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The Wedding Planner

Chapter Text

December 3
7:34 AM
Wayfarers Chapel

 

Her cell phone was ringing.

It was a normal enough occurrence; von Karma Catering was a busy place come the Christmas season. Business parties, bar mitzvahs, weddings, New Years; everyone wanted to celebrate during the end of another year, no matter what the cause.

It was as precious as it was utterly annoying.

Her calendar was booked. Two birthdays, seven small office parties, and a wedding that involved practically half of LA. She’d been shouting orders all day, fitting the requests of the customer to a T, as she would any other day. It was her job to be perfect; a business dealing in perfection. The wedding would be neat and tidy, every blade of grass in place. She would make it so, and even with the few setbacks of a few foolishly foolish employees, this wedding would be another success for her company. And through it all, the foolish machine kept singing that foolish song. Once the song was over, she’d have a few minute reprieve. And then it would ring, ring, ring again, and drill into her skull another nail of annoyance. She did not have time for foolish personal calls.

And of course, this call was personal; the ringtone set for it was the only one that was different from her usual four-toned, business-not-pleasure ringtone.

She let it go to voicemail once more, and rolled up her sleeves. They were moving a rather intricate ice sculpture to the main buffet table.

“Lift with your legs, you foolish fool!” she spat, leaning back a bit to cover for the unbalance the man next to her had caused. “You’re legs! This is how an employee of von Karma Catering preforms? I ought to--”

She never did finish that sentence, for her phone had begun to ring yet again. She let an hushed expletive slip, and in a much louder voice commanded two younger men to replace her spot.

As soon as she was away from the noise, she unclipped her phone from her belt and jabber the “CALL” button with as much annoyance and frustration a human thumb could muster.

“What could you possibly want?” she snarled.

“I have been calling for an hour,” the voice on the other end answered. It was a deep voice, a voice that held no accent such as hers (German and perfect), that was clipped around the consonants, and filled with distress.

“Miles Edgeworth, I am very busy. This reception starts in less that five hours, and I have fired two foolish men for foolishly demolishing a table and dumping the food onto the ground, had to hired two back-up chefs to remake said food, and am working to find a way to preserve a foolish ice sculpture that has gotten here too early thanks to the foolish driver and her foolish habit of being too early as she always is. I am busy, Miles Edgeworth.”

“And no one understands more than I,” he said, and through the anxiety she heard a note of honesty. “But it’s about to get much, much worse.”

Franziska ground her teeth. “What do you mean ‘much worse’.” It was not a question she framed, but a demand.

“Our florist, Miss Woods, has canceled. She’s gotten sick with the flu.”

Franziska was quiet.

“She sent the quarter of her quota that she did finish arranging to a church in Lakewood. The rest of it is unfinished or wilted.”

“Lakewood is on the other side of LA,” Franziska near-groaned. Perfect. Just perfect.

No. Not perfect. Imperfect, foolish, and utterly dangerous considering their allotted time frame.

When Miles Edgeworth spoke again, it was over the sound of car horns and faint yelling. “Yes. I know.”

“Are you driving?” she asked, horrified.

He gave her a derisive snort. “I don’t see how we’ll get the flowers back any other way. Twenty five arranged bouquets are better than none at all, Franziska.”

Franziska pressed a hand to her forehead. “You are driving to Lakewood? Are you mad?”

“In which sense of the word?” he grumbled.

“This is foolish, Miles Edgeworth! Foolish actions from a foolish man--”

“You could always do the reception without flowers.”

“I will do no such thing,” she hissed. She had agreed to the flowers, she had promised the flowers, Miles Edgeworth and she had overseen some of the prep. They’d had a chart for where they would go. As anything perfect, one thing out of balance threw the entire system out the proverbial window.

“Do we really have a choice, Franziska? I don’t think I can find a florist this early, and even if I could, I do not think they could handle seventy five large pots to be arranged in less than five hours and have them delivered to the proper place. Ergo, I’m--”

She was a von Karma. She’d be damned if she let perfection slip through her fingers, even once. “Ergo nothing, Miles Edgeworth,” Franziska snapped. “Where are you right now?”

There was a short pause and a rustle of fabric and hair as the man on the other end sitched ears. “I’m about to turn off of Hawthorne and take ninety-one.”

“Turn around,” she commanded. She was marching toward her car as she spoke. “Turn around, and come to oversee the preparations. How far are you from Rancho?”

“Ten, maybe twelve minutes,” he answered, and again she could hear crazed beeps and a slight screech of--

“Mind your led foot, Miles Edgeworth, and drive within the parameters of the legal system for once!” She started her own car and waved one of the assistants to oversee everything. “I will find a suitable florist for this wedding, we will have the flowers ready and delivered, and you will be able to set the rest of the chapel in perfect order, as you always do.”

There was a relieved sigh on the end of the receiver. “Thank you, Franziska. I’ll be there very soon. Good luck.”

“I do not need your luck, little brother,” Franziska said, pulling into the street. “I am a von Karma. Everything I do, I do perfectly well. With or without luck.”


 

December 3
8:00 AM
Somewhere Between Florence and Bell...or Maybe Carson

There was a coffee shop that Franziska often visited with a few colleagues called Blend 107. It was a small business that did well for its size, and that served an excellent roast. The owner was a bastard in the morning, a jerk in the afternoon, and a regular asshole by closing time. He was bitter and sour like cold coffee, and his sexist comments about women in business suits grated on her nerves. But the coffee was good, and her retorts served for a better burn than the scalding hot water the man worked with, so she went every now and then.

It was not the coffee shop that Franziska needed right now, but rather, the little shop across from it.

Around the shop was a gated archway that housed morning glories. Those flowers hugged the gate, and the Lucky Cat statue that waved at passersby below it.

There was a sign that hung from the archway. It read Forest Fey, and was shaped like a rounded number nine.

And it was open.

As soon as the door opened and the little bells that hung above it sang their hello’s, the smell of rain and wet grass filled her senses. The entire place looked like another world. A jungle, or an oasis. Ferns hung from the ceiling, and potted flowers of every kind were shelved or on the floor. There were shelves of seeds in the back. The ceiling was glass, the floor was a deep brown wood, like rich soil. The only sound was the trickle of water from small fountains meant for a garden installation Off to the side was the register, and it was painted to look like it opened up to a river that lead to a waterfall in the distance.

Despite the need to rush and the morning she’d had, Franziska could appreciate this place for all it was worth.

“Good morning!” someone trilled to her left.

There was a girl there. Not a woman like herself, but a girl. She looked too young to be running a shop. Her eyes were big and brown, her hair was dark and long and done up in a top-knot of sorts, the rest cascading down her shoulders, and her skin was fair. She was clad in some kind of odd, purple outfit that reminded her of Japan. She had an air of complete naïvety about her, and, judging by the way she was looking at Franziska, it was not an act.

“Welcome to Forest Fey!” She shimmied out from behind the register. “Wow! You’re here early, huh? It’s barely eight. I mean, I just opened up the store, but I was going to go get a few more z’s since, y’know, no one comes in until like, twelve? Maybe one? I don’t know. But wow, I guess it’s true what they say, the early bird catches the worm. Ah! I don’t sell worms though! Euck! Can you imagine if my potted flowers had worms in them? Totally gross! Ack, now I’m thinking about it, and it’s giving me the willies. Oh. Hey. Now that I think about it, if I don’t sell worms, and you’re the early bird trying to get some of those nasty worms, what are you doing here?”

She was in front of Franziska now, bouncing on the balls of her feet, her eyes impossibly wide, impossibly enticing, and waiting for her to say something.

Of all the things she could have said, however, what left her lips was, “I do not eat worms.” Something so less than perfect that she felt certainly felt like a worm.

The girl laughed. “Of course not! Ugh, they’re so gross though, right? But hey, no, what I mean is, how can I help you?”

“Are you a professional florist?” Franziska asked. She regained her composure rather quickly. This was no time to be losing her head.

The girl screwed up her face. “I’d like to think so. We do a lot of landscaping and flower arrangements. Not enough to become a chain, but I like to think I’m as professional as it gets!”

“The name is spelled wrong on the sign,” Franziska blurted. (What foolishness!) thought Franziska. How could she be engaging in small talk? She never had time for it before. Did all of her business deals require a certain level of exposition now?

“Oh, I get that a lot actually!” the girl said, completely unperturbed. “But it’s not! That’s the family name. I’m a Fey. Maya Fey.” She stuck out a hand. “Nice to meet you.”

Carefully, Franziska took it. “Franziska von Karma, of von Karma Catering.” She gave the hand a single, proper shake, and pulled back quickly.

Miss Fey gasped. “Really?! No way! You guys do great parties! My friend Nick and I went to a party catered by you guys a long time ago--a friend of ours celebrating his pre-engagement to his girlfriend. Actually, I think she left him before he could propose. Not that it’s any of my business, because it’s Nick’s friend, not mine. But the party was perfect!”

“Perfection is my business,” she stated simply.

“I think my cousin actually got married and also used your services. It really was perfect.”

Franziska felt a small knot of something warm in her chest. She’d been told countless times that her work was perfect. Yet coming from this stranger, it meant just a bit more. Odd. Disgusting. Interesting. “Usually, wedding receptions catered by my company are done by my little brother. I cannot take all the credit.”

The Fey girl nodded. “Well, you do wonderful work. A lot of companies say they strive for perfection, but you actually reach it!” Her excitement dwindled very suddenly, and a look of surprise covered her face. “Wait! So if you’re here...”

Franziska cleared her throat. “I am looking for a quick hire. There has been an incident, and in a few hours, a reception will be starting. The flowers that we had ordered were sent across town, and our usual florist has come down with a mere cold.” Speaking of that, Franziska wondered if her brother would finally fire her. The girl was lovely, but all of her arrangements looked the same. The woman made a quick mental note to fire her once she was cleared of all sickness, with or without the confirmation of Mies Edgeworth.

Maya nodded quickly, and scurried behind her desk. Franziska followed. “I have a binder here of some of my recent jobs. I’ve only done a few house parties though. A lot of it is landscaping, but the flower arrangements are all mine.”

And the arrangements were wonderful. Each one was different, and more vibrant than the last. Colors that made the area pop, or added an air of elegance to a gaudy looking room. They spoke volumes and set the tone of the area. One particular photograph was a single tall vase. It was white porcelain carved with a design she didn’t recognize. The flowers were both colored white. Chrysanthemums and cyclamen. They supported each other, and though the arrangement was gorgeous, Franziska could see nothing but sorrow in it. She touched the picture gently.

“My sister’s funeral. The flowers mean “Rest,” and “Goodbye.” Maya’s voice was wistful. “Mia always thought flower language was cool. It seemed only fitting that it was how I said goodbye to her.”

“You’re hired.”

She’d said it very quickly. It was completely tactless, and she felt only a bit guilty about it. But she did not have the time to sympathize. The arrangements she’d seen were perfect. The thoughts behind the pictures were professional. She’d done a few engagements before. And Franziska was running out of time.

“Excuse me?”

“My brother has lost a florist, or, rather, will be losing a florist, and is in need of a decent replacement. Your portfolio is adequate; you will do.”

Maya Fey’s eyes had gone wide. “You’re hiring me?”

Franziska shook her head. “I am in no need of such things. You will be working with my little brother, Miles Edgeworth, and I am hiring you on his behalf.”

Miss Fey’s jaw was hanging open in a very imperfect manner. “I...I..”

Franziska dug into her pocket and pulled out the copies of the guides and lists made specifically for Miss Woods. “This is what must be done. Delivered no later than eleven.”

“A-alright! How many are expected?”

“One hundred, even. No later than eleven.”

Maya’s impossible wide eyes scanned the directions and flowers. “Okay. I have an abundance of purple snapdragons, so no problem there. All stocked up on heather. You’ll want very little heather though, I don’t think this Juniper lady had it right, you’re gonna want that on the edge….oh!” she looked up from the paper, and her eyes were filled with worry. “Stephanotis?”

Franziska nodded. “Apparently Mrs. DeLite will be having them braided into her hair and in her bouquet, which she ordered herself. The foolish woman has no regard for making this day easier.”

Maya nodded slowly. “Well, at least you know it’s not so easy to get them delivered. Not many people order those from this place. I think I have a few pots of them already planted…”

“Those will do.”

Maya shook her head. “It won’t be enough, not if you want one hundred of these done the way you have them. If this Mrs. DeLite has them in her hair and in her bouquet, they have to the the main flower seen…” she chewed her lip. “Maybe…”

Franziska sighed. This was taking too long; she did not have time to fool around. She brought her right hand up and glanced at the time. “Miss Fey,” she said sharply. “If you feel that you cannot do this in such short notice, I must take my leave. It is nearly eight thirty, and I have places to be.” She gave her a curt nod. “Goodbye.”

The woman made it three steps before there was a high pitched squeal of, “Hold it!”

Franziska turned around. The young lady behind her was beaming. Her eyes were bright and her hands were clapped together in front of her.

“I can make all one hundred. I have help coming in thirty minutes and I work fast. The only thing is, if we want the stephanotis on display, we have to arrange them in a sort of circle. I can do that,” she told her cautiously, “but I’ll have to add something. I frequently order viscaria, since it’s may favorite. It’s a little thing, and it can work well with the heather as a garnish. I can add some fern too. But it won’t be what you have on here.”

Franziska bit her cheek. What was ordered had been perfect. The colors, the look, everything. Miles would be going out of his mind if it was changed without a sample to be seen. He had been foolishly fussing over the DeLite wedding since October, and hours close to the deadline, this kind of change would probably cause him to have an aneurysm.

“Is that okay?” Maya asked. She looked like she was about to cry and had a crease of worry between her eyebrows, and for some reason that settled it.

“I will trust this task to you, Miss Fey. Welcome aboard.”



December 3
9:27 AM
Wayfarer’s Chapel

“This is a disaster.”

Franziska rolled her eyes. “Only a foolish fool of momentous fool-dom would turn down this young lady. She is talented.”

Miles ran his fingers through his hair, got fed up half-way with that nervous habit, and instead chose move his finger under his glasses to rub the growing circles under his eyes. “You have fired my flower lady.”

“And hired you a perfect one.”

“We don’t know if she meets any of my standards--”

“She meets mine,” Franziska snapped. “Mine have always been higher than yours. I am perfect, as is my company. I believe this will be a much better, well-thought-out arrangement than anything the Woods family has given you.”

“Miss Woods has done spectacular arrangements in the past. I know her work. I’ve worked with her one on one, and now you hire this...this stranger without any prior knowledge--”

“She had a portfolio,” Franziska pointed out. She also had very nice eyes and a smile that made her mind feel like it was turning to pudding. But if she’d hired her based on looks, she’d have been motivated by less than perfect conditions. And Franziska was a professional, first and foremost; the looks were but a bonus.

“--or any prior experience. I cannot believe this. Did it not occur to you that this impulse hire was, in fact, very foolish?”

“It is not any more foolish than your client wanting a wedding at one chapel and having her reception at another one.”

“That has nothing to do with this current situation.” A light pink dusted his cheeks, and if Franziska were anyone else, it would have come across as sunburn instead of a blush. “And it’s not foolish. It’s my job to make this wedding perfect.”

Franziska nodded. “Which is why, if you did not have me here, it would not be.” She watched her brother run his hand fully through his hair. His eyes were wide and tired. “If you did not trust your big sister,” she stated softly, “you would not have allowed me to find another woman for your wedding in the first place.”
The other sighed. “I simply assumed you were going to order the same arrangements. I did not think you’d go as far as to find a new shop entirely.”

“Then you do not know me well enough. I do nothing without purpose. Miss Woods was entirely too inconsistent. Miss Fey seems to take herself very seriously.”

“Yes, of course.” Miles’ caustic tone did little for ethers mood. “How old did you say she was? Fifteen? Seventeen?”

“She is an adult,” Franziska snapped.

“This is going to be a disaster,” Miles retorted. 

Franziska pinched the bridge of her nose. “You are being a foolish, dramatic fool. No amount of frustration or fear can undo my perfectly thought-out decision. It is done.”

Miles groaned and leaned against his car. His phone beeped, eliciting another strangled noise. “I must be at the church to oversee the final preparations.”

“Be gone,” Franziska ordered, shooing her little brother away with a stiff wave. “Cater to your wedding plans, and I will cater to my own company.”

Miles dug in his pocket and pulled out a small notebook. It was worn at the spine, and bulky with sticky notes, colorful tabs, and folded memos. “Should I leave this with you? These are all the plans, perhaps you can look over them with Miss--”

Franziska was shaking her head, her hands forcefully moving the other around the front of his car to the driver's seat. “I do not need your help, nor your foolish notebook of a foolish fool’s dreams. I am a von Karma, Miles Edgeworth.”

Miles slammed the door to his gaudy red convertible. “Yes. The von Karma family is always perfect.” He turned the key and pinned Franziska with a look. “But I don’t think that means you are psychic. Here’s hoping that the two are synonymous, just for today.”

She glared at the car until it made it made the turn out onto the main road.

In her pocket, her phone sounded. “Speak,” she growled, turning swiftly back to her own catering company. They were all taking a small break for water and stretching before getting back to heavy lifting.

“Franny?”

Franziska almost physically gagged at the nickname. “Miss Fey, I will ask you to refrain from such names. There is no familiarity here. Just business.”

“Uh, alright then.” She cleared her throat. “We’ve almost done everything. I’ve got fifty here right now thanks to my extra help.” Away from the speaker she called out, “Pearl! Come say hi! It’s Miss von Karma!”

“There is no need for that!” Franziska said, her words rushed. “I do not need to meet your employees. I just need to know when you expect them to deliver the flowers.”

“Mr. Armando is actually driving the first half over right now. Our van is pretty small, and we only have one. If that’s not alright--”

“You have done...fifty arranged, large vases? In this ammount of time?” She looked at her watch. It was just after a nine forty five. “That is impossible. You haven’t had enough time--”

“You just leave it to me, Fran!” Maya yelled into the receiver, so loud that she had to hold the phone away from her ear. “I’m a professional! I can make at least twenty five vases in thirty minutes! And now, with Pearly here--that’s my younger cousin--we can double that amount in the next half hour! You need those flowers by eleven, so we’re gonna get them to you by ten thirty, or my name isn’t Maya Fey!”

“Er, Miss Fey,” Franziska said cautiously. “Is your driver careful? If there is once chip, or one flower out of place, I will not tolerate it.”

“Nah, don’t worry. Mr Armando owes me a bunch of favors because my shop makes his store look nicer. Plus I help him grow his coffee beans. Best coffee West L.A.!”

The woman’s eyebrows rose. “The foolish man with the foolish mask at that foolishly foolish coffee store is your driver?”

“Not usually,” Maya answered, and there was a click of ceramic on granite that alerted Franziska that Miss Fey was getting back to work. “I am, since I’m usually the only one making these displays and delivering them. Oh! And usually I get no more than ten, so flower delivery works a lot like pizza, accept even if it’s more than thirty minutes, it’s not free. I’d get my friend Nick to drive them since he’s usually up early, but he can’t drive, and that won’t be good for the flowers. Nervousness behind the wheel makes them wilt.”

(I expect that being crushed in a car accident will do the exact same thing…) “When will you be arriving? The reception starts at one o’clock.”

“Arriving? With the flower you mean?” she hummed on the other end. “Okay, if Diego is driving a car at sixty five miles and hour…”

Franziska coughed. (Sixty five? Those flowers better be undamaged, or I will whip this foolish driver within an inch of his foolishly pitiful life!) Of course, she wasn’t allowed to carry her whip with her while she was working; several; workers had filed complaints, and, according to the Health and Safety Regulations and the Occupational Health and Safety Act of California, it was not ethical, or legal, to have her whip on her person. However, it was always displayed in her office, or when she was off duty.

“...the flowers should be there any minute? Or wait, did I not carry the two….? Or was it the seven….? Was there even a seven?”

“Miss Fey,” Franziska said sharply, trying to snap the other into full attention.

Apparently it worked, because Maya squeeked and said, rather loudly, “Yes ma’am!”

“I do not mean the delivery. So long as they are here by eleven. I meant yourself. You still have the address, yes?”

Maya sputtered on the other end of the phone, and then went quiet. Franziska was just about to ask if she’d hung up when Maya spoke again. “I’m invited to this shindig? For real?”

The caterer started to nod, realized Maya could not see her, and stated firmly, “Yes. Do remember that you are meeting your new employer here. Miles Edgeworth will be arriving at four in the evening, so be please punctual.”

The squeal that screeched its way over the phone was not so much painful at it was positively deafening.

Franziska smiled softly nonetheless.



December 3
4:03 PM
Wayfarers Chapel Exterior

Because it was December, the evening came very fast. The sky was a fading bruise of orange-purple, and the pinks clouds streaked faint scars across the sky. The bar was open, the tables were set, the food was being eaten. The sound of the ocean was dim compared to the soundtrack of what seemed to be mainly Billie Holiday (something that was the bride’s own idea). Miles Edgeworth had had a brilliant idea of using fairy lights in the tall trees to create atmosphere.

The flowers were wonderful. White porcelain, with a small bunch of stephanotis coming out of the top. Deep purple snapdragons bowed their heads from under their splendor. Ringed around those were small, periwinkle flowers that must have been the viscaria. The accenting heather and fern had, Franziska thought, made the wedding reception what it was; something out of an old movie. The draping arm of a fern inspiring a vision of a bride draping herself languidly across a railing overlooking an ocean view, rather than a half drunk woman dancing in a dusty basement of a church.

There were a few chapel benches that had been dragged out of storage last minute on Franziska and her little brother’s order, so that guests who did not wish to mingle could sit. Here sat Franziska, her left, glove-clad hand occupied with a glass of champagne. She was leaning back into the bench, draped in an elegant seafoam green evening gown, reminiscent of herself she often thought. The chest above the bust and sleeves were made of a matching lace with embroidered flowers. Her silvery hair was left loose.

She felt wonderful. And a bit tipsy, but she had most of her mind to keep that to herself.

“Party’s really hoppin’ huh, dollface?” a voice piped from behind her.

Franziska whipped her head around, her right hand gripping the handle of her actual whip as she did so. But behind her was Miss Maya Fey.

Sort of.

Her hair was not loose, but in a thick, fish-tail braid over one shoulder and ending in a large purple bead. Her lips were glossy, but her face other than that was free of any make-up. Her shoulders were bare and pale, and there was a little tiny mole on the left one that was kind of shaped like a heart, but that may have been the champagne talking. She was wearing a dark, grape-colored dress that hung barely below her knees and swished with every movement or breeze.
She did not look like the little girl who she’d seen today, and it was, in a way that was very new and a little drunk, very sudden but not entirely unwelcome.

“Miss Fey,” Franziska said slowly. “I see you’ve arrived on a sort of schedule, if not completely late.”

“Hey!” Maya huffed, moving to take the spot next to Franziska. “I was on time! But I looked all over for you, and then I saw that there were these really small burgers out, and I hadn’t eaten all day, so I had some of those.” Her fingers fidgeted in her lap, and Franziska noticed that she held one of the small, purple flowers in her hand. She rolled it back and forth, watching it spin as she spoke. Franziska watched too. “And then I asked one of your chefs here if they’d seen you, and they directed me to the outside, and then the bartender said you had a glass of champagne, took another to go, and ‘left toward the benches,’ so I found the benches and...ZVARRI! I found you!”

The strange word caught her off guard. “Excuse me?”

“Hm?”

“Zvarri?” Franziska asked, and she could feel a small smile begin to start.

Maya flushed. “Oh! Uh. There’s this detective show that comes on every now and then. ‘The Sophisticated Adventures of Luke Atmey: Ace Detective.’ Comes on after the Steel Samurai reruns. He shouts that once he’s made an important discovery. My friend Nick thinks it’s ridiculous, so I tape both shows on his DVR and never tell him about it. Drives him crazy.”

Franziska chuckled, and then they both lapsed into a comfortable silence. The lights above them twinkled in the dwindling light. Billie Holiday sang her heart out to an upbeat song and the brass hummed along with the murmur of the ocean. Franziska sipped her drink and smiled softly and Maya hummed along to the music. It was completely serene.

“Franziska?” a clear voice called, and suddenly it was broken.

She turned to look over her shoulder. And there, standing in his full, magenta clad, cravat-ed glory, was Mile Edgeworth. He looked a bit winded, and his eyes widened when he saw Miss Fey next to her. “And...guest?”

“Employee,” she corrected. “Meet Miss Maya Fey. She will be working for you and your business in making wedding plans come true.”

She could have sworn him mutter the word, “dreams.”

Maya stood up. In height comparison, Maya was very small indeed, and looking at her, Franziska saw her shrink just a bit more.

“Mr. Edgeworth? Hi, Maya Fey. I work with Forest Fey, I did the flowers? I-I mean, shoot you knew that.” She bit her lip and stuck out her hand. “I am a professional, and I have a portfolio at my shop! I don’t have business cards though. I think I should get some, but I can never decide on the kind of stock I want it printed on.”

Miles stared Maya’s outstretched hand for a few moments, before turning to Franziska. “She arranged the bouquets?”

“Yes.”

“She’s the same person you hired? The same person you spoke to?”

“Yes, of course.”

Miles nodded slowly and faced Maya once more. “You are the owner of Forest Fey? You’re quite...young.”

“Only twenty five! I’m not that old, but I’m old enough to drink and drive. OH! But-but not at the same time.”

Miles’ eyes widened a fraction and looked like he wanted to say something smart, but instead he said, “Your job with the arrangement is beautiful. You and I both got...very lucky.”

“Don’t I know it!” Maya agreed, nodding quickly. Her hand was still out for Miles to shake. “So you’re Miles Edgeworth? The guy who did this whole wedding?”

“Yes,” the man said with more than a little trepidation.

Maya beamed at him. “It’s wonderful. You made it look and feel like a dream. I actually feel like I should be getting married. It’s absolutely perfect here. And I love the lights!” She pointed above them. “They kind of give his whole party a twenty-first century Gatsby feel, you know? That could be the music too, but the lights are still wonderful.”

Even in the dim setting, Franziska could see her little brother’s blush. She snorted. Miles coughed and turned away, choosing instead to grab his elbow instead of Maya’s still waiting hand. Another nervous habit he had done since he was a child. But under that nervousness and embarrassment, she knew Miles had just received the complement of a lifetime.

“W-welcome aboard, Miss Fey. I will have the new orders in soon. There is another wedding scheduled in a few weeks time. I look forward to working with you and your undeniable talent.”

He turned to leave. Franziska called to him, “Will I be receiving a phone call explaining about how I was right and perfect, as I always am?”

She could still hear his choked laughter and embarrassment as he went, no doubt, to compose himself and speak to the bride and groom.

“That could have gone better,” Maya mumbled. “I don’t think he liked me very much.”

Franziska nodded. “Miles Edgeworth is a very busy, scheduled man,” she explained. “Because of this, he interacts on a level that is half-business-half-social-awkwardness.” Good lord, was she usually this tongue-in-cheek about her brother? Perhaps she should drink slower. “He does not take change very well, hence his aversion to my hiring you. He does not take compliments very well, either. Which is why he ran like the foolish man that he is.”

Maya giggled. “So he’s shy, huh? I bet he’s a big softie, too! Only romantics can make a wedding this special.” She clutched the flower in her hands close to her chest and sighed deeply. “How sweet.”

Franziska chuckled. “Romantic Miles Edgeworth. I will have to take your word for it, as I do not see it. I do not understand how you can either, but as I said. Perhaps, if I were more inebriated…”

Maya laughed a little. Franziska snorted.

As the laughter tapered off, both women met eyes, and Franziska had a moment of utter clarity that, whether or not she was drinking, she wouldn’t mind getting lost in those eyes. It was a very sloppy, imperfect thought, and right now she dare not lock it away.
There was quiet again, and in the distance, the soundtrack turned slower, the piano of the track starting the beginning of These Foolish Things.
Maya broke eye contact first. “So this flower,” she stated softly, “is called a viscaria. They’re hard to get in flower shops, so I keep a bunch of them. They’re also my favorite, because...well...because they say a lot without saying much at all you know?”

Franziska shook her head, but smiled anyway.

“For example, saying something like ‘I’m fine,” can really mean something like, you’re excited, or upset but can handle it. It says a lot. This...uhm...this flower….or…” she cleared her throat, met Franziska’s eyes again, and held the flower out to her with a shaking hand. “This flower means, ‘Dance With Me.’”

There was a beat of silence. It held the world in a bubble for exactly thirty shocking, nervous, imperfect seconds. In those moments, Maya Fey watched with her breath stopped in her throat as Franziska von Karma blinked her words slowly away. Franziska von Karma waited to see if Maya Fey had a punchline in there somewhere. After five seconds, when she didn’t produce one, Franziska had to make her heart stop trying to fly out of her chest. There were things to consider. She had been drinking, for one. She was in public, for two. She wasn’t sure where anything would lead, where Miss Fey (Maya, don’t you think? After that, it might as well be simple Maya. She calls you Fran after a day. Maya. Maya it is) would want this to lead. 

This was foolish.

But right now, looking at Maya’s nervous hand and sincere eyes and lips that were being worried on by persistent teeth, she stood up.

“Yes,” she said, taking the flower. She tucked it into Maya’s braid, and offered her a very open, very warm, very imperfect, smile.

Chapter Text

July 13

2:25 PM

West 223rd St, Carson (in traffic)

 The weather in Los Angeles was mostly consistent. It was usually one of three things; mild, hot, or absolutely disgusting. The latter option usually only reared its head in the months of July, August, and September, and for residents of Los Angeles who had lived there most of their lives, the heat of a ninety three degree July afternoon is mere child’s play, especially when July currently holds a heat record high of only one hundred and nine degrees Fahrenheit.

 Miles Edgeworth did not share this sentiment. He was currently sweltering in his car, hood down, with the air conditioning blasting so loudly he almost didn’t hear the beeping behind him as the light turned green in front of him.

 Meeting with his long time friend, local detective, and now current client, had been easier than meeting with most clients. Detective Richard “Dick” Gumshoe was usually so off the mark and so naturally confused that explaining everything to him came more naturally than if he were talking to a stranger. He had been planning this wedding with Gumshoe and the man’s fiancé, Maggey, since early March of the year before. Maggey wanted to get used to the idea of being together before deciding to officially tie the knot. Gumshoe was more than supportive of this, but the longer they left it, the more they had ended up wanting it. So around the end of June, a year later and giving Miles a window of a month, they called Miles’ office and asked for his “ever professional wedding help, sir!”

 It would have to be pulled together quickly, and it had to fit in to his schedule. With some nudging and cutting some of his lunch breaks down, it would work.

 He’d been only too happy to comply. At first.

 The wedding was to be in August. He’d tried to gauge a reason as to why. Did they both have birthdays? Was it an anniversary? The summer months were harsh in Los Angeles, and Edgeworth had warned them against many things; past clients had fainted, vomited, and, in one instance, accidentally skipped the “I Do’s.”. But both Maggey and Gumshoe were persistent. They said that summer was a month of complete life, and that before summer was over, they wanted to complete each other.

 Outside, Miles Edgeworth nodded and thinned his lips a bit in response to the cliché. Inside, Miles made a solemn vow to make this wedding the finest he’d ever done, pulling out all of the stops.

 They’d settled on a location rather quickly, for both the wedding and the reception. From plates to colors to food to flowers, everything had been going quiet smoothly.

 Until it came time for the cake tasting. The few places he regularly hired had been closed or too booked to make a tasting schedule.

 His first backup after those had been shut down due to health issues.

 His second backup had relocated. To Kansas.

 His third, in-case-of-emergency backup had also relocated. To jail, for what may have the forth time for illegal possession of marijuana. (This is why he was my final back up after all. There is a very fine line between a good time at a wedding and a good time.)

 By the time the cake tasting did take place (that is, he found a place called Trés Bien, it had been a short few hours ago,) Miles was sure that even if the cakes had been edible, they wouldn’t be able to hired the bakery. The list of booked wedding planners the chef had shown Miles made his own head spin.

 So he’d resolved to send them home, and to assure them that yes, he would find a place, and that yes, it would certainly fall into budget.

 Except that all of his usual bakeries couldn’t help him right now.

 This was the problem with summer weddings! July was a foolish month to plan a wedding, and August even more so. If there were two months he could choose never to plan a wedding in, July and August would take the cake. (Terrible pun. Absolutely awful, you’ve been spending too much time around Miss Fey.) The heat was god-awful in August, which limited most sane people to venues inside buildings. The Fourth of July crowd was unbearable. The tourism drove Miles near insane, especially when area was main tourist attraction. And everyone wanted to get married in the summer. Most venues were rented out in December, at the very latest, and most bakeries had booked their summer with dozens of wedding cakes to make.

 Miles sighed. As frustrating as it was, that wasn’t the real problem. Franziska had told him as much when he’d relayed this to her over the phone as soon as the Gumshoes were out of earshot.

 “You have trouble committing, do you not?” she had asked. “When you find a place that is good, you do not settle there, because it can be perfect somewhere else. This will be your downfall, little brother. Scruffy hardly seems the type to remember his shoes before he leaves the house, let alone planning ahead for something. Be thankful they got you in July.”

 He’d asked her a few times if her catering company could make the cake, but she’d refused. The catering they did was not centered around weddings, but dinner parties and gatherings, and he’d understood, albeit a little reluctantly.

 But he had to find somebody. Franziska knew chefs and bakers all over California, and several back in Germany. If he could ask to see a phone book...

 His car hugged the turn he took. On the corner of West Carson was a flower shop called Forest Fey. It was bigger on the inside, and looked like something the fae would actually enjoy. He parked, stepped out of the car, fed the parking meter for an hour, and swiftly walked into the store.

 He should have expected the heat wave that hit him as he entered. Forest Fey was equipped with a glass ceiling that took in more warmth than it released. He almost fled back into the heated hellscape of Los Angeles. “Miss Fey?” he called out.

 There was a sound from the back of the shop, a sort of bang that sounded like a desk had moved, and a distinctive yelp of, “OUCH!” before he heard a door in the back open and the young face of Miss Maya Fey pop out.

 Her hair was braided and split into two behind her head. Her outfit, much like her personality, was quite loud and, naturally clashed. She beamed when she saw him. “Hey, Miles! Glad you’re here! We were just having lunch.”

 “And you didn’t think to close the shop?” he asked.

 Maya’s face scrunched up into a pout, and Miles took that as an invitation to move toward the break room.

 “Wait, wait,” she said, stepping out from behind the door. “What on Earth are you wearing?”

 Raising a silvery eyebrow, Miles glanced down at his outfit. A wine colored dress shirt and black slacks stared back at him. “Business casual?” he offered.

 Maya snorted and her smile turned teasing. “Long sleeves and silk?”

 He grimaced in return. “A purple shirt and yellow shorts? Honestly, Miss Fey, you’ve professionally arranged flowers for me for a year. Your color-based arrangements are stunning and detailed. And yet you seem to have trouble grasping the simple concept of complementary colors.”

 Maya shrugged. “Complementary. It’s pretty. And it has the word complement in there, doesn’t it?”

 He sighed and moved past her into the back room lounge. And it was a lounge of sorts. There was a large, worn sofa, a puffy, weathered recliner, and an old coffee table. A small shelf of magazines and books was tucked into the back corner, with a coffee machine on top and several tea cups stacked next to it. Fans were scattered around the area, all turned on to their fullest power, and the cool blast of air made the man’s eyes flutter shut in relief and pleasure.

 “Dear god, you are making me sweat with that outfit.”

 “Et tu, Franziska?” Miles asked, standing aside as Maya made her way back through the door.

 Franziska merely smiled, crossed her legs, and sipped at her tea as she stared at him over the rim of her cup. Maya joined her on the couch, settling her head on the other woman’s shoulder.

 That they had been together nearly a year had been starling. Maya was a very touchy-feely sort of person, and public displays of affection did not sway her. They often did sway his sister, however, and the fact that somehow the girl had managed to break through that layer was beyond him. Another fact was that Franziska simply seemed to never have time for romance. She was a busy woman, running her own catering company, dealing with media, holidays, weddings that were almost always his to plan...where on Earth did she find time to...to fall in love?

 “You are staring at me, Miles Edgeworth. What is wrong?”

 Miles cleared his throat. “I need a wedding cake, and there are no bakers left in the city that I can rely on through past experience.”

 Franziska stared at him for a long moment. She had put down her tea and was shaking her head. “I told you this would happen if you did not sign a baker on soon. You were foolish to ignore my advice!”

 “I didn’t ignore it!” he shot back. “I just...I have been delaying it for awhile. Each company had something different to offer, and I was waiting for one of them to really...wow me.

 “Nice try,” Maya advised, her smile remaining in place when he shot her a withering look. Franziska was giving her a wary sideways glance. “Oh, come on! You were totally ignoring it! You could have picked any one we’ve worked with so far. Every wedding I’ve done with you has had a magnificent cake. I really like the ones from that one place in Gardena.”

 “So did I,” Miles murmured. Their fondant-sculpted flowers had been so beautiful it was almost a pity to eat them. That and their homemade fondant was better tasting than most. Perhaps the company would have made the final cut if he’d ever selected a permanent one to hire.

 “Well, there is this place I tried once. It does regular food and wedding stuff,” Maya continued. “It’s called Trés Bien.”

 “Certainly not!” Miles objected. “We have already tried more than enough samples of both his ‘cake’ and his relaxing scent mixtures. I’m not even sure that man ever went to culinary school. To hire him would certainly be a recipe for disaster.”

 Maya snorted. “Good one.”

 He could feel his face turning red with frustration.

 “What about Ini Mimi Miney? Those sisters made a nice enough cake, right? It was cute and simple. And they made red velvet cake cookies. Oh! Oh, please tell me mister and soon-to-be-missus Gumshoe like red velvet cake!”

 “Traditional wedding cake is not red-velvet, Miss Fey. And the Miney family has relocated out of the area. I am unaware if they have opened elsewhere in California.”

 Maya sat up a bit and tapper her chin thoughtfully. “Kitaki Traditions always was a favorite of mine. They had those cute little mafia gingerbread cookies during Christmas. And they did their sons wedding cake, right?”

 Miles nodded. They were very professional in their cake-making, and their frosting designs looked like actual lace that was draped over the cake. Miles had been hoping to hire them specifically for this wedding. “They were, unfortunately, filled with orders until October.”

 Maya pouted. “That’s a shame. What about that really shady, last minute place you had tried? El Tigre’s?

 Miles blew a strand of hair out of his face. “Apparently, they were arrested. According to the good Detective, they were ‘baked out of their brains, and playing with fire.’

 Maya laughed and turned toward his sister with a wide smile. “Come on! You’re hearing this, right? Baked? Like a cake?”

 “Miss Fey.

 She just shook her head. “It’s like you’re not even trying to stop them from coming, don’t blame me.”

 (Yes, my mistake, it is very amusing, Miss Fey. In fact, it’s so amusing I forgot to laugh. Tragic, that.) He cleared his throat, and turned to look pointedly at Franziska. “Is there anybody that you may know who’d be willing to take on a cake tasting date as well as making the actual cake?”

 Franziska raised a delicate eyebrow. “Fool. What makes you think that my little black book has anything yours does not?”

 “Because you are a catering company with many more connections to baker than I.”

 She scoffed. “Miles Edgeworth, I do not understand. You have went to every baker you know. Every baker you know, I certainly know, or have met. And,” she barked when he opened his mouth, “I will not be calling out of country bakers. Take defeat like a man, little brother.”

 “It’s not defeat,” he sighed. He glanced at the recliner and then at Miss Fey. “May I?”

 She nodded enthusiastically. “Of course! I hardly ever see you sit down.”

 Miles raised an eyebrow at that. “Miss Fey, you’ve been to my offices many times.”

 The girl waved her hand in front of her, as if wiping away his words. “That’s work sitting. That’s not actually sitting and relaxing.”

 “I’m still working,” Miles grumbled, sinking into the worn, overstuffed chair. He removed his glasses and dug the heels of his hands into his aching eyes. This was a disaster. This was his lunch hour, and after this, he had to check the venue they’d asked about. It was in Beverly Hills, and Miles had asked, quite a few times, if they were prepared for the price. The area itself seemed to cost money for just exiting your car. He wasn’t even sure they actually allowed weddings there. Maybe small parties, but weddings? God, he didn’t even think to check.

 He glanced at his watch. Two forty-seven. Damn. “You’re sure, Franziska? Maybe I could borrow one of yours.”

 He heard her cup and saucer clink with a calculated, cold sound that he was sure only she could produce. “Absolutely not. I am very busy at the moment, and all hands that are available are indeed getting use.

 “You’re busy?” he echoed. “Funny, I don’t recall you telling me about any scheduled business this month.”

 A chuckle. “That is because I do not need to tell you unless it could potentially involve you, fool. And I do not handle stress in the same, foolish way that you seem to. You wouldn’t have known had I not made it so.”

 “That’s not true!” Maya piped. “Sometimes she as dark and broody as you are, Mr. Edgeworth.”

 “Thank you, Miss Fey. That is very reassuring.”

 “He’s brooding now,” Maya whispered dramatically.

 “Indeed,” Franziska murmured.

 He dragged his hands down his face and groaned. “I have to leave. This was my break for today, and it seems that I will not be finding the help I thought I would.” He replaced his glasses and started to sit up. The chair however, had other ideas, and he had to fight to stand. By the time he was up, Franziska was hiding a smirk with her cup, and Miss Fey was blatantly laughing at his distress.

 Wonderful.

 “Good day,” he grumbled. “Franziska, if there is anyone you think of later…”

 “You will be the first to know, foolish brother,” she said with a nod.

 He thanked her, and exited. So much for that plan. Maybe she was right; he might have commitment issues. After all, it took him quite a long time to work up a...tolerance to business with Miss Fey. She was always so bubbly, and though her work was professional, she was not. He was always afraid of inconstancy with her work, and once he’d been so worried about the flower arrangements that Franziska had shouted at him and ordered him under threat of whip that he was to leave further dealings with Miss Fey to her. But she’d been able to prove herself, so far. He was hoping she’d be a permanent fixture, but he was never sure. Someone better might come a long.

 Or she may find a better business to work with.

 Or she may quit due to a falling out with either Franziska or himself.

 Or he might have to fire her, though this option was seeming less and less likely by the day.

 But these small things could throw heavy wrenches into a wedding plan that took months.

 He did not have the time for something so...untimely.

 In reality, the only permanent thing his business ever had was von Karma catering.

 (My god, this is actually a problem isn’t it?) he weaved his way through potted plants and ducked under hanging ones. (Very well. I’ve worked in tandem with this “problem.” I can work with it now. I’ll find a permanent baker after this wedding.) He nodded to himself. That would give him more than enough time to get used to the idea.

 “Mr. Edgeworth!”

 He turned his head to look over his shoulder. Maya Fey was poking her head out of the backroom door, and her face was flush with excitement. “Mr. Edgeworth, wait! Wait! I just remembered something.”

 He stared at her, and she smiled back.

 After a beat of silence, he slowly prompted, “Yes, Miss Fey?”

 “Oh!” She moved from the doorway, weaving between her maze of plants. “I actually think I can help you!”

 “With my baker situation?” he asked, bemused.

 “Yeah!” She was practically bouncing. “I have this friend, Nick! He’s totally sweet, I’ve known him for such a long time. Actually, it’s been only been, what, five. Seven years? I guess. Huh, weird how times flies. But, anyway, he has a bakery down the street on West twenty thirteenth.”

 Miles felt his eyes go wide. “You’re serious?”

 “Yeah! Franziska is on the phone with him now, telling him we’re coming. Oh my gosh, I can’t believe I forgot about this. He’s super talented too. Gosh, his chocolate chip cookies are so good. And be makes a mean burger too, but you can’t sell those at a bakery. I asked him if he could make burger flavored pound cake once.” She huffed a little at the memory. “But he just gave me the weirdest look and said, ‘Maya, that’s called meatloaf, you can’t sell that either.’”

 Miles shook his head , bewildered. “I cannot...this is incredible. Miss Fey, you may have save the day. Have I heard of him? Perhaps his shop?”

 “Nope!” she beamed. “Probably not. It’s called Wright and Co. Bakery and Cafe! Totally a hole-in-the-wall sort of thing, only it’s not in a seedy area.”

 Miles pressed his hands against his face just as Franziska called that they were leaving, and groaned.


 

July 13

3:01 PM

Wright and Co. Bakery and Cafe, W. 213th St

 

In the light of the afternoon, the bakery had a very warm glow to it, like a childhood memory of summer. The windows were tinted from the previous owner of the building, and when light filtered in, no matter the time of day or the season, they had a way of always lighting the area to look sepia-toned. The floors were wooden and polished to a dull shine. There were five small, round tables with comfortable looking wooden chairs along the walls, and a raised area in the back that looked like a stage behind the display case. Said display case was well lit, free of any fingerprint stains, and showed miraculous looking cakes and cupcakes--each with a different look to them--, pound cakes with a generous amount of frosting, cookies, cake pops, something that could have been fudge, and much more.

 The walls were wallpapered with something that had probably once been bright yellow, but was now washed out to something paler. There was some sort of green design that frequent customers had once asked about but had long since given up on figuring out what it was supposed to be. On the walls, there were paintings. Some were abstract and colorful, and others were done in such immaculate detail that it could be mistaken for photographs.

 It was relatively cool inside the building, and quite vacant. Miles tried not to let his sigh of relief escape too loudly.

 “Well, this is it,” Maya said, spreading her arms.

 Miles grimaced. “Quaint.” It was...definitely small. It was cozy, for sure. But this place wasn’t exactly brimming with professionalism.

 Maya scrunched up her face, and stuck her tongue out at him. “Do you ever smile? This place literally bakes smiles, and there you are, Mr. Sourpuss, standing there, glooming up the place.”

 Miles looked at his watch, and then at the counter where the display case was. “Miss Fey, I have an engagement very soon. I do not have very long, and from where I am standing I see no one in the store. “

 Instead of acknowledging this, Maya cupped her hands around her mouth, leaned back, and yelled out, “NICK! YOU IN?!”

 “Miss Fey! Consider the distance between yourself and my person next time you decide to scream like that,” Miles snapped, pressing the heel of his hand to his ear. His ears were actually ringing. He hadn’t been sure a human could actually get that loud.

 “Is she usually this...enthusiastic with you?” he murmured to Franziska, who was watching Maya with a look Miles knew was only reserved for her. All warmth and kindness. He noted it with a twinge of jealously.

 “No,” she said, and then hummed in thought. “She is much louder when it is just us.”

 It took a few moments for her words to sink in. Once it had, it took only a second for Miles’ face to color to that of his shirt. She hadn’t really...god the look on her face, she had just meant that.

 Before he could say anything near chastising, a door behind the counter swung open, and out of it came a young lady that looked to be about the age of fifteen. She had shoulder length brown hair tucked into a ponytail, and was wearing an apron covered in flour and splatters of what looked to be cake batter. Underneath that mess, there was an embroidered blue top hat.

 “Aunt Maya!” she squeaked, running to the other side of the counter and letting her self out. She took too huge steps and crushed Maya--who was crushing her right back, despite the mess. “It’s great to see you!”

 “Trucy!” Maya cooed. “Gosh you’re covered in gunk! What is your dad doing back there?”

 “Trucy” broke from the hug, but held Maya’s arms. “Daddy is trying to make chocolate cigars, and I am trying to make cake balls.” She crossed her arms and shot a rather huffy look at the door. “But, he keeps ‘sampling’ my batter, so we’ve sort of.made a mess, trying to keep each other’s stuff out of each other’s hands. Oh! He said he’ll be right out though, we both heard you shout.”

 “Fool,” Franziska mumbled. “I tell him to be ready to meet a potential employer, he foolishly decides to bake. For his foolishness, I apologize.”

 Miles gave her a look out of the corner of his eyes. “My interest is piqued now, truly,” he grumbled. He looked at his watch. It was now three twenty five and his lunch break was officially up. He sighed, straightened his sleeves, and turned to Franziska. “I have places to be. Thank you for this, but I must go.” He turned on his heel.

 This was a waste of time, and if he wanted to make the appointment in Beverly Hills, he had to leave right then anyway. Perhaps, if he was really desperate enough, he’d come back when his schedule permitted.

 “Hey there! Not so fast, Mr. Edgeworth!” Maya called after him.

 He looked over his shoulder. Maya was pouting, and the young lady beside her had her eyebrow raised in question.

 “Nick said he’d be out soon, which means he’ll be out soon!”

 “Yes, well, soon I have a meeting with a venue owner concerning the wedding of a very friend, and I would quite like to get there on time, Miss Fey. Will you be requiring a ride back to your own shop, or would you and Franziska prefer to walk?”

 “Hey!” Maya snapped. “Be nice! Nick is a really dedicated guy, and he loves his job. Just like you can’t wait to get to your meetings, Nick get’s really excited about baking and can’t always find a place to stop.”

 “Hyper-focused on his career. And yet is not ready for a supposed job offer,” Miles retorted with his eyebrows raised. “Miss Fey, should I need you to accompany me to this venue, I trust I can reach you from your shop.”

 Maya looked like she was about to say something rude, or angry, or maybe both, but her voice was drowned out with a loud clatter that came from the kitchen. It sounded like a tower of metal pots and pans had rained down, and over that came a half-groaned, “I’m okay!”

 “Daddy?” Trucy called out. “That wasn’t my cake batter, was it?”

 “Only...part of it? I think? Did you make frosting too? Uck.”

 She giggled. “Daddy, hurry up! You didn’t tell me you had a meeting today.”

 Miles flinched as something else crashed, and there was a shot, clipped, muffled swear from behind the door. There was the faint sound of shoes squeaking on tile, and muffled thump, and finally the click that signaled the opening of the door.

 A cloud of what was most likely flour blew out the door, preceding what had to be the owner of the establishment.

 (Well,) thought Miles. (This will certainly leave a lasting impression, if a poor first one.)

 What came out of the door was a man, or what Miles perceived to be a man, under a coating of flour. It streaked his cheeks, nose, shoulders, and threaded through his possibly-black-currently-gray hair from root to tip in some places. His apron was coated with a vanilla covered substance and flecked with chocolate splotches. Under that layer seemed to read the word, PaPa. To his arms and hands, clumps of what looked to be cake batter mixed with the flour were stuck.

 It seemed the only thing that was free of a fresh coating of baking ingredients were his eyes, one a deep hazel and the other an intelligent blue. Or that could have been a trick of the rather odd lighting.

 The man did a few half-turns, looking for something attached to him, made a small “Aha!” when he’d spotted it sitting a few steps away, and grabbed the rag on the service counter, wiping off his face and taking though it, saying something that sounded like, “Hey, Maya.”

 Miles didn’t know whether to be repulsed or surprised by the man’s appearance. If he looked like this most days, it was no wonder his bakery was so...empty. One might mistake him for an apparition.

 “What brings you here? Don’t you have flower arrangement stuff?” he asked, swiping at his cheek a final time before tucking the rag into a pocket in his apron. Miles wondered if he’d left the streak that covered his nose and forehead there on purpose

 Maya, who seemed unperturbed by the other appearance, shrugged. “I have some currently, but nothing that can’t wait until after lunch.”

 “The day you work after lunch time is the day Hell freezes over,” the guy teased.

 “Daddy, that’s so mean!” the girl called Trucy scolded. “Maya’s working right now! Right?”

 “Yeah, Nick!” she goaded, sticking her tongue out at him. Hadn’t she an older sister at one point? He’d hoped that some sort of maturity would present itself in her, someday.

 Nick, or so she’d called him, raised his flour-covered eyebrows comically high. “Wait, seriously? What’d you need me for?”

 It was at this moment Franziska moved to take a seat, and, judging from the way she let the legs scrape across the wooden floor, to draw the man’s attention.

 It worked, for in a matter of milliseconds, the full force of those two-toned eyes were on Miles.

 “Ah! Sorry about that!” the man went to dust off his apron, saw the mess that was on it, shrugged and looked back at him, this time with a very open smile. “Welcome to Wright and Co. Bakery and Cafe. Upper-crust goods for not much dough!” He pressed his lips together in what Miles assumed was to hide a laugh at his own pun. “How can I help you, sir?”

 Franziska snorted from her spot at the table. “Fool. Does that foolish joke create new customers?”

 “Fran. Didn’t see you there. And. Ah, not really. Trucy what was the other one?”

 “You’re in the Wright place,” she responded proudly.

 Nick nodded once. “We usually alternate between the two. Which one is catchier, do you think?”

 Franziska scoffed. “Both are equally foolish. But the first one you have used is much more amusing.”

 “See? I knew that one would work better. And if Franny likes it, it’s perfect,” said Trucy.

 Miles raised an eyebrow at Franziska, who stared back at him with a steady, calm look in her eye, as if the rather odd display before them was normal. As if she hadn’t just been called Franny by a young teenaged child.

 “What, Miles Edgeworth? You are starting.”

 “Franny?” he inquired.

 She shrugged delicately. “Miss Trucy is one of the few exceptions I have made to a nickname. Phoenix Wright, on the other hand, may very well lose his foolish fool tongue for using ‘Fran.’”

 “To say nothing of your significant other,” Miles teased.

 “The first, and only other exception I have made.”

 Miles turned back to his watch. A quarter until four. He was definitely out of time. “Miss Fey,” he called. She turned away from Nick and pinned him with a wide-eyed stare. “I am afraid this meeting won’t wait. If there is nothing else you wish me to see besides man caked in baking ingredients--”

 “Was that a pun?” the man asked.

 Miles winced. “--then I must leave. As I said, this meeting will not wait, and I will be far later than I ever intended to be.”

 “I’m pretty sure that was pun. Wrapped in an insult, but a pun nonetheless.”

 Miles glared at the man before him, and addressed him directly. “Are you not Miss Fey’s friend, Nick?”

 “Er, yeah. Phoenix, actually. Phoenix Wright. And yourself?” He was close enough to Miles to stretch a hand out over the counter, an offer for him to take.

 An offer he was all-too-willing to pass up. He sneered at the offered had. “Charmed, I’m sure. I was to be a source of possible employment, as I’m sure my sister called you about?”

 Wright’s eyes widened. “No, she said that was Thursday.”

 “I said he cannot be free again until Thursday, fool,” Franziska snapped from behind him. “Only a foolish fool would foolishly mix my words. Were you not paying attention?”

 “Uh, hello? Hot ovens, mixing things, running a business? My mind was...elsewhere.”

 Franziska shook her head. “You are a piteous thing, fool. Covered in batter and flour as you are.”

 “Indeed,” Miles said curtly.

 Wright seemed to notice this, finally, and cursed very softly under his breath. As if it would make it better, he tried to rub his hands on the front of his apron, and made a strange, miserable noise in the back of his throat as his hands became further drenched in cake batter. “Oh, god, uh. So. You’re the uh. The guy. And. Shoot.”

 Miles gave the man a once over, and raised a delicate eyebrow. “I take it that you have nothing on standby? A portfolio? References?”

 Wright screwed up his face in confusion. “References? For what?”

 Miles pulled back some, the action coming off as a sort of flinch if one didn’t read it correctly. His brows knitted together and he looked at the man in utter confusion. “A cake for a wedding, as I assume you were told by Miss von Karma.”

 Wright’s eyebrows rose quite high at that, higher than Miles thought normal humans could take them. Interesting. Disturbing and slightly off-putting, but interesting. “A wedding? Where in the world did you get the idea for that?”

 The question was aimed toward Franziska, who looked quite put-out at Wright’s behavior. “I had assumed you have made several cakes in your years as a baker, Phoenix Wright. Was I mistaken?”

 Wright shook his head, his mouth open in shock. “Birthday cakes, sure. I think I’ve even made a few cookie cakes now and then. But a wedding cake? No.”

 Miles could feel his eyes near-bulge out of his head. He looked to Miss Fey, in hopes of seeing this as a joke, one perhaps that she was in on, but the sheepish smile and worried pucker of skin between her brow said otherwise.

 He was going to miss this meeting because of a botched interview with a baker who had, it seemed, never, in his career, made a wedding cake.

 Brilliant.

 Just.

 Brilliant.

 “You’ve never made a wedding cake?” Miles snapped.

 Wright flinched. “I’ve made cake. And cake pops, but those don’t really--”

 “Have you ever prepared a cake in tiers?”

 “Uh. What?”

 Unbelievable. “Have you at least worked with fondant?”

 Wright actually shuddered. “Ew. Gross. No, that stuff is disgusting.”

 Miles wasn’t entirely sure what it felt like to have a vein burst out on your skin due to nothing else but stress and frustration, but he imagined it was probably close to something like this. His jaw ached from where he was clenching it, and he was aiming a glare at Maya that must have been something quite terrible, because she was ducking behind the fifteen year old girl as if she was a human shield.

 This had been a colossal waste of his time.

 “Miss von Karma. Miss Fey. That’s all I have time for. Good afternoon.” He again turned to leave.

 “Uh, wait!” called Wright. “Wait a second, maybe we could clear the air here, I mean we could start--”

 Miles opened the door, the cheerful bell that signaled entry and exit doing nothing for his current state, and made a beeline for his car.


 

July 13

4:12 PM

Wright and Co. Bakery and Cafe, Interior

 

“--over.” Wright finished lamely. The door chimed shut, and silence fell upon the lot of them.

 (Well, that was nice. There goes your job offer, Nick. Wave goodbye! Oh! You could even use the towel that’s covered in flour to bid him farewell. Au revoir, auf weidersehen!) He wasn’t sure if there was a way to embarrass himself more.

 “There is still flour on your nose and forehead, fool.”

 Welp. Franziska would surely find a way if he couldn’t.

 He unsheathed the cloth and swiped at the damnable flour. “That could have gone better.”

 “I’ll say,” sighed Maya, moving to join her beloved at the table. “You really didn’t hear Fran when she called you?”

 Phoenix shrugged miserably. It wasn’t so much he didn’t hear her, rather he’d put the phone on speaker mode in a fit of what may have been utter stupidity coupled with heat-exhaustion from the ovens. “I heard enough to get the gist of it.”

 Franziska snorted. “The gist of it would have been you at least being a little prepared to meet Miles Edgeworth. What you mean to say is you have foolish selective hearing, and the attention span of a walnut.”

 “Charming as ever, Franziska,” Phoenix sighed, running a hand through his hair, only realizing after he’d combed it back what his hand had looked like. “Well, at least things can still get worse,” he mumbled, looking dejectedly at his hand.

 No of course they couldn’t. It wasn’t enough that he had looked like some sort of clown-ghost-hybrid, but he’d actually called after the guy. A complete stranger, who he’d never met. God, if that didn’t scream desperate and needy, he didn’t know what did. And the way the man stared him down! He’d have the freaking terminator running scared. His glare was so cold it was no wonder the man could stand wearing a silk shirt and well-fitted dress pants in this weather.

 Not...that he’d been actually looking.

 Observation was key when making lousy first impressions. Right? Something like that, he was sure.

 Then again, he was good at pulling half-witted philosophy out of his ass in order to validate his own unique mixture of luck and stupidity.

 “Don’t worry,” Trucy said, popping out if the kitchen door. She was holding a tray that had four glasses of ice tea. He took a glass and gave his daughter a soft peck on the crown of her head. “I’m sure that wasn’t the last we’ll see of him.”

 He shrugged. “Sure. Maybe next time he’ll wear a HAZMAT suit and actually shake my hand.”

 Maya giggled, taking the tea from Trucy’s tray. “Nah, Mr. Edgeworth didn’t shake my hand either, the first time we met.”

 “Can’t imagine why, unless you were covered in pollen.”

 Franziska set her tea down, giving Trucy a smile of approval. “Quite the opposite. Miss Fey was dressed quite beautifully, and had not a spot of anything so unsightly on her.”

 “Aw, Fran,” Maya gushed. “You’ll make me blush.”

 “Yes, and make me vomit,” Phoenix said lightly. “Honestly, must you rub your miraculous love affair in my poor, single face?”

 “Every chance we get,” Maya replied, tongue-in-cheek. “But seriously, Nick? Don’t worry about it. Maybe I can talk to him, get him to come back to the bakery.”

 “After that debacle?” His face flushed, imagining that scrutinizing stare aimed at him when he wasn’t covered in flour or putting his freaking foot in his mouth. “Yeah, maybe not.”

 “Aw,” Trucy whined, dragging a chair to take a seat between Maya and Franziska. “It wasn’t that bad, Daddy. I mean, nobody’s perfect.”

 “Look who you’re sitting next to, and then look me in the eye and say it again with as much confidence,” Phoenix teased. Trucy gave him a look, that look, the one that usually meant he was in trouble, and he raised his hands in defense.

 “I’m just saying! As far as anyone in this cafe is concerned, that ship has sailed.”

 Trucy pouted at him over her shoulder, staring holes into his forehead until he felt much like a child being lectured by a teacher. Or a principal. Or a parent. Or any authoritative figure, really. “Daddy, please don’t be so negative. You can’t say for sure it went that badly, right, Maya?”

 Maya nodded, a big smile plastered on her face. “Right! There’s no telling what will happen next. Very wise, Trucy, good job! Nick, you’re daughter is officially cooler than you, when did that happen?”

 Phoenix snorted. “I have never claimed her to be otherwise.”

 Trucy beamed.

 Franziska, who had drained the last of her tea, stood and face Phoenix. “Though you have behaved more foolishly than usual, I will see what I can do about my little brother. Perhaps, after his meeting, he will be more tame.”

 “I won’t hold my breath, but thank you all the same,” Phoenix said sincerely.

 Franziska offered and arm to Maya, to which she promptly took. “Miss Trucy,” she said. “As usual, your mint tea was perfect.”

 “Thank you! The mint plants Maya gave us have been really useful in keeping it tasting fresh and sharp!”

 Maya smiled and pecked Trucy on the forehead. “You have a magic show here this Friday, right?”

 Trucy nodded, and Phoenix did too, though no one saw. The kid was as talented as they came, in both baking and magic. “She goes on after that kid with the acoustic. He’s booked a thirty minute show.”

 Trucy pretended to swoon. “He has such a dreamy voice, Daddy, I don’t know why you don’t like it.”

 “The same reason I don’t like my fifteen year old daughter hanging around twenty five year old German man with long hair and sunglasses.”

 “Sounds dreamy,” Maya agreed, giving Trucy a side hug as well. “Sneak some pictures for Fran and I.”

 Phoenix pretended to gag.

 “We’ll see you, Nick. And don’t worry,” Maya called over her shoulder, opening the door for Franziska. “Everything will go alright, I promise. Mr. Edgeworth is bound to hire you. It’s not like he can find anyone else.”


