Charley lived on. But couches didn’t last forever. They aged like humans. It wasn’t revenge, there was no inciting incident to it. It was simply the way of things.
Miles couldn’t remember the exact year it had happened, but sometime between them actually finally getting married and Trucy graduating from college, the couch moved from the office to the guest room of the house Phoenix and he shared together. It would last longer there, he had argued, and could be still be useful and within reach. It was as much for Maya’s benefit as for Phoenix’s, as she took the couch to be a tangible recognition that she was always welcome in their guest room, that it was basically her and Franziska’s room within his house.
That it seemed to be the only thing slept on when it was Maya alone who came to visit them, whether for Steel Samurai or other reasons, was a fact that Miles kept close to his heart. He didn’t believe in ‘sleeping on the couch’ when Phoenix and him had a disagreement they couldn’t resolve easily, as that would just mean waking up sore and angry. But Miles also knew that grief was not linear, that sometimes it circled back to bite hot and heavy, and so on the rare days that Phoenix hurt too much to cry about it – usually around the beginning of September, Miles would just cover Phoenix with a blanket as he slept on Mia’s couch, and go to bed alone. The years were not kind to the couch, but Miles tended to it as well as one could tend to anything that aged, knowing that his husband and dear little sister Maya needed to be able to sleep on it as long as possible.
Amongst the humans in his life, Maya aged gracefully, more gracefully by far than some people Miles had to deal with on a regular basis. She never bemoaned time changing her body, and embraced the laugh lines and wrinkles that slowly etched onto her face. On her fortieth birthday she appeared at her own party with a silver streak in her hair, responding to the few strands of silver that had only just begun to appear in the most Maya way possible.
It made him think of Mia, of what she might’ve done at fifty, at the foundations of the legal world she would’ve shook, and where the silver would’ve made its home in her hair. Mostly it made him quiet and contemplative. It had been a long time since he had disrespected her in court, and he’d found absolution in taking care of her family, and the couch she had given them, that had brought them together. Miles tried not to think words like ‘deserve’ anymore, but he felt it proper to think about Mia from a distance, as someone his husband and little sister knew better than him; not because he did or didn’t deserve it but because their feelings would always be first in his mind when it came to Mia.
Milestone birthdays were always difficult for Maya because as a decade her senior they should have also been milestone years for Mia. She only cried when it was over though, in the twilight after the party, when she could drop the façade of worrying about everyone else and let other people look after her. It felt like a privilege for Miles to have worked his way past her walls; the kind that he hadn’t seen when he was young and blustery and angry at how easily she scaled his own emotional walls. Even in her grief, Maya had the grace of age to laugh when she sat on the couch after the party and it finally fell apart in a great heave of fabric and wood.
“Guess that’s it, boys,” she’d said to them, thinking of Phoenix’s feelings about the couch before her own, and gripping his shoulder tight. When she hugged him, she was the last to let go.
They had a funeral for it, which a younger Miles would’ve found too silly too handle – but he had married in to silly, he loved his silly family, his husband who was so earnest and kind, his big sister who still clung to certain oddities of perfection and stoicness – but they were her own, grown and cultivated with love from them all, and the little sister he had gained twice over, who still had the silliest opinions about Steel Samurai and the new reboot. And that was just the beginning of it all, there were even more silly members of his family he could name, but the silly little funeral was just for the four of them, and the magic couch that had done so much.
Maya insisted on a Viking funeral, which meant they foolishly had to find a barge to burn on Gourd Lake. (It helped that, as Chief Prosecutor for over a decade he was trusted and liked, and could easily pull the strings necessary to legally have such an event.) The hardest part, it seemed, would be finding an archer to do the honours of lighting the barge. It was Kay who eventually did it, archery just one more of her hidden talents. Another, even better talent was the way she understood discretion, his sometimes daughter was there and gone with the breeze, the only evidence the burning barge and after-echo of the snap of a bowstring. She understood that it was for the four of them, and did not begrudge them their tiny private silly little moment for the couch funeral.
