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Acts of Service

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It was a week until Edgeworth’s birthday.

Miles found this matter insignificant, but Phoenix did not. Over the past month, he’d found himself being the subject of persistent queries about what gifts he expected to receive. Phoenix had finally cornered Miles at his office to get his answer.

“You’ve never bothered about it much before,” he’d bristled, trying to deflect Phoenix’s determined questioning as to a suitable present.

“We had a lot going on, you were being you, plus, we weren’t dating, then.” Phoenix said bluntly, not deterred. “And now, we live together. I’d feel weird if I didn’t give my boyfriend something nice.”

“Anything I want, I can afford to buy myself, as and when I require it. I don’t need anything,” he protested.

“That’s the whole point, Edgeworth; it’s not meant to be anything you need, it’s something you want, to enjoy for the sake of it,” Phoenix said, with fond exasperation. Then he frowned. “Don’t tell me that you didn’t get any presents when you were younger…”

Phoenix knew, in piecemeal, of his teenage years in the von Karma mansion by now. It was not a warm and loving place, true, but it was not the horror story that Phoenix imagined it to be either, as Edgeworth had patiently explained more than once. He’d never lacked for any material goods that he required, and the house staff provided service and food. It had been one of the nicer elements of his upbringing at the place, which had otherwise been an isolating experience; he hadn’t realised quite how touch-starved he had been until entering a relationship with someone as tactile as Phoenix.

The fact remained, he’d never had birthday presents that weren’t practical gifts from the von Karma household, and after that - nothing. He didn’t exactly publicise his birthdate or talk about it, so the day went quietly past every year. Phoenix knew when it was, because he’d asked about it when they were both at school, and of course he remembered the date. Miles was touched that Phoenix remembered so much of their innocent boyhood days.

“Nice bottle of wine? Whiskey? New slippers?” Phoenix tried.

“We have a fully stocked cabinet, and I’m not letting you buy me clothes,” Edgeworth sniffed, falling back on haughty rudeness in hopes of putting Phoenix off the topic.

“How about a nice dinner?” Phoenix was undeterred.

Edgeworth looked at him doubtfully. “You can’t afford a nice dinner.” He wasn’t being deliberately unkind this time: Phoenix had bemoaned earlier in the month the lack of paying clients through the door as of late. The last thing he wanted was to slide his partner further into the red for the sake of a day.

“Aw, Miles. I just want to give you something on one special day to say, ‘I love you’. Do you really hate the idea that much?” Phoenix was all puppy-eyes and concern and damn it, he didn’t want to trample on his sweet, romantic notions, but -

“I don’t hate it,” Miles allowed, voice stiff. “I’m simply… not used to the concept. It’s just a day like any other, and I don’t want you needlessly troubling yourself trying to find something to give.” He took a moment’s pause to centre himself and soften his approach. Phoenix had nothing but the best of intentions, it was simply a matter of focusing his generosity to something more in his comfort zone, and he thought he knew a compromise. “I would be quite content to spend the evening with you.”

Phoenix perked up a bit at that. “A night in? I mean, if that’s really what you want, I can do that.”

“Yes,” Miles said firmly, relieved, hoping this would be the end of the gift-related interrogation. “A relaxing evening. No stress.”

Phoenix looked deeply thoughtful at that, and Edgeworth thought that was the end of it.

*

By the time that the day actually did roll around, Edgeworth had forgotten about the whole conversation: his mind was on several pending cases requiring his input. It came with the position that occasionally he would be pulled in all directions at once, but he enjoyed the intellectual challenge. He wouldn’t trade it for anything.

Although when his personal phone rang he was feeling a bit frazzled. He snatched it up and his breath caught, seeing Phoenix’s name on the caller ID: on the one hand, hearing his partner’s voice was reassuring, but on the other, he was not in the right frame of mind to hear that Phoenix had yet again chosen to defend a barnyard pro-bono.

He answered it, readying himself.

“Wright.”

Some habits never changed.

“Edgeworth,” came the reply, teasing in its identical inflection, but swiftly followed with a warmer, “Happy Birthday. Work going okay?”

It was a gentle shock to the system, and only in part because he had forgotten it himself. “Yes,” Edgeworth said, feeling a small fuzzy warmth that despite everything, despite his own protests, Phoenix had remembered, and phoned just to express that sentiment.

“What time do you think you’ll escape tonight?” Phoenix asked.

He let out a soft snort, but a smile lingered in place. As if his office was one of Trucy’s trick boxes. Though Phoenix had a point - he had stayed late most nights this week. “Not as late as last night. I have things in-hand.”

“Great. Give me a call before you head home.”

He should have been suspicious right then, but Phoenix had said it just so casually, that he’d nodded along and it was only at the very end of the day, phone in hand, that he wondered what necessitated the call at all. They weren’t the kind of couple that phoned each other at work to give cutesy greetings (though he sometimes suspected that Phoenix struggled to refrain from doing so; Phoenix’s office might be quiet most days, but the Chief Prosecutor’s was not.)

His heart briefly sank: what if Phoenix had planned some horrid surprise party, his much-needed peaceful evening filled with socialising and noise? He fretted quietly on the way home and tried to tell himself he was worrying needlessly. Phoenix knew him better than that. Yet he still hesitated outside his own front door, keys in hand. He took a deep breath, and let himself in.

The apartment was blessedly quiet; the lights were on, so Phoenix was home. He could smell something pleasant cooking; rich and savoury.

“Good evening, Mr. Edgeworth.”