 

July 13

9:15 PM

Renee’s Courtyard Cafe and Bar

 

“I have not yet found a baker,” Miles admitted, his fingers curled around the stem of his wine glass. “But there is still time.”

 Across from him, Richard Gumshoe sat across from him, in his hand a glass of sprite. “Nah, pal, take your time! Maggey and I aren’t in any rush, I promise!”

 (Of course not,) thought Miles miserably as he took a sip of his wine. (I am planning the wedding. The rushing falls to me, Detective.)

 The man had asked Miles last minute to go to meet up for drinks. He wasn’t sure whether the detective wanted to talk about the wedding or simply shoot the breeze, but he felt he owed it to Gumshoe to at least say yes to an hour at most.

 “Oh! But how did that meeting go, the one up in Beverly Hills? Did they give you an answer to the wedding ceremony?” His voice was hopeful, too hopeful. Miles wondered vaguely how normal people broke news to friends, new that their wedding wasn’t quite going according to plan.

 “Er.” The meeting had, of course, been cancelled. He had to hastily reschedule for that coming Friday, and it was Monday now. He was lucky he could get a spot at all, even if it wasn’t until six in the evening. But he had to rearrange his entire day to fit the planned hour into his calendar. It was a shame, really; the Virginia Robinson Gardens were simply stunning. The ambiance was perfect for a summer wedding. The privacy of the garden’s tall flora was something Miles had been looking forward to. He’d admittedly written this place down in the back of his agenda as a possible destination for his own wedding, given he found time to actually settle down.

 (Of course, it seems I can barely commit myself to a bakery. I do not see how I can commit myself to another human, in that respect.)

 “Er, pal? You still in there?”

 “Ah, yes. Apologies, Detective.”

 When the silence still remained, Gumshoe prompted him with a rather enthusiastic, “Well?”

 “I, er, had to see to an engagement I had not properly planned for,” he admitted. “I won’t be able to find the information you seek until Friday.”

 Gumshoe shrugged. “Ah, well. That’s all right too, pal! To tell you the truth,” he said with a huff, “my Maggey has been a bit nervous about all these plans. She keeps telling me to tell you she’ll settle for anything if things get to be a bit much for you.”

 Despite the past few hours, Miles smiled and lifted his glass to his lips. “Oh? She’s quite kind. Will you settle, as well, Detective?”

 “Of course, pal!” Gumshoe said, and said at a volume that turned a few heads. “If this wedding gets to be too much to bear, you just say the word. We...did kind of spring it on you, after all.”

 Miles shook his head. “It’s quite alright. Everything should be handled before the tenth of August. By the twenty fourth, you will have your perfect wedding day, as I have promised you and Miss Byrde.”

 “Soon to be Mrs. Gumshoe,” the larger man said proudly. “Gee, Mr. Edgeworth, I know it’s coming up fast, but I...well, I really can’t wait.”

 Miles hummed in acknowledgement. He was certainly excited to see Maggey on her wedding day. She’d been such a gentle, sweet thing next to Gumshoe himself. The man had such crazy bad luck that him finding a woman who seemed to be on the same boat…

 Well, it was either the bad luck had canceled out, or the universe was trying to give them a break.

 “Oh!” Gumshoe suddenly exclaimed, causing Miles to flinch. “Actually sir, I have a silly request to make.”

 Miles raised a questioning brow.

 Gumshoe cleared his throat. “Well. Two things, actually. The first...well, this one is from Maggey actually.”

 “Go on,” he prompted.

 “Well, we were talking about cake, and cake tastings, and she was telling me how when her friend had gotten married, they’d gone to a cake tasting session at the bakery they’d decided to go with.”

 “Yes, that is customary.” (And quite fun, on a rather private note. Given the company.)

 “Well,” Gumshoe said hesitantly. “You see, she has this thing about fondant, the stuff that goes on the wedding cake?”

 “Mmhmm,” said Miles around another sip of wine.

 “Thing is, pal, neither of us are really...fond of the stuff. Heh. Fond. Fondant. Clever pun there, huh, pal?”

 Miles nearly choked. When he’d recovered, no thanks to a rather loudly concerned detective, he asked with a strained voice, “Did I hear that correctly?”

 “Er...yeah.” The man looked like he was about to cry. “I know it’s traditional! All wedding cakes have it, and it makes for some really neat designs and such. But it gives us both the worst headache, and it’s too...chewy and thick and...uck!” he shuddered.

 Miles raised his eyebrows and stared at the man across from the table. Was...he suggesting that the cake be made without…but then...

 (Oh dear.)

 “So, is that a problem sir? If you end up finding a bakery, maybe you could ask them if they could make the cake without that nasty stuff. But! But if that isn’t going to work, we can--”

 “No,” Miles answered, holding a hand up. His voice came out a bit strained. “No, that...is actually much more doable than you could ever know.” (Rather unfortunate given the unprofessional standards and the behavioral patterns of the man, but I need a baker, and if he refuses to work in fondant, that seems to be what I need...)

 He took a rather large sip of his drink, finishing off the glass.

 “Well, then, good! On to my request.” He cleared his throat.” I was wondering if you would do me the honor of being my wedding planner and my best man.”

 This time, Miles did choke.


 

10:55 PM

July 13

von Karma Residence

 

It was late at night when the text came in. Maya, who was a much lighter sleeper, heard the buzzing of Franziska’s phone from the woman’s nightstand.

 She grumbled, rubbed her eyes, and snuggled closer to her lover, trying to ignore the buzzing. But as it persisted, Maya gave up the thought of sleep in pursuit of quiet.

 She slid her arm from around Franziska’s waist and grabbed the phone from the wooden nightstand. She flipped it open, with a twinge of guilt when Franziska groaned at the sudden brightness.

 She scanned the text message. Her jaw dropped. She read it once more.

 Once more after that.

 Twice.

 Again.

 “Oh. My god.”

 “Mhhh….what?” groaned Franziska, turing to face Maya and burrow into the crook of her neck. “It cannot be morning already. We just fell asleep.”

 Absently, Maya stroked the woman’s hair and planted a firm kiss on her crown. “Nah, it’s not time to wake up yet. But your brother just sent you a pretty shocking text.”

 “Do tell,” murmured Franziska, not sounding the least bit interested at all.

 Maya cleared her throat. “Franziska. I will be needing the baker from this afternoon. I will be free from one thirty to two forty five this Thursday. Please tell him to be adequately prepared for my coming. Do make sure he listens. Signed, Miles Edgeworth.”

 Franziska snorted. “So the fool needs your baker after all.”

 Maya smiled and set the phone down. “And my baker needs your foolish, wedding planner brother. Interesting.”

 Franziska gave a quiet laugh and held Maya close as they drifted off into an easy slumber, each of them wearing their own version of a coy smile.

 Interesting indeed. 

Chapter Text

July 14

8:30 AM

Wright and Co. Bakery and Café

 "You're kidding."

Phoenix Wright was currently pacing the floor of the shop's kitchen, trying to talk in hushed tones, lest he wake Trucy, who was sleeping upstairs. Maya Fey, long time friend and near-constant troublemaker was on the other line, practically squealing. 

"No! Mr. Edgeworth texted Franziska last night, at like, eleven." He heard something that sounded like the slip of fabric and a far away squeak that had to be Maya nearly dropping the phone. "Still there?"

"Still here," he answered, somewhat breathlessly.

"Okay. Uh. Where...?"

"Text message. Eleven o'clock."

"Right!" And she was off again it seemed. "And at first I'm thinking, 'Not now, just got into bed with Fran, getting my cuddle on something fierce, work can wait,' right? But it keeps buzzing, like, off the chain because, hello, message time. So I lean over, opened the phone, and boom! Miles Edgeworth texting near eleven at night telling Fran to to tell you to be ready with something to show Thursday!"

Phoenix nodded, knitted his brows together in confusion, and shook his head. "Yeah. Okay. But. Why?"

There was a burst of laughter from Maya. "I don't know! Maybe you made a really good first impression."

(Well, good is a stretch. I made a lasting one, though. Not everyone can say they offered a cake-batter covered hand to their might-be-employer. And that he wants to come back.) Phoenix scratched the back of his neck nervously. That was also something off. Phoenix had admitted to never having made a wedding cake. He'd never really baked cake's in tiers either, which was kind of the whole point of a wedding cake. And he never worked in fondant. It was miserable stuff that acted like clay and tasted...blech. Worse.

The guy was either desperate or incredibly sympathetic. He was almost one hundred percent sure of the former.

It wasn't like he didn't want to see the guy again. Any chance to get the bakery name out into the world was a good one, and if he had a permanent outlet? Well he would have to try so hard to get people to come in. He'd gathered crowds on Talent Night Fridays, sure. The kid with the guitar and Trucy with her magic, and occasionally, some poet doing slam poetry. (Actually, I'm never doing Slam Poetry Night again. There are only so many times I can hear Larry Butz wailing about another lost love.) He'd hoped that Franziska would one day be desperate enough to hire him for a party, or something like it. But Maya had thrown his name out there, and now he was supposed to bake for a wedding? A situation in which, if you screw up, you screw up quite royally? A situation that he'd never actually provided for?

He'd maybe consider it. If he was suicidal.

"Maya?" he asked. "You...told him no right?"

Maya snorted. "Of course not. Why would I?"

Phoenix chewed the inside of his cheek. Honesty was the best policy, even if the did need the business. "Because we both know the biggest event I've baked for was an eleven year old's birthday, years ago."

"Hey! Pearl and I loved that cake. She was really excited."

"Maya," Phoenix shrugged helplessly, uselessly. "I've never made a wedding cake before. I don't work with fondant. I've only ever tiered a cake once, at that was when I was a kid. I made the world's worst first impression. I don't think I'm suited for this job. "

Maya clucked her tongue at him. "You're turing down a job offer because you're embarrassed to show your face to Mr. Edgeworth," she accused. 

He was really glad Maya wasn't actually there right now. He could feel his cheeks heating up. "Yeah, well, for the record, I could show may face to him. He just...probably wouldn't recognize it."

Maya's laughter trilled over the receiver, and he felt like a fool. "Nick! Come on! That's all?  That's why you're thinking of turning this job down? Because you were mess? Nick there is never a part of you that isn't covered in some sort of kitchen treat."

"That's not true," Phoenix argued, placing his hand on the stainless steel counter.

And taking it right back off, finding that it was still covered in flour from the bread he'd been making last night. "Okay, mostly not true."

Maya made an aggravated huff over the phone line, and Phoenix could picture her when she was a bit younger, crossing her arm and puffing out her cheeks, glaring at him through angrily squinted eyes. "You're supposed to be more excited about getting this job, Nick! Come on!"

(Maybe Maya's right,) he thought, grabbing a towel from the rack near the sink. (I could stand to be a bit more positive about this. He wants to hired me. Right? So he's interested. I'm not sure why, but he is. If I take this job, well, we'll see how it goes. But what do you show to a guy who seemed to be a stickler for tradition?)

"Nick? You still there?"

He cleared his throat. "Maya, how in the world do you bake for a wedding planner like Miles?"

"Tastefully."

"Maya."

Maya hummed in thought. "I guess you do what you do best. You show him something he's never seen."

Phoenix bit his lip. "You don't think it'll be too much? I mean, I am trying to get him to hire me as a go-to guy. I don't wanna come off cocky."

"You greeted the man looking like the ghost of Christmas Past. I really think it can only get better. Do what you do best, show him your stuff."

"My stuff," repeated Phoenix softly.

"Yeah!" cheered Maya. "Your stuff! Your moxie! Your determination! Your tendency for theatrics!"

He sighed and rubbed the back of his neck. "So, you're telling me to go big?"

Maya snorted. "I'm telling you to go wild."


July 16

8:10 AM

Wright Residence (Above Bakery)

 It is said that a nervous silence loosens tongues. Or, rather, it had been said before, probably. Written by some author in some book about some person who was either currently dead or not real at all. But life moves forward second by agonizing second, there is something to be said for quotes like that. Ones that are true, no matter the source.

And that is that people should, quite honestly, have the decency to keep their daily human observations to themselves, because it really wasn't helping anything at all.

Phoenix sat on the faded sofa of the upstairs apartment. He'd come up here for coffee at around seven, found that his hands were too nervous to hold still, and instead held off on the daily caffeine infusion in favor of going to settle down on the couch. He'd been through the same circle of thoughts since he'd prepared for the making of this cake.

It wasn't necessary to be nervous, because this was going to be very simple. Just like a job interview. (Except that's exactly why I'm nervous.) He closed his eyes and pressed the heels of his freckled hands to the spot just under his eyebrows where a headache was starting to bloom. He'd admitted to himself that he'd been nervous, he had faced the situation like a man. Wasn't there supposed to be some rule that the butterflies and anxiety went away after you identified the problem?

(Children's Educational Television, you lying bastards.) His hands found their way into his hair, and he tugged at it, eyes burning for sleep as he stared up at the ceiling. "This is either a hit or miss. Can't afford a miss. Really want this job." Talking out loud wasn't really helping the situation, but if he could hear something besides the warming ovens downstairs and the hum from the fridge in their home kitchen, maybe putting it out to the universe wasn't such a bad idea.

"Really, really want this job," he told himself. "You love baking, baking is your life. This is new, and you can find a way. Make more tiered cake."

This was oddly soothing. 

"You know your stuff where it counts," he told himself firmly. "And when you don't, bluff and be endearing." A small nibble at his lip, hiding a smile. The guy who was supposed to come in --Edgeworth?-- was pretty endearing. He was like a block of ice, sure. Cold, meticulous, and probably a perfectionist. He was good looking too, he supposed. He hadn't really gotten a good look at him, but from what he saw, the guy was all shoulders. Broad, a tad on the tall side like himself, with wonderful, interesting, piercing grey eyes. 

But he also had this air about him. Phoenix wasn't sure what it was. Sure, attractive men radiated some sort of glow, but this wasn't that. That was usually testosterone. Or really cheap cologne. 

Was it...intellect? Possible warmth? 

(A little bit of both, I think. He looked like a smart guy, like he enjoys a good book or a rousing conversation of chess. Or the weather. But those eyes. What would a poet call them? Think, inner Robert Frost.

Either way, there was something there. Maybe if he could hold a coherent conversation today, he'd figure it out. 

"Daddy?"

He inhaled quickly through his nose, the only indication that he'd been startled, and looked up to see Trucy standing in the doorway. Her hair was a haystack of red-ish brown and her eyes were groggy. She yawned, gave him a sleepy smile, and plopped next to him on the couch, leaning into his shoulder.

"Morning, sunshine," he said, wiggling his arm out from under her near-dead-weight to wrap it around her. 

"G'mornin',' she mumbled.

Phoenix laughed. "What are you doing up this early?" he asked, squeezing her shoulder.

"Mmh," is all she said.

He shifted so that Trucy is tucked into his side, curled up like when she was eight. Phoenix tried a different angle. "Did you have any nice dreams?"

"Mggh."

"Yeah," he replied. "Me too." He paused, sighed, and shook her shoulder gently when she started to snore. "Trucy, honey, if you're still tired, go back to bed. It's early."

Slowly, she uncurled herself and sat up. Her eyes were still shut, but she was facing him and wearing a tired smile. "Yeah, but you're up."

"I have to be." He jerked a thumb toward the door that led downstairs to the shop. "I work, remember?"

She nodded. Then shook her head. Then nodded again and said, "You have to show that man from Monday the cake."

He chewed at his lip. She knew this of course, and so did he, and leaning back he could just make out that he had an hour and thirty minutes or so left before he actually had to be downstairs. But hearing it from someone else's mouth instead of his own mind makes the idea seem a little more than frightening, and he had to go about fixing his mind into not thinking about it again. For now, he re-entertained the thought of caffeine.

"Coffee?" he asked his daughter. Her eyes were opened again and blearily staring at him.

"Yes, please," she said, and there is a bit of desperation in her voice.

As they walked into the kitchen--well, Phoenix walked, and he guided Trucy gently by the elbow--he told her again, "You really can go back to bed, you know. Apollo is coming in later since you have to practice for your show tomorrow, so you don't need to help in the kitchen."

He pulled out one of the two chairs in the rather empty home kitchen, and the plopped into it with a murmured "thank you." And then, after he'd already put away the Folgers canister and gotten down two mugs, Trucy said, "Daddy, if a single employee is working when Mr. Edge-y-mah-something--"

"Edge-worth," Phoenix corrected, but he was trying too hard not to laugh for it to sound like a reprimand. 

"Gesundheit," she said cheekily. "Anyway. If someone is in the kitchen with you, it'll look a little more professional. If you're in there alone, won't it look...vacant?"

"I supposed the name 'Apollo' went right over your head?"

Trucy made a derisive little noise between a snort and a sigh. "Daddy, I know Polly's schedule. He works until five on Thursdays, and he takes a hour lunch at one. And Polly usually comes back at five past or ten past two, because the lunch place he meets his friend at sometimes is farther away. You have plenty of time to look unprofessional, Daddy. We both know it." And at the end of that, she pouted. 

Well, damn. "Alright," he said sheepishly, scratching the back of his neck. "You got me. But it should be fine. I think."

Trucy crossed her arms on the tables and rested her head on top of them, wearing a thoughtful frown. "You worked really hard on that cake. You should be more confident."

The coffee maker made a clicking sort of hiss, and Phoenix took that moment change the subject. "Milk and sugar?"

Trucy nodded and snuggled back into her arms.

As he poured both cups, Phoenix sighed. Of course he was confident in his work. He'd been doing it for years now. Ten years, since he'd gotten out of community culinary school. He was a professional.

But something told him he wasn't "professional" enough for this wedding. Mr. Edgeworth had done some spectacular work, according to Maya. And according to Franziska, he never hired twice in a row, so if Phoenix wasn't going to wow him the first time, then he wasn't likely to get another opportunity. Apparently, the guy like things to go at a certain pace, be a certain level of perfect, and to flow according to his "little black book." 

And Phoenix was--in Franziska's own words-- "already expected to fail." So this Mr. Edgeworth had apparently stuck him in the "least likely to succeed" box and hired him out of sheer desperation. Which, like it or not, was still an opportunity. Just...disguised using his weird brand of luck.

("Help me Obi-Wan Kenobi. You're my only hope." Yeah. Maybe not.)  

He'd tried so hard on the cake. He'd tried to make it look as beautiful as a wedding dress. But the thought that kept him up with butterflies in his stomach and a knot in his chest was that this still would not be enough. It wouldn't erase the horrible floured Phoenix from the man's brain, it wouldn't show that he had at least a shred of professionalism. It was going to feel like he'd been fired before he was even hired, especially if the man looked at him with disapproval in those ice cold, but oddly endearing, eyes. 

He set Trucy's coffee next to her elbow. Her head moved to look back up at him, and she gave him a grateful, tired smile. "You're gonna get to make wedding cakes," she said with the sleepy happiness. 

He smiled into his open cup. "Maybe. If I am, then so will you."

Her entire face lit up. "Really? You'd let me help? Even with the decorating?"

Phoenix laughed and reached across the table and ruffled her hair. "Of course. What good would a wedding day be without a little magic?"

She pulled a frustrated face and swatted his hand away. "Daddy, that was so cheesy."

"Was it?" he asked, taking a sip of his own drink. A low, distant rumble came from the windows, and Wright leaned forward to see through the cracks in the yellowing kitchen blinds. "It's raining?"

"I guess so," Trucy said, sound a little shocked. "It said so on the news last night, but we we haven't gotten a rainstorm in forever, so I thought Chief Meteorologist Will Raynstrom was lying. Again."

"It's kind of weird. When was the last time LA got rain?" 

Trucy raised an eyebrow. "I don't know, why? Are you gonna go play in it, Daddy?"

"No."

"Do you need to walk in it later?"

"Not really."

Her eyes widened. "You're not suddenly afraid of thunder or lightning, are you? Or both?"

"No. Just. Well, isn't rain like. A bad omen? Or something?"

Trucy's concern melted away and she stared at him for a very long time. He squirmed under her gaze and sipped his coffee nervously. When did he get that crack in the wall? It looked kind of like a frog, if you squinted to the point of closing your eyes, and tilted your head, and had a very active imagination when it came to looking at very small crevices in the wall that only made a single line. 

"We're reading the Importance of Being Ernest at school, Daddy."

It was such a strange and sudden subject change that he smiled a little with relief. "That's a favorite of mine. What part are you at?"

"Oh we just started it," she said flippantly. "There was this line Miss Fairfax--who, by the way, I'm reading the part of in class--that really stuck with me."

"Oh?" he asked. He'd done a bit of theater in his day. "Well, let's hear it. What line?"

Trucy cleared her throat and, in a very serious tone, began. " 'Pray don't talk to me about the weather, Mr. Worthing. Whenever people talk to me about the weather, I always feel quite certain that they mean something else. And that makes me quite nervous.' 

"Ah." (Busted!) 

"Daddy! You're supposed to be positive!" his daughter lectured. "You have to be, the universe won't forgive you if you aren't!"

He rubbed under his eyes. "That sound like something Maya would say."

She scoffed. "Only because it's true! How do you expect the world to show you something positive if you're so focused on the possibility of bad things?"

Phoenix laughed a little. "When did you get so grown up?"

"October," the fifteen year old deadpanned. "When did you get so interested in fake omens?"

He rubbed the back of his neck, and chewed the inner part of his lower lip. "Around the same time I tried to make a wedding cake." 

Trucy nodded. "And now the rain is what's making you nervous?"

"Not really?" he answered. "I've been nervous, honey. The rain just seems to be the..."

"The..icing on the cake?" she offered. 

This time Phoenix laughed fully. "Yes! Exactly that! It's like doom, spilling from the sky."

She giggled and took a long drink of her own coffee before speaking again. "Good things can happen in the rain, too."

Phoenix's smile stayed in place. "I'm all ears." He took a swig of coffee

She matched his smile and proudly stated, "The Notebook had a nice kissing scene in the rain. And in Spiderman, Marry-Jane kisses Peter Parker upside-down while it was pouring."

It was at that moment that his coffee chose to pause in his windpipe. Phoenix choked. His coffee was stuck at the crossroads of  I'm-Going-To-Exit-Out-You-Nasal-Cavity Avenue and It's-Much-Too-Late-So-Down-The-Hatch Lane. He wasn't sure whether her answer had caught him off guard, or his it was a simple coincidence. By the time the coffee had picked a street and he could breathe, Trucy had named Breakfast at Tiffany's, Enchanted, and Pirates of the Caribbean as other instances where rain was "good luck."

"Trucy!" he gasped. 

"Hm?" She seemed completely undisturbed by his choking fit. 

"I--" (I hardly think you should be giving examples like that! What kind of job interview do you think this is?) "--I'm not going to be fighting a crew of screwed up pirates in a hurricane."

"Really?" she asked, and pressed an over-dramatic hand to her chest. "You're acting like you're going off to battle. So," she set her cup gently on the wood of the table and shrugged the rest of the sentence off.

"I...yeah. Okay. Maybe," he said slowly. "You're...right. It's..." It was just a job interview. He'd been through others like it. He'd been interviewed before buying this place. While he was working in school, he'd done several. This was going to be easy. He could do this easily. Bygones and all that nonsense.

Yeah. Sure. 

He took a deep breath. "Good Lord, what are they teaching you in school?"

"Basic logic and problem solving," she said sweetly. 

He shook his head and glanced at the clock on the wall. It was nearly five until nine, and, as if triggered by his look, a knock sounded from below him. "That's Apollo."

Trucy nodded. "Go get'em, Daddy!"

He drained the last bit of his drink and gave her a small smile. "One more rain metaphor for the road?" 

Trucy chewed her lip in thought, and Phoenix took that moment of silence to stand up and lean over the distance to kiss the crown of her head in parting. He set the cup in the sink and ran the faucet to let the coffee stains soak off the sides and rim. Downstairs, the knocking had turned to pounding.

"Oh!" 

"Hm?"

When he turned around to look at her, she was practically bouncing. (Well, it seems the caffeine did it's job.) "Simba!"

He raised an eyebrow, and she continued when he didn't respond. "From The Lion King! When he regains the lion kingdom back! It was raining in that scene!"

Phoenix laughed, and shook his head. "You should try and sleep a little more, or at least watch some television, or practice. If you still want to, you can cover Apollo's break later."

She nodded, smiling wide, and he left the room. Before the door to the apartment shut, Trucy called out, "Go get your pride, Daddy!" between giggles. 

(My pride, huh? Can't go get that back. Unless you've got a time machine. Ah, well. I've got luck. And--Oh, man, and a very, very angry and wet Apollo.)

 ***********************

July 16

12:58 PM

Wright and Co. Bakery and Café (Interior)

"There's box of gift bag-wrapped chocolate cigars in the freezer. You know, for when you feel like putting them out. Whenever the shelf is clear. Like now."

"Thanks Apollo," Phoenix said, not really paying attention. His eyes were fixed on the door, his arms moving in time to a song stuck in his head as he polished the counter for the fifth or sixth or tenth time. He still had half an hour, but the place had been cleaned as thoroughly as it could have been while the store was open.

But it...didn't hurt to buff off the fingerprints he'd made two minutes ago.

"--down the stairs."

"Okay. Thanks again Apollo. Enjoy lunch," said Phoenix.

"Mr. Wright!" Apollo yelled suddenly. Phoenix's attention snapped to the smaller man in the store, standing by the front door. His bangs, usually perked with plenty of gel, were drooping due being left out in the morning downpour for longer than necessary.

 "What?" Phoenix asked, his hands stilling. "What's the matter? You know where the extra umbrella's are, Polly, just grab one and--"

Apollo pressed a hand to his forehead. "Mr. Wright, do you know what I just said to you?"

Phoenix shrugged. "Something about our stairs."

"Yeah. That Trucy fell down them." He shrugged. "She didn't. Fall down them, I mean. The point is, you should have reacted to that, and would have had you actually been paying attention."

"Ah." 

Apollo crossed his arms. "You're much more head-in-the-clouds today than you usually are, Mr. Wright. Is everything okay?"

Phoenix copied the gesture and raised an eyebrow. "Since when did you play the concerned parent here, Polly? Aren't you, I don't know, twelve?"

Teasing Apollo always seemed to settle his nerves. Apollo was know to make some of the most comically embarrassed faces known to man, and he always tended to blush redder than his favorite apron. He was doing it now, in fact, and Phoenix felt the weight of his World of Anxiety he'd been carrying get a few continents lighter. (Ah, the casualties of war. Or something like that. I'll have to apologize later.)

 Despite the shade of red decorating his expression, his voice came out as a more-or-less calm retort. "Aren't you, I don't know, running a business?"

Phoenix gave him a flat look. "Gee, Polly. You should use those observation skills to be a detective. Or an attorney."

Apollo huffed and crossed his arms. The look he was giving his boss was something between utter humiliation and clumsy determination. Yet another comical look. Phoenix bit back a smile. "Don't you have that wedding cake interview today?"

Phoenix shrugged. "Yeah. I suppose I do." Downplay any situation enough and by the time it actually happens, the brain will be tricked into thinking it's no big deal. 

Apollo raised an eyebrow. "That's why you've been polishing the counter since ten, right?"

Phoenix moved the rag he'd been using behind his back, as if that would erase the last three hours. "Apollo, didn't you clock out? You're wasting your break you know, and I'm expecting you back at one."

Apollo wrinkled his nose and grabbed a spare umbrella from the umbrella stand. "Fine."

"Tell Clay that talent night still has a few spots open, if he wants to do another lecture on that black-hole theory," Phoenix called after him. 

The door closed with a sticky, sealing noise and the cowbell Trucy had tied to the handle rang dully. And then he was alone. Trucy had favored practice today, and was currently redecorating the living room with streamers, flowers, confetti, and maybe silly-string--the condition of his apartment all depended on the acts she chose to omit, in honesty. He leaned back against the display case and stared at the clock over head. 

One-o-five stared back. 

(And now, we wait. Huh. Who coined that phrase anyway? I kinda thought it was from an older movie, like, the fifties or something, but I don't think that's right. I guess ever since time was theorized, people have been waiting. I'll ask Apollo about it later. He's much more "cinematically inclined" than I am.) His train of thought was running wild, really. Anything to make time go faster. It wasn't really busy in the afternoon, and without Apollo or Trucy to bounce things off of, it was just kind of..quiet. Boring.

(Wow. That downplaying thing really works. I'm not even that nervous anymore.) Phoenix thought. 

The bell on the handle clunked against the glass as the door opened. Without looking away from the clock, Phoenix said, "Did you forget something?"

"N-no sir!"

Phoenix jumped; he'd been expecting Apollo's voice to respond to that, not a customer. His eyes fell on a young woman, dressed in a white polo and jeans. She was clutching her umbrella nervously in both hand, wringing water onto the wooden floor. She stood with all the awkward confidence of student about to give an oral report.

Phoenix straightened up immediately. "I'm sorry!" He cleared his throat. "Uh, welcome to Wright and Co. Bakery and Café. Upper crust goods for not much dough!" He gave the young lady and apologetic smile. "Sorry about that, ma'am. I, er. I wasn't expecting a customer."

Her eyes widened and she shook her head quickly. "No, no, it's fine, sir! I wasn't expected, so it was easy for you to be caught off guard."

Phoenix snorted. The woman was glancing around the area with wide eyes and no small amount of curiosity. "Has this place always been here?"

Phoenix shrugged. "For the last ten or so years, yeah." He leaned forward so that he was against the display case again, his head resting on folded arms, facing the customer. "It's not much, but..." he shrugged.

"I wouldn't say that," the young woman said. "It's actually very nice! I used to work at a restaurant that was so overly decorated I came home more than once with a headache. This place is...well, it's cozy."

Phoenix scratched the back of his neck. "Thank you. I mean, I owe most of the decoration and placement to the lovely women in my life, so when I say 'thank you', I'm doing so while taking the least amount of credit."

And that was the truth. Maya and Mia, when she'd still been alive, had helped him make this hovel into a...what had Trucy called it when she was nine? Hobbit Hole? It had been an old building that an acquaintance of Mia had been trying to sell; apparently, the area wasn't a good place to start up a law firm, and the older man had thought moving his business would be "easier on his income and his hemorrhoids." Phoenix, although more than a little grossed out at the wording, was grateful for his luck. With the help of both ladies, the place had gone from stuffy to homey. After he'd moved into the upstairs area, Maya had helped him install flower boxes on the outer windows. Mia had helped him pick out the tables and blinds and paintings. And, of course, later on the risen stage area was suggested by Trucy, and a change of flooring was suggested and, later, forced upon him and payed for by Franziska von Karma. 

Back in the present, the customer was smiling warmly at Phoenix. "Well, you make sure to tell them they did a very good job. I've never noticed this place before, but there hard work makes me wish I had, sir!"

"I'll let them know." He wouldn't think about how much of that would go to Maya's head. "Is there anything I can help you with today? Or did you just run in to wait out the rain?"

The woman shrugged, opened her mouth to answer, and shrugged again. Her hands toyed nervously with her umbrella. Odd. 

"I was...well, sir, you see. I think it might be both?"

"You need shelter and a bakery?"

 She chewed the inside of her cheek. "Well, sir, you see, I'm getting married soon. Very soon. In a few weeks." Her eyes met his and he gave her a losided smiles that he hoped said, Continue.

She did. "But, well, it's July. And I told Richard that I was ready to move forward, and we both said August. We'd argued between that and September, because that's the month we first met in, but September is when everyone goes into full Halloween mode, and so we really weren't big about doing a themed wedding, so August it became."

Phoenix was more than a little shocked as the words fell at a waterfall speed. It was like he'd broken a damn. "You guys met in September?" Not that that was particularly shocking, but it was a far cry better than voicing Why are you telling me this, Are you going to buy something, and What's happening right now.

The woman nodded. "Yes. Richard is a detective and I'm a security officer, but I was training to be a detective at first, and Richard was sort of my mentor."

(That sounded...weird on the ear. Coach, maybe. Shouldn't have asked.) "Oh! Sorry, I interrupted you," Phoenix said with a wave of his hand. "You're getting married in August. Congratulations," he offered, getting her back on track.

The lady shook her head, the brown bob of hair spraying little water droplets around her. "Don't say that yet, sir! See, our wedding planner is my fiancé's best friend. He's exceptionally talented, and he always gets a job done. But I think we may have waited too long, because he say's we can't find a bakery to make a cake. We've tried so many places, but they're all booked with other weddings, or parties, or have be understaffed, shut down, or plain terrible."

"Terrible?" Phoenix asked. 

"Have you ever tried Trés Bien?"

"Can't say that I have, no."

"Please, sir. Don't. The decor, as it turned out, isn't the only thing that can give you headaches."

He winced. She'd visited her old job to see if they would make a wedding cake? Ouch. "You haven't found anyone willing to take the job?"

The girl shook her head again, her eyes worried. "Not really. Not yet. But see, there is a problem." The girl took a deep breath. "I kept telling myself that the cake wouldn't matter, because it was being married to Richard that counted. 'Who cares if the cake has fondant, Maggey?' I said. 'Richard hates it too, but we're both going to grin and bear it because we love each other. Plus we're going to smash it into each other's faces, so we don't have to eat it."

Phoenix winced at that and crossed his arms. "Fondant tastes like cement, doesn't it?"

The woman, Miss Maggey, nodded, her eyes wide as if to emphasize her extreme disdain. "Exactly! But our wedding planner...he's very good at his job. He really likes helping me plan this wedding, and he really likes talking about it with Richard. But he's an upstanding man with an excellent reputation as a wedding planner, sir. A reputation for pulling off perfect weddings, and for being a stickler for sticking as close as he can to...to traditional wedding traditions." She wrung more water out of her umbrella with another nervous twist. "He's also very serious, and as long as I've known him, I cannot bring myself to ask about...I. I mean really, now! How do you tell a man like that to break tradition?"

Phoenix bit his lips together. "Probably with a fair amount of...confidence, I guess would be the right word," he supplied hesitantly. "Is your wedding planner a dictator?"

Maggey huffed and blew a damp chunk of dark brown hair out of her face. "No," she admitted. "More like...okay, you know when you tell a child that they have to go to bed and give them a time limit? While they're deep, deep in their imagination?"

"Sure," Phoenix agreed. Trucy had supplied more than her fair share of puppy-dog-eyes and pleas for "five more minutes, please Daddy? " 

"And the joy goes out of their eyes for a sec, and...well, you know that their getting that extra five minutes, because they look so darn sad, sir? You know?"

Phoenix smiled. "Yeah. I really, really do." He bit the inside of his cheek, trying not to laugh. "But you're comparing your wedding planner to a petulant child, if I'm hearing this right."

Miss Maggey face colored and her eyes widened a bit. She seemed so suddenly shocked by his statement that the umbrella was nearly wrung dry. "N-no, sir!" she shouted suddenly, giving a stiff salute. Phoenix winced a bit; she was borderline Apollo volume. "I--what I meant! I mean. It's like that sir, he's so overjoyed with the tradition that it's very hard to. I mean. Uhm!" 

Phoenix held up his hands in surrender, his eyes wide as well. he was still smiling, but he could feel the wariness in it. "Ack! Okay, okay I think I get it. He's...uh...he's..." He searched for the appropriate word. Words in general were not always his expertise. He was good when it came to bluffing his way into or out of something, and he'd been told he was good with offering a kind phrase to those who needed it. But when it came to poetic comparisons, he left that to Apollo.

"He's...a romantic?" he tried. He didn't mean for it to be a question.

Maggey settled down a bit, and nodded. "Yes! Yes, exactly. And it's hard to see, but I just know that if I tell him about this fondant stuff, it'll make it harder on his job...and maybe on his feelings toward the wedding."

Phoenix nodded slowly. So she'd taken it upon herself to find a bakery that she liked before this wedding planner did. It made sense. Sort of. Well, okay, not really. "So you're...afraid you're going to...hurt his feelings?" 

Maggey flushed again. "Well, when you put it like that it sounds silly."

Phoenix shrugged. "Not really. If you end up having a specific bakery in mind, telling your wedding planner about it instead of having him find one is probably easier on them, right?"

Maggey bit her lip. "It would be, yes. Except...well this is the first bakery I've been too. We hit a lot in the past few days, but this is the first one I've decided to seek out on my own..." 

Phoenix felt his mouth fall open with a slight pop. She was...she was not trying to hire him, was she? 

(Wow. Talk about lucky. Maybe Trucy was right, maybe the rain isn't a bad omen after all.)

"So I was wondering...do you make wedding cakes, sir? And if so, would you mind if I asked you to make a wedding cake for my own wedding? W-without fondant, please, if...if it's not too much trouble." 

Phoenix was stunned. If Edgeworth decided that Phoenix wasn't up to par with his standards--or even if he was--that was another job he had lined up. He cleared his throat. "I think that can be arranged." He gave her what he hoped looked like a confident smile. "I'm not really...adept in the art of the wedding cake, but I think I can do as requested. I never work in fondant anyway."

The woman in front of him smiled wide, and her eyes lit up with gratitude and elation. He smiled back timidly. "You look like you're going to explode," he commented.

She nodded, her movements fast, excited. "I think I might, sir." She bit her her lip and bounced on the ball of her feet. "I didn't expect to be so lucky! On my first try too! Go Wright and Co!" She pumped her fist in the air, hopping a bit in place with the motion.

And then, as if bad luck had suddenly remembered Miss Maggey, she promptly slipped in place on her own growing puddle of water. 

She fell rather hard, with an undignified squeal, just as the door-cow-bell clunked the announcement of another customer.

My, but they were busy today.

Without greeting the other person, Phoenix rushed out from behind the counter, and made his way over to Maggey. "Are you okay?!" he asked frantically. "That looked like it hurt!" he bent at the knee and gripped her elbow.

The girl snorted as she wobbled onto her legs. "I'm alright, sir! My bad luck happens in mysterious ways. Why, just the other day--"

"Miss Byrde?"

Phoenix froze. That voice. Deep, commanding, incredibly evident of speech lessons, and now with a lilt of a question hanging onto it's baritone. Out of the corner of his eye, he could see the clock, could see that the little hand was teetering slightly off kilter of the one, and that the minute hand was directly above the six.

Oh dear. Oh god. Forget it, forget the distractions, the down playing, the damned bad-omen-not-so-bad-omens, oh he was not ready--

"Hi, Mr. Edgeworth," Maggey greeted. "What are you doing here? I didn't know you frequented this place." 

 

 

Chapter Text

July 16

1:30 PM (On The Dot)

Wright and Co. Bakery (Interior) 

To say that running into Maggey Byrde that day was a surprise wasn't an understatement per-say, but to see her here? Well...

His magenta-border-wine colored umbrella was closed and hanging at his side, dripping just a bit onto the wooden floors, and he managed to keep the shock on his face to a minimum. His eyes were a little wider, but at least his mouth wasn't propped open and gapping. That would have been...well, it would have been rude, but quite embarrassing as well, considering where his eyes were straying. 

Though Miss Byrde had opened her mouth to say something to him, his eyes had been staring at the man worrying behind her. Without the coating of cake batter, chocolate, and flour, Wright looked very different. His skin was darker than he'd expected, like tea with a bit of milk. His hair wasn't streaked with white, and his face was covered in freckles, which was gave him a jarringly adolescent sort of look that one hardly saw on a grown man. His apron was also folded down so that it hung around his hips.

Not that his eyes were lingering anywhere near the man's hips. 

His eyes flicked back to Maggey, finding that she was looking at him expectantly. He cleared his throat. "I beg your pardon, Miss Byrde. I didn't quite catch that."

Maggey giggled. "I was wondering if you frequented this place, sir." She paused and tilted her head to the side. "I always thought you'd be the more of the coffee-café type."

Miles shook his head. "Certainly not." He wasn't really the type to have a haunt. That was usually best left to the younger crowd, wasn't it? 

(Then again, the record has begun to show that you're quite the creature of habit.)

Maggey seemed to accept his answer, as clipped as it may have been. "Well, welcome then, sir!" She turned to Wright. "What was that thing you said, sir? 'Crusty dough that's not much good' ?"

When his eyes settled on Wright again, the man visibly wilted a little and rubbed the back of his neck. "Er, upper crust goods for not much dough, actually." 

"Right!" Maggey chirped. Her eyes and smile were right back on Edgeworth. She was toying with her umbrella, but she managed to make eye contact. "Mister Edgeworth it's actually really good you're here, I wanted to talk with you about something."

Miles quirked an eyebrow upward. "Would this have anything to do with the aversion you and your fiancé have to fondant?"

Her eyes went wide, but she didn't seem too shocked by this remark. "It does." She nodded her head toward the man standing behind her, and Edgeworth followed the movement, watching him squirm under his gaze. As he stared, she spoke.

"I was thinking, sir, after we started looking at all of those places for a baker, that wedding planning could be super tiring. I know that it's your job, Mr. Edgeworth, but since we sort of sprung this on you so quickly, I thought looking for a bakery on my own would take some of the stress off your shoulders. A-and I know it's not very traditional, but, as you know, Richard and I aren't really fans of the whole, 'Traditional Wedding Cake,' deal." She shrugged. "I thought that if I went to smaller bakeries, it would be easier to ask for a wedding cake done without fondant."

Edgeworth cleared his throat, and Maggey paused. "And this bakery happens to be owned by the only baker living in the west coast that doesn't work in tiers or fondant. Correct?"

Maggey gapped at him. "Wow, Mr. Edgeworth. Richard always said you had a scary sixth sense, but I thought he was joking."

Behind her, Wright laughed--an undignified snort that erupted into a few hastily covered up chuckles--and Miles flushed. "It's nothing so dramatic!" he snapped, straitening the collar of his shirt. "I had simply planned to interview Mr. Wright today for this very reason, Miss Byrde."

The young woman's smile was wide, excited. And it was something that could easily be interpreted as "you're hired." Miles opened his mouth to explain that the interview was not a guarantee, but she'd spoken before he could summon the word to his mouth. "Then this must be fate! I find a person on my first try, and you were already on your way to hire him!" 

"Actually I don't think--" Wright started.

But Maggey was already unwrapping her umbrella and heading toward the door. "I have to run a few more errands today, so I guess I'll be going, but this is so great! Thank you so much, Mr. Wright, sir! You too, Mr. Edgeworth! Good luck, and remember to call if there is anything we can do to help along these plans."

She waved goodbye, called out a "take care," and the door closed again, the brass bell attached to the handle clunking into place.

For a good few moments, both men stared at the door. 

That had all happened…quite fast. Vaguely, he wondered if his need to show up on time, not a minute too soon or too late, was to blame for this. He had nothing on except making a few phone calls to Franziska’s people, and confirming the meeting at the Gardens for tomorrow evening. Perhaps, when he did have the moments to spare, he would take the initiative to show up earlier than expected. It would certainly avoid unnecessary thoughts. Like– 

“So…am I hired?”

That. 

Miles turned, and he could almost feel the cold, calculating look on his face, because Wright’s attitude seemed to plummet from playful confidence to sheepish self-depreciation. He was rubbing the back of his neck, and managing to study the grain in the floor and the shine of the countertop with a nervous intensity that surprised him.

He cleared his throat. Made a show of straitening his sleeves. “Certainly not.”

Wright seemed to expect this answer, but the sag of his shoulders told Miles that he was not happy about it. “Right, right. I mean, she seemed interested though. And I always thought, ‘The Customer is Always Right,’ mentality was what you wedding planners thrived on, and I mean, technically, she said she wanted to hire me–”

“Do you keep this level of unprofessionalism with most of your potential employers,” Miles interrupted, “or do I have the honor of being the only one to witness this…whatever it is you think you’re doing.”

Wright bit his bottom lip in thought. “Persuading?”

“Hardly.”

“Er…groveling?”

Miles allowed the corner of his mouth to quirk into a smirk. “Closer.”

The man let out a deep breath, tinged with frustration. “Stalling.”

Miles nodded once. “Indeed. I believe you have a cake to show me, Mr. Wright.”

Wright nodded, and took a deep breath. Let it out. Took another one. 

Miles closed his eyes and let out a patient sigh through his nose. "Sometime today, Mr. Wright."

Wright started, and looked over his shoulder at the door behind the counter. In the cool lighting of the rain, it could almost look ominous, and Miles almost understood the man's hesitation. 

"Er, right. Yeah." The man tugged a bit at his apron. "Follow me." It came out sounding like a question. 

The kitchen looked nothing like he expected. Most kitchens he'd seen had been wide, and accessible to many bodies at one time. But this was almost like a wide hallway. Two shelves hug from the walls over two countertops that were smudged with flower. The arrangement was adjacent to one another, and seemed to only be able to fit two people between them if they were back to back. And even then, nobody would be able to pass through to get to the doors. Cupboards hung from the walls as well, one of which Wright leaned over to close.

"Watch your step," Wright said, looking over his shoulder. "There's a loose tile by you foot. I've been meaning to get it fixed or maybe fix it myself but, uh. Haven't really gotten around to it."

Miles glanced down at his feet. The faded red tile belonged in any standard kitchen, and he'd seen it many times before. Next to his left foot however, one of them was risen a bit, cemented down wrong with too much calk and jutting up like a waiting foot to trip you while you ran.

A thought a occurred to Miles. "You tripped over this upon our initial meeting."

Phoenix turned to look at him. "Uh. Yeah, actually. I always forget it's there, so I sort of ran to the door and...well, I mean, you saw how that turned out."

Miles pressed his lips together. "Indeed."

They continued forward, around a corner. The back of the place was well lit. There were three ovens that lined the walls, and then a long, stainless steel table. lining the opposite wall were four large fridges, and a large cupboard that had both doors open, exposing a few bowls, whisks, and other kitchen equipment.

Wright turned toward him, and Miles raised an eyebrow.

"So," the other man starts, "As you...sort of know, I've never attempted to make a wedding cake. And uh. I'm pretty sure what I made doesn't actually qualify as a wedding cake? I mean. It's tiered." He rubbed the back of his neck. "But uh, I mean. I tried to make it look like a wedding cake? It's not covered in fondant, but I have this other thing that I do, and I thought, what the hell--"

Good God, at this rate the man was going to talk himself out of time. Miles cleared his throat. "This is all very interesting, truly," he started, eyeing Wright with what he assumed could be translated as utter boredom and pure annoyance. "But I do have places to be, and I'd like this interview to be over swiftly. If you could cut to the chase, please?"

Wright snorted, despite his nervousness.

"Yes?" He snapped. "What?"

"You're exceptionally good at finding puns without meaning to, aren't you?" Wright asked. And then, when Miles brow only rose further up in question, "Cut. Like a cake."

(For the love of--I see exactly where Miss Fey gets it from. This man is insufferable.) "And you are exceptionally good at trying to distract others from the situation at hand. The cake, if you please, Mr Wright."

Wright sighed. "Alright."

What he pulled out of the fridge was not what Miles expected. Granted, his expectations had been pretty low: a dilapidated layered cake, the frosting bumpy in places and half melted in others, the whole thing wobbling like something out of a children's cartoon, garishly colored and patchy.

What was set on the table behind then was certainly not that. It was tiered, but not separated like Miles had hoped it would be. The frosting, which was clearly done by hand but seemed to be smoothed out meticulously, was a cream color, with what looked to be nearly translucent lace cascading over one of the sides. On top of the lace, on the second tier out of three, were three white roses bunched together, their leaves looking trim and their buds just beginning to bloom. Frozen in time, exceptionally detailed. 

The design was simple. It was beautiful too, and Miles felt his heart flip at the careful way this cake must have been created. Sugar sculpting took time, and patience, and a love for the craft that Miles was beginning to doubt Wright had.

He cleared his throat and turned to Wright. The decoration was remarkable, and Miles had to bite his tongue so not to say so aloud. "Very good. Do you have a knife?"

Wright scoffed. "Hey, it's not that bad, come on!"

Miles rolled his eyes and scowled. "I mean to cut the cake, Mr. Wright, not destroy it. Looks are one thing, but the flavor is another."

The other man's face turned pink, crawling from his neck and up to his cheeks. "Right. Uh. Hold on, I'll go get one. And plates."

He turned the corner and Miles took out his organizer out of his coat pocket. This one was small and thick with business cards, stray papers, small pictures, colorful tabs, and much more. His work organizer was thick, heavy with appointments and such things. But this one was...personal. A collection of every wedding he'd ever done, bits of them scattered throughout the pages. Places, music, decorations, floral arrangements, everything he'd truly been impressed with from his previous jobs shoved into this little book. Each bit of information in here was to be used one day, someday, for his own wedding. 

Miles wasn't actually sure when it had started, when he thought of collecting ideas for his future wedding, and now that he had all of this information shoved into this personal organizer, he knew that not everything he collected could be done at his wedding. Still...

He was a closet romantic, damn him, he could dare to dream a little. (Even if said dreams require your schedule to be a little bit lighter. I suppose that's why they're called day dreams...)

The door to the kitchen opened again, and Miles quickly scribbled something down, looking at the cake again, and put the book back in his coat pocket. 

"I just grabbed paper plates," Wright told him, rounding the corner. "If you want, I could grab one of the nicer ones we use, but uh. I figured I could just toss these later. Save some time."

My, his eyebrows were getting quite the work out today. "Yes," he said slowly. "Thank you for that virtually useless information, Mr. Wright. The knife?"

Wright flushed and offered the knife handle first. "So you're one of those, huh?" Wright asked, just as Miles positioned the knife over the cake. There was no mistaking the small note of bitterness in his question.

Miles pressed his lips into a thin line, and glared. "I beg your pardon?" 

"You know, one of those..." Wright moved his hands in front of him, waving small circles as if it would help him articulate whatever insult he'd been preparing. "One of those people who has to have everything just-so. Only say what needs to be said, only do what needs to be done. So when someone, say, starts talking about their day, or something equally off-topic--"

"Like now," Miles interrupted, the phrase out before he could stop himself. His ears felt hot, and he seemed to be developing a headache from the intense glare. Or perhaps Wright's voice. But he had intended to keep that to himself, lest he accidentally prove Wright...right. (Damn this man.)

"Yes, like now. And you give them this look. Just like that." He pointed to the others face and waggled a finger up and down, the gesture apparently meant to describe whatever face he'd been wearing.

Miles took a deep breath, and turned toward the cake. "Mr. Wright, unlike yourself, I do not have time to waste talking idly about the weather, or about the reason you chose paper plates over ceramic ones. I am on a tight schedule." (And if you would like to be hired and become a part of said schedule, I suggest you stop whatever inane drivel that's about to slip out of your clumsy mouth.)

The man did have a talent for putting his foot in his mouth. It was like his brain had flipped a switch, opening the flood gates, and while he figured out how to switch it from on to off, Wright would let anything pass through his lips, including, it seemed, insulting observations of strangers. 

He grimaced and cut into the cake, and put the thin slice onto one of the plates, silently commending Wright for having the forethought to bring forks.

He was setting the slice of cake down when Wright spoke again, the anxiety present in his voice again. "Wedding cake doesn't have to be a specific flavor, does it?"

Miles shrugged. "Not typically, no. The most common flavor seems to be yellow cake with vanilla flavoring," he paused to gesture to the cake, "which you seem to have exhibited here."

Wright let out a relived sigh, his shoulders sagging dramatically. Miles half expected him to wipe imaginary sweat from his brow, but when he made no further movements, he turned and bit into the cake.

And was again, more that a little shocked. 

It certainly wasn't like any wedding cake he'd every had. Usually, it had fluffy, almost dry texture. It helped to keep the mood light, Miles often thought, and didn't distract from the wedding at hand. It wasn't supposed to move conversation along, but rather fill the silence when the mundane points of in-law based discussions were at an end. 

This cake...had presence. That was the only way his mind could describe it. It was rich and full of flavor. This kind of cake you ate because you wanted cake, not just because it was a socially acceptable thing to do.

(He certainly has talent. This is definitely something I'd request at my own wedding...)

Miles set the plate down, a little more forcefully than necessary. This was a trial tasting, and Wright would be baking for Gumshoe's wedding only. There was no need to fantasize about his possible future wedding right now. And no need to hire Wright in said fantasy, when he wasn't even officially hired in real life. The only reason he'd even thought that was because he'd been impressed. Wright had managed to make a cake this heavy and keep the tiers from sliding around under the weight of frosting and sculpture. It was no mean feat.

He nodded to himself and reached into his coat pocket, taking about a business card holder. He handed a card to Wright, who took it with no small amount of apprehension.

Miles cleared his throat. "Very impressive, Mr. Wright. You've certainly shown your potential, and despite a few slip-ups, managed to conduct yourself  in a somewhat-profession manner. Miles better than the last time we met." He tugged his sleeves into place and straightened the collar of his coat. "You will find my contact information on the card I gave you, so if you have any questions, feel free to utilize it."

Miles moved to round the corner of the kitchen, Wright on his heels.

He sounded shocked, excited. "You...I'm hired?"

"Not in the sense your thinking. This is a trial period, in which I will see how well you preform under the pressure, and how well you execute the design the client has in mind."

They exited the kitchen, Wright nodding furiously. "Okay, okay. But...you. You're giving me this job, this wedding your working on right now? I'm...I'm hired?"

Miles turned, meeting the others eyes slowly. They were filled with an unnecessary amount of desperation and hope, pinched around the edges with help from the weak smile he was offering. He looked like he was about to laugh or cry, his brain noted.

His brain also noted that the afternoon light from Tuesday had nothing to do with the color of his eyes, that they were definitely two different colors. It was also noted that, while they were...interesting to look at, Wright was waiting on an answer.

And that he was staring.

(Good Lord.)

He cleared his throat. "Yes, Mr. Wright. In that sense, yes, you are hired."

The other man was bouncing on the balls of his feet, and his smile looked nearly painful. "Thank you!" he gushed, leaning forward to take Miles' hand. He flinched, but otherwise didn't move or pull away. Wright shook his hand, clasped in both of his, ranting excitedly. "I can't believe this! Thank you, thank you so much. I can't thank you enough. I mean, I thought you were a little scary, or that we'd have to do a few more meetings, but this! God, Edgeworth, thank you!"

He pulled his hand out of the others tightening grip with a grimace, though his face felt warm. "Yes. You--You're quite welcome." He rounded the counter before the other man could pounce again. "I really must be going, however. If you have a number I can contact, I will keep in touch."

Wright nodded, moving to the register area. The receipt printer sputtered as the man ripped a much-too-long strip from it and scribbled something down. "Here. This is the café's number, on the top. My personal number is at the bottom." He reached over the counter to hand the over paper, and then retracted his hand before he could. "Wait, did you want an email too?"

Miles shook his head, growing impatient. "It's fine. I prefer to leave instructions through phone call anyway."

"Right, right." The paper was offered to him again, and this time Miles was allowed to take it. "Thank you. Again. So, so much."

 Miles nodded. "As I said. I will keep in touch."

The trip to his car was short, but the rain hadn't let up. The edges of his jacket were dripping by the time he'd slid into the drivers seat. (So much for an umbrella,) Miles thought, carefully setting the sodden thing in the back seat. 

He turned the car on, the heat up, and was just about to flip on the radio and tune in to the classical station when his phone buzzed in his pants pocket. 

He felt himself scowl, wiggling to the side a bit so he could reach the damed thing. Wright hadn't decided to call already, had he? This was utterly childish! He was sure he'd given Wright ample opportunity to ask any questions. He'd just walked out the damned door, for crying out loud, how could Wright have possibly--

Oh. 

The screen was lit up with a picture of Maya, and bellow it, her name. 

"Miss Fey," he answered. His voice came out more menacing than he'd intended, still recovering from the a falsely-bred annoyance. "How can I help?"

"Edgeworth! Hey!" she sounded a little winded. "Hey! Okay. Uh, so, I'll make this quick. Remember when I told you I'll be out of town next weekend for my aunt's birthday?"

Miles raised an eyebrow. "I do."

"Good! Because, guess what? I got the dates mixed up. I'm leaving tonight so that Pearl has tomorrow and Saturday with her mother."

Miles took in a quick, sharp breath and shut his eyes. Tomorrow, he was supposed to meet the representative at the Virginia Robinson Gardens to discuss whether or not this wedding would be allowed to take place there. Usually, when he had to do this part of the wedding, Miles would bring with Maya along; she was surprisingly good with negotiating times and prices. It was almost like a good luck charm. The only reason he hadn't been bringing her Tuesday was her planned dinner date with his sister later that evening.

She'd even mentioned that his introduction to Wright might have been "a blessing in disguise," insisting she was meant to go with him this next time around. He bit his lip and exhaled slowly. "You're joking," he said without any hope.

"I am so sorry, Edgeworth, I'm not. I can't believe this--" there was rustling around for a moment, and then, "--hold on, I have to get something--" Away from the phone, "Pearl! Can you come here for a second?" Then, finally, to the speaker, "Here, can you talk to Pearly? I have to get this suitcase off the shelf."

"Miss Fey--"

"Mr. Edgeworth?" came a shyer, higher pitched voice. Pearl Fey was a very talented florist, and a very sweet young lady. She was enamored with both Maya and Franziska, and often asked Miles many questions about weddings. Like himself, she was a romantic, and they often bonded over his many affiliations with what Pearl often called "the most romantic and important life experience." And despite his nervousness around children, he found Pearl to be tolerable. 

"Pearl," he said, trying to keep his tone light. He even put on a strained smile, though he knew she couldn't see it. "Could you please put your cousin back on the phone? I believe I'm about to have a nervous break down. Tell her that, would you?"

"Sure," he could hear her turn away from the speaker. "Maya? Mr. Edgeworth says he's having a nervous breakdown."

Distantly, he heard Maya yell, "You are not, you big baby! Give me a minute!"

He huffed out a short breath, his knuckles aching from how tightly he gripped the phone. 

"Is the planning going well, Mr. Edgeworth?" Pearl asked suddenly. "I heard you were going to hire Mr. Phoenix."

"Not hire," he corrected. "I put him on a trial period. We will be working together on this wedding alone."

"And then you'll hire him, right?" Pearl asked. There was raw happiness in her tone. 

"Not exactly," he muttered. 

Pearl sounded defeated. "Aw. But why not? Mr. Phoenix is really talented; I think I still have a seal he made me out of sugar. And I know Maya has every decoration he's ever made for her birthday in her fridge. Don't you like them?"

For some reason, his ears felt hot. "It isn't that I don't like them, Pearl. But there are certain things people must go to if they are to be hired to a standard such as mine. Or my sisters, for that matter." He shrugged uselessly. "Now, I will ask again, please tell your cousin that I need to speak with--"

"Okay!" Maya's voice interrupted, sounding fuzzy as Pearl handed over the phone. "Okay, I got it. What? What's the matter now?"

"You cannot leave," he ground out. "I need your help to negotiate this--"

"I can't get out of this, Edgeworth, I promised--"

"I was already late for this meeting once, if I can't convince--"

"You'll do fine, maybe Franny can help, or someone else--"

"Miss Fey, it's not a matter of--"

"Oh! Ask Nick!"

Caught off guard, Miles cut himself off mid-rant. "I--Excuse me?"

"Nick!" Maya repeated. "He's never busy. You can always ask him to go with you."

Miles closed his eye. "Miss Fey," he said, slowly. If she was suggesting he bring Wright to was already was looking like a very delicate meeting, she had another thing coming. "Wright is the last person I need when negotiating with a possible venue. From what I have seen in the last few days, the man is much more trouble than he's worth, and I cannot jeopardize this meeting." He glared straight ahead, the thump of the windshield wipers keeping time to his even breathing. "The clients have their hearts set on this place, and as a professional, I cannot allow myself to get anything else but an agreement to use the Gardens. I need someone who is poised, ready to speak on my behalf, with the ability to remain relaxed if thing do not go as planed. Wright is sloppy, clumsy, seemingly socially inept, and has a distracting, loud presence." He cleared his throat. "He also has the most horrid habit of lodging his foot down his throat until he chokes on it. Hardly an asset in this case, Miss Fey."

Maya scoffed. "He's not that bad. I mean, I don't think Nick will be able to do much, since he's never done something like this before--"

"Precisely!"

"--but he is great company." 

When Miles didn't speak, she continued. "That's all you really need, right? You've done this many times in the past without me, or Franny. Nick might not be able to do much, but he won't get in your way. If you don't want to go by yourself to negotiate, consider having him tag along."

There was a long silence. The rain grew impossibly heavier, and on the other end of the speaker he could hear Maya moving quickly to pack. 

"And you are sure you can't meet Pearl up there tomorrow, after this?" he said at last, his voice weary, resigned. He was already reaching behind him for his umbrella. 

"I'm sure. I was supposed to be there already, apparently. Fran's giving us a ride."

"And she's staying up there too?" Miles asked.

He could hear Maya shake her head. "Nah. She has something tomorrow night. Catering for some jeweler's office party, I think."

(Damn.)

"Fine," he snapped. "Fine."

Maya snorted. "It'll be fine. You're... sorta charming. Mostly intimidating. You'll figure it out."

He sighed deeply. "Do have a safe trip, Miss Fey. And give my love to Pearl and your aunt."

"Can do!" she chirped, the audio version of a three-fingered salute. "See you!"

The beep came before he could say goodbye in return.

He could always go alone. Two was usually better than one, but he'd done this solo before. 

Then again, the more witnesses there were, the more likely the venue owners were to sway his way.

He shoved open his car door before he could think more on it. As long as Wright was seen and not heard, and didn't touch anything, they'd probably be fine. Fifteen minutes at the most. Easy-street.

The cowbell attached to the door clunked loudly as he re-entered the café.

Wright looked up from writing something down, his eyes widening, his concentrated frown bleeding into a concerned one . "Hi, again," he said slowly, raising one of his peculiarly shaped eyebrows. "Everything okay? You forget something?" 

"No." 

"Oh. Alright." He smiled then, big, dopey, and bright. It was almost like he was encouraging Miles's face to do the same. Preposterous. 

Laughable.

"What can I do for you then?" 

He cleared his throat. "I would like to know your plans for tomorrow evening, around six. If you've nothing on, I've got a...job for you."


 

July 17

5:02 PM

Outside Wright and Co. B&C

The day after a rainstorm is always a bit muggy in the summertime. The sun will rise that cloudless morning, filtering through the droplets on awnings, warming the city and the life within it. In the morning, everything is hazy, wet, and new, turpentine over oil paints. By the afternoon, everything becomes sharp and heavy with the heat and moisture as the sun takes back the left overs from the shower the day before. But by evening, in the shadows of the buildings, when the day is only an embers glow, it's like the world is still, like that city is the only place that the sun sets on. 

