phoenix remained awake, head resting back against the wall, and staring at the ceiling. His limbs pulsed and pained, though they were only part of what was preventing him from sleeping.

Almost two weeks….Nothing. If Edgeworth hasn’t found me by now….will he? Are they even looking for me anymore? I have no way of knowing. I doubt Paige can tell me if the police are still searching. Am I stuck here for them to just play with for however long they want to entertain themselves for, and then….when they get bored….

I can’t believe I fucked everything up so badly….whatever I did….

-****-
Regardless of how inattentive he was during the investigation, Edgeworth shined in the courtroom, yet again proving why he was the best at what he did. Though he had grown as a prosecutor by accepting that both sides must work in tandem in the pursuit of justice, this was one case in which he felt certain that the defense’s client was without a doubt guilty. He had dreaded the trial, fretting over whether or not Phoenix would be invading his thoughts – the familiar scenery threatening to instill constant reminders of the man’s absence – yet he surprised even himself the second he stepped into the courtroom. It was like taking the stage; he had a part to play, and he would perform it to its fullest.

“I’m impressed,” Franziska commented, following him into his office. “That was the Miles Edgeworth I know. I’m pleased to see you’ve returned to your normal self.”
“Yes, well….there’s work to be done. I cannot allow myself to linger on what I can’t control. Until some sort of lead turns up on the Wright case, I should continue to be productive and fight with as much vigor as I do whenever facing off against him in the quest for truth.”
“Nothing from the list of suspects his assistant compiled?”
Edgeworth shook his head solemnly. “No. I’m meeting with her this afternoon to receive an update; however, I expect much the same result.”
“Do keep me posted.”
“You have my word.”

Giving a nod of farewell, Franziska took her leave, and Miles tiredly sat at his desk, the rush of adrenaline from the trial steadily exiting his system. A familiar glint of red caught his eye, and he smiled, taking the well-cared for keychain in his hand and holding it lovingly.

“Such unnecessary feelings,” he scoffed lightheartedly. “I suppose you could be an exception. You’ve shown me what it is to not give up, to turn things around. I made the mistake of living in silence for fifteen years. I won’t accept another fifteen without you, Signal Blue.”

-****-
Larry wasn’t good for many things. He wasn’t dependable (if a woman gave any sort of hint about favoring him – intentionally or not – he would neglect any previous plans in an instant). He wasn’t the brightest (though his big heart did much to compensate for that). But at the end of the day, he cherished his friendships.

If it wasn’t for Larry, Edgeworth would’ve never known the significance of the current date.

“It’s Nick’s birthday, Edgey,” Larry had blubbered over the phone to him. “I can’t believe he’s gone.”

It took awhile, but with extreme, uncharacteristic patience (since it was Larry he was speaking with), Edgeworth was able to ease his friend’s mind and did his best to assure him that their third samurai would be found alive and well.

He’d remembered the date for years after separating from the two of them since it bore importance; Phoenix’s birthday party was the first one he’d ever attended that wasn’t his own. As more time passed, so did the need to retain such trivial information. Now that Phoenix was missing from his life once more, it only made sense for someone to remind him of the same loss he’d felt from losing him the first time around.

“Whaaa?! It’s his birthday?!” Maya exclaimed, dumbfounded. “He never told me! I so would’ve thrown him a party last year if I’d known!”
Edgeworth shrugged, contemplating what to say, yet Maya continued.
“What should I get him?”
The question caught the prosecutor by surprise. “I’m sorry?”
“For Nick! What should I get him for his birthday?!”
But he’s not even here-- He hastily chucked the dismal thought into an imaginary lockbox and reconsidered. I suppose we could get him a gift, something happy for him to come home to. “Well, I’m not sure. Does he need anything for here, around the office?”
Maya glanced disinterestedly about the room and the cluttered desk, shaking her head. “No, no. A birthday gift shouldn’t be practical. It should be special! Something that’ll knock his socks off!”
I don’t know about that….
“Does he have the Signal Samurai DVD set?”
“I have no idea-”
“Let’s go find out!”

Before he could ask what that meant, she had already rushed to the elevator and was awaiting its arrival.

I assume his apartment, then….

-****-
Being in the space that he knew Phoenix hadn’t returned to in so long made Edgeworth highly uncomfortable, but he kept such sentiments to himself, especially since Maya displayed no qualms about being there. Granted, she practically lived here too whenever she was in the city, so it made sense that she’d be fine, yet he half expected her to have some sort of emotional reaction to being in Phoenix’s apartment like he presently was.

He kept close to the front door, letting her scour the defense attorney’s belongings on her own. The memory of the dream he’d had the last time he was here came rushing back, causing a shiver to run down his spine. He wondered if he’d ever have the courage to kiss and embrace the other man in real life….if and when they ever found him….

They didn’t stay long, for which Edgeworth was thankful – just long enough for her to ascertain that Phoenix didn’t have the television show DVD box set among his possessions. He accompanied her to several different stores, on the hunt for this gift she was determined to get for Phoenix. While on the search, Edgeworth pondered what he should get for his old childhood friend. With so much time between them, he had no idea what the other man was possibly interested in or what his hobbies were. Perhaps a book? No, too many genres to choose from. A new suit? No, too strange to be a birthday gift from someone he was working on getting to know all over again.

By the time they found a complete set of DVDs, it was early evening. Edgeworth dropped her off at her hotel and headed for home. Absently, he glanced at the storefronts he drove by on the off chance that one might stick out to him.

What to get for Wright? I haven’t the slightest clue of where to begin. Unfortunately, I haven’t spent enough time with him to have a good read of his likes and dislikes now that we’re older….

Waiting at a red light, he looked to the right and spotted a quaint little floral shop on the corner. There were flowers in all shades of the rainbow hanging in the window, along with some taller plants and cacti in colorful pots.

He does have that one in his office that he seems to enjoy. Perhaps another one would be nice? Or to have at his apartment?

A car horn cut through his thoughts, and he snapped back to attention to find the light was now green. Deciding it was worth taking a gander, he turned and parked on the street not far from the shop. There were only a few people inside, leaving him free to stroll about and take his time. Though the plant in Wright & Co. Law Offices was tall and clearly visible, he was leaning more towards getting something small and miniature in stature, one that could easily fit on a table or kitchen counter. And knowing how cramped Phoenix’s apartment was, a more compact one made better sense.

At the far end of the area, a couple of shelves lined the wall where he was able to locate exactly what he was needing. An array of tiny aloe and aloe vera succulents, cacti, and jade plants were on display in various colored pots. One of the latter caught his eye from the vivid burgundy pot it was housed in.

Picking it up carefully, he studied the handful of lush leaves that had sprouted and murmured, “Yes, I think this would be perfect for him. Something simple and that doesn’t require an extensive amount of care.”

He purchased the present, along with a vibrant blue ribbon that the florist tied into an elegant bow around the pot, and situated it safely in the passenger seat of his car.

I hope you like it, Phoenix. I’ll keep it healthy and thriving until your return.

-****-
The silence and loneliness were beginning to sink in under his skin, unnerving him, intensifying his longing for human contact. Considering what that contact would entail in his current environment, Phoenix didn’t understand what he was actually wanting. He missed his friends, of course, but even casual conversation with strangers would suffice at this point. And the stillness in the room – it was deafening. It hadn’t bothered him for the majority of his stay since most of it was spent with a splitting headache. Now that he’d recovered, it was impossible not to notice how stifling the quiet was, making the noise stemmed from his movements seem much louder than what they were.

There was no concrete way of knowing how many days had passed since he’d last seen Paige, and he felt like an idiot for missing the interaction. By no means did he want any of the others to return, but Paige – he couldn’t deny that he felt comfortable in the younger man’s presence. If things weren’t currently what they were, if they’d met under different circumstances, he wondered if some sort of friendship was possible. He knew Maya would get along with him just from the fact that Paige liked the Steel Samurai; that would be good enough for her.

With the reveal that his birthday was approaching from the last visit he’d had, Phoenix decided to prepare for it, no matter how silly it felt to do so. He wasn’t one to make a big deal out of the date; indeed, he’d never even mentioned when it was to Maya. Other than Larry insisting on taking him out for rounds at the bar, he didn’t really celebrate. Since that treat wouldn’t be possible this year, he chose to attempt a birthday celebration not shrouded in despair.

He washed his suit jacket one day, his boxers the next, showered himself once both garments were relatively dry numerous hours later, re-did the bandages on his limbs after they’d had time to dry as well, and shaved his face. There wasn’t much stubble, and it was a chore to do it without a mirror, though the refreshing feeling he had afterward made the task worthwhile.

He’d rationed his snacks to only one per day; however, to mark the special occasion, he indulged himself with both a rice cake and a granola bar. Taking a seat at the desk, he opened the wrappers and set his “feast” out before him.

I don’t even know if it’s my actual birthday yet, he thought with a smirk. Close enough, I guess.

“Well….happy birthday. Never would’ve thought I’d spend one like this….If I could have just one gift, I wish I could see my friends again….”

His stomach growled, prompting him to dig in. The items certainly weren’t as tasty as a traditional cake, but they served their purpose of being decent treats.

So I’ll owe Edgeworth a nice dinner, and Larry will owe me birthday drinks.

He chuckled and let his thoughts wander to pleasant memories of his grade school days, the three of them inseparable and forging what he knew would be lifelong friendships. Despite that belief being shaken by Edgeworth’s sudden move away and subsequent stubbornness to be close again, he was confident once more that he had been right all those years ago.