Miles froze in place, as Phoenix stepped into view, wearing not one of his usual beaming grins, not a twinkling smile, but one that was smaller: calm and placid. That in itself was odd, but what made Miles stare was that Phoenix was wearing his seldom-seen tuxedo, reserved for the black-tie events that their work occasionally demanded.

Miles continued to look for a few moments more, before looking up and frowning slightly, awaiting an explanation. Phoenix merely continued his approach, but stopped a respectful distance before him and delivered a neat half-bow.

“Please allow me to take your jacket,” Phoenix said, in that perfectly serene voice. He then broke character into one of his more normal, wide, goofy smiles, stepping in to take the jacket and plant a kiss onto Edgeworth’s cheek.

“What are you doing.” Miles tried to sound grumpy, but he was quietly amused, and tried to keep him in view, not often having the opportunity to see Phoenix dressed so smartly. Even his wild spikes were more smoothed back than usual.

“Providing an evening of special service,” Phoenix answered, sounding more like himself. He added, with a twinkle of his usual mischief, “a relaxing, stress-free evening.”

Miles looked exasperated at Phoenix’s clever interpretation of his own words, but he had to admit his intrigue as to all the ceremony as he shrugged off his jacket as asked, Phoenix taking it from him with far more care than he’d usually handle it.

“Now. Please sit down, make yourself comfortable. I am entirely at your disposal, Mr. Edgeworth.”

Phoenix gave a wink, before stepping away and resuming his previous poise, the jacket neatly looped over one arm as he disappeared to the bedroom, presumably to hang the garment.

Miles slipped off his shoes and cautiously followed, not sure what to make of this, lingering in the bedroom doorway. He watched as Phoenix took great care at putting the suit jacket away - on the correct hanger, facing the correct way around. Who was this man, and what had he done with his devil-may-care partner?

Phoenix saw he was being watched, and turned to him. “I’ll bring your tea momentarily, Mr. Edgeworth. I hope that you will want for nothing this evening.”

“Oh?” Miles found his lips twitching into a smile despite himself. Surely Phoenix could not keep this ruse going all night. “Well, thank you.”

He made his way to the sofa, relaxing into it. He heard Phoenix and the soft tinkling of china from the kitchen, and watched with amusement as the other man brought him a cup of tea on a tea tray, steam rising from the cup. He had clearly prepared. Miles appreciated it, happy to sink into the cushions and enjoy the moment.

“If there is anything else, you need only call for me,” Phoenix said with a bow. “Excuse me for a moment while I check on dinner."

Miles wanted to ask what was cooking, nervous of what disaster Phoenix had caused in their kitchen, but he had to admit it smelled wonderful.

Phoenix returned only a few sips into his tea - which was perfectly brewed. He appreciated the attention to detail, and felt some of the tension of the day unspool from his shoulders. A good cup of tea could really do that.

“Excuse me, sir,” Phoenix said with such utmost politeness that Miles would have been agape, had his brain not promptly got hung up on his boyfriend calling him “sir”. “Dinner will be served at around eight-thirty. I hope that is acceptable?”

"... What is dinner?" Miles asked over his tea cup, the safest question he could think of to ask.

“Casserole,” Phoenix answered, seemingly smooth, but Miles could read the underlying nervousness, that he might be failing to meet expectations. It was a simple enough dish that didn’t require Phoenix to spend the night in the kitchen, but with not an insignificant amount of upfront preparation required. Miles felt a warm bloom of appreciation spread through him.

“Excellent choice,” he said, meeting Phoenix’s eyes, wanting to soothe the slight tension that lingered there. “I look forward to it.”

He could see Phoenix try to repress his light-up-the-room beam and modify it to something more fitting to his station. Miles made a snap decision at that moment; just because Phoenix was determined to play this role out, it didn’t mean it had to be at his expense. He wanted their casual intimacy, their connection.

“Phoenix. A request.” He saw the other man snap to polite attention, and Miles fixed him with his gaze, communicating as much through his eyes as his words. “Please relax. It is difficult for me to relax when the staff insists on such formality. I can forgive a certain amount of familiarity, knowing your faithful service.”

He saw understanding spread in Phoenix’s face, and the visible relax of his shoulders.

“Understood.” Phoenix let his smile spread across his face. His tongue briefly darted out to wet his lips, though he tried to hide it. “Um. I thought maybe I could run you a bath before dinner? If you want.”

Miles considered. He rarely took the opportunity to indulge in one. He usually favoured the perfunctory shower, his mind focused on his work. Even on the days when a bath sounded wonderful, he found himself caught up in some other task, and it felt like too much effort to bother. And if Phoenix was willing… and was taking care of everything else this evening...

He nodded, feeling suddenly a little shy for being the sole focus of the other man’s intent. “That… would be good.”

“And another cup of tea?” Phoenix added, nodding to his half-empty cup. Miles nodded back, still feeling slightly self-conscious, but Phoenix didn’t tease him for his unusual quiet, simply picked up the empty tray and bustled from the room.

Miles relaxed fully as Phoenix left.

This was… nice.

Miles was so used to living independently that he often didn’t state his needs or wants aloud, much to his partner’s frustration. And while Miles usually had the busier, longer work days, Phoenix’s time had to be managed around supporting his daughter and his chaotic agency; they didn’t often get to spend uninterrupted evenings together during the week.

He sipped his tea, and let his usual tick-list of evening tasks fall from his mind. Around the time he reached the dregs, Phoenix stepped back into the room with a fresh cup and a smile, taking away the drained one. Miles smiled back, one of his small, private smiles that only Phoenix could so easily coax from him. Phoenix made no fuss of taking the empty cup and tray and disappearing from the room once more.