Usually, Miles rather enjoyed this weather, as well as this time of day. Usually, the day was done, and, on a Friday, he'd leave the office on time--rather indulgent of him, but it was a weekend--and make himself a pot of Earl Grey, just so he could fully enjoy the ending of the day. 

But right now, he was drumming his fingers on the wheel of his car outside of the café as he waited for Wright to finally leave the building and trying to ease himself into a calm, collected state. He'd even rolled down the windows for a bit of fresh air. It was supposed to be relaxing, but he had a clear view into the bakery, and every time he looked up and Wright was not making a move toward the door, his stomach clenched nervously instead.

They would not be late. They would not be late. He'd come an hour early just so they could be fifteen minutes early.

But, from what he could see, Wright was busy bumbling around inside with a younger man, cleaning the counters, moving tables, sweeping--he wasn't sure what had gotten into the man, but this cleaning bug of his could wait. 

They were on a schedule. 

The younger man was in the middle of what looked like counting out the register, and Wright was talking animatedly with his hands as the boy nodded along. Just as Miles was contemplating blaring his horn, the employee looked up, and turned to Wright, pointing a finger toward the shop window.

Wright followed it's direction, and flinched when he met Miles eyes, immediately shrugging off his apron and saying something frantically to the other, and then quickly running through what looked to be a door that hid a flight of stairs.

Five minutes later, Wright was out the door, pulling a black hooded jacket on and yelling over his shoulder. "And don't forget that Armando's dropping off the coffee in, like, ten minutes!"

"I've got it!" the other called faintly.

"Oh! And Gavin, uh, has the stage--"

"I know that too, I've got it covered! Now get going!"

"I know I know! I'm--oh! Wait, make sure Trucy doesn't do that fire trick if I'm not back in time. Wooden stage, small daughter with open flame--"

"Mr. Wright, you're late! I've done this before! Go!" 

Wright threw a hesitant look at the car, and Miles pressed his lips together to avoid the smile creeping up on him. What had Maya said? 'Mostly intimidating' ?

"Call me if you need anything, okay? Like, if one of the ovens stops working, or if Trucy needs an--"

"Mr. Wright!

Whoever this employee was, he was very good at getting the older man in gear. Miles approved. 

The door opened, and Wright slid in, wearing a sheepish smile that was obscured as he worried at his bottom lip. "Sorry about that," he mumbled. "Just. Uh. Talent Night is a pretty big deal for us, so we close early, Apollo counts, I clean, Trucy preps her show--"

Miles was already pulling back onto the road and turing the corner as Wright babbled. He weaved in and out of traffic, earning more than his fare share of car horns and unflattering gestures out cracked windows. By the time he pulled on to the highway, Wright had finished explaining the mechanics of "Talent Night," and they had sat in silence for the next few minutes, gliding in and out of traffic.

"This a really nice car, by the way."

Miles sighed heavily. (Be hospitable, let the man talk. There is no rule you've set that requires silence in your car. Thank him, or something.) "I know." 

Wright snorted, and Miles could feel the heat crawling up his neck. That had admittedly been a response is brain had cycled through, but he hadn't meant to say that out loud.  

"I guess wedding planners make a substantial amount, if you can afford a car like this," Wright continued, seemingly unaffected by his rude slip-up. 

Miles shrugged, a small, calculated jerk of his shoulders. "I suppose."

"You suppose," Wright repeated, and though he was intent on keeping his eyes on the highway, he could some how hear Wright's risen eyebrow in a silent question. "Not to sound to personal, or anything, but if bakers made enough to afford cars like this, a lot more people would go to culinary school."

"Cars like what?" 

"Y'know," Wright said, and out of the corner of his eyes, he could see him moving his hands, trying to pull the thought out. "A spy car. Like James Bond, or something."

Miles snorted. "This is hardly and Aston Martin, Wright," he scoffed. "It's a Mercedes."

Next to him, Wright laughed. It wasn't loud, or mocking, just filled with the pure joy of being in on a joke, rather than having pulled a prank. If Miles were a romantic--and he was, but not in the sense of everyday life, not always, not with people--he'd say it sounded kind. Or inviting. 

"Somehow, you made it seem worse," Wright said when he calmed a bit. 

He could feel the warmth on his cheeks now, and in his frustration he quickly jabbed the power to the radio. It was as good a distraction as any. He couldn't tune it, not if he wanted to keep this speed and make it there on time, so Classic 90's Rock would have to do for now. He wasn't exactly fond of it, but Jon Bon Jovi was a nice diversion. Mindless sound to fill the quiet so that Wright would no longer have to. Especially so Wright wouldn't have to.

And for awhile, he didn't.

Until the chorus of the song, when both the Bon Jovi and Wright began to sing. 

Appalled, he leaned forward to press the station scanning button. If he couldn't tune it, he could wait it out, wait until it changed to classical, and stop it there.

The song switched from Run Away to something else, a heavier sounding song that Miles was not familiar with, and the lead guitar and bass guitar played a rift that, even with the volume turned low, made his stomach quiver with each beat.

"Hush little children, don't say a word,Wright sang under his breath.

Miles exhaled through his nose, and the station switched again. He told himself to calm down; knowing a few songs on the radio was common for those who listened often enough. Wright seemed like the type to listen to the radio whenever he wasn't in the public eye. Perhaps while baking. 

Yes, it was perfectly normal. He was simply reacting badly because he was anxious to make this meeting.

(When you arrive, instruct Wright not to touch anything. Greet the young lady you agreed to meet with, walk with her. Avoid--) 

The song switched again, something saturated in auto-tuned pop culture. Wright didn't miss a beat, continuing to sing the lyrics, albeit an octave lower.

He merged into the next left lane, maneuvering around rather slow Honda, and feeling the muscles in his beginning to ache as he held himself in check. There was no need to honk in her direction when what he really wanted to was honk so he couldn't hear Wright's voice so he could concentrate. 

It wasn't even that the man's voice was bad, if he was being honest. A little shaky with disuse, but rather good. He didn't have a very deep voice. It did not waver between any sort of line. Wright had a voice that was centered in the middle of tenor. It was warm and inviting, something that made the spine tingle to the point just under a cold chill. Had he been able to concentrate on it, he might use a word like enthralling. Or endearing. Calming.

(Enticing.)  

Or something like that, perhaps.

A nice voice, though, overall. 

(When he is singing!) his mind quickly amended. (Listening to the man talk can be a chore within itself. His singing voice is...fine. It is decent for a man in his mid-thirties, nothing more.)

The station changed two more times, and he held to the sentiment. He could be a bad singer, he could be louder, he could reach for the volume knob and turn it up. He wasn't doing anything like that. Simply...singing.

(And in any other circumstance, that would...most likely serve to annoy me only a tad less than it is right now.) This was fine. 

Three more songs passed, and Wright knew every one. It would almost be impressive.

It took two more minutes until the classical station filled the car's interior. Miles quickly tapped the scan button, the melody halting. Wright quieted down while Vivaldi's The Four Seasons played. Miles smirked. (Finally.) The tension was beginning to leave Miles's shoulders as the refrain swelled.

And then Wright began to whistle.

Miles hit the radio's power button harder than necessary. The music cut out, and Wright whistled the next few notes into the sudden quiet before understanding that it had become an a capella performance.

Miles glared out the windshield.

"Er," Wright started. "Everything okay over there?"

"Would you please," Miles asked, trying to keep his tone civil as he changed lanes, "refrain from singing whilst I concentrate?" 

Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Wright hold his hands up, palms facing outward. "Okay, okay, no singing. Good to know. I wasn't sure there were rules."

"There are no rules, Wright, don't be absurd. I simply dislike unnecessary noise. That is all there is to it." He had to work to keep his tone professional. (Although, what is the point, when this man offers no such thing.) Their exit was up in three more miles.

 "I think we went over that yesterday," Wright says conversationally, turing a bit in his seat to watch Miles. "Right? I started rambling, you stopped me before I could really get going and make a complete idiot of myself."

Two miles now. "Mr. Wright, if you insist on filling every bit of quiet that falls between us, would you allow me to go over what is to happen at the Gardens?"

Wright nodded. "Sure. I thought I was going to be negotiating--"

"Absolutely not!" he was pleased to find that this came out just as shocked and angry as he felt. "You are to walk while we talk about the Gardens as a future venue, but you are not to say anything."

He glanced at Wright; the man's face was pinched up in confusion. "What? Seriously?" he sounded more confused than angry, Miles noted. "Then what the hell--sorry, professional--what the heck am I tagging along for? Doesn't Maya do the talking?"

"Miss Fey does," Miles said. They were taking the exit now, and Miles turned to face Wright fully. "But you do not. This is not always a two man job. I simply need an audience. The more people there are, the less inclined they are to say that they cannot accept our business." He's not sure it would come to that though. Miles Edgeworth was very good as his job; not once had a potential venue turn him away. 

"So you brought me here to watch you...walk around a garden and talk business?" Wright asked after a few minutes. He sounded like a sulking child. "There's nothing I can do?"

"I'm afraid not, Mr. Wright." It was the same tone he used when I client started to get upset about the plans, or the availability; placating and slow. Like he was talking to a child. Mile's hadn't meant for it to sound like that, but he saw no reason to give an apology.

Wright crossed his arms, and sat up straighter in his seat. "First off, if we're working together, you can just call me Nick, or something. Everyone else does.

"Second, you can't just drag someone last minute to a meeting and then tell them 'Oh by the way, you're virtually useless.'"

"I don't believe I used the word 'useless,' Wright." In fact, he had just mentioned that the man's presence was a very useful tactic. 

He had also used Wright's surname without title, and it sent a little thrill through him that he smothered almost immediately.

Wright wasn't quite over it, it seemed. "You said I wasn't allowed to say anything. Why? What harm could it do to pretend to have a little input?"

"That depends," Miles muttered, rolling his eyes. "How aware are you of your ability to dig your own grave with nothing more than unseemly words and ill-timed jokes?"

Wright gapped at him, mouth opening and closing as he tried to form either a comeback or answer to the rhetorical question. When he settled on a simply scoffing at this, rolling his eyes and glaring at the windshield, Miles smiled a bit.

"Yeah, laugh it up," Wright muttered. "I'll just sit here and play the quiet game like a five year old. No big deal."

"If it is any consolation," Miles quipped, rather chipper now, "I believe they have a children's area of sorts, if you prefer to wait for me there."

The other man snorted, his irritation dissipating as his shoulders shook with quiet laughter. Miles chuckled a bit at his own joke as well. He knew it was a combination of general anxiety and very mild irritation, but it helped ease him into entering the gardens through the large gates. 

"Smug bastard," Wright mumbled, but there was no anger in the insult. He had to fight back another smile.

They parked, Miles glancing at his dashboard clock. Two minutes to spare. Hardly enough time to call himself punctual, and that thought alone had another mild bit of irritation settle on his shoulders.

They exited the car, and Wright made to start walking in. 

"A moment," Miles called after him, manually locking his car. 

"Hm?"

Miles looked from Wright to what he presumed to be the tour check in building. He stepped passed the other man and knocked twice on the door. He looked at Wright again. "I had to pull a few strings to get this meeting, Wright," he started. "They are very prompt about when they close the Gardens to the public. Though our meeting is at six, the Gardens are close at four in the afternoon. I have asked them to break this small rule due to my previous lateness, and I might be asking them to break another."

Wright nodded, crossing his arms. "They might say no to letting you use this place for a wedding."

Miles adopted the same pose, though he was less relaxed about it. "Precisely. I mean it when I say you are not to open your mouth. You are not to say anything, stray away from the two of us, or touch anything."

Wright glared at him, his eyebrows pushing together, irked. "Yeah, think I get it. I went to a museum with my parents when I was three, my mother told me the same thing."

Miles's lips pressed together in a thin line. "If you must be so dramatic, think of this as a shadowing opportunity of sorts. You watch and take notes, I do my job without fearing you undoing my hard work."

Wright raised an eyebrow. "I thought this was a," he hooked his fingers in the air and smirked, "'trial period.'" 

Miles grimaced. "Then consider it a part of your interview, Mr. Wright, if you are concerned about this technicality."

Wright scoffed, dual colored eyes rolling in exasperation. He huffed, his lips buzzing a bit, and tilted his head back to glare at the sunset stained sky. 

For one curious, foggy moment, Mile's eyes started to follow the line of Wright's throat. 

But whatever he'd been thinking cleared away when the door opened behind him, revealing a young woman who looked mostly irked and only a little hospitable, holding a clipboard to her side. Miles turned to her, plastered on a nervous smile, and reached out to offer his hand. "Miss Wendie Plainer? Miles Edgeworth, a pleasure to meet with you."


July 17

6:35 PM

Virginia Robinson Gardens (Poolfront) 

The gardens were beautiful, truly. by Miss Plainer, both Wright and himself were half-heartedly given a tour. It lasted what Miles thought was and obscenely inappropriate amount of time, making idle chat with the woman while Wright followed close behind, his eyes fixed on the beautiful flora around them. It was interesting to watch him stare at them with no more than the shallow smile of a fool on his face.

Miss Fey would have had a better appreciation for this garden than either he or Wright could know, and as the conversation fizzled into nothingness and trio walked slowly on the tiled sides of a shallow pool and onto the lawn of the pool house, he wish she'd been here instead. 

"Miss Plainer," Miles started. She was starting at something on her clipboard. 

"Uhm hum," she said, not looking up.

He cleared his throat. "I should say first that I'd would like to thank you for this small tour. These gardens are lovely, and for you to be willing to show my associate and I around after hours is truly something I appreciate. I know how put out you must be."

She gave him a quick, sharp look, and then went back to her papers. "Do you now?" she snipped, her foot tapping. "We don't tend to bend our rules for just anyone, Mr. Edgeworth. Had you not been previously scheduled, this meeting wouldn't have been allowed at all."

"Yes," Miles said with a quick nod. "And I am quite grateful to you and the rest of those employed here. I was hoping," Miles continued with verve, "we could discuss the purpose of this meeting now, since I couldn't bear to keep you any longer. As you know, I made a business appointment for the thirteenth of this month, and since I could not make that, I had to make this meeting into a tour of the Gardens."

Plainer looked up at him and then back down at her clipboard. When she spoke. it was in a flat tone. "Yes, the Monday meeting we had to cancel. My boss penciled it in in the margins. It says here you wished to negotiate a price for a having a wedding here at the Virginia Robinson Gardens." A pause, and then she looked up at Miles. "Does this sound correct?"

Miles nodded. "Yes. Is there another person I must speak with, or--"

"No."

Miles nodded. "Alright, then. Perhaps we could discuss and crunch the numbers inside, or over the phone, if we've overstayed--"

"No," Plainer said slowly, now she visibly irritated. "No one is going to talk on this, because the VRG does not deal in political or religious events. If you visit our website, we've listed that in our frequently asked questions section."

Miles blinked. In truth, he hadn't had the forward thinking to actually check. He ran his thumb over the spine of his organizer to steady himself. "May I speak with your superior, then? Perhaps we could talk about it."

Plainer shook her head, quick and dismissive. Professional. Miles felt his jaw tic in frustration. "I'm sorry to say that my boss has made it clear I am not to budge on this kind of request in general."

Mile pressed forward anyway, hoping he sounded authoritative. "I was under the impression that this garden could be rented for a private gathering." His lips were pressed thin, and he fought the urge to bite the inside of his lower lip. He had to secure this place as the venue; seeing it in person, hearing the quiet the trees and bushes and flowers provided, the sweet scent of honeysuckle on the evening air, had saw to that. It was everything the couple deserved, as in love as they were. ('A warm bright place for something new to blossom.' That is what you agreed to secure.) He'd come here with the intention to hold his ground and accept nothing less than a 'Yes'.

But Miss Plainer was already back at her clipboard, scribbling something, apparently decided. "It is an area that is open to the public. There are several catered events held here during the spring and summer, Mr. Edgeworth. None of those are weddings. We have upheld this Garden as a neutral zone, of sorts, and I cannot simply overlook that, and neither can my boss." She turned her head back down to write something down quickly, as if she was giving him her final word with every scratch of her pen on paper. 

He glanced over his shoulder to Wright. The man was standing a bit away from them, no doubt listening to the exchange with knitted, concerned eyebrows, arms crossed. He was looking into the pool, his lips pressed together. He'd been quiet as promised, and he had stayed out of the way. It was a massive relief that the man could at least follow the most simple of directions. That was fine, he supposed; at least putting Wright on this probationary period of hire had worked out.

He must have felt eyes on him, because Wright suddenly looked up and Miles met his eyes. Wright's own eyes widened, strange eyebrows raise a little, and he gave Miles a small, nervous smile. He nodded his chin in the direction of Miss Plainer, and Miles bit back a sigh.

Turning back, he tried one more time. "The clients I am--"

"The clients you have do not interest me enough to ask to bend another rule for you, sir," she said slowly, clicking her pen closed with finality and slipping into her skirt pocket. "Mr. Edgeworth, if there will be nothing else, I have to leave, and I ask that you and your associate do the same. My boss has a few things he'd like to go over, and I have a cat to feed." She nodded once in farewell, and Miles fought the urge to gape. Swallowed the words that were just ready to burst from him. Tried to keep his glare as neutral as he could. 

(If this is the way it is, leave it at that. Do not burn a bridge, simply say farewell. Perfect politeness.)

Before he could say anything, however, Wright opened his mouth.

"That's fine," Wright said easily. "We understand." He looked at Edgeworth and shrugged. "We'll just tell the others at the office it's not available. Or worth it, I guess." 

Miles bristled. Damn him. Damn him, this blithering idiot!

"Wr-" he started, feeling his face heat in anger.

He didn't let him finish. "I know, they had their hearts set on this place, Miles, but it apparently can't be helped." Ignore the thrill of hearing his first name, especially when it mixed with the anger and chagrin that was churning his gut. "We'll just have to cross it off the list." Wright shrugged, turning his eyes to Miss Plainer, who looked back at his with wide eyes. "The tour was nice. I thought it'd be brighter, you know? Like, more vibrant flowers, green grass. But hey, this is cute."

Never before had Miles wanted to throw himself bodily at another human simply to shut them up

Plainer scoffed. "Cute as opposed to what?" she sneered.

"The Huntington Gardens, The Getty Villa, Descanso," Wright supplied, wearing a falsely sweet smile. "To name a few. But sure, this is nice, too." He shook his head and jerked his thumb behind him. "Hey, like I said it's fine. We'll stop wasting your time. It's already late, you want to go home, and we," Wright said this while pointing to himself and Miles, "have a ton of phone calls to make.

"Don't we?" And then Wright met his eyes, unflinching. Even in the setting sun and shadows, Wright's eyes bore into his own, serious, steady, asking a silent question that extinguished Miles's rage immediately. 

Trust me

Phoenix Wright, the brilliant bastard, was bluffing.

Miles stared at him for a few more moments, his jaw dropped slightly, bobbing up and down, trying to say something, anything, because if this worked...

(If this works....) he left the thought unfinished, and nodded. "I--yes. Yes, you're absolutely right, Wright."

The other's grin caught in Miles's throat, breathless and excited as it was. Whether from the accidental play on his name or the bluff, he wasn't sure. A deeper part of him suddenly thought that he didn't care what it was for, so long as he could stare at Wright's smile for a little longer, until his retinas burned like he'd been staring at the sun. With it's radiance, perhaps he was.

(Oh, shut up. Pay attention!) It was only a moment, but it felt like a lifetime that Miles had pushed away as Wright continued to speak.

"We had our entire office really vying for this place," he explained, moving his hands animatedly. "So many clients were floored by the idea, and we were starting to get some people actually planning out their wedding around this place. You know?"

Plainer knitted her eyebrows and opened her mouth. Wright didn't give her a chance to interject. "But hey. That's only a few weddings, right? What's a few Beverly Hill weddings here? I'm sure you guys get a ton of business, so we'll respect your decision." 

Wright reached out to grab Miles by the crook of his arm and pulled him back. "Thank you for your time, Wendie." He winked. Actually winked like a con man in an old TV movie. Miles bit his cheek to keep from laughing. "Have a good night."

And then they were walking away, Wright's hand still pulling on Miles.

"What are you--" Miles started to hiss. 

"Give it a minute," Wright whispered, his eyes gleaming. "Three...two...one..."

"Mr. Edgeworth!" Heels clicked on pool tile, a trotting sound of Plainer trying to catch up to them. "Mr. Edgeworth, wait!

Both he and Wright turned around, the brilliant black haired bastard looking smug. 

Plainer hesitated, her fingers picking at the edges of the papers on her board. "I...maybe I was too hasty." She glanced behind her and turned back with a frown. "I don't think we...well, we can't have them married here. P-perhaps you'd we willing to compromise and talk about the cost of having the reception?"

Miles turned to Wright, who shrugged, his hand leaving his arm and clapping it onto his shoulder. "That's up to you, buddy," he said cheerfully. "Reception here, wedding in a church somewhere?"

Miles fit a smile onto his face that he couldn't seem to place. It felt like a hesitant, hopeful thing that only grew in confidence when he turned to Miss Plainer. 

"Yes," he said without thinking, fighting a triumphant grin. "Lead the way, Miss Plainer. I'm sure we can work out the details."


 

July 17

7:22 PM

Virginia Robinson Gardens (Poolfront)

Miles exited the pool house almost immediately after bidding Plainer and her manager--who'd been filling out documents inside--good night, making a beeline for Wright.

He was squatting by the opposite end of the pool like a child, looking up only when he heard Mille's shoes on the tiled edges. "How'd it go?" he asked, his smile nervous again. "Did it work?"

He allowed himself a small smile, though inside he was alight. For a moment, he thought he could hug someone, and then squashed the feeling when he realized the only person in the vicinity was Wright. "It went well," he said happily. "They've agreed to the reception being held in this very spot." He smirked, crossing his arms. "The price they gave had been lowered considerably, no doubt due to the name-dropping you provided."

Wright laughed. "The best way to get what you what when it comes to bluffing is by telling the poor sap that you can find it easily elsewhere." 

Miles coughed, hiding a laugh. "I must ask," he said, still hiding his smile, " where did you learn to bluff like that?" When Wright gave him a shocked look, Miles flinched and focused on the slight waver of the pool in front of them instead. "It was a brilliant display. Thank you"

Wright nodded, and then shook his head. He was smiling again. "Nah, don't mention it. I'm just really, really good at pressing buttons. And, it seems, faking it until I make it."

"Of that, I have no doubt."

The man laughed again, and put his hands on his knees, as if to get up. "You should see me play poker," he boasted. "I'm undefeated."

Miles simply shrugged. He very much preferred chess and the strategy behind that. 

He was about to say as much, turning to Wright.

It happened very fast. Wright moved to get up, his legs wobbling a bit, the left crossing over the right, and then reversing as he teetered back, arms out and waving. His right pivoted and dipped, left leg going askew and in the air, and all he could get out was a quick, "Shi--!" before he toppled, ass-over-elbow, into the waiting water.

Miles's jaw dropped, and Wright popped back to the surface, splashing, sputtering, and coughing between shrieks of, "Oh crap! That's cold!" "Oh my God!", and simply, "Fuck!"

The display quieted down after a few second, and Wright waded to edge of the pool, shivering and cursing. He made an attempt to get out of the water, slipped in with another yelped curse.

Though Miles would regret it later, he could barely hold in the laughter. It burst out of him in rolling chuckles, until he was having a hard time controlling his volume--not that he was ever very loud in that respect-- trying to stifle it with his fingers pressed over his lips.

From the edge of the pool, one leg hefted up and arm twisted and ready to pull, Phoenix glared up at him. If Miles hadn't already started laughing, he definitely would have by now; with his hair dripping the way it was, the slipping back into the water, and the pure frustration and embarrassment  written on the man's face was too much. 

He had to bite his cheek to keep from doubling over and laughing out loud.

"Y-you could h-help!" Wright groaned, slipping back into the water once again. Miles turned away and tried to cough the rest of his laughter out. That didn't work, but it did serve to calm him a bit.

"I am terribly sorry," Miles told him, still turned away, snickering. "A moment, please."

"Oh c-c-come on, a m-moment!" Wright whined. "It's freezing, j-just--" Miles turned back to him, and watched as he tried to roll out of the pool, "--grab my el-l-bow or s-something, Edgeworth!"

Miles did so, and Wright finally rolled onto the now soaking wet tile, his own loud laughter interrupted only when he went to blow water and wet hair from his face. Wright ran a hand through his hair, sitting up and glaring at Miles. There was no heat behind it, not with the man looking like a pissed, drowned raven, but it almost made him want to start laughing again.

(Enough. That lapse in demeanor and professionalism was the only lapse.) Miles cleared his throat, straightened his jacket, and looked down on Wright. "You have my...most sincere sympathy, Wright."

Wright snorted. "Sure, sure. I'm sure wherever you come from, that's expressed through copious amounts of laughter at your temporary associates expense."

Miles could feel his face heat. Of course Wright would find him at fault for his behavior. Of course.

Wright was laughing again, dragging another hand through his hair. "Sorry. I'm only messing with you, Edgeworth. Here, help me up." Wright started to get to his feet, extending a hand as he did so. 

He stepped back a bit, his arms again crossed, raising an eyebrow. "Do you think it wise to ask for help from the man you were just attempting to insult?"

"You say 'attempting' like you aren't already insulted."

"You could walk back to Carson, Wright," Miles snapped. 

Wright chuckled. "Hey, I just did you a favor, didn't I?" He still held out is arm as he said this, though he was nearly standing on his own. He wobbled a bit, unsteady, but otherwise upright. He turned and gave Miles a triumphant smile that went unreciprocated.

"Alright. If we leave now, I can make it back before talent night actually starts," the man murmured, making a move to step around Miles. He went to step back, and Wright moved forward, into the puddle he'd made by laying on the ground laughing.

Miles saw what was happening before it did, and he couldn't catch it in time. Wright's soaked shoes slipped on the tile, a soft, "whoa," leaving him. His arms shot out to keep his balance, almost like walking on ice. 

One of these arms sent Miles fumbling forward, his shoes losing purchase on the slick ground. On instinct, he reached out to grab something to keep from falling forward; a wall, a bar, anything, though he knew there was nothing there. Nothing useful, anyway. 

The only thing to grab had been Wright's outstretched arm.  

This time, Wright could only manage a strangled scream, and Miles a quick gasp of breath, before they both toppled over into the iced water.

His first thought was that this water was incredibly, absurdly cold. As soon as he'd been submerged, his feet went to push of the bottom, get air, and get out of the pool with as much dignity he could manage. 

His second was about the state's court system, and how much he could get away with if he simply left Wright here to either get hypothermia or drown.

 (No matter what the excuse is, I doubt causing harm to Wright will do me any favors in my career. Still,) he mused, bursting through the surface, coughing and wiping the water out of his eyes in a manner most undignified. Wright was next to him, his hair fully in his eyes, sopping wet, and wearing a shit eating grin. (It's an incredibly appealing idea.)

Miles shoved his own hair out of his eyes, his bangs slicking back, water from them tricking down the back of his shirt. The cool of the evening and the chill of the water already causing him to shake. Everything was soaked. His pants, his shoes, his jacket--

Miles's head shot up toward the place he'd been standing, and sighed. His business organizer was lying in the grass, thank God. Had that taken a dive, Wright would truly be walking back. And speaking of the damned fool...

He glared at Wright, who was still staring at him though his hair, arm's crossed.

"What?" Miles snapped. 

The other's smile widened, his hands moving to take the hair out of his eyes. "Nothing."

"What could p-possibly be funny about this?" 

Wright snickered, already turning to heave himself onto dry land once again. "Just thinking about karma."

(And the idea grows more appealing by the second.)


 

July 17

8:28

Wright and Co. Bakery and Café (Exterior)

Talent Night had already seem to have started by the time both men had dragged their half-soaked selves through the door. 

The café in the evening was much more crowded, people hunched against the odd walls and sipping drinks in grocery-store brand styrofoam cups, or sitting in one of the many chairs pulled up toward the stage. It was warm in the café as well, blessedly warm, and smelled of fresh cinnamon, dark coffee, and the flat, easy smell of Early Grey. It was almost an aura in itself, the way the comforting scent hung in the hair, a miasma that was homey and comfortable. The light was a dim orange glow, bright only near the slightly-risen stage where, currently, a young blond male strummed an acoustic guitar to a tune Miles did not know. Behind him, a curtain was hung from the ceiling, dark blue and velvet.

Over the counter, the young man who'd been yelling at Wright--what had he called him? Miles had barely been listening at the time--looked up from writing in a small notebook and sipping at a lid-less cup of black coffee. When he looked up, he flinched at, what Miles assumed, their appearance.

"What the hell happened to you?" he asked Wright, who, frustratingly, had not stopped smiling the entire ride back. He kept his voice a low murmur. "Did it start raining again?"

"Not that I've noticed, no."

"Then what the heck happened?"

Wright shrugged. "Whatever usually happens when I walk."

"You fell." It wasn't a question. "Of course you fell. Lake?"

Wright feigned a shudder. "Ew, God forbid. No, a pool. Right after the meeting."

The younger man's eyebrows rose. "Really? Yikes."

Wright nodded enthusiastically, leaning against the counter, and Miles moved to rub his temples. "Twice actually. The second time I managed to take Edgeworth down with me." Wright turned to Miles then, and waved a hand at the employee. "Edgeworth, meet Apollo Justice, my second in command."

Apollo snorted. "You just can't say 'Assistant Manager' can you?"

Wright rolled his eyes. "Apollo, this is Miles Edgeworth," he waved the same hand. "He's the wedding planner I met with yesterday."

The man's eyes bulged, pulling back in shock. "You threw our employer--?!" he started, rather loudly. A few people in the crowd shushed him, and Miles thought he caught the man on the stage wink at Apollo. The kid blushed, cleared his throat, and tried again, softer, but just as intense. "You threw our employer into a pool!? Mr. Wright!"

At least Wright had the decency to look sheepish. He rubbed the back of his neck, looking off to the side. "It's not it did it on purpose! It--there was water everywhere, and wet tile. I was trying to keep my balance. I uh. Accidentally thumped him in the...shoulder?" This last part was asked and Wright turned to him, raising an eyebrow.

Miles scowled. "The middle of the back, Wright."

Apollo shook his head, eyebrows knitted together, looking exasperated--that a man so young could already that fed up with the man's antics was impressive--and turned to Miles.

He stood up straighter, tugging on the lapels of his ruined jacket. Bedraggled as he was, Miles was determined to cement both dignity and presence into everything he did for the rest of the night, up until the point were he unlocked the door to his apartment and spent his remaining time awake cursing Wright and his damnable balance problem. And that stupidly bright-eyed, smug grin that had been plastered onto his face since Miles had dragged himself out of the pool, coughing and cursing under his breath. 

Apollo's eye were wide and sincere when he spoke. "I am so sorry, Mr. Edgeworth," he apologized. "It, uh. I really hope this isn't going to effect our trial period." He gestured to Wright, who's eyebrows rose, following the motion. "Mr. Wright...I mean, he's...you know. Himself."

"What the heck is that supposed to mean?" Wright asked, loud enough that a few people sitting near the back hissed for their silence again.

Miles raised an eyebrow. "Nonsense. I don't believe I should punish a potentially decent partnership simply because the owner is a walking disaster area."

Apollo pressed the heels of his hands into his eyes and let out a slow sigh of relief. "Good. Okay. Uh. I'm going to go get some towels." He blinked up at Wright, and then looked at the floor and sighed. "And I guess a mop, too." He shrugged, slipping through the kitchen door and out of site.

"I'm not that bad," Wright said after a moment. Out of the corner of his eye, Miles could see the flush on the man's cheeks. 

He barely glanced at the man to respond. "Mr. Wright, the level of potential danger you present to yourself and others has been proven in my presence twice, now."

"That's an over exaggeration, don't you think?"

"I would think that," Miles told him. "But I have been in your presence a total of three times, two of which you have managed to fall over and completely drench yourself in something." He clasped his hands behind his back. "As far as I am concerned, stating that you are, to quote you, 'not that bad,' is both mathematically and factually untrue."

Instead of snorting or rolling his eyes, Wright smiled at this, and laughed. It was small and warm, a bit of sarcasm threaded into the ghost of a dimple on his left cheek. 

Something rose into Miles's throat once again, warming his chest under the coolness of his shirt. In this light, Wright's eyes didn't spark or glow like they had in the setting sun. Here they were muted, a flickering ember and an open night sky. For a moment, he wanted to get lost in them both, take his time mapping out their depths, and find out just how much mirth a man could hold in his eyes without it spilling over and into his smile.

And then it was gone, and the audience was clapping as the blond on stage thanked them for their time, and asked for their patience as the next show was setting up. Miles turned away the same moment Wright seemed to, and blushed brilliantly.

(Do not wax poetic over the man's eyes. You haven't even hired him. He threw you into a pool. He's also endearingly unorthodox when it comes to being a business owner. I've never seen a man less serious...) His mind worked over time now to berate his continued lapses in professional composure, too much time spent gazing at the other--(Not "gazing." Simply staring for a bit too long. Zoning out.)

"Hey, Klavier," Wright called over the murmur of conversation. "Good concert tonight

The man called Klavier smiled brightly, moving through the aisles of chairs, guitar in hand. "Danke, Herr Wright," he told him sincerely, once he was closer. "Though I am a bit sad you couldn't make it to the entire thing."

Wright shrugged. "Sorry. I uh. Got caught up."

Klavier chuckled. "Ja, in a hurricane, it seems. It isn't raining, is it?"

Miles was the one to answer, albeit under his breath.  "Unfortunately, no."

Klavier and Wright both turned to him, and only when Klavier had turned back to Wright with a rather curious and suggestive look in his eye, did the man remember Miles had yet to be introduced.

"Oh! Uh. Klavier, Miles Edgeworth, wedding planner. Edgeworth, Klavier Gavin." He looked at the blond and knit his eyebrows. "You know, I don't actually know what you do. Outside of this, I mean," Wright said, gesturing to the stage.

Gavin tutted, rolling his eyes dramatically if he, too, were beyond a normal level of exasperation. "Herr Wright, I am a performer! The talent! A musician!"

Wright offered the other man a teasing smile. "What was it Apollo said to you? 'Carrying around a guitar doesn't make you a musician,' right?"

As if on cue, the man himself returned from the kitchen with a stack of towels and a mop. He seemed like he was about to say something important, or so Miles thought, but once he locked eyes with a flat, bored look crossed his face. 

"Herr Forehead!" Gavin exclaimed, a bright smile on his face. "You're still here!"

Miles looked at Wright, who was watching the emotions shift from indifference to frustrated chagrin on Justice's face. "'Herr Forehead?'" he asked under his breath.

Wright laughed. "I'm honestly not sure; I came in one day and there's Klavier laughing at Apollo, who was livid and shouting--"

"Shut up. Don't call me that," Apollo ground out, setting the towels down with a bit more force than needed.

Wright grabbed a few bigger ones and handed one to Miles. "Shouting that exact thing."

Miles turned his attention away from the younger men, who'd begun to bicker, and focused on at least getting his hair dry. He methodically squeezed his bangs, running his fingers through the in an attempt to keep them from getting wavier than they already were. He pat the back of his hair, being careful not to ruffle it too much, and turned his eyes to Wright.

As he expected, the man's hair was a rat's nest. It looked like he simply rubbed the towel on it after all, and was desperately trying to tame it by running his finger back through it. He winced as they caught on a few tangles, and then his eyes were on Miles's own. 

"It uh, doesn't want to lay flat again," he explained, his tone comically defeated. "I guess there are some things only hair gel can fix." He sighed, wearing a wistful smile, and than laughed at his own joke.

Miles smiled softly, and before his mind could catch it, he murmured a quiet, "You look fine."

To anyone else, it was a thing people who knew each other said. They would complement a friend if they were fretting over themselves too much, a small thing like, "You're fine," or "Leave it, it looks great." And perhaps, if he had been thinking anything other that how nice it would be to reach out and fix it for him, Miles would have remembered that he and Wright were barely colleagues. 

He glanced at the clock on the wall. It read eight forty, and suddenly the room felt very warm, no longer comfortable. He was sure he was late for something. Feeding Pess. Getting gas on the way home. Reflecting on every point his heart seemed to speed up when it came to this man. Reasoning with himself that he'd rather put his hand in a blender that think about this man all night. Trying to forget that while he'd been introduced to Apollo that had been exactly what he'd planned to do, cursing the his name or no. 

Something.

He cleared his throat and looked at the bridge of Wright's nose--the eyes, he'd reasoned  with himself, were off limits until these....stupid, unnecessary feeling stopped. "It is quite late. I should really be going."

Wright's eyebrows shot up for a minute, and then pulled together. "Are you sure? I mean, Trucy's going on in a few minutes, and then I think we have a poetry reading lined up, or something." He nodded toward the kitchen. "I can make coffee...or...something?"

Miles was already folding the damp towel in his hands and setting it on the counter, ignoring the heat behind his ears. "No, thank you, Wright." He squared his shoulder. "I will be in contact tomorrow with Miss Byrde, and I will set up an appointment for her to do a cake tasting here, and forward her contact information."

Wright nodded quickly, but his eyebrows were still knitted. "You sure you don't want to stay for the rest of the show?" He offered a hesitant smile, and Miles hated him for it.

"No. I really must be leaving." He took a step back through the door, hoping his face didn't show the horror and recognition that came with understand exactly what this was. "I have a pet that needs feeding." 

Wright nodded and opened his mouth to say something, but Miles was out the door before he could hear what it was, his face on fire, and his heart soaring and falling with each step he took to his car.


 

July 17

8:41 PM

Wright and Co Bakery and Café (Interior)

Phoenix watched him walk away, pressing down the urge to ask him once more to stay, smothering it until "Stay a little longer," turned into a whispered-too-late, "Goodnight."

"Daddy! Your back!"

His head turned slightly, catching Trucy--clad in a blue top hat and cape--bounding toward him. There was glitter on her cheeks, and she was smiling so widely he felt the ache in his own cheeks.

"Meine kleine Magierin!" Klavier called happily. "What a wonderful surprise!"

"Klavier, hi!" Trucy hugged the taller man around his middle, and Klavier ruffled her hair affectionately. Phoenix smiled, glancing at Apollo who was staring a little too long at the hug. He would have smirked had it not taken him back to Edgeworth and his hasty retreat.

"Sorry I missed your concert," Trucy told him. "I heard you though, while I was practicing. Your Iris cover was really pretty."

Klavier flushed and smiled, detangling himself from her hug and leaning down so that he was more near her height. "Nein, nein! So long as I am your beautiful assistant tonight, I won't hold it against you."

Trucy giggled, and leaned over the counter to give Apollo and awkwardly angled hug before turing to back to him. "Hi, daddy."

"Hey, sweetie," he said. "Ready for your show?"

Trucy nodded, her hat falling a little askew. He tipped it back in place, and she went in to hug him, hesitated, and then gasped, her hands flying quickly to her mouth. It did not cover her smile. "Daddy, you're soaked! What that heck? Is it raining again?"

"Er, no," he started, rubbing the back of his neck. "Funny story--"

"Your father threw himself and Mr. Edgeworth into pool," Apollo interrupted. "Accidentally."

He pressed his lips into a thin smile and aimed the angry thing at Apollo. Klavier snorted, and Trucy was openly laughing. 

"I take it it went okay though? The garden thing? I called Aunt Maya after you left, but she said she wasn't sure how it was going to go."

Phoenix nodded, smiling fondly. The brightness of Miles eyes a brand, sealing the memory of that place. He'd done a damned good thing, speaking up like that. It was almost worth falling into that stupid pool twice

He would have fallen again and again if he could hear the other laugh one more time. Just the memory of it brought heat back to his face and neck. (I hope I can get him to do it again. Even a small smile like the one he tried to hide.)

Trucy looked behind her, and then back at Phoenix. "You'll tell me later, right?"

"Of course," he said, leaning down to hug her close and kiss her cheek. "Break a leg, pumpkin."

She giggled and trotted to the stage, and Phoenix turned to look back at the door, into the cool night air and silver streetlights that had nothing on the brightness of Edgeworth's. He sighed, and leaned against the counter, watching the door until he heard Trucy's voice up on the stage. 


July 17

9:30 PM

Edgeworth's Apartment, (Exterior, Inside his Mercedes)

His head rested on the wheel, between hands that clutched it like a life line.

(Damn that man) he thought, letting loose a deep sigh. He'd been doing nothing but attempting to keep him out of his mind the entire drive home. It was ridiculous, foolish.

There was no time for this! He had a wedding to plan, he had things that needed to get done, calls to be made. He did not have time to sit in his car with his eye closed trying to avoid the (increasingly attractive) thought of mapping Phoenix Wright's freckles out like constellations across his cheeks and imagining he was doing it to match the galaxies in the man's fucking eyes. 

(Enough of this, Miles!) he berated himself, leaning away from the wheel of his car. (This is more than idiotic, this is pure foolishness. You haven't even hired the man, and here you sit, in your car, wondering if you should have stayed.)

(I could have stayed... But that does not matter; you are a professional. He isn't even under your employment, you can't even make a decision on that! You stupid, romantic fool. These...this is just residual feelings from the excitement you find in planning a wedding. Nothing to do with Wright.)

(Oh, come off it. You're screwed, aren't you? This is the end of your professional career, a man with two left feet and beautiful eyes. Idiot.)

(Maybe not. Maybe I'm overthinking it. Perhaps this is just...nervousness. Adrenaline. Yes.)

(You bloody fool.)

He opened the door to his car, and stepped out. He would put it away for now, think about it when he had time again. 

A heavy thump landed at his heal, shattering his train of thought. He looked down to see that his personal organizer--the one with his half-baked wedding plans--was lying open and face down between his feet.

He bent down, gently retrieving it and turning it over to dust off the paper. And froze. 

The page had been flipped to the one where he'd meant to jot down the sugar sculpture idea only a day ago. He hadn't been looking at the page when he'd written, too distracted by Wright's re-entry into the kitchen and the need to hide the organizer back in his coat.

On the page, written among wishes and ideas and future dreams about a love life he'd been planning since he was nine, was a name.

Phoenix.

Damnit.

Miles was totally, irreversibly, royally, completely, and utterly screwed.

 

Chapter Text

August 10

12:31 PM

Milestone: Wedding Planners and Photography Offices (Exterior) 

It was either irony or an actual, honest-to-God pun that he tried to make. It had to be the latter, there was no way Miles Edgeworth worked at a place called Miles-tone without at least having heard the joke once before. It had taken Phoenix two full minutes to chain his bike up past the laughter.

(I'll tell him anyway, just to make sure. Knowing him, he'd have no clue) he thought, staring up at the sign of the small building. It lay in a small square of shops in the shade of several trees that were surrounded by tall, concrete flower boxes. Little purple flowers Phoenix didn't recognize swayed in the afternoon breeze, bright against the fresh mulch. It was a very clean, plain building, right down to the sidewalk with their inset tiles and stones. In a lot of ways, it was a lot like Edgeworth. Proper and professional, not a hair out of place.

Phoenix fidgeted with the collar of his shirt, buttoning the top button, unbuttoning it, and adjusting it before heading inside. He wasn't really nervous to see Edgeworth now. It had been about a month since he'd met the man, and he'd grown used to his casual coldness and his maddening need for perfection; Edgeworth had insisted he redo the flowers on Maggey's eight times, before he'd "settled" on the final arrangement. At that point, Phoenix's only reassurances had been that the lace arrangements remained the same, and that Maya told him he'd get used to "Miles' micromanaging."

He was sure he would--there was no doubt about it if he was hired--but...still. (If he didn't throw ideas at me, and instead talked it over, it would be far less frustrating. Which makes this little visit that much more trying.)

He'd come this fine August Monday to question Edgeworth on something Maya had told him a few days ago, regarding the reception. 

So what are you wearing to the wedding? Maggey said the colors for her and her husband were purple, but that's going to look terrible on you. Maya had delivered this conversation opener while he'd been unloading freshly decorated cupcakes into the display case.

I'm not wearing anything, he'd told her with a raised eyebrow.

That'll really be something, she'd teased.

When he'd asked her why it mattered, to his horror, she recounted how many times Edgeworth had insisted she attended the damned things. Formally dressed and ready to mingle. Or drink, if you disliked mandatory social gatherings as much Franziska seemed to. 

Maya I have one suit, and I think it's because used it for a Halloween party in college. This was true; second year, fall semester, he'd bought a blue suit so he and his then-girlfriend could dress as cartoon characters. It hadn't been funny then, and it wasn't funny now, but the suit was nice, so he'd kept it. Maya, it's bright blue. And there was no way in hell he was wearing that ridiculous thing to a wedding. At least, he wasn't for long. 

The inside of the offices was spacious. There was a small sitting area in the corner, decorated with grey leather chairs and a modern glass coffee table. Opposite of that was the receptionist desk, where a woman with shocking red hair and glasses was talking quietly into her headset. The walls were white, the occasional picture of a newspaper clipping or the close up of a bouquet breaking up the blank space. Tiles were lined with alternating charcoal and cream colored squares, which got a bit dizzying if you stared at it too long. Two droopy plants sat near either side of the entrance to a wide hallway, which, Phoenix assumed, was where he'd find Miles.

He started forward.

"Do you have an appointment?"

Phoenix turned quickly, offering the secretary a sheepish smile. She stared back at him with bright, serious eyes. "Uh. Miles Edgeworth. Looking for him?" Ah yes, of course his ability to speak in flowing, comprehensible sentences would leave him. Absently, he wondered if this was going to become a regular thing while working with Edgeworth; unable to act like a normal, competent, and capable human being while the man was involved.

Luckily, the woman seemed to get it, and gave him a gentle smile. "Alright. Name?"

"Wright. Phoenix." he hesitated, taking the few steps it took to get to the desk. "I don't think I made an appointment?"

The woman raised an eyebrow, and scanned a datebook in front of her, confirming his words. "No," she said slowly. "I don't believe you have. At least, I haven't written anything down. Are you a walk-in?"

Phoenix shrugged. "Yeah, I guess so." He turned toward the hallway. "Should I just...?" he pointed, toward the hall, leaving the sentence empty. 

The red-headed secretary shook her head quickly, sitting down in her desk chair again. "I'm afraid Mr. Edgeworth is in a meeting right now, and cannot be interrupted. However, if you'd like, you can take a seat," she nodded toward the leather sofa closest to them, "and wait until he's finished. I'm sure he'd love to discuss your wedding plans once he--"

"Wait, what?" 

The woman raised her eyebrows, both of them lifting shockingly high over the frames of her glasses. "Oh, there's nothing to be shy about, Mr. Wright. Wedding's are what we do."

Phoenix blinked at her, taking a moment to collect himself. Had that been what she'd meant by walk-in? "Oh, no. No, no no no. I'm not here to see Edgeworth about a marriage--"

The woman--if he squinted, he could make out that the small name tag on her jacket read H. Fright--smiled kindly at him. "It's quite alright. Or haven't you proposed to her yet?" Her tone was teasing, but the look in her eyes seemed to say she'd seen more people walk in with a similar situation. 

"There's no woman, trust me," Phoenix chuckled nervously. Despite himself, he could feel the burning heat that was already in his cheeks rise to his ears. 

"Oh, I see," Miss Fright told him seriously. "Don't worry sir, being engaged to another man is hardly something Milestone discourages, if that's what you're worried about. It's 2016." 

Phoenix waved his hands in front of him, trying to wave the accusations away as if they were smoke. "No, no, promise! No wedding, no man, no woman! I just need to see Edgeworth, sometime today--"

"You..." she interrupted hesitantly. "I mean, of course, I'm his secretary, but he doesn't tell me everything. You wouldn't happen to be proposing--"

"Please do not finish that sentence."

Fright shook her head. "My apologies, then. But I couldn't imagine another reason why you'd be this adamant to see him."

"I'm the baker!" Wright said, his voice exasperated and just a bit too loud. He tried to dial it back a bit; after all, he wasn't Apollo. "I'm the baker for the Byrde and Gumshoe wedding, I just need to go over a few details with Edgeworth--"

A few feet from him, a door in the hallway swung open, and loud chatter filled the area as Wright looked up. Two young women were stepping out of what looked to be a darkroom.

"The composition here is great," one was saying, holding out a larger photograph in front of them. She tossed a lock of raven hair out of her face before continuing. "Especially the lighting, around her face? If this is all natural lighting, you somehow got it to make her face look...just wow!"  

The woman next to her, a smaller and with light brown hair, crossed her arms. "That one did, sure. But we took at least twenty five photo's, and only ten of them are useable. The rest..."

"The ones that are developing are fine!"

"No, the angle is wrong on at least three of them, and the light is too bright in the rest. We're trying to photograph some nice wedding pictures, not pure white, over-exposed blobs. They're completely unusable."

The darker girl nudged the other with her arm. "Don't say that! Mrs. Kitaki is going to love what we have here, I'm sure of it. Even her son looks good, how'd you swing that?"

The girl snorted. "Yeah, that I don't know. All I know his with the amount of noise he made complaining, I can't use the freaking park as a shooting location anymore. Rent-a-cop park rangers said so. I might ask Mr. Edgeworth if he can put a good word in for me at that garden where he booked the Gumshoe wedding. Might be nice to work with the different array of colors and flowers."

At this, Phoenix perked up. 

He also must have made some sort of noise, because both girls looked up at him, a bit shocked. 

"Well, hi there, stranger!" This came from the dark haired girl, who was now tucking the photos under her arm to stretch out a hand. "Welcome to Milestone!" she looked to Miss Fright and smiled impossibly wider. "Is he a walk in?"

"Yes," Fright said as Wright shook his head and sputtered out, "No."

The small brunette snorted. "Are you here for Faraday or Edgeworth, sir?"

Phoenix sighed. "I'm here to see Edgeworth. But not to talk anything about marriage. Well, not mine, anyway."

The young woman with the smile tilted her head. "Oh? Then who's?" She nibbled her lip in thought. "I mean, I am his best friend, so he probably tells me everything. I would think he'd mention it if he was getting married..."

Phoenix's protests caught in his his throat, quite literally, and whatever he was about to say dissolved into a choking fit. I'm pretty sure it was going to be something like 'no one in this room is getting married'.)

When he recovered, a pale hand with bright red fingernails held out a small paper cup for him. He gave Fright and embarrassed, thankful smile. 

"Mr. Wright is here for the Gumshoe wedding, Miss Faraday," Fright supplied as he drank. "Apparently, he's the baker Mr. Edgeworth hired."

The brunette's eyebrows shot up. "Oh, no way. The Mr. Wright who dumped our boss into a pool a few weeks ago?"

Again, he felt himself color. (Evidently, my reputation precedes me. Strange, since Edgeworth doesn't seem the type to gossip.)  Slowly, sheepishly, he nodded. "Uh, yeah. Yeah. Phoenix Wright. Nice to meet you."

The brunette nodded enthusiastically. "Likewise. Ema Skye," she held her hand out. "I'm a photographer here."

He turned to the darker girl, who thrust her hand into his face, smiling brightly behind it. "I'm Kay, Kay Faraday. I do cultural and themed weddings. Welcome to Milestone!" Somehow her smile grew wider when Phoenix reached up to grasp her hand. "So it was you who threw Mr. Edgeworth into a pool, huh?"

"I didn't throw him into a pool," he mumbled. 

Kay laughed. "It's okay if you did, you know. Sometimes, when he's being sappy about weddings, wanna throw him in a pool."

Phoenix smiled and snorted. Edgeworth seemed too professional, too caught up in getting things perfect to get "sappy" over planning a wedding. But then again, he wasn't one to judge a book by its cover.

"You wanted to see Mr. Edgeworth, right?" Ema asked him, jerking a thumb over her shoulder. "Kay can take you back to him, if you want."

"I...thought he was in a meeting?" Phoenix asked, turing to look over his shoulder at Fright. 

She nodded, and directed her gaze at Kay. "He specifically told me not to let anyone come back there until he was finished, Miss Faraday."

It was Kay who answered for her, and she seemed exasperated. "Oh, he's been in that meeting for hours! It's probably fake, or maybe wrapping up."

"Somehow, I doubt it." She turned to give Wright a hesitant smile. "But if Miss Faraday insists, you may follower her."

Kay let a quiet "yes!" and handed Ema the stack of photos. "I'll call Mrs. Kitaki about these and let her know to come take a look."

Ema grimaced down at the pile in her arms. "Please, take all the time in the world to do that. I need to do some editing on them, and I really, really, don't want to redo this photo shoot a third time. Or this wedding, ever again."

Kay pat her shoulder reassuringly. "It'll be fine. I'll take the fall for it if it turns out she finds a flaw or something. Again."

She turned to Phoenix and swept her arm toward the hallway. "Shall we?"

Phoenix nodded. "Lead the way."

The hallway was longer than Phoenix had first thought, though it was all white walls and shut doors. 

"So you're a baker?" Kay asked, falling into step behind him. She offered him an encouraging smile. "That's really awesome, you know. Miles has been going from bakery to bakery for different weddings for, like, years. I'm glad he finally settled down and found one."

(What a choice of phrasing) Phoenix thought, blushing and stuffing his hands into his pockets. "I'm actually not his baker. Officially, anyway."

Kay crossed her arms and tilted her head. "So what? You're on a trial period, or something?"

Phoenix shrugged. "Yeah, I am, actually. That's actually what he called it."

Kay stopped walking and groaned, bodily moving with the tormented sound. Phoenix felt his eyebrows arch and he reared back a bit. She actually looked pained. "You are kidding me!" She stood straight again and placed a hand on his arm and pat it gently. It was a pretty strange action for someone who was her height. She was taller than Trucy, but her head barley hit under his nose. Most of her height came from her ridiculously high hairdo she seemingly wore with pride. "He actually told you you were a trail run?"

Phoenix couldn't help but laugh a bit at her distress. "Uh, well yeah. But, I mean, normal jobs do that, don't they? For ninety days, and then you're officially out of the woods." He shrugged. It made about as much sense as anything else, plus a wedding cake for a single wedding instead of walking on eggshells for a few months seemed like a better trade.

Kay nodded slowly, and then shook her head. "It is a normal part of the hiring process, that's true. But when you've been a wedding planner for as long as he has and you still can't commit to at least two different bakeries, you have a big problem with commitment. I mean I broke down and officially hired Kitaki Traditions three weddings in. Miles has hired one company that I've seen since I was an intern. And I'm twenty four now."

He raised an eyebrow. That hire had to have been Maya, but that was only a year and a half ago. "No one else?"

Kay shrugged. "Sure he's gotten close. And I'm always behind his decisions one hundred percent, don't get me wrong! Always telling him 'Yeah, hire them! I like their design!' or 'Their cake was really good! The owner is very nice!' and once he seems really settle on it..." She stood up straight, put the heel of her hand on her chest while wiggling her fingers, and lowered her voice into a clipped, barely accented one. "'I cannot hire them, since I barely know the company, Kay. It does not make any sense to commit to anything ever because I am a huge fraidy-cat!'"

Phoenix burst out laughing at the impression, and pointed to her hand. "What's that supposed to be?"

"His neck tissues. Ruffling gently in the breeze"

His eyebrow arched, and he snorted. "You...mean a cravat? I...have never seen him wear one." And thank god for that. The thought that he even owned one was down right laughable. 

"Actually, it's a jabot. Apparently, there's a difference." She made air-quotes around the words "jabot" and "difference," and lowered her voice to match Edgeworth's again giving him a droll stare before grinning again and giggling.

"So you work with the Kitaki family?" Phoenix asked as they picked up their pace again. "They're a really good bakery."

"I know. They have some of the best cake designs I've ever seen."

He wouldn't doubt it. The family working there often made beautiful chocolate sculptures for their own pastries. He'd be lying if he said he wasn't just a bit jealous of the craftsmanship. "If I heard you correctly back there, you're doing their son's wedding as well?"

Kay smiled ruefully. "His second wedding. To the same woman, no less. The fiancée obviously can't stand him, and Mrs. Kitaki can't stand her, so when the pictures make her look too flattering, she get's nitpicky. And then when we do them her way, Miss Tiala--that's the fiancée--gets upset because the pictures aren't to her standards."

He winced in sympathy. "Yikes."

Kay shrugged. "Depends on your definition of 'yikes.' I mean, the Kitaki's are really great people to work with, and it's an honor that they trust me to make their sons the special day...well special. Especially twice."

(That's a lot of "specials") Phoenix thought. 

"The thing is, it's enough to make you skeptical of the whole thing." They stopped again, this time in front of two closed doors, Kay leaning on the one to his right. "Don't get me wrong; I don't care about divorces. If you don't like the person anymore, and if you aren't happy, then there's no reason to stay together. Everyone deserves a storybook ending. You know?"

He didn't, really, since he'd never been divorced. Nor did he really understand the purpose of believing in "story book endings." Not that he ever told anyone that, in so many words. He wasn't a skeptic either. 

But when you were in love, it was typically always going to be a game of one-sided give or take, at least in his experiences. Person A wears their heart on their sleeve, and Person B does too. But the weather changes, and when the sleeves get longer or shorter, one of them usually doesn't have a heart on it anymore. From there I love you's become less and less, and then things go unsaid and pile up like office paper work until one day, Person B sweeps all of the papers off the table and starts a row that turns into an argument which becomes an eventual war. And then both A and B carry the wounds openly and pick at each other's until another fight breaks out. A vicious cycle that became more Animal Planet than Hallmark until eventually the program was cancelled.

Okay. He was a tiny bit of a skeptic. 

But he nodded anyway. "Sure."

Kay smiled. "Well that's just it with Miss Tiala. She doesn't care about having a storybook ending, or any kind of ending. So long as she had the famous name Kitaki." The girl slumped a little more against her door and pouted. "I've even asked Miles about it, but he just says the same thing, over and over."

"Oh? What does he say?" 

She huffed. " 'Just do the wedding and congratulate them. Let Alita know she's really got someone special, and don't get too involved. It's better putting their happiness together than worrying about when it falls apart.' Wise stuff from someone who practically has to use an inhaler every time a couple so much as holds hands in public."

Phoenix laughed. "I'm sure he's just doing his job. You can't really get attached to a wedding right?"

Kay's eyebrows rose and her mouth quirked. "Oh, you must not've know Miles very long, then. How long ago was it that you pulled him into a pool?"

"I didn't--! He fell in because I tripped! I didn't push or pull him in!"

"Yeah, okay, sure, but how long ago?"

He shrugged, a bit exasperated. "A month, give or take."

Kay nodded. "Just wait until you see him work first hand, Mr. Wright. He lights up, and the Gumshoe wedding is really getting to him. He's so excited for Gummy, and for Maggey, and every time he talks about it, his eyes go far away, and you can just see how much fun he's having with it. He's got to be the soppiest, most romantic nerd I've ever had the pleasure of knowing." She was grinning brightly again. "I know he says not to get involved with the wedding, but at least his eyes say the same thing I keep thinking."

The thought of Edgeworth looking like a lovestruck fool did strange, flippy things to his chest, and he quickly put it out of his mind. "Well, what are you thinking?"

Kay nibbled her lip a bit, trying to keep her smile small. "You can't laugh, okay?"

Well, she couldn't expect him not to when she asked that. "Go ahead. I'll try my best."

"I keep thinking to tell poor Wocky, 'She's not your true love.'"

He barely snorted, but she frowned at the noise and then clucked her tongue at him. He went to rub the back of his neck. "Sorry. I didn't mean to laugh. It's a really sweet sentiment, you know. You sound kind of like my daughter, or my niece." In fact, all of this romantic talk sounded right up Pearl's alley.

Kay shrugged. "I like to think I'm young at heart. Good to know others see it too." She stood straight again, and reached for the knob to the door behind her. "Anyway, he should be in door behind you. Mind, the girls he's with might still be in there, so if they're actually in a meeting and not 'talking shop' because he's bored, just come in here and have a seat okay?"

Phoenix nodded and held out his hand for her to shake. "Thanks, er, Kay? Or Miss Faraday?"

She smiled a huge grin and took his hand, shaking it quickly and happily. "Call me Kay, please! Oh! Could I call you Phoenix? I got a feeling you'll be sticking around, and I don't wanna have to be super formal all the time."

He nodded, his cheeks going pink. "Yeah, sure! Or Nick, if you want. A few friends of mine call me that." 

"Nick it is then!" She stepped into her room and gave him a thumbs up. "Go get 'im, Nicky!"

He waited until she'd closed the doors, still smiling. She was pretty peppy compared to Edgeworth, How did that kind of joy and energy not rub off on him, not even a little bit?

Phoenix shrugged and opened the door to Miles' office without hesitation. If he hesitated, he'd forget to ask him about the whole 'attending the reception' thing, chicken out, and end up having to wear that stupid suit. 

"Hey, Miles? Sorry to interrupt, I just--"

He stopped. Miles looked up from his desk, covered in papers and pins and paper clips. On either side of him were two women, different in hair, but identical in face. One of them, with dark hair and honest eyes, gapped, and then gave him a nervous smile. The other, red haired and grinning like she had an awful secret to tell, stared at him for much too long.

"Oh. My god. Holy freaking shit. Feenie?"

He gapped, his eyebrows near-risen off of his head. His very own Person B crossed her arms and smiled. 

"Dollie?"


August 10

12:45 PM

Milestone: Wedding Planners and Photography Offices (Interior, Miles Edgeworth's Office) 

They'd been at this for hours. A circle of choosing colors and designs and trying to decide where to add in lace on Maggey's dress. His desk was currently covered in the designs the both women had drawn up over the last month, measurements scrolled on napkins and sticky notes, color swatches, loose lace, and fabrics. The more he stared, the worse his headache became. There was too little time to rectify the colors, and it should have been brought to his attention a month ago. Doing this now, so close to the wedding...

(Nonsense.) The Hawthorne sisters had been working in tandem with him for years, and whenever a problem like this reared its head, they fixed it. Always. 

And yet...

"But that won't work!" Iris argued, her arms out at her sides, fingers fanned. It was the most frustrated Miles had ever seen her. "I can't do a purple lace shawl without taking away from the dress' design and color, and if Mr. Gumshoe wears a purple suit--"

"It takes away from Maggey's dress, I know!" This was Dahlia, and she was pacing, holding two different shades of white fabric in her hands. "God, this close to the wedding and we've managed absolutely nothing! No progress with this design at all!"

"Which is a shame," Iris agreed softly. "I want to get it right. Maggey has the prettiest figure, and she's so delicate."

"And Richard is a hulking mass! If we dress him in purple, he look's slimmer, but he engulfs Maggey. If he's in a normal tux, Maggey looks too ordinary! And if we put him in a lighter color without something to balance it, he looks huge."