Whenever his mind strayed to Edgeworth, he couldn’t help but feel a full, warm pleasantness spread throughout his being. They were learning how to be friends again, with a great deal of patience and understanding on Phoenix’s part. He knew he couldn’t push the other man, had to take what was given to him no matter how insignificant the actions seemed, because he knew it would be worth the baby-steps he was putting in now in order to get Edgeworth to consider him as an equal, at least outside of court. Miles Edgeworth was fierce, but there was a gentler side that Phoenix was certain existed; he yearned to be the one to discover and experience it.

Shit….

He wasn’t sure how seemingly tame thoughts of Edgeworth could be such a turn-on. He’d become aroused simply from picturing the man’s face in his head. Surrendering to the need to satisfy another sort of hunger, he ambled over to the mattress and lay on it. His fingers undid the buttons on his jacket and parted the garment to expose his torso entirely. He pushed the waistband of his boxers down just enough to expose himself, closed his eyes, and with a complacent sigh, he grasped his erection and began a steady rhythm.

Many nights he did this – pretending Edgeworth was the one rubbing him, or went more erotic by conjuring images of the prosecutor thrusting wildly within him, dominating him in the bedroom after a heated defeat in the courtroom. While there’d been heavy petting and make-out sessions with other guys during his college years, he nonetheless held out hope for Edgeworth being the first to claim his body in the most intimate of ways.

But now….his arm….his legs….They’d been grossly disfigured. How would Edgeworth react? Would he be repulsed? Could he look past the marks? Would they serve to render him utterly unattractive and therefore, undesirable?

The thought of Edgeworth rejecting him once his new scars were revealed caused Phoenix to stop abruptly.

I can’t let him see me like this….Ever. I’m sure he’s had his fair share of romantic flings. There’s no way I could ever compete for his attention. Not like this….Not with what they’ve done….

He tucked himself away, sat up, and huddled against the wall. The white gauze encasing his legs and arm were more apparent now than ever before, and the aches lingering underneath that reminded him of why it was there in the first place made him cover his face with his hands.

Happy birthday….to me….

-****-
Unbeknownst to Phoenix, his actual birthday was the following day. It was spent doing much of nothing, a typical occurrence for him in his new surroundings.

The boredom was growing into an annoyance; he lost track of how many times he organized and re-organized the custodial room, the number of laps he walked around the main area, or the failed attempts at trying to pry open either the elevator doors or the one leading to the stairwell.

Would’ve been nice if they could’ve left my watch. I bet my sleep schedule has gotten so out of whack….

It seemed like forever since he’d had the unfavorable company pay him a visit. Had they forgotten about him? He didn’t really care, except for the fact that his medical and food supplies were dwindling relatively quickly. He’d noticed it the previous night when he wore his suit jacket properly, how it felt bigger on him, making him suddenly aware of the inevitable weight he was losing as a result of not eating well or much at all.

When they returned the next night, whatever craving he’d had for human contact dissipated instantaneously. He knew then how much he shouldn’t take being bored for granted.

The aroma from their fast-food burgers and fries was unbearable; he tried not to watch from where he sat – the same pillar he’d been affixed to last time, though tonight, he was firmly ordered to stay near it and hands bound behind his back with duct tape. It was tempting to ask for a bite – a single fry would do – but he anticipated either them laughing at his suffering or giving him a less-than-appealing ultimatum to fulfill. If only it’d been Paige by himself; surely he would take pity on him….

They were talkative; about what, Phoenix wasn’t sure – all he could concentrate on was the delicious smell of their dinner. His mouth was watering, stomach cramping and whining from the need to be fed.

Be strong, Phoenix. You’re not hungry. You’re not hungry. That stuff wouldn’t taste good anyway. You’re not hungry.

Even after they were finished, the scent lingered in the air for quite awhile. His desperation was sinking in to the point he had to catch himself before asking if he could eat whatever crumbs and scraps they had left.

Bottles of beer were passed around, cards were dealt, and the first game of the night began. Instead of Paige winning each hand, it evened out to about once every three, though never when someone tossed money on the desk to raise the stakes. After Paige, Hunter and Packe revealed themselves to be the top players.

Two hours into the games, Hunter posed the question, “Want to make things a bit more interesting?”
There were murmurs of piqued curiosity, and Phoenix instinctively shrank against the pillar, afraid that the next statement would involve him somehow.
“We should put lawyer boy over there to good use. We know how much he enjoys getting punished. Isn’t that right, Wrong?”

When there was no reaction from Phoenix, Hunter took one of the empty bottles on the desk and threw it. The glass shattered against the pillar where Phoenix sat, and he let out an involuntary yelp and recoiled from the boisterous impact. The group laughed, and he reluctantly turned to look in their direction.

“Little jumpy are we, Wrong? Like my new name for you? Since you’re oh-so-very-wrong about what you did. I’m sure I can come up with a couple more.” Hunter reverted his attention back to his accomplices and said, “We can start making him the prize. Winner gets a mouth party from this backstabbing piece of shit. Sound fun and worth playing for?”
“I’m in.”
“Same.”
“Sounds good.”
“In.”
They all stared at the one who hadn’t answered, and Hunter prodded, “Well Paige?”
Paige glanced from one face to the next before looking down at his hands shyly. “I-I guess. Sure,” he replied quietly.
“Good. Shuffle up and deal, Herdin.”

Phoenix’s stomach churned, not from hunger this time. The idea of being nothing more than a pawn, of having to do such a vile thing that someone else had offered him up for….He shuddered, dreading the moment the current round would be over. There was no way he would let it happen. At least not without some sort of fight.

Lemming was the first to win. The defense attorney remained immobile, keeping his head turned away and jaw tightly clenched. With eyes closed, he heard the belt coming undone and the zipper moving before wincing from the other man yanking on his hair several times. Nevertheless, he stayed as still as ever. Strongly, Lemming’s hand went under Phoenix’s chin to take hold of his jaw and forced him to face him. The grip was intense enough, Phoenix was certain there’d be bruising from it later.

“Open up,” Lemming commanded. “Time to claim my winnings.”
Nothing.
Frustrated, Lemming slapped him powerfully and repeated, “Open up.”
Tears welled in Phoenix’s eyes from the stinging blow, but still, he did not comply.
“Better cooperate, Mr. Wrong,” Hunter called from the desk. “You’d hate to have something happen to that cute little assistant of yours, wouldn’t you?”
The reference to Maya made Phoenix stare at the leader with terror and rage burning in his gaze.
“That struck a chord, didn’t it? You must really care about her. Nothing bad will happen if you just let us have some fun.”

Whether or not they’d follow through with the threat, Phoenix knew he couldn’t risk it. The notion of any harm befalling Maya, especially if it was because of him, he wouldn’t be able to live with himself.

There was nothing to do other than set aside his pride and consent to the request.

Begrudgingly, he opened his mouth, nausea hitting him the second Lemming invaded his oral cavity with his limp cock. There were crude comments and jeering from those seated at the table, which he made an effort to ignore. Both of the other man’s hands rested atop his head, preventing him from moving it whatsoever, fingers threaded through his hair and tugged every now and then.

“Better make it good too!” Hunter hollered. “But I’m sure you’ve sucked dick before right, Wrong?”

He swirled his tongue around the intruder and sucked with as much vigor as he would if it had been for a lover. The firmer the flesh became, the more difficult it was, for Lemming started thrusting, forcing himself deeper into the defense attorney’s throat. Phoenix gagged multiple times, the hands on his skull clutched tighter, and a couple of tears escaped his downcast eyes. He felt like he couldn’t breathe with how much his gag reflex was being triggered, and eventually, he gave up doing anything at all except being motionless, allowing Lemming to fuck his face abrasively.

Please just be done already, Phoenix implored silently. Please….

His expression contorted to one of almost pain as the man’s hips bucked into him, the propulsions gaining speed. When Lemming at last went rigid, his entire length was encased beyond Phoenix’s lips. The viscous liquid coated the back of his throat in short bursts, making him cough and gag, feeling as if he would choke on it.

“Way to take it all, fucking faggot,” Lemming said callously.

Slowly, he withdrew from Phoenix’s mouth and adjusted his clothing. Phoenix leaned forward, gasping for air, and attempted to expel as much of the semen as he could. It wasn’t nearly enough, compelling him to swallow the remainder.

“Good boy!” Hunter teased. “Looks like you sure know how to please a man, pretty lawyer boy. Is that why Edgeworth was calling you so late and so much the night we got you? He was looking to get his rocks off? Is Phoenix Wright secretly a booty call for Prosecutor Edgeworth?”

The group chortled at this provocative suggestion, and the defense attorney felt his cheeks flush with embarrassment. He put his back to them, which only served to perpetuate their insinuations.

“Who knew?! Phoenix Wright has a thing for the Miles Edgeworth.”
“Star-crossed lovers-”
“-One’s a defense attorney-”
“-The other a prosecutor-”
“-Battling each other in the courtroom by day. By night-”
“-They break all the rules and fuck each other senseless.”
“I’m sure you’d love it if Edgeworth pounded you into the bed and had you begging for mercy.”

They continued on with similar snide, explicit comments while the next game got underway. Phoenix leaned against the pillar, head bowed, and frenziedly worked to stifle his crying. He didn’t think he could feel any smaller, any more humiliated. Part of him prayed that Paige would allow himself to win with the hope that he would either decline the prize or be more considerate than Lemming had been.