He hoped quietly that Phoenix would return. The only other thing that would warm him more efficiently than the tea would be the other man tucked close against his side. Miles wasn’t exactly the type to ask for casual cuddles, but… a few points of contact while he was in this peaceful mood would be welcomed.

He could hear the faint clatter of pots and pans coming from the kitchen, and let the thought go. Perhaps later. He set down his cup and closed his eyes, content: he had nothing to concern himself over, for once.

He didn’t fall asleep. Of course not. But he blinked himself into awareness and realised some time had passed as Phoenix’s soft foot falls indicated he had re-entered the room.

“Hey,” Phoenix said, voice soft. Miles supposed he must look as though he had slept, sprawled across the sofa cushions, his face a little squashed and pinkened from being slumped against a cushion. Maybe he had fallen asleep. “Bath’s ready. Unless you’d prefer a nap.”

“Mmn.” Miles pulled himself upright, and stretched. “No. I’ve been looking forward to it.”

Phoenix extended out a hand, and Miles graciously took it, and was pulled to his feet. When he stood upright, Phoenix kept the hand enfolded in his own and led him to their bathroom, much to Miles’ amusement (and, as his heart fluttered, maybe to his affection as well.)

He couldn’t help but let out a little sigh when he entered the bathroom. Phoenix had clearly not gone sparingly on the bubble bath, the tub barely containing the white, fluffy mountain that rose from it.

He must have looked as pleased as he felt as Phoenix turned to face him, clearly caught by impulse, and planted him an affectionate peck on the cheek.

“I’m going to finish up dinner. I’ll be back soon.”

Phoenix walked tall as he left, clearly proud to leave his partner with such an unguarded smile. As well he should be, Miles thought, as he gently tugged his cravat loose, and unbuttoned his waistcoat. When Phoenix applied himself to something, he did so wholeheartedly. It left Miles sometimes wrongfooted, at how Phoenix could love him so completely, and how so often he proved it in every small thing that he did. Miles struggled with emotions at the best of times, and he marvelled, over and over, at how readily words and gestures came to his partner. In court, he held the upper hand in constructing concise and meaningful sentences; when they were alone, he was the one halting on words, struggling to say how he felt. And yet, he never felt that Phoenix doubted his feelings. He was grateful for his partner’s endless patience and understanding.

He folded his clothes as he undressed, setting them neatly aside at the vanity, before making his way to the bath. He swept a hand through the water, admiring that it was the perfect temperature, courtesy of his partner’s attention to detail. He stepped into the water, and released a soft, appreciative sigh as he allowed himself to sink into the pile of bubbles. It was a rare treat indeed to relax like this.

He closed his eyes, and let his thoughts gently float like the bubbles that occasionally burst on the surface of the water.

His ever-busy perfectionist mind first turned to work, using the time and space to think over the odd little problems he hadn’t quite solved during the day, slowly untangling them into manageable tasks he would address tomorrow. Letting those thoughts go, his mind wandered to the present, and how pleasant it was to soak in the warm, scented water.

While Miles was accustomed to what seemed like a luxurious way of living, most of his indulgences were for utilitarian reasons: first-class travel to ensure arriving rested for work; room-service because he didn’t have time for anything else. Phoenix was so much cleverer than he sometimes gave him credit for, he mused, because he had found him a perfect gift after all: time, like this, was precious.

In the near-silence of the bathroom where the only noise was the occasional plink of water droplets, the scrape of the bathroom door opening was loud. Miles opened his eyes, and saw Phoenix step up to the bathroom vanity and slip off his jacket. Miles watched as he further unbuttoned the cuffs of his shirt and rolled up his sleeves. Miles half-wanted to tell him to take the shirt off.

But whatever Phoenix’s attire, nothing was as lovely as the smile he wore when he stepped around to the head of the tub. “Scrub your back?”

“... Please.” Miles found the word slipping from his tongue with ease. He was surprised at himself but glad he hadn’t automatically declined the offer. He glanced at Phoenix’s exposed forearms sidelong, watching the other man as he gathered up a sponge and Miles’ preferred body wash.

“Lean forward… a little more? Perfect.” Phoenix’s voice was warm and close behind him, a gentle rumble over the surface of the water. Miles drew his knees up so he could rest on his folded arms as Phoenix applied a thick scented lather over his exposed back and shoulders. Soon after the sponge swept across his skin in light circles. It was incredibly soothing, and Miles found himself content to let Phoenix work his magic without a word.

The sound of his name, a little bit concerned, brought him out of his content haze. “Mm?”

Phoenix’s voice sounded amused, halfway between relief and laughing. “Just checking those were good noises.”

Oh. Miles hadn’t realised he had been making any, and vowed to stay more conscious from there on. Which meant he heard the evidence for himself when he let out a soft grunt, as finally Phoenix set the sponge aside and dug his fingers into the knots of his upper back in an impromptu massage.

“Still good?” Phoenix prompted. Miles let out a deep, rumbling noise of assent, not trusting himself with words, letting himself be pushed and pulled under Phoenix’s sure and steady hands. He hadn’t realised how much tension he’d been holding in his shoulders until the knots were pressed upon. He couldn’t help the little groan that escaped him when a careful application of fingers and thumbs worked something loose in his right shoulder.

“Was that still -”

Yes.” He was a little shocked by how low and throaty his voice sounded, but at least he had made sure Phoenix didn’t stop, relaxing once more against his palms.

