Even on its quietest days, the Wright and Co. Law Office was a bustling place. Phoenix can remember the stacks of paper covering the floor, he and Maya rummaging through photos of evidence, the sound of the Steel Samurai delivering justice against whatever supervillain was on that week.
The ex-lawyer can’t help but reminisce on those days as he removes the sign hanging in the window.
He had to take it down eventually. No use advertising a law firm without any lawyers. Yet every time he tried, a voice echoed in his head. A voice proving his innocence. A voice helping him prepare for the bar exam. And the guilt consumes him for even thinking about taking it down.
Still he had to make the most of what he had. And the office space was large enough to work as a living space, enough for two people.
He looks over at the couch. A girl looking down at the floor, her left arm in a cast. A microwaved steak in front of her, untouched.
“Do you need me to reheat it?”
She doesn’t respond. Phoenix sits down opposite her, keeping his gaze fixed on the ceiling.
“I know this isn’t as good as what you’re used to, but we have to make do for now.”
He'll need a new job. Whatever he can do to support her, it’s the least he can do. He dug up the past and they both paid the price for it. There’s so much he can’t fix, so many lives worse off because of him, if he can just help one it’ll be enough.
He’s still staring at the ceiling when he hears the girl stand up.
“The food’s fine, Mr. Wright.”
Footsteps find their way to what was once the chief’s bedroom, and a door closes behind them.
Phoenix sighs, picking up the untouched steak. It’s laughable to think he could help her now, not when he can’t even be honest with her.
The light hangs above her as she drifts in the water. She’s seen this light before; It’s never gotten closer, but she still tries to reach it anyway. She’s swimming as fast as she can, but it’s shrinking, and the more she tries to reach it the faster it fades. Now it’s gone, and three figures ascend from the abyss beneath her: someone who should have killed her, someone who died by her hand, and someone who paid the price for her own sins, and they’re all reaching for her-
A deep inhale and Ema’s eyes crack open. Minutes pass before her breathing returns to normal.
2:44 AM. Hopefully Mr. Wright didn’t hear her.
Sleepless nights weren’t new to her, but they never got any easier. Not with the pain swelling in her left arm, and especially not with the events of the past few days still swirling in her head.
She wasn’t lucky enough to have fainted twice in one day. No, she stayed fully conscious as the verdict was passed down, as Lana walked away in chains wearing the same blank expression. Everything after that moment just seemed to blur. She remembered being arrested after the trial. A dozen officers talking at once. The blinding light of the interrogation room. And then all of a sudden, being released without a word.
Ema was used to returning to an empty apartment. But back then she could at least hang on to the miniscule hope that Lana could come home early. The familiar walls just seemed to taunt her knowing that she was entirely alone. That it was her fault she was alone.
First her parents, then Prosecutor Marshall, now her sister. Everyone in her life just seems to fade away.
She almost joins them before she finds herself lying in a hospital bed.
Mr. Wright offered to take her in afterwards. Ema couldn’t tell if it was pity or guilt on his face, not that it would matter. Nothing he could say or do could clean the blood from her hands. It'll only be so long before he’s gone too.
She lays back for a few more minutes before deciding that the bed was too comfy.
A suitcoat, a chessboard, and a few pens. That’s all Miles Edgeworth deemed necessary to remove from his office. The police will likely want their trophy back and someone else can make good use of the tea set.
He’ll be summoned by the PIC soon enough. They wouldn’t be wrong to go after him. The case files lining his walls can attest to that. Almost every one a guilty verdict. That was his duty as a prosecutor. His duty to claim a guilty verdict at any cost. His duty to put an innocent person in prison. His duty to tear apart a family. His duty to brand a child a murderer.
Gumshoe would support him throughout. He’s always supported him, even at the cost of his job. He doesn’t need to lose anything more.
It’s better that the demon is extinguished on his own terms.
In some ways, Ema’s life hadn’t really changed. She still goes to school, still gets the occasional odd look from her peers, still comes back to a mostly quiet home.
But Ema knew better. She could see the judgment just waiting to come out if she got anywhere near them. No one dared approach her, save for the occasional “what happened to your arm” or “you don’t wear your lab coat anymore.”
Mr. Wright was often away, as his new position in some borscht restaurant demanded. If he was lucky, she’d come back to find him attempting to prepare a homemade meal, or lying on the couch, watching a rerun of an old detective show, or even trying to read the old legal books behind the desk. He’d always greet her when she arrived, though Ema usually walked past him. It was easier to not acknowledge him.
The one day Mr. Wright didn’t greet her was the day she found him sitting in front of the couch, returned from a trip to the mountains, head buried in his hands. Ema tries to walk away before her feet refuse to budge. Whatever his deal was, she didn’t want to know. He’s just going to end up like all the rest.
I can’t promise things will be the same. But I’m still here.
Or he’ll end up alone.
And as long as I’m around, I’ll stay strong for your sake.
Abandoned, with no one left on his side.
I’m here for you, Ema. Always.
Against her better judgement, Ema turns around to face Mr. Wright, still looking down. She sits down next to him and he stops trying to hold it in. Between his sobs she can faintly hear him utter “I’m sorry.”
“You’re late. I ordered my steak lunch seven months ago.”
“Unfortunately we have a shortage of ingredients. Too much rotten meat.”
Neither of the former detectives can remember when they started talking to each other like this. Whether Angel suggested they do it for an undercover job or Jake just thought it be fun, it soon became their preferred method of communication, at least before one of them was arrested.
“That’s just the way it is in the West. Can’t leave the meat in the sun for too long,” The smirk briefly wavered on Jake’s face as his hand reached for the hat he no longer had. “So what now?”
“We continue what we started. Bring the truth to light.”
“Are you trying to break me out of here?”