The voice he ended up hearing eventually declare “My turn” was the one he dreaded most.

He started quivering long before the person approached him and was disgusted by the sensation of Hunter’s semi-hard cock tracing patterns on his face.

“Being modest now, are we, slut? Come on. Open up, little Feenie.”

It was a pet-name Phoenix could never forget. Approximately five years had passed since he’d last heard it, and his heart dropped at the mention of it.

“What did you call me?” he bravely inquired, though his tone was apprehensive, and dared to meet Hunter’s eyes with his own.
“Just another name for you. Like it?”
“Who did you hear that from?”
“Enough of this pointless chatter.”

Gruffly, Hunter pried Phoenix’s mouth open and shoved his erection inside. Phoenix reflexively pulled away; however, the group leader’s hand went to the back of his head and secured him in place.

“Relax and enjoy it, won’t you?”

Hunter didn’t bother giving Phoenix a chance to pleasure him on his own. He aggressively thrusted, delighting in the way Phoenix struggled against him and the strangled noises he emitted. There was nothing the defense attorney needed to do other than remain kneeling and keep his teeth from accidentally scraping against the large cock fornicating his mouth.

“You like punishment, right? I remember how hard you were last time we were here. I’m just giving you what you want.”

Even without doing much, Phoenix was surprised at how sore his facial muscles felt. He was glad once Hunter finally withdrew a few minutes later, though hurriedly regretted the premature celebration. Warm fluid spilled onto his face, and his stomach lurched as Hunter spread his seed around with the tip of his still leaking member to thoroughly coat his cheeks and lips. There were even traces of it in his hair by the time Hunter finished.

“You look like a million bucks, Wright,” he mocked. “This suits you. Perfect picture of a perfect whore.”

Worried about traces of the liquid getting into his eyes from what he could feel on his closed eyelids, he opened them carefully, blinking away the droplets lingering among his lashes.

I’m filthy….

The feeling grew far worse as the ejaculate dried on his skin. A total of five more games were played, though at some point during them, winning wasn’t required anymore. Herdin, Lackey, and Packe cashed in on using him, as well as Hunter for a second time. The smell and taste of their semen revolted Phoenix, and he couldn’t wait to be alone again, to brush his teeth ten times over and scrub his face until his skin was raw.

“Let’s give a round of applause to our star tonight, eh boys?” Hunter pronounced.
Phoenix commanded himself not to cry as they clapped for him.
“But before we go, there was one more thing I was really wanting to try. Bring him over here, will ya?”

Lackey and Pack hoisted Phoenix up onto his feet and practically dragged him to the desk where he was promptly bent over it, his bare torso held in place against the smooth wood by strong hands pressing against his shoulder blades and another keeping the right side of his face pinned down. Though he was tired, he writhed under their restraining clutches, heart thumping so intensely in his chest he thought it might burst.

There’s no way they’d do this. It’s just to scare me. They wouldn’t….

“Calm down, Wrong. Sheesh,” Hunter soothed. “Always such a fighter. What did I say earlier? Relax and enjoy it. It’ll be worse if you’re too tense.”

With his head turned away, he was incapable of seeing what they were preparing for. The one thing he did see was Paige moving into view, camera in hand, and looking very disturbed. He tried catching the younger man’s eye as a means to silently beg him to intervene, yet Paige was purposefully avoiding his imploring gaze.

After a minute or so, Hunter stated casually, “Alright. Ready for the last show of the night, boys?”

Phoenix’s underwear was pulled down to rest around his ankles, and something cold and wet began prodding him. Despite not having ever been penetrated this way, he could discern it wasn’t one of them personally doing it. As the foreign object wedged itself deeper, he gasped and whimpered, his body stiffening in response to the highly uncomfortable nudging.

“Stop, please,” he pleaded, voice frantic and eyes darting about wildly. “Don’t do this.”
“Relaaaax,” Hunter repeated indifferently. “Gotta get some practice in for good ol’ Edgeworth, right?”

His body jerked with every forcible movement the item made, and after five attempts, he wailed in agony as the neck of the empty beer bottle sheathed itself wholly within him. Sweat coated his skin, his eyes were wide, and he was panting. For a brief period, nothing happened. The group cackled and surveyed their work, pleased that they had succeeded in getting the glass inside of him and were thoroughly entertained by the bottom half of the bottle still being visible.

“Doesn’t feel so bad, does it? And we were nice enough to lube it up for you, too.”

Phoenix shut his eyes tightly as the object was removed partway only to be roughly jammed inside of him once more, producing an anguished scream. If he wasn’t being held down, he was sure that his legs would’ve buckled. The pain was immense, causing him to tremble involuntarily and release a slew of pitiful noises.

“Just stretching you out a bit. I would’ve thought you liked being fucked this way.”

Unable to form words, Phoenix incessantly verbalized his torment with squeals and strangled cries as they forcefully sodomized him. Relentlessly, the bottle assaulted him, each vigorous re-insertion that plunged it deep into his body more violent than the previous.

This isn’t happening….This isn’t happening….This isn’t what I think it is….It’s not what I think it is….It can’t be….

“Getting some good footage, Paige? He’s giving us gold. What if we showed your assistant and the prosecutor’s office how much of a depraved slut you are, eh Wright?”

Phoenix went pale, his mouth suddenly dry, and horror on an entirely different level overwhelmed him.

“Nothing to say to that? Does that mean you want us to?”
Finding his voice, no matter how miniscule it was, Phoenix answered, “No….Please….”
“Well, you are being nice and polite saying ‘please.’ I guess I can be nice, too.”

For ten minutes, he was kept there as they amused themselves by raping him with the bottle. When it was removed for the final time, he waited expectantly for several seconds for it to be thrusted inside him again. Relief consumed him when it didn’t return and the hands touching him disappeared. Almost immediately, he collapsed to the floor in an exhausted, quaking heap. Someone severed the duct tape around his wrists, and he slowly brought his arms to rest in front of him, his shoulders and biceps aching terribly from the restricting position they’d been in for so long.

“I don’t know about you, but I sure had fun tonight,” Hunter said smugly. “We’ll have to do it again sometime.”

An hour after he was left alone, he managed to conjure enough strength to finally move. He tossed his boxers in the direction of the mattress, and in a state of bewilderment and displaying a severe limp, he hobbled to the custodial room where he proceeded to take a lengthy shower, meticulously washing himself. He couldn’t stop shaking; at times, he hyperventilated. His eyes were large and fraught with shock. Drenching himself multiple times with soap, it was the one time in which he wished the water was hot enough to sear his skin. In its own way, the cold temperature provided a similar sensation – until numbness at last set in and he couldn’t feel anymore.

Chapter Text

-****-
For twenty-four hours straight, Phoenix sat awake. After cleansing his body so passionately that the majority of his cuts tore open and bled, he brushed his teeth six consecutive times – once for each occurrence. When he staggered back to the main area and eased himself onto the mattress, being mindful to lean sidewise against the wall rather than sitting straight up, his wandering gaze landed on the desk at the opposite side of the room. They’d left all their empty bottles, and he suddenly found swallowing difficult from the knot forming in his throat and began to tremble.

It wasn’t that. That didn’t happen to me….It’s not as bad as what it feels like….They didn’t….That’s not what happened….

His eyes remained open, staring absently at the plain scenery around him. The nerve endings in his flesh slowly thawed, and he tightened his grasp on his jacket cocooning him as he started to shiver uncontrollably.

It’s okay….Maybe I can still fix whatever I did wrong….It’ll be okay….

His eyelids would get heavy, but before he would ever shut them to fall asleep, his mind replayed everything and jolted him awake. There were multiple moments when he’d burst into tears, the shame overwhelming him, mourning the loss of what was now only possible in his imagination – the forbidden fantasies involving Edgeworth. For his first time, he’d never envisioned it happening under such duress. It was supposed to be loving, exhilarating, euphoric; some pain could be expected from the inexperience, but nothing substantial. Nothing like what he’d endured. There weren’t supposed to be any adverse emotions, either; now, he couldn’t feel anything other than disgrace and humiliation.

Tremulously smearing the remnants of tears that had tracked down his cheeks, he strived to maintain an optimistic outlook. Edgeworth would find him. He’d be reunited with his friends. He could go home. He’d never have to speak of what’d happened and pretend like nothing did, refuse to testify if any of them were taken to trial.

No one would ever have to know.

-****-
Another week passed, bringing with it a new case to distract himself with. The concerns were ever present in the recesses of Edgeworth’s mind; however, he was determined to submerge himself so thoroughly in his work that there wouldn’t be time to dwell on his friend. He was beginning to sleep better and for longer uninterrupted, whereas before, he was lucky if he got two consecutive hours. Having exhausted the list of leads from prior cases, Maya returned to Kurain for the time being, and he was made to promise that he would alert her to anything new that arose.

There were understandably instances during the days when he would have to stop what he was doing and let the grief roll over him; it was impossible to forget Phoenix entirely, though he’d greatly improved his ability to re-focus and squash the graphic imagery that would rattle him to his core.

Utterly engrossed in reviewing the documents for the current investigation, he was highly displeased when the phone rang, disrupting his concentration.