Blissful minutes passed. Finally, the hands stilled, and Miles felt a soft kiss pressed against his jaw.

He attempted to turn in the water, to tilt his head to claim a proper kiss; he managed to steal a hint of one when Phoenix pulled back.

Miles frowned. “What?”

“I’ll get my shirt wet.” While a perfectly logical answer, it was a good thing Miles was so relaxed or he would be more irritated by the fact that there was a much better solution to that problem. Fortunately, he was far the more logical one in this relationship, and he had his counterargument ready.

“You could take it off altogether.”

He could feel Phoenix’s grin before it spread across his face.

“Now, now, Mr. Edgeworth,” Phoenix chided, eyes sparkling. “I need to remain fully in uniform for dinner service. Besides, I don’t think it’s appropriate to fraternise with the help. ”

He was teasing, but an aborted growl remained low in Miles’ throat. Phoenix was not the help, damn him. He was a little bit smug like this, his shirt rumpled and beckoning to be further unbuttoned into complete disarray, his tailored black trousers offering hints of well-toned cycling thighs and glutes and yes, he was not too proud to admit he wanted to defile the rest of his outfit, even if it meant ruining the perfectly vertical creases.

He forced his eyes upward, and could see from the answering heat in Phoenix’s gaze that his own look had not gone unnoticed.

“After dinner,” Phoenix suggested, oh-so-lightly, but with a slightly deeper timbre than his usual voice. Miles nodded, finding the confidence to smirk a little; it was reassuring to know their desire was mutual.

Phoenix shook off his fluster quickly, which Miles had observed far too many times in court. “Speaking of. Before I go set the table, I thought it might be nice if I washed your hair.”

Miles blinked, and considered for a heartbeat before answering, “yes. Please.”

He had, of course, had other people wash his hair; stylists and barbers in many different countries. It was a pleasant enough experience, though not one he usually had the time to relax and enjoy for the sake of it. He suspected it would be different with Phoenix, and he was rather enamoured by the idea.

He watched Phoenix step over to the vanity and fill up a large jug of water, testing the temperature at intervals. Miles reclined back in the tub and watched him work, but obligingly sat up again when he returned.

“Tilt your head back,” Phoenix instructed, and Miles did so feeling wary, not wanting to receive a jugful of water in the face. He needn’t have worried: Phoenix was surprisingly good at this, shifting his palms to direct the flow of water as he poured. He was careful, but firm, as he massaged shampoo into his scalp, fingers working the lather deep but without getting suds anywhere near his eyes. He swallowed against the sudden constriction in his throat. He felt so cared for, so adored, that he was a little overwhelmed. He felt like a pampered prince, but he also felt like he didn’t deserve all of this.

About the time Phoenix swept his fingertips in small, confident circles behind his ears, Miles realised he had done this before, many times. His technique was affectionate, nothing like the practised motions of any professional at a salon that Miles had experienced. Miles realised Phoenix would have done this for Trucy when she was still small. No wonder Phoenix didn’t seem to think washing his hair was any big deal.

When he was all rinsed, Phoenix patted his face gently with a small towel, which made him fight a little smile. Yes, definitely Trucy.

“Thank you,” he said, finally. The words were a little slow to filter from brain to mouth. He felt like he was floating, peaceful.

Phoenix stood up and bowed again, looking pleased with himself, but said nothing. Miles closed his eyes, the quiet inviting him to do so. Later, he would realise Phoenix knew just how much he’d enjoyed that and had kept quiet to allow him to continue to relax.

Sometime later, Phoenix returned to the bathroom with a bundle in his arms which Miles soon recognised as a bath towel, his favourite robe, and pyjamas. They were laid out neatly for him.

“Dinner’s ready when you are,” Phoenix said with a beam, before making his exit with a bow, shutting the door behind him.

Miles was blessed with that trait of not noticing that he felt hungry until actively reminded of it, and it was his stomach grumbling that enticed him out of the bath shortly after. He let out the water, and approached the vanity and the soft things laid out for him.

Which were also warm, fresh from the dryer. The shiver that ran through him at the realisation had nothing to do with feeling hot or cold. Miles wrapped himself in the towel and made swift work of drying himself, his stomach definitely expressing some strong opinions about dinner by now.

He would normally be a bit scandalised at the idea of wearing his pyjamas to dinner, but… well. It was his birthday, he supposed. Apparently for most people this meant disregarding a societal rule or two. Soon, he was dressed and wrapped in his robe and left the bathroom in favour of the dining room.

Phoenix had laid the table. Properly. Most days, Phoenix would manage to just about remember some foods required a fork and not a spoon, which made Miles twitch, but he had long learned to let it go. Today, the places were immaculately set, a bottle of wine opened and waiting. Phoenix had even folded cloth napkins, which Miles had long thought lost to Trucy’s magic shows.

He sat down. It took barely a moment before Phoenix emerged from the kitchen - fully bedecked once more in his tuxedo jacket - holding a tray. He walked a little bit more slowly than a trained waiter, but Miles was honestly glad for that as he served them both.

“So it’s probably unorthodox for the waiter to join you for dinner, but I’m starving,” Phoenix declared, flopping into his chair with a lopsided smile at Miles.

“Good thing I’m accustomed to the unorthodox.” Miles gave him a fond look, before his attention was completely captured by the smell of the food set in front of him. “You outdid yourself, truly.”

“I had a lot of birthdays to make up for,” Phoenix said, with a light shrug, already digging into his bowl.