Miles grimaced. "He's really not that big," he reasoned quietly.

He turned his eyes to Dahlia, who rolled her eyes in return. "Width, Miles! Width! His shoulders are twice the size of a normal person's! And he dwarfs Maggey anyway, but with a bold color, he becomes massive. Slim, yes, but massive!"

"But if we stick with the cream color, Richard looks like he's expanding, and poor Maggey's dress just makes her blend."

"Which is why I am telling you, dear sister, adding another color to the dress could work if you use lace!"

"Dahlia, where would it go? Around the shoulders? Laying on top of the white? Because this dress is a halter style, and the skirt wouldn't look right with the lace, it would swollow her. She's meant to look like a princess. Why don't you change the tie? Or the vest color?"

Dahlia groaned and pulled herself up so sit on the corner of Miles' desk. "You're going to have to figure it out, Iris, because there's not much I can do. Finding a new vest color that would sit well in that garden, with all it's colors? Please. I'd need a month." 

Miles rolled his eyes. "Miss Dahlia, I believe that to be a little melodramatic. And as a reminder, I'll ask you not to sit on my desk."

She ignored that. "What about the bouquet?" Dahlia looked at Edgeworth expectantly. "What kind of flower arrangement is Maya doing? If we can figure that out--"

Miles waved a hand dismissively. "I thought about it already. If you're thinking in terms of color, it's an arrangement of lilac colored lisianthus and freesha, irises, and white roses. They were picked before the dress colors, unfortunately." He looked to Iris. "Does she really want to use lace on her dress?"

Iris nodded, looking a bit sheepish. "She said it didn't matter, but she looked so happy when I told her it wasn't a problem. I don't want to let her down."

Both women sighed. Miles did too, and ran his hands through his hair, leaning back into his chair. His bangs were already starting stay back, a sign he'd been doing that for quite awhile. It didn't matter, truly, not right now. His appearance could remain somewhat lacking, would remain that way until they found a way to incorporate the colors evenly. 

He looked at the lace again. So far, they had the choice between pure white and cream colored, like the fabrics Dahlia had brought. If he was being entirely honest, neither fit what the Hawthorne sisters seemed to want. Nor did they fit the bride herself. The dress would look lovely on Maggey without any other enhancements. Gumshoe, by extension, could just wear white, if he wanted to match her. "It's been three hours," he mumbled. "We have not made a dent in these plans in three hours. Perhaps they should dress in traditional wedding garb." 

He didn't mean that, of course, and neither Iris nor Dahlia so much as blinked at the statement. This dress would be perfect, as it always was. This wedding would be beautiful, and damn it they were going to figure it out. 

"Miles, hold on," Iris said suddenly. She plastered herself to his unoccupied side and pointed to the picture he'd been staring at. Maggey's dress. "What about in here?"

Dahlia leaned over as well. "What? You said there was lace in there, right?"

Iris nodded, but her lips were pressed together in thought. "There is. But what if we..." she moved her finger around the middle area, highlighting under the bust, around the hips. "If I do this in purple lace..."

Miles' eyebrows rose, impressed. "Actually that's not a bad idea."

Dahliah gasped. "Oh my god. She could pull off a shade lavender or lilac, right?" When Iris nodded, she continued. "So can Richard. I could make the suit white instead, or even tailor one we have to him, and figure out a vest and tie to go with it."

Iris nibbled her lip. "But what to do with the rest of it? I mean, it sounds pretty but like there wouldn't be enough..."

All at once, the last few visits to Wrights bakery cam rushing back to Miles, and he sat up straight. The cake was to be dripping in lace and purple, sugar sculpted freesha around the edges. It had taken Wright several tries to get them right, but the decorations had finally become worthy of the bride and groom. "Iris, what are the odds you are able to create flowers out of lace?"

A smile bloomed across her face. "I can do it easily. Freesha?"

He smiled back; Iris had always been able to read minds in her own way. 

The next few minutes were filled with both sisters swapping ideas and designs with very little input from Miles. He'd taken a few classes in design when he'd been in school, but besides the math of it, nothing really stood out to him. It had dawned on him eventually that he was planning on making dreams become reality, not dresses. His ideas came in handy most of the time, but once the sisters got to talking, he could barely keep up, let alone offer sound advice. So he left them to it, instead starting to tidy up the mess that had become his desk. 

A squeal of happiness and a loud chatter came from just outside the door, and he smiled when the twins stopped talking to stare. 

"How's Kay been by the way?" Dahlia asked, returning to his side and gathering up some of the suit notes he hadn't gotten too. "I'm starting to miss her. It seems like only a few short days ago she was barely interning here."

Miles chuckled. "She's well. And though I'm loath to admit it, it's been about five years since she first arrived as my intern."

Iris smiled and took a stack of papers from his desk. "And now look at her. She's just as successful as you are, Miles. I still feel the pride left over from her first wedding."

"And feel really old," Dahlia sighed. "Oh, to be young again."

Miles snorted. "Hardly. We're still young at heart, according to Miss Faraday." Dahlia cackled, and Miles frowned. "I beg your pardon, but what is so funny about that?"

Iris was the one that answered. "Dahlia is a firm believer that 'young at heart' is a term reserved for twenty year old children and romantics."

Miles colored when Dahlia laughed again. It was the reason he often preferred Iris to her twin; Iris was always more of a romantic, much like little Pearl. Dahlia did not believe in love, only a "temporary lust" both parties felt until it was no longer fun. And while he understood the sentiment, he could never seem to get used to her condescending stare or delicate snorts on the subject of falling in love.

He was about to defend himself against her laughter when the door swung open. Miles jumped at the voice that followed. 

"Hey, Miles? Sorry to interrupt--"

(And barge right in, unannounced, what in the world, what happened to making appointments--)

"--I just..."

There was a terrible, frozen moment where Phoenix Wright simply stared in horror at his current company in mute silence, with something that looked akin to pure terror in his eyes. At first, Miles had thought it simply because he'd walked in on a the meeting. Whether it had been ending or not, it was fairly rude. Perhaps he was finally learning some manners, a little professional decorum...

"Oh. My god. Holy freaking shit." This was Dahlia, and the full force of his confusion was directed at her. "Feenie?"

(Who?)

Wright seemed to flinch at the nickname, but still managed to look just as shell shocked. "Dollie?"

(Oh, surely you must be joking.)

Another moment and a half passed in silence before Wright spoke again. "What the hell are you doing here?"

Dahlia laughed, a cruel, cold laugh Miles had never actually heard from her. "Oh-ho no, I think I should be asking that! My god, you aren't getting married are you?" 

Iris sighed. "Dahlia...."

Wright rolled his eyes. "So what if I was?"

Dahlia snorted. "Laughable."

Wright made an indignant noise and crossed his arms. "Oh please, like you can actually go anywhere near weddings. You have a vortex where your heart should be, remember?"

"Oh, grow up," Dahlia drawled, somehow sounding both bored and venomous. Miles watched her carefully, more than a bit stunned that she was actually using the cliché of checking her nails to look bored. "You act like I'm hear to take someone's soul away."

The bark of tense laughter from Wright sounded very much like an unspoken "aren't you?" and Miles shot the other man an icy look. 

"You aren't doing his wedding, are you Miles? My god, look at him. If you are, you have to give me all the juicy details."

Miles shook his head, in both confusion and denial. "No, I am not. He's without romantic attachment, last I checked." 

Dahlia seemed triumphant at this. "See?"

"See what?" the man retorted. "I never said I was hear to ask about my wedding."

Wright's eyes found his, and Miles raised an eyebrow in a silent question. "Edgeworth, I'll, uh. Talk you you when you're done with your meeting, I guess."

Before he could close the door, and before Miles could ask any questions, Dahlia chased him with a question. "What wedding are you after then, Don Juan?"

Phoenix turned back and smiled, saccharine sweet. "The Gumshoe wedding, actually. And from what I can see drawn on those pictures you have, I'm guessing you are too. Fancy that."

Iris jumped in before Dahlia could. Or himself. "So you're the baker Miles told us about?"

Phoenix turned to her and smiled, just a bit. It was small, and sheepish, and a little bit guilty. Nothing like his usual ones. How very...odd. "Yeah. The trial baker, but yeah. Hi, Iris."

"Hello, Phoenix."

"You're doing Maggey's dress, I take it?" Still in a very light, distant tone. Walking on eggshells was not something Wright did well often, but it was quite the sight to behold. Something tugged in his chest, a very small part of his heart that wondered in pity-covered curiosity why he was doing it. 

"I am," Iris answered, her voice soft and kind. "And my sister is doing Mr. Gumshoe's suit, of course. We've only just finished discussing what all of it would look like. We're going with lilac, I think."

Wright nodded a bit in approval, and then flushed a deep red. "I suppose you'll be implementing freesha, right? Because hues are hard enough to mix, but making that flower is so much more difficult. And if you're using lilac as the color..." 

Iris winced in sympathy. "I see. I imagine sculpting anything out of sugar would be difficult. I'll take your words into account, of course. "

There was another beat of silence before Wright cleared his throat and jerked a thumb over his shoulder. "I'm just going to...wait out here."

"Quite." It was the first thing he'd been able to get out, and it didn't even fit as a proper response to Wright's dismissal. 

The door clicked shut, and he sprung into action. "Miss Dahlia, what on Earth was that? Never have I seen such a display from you."

Dahlia gave and exasperated laugh and began to gather the rest of her papers. "What? Feenie?"

"Y-yes!" he stuttered, still not used to the name. "That! And who in the world is Dollie?"

"Well," she said slowly, saccharine sweet and completely false, "I believe it's what one would call a pet name. Occasionally, old lovers, or past lovers, will used it to hurt the other in attempt to goad them into leaving the area."

He shut his eyes, pressed his head into his waiting palms and groaned. "You mean to tell me that whatever I've just witnessed was a quarrel between you and a previous lover?" 

"Well, I wouldn't put it so gently using million-dollar wording, but yes. We dated, fooled around, and then I decided I wasn't having fun anymore."

Miles groaned. How utterly mortifying; his office and image in disarray, a lover's (Ex-lovers, really) spat in his presence, and all in the span of about six minutes. It was enough to make him want to crawl into a hole. Good grief, but the second hand embarrassment alone could kill any ordinary man. 

(Good Lord.) 

Iris pat his shoulder sympathetically. "Miles, thank you for today. You were a big help," she told him awkwardly. The whole thing was awkward now, wasn't it. "Dahlia and I should really get going, though. Have to get this started if we want the Gumshoe's to be fitted in time."

Dahlia sighed and moved toward the door. "And I was having so much fun." In a lighter, kinder tone, she added, "Take care of yourself, Miles. Drink some water, make sure to eat, get some rest, and all that."

They exited, and as they did so he heard Dahlia murmur something that sounded quite like an insult, and Wright giving a frustrated huff in response. His head was still in his hands by the time the other man had taken a seat.

"Your office is nice," Wright pipped, and he could hear the other's head swivel to take in the sight. "Kind of comfy. Which, I guess if you hole yourself up in here a lot, it should be. I especially like the huge elephant in the room."

Miles groaned. "There is no way to make a joke without somehow making whatever that was worse, Wright." 

Wright snorted. "It was just a small argument. Not even. Just...mostly shock. The Hawthorne sisters live on the other side of LA, and because of that, I don't run into them often."

Miles scoffed,  bringing his eyes up to at least glare at Wright. "Did you not just tell one of LA's top wedding dress designers she had no heart? Forgive me, but I don't think many insults are brought up simply by shock."

Wright opened his mouth, meaning to argue, and but shrugged instead. "You try running into...someone from your past. It's not a pleasant feeling. Sue me."

"Unfortunately I don't think anyone would take the case." There was a brief pause. "Dare I ask about your lover's tiff?"

Phoenix scoffed. "Hey, ex. Ex-lover's tiff." He leaned back in the chair a bit and rubbed the back of his neck and under his eyes, as if worn from the ordeal. Miles tracked the movement with his eyes, hearing the calluses gently scrape along the surface of what looked to be a barely there morning scruff. Perhaps his own unkempt appearance held no merit if Wright had decided not to shave. He didn't seem like he came here in a hurry, but rather on a slow and lazy day and simply could not be bothered. 

Not that it looked bad. Unprofessional, certainly, and definitely lazy, but decidedly not bad.

(Actually, give it a few hours more of growth, and it might be something worth looking at. Not that he isn't... Oh this is nonsense. You are only thinking that because you've been working with designers for three hours, and you're starting to think like one.  Except I believe that's a photographer's mindset, and anyway, you've always been terrible at design.)

(Oh, just shut up.)

"Look, there's not much to tell if you did. Ask, I mean," Wright continued. "Dollie and I went to college together, and we met because my minor and her major had a class that coincided with the both of them. It didn't last more than a year and a half. Maybe two? I forget. Anyway, I wanted to bake, and she wanted to make clothes, and we agreed that we'd open a wedding business when we got married. As you can see, we never got married, and the relationship ended horribly. Which was a good thing that it ended, but kind of a shame, because our arguments usually led to Iris trying to make peace between us and then she ended up having to choose a side and she...it was kinda..ugh. Like I said. Crap past relationship. Big, huge mess."

Miles tilted his head, interest piqued. "A wedding dress and cake shop? How very..." Romantic, adorable, sweet, caring, cute, "...quaint." Wonderful.

Phoenix shrugged. "I mean, at the time, I thought it was nice. But logically, you can't really have a dress store and a bakery together. Two different kinds of messes."

Miles nodded. "You don't look the romantic type. It is unexpected to hear such plans were yours."

Wright shook his head. "It wasn't really, just a suggestion we liked at the time."

"Then I supposed all sentiment attached to it...?"

"Yeah. No longer there, no longer appealing. Look. Can we...not talk about my love life, actually? Wedding planner or not, it's kind of something I avoid discussing on principle."

Miles gave him a droll stare. "Because you are no longer a romantic?"

The other man scoffed. "No, actually. According to my daughter, I'm a 'cynical romantic.' I believe in love ironically."

Good enough answer, he supposed. Delivered sarcastically, but good enough. Miles sighed heavily and sat up straight, hoping in the the back of his mind that, despite the wrinkled parts of his suit and utterly destroyed hair, he still cut an imposing figure. According to the wilting figure that was Wright, he certainly did. 

Miles cleared his throat. "I would like to ask that you make an appointment if you wish to speak to me in the future, Wright, to avoid future...incidents. I also ask that you listen to Miss. Fright, as I expressly told her to tell anyone who wished to speak to me do so after I had seen both women out of my office."

"Kay said I could come back here." Though it was probably meant to sound conversational, the words came out a sullen mumble, like a five year old child.

"Miss Faraday is usually under the wrong impression when it comes to how I wish to spend my office hours."

Wright snorted. "Yeah, I noticed. Look, what happened with the whole barging in thing--"

He rolled his eyes. "Now is really not the time for dramatics. You barged into my office and had a row with a professional designer in front of your boss. It happened, it was incredibly unprofessional, and resulted in the worst headache--" and secondhand embarrassment, "--that I have had in a long time."

Wright's hand crept to the back of his neck, and he offered a sheepish grin. "So I guess now would probably not be a good time to ask any last minute questions about the wedding?"

Miles let out a slow breath and closed his eyes. He leaned back in his chair. Handsome scruff or not, this man would cause him no end of grief. "What on Earth have you done, Wright? What wrench have you thrown into my meticulously made wedding plans?"   

"Wow," Wright deadpanned. "Where'd you steal that line from?"

"Wright, I have a very long day ahead of me. Just because this wedding is the main focus of my time does not mean it is my only wedding. There are others that I must be working on." He let his eyes open into slits so he could glare at the other. "So either tell me, or show yourself out. I have no time for useless exposition."

Wright sighed. "Okay. Uhm. So Maya told me something the other day, something interesting." He cleared his throat, and a small flush crawled onto his cheeks. "See we were talking about the cake decorations, and then she told me about the flowers, right? And we started talking color theory, and then we started talking about the colors the Gumshoes color scheme--which by the way, I didn't get a good look at the dress, but from what I could see, the design for Maggey's was--"

Miles groaned. "Sometime in the next century, Wright."

"Yeah, sorry. I..." he hesitated. "I don't have to go to the reception right? Just...drop off the cake and leave, I can do that instead?"

Miles' eyes snapped open. "What? Why?" He sat up straight, leaning forward and folding his hands on his desk. Wright didn't want to go to the wedding? Or, well, the reception, at least. It was the day his cake design would be debuted. Did he not care who tasted the cake, or about the newly weds feeding the other a piece? Miles was aware that it wasn't everyone's favorite part of a wedding, but Wright's first official cake was soon to be apart of a timeless tradition. Was he not even a little excited to see that? "But. You're making the cake." 

Wright shrugged. "Well...yes. But I don't really need to be there, right? I mean, I don't have to stay."

Miles shook his head. "I'm not sure I follow you."

Wright shrugged. "Seeing my cake wouldn't be that big of a deal, you know?" His eyes were darting away from the desk, flitting over the small pictures hanging on the walls. Shying away from the subject.

"Regardless," Miles said slowly. "It is a requirement I make of those whose help I employ. If you do not show, I will assume that I was right, and that you are not serious about the position offered." 

Wright's jaw dropped. "Okay, that's not even remotely fair!"

Miles simply shrugged. "Miss Fey had no quarrel with coming during her first day of employment, and she prepared in hours time. If you feel unprepared for the wedding, you have a week to get over your inane fear."

"Look, I'm serious about the job, you've seen my work, you know that, but I don't--"

Miles raised his eyebrows high, incredulous, and Wright paused. "Wright, I understand that some people have no time for things like romance, and weddings." Boy, did he ever. "But if I am to take you and your bakery seriously, I suggest you put aside your aversion to romance, and--"

"You dance at weddings. And I cannot dance. Not if my life depended on it." Despite the casual tone, Wright was hunched over in miserable resignation, the admittance apparently weighing him down. 

Miles let out a short chuckle, one that he felt no reason to hide. It wasn't often someone could shock him into silence, or into incredulous laughter. He prepared himself for every outcome in a wedding, every possible thing that could go wrong, and came up with a solution. Usually applied before it even happened. He tended to be less pansophical with colleges and clients, but it wasn't often he was consistently surprised by another person. And yet here was Wright.

"That's your problem?" he asked. Wright's face flushed further still, despite the scowl. "You cannot dance, and therefore you cannot show yourself at the wedding. That is your logic. Am I wrong?"

"No! I mean, yes!" Wright protested. "It's...also because the only suit I have is ridiculous."

Miles pressed a hand over his mouth, hiding his smile. "If that is all," he started, speaking through the spaces between his fingers, "then I must say that's a rather poor excuse."

"So I have to go?" The sullen tone made it harder for him to hold back his laughter. 

"Yes. You must attend. And," he interjected, before Wright could speak, his mouth left hanging open like a codfish. "And, you must stay for the duration of the reception. At least until the bouquet is thrown."

The other man groaned and ran a hand through his hair. "I don't have to dance, right? Please, please tell be that's not a requirement."

Miles shook his head. "No, I don't believe I said anything about dancing. But your lack of attendance--and I suppose, if you attend, your enthusiasm--would appear rude to the bride and groom."

There was something floating in the space between them, an idea waiting to be voiced.  If Wright acted sullen and sulky like a child, it was no use trying to hire him. He would play wallflower at the wedding, attempting to make idle small talk with passerby, of that, Miles was certain. And that was all he was asking Wright to do, if he was being honest. But the idea was still there, still hovering in front of him, still stuck in his chest, a quivering ball of excitement at the idea. It was a very bad idea, and as his potential employer, dangerous. 

(So do not ask. Do not propose the idea.) "However, if it is your performance on the dance floor you're worried about, I am willing to teach you the basics." (Or do.)

Wright looked startled for a moment, flinching back in his chair, eyebrows high on his head and dual colored eyes shocked at the offer. 

Miles felt his own face and neck grow warm, and he backtracked. "My apologies, Wright. The offer was quite sudden, not to mention uncouth. I--"

"Yes." 

His own eyebrows rose. "Pardon?"

Suddenly Wright was standing, smiling brilliantly, and Miles could feel his stomach flip. Just a little, just enough to dismiss it as the sudden surprise that came with the other's quick movement. "Yes! You would do that?"

"I...er, yes, if that is something you think would help. I don't see why not." Oh, yes he did. Because dancing with Phoenix Wright was bound to be another adventure where one or both of them fell flat on their faces. Because the thought of leading the other man made his heart skip a few beats. Because the though of the other man leading him made his mouth dry and his tongue useless. Because the thought of being that close to this odd man with no sense of formality or romance, that close to to his face, made his mind fuzzy and his knees feel suddenly weak.

Wright was smiling nodding. "Great! That's...this is great! Thank you!" He jerked a thumb behind him. "I should probably get out of your hair, but, uh. If you can, tomorrow at six? It's when we usually close, and my delivery guy is going to be there for a bit, but if that's doable..."

"That's fine, yes," he murmured, watching the man back out of his office. "I shall see you then, Wright."

"Yes, definitely. Tha--" he bumped into the doorjamb, and cursed quietly, laughing a bit. Miles' hear clenched. "Oops. Uh! Thanks again!"

And with that he was gone. It should have either been a relief or simply a moment to catch up with his embarrassment, but he only propped his chin on his hands and stared at the doorjamb, letting out a small sigh.

"So, when's the wedding?"

"August twenty fourth, Kay." His voice sounded quiet and off. Wistful, maybe?

"I know that. I meant you and Nicky. Mr. Closet-Romantic-Big-Shot-Wedding-Planner and  Mr. Smells-Like-Cookies-And-Looks-Like-Sunshine. The guy with with the spiky hair?"

Miles sent her a wary glare, which was met with a big smile. She wasn't even teasing. "I don't know what you're talking about. Mr. Wright and I are not romantically involved, Kay, please. Don't be absurd."

Kay pouted. "Oh come on. Look at him! And look at you! You look so daydreamy and lovestruck. I don't think I've seen that look on your face directed at anyone else save for James Marsden and Katherine Heigl."

He flushed. 

"You know--"

"Yes, Kay! I get it!" he snapped. He felt warmer than he had a few moments ago, and to rectify this, he stood up and moved toward his door. Kay was leaning in her own office doorway, giving him an encouraging smile. "Don't you have a wedding to plan?"

"Are you gonna hire him?" Kay said, in place of an answer. Her eyes suddenly turned stern, even with the excited smile she wore.

Miles hesitated. "I...I am not sure."

Could he? The man was an excellent baker, and very talented in decorating, and there was something about him that drew people--drew Miles--in. It would be silly not to hire him. But harboring a crush--(Such a foolish, childish word)--on someone you chose to employ could sometimes lead to terrible things. Namely the "you only hired me for my body," argument. A situation, a reason of hiring, in which he found lewd and distasteful. He wouldn't apply it here, of course. The man would be hired on skill alone, but it would always beg the thought...

"Hey! Earth to Miles!" Kay was waving her arm back and fourth, just out of reach so that he couldn't swat her away. "You still in there?"

He sighed. "The hiring process is a very long and tedious project--"

"Liar," Kay sang, actually sang, smiling triumphantly. "I've hired my own team, and it wasn't that hard. Let's see what's behind excuse number two!" The latter sentence was stated like a game-show host. 

Miles sent her a flat look. "You aren't funny, Miss Faraday."

"Yes I am," she returned, completely nonchalant. "Seriously, though, what's wrong with him?" She waved a hand down the hallway following Wright's previous path. "He seemed enthusiastic enough about the job. I figured you actually had hired him with how happy he looked when he left. But then I looked at you, and I thought--"

"You thought I was simply planning on hiring him because you assume I have formed some kind of attachment to the man," he murmured back, staring down the hallway. "A completely unfounded assumption, by the way."

"Hey, I know when I'm right," Kay countered. "And I know exactly how you tick! You find a bakery, and they jump at the chance to work on the wedding. And then you find a teensy, itty-bitty little flaw or something off, and reason yourself out of another commitment and put them on standby! Which is why you're sister hired Maya, and made sure you had no choice when she did it." He could feel his face color more and more as she spoke. "And I know that I'm right about Wright." She smiled at her joke. "He's super passionate, and really nice, and you totally  have a big, sappy, romantic crush on him."

"Think what you will." The sentence was supposed to sound like a dismissal. Instead, it came out as a defensive snap, and he covered his eyes with the palm of his had so he didn't have to see her toothy grin. "Leave it alone, Kay, and go do your work." With that, he retreated into his office. There were still venues he had to call for other, more distant weddings this year, and appointments to be set to look for wedding invitations and pick color schemes.

Kay skipped in after him, taking the seat Wright had previously occupied. "Maybe later. So? What did you say to him to make him all smiley like that? Ask him for his number?"

Miles scoffed as he sat down. "Hardly, since it was necessary to exchange them after--Kay, stop making that face." It was utterly mortifying, the way she was smiling and wiggling her eyebrows. (She's much too young to be implying suggestions like that. And no one should have the ability to convey that with their eyebrows, anyway.) 

"So if he didn't score your number, what happened?"

"I..." Now that he was back on the subject, it sounded much more embarrassing than he'd originally thought. Actually, the fact that he'd offered to teach Wright how to dance at all was terribly humiliating. He may as well have leaned over the desk and asked him out for coffee, or to a movie. (Not that I'd lean over the desk like some clichéd greaser. Not that I'm planning to ask him out at all, actually.)

(Focus. Process of elimination. Why did you offer to teach him to dance?)

(Because you might be developing...something? Wrong; never would I be so completely crass in my affections. Not that there are affections present. Next option then. Because it is appropriate for every gentleman to know how to dance. Wrong; Wright is hardly the gentleman type. Because he planned not to go to the wedding? Acceptable; it would hurt Gumshoe and Miss Byrde's feelings to know that Wright stayed home from the wedding for reason such as that. Yes. That one.)

Miles picked up a pen and began flipping through his daily planner, trying to look nonchalant when he spoke. "Mr. Wright didn't want to attend the wedding reception, because he felt he could not preform adequately on the dance floor. I offered him a crash course tomorrow evening."

Kay pulled back some, confused. "In...dancing?"

"I...yes. I offered to teach him to dance."

"I see." Kay said appreciatively, nodding to herself.

They sat in companionable silence for several moments, Miles writing down the time he was to arrive at the bakery, as well as crossing out the Hawthorne meeting from the present day's to-do list.

"So," Kay said slowly. "I'll ask you again. When is the wedding?"

He groaned.


 

August 11

6:03 PM

Wright and Co. B&C

"So you're getting hitched, huh?" This was Larry, leaning against the glass--which Phoenix had just wiped off for closing--and screwing up his face into something that was probably supposed to look touched and excited. "That's so awesome! Congratulations! Or, wait, is it mazal tov?"

The customer, who was holding an order of swiss rolls in one hand and rubbing the back of his head with the other, was Dick Gumshoe, loyal customer since July, and current client. "Er, thanks, pal. My Maggey and I are really excited."

Phoenix was currently cleaning the inside of the display case, glaring up Larry every so often until they met eyes and Larry would push himself off the glass until he was sure Phoenix wasn't paying attention again. 

"So how'd you propose to her? Maybe I can use that to propose to Jennie--"

"Don't."  This was chorused from Franziska and Maya, who were sitting across from each other with Pearl and Trucy between them, the two girls talking animatedly about Trucy's next show. 

"You are a particularly foolish fool if you think you can foolishly propose to yet another foolish, unsuspecting victim. I will not have your foolish, weepy poetry interrupt the talent night again, fool."

"I concur with the pretty lady," Maya said. "Maybe...give it longer than two weeks, yeah, Larry? Just...get to know her."

Larry pouted. "But I'm serious about this! She's the one! My one and only Jennie, my soulmate, I'm telling you. Our names even rhyme!"

(No, they really don'tThis is why you aren't allowed to write anymore poetry.He would have said as much, had he not been curious to hear about Gumshoe's proposal. "I'd actually like to know. Maggey hasn't told me anything about it, other than gushing that it was...very you."

Gumshoe's laugh filled the room. "That sounds like her! Yeah, she told me that when it happened, pal!"

"If you don't mind," Pearl said shyly. "I would love to hear about you and Miss Maggey, Mr. Gumshoe."

He smiled cleared his throat. "Well, y'see. Maggey's been my special someone for a long time now. She and I worked together for a long while. She was always a little clumsy--in a good way though!--but whenever she was around, it was me who was always falling and fumbling. My boss nearly cut my paycheck, I was so reckless!"

Both Trucy and Pearl sighed, and Phoenix could practically see the cartoon hearts in their eyes. 

Gumshoe continued. "So after a five years working with her and three years of being hers, I wanted to pop the question. And I thought to myself, 'Dick, if you're in love with her, then you gotta let her know you fell for her, pal!' and so I bought the ring and planned it out. I was going to take her out for noodles, just like any date, and then I'd 'fall,' " at this, the man's enormous hands made air quotes, "and I'd tell her that so long as I was falling for her, I'd want her to be mine!"

"Oh my god," Larry gushed. "No way! Man, that kind of sappiness takes buku amounts of guts!"

Phoenix nodded, his cleaning forgotten. He had his arms propped up on the top of the display case now, too. "I'll say. Did she get mushy about it later?"

Gumshoe chuckled. "I wish, pal. Actually, what was supposed to happen didn't happen at all. I, er, sort of dropped the ring in her soup, accidentally. And since I couldn't fish it out, I had to wait for her to finish the whole bowl. Man, but I was so nervous I couldn't even eat mine! Then, right when she pulled out the ring, I sort of...well, I threw my self on the ground." He laughed again. "And before I could propose to her, I ended up knocking over my own bowl of noodles, right into my lap."

"That's awful!" Trucy giggled. "What did Miss Maggey do?"

Gumshoes turned to her and gave her a big grin. "Well, my Maggey thought it was fate that brought her to the ring, and so she proposed to me. I gave the whole story later on, and we had a good laugh, but I'm still wearing it." With his free hand, he reached under his collar to produce a chain with a silver ring hanging from it. "Since it was her who technically proposed, she told me I had to keep it."

Pearl sighed again, cupping both of her cheeks in her hands and smiling adoringly. "That's the sweetest story I've ever heard."

 "Yes. You are still just as pitifully foolish as the first time we met, Scruffy," Franziska commented. "Only a foolish fool would allow himself a foolishly imperfect proposal."

Gumshoe's smile got wider. "But that's the best part of proposals, Miss von Karma! Getting it wrong is half the fun!"

Pearl nodded enthusiastically. "Plus, it's the memory you're after!"

"And the yes! It's all about how they say yes!" Trucy pipped. 

Franziska sighed, a huff of exasperation,  and mumbled something that went unheard into her teacup. 

Larry tilted his head in thought. Or, at least, it would be in thought, if Larry wasn't one of those unfortunate people who always had to voice their thoughts out loud. "I don't know about falling over to propose. Especially after I dropped the ring. Maybe if I--"

Phoenix cleared his throat. "Larry, could you please plan your fake marriage proposal after you've unloaded your truck and helped out Apollo?" Normally, he wasn't a stickler for work; Larry was his friend, and if he wanted to stop by and talk, Phoenix wasn't about to stop him. But Apollo was still in the back--no doubt getting a jump on unpacking the bakery's orders--and he wanted to get him out of hear in a timely fashion. It was already passed six. Edgeworth would be there any moment. 

Plus, the kid was supposed to be going out after work, and who was he to keep him once his "not a date Mr. Wright" date showed up.

Gumshoe turned to Wright and gave him a lopsided grin, sheepishly eyeing the door. "I should probably get going then. I wanted to cook Maggey something nice tonight. She's working the late shift, y'know."

Phoenix nodded, and gave him a wide smile. "We won't keep you, then. Thanks for coming by, as always, Gumshoe."

Gumshoe's grin turned wide and and honest. "Oh, sure thing, pal! I can't get enough of these swiss rolls. They're probably gonna have to fit me with a new uniform if I keep coming back for them."

"Oh, uh, thanks." He gestured to Trucy with a nod of his head. "Ah, actually, I used to make them all the time for my daughter, before I opened the bakery. They're a favorite of mine, so I'm...kind of flattered, actually." 

"Well, they're definitely a favorite of mine too! I usually tried to get one on my breaks between testimony at the courthouse, but ever since Mr. Edgeworth set up that cake tasting, I've become a huge fan, pal." He was halfway out the door when he shouted over his shoulder, "I can't wait to taste the wedding cake for real!"

The bells above the door and the cowbell on the handle both sang out at his exit, and Phoenix when to go lock it and turn the sign handing in the window. Once that was done, as if on cue, Apollo's head popped out of the kitchen door. "Can someone please, please come help me with all this stuff? I've broken three bags of sugar."

"Ah, crap, Apollo," Larry groaned. "Nick is gonna have my ass for that."

"What? No I'm not," Phoenix said, crossing his arms. Larry gave him a look that read Don't make me do work, and Phoenix snorted.

"I'm gonna have your ass if you don't get back here and help me out," Apollo grumbled, disappearing again. 

Phoenix sighed. This is what he got for ordering an abundance of everything. He'd worn out all his sculpture making ingredients on making and remaking the wedding cake decorations, and if he was going to be hired, he was going to have to double or triple the amount he usually ordered. "C'mon then, Larry. Let's go do our jobs."

Larry gave a long-suffering sigh, peeling himself from the display case and leaving a smudge. "Fine."

He grimaced. "Also, for the record, when I say please don't lean on the glass, I really do mean that." 

"I don't know what you're talking about," Larry jibbed.

They had just barely entered the kitchen before Phoenix had to rush forward, catching the other end of a large crate Apollo was about to drop through the kitchen's back door. 

"The calvary is here," Phoenix said with a smile. 

Apollo didn't seem to appreciate the joke, but he returned the grin with a wry one of his own. "Finally. It's about time."

"Hey now," he objected, easing the box down to the ground and joining Larry outside to grab another. "I was with a customer." 

Apollo nodded, grabbing a large sack of flour. "I know. But what's your excuse, Larry?"

Larry scoffed. "Hey! I don't need an excuse! I'll have you know, I was planning to propose to my girlfriend, and Mr. Gumshoe was giving me ideas."

"Well congrats, or I guess, mazal tov, maybee. Even though I know you don't have a girlfriend," Apollo retorted.

"He does. Her name is Jennie, apparently," Phoenix supplied.

"Yeah! She's super cute too, and blonde, with a killer bod," He crowed, triumphant for some reason. "And she's the one! Our love is parallel to Romeo and Juliet's! The Victoria to my Albert! The Cleopatra to my Mark Hamill!" The man's voice got particularly screechy on the last example.

"Mark Antony," Apollo said with an impassive tone. "It was Mark Antony, dude."

"Yeah! Him too!" Larry squawked, hopping out of the truck.

Th smaller man rolled his eyes. "Who compares their relationship to tragic ones like that, anyway?" he asked Phoenix, who was holding a crate stacked with royal icing. 

He snorted.

Twenty minutes later, it was six thirtyish, and everything was nearly unpacked and stored away. Larry had left the company of Apollo and Phoenix, and in his place was Trucy, sitting cross-legged in front of the oven, watching chocolate chip cookies rise. 

"It's going so slow," she complained. "These are never going to be ready before Mr. Edgeworth gets here."

Phoenix ruffled her hair before stretching up and over her to put away a small bag of rice flour. "You don't have to go upstairs, you know. You wouldn't be interrupting us. It's just dancing, and it's a dancing lesson at that."

Trucy shrugged. "I just want you to do your best, Daddy. You seem to get really nervous around Mr. Edgeworth, and I don't want you to step on his toes because Pearl and I distracted you."

Phoenix leaned over to give her a peck on the crown of her head. "I wouldn't be distracted, sweetie. You could even be my dance partner, if you want."

"Yikes," Apollo interjected.

"Shut up," Phoenix snapped. "Don't you have a date to be getting to?"

"Not a date," Apollo shot back. His cheeks were telling another story, and by the way he shoved his hands into his pockets. "I told you. Clay and I invited Kalvier to go see a band they both like, and Clay said he'd meet us there tonight. Since I don't have a car, Klavier said he'd...pick me up, that doesn't mean it's a date! Stop smiling like that, Mr. Wright!"

"Methinks you're protesting a bit too much, Polly," he teased. "It's not so bad if it is a date, you know. He's good-looking. And pretty nice."

"And don't forget he's completely sweet on you, Polly," Trucy added, not turing away from the oven. "Also, you shouldn't glare at me like that. Your face'll get stuck that way."

Phoenix laughed loudly as Apollo's betrayed glare melted into shock and then a flat, aggravated look. "Come on, kid, I'll unlock the front, so you can go jump into Gavin's arms upon arrival."

"Oh, like you're one to talk about being in someone's arms," Apollo grumbled. "Dancing lessons? What, is that code for something I missed?"

They stepped out of the kitchen and into the front area again, and both Maya and Franziska looked up, startled out of whatever conversation they were having. 

"Well, to quote you, 'it's not a date', so do with that what you will," Phoenix said. And really, he didn't think of it as one. Not really; there was a very small part of him that wanted Miles close to him, close to his face and body with their fingers linked and their eyes on each other's as they moved in unison, breath mingling just a bit, maybe suggesting a small....

(Er...where was I going with that?) 

"He offered lessons, and I'd like to learn. Especially if Wright and Co.'s employment hinges on my attendance."

Apollo winced. "Ah. So then not a date, for sure. A....uh, business meeting." 

Phoenix went to unlock the door. "Yup." Somehow confirming that makes his heart...flutter? Was that the word? Or maybe it was sink? Either way, his chest did funny things when he thought about Edgeworth in the setting of a date. 

There was a thrum of an engine just outside, and Phoenix saw Apollo finch out of the corner of his eye. He tried to stifle a chuckle. "You said he was offering a ride. Don't look so surprised."

"I'm not surprised, I'm fine. But...he has a car," Apollo groaned. "I don't know why he insists on the bike, when he has a--" Phoenix could feel the face he was giving his subordinate. Knowing, suggestive, curious. Surely Apollo could put two and two together. The kid had given him a pet name, showed up every Friday without fail, and Apollo was seriously questioning why he'd chose the vehicle where Apollo had to put his arms around the man's waist?

He conveyed this all through a raised eyebrow aimed at the younger man. "Oh shut up, Mr. Wright."

He raised his hands defensively, leaving his keys in the door. "Hey, I just call 'em as I see 'em, Polly."

Apollo huffed. "I'm going to pretend you're blind, then, or that your eyesight is terrible."

"Wear a helmet, please!" Maya called from her table. "Safety first. And make sure Mr. Gavin plays nice."

"Tell the insufferable fool hello from us as well," Franziska added sharply.

"R-right. Uh," he look at Phoenix again and nodded toward the door. "I'll probably be in around ten tomorrow? Instead of eight."

Phoenix held open the door and stepped out with him. "Sure thing. I'm not expecting you in, though, if you're too tired tomorrow morning."

"Thanks."

Across from them, Klavier took off his helmet and gave them a dazzling smile. "Herr Forehead, you are going to make us late, ja?"

After another angry huff and clock-in confirmation, Apollo was off, clinging desperately to the other man's middle. 

"What on Earth was that about?" a clipped, formal voice asked from his left. 

Phoenix jumped. Miles stood next to him carrying files and a planner under one arm, and holding a dog leash in the opposite hand. He looked better than he did yesterday, in terms of stress. His wine colored tie wasn't wrinkled and nor was his matching jacket. He looked as good as he ever did. Though, as long and he was being honest with himself, the "disheveled work" look yesterday had been a welcome change. (How does a man manage to make distress look sexy?)

(Well, okay not sexy...but damn close. I mean his hair all brushed out of his face like that was so...okay, you know what? Save those thoughts for another time.)

"Don't you own another jacket?" he said instead. 

Miles gave him a flat look. "Wright, could it not be possible to own several jackets of the same color?"

He shrugged. "Yeah, but let's face it. No one owns that much pink, not even Eli Woods."

 His words had done their job; a bright blush fell upon Edgeworth, and the man sputtered indignantly. "It is wine colored, Wright." A small whimper from the man's left made them both turn. 

"Never pegged you for a dog person, by the way," Phoenix said conversationally. He kneeled down and offered his hand.

The dog was big and white, with excited blue eyes. As soon as Phoenix was in reach, she eagerly pressed her nose to his cheek, sniffing excitedly. "Aw, hey there!" he cooed, scratching behind her ears. "Hey there, girl! Nice to meet you." He looked up at Edgeworth again, still scratching the dogs fur. "What's her name?"

For some reason, Edgeworth looked very frustrated, and his lips pressed into a thin line and eyes tense. But his voice, when he spoke, held a fondness that probably wasn't all for the dog. (That's just dumb, or course it's for the dog, Nick. Get it together.) "Pess. Her names is Pess."

"Hi, Pess," Phoenix said to the dog. Pess's ears perked at the sound of her name, and she surged forward to bathe his face in slobbery affection, effectively knocking Phoenix over, his palms now splayed on the concrete. 

"Ngh! Pess! Down!" This was Edgeworth, who was frantically trying to tug the leash back one-handed. "I'm so sorry, Wright," he said, a hint of panic in his voice as Pess hopped up and planted her paws on either one of his shoulders. "Pess, no! She--Pess!--she never does this, usually she's so well behaved, I--Pess, down!"

Phoenix was barely listening over his own laughter at both the dog and Edgeworth's reaction. Gently, he removed Press from his person and stood, dusting himself off.

"I am so sorry, I don't know what's gotten into her."

Phoenix shrugged. "It's fine. I mean, I probably smell like food to her, since I just moved a ton of stuff into the kitchen." The other man opened his mouth to apologize again, but he held a hand up. "Seriously. It's not a problem." 

Edgeworth gave him a skeptical look. Phoenix gestured to the door of his bakery. "Maya brought a few CD's to dance to. I just have to put the rest of my deliveries away, and then you can teach me what you know. If that's okay."

"Ah, yes." He seemed to hesitate. "I am..sorry for my lateness. She," he lifted his hand to show the dog leash, "insisted on going for a walk when I returned home. I figured I could tie her up outside, if that would be alright?"

"So she could miss all the fun?" Phoenix shook his head. "Nah, bring her in. So long as she doesn't get where the food is, she's fine." 

"You certainly seem enthusiastic," Miles droned. Apparently, he'd heard the sarcasm that coated the word "fun."

"Oh, believe you me, I was doing cartwheels before, thinking about this." Well, his stomach certainly had been, anyway. Right now, it seemed to have taken them up again at the aggravated press of Edgeworth's lips. Probably because of the thought of the other's lips.

(Ack! Shut up, shut up, shut up, stupid brain!) 

"Uh, come in," he said, opening the door with a quick, jerky motion. Both sets of bells on the door rang loudly, and he could see Maya start at the sudden noise in his peripheral.

Edgeworth walked passed him, Pess trotting in happily after her owner, her nose twitching and tongue lolling out of her mouth.

"Aw, Pess is here, Fran!" Maya cooed. "And she brought Edgeworth."

"As always, it is good to see you too, Miss Fey." Funny, since he looked rather annoyed to be in the bakery in general. Pess let out an excited yip, and Phoenix watched Maya playfully push the dog's snout away, ruffling the fur on her face and around her ears. 

"Ready to get your groove on?" Maya asked, looking up at Phoenix.

He shrugged. No, he really wasn't. He always ended up falling around Miles Edgeworth. Knocking cake batter and flour all over the place was one thing. Knocking the man into a pool was another. But it was a whole different ballgame if he fell on top of the man. Forget any and all awkwardness in his own head that being on top of Edgeworth would cause; Edgeworth might actually succeed in the whole "looks could kill" department. 

A part of his brain--the stupid part that he kept trying to shove aside in favor of actually being able to act like a normal human being--wryly supplied that being on top of Miles Edgeworth wouldn't be that bad, given the right circumstances. 

(What the hell? God that's just--what the hell was that?) Damned intrusive thoughts. "I just have to finish back there," he said, and it came out a bit nervous. "You know how to work the bakery's sound system, right?"

Maya nodded and gave Pess a final pat. "Sure. I'll pick a CD, you go ahead finish up whatever you were doing in the kitchen."

He did, and he probably moved a little too quickly through the door. 

What the hell was that thought? Sure, Miles was a good looking guy, he really, really was. But for crying out loud he'd seen him only a few times, and each time the man seemed more and more fed up with him. He was a strict perfectionist like his sister, and he took his job very seriously. There was not even the slightest hint of an interest in the other man, no inkling of having any other modes besides "grumpy critic," and "finicky wedding planner." Kay Faraday's notion that there was a romantic underneath it all was laughable, and thus far, untrue. 

And likewise, Phoenix really wasn't the romantic type. Not to mention that he wasn't too terribly worried about being perfect. He loved his job, but sometimes mistakes were made, and they became happy accidents. Baking was supposed to be fun, and owning a bakery was a blast. He woke up early and ready to bake, and went to bed smelling like sugar and cookie dough. He got to keep his own menu and his own hours. He didn't have to dress up, and he didn't have to keep a certain decorum with customers everyday. His lifestyle and thought processes about his job seemed to differ greatly from Miles' own. 

Which meant that they were pretty much opposites.

So any and all crushes that he might be developing had to stop right now because...well, just because.

(Yes, please, by all means move on and away from Miles, because you just started thinking of him while using his first name. That is the danger zone, Nick, and you are too old to be a young Cruise.) Somehow, obscure movie references calmed him.

"You okay, daddy?" Trucy called, peaking around the corner. "Is Mr. Edgeworth here yet?"

"Uh, yeah," he said, and his voice sounded a little airy. "Hey, Truce? Can I ask you a question? Father to daughter?"

Trucy beamed at him, skipping closer. "Of course! What's the matter?"

He glanced over his shoulder at the kitchen door, and reached for a smaller bag of sugar that had yet to be tucked away into storage. "What are the odds that I'll fall on top of Edgeworth, because the universe is cruel? And what's the more likely outcome; that, while I'm down there, my life will flash before my eyes and I'll die of embarrassment? Or his stone cold--" (And oddly enticing...)

(Not. Helping.)

"--glare will turn me to stone?"

Trucy snickered, grabbing a few whisks and putting them safely away into a drawer. "Neither of those are likely, for one thing. But I think maybe you'll fall on him. Or step on his toes."

Oh. Well that was a huge relief. Totally.

"I think that he'd forgive you, though, if you did any of that," she amended. "Mr. Edgeworth seems like the type of person who wants things to go right more than he wants that from people. I think that, more than anything, he just wants his wedding to go well. So as long as you're learning to dance, he'll be okay with your accidents."

He hugged Trucy to him in a vice-like side hug and kissed the crown of her head. "You're brutally honest, you know that? Maya was right, you are cooler than me, and I don't know what I'd do without you."

Trucy hugged him back, laughing. "Trust me, I don't know what you'd do either." 

He chuckled. "Why don't you head upstairs and hang out with Pearl? I'll figure out what's wrong with the oven and bake the rest of the cookies."

Trucy pulled away and huffed. "Too late for that, I figured it out. I set the oven wrong. One seventy five isn't going to make chocolate chip anythingThree seventy five, however, will bake cookies in the twelve minute span their supposed to cook in."

Phoenix snickered, and his daughter shoved his arm. "Daddy!"

"I'm not laughing at you!" he defended weakly. He pat her arm, still smiling at the frustrated pull of her frown. She looked so much like her aunt when she did that. Maya was going to have to stop coming to the bakery; he could barely handle one Maya. "Go upstairs and be a kid. I'll get them out of the oven when their done."

She sighed and gave him a small smile. "Okay. But remember that it's totally okay to fall down or trip, so you don't have to look like you're about to throw up, okay daddy? Oh, oh!" she bounced on the balls of her feet. "If your nervous, do what Polly does every time he's nervous! Just yell, 'I'm Phoenix Wright, and I'm fine!!"

The shout was not nearly as loud as the aforementioned employee, but in the small space Phoenix did jump at the sudden loudness. Trucy edged around him and scurried out the door as he recovered, her distant, "Hi, Mr. Edgeworth!" becoming swallowed up by the closing of the kitchen door.

There wasn't much left to put away, just a few bags of fruit for the tarts he' been planning to make and whipping cream. It was all stored in the freezer quicker than he would have liked.

(Why am I avoiding this, anyway?) He thought, tucking the last of the strawberries into there designated drawer. (I was the one who agreed to it, who set the date. And I'm still excited to learn how to dance. I got a little nervous over the interview too, and that went really well.)

Then again, he was also nervous to dance with Miles. Being face to face with him, having to put his hand on the other waist...oh, he could already feel the damned blush on his face! It was a little ridiculous, if he was being honest. What was Edgeworth going to do? Eat him? He'd probably be teaching him how to lead anyway, so Phoenix would probably have to dance with Maya. Or, possibly the scariest option, Franziska. 

God he was acting like a child, or at least like an idiot. Learning to dance so that he could go to a wedding, that's all this was. Just a learning experience. Even thinking about it like that had done wonders for his nerves. If anything, this was more of a "first day of class" jitters than anything else, and he was a grown man. This was something he'd agreed too. Something his impulsive side knew he could handle. 

( Mountains out of molehills, I suppose. I think Trucy was right, anyway, about how he cares more that I'm learning, rather than how I'm doing.)

Phoenix took a deep breath and stepped back into the bakery, Benny and the Jets playing at a low volume over the little shop's sound system. This was going to be fine, he was fine, everything was fine. 

Huh. Maybe Polly was onto something here. 

Before he lost his nerve, he gave Maya a smile. "Okay. Ready."

Maya nodded and popped a CD into the player and gave his a thumbs up. "Alright! So what is he learning?"

"He will be learning the waltz. I find it's easier to teach rhythm and balance." Edgeworth stood up, tugged his jacket into place, adjusted his glasses, and handed his leash to her with a grateful smile. "First thing first, Mr. Wright. Have you ever had the opportunity to lead a person in a dance before?"

He shook his head. "I don't think so, no." Probably not, anyway. When he was in middle school, he was in the front of the line during the Cha-Cha slide with Larry, but he wasn't sure that actually counted. Plus his sarcastic quips often earned him caustic glares from the other. 

The other man nodded to himself. "Alright, then." He took a step closer and held out a hand. "I will lead first, and talk you through the steps, and then in turn, you will lead Miss Fey. Is that understood?"

He nodded, though his chest quivered. He wrote it off as some sort of nervousness at first, but when Miles offered a hand, it had a name.

God, this wasn't nervousness; this was excitement and anticipation, and something warmer that he didn't want to think about too much. 

"When leading," Edgeworth began, leaning forward to take his right hand, "typically, the shortest person's hand will remain pointed up and held in your hand." His fingers were curled around Edgeworth's, and Phoenix tried not to swallow loudly at the way they fit together. 

"Next," Edgeworth instructed, "the lead will place their right hand on the other's--"

"Waist," he blurted. "Right?"

Edgeworth colored, the color in his cheeks nearly blending into his tie. "N-not usually, no. It is the shoulder. Right hand on the shoulder. Though for a more modified version that you will try with Miss Fey, yes. I...er." He shifted their fingers for a brief moment so that they were tangled together, palms gently pressing against the other. Edgeworth's hand went from hovering over his shoulder to slowly placing it on his waist. 

Even through his shirt, the warmth of Edgeworth's palm pressed into him, and he had to hold his breath so that it wouldn't stutter.

Good lord, but what the hellHe was acting like a kid on prom night, sweating palms and escalating heartbeat included. For crying out loud, the man had only put his hand lower. It was a dance lesson. It was nothing more than a dance lesson, so--

Whatever thought he'd been trying to sell himself fell short when he turned to look up at Edgeworth.

The man's eyebrows were pinched together, forming a nervous "V" and his mouth was set into a nervous frown. His eyes were focused...everywhere, which was hard to explain. Like he was working to look anywhere but Phoenix's face. They settled often on their entwined fingers, looking wary. Uncomfortable.

Phoenix eased a small smile onto his face. "Okay. I'll give that a go. So, you were saying it's the...?"

He startled, looking back up at his with wide eyes and his mouth slightly parted in surprise. "Right, er. Yes, indeed, the...er...."

"Right hand for the leader," he supplied. "You said it goes on the...shoulder?"

"Yes." It came out as a relieved exhale, and in the span of a few milliseconds, his composure came back. The speed at which he seemed to recover nearly gave Phoenix whiplash. "Yes. The right hand on the right shoulder. Your hand--which will be Maya's hand-- is to rest on top on my arm. Create a parallel line--yes, just like that. When you dance closer to someone, you hand will be at their waist, and their hand shall rest on your shoulder, I believe.

"You believe?" Phoenix asked, surprising himself. He smiled nonetheless. "I thought you were supposed to be my dance instructor. Aren't you supposed to know what your talking about?"

Edgeworth scoffed, squaring his shoulders a bit. "Even if I didn't, you wouldn't know, would you? I could very well be teaching you something completely different, and you would probably be none the wiser, Wright."

Phoenix laughed. 

"When you start," the other snapped, "you will step with your left, when leading. Forward, not back. Right now, however, you will step back, and with your right foot."

Phoenix turned to Maya and raised an eyebrow. "Did he teach you to dance too, or is this a learning experience for both of us?"

Maya smiled, a small, shy thing, reserved only when she was about to mention her lover. "Nah, Fran taught me."

"She was a natural," Franziska told him in a clipped tone. Her pale eyes were on Maya however, warm and kind. "You on the other hand, fool, are stepping back like a foolish marching band participant. Slide it back, one smooth motion. Fool."

Edgeworth hesitated, and then titled his head and nodded. "She right. Watch my feet." His left foot hovered just above the floor, and went forward, a fluid, graceful motion. "Move like you're...planning two steps ahead. Understand?"

"Uh, no," Phoenix told him honestly. 

"Fine. Follow my lead. Miss Fey, the music, please."

The even bass carried over the speakers in quick, even, one two three strokes, and Edgeworth moved again. This time, Phoenix stepped back, trying to keep his movements fluid. 

"Good," he said softly. "Now, from back, we go out with my right, your left, and then together." The music still played but Phoenix was pulled to a stop for a moment. "Do you understand?"

He nodded, biting his lips together. "So I follow you, and Maya will follow me, right?"

"Correct."

He nodded again, this time a little more sure of himself. This was easier than he'd thought. "Then yeah, I think I got it. Both the leading and the following part."

"Then we will try again, this time with the knees bending and toes rising."

It took very little time. In just a few short minutes, Phoenix had mastered being led, the mechanics for leading, the motions, and had even managed a few natural turns. 

"Remember, one, two, three, a turn. One, two, three," Edgeworth was saying under his breath. "You're doing marvelous though. Far better that I though your capable of, Mr. Wright."

He pressed his lips together in a sour scowl. "Oh, wow, thanks!" he told him, all sarcasm and dry voice. 

The man scowled right back. "Forgive me, but I seem to recall that the miracle of you walking in a straight line comes but once in a blue moon."

They turned again, on beat, and Phoenix rolled his eyes. "And yet here I am, take perfect steps and everyth--" he stumbled a bit, his foot stepping down on Edgeworth's toe. The man winced, and Phoenix colored.

"Shit, ah! I mean, shoot."

Edgeworth pressed his lips together and gave him a droll stare, broken only when Phoenix's feet skipped a step and landed on his other foot. "Ouch! Damn it, Wright, focus."

He shut his eyes. "Right, right. Focus." Phoenix nodded to himself. "Sorry about that."

Edgeworth stopped moving, pulling him up short. "If you are not going to keep your eyes open and pay attention, you will not learn. You were doing quite well."

He opened his eyes and watched the other. Edgeworth still seemed like himself; shoulders set, mouth drawn into a serious line, eyebrows naturally set into a permanent arch of condescension. His eyes however, held something far different, something honest and warm, wrapped hazy in trepidation, For some reason Phoenix couldn't bring himself to look away. Didn't really want to, especially with his face near inches from the man. He offered Edgeworth a small smile in place of pulling back, and almost thanked him for the complement. 

Almost.

You see, Pess was not an old dog, but she was not a young dog either. She still had her strength and her hearing and her eyesight. But between the aged of seven and thirteen, bigger dogs, like border collies, became more reliant on their own intuition rather than what their owners has taught them. Sit or heal or down became sniff, explore, chase, and the owner was left to wonder whether the animal was deaf or deliberately not paying attention. And, Pess, like most dogs her age, also began to fear loud noises. The vacuum, a sharp knock at the door, a sound of a car alarm, fireworks, and much more were all victims of Pess' ruthless barking and running around in circles.

So when a loud noise happened and Pess was told to stay, she would shoot away like a bullet out of a gun.

The timer in the kitchen was no exception to this. It was a loud buzzer, able to be heard through the closed door on the occasion that Phoenix's bakery became crowded at a time when something was baking. He could hear it over most loud noises, but in the quiet, the buzzing sound made all who were in the room jump.

Namely, Pess.

There was a short, high pitched curse that was probably Maya and a small gasp that was probably Franziska, but both were lost in the background of Pess, who darted forward at the noise, aiming herself for the other side of the bakery, ignoring all obstacles.

Leash and all, Pess darted under both men's legs, her leash catching for a moment on the tip of Edgeworth's shoe in an attempt to stop her.

They toppled over, falling hard. Phoenix's head cracked hard against something. He pulled his face up a bit and blinked slowly, getting onto his elbows and shaking his head to dispel the fog. Though his body didn't ache. It seemed like he'd not fallen down at all actually....

...because, naturally, he'd landed on top of Miles, who let out a pained groan and pressed his fingers to the place where their head seem to have collided.

Phoenix could see the befuddlement that must have been on his own face mirrored in Miles' own. The man's eyes were no longer a hazy patch of grey confusion, but were now open, parted like a storm come to pass at sea. A calm was there, a default waiting-for-my-mind-to-catch-up kind of calm. 

(I might have just hit my head, but god, those eyes look even more luminous when all the seriousness is knocked out of them.)

"Ow," Phoenix murmured, too close to Edgeworth's face.

"Ouch," agreed Miles, too close to Phoenix's.

It hit him like a ton of bricks to the stomach, or like a harsh wind yanking him off of his feet. 

Their faces were close, very close in fact, and the weird cold-wind-brick-heavy feeling settled into his gut, hitting him with a surprising finality at the press of his chest against Edgeworth's.

Perhaps it had been the idea that, even at their closeness, he did not want to be near the other's mouth. It was't anything like that, but rather, he wanted to smooth the tense lines forming on his forehead away.

It could have been the way the hand on his waist earlier was suddenly something to be encouraged and protected and cared for, rather than a source of fear or worry.

It could have been that Phoenix suddenly didn't want to look anywhere but Miles' eyes so he could follow them to their depths, so he could drown in the storm and never feel the need to breath again.

Shit.

(Holy shit.)

It wasn't fear, it wasn't nervousness, it wasn't him being a drama queen or anything other childish thing, really.

Because suddenly, it was definitely more than a crush.

He suppressed the urge to wince at the word, even as he throughout it. It was juvenile, even thought that's what it was, kind of. Sure, he'd found the guy attractive, but there was a big difference in the small distant crush that he'd been forming when they'd first met, and whatever this was. It was sort of just...sprung on him, wasn't it? He'd certainly not expected it. A complete turnabout of emotion; from anxiety to complete adoration. 

All sound was distant, but he thought he could still hear the timer and Pess.

(Oh god. Oh god, oh god, oh no. Oh no, no no.)

Edgeworth stared up at him, still dazed, and Phoenix was now staring back, dazed and horrified and suddenly hyperaware of the feeling of the other's breath ghosting along his cheek and the press of the other's body.

"I. Uh. I-I..." He what? Wanted to get up? Wanted to suddenly close the distance by pressing his forehead against the other like a freaking idiot? Wanted to form a coherent sentence? "I-I think it's a good time to practice with Maya now."

Slowly, Mile's nodded. "Yes. Of course."

They did not move. He could not move, and therefore, neither could Miles, so they did not move for several more seconds. 

"I should get those out of the oven," Phoenix said suddenly. His voice sounded very strange. "Like. Before they burn."

"Quite. Yes. Er."

"Oven," said Phoenix.

"Oven," echoed Miles, and at that the spell that bound them there in that awkward position lifted, and Phoenix sprang up and way from Miles before the other could even prop himself up. 

"I'll be right back. Uh." He looked frantically at Maya, who was trying to pull Pess away from the kitchen door with Franziska's help. "You get your dog?"

He didn't wait for an answer, darting into the kitchen to rescue the cookies from the oven. Luckily, they hadn't burnt. 

(Good. Good, good. I...this is fine. I'm fine.)

He grabbed a serving platter usually used for a display, and waited for the cookies to cool before he moved them over. 

(Don't freak out.)

(It's fine. This is okay. This is normal, man. This happens all the time to people.)

(I mean really, how often do you hear about people falling for their future employers?)

(Falling for him. Heh.)

Fuck, but even as the joke made him laugh out loud--in a tense, forced kind of way--he knew he was completely screwed. 


 

August 24

3:00 PM

(One Hr. Before Wedding, Three Hrs. Before Reception)

It was a Monday, but it felt detached from all other days of the week. A day that stood outside of time, immortalized. 

The flowers were arranged beautifully around the altar, the vases Miss Fey had choses to use--she'd had the epiphany to order mother-of-pearl vases for the ones set up at the church--shone in the afternoon sun like hopeful beacons, beckoning both the bride and groom forward into this next step of their lives. The little spots of dust hovering above in the sunlight gave off slight shift in mood, an airiness that seemed to reach into the depth of every soul that filed into the small church. Excitement. Happiness. Nervousness. Love.

The buzz of conversation between families, the light smell of freesha mixed with the more prominent scent of roses, and the fact that he kept having to retie Gumshoe's tie, left him feeling elated. 

This was one of the reasons he loved weddings. 

"Pal, this is it," Gumshoe was saying, loosening his lilac tie and chewing the corner of his cheek. "Oh man, Mr. Edgeworth, I don't think I've ever been more excited in my entire life."

"Yes," he said as calmly as he could, stepping in front of the pacing groom. "I can see that, but would you please stop pulling this off? You'll wrinkle it."

Gumshoe laughed. "Guess I'm a little nervous, too. Sorry, pal."

"It's quite alright," he offered, giving him a sympathetic smile. "I can't say I'm not in the same boat. I...have never been a best man before, and I'm afraid I won't be much of one either."

He had agreed to stay until Maggey was walked down the isle, until she was by Gumshoe's side, before he went to oversee the reception prep at the Gardens. Which was a damned shame; he had wanted nothing more than to watch his closest friend engage in what was to be the happiest moment of his life.

"Don't worry about it, pal," Gumshoe offered, playing with the cuffs of his suit, accidentally dislodging the cufflink. Miles sighed and bent to pick it up. "I'm just...thankful you're here now, y'know? You're pretty good at keeping a level head."