“Prosecutor Edgeworth speaking,” he answered rather curtly.
“It’s Gumshoe, sir.”
Edgeworth rolled his eyes. “What is it, detective? Something relevant to the case, I hope.”
“Well, uh, not exactly.” The man’s tone was nervous, though that was nothing unusual.
“Then I suggest you tell me the reason for your inconveniently-timed call.”
“It’s, uh, well….”
Edgeworth’s patience was thinning. “I’m waiting.”
“It has to do with your buddy.”
Immediately, Edgeworth’s stomach plummeted, and he stood, eyes wide. “Phoenix?” he gasped.
“Yeah. We got something.”
“What is it? Did you find him? Is he alright? Is he hurt?” The questions were leaving his lips so rapidly, he didn’t even have a chance to think about them first.
“No, we didn’t find him, I’m sorry.”
Edgeworth felt as if his body was deflating as he slowly drifted back down into his chair. “Oh, I see,” he said, his voice weighed with emotion.
“You need to come over to the precinct. There’s something we have to show you.”
“Yes, of course. I’m on my way.”

He hung up the phone, his heart reeling from the initial elation to sudden abject disappointment. Summoning his composure, he stood, straightened his waistcoat, and all but ran out of his office.

-****-
Tension permeated the room like a thick cloud, unsettling the prosecutor from the moment he stepped foot into the building. Passing by the other officers as Gumshoe led him to a more secluded area, he noticed how they all seemed uneasy, with most refusing to steal so much as a glance in his direction.

This doesn’t bode well….

Away from the main work floor in one of the interrogation rooms, Edgeworth spotted a lone manila envelope on the table, assuming it was the purpose for his visit, though he refrained from inspecting its contents as Gumshoe closed the door.

“This came in yesterday, sir,” the detective explained. “We tested for prints and possible DNA residue, but the culprit must’ve glued the stamp on it and sealed it the same way. Everything came back clean as a whistle. I don’t want to upset you, but….I thought you should still have a look.”

All at once, Edgeworth was unbelievably queasy. He had no idea what to expect. Whatever was stuffed inside of the seemingly harmless envelope was enough to disturb everyone. He couldn’t control the slight tremor in his hands as he grasped the questionable item and reached in to remove the contents.

The instant he saw the first photograph, he began to feel incredibly faint. It was unmistakably Phoenix, the close-up picture showcasing his horribly beaten and swollen face. Heavy bruising surrounded his closed eyes and colored his cheeks amidst the vibrant blood that coated his pale skin in multiple places from his hairline down to his chin.

Oh god….Phoenix….

“Is he….?” The prosecutor swallowed the next word, afraid that if he spoke it aloud, it’d somehow make it true.
“We don’t think so. If you keep lookin’, he’s got his eyes open in one of ‘em.”

Edgeworth’s gaze didn’t stray from the photo for an entire minute. Eventually, he absently moved it to the back of the stack and revealed the next one. Phoenix’s whole body was in the shot, unclothed except for his underwear and lying lifelessly atop a small, dirty mattress. More bruising was visible, blotching him from his arms and torso to his legs.

I don’t believe this was the result of a single person….He was assaulted by at least one other….

Even though it was his first time seeing his friend in such a state of undress, it was absent any sort of sexual response; his alarm at having his worst fears solidified with proof prevented him from otherwise enjoying the sight of Phoenix practically nude.

When he uncovered the next picture, an audible noise of disgust escaped him, and the evidence nearly fell to the floor as his grasp faltered. It was another zoomed in shot of the defense attorney’s face, and while it was a relief that his appearance had returned to normal save for a few lingering bruises here and there, it was what was depicted in the photo that made Edgeworth feel unhinged. Though it had been cropped out for the most part, it was obvious there was a hand resting on Phoenix’s head, evidently holding him in place, fingers threaded in his tousled hair. His expression looked pained even with his eyes closed, and Edgeworth couldn’t stop staring at the man’s mouth and the irrefutable object it was clearly encased around.

Tempted to shred the picture into confetti, the prosecutor instead quickly put it behind the others, yet the following was no better. It was Phoenix by himself with the apparent outcome of the act that’d been captured in the previous image splattered on his face. Hurriedly, he flipped to the last one of the batch and found himself staring into his friend’s traumatized eyes that were fixated directly on the camera’s lens. Edgeworth assumed he was lying down with the way his head was resting against a solid surface, and after knowing what’d occurred in the other two photos and the beseeching way in which Phoenix was looking at whoever was taking the picture, Edgeworth’s mind understandably went to the most likely cause for his friend’s visible distress.

This can’t be….Not him….These can’t be real….Please let me be wrong about what they did to you….

“Sir?”

With how intently he was staring at the prints, Edgeworth forgot he wasn’t alone. His eyes shifted from the images in his hands for the first time since he’d pulled them from the envelope to find Gumshoe watching him worriedly.

“You don’t look so hot. Maybe you should sit down.”
Edgeworth felt like the room was spinning, that he and everything around him was coming undone, but he inhaled deeply, set the new evidence onto the table, and was thankful his voice was even and in control as he commanded, “These are to remain confidential. Not a word to the press about receiving them or even Franziska. If someone so much as utters the smallest peep about them, I won’t rest until I find out who and strip them of their badge. Do we have an understanding, detective?”
The cold, gravely serious manner in which the order was delivered made Gumshoe visibly gulp before offering a salute. “Yes sir!”

He held it together as he walked out of the building. He held it together during the trip back to his office. Crossing the area, Edgeworth held it together for another minute more before his left hand balled into a fist and he slammed it down onto his desk; he did so with such immense force that a shockwave of pain spread throughout it and up his arm. He didn’t mind. The fury which had been building inside of him since he first saw Phoenix’s brutalized face made him immune to feeling anything else.

I’ll find you, Phoenix. I swear it. Somehow….

-****-
Upon entering the basement, Paige was surprised that Phoenix wasn’t in his usual spot on the mattress. There was a brief moment of panic, thinking he’d perhaps escaped somehow despite knowing that was impossible, but he soon relaxed at the sound of running water coming from the bathroom. It’d been eight days since they’d left him after the sadistic incident, and while Paige enjoyed visiting Phoenix by himself, he was quite anxious about what the defense attorney’s reaction to him would be this time. Choosing to go against Hunter’s original orders, he brought with him what could be considered a peace offering: a large pepperoni pizza and beer.

He stayed by the entrance, waiting for the other man to finish whatever he was doing. After another minute or so, Phoenix stepped into the hallway and immediately froze once he saw he had company. His tired countenance instantly transformed into one of alarm and trepidation.

“I’m sorry if I scared you,” Paige said sincerely, wishing to defuse the apprehension as quickly as he could. “It’s just me, I swear.”

For quite some time, they regarded one another in silence. The enticing smell of food wasn’t even enough to make Phoenix move; he was rooted to the spot like an animal attempting to blend in with its surroundings to avoid danger. Paige couldn’t blame him; the guilt from doing nothing and the sights and sounds from the cruel event plagued him; he was sure the memory haunted Phoenix just as much. It was only natural that the other man would be reluctant to trust and welcome him back as if nothing was wrong.

“I brought you something to eat,” he at last offered when it was obvious Phoenix wouldn’t risk stepping closer. “An actual meal this time, too. I figured you could use some real food. I’ve also got another bag of snacks since I’m sure you’re out. I’ll leave it all here and be on my way. I just….wanted to see you and make sure you’re okay.”

It was extremely subtle, but he caught the softness settling into Phoenix’s unwavering gaze. Cautiously, Phoenix approached him and said quietly, “You can stay if you’d like. I, um….” He trailed off, unsure if he should finish his statement. Deciding to let his guard down, he ultimately completed his thought several seconds later. “I kinda missed having someone to talk to.”

Paige blushed and smiled sweetly. “Okay. Lead the way.”

Since the desk was still littered with empty bottles, the defense attorney took his visitor to the far end of the room to sit against the back wall. The pizza box was set in between them, and Paige handed him a plate and napkin followed by a can of beer. The scent was so potent now, Phoenix was practically salivating; he didn’t want to show how eager he was and embarrass himself by scarfing the food down in a messy display spurred on by starvation. It was tempting to start ravenously shoveling slices into his mouth, but he forced himself to begin with one and take steady bites.

The taste was extraordinary. From the instant the flavor exploded in his mouth, he almost wept with joy. It was the single best thing he had ever eaten.

“Thank you for this,” he chirped happily. “I’d forgotten how amazing food is,” he added with a light chuckle.
“Glad you like it. It was a good thing I picked it up when I did; I didn’t realize they were closing in five minutes.”

Phoenix made a mental note of the information; it was the first concrete hint he’d had during his whole captivity related to what time of day it was. It also left him feeling somewhat depressed, thinking about everyone going on about their regular routines and lives while he was locked away forgotten in a place he wasn’t even certain was in the same city.

“What time do you guys usually come here?” he questioned, hoping to have more insight into their habits.
“Between eleven and midnight.”
“Why so late?”
“Work for them and school for me during the day. Plus, not as many people around.”
“Oh….I see. That makes sense.”

He chugged a respectable amount of beer between slices. Being a lightweight already, combined with a very empty stomach, it didn’t take much at all to feel the effects of the alcohol. He lazily grabbed a fourth helping of the pizza, only then noticing he’d been eating it by himself.

“Aren’t you gonna have some?” he inquired and stared at the younger man expectantly.
“No, you go ahead. I got it for you.”
“I can’t eat all of it….least I don’t think I should. Sure you don’t want any?”
“I’m sure.”
“Okay. As long as you’re sure.”

Once he’d eaten half of his sixth slice, his stomach was uncomfortably full and wouldn’t allow him to have anymore. Pushing away the pizza box and cracking open a third can of beer, he stretched his legs out in front of himself and tilted his head back against the wall, closing his eyes briefly.