Like it was no big deal. Like most boyfriends would go out of their way to spend their evenings spoiling their partners. Maybe they did, Miles silently fretted. Maybe he was the strange one that struggled with the concept of basic affection. Maybe he should be doing more. He tried, he really did, but it didn’t come naturally to him. He should have -

“You’re doing that worried look again,” Phoenix commented mildly, giving him a rueful little smile. “Penny for your thoughts?”

Miles hesitated. “You put so much work into this and -” he struggled for a moment, and finished, frustrated, with what felt so inadequate “- thank you.”

“Hey.” Phoenix turned in his chair for a moment, setting down his fork. “You look upset.” His blue eyes were soft with concern. “Did I overdo it?”

Miles shook his head. He felt overwhelmed, his throat closing around any of the words on his mind.

“You know I enjoyed planning this evening out for you?” Phoenix tried to lighten the mood. “Really. You’re usually so busy, or have all your plans laid out five steps ahead of me, and don’t get me wrong, it’s amazing, you know? That you’re so capable. But I wanted to let you have a break, for once.”

“It’s just - you’re always so generous, Phoenix.” Miles found his words at last. “You give so much - far more than I deserve. And far more than I ever do for you.”

He said it so matter-of-fact because to him, it was the truth, but Phoenix looked at him like he’d just declared he was about to dye his hair to match his suit.

“Objection!” Phoenix retorted, with more soft fondness than he would ever use in court. “You give me plenty.”

“But you give consistently,” Miles countered, trying to impress upon Phoenix the obvious truth that he denied. “Even before… this,” he gestured vaguely, trying to encompass their relationship without words, “you cared about my wellbeing. You saved my life. You do so much for me and yet I can’t - I can’t even sometimes express how much I-” he forced the words out, determined, ”I love you, when you deserve to hear it.”

Phoenix let out an exasperated little sigh. “I don’t need to hear it from you,” he said softly, but Miles knew that was a lie; he saw how much Phoenix melted when Miles did manage to say the words. “You tell me every day, in the way you talk to me or worry about my problems or make me coffee.”

Miles looked doubtful. “But -”

“You literally whisked me halfway around the world at the lowest points in my life and helped me feel useful, when I felt useless. You believed in me. You gave me purpose, your time and your friendship.” Phoenix’s eyes were a little haunted, slightly dimmed as he recalled the dark days of his disbarment. “I know we don’t talk about it, but - I appreciated what you did for me back then, more than I can say.”

“I could have done more,” Miles insisted, but this was not strictly true. Yes, he could have upgraded Phoenix to First Class instead of merely Business and taken him to higher-end restaurants, but he had been treading a careful line of giving Phoenix what he deserved and not injuring the other man’s pride by making it too obvious. Phoenix did not need to know that some of the seemingly-casual restaurants they had eaten at had required reservations months in advance.

“You saved my life,” Phoenix said, quietly. “It was different to a murder trial, but nonetheless you saved me.”

“... I only wanted to make up for the years before where I was… not the man I am today,” Miles confessed in a mumble.

A smile returned to Phoenix’s face. It was warm and loving, a balm on his partner’s self-doubt. “And when I was nine, I cried until a brilliant boy showed me what it meant to be brave.” He picked up one of Miles’ hands in both of his own. “We can argue who did what for who or who did the most but I’m not keeping score. Honestly, I’m just... really happy we get to have this. Here and now.” His smile turned lopsided, shy for the admittance.

Miles gazed at him with no small sense of wonder.

“Me too.” He felt warm, a little embarrassed for his moment of vulnerability, but mostly filled with love for his partner. He leaned across and kissed him, slow and sweet, lingering. He was gratified when he pulled away that Phoenix looked a little starry-eyed and flushed.

The rest of dinner saw them sending each other soft, fond glances, as intimate as touch. Conversation was minimal, both enjoying the rare home-cooked meal together. Miles found himself looking at the bottom of his empty bowl all too soon. It had been delicious.

“So I have one more thing to give you,” Phoenix said suddenly, in the resulting satisfied lull. “If you’ve got room for dessert.”

Miles tried not to tense. Phoenix couldn’t have possibly resisted the urge to get an actual cake and stick it with as many dangerously lit things as possible to make up to his actual age. Or maybe he had used Trucy’s sparklers. He hoped Phoenix wouldn’t do the full serenading of the traditional song - he had never liked that kind of attention. However, he reasoned it was a mere sixty-seconds of embarrassment and then it would be over. He could feign a smile that long for the sake of keeping Phoenix happy.

He nodded, and Phoenix got to his feet and took away the dishes. Miles took the moment to finish the rest of his wine glass. The wine had paired very nicely with the dark, savoury dish, leaving him feeling mellow and satiated.

His eyes widened when Phoenix returned, stunned into silence as Phoenix smilingly set down a large tulip-flared glass, filled with an enticing swirl of deep red, bright pink, snowy-white, and fruit.

Phoenix then set down a long-handled spoon with a flourish, but Miles only half-registered it, still gaping at his parfait.

“Yeah it’s a little lopsided, but it still tastes good. I practised earlier,” Phoenix assured him.

Miles looked at him wonderingly. “You made me a parfait.”

“Yeah!” Phoenix grinned. “I wasn’t sure whether to go with strawberry or chocolate, but I figured you’d enjoy it more with pink, so...”

Miles let out the tiniest of huffs. “I prefer strawberry,” he said with narrowed eyes, but his insides were dancing, he felt light as air and there was definitely space to put this parfait, oh god. He picked up the spoon and closed his eyes for that first mouthful.