Miles raised an eyebrow. "Oh? More than a little nervous, now, are we?"

Gumshoe gave a tense chuckle, and tugged on his tie, nearly pulling off again. "Pal?" He said quietly, pacing the little room they were currently boxed in again. "Pal, I've never been more nervous my entire life." He stopped moving and threw up his hands. "What if I get up there, and my Maggey doesn't want to marry me anymore?"

Miles frowned. "You're nervous because you think she might get cold feet?"

Gumshoe shook his head. "No, no. More...like, you know how sometimes you can say a word over and over and over again--kinda like over?--and then it doesn't sound like a word?"

"Semantic satiation," he supplied, curious. "You think the word 'love' will...lose meaning over the course of your marriage?" That was an awful thought.

"Pal, I'm scared she might not want it over the course of our marriage." He laughed, tense again, pulling his tie free and rubbing the now easily accessible back of his neck. Miles tried not to sigh, but his shoulders sagged visibly. "Maybe I should have waited to propose. She's a very nervous person, and the ring might have just-"

"Gumshoe, you do realize this amount of worry usually settles on the bride as well, correct?" 

"Pal?"

Miles cleared his throat, stood up from where he was sitting, and put his hands on each of Gumshoe's enormous shoulders. It was the most touch he usually allowed himself to have with a person, save for Maya and Kay, who both insisted on hugging him whenever they were excited enough. "Gumshoe, I have only known Maggey from the start of your relationship, and then, only through what you've told me about her and the few chances I've had to spend in her presence. And never, not once, have I seen her love for you waver.

"Maggey has always been meant for you, I should think," he said slowly, and he could feel his face warming, his neck growing hot under the jabot. "And you are, without a doubt, meant for her. I see no future where the two of you would ever find he need to part because you...suddenly became bored with the other." Indeed, there could never be a boring day between those two. "There is no reason to be nervous. Maggey loves you as much as you love her, and I don't seen any reason to doubt that. 

"If I had, I would not have agreed to plan this wedding." A blatant lie; he would have, so long as his friend was happy, though he would hope his intuition was wrong. 

He was just lucky and more than a bit grateful that Maggey Byrde was just as nervous, excited, and in love as her husband. 

Gumshoe was giving him a watery smile. "Mr. Edgeworth..."

"Oh, no, that's quite enough of that," he said, stepping back. "You can cry during the wedding if you wish, but not now, and certainly not on my suit."

The man sniffed lightly before he gave Miles a firm nod and salute. "Y-you're right! No more crying until I see my beautiful Maggey walking down the isle. Then...well, then I might cry a little." 

Miles smiled a little and stepped forward again to redo the man's tie. "Do not undo this again," he said as harshly as he could manage. Considering his good mood, it wasn't very. "I cannot be here for the duration of this wedding, and I must go check on the bride as well. If I find you've undone this again, I might have to strangle you with it."

Gumshoe laughed loudly and happily at this, and let Miles leave without another word.

The outside hall was just busy as when he'd left to talk to Gumshoe. A few distant cousins of Gumshoe walked swiftly by, talking about Maggey's bridesmaids in a lewd manner, and Miles rolled his eyes. He edged passed someone who was probably and uncle, and was just able to make it to the middle of the front hall when he heard a familiar voice call out to him.

"Edgeworth! Hey, slow down! Wait up!"

He turned. "Wright, aren't you supposed to be at--"

The rest of that sentence never came. Instead, as Wright appeared out of the crowd, his words disappeared at the sight of the man's outfit. 

He'd told him the suit had been...oh what was the word...had Wright called it ridiculous? Because Miles tended only to use the word as a clothing description when the article was ill-fitting. The suit fit him fine; actually, the suit fit him in all the right places, especially around the man's hips and...well, it fit alright. 

But it was a blinding, garish blue. 

"What in God's good name are you wearing, Wright?" he snapped when the man was in earshot.

Wright shot him a look. "Oh, don't you even start. Who the hell wears pleated napkins to a wedding?"

"I beg you pardon?" he snapped, fidgeting with said 'napkins.' 

Wright rolled his eyes, giving him a droll stare. "I might be wearing bright blue, but you have on a pink suit and a cravat, and you're still going to tell me I look ridiculous? Nuh-uh. Kay even warned me about your cravat. Good thing I didn't place a bet against the idea of you actually wearing that because I would have been short at least twenty bucks."

"It is a jabot, number one," he ground out. "This is red wine colored, Wright, that is number two. And number three, never in my life or career have I seen a man wear a Halloween costume to a wedding."

The man in front of him colored, and Miles smirked. "First off, this was bought years ago at a second hand store, not a Halloween store. And second of all...shut up, because I told you this was the only suit I had." The latter part came out almost as a whine. "You offered dance lessons, not a ride to Goodwill."

He shook his head. Fine, let the man dress like a fool. He had more important things to attend to. "You are supposed to be at the Virginia Gardens, Wright," he told him, tone accusatory. "Why are you, instead, at this wedding?"

For a second, Wright hesitated, playing with his jacket sleeve and looking at his shoes. "It uh... Well, one, Franziska told me to tell you everything is set up and ready. I-including the cake by the way, and some extra stuff I made."

"Extra...?"

"Swiss rolls," Wright supplied. "Gumshoe seemed to love them, and he said Maggey couldn't get enough, so I figured I'd throw some in there, no charge. I uh, had the time."

Miles nodded. That was...actually incredibly sweet of the man. Intuitive and kind. His stomach and heart fluttered. "And the other part?"

"Yeah. Well..." another hesitation. "I...sort of really wanted to see the wedding. I-I know I'm not invited! I was gonna leave as soon as I saw Maggey walk down the isle. I thought I'd stay for the vows, but I don't want to overstay my unwelcome, you know? I just...Gumshoe is a really nice customer, and Maggey was really wonderful with wanting to give me the job. So I...I don't know, I wanted to see them be happy together. There's very little I can do as a thank you for them. So I thought that if they had my sincerest well wishes, that'd be...okay." His eyes were wide and pleading and honest.

It was a such a sweet thing to say, to think. Wright's eyes were bright and wonderfully kind in this hopeful afternoon sunlight. He looked both excited and antsy, bouncing on the balls of his feet and biting his lips together nervously. 

"So you are a romantic," Miles murmured, more to himself than anything. For some reason, it made his heart skip a beat. that Wright heard this, of course, but chose to shrug it off.

"I told you I was," Wright said with a shrug. "Anyway, Fran just dropped me off to let you know there was no rush. I'll uh. I mean, if you're not staying until the end of the wedding, I was hoping--"

Miles nodded. "Provided that you are ready to leave by the time I am, I can offer you a ride."

Wright grinned brightly, and his mind came to an abrupt halt. 

For a second, no one spoke. Wright stood, there, smiling with a warm radiance that pooled in Miles' own gut. That familiar catch in his throat--the one that came about every time the other man smiled--prevented him from furthering conversation, and Wright seemed content to just smile and watch him.

When the silence had gone on a bit too long, Wright nodded toward the doors, where the families of the bride and groom were filing in, and casually stuffed his hands in his pockets. "I guess we should find seats, huh?"

Miles regained his composure rather quickly. "A-as a matter of fact, I must go speak with the bride, first and then I will be waiting with Gumshoe at the altar.

Though the light smile did not leave his face, Wright titled his head a little, his eyes curious.

"I...seem have found myself in the position of best man."

Wright's eyebrows rose and his small smile dropped into one of incredulous surprise. "Whoa, no kidding. You're going to stand up next to Gumshoe wearing..." he let the words hang in the air, instead contorting his hand a wrist so that the fingers pointed away from his body and wiggled them. 

(Trying to be cordial with this man grows harder and harder every time he opens his mouth."I could say the same thing about your attire, and yet I refrain," he snapped.

Wright let out a puff of air that turned out to be an exasperated laugh. "You just did say the same thing."

Miles pressed his lips together instead of choosing that moment to respond with anything. It would have come out as a mumble, or something that would serve only to insult himself. "If you will excuse me, I have an engagement I must attend to."

"Okay."

A beat, neither of them moving to complete their respective tasks. Slowly, Wright began to smile, and it was the kind of toothy grin Maya usually got right around the time she would ask...

"Was that a pun?"

He turned without a word, heading to where Maggey was no doubt having the same crisis as her husband, mumbling the whole was about annoying bakers and their unfair ability to take the sunlight away in their smiles. 


 

August 24

7:25 PM

Virginia Robinson Gardens

(Four Hrs Twenty Five Minutes Passed The Wedding, One Hr Twenty Five Minutes Into Reception)

The owner of the Gardens had agreed to keep them open far past closing for the reception, and the idea had turned out to work wonderfully.

Everyone who was there--mostly in-laws acquainting themselves with other in-laws, the caterers under careful watch of Franziska, and the rest who worked on the wedding--seemed to be caught up in the moment and music and the togetherness. It created a wonderful swirl of moods in the air.

Everything smelled either of summer evening or flowers, thought not heavily of either, content to be a memory already. The flowers Maya had made blended well into the background, yet filled all the necessary spaces and created an aura that the reception simply could not do without. The lights in the trees and on the tables--lanterns, all lit with battery powered candles on the insistence of Miles himself--mixed with the late evening sunset created a haze of joy, reflected only in eyes and in the pool behind him.

The pool, again at Miles direct orders, had been surrounded on all sides with benches. They were cool, white concrete, and they had no backs, but it offered as much protection as he could give without sacrificing the aesthetic of the memory he was trying to give the bride and groom.

Richard and Maggey Gumshoe. Husband and wife, hand in hand, were currently standing next to Miles, talking animatedly.

"Mr. Edgeworth, really, we can't thank you enough!" This was from Gumshoe, who had his jacket of and his tie...somewhere, Miles wasn't sure. It had been undone by the time he'd got back to him in the church, but it stayed on and secure during the actual wedding. 

"Everything was so wonderful, sir!" Maggey agreed enthusiastically. "From the flowers to the music it's just...thank you!" 

He offered her a wide, tender smile. "I'm glad it's to your liking, Maggey. Though if I can track down Miss Fey, you'll have to thank her for the flowers. I agree they are quite charming."

Maggey gave a dreamy sigh. "Yeah, I know. Even the bouquet is lovely. Where is she, anyway?"

Miles gave her a small shrug, sipping his wine to hide his blush. No doubt she and Fran had tucked themselves away into a corner to kiss and dance alone, holding each other close. They'd be on the dance floor in a few moments to do it more publicly. "I, er, can't be certain. But I will sent her your way went I find her. 

Gumshoe was still smiling from ear to ear, watching his wife as they spoke.

He ended up crying a bit as he watched Maggey, and Miles had to remind him of the handkerchief in his suit pocket. Though he couldn't really blame him; While Dahlia's suit had cut a nice figure on Gumshoe, Iris had done a stunning job on the dress. Maggey had looked like she'd come out of a fairytale novel. Around the shoulders and waist, trailing down the skirt of the dress, had been freesha petals made by the talented seamstress. 

And the whole time, Miles had watched Gumshoe's face transform from utter shock to elation.

It was his favorite part of the wedding. Watching the groom's face melt and eyes widen as they watched the love of their life make their way down an isle that was suddenly, impossibly, too long, so that they could hold onto each other forever.

It made him as happy and joyous as it made him feel...well, just a tad lonely. But only for a moment, for every time Maggey looked up at her husband, or Richard down at his wife, Miles could not help but soften at their love. 

Oh! I almost forgot." Maggey's eyes became excited again, and she gripped the bouquet in her hand tighter. Miles started, being brought back to the present. "Are you going to participate in the toss? It's coming up very soon! I'll aim it toward you, if you want! It's supposed to be good luck right?"

He choked on his wine. Immediately, Maggey and Gumshoe both launched into concerned expressions that drew several heads. Miles had trouble waving the onlookers off. 

"I'm so sorry, sir!" Maggey squeaked, her hand flying to her mouth. "Are you okay?"

Gumshoe was patting him on the back in what he must have thought was a gentle way, and was asking the same thing. 

Miles shrugged off Gumshoe's hand as best he could without seeming too harsh--though honestly, the man was doing more harm than good--and cleared his throat. "My apologies. That was quite..." he cleared his throat again, his voice still sounding wavy and watery. "Mrs. Gumshoe, you simply took me off guard. I do not participate in the toss, no. Never."

She pouted a little. "Well, alright. Are you sure you don't want to?"

It was Gumshoe who answered this question, though he seemed to startle himself with it. "Wait, isn't catching the bouquet a sign you'll get a sweetheart?"

Maggey flushed. "Oh! Wait no, it means getting engaged, doesn't it?"

"It means marriage," he said in a thin voice. God, but why was it only now he started to understand Franziska's insistence she have alcohol before she mingled? It was genius, and he certainly did not have enough in him to breech this topic with any human. "Marriage is certainly something to be cherish and looked forward to," he said in place of the real answer. "I do not wish to make an attempt to catch a bouquet and...have the superstition ruin any future plans for marriage."

"Oh." This came from both of them in unison, and they both genuinely looked like they understood his fake logic. 

He straightened his jacket and stood straight. "To both of you, I wish you many happy years together. It isn't often people find their other half." He offered a small smile, but looked away. Being obnoxiously sentimental had its perks, but it always left the nastiest of blushes on his face. "Mister and Missus Gumshoe, I am very thankful and content to see you found your other halves in each other."

"Oh, Mr. Edgeworth, sir..." Gumshoe whimpered. Maggey let out a sniffle.

"Th-that being said!" he interrupted, quite loudly. "I have other people I must mingle with, and I imagine you have much of the same. Again, you have my congratulations, and my best wishes."

 And with that, he made his way over to a bench, draining the last of his whine. 

Reason One why Miles Edgeworth did not wish for marriage: at this point in his life, he felt he could not, and would not be the most attentive partner. He had work, and lots of it, and it look effort and time to do, especially when you threw yourself into it like he did. Likewise, a relationship took...effort and time. He felt right now he would have to chose, and that is not something always seen as a good thing in the lover's eyes.

Reason Two why Miles did not think he could engage in...engagement: he was not ready. At least, he told himself this over and over again when he put together weddings, and he...he was fooling himself. There was only one real reason he wasn't actively in a relationship.

Though reason one was a big part of it, he simply wasn't sure if he could bring himself to commit to something so certain, only for them to not understand his work load, or his late hours up and planning the venue. But he had a hard time hiring people in general. Kay had been correct; Maya was the last person he'd hired, and Franziska had done that for him instead. Miss Woods--the fired flower girl--had only been a frequent go-to flower shop. He hadn't officially hired her. And then the twenty-something bakeries he'd visited...well, even now, he wasn't sure if creating that kind of permanence would be right.

Too many what-if's when it came to long-term things like this. Most would understand; he wasn't an optimist, or at least not overly so, by any stretch of the imagination, but he was sure of that. 

So committing romantically just seemed...off, somehow. Like he would be forcing the connection he'd been looking for since he was a child. He was sure it wouldn't feel like that when he found the right person--

"Nick!"

This came as a distant shout from Maya, and Miles looked over his shoulder to see that Maya and Nick had found each other near his cake.

"Maya!" he echoed in the same cheerful tone. "There you are! I--wow you look really pretty."

She did; she usually wore this purple dress to receptions, either this, or a black, backless thing that Franziska had picked out for her. "Aw, Nick! Thanks! you look pretty shwanky yourself. I didn't think the suit would look as good as it does on you."

(Neither did I.)

Wright was chuckling, his face turing bright red as he looked away. "Er, uh, thanks. Did Pearl come too? I thought I saw her here, and I figured since she helps you at the shop..."

"Oh, yeah," she nodded. "Fran is on the dance floor with her, I think. She really wanted to dance, but she couldn't find a partner. Is Trucy here?"

"Magic show. She wanted to, though."

"Well, maybe next time, then. She'd love this." Maya smiled a little, nibbling her lip, which Miles thought odd, but before he could focus too much on it, she perked up again. "But hey! Your cake has been a huge hit! I kinda felt bad for eating it. It was so pretty."

The cake had been beautiful. Much like the brides dress, the flower cascaded down one side of the cake. The icing was pure white, and somehow, using a combination of what Miles had assumed was spun sugar and perhaps pastillage--unlikely though, since Wright was adamant about staying away from fondant--he had created edible bunches of lace that cascaded over the sides of each tier, like a veil. It truly was a shame to cut into it. 

"I think I even saw Dahlia Hawthorne smile when she took a bite. It's pretty and tasty! Great work!" Maya continued, and she beamed up at him and clapped him on the shoulder. "I'm sure Mr. Edgeworth with hire you now."

Again, with the smiling and nearly trapping Miles' air supply in his throat. "Well, I don't really know about that. But thank you. Again. The, uh, the flowers are beautiful, Maya. I've never seen a wedding you've done up close. I mean the pictures you took were pretty, but this is amazing."

"Aw, Nick, you're all sappy from the wedding!" the girl gushed, punching his arm. "Look at you! My gosh, you're practically a puddle."

"Weddings tend to do that to people," he said. His voice took on a dreamy quality, and Miles' face almost took one on as well as he watched the other man speak.

They talked about the cake, the colors, Maggey, the dress. The entire time, Miles watched, or listened, or did a bit of both, occasionally turning away from them to talk with a distant family member of the bride or groom, or to say something to one of the caterers when they asked him anything.

And then they spoke about the Gardens.

"This venue is so beautiful," Wright sighed when Miles had sat back down with a second glass of wine. "It's...kind of a dream come true."

"Straight out of a romance novel," Maya agreed. "Mr. Edgeworth is pretty talented when it comes to creating the most romantic setting for each individual."

Wright nodded slowly. "Confession time, while I'm in a really good mood and a little tipsy?"

"Lay it on me."

"It..." he hesitated. "It makes wonder if my wedding would be this nice."

He could feel his eyes narrow, and he looked at the wine in his hand suspiciously. Perhaps one glass had been enough after all.

"I'm sure it could," Maya told him honestly. "Who can say? I mean, you have to get out there first and--"

He laughed, and there was no hard edge to it, nothing sarcastic or mean. Just a laugh to show he simply didn't mind anything about what was being said. "Maya, I am a single dad who owns a semi-successful bakery. I'm in my mid thirties, and I still wear bunny slippers to bed at the constant urging of my fifteen year old daughter. That's not really something you put in an E-Harmony ad, you know?"

Maya's own laughter was just as exuberant. "No way! That's a total catch for come people!"

Miles had to fight to keep his mind silent as he eavesdropped. 

He shook his head, still smiling. "Who am I kidding though? It's a pretty big 'if' you know? I mean, I'm talking about this like I'm planning on getting married, when I'm not even planning on being in a relationship."

"You could be," Maya pressed. 

"Nah," he answered. "Besides, I don't think I could afford this kind of thing. I'm more content to live vicariously through other couples, watch their special days. Like you and Franzy."

"Pff. Don't let her know you slipped up in her name. She has her whip on her today," Maya said, sipping from her own glass. It looked like cherry coke. 

"And," Wright said, downing the rest of his drink--champagne? Probably, since Wright didn't look the whine type--and drawing out the word. "This, my dear, is where I leave you. Where you are, Franziska is close by, and I only have one suit. I don't fancy it getting torn up by her whip today."

Maya snorted. "See you later, Nick," she called after him, and then Wright was gone from his view 

He stared into his wine glass, trying to slow his heart. What in the world was this? Why was he reacting like that, because Wright had told Maya he wanted to get married? Lot's of people wanted that. Miles certainly did.

(Perhaps even to someone like-)

(No. No, no no no, no. Not like anything, not like anyone.)

"Quarter for your thoughts?"

He nearly spilt the wine as Wright sat next to him on the bench, startled. "I-I believe the term is penny."

Wright shrugged. "Well, if I went around collecting pennies, I'd be pretty poor, wouldn't I?"

Miles snorted. "Clever, Wright. Very clever. Enjoying the party?"

Wright blinked, and staring at Miles too long before speaking. "Oh my god. You're smiling? Like, that is a real, true-blue smile I'm looking at, on your face."

He scowled, and Wright laughed. "No, no! Go back to the other one, it was better."

"My god," he grumbled, sipping his wine and turning away. "Heaven forbid you turn up at another wedding with an open bar."

Now it was Wright's turn to frown, though even then, there was mirth in his eyes. "Hey, I'm not drunk. Not even close to it, actually. There are so many people around it might be a little foolish to get drunk on free wine." A nonchalant, one-shouldered shrug. "Anyway, I saw you sitting here alone, smirking into your drink, and I thought I'd come say that...uh..."

Miles raised an eyebrow. "Hm? Another quip about the jabot? Talk about the weather? The changing seasons?" Was he always so sarcastic with Wright? He didn't think so. Surreptitiously as one could while bending over, he set the wine down at his feet. One was definitely enough. 

When he looked up at Wright again, he looked nervous. "Wright?"

"I'm fine," he said, and he sounded it. "I just. It's really embarrassing to say it out loud, you know? But I saw you and I wanted to tell you you're amazing. A-at what you do."

His ears felt hot, but his heart felt like it was...well doing all sorts of acrobatic movements. Mid-air summersaults, backflips, front flips; it was all over the place, and he could barely suppress the surprise Wright's words had caused.

You're amazing.

(At what I do) he reminded himself harshly. Wright was complementing the reception a well. It was no wonder he was embarrassed. The choice of wording sounded a bit strange on the ear, that was all. "I..." And yet he was unsure how to proceed. "I...thank you, very much, Wright. You...your words are quite...uplifting." 

(Uplifting? Uplifting. Alright. Genius work there, Miles.) He repressed the urge to roll his eyes, knowing Wright would see and misinterpret it as directed toward his person. "I trust you are enjoying this reception, then?"

Wright smiled fully. "Yeah. Yeah I...really am." He looked around and took a deep breath. "This is honestly the prettiest thing I've ever seen. Everything is so put together, Edgeworth," he gushed. Miles' face darkened a shade close to the wine at his feet, and he was thankful for the setting of the sun. It was easier to hide this by ducking his head. 

"Seriously," Wright said. "It's...like I said, I'm not much of a romantic. I don't usually go to a lot of weddings. Actually, I think the last one I went to was a cousin's wedding when I was nineteen. And it was nothing like this. This is...I don't know, it's kind of like a dream come to life? I'm not really...poetic enough to describe it."

"Again," Miles said softly, focussing in the fading light in the pool behind them. It glittered, the setting sunlight tossed from ripple to ripple, and served for a nice distraction. "Thank you."

"You're...you're welcome," he answered. 

The silence between them was filled with the announcement to gather the women at the party for the bouquet toss. Between the chatter, the light sound of clinking glass, and the quiet lapping of the pool behind them, it was made almost easy.

"By the way," Wright said softly. "Gumshoe, at the wedding, when Maggey walked in...?" 

Miles looked up at him again, feeling his eyebrows knit in cautious confusion. 

Wright looked startled. "I'm not criticizing him! He looked really nice, and so did Maggey, that's not what--anyway. No. Nothing bad I just..." he trailed off and ran a hand through his hair. It only made it halfway through--no doubt due to the gel in it--before he gave in. "Uh. It's just...when Maggey came in, was...he actually crying? I couldn't tell from the back."

For a second, Miles opened his mouth to defend Gumshoe. Of course he was crying! He was excited and scared and in love and about to feel that for the rest of his life. He saw a new future with the woman he loved as she walked down the isle looking like heaven. How else was supposed to react? 

Accept that Wright didn't look like he was about to say anything unkind about Gumshoe. In fact, he looked curious. Which in turn, made Miles' own curiosity flare up. "He was, yes."

Wright nodded to himself. "Oh good, then. That's..." he chuckled, his entire face softening. "Well, it's really sweet. I hope I get to love someone like that. Someday though. Maybe not now, but someday."

Stunned silence. He could not move.

Wright scratched the back of his head. "Okay that was a stupid thing to admit. Sorry, uh. Maybe I did have a little too much to fast. Should I--"

"You watched the groom's face instead of the bride?" He blurted this out before he could help it, and it sounded nothing like how he usually spoke to Wright. It was breathless surprise working desperately to cover the strange feeling in that hummed in his veins.

Wright barked a nervous laugh and looked away. Everything about him was suddenly tense, keyed up and ready to flee. "Y-yeah," was how he started, and his fingers fidgeted where they were clasped on his knees. "Like I said, I haven't really been to a wedding in awhile, but I always remember everyone turing to watch the bride, and I would just...stare at the groom. 

"He always look so overwhelmed. Like he was witnessing a miracle. Like there was nothing better that this moment. It...kind of became my favorite part of the wedding." 

It hit him like a free fall from a plane into the ocean. Warm and certain and exciting and terrifying.

He'd known about this stupid crush since he'd first seen what the man could do with sugar sculpting, and how much he loved his job. How much he wanted to work for Miles. The man was, as Kay had put it, like the sun. He was warm in every way Miles to think of. He'd already made a point not to look directly into his dual colored eyes, because there was so much to get lost in. But it was feeling equated with wedding planning. He got caught up in his work, in his love for making people happy. Once the wedding was over, he would settle down, realize that this little crush he'd been developing did not last outside the excitement, and he would end the budding romantic feelings before they had even begun. It was the most efficient way of doing things.

But it became suddenly clear that perhaps it wasn't so simple. 

Perhaps it had been the wine, or the candlelight. The sunset on the water behind them, dancing in the summer breeze. It could have been the music. It could have been when Wright was face to face with him, close enough to feel his breath--(Close enough to kiss) his mind whispered--on the floor of the bakery. It could have been when he noticed how beautiful Wright's eyes looked in this kind of light--a strong, flickering fire in one, and an open night sky full of wishes skimming across its canvas. It could have been this simple admission right then, that they'd both shared an unusual wedding habit, coincidentally their favorite part of the ceremony. 

It could have been the way the man wanted nothing so forward as a kiss, but rather wanted this simple closeness to him more than anything else. That he wanted to hold the aura of the man's smile in his hand and protect it.

Damn.

(Oh damn it all.)

Because suddenly, this all became much more than a crush.

Somehow, he'd started falling for this man, this stranger, this...something, and he could barely catch up with his brain in time to register it.

Whatever expression Miles was wearing, Wright seemed to take it in and backtrack, moving to get up. "That was...also a stupid thing to say aloud. You know what? I'm going to go find Maya, and then I'm gonna find a really stiff drink, and try this conversation again when I'm far drunker."

"Ah, wait a moment," he said, voice strained. "I did not mean for my silence to be my judgement. I too...have a fondness for looking at the groom while he watches the love of his life walk the isle. It is the most rewarding part of being a wedding planner. I...quite like seeing it come together in the groom's smile. It..." he searched for the words. "It is the most rewarding part of my job."

Wright blinked slowly, embarrassment gone. His eyebrows were raised, not dramatically, but enough to show his lingering surprise. His mouth was twitching into a little smile and then dropping into a shocked "o" that meant surprise. Then all at once, he was smiling a devil-may-care smile. "Wow."

Miles sighed. 

"You really are a romantic."

He said nothing, just took another deep breath.

"That's how you knew--or I guess know--how to do weddings after all. How to make it all feel so...this. You are a hopeless, helpless romantic!"

"Wright," Miles snapped. "There is still a pool behind us, and if you want to remain dry and outside of it, I suggest you lower your voice!" 

"Sorry, no, you're right. I'm sorry." He didn't look or sound it. In fact, he looked back to his normal self, ready to tease him until the evening ended. "Still though. A romantic. You. That's...so unexpected." 

(And yet somehow, here I am. A romantic, who is suddenly much more screwed than he was before hand.) Honestly it should be illegal to look so...so...

(You know, there are many words that fit here. Smug, annoying, nice, handso...hmm) he thought. His mind stalled around the kinder adjectives. Perhaps the only thing to describe him was Wright.

"I cannot believe this. You know, I think your employee tried to tell me this, and I told her she was wrong." Miles scowled as Wright chuckled. Kay tended to just say the first thing that came out of her mouth, much like Miss Fey. The difference was, Miles was almost sure Kay didn't believe in secrecy. It wasn't always a problem until she met Wright.

"Man, that kid is two for two. I'm never betting against her again," he murmured fondly. 

His own scowl deepened. "I would appreciate it if you did not laugh at my expense, Wright."

Wright turned back to him. He was actively trying to hide his smile, pressing his lips together and fighting the grin threatening to split his face in half. His shoulders were stiff, as if tightening the muscles could stop him from laughing. He bit his lips togethers, and his eyebrows where up, feigning honesty as he tried to say, "Wh-who's laughing?"

He cut a ridiculous figure. 

Phoenix Wright cut a ridiculous figure, and Miles burst out laughing. He couldn't help it. It wasn't even something he could blame on wine, or the mood around him. It was simply funny. Wright was correct, he had no reason to think he was a romantic type of person. He given Wright nothing but a cold, calculating man to converse with. Which was how he presented himself, and how he normally was. Wright had never know any romantic side of him, nor would he, save for the venues he attended. 

(Save for the...venues?) His laughter tapered off, but an incredulous smile was left on his face. 

Dear god. He wanted to hire him. 

He hit all the correct criteria. He was good at his job, passionate. Took criticism well. He'd even tried to learn to dance for the wedding. He at least understood the romanticism. 

And Miles, for the first time since he'd started planning, had thought to invite him back as a permanent fixture to his business.

Wright had stopped laughing at as well, and was giving him a wistful grin. "This wedding was really fun." He sighed. "I...if nothing else, it was really an amazing opportunity, Edgeworth. So thanks. I don't usually have big projects like this, so..."

Miles cleared his throat, and Wright stopped speaking. He closed his eyes, and took a deep breath. "Mr. Wright, I has come to my attention--"

At the same time he'd started to speak, someone was shouting something, and inappropriate amount of noise.

"Mr. Edgeworth! Duck!"  It sounded a lot like Maya Fey, except with a panicked undertone.

"What in the...?" This was Wright, who looked toward the noise.

He turned toward the din of the people by the bouquet toss. And was, of course, met with a well thrown, heavier-than-he-originally-thought, face full of irises, freesha, roses, and lisianthus. 

The force behind it wasn't too terribly overwhelming, but he did rear back a little, just enough to tip backward. Usually, that would have been the end of it. But the world and fate and the powers humans don't understand work in mysteriously frustrating ways. Miles had set benches without backs around the pool, using them as barriers so that one would not drunkenly wander into it. They turned out to work, in their own way. However, a backless bench is a bench with little protection when you lean back.

Ergo, back and back Miles fell. Again, into the damnable pool.

(Oh damn it all, I'm going to--!)

He did not fall. He was leaning further back, hovering over the pool, far enough that he should have fallen in by now. His feet had very little purchase on the ground they had been on, and in fact one of them seemed to be up in the air.

Perhaps it was some kind of freeze-frame moment, where he was supposed to stop, look into the camera, and say some clichéd line about how the audience was probably wondering how he ended up like this.

Instead of falling, the bouquet plopped into his lap, and he could feel a tug at his lapel and an arm around his back, keeping him out of harms way.

"Look, as much a I like dipping you like I'm some kind of salsa dance coach, I can't pull you up. You gotta help me out here, man, I'm not falling in this fucking pool again."

The harsh language was enough to get his body to vault itself back up, and his face to flush bright pink. 

"Good catch, Nick!" Maya called, jogging up to them. Behind her were Franziska and Maggey, the latter wide-eyed and worried. 

Wright leaned forward a bit looking into Miles' eyes, concerned. His brain stuttered, stalled, flatlines, and rebooted. "Miles? You okay? I mean there's nothing to knock you head on, but if somehow you got hurt--"

(Miles...)

(He...has never used my first name has he?) It was kind of hard to remember anything when the man looked at him like that. 

"Mr.Edgeworth!" Maya again, this time finally in front of them. "Are you okay?! Maggey has got quite the arm, but we had no idea it would come back this far."

Maggey froze up at her words. "I-I-I didn't mean to, sir!" she apologized. "I know I have a strong arm, always have, but I didn't think...and you almost fell into the pool! Oh gosh, are you okay?"

"Mrs. Gumshoe, I must insist on keeping that foolish squeaking to a minimum. Miles Edgeworth is fine," Franziska chided.

He cleared his throat, moving to hand her the bouquet. She took it gently into her hands, but she looked quite guilty. "She's correct. I'm fine, Maggey," he said as lightly as he could. "Just a tad surprised. Good arm though, truly."

"Th-thank you, sir," she stuttered. "I....should probably go throw this properly," she mumbled. "Guess Richard's bad luck and my own don't always cancel out, huh?"

"Why are you throwing it again?" asked Maya suddenly. "Edgeworth caught it with his face. He's totally the winner." She clapped him on the shoulder.

"Maya, oh my god," Wright snickered, hiding his grin with the back of his hand.

"Miss Fey..."

Maya snorted. "You're getting all red in the face, but you're totally embarrassed. That's okay, Mr. Groom-To-Be." She smiled when his frowned deepened.

"Miss Fey, number one, that is not how it works, you are supposed to catch it with you hands--"

Franziska interrupted him, wearing a smirk of her own. "Fool, there is no specification. Face or hands, the bouquet is yours. Congratulations, little brother."

"Oh my god," Wright said again, voice trembling, with laughter. 

"Oh, shut up, Wright," he snapped desperately. Everything under his jacket felt warm. 

Maggey smiled a little. "Oh. Well in that case, you should probably keep this after all, Mr. Edgeworth. So that you're romantic luck doesn't leave."

She said this innocently and very honestly, and Miles almost, almost hit Wright in the arm to stop him from fully laughing out loud. " Thank you, but I wouldn't know what to do with it," he stated simply. "However, if you do wish to give it away, I insist you give it to Franziska. Consider it a gift, big sister," he teased.

Miles had to elbow Wright quite a few times to get him to stop laughing. The poor man had just saved him from bigger humiliating situation than this simple teasing. The man didn't deserve to be whipped within an inch of his life.

It was hard to keep a straight face though. Franziska's answering glare was all he was after as he slowly and silently accepted the flowers from the bride. He could feel his own answering smile grow into something sarcastic, and he huffed, returning to the party, flowers tucked perfectly under one arm, a laughing Maya hooked onto the other. 

Wright had finally calmed down some, though he was still chucking every few seconds. "Ah, god. That," he pointed, "was the funniest thing to happen today. I take back laughing at your hidden romanticism."

Miles rolled his eyes. "Why is it you get so much enjoyment at my expense?"

He shrugged. "Don't know. I guess because my bad luck tends to rub off on you? Schadenfreude, maybe."

His own eyebrows rose, impressed. "My, my. Where did you learn that word, might I ask?"

"Franziska, and her annoying German words during game night with Maya." He shrugged. "I don't think I'm saying correctly, but whatever, You were saying something before all that." 

As quickly as his blush had faded it came back, lighter though, a dusting that faded into the fading light. "Er, yes. Right."

"Yeah?"

Miles took a deep breath. (He's not going to stop making that ridiculous pun, is he?) "As I was saying...you..." he cleared his throat. This was much more difficult than it had been before. "As it so happens, Mr. Wright, there are...many people today who enjoyed you cake, both in look and in flavoring. It has occured to me that perhaps many of then were simply excited that the cake was nontraditional, and had little to no fondant. Apparently, there are many who aren't fans of it."

"Wait. Wait, wait wait wait," Wright said, straightening. His eyes flew wide with nervous excitement. "You aren't...?"

"I am." He held out a hand, business like. "Mr. Wright, on behalf of Milestone I would like to hire you a the permanent baker for all provided wedding services in my name. I hope that you--"

Wright hugged him. It wasn't anything intimate, just a quick two arms thrown around the neck and a light squeeze. Miles' arm was still stuck out to shake, and was now held there awkwardly.

When he was released, the other man's answering smile was stunning. 

"Thank you! Oh my god! I-I just hugged you, I'm sorry, but thank you!" Wright pulled away from his person entirely, laughing incredulously. "I'm going to make wedding cakes. I'm going to make wedding cakes for actual--" He paused, and turned to Mile. "You're serious, right? I'm not just. I mean that just happened."

"Er, yes," he said, eyebrows knitting. "You have shown professionalism in your craft, as well as exceptional talent. However much you lack in other areas, such as social interaction, you can at least bake like a professional, and that is all I am asking for."

"If I didn't think it'd get me punched, I'd hug you again, Edgeworth," Wright said bluntly. He stood up--leapt up actually--and jerked a thumb over his shoulder. "I'm going to tell Maya. And uh, call my daughter. Let her know, you know?"

Miles stood as well, taking his glass of wine from the ground. It had, miraculously, stayed in place despite the sudden chaos around it. "If you are making phone calls, make sure to call your associate as well. I believe he should be told as some point."

Wright nodded furiously. "Right yeah. I'll do that first actually. Thanks." He took a few steps forward, and then one back, facing Miles again. "Really. Thank you. For giving me the job. I...you have no idea how excited and happy I am."

(I have some inkling, at the very least) he thought. He could still feel Wright's hug, weighing on him like the rest of these unshakable feelings. The man looked entirely too happy, a dopey grin covering his face, in his bright, wonderful eyes. Miles nodded and gave him a small smile, turing his own body toward a ground of people crowding around the bar. "I will call you into my office to sign some paper work later in the week."

"Yes. Okay. Okay. Thank you." Wright's ability to speak seemed to be faltering, and so Miles nodded toward him, turned, and left without another word.

He headed to the bar, setting the wine glass on the corner of one of the tables, and allowed himself to smile warmly at the thought, and then fully when he heard Maya's excited squeal reached his ears. 

He was only sitting down for a few minutes before he heard someone yell, "Mr. Edgeworth!"

He turned, and next to him was Pearl, bouncing on the balls of her feet. "Is it true? You hired Mr. Nick?"

(News travels fast, I suppose.) "It is."

Pearl squealed with joy, latching on to his arm with both her hands. "I'm so happy! Congrats Mr. Edgeworth!"

He raised an eyebrow at her, but his smile did not fade. "Oh? What for?"

Pearl's smile widened. "Because you hired Mr. Nick. Remember when you called Maya while we were packing to go see my mom? Well you said you and Miss Franziska have the same standards a few weeks ago. And you said it was especially effective in hiring, correct?"

He nodded slowly. "Yes, I supposed I did. Why do you ask?"

"Oh! Oh, because she's Maya's special someone, and she was the hired because she met Franziska's standards. And so it got me thinking, you should hire someone who was your special someone too. But only when they meet your standards, so that it would be perfect."

He chuckled. "Special someone? And what, pray tell, does that mean, Miss Fey?" He took a small sip of his wine.

Pearl smiled wide. "It means you found your special someone! Your other half! It's a good thing you caught the bouquet after all! Because since you found your special someone, you can kiss Mr. Nick!"

He nearly spit out his drink.  

Chapter Text

October 12

6:12 PM

Wright and Co. B&C

October brought with it the Santa Anas, and on it the smell of burning firewood and sunset mixed with the growing scent of spiced tea and fallen leaves. The changing of the trees was swift, but set the transition from the last remnants of summer to the beginning of fall into motion. Leaves crunched under boots, and even in the heat of the LA evenings, the chill of autumn found all. Everything was cast in a candle light orange no matter the time of day, and with that came the warm smell of maple, pumpkin, and chai. 

The smell a the bakery is always a good indication of the season change. Spiced apple turnovers, pumpkin carrot cake, pumpkin spiced cupcakes, pound cakes of every variant of fall-themed flavor, maple-bacon doughnuts, and so much more were displayed behind glass city-wide. Every bakery in LA was ready for October, and the Wright and Co. Bakery and Café was no exception. 

This also happened to be Phoenix's favorite time of the year when it came to his work and the flavors he got to create. And of course, Trucy's birthday, an event he always looked forward to baking for. He was not so much a fan of the autumn cold. He didn't do the cold. 

He also didn't do pushy, perfectionist wedding planners following him out of the kitchen, arguing physics of all things, when he was trying to close. Even if they were wearing a rather fetching "wine" colored turtle neck that had made his heart skip a beat earlier that day. 

"I'm not saying I can't do it," he ground out, yanking one of the rags he'd been using to clean of the counters up while Edgeworth moved around the front of the register to glare at him properly. "I'm saying you're gonna have to call Miss Hollder in and have her explain to me exactly what she wants, because what you've got there," and with this he gestured to the black planner the other man held under his arm using the rag, "is telling me to do something that's not going to work."

Edgeworth rolled his eyes. "If you would please refrain from dramatics Wright. I am hardly asking you reconstruct the actual Eiffel Tower." The man's flat expression spoke volumes. 

Wright copied it and crossed his arms. "You might as well be!"

The whole idea of this cake was impossible, at least from what he could gather. As proper as the man looked, trying to decipher Edgeworth's quick, tiny scrawl proved incredibly difficult. Especially when the man himself had been explaining what "Eiffel Tower on cake" had actually meant.

Lacy Hollder and Pace....whoever--and Phoenix really wasn't sure, the man used his stage name for crying out loud--had always wanted to go to France, according to Lacy. In fact, Pace had added proudly, they had planned on making it their honeymoon location. But before Lacy could set foot there, they were to have a "taste of Pehr-rhee." All of this Miles had been able to get done to the best of his ability. 

Until now, it seemed. 

Edgeworth pursed his lips until they tightened into a scowl, and Phoenix only gave him an innocent shrug. "Like I said, I can make this cake no problem. Ordering the mold for the sculpture won't be terrible, and they'll come in ample time. I can make both with ease, Edgeworth," he said slowly. "But what I can't do is make the tower any lighter so that it can rest on this cake."

The man huffed, frustrated, and held out his planner as if it was for Phoenix to take. "Like it or not, Wright, you're battle with gravity versus this cake can easily be solved if you would just listen to me and do as I suggest."

He had suggested Phoenix use fondant, and he had flat refused. "Give me her number then, and I'll call her."

That had been the argument for the last ten minutes. Phoenix would say he couldn't make this cake the way the customer wanted, because it was impossible; the weight and height of the Eiffel Tower structure would sink right through the cake. It wasn't that he didn't want to do it, but rather he wanted to make sure he had it right.

Edgeworth would suggest fondant or something, if it was going to be "that much of a hassle," and Wright would tell him no, and that it wouldn't fix the problem.

Then Edgeworth would ask Phoenix What do you propose I do? so he would spread his arms, scrunch up his face and tell him, Just call her and tell her to come talk to me about it, so I can do this right. 

And then they would bicker again. From what he had gathered around the third time this argument had circled back, the wedding planner seemed to think asking Miss Hollder to redesign her cake meant that he was asking her to deal with not having one. 

"I will do no such thing," Edgeworth snapped. "There is no reason to drag Miss Hollder back here when your problem could be easily rectified." His finger tapped annoying in time with his words, emphasizing his annoyance. 

Phoenix scowled. (Right now you're the problem, and the only way that can be "rectified" is if I take your stupid planner and thump you over the head with it.)

"I think Nick's got a point though, Mr. Egeworth," said Maya from her usual table, playing with Franziska's fingers and taking a sip of her tea. The couple were sitting in their usual spot near the front window, and only now did Phoenix remember he had an audience. "Wouldn't it be better to have a cake built correctly than to have the original plans followed?"

"Do not get involved, Süße," Franziska murmured into her own drink, tangling her fingers with Maya's. "Let them foolishly fight. I am interested to see who will win." 

(What? Are you taking bets?) Phoenix gave her a bitter smile while Edgeworth scoffed.

"It is not a competition or a fight, Franziska," the man told her sharply. "It is simply a meeting, a discussion of the current itineraries."

Now it was Phoenix's turn to scoff. "Discussion? Doesn't that usually mean one party listening to the other?"

Miles rolled his eyes. "Why, yes. I believe it does, so if you--"

He didn't get to finish, and Phoenix didn't get the chance to think of a clever retort. A knock on the locked front door interrupted them both, and when he peered over Edgeworth's shoulders, he locked eyes with a smiling Trucy. She waved. 

He smirked at Edgeworth, grabbing the keys and tossing the cleaning rag as the other man's chest in a burst of childish defiance. The man flinched, but did nothing more than give him a firm, disapproving frown.

(What else is new?) The guy was always giving him looks like this. (I'd say it was kinda scary but...well does he have to bee so handsome when he does it?)

He cleared the thought from his head. He'd think back on it later or something. "Please excuse me," he announced, offering the man a tantalizing smile, "but I have something I have to do, so in the meantime, why don't you grab a napkin and write down that number for me?"

He was around the counter and heading toward the door before he could make out the insult Edgeworth had mumbled under his breath. 

 Trucy beamed at him as soon as the door opened. "Evening, daddy! Have you seen my keys?"

Phoenix raised an eyebrow, leaning on his elbow in the doorway. "Seen them where?"

Trucy shrugged, her backpack shifting a bit so that one strap slid off her shoulder. "Could be anywhere. The washing machine. Polly's bike basket. In some cake batter. Maybe in a cake."

Phoenix shook his head, a curious smile on his face. "Can't say that I have, sweetheart." He stepped aside enough to let her in the building. "Where was the last place you had them? You didn't lose them, did you?"

Trucy gave him another shrug, her face a bit too innocent. "I mean, I could have, but I think if we focus on the positive, I might have only misplaced  them, which really isn't as bad."

He laughed. "Tell me straight, Trucy. Did you lose your keys?"

Her smile turned into a playful wince. "Like I said, I might have just...misplaced them."

Phoenix shook his head, smiling, and relocked the door before leaning on it, the bells thumping lightly against his hip. "Isn't that the same thing?"

"Not when they just won't come out of my magic panties." Her smiled gone now, she slumped into a chair and heaved a sigh. "I can't believe it either. I can pull anything out of there, and then suddenly, bam!" she exclaimed, illustrating what must have been the keys vanishing with her hands. "Keys, gone like the wind."

Phoenix winced in sympathy, ruffling his daughter's hair a bit. "Hey, everyone has their off days. After you finish your homework, we can go get new ones made."

Trucy pouted. "But these were special keys, daddy!" she whined. "I have to find them. They had a one-of-a-kind keychain attached to them, and I can't lose it."

(I don't think that gaudy metal "G" counts as "one-of-a-kind,") Phoenix thought with a resigned sigh. He leaned down to press a light kiss to the top of her head. "We'll search the whole place tonight, okay? They couldn't have gotten far. And if they have, you can ask Gavin about a new keychain. Sound good?"

He pulled back and watched her smile. "Sounds like a plan," she answered. She leaned a little to the side, around his legs, and waved. "And speaking of plans, hello Mr. Edgeworth! Long time, no see!"

Phoenix watched, amused, as Edgeworth seemed to struggle with several emotions at once. Surprise and discomfort the main two, and they danced across his face rather quickly before he contented himself with offering her a small nod and a quite, "Miss Wright."

Trucy beamed. "It's nice to see you here again! Are you here to sign up for talent week? Or are you still arguing with daddy over the wedding you're working on?"

Phoenix laughed as Edgeworth colored. The man sent him a glare that could very well freeze hell, but in turn Phoenix only smiled back. 

Trucy hopped up from her chair, taking her backpack up with her, turing toward her aunt and Franziska in the process. "How long has it been going on?"

"Hours," Maya moaned, dramatically flopping onto the table. "I've known nothing but talk of this cake for three hours, Trucy."

Franziska's hands ran through Maya's hair, and she hummed in agreement. "It boils down to your foolish father being too foolish to come up with a solution--"

"Hey!" Phoenix squawked. 

"--and my foolish little brother being a foolishly stubborn fool to the point of it inhibiting his ability to compromise." 

Edgeworth coughed into his hand, looking away in obvious embarrassment. "You make it sound petty."

"It is petty," Maya grumbled. 

"Foolish and petty," agreed Franziska.

Trucy nodded along with her, and then turned to her dad. "That's all?"

He gave her a shrug, his lips pressed together in an unimpressed, tired grin. 

"Did you guys try calling the bride and seeing what she wants to do? I bet she'd be willing to change the cake if she understood the situation."

Oh, Phoenix could have scooped her into a rib-crushing bear hug. (That's my girl!) "I've been saying that for hours." 

Trucy tilted her head at Edgeworth, placing her hands on her hips. "And you think asking her to change the cake will...turn her into Bridezilla, right?" He didn't have to see his daughter to understand the light, probing look on her face. She was far too intuitive for a nearly-sixteen year old.

Edgeworth turned his eyes to Phoenix for a moment, looking between him and his daughter, as if asking for help. He shrugged, trying to say, I tried to tell you, but you wouldn't listen with his eyes. 

It seemed to work, for the man sighed deeply, and gave him a look that said Oh, shut up before turning back to Trucy and clearing his throat. "It isn't just that. I am afraid that the wedding theme will not work with a cake other than the one the bride has asked for, Miss Wright."

Trucy nodded slowly. "Okay. I guess if she doesn't like the idea, daddy will have to do what you say." She turned her stern gaze to her father, and Phoenix's eyes widened. "And daddy, if the bride wants what she wants, you can't just do your own thing. It's the bride's big day, and I think she'd be happier if the cake was the way she wanted it." 

(What?) He despaired. (Wait a second, I thought you were on my side!) 

"But since you need to know for sure, I think you should call the bride, Mr. Edgeworth," she continued. "Just in case. Maybe she'll have an idea on how to compromise." 

For a second, he thought Edgeworth was going to start arguing with Trucy. But the moment passed at the stubborn press of Edgeworth's lips. He huffed in resignation. Phoenix sighed in relief. 

"Very well," the wedding planner sighed, straightening the lapels of his suit jacket. "If you think she'll be willing to talk it over, perhaps your father's notions are not entirely unfounded. I will speak with her tomorrow, during my office hours." That last sentence was not directed to his daughter, but to himself, he knew.

"I'll continue to see what I can manage in terms of weight with the tower, just in case she takes your side." He turned to hug Trucy, and gave her a kiss on her forehead. "You are the best daughter ever," he told her, his smile betraying the stern seriousness of his voice. "The best."

She grinned. "Does that mean I don't have to do my math homework tonight?"

He shook his head. "Unfortunately, being the worlds best daughter doesn't carry over into school work."

Trucy pouted, and gave a deep, dramatic, full-body sigh. "But dad," she groaned. "I have to look for my keys. How am I going to focus when I can't find my keys?"

He snorted. "I promise I'll start looking as soon as I show Mr. Edgeworth out. If it's not in any obvious places, you have my full permission to abandon your work for the search."

She grumbled something under her breath that sounded suspiciously like, "And these are the thanks I get..." before giving her father a tight hug and hurrying up the stairs to their apartment. He smiled fondly after her.

There were a few more seconds of silence before he spoke to Edgeworth. "So am I allowed to say 'I told you so,' or...?"

"Do not push your luck, Wright," he snapped, marching toward the door. "I will make the call tomorrow, as I said, and will let you know the details of the meeting, should Miss Hollder choose to have one."

"Sounds like a plan," Phoenix affirmed with a nod, unlocking the door again. He glanced over his shoulder at Edgeworth, who's cheeks were still a bit red, eyes fixed on the open pages of his organizer, double checking the number. He looked serious, tired, and ready to be off his feet. 

Phoenix almost opened his mouth to tease the man again about being in the right, but when Edgeworth looked up again and met his eyes, Phoenix couldn't help but freeze.

This had actually been a normal occurrence. Ever since that reception at the Virginia Gardens, he was unable to look straight at him without his mind stalling and his breath catching. 

It was a glorious feeling. A bit overwhelming, yes, but glorious all the same. Like he was falling, flying, flatlining, and taking a deep breath, all at once. The kind of feeling that made him want to reach out and give the other man's arm a gentile squeeze. To hold him a bit closer. Bury his head in the dip of his collar bone just because he could. To be wholly someones, for just a second.

And it passed in a wave, much like a yawn or a gust of wind would pass over the body, powerfully present and then gone. He offered the man a soft smile in its wake.

"Wright?" Edgeworth asked. "You're starting."

Right. Another thing he had started doing. Staring. A much different, slightly worse feeling of embarrassment crept along his spin and into his cheeks.  "Oops. Sorry, I kind of zoned out there for a second."

Edgeworth shook his head, looking bemused and a bit agitated. "It's impolite."

"Right," he muttered, opening the door and gesturing with his hand. "My bad." 

Edgeworth walked passed him and out into the dusk. "I will call you with the details," he confirmed with a nod. 

"Looking forward to it," he quipped. And then flushed, biting his lips together. "I-I mean, not--t-to hear about the meeting, not, uh--"

Edgeworth held up a hand, stopping him before he could trip further over his words. It looked like the man was blushing, but it was really hard to tell when he stood against the setting sunlight like that. It was also hard not to stare again, but he managed to keep that in check lest he embarrass himself more than he already had. 

"If that's all, Wright," he said, waving the words away, "I must return home."

He nodded quickly, eyes wide, and took a deep breath. "Have a safe drive home, Edgeworth."

Edgeworth rolled his eyes, and huffed, "Good night, Wright."

The door was closed and locked again before he could answer. Which was good, he supposed, since his voice would probably betray him in some way. (Not sure how, but better safe than sorry.)

He tossed the key's on the countertop and leaned against the display case with a heavy sigh. "Has he always been that stubborn?"

Franziska eyed him, still running her fingers through Maya's hair. "You are both fools," she said in place of answering. 

Phoenix rolled his eyes, and moved back behind the counter. He had promised Trucy to look for her keys, after all. The cabinets behind him that usually held disposable cups and coffee filters for talent night. Trucy, despite his protests, usually made coffee with the blends they kept down here. Perhaps she'd done that this morning when he wasn't paying attention. 

"What are you doing, fool?" Franziska snapped, as he dug through the first shelf. 

"Keys," he muttered, opening the bag of ground coffee. Blend 107, a dark roast that a family friend of the Fey's gave his store for free, along with cups to advertise his store. Damn good roast, even if Diego was a kind of a dick. 

The keys weren't in there. He kept looking. 

"Do you really think that they'd be in a coffee bag, Nick?" Maya asked. He looked over his shoulder to see her sitting up again and watching him. 

He snorted. "You've seen her act, right? Those things could be anywhere, Maya."

She nodded solemnly. "Maybe they're in a cereal box upstairs."

Highly likely, actually, and probably the first place he'd look if they didn't show up in the shop. 

The second shelf was found key free as well, and Phoenix shut the little cabinet. The cabinet's under the display case were next. "Maya?" he asked, opening the first door. "Was Edgeworth this stubborn when you met him?"

"I think so," she droned, and he heard the sound of her cup being placed on the table. "But you know, I don't actually know. I mean, I know he was certainly stubborn when it came to liking me." 

(Certainly stubborn about liking me too. Well. I mean, not that I'm really "turing on the charm," but even then...)

Nothing in this one. (I wonder if maybe Apollo will find them somewhere weird. Sounds like just his luck.)

"But I've only known him for a year and a half," Maya mused. "I've never seen him argue like that; it was kinda funny, seeing how passionate he is about people's big days."

(Some say funny, others say cute. Not that I'd ever say he was cute out loud) he thought wryly. "He seemed more stubborn about the change than any bride I've ever known," he observed. "It's enough to make you worry, you know?" Damn it, not in this one either. He moved to the next cabinet. 

"Only a fool would worry about something so trivial," Franziska answered. "My little brother strives for perfection, same as I. I see no reason why it should worry someone that he wishes to do well at his job."

His head popped up in time to see Maya nod in agreement. "It doesn't bother you at all how finicky he is about detail?" he asked with a raised brow.

"No?" Maya answered, drawing it out like a question.

"Why would it?" Franziska snapped.

Phoenix shrugged. "I don't know. I guess because it might become a problem for a client?" He shook his head. "Not that I think it would but you never know. I mean, would you let him plan your wedding, Franziska?" 

Franziska's face did something very odd then, something like embarrassment and anger marching its way across her face. "Fool!" she barked. "Miles Edgeworth will not be allowed to be within one hundred feet of these wedding plans!"

"Fran!" Maya squeaked, her hands flying up to her mouth like she'd said something she wasn't supposed to. Her face was pink, all the way to the tips of her ears. 

Fran gave her a stubborn look that melted into chagrinned horror, as she too pressed a hand to her mouth. They both stared at each other wide eyed, mouths covered, beat red.

It took all of eight seconds for the penny for drop.

These wedding plans.

These.

Miles, cake, and the keys forgotten, Phoenix's jaw dropped, and he felt his face bloom into an incredulous grin. That explained all of the sudden handholding, the flirting, and the pet name..."Oh my god."

Maya stood quickly and waved her hands in front of her, shaking her head. "We were going to tell everyone!" she blurted. "We really were, but this is a recent thing so not yet, but I promise we were! A-and it wasn't like we were going to elope! It just...we haven't thought it all through yet, and we wanted to plan it on our own--"

"Oh my god," Phoenix gasped. "Oh my god, you're engaged."

Maya flushed, turning away to hide a huge grin, and, behind her, Franziska lay her forehead gently on the table, hiding her face from him entirely. Maya lifted her hand, and on her ring finger a pretty silver band with a single inset gemstone twinkled in the shop lights. "I'm engaged."

Phoenix was around the counter and hugging Maya before he was even aware he had moved. He'd suspected this would happen between her and Franziska around the time he'd first met the woman. She'd been strict and cold to him, (and jeered at him still when ever she got the chance,) but the way she looked at his friend was so warm, so in love. He'd been waiting to see a ring on Maya's finger ever since. 

"Oh my god," he gushed, hugging her tighter. "I don't know whether to laugh or cry!"

"Me neither!" she gasped, squirming. "Nick! I can't breathe!" Maya laughed, pushing away from the hug, holding his shoulders. "Seriously, we were going to tell you when we got the chance. And Trucy too." 

He shook his head. "Why the hell would I be worried about whether or not you told me sooner or later? You're engaged, Maya." And then, a little more serious. "Oh my god, you're engaged."

Maya laughed, punching his arm. "You keep saying it like it's some kind of miracle. You knew it was heading this way, don't so surprised!" 

 He ran a hand through his hair and rubbed the back of his neck. "Yeah, I guess I did. But still, it's amazing news. Congratulations." He laughed a bit. "You're old now."

With a pout that rivaled Trucy's, she punched his arm again, harder this time. 

He only laughed more, rubbing the sore spot, his incredulous grin never once dropping. "So? When did it happen?"

"A few weeks ago. September thirtieth." He smiled was tender as she turned to look at Fran. Her head was still glued to the table, and though her face was hidden, Phoenix could see her angry blush on her exposed neck and tips of her ears. 

"Who asked who?" he pressed. 

"Fran did," Maya answered with a happy sigh. "It was actually the sweetest, most perfect proposal I've ever heard of or seen." and Franziska groaned, as if this reiterated news wounded her. Maya tutted in her direction. "She doesn't think so, but..." she held her hand in front of her and smiled down at it, twisting it so that the tiny diamond winked up at her. The look on her face was positively warm and tender, as if the memories it held replayed before her in the cut of the gem. Her grin was a bit watery, but that he pretended not to notice. "I think it was the most romantic thing she's ever done."

Franziska peeked up for a moment to glare at the both of them. "You are a fool," she grumbled.

Maya only laughed. "A fool for you," she cooed, and Franziska's blush renewed with an exasperated groan as he put her head back down.

Phoenix's smile grew impossibly wider. "How'd she do it?"

"Actually..." Maya hesitated, and Franziska's head snapped back up, leveling a glare at Phoenix that could level mountians.

"That is none of your business!" she very nearly shouted. "You do not need to know anything else about how it happened, you foolish fool! Can you not accept that it is over now, and that I have proposed, and that we will marry, and that is that? Foolishly foolish fool!" 

He jerked back at her outburst, his smile faltering. "Whoa, hey! It's not like I'm trying to pry into your private lives, jeez!" he raised an eyebrow when her eyes flared. "Well, ex-cuse me for being excited that my best friend is engaged!" 

Maya giggled. "She's just upset because she didn't propose when she planned, and it threw her off-balance. It was really sweet."

Phoenix turned back to her and frowned, an idea forming.

(That reminds me...) "Speaking of planning," he ventured, "you really aren't going to let Edgeworth do the wedding?"

"No." This was Fraziska, who was suddenly and jarringly more composed. "Miles Edgeworth has entirely too much on his plate, for one thing. For the other, I have many ideas and plans for this wedding." Here she looked at Maya, with honest eyes. "I want to have this wedding without argument from foolish my little brother, which will undoubtably happen if he is to plan."

Phoenix crossed his arms and raised his eyebrows in shock. "You think telling him you're getting married and that he's not doing the wedding isn't going to start an argument?" Perhaps his incredulity came from a rather biased spot, considering the hour long argument over something so petty in comparison to the current situation, but it was hard to believe that Edgeworth wouldn't be a least a little aggravated, if not fully upset at the news.  

"I do not," she answered cooly. "He knows that I have my own ways. And I know of his ways, which are foolish and do not suit my vision." Franziska gave him a chilled once over. "We will also be hiring a different bakery to make the cake, once we have cleared up a few details."

(I expected as much) Phoenix thought gloomily. It was sort of obvious; he had known Maya almost as long as he had known Mia, and had, in some respects, considered her to be family. If Franziska was unwilling to include her brother, Maya was probably in the same boat with him and his bakery. 

Still. It didn't stop him from wincing, a small bit of his excitment extinguishing at the news. "Figures," he sighed. 

Maya have him a sympathetic smile. "Don't take it personally," she pleaded. "It's not because you and Edgeworth aren't up to our standards, I promise. You're cakes are super good, Nick, and Edgeworth never plans a bad wedding. Plus, the plans are just starting out. There's plenty of room for compromise. Maybe you can make the cake toppers. "

Phoenix rolled his eyes dramatically. "Oh, don't try to sweet talk me now," he sighed.

To be honest, wasn't too bothered by the news. It was a bit disheartening to realize his role in the wedding wasn't anything more than a guest or maybe a best man or something of that nature, but watching Maya look at her ring...well what kind of friend would he didn't support the "plan"? True, he had been hoping to make her cake, but if there was anything he'd learned it was that a wedding was for the two getting hitched, not for the people attending. But he'd be damned if he didn't tease her about it. 

"Aw, Nick, come on--"

"No, no, it's too late!" he interrupted, waving a hand, fanning away her attempt to apologize. "I suppose it's just the cake now. But that's how it starts."

Maya raised an eye brow and opened her mouth as if to argue.

"Soon," he droned, "we'll see less of each other until it's only holidays, and then it will just be a call once or twice every other month. And then we'll reach the Christmas card stage, where we send only awkward pictures with tacky designs and puns all over them. You with your wife, me with my daughter, maybe, and an assortment of cats."

"Oh, god forbid," Maya intoned.  