“That was so good. Thanks again.”
“You’re welcome.”
Placing his hand on Paige’s thigh, he patted it affectionately and said, “You always take good care of me. I’d be a bleeding mess without you. Literally.” He laughed, amused at his own choice of words.
Paige could feel himself getting hot in response to the touch, his nerves in a frenzy from the innocently intended gesture, and tried to put his focus toward something else.
Quieting down after several seconds, Phoenix sighed and shook his head, though kept his hand in place. “I don’t get it. You’re nothing like them. You’re kind and smart. You don’t act like a total asshole or look like you live at the gym to get girls swooning over you….” He hastily looked to Paige, who was observing him closely, and he suddenly fretted about having upset him. “I didn’t mean that last part in a bad way. You’re very cute. You don’t need to be a beefcake like them. Shit, I’m sorry.”
Paige smiled; he hadn’t anticipated the defense attorney getting so obviously tipsy in such a short amount of time. He found it highly entertaining, which only served to further pique his attraction. “It’s alright. I know what you mean.”
“So how? And why?”

Perhaps it was the remorse he had that compelled him to feel like he owed Phoenix an explanation. Perhaps it was the hope that Phoenix wouldn’t remember any of their conversation if he became too drunk. Perhaps it was both compounded by his fondness for him that granted Paige the courage to reply, “Hunter and I are brothers.”

Phoenix pulled his hand away as if he’d been burned, not catching the flash of disappointment in Paige’s expression, and shifted to face him more directly. “Brothers?” he repeated, flabbergasted.
“Yes.”
Holy shit….Did not see that one coming….But that helps explain a lot…. “Jeeze….Care to share what that’s been like?”
“He picked on me most of the time. And if you’ve noticed, he has a way of persuading people to do things. I learned early on to go along with it and save myself from a fight.”
Phoenix nodded sympathetically. “He does have that bullying-quality about him.”
“He’s not entirely awful, though. I landed in a bad crowd a few months ago and he really helped me out.”
“How?”
“I was holding some drugs for them and almost got busted by the cops, but Hunter helped me evade them and get rid of the stuff. He found me a place to stay for awhile. I’m living there until things settle down.”
“That’s oddly nice of him, but that still doesn’t make up for how badly he treated you growing up, does it?....Or how he treats me?”

They each turned their attention to the floor, a weighty silence seeping between them. Phoenix was all too aware of the terrible things people would do for the sake of family and loyalty. The dark history between the Kurain branch and head bloodlines was one example. There was probably a fear of being ostracized by his closest relatives if Paige revealed the truth since Hunter would no doubt find a way to pin the blame on his brother and paint himself as a victim to Paige’s devious plan. While impossible for him to understand, Phoenix thought of another probable motive for Paige’s compliance: a desire to have Hunter’s, his big brother’s, approval of him.

“I’m sure he’s done some good things for you in the past,” Phoenix finally began gently, “but surely you know this is wrong. You can be a voice for justice. You can stand up to him.”
Paige shook his head. “There’s five of them and one of me. It’ll be their word against mine. They’ll turn on me.”
“And if they do, I’ll defend you. Did you forget that’s kind of what I do?” He smiled when the younger man eventually made eye contact. “I’d be more than happy to help you if that happens. I know you’re a good person, Paige. And I know it’s hard when you’re feeling pressured to do something wrong. But you can always turn your thinking around and be a voice to those who need it. I’d gladly be yours if you ever need one. Deal?”
With nothing else coming to mind, Paige blinked away the tears in his eyes, nodded, and whispered, “Deal.”
“Good.” He let a beat pass before switching topics to something more pleasant. “So what do you study at Ivy University?”
“Computer science and some audio/visual stuff.”
“That’s why they have you record then, huh?”
Paige glanced away, regretfully. “Yes, I suppose so.”
“God, I really hope they don’t release those….”
“Me too.”
Giving a big yawn, Phoenix abruptly changed the subject again. “I’m soooo sleepy now.” He scooted closer to Paige and leaned against him, resting his head on his shoulder. He didn’t notice how the younger man became tense, nor did he feel him barely trembling. “You know what would be really nice?”
“What?”
“A blanket. I get so cold. I’d do anything for one….Be all warm and toasty.”
“I’ll see what I can do.”
“You’re so good to me. What would I do without you?”
A severe blush colored Paige’s cheeks, and he was rendered speechless for the moment.
"They’re not coming tonight, are they?”
“N-No. I’m n-not sure when he’s wanting to next.”
“Mmm….Good….”
“Wouldn’t you be more comfortable on your bed?”
“It’s so far.”
Paige stifled a giggle; at most, it was ten steps away. “Come on. I’ll help you.”

In spite of the grumbled noises of protest from Phoenix, he pulled the defense attorney up to stand and walked him over to the mattress. Once Phoenix was situated on his back, Paige lay the suit jacket over his torso and not until his eyes were closed did Paige begin petting his hair. Phoenix murmured his satisfaction, the sound drawing the younger man’s attention to his lips, and Paige had to steel himself from his bubbling desires that would otherwise drive him to caress them with his own.

“Sleep well, Phoenix,” he breathed. “Good night.”
“Good night,” was the barely audible response.

For the next fifteen minutes, Paige remained beside Phoenix’s prone form, stroking his hair and face. He replayed the man’s words in his head, guilt once again consuming him because he knew he would continue to fail him. He didn’t deserve any of his compassion.

“I hope you can forgive me some day….Phoenix.”

Chapter Text

-****-
The restless nights returned with a vengeance, leaving Edgeworth groggy and irritable. Within the past three days, he’d gotten a total of approximately five hours of sleep. He’d been able to bluff his way for the most part through the trial he’d prepared for, an ability he was all too familiar with that left him feeling despondent from missing the person who did it best, yet he knew he couldn’t keep up the charade for long, and it would be impossible to fool Franziska.

The fact that he had Gumshoe make him copies of the photographic evidence of Phoenix’s maltreatment to constantly review and scrutinize, hoping for the tiniest hint revealing where he was being held, was more than likely not a good idea. The images became seared into his mind to the point he didn’t need to refer to the pictures themselves anymore to remember every little detail. Now that he could recall them perfectly from memory, the sordid scenarios began plaguing him easily. The group of suspects ranged in number from two to ten, and he often got carried away with imagining how far they were taking the abuse. There was already proof of physical violence and sexual exploitation; he feared for Phoenix’s mental well-being if he wasn’t found soon.

It didn’t make any sense. The criminals were toying with him, but why had there been no demands? No ransom request for Phoenix’s safe return had come in, no explanation for why’d they’d taken him – so what was the purpose behind all of this? Surely, they wanted something. They wouldn’t have bothered showcasing that he was still alive if they weren’t seeking something of value in exchange for him.

He wasn’t sure what brought on the urge to visit the man’s apartment around midnight one night. Perhaps it was a need to feel connected to him in some way. Once he let himself in, he quickly realized he should’ve been taking care of Phoenix’s affairs while he was missing. It was understandable how it’d slipped his mind, though he felt personally responsible. It was his fault the electricity had been shut off. There was still running water, at least, making him wonder if it was a utility included with rent-

Damn it. I’m sure he’s past due on that as well….

He wandered around the building to locate the mail lock boxes, tried each key on Phoenix’s keyring until it opened, and discovered an abundance of envelopes piled up. There were multiple past due notices for his electric, gas, and cable bills; an eviction warning for late rent; and numerous pieces of junk mail.

With a sigh, he took everything back up to the apartment to sort through and figure out how to get it all paid for. Luckily, he found a candle and matches stowed in one of the kitchen cabinets, providing him with enough light to determine which ones would need his immediate attention.

I suppose I’d better swing by the office tomorrow to see what’s come in there too since it’s been awhile.

Bringing the candle with him, he strayed into Phoenix’s bedroom and glanced around aimlessly. It was crushing, the impact of being in the space that his friend hadn’t returned to in so long, knowing Phoenix was potentially suffering incomprehensibly right at that very moment while he was here – wishing that he’d had just one last “date” with him. Now, the pressure was mounting substantially to locate him before the worst could happen.

The dull glow of the streetlights from behind the curtains covering the lone window was sufficient for him to see in the dark, prompting him to blow the flame out and set the candle on the nightstand. He removed his clothing until he was left in only his underwear and slid beneath the covers of the bed. He had no reasoning for this, blamed his inability to think rationally due to insomnia, and stretched out on his side.

Resting his hand in front of him where the other man should be, he closed his eyes and whispered, “I’m failing you, my dear friend….I’m sorry, Phoenix. Please stay strong.”

After a few tears were shed, he finally slept continuously for the next fourteen hours.

-****-
A brusque kick to his stomach awoke Phoenix instantly. He didn’t have a chance to comprehend what was happening as boots continued to collide with seemingly every inch of him. Instinctively, he protected his head with his hands, tucking it down in hopes of shielding his face as well. Because he was against the wall, there was no opportunity to try and roll away and escape. The best he could do was curl up and lessen the surface area available for them to hurt.

What did I do this time?!

The blows reminded him how delicate his skin was from the still healing wounds, and he worried they’d yet again be re-opened. One kick landed against the upper-right side of his chest with such force, a sharp pain unlike what he was feeling throughout the rest of his body made him audibly gasp; he regretted the simple action when the pang intensified. Breathing was all at once immensely uncomfortable, leaving him to attempt only shallow breaths.