It was silly. But also perhaps too real. A funeral meant death, it meant corpses. They worked in the law, and almost all of them had observed executions before, or been haunted by their specters, so it wasn’t psychologically unreasonable that calling it a funeral would connect the couch to a corpse. Miles didn’t want that for his family. The couch was brilliant.
It took it him perhaps a little longer than he cared to admit to think of the idea, but once he had it he knew it was a good one. There was enough salvageable fabric from the underside of the cushions to make two small serviceable pillows – the couch would live on, in a new way. It would be no crumbling corpse, but a thing that was now something else, changed and remade.
The only problem was that he didn’t think of this until a few days before the burning, and he had barely sewn his entire life, partly because he could pay people to do it for him, and partly because the ‘paper crane incident’ had shown him he was not good at rote mechanical skills. And needle and thread could not be logicked into sewing themselves, no matter how hard he tried.
But he was Chief Prosecutor, and he would not lose when it came to his family. He would just have to practice with other scrap fabric first, so that he didn’t waste the small amount of material he had. It had seemed like a perfect plan at the time.
Miles had sewn until his fingers burned with pain, and even then it hadn’t been enough. He’d had to reluctantly let Franziska in on the plan to help, and accept her fond rants about his foolishness ‘of starting an endeavour he has no experience or ability for in a foolish bout of sentimentality, and waiting until the night before it needs to happen to get her help’, as she helped him finish the gift he made them. She guided his clumsy fingers with her small hands, and he remembered an old time, long buried, her doing the same when he was twelve and she five, and he tried to hide a rip in their couch cushions that he had made accidentally from Manfred von Karma. It took late in to the evening, both their eyes and their fingers burning together, but they managed with just enough time to spare to get back to their loved ones without raising suspicion and that was all he could hope for.
Miles waited until the barge was half burned down, and Maya and Phoenix had finished passing a flask of whiskey between them, reminiscing wetly about Mia and the couch, to present the gifts. (He hadn’t taken part in the alcohol because unlike some people he had an appreciation for how difficult it had been to make the burning legal in the first place and clear out the park of random bystanders, and wasn’t about to risk getting in trouble for public intoxication. Franziska had declined at first on the basis of not drinking from something that Phoenix Wright had put his mouth on, but as with many things, Maya managed to wear her down, and she drank with a reluctant, if fond, grumble.)
The pillows were wrapped perfectly. Miles could at least do that, even if he couldn’t sew. Maya and Phoenix both froze when he presented them with the wrapped bundles, looking suddenly small and unsure. Miles almost regretted it, until they actually moved and opened the gifts, in a slow, methodical way that didn’t match either of their personalities.
Phoenix started crying first; Maya’s resolve crumpled shortly thereafter, as she hugged the pillow to her chest and let the tears come. The gesture was perfect. It didn’t matter that the stitching was uneven, and the stuffing was lumpy, it was enough to have them, a visible tangible reminder of the couch and all it meant to them – and the work of the hands of loved ones, distilling that magic, that love into the little pillows.
Maya threw herself into hugging Miles, lifting him to tiptoe and he took back his thoughts about her grace – things changed, but they also stayed the same, and Maya was still Maya. It was comforting. If Maya could still be herself, at forty, with a streak of silver in her hair, and laugh lines on her face, then the couch could still be magic, even as two ugly pillows. And Mia could still watch over them all, from wherever the dead went.
With the strength that made her a force of nature, Maya pulled an awkward Phoenix into the hug, stopping his dallying and dithering with her usual enthusiasm. And then Franziska was crashing into him bodily, yanked into the crying, horrible, foolish mess they’d become, as the last dregs of the barge burned out on Gourd Lake that soft September evening.
And if you asked Miles what he saw as he held his husband and sisters in his arms, over their shoulders, he would simply give a wry grin and say that he saw nothing strange at all. There was nothing strange, after all, about the smiling ghost of Mia Fey, and equally nothing strange about Miles lifting his hand just so to thank her with a wave.