He snorted, watching Maya's face struggle to keep its deadpan frown before finally bursting into laughter. 

Phoenix shook his head. "Really, Maya, I'm just happy you're happy."

Her face scrunched up and she shoved his shoulder hard enough to make him stumble. "Ew. Don't be so cheesy. It's gross."

Phoenix scoffed and drew her in for another hug. "You're gross," he grumbled. "I'm really happy for you, though."

"So you're not upset?" she asked. "The last thing I want to do is make anyone feel left out."

Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Franziska nod. "She is right. I mean no offense, Phoenix Wright. You are just not part of the plan. It is quite simple."

He drew away from Maya, and beamed in the woman's direction. "Speaking of left out, you do realize that, as a technical sister-in-law, you're required to hug me at least once on holidays and birthdays."

Franziska's eyes narrowed to slits. "That will never happen."

Phoenix shook his head, hands raised, palms facing forward. "Hey, I don't make the rules."

"Only a foolish fool would believe in such foolish falsehoods! There are no rules that would require me to be closer than three meters from your foolishness," she snapped, turning up her nose. 

"We can practice right now, so you're ready for the official sibling-in-law hug," he offered holding out his arms. Maya covered her mouth, attempting to keep her laughter to a minimum and failing. 

"Phoenix Wright, I will whip you're foolish form into the next century if you do not put your foolish arms down and stop this foolishness at once!"

They told Trucy an hour later, when the search for Trucy's keys had turned up no results and Phoenix had called her away from her homework, as promised. The magician screeched a high frequency sound that only teenage girls seemed to be capable of, and then grew misty-eyed when the title "Aunt Fran," was discovered to be officially Franziska's. She embraced the woman and came away unscathed, and Phoenix felt the welt on his forearm ache a little less. 

Two hours later, after the women had went home and he and Trucy were snuggled on the couch watching Dateline and trying to guess the murderer, Apollo called and asked if Trucy had any idea why a pair of keys with the "stupid fop's logo," attached to them was in his box of Frosted Flakes.


 December

 Franziska and Maya became Mrs. and Mrs. von Karma-Fey on December third of that year in Wayfarers Chapel. Pearl had been Maya's maid of honor, and Phoenix her best man. Franziska's secretary--apparent best friend and the planner of this wedding--Adrian had come as the maid of honor to the small gathering. Miles Edgeworth, though he had been quite uncomfortable to accept the position, took the spot of Franziska's best man.

Both women were in white. Maya's dress had been lovely--all lace and train and tiny, shimmering flowers--and Franziska cleaned up nice with shorter hair and tighter, more business like gown.

Around them, bouquets of viscaria and lavender and white roses shifted in the warm glow of the December morning. Though no one knew for sure, everyone had suspected that this was all very sentimental on Franziska's part.

Maya cried.

Franziska did as well, though she was better at hiding it. 

Trucy, who had been a bridesmaid, sniffled and laughed when the two were finally wed, and the bride was kissed. Phoenix had dabbed at his eyes a few times himself, and, though he couldn't quite tell from this distance, he was sure that Edgeworth's face looked a little blotchy. 

After the wedding, and during the brides' dance, Phoenix wandered over to where Miles had been standing, watching the newly weds hold each other close. Maya's head buried in the crook of Franziska's shoulder, and Franziska's hands pressing their bodies so close it was as if she wished for them to become one. 

"So," he asked conversationally, watching as the two on the dance floor shared a small kiss. "Who'd you watch?"

"Hm?"

He nodded toward the doors of the chapel. "During the wedding. Did you watch Fran when Maya walked down the aisle? Or did you watch Maya?" He knew the answer, of course, and it made him feel a bit guilty. His eyes had not been on either during that part. He found himself flushing at the thought without warning.

The man next to him did not notice. Miles smiled, a small, shy thing that snagged on Wright's heartstrings, and shrugged. "I couldn't help it. I seem to have broken my tradition of only watching those in the groom's position. I could not help but watch them both."

Phoenix smirked. "I figured."

Miles frowned, and too late Phoenix realized he'd sounded like he'd been mocking the man. "And who did you watch, Wright?" Edgeworth snapped.

He hesitated, chewed his lip. "I watched them both too," he said after too long, swallowing a mouthful of champaign. That was a lie. 

(I couldn't help it. I watched you.)

Franziska spun Maya slowly around the dance floor before bringing her close. It felt like in that moment, everything should have stopped, should have frozen in a perfect forever.

But the world kept turning, like the beautiful bride, and both were content to stay mostly silent for the rest of the reception. 


 February 21

11:26 AM

Abbot and Castillo's Coffee House, Exterior Seating

You lived in LA if you wanted a mild winter, Miles concluded, sipping his tea and watching people pass the small cafe. It almost felt like spring. The sun was nearing the middle of the clear sky, and all around pedestrian traffic started picking up with the coming lunch hour. Instead of coats and scarfs and winter boots, it was a time for spring jackets and cozy beanies. Everything was still sharp with morning wakefulness, and yet was transitioning into the sleepy afternoon haze. The air smelled like firewood and coffee and the residual rush hour energy. Both he and his current companion, Pess, took a deep breath and let out a slow, relaxed sigh. 

This month had always been a long one, despite missing two or three days. Valentines Day was the bane of every wedding planners existence, he supposed. Of what he could remember of the top of his head there were two canceled weddings, a shouting match between to-be husbands in his office two weeks ago, ten weddings to start planning for the months of November and December of this year, and four that he'd been invited too on Valentines Day thanks to some very kind clients. His organizer had been filling with appointments and get-togethers for most of the month.

It was only today that things had finally seemed to be settling down long enough that he could afford to take a day to breathe in the changing LA air. He hadn't been out for tea in what felt like years, had known nothing but his office and short, to-the-point meetings at Wright's bakery to give him the cake blueprints and the clients number, should he need to complain about their design. 

There had been very little happening at the bakery itself, from what he could glean from the short bursts of conversations that he'd had with Wright. The last time they'd spoken for longer than six or seven minutes had been the previous November, when they'd discussed the new design of the cake for the Hollder wedding (which had went over...admittedly well, and Wright was able to call it yet another culinary success). They hadn't spoken much since then, not even at Franziska's wedding. 

The plan today had been to stop by Wright and Co. to catch up. Both his sister and Maya were back in town from a Valentines trip, and would undoubtably be there to talk with Wright. He had figured he might spend some time doing the same. But he had promised Kay he'd meet her here. Her home was closer to this cafe, and she knew the owner--a rather loud woman with a boisterous laugh who didn't seem to like her much--and usually came here for convenience and, probably, out of spite. With the sudden explosions of weddings and work, neither of them had the time to talk. Kay had suggested the meeting a few days ago with the intention to ask him a favor, and he'd accepted. 

He hadn't regret the decision, but he did find himself sighing wistfully over the thought of chatting instead with Phoenix Wright over a cup of tea. 

Pess nudged his hand, and he scratched behind her ears, absentmindedly taking another sip of his drink.

Coming to terms with his romantic feeling for Wright had been a hard feat at first, and it was almost too easy to deny them or play them off as something bigger. Like a cold, or a wedding, or some kind of arrhythmia that wasn't fatal but probably close to it. He was buried deep as in the denial as he could go, and then some. But there was something about the man's smile, and the way the sun caught in his eyes. In the pattern of his freckles and the warmth of his laughter. Something that had, eventually, forced him to cast aside the pretense that he wasn't feeling anything so immature, and settled on a calling it a severe crush, and leaving it at that. 

It had been as embarrassing as it had been an enlightening experience.

So here he was, checking his watch, drinking Earl Grey, and thinking about how, though it was ridiculous to say, he had really been looking forward to seeing Wright in his element. 

(Or simply...looking forward to seeing Wright.)

At his side, Pess barked, and the door to the patio seating opened, and Kay stumbled through, carrying a bag that looked heavy with wedding plans and an expression that was heavy with annoyance. She set the bag down once she got to to the table and dropped into the metal chair with a dramatic groan. "This is it, Miles," she whined. "This is it, my lot in life, my creed. I'm probably in Hell, now that I think about it."

His eyebrows rose. "I beg your pardon?"

"I'm stuck in a time loop, going through the same motions again and again, never finding an out," she snapped, leaning back so that she was squinting into the blue of the sky, arms drooping uncomfortably over the armrests. 

Ah. He winced sympathetically. "The Kitaki wedding, again?"

Still in the same position, she threw her hands in the air, exasperated. "Yes, the Kitaki wedding again, and it's the third freaking time I've had to do this. I swear, Miles, I'm going to explode."

Miles sipped his tea and hummed in agreement. Though he'd never admit it aloud, the Kitaki wedding was starting to become a problem. The mother, Mrs. Plum Kitaki, was demanding of Kay in may ways, though never rude about it. Only wanting what was best for her son, and not for her "daughter-in-law." Said daughter-in-law would come in after something would be decided, and ask for changes. There would be photos, decorations, and venues planned, and then Miss Tiala would fight with Mrs. Kitaki, and then with her fiancée. Then they would break off the engagement for a month or two, before trying it again.

It was enough to make him crazy. He could only imagine poor Kay. 

"I'm gonna hand it off to someone else," Kay grumbled. 

Miles chuckled. "You will not. If this round ends the same, simply tell them you are unable to plan the wedding a fourth time."

"I'm going to give it to Debeste," she insisted.

"Kay."

"I need a break," Kay whined. "I need a year long break somewhere very, very far from this wedding. All weddings, maybe." She moved from her position to slouch onto folded arms, sticking sticking out her tongue and blowing a weary sigh that came out as a half-hearted raspberry. Pess, no doubt mistaking her antics for actual distress, moved to nudge her leg. 

"You don't mean that," Miles chided. "Perhaps time off from work, yes, but from weddings?" He shook his head. She was more of a romantic that he was in some cases. 

Kay shifted to that one arm was in her lap, scratching at Pess' head. "Okay, your right, not weddings. Just this one." She looked down to Pess and smiled a little. "Right, Pess? Don't you think this wedding is a mess? And that Sebastian would do much better?" 

Pess gave her a content sigh and Kay giggled. "Good girl, Pess! See? She agrees with me!" 

Miles snorted. "Whether or not my dog agrees with your ridiculous complaints changes very little about the situation, Kay. The only thing you can do is--"

"Ah! No, don't, wait, I've got this part!" Kay interrupted, clearing her throat and positioning her hand so that it was pointed outward and away from her collar bone, wiggling her finger slowly. "'All we can do is wish them well and congratulate them. Let Alita know that she's is marring a man who loves her dearly,' right? That's what you were going to say?"

He scowled, lips pressed into a thin line. So that had been where Wright had gotten that ridiculous--not to mention entirely inaccurate--impression from. "You know very well that I've only ever worn a jabot at receptions, Kay. I have no idea why you would include that while trying--and, if I may, failing--to do an impression of me."

Kay shrugged. "I guess it's because you just have a personality like one. Cravat-y."

"It is a jabot." His eyebrows pinched together and grimaced. "What in the world does that even mean?"

She laughed. "You know," she started, waving her free hand around. "You just kind of give off that vibe. Like you're always metaphorically wearing the cravat. An invisible cravat. A mental cravat."

He gave her a droll look, rolled his eyes, and sipped his drink. "That makes absolutely no sense."

Kay shrugged, toying with the end of her scarf. "You just don't notice it because you're you. Like hearing your voice normally versus hearing it recorded."

"In what way?" 

Ignoring him, she reached across the table to take his drink, ignoring his protests, and popped open the lid to smell it. "Uck. Earl Grey. Why do you like gross tea?"

"Give me my drink back," he sighed. "Honestly Kay, don't just stick your face in other peoples food, it's unsanitary." (Not to mention rude.) 

"But it's warm," Kay whined. "Which is good. Since you always outside seating when it's too cold."

"If you're cold, go order your own drink instead of commandeering mine," he snapped.

Kay pulled the tea closer to her person instead, and shook her head. "No way; coffee is too expensive, and they don't make good hot chocolate here. This is warm and free. Gross, but free."

(Oh for the love of--) "Kay, you're being absurd. Now give me my drink."

"So," she started, as if he hadn't spoken, her gloved hands wrapped around the cup, sapping its warmth, "I complained about my work, but I haven't heard anything about yours. How did the Sprocket wedding go? That was around a month ago right?"

With resignation, Miles sat back in his chair and nodded, crossing his arms. "It was nice, I suppose. I was sent a few pictures via the bride a couple of days ago, along with a kind thank you letter." He smiled fondly at the memory. They had been a lovely couple. 

"Aw," Kay cooed. "They seemed like they were nice, from what I saw of them. Did Franziska cater for this one or no?"

Miles shook his head, his smile broadening a tiny bit. "She was still on her honeymoon, I believe."

Kay gasped, and straightened up. "Hey, that's right!" She thrust her hand out and flexed her fingers. "Gimmie your phone! You never sent me pictures! I wanted to see how pretty Maya looked!" 

He chuckled and slid it across the table, taking his tea back while she scrolled through the album. Pess, who had now been ignored for several minutes, went to lay back at his feet with a huff of agitation. 

"Oh. Oh, they look so beautiful!" She looked up at Miles with bright eyes and then back at the phone. "Did you cry? I'm gonna cry, it's so pretty. The flowers...oh..." she trailed off and pressed a hand to her heart. "Franziska looks amazing. And Maya...oh wow, she looks beautiful..and...oh! Oh, look there's Nicky! He looks so handsome in blue. Bet that's a nice change, huh? Seeing him in a suit."

He quirked an eyebrow. "Nicky?"

"You know, Nicky? Your baker?" Kay explained, looking back up at him. "The guy you've had a crush on for half a year?"

Miles felt his cheeks warm, and he looked away form her teasing gaze. "That's irrelevant; I was only asking about the nickname."

Kay's smile softened a bit. "Wow. You're actually not denying it?" She pressed a hand to her chest, and feigned a choking noise. "I think I might have a heart attack!"

"Funny," he commented. "Don't let me stop you. Please, by all means, have your heart attack." (Spare me the torture of having to talk about it with another human being.) 

Kay's laughter was bright and sunny, and she just shook her head. "Maybe another time. How's he been, by the way? Doing good?"

He opened his mouth to respond with something sarcastic, something to make her grimace and change the subject. But stopped. He'd really only ever said anything about Wright to Pess, and he imagined that she was getting a little tired of being his only confidant. Not to mention one way conversations on the matter were a bit tedious. He didn't often do it, but admitting the action happened at all made him feel a little crazy. He sighed, leaning forward onto the table and looking into his near empty cup of tea as if it would give him the answers. "I have no reason to believe he wouldn't be ." 

Kay nodded. "So you haven't seen him?"

Miles shook his head and quirked an eyebrow. "How would I be able to coordinate the cakes properly if did not do it in person?" he asked.

Kay raised her hands in defense. "Alright, fair enough. But do you stay and talk to him?"

"I do not." (I should.) "It has never made much sense to. As far as he's concerned, we are business partners only."

"Interesting choice of phrasing, Romeo. Partners."

He could feel his neck growing warm, but chose to play it off as his over heating under his scarf. "That isn't what I meant, and I'd thank you not to go looking for hidden meanings where there are none."

Kay pouted, a grand thing with the lower lip jutted out and the chin tilted high. "You know I'm just teasing you. And looking out for you."

"I see no reason to," he griped, "seeing as I have never had any intention to stat a romantic liaison with anyone." Before she could speak again, her cleared his throat and looked at her pointedly. "Didn't you tell me this meeting was because you had something to ask me about work?" 

Translation: I prefer talking about this to only either myself or my dog. Let us please continue to speak on something much more comfortable. A cowards way out, some people might say, but they had no business in his romantic life, either. 

Kay jerked upright, and nodded quickly. "That's right!" She leaned forward again and pressed her hands against the edges of the table. "I need you to take a client for me."

Now it was Miles who jerked upright, but he was shaking his head slowly, already denying her request. Kay worked on weddings that were either culturally correct, meaning they fit either a certain religion or tradition, or themed wedding, which was simply fitting the theme the client wanted to every aspect of the planning. All of this Kay could do exceptionally well. She was bright, creative, and young. It fit her.

Whereas, Miles was old, set in the way of the more traditional wedding plan, and had the spur-of-the-moment-creativity of a raisin. 

Kay blew a raspberry at him. "Don't say no already! You haven't heard the whole thing!"

More head shaking. "I don't need to. You know very well I don't deal in anything themed, Kay." Didn't she say she was going to hand the Kitaki wedding to Debeste? He saw no reason why she wouldn't send this one along as well, and leave him out of it.

Kay was frowning, disappointed or annoyed or both. "I don't trust anyone else with this one," she said seriously. "She a really nice lady from out of town, and her fiancée is letting her do the entire wedding since he'll be away for most of the plans. And since she didn't know where to begin she came in and asked if we could help her out."

Usually, he'd cave at that. The most fun he'd ever had planning had been those where only the husband or wife could plan. It made for a closer client relationship, and also made for a disgustingly, beautifully sentimental wedding and reception. Some of his greatest work, and more than enough ideas, had come from these situations and gone into his personal organizer. 

Still, the thought of doing it all themed was foreign. (And not something I can say I'd excel at. Though, in theory, if the client could take the reigns a bit more than usual, it might be easy...maybe...) "What about Debeste, as you suggested earlier?" he tried. 

Kay groaned. "Puh-leez! I only want Sebastian to take the Kitaki wedding because he has no filter and I think Tiala needs a good verbal ass-kicking."

"Kay."

"I'm just saying." She huffed a sigh and reached out to take his tea again, frowning at the lack of warmth. "Anyway, he doesn't really do well with themes. Especially one like this one."

Miles arched an eyebrow, frowning. "You believe I would work well with her?"

She nodded. "Wholeheartedly."

If Debeste was out, and she really thought he could take it... "What does your schedule look like that you cannot take this on your own?"

She rolled her eyes and ticked them off her fingers. "The Kitaki wedding, the Paups and Amano wedding, which, by the way, is theme park themed, three other clients in the last few days, plus Lang won't stop bothering me his stupid catering company and the aforementioned Kitaki wedding that keeps canceling on him, plus Ema has all of these new photos to take and she really--"

He held up and hand and she stopped. What was the saying? 'How do you know you won't like it if you don't try it?'  (Except I believe that is normally used for children who refuse to eat their vegetables and this is someone's wedding we're talking about.)

He took a deep breath. "Alright. You seem quite busy, and my work load has lightened somewhat." A pause, and then, more uncertain, "If the client is willing to do a little more work, I can take her off your hands."

Her smile was wide and she clapped her hands together, positively elated. The topless styrofoam cup next to her toppled over with the movement, and whatever she was going to say was replaced with a surprised squeal at the sudden feel of lukewarm tea in her lap. "Ah! Darn it, these are my favorite jeans!"

The two wedding planners left soon after that, Kay pressing napkins to the stain and Miles holding a new tea and a mocha latte that Kay had convinced him to purchase for her. They were standing just outside the cafe, in the little square that was still decorated in Christmas cheer. 

"At least it won't stain," she kept mumbling, dabbing at it with little success. 

"Go home and throw them in a cold wash," Miles suggested. "You're just getting wet paper all over your leg and doing very little else."

Kay sighed, but tossed the napkins in a bin and accepted her drink. "This is why Earl Grey is nasty. Ruins your clothes."

He scoffed. "Yes, when you spill it, Kay. It doesn't do it on its own."

She scowled over the lid of her mocha. "You wouldn't be saying that if it stained your cravat."

"Jabot." 

She looked down at her watch in place of answering, and sighed. "I guess I should get going. If I'm going to change and then make it to my next meeting on time, I mean."

Miles nodded, and, next to them, Pess gave an excited bark. "As always, it's been a pleasure, Kay."

She beamed. "Likewise! Thanks for taking the peacock wedding, by the way. Didn't get to say that when your tea attacked me."

He felt his smile--which was growing warm and fond at his friend--freeze, and his eyes blaze. "I...a what?"

All Kay offered was a cheeky smile and a shrug. "Ah. Well, I'll email you the details when I get back to the office. You can ask her about it yourself!" And, without waiting for his answer, she leaned over to pat Pess goodbye, and bounded off. 

Pess whimpered after her, tail wagging, and then looked back up at Miles. 

A peacock themed wedding. Yep. Thinking it sounded just at odd and difficult as hearing it out loud. In for a penny, in for a pound it seemed...

"Edgeworth?"

At the sound of his name, he flinched in surprise and turned to look at the crosswalk behind him. At his side, Pess's ears perked in interest. It only took a moment to find the source. 

Phoenix Wright, clad in a thick coat, gloves, and a scarf covering half of his face, four coffees in a cardboard holder held in one hand was standing on the other side of the street. Hair in its normal, spiky disarray, and wearing that sunshine smile that made Miles's stomach do cartwheels and his heart feel light. He looked much too bundled up for this weather, and seemed to have trouble getting his arm up to the height he wanted in order to wave. "Fancy seeing you way out here!"

Pess, who seemed to recognize the baker, paced the length of her leash and barked with excitement. Edgeworth gave the leash a gentle but firm tug before she could do anything rash, like dart forward and crash into Wright's already uncoordinated legs. "Indeed," he intoned. 

The man's smile widened just a bit more, and he closed the distance between them as the crosswalk light flashed. "It's so weird to see you outside of work," he was saying. "How've you been? Happy New Year."

A ridiculous thing to say, considering they'd seen each other prior, several times, to discuss cake orders. He'd seen the man since then, hadn't he? The New Year's greeting would have already been implied months ago. And yet...

And yet he was getting closer and his eyes were bright in the nearly afternoon light, and his smile was brighter still. He sighed a rather love-struck little sigh and replied, "To you as well, Wright." 

Finally, Wright was in front of him and the full force of that grin warmed him more than his tea ever could. The sun was in his hair, and his face was paled from the cold, making his freckles more prominent. (Good lord, but must he be this good-looking all the time? I'm sure I've got better things to do than think about that smile...) "I see you've got a companion today," Wright said conversationally. "I haven't seen your dog in months. Did she come to work with you?"

"She did not," he answered with a light tug on her leash. Something about Wright excited the animal, and she seemed to be getting antsy. (Not that I'm one to talk.) "We're both enjoying a day of relaxation and a walk."

Wright nodded, still smiling. "A day off huh? Sounds nice." Carefully, he knelt down and scratched behind Pess's ears, and she rewarded him with a generous amount of kisses applied to his glove. Laughing as he stood, Wright nodded to the coffee in his hands. "Wish I could say the same. Got volunteered to do a coffee run."

He raised an eyebrow. "In Torrance?" 

Wright shrugged. "Apollo brought coffee back from a place around here once. We've been addicted ever since." Another smile, this one easier, not quite as dimpled. "Why the surprise?"

"No real reason. It's just quite the walk." He had intended to put an offer in there. Namely, 'My car is a little ways behind you, if you'd like a ride," but his voice came out different, and the intended message underneath was lost.

Wright gave another shrug, and then, curiously, bit his lip. For just a moment, Miles let his eyes linger on them, feeling heat rise in his cheeks. Then, Wright said with a note of caution in his voice, "I guess it's a pretty long walk if you aren't, uh, talking to someone on the way there. Less fun."

(Offer the car ride, fool) he thought. He should offer it. He would. A bit self-indulgent, really, but what did he have to lose? The worst that could happen was an awkward silence. So replied with easy confidence, "I parked near your bakery. If you don't mind, we will accompany you."

(For the love of God, you idiot.)

Wright, who seemed to be expecting any other answer, looked a little surprised and mostly confused, face scrunched into a weird sort of pout that was horribly endearing. "Really?"

(No not really, Phoenix, in fact it's in the opposite direction.) "So it would seem."

Wright raised an eyebrow. "Well, to quote a friend, that's 'quite the walk,' wouldn't you say?" 

Quick to dig himself further into a hole, he held up the hand with the leash, and Wright made a quiet, "ah" in understanding. "Pess was in need of a good walk."

And there was the smile, back at full brightness, and Miles felt like an idiot. A love-sick, chilly idiot. But his company had been offered, and it seemed to excite the man before him, and when he could make himself actually me the other's eyes, he found that feeling this foolish was actually quite worth it. 

Wright gestured with his free and a playful smirk. "Shall we?"

"Lead the way," he said, stupidly, and they went. 

It was a few moments of blissful early morning atmosphere. The chill of the air and the sun risen well into the sky, the sound of the city around them alternating between full afternoon volume and polite early morning quiet. Distantly, a dog barked, and Pess perked up a bit before choosing to ignore the sound completely. Cars honked a few streets over, but the bird were still singing good morning. An odd in between time, but not unpleasant. A gust of wind came and went, and Miles took a deep, relaxed breath. Perhaps it was worth lying about the car after all.

Next to him, Wright shuddered. "Aren't you freezing?" 

Miles shook his head. "Of course not. Are you?"

Wright nodded quickly and shuddered again. "God, yes, I'm freezing. I hate winter."

Miles snorted and Wright scowled. "Los Angeles weather is not winter weather, Wright. It's nearly forty five degrees."

Wright shivered again. "Yes, and that's freezing," he complained, bringing the coffee holder closer to his person. "These are gonna get cold by the time we reach the bakery."

"This is spring weather, Wright. Heaven forbid you experience actual cold."

Wright winced at the thought, and leaned over the drinks just a bit, stubbornly, as if to shield them from the cold. It was absurd. But, like most absurd things Wright had said and done, it only served to make his own smile grow fonder. Of course, to the untrained eye--to Wright's eyes--it made very little change to his face, so when Wright looked up, he caught Miles starting at him with strange smirk and a surreal sort of haze to his eyes. 

"See something you like?" Wright teased, and Miles snapped back to reality, looking straight ahead again.

"Certainly not." His ears felt hot, and he sipped his tea. If Wright chose to point out the color rising in his cheeks, he'd blame it on the warmth of his drink. 

Instead of teasing him further, like expected, Wright pouted. "And here I thought you'd finally fallen for my charms and good looks."

And down the wrong pipe went his tea, leaving Miles a coughing mess, which Wright, ever oblivious, laughed at. When he could catch his breath, he sent Wright a withering glare under which the man shrunk. "Sorry. I was only kidding." He frowned a bit and then shook his head. "Not about my having charm or good looks. About you falling for them," he added hastily. 

(Oh, you have no idea...) he thought rather bitterly, and nearly almost opened his mouth to say something along those lines. Thankfully, he caught himself before anything foolish could be said, and asked, "Four coffees?" There. A conversation away from any mention of falling for the other man, his charms, or anything close to it. Plus the extra coffee hadn't made much sense, unless Wright was planning on drinking two of them. 

Wright raise and eyebrow. "Yeah?"

"One for your daughter, and I'd assume one for you and your young employee. The other?" 

Wright gave him an incredulous look, and for a brief moment Miles felt a pang of annoyance. He'd only been trying to make conversation to move the time along, but apparently whatever the fourth coffee was four, it was a well-kept secret--

"Oh, wait, right," Wright said suddenly, and he shook his head like he was trying to knock something loose back into place. "I forgot the last time we talked in person was January. We hired a newbie as a part-timer."

At first, Miles's brain went back to the last time he'd spoken face to face with the man. It couldn't have been that long ago. A month with only email communication? (I supposed work has caused me to become a recluse as of late.) And then, to the disaster that was the news of a new hire. "Will she be working on cakes as well?" 

There must have been something in his voice, because Wright balanced the coffee in one hand and gave his shoulder a reassuring pat. "Don't worry. She's better at baking cookies and pound cake, but she's not so sure around the wedding cakes. Apollo managed to talk her out of it completely. The most she'd do is help us move a cake to its wedding."

He sighed, relieved. "I see. Her name?"

Wright smiled again. "Athena. She's a good kid. A bit young, but a good kid. Psychology major, working toward a doctorate. She's pretty bright, fits right in. Plus Trucy adores her." His face grew fond after that. "She's doing really good, by the way. Trucy, I mean. In case you were wondering. Got a magic show coming up Friday at her school. We're closing Talent Night to go see it." 

It was calming, he thought, listening to the man talk about his workplace. Wright went on and on about the most mundane things, but spoke as if each little bit excited him. Miles found it to be almost akin to childish wonder, everything exciting and new, bright in the eyes of this man. This side was certainly part of his "charm," and Miles felt his shoulders relax some as Wright talked about how his second in command was actively avoiding a romance, how Trucy had been begging him to make her a cake that she could "magic" herself into, only to pop out of. About how, though he saw less of Maya in February, the time he did see her was spent talking about married life and her flower shop. Never once did he falter or pause for another thought. Just spoke like the spouting of a fountain, with light catching in his eyes a whimsical grin.

It was odd how strange he felt about these...feelings. He'd accepted them, true, and had done so with grace. But it was only when he thought he'd harnessed them did Wright come around and the whole discordance of his heart, stomach, and mind start up again. It wasn't so much he hadn't wanted to feel anything like this; he did. God, he did. He had just imagined it happening slowly, and mutually, probably during a courtship of some kind. But instead he was stuck pining over a beautiful baker with a crap sense of humor, a criminally wonderful smile, and eyes that he followed like stars.

(It is wearying) he thought. They had stopped at a crosswalk, and Wright seemed to be coming to the end of his discussion. (It's also...nice, feeling this elated walking next to someone. Strange, yes. Inconvenient, most definitely. But...nice.)

"So," Wright asked, snapping him out of his thoughts, "how's the wedding planning business? Everyone doing alright over there?"

Miles shrugged and nodded. "I should say so. This season is usually the time where a lot of weddings are held, and a lot of weddings are planned. As I'm sure you can imagine, it has been quite busy."

Wright offered a sympathetic wince. "Yeah, I can understand that. The season of l'amore." He butchered the word, but laughed all the same. "Everyone's doing good though?"

"They are." Miles jerked his chin over his shoulder. "Actually, you missed Kay by a few minutes back there."

His face lit up in recognition. "Oh, man, wow. I haven't seen her since before Gumshoe's wedding." He smiled fondly, and shook his head. "Is she still working on the Kitaki wedding, or...?"

"Unfortunately, it would seem so. It's going to take up quite a bit of her schedule." Which reminded him of the wedding he'd taken on. Peacock themed. Ridiculous.

"If you could, I would actually like to discuss--" Miles started.

"Home sweet home," Wright said at the same time. 

And it was indeed. The bakery was crowded, people coming in and out, talking with Apollo and a young woman who must have been Athena. The smell of lemon and banana bread and chai wafted out from the door, and a wave of warmth hit them both.

"Sorry," Wright said around a shiver. "I didn't mean to interrupt you. You were saying something?"

He opened his mouth to ask Wright if he would feel comfortable doing the wedding, if he'd be interested at all in whatever was in store for it.

But Pess, it seemed, had other plans. A mother and her daughter had walked out of the bakery with smiles on their faces, the child trying to carefully eat a beautifully frosted cupcake while walking. It seemed to be working, sort of, until a piece plopped onto the ground and Pess, the canine Hoover, naturally dove for it. Her leash--which was stupidly short, now that he thought about it, why hadn't gotten something longer, more flexible--wrapped around Miles's ankles, and rather unfortunately around Wright's knees. 

They collided and stumbled into each other, with variations of the confused shouts that ever human emits when denied sure footing. Wright's open hand was clutching Miles's coat lapel, his other arm stretched awkwardly away from them, holding the coffee steady. For poor Miles, the hand that held the leash was forcibly pulled with the hounds sudden motion so that it was now behind Wright's back in a pseudo hug, and the hand that held his tea was pressed (Intimately, dangerously, much to close--) against Wright's chest. 

"Pess!" Miles barked, his whole body warm. "This damnable creature--! Pess, dammit--" tugging on the leash did nothing, it seemed, and he cursed again. He could feel Wright laugh. "For the love of--Wright, you have my sincerest apologies."

"Don't worry about it," he said good-naturedly, wobbling a bit. "Could be worse, right?"

He tried shifting a leg, stumbled and let out a frustrated huff. Staring dow at their feet, he grumbled, "Oh really? How could this get anymore mortifying?"

Wright snorted. "It could be Christmas time," he mused. 

It was useless trying to escape, it seemed. They'd have to wait for Pess to realize she'd run out of leash and come detangle herself. "I'm not sure I understand the implication." Maybe if he lifted...? Nope, no, he'd break his head open on the fall backward. This animal...!

"We could be tangled up by your dog and accidentally under mistletoe." 

Miles's head shot up, blushing fully, his eyebrows drawn together in incredulity. Wright gave him a nervous grin that turned cheeky and waggled his eyebrows. Miles scowled, and would have shoved the other, or at least given him a good thump on the shoulder if he knew it wouldn't topple them both. "You are ridiculous and uncouth," he snapped. 

The man only grinned, and Miles groaned. 

"What were you going to say, by the way?" Wright asked, nonchalant. "Something you wanted to discuss?"

"A wedding," he had to withhold the 'you great idiot, what else would it be,' part; it wasn't Wright's fault his dog ignored her puppy training in favor of confectionary treats. "Kay came to me today and asked me to take her client. Apparently said client has a wedding she was left to plan on her own. Themed." 

Wright's eyebrows shot up, then fell again and drew together. "I thought Kay did themed and cultural weddings?"

"She does."

"And I thought you did more traditional stuff?"

"I do."

Wright gave him skeptical glance. "Alright, then. Changing it up. I can live with that. What's the theme?"

Their eyes met. He'd only been trying to look up and preserve some sliver of dignity, to answer Wright with as much professionalism he could muster given the closeness. But Wright had been looking at him, and Miles looked back like a fool. Their faces were close. Closer than the night he'd looked into Wright's eyes while they were soaking wet and Wright still on a trial period. Closer than when they'd fallen all those months ago in the bakery. Closer than he'd ever imagined, uncomfortably so. Wright's face fell, in that moment, from curiosity to shock, and from shock to something lesser, hazier. Miles could map out every constellation on the bridge of Wright's nose, could drown in those eyes that were locked on his. All words seemed to be lost between them, and the little room that had between their faces threatened to shrink. (Oh damn it all. Do...do not shrink.)

It was at this point Pess found she had little where else to go, and circled back, panting a bit. The pressure of the leash let them, and they stumbled away from each other. Wright's hand let go if his jacket, and Miles unwound his arm from Wright's waist with unimaginable relief, yanking the leash to his side and occupying himself with wrapping it a few times around his hand to make sure Pess didn't get anymore ideas. 

"Free at last," Wright mumbled in an odd voice. 

"Indeed." He cleared his throat, and straightened out his jacket, and put the mans eyes out of his mind for the time being. "Er. I believe you asked about the..."

"Theme," Wright chimed in, nodding to himself. "Right, yeah. Theme."

"It's...ah, Peacock themed." When Wright answered with a curious quirked brow, he could only shrug. "I have yet to understand anymore than that. I do not know why, I do not know the intentions. Just that Kay told me--"

"Sounds fun," Wright interrupted. He was smiling again, no nerves in sight. "I don't think I've ever made a peacock sculpture before." He was backing up a bit, and reaching for the door. "I'll, uh, tell Apollo about it. And do some research."

Miles nodded. "I'll send an email with the details as I find them."

"Right." He nodded toward the coffees in his hand and smiled sheepishly. "I have to get these inside. They're probably lukewarm right about now." A pause. "You can come inside too, if you've got the time. It only looks crowded, I promise."

He shook his head. "I should be getting back to my home. Kay will have sent me the contact information about this wedding. I intend to schedule a meeting as soon as she's able."

He felt a pang in his chest at Wright half smile, which was downcast in the corners. "I figured. But hey, don't be a stranger, okay? Athena would love to meet you, and Trucy asked about you the other day. Plus I'm sure Apollo's always looking for another person to complain about me to."

Miles nodded. "It's been a pleasure, Wright. Until next time."

Wright nodded once. "Until next time." He opened the door then, and Miles had only taken a step when Wright called out, "By the way, thanks for walking with me, but next time just offer the ride. Less dog leashes that way."

And with a muffled cacophony of bells the door was closed, Wright was gone, and Miles, whose were lips pressed into a tight line, but whose expression was being kept admirably neutral otherwise, was blushing profusely.

Chapter Text


February 28

1:13 PM

Wright and Co. B&C

It was back to actual winter temperatures today, with wind that cut through your coat and overcast skies, so the bakery was rather quiet. A few people had braved the chill and were sitting huddled around hot chocolate and warm scones. It was cozy in the bakery, and the room smelled like poundcake and spice. It gave the whole place, which was cast in a honey glow from the lights, an extra layer of warmth.The quiet conversation of the few customers was peaceful.

In fact, it was almost too peaceful, Phoenix thought, catching himself nearly dozing off behind the counter. (Yeesh. Better let up on Apollo for doing that. Thats the fourth time today.) 

Rolling his neck, he turned to look at the clock. He had a few minutes before Edgeworth was supposed to show up with their client. According to his email, she was promised to be a real riot. Which sounded exciting when you thought about it; whoever she was, she got Edgeworth to use the word "riot."

Behind him, the kitchen door opened, and Athena's head popped out. "Okay with holding the fort, boss?" she asked brightly. She was always pretty chipper; it was a nice contrast to how mellow Apollo could be. 

He nodded. "Not much of a fort right now, but yeah, I can handle it. Going on break?"

"Mmhm!" And then, over her shoulder and muffled partially though the door, "Apollo, come on! If we're gonna go, then lets go!" 

"Then move out of the doorway," he heard the man grumble, and Athena slipped obediently out of the way. Apollo followed her, looking tired and cold despite being back in the kitchen most of the day.

Apparently he was sick, but from the lack of anything besides what Apollo admitted was a terrible headache, it could have just been a hangover. Which, of course, the younger man would never admit. "Doing alright, Polly?"

Apollo gave him a dark look. "Don't call me that, please."

He held up his hands in surrender. "As you wish. Going to see Clay today?" 

Apollo shook his head, winced, and shrugged instead. "Nah. He's still at work, so we're, uh. I'm taking Athena to meet up with Klavier. Since he hasn't been in in awhile." 

Mercifully, Phoenix chose not to mention the sudden light blush on Apollo's face. Or the fact that "Polly" being off limits to him was the same rule applied to "Herr Forehead."

Athena nudged Apollo, frowning. "Yeah, and if we're late then he's gonna leave, so come on!" She drew out the "on" and tugged his arm a bit. "Just because you're hungover--"

"Sick," Apollo corrected. 

"--doesn't mean you get to be lazy! We gotta go! Make up for lost time!"

Phoenix met Apollo's desperate gaze and offered him a sympathetic smile and a shrug of the shoulders. Athena's energy might be abundant, but it certainly didn't seem to be contagious during days like this. "Have fun at lunch, you two. I'll let you know if I need you back sooner rather than later." 

Athena nodded and offered a bright smile and a salute. Apollo just huddled deeper into his coat (Maybe he is sick after all...) and shuddered, shuffling around the counter and mumbling about people being "too darn happy for this kind of weather." Whatever he had said made Athena whine and complain. Their bickering lasted until they were out the door, the bells accompanying their exit, and quiet fell upon the cafe once more.

Wright leaned on the front counter again, arms folded, and let out a small, weary sigh. (Why is it I feel I'm parenting rather than leading when it comes to this job?) 

One of the couples stood up to leave, offering him a small thank-you wave before they exited. He grabbed a serving tray from the top of the cabinet and his usual cleaning rag. 

(I wonder where Edgeworth is.) It was nearly five minutes passed the time when he said he'd show up. So either the man was late, or he had the wrong date and would no doubt meet the client in much the same way he met Miles; unprepared and covered in something that would seep into his clothes. 

(Maybe he's walking Pess before he meets the client.) Then again, that could mean he's end up in yet another situation where both he and Edgeworth were face to face and close enough to feel the other breathe. 

Lasts weeks little episode had definitely been...weird. From him leaving behind his car to walk with him to the bakery to the thing with the leash. Pess was a wonderful dog, he was sure, but that was twice now he'd been forced into Edgeworth's personal space, and twice he'd...well, twice he'd been too close. 

(Go on. Admit it. Twice you wanted to kiss him) said a voice that sounded distinctly like Maya taunting him while he cleared off the table. Which, by the way, no, he did not. It was just...embarrassing, that was all. Embarrassing that he was tangled up with a business partner. Embarrassing that he was stuck outside of his own cafe, stumbling against another human like a fool. Embarrassing that he had met the man's eyes and suddenly felt the world falling away, and that he sort of liked the feeling if it meant he could fall into their starlight. Embarrassing that...that fine, yes, that he could have leaned in those last few centimeters and planted one on him like some doofus with an agenda to get himself fired. 

But he also  hadn't wanted to do that...not really. What he had wanted, which was perhaps even worse, was to simply press his forehead against the others and breathe him in, that closeness, that intimacy. It was stupid, and a bit pervy when he dwelt on it, so he didn't. (Maybe wanting that closeness is the problem, and not my frustratingly handsome sorta-boss. What is it the kids are doing these days? Internet dating, or something. Setting up some kind of profile and earning matches. I could do that.)

Right. Because matching with a serial killer could be miles better than acting on a flirtatious thought aimed at Miles Edgeworth. (He'd probably give me one of those looks... Well, if that serial killer date works out as planned, maybe it wouldn't be so bad.)

Where was he going with this...?

He'd...rather date a serial killer than act on any feelings toward Miles My-Eyes-Are-Lovely-and-My-Lips-Are-Tempting Edgeworth?

(Nope, but there's a thought.) He smiled wryly to himself, swept the last of the garbage from the table he'd been cleaning, and returned to his spot behind the resister. 

That was enough of that for one day. He'd thought on this stupid crush far, far too much for one hour, and he was meeting a client any minute now. Time to take all of those thoughts, place them gently back into the box they spilled from, and shove it back into the corner of his mind with a Post-It labeled "NOT NOW" stuck to the side.

No sooner had he set the tray down and folded the rag was the door opening. "Afternoon," he greeted cheerfully, stacking the dirtied mugs. "Welcome to Wright and Co.! Upper-crust goods for not much dough!"

"Must you say that every time someone walks in?" came Edgeworth's voice. 

"Hi to you too, Edgeworth," Phoenix quipped. He looked over to the door after grabbing the last mug. "Give me a second, and I'll be right with you." He watched the man nod before darting into the kitchen and setting the mugs in the sink. 

When he stepped back out into the cafe, Miles and the bride-to-be were next to the register and talking quietly. 

She had round face, a friendly smile, and a startlingly red bunch of hair at the top of her head. As soon as the door closed, she turned toward Phoenix and said, much louder, and quite boldly, and in an accent that came right from the heart of Alabama, "Well, it's about darn time. Thanks for agreeing to meet with me, Mr. Alright."

Startled, Phoenix stuck out a hand for her to shake. "It's, uh. It's Wright, actually, but you can just call me Phoenix."

"Phoenix?" her face twisted up into a confused pout. "That's a funny name you got there. But s'nice to meet ya all the same. Name's Lotta. Lotta Hart." 

(Who's got the funny name now?) he thought, giving her hand a firm shake. "It's nice to meet you, Miss Hart. Congratulations on your engagement."

She waved her hand, dismissive, but her mouth was already going. "Naw. It was a long time comin'. I've been waitin'...dunno, maybe a year or two for him to pop the question." She dropped his hand and crossed her arms, looking thoughtful. "But the poor fool, I ain't never seen him so nervous like on the day he was fixin' to propose." She gave a wistful sigh. "It was plum adorable."

Phoenix eyed Edgeworth, who was watching the exchange with a combination of exasperation and wonder on his face. Their gazes met as Lotta chattered on about her fiancée, and how his proposal was, "the cutest darn thing you ever seen" and he mouthed plum adorable? to Edgeworth, whose face fell into something more flat and disapproving at the thought of mockery. 

"So, Miss Hart--" Phoenix started.

"Shoo," the woman drawled, swiping a hand at him. "If we're on a first name basis, Fee-nix, then ya'll can call me Lotta." The way she pronounced his name was drawn out and teasing. Or that might have just been the accent. He really wasn't sure. 

"Right," he said slowly. "Okay. Lotta. Tell me about what you're looking for in the cake. Well, what you and your fiancée are looking for. Mr...?"

"Abe Endicott Peacocks," she crowed. "Ironically named, I know. Most knowledgeable man on the critters that you ever did meet! Gotta whole book on 'em published, and he's always visiting exotic places to take pictures of 'em and study. If I had my druthers, I'd go along with 'im on his current trip, but plannin' a weddin' seemed more fun."

He threw a look at Edgeworth, who, thankfully, stepped in and explained. "Mr. Peacocks is a wildlife photographer and journalist, Wright. Currently, he's finishing up his time in Myanmar to study a few flocks he and a team of researchers had been tracking. Miss Hart," he continued, turning toward her, "I believe you said you were hoping to use his passion for the species in your wedding theme?"

Lotta nodded enthusiastically. "I reckon so! Since my darlin' is gonna be back around the weddin' date, I was thinkin' I'd surprise him. So, I was hopin' you," she turned her gaze to Phoenix, "could help with the cake.

"See, I may not look it, but I'm a photographer myself. An' while seein' stuff through and artistic lens is easy for me, seeing stuff from a regular ol' artistic standpoint is hard work. Now I ain't sayin' I can't never could do it, but I just can't find somethin' if it ain't through my camera lens, ya know?"

(Can't never...huh? Does she come with a translator?) he thought, raising his eyebrows. 

She continued. "So what I was hopin' we could do was meet and talk concepts, until we decided on how the cake should look. 'Cuz all's I know for now is that I'd like it to resemble a peacock. I just can't figure out how to do it."

His eyebrows furrowed, but he nodded slowly. He understood that. At least, a little. "You want me to make up some..sketches for the cake before we decide on anything else?"

She crossed her arms and nodded. "Sure do! Figure if we've got a couple of concepts to look over, we could pick and work faster than a flicker."

He smiled. Well, at least she was enthusiastic about it. "I can do that. When should I have them done by? Next week? A few days?"

Lotta shrugged. "Tomorrow if'n you can. We ain't got a lot of time."

He could almost see his own shock in the incredulous smile reflected in Edgeworth's glasses. "Tomorrow? You need them that fast?"

The woman's smile turned a bit embarrassed, and she rubbed the back of her neck, looking away. "Ah. About that. Well, y'see, Abe an' I, we're plum in love. But Abe's usually travelin', an' I got my own job as a photographer here, so the times we get together are few an' far between. We don't get to see each other when he's out studyin' those birds, save for a video call once in a blue moon."

His brow furrowed. "Alright, so...wait when is the wedding, exactly?"

A pause. A deep, cautious breath, and then, "April first."

That was a month and a day away. A month if you did't count today. A month to find and schedule a venue for the reception and the wedding, or both, get catering, design, taste, practice, and bake the cake, possibly make a dress and a suit...she was joking right? Had to be. April first, haha, funny joke, here's the real date. There was no way she was hoping to get all of this done in a month. (Oh no, look at her eyes. She's really hoping to get this all done.) 

"Mr. Phoenix Wright, I know it seems real crazy, an' I don't blame ya fer not wantin' to," she started, sounding a bit desperate. "Hell, I'd be madder than a wet hen if someone went an' asked me to start plannin' with only a month to do it all. Don't I know it, but I'd be spittin' nails. But I promise, scouts honor, that I ain't gonna hem and haw over every little thing. I got plans, and I know where they're going, and I'm willin' to pull my weight."

He chanced a look at Edgeworth again, who looked tired now, as if the news of only having a month had been draining him for the passed few minutes. But he didn't look like he was waiting for Wright to say anything that sounded like a no... Not that he was looking for an SOS in the man's eyes, but if it was suddenly something the wedding planner wanted no part of, Phoenix was be willing to play the bad guy and deny her a cake design. No point in planning the wedding if he didn't think he'd enjoy it.

And apparently he did, because thought he looked tired, he also looked resigned to this fate. So Phoenix said, with as much charm and gusto he could muster, "Sure thing. I can try to come up with a few designs tonight, and if none of them are good, we'll try again the following day until we get it right."

The few customers that remained huddled over their drinks in the corner started as Lotta Hart gave a jubilant "Yeehaw!" and surged forward again to take Phoenix's hand in both of hers and shake it roughly.

"Thank you so much!" she was babbling, and then she was doing the same to Edgeworth, who looked more than a bit frightened at the sudden contact. "Bless your hearts, but ya'll really are doin' me a huge favor! I need to go call my fiancée an' tell him that I found a weddin' planner an' a baker." She was already heading toward the door and waving her goodbyes.

As soon as she was gone, Phoenix spun on Edgeworth. "I see what you meant by riot."

He looked cowed. "She certainly has an aura all her own," he grumbled.

"At least we know why Kay couldn't take it--she'd have no time."

"Indeed," Edgeworth sighed. "One month..."

Phoenix sighed and rested his forearms on the countertop. "I know. That's gonna be fun, huh? Like a beat the clock game." Edgeworth shot him a withering glare, and he smiled back good-naturedly. "Don't worry. You're a master planner and I'm an ace baker. A month isn't a problem."

The look the man gave him this time was still a glare, but softened somehow. "Fonder" wasn't a word Phoenix would use to describe it (for many reasons, number one being that little box stashed away in the corner of his mind that would make him overthink everything) but it was gentler than before, and he felt himself give a matching smile back.

"Thank you," Edgeworth said slowly. "For the vote of confidence and...for taking the wedding on as well. Though you are my preferred bakery, you are not obligated to participate in things that might interfere with your place of work. It is appreciated."

His heart fluttered and he felt like he'd swallowed a small sun. Phoenix beamed. "It's my pleasure, Miles." 

The use of the man's first name did something strange to both of them. Phoenix, who had been aware of the slip a few seconds after the name was hanging in the air, flushed bright red and looked at the paintings around the cafe, and did not look again at Edgeworth's face. 

Edgeworth's reaction was quite similar, save for the fact that he'd mumbled something under his breath that Phoenix couldn't hear, and that he looked as if being run over by a semi-truck was preferable to standing for a moment longer in the awkward situation Phoenix had made.

A cleared throat. "I should leave," Miles said stiffly. "There is much to be done."

"Right," Phoenix said with understanding and cheer he really didn't feel. "The sooner everything's planned, the easier this month will be." There was a brief, awkward gap of nothing, in which both men were pointedly not looking at one another, and then click of Miles's shoes on the wooden floor. It sounded very final.

"Uh, hey, by the way," Phoenix called after him. "If you need any help, or even a place to just...come do work, don't be a stranger. Seats are always open."

Miles paused with his hand on the door, and his shoulders shifted with a heavy sigh. "If I find myself in need of better place to concentrate...I will consider your invitation." The door opened, and, so quiet it could have faded into the bells or the wind or the Earth's rotation if one wasn't listening for it, Miles said, "Thank you, Phoenix," and the door closed behind him


March 7

5:50 PM

Wright and Co. B&C

It was delivery day today, and the weather was rotten for it. It was the first real rain of the year, and every box was damp. Larry had been unusually sullen about something--probably his girlfriend, now that Phoenix thought about it. There were two other helpers today, volunteering to work alongside Larry, courtesy of Apollo; Clay Terran, who was cheerful and excited to be there, and Klavier Gavin, who was probably just excited to see Apollo.

Normally, the extra hands wouldn't be needed. But today was practice day for this cake. 

The design was picked out of the first set of concepts Phoenix had scrapped together in a few hours. Lotta had explained to him in detail the colors she had wanted, and the kind of cake she wanted under it. But cake recipes and tastings would be in a few days. Today was the day he practiced making peacock feathers out of isomalt, tiny metal shish kabob spears, and food coloring. The sugar was already boiling behind him, and on the back counters Apollo was setting out the last of the mesh place mats and was digging under one of the covers for the blowtorch. 

The colors were the hardest part, especially when he didn't have much time to order them. Mixing food coloring to the get the exact shade needed didn't always work out, and so every drop added and mixed in was tested on a piece of wax paper next to everything.

So far the hardest thing to mix was the green; how the hell did one go about making bright emerald? Too much yellow was yellow green, and a single drop of green brought him back to square one.

True, it depended on how much was added to the drying sugar and how well you folded the color in, but you could never be to careful. If it wasn't at least close, they'd have to mix again and reheat new isomalt to practice with.

Phoenix let out a frustrated sigh, and Apollo's head popped around the corner. "Doing okay, Mr. Wright?"

He looked from Apollo to the color he was mixing and shook his head. "Does this even look green anymore? I think I've lost my ability to tell. It's all blended together, now. The whole world is green."

Apollo laughed. "It looks fine from where I'm standing. Should we get started?"

Phoenix gave one last look at the small bowl that had been a deep, unchanging green for the last fifteen minutes he'd been mixing, and sighed. "We may as well." He reached to his left and grabbed two pairs of rubber medical gloves, handing one to Apollo. 

Once the sugar was separated into bowls and mixed with their respective colors, it was time to start shaping the feathers. The green--which had come out nice, if not too yellow--was first. It pooled into perfect circles, and both he and Apollo set to shaping some into the more recognizable oval shape of the plumage. Once those had settled, they poured the golden color (which had been mixed to look more opaque) on top, and waited for that to settle before starting again with the next color.

It was quiet in the kitchen, save for the door swinging open and closed and the tired grunts of Clay or Klavier as them helped unload the shipment truck. Apollo's brow was pinched in concentration every time Phoenix looked up, and he himself wasn't feeling too keen to start a conversation that required more than a few syllables. 

It wasn't until they were heating the tips of the spears so they would melt to the back of the "feathers" like a lollipop stick that Apollo spoke.

"We should make extra, when we start making them for the cake. Anything can happen, and I can tell this is going to be a lot of work. If we don't need the extras, you can always use them as lollipops for the customers."

He raised his eyebrows. Actually, considering the whole process, he might have to, just in case. Phoenix offered Apollo a lopsided grin. "I didn't think of that."

The younger baker smiled back. "So after this, are we gonna make the frosting?"

Phoenix nodded, taking a small turning knife and smoothing the newly warmed candy bubbling around the spear so that the tip was covered. On his side of the countertop, Apollo was doing the same thing. "I am, yeah, just to see how it works. You can go home after this, if you want."

Apollo looked at him with raised eyebrows and shook his head. "No way. I've never seen how mirror frosting is made, let alone how it looks in royal blue. I might want to use that."

Phoenix grinned. "It is really cool, isn't it? I was thinking about making Trucy's birthday cake with it this year." The reflective surface looked finished and professional. Ever since he'd done the research, it had been all he wanted to do with the displayed cakes. He'd have to find a way to start incorporating it now that he'd practiced with it a little.  

(Maybe I'll ask Miles if he has any ideas for what I should use it on.)

Apollo cleared his through before he could think on the man any further, and Phoenix flinched a bit. To cover the movement up, he pressed lightly at the "lollipops" to see if the sugar was hardening. It wasn't yet--still soft in some places--but getting there. 

"Mr. Wright," Apollo said, and his volume was a bit louder than necessary. Happened when the kid got nervous. "I have to ask you something. It's. Uh. Well, I think it's kind of important."

He raised an eyebrow at the younger man. "Oh? Is the wedding getting to you already?" he teased. "Are you proposing?"

Immediately, Apollo's face flushed bright red, and he sputtered a quick, "Hell, no!" before turning to his work again. 

Phoenix snickered. "Okay. Sorry. Just kidding." He reached for the needle tool by his hand and stuck it in the flame of the blowtorch. "So, what's up? You said it was important, right?"

Apollo closed his eyes and took a deep breath. "It's kind of an embarrassing question. A-and I'm asking for a friend, no less." 

Ah, the 'asking for a friend' schtick. So either Apollo had a problem or needed some advice, or he was talking about Phoenix himself, and wanted to be polite. His heart skipped a beat, nervous. 

"Go ahead."

Apollo hesitated for a long moment, checking the state of the sugar again, and sighed. He fiddled with the end of one of his gloved when he spoke. "So, like I said, I have this friend. And there...I mean it's obvious he...there's someone in his life right now interested in a relationship. The thing is, I'm pretty sure it's just one sided. My...friend, he really enjoys the company of this guy. And it's obvious--painfully obvious--my friend likes him. I but, well, the other guy seems...uncomfortable, with it all. T-tends to leave the room if things get too...y'know. So, I was wondering...I mean how do I tell my friend he might want to tone it down a bit?"

(....Oh god.)

Well, so much for the art of subtlety. It had been about him after all. As far as Phoenix had been concerned, he was able to keep his eyes to himself, and clamp down on all urges to say something that had anything to do with the feelings for Edgeworth. They were...friends, of a sort. Work friends, like the kind you made in an office and went to Christmas parties with. The distant kind. The kind where, if one developed a crush, it didn't last. That was the professional thing to do. 

Except he apparently wasn't very good at it.

There were three options running through Phoenix's head at the moment as to why Apollo was bringing this up.

One: Apollo was psychic and Phoenix had been thinking about Edgeworth a lot lately, inspiring this kind of question, most likely born out of concern and friendliness. Unlikely--the kid was smart but there were limits to what Apollo could and could not to. And, of course, what humans could and could not do. 

Two: Apollo had been told by Edgeworth--who was probably much more observant than he was given credit for-- could easily see that Phoenix was trying too hard not to let on that he had romantic feelings. Edgeworth felt guilty that he'd been trying so hard, and often found slip-ups here and there. To let him down easy, he had pulled Apollo aside and asked him to deliver this message. Also unlikely, since he wasn't sure if he'd ever seen Apollo around when Edgeworth was in the bakery. To say nothing of the fact that Edgeworth really didn't seem the type of person to shyly relay information of that caliber to someone else. He'd never had a problem telling Phoenix what he thought of his actions and work before. 

Three: Apollo had simply noticed his pining, and had taken Edgeworth's lack of response as a sign to help his boss. It was nothing personal, nothing close to humiliation, just wanting his boss to know that his crush was showing, and it might be interfering with work, or possibly just scaring off customers. Probable, unfortunately, since Phoenix knew he wasn't much of an actor or a liar. 

He sighed and picked up one of the tail feathers and stuck the hot tool to it, pulling it away from the candy in quick, little flicks. The candy stuck to it was drawn away in thin, green strings so that it looked more like the tail than some strange lollipop. It was a calming action, and one that kept him busy while he spoke to Apollo. "So, uh. You...you want to tell your friend to slow down, right?"

Apollo shrugged. "Kind of. Mostly I just want to hint it to him that he's coming on way too strong." He paused and then shook his head. "Way too strong."

Phoenix blushed. "Well, maybe he doesn't mean it too," he said, a bit too defensively. His little flicks grew a bit agitated and sharp as well. "I mean, don't you think that, if he was more experienced, he--your friend would know that he was laying on thick?"

Apollo turned to him fully with a raised eyebrow. "Er, I guess? But I don't...I mean I'm sure he has plenty of experience--" (Can't tell if your serious or just saying that because I'm your boss.) "--but I think it just...the way he talks, the way he acts around...the other guy, it seems like those actions just always worked for him in the past."

Oh, come on, he hadn't been that blatant with his feelings, had he? God damn, but that was embarrassing. "You know," Phoenix started slowly, staring hard at the tail he was working on, "maybe it's just new to him, in a different way. I...I think that maybe the reason...your friend's...feelings look so over the top and uncontrolled is because he...feels too much about it. It's exciting, and a new feeling, Apollo. It's...kind of like falling, or...skydiving I guess. It's new and fun and exciting, but that left over adrenalin is hard to deal with. And hard to channel in the right places." 

He set the feather sculpture down and rubbed the back of his neck sheepishly. "I mean, would you know how to act when you felt like this about someone?"

Apollo had both of his eyebrows fully raised. "Uh. I mean, I don't think so, no, but wait a sec." He held up his hand in a stop motion and his eyebrows pinched together. "Felt like this? What the heck are you taking about?"

Now the heat in his face was something a bit different, closer to anger than chagrin. "Oh come on, Apollo, 'my friend'? That's the oldest excuse in the book. I mean, sure, we can talk like it's a different person, but if you just wanted to tell me I was making a fool of myself in front of Edgeworth--"

"Excuse me?!" Apollo yelped. "You--we weren't--that wasn't about--I--Mr. Edgeworth?!" 

Phoenix straightened, and his eyes were wide. Oh, now that blush was definitely embarrassed. "You...you said I was...that it was painfully obvious I uh. Oh my god, we were talking about two totally different people..."

"We are talking about two totally different people," Apollo confirmed, his mouth left open in a little "o" that spoke volumes about how he felt toward adults over twenty eight getting crushes on other, other adults. "Oh my god."

Oh, you had to be kidding..."Whoops..." Whoops, the most eloquent word in the English dictionary, wasn't it?  At least it was better than hiding his face like a second grader who'd just given a valentine to his first crush. Better to be staring at your employee in abject horror than that, he supposed. 

Apollo opened his mouth to speak just as the back door opened. Klaiver's head and torso leaned in, dripping onto the old tiles. His sodden white shirt had become less of a "casual spring fashion" thing and more of a "winner of the wet t-shirt contest" look. "Herr Wright? Quick question."

He opened his mouth to reply, but it only bobbed up and down, speechless in the face of this accidentally outed and unprofessional news of his utterly inept love life. Luckily for him, Klavier was one person who knew when to keep on talking before he received an answer. 

"It's pouring, and we have to bring the sugar in next. I do not wish to endanger it. Do you have an umbrella we could used?"

"Should have asked for it sooner," Apollo grumbled, and Phoenix noticed he was deliberately looking anywhere else. 

Klavier turned on him with an over the top wink. "So you could miss the show?" A gesture to his soaked body, and the skin that showed through his shirt. "Not a chance, Herr Forehead." There was a shout from outside, and Klavier turned suddenly, and smiled faintly. "Ah. Well, it seems that your delivery man is prepared, after all. Herr Terran has found one in the front seat." 

With another blinding grin aimed at Apollo, he was gone.

There was a stretch of silence before Phoenix broke it with a quiet realization. "So that's who you were talking about. It's you. Klavier is the friend coming too strong on to you."

Apollo's outraged "Shut up, Mr. Wright," was enough to clear any remaining tension, and they didn't speak on the matter again.


 March 14

12:30 PM

Wright and Co. B&C 

Miles Edgeworth considered himself to be a man of upstanding nature. He was collected, organized, and good at his job. He was cordial, and poised, and could be trusted with color combinations for weddings and some dresses. He was a romantic, but never let his passion for other people's happiness get in the way of his job. At times, he even thought he could be funny.

He was also going to go crazy if he heard Alita Tiala shriek one more time, or Ema yelling something about her equipment, or Kay's usually patient voice snapping something at Sebastian, who usually ended up shrieking right back at Alita.