Nothing was said as they ceaselessly beat him. The lack of explanation for the attack confounded him; he’d gotten used to their theatrics before committing any violence. A couple of possibilities crossed his mind – one positive, the other negative. The first was that the cops were homing in on his location and were close to finding him, so the five of them were going to get in their last bit of fun in the meantime. The second was the group had learned of Paige’s kindness towards him and were retaliating. Whatever the cause, he prayed it’d just be over soon. His body was throbbing and submerged in tremendous pain, though he tried to stay quiet in order to present a false sense of resilience.

“Alright, alright,” Hunter at last announced nearly ten minutes later.

The attack ended, and Phoenix almost expressed his gratitude, but there was an edge to the man’s tone that had him fearing the reason behind it.

“Get him up. Bring him over here.”

Herdin and Lackey dragged his limp body to the open space between the desk and the mattress, hoisted him up to where he was almost fully standing (the lower part of his shins and feet still brushed against the floor), and kept hold of him. Without warning, Hunter’s clenched fist rammed against his face, causing his head to loll to the side only to be sent in the opposite direction by Lemming’s a second later. Phoenix weakly groaned with every strike, and it wasn’t long at all before he tasted blood in his mouth and felt it running down his face from various other places. The hits were unfathomably powerful, like what he imagined being beaten with a baseball bat would feel like. He couldn’t form words, the obvious response of pleading for mercy alluded him, and any semblance of clear thought perished, replacing it with solely focusing on the misery encompassing his entire being.

After twelve solid punches, he was left wheezing and semi-conscious. Red droplets and clear saliva splashed onto the floor as if from a leaky faucet until Hunter jerked on his hair to look directly at him. He could scarcely discern who it was since he could barely open his left eye and the vision in his right was blurry. His head was swimming, and he felt as if he’d vomit at any second.

“I knew we shouldn’t have treated you so well,” Hunter spat, his expression furious. “You’re a fucking pig. A deceitful, disgusting pig.”
Phoenix’s ears were ringing, and with how badly his skull was pulsating, he almost didn’t understand what was said. There was a slight delay as he processed the words, not sure if he’d even heard everything. He attempted a reply, but the increasing discomfort associated with the movement of his jaw made him hesitant to use it in case it was broken.
“I’ll teach you. How dare you hurt someone so sweet and amazing as she is.”
“Who?” Phoenix whispered, thoroughly oblivious.
Hunter laughed in a way that sent a chill down the defense attorney’s spine. “You really haven’t figured it out yet? You’re such a fucking idiot. You’re as dumb as she said you are. Her once precious little Feenie.”
If the area around his eyes hadn’t been so swollen, they would’ve been wide from shock It can’t be, he thought to himself in total disbelief. There’s no way. Not her. She couldn’t…. “Dollie?” he at last rasped.
“Hey! He finally gets it! That’s right. The one you betrayed and had sentenced to death with the help of your petty bitch of a mentor. The sweet, perfect angel who loved you, and you treated her like shit and sent her off to die alone.”
Fresh tears mixed with the crimson trails on Phoenix’s cheeks as he protested feebly, “No! It wasn’t like that! I loved her! I didn’t want to do it!”
“You’re a liar! She even told me last night how you’d force yourself on her, that she’d always try to say ‘no’ and fight you off, but you’d hold her down and defile her anyway.”
Phoenix’s nausea doubled due to how wounded he was from the accusation. “That’s not true! I’d never do something like that! We only ever kissed, I swear!”
“YOU’RE WRONG!” Hunter bellowed. “SHE WOULDN’T LIE TO ME! And it’s time you live with how wrong you are forever.”

Motioning for them to follow him, Hunter strolled to the desk and pointed to the chair at one of the short ends of it. The accomplices gruffly pushed Phoenix down to sit, and while he wouldn’t have had the strength to get up on his own anyway, they retained him in place with tight grips on his shoulders and right arm.

“Packe, give me the knife.”

As the weapon was presented to the leader, Phoenix was having difficulty focusing on anything except the horrible pain both physically and emotionally he was experiencing. He couldn’t accept what Hunter had said, couldn’t fathom that a person he begrudgingly still harbored love in his heart for would weave together such a devious plan at his expense.

How? Why? I don’t get it. I know she tried to kill me, but would she really go this far? To have some group of strangers torture me and finish the job? Why now?....And why would she lie about me doing something so awful? I’d never think to do that. I loved her-

His thoughts were interrupted by a mighty slap to his cheek and Hunter yelling, “HEY FEENIE! Pay attention!”

He hadn’t even noticed that his left arm had been outstretched onto the desk and was being held down by Lemming, who was standing across from Hunter on the opposite side.

“She can’t ever forget what you did to her. And now, neither will you.”

The blade sank deep into the tender flesh on the inside of his forearm, and he couldn’t refrain from vocalizing his torment as it was dragged downward at a slight angle. With the deliberate way in which Hunter guided the knife along his skin, he assumed there was something more specific to this disfiguration than the mere random slices he’d received previously; the hostile manner in which he was being maimed this time signaled to him that the end result would be quite prominent and malicious.

“Keep him still,” Hunter ordered evenly, concentrating on making the incisions precise enough that they’d all fit, but not caring too much on how ragged they appeared. The only thing that mattered was if it’d be legible when he was finished.

Though Phoenix squirmed, the two holding him in place didn’t have to exert much effort since he was noticeably weak.

“I didn’t do anything wrong!” he wept helplessly. “I swear! I didn’t hurt her! Please believe me!”
“So sorry, little Feenie,” Hunter taunted. “I don’t believe you. It should be you rotting away in that jail cell, not her. You disgust me, preying on someone as innocent and beautiful as Dollie.”
Phoenix bowed his head and shook it, tears streaming down his cheeks. “I loved her. I didn’t want to lose her, but I had to tell the truth-”

He wailed as the knife tore into his bicep, creating a lengthy gash.

“SHUT UP!” Hunter roared. “YOU’RE A FUCKING LIAR! YOU BETRAYED HER! YOU DESERVE EVERYTHING THAT’S COMING TO YOU!” Taking a breath, he went on more calmly, “I’m sick of listening to your blubbering. Packe, take care of that, will ya?”

The leader returned his attention to the victim’s forearm, while Packe placed a lengthy strip of duct tape over Phoenix’s mouth to effectively silence him. Every now and then, there was a quiet whine and his fingers would twitch, but for the most part, he exerted his energy to hide his torment well.

After a long while, Hunter declared, “There. All done. Why don’t we re-do the ones from before? Just to make sure you don’t forget those, too.”

Phoenix’s head was down, gaze fixated on the floor. The newest addition to his marred body stung horribly from the bend at his elbow down to his wrist, and he knew he couldn’t handle seeing what had been carved into his flesh. Picking up on this, Hunter decided to badger him about it, prodding, “Why don’t you take a look? I think I did pretty well. It turned out nicely. Now everyone will know your new name!”

Phoenix’s stomach dropped, his complexion growing pale. Oh my god….No….Please….Don’t let it be what I think it is….

Very slowly, he raised his head, and Hunter gave a nod to Lemming, indicating approval to release his grasp. With his arm free, Phoenix drew it closer to himself and began to sob the instant his hazy vision was able to focus. Amid the blood still seeping liberally from the wounds, he saw the word that would be forever engraved into his flesh, the letters large and clear so that it was unmistakable:

WRONG

“Like it? It fits you perfectly, don’t you think, Wrong?” Hunter chided.

Phoenix was visibly shaking, the impact of his weeping racking his whole body as he lost himself in a tumultuous ocean of devastation and anguish.

This can’t be real….I have to be dreaming….Please let me be dreaming….I know I never hurt her….And she gave me so much affection, it couldn’t have all been faked, could it? Why is she doing this to me?

There was no struggle on his part as he let them move him to lie on the desk. Even when the blade began the process of tearing open each and every one of the prior cuts on his right arm and legs, there was no resistance. He was eerily motionless, only shuddering a handful of times due to the enormous sensitivity since they were still in the process of healing. All sixty lacerations were re-traced, vibrantly saturating his skin with a new layer of scarlet liquid.

At one point, he closed his eyes and told himself, This is it. They’re going to kill me. I’m going to die tonight. There’s nothing I can do. I wish I could’ve said goodbye….

The desk was riddled with blood collecting underneath his injured limbs, and with how battered he was from the beating, it appeared as if they’d slaughtered him. Though the tears had ceased for now, his breathing remained erratic, sending stabs of pain throughout his chest.

With everything he’d been subjected to, he wasn’t sure how he was still awake. Granted, he was barely aware of his surroundings and those around him, making it easy for his wrists to be tied tightly together with thin, yet durable, rope.

Linking his arm with the victim’s, Hunter pulled him off the desk and hauled him across the room as if he weighed nothing. He flung him down onto the mattress and demanded straightaway, “Get on your knees.” When Phoenix didn’t obey, he grasped a handful of his hair and lifted him upright, causing the other man to emit a faint whimper. In a kneeling position, Phoenix kept his head lowered and waited for the duct tape to be ripped off; surely, they were going to repeat the act of using his mouth for their own pleasure, a thought that both scared and sickened him. He heard the belt come undone, winced from the anticipation of the tape’s removal, but was confused once he felt the thick leather strap being secured around his neck with the buckle cinched right against the nape of it instead. Giving a tug, Phoenix leaned backward slightly in response and felt the uncomfortable pressure on his throat.

“Yeah, this’ll be nice,” Hunter commented, amused. “Down on all fours now, lawyer boy.”