Perfection.

He was quite sure he had just let out an undignified little sigh of contentment over a dessert, but he didn’t care, taking another spoon and savouring the burst of smooth cream and sweet-sharp strawberry over his tongue.

When he opened his eyes, he saw Phoenix sat beside him, watching him eat. “Did you not make yourself one?”

“I sorta ate mine while trying to make yours.” Phoenix admitted sheepishly. “Happy Birthday, Miles.”

Miles finished off his current spoon thoughtfully, then dipped it in, capturing fluffy cream and strawberry sauce both. “Can I tempt you?” He asked, holding out the spoon in offering.

Phoenix looked surprised, but did not pass up on the opportunity. He leaned forward and closed his mouth around the offered end, letting out a little hum of pleasure for it. “You enjoy the rest of it, though.”

Miles did. He had felt full and drowsy after dinner; the sugar and cool layers of ice cream roused him a little. He looked at the empty glass a little mournfully after the last of it was gone. It had been a lovely treat.

Phoenix chuckled at his expression. “Aw Miles, I’ll make you another one before your next birthday, okay?”

“I’ll hold you to that,” Miles answered, letting his brief disappointment melt away like the milky remnants at the bottom of the glass. He was genuinely happy, suspended in a little bubble of contentment that filled all the places within him that weren’t currently filled with parfait.

Phoenix made to clear away his glass, and suddenly, Miles reached out for his wrist and stilled it. His partner looked at him, confused.

“Thank you. For… for everything.” Miles looked at him, serious as he had ever been about anything. “I love you.”

Phoenix pinkened charmingly, but his eyes sparkled with new light, just the way Miles knew they would. “I have to make you parfait more often,” he teased, but he meant I love you too and Miles knew it.

“I’m going to do all the kitchen clean-up tomorrow. I promise,” Phoenix emphasised, “but I’m kinda tired out for tonight. Did you want to sit and watch TV before bed, or…?”

“Let’s go to bed.”

Miles felt pleasantly sleepy, but mostly, he wanted to curl up against his partner and bask in feeling loved, and communicate how much he adored Phoenix in return with some kisses. Maybe more. Despite the promising words in the bathroom, both of them were not so inflexible as to hold each other to it: sometimes, a good night’s sleep ended up being more necessary.

Phoenix’s eyes held the spark of the same thoughts of a definite-maybe. “Alright. See you there.” He stood up, bent at the waist like he had done many times that evening, but this time, it was to press a kiss to Miles’ forehead before he marched off to the kitchen.

Miles felt a little giddy, and a smile stayed on his face as he made himself presentable for bed. While brushing his teeth he caught sight of himself in the bathroom mirror: his usual severe expression was gone, all his edges rounded. At one time he would have been ashamed of his feelings. Some days, he still struggled with them; old bad habits drilled into him were hard to shake. Today he had experienced such simple pleasures, but it was the gifting of them that made them special.

Was this why people celebrated birthdays so earnestly? This kind of happiness? Miles vowed to give Phoenix the same, if not better, when his day arrived. It was difficult to temper his affections against his competitive streak at the best of times with Phoenix, and apparently you were allowed to let go of the reins entirely when it came to birthdays. He was already planning how he could sweep Phoenix off of his feet.

These thoughts followed him into bed, content and comfortable, but not intending to sleep. At least not until Phoenix joined him. Their mutually conflicting trial schedules, weeks apart during international travels and the resultant jetlag meant both of them were used to falling asleep alone; Miles especially accustomed to silent hotel rooms with cold, pristine sheets. Today, he was determined to stay awake, despite the gentle thrum of bliss promising him dreamless, uninterrupted sleep. As fun as Phoenix playing his personal assistant had been, he wanted to give Phoenix the affection he deserved for his attentiveness.

It was no secret that between the two of them, Phoenix was the one who loved long, lazy mornings with indulgent snuggling, who dropped sweet, innocent kisses out of the blue. It had taken getting used to, giving and receiving casual affection, but Phoenix had been most demonstrative, and Miles was a fast learner. Even in the early days where it had been new and slightly uncomfortable for him, Miles had made the effort, simply because it made Phoenix happy.

So after an evening of being utterly doted on, if Miles could give Phoenix one, small thing in return, this would be it. He could hear the faint sounds of the shower running in the bathroom, and smiled. He wouldn’t be long.

Nonetheless, it was a relief when the water shut off, and the soft pad of footsteps reached the bedroom door. He was not disappointed when the door opened, revealing a still slightly-damp Phoenix, covered loosely by the navy-blue robe Miles had bought him. He hadn’t tied it, revealing a decent amount of his shower-flushed skin, only interrupted by the cotton boxers he’d put on. Miles didn’t hide that he enjoyed the view, and his lips quirked when Phoenix looked almost bashful under his gaze, before throwing the smirk right back at him.

Phoenix shrugged off the robe and slipped in under the sheets, and shuffled his way across the mattress unerringly, as Miles knew he would, to snuggle. Miles let himself be enfolded in his arms, shifting to allow more contact so they lay flush together, Phoenix’s chest warm and solid against his back. Phoenix let out a happy little hum against his shoulder, but Miles was sure he was the one feeling most of the contentment.

They were both quiet, enjoying this moment of simplicity in their complicated lives.

Miles inhaled the clean scent of Phoenix’s freshly-showered skin, and that hint of unique Phoenix-smell that meant home and comfort. Phoenix nuzzled into his neck, and Miles could feel he’d shaved, too.