“I know a few people here. You’ll be out of here soon.”
“Great! Maybe then we can open up that cattle farm! Fresh meat only!”
“You could try taking this a bit more seriously.”
“I have. And look where that got us. I couldn’t care less what happened to me, I wanted the truth about Neil, and all we did was throw the bambinas to the stampede.”
“And that’s reason to give up? We can’t stop now, not while he’s still running things.”
“And then what? Will that give them peace? Will that give my brother peace? We can’t save everyone.”
“But there’s still people we can save. If you think you’ve done enough, then stay here.”
“…I’ll think about it. What do you plan to do until then?”
“For now, I may need to reconsider my position on working with prosecutors. Who knows, some of them just might know how to whip up a decent meal.”
Phoenix has been acting odd.
He’s been staying up all night just staring at whatever’s on his desk. He didn’t even seem to notice that she stayed home today. Not that he should care, it’s Ema’s last year, and exams are already over, it’s not like she’s missing out. More importantly, in his rush to leave he forgot to water Charley today.
It’s not like him to forget Charley, Ema thinks while checking his soil. The cordyline stricta’s technically the oldest resident of the office, Phoenix made sure she wouldn’t forget that. He may have survived her scientific additives, but a healthy plant still needs water.
Wouldn’t be the first death I’m responsible for.
He has enough water for now. The rest of the place could use a good cleaning. She glances over to the chief’s desk, as Phoenix calls it, littered with papers.
It might be best to let him handle it, it’s his mess and he’s probably a little better than her at deciphering and organizing the legalese covering the desk. At the very least, the law books from the shelf can go back; neither of them can read it anyways. She moves to return “The Appeals to Filing an Appeal” back to its resting spot when she notices what’s underneath it.
It’s a case file. The case file.
Oh, of course. Yup, that makes sense. He’s been poring over the case, whatever good that will do. If there was something she could do about it she would, but it’s over, they lost, and there’s the headache setting in.
She doesn’t need to look through it. It’s like trying to quench a thirst with hydrochloric acid. It won’t do her any good.
So of course Ema sits down and looks through it.
“Is what I’m seeing here true?”
That’s the loudest she’s spoken in a while. Loud enough so Phoenix should be able to understand without even looking at his notes of a certain piece of cloth.
“It’s true,” he admits, almost a bit too quickly. “You didn’t kill Neil Marshall.”
“Then there’s only one person who could have! Why aren’t we doing something about this?”
“We tried.” Though he sits down in the couch, he maintains eye contact with Ema. “Edgeworth was given the task to put together the case against you. I thought if we could get Gant back on the stand, we could still turn things around. But Edgeworth just… couldn’t do it. I don’t think he could handle prosecuting another case. So before you went to trial, he declared the cloth illegal evidence, knowing it was the only decisive evidence against you, and then he ran.”
“And you didn’t tell me any of this?”
“With the condition you were in I didn’t want to twist the knife any further. Not when…” His voice trails off.
“Not when what? What’s so difficult to-“ Ema halts. She’s only been asking about herself.
“What happened to Lana?”
He’s looking away again.
“What. Happened. To my sister?"
He lets out a pained sigh, “She confessed. To killing Prosecutor Marshall.”
She’s been so concerned with escaping the abyss, she forgot who she was trying to help. No, she never escaped the abyss. She’s been hiding in a bubble, one that can’t keep the waves from crashing in.
It’s no use trying to flee.
The day Ema graduates from high school, it’s Phoenix’s fault. He just needed a different approach to the evidence and maybe Lana would be sitting in the audience right now.
The day she gets interviewed for a job, the blame is back on herself. All she had to do was not charge back into a dangerous situation and she’d be on her way to earning a degree in forensics.
The day she signs the lease on an apartment, it’s Lana’s fault. She didn’t have to shut herself in like that. If she just reached out to Ema, or anyone, they might still have the old apartment.
The day before she moves out, Ema has made up her mind. No one had to die. No one else had to suffer. And nothing’s going to change as long as she stays here.
Taking the last of her things, Ema carefully makes her way out of her home. There’s no need to wake Phoenix up this early, so might as well-
“You could have picked a better time to leave than four in the morning.”
“How did you know I was leaving today?”
“Honestly? I just couldn’t sleep and decided to take a walk.” He pretends to rub the point of impact. “But you were packing your bags for the past week, and I do live here.”
Ema bites her lip and turns her gaze sideways. Phoenix looks like he’s trying not to laugh, but she knows he’s holding in more.
“Look... I'm sorry.”
“For thinking I was a ghost?”
“For closing myself off. I just didn’t know what to do with myself after losing Lana. You, no, all of you tried your hardest, and yet…”
“And yet it wasn’t enough.” Now it’s Phoenix’s turn to avert his gaze. “You wouldn’t be wrong to blame me. I still think it could have ended differently.”
“It’s not over.” She directs her gaze at him. “You aren’t to blame for what happened. I’m not to blame either. But the bastard who is to blame is still out there, and no one’s doing anything about it. That’s why I have to go.”
“Just answer me this: if you saw any other paths before you…”
“I'd take this one without question.”
“Is that backed by science?”
“It’d still need a peer review, but I’m quite confident in my result.”
He could see the fire in her eyes. It's flickering, and it's not nearly as bright as it was the day she barged into his office, but it's burning.
“Alright then. I won't stop you,” Phoenix concedes, putting his hand on her shoulder. “But if you ever feel like dropping by, my door's always open. Take care, Ema.”
Before he can take it back, Ema wraps her arms around him. Just this once, she wants the silence to last. But it needs to end. Any longer and she might have been tempted to stay with the only family she's had in a long time.
“Thank you, Phoenix. For everything.” She lets go and reaches for her luggage. “But this is goodbye.”
With that, she leaves him behind.