Realizing what that command was no doubt leading to, Phoenix shook his head and communicated his protest with pitiful noises. The fear bursting inside of him was incalculable. He began to quiver uncontrollably and started hyperventilating the moment Hunter pushed him forward, prompting him to catch himself with his bound hands and remain in the desired position of bearing his weight on his forearms and knees.

This can’t be happening….Not like this….Please, not like this….Please let me be wrong….Please….Please….

He had no strength. He was in tremendous agony. He could do nothing but weep as Hunter impatiently stripped off his boxers and threw them aside.

This isn’t happening….I’m dreaming….Please don’t let him do this….

“You like to be punished, don’t you, right?” Hunter mocked, emphasizing the question with spanking the other man several times. Phoenix yelped and tried crawling away, but the band briefly went taut around his neck, successfully panicking him to stay put.

“Good boy,” was the praised response. “Since you thought it was okay to steal her virtue whenever you pleased, it’s only fair you get the same treatment, isn’t it?” He glided his hands all along Phoenix’s back and sides, then down his legs and continued, “You claim to be a patron of justice, always searching for the truth and what’s right. Well, tonight, it’s your turn to answer to justice for your gross mistreatment of her. Until she decides the time is right, we’re going to have a lot of fun with you.” He grinned maliciously at the sensation of the other man cowering under his wandering hands and listening to him breathing rapidly. “I can already tell you that she was overjoyed to hear about how we fucked you with that bottle. She almost cried when I showed her the footage. You were finally getting what you deserved. And now, it’s time we broke you in properly, just like the many times you violated her against her will.”

The touch disappeared, and Phoenix knew better than to celebrate. He understood what the next step was, and he almost wondered if dying was the superior option at this point.

“You don’t want a condom?” Lackey asked from somewhere off to his right.
“No, I want him to feel every bit of this. But don’t let my preference stop you guys from using one if you so choose when it’s your turn.”
“I don’t know, Hunter,” Packe chimed in. “You can’t be too sure about how many other prosecutors and detectives have already been in that pretty little asshole to get things skewed in his favor in the courtroom.”

There was boisterous laughter from the five of them, and Phoenix hung his head in enormous shame. The insinuation of offering himself up as a means to secure a verdict in his favor was humiliating. If they had this opinion of him, he couldn’t help but wonder if others in the profession did too. He was queasy at the notion of Edgeworth ever harboring that thought about him; while he wanted to convince himself it was ludicrous – that even though Edgeworth was reluctant to give him any credit for doing well, there was still respect and acceptance that he’d earned his right to fight against him in court – the doubt was already settling in, weaving yet another thread of disgrace to invisibly strangle himself with.

He snapped out of his unpleasant reverie once a hand latched onto his hip with a grip strong enough to bruise.

“Let’s get the show started, shall we?”

Phoenix’s heart raced, his whole being trembled, and he shook his head in one last vain attempt to have them stop. With the tip of Hunter’s cock barely breaching him, he began to shout. He tensed, which only made it more painful as the other man commenced unrelentingly drilling in and out of him, shoving his erection beyond the delicate muscles little by little. Continuously, Phoenix screamed, tears pouring down his face, and the upper part of him collapsed to the floor as his arms could no longer support him anymore. His entire body lurched with every persistent thrust, agony swallowing him from feeling as if he was being ripped open; the bottle used previously seemed far gentler in comparison.

"You're so tight," Hunter commented casually. "Gotta loosen you up."

As he forged his path deeper inside Phoenix’s body, forcing himself through the resistance of the unrelaxed tissue, his other hand clamped itself onto the man’s hip, allowing him to better stabilize any movement and grant him full control over his increasingly steady propulsions. Unable to rock forward to absorb some of the power from the thrusts now that he was being more securely held in place, Phoenix’s muffled shrieking intensified.

“I love the sounds you’re making, Wrong,” Hunter sneered. “Makes me want to fuck you that much harder.”

True to his word, his movements grew rougher and more vigorous, almost as if he was determined to stretch and tear the muscles as much as possible. The tension and heat around his cock were beyond satisfying, and he had to ask, “This can’t be the first time you’ve been fucked this way, is it, Feenie? You feel like a tight little virgin. And from the way you’re squealing, must be super uncomfortable. Oh man, please tell me I’m the first one to destroy your ass like this.”

Phoenix couldn’t quell his sobbing whatsoever. He was finding it extremely difficult to breathe as a result, adding an additional item to unnerve him as his imagination repeatedly dwelled on the idea of suffocating; it was mortifying enough to be degraded like he currently was, but to asphyxiate himself by crying too much was by far one of the more embarrassing ways to go. He strived to alleviate his terror from everything that was happening by telling himself this was nothing more than a nightmare, that everything would be alright and would be over soon. He wanted to believe it so badly, needed it to be true, yet the immense suffering his body felt could not be denied.

Ultimately slowing his rhythm in order to withdraw to the tip and then gradually slide inside completely once more, Hunter began punctuating each slow push by pulling on the belt. He was pleased at its usefulness as a punishment from hearing the quick gasps inevitably cease within six seconds, at which point he’d let the strap go lax and the irregular panting sounded again. Whenever the noose deprived him of oxygen, Phoenix felt the pressure surge considerably in his head to the point he thought it might explode. He wondered if his face changed colors due to how much it pulsated. Combined with the inability to breathe through his mouth and being nearly incapable of inhaling through his nose, the concept of choking to death became even more real.

This is how it ends. This is how I die. I can’t breathe. I can’t stop him from assaulting me. I’m helpless. Everything hurts. Please let it be over soon. I just hope Edgeworth isn’t called to the scene and finds me like this; I wonder if he’d even recognize me. I feel like my entire face has been smashed in. Oh god, I hope he doesn’t tell Maya I was left like this. She doesn’t need to know what they did and how they killed me….

He yelped like a wounded animal as Hunter commenced flogging his back with the leather strap numerous times. Whether Hunter was doing it with all his might didn’t matter because Phoenix wouldn’t have been able to recognize if he wasn’t; it stung fiercely and had him wailing as he was whipped consecutively for a total of ten strikes.

“Like that?” Hunter huffed and started thrusting at a normal pace again. “Of course you do. Such a good, submissive slut.”

Phoenix could feel drops of liquid seeping down his skin on his face and numerous areas of his body, and he wasn’t sure whether it was sweat, tears, blood, or a combination of all three. He closed his eyes, and the dizziness, anguish, and nausea consumed him to where he was hopeful that he’d finally pass out. Even then, what would otherwise be a reprieve from the torment could be just as harmful if they decided to wait until he regained consciousness to continue with their torture.

Fingers threaded themselves in his hair before yanking, making him grimace and whine as his head was forced upward. Despite knowing the words were incomprehensible, he begged for them to stop; his stifled plea was cut off as the belt strangled him for ten grueling seconds. The instant Hunter felt him start to go limp, he released the leash and the damp black hair, letting the man’s head fall to rest against the mattress once more.

“Still with us, Feenie? Tell you what: I’ll help you come too since you’ve been such an obedient sport. How’s that for generosity?”

In a daze, Phoenix didn’t comprehend he was being fondled until the friction from Hunter’s hand caused him to become fully aroused. He objected feebly, which only prompted the leader to rub him more enthusiastically, and he hated himself for experiencing such undeniable pleasure in his groin area. It didn’t help matters when eager fingers began toying with his nipple, lightly pinching and encircling it until it hardened, sending more stimulating waves throughout him. With how persistent Hunter’s massaging was, and how shattered his current mental state was that may have otherwise helped convince himself to treat it as a mind-over-matter situation, it was only a few minutes before semen spurted from the head of his sensitive cock, dirtying his abdomen, Hunter’s hand, and the mattress below.

“Jesus, you sure came a lot.”

He didn’t think it was possible to feel even more spent than what he already was, but the orgasm left him utterly drained; he couldn’t even muster the strength to avoid Hunter’s fingers that wiped the result of it onto his cheek like soiled makeup.

“Such a good boy. But don’t be going to sleep just yet. I still have to finish and there’s five others who need a ride.”

Holding onto the victim’s hips again, Hunter propelled himself in and out of his body with such ferocity, Phoenix screamed with every piercing plunge of the man’s cock inside of him. The sound of flesh slapping against flesh made bile rise in Phoenix’s mouth, which he was luckily able to swallow down before it seeped out from under the edges of the duct tape.

Please….Please make it stop….I’m so tired….It hurts….Please….

A strong hand pressed against the side of his head, keeping it firmly pinned in place. His shocked, wearied eyes stared straight ahead and soon welled with tears once more.

Please let him be close….I just want to go home….I never meant to betray her….

At long last, Hunter suddenly stopped and climaxed, his cock buried entirely inside of Phoenix’s body.

“Ahhh yes….Shit, that felt good,” Hunter sighed, slightly breathlessly. “Was it good for you too, Feenie? I bet it was.”

He smacked the man’s sore backside a few times before pulling out and standing up. Now that Phoenix was free to relax, if only momentarily, the amount of effort it took to simply extend his legs from the bent position they’d been in for so long was substantial. Lying completely flat, he soon felt traces of what he assumed was Hunter’s semen creeping downward, causing him to close his eyes shamefully.

This wasn’t how it was supposed to be….No one will ever want to be with me now….Miles especially….I’m disgusting….

“Lackey, you wanna go next? You were the one who got him here in the first place. You should have second pick.”
“Sure, I’ll try him out. Think he’ll be a lot quieter; I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s lost his voice.”
“One way to find out.”