The two had agreed to combine forces to get this wedding done after all. And from what he could hear in the photography lab, it had been the worst idea of the new year. Like adding gasoline to a raging fire, the situation had gone from "manageable mess" to "nearly unsalvageable disaster" and rather than heap another problem onto Kay's shoulders by telling the four of them to keep it down, he'd taken off early and ordered Miss Fright that she was to escort Miss Tiala out should she raise her voice in any manner again.

And then he'd ended up at Wright's bakery, parked across the street and watching the man rush around and laugh with a customer. The man had let him know many times that he was welcome to hang about inside and work, if needed, and had invited him in to relax many times. He'd been in the bakery far more times than he'd been invited in, thought he'd done that for business purposes. It felt quite odd, hesitating to go in like this. 

(Perhaps because it implies I must be sociable with Wright. Which...would not be terrible, but given that the last time I was here the only thing I could really think about was the way he said my name, I don't think I'm fully ready to take that step in our "relationship." Talking like normal human beings. Perhaps another day.) And yet, he found himself crossing the street and stepping into the bakery despite it all. 

Wright made to turn toward the door once the bells had sounded, but, with his head bowed and half into the display case, reaching for an order, his greeting came out as, "Welcome to Wright and--OW. Ow, ow. Ow," as he banged his head. The baker gave a loud exhale as he handed the concerned customer her order, pursing his lips against whatever pain he was now in. He offered her a sheepish grin and waved her quiet words away when she asked him about the red mark on his head. The exchange lasted a minute or so before she was leaving and giving him a small wave. 

And in that amount of time, Miles stood near the door, clutching his planner in one hand and his briefcase in the other. 

When Phoenix saw him, his face lit up. "Hey, Edgeworth!" he chirped.

"Wright," he greeted, nodding his salutation. "Good afternoon."

"Afternoon!" His grin grew brighter. "I didn't expect you to come in today. How've you been? The planning for Lotta's wedding going okay?"

Still standing, (I wasn't invited to sit, and it would be rude now. Now you just look odd and uncomfortable.Take your stupidity like a man) he nodded. "I suppose so. I haven't received a complaint from Miss Hart, and so far all other arrangements have been going...well." More or less. He still had to look for a caterer (Franziska could not manage to make room for the wedding in the short period of time) and a venue with two weeks to spare. Trivial details, right?

"That's good to hear." Wright stared at him wearing a goofy, lopsided (Mezmerizing) smile for a beat, and then seemed to catch himself in his daydreaming. "Uh, sorry. What can I do for you?" Quickly, almost nervously he wiped his hands on the front of his apron. His unusual eyebrows pulled together as he frowned. " Wait a second. Please tell me I don't have to change the cake design because Lotta suddenly decided 'peacock' was not a good wedding theme. Please, please tell me it's not that."

He raised an eyebrow. "Why on Earth would it be that specific instance?"

Wright shrugged. "You always seem to appear and tell me the cake came wrong. I thought...you were here for that?"

"No," he said slowly. "I am not here about the wedding today." A pause. "Well, at least, not your part in it. My office building is currently filled with shouting clients and very agitated wedding planners."

Wright winced. "Yikes. What happened?"

He offered a helpless shrug. "I can't say for certain, but I believe the bride was quite upset with the pictures taken of her, and in her anger, managed to break one of Ema's cameras, and then it was a jumble of yelling and unintelligible insults."

Phoenix snorted. "So you did what any good boss would do and got out of there before it came to your office?"

Miles pressed his bit his lips together. If he was going to snap at Wright, let it be fore something else than just a joke. "If I remember correctly, you mentioned multiple times that I am welcome to come to this bakery simply to work." His eyebrow raised. "Unless that offer no longer stands?"

Wright jerked back and that and shook his head. "What? No, no it stands. It totally stands. Uh." He gave a jerky wave at the empty tables. "We're pretty slow today, so uh. Just take a seat. Can I get you anything? Coffee? Tea? Scone?"

Miles sat and shook his head. "No, but...thank you, Wright."

For a second, Wright's face looked surprised, his eyes watching Miles like he really couldn't believe what he was seeing, and then he smiled again, a bright and confused grin and, naturally he felt his stomach flop. The feeling was familiar and, at this point, more than welcome. "Thanks for what?"

(Your smile.) "The hospitality."

The man's smile was amped up a bit more, but their conversation ended there, and Miles opened his laptop and his organizer, and set to work.

The whole goal for today had been to get in contact with a catering company that wasn't too busy, and to at least locate a few good places to have the wedding. According to Miss Hart, she wanted to get married and have her party in the same place, but had very little idea of where she had wanted to go. Because she was out of town and had no real idea where she could look, Hart had left Miles in charge of finding a place for the wedding with the request that it looked "peacock-like". And what that meant was anybodies guess.

He'd not been suffering alone with this, oh no. The Hawthorne sisters had somehow been roped into making the suit and dress. Iris seemed to design her with little complaint, save for the complicated train. Dahlia, however, was appalled at the colors she had to use. Light green, orange, blue--They're complementary colors, Miles! It's going to do nothing for them! Does she think I'm an idiot?--none of it was any good, and would only serve to make the bride and groom look horrendous. And all of that was said before she was told she'd only have a few days before the wedding to sew any adjustments that needed to be made, since Mr. Peacocks' plane was due to land forty eight hours before the wedding day. 

Dahlia hadn't been too happy to hear that either. 

Maya was struggling with the flower arrangements. Trying to find flowers that matched what Lotta had asked for was quite the challenge, he imagined. Orange lilies, blue statice, and green carnations where quite lovely when apart, but when put together, not even a genius like Maya seemed to be satisfied with the result. The sample arrangement was decorated so that the orange flowers sat clumped together at the top, the blue flowers hung below, and in the middle the carnations were stuffed. The whole arrangement looked rushed and squished together, and no matter what way she arranged them, Miles found that there was no way it wouldn't. Maya blamed the carnations for it, and offered numerous times to replace them with something else, but Lotta had insisted that the look she was going for had been achieved.

He hadn't heard anything about the cake results from Wright, but he assumed that whatever the difficulty of flaw, Lotta would love it. She had very strange standards. 

The click of china next to him startled him out of his train of thought, and he looked up to see Wright, who started back at the sudden motion.

"Uh, sorry," Wright said. This close, Miles could see the heart rising in his cheeks. "I know you said you didn't want anything, but I mean. I figured I need to keep myself busy, since it's completely empty, and you look like a tea person, so I thought...anyway, didn't mean to interrupt."

Miles flicked his eyes back and forth from the tea to Wright, and raised an eyebrow. "You haven't--"

"I mean, it's on the house--" Wright interrupted, and then stopped. "Shit. Uh, I mean, shoot. What were you saying?"

"You haven't interrupted my work quite yet," Miles said slowly. "Are you quite alright?"

Despite his nervousness, Wright gave him a half-smile. "I'm always 'Wright.'"

And there was the familiar annoyance right along side the butterflies in his stomach. Miles scowled. "You really do think that's a clever joke, don't you?"

Wright pulled out the chair across from him and plopped into it, resting his chin on his hands. The picture of pure aggravation in human form. "Is it a bad joke?"

"Yes," he answered, opening his email. He'd have to ask Kay if she needed Lang and his company in the next few weeks before he emailed the man himself. Lang's catering wasn't as good as Franziska's, but they were still reliable. "It's a terrible joke."

"Then yes, I do think it's a clever joke. The best one I have in my arsenal."

He snorted humorously, and began typing out the short email to Kay. "Your name is quite unfortunate," he murmured, almost without wanting to. "I find it quite difficult speaking to you in any professional manor while that idiotic joke hangs in the air." 

Wright rolled his eyes, but left the smile on his face. "So, you're just...going to be working today? No coming back into the kitchen to look at the cake? No...telling me to redo the top layer, or the decorations?"

Miles raised an eyebrow, but kept his eyes on the screen. He had a few places pulled up to email, though he wasn't quite sure if any of them counted as..."peacocky." "Have you done something to your kitchen?" he asked casually.

"Uh, no. No, why?"

"You haven't burnt it down? No pest trouble? Biblical amounts of property damage?" he continued. He'd try the Fellowship Lake Shrine first, and ask if they had any open dates to host the wedding.

"Why are you asking me if somethings wrong with my kitchen?" Wright asked slowly. He sniffed the air, and frowned. "Nothing's burning, I don't think."

"No," Miles told him with a shake of his head. "Nothing is burning. I'm merely curious as to why you think I'm here to judge your progress on your cake, and why you are so paranoid about me going into your kitchen."

Wright colored. "I'm not being paranoid."

"Oh? Then why do you insist I confirm that I am here for other reasons besides business with you?"

Wright pulled a face that was a sarcastic kind of wince and an aggravated purse of lips in equal measure. "Because it's weird, seeing you sit down and just. Not working. Well, not working with me. Or asking about work. Very, very weird."

Miles looked up from his current email, took a look at the scrunched up confusion written on the mans face, and chuckled. "Weird or not, I am here to work, Wright. Not on your cake, but on the rest of the wedding."

"Okay. Right. Work. Sounds good." There was a short, seven seconds of silence where Wright watched Miles and did not move. Miles gave him a wry smile and lifted an eyebrow, and Phoenix jolted. "Oh! Oh, right, right. Uh." He got up rather quickly, nearly tangling his ankles together and toppling over onto the table. "Let me know if you need anything. Help, or just. Y'know."

Miles nodded, and offered Wright a small smile. "I will. Again, thank you, Wright."

And that was that. Miles set to work. Three emails had been sent within the hour, and he played the waiting game by chatting with clients whose weddings were not for several months, or with decorators who were either to busy to help with Miss Hart's wedding, or weren't sure, and said they'd get back to him as soon as possible. And when he wasn't actively doing research, he was getting distracted by the warm smile across the room.

Apollo had come back from his break a bit after Miles had spoken with Wright, so most of the afternoon passed with the occasional customer announced by the bells on the door and listening to Phoenix talk quietly with his assistant manager. 

(It's quite odd.) He opened another email, and snuck another look at Phoenix, who was leaning against the counter and chuckling at something the younger man had told him. (I have always been good at managing my time, and have never taken distractions lightly. And yet, every time I look away from the screen, I find myself wanting more and more to be distracted by this man.)

A strange feeling sat in his chest, and he couldn't recognize it. Only understood that it made him want to take several deep breaths, and excited him so much that he felt he must either stand or fidget in his seat in order to quell the sudden rush. He felt it behind his ears, and in the calm set of his jaw, in the tension in his shoulders. He'd never really been in love of any type before. Never could find the time for that, and he found he hadn't minded too much. But every time his heart quickened at the quiet laughter of Phoenix, or his low voice mixed in with the peace of the bakery...

He wasn't sure what it was, but it had to be...uncomfortably close to all sorts of romantic words. (Perhaps closer than you thought) his mind taunted as he turned back fully on his work. (You've started to think of him as Phoenix, now.) 

The next few hours were filled with refusals, one decorator conformation, Lang's dates and times available in the next few weeks, and cold tea that was, admittedly, poorly steeped. 

(This is ridiculous. How on Earth does one find a place that reminds them of a peacock? How could that be the only detail given at a time like this?) It was certainly frustrating. Not many churches looked much like the bird, and there weren't many places that weren't booked for wither weddings, or company parties. This was a ridiculous request. A ridiculous wedding, really, and one Kay really should have handed off to Debeste. 

A month to get everything together with only the phrase "make it look like a peacock," as your one guide was impossible. (Kay would have a nervous breakdown) he thought, rubbing his temples.

"Everything okay over there?"

Miles looked up. Wright was leaning on the front counter, elbows resting on his cleaning rag, and a...was that a bowl of frosting?...a bowl of something at his elbow. He was looking up from his phone, probably in mid-text. "Miles? You okay?"

(My name again.) He nodded. Now that he was officially looking away from his computer, the dimness of the bakery was quite shocking. The lights were a dull yellow and warm, casting everything in low sepia tones. It was comfortable. It was also quite late. "Do you have the time?"

"Six thirty on the dot," Phoenix answered. "Why?"

Miles blinked. Six thirty? His eyes flicked toward the door, where the open sign was flipped, and the windows showed the last remnants of the setting sun. He'd been here for quite some time. "Apologies. I seem to have overstayed my welcome."

Wright shook his head. "Nah, you're fine. I mean, we closed an hour ago and I didn't clear you out, so." He shrugged, and nodded to the bowl next to him. "Want one, by the way? I made a lot of frosting, and I finished everything that needed to be frosted for tomorrow."

Miles shook his head. "Why are you putting that much sugar deliberately into your body?"

"Because it's good, and I have extra," he answered, removing himself from the counter top. "Give me a sec, and I'll grab you one too." With that, he disappeared into the kitchen, not waiting for his answer.

Miles heaved a great sigh when the man emerged not a minute later with a bowl heaped with chocolate frosting. Grabbing his own bowl, Wright made his way toward the table. "So what's up? You look...kinda peeved."

"Nothing that concerns you, really," Miles said, but there was no bite to his words, so Wright sat in the chair across from him and offered him the bowl. 

He shook his head. "No, thank you."

"Oh, come on! It's german chocolate frosting, who doesn't want that?" Wright whined. "I bet you're one of those people who only eats Raisin Bran for breakfast, and hates sweet things passed a certain time."

His email pinged. "You'd be correct."

"Then you haven't lived."

"On the contrary, I find I'll live much longer."

"Wuss."

"Very mature, Mr. Wright." Another no from Getty Villa. Was there really no place open for this damned wedding? He sighed again, and looked to the man across from him, who was still holding the bowl out. "Would you please get that out of my face? I'm getting cavities just looking at it."

Wright rolled his eyes. "What if I lied to you and told you it was sugar free?"

"I'd be impressed at the lengths you're willing to go to rid yourself of excess frosting." 

"Impressed enough to eat a bowl?" 

Miles rolled his eyes. The man was...well, stupidly sweet when he was failing to be persuasive. So he took the bowl, and set it down, trying his best to ignore the smile on the other's face. 

"So," Wright said around a spoonful of his own frosting. "What's going on with your computer? You keep looking more and more upset every time it pings."

"Emails," he admitted. "Miss Hart's wedding truly is the most frustrating thing I've ever done. Never have I had to work with a time frame quite like this, and never have I been given so little to go on."

Wright's eyebrows rose as he said, "She didn't pick a place to get hitched? What did she tell you?"

"To find a place that is reminiscent of the peacock." He toyed with the spoon in the frosting and took a deep breath. "Unfortunately, I have no idea what the means, and I have checked every place I can think of."

"Yikes," Wright winced. "And you got nothing but booked venues and denials. No wonder you looked increasingly like you wanted to punch someone."

At that, he grinned a bit, but if fell when he looked back at the laptop. "Perhaps I would have better luck looking for a church...I'm almost tempted to."

"They have a few interesting ones up in Oakland."

Miles gave him a weary look. "I am not willing to drive three hours, Wright. I don't believe Miss Hart is, either."

Phoenix shrugged. "Are there any churches that look like a peacock around Los Angeles?"

"There are not."

"What about First Congressional?" he offered. "It's got those purple and blue lights inside, and it's pretty big. Plus it's a church, so they'd let you do ceremonies and receptions there. I think."

That...sounded tempting. The color scheme might work as well, if he could see it in person and compare. But Miss Hart had said that, if at all possible, she'd like to get married outside, instead of in a church. With a with an annoyed huff, he explained it to Phoenix who winced in sympathy.

"So you're looking for a place that could set up the ceremony soon, and that's outdoors," he mused. "That's quite the conundrum."

With the way he enunciated "quite" and the exaggerated head nod and and raised eyebrow combo, it didn't seem like Phoenix completely understood that, yes, in fact it was a huge problem because in two weeks and four days Miss Hart would be getting married. In two weeks and four days, Miss Hart would be Mrs. Peacocks, and she would have to be married somewhere, and he'd be damned if he let that happen on the steps of the Los Angeles Metropolitan Courthouse. It just wasn't done. 

"You know what might work?" Phoenix asked with an impish grin.

He almost rose to take the bait. "Are you going to suggest I with solve my problems with frosting?"

The grin turned a little sheepish. "Oops. Guilty." He stuck another spoonful into his mouth and hummed in over-exaggerated delight.

(He's unbelievable) Miles thought, folding his arms. "If you're going to make noise while eating, I will pack up now and leave your presence, never to return," he threatened. 

Thankfully, Phoenix's mouth was free of any food when he laughed. "Just try it, Miles. Guaranteed bliss in every spoonful."

"Awfully full of yourself, aren't you?"

"Naturally." His smile was...sinfully, damnably tempting in the same way "make me" sounds like more of a plea than a challenge. He found himself blushing at the very thought, and resolved to put that in a box, seal it up tight, and never, ever think about that again. To block it off fully, he did take a bite of the frosting, which was...actually quite good. 

(I could say something about it) he thought, and then disregarded it. If the man knew he was talented, there would be no reason to further inflate his ego. That short little exchange had been evidence to that. (Though...oh dear God in heaven.) 

Flirting with anyone so blatantly when you hadn't meant wasn't allowed to just happen like that. You needed a plan, at the very least, to start doing it, otherwise the back of your neck started to burn and you ears turned pink, and the man across from you started to smile and say, stupidly, "I know, right? You can tell me when I'm right, y'know. Promise I won't make a stupid joke."

And then you'd think, (You just have, you blithering fool) and continue to avoid most eye contact as you snacked in companionable, one-sidedly awkward silence. 

After a few minutes, through another spoonful, Phoenix suddenly asked, "Did you try the Descanso Gardens?"

Miles shook his head and swallowed the small spoonful before speaking. "I don't think so. Should I have?"

"Hold on." Phoenix stood and grabbed the back of his chair. "May I...er..?" He gestured with his hand to the open space next to Miles, and then to the computer.

"Be my guest." 

He set the chair down and scooted closer to the table, frosting forgotten. Phoenix pulled the laptop in his direction and typed something into the search bar, turning to him and saying. "Have you ever been before? It's nice. Very colorful in the spring time. I took Trucy and Pearl once when they were a lot younger, so they might have added more, but..."

The site loaded, and Miles stared. "They do weddings?" 

Phoenix nodded. "Yeah, they do. You might want to check out what the garden looks like, though. I mean, they've gotta have pictures, and if Lotta said she wanted the think to remind her of a peacock..." he shrugged. "It might work." 

It did, mostly. The Japanese Garden held enough people (it was to be a rather intimate wedding just family and close friends) and was leafy and covered enough to provide beautiful lighting for incredible wedding photos, and reminded him vaguely of the frayed edges of the peacock tail. In twenty minutes, he'd decided on the finances, sent a link to Miss Hart, and sent an email to inquire about booking the garden for a ceremony and reception on the first of April. 

"Now to wait and seen if they can work the wedding in."

He felt Phoenix's elbow nudge his. "Of course they can. It's a big place, and since mid-April is when most of the flowers start to bloom, I think you might be in the clear. Congrats."

He shut the laptop and, though he was looking at his lap, smiled fondly. "I cannot thank you enough, Wright. It seems you are much more help than I've previously given you credit for."

He looked at the man out of the corner of his eyes. Phoenix was grimacing. "Gee, thanks, Edgeworth."

He chuckled. "You're quite welcome. As I'm sure Maya has told you, complements are few and far between when working with my side if Milestone."

"Mmhm," Phoenix agreed. "Keep that up and they'll probably start calling you Tin Man."

"And you, I'm sure, will be the Scarecrow," he gibed. "No brains to be found. Tragic, that."

Wright laughed fully at that, and he could see the dimples in his cheeks. It warmed him, and his heart skipped a beat. (And all thanks to this man I can only think the line "now I know I have a heart, for it's aching." That's about as infuriating as it is completely cliché.)

When his laughter tapered off, Phoenix turned to him with a warm half-smile and a curious humor to his eyes. "I might have already asked this, and you don't have to tell me either way," he started slowly, "but why become a wedding planner? Just curious?"

Strangely enough, Miles found himself blushing at the question. So instead of answering first, he busied himself with packing his computer away and asking, "Why did you become a baker?"

"Huh? Oh, well, I guess..." Phoenix teeth sunk into his lower lip and his eyebrows furrowed, thinking. "I...guess because I really liked seeing people smile." His face went over several emotions at once and settled on awkwardness. "It, uh. It sounds really cheesy out loud, doesn't it? But I guess it's still true. I liked baking when I was younger, and I guess I figured that if I went to school for it, I'd be happy. But it was the making people happy that mattered after awhile. Especially people getting excited about the designs. It became therapeutic in a weird way, after awhile. Catharsis after a rough night, or a bad breakup or...whatever really. Kinda like taking a bubble bath, or going to the gym to relax and work out tension? Only I did that with cakes and sculpting. So...I guess...I don't really know." He snorted a quiet laugh. "That's a really hard question. I guess, in short, because I...really love it."

There were stars in his eyes by the end of that, and unfiltered joy in his smile, and Miles was in love. "I see." It was all he could say. 

"What about you?" he pressed. "I can't be the only one who says something stupid. Million dollar question, go!"

He took a deep breath. "I believe it to because I found myself to be a bit of a romantic. Wedding were few and far between when I was young, but watching and re-watching older recordings of them that my father had made up for that. I was enthralled with...finding that happiness." He shrugged. "As I got older I was drawn to it because the thought of helping another find a moment that was theirs alone was almost as good at thinking about one's own ending. It might have simply been because I thought if I had enough experience, I'd find a way to...settle down. I believe, that I...am not sure myself, Wright." He pressed his lips together. "I find it quite hard to explain something like this. It is...more feelings than words. As you said, I was simply something I loved."

Phoenix offered him a kind smile, leaning an elbow on the table.. "You want to get hitched someday, huh?"

Despite himself, Miles nodded. "I always have, yes. Since I was very young."

"Why...?" he trailed off.

Miles sighed. "You wish to ask why I haven't yet."

Phoenix blushed. "Yeah, but I also don't wanna push it. It's a touchy subject for everyone starting that the ripe old age of twenty five." He laughed at his own joke. "Anyway, I shouldn't have asked that. Sorry."

Miles shook his head. "No, it's...not a question I mind answering in short."

"Alright. Go for it." 

Another, deeper breath. "I simply don't have the time to find someone with the patience to deal with a work load like mine. Should I happen upon someone, I don't think I'd have the time to make the effort to...maintain it."

"So you're...afraid of that kind of commitment?" Wright hedged.

Miles snorted. "If I was afraid of commitment, I don't believe I'd be a wedding planner, Wright." Phoenix smiled in response to that, but otherwise kept quiet. "Im college I found myself more interested in working on my school work than trying out romantic liaisons. And after I graduated, I interned, so there simply wasn't much time to allow for much else. Soon after, Milestone was born, and I couldn't quite found the time around it, and eventually started avoiding having to.

"So, to answer your question, no. I do not fear commitment. I just...have a habit of avoiding it." He ended that with wistful grin. When he looked back over at Phoenix, the man looked both enthralled and guilty for feeling that way.

"I'm not going to get fired now that I know this, right?" he asked eventually. "I feel like you just opened a lockbox but told me that if I peaked inside you'd have to kill me. Like in an old spy movie." 

Miles could tell he looked exasperated. He almost gave him a cross, Of course not! and the nearly said, What in the world makes you say that? but what came out of his mouth was, "Nonsense. If I fired you, you'd be free to expose all I've said. I'd certainly have to kill you then, wouldn't I?"

Phoenix burst out laughing, and after a moment Miles did too. 

And then, when it stopped, he couldn't help but notice that their faces were too close again. 

"So, not fired?" Phoenix was saying.

"No," Miles felt his lips move, but could only see the others eyes, and there was nothing else around him.

(I could kiss him like this) he thought, and it was a desperate thread among millions of warning bells. But there was nothing stopping him now, no dog, no audience, no customers. There was nothing but the space that felt like lightyears between them. Like there would always be lightyears between them if he didn't close the gap.

(I could) his mind whispered.

(I can't) his mind said, louder and more insistent. (I could. I can't but I could and I want to. God, do I want to.)

He pulled away and made to look at a watch that he'd forgotten he was wearing. "I...should probably leave. It's quite late, and I have a dog waiting for me." His voice sounded odd with the pounding of his heart in his ears, and he wanted to kiss him.

"Right," said Phoenix, and his voice sounded odd too, and he wanted to kiss him.

He gathered his things, and doubled check he hadn't left anything behind. They made it to the door, and said their goodbyes in tight, strained voices, and Miles listened to the lock click behind him, the muffled bells on the door, and wanted to kiss him still.

He made it to his car, slid inside. Gripped the wheel. Looked into the shop to see Wright had already gone out of sight. 

He had wanted to kiss Phoenix Wright, with every part of his mind and heart and he hadn't. He could have. Damn it, he could have, and he wanted to.

He could have, but he didn't

And so, with a frustrated turn of his keys to start his car, he shouted along with the growl of the engine, "Shit!" and clenched his jaw against the words I could have I could have until he was parked in his own parking lot.

No one responded, but it was nice to say, all the same.

-

Phoenix leaned back, pressing his palms against the sink, his tailbone digging into the edge of the counter, the water running behind him.

He should have fucking kissed him. He should have, he should have...and he didn't move. And now that small gap was now miles apart, and he'd probably missed his shot, and he'd wanted to kiss him like the last two times but he didn't. He wanted to, but that didn't count--could'a, would'a, should'a--but god he wish it did, because he didn't and he couldn't. But god he wanted to.  

So he shut his eyes, flipped on the garbage disposal, took a deep breath, and yelled, "Shit!" to the ceiling. 

No one responded, but it was nice to say, all the same.


 March 30

4:45 PM

Wright and Co. B&C

Two days until the wedding, and everything was set. The cake was make and the decorations were flawless, if Phoenix did say so himself. The Gardens had been able to book the first of April. The decorations were ordered and most where ready. Lotta's dress, from what he'd heard, was as lovely as a dress of those colors could get. Maya had finally satisfied herself with the flowers, and the catering had been taken care of. It was working like clockwork, and Phoenix had a hard time believing it had really gotten done in only a month. 

With fifteen minuted until close, Phoenix was surprised out of his thoughts by the bells on the door handle.

"Afternoon!" he called over his shoulder. "Welcome to Wright and--oh. Lotta. Hi. Nice to see you."

Sort of. Not that she wasn't easy to get along with, and he was only saying that. More along the lines of nervously stating "you look great!" when really, both parties know you look like crap. I looked like she'd barely gotten any sleep the night before and her hair was frizzier than usual. And the set of her mouth and bunching of her eyebrows with the dark circles under her eyes made her look not only tired, but like she was ready to burst.

She was right to the point. "Mr. Phoenix, do you got a minute?" Lotta asked, leaning on the front counter. "I...need advice, and ol' Ruffles pro'lly ain't gonna get what I mean."

He raised and eyebrow. "I'm...sorry, Ruffles?"

She shrugged. "Mr. Edgeworth looks like the type of guy who'd wear ruffles. Plus his feathers sure are easily messed with, so I started thinkin' of him as Ruffles. Guess it stuck."

(Wait until she sees the jabot.) "Fair enough," he admitted with a grin. "What's up? You seem, uh, really upset."

Lotta took a deep, deep breath, and took off like a bullet. "I don't know if this is the right thing to do. I don't know if I want to do this, y'know what I mean? 

"I keep seein' it. Him comin' off that plane and huggin' me and talkin' about the weddin' and I keep thinkin' we're gonna be happy. And then I keep seeing my life go further than that." Lotta began pacing. "I'm talkin' airport every few months, too many goodbyes, and me not never able to follow. I mean, I'm a photographer too, and I'm sure as sugar as good, if not better, than him. But I ain't ever gotten to come with him, and that got me wonderin' if when we're married its because he'd want me to watch the house, and that did'n sit right with me. An' I know he loves me." She signed and sniffed a bit. "I do. I know...and what if one day I have kids with 'im? I mean, I know he'd be happier then a dead pig in the sun, but the thing is, I've really thought about this and...I would not be. I don't want no family yet, not while I'm this young. Not while my career is not near started yet."

Phoeix felt his eyebrows nearly at his hairline. This was...way more than pre-wedding jitters. How long had she been holding on to this? (And why in the world did she come to me?!)

Lotta continued. "So I'm thinkin' and thinkin' on it, and then last night I came to the conclusion that...what if I can't do it? What if I can't marry poor Abe, even though he ain't done nothing to me? I keep tellin' myself I'm just scared o' what's gonna happen, that I'm gonna walk down that aisle, and I'm gonna pull back my veil and I'm gonna look into the eyes of the man I know I loved and realized that I no longer care..."

She was silent for several moments, catching her breath and looking at her shoes. 

When he spoke, Phoenix tried to sound concerned. He mostly sounded a bit disturbed, but Lotta didn't seem to mind. "You...think your falling out of love with Mr. Peacocks?"

Lotta shook her head. Then nodded, and groaned, pressing her palms into her eyes. "And that's another thing!" she snapped. "Do I really think I wanna spend the rest o' my life as 'Lotta Peacocks'? It don't even sound like a real name!"

"You don't have to take his last name, Lotta," he offered with a nervous smile.

"That ain't the point!" she snapped.

"Okay. Well, I'm...still a little lost. Give me the basic version, please."

She took a couple of deep, calming breaths before speaking. "What if it...what if everything don't amount to a hill of beans? What if my life was meant to be something more, or I meet someone better? That can happen at any time, and I wouldn't know because I married the first person to ask me, an' I never got to experience nothin' else...I don't know! What if this is it and I'm about to sign a chance at a bigger adventure away?"

"You...think that marrying this guy is going to cut back on the freedom you have right now?" he asked slowly.

She shrugged, then after a few more seconds, nodded. "I don't know how to tell 'im that though."

Phoenix nodded in understanding. "That makes sense. I don't think anyone wants to hear 'I'm afraid you'll suffocate me' so blatantly." He thought for a moment. "He hasn't ever told you to get a different job, right?"

Lotta nibbled her lip. "No. No, an' he encourages me to...find my own place in the world of photojournalism. He's...actually perdy dern sweet 'bout it all."

"Okay." A beat. "And he hasn't made you feel pressured to start a family, right?"

"I'd run the hell away if I did," she huffed. 

"Alright." He took a deep breath and rubbed the back of his neck. "Lotta, I have to level with you, I'm not the person to go to for advice like this."

She shrugged. "I don't much care 'bout that. So long as someone tells me that I'm overreactin' an' that this ain't no big thing, I think I can handle it."

"Okay," he started. "I mean...I can still tell you what I would do, but I don't think it's--"

"Tell me," Lotta interrupted, insistent. "I reckon bad advice is still advice. Shoot."

"Well, you...you love the guy, right?"

"Sure I do."

"But you know, love isn't a cure all. Just because you said yes to the marriage doesn't mean you're ready for it. Or for him. If you think now's not the time, then tell him that when the plane lands."

"But what if I don't know if he's the one? I have stuff I wanna be doin', an' I don't wanna tie myself here." She shuddered. "Just think about it's givin' me goosebumps. I love L.A., I really do," she went on. "But being stuck and stagnant in a place for too long isn't an idea I fancy."

Phoenix shrugged. "If you want my advice, I think you should do what you want to." She shot him a questioning glance, and he shrugged. "I mean, it's your wedding just as much as it is his. So do whatever your thinking."

There was a stretch of quiet where neither of them spoke, and the clock on the wall was the only noise. 

Then, Lotta said, "What if that means cancelin' the weddin'? Ya'll worked so hard..."

Phoenix scoffed. "Our goal is the couple's happiness. If it feels like we're marching you off to you execution, we've already failed."

Lotta snorted at that, and gathered herself up. "Well, thank you." She smiled brightly. "Y'know, you can say some perdy smart things, Fee-nix. I'll sleep on your advice." And without a goodbye, she strode out the door right as the clock stuck five, and Phoenix could only sigh and grab his keys to lock up.


 April 1

9:30 AM

Wright and Co. B&C ( Incident No. 1)

He needed to fix that lifted tile by the door. He was no hady man, and he never really cared enough to hire one since he and Apollo and Trucy all knew to avoid it. But sometimes it did become dangerous.

And this morning, it became possibly his worst nightmare. He really needed to fix it. And he kept coming back to that same thought as he, Apollo, and Athena stared at the cake that was splattered across the wooden floor. Around it the candied tail feathers lay in shattered remains, and Phoenix bit his lips together and took, slow, even breaths.

Athena looked like she was about to cry. "Boss, I'm so, so sorry. I can't believe this, I am so sorry."

Apollo pat her on the back. "It...it's gonna probably be okay," he told her, giving Phoenix a nervous glance. "We...shit wait we have extra feathers right? We didn't use them all?"

Phoenix nodded, but pressed his palms into his eyes and groaned at a sudden realization. "We have to make the cake over," he said softly. "And the colors. And the frosting."

Athena sniffled, and Phoenix gave her a small smile. "It's really my fault. I've tripped over that sucker more times than I can count, and I haven't fixed it yet."

"Someone's gotta call Mr. Edgeworth though," Apollo said, unhelpfully. "He has to know we'll be late with the cake."

Well, Athena certainly couldn't do it. Besides feeling awful, he wasn't about to subject her to whatever nervous wreck was waiting on the other side of that phone line. Apollo didn't look up to doing it, and he was already explaining to Athena how to make the cake batter and the icing and colors.

He dug out his cell phone and nodded toward the kitchen doors. "Go get started. I'll call."

The kitchen door had swung closed and the phone had barely rung a second time before Miles picked up. 

"This is Miles Edgeworth."

"On a scale of one to ten, tell me how stressed you woke up today," Phoenix replied, his tone light. 

There was a shift on the other end of the phone, like someone checking the caller ID, before his voice came back, incredulous. "Wright, what on Earth are you talking about?"

"Just tell me," he repeated, "how stressed you are. Because the last thing I want to do is give you a heart attack."

"This is ridiculous."

"One through ten."

"Five," Miles snapped. "What has gotten into you? What did you do?"

A deep breath. (Jump into it, like a cold pool, Wright.) "We dropped the entire cake."

"You did what?" Out of courtesy, Phoenix decided to label the noise as a shout, rather than a shriek, for Miles's dignity if nothing else. "Wright, I swear, if this is some kind of prank--"

"Like we have time for that!" Phoenix snapped. "Apollo and Athena are working on the batter and frosting right now, and Apollo have the foresight to suggest that we make extras sculptures for the cake. So we're good there. But this is going to take hours."

Away from the speaker, he could hear Miles curse. "You are due here by two thirty in the afternoon, Wright. That better be enough time to fix this."

"No problem. If it makes you feel any better, I think we have a way to get it there, and a fast car."

"Wright."

That didn't sound too happy. "Uh. Yeah?"

"Ask me that idiotic question again. I believe changing my answer would be beneficial."

"But...you said five."

"It seems to have changed."

"To what?"

"Twelve."

The line went dead, and Phoenix fought the urge to laugh or groan. 


 April 1

2:07 pM

Wright and Co. B&C (Exterior,  Incident No. 2)

 The cake wasn't cold like it had been, but it looked quite similar to the first, by some miracle. Less feathers, slightly darker color of the mirror glaze, but it was still the cake. 

Their ride was supposed to be Klavier, and when he'd stepped into the kitchen, Apollo had told him when to be ready with the car.

Except that Klavier, who either had selective hearing or misunderstood Apollo, and rode up on a motorcycle and looked properly chagrined to see three bakers and a magician staring at him in wide eyed exasperation.

"You have got to be kidding me!" Apollo shouted. "Not the bike, Gavin, I said 'we' needed a ride! We! How in the hell did you miss that?!"

"You assume I was just home waiting around for your call," Klavier shot back. "I was not, in fact. And figured I'd misheard you one the phone." He turned to Phoenix, who felt pale, and whose arms also felt numb from carrying his side of the cake. "Herr Wright, you have my deepest, most sincere apologies. You too, frauleins."

"It's fine," Phoenix said weakly. 

"It's really not," Apollo grumbled, and Klavier gave him a dirty look, which Apollo ignored. "Hold on. I've got one more back up."

It was twenty more minutes before Clay Terran skidded to the curb in a clunky, off-white Volkswagen, and asked if they'd like to tie the cake to the roof, because he wasn't sure if there was room in the back seat.


April 1

2:41 AM

Descanso Gardens ( Incident No. 3)

The drive was rather short and cramped, with Athena and himself on either side of the cake in the back seat, and Trucy in the front, trying to give Clay directions over the GPS that kept stuttering "Rerouting..." Apollo had to bite the bullet and take the the motorcycle ride that was offered to him, and he grumbled the whole time about it.

At the entrance to the gardens, a few people were already waiting with a metal trolley to transport the cake, and Phoenix couldn't help but be relieved that Edgeworth had thought to send a few people ahead.

"We're late," Athena said softly. "We aren't gonna get in trouble, right? I hope not."

Phoenix gave her shoulder a reassuring pat. "Nah. The cake is here, and that's the important part. So we should be fine."

He watched Trucy scan the street for for any signs of Klavier and Apollo. It seemed the bike had gotten separated when they were following. He could only imagine Apollo's griping once they'd lost sight of Clay's car. Trucy turned around to shrug. "I guess Polly's gonna be late."

To their right, the sound of a motorcycle could be heard distantly. As soon at the bike was pulled up to the curb, Apollo jumped off, and, though he was far enough away that they shouldn't be able to hear the conversation, the words "shortcut," "direction," and "fast," were shouted in a nervous short of anger, and Trucy began to laugh. 

Apollo marched away and Klavier, helmet tucked under his arms, followed. The picture they created--Apollo walking quickly toward them, and Klavier working to keep up despite that the man's legs where much shorter--reminded Phoenix of the conversation they'd had a few weeks back.

"I'm just saying, a shortcut usually gets the party there faster."

"Es tut mir leid, Herr Forehead. I was trying to be resourceful." 

"I know," Apollo groaned. "But next time just listen to the GPS. I nearly lost my mind with the turns you pulled."

Klavier's smile grew. "Next time? Implying that you'd--"

"Shut up," Apollo growled without any heat. He turned to Phoenix and gave him an exasperated look. "Please tell me we're standing here without the cake because the cake has been taken to the reception area and not because it fell in the car, or because we somehow forgot it."

He laughed. "It's safe and sound. Edgeworth sent a few people to meet us with a snack cart so we didn't have to carry it there. We were waiting for you."

The walk from the car to the Japanese Gardens wasn't very long. The weather was nice, and there was plenty of shade, and the sound of the gardens were almost soothing. It couldn't have been a better day for this wedding. 

When the small group did arrive, Miles was the first person Phoenix saw. He was dressed as usual, the red suit jacket, charcoal vest, and signature jabot-cravat-whatever. Normally, he would have stared just a bit too long, to take in the way he looked, the way his hear jumped into over time, but right now, he looked less than pleased.

While Trucy tugged Athena and Apollo over to the pond to see if there were any koi fish, Phoenix made his way over to be within earshot of the phone conversation.

"So what you're telling me," he said slowly, "is that Mr. Peacocks just...called the shop and...Franziska this isn't making any sense. Let me speak to your wife." A long pause, long enough for Miles to notice his presence, jump a bit, and wave him over. 

"Maya?" a small silence. The only thing he could catch was Maya's quick and slightly upset tone. Phoenix leaned a bit closer, trying to hear Maya's voice on the other side of the phone, which earned him an elbow to the ribs. 

"Ow!" he hissed.

"Shh!" Miles hissed back. "Maya what happened? Franziska said something about the bouquet? And then you got a call from the husband saying something strange about Miss Hart. I--yes the flowers have been delivered--but as I was saying, the entire party seems to be late, which is fine, of course but it's been quite awhile since--yes, the cake is fine, I don't--Maya," he finally interrupted, his eyebrows drawing together, "where on Earth is the bride?"

The silence stretched to minutes, and Miles's face cooled. Eventually, he said, "I see," very softly into the receiver, and sighed. "No it...I suppose it makes sense for him to have it. A bit melodramatic, in my opinion, but there isn't much else I can say...It's quite a shock I...Right. Until later, Maya." he removed the phone form his ear and shut his eyes.

"What happened?" Phoenix asked. "Is Lotta okay?"

Miles pressed a his fingers to his temple. "Miss Hart is somewhere over the Atlantic ocean taking photos for a traveling magazine in Europe. Apparently, she's not coming."

Phoenix's jaw dropped. "Oh, you're kidding."

Miles shook his head, and looked drained. Phoenix rubbed the back of his next and looked toward the reception area. The food was set up, and in the center the cake, the staff chatting casually. Over by the pond, there were benched set up under fairy lights, and Trucy was pointing to the fish and talking to Apollo about a new magic trick.

"Welp," Phoenix said half heartedly. "I don't know about you, but I'm gonna go tell my staff about the runaway bride."


 

April 1

3:30 PM

Descanso Gardens

It was pretty warm for this time of year, and Phoenix had shed his jacket and rolled up his sleeves by the time he helped the catering people move most things back into their vans. A few trays of food were left for the people who stayed behind to pick at, courtesy of some guy named Lang. And the cake, which was probably too warm and getting soggy, stood on an isolated table, a few small pieces missing. 

Trucy was doing card tricks for Athena and a few people from the catering group who were taking a break. Apollo was kindly, thought a bit reluctantly, playing her assistant.

Considering that the bride was no longer in the country and that the groom hadn't even made it to the altar before the bride left him, it was a pretty cheerful mood all around. Except over where Miles had been sitting, which looked like it should be covered by a cartoon rain cloud hovering over the man's head. 

(I kinda feel bad) he thought, cutting into the cake. (He worked really hard on this wedding. Plus he's gotta be empathizing with the poor groom.) Once he had two plates with generous slices of cake on them and his jacket balanced over his arm, and made his way over to where Miles was leaning over the railing and looking into the pond.

"You know," Phoenix started, "brooding over it isn't gonna make anything better or worse." Miles jolted and turned to him wearing a look of tired contempt. "What are you waiting for?"

Miles rolled his eyes. "Franziska. She will call in a bit to let us know when she and Maya are here to collect the flowers. Please tell me that isn't wedding cake."

"It isn't wedding cake," Phoenix repeated, and Miles groaned a the joke, choosing to burry his head in his hands. Phoenix laughed and leaned his hip against the railing. "Well I mean, it isn't anymore, is it? When Apollo's friend gets here, I'm going to take it back and make cake balls out of it. I figured before I destroy it we should try it in the way it was intended to be tried."

Wordlessly, Miles straightened and turned to accept the food, but only leaned against the bench and sighed. "I am sorry all of your hard work has gone to waste, Wright. Even with the limited time frame, you have managed to pull of a lovely design."

Phoenix smiled. "Thanks. And ditto; the decorations were really nice, and I'm sure the wedding would have been gorgeous."

He nodded, and then sighed. "I am afraid I do not understand why she would choose to leave quite like that. From what little I've been told, she told him this morning, and then ran off for her plane. Maya still had the bouquet, and the man called and asked to keep it, in memory."

Phoenix snorted. "That's pretty dramatic. She'd not dead; she just didn't want to get married."

"And that is where I am lost," the man told him, his voice suddenly sharp. "Why would she want to get married to someone she didn't want to be with in the end? Why run to the other side of the world?"

"Maybe because she felt like she needed to see it before she let someone become her whole world," Phoenix offered. (Or maybe I shouldn't give advice. "Go with what I'm thinking?" How the heck was I supposed to know it meant getting on a plane to Europe?!)

Miles gave him a very serious look. "Marriage isn't about becoming one another's world, Wright," he snapped. "That's an incredibly selfish way to think about it. If anything, it's only about broadening ones own."

That, for some reason, made both of them blush brightly, and look away from one another. No one broke the silence for several minutes.

When it did break, it was Phoenix, saying, "Maybe she wasn't ready to think like that."

He turned back to Miles, and was surprised to see the man looking back at him already, his brows furrowed in confusion, the set of his mouth still sad.

Phoenix took a bite of cake before explaining. "The way I see it, you have to really want the marriage. You have to know, going in, that you're going to be you coming out of it. I don't think she was ready to think that yet."

"Then why say yes to a proposal?" the question came out as an incredulous whisper. "Don't misunderstand me; I realize that falling out of love happened often, and I realize that engagements don't always last until the wedding day. But I do not understand how one couldn't know for sure if they wanted to be with the other."

Phoenix could feel his face falling into a deadpan "are you serious?" expression, but didn't hide it. "Okay. I'm gonna give you an example, to help you understand your own question."

Miles offered a droll look that was probably close to his own. "Please do not."

"Let's say someone asked you to to marry them," he started anyway. "Would you say yes?"

"If I was ready for that step, yes," Miles snapped. "Wright--"

"Okay, so you said yes. Now lets say you love this person more than anything else. They're...kind of a miracle to you, a gift you never thought you'd get, completely against all odd that this person became your, uh, fiancée." (Way to push your personal fantasies into a conversation. A plus, Phoenix, very good.) "And you think you're ready for forever with another human being. But then, you start thinking about how much you haven't done, or opportunities you might have to miss."

Miles rolled his eyes. "Wright, this is absurd." 

He shook his head. "It isn't. It's like adopting a pet. All the things you're going to have to give up or find a way around because you commit yourself to another living being. It takes full trust."

"It isn't like adopting a pet, or anything for that matter," Miles snapped. "You have no idea what you're talking about."

"Just because you don't want to adopt a dog doesn't make you like them any less, right? I can still love dogs and not want one," he finished, a bit angry himself. "You can say yes to a proposal and still love someone, even though you aren't ready. But she didn't want to make this marriage miserable, so she left. And I bet her fiancée knows that."

They were quiet again for several minutes, listening to the conversation from the leftover staff and the birds talk about the coming evening in the trees above. 

"So, what you are saying is Miss Hart loved Mr. Peacocks, but found she wasn't ready, and left so that she wouldn't hurt him by doing something foolish."

Phoenix nodded. "You do get it."

"That is either very wise and intuitive coming from you, Wright," Miles continued, "or you are, in layman's terms, completely full of shit."

Phoenix took a deep breath. "Probably the latter, if I'm being perfectly honest with you."

Miles burst out laughing, and Phoenix followed. And in this afternoon light while they waited together for either Maya or Clay to show up, Phoenix was content to stand next to him--next to Miles, looking so beautiful with bright eyes and a smile that wrapped around his heart like a vise--and fall in love. 

Chapter Text

December 18

6:19 PM

Wright and Co. B&C

Everything was decorated in the bakery. There were little fake pine trees on the tables and bigger ones one either side of the door. Each of the latter were wrapped in colorful blinking lights. The cowbell on the door was given the month off so that only the sleigh bells remained. Lights were strung all over the ceiling, both in the bakery and in the apartment above it. The top of the display case was fringed with fluffy, sparkling fake snow and tinsel. Everywhere a product wasn't, there were old and new Christmas decorations covering the surface. Ratty Santa Clause dolls, a Rudolf who was missing a red nose, several up-right snowmen, two floppy elves, a bear with a Coke bottle and a Christmas hat, and assorted animals that wore different holiday clothing. They lined the top of the shelves and were in the corner of the stage, and one--a grumpy looking rabbit in a Hanukkah sweater--on top of the display case. In the windows were dollar store snowflake decorations Phoenix had bought years ago. And, of course, a sprig of mistletoe

It was Trucy who was in charge of the decorating, and every year she made it look just as cheery as the last. Phoenix helped when she couldn't reach, or when she got too tired to continue, but his daughter was always adamant about decorating over the two and a half week break before the new year.

Of course she was the same way when it came to moving the mistletoe to new locations every other day. Adamant that it be done every single year.

Currently, Phoenix was waiting on a delivery of poinsettias from Maya, who had just sent him a text to let her know she was heading out and Apollo was holding a chair steady as Trucy, standing on it while on her toes, reached to stick the sprig over the middle of the room.

"Polly, can't you get up here and do it? Or at least give me a boost?" Trucy complained. The ceiling was just out of her reach.

Apollo shook his head, eyebrows high. "No way. Not when there's a chance I could fall. Or pull a muscle. Or fall and pull a muscle."

"I'd catch you," Trucy grumbled. "Come on, Polly! Please!"

Phoenix looked up from his phone and chuckled. "You should help her, Apollo. Spread the holiday cheer."

Apollo glared at him. "How come you can't t do it? You're twice her height, and taller than both of us."

Trucy hopped down from the chair to hit Apollo's shoulder with the back of her hand, and Phoenix laughed. "Hey! Decorating is my job! Daddy makes the holiday cookies, and I spread the cheer!"

Phoenix nodded along with his daughter, offering Apollo a sympathetic smile. "It's a Wright family tradition, I'm afraid."

Apollo gave a full-bodied sigh and asked, "If you're in charge of decorating, how come I have to put up this silly plant? I don't even like mistletoe."

Trucy held the mistletoe up above the younger man's head and smooched him on the cheek. Apollo made and annoyed sound and shrugged her off, but she wasn't deterred. "Because you're the Wright family's beloved elf, who helps us when we're in need!"

Apollo stared at her for several moments before looking tired and resigned. He stuck his hand out, and Trucy placed the offending plant into his open palm. He didn't try to disguise his grumble of "bah humbug" and Trucy hit his shoulder again.

"Just...hold the chair like your life depended on it, okay?" he asked, stepping up on to the chair. "Because it might. Well, my life might depend on it. A-are you sure you can't reach?"

In answer, Trucy rolled her eyes and made a show of planting her feet and holding the chair in place. "Don't be such a scaredy cat. Like I said, I'll catch you!"

Apollo huffed. "Trucy, that doesn't make me feel better. If I fall, I'm going to fall on top of you."

His daughter pouted at that, and jostled the chair. Apollo gave a sharp yelp and reached up to grip the ceiling. Trucy snickered.

In moments, the mistletoe was up, and Apollo was down and giving the whole ordeal a dramatic shudder.

"See! That wasn't so bad!" Trucy beamed. "Then you can move it around tomorrow before you leave!"

The younger man groaned. "What is with you and mistletoe? Aren't you, like, twelve? You shouldn't be kissing anybody." Though his words sounded sharp, he reached out to mess up Trucy's hair.

Trucy pushed his hand away with an indignant squeal and crossed her arms. "Hey! I'm seventeen! And mistletoe is the best part of the holidays, Polly!"

"Uh huh," Apollo said with a raised eyebrow. "So you mean to tell me you don't have a secret crush you're just dying to smooch? And that this fuss is all for nothing?"

"It's not for nothing!" She thumped Apollo's shoulder playfully. "Gosh, Polly, you're such a Grinch."

Apollo shrugged. "Hey, I will take being a Grinch any day if it mean staying far away from your mistletoe shenanigans.

Before Phoenix could even think to step in, Trucy crossed her arms and raised a teasing eyebrow. "I bet you won't be complaining about the mistletoe if Klavier stops by."

The barb did its job and Phoenix found himself chuckling as Apollo sputtered out an, "Excuse me?!"

Trucy collapsed into a fit of giggles. "I thought so."

Apollo groaned and looked to him, possibly for help or backup. Which was within reason to expect, given that he was supposed to be much more mature running a business and all. But Trucy was laughing now, harder than was probably necessary at the blood rushing into Apollo's cheeks so that they matched the apron he was fidgeting with, and he could help but burst out laughing.

"Mr. Wright! Don't just laugh!"

Phoenix bit the inside of his cheek to keep his grin to a minimum. It wasn't working, if the look on Apollo's face was anything to go by, though that could have been because Trucy was now collapsed in the chair, still laughing that the younger man's reaction. He took a deep breath and let it out slowly. There. Serious-and-Mature-Boss-Mode engaged. Kind of.

"Sorry," Phoenix said as sincerely he could manage. "You're right. Shouldn't laugh."

"I hear a 'but' in there."

"I shouldn't laugh, but it's still a little funny."

"It's a lot funny," Trucy chimed in. Apollo gave her a look, his blush getting worse. "What?" she asked, shimmying down a bit in the chair so she could reach out and nudge Apollo's knee with her toes. "It's not like a mistletoe kiss from Klavier would be the worse thing to happen to you. He's a good looking guy, Polly. You could do a lot worse. Plus we all know he's into you."

Phoenix had to agree with that. Though this season was apparently pretty busy for him, Klavier had come in every chance he could, always with a warm smile for his subordinate. It wasn't like Apollo avoided it either. Rather, he seemed to gravitate toward it, fending off any dramatic attempts at romance and grinning at the more tame ones. It was sweet.

"It's not--He's just--He does that, it's not--!" Apollo clamped his mouth shut and turned to Phoenix again. "Can we not talk about this, actually? I have to leave soon."

"Long story?" Trucy teased.

" No story actually," Apollo snapped before he could help himself. Phoenix could feel the very fatherly look his expression must have taken on, and Apollo bit his lip and stuttered out an apology. "I'm meeting Clay soon, and I wanted to get home to change into something nicer than baking casual."

"Going out?" Phoenix asked, a lifeline to change the subject. It was the holidays, after all, why not give the kid a break?

Apollo smiled a bit and shrugged. "Sort of. Clay's got it into his head that every bar in LA has a Christmas themed drink with his name on it."

He chuckled a bit at this. "You're going bar hopping?"

Apollo nodded and crossed his arms. "Well, Clay is. I'm playing chauffeur tonight. In his words, I should get comfortable with highways 605 and 10, because he wants to go to the ass-end of nowhere to find the 'meaning of Christmas.'" His voice took on a high-pitched, fake enthusiasm as he wrapped the phrase in air quotes.

"At the bottom of a crappy glass of Sam Adams?"

Apollo shook his head, looking weary already. "It's going to be a really long, really loud  drive."

"So Clay's gonna be drunk all by himself?" Trucy asked, still toeing the back of Apollo's knee. Every so often she gave is a good tap and made him stagger in place. "That doesn't sound like much fun."

Apollo sighed, long-suffering, and even before he said it, Phoenix could already see the answer in the sag of his shoulders and the feigned annoyed eye roll he always got when the Gavin boy was involved.

Evidently, so did Trucy, because she gave a little giggle and pressed her hand to her mouth too late to hide it.

"Have you ever seen a happy, drunk, German?" Apollo whined, making his way to the kitchen door. "It's going to be drunk caroling in my ear all night."

"Any rendition of O Tannenbaum you happen to record has to be sent me, okay?" Trucy called after him.

Apollo disappeared with a sigh to clock out, and his phone buzzed in his pocket. Maya's contact lit up the tiny screen with her text that simply read, Incoming! :) :)

He typed out a quick See u, and put his phone back in his pocket.

"Is that Aunt Maya? Is she coming to drop off the flowers?"

Phoenix turned to his daughter to exchange smiles. "Yeah. She should be here any minute." He leaned against the display case and took in the decorations again. Trucy really had outdone herself this year. Maya was going to love it. "The café looks amazing, by the way. You're a pro at this."

Trucy beamed. "Thanks, daddy! I wanted it to look extra festive for this year."

"Anything else you think we need?"

Trucy tapped her chin in thought. "I don't think so. I was thinking about maybe getting a fake tree for the stage, but we'd have to move it for talent night." Her eyes sparkled at that. "Oh! By the way. Klavier said he'd do some holiday music this week, and I came up with a few holiday themed acts! You know that old Nat King Cole song?"

Phoenix raised an eyebrow at this, frowning. This he hadn't heard about. "If it involves fire, chestnuts, or both, I have to put the kibosh on that right now. You're not pulling anything that's on fire--"

"It wouldn't be--"

" Or going to be, out of your panties, Trucy."

Trucy's smile evaporated into a pout. She crossed her arms and sighed dramatically. " Fine , ruin my fun," she groaned. "And nobody uses 'kibosh' anymore, daddy."

The door to the kitchen, and Apollo shuffled out, one arm in his jacket. "Okay. I'm off," he announced. "I'll be in at the regular time tomorrow."

"Wait a sec! Polly, do bars have mistletoe?" Trucy asked suddenly, sitting up straight.

Apollo quirked an eyebrow at her and shrugged. "Maybe a few, though I doubt it. Are we really still on this?"

She offered him a very sincere smile. "If Klavier catches you underneath one tonight, you have to smooch him, okay? It’s tradition."

"Oh for the love of--it's bad enough he's going to be hanging on me in inebriated bliss while I'm driving. I'm going to throw him bodily onto the bar if that ends up being the case," Apollo snapped.

"Speaking of," Phoenix said, grabbing the keys and following Apollo to the door. "I have a crowbar, if you need it. You know, to pry Klavier and your feelings away from you for the duration of the night?"

Apollo offered a sardonic smile. "I think I'll be okay with just jerking the car into a sharp turn. Thanks though. I cherish these bonding moments we have, truly."

"And the feeling part?" Phoenix asked. Apollo shot him a look with so much fire in it he...couldn't actually think of a word that would describe it. "Noted," he said instead.

Apollo crossed his arms and gave Phoenix a once over, his eyes never losing that aggravated edge. "So, speaking of repressed feelings, how goes it with Mr. Edgeworth?"

At the mention of the man’s name, Phoenix felt his brain stutter and trip. (Welp. Can't say I didn't deserve that.) He could practically hear Trucy sit up to listen behind him. She'd known about Edgeworth as well, and had been rather excited to learn that finally her father was "into someone."

"It's. Ah. Well." He rubbed the back of his neck, feeling a bit sheepish.

Truthfully, it had been going...nowhere, and that had been entirely his own fault. Too many times freezing up, talking himself in circles, and quitting halfway through the plans, offering a warm smile instead of actual words. There had been several moments where he could have said something, several sudden bursts of bravery where he could have opened his mouth to make his feelings known without thinking on the repercussions.

He never managed to muster up the courage to take them. He'd tried though; a few "uh, actually's" and a couple, "hey Edgeworth's" and once, when he was feeling particularly brave (or maybe stupid--it was getting harder to tell these days), "I was wondering if you'd like to..." before trailing off and asking for another evaluation of the cake, instead of, say, an afternoon coffee, just the two of them.

So, instead, he said nothing. Which was alright. The last thing he wanted to do was make the man uncomfortable, or push his feelings onto him. There was no need to say anything and make a mistake meriting fanfare and a holiday just to commemorate it. Besides that, feelings were always tricky things between people who worked together. If it didn't work out, the last thing he wanted was to make the job awkward.

(Of course) he thought, (I could always just tell him and get the inevitable “no.” Stop baking. Change my name to Nick Wrong, skip town, and never have to face the embarrassment either getting fired or still having to work and face the mistake head on.)

"Thought so," Apollo said, but there was no meanness in his voice. A little triumph maybe, but nothing cruel. "You haven't said anything ?" Behind him, Phoenix heard Trucy sigh.

Phoenix gave the kid a flat look. "Don't you have to go grumble and complain somewhere?"

Before Apollo could say anything in his defense, the door behind him slammed open, and both men flinched at the sudden sound of sleigh bells and shouting.

"Ho ho ho, and Merry Christmas, boys and girls!" Maya called out from somewhere behind the poinsettias in her arms. She was carrying three large vases, each packed with the flowers. "A joyous Hanukah! A lovely Kwanza! Christmashanukwanzikah and all that jazz, okay, someone please grab one of these or I'm going to drop it."

Both Apollo and Phoenix rushed forward, each gently taking one of the red, opaque vases. Maya let out a relieved sigh and lowered her own vase to the ground, grinning.

"Apollo!" she trilled. "Haven't seen you in awhile. You look good."

Apollo flushed a bit, and offered her a tentative smile. "Maya. Uh, thanks. You too. How are the holidays treating you and your wife?"

Phoenix smiled a bit at that; Apollo was always nervous around Franziska, even when she was nowhere in sight, and either referred to her as "Miss von Karma-Fey," or Maya's wife.  

Maya grinned at the mention of Fran and shrugged. "Busy, but it's been...totally surreal. Like one of those holiday-themed Dove Chocolate commercials they show on the Hallmark channel. All cozy and loving. I just went Christmas shopping for her and Pearl the other day. The holidays really do warm your heart when you have someone to love."

"Ew," Phoenix inserted with a wide grin, and Maya beamed back at him. "Congrats. You've managed to out-do yourself in the cheesy department, Maya."

Maya leaned forward to smack his shoulder with the back of her hand. "Puh-leez," she laughed. "Have you no soul? Where's you're warm, gooey holiday center?" And then she pushed at his shoulder to wave at his daughter. "Hi, Trucy!"

If that was an invitation, Trucy accepted with vigor, hopping up from her chair and launching herself into Maya's open arms. "Maya! Merry Hauchristmakwanzikah to you too! The flowers are great!"

"Well so is this place!" Maya exclaimed, hugging her back. "It's beautiful! I think you might be the only magician in the world who knows how to pull an entire holiday out of your hat."

Phoenix moved to take the other vase from Apollo. "I'll set these down somewhere. Go ahead and get home before Truce tries to rope you into more decorating."

Apollo nodded, grateful, and leaned around him to wave to Trucy. She only offered a wave to him, too caught up with Maya to say any kind of farewell. Phoenix smiled and made his way over to one of the tables. The flowers were certainly beautiful, but the vases weren't the least bit light. He set the two vases down and made to grab the one Maya had set on the floor, when Apollo's voice came from the doorway.

"Mr. Edgeworth! I didn't expect to see you here. Is...that a wagon?"

And sure enough, there he stood. In one black gloved hand, he was tugging a red wagon with several more vases in it, and looking a little put out to be doing so. But his mouth was set into a weary grin and his eyes were warm, and even though he was a few feet away, Phoenix felt his heartbeat in his throat and his stomach flip.

"It is," Miles answered. "I was volunteered to accompany Miss von Karma-Fey on her delivery. Though I believe a car ride would have been much more time efficient."

Apollo nodded and then shrugged. "Sure, but this is pretty Christmassy. The red wagon, the winter getup. L-like those old Coke commercials?" There was a moment where neither said anything, Miles only raising a curious eyebrow and Apollo looking like he wanted to literally shove his foot in his mouth. "Right," the kid said quickly. "I-I should get going. Uh, nice to see you, Mr. Edgeworth. If you aren't in a-again until after the holidays, uh, Happy New Year."

"To you as well, Mr. Justice."

Apollo was out the door in an instant. Trucy was still talking to Maya, saying something about her magic show on Friday, and something about a menorah and fire, and Maya seemed to be encouraging it and asking about the decorations. He sighed, and turned toward Miles. The poor man always looked like he felt too out of place in the bakery, all tense shoulders and searching eyes.

Searching eyes that landed on his after a moment too long of staring. Miles' small smile somehow seemed to meet his eyes, and Phoenix felt its warmth in his bones. He felt fluttery, if there was no other word for it, like he was just short of floating in place. So it was just as well he expressed this by offering a goofy half smile and and a small wave.

(Idiot.)

Miles didn't seem to think so, but his smile did fall some, and his cheeks looked suddenly red. (Is he...blushing?)