His lips pulled into a half-smile. He shifted, turning his head just enough to be an offer which Phoenix gladly took up, their lips brushing together into a kiss despite the awkward angle.

“Mm.” Phoenix chased his lips when Miles turned away to avoid straining his neck. He hummed again and wiggled around until Miles was tipped onto his back, solely so he could steal another kiss. Miles tried to hold in a laugh that rumbled in his chest at his utter single-mindedness.

“Something funny?” Phoenix asked when they broke apart, smiling.

“You, always,” Miles replied smoothly, but pushed a hand through Phoenix’s hair with affection. Damp as it was, it still sprung up after raking his fingers through it.

“Aah, I see the power of the parfait has already worn off,” Phoenix teased, but leaned into the touch nonetheless.

Miles huffed quietly, though with Phoenix half-resting on his chest he only succeeded in jostling him. “Hush,” he admonished, and continued to thread his fingers deep into the dark strands in the way he knew Phoenix loved, hoping to distract him from their usual repartee. He felt far too sedate to put up a good fight.

It worked, Phoenix soon settling to rest his head onto his chest and take advantage of the moment.

“I have got to feed you parfait more often,” Phoenix eventually mumbled into his chest, voice slow and throaty-deep with contentment. “This is nice.”

“Don’t fall asleep,” Miles cautioned him, without altering the rhythm of his hand.

“I won’t,” Phoenix yawned, which did not support his case. He tilted his face just enough to press a kiss against the patch of skin peeking from the vee of Miles’ pyjamas. “You okay?”

There was just enough light concern in his voice that Miles knew he meant his… pensive mood over dinner.

“I am fine,” he answered automatically, and it immediately struck him that wasn’t enough. “More than fine. You certainly delivered on your promise for this evening.”

“I try,” Phoenix said modestly, but Miles could feel him grinning through the silk of his pyjamas. “You enjoyed it, then? Taking being spoiled like a man?”

“Once again, you have persisted with an argument I had not thought possible, and won. Yes, I enjoyed my birthday.”

Phoenix hummed happily against his sternum. “You know, it’s not over yet,” he said, oh-so-casually, while sliding a hand beneath Miles’ pyjama shirt, fingers questing upward over his stomach.

Miles’ lips quirked up into a smile. “I thought you were tired?”

“Yeah, but...” Phoenix used his free arm to lever himself up onto one elbow, so he could lean in close to whisper, “I’ve been thinking all evening about those noises you made in the bath.”

Miles reddened at the candid admission, and attempted to regain his dignity. “I - that was -”

“- hot.” Phoenix course-corrected the sentence, and gently nudged him into a quick kiss. “Mm. If you wanna sleep, though -”

“Hmph.” Miles let Phoenix know what he thought of that idea, letting the arm he’d had loosely draped over Phoenix’s back trail lower until he could grasp a decent handful of his backside and gently squeeze. He was rewarded with a shiver.

“Don't start what you can’t finish.”

“Never.” Phoenix grinned, and kissed him again. Only this time, Miles let the hand in his hair hold tight to the back of his head, keeping him right where he wanted him. He kissed Phoenix back with every trick he knew. The passion that had been kept at a slow simmer all night boiled over, and with renewed energy gave Phoenix his all, gripping him tight. The other man shuddered in his grasp and moaned against his mouth.

Better.

“Fuck,” Phoenix gasped when they parted for air.

Miles’ gaze raked over Phoenix. Still flushed from the shower all over, bright blue eyes turned dark with lust, and shaking a little beneath his hands. All of a sudden, Miles knew what he wanted and decisively, he rolled Phoenix onto his back.

“Hey! Hey, no fair,” Phoenix complained breathlessly. Miles too needed oxygen, and he merely lifted an eyebrow. “I was going to -”

“- I know.” Miles planted a more chaste kiss to the corner of his mouth to shush him. “I think it’s your turn to, as you said, take ‘being spoiled like a man’.”

Phoenix’s eyebrows furrowed. “But it’s your birthday -”

“-And this is what I want for my present,” Miles said, trying to keep the smirk from his face. He had just played his trump card.

Phoenix glared, knowing he’d been cornered. Then he chuckled, shrugged against the pillows, and relaxed back against the sheets in surrender. Miles had often imagined the scenario in court where he would finally secure a victory over his longtime rival, but if it had looked anything like this, then he certainly would have embarrassed himself. Even prepared for how Phoenix looked in his bed, heat flooded through his whole body at his display of willing submission.

“Well-played, Mr. Edgeworth.” Phoenix prompted, with a grin, and Miles knew then he had been caught staring. He then wondered just how much of his thoughts Phoenix had guessed.

“I have you to thank for the… inspiration.” Miles used his body weight to push Phoenix’s hips back into the mattress, enjoying the choked sound he elicited, and the feel of Phoenix’s growing erection pressing into the slope of his hip.

“Ha - hngh. You always enjoy making me squirm.” Phoenix grinned. “Miss seeing me in court again?”

“Not when I have you like this.”

Miles enjoyed the thrill of victory when Phoenix made no smart reply, but wondered what the soft smile on his face was all about. Phoenix’s hand reached out to smooth the hair from his face with affection. Miles closed his eyes, basking for a few moments, and then kissed along his neck, letting his lips trail down while his hands slid to cradle his body. Phoenix arched gently into his touch, wordlessly encouraging his hands to roam further south, but Miles stilled them about his waist. There was a lot more of Phoenix he wanted to appreciate first.