Phoenix heard footsteps approaching before the duct tape was briskly torn off his mouth, eliciting a frail cry from him.

“There. Now we’ll see if he still sings.”

Disregarding the debilitating aching everywhere, Phoenix started slithering forward in a tragic attempt to escape. They laughed at this pitiful display, a few encouraging him to continue onward, knowing full well that he couldn’t get far. In fact, he only succeeded in crawling halfway off the mattress before fatigue conquered him, leaving the lower half of his body still resting atop the thin cushion.

“Was it worth it?”
“You were so close!”
“Gotta try harder.”

Resting his head down on his bound hands, Phoenix hid his face, and his shoulders shook as he sobbed. He wasn’t sure how he had any tears left.

“Poor little Feenie.”
“I’m sure the boys at the precinct would love to see this.”
“Or your dashing love interest, eh?”
“Now you can tell him you’ve starred in your very own porno!”
“Yeah, this is what a lying slut looks like.”
“Piece of shit. You’re damaged goods, Wrong. No one will ever want you.”
“Least of all someone as dignified as Miles Edgeworth.”

At the touch of new hands gliding against his ass, followed by the sensation of being penetrated, Phoenix managed to whisper amongst his hitched breaths, “Don’t….Please don’t….Please stop….Please leave me alone.”
“Sorry, Wright. I’m not the one calling the shots. You really shouldn’t have treated her like that.”

As he was assaulted for a second time, Phoenix’s vocals were significantly softer. It was undoubtedly uncomfortable, but considerably less painful than Hunter’s violent conduct. He was immobile the entire duration of Lackey’s exploitation of him, and he found himself incredibly thankful for the more subdued way in which Lackey was raping him. At no point did the other man employ the belt to choke him, nor did the thrusts feel like they were intentionally seeking to further aggravate his tender muscles. The pace was steady, there weren’t any additional methods of abuse utilized to harm him, and he hoped the absence of sheer brutality might at last grant him the chance to slip into unconsciousness.

Nearly ten minutes passed before Lackey reached orgasm. Phoenix felt the man’s cock flex inside of him, but didn’t have the same confirmation that he was done since there was no sensation of semen spilling within. He didn’t move once Lackey got off of him. There were voices chattering, though they sounded distant and jumbled. He felt heavy and weightless all at once, and he prayed the impending blackness would swallow him into a blissful abyss.

The relief never arrived as someone raised his hips up, snaked an arm around his waist, draped themselves over his back, and invaded him roughly. He whimpered, his expression conveying his misery, and his entire body jostled with every assertive thrust.

“That’s how you do it!”
“Get ‘im, Packe!”
“Let’s hear him squeal again!”

Phoenix’s mouth hung open, moans continuously pouring out of it; the only time he was quiet was when the belt constricted his throat. At one point, Packe sustained it long enough that Phoenix’s eyes rolled back and he lost consciousness for several seconds. He was devastated when he became present again.

“Too much that time, eh Feenie?”
“Don’t want you wimping out on us just yet.”

When Packe finally emptied himself and dismounted him, Phoenix almost didn’t notice. He was totally lifeless as two of them lifted him by his arms to stand. He didn’t have the strength to keep his head up, making Hunter grip his chin to hold it up for him.

“How ya doin’, Feenie?” the leader cooed. “Still with us?”
Phoenix mumbled something incoherent, his eyelids fluttering every now and then as he dangled over the edge of the coveted sanctuary of oblivion.
“Glad to hear it. I’ve got a proposition for you. Wanna know what it is?”
More unintelligible mutters.
“If you can walk up and out of here on your own, I’ll let you go. If you can’t, well….” He chuckled and went on, “I think you know what happens then. You’re stuck down here, and you’ve got three more rides to give tonight. Sound fair?”
Phoenix trembled and a couple of clear droplets trickled over his bruised, bloodied cheeks. “I’m so tired,” he confessed earnestly.
“I know. But freedom is never easily attained. If you really want it, you’ll have to prove it.”

Hunter nodded, and the loss of support helping him remain upright almost instantly had Phoenix crashing to the floor. By some miracle, he stayed standing, his legs wobbling and threatening to give out any second, and he dared to take the first step. Without rushing whatsoever, he limped toward the door, his feet shuffling along the cement inch by inch. The extreme exertion covered him in a fresh sheen of sweat and had him breathing heavily, making him wince from the sharp pain in his chest on every inhale. He paused often to regain stability and focus, the exit always seemingly unreachable no matter how far he traversed.

Over seven minutes later, he astonishingly arrived at his goal. The sense of accomplishment didn’t last, for he gazed at the stairs looming in front of him and crushing defeat sank in.

There’s no way….I can’t do it, he thought, his dream shattered. I’m stuck here.

“Phoenix.”

The familiar, soothing voice in his ears made him gasp.

“Mia?!” he replied in his mind. “Is it really you?! Oh Mia….Please help me.”
“You can do it, Phoenix. I believe in you. Trust that you have the strength. I know you’re hurting. I know you’re tired. But you can do it! You got this. You have to save yourself.

Closing his eyes momentarily, he repeated her encouraging words to himself, and eventually nodded. Though he was tremendously weak, he affirmed to her, “I have to get out of here.”

Taking hold of the guardrail, he cautiously raised his foot and commenced his laborious climb. Whether they were berating him with insults or false cheers, he had no clue; his concentration was solely placed on achieving what seemed highly impractical for the condition he was in.

Five minutes ticked by, finding him merely halfway up the first flight. His breathing was ragged, his whole body quaked, and his knuckles were white from how firmly he was grasping the railing to support himself. Tiny pools of blood were left on each step from the lengthy moments he remained stationary.

“That’s it, Phoenix!” Mia commended. “You can do this! I’m right here with you.”

Three steps were left before he’d reach the intermediate landing.

He never made it.

Without warning, Lemming shoved him from behind, causing him to fall forward. Unable to react quickly enough, he landed hard, his skull bouncing off the edge of the landing. Bright light danced across his vision as searing pain darted through his head. He groaned faintly, brought his hands up, and cradled the injury; the blow was so great that he barely realized Lemming was abusing him.

“You never had a chance,” the man growled into his ear, pounding into him relentlessly. “Can’t believe how stupid you are. Phoenix Wright – stupid little whore.”

He’s right, Phoenix thought despondently. I’m such an idiot….I should’ve known better….He tricked me….Again….I’ll never get to go home….

When Lemming was finished, he lugged Phoenix down the stairs by his ankles and returned him to the blood-stained mattress. Herdin was next, and there was no way to determine whether the piteous noises coming from the victim were borne from agony, pleasure, or a struggle to communicate. The truth was that he was barely cognizant of his reality anymore, and the whimpers were practically involuntary in his bewildered, semi-conscious state.

“Alright, Paige,” Hunter said shortly after Herdin was done. “He appears to be giving up on us, so don’t take too long. Lackey can film the rest of it.”
“N-n-no, it’s okay,” Paige stammered. “I-I’m good.”
“Come on, Paige. You gotta at least try him out a little bit tonight.”
“N-no, I’m fine.”
“Maybe somebody has a crush,” Packe interjected. The others snickered.
“No I don’t!” Paige exclaimed, unconvincingly.
“Aww, do you really have a crush?” Hunter prodded.
“No.”
“Getting sentimental feelings for everyone’s favorite defense attorney, the dependable, all around good boy, Phoenix Wright? Must be rough seeing someone you adore being fucked like this, huh? But don’t you forget-” He kicked Phoenix powerfully, grinning at the weak cry he received for it. “-he deserves this. This fucking prick deserves to suffer. He’s the reason she’s wrongfully in jail. He’s a lying, scumbag rapist who should die. She loved him, was good to him, and how did he repay her? So don’t be fooled by him, Paige. If you don’t want to do it tonight, that’s fine. But I guarantee you’ll do it one of these days.”

Rolling Phoenix to lie on his back, Hunter surveyed the damage, a smug smile gracing his handsome, yet sinister features.

“I guess I could stand in for Paige. It has been pretty exciting seeing you passed around. And I was the only one man enough to fuck you raw.” He settled himself between Phoenix’s legs, shifted his jeans and underwear down, pinned the man's wrists above his head with one hand, and easily sheathed his cock within him once again. “Like the feeling of my cum inside you, Wrong? Ready to have some more of it?” Noticing how dazed the victim was, he slapped him a couple of times and shouted, “It’s not over yet, Feenie! Gonna need you to stay awake for the finale.”

Phoenix’s gaze strayed from Hunter’s face as he lazily turned his head to the side. Despite every inch of him throbbing and silently screaming in distress, he somehow felt an inexplicable numbness encasing him like a comforting blanket. No more thoughts entered his mind. His eyes saw nothing. Everything was fading.

He didn’t know when Hunter stopped. He didn’t fight as they freed his hands only to then tie them behind his back. He didn’t struggle while his ankles were bound together. He didn’t object at the new strip of duct tape placed over his mouth. He didn’t hear Hunter comment, “You can lay there for awhile like that, like a nicely spent whore,” nor did he realize when they finally left - almost two hours after the start of the ordeal.

Lying on his side, alone in the silence, he stared vacantly ahead.

“Phoenix….”
There was no reaction.
“It’s time to rest. You can sleep now.”

Adhering Mia’s gentle words, he closed his eyes. Just as he sank into the void, he could’ve sworn he felt her hand lightly touching his shoulder, the consoling gesture guiding him to peace.