It was rare to have the luxury of time, and rarer still to have Phoenix be still and cooperative, and he took full advantage. He traced his arms and tangled their fingers as he did. He tasted the dip of his collarbones, mapped the sharp ridges of his ribs and the soft padding of his belly; dragged his mouth to tease each nipple in turn with pointed tongue and the gentle scrape of teeth.

“This - this is all very nice, but,” Phoenix laughed nervously, as Miles showed no sign of stopping his explorations anytime soon, “I really don’t - ah! - need - so much -”

“Phoenix,” Miles chided, propping himself up enough to smirk at him fully. “What was it you said about presents? Something about not what you need, but what you want…” His eyes sparkled silver. “Should I stop?”

“N-no. Dammit,” Phoenix groaned, curling his fists into the pillow by his head when Miles dipped his head again. “Nngh, just - if you planned anything else, this might be - ah - shorter than you wanted if you keep doing that…”

Miles hummed in acknowledgement. As lovely as Phoenix was when getting desperate, he intended to bring him pleasure foremost. More purposefully he began to slide down the length of the other man’s body, pressing little kisses as he went on his way, enjoying Phoenix’s every squirm and shudder. He hooked his fingers into the elastic of his boxers, and -

“Ah - wait.” Phoenix’s voice was unexpectedly serious, and Miles obligingly stopped and lifted his head to pay attention. “If you really, really want to blow me I am so not going to complain, but - I’d really like to see you come, too.” Phoenix had held his gaze, but then his eyes flitted past Miles’ face. “And, uh, can the pyjamas go? I want to see you,” he added.

Well, those were reasonable requests. Miles pushed himself up until he was kneeling upright, the sheets sliding from them both. Cool air rushed in, and it was welcome in the heat between them. Miles’ fingers made quick work of his pyjama shirt. He didn’t miss how his partner’s eyes drifted covetously from his bared chest down to his pyjama bottoms, the silk leaving little to the imagination, the fabric tented. With a shimmy and a few kicks, they were dispensed with also.

Phoenix stared for a moment before surging forward, arms outstretched, enveloping Miles and tugging him in both for a kiss and to press their bodies together in one long line. Suddenly, it was Miles left dizzy as Phoenix kissed him deeply, earnestly. He felt so loved.

They rocked together, hips grinding as they fell into kissing, touching, enjoying the moment and each other. The friction was teasing, but the intimacy of it was what kept them from making any further moves to remedy it.

Finally, it grew to be too much, at least for Phoenix. His hips rose hard from the bed, and he made desperate little noises that had Miles pull back abruptly, groping with clumsy haste to the bedside cabinet in search of lubricant. He barely took his eyes off of Phoenix while getting a generous handful and unceremoniously wrapping a slick fist around them both.

“Yes,” Phoenix gasped, arching up into his touch, eyes squeezing shut. Miles didn’t hesitate, bracing himself on one forearm and maneuvering them both so they could both push up into the tight, slippery heat of his hand. “Yes, that’s - yes…”

Miles watched him with fierce desire. He loved this, loved having control over the pace, loved being able to push down with his whole body when Phoenix - deliberately or subconsciously - tried to increase the tempo or the force of his thrusts. He was able to see the frustration cross Phoenix’s flushed face, the way he gripped the pillows tighter or tossed his spiky head from side to side, capitulating to the rhythm Miles set and taking it. Miles loved seeing his eyes turn unfocused, utterly helpless beneath him as the world narrowed down to their spiralling pleasure.

“Miles,” Phoenix breathed, tense and trembling. “Gonna come…”

Miles didn’t have words to spare, he wasn’t far behind. He took those last precious moments of coherency to admire his partner laid out under him, red-faced and chest heaving and beautiful. His own orgasm was building slow and strong, and he tried to hold back the tidal wave to watch-

Phoenix cried out his name and shuddered under him and that was all it took for Miles to lose all control. His voice was a deep, resounding moan when he came, his body curved so deeply with the force of it that his bangs brushed Phoenix’s chest. He was gasping in the aftermath like he had run a marathon, feeling almost winded by it.

Everything was white noise for a moment, shivery bliss. He could distantly hear Phoenix’s soothing voice as he was gently tipped onto his back and kissed. His eyes were closed, but he felt good. Safe. Warm.

“Back in a moment.” Phoenix’s voice was soothing and full of promise, but Miles immediately missed his warmth the moment it was gone. His brain still added, it took him the sound of the tap running from the other room to put two-and-two together.

He opened his eyes in time for the sight of a nude Phoenix returning with a warm washcloth and a tender smile. He couldn’t speak, still feeling overwhelmed, but his partner knew exactly what to do with him, cleaning him up, adjusting him against the pillows so that he was comfortable, brushing his hair from his forehead. If he had more presence of mind, he would be embarrassed at his own inaction, but his limbs and tongue were uncooperative. Little electric-like aftershocks still arced across his skin whenever Phoenix touched him.

Finally, he was cocooned under the blankets, Phoenix sliding in beside him and snuggling up close into his shoulder.

“Mmm.” Phoenix yawned and snuffled into his skin, and Miles knew from that noise alone that he would be dead to the world within moments. He was proven right, as his partner’s breathing turned gentle and rhythmic. He was soothed and charmed that Phoenix found so much comfort in his presence.

He let his eyes slide shut, feeling sleep gently nudging at him as well. He was ready to let it claim him, even knowing it would be the end of the day that Phoenix had planned for him. After all, he thought with a serene little smile as he drifted off, there was always his next birthday.