Trucy's voice cut through his thoughts, and the thought was dropped almost as suddenly as it had come about.

"Mr. Edgeworth!" Trucy squealed, moving out of Maya's space to give the man a hug. Well, he certainly looked out of place now . "It's been such a long time! Thank you for helping Maya."

Edgeworth looked from Trucy to Maya, who was hiding her grin behind her face, and then to Phoenix, who gestured with his hand as if to say, Go on .

The aggravated glare tinged with nervousness he got in return was pretty funny. "Er. Yes, y-you are...quite welcome, Miss Wright." His hand moved robotically to pat her on the back.

Trucy pulled away and laughed. His face was the perfect picture of uncomfortable shock. "Mr. Edgeworth, you should look up." She said it with a magician's flare, and all four of them turned their eyes to the mistletoe that hung above them. "You're lucky it was me you caught under here. I accept hugs as a payment under the mistletoe, but you might not be as lucky the next time!"

The blush had returned to Miles' face with vigor, and Trucy pulled herself out of the embrace completely, moving to look at the flowers behind him. "Maya? There are a lot of flowers here. We only needed seven or eight."

Maya nodded. "I know. The extras are a gift. I thought you guys might want some for your apartment, so I threw in a few extra."

Phoenix grinned. "Aw, Maya, thanks. You didn't have to do that."

Maya waved his words away. "Nah, I wanted to! 'Tis the giving season, right?" She shrugged. "Plus, I ordered so many thinking more people were going to buy them. Most of the extras are going toward the catering banquette in a few weeks, anyway."

"Are you still going to that party?" Phoenix groaned. The catering banquet was for von Karma Catering , and it was a dreadfully boring, suit-and-tie affair to celebrate the new year. All cream-colored walls, fancy food, champagne, and a live jazz band that played too softly to hear over the chatter. Maya went with Franziska every year, despite the the fact that she didn't need to. It was, and Franziska never hesitated to point this out, mostly a business affair. Since she headed the company, she was required to go and mingle with her employees and make small talk with other caterers who attended. But every year, Maya would extend the invite to the Wright family, in hopes they'd join them to welcome the new year.

"What do you have against a good party?" Maya whined. "It's really fancy, and the food is great. Plus you get to greet the new year looking like a million bucks!"

"No, thank you," Phoenix said, shaking his head. "You know parties aren't my thing, and when I can opt out," and with that, he eyed Miles, who gave him a flat look in return, "I do."

Maya, in true adult fashion, put her hands on her hips and stuck her tongue out at him before turning to her niece. "Truce? You wanna join your aunts?"

Trucy grinned but shook her head. "Normally, I'd jump at the chance to go, but I made plans with Pearl and Athena to watch the ball drop at her apartment."

Maya gave a dramatic sigh. "Nick come on ," she huffed. "Edgeworth is the most solitary person I know outside work and he's going."

He tried not to let that blow hit him. (Oh real nice, hone in on the one weakness. Some friend.) Not that Maya really knew everything, but she had this sixth sense when it came to bribing him. Not that...Miles Edgeworth was a bargaining chip.

The aforementioned wedding planner gave Maya a droll stare. "Please do not bring my misanthropical habits into this, Maya."

Maya held an arm out, a sweeping gesture in full, toward Edgeworth. "See what I mean? King of introverts and he's going."

"Good for him," he shot back. There was no heat in it, but the whole party thing just wasn't for him, and for Maya to keep pressing the issue, especially when he knew she knew about his crush was only making him want to go less. He'd been avoiding this party since Maya's first invitation, and there was no reason to stop now.

And if he was going to avoid these feelings, he wasn't going near any kind of intimate setting where people were required to kiss before a countdown. That kind of pressure on Edgeworth, whether he would be aware of it or not, was out. There was no way in hell he was going to put the man in that position. (Even if I kind of really want to.)

Maya whined and stuck out her bottom lip, resulting in the world's most dramatic puppy dog face he'd ever seen. "Please? You don't have to bring a date or anything. You and Miles can be wallflowers together--"

"Maya!" This came from Edgeworth, who looked just about as embarrassed as he felt.

"--since he never likes to socialize. You'll both fit right in if you stand in the corner and mope."

Phoenix rolled his eyes, hoping that the flush on his own cheeks was somewhat hidden in the dim lighting. "Maya, I will call you and wish you a happy New Year at midnight on the dot if that's what you want. You can call me and put me on speaker for the duration of the party. I'll do just about anything except go."

"You're no fun," she whined, slumping forward to grab a vase from the wagon. Trucy had already been working her way around the café with them. "At least help set these up if you're going to be a fun-sucking old grump like Edgeworth."

Miles grimaced. "Maya, I could go to the car right now and leave you to walk back home." He only sounded slightly serious about it, which was less concerning.

Maya snorted. "Franziska would avenge me should I freeze to death on the walk back."

"I...what? It's...forty three degrees."

They continued to bicker about the weather while they set the vases on the tables and near the stage, and it went rather quickly. He wasn't paying much attention to it, and by the time they had finished with the flowers, the argument ended on Miles groaning that forty degree weather wasn't freezing because it was scientifically impossible.

"That should do it for down here!" Trucy announced, setting the final vase on the back most table. "Now all we have to do is decorate upstairs with the rest of them!" She moved forward to tug Maya by her arm a bit. "If we each grab two, we can make it in one trip."

They headed up the stairs soon after, each with vases in their arms and talking loudly about something that had to do with parties. Their voices faded as they ascended, and the ground floor was quiet once again.

Phoenix smiled after them and it was a warm one, if not a bit nervous and part knowing. Even if Maya hadn’t guessed at his stupid crush, Trucy did know. At least one of them was leaving the room with an ulterior motive in mind.

He turned his mind to Edgeworth, who was watching the door as well. With his back turned, Phoenix couldn’t see his face, but his shoulders were a bit more relaxed, and he still held the handle to the wagon in his hand, perhaps forgetting it was there. His legs still looked like they wanted to run, but other than that, a perfect picture of serene.

“So how’s work?” Phoenix asked, conversationally. Which was how he was going to have to play it off, since it was rather blurted and sudden in the small stretch of quiet between them.

If it bothered Edgeworth, he didn’t show it. Instead he huffed and crossed his arms, shrugging. “It’s been alright. The Kitaki wedding is finally finished,”

Phoenix’s jaw dropped. “You’re kidding,” he sputtered, and when Edgeworth shook his head, he asked, “Did they break it off?”

“They did not. They were wed a few weeks ago, and their honeymoon will end the day after the new year.” He sighed deeply. “Does celebratory champagne count as drinking during office hours?”

At this, Phoenix raised an eyebrow and laughed. “I would think so, yeah. Why?”

For a moment--and really it was so sudden Phoenix wasn’t even sure it happened--something flitted across the man’s face, a beacon sweeping over shore. It was almost like desperation, almost like shock, and...well, almost like wishful thinking, really, because it was almost like--“Miss Faraday has a habit of asking me questions over and over again until I’m not...quite sure of the answer.”

He shook his head. (Wishful thinking.) “Did you say yes?”

The signature look of utter boredom and severity was back, and Miles rolled his eyes. “What kind of boss do you take me for, Wright? Of course not.”

“Of course not,” Phoenix mimicked, earning a more contempt-filled look that was strictly necessary. “Kay deserves it. She’s done this wedding three times. If I were her, I’d ask for something stronger than champagne after the second attempt failed.”

The other man offered a derisive snort as an answer, and again turned toward the door to his home.

There was another silent spell, before Phoenix broke it again. “You know she might just kiss you,” he said lightly. “On the cheek of course, but she just might.”

Edgeworth jumped, and gave him an odd look. “I...were you speaking of Miss Faraday?”

“Uhm, no. My daughter, actually. You’re...still under the mistletoe.” He jerked his chin up as a gesture, and Miles looked up again and sighed. “Just saying, you--”  (Might want to come over here, might want to ask me to come over there, might just keep my mouth shut about that...) ”--might want to move out from under there.”

Miles hesitated a moment, scrunching his face up as he stared at the plant. “She wouldn’t.”

He held his hands up. “Hey, I gave you a fair warning. You continue to stand there at your own risk of physical affection. But don’t say I didn’t warn you.”

Edgeworth was by Phoenix’s side before the words were finished, and he tried to fight the urge to stop breathing.

Whatever look he had on his face, Miles became offended at, and immediately scoffed. “Do not look at me like I’m on a witness stand, Wright. I harbor no ill will toward your daughter. I...simply do not wish to have any more silly traditions thrust upon me. A hug will suffice.”

“Used up your yearly quota for dealing with human contact?”

“Oh, shut up.”

Phoenix laughed, ignored the rather desperate note around it and the flip of his stomach at the tiny smile it got out of Edgeworth.

“She’s excited for the new year, I think,” he said instead, turning his eyes toward the door. If he didn’t look at him, he could breath more easily, swallow anything that threatened to bubble up down without choking on it. “She and Athena, Athena’s girlfriend, Pearl, a couple of her school friends. They’re all going downtown to eat, and then back to Athena’s for games and New Year’s Rockin’ Eve.”

In his peripheral, Miles nodded. “She is an exemplary young lady. No doubt the party will be hosted by your employee, but it will be headed by her.”

He chuckled. That was the god honest truth.

“Does Mr. Justice have plans as well?”

At this, Phoenix couldn’t help but bark a laugh, earning an inquisitive glance that he almost met. “Yeah, he does. You remember Klavier Gavin, right? Blonde hair, pretty, German?”

“I’ve met him several times since hiring your bakery, yes.”

“Well, turns out he’s actually in a band. They’re pretty local, but they’re gaining a lot of fans.” Which was actually true, since the last time he spoke to the man himself. Whenever he asked Apollo, all he ever got was a blush and a muttered, Fine, I guess. “According to the man himself, they’re due to play at several places over the holidays; bars, a couple of clubs, a place in a mall. But on new years, their manager apparently booked them a rented building that used to be a theater. They’re doing huge a concert and Apollo was invited.” He ended that with a snicker.

Miles didn’t seem to be keeping up. “That is...somehow funny?”

Phoenix waved it away. “Not really. Just...Apollo is a good kid, but if he had it his way, the world would let him be as oblivious as he wants to be.”

“Meaning…?”

Phoenix turned toward him, perhaps quicker than he intended to. Miles looked back just as sharply. They were much closer than he’d thought. (Meaning that someone is in love with him, and, unlike some people, can actually show it.)    Their shoulders were touching. (Meaning that I wish, beyond all hope, that I could say something to you. Meaning that I wish I could tell you that my heart forgets how to work when you look at me, and that my brain does the same thing Coke and Mentos do everytime you smile. Meaning I want to know for sure you love me too, before I ever tell you I’ve never felt this way with anyone.)

“He’s just...it’s hard for him to see certain things that are right in front of him, especially when he keeps telling himself to look away.”

Their faces were inches apart, and Miles’ eyes were warm in the dim glow of the Christmas lights. Phoenix could hear his own voice echo in the back of his mind, look away, look away.

“And you?” Miles asked. The words were so quiet. They whispered across his cheek, a caress he longed to lean into.

“Huh?”

“What are you planning to do to celebrate the new year?”

He swallowed, and if his heart wasn’t thrumming in his ears, he might have heard himself do it. “I-I’ll be here. Listening to it on the radio. Or asleep.”

“Alone?”

“Yeah.”

“You really won’t join Maya?”

“It’s...not my thing, really. S-so, probably not, no.”

Miles opened his mouth like he was about to protest. Rethought that, closed it. Instead his lips pressed into a determined line, and very slowly, his hand rested on Phoenix’s cheek. A feather light touch, a ghost, like it might not have happened at all if he couldn’t find someway to anchor himself in the moment.

Neither of them moved.

His thumb shifted slightly, skimmed like a breath of wind across his cheek.

Neither of them breathed.

How lost could a man get in another’s eyes? He would wander days in Edgeworth's, and never need a light, a beacon to lead him away, bright and beautiful as they were.

Neither of them moved.

(Kiss him.) He could. He could, and he wanted to, and right now Miles was cupping his cheek and his heart was in his throat. Right now his chest ached and god. He could kiss him. (Please. Only a few inches. Kiss him, fuck it, just--!)

There were footsteps on the stairs and the sound of Trucy singing loudly with Maya, who was slightly off tune. The spell broke, shattered like glass and scattered into the shadowed corners of the building. Miles flinched back, his hand dropping heavy to his side and staring at Phoenix like he was on fire, and like he’d been kicked in the stomach. Phoenix swallowed, and tore his gaze away, toward the door where Trucy emerged.

“--and a happy New Year!” She was beaming, and her smile only faltered for a second--in disappointment maybe?--before it was amped up again. “Daddy, you have to come see the flowers! They’re so pretty, and they look great with the lights we hung!”

He cleared his throat and smiled back at her. “I’ll be up in a sec to take a look. Let me say goodbye to Maya first.”

The good-byes were short and sweet; a bear hug and peck on the cheek from Maya, with a reminder to check his mail in the coming days for his present--she warned him she’d be back on Christmas day with Franziska, and that she’d know if he’d peaked--and a handshake from Miles. Neither of them looked at the other now.

“See you guys around,” he said cheerfully. “Try not to forget that Edgeworth has a car, next time you have to deliver something, Maya.”

She snickered. “Bye, Nick.”

He almost didn’t say anything when Miles turned his back. Almost let that weird moment pass over them like a wave. The kind that are too big to jump. The kind that you have to hold you nose, close your eyes, and dive under. The kind that you miss out on as it breaks just above your head.

And yet, as he was going out the door, Phoenix felt his chest constrict, crossed his arms, took a deep breath, and said, “Uh, hey.”

Miles turned.

“If I don’t see you before December is out...Merry Christmas, Miles.”

The world did not stop spinning. The wind still blew, the bells on the door quivered a bit, and Maya’s saying something at a distance to Miles was carrying its way to the open door. He could hear Trucy above them, the light click of her boots against the floor. It seemed for a moment like everything should have paused, and Phoenix had half a mind to feel upset that it didn’t. At this distance, he could almost pretend Miles looked the same way.

The man offered him a tentative smile, nodded, and said, quite softly, “And a Happy New Year, Phoenix.”

He left.

It took a few minutes before Trucy came back down the steps and noticed him still standing there, staring at the door.

“Daddy? Did you lock up yet?”

Phoenix jumped, and gave his daughter a guilty grin. “Not yet, baby. I’ll be up in a minute. Time me.”

She gave him a funny look, one that no seventeen year old should know let alone aim at their father--the wizened, knowing kind--before shrugging and heading back of the stairs to change into her pyjamas.

As he locked the door, the click settled heavy in his gut, and he made a decision.

Come the new year, he was going to tell Miles Edgeworth that he was in love.


 

December 31

10:59 PM

Gatewater Hotel, Ballroom

It was always so extravagant, this function. On the walls, cream-colored silk decorations were strung  hanging and glistening with the reflective shines from the icicle decorations that hung from the ceiling. A large pine tree, trimmed to the nines in tinsel, elegant fairy lights, and expensive ornaments was in the corner near the entrance. The golden star on top seemed to bask in the glow of the crowd. There was a raised stage toward the back of the room where a jazz band was playing a very upbeat version of O Come All Ye Faithful. Lining the walls were several tables filled with food, drinks, and desserts. It was set in such a way that one could either make small talk about their business and the New Year’s resolutions that were inevitably going to be broken, or drink and pray to stay out of the way until the ball dropped and everyone was able to make their tipsy way home.

Miles was the latter, already on his third flute of champagne, sipping it slowly, and trying to look the picture of preoccupied.

Which he both was and was not.

He wasn’t preoccupied with anyone at this party. Last he saw Franziska, she had led Maya into the crowd after firmly pressing a flute into his hands and telling him to mingle. Advice he had ignored. The people in the crowd before him were quite nice, if he was being honest, and speaking to them would normally be the least of his problems. Lang was there, somewhere, surely, and he and his assistants were always..entertaining, if not overly abrasive at the time. And Adrian was bound to be in the mix, Franziska’s dear friend and the woman who helped plan her wedding, a feat that he would have no doubt lost his mind over (not to mention earning a few scars from his sister’s whip). There were others--people like the Payne brothers and Mr. Gant--who he’d like to avoid all together. There was just no one he’d want to engage with when his mind was on other matters.

He was preoccupied with Phoenix. Phoenix, the man who, in his employee’s words, smelled like cookies and looked like sunshine. The man who could trip over the smallest imperfection in the flooring. The man who made that god-awful joke about his name every time someone presented him with the opportunity.The Phoenix that made his heart sing and his brain fuzzy.

(The man I have nearly kissed too many times, now.) It wasn’t a particularly bad thought, but he was a little unsteady whenever it popped into his head.

He sighed and stared into his glass. He’d wanted to, that last time. He’d been so close, and he could feel Phoenix’s breath on his lips, his cheek cradled in his hand (A bold move and one I will never make again.) But neither of them moved, they’d been so close and there was something that told him to go for it, that it was okay, a tiny, pleading drumbeat. And then Maya and Trucy returned, and the chance was gone yet again.

The kiss had been there, right there, dammit! He should have taken it! He couldn’t tell what he saw in the other man’s eyes that night, but it was something. However, two weeks later, on his third flute of alcohol really wasn’t the best time to start guessing.

But what it had looked like...it was a long-shot, but it almost looked like Wright had wanted to kiss him too.

(Which is, of course, wishful thinking. You leaned in and touched the man’s cheek in a very intimate setting, Miles. Let’s go over what else that look could mean again, shall we?)

Shock, worry, fear, fatigue, the list of words and feelings felt too long at this point, and there was no use circumnavigating the whole ordeal only to arrive at the very beginning again. He’d already come to his conclusion.

He had wanted to kiss the living hell out of Phoenix Wright, and it was never going to happen. That was the whole thing in a nutshell. Chapter and verse, the story of Miles Edgeworth, the man who was desperately in love and could never do a damned thing about it. ( Would never do anything about it) he thought, and sighed again. (I simply can’t. I dragged my feet when I was to hire a bakery. I could barely say yes to a wedding I wasn’t used to planning. I am old, and set in my ways, and that should be a fine excuse not to say anything to him.)

He swished the remaining contents of his drink, and shut his eyes. Normally, he’d say this just amounted to him not wanting things to change. If he let his feelings be known, there was a chance he’d have to look for a new bakery. With risk of sounding cold hearted, that was enough for him not to act on them now, or any day in the foreseeable future. But that...wasn’t entirely true.

(I would never want to push my own feelings onto another. And I...I’m not sure I’d like to confirm that he does not feel the same.)

He finished off his flute.

Franziska was in front of him when he went to put the glass down.  There were people who cut a severe and lovely figure when they had to, Miles figured, and people who did it because they could. Franziska was the latter, complete with a glare and a glass of wine, looking elegant in her sleek black dress.

“Fool,” she bit out in greeting, holding out another glass of champagne. When he took it, she settled herself at his side, looking out into the crowd. “How many glasses have you had? I will remind you that you are our ride, and I will not be made to take a cab because you are intoxicated.”

“Only, three,” he murmured absently, staring with her.

“Fool,” Franziska grumbled again. “You are to only hold that flute. If you are foolish enough to take a drink--”

He took a sip out of pure spite, watching her sputter uselessly out of the corner of his eye. “Relax, Franziska. It’s been spread out since we arrived. Three drinks in that many hours is the least one could do, given the circumstances.”

“And what foolish circumstances are those?”

He chuckled, despite the very real threat of her whip looming over him and gestured with his hand. “Tell, me, ‘big sister,’ are you having a good time?”

At this, she frowned, opened her mouth like she wanted to argue, and instead took a sip of her drink. “It is rather dull,” she admitted after a moment. “Perhaps I should have spent less time speaking to Winston Payne about how to properly blanche and serve brussel sprouts, but I will admit it is...quite lifeless.”

Miles snorted. “I know I’ve come with you many times in the past, but I cannot for the life of me remember it being quite so drab. Has it always been this way?” he asked. A couple in front of them moved toward the desserts, and they could see, a little farther off, that Maya was speaking rapidly to Lang. She was wearing something very close to her wife’s dress, but backless.

“Fool! Of course it has always been like this. Of all the traditions in have been apart of in my life, that fact continues to be the one constant at these parties. Perhaps someone like you just wouldn’t have noticed.”

“Mmh. Exceptionally imperfect?” he intoned into his glass.

For a moment, she didn’t say a word, and he figured he was correct. And then, “I was going to say ‘foolishly distracted’, but yes. That as well.”

They fell into an awkward silence after that, watching the people in the crowd. Spouses danced to the hardly romantic jazz version of Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas , and a few people were saying goodbye at the door to the hotels lobby, content to spend the last few hours of the years anywhere else.

Of course she could tell he was distracted. He’d been in the same spot the entire night staring at nothing in particular. It was a very astute, if not obvious, assertion.

“She is beautiful,” Franziska said suddenly. He jumped and whipped around to stare at his sister.  Her sudden change in demeanor--from prickly to content--startled him, and he followed her line of sight. She was still watching Maya, who was still with Lang and talking about what he assumed was the ring on her hand, given the gestures she was making to it.

Mile nodded slowly. Maybe she’d had more than a few glasses of wine herself. She was never known for her drinking skills, after all. “Maya?” he said after a moment. When Franziska did nothing but nod in confirmation, he nodded too. “Yes, she looks lovely tonight, Franziska.”

She nodded again. Her face was mostly neutral, but there was a warmth in her eyes that he recognized. “She is always so beautifull, Miles.”

He raised an eyebrow. “Ah. Yes. I...supposed she is.”

“A year ago, she married me,” Franziska continued. “I had thought true happiness was in the things you did, but I...was a fool to believe it was anything other than her.”

He could feel the look on his face growing more and more concerned, and in the face of his sister, probably offensive, but he could do very little but stare.

She continued very softly. “I danced with her on the day you hired her, you know.”

He nodded mutely.

“It was the most foolish thing I had ever done, but...at the risk of sounding like a fool myself, I was in love by the time the song ended. And that was where I remained. Trapped in that moment of...pure, foolhardy  happiness every time she so much as smiled my way. To have her now as my wife...when I could have waited so long for a better moment, Miles Edgeworth...it is unreal. And as risky as it was, as foolish as it was, I am glad that a risk was taken. She is my beautiful Maya because of my foolish slip ups. For as long as she’ll have me. That is why she is always so beautiful.”

(Ah. Drunk it is.) Miles sighed, and reached for her glass. “Perhaps you should sit down, Franziska. You’re among colleagues.”

She turned to him sharply, and that warm look she’d been aiming at her wife was gone in an instant, replaced with a very sober contempt for him. She hit his shoulder with the back of her hand, and held her wine away from him and her dress, lest one of them spill it. “You fool! I would not be so foolish as to be drunk and around people I have impressed! I have half a mind to throw this wine on you right now, for suggesting such a foolish thing, Miles Edgeworth!”

He flinched back and held his empty hands up as much as his could while keeping a grip on his own glass. “Ah. Right. My apologies, Franziska.”

Her glare was impressive, and could probably level mountains. It was doing a number on him, though he would never admit that. “You foolishly foolish fool! I came over here to tell you I know that you are foolishly distracted because you are a fool in love, to foolishly try to find common ground with you, and you think I am drunk?”

“Again, Franziska, you have my apologies. I am…” he trailed off when her words caught up with him. She...knew. Of course she did. It wasn’t that surprising in hindsight, but in the moment the shock was certainly worth a comically high eyebrow-raise. He stared straight ahead and took a deep, calming breath. “I am completely transparent, it seems,” he murmured.

“Like glass,” Franziska confirmed.

“You knew.”

“Of course I knew . I am perfect.” She sipped her wine to punctuate that, and then said, softer and with much more kindness that he knew her to use on him, “And I am your big sister.”

He set his glass aside. “Lovely. Now two people know about this--unless of course you’ve told your wife, then that’s three.”

Franziska shook her head. “I would never be so foolish as to talk about your personal life to someone. There are more important things to speak about.”

He nodded. That was fine then, he could keep it at two. He loved Maya dearly--she was like another sister--but if she knew about his feelings toward Wright she’d tell him in a heartbeat. Perhaps faster than that. “Thank you for keeping it to yourself. I...find myself in the awkward position of asking you to please continue to do so.”

He was looking away from her now, down at the dimly reflected lights on his shoes. But he felt her eyes on him, boring holes into the side of his head.

“Were you not paying attention to what I was telling you?”

He glanced over at her and raised an eyebrow. “You waxed poetic about your wife in a semi-drunken haze, Franziska. How am I supposed to glean anything from that?”

“I am not drunk!”

He rolled his eyes. “Right, yes. Continue.”

Franziska set her glass down on the table with more force that was probably necessary. “If your foolish ears were paying attention, I said that had I not taken the opportunity to propose to Maya when I had, perhaps I still would not have.”

His eyebrows shot up, and he shook his head slightly. “You didn’t say that. Not in so many words.”

“I shouldn’t have to, fool.” She shook her head and huffed an aggravated sigh. Squaring her shoulders, she lifted her chin and jabbed her finger into his chest. “You listen to me, Miles Edgeworth,” she stared. Every syllable of his name was another jab.

He winced. “Ouch! What on Earth has gotten into you?”

She jabbed him again--much harder--and when he went to knock her hand away, she slapped it. “You are very much in love with that blithering fool Wright, are you not?”

He could feel his face growing warmer. “Wh-ouch! Stop doing that, Franziska, it’s un-lady like and incredibly foolish.”

It earned him a final poke in the chest, and probably a bruise, before she backed off and crossed her arms. “Well?” she snapped.

His mouth bobbed up and down, and he felt his brows pinched together in complete confusion. “Well what?”

“Are you or are you not in love with Phoenix Wright?” she ground out.

For a moment, despite her already knowing, he thought to lie. It would convince no one; Franziska was his sister, had known him far too long to ever be swayed by a such a blatant lie. She was also far, far too stubborn to believe anything he told her once she’d settled on her truth. She already knew, and he was too deep to dig himself any further. And he’d come to terms with it quite a bit ago. So he bit his lips together and sighed. “I...yes, it would seem that way.”

“Yet you continue to sit here and drink alone until the new year comes around.”

He scoffed. “Would you rather me drink with someone else? I prefer being alone.”

Franziska’s glare hardened. “If I had not danced with Maya, I never would have.”

Miles’ mouth clamped shut.

“If I hadn’t proposed when I did, I would have been dragging my feet even now.” She looked back out at Maya. “I know this, because it is hard for me to take big steps when little ones are--”

“Logical?”

“Safer.” Franziska did not turn back to face him, but he could imagine the look she would have in her eyes if she had. “You couldn’t even pick a baker Miles Edgeworth. I know you are trying to talk yourself out of speaking to that fool on the matter of your heart.”

Miles laughed, but it came out like a sigh or a frustrated huff. “I would rather nothing change, Franziska.” The admission came out slow and cautious. “I’d rather moon over a man for the rest my my days than ruin a good partnership. It...it is a cowards way out, I know. But to confirm the he does not feel the same way…” He shook his head. The confirmation would be humiliating...and heartbreaking. It would be easier to move on from it, yes, but...

Sometimes it is easier to live not knowing that you took the wrong turn at a crossroad. Franziska was right; it was the safest way through this mess of emotions, and who was he to argue with that?

Franziska snorted, turning only to pick up her wine again. When her eyes went back to Maya, she spoke softly, and very, very carefully. "You are stubborn to the point of unhappiness, Miles Edgeworth."

Miles chuckled. It sounded resigned. "Perhaps."

She shook her head. "Let me tell you something. As your big sister, it is...it is my duty to do so." She took a deep breath before continuing. "If I may be frank with you, Miles Edgeworth, falling in love is possibly the most inconvenient path your life can take. It is full of foolishly unnecessary feelings, and turns you did not want to make. It is a grueling task to watch your heart settle on something so quickly and forgo all logic. Maya Fey's smile was...was the best and worst thing to happen to me after that first dance. I couldn't get her out of my mind. It ate me alive, and I was content to live that way until she aimed it at me again and I realized..." she paused and exhaled sharply.

"You must realize, Miles Edgeworth, that admitting to myself that I was in love was not the hardest part. I know that this is not easy to do."

"Franziska..." Miles started, reaching out to touch her shoulder. She looked quite distressed, and very angry. She was trying to force her words out, and...and they were almost making sense. Almost.

She shook off his hand and continued. "Phoenix Wright is the most frustrating man on the planet," she snapped. "He is rash, clumsy, and a bumbling fool. He will never catch on to you if you do not tell him."

Miles rolled his eyes. "That is the point."

"I want you to be happy, you fool," Franziska blurted, turning to look at him fully.

He wasn't sure who was more shocked by the statement. His eyes were wide and his eyebrows were raised so high it was starting to give him a headache. "I am happy," he mumbled, looking back at the crowd.

"Not content , fool. Happy, " Franziska snapped. "I...I want you to feel like this, especially when the ability to make it happen is in your foolish hands. Maya...Maya gave me a happiness that I didn't know existed. Like a sunrise in your stomach or..."

"...Or like you'd just come from skydiving." Franziska nodded slowly, and he continued. "Something exhilarating, and fresh, and frightening and..." And he did feel that way. He felt like he was free-falling into every dip and curve of Wright's smile, into the depths of his eyes. A safe, exciting fall, one that had an end, surely, but one that he was content to never find. Franziska had told him she knew the terror of ruining something good with feelings. And yet... (She has been happier since Maya, and I am grateful for that. She is married, content, and in love in the same way people talk about in stories.) In the same way he had dreamt about being for years.

In the same way those dreams of being in that kind of love were now permanently synonymous with the way Phoenix Wright said his first name, or laughed, or stumbled.

"If you do not wish to find that kind of happiness yet, if you do not want to ruin your relationship with that fool, I understand. But..." and again, she turned away. "But, Miles Edgeworth. I took the biggest leap of my life, and because of that, tonight I will enter the new year with the other half of my heart. I...I only hoped that you would want to do the same."

"I..." (There are several things that could go wrong) he thought, and it was aimless really, while he stared at his sister who stared at her wife with such love and devotion in her eyes that watching the moment seemed almost intimate. (He could say he doesn't care, he could quit, or I could say something wrong. This might never work out. If he shares my feelings, he might not a month later, or I might leave in two. If it doesn't work out, we might part as friends, or awkward business partners, and...and there are so many possibilities that to calculate all of them would take the rest of the year.)

He took a deep breath and held it.

(It's now, or never.)

"I..." he sputtered, looking over his shoulder. "Thank, you, Franziska," he said rather quickly. "I...I normally would be much more cordial about this but I..." he was backing up already.

And he was smiling. An anxious, excited, incredulous, brave smile, and shaking his head in wonder. "I think...I think I have to go do something."

Franziska's face did not change, and she did not look his way. "Finally.”

“Will you be alright getting home? I--”

“I am capable of finding a ride, fool!”

“I--Right. Alright. Thank you.”

“Good luck, little brother."

He made a mad dash for the exit.

(In another universe, perhaps I might have already done this, already told him by now.)

He was in his car and pulling out of the parking lot. The Gatewater hotel was across LA, and it was going to be a rather long drive. He could waste no more time. His smile remained.

(But that doesn't matter. In this universe, I'm doing it now.)


 

December 31

11:45 PM

Wright and Co. B&C

Several people had tried their hand at singing Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas , but Phoenix quite liked listening to Judy Garland's version. It was comforting, and easy to think through. Relaxing, if not a little somber.

The station that was playing the ball drop still happened to be playing Christmas music on the breaks, and though the holiday was a week ago, he thought it technically still applied. His daughter and Apollo hadn't shared the sentiment on their way out all those hours ago, although Apollo had been more loud with his complaints.

"This was supposed to be off a week ago, Mr. Wright. If you're not going to take the decorations down, at least don't play the music ."

Trucy had giggled at this and nudged Apollo's side. "Let daddy be, Polly!" she scolded. "Sometimes the Christmas spirit doesn't leave until January. At least he has some. "

Phoenix had laughed at this, and left his table to hug his daughter close. Outside the door, two pairs of headlights were lit and waiting. One was Athena, who could be seen from here bouncing her her seat and singing very passionately to whatever was on the radio. Clay looked to be doing much of the same thing. He pressed a kiss to the crown of Trucy's head and she stood on her toes to press one to his cheek in return.

"Have a good time, Truce," he told her warmly. "Got your cellphone?"

"Yup! Charged and ready to go."

"Alright. Make sure to call me if anything happens, okay? Make sure Athena locks the doors to her apartment, wear a seatbelt, and if you see anything strange or weird or drunk you are to call me or Apollo. Right?" At that he had looked up at Apollo, who nodded to confirm his words.

"I know ," she laughed. She hugged him once more, and turned to hug Apollo. "You be safe too, okay? Concerts are really crowded and rough, and I don't know if Clay can be trusted, and people will be drinking, so you have to be very careful."

"Yes ma'am," Apollo laughed, hugging her back. He looked over her head at Phoenix and gave him an awkward smile. "I'll see you next year," he joked.

Phoenix laughed at that. "Sure thing. Make sure to use that joke on Athena when she comes in. I'm sure she'll love that."

And that had been it. A few more I-love-you's and a couple happy New Years were exchanged, and then the café had fallen into silence, and he'd been free to dim the lights, work on a crossword puzzle, drink some homemade hot chocolate, and think.

It was...well. Lonely came to mind, and it kind of was, in a very minimal sense. He wasn't too upset about it, but the quiet behind the soft sounds of Miss Garland's voice was a bit more empty than he'd expected it to be. But it was pretty good as far as daydreaming went, and boy was he zoning out. His drink was cold and his puzzle had been a quarter of the way done for the last hour or so. But every time he looked down, it was the same thing.

He was thinking about Miles.

Nothing in particular, really, but about the man in general. Since that almost kiss two weeks ago, the man had been on his mind a lot. How he was, if he was enjoying the holiday, if he was planning any weddings. His presence, sometimes his small smiles, his passion for weddings. Random things he usually had tucked away now coming to the forefront of his mind. He wasn't sure if it was because the year was coming to an end and he'd subconsciously decided on early spring cleaning, or if it had been that he'd promised himself to talk to Miles about...well, everything. It was all very...tame, compared to the thoughts he thought one usually had when they were in love.

He looked down at the paper in front of him and sighed. "A four letter word for a way to enter the new year....K-I-S-S."

He knew that it wasn't supposed to be passion and only that. It was supposed to be smaller things. Everything he'd ever seen or read talked about wanting to be near the other person, to kiss the other person. And yes that was all there, but wasn't it a bit obsessive to think, I hope he'd having a good day while feeling warm inside, and smiling a bit. Was he supposed to be happy just...thinking that Edgeworth might be?

"Fine," he groaned, folding up the puzzle and setting it aside. "You win tonight."

How the hell was he going to tell Miles that no matter what he did the man gave him butterflies? How was he supposed to admit out loud that Miles made his feel like he was floating and falling? That his smile put Phoenix in zero gravity, tumbling through the rich sound of his laughter until he fell flat on his face grinning the same wonderful grin?

Phoenix leaned back into the chair, crossing his arms over his chest and shutting his eyes. "Hi, Miles. I love you."

Too informal. Or maybe coming on too strong. Both where possible.

"Hey, Miles. I just wanted to say that I'm in love with you. Can't say how that happened. Whoops."

Nope. Too blasé.

"Miles..." he trailed off. "Miles, I think I'm falling in love with you, and it's the scariest thing that's ever happened to me."

Close but...no. God, but this was not working like it had that morning before he was hired. Putting it out in the universe was supposed to do something wasn't it? Make the words come, make the nervousness go away, anything.

"I....am an idiot Miles Edgeworth, and I wish I could be your idiot, because--"

There was a very loud, very impatient knocking on the café door, and Phoenix very nearly screamed, eyes shooting open and arms flailing out to either side of him, trying to keep his body seated. (Ack! Jeez Louise. The sign says closed, I live here, we aren’t open.) He had half a mind to yell it until his mind registered just who was doing the knocking.

(Oh god. I take it back, I take it back universe, I didn’t mean for this to happen, put him back where he came from now.)

Miles Edgeworth looked worried, disheveled, a little cold, and out of breath, and he was knocking instantly on door, only pausing for a moment when he registered that Phoenix actually recognized him.

What on Earth…? (Did something happen?)

Panic lodged itself into his throat, and he dove for the keys he left sitting next to the register. He was opening the door faster than he thought possible. The sleigh bells rang their usual startled rings, and Phoenix's heart was pounding. "I--Miles, what--Are you alright?"

The man walked in passed him nodding, and Phoenix shut and locked the door. When he turned around, the man was pacing.

"What's going on? Are you okay? What happened? Oh my god, is Maya okay? Franziska?"

"Wright...give me a moment...to collect myself," Miles snapped between gasps, and hand pressed to his chest in some asinine effort to slow his own heart. "Everything is....perfectly fine."

Phoenix glared at him and pulled the man by his shoulder to a quick stop. "That's a load of bullshit. You look like you've been running, and you look like you’ve seen a ghost."

Miles took a few deep breaths, shaking his head. "I...parked farther away than I would have liked. I...wanted to get here quickly. I wanted to speak with you. It is...it could not wait."

Phoenix crossed his arms, his brows knitting together. He nodded slowly. "Alright. Uh. Tell me what's wrong when you're ready?"

"Thank you."

That took a few minutes longer than he'd expected. Miles leaned against one of the tables, crossing and uncrossing his arms, shoving his hands into his pockets, taking them out and folding them in front and behind him. He'd never seen the man so nervous and fidgety, and was about to ask if he needed to call someone--the police, perhaps, maybe he'd nearly been mugged--when the man finally settled on gripping one arm with the opposite hand and looking away from him.

Miles took a deep, steadying breath. "When I begin, you must not interrupt me. Do you promise?"

"Er..."

"I..." he shook his head. "I fear that if you start to add commentary, I will lose my nerve and will have to start over. It appears that fantasy wars with reality, and that no matter the amount of scenarios I’ve play out or how brave I feel, things are always easier inside one's head. So...please."

The desperation in the other’s voice made the decision for him. "Alright," he promised, softly.

"Again, thank you." Another impossibly deep breath. "Phoenix Wright...you are, undoubtedly the biggest idiot I have ever met."

Oh, well that was just fucking lovely. Phoenix shut his eyes, and nearly opened his mouth to spit out a retort, almost forgetting his promise. He pressed his lips together lightly instead, and clenched his jaw. (Happy New Year to you too, Edgeworth.)

But Miles continued. "I...I find myself thinking about it constantly. The day you tripped and, covered in batter, introduced yourself. I thought you stupid, or at the very least incapable of very much, and I had come with high standards that I didn't think you could meet."

(Wow, thanks! Golly gee, Miles, this has been fun! Thank you so much for coming! Buh-bye!) Phoenix started to roll his eyes, and stopped when they got to the ceiling.

"You...of course realize that you met and exceeded said standards...in...in more ways than one." The man shut his eyes, and looked almost pained. "This...this sounds insulting out loud, I know that now. I didn't have...well, there really isn't much time to practice these kinds of things, I'm learning. I plan things for a living, Wright...Phoenix. I am a wedding planner. My life consists of calendars, organizers, and emails. But I've found that when making things count, spontaneity is often..." He cleared his throat. "You...Phoenix you are so much more than I had ever planned on you being.

"You...you're talent is phenomenal, do not get me wrong. But you. You were not part of the plan. I didn't...I didn't think that it happened to people like this." he laughed, and it was shocked and slightly hysteric, and yet warm somehow. "They never describe the feeling fully, I think, because people all have it happen to them very differently.

"As I said, I...I plan things. I planned on you being my baker. I planned on your cakes being perfect and up to my standards every time. I planned on satisfied clients. I did not plan on...everything else. It was almost startling to realize that when your smile wasn't around, I missed it. And that when you laughed, I found myself...fighting to look away from the light in your eyes. I...you are an exceptional man. Kind, a wonderful father, talented, passionate...you...you're wonderful. I...when I was younger, much younger, I had always dreamed that falling in love would be different. Far less terrifying, and with less...tripping over...well, dog leashes, feet, words..." he chuckled and then sighed. "I grew up eventually, and settled on helping others find a happy end to their story. Falling in love was the plan, but I don't think you can specifically pinpoint and plan for when things like this happen."

He was under the mistletoe. Phoenix wasn't sure when Trucy had moved it, but god. There he was. Forgetting his promise, Phoenix said, very quietly and cautious, "Miles..."

Miles didn't seem to hear him.

"I don't know when I fell in love with your smile, I don't remember the exact date, but I know that it happened. I don't remember the time I first got lost in your unusual and unfairly enticing eyes, but I can tell you that I find myself doing it every moment I can. I...I don't know when I...I didn't plan this very well. I didn't plan on any of it, on you, on who you would be to me."

Phoenix's eyes were wide. If his heart had stopped beating, if he'd stopped breathing, he wasn't aware of anything other than the man before him.

"I didn't plan on...on..."

"Miles....." he tried again. It was more of an exclamation than a warning this time, but it came out breathless.

"I didn't ever think to plan on falling hopelessly in love with you."

You could hear a pin drop; a lull in the radio music, two people barely breathing, time almost-but-not-quite stopped. His mind was television static turned on low, and his heart was either flatlining or singing.

Miles' grip on his own arm tightened. Not once had he looked Phoenix in the eye. "I understand that this is sudden. You must understand that you are by no means meant to respond to this, and if you do, you are not obligated to return these feeling."

(But I do! God, I do!) "Miles..." he tried again, stepping closer. (God, say something Phoenix.)

Miles stepped away, almost unconsciously. "You...have my deepest and sincerest apologies," he was murmuring. His eyebrows were drawn together, like he was in pain. Curling in on himself, running away. "I should not have put that upon you so suddenly."

"Miles, hold on--"

"I...I will take my leave now, I don't want to--"

"Miles." This time, his voice was louder. Miles looked up sharply, and there were thousands of words swimming in those anxious eyes.

There were millions that Phoenix wanted to say. He wanted to repeat what Miles said, to reassure him that he felt the same, to blurt out the words I love you too until his voice no longer worked. But nothing was coming fast enough, and Miles looked like he was about to make for the door.

"Oh, fuck it, " Phoenix decided. He closed the distance between them in two quick steps, took the lapels of the winter jacket Miles still wore, pulled him close, and kissed him.


 

They say it's fireworks. They will always tell you that when you kiss the person you love, there will be fireworks, or a spark.

Not for Miles.

For him, it was a symphony in a single instant. The thunderous roll of the drums, the crash of symbols, the crescendos, every brie and bar and baritone, all four movements, and Miles Edgeworth had never thought to kiss someone back so desperately until this moment, until the ringing in his ears from the final symbol crash and the echo of the drums and the final hums from the choir subsided.

His hands barely stuttered, rested lightly on Phoenix's waist, and he wanted to pull him closer, to make this moment last a second longer.

And then the man pulled away, flushed and shocked, and already speaking. “I….I…"

It wasn't very articulate, but at least he was speaking. Miles wasn't sure his voice would ever return, and his mouth bobbed up and down as the shock from what happened settled in.

“That….I wasn’t wrong to do that, was I?” His voice was shaking, but there was no part of either of them that wasn't, it seemed.

“That…no. No.” It came out breathy and weak.

The words poured out of Phoneix like a waterfall. “I’m…I mean you were right there and I’ve wanted to do that for a long time, but you looked like you were going to run, and we’re uh, under mistletoe and I’m so sorry, that was a bit much, I just...it just… it felt--"

He found himself shaking his head, and his trembling fingers tightening a bit around the man's hips. “Wright.”

Phoenix paused, and then nodded slowly. His smile was shy and hopeful. “I...yeah. Yeah, it did. It felt--"

His right hand came up and cupped Phoenix's face. His thumb was about as steady as the rest of him, but it skimmed over the man’s cheek, over the myriad of freckles. Of course the man had misunderstood. It didn't make him any less correct, though the kiss felt a lot more than simply "right." He shut his eyes and said fondly, “Shut up.”

“I...oh.”

They didn't hear the countdown. They didn't hear the cheers from the radio that was still playing. It was all in another world far below them when they kissed again.

By the time they pulled apart, re-entered the stratosphere smiling like school children, Auld Lang Syne had played its final notes.

Chapter Text

11 months later....

November 15

5:20 AM

Wright Family Apartment

His room is cozy, for a loft apartment above a bakery. It's spacious in it's living room, and the two bedrooms were big enough for one people, each with windows that let in a good amount of light. The kitchen was pretty bland looking, but that was only because he could never bring himself to learn how to apply wallpaper, and he and Trucy both got headaches from the smell of paint. But it was warm, and cute, and, at this very moment, dark and filled with the angry shriek of an alarm clock that he'd had since college. 

Phoenix Wright wouldn't call himself a morning person, he really wouldn't. If it wasn't out of necessity, he'd probably never have become so well-acquainted with 5:20 in the morning. It wasn't a pretty time to wake up, and with the stillness of the morning, especially after daylight savings time, it wasn't the most entertaining. But with a bakery, his body had learned to tolerate it and the strict sleep schedule he adhered to.

With a soft groan, he shuffled out of bed, immediately missing the duvet's warmth, and made for the small window next to the radiator. He slid the blinds up, the quiet hiss of it familiar in the darkness, and rested his head on the cool glass, his eyes shut. Outside, the world was only just starting to emerge from shadow, the landscape was more of a dark purple ascending into a respectable lilac, spotted with the sulfur-yellow glow of street lamps. God, he did not want to be up at this hour. Humans that did this and went running were mutants. Who the hell had the energy?

Rubbing his hands over his face and taking a deep breath, he turned to the bedroom door and headed for the shower. 

He'd had about eleven years to prefect this routine--give or take a few months since he'd first opened the bakery--but his body no longer rejected waking up before the sun. Not totally anyway. Still, just to be safe, he jumped under the water before adjusting the hot water fully. It was ice cold and uncomfortable, but it usually shocked him awake. 

Trucy had recently taken to finding him health tips in some Californian health zine Pearl had given to her and pinning them to the fridge, and as he fought not to jump away from the onslaught of cold water he remembered the recent study she'd shown him about taking cold showers in the morning. "It makes your day's better, apparently," she'd told him one morning. "The cold water makes you expect to have a really crappy day, so I guess you're day becomes more positive by comparison? Either way, they say you should try it. It makes you more optimistic." 

He wasn't about to make it a part of his morning ritual, but it was tempting. Especially today. 

(All thing considered) he thought, (that might not be such a bad idea.) He reached for the hot water anyway. Sure cold water might make you more optimistic, but warm water settled your nerves. Weighing the results, it was a no brainer.

Today was the day after all, and he was going to need his nerves settled more than some misplaced positivity.

After fifteen minutes or so, the water was off, and Phoenix brushed his teeth and checked his phone. There was a text from Apollo saying he'd be at work early today (not unusual, but not too usual either), and a few blurbs about the news (something about watching out for muddy hills around Gourd Lake) and weather (high of sixty, partial clouds, fifty five come the evening).

By the time he opened the bathroom door again, it was 5:40, and the sun was just starting to brighten the room. Not so much that he could see more than shadows and outlines, but even then, the sight that greeted him warmed him, and Phoenix felt his face split into a kind grin. 

His adorably sleep-clingy, half-dead in the morning boyfriend was strictly against waking up any time before seven thirty in the morning, and that was just on weekdays. Miles was right where he left him; asleep and buried under the blankets. His soft snoring was the only sound in the room.

Ever since January, Miles had made it a habit to come in after his office closed to work in the silence of the cafe, more often than not with Pess in tow. It never failed to give him butterflies, seeing him walk through the door and offering a brief smile. He'd sit and work until Phoenix closed the bakery and Apollo was long gone. They'd talk about their days, and clients, and wedding plans, and about talent night and his daughter's magic act. Sometimes Trucy was thrown into the mix, playing with Pess and asking Miles to play guinea pig for some of her tamer tricks. Sometimes the night ended with soft, lingering kisses by the door, and warm, loving smiles. 

And sometimes, like last night, Miles would work until time fell away, and Phoenix would ask him if he wanted to stay. 

Last night had been nothing special; reheated spaghetti and the news turned on low while the talked about work as Pess pressed her nose into their laps, begging for food. Trucy had gone to bed soon after Miles had arrived, and Pess had followed eagerly (she'd taken a real liking to Trucy, and to sleeping in her room) leaving them alone to exchange a few kisses and get ready for bed themselves. 

It was disgustingly domestic, and Phoenix adored every moment of it. Soft goodnight's, the sound of their mingled snoring, the feeling of his arms around Miles' waist, waking up to see the other man's bed-head...

Especially waking him up, just to hear him complain.

Phoenix's grin widened as he flicked on the bedside lamp, and leaned in close to press a sloppy kiss on Mile's cheek. His hair, thankfully, was still wet, and cold droplets slid down the bridge of his nose and onto the other's face.

It had the desired effect; Miles groaned, loud and long suffering, and squirmed away from Phoenix. 

"Morning, Sleeping Beauty," he chirped, unperturbed. He leaned further over Miles, who had now turned away from the combined force of the lamps sudden brightness and his boyfriend, and pressed another kiss to his temple. 

Miles shifted, elbowing his side lightly in an attempt to stave of further attention. "You are worse than Pess," he muttered. "Get off, go to work."

Phoenix snickered. "Come on," he said, leaning more of his weight on the other, "Sleeping Beauty wakes up when her true love gives her a kiss. You should wake up too. Start the day."

Miles tried to shove him off again, stubborn to get a few more hours rest, but Phoenix refused to move. The man squirmed a bit under his weight, and opened his eyes to glare blearily at Phoenix. He grinned down at him in return. 

"I believe that Sleeping Beauty was woken up during normal hours, and not at..." his head turned further to read the glowing numbers on the clock. "Five forty five, good God..." He flopped down on the bed again.

Phoenix snorted. "You know, I have no idea how you can manage to dress, act, and talk like you're a morning person, and yet still be an exhausted, immovable lump in the early hours of the day."

"I am a morning person," Miles argued.

He scoffed. "Oh? Since when?"

"This is not the morning, it's the crack of dawn, Wright," he muttered. "Now get off of me and let me sleep." 

Phoenix chuckled and sat up, but didn't remove himself completely from the bed. Instead he placed his hand on Miles' shoulder and rubbed small circles with his thumb. "C'mon," he whined. "I'll make you coffee and you can help me with kitchen prep." Because that was super romantic, wasn't it?

Miles huffed and maneuvered himself so that he was now facing Phoenix, giving him a wry smile. "Tempting." He yawned, and rubbed at his eyes. "But no amount of promising is getting me out of bed before seven thirty."

"What about if I tack on the promise of waffles, or possibly cheerios, depending on what I have in my kitchen?" 

"Why must you do this every time I stay the night?" Miles complained, burying his face into his pillow. "Just once I would like to sleep uninterrupted." 

"What if I promise you a blow job in the next twenty four hours? Then will you get up and start the day?"

Miles' eyes snapped open, and Phoenix had to press a hand over his mouth to silence his laughter when Miles sat up and swatted at his arm. "Are you out of your mind?" he snapped. "Might I remind you your daughter is across the hall?"

"Yeah, and she's no more of a morning person than you are," Phoenix retorted. "Besides I wasn't suggesting we do it right here right now, unless your office is off lim--ow! I'm kidding!" Miles thumped him again, regardless. (A bit too much power behind that for a guy who's still "half asleep.")

"Honestly," Miles huffed, falling back onto the bed. "If you are finished being foolish, I would like to go back to sleep." Despite the obvious complaint, the man was staring up at him with a bleary-eyed warmth that made Phoenix want to keep the bakery closed today so he could shimmy under the covers again and melt into Miles' embrace. 

He settled instead for smiling back just as warmly, and leaned in for a kiss. Miles met him halfway, closing the distance with surprising eagerness. 

Kissing Miles still felt like flying, and it still felt like free falling. Though the curve of his mouth had been explored time and again, Phoenix never got tired of it. If he wasn't finding something new to love about Miles as a whole, he was finding something new to love about parts of Miles. His careful hands, the way he sighed when he was stuck on the morning crossword, the way his voice rose and fell when he spoke to Pess. The way the sun did wonderful things to his eyes so that, when they widened or narrowed, they caught in the rays for just a moment and set Phoenix's heart aflutter. 

And of course, the feel of the shape of his soft lips. Especially when they were both smiling into a kiss like they were now. 

Phoenix pulled away with a sigh. "You keep kissing me like that and I'll just keep the whole place closed and make good on my promise," he murmured, kissing the tip of the man's nose.

"You started it," Miles retorted, albeit fondly.

"You finished it."

Miles snorted and lay back down. "Are you sated now? Can I finally rest again, or do you wish to further impinge upon my space?"

Phoenix rolled his eyes and stood up, checking his phone and murmuring, "You always sound like you're reading SAT questions in the morning." Miles only whined at that, already falling asleep again. Apollo had sent another text saying he was almost to work, and the baker sighed. "Saved by the bell I guess."

"Mhh," was his boyfriend's brilliant reply.

"I'll see you in a few hours, then. Sleep tight."

Miles' reply was a soft whine, and a shuffling further under the covers, and Phoenix closed the bedroom door with his smile still in place. 

Downstairs, in the bakery, it was dark and cool. There still wasn’t much light coming in through the windows, so Phoenix slid his hand across the wall until he felt the switch under his palm, and made his way around the counter and to the kitchen in the back.

It didn’t take very long to turn the ovens on and take out everything from the fridge. By the time he’d unloaded the last of the bowls of cookie batter, his phone buzzed, and without answering, he stuck his head out of the kitchen to confirm that Apollo was at the door.

He was standing there in all his horned glory, glowering down at something on his cellphone before rolling his eyes, and stuffing it in his coat pocket.

When he opened the door, Phoenix couldn’t help but offer a raised brow and ask, “Rough morning?”

Apollo shrugged, and they made their way back to the kitchen. “Not particularly. Just another day.” But his phone buzzed again and they both looked at Apollo’s coat pocket.

“Is it…?” he trailed off. Ever since that glorious New Years, Apollo had been avoiding their resident musician. He got huffy whenever the name was mentioned, or when Trucy brought up his upcoming performances for talent night, and was often seen blatantly ignoring the man’s texts. Klavier still came around, but Apollo never seemed to be in the same area when he was in the room, and Phoenix was long passed the window where he could ask. And anyway, all Apollo would say was that he was busy and couldn’t be bothered.

“Probably,” Apollo grumbled, suddenly a mind reader. “It’s been non-stop for a few days now.”

Phoenix rolled his eyes and went to work on rolling up small balls of cookie dough. “You know, ignoring your problems is a surefire way to create more problems, right?”

Apollo pulled a bowl of sugar cookie dough toward himself and copied Phoenix’s movements. Well, almost. He was pretty sure that the hints of aggression were Apollo’s own extra flare. “You say that like you’re not the king of avoiding his problems.”

“When have I ever—“ he cut himself off at the look Apollo was giving him, and brought both hands up in defense. “Okay, okay, jeez.” (You run away from your feelings just once in your life and suddenly you’re King of the Emotionally Compromised.) He clears his throat and goes back to rolling up the dough and sticking it on the tray next to him. “All I’m saying is I did something about it, and now…” he sighs, and it’s content and warm, and his eyes are cast to the ceiling, thinking of Miles.

There’s a wave of comfortable silence before either of them spoke again. “Is today the day?” Apollo asked, and even though it was only the two of them he kept his voice low. “Trucy said it was probably going to be soon, but I mean…”

“It’s today,” he confirmed. “I have everything set, I think.” Not that there was much to set up. Just a nice date at the park, a walk around Gourd Lake after both of their businesses closed, and then, around the time the sun was setting, they’d end up at the gazebo and…

“Wow,” Apollo said appreciatively. “Well, congrats then.”

Phoenix snorted. “Don’t jinx me. It hasn’t even happened yet.”

Apollo laughed. “Right, sorry. But it’s…still a really big deal. Years of watching you pine after Mr. Edgeworth, and then watching you take these gigantic strides—it’s really kind of weird.”

“Weird?”

“A good weird!” Apollo corrected quickly. “But weird nonetheless.”

“I think the word you’re looking for is romantic.”

“No, I’m pretty sure the word I’m looking for is ‘weird.’” Apollo snorted. “Especially since most my knowledge about said pining was second-hand and from your incredibly nosey daughter.”

That she was; according to Trucy, she’d been waiting for this relationship to happen ever since the Gumshoe wedding, and had been comparing notes with her aunts ever since. He should have guessed as much when he’d called Maya almost immediately after Miles had left the bakery, and all she had said was an exasperated, “Finally.”

He wouldn’t have been surprised if Trucy had started a betting pool.

(Still, just my luck that it was completely transparent to everyone but us) he thought. He shook his head and aimed a look at Apollo. “Well, weirdness aside, you see what happens when you confront your problems head on, Apollo?”

And there was the aggressive cookie dough rolling again. “You know, those are supposed to be made with love,” Phoenix offered.

With a final, full-bodied groan at the joke, the conversation was over and the rest of the morning went rather fast.

At eight on the dot, Athena arrived talking rapidly on her phone to her…well, tall and spooky friend, if her soured expression was any indicator.

“Just tell her to meet me here, then, Simon gosh!” She was rather animated for the time of day, as usual. “Wh—because I forgot them, and because she’s the best girlfriend ever. Yes, please relay that to her—I don’t owe you—Oh, hi Boss! Morning!”

“Morning, Athena,” he chuckled, flipping the open sign. “Girlfriend troubles?”

Athena shook her head and drew the phone away from her face a bit. “No, I just forgot my house keys, and since Simon is a jerk and doesn’t drive, I’m asking him if he can drop by Juniper’s and ask her to pick me up after today.”

Phoenix tilted his head. “Wait, don’t you live pretty far away from here?”

Athena shrugged. “It’s fine. Morning walks always get me pumped and ready for another day of work!” With that she flashed him a peace sign before scurrying to the back and snapping in to the receiver, “I’m at work, you big bully!”

Customers came and went for the rest of the hour. Though it was a thin trickle compared to the rush between nine and eleven, the crowd wasn’t exactly small. Apparently going into the wedding business in the last few years had really gotten the name out to the locals.

The Wright and Co. staff worked quickly, rotating from the floor to the counter to the kitchen as the little café was filled with the warm glow of autumn mornings. Athena tended to stay out on the floor with the customers, peppy and loud enough to pump energy into them if the coffee and tea wasn’t enough, and Apollo stayed in the kitchen when he could, but the work was evening out, and things began to slow down and empty out.

At ten to nine, an older woman had just left with fresh scones, wishing Athena a good rest of her day when Phoenix heard the scrape of a chair from above him.

“And that,” he sighed, removing his apron, which was spattered with flour and flecks of cake batter, “is my cue. Hold the fort, Athena.”

“Consider it held, boss!” Athena chirped. Phoenix ducked away from the counter with a wave and was halfway to the door when Athena suddenly gasped. “Wait! Wait, I have a question, then you can go.”

He turned back to her. “Okay?”

She was having a hard time containing her grin, and he knew the question even before it was out of her mouth. Still, he waited for her to ask, “Is today the big day?”

Familiar heat was rising up his neck and to his cheeks. “Yeah. It…uh, it’s today. Yeah.” It certainly wasn’t helping that he was getting more and more bashful about it the more it was mentioned. Maybe another nerve calming shower would do the trick.

“Ah!” Athena clapped her hands together and smiled brightly. “Félicitations!” she beamed. “I can’t believe it! Apollo said it was today, but you know how he is, he likes messing with me, and his humor is so dry and deadpan so I can’t ever tell if he’s telling the truth or just joking around and—“

Phoenix held a hand up, and Athena’s voice halted. “It hasn’t happened yet, so uh. I’m trying not to count my eggs before they hatch.”

Athena nodded sagely. “That makes sense, I guess. But I don’t think you have anything to worry about.”

He smiled. “And what makes you say that?”

“Well, what makes you think it’ll all go south?”

Phoenix gave her a bewildered look, eyebrows raising high and then crinkling together. “I never said that.”

“Didn’t have to; it’s written all over your face, boss.” He opened his mouth to protest, but she waved it off. “Never mind, then. I won’t jinx you. Viel Glück, though! And tell Trucy good morning for me, and to come downstairs so I can give her a big hug, please.”

“Can do.”

The trip up the stairs was heralded by the sound of Trucy chatting away, sounding a bit heated. He opened the door as quietly as he could, cautious.

“I’m just saying,” Trucy was arguing, “the summer is nice to have a wedding.” There was the heavy sound of crockery against countertop as she, he assumed, prepared a cup of coffee. “The dresses are nice, the flowers are gone so no one is sneezing and there aren’t a lot of bees, and if the ice sculpture is ugly, it’ll just melt.” Her voice was coming from the kitchen.

“True,” Miles answered, sounding amused. “Of course, the Californian summers make all sentiment for the wedding simply that. I once had the bride and groom faint at a summer wedding.”

“They were weak,” Trucy responded, and the sound of the toaster ejecting filled the room. “I’m just saying. I’d like to have a summer wedding. Or be in a summer wedding. It’d be nice. Plus summer anniversaries are romantic.”

“I suppose it depends on the person then,” Miles sighed, and he heard Trucy hum in agreement.

“If you’re that against a summer wedding,” she started in, “I wouldn’t mind being the flower girl during a fall wedding. But Aunt Maya said that you’d have to change the flower petals around the fall to something in season, plus Halloween, Thanksgiving, and it’s my birthday in October, so really that would be a busy time for everyone…”

Ah. So that was it. Phoenix moved to lean in the doorway of the kitchen, ready to cut the conversation short. Trucy was still in her pajamas and balancing a cup of coffee and a plate of toast to join Miles at the table, who was currently fully dressed and drinking tea with a snoozing Pess as his feet.

The papers he’d been reading over the rim of his glasses crinkled as Miles moved them to look fully at her, and even from here Phoenix could see the mild horror that flashed briefly in his eyes.

“Ah, of course. Terribly planning on my part, Trucy,” he teased. “You should try being a wedding planner yourself, rather than a magician.” He smiled into his sip of his tea, and went back to reading.

Phoenix slipped in before Trucy could say another word. “A career change? I’d have a hard time seeing you do anything that doesn’t involve setting cards on fire or sawing Apollo in half.”

Both Trucy and Miles looked up at the sound of his voice, and the former set her breakfast down to run over and drag Phoenix into a tight hug.

“Good morning, daddy!” she chirped. “You’re just in time to defend me against Miles.”

He looked up to meet his boyfriend’s eyes and rose one wobbly eyebrow. “Are you tormenting my poor, defenseless daughter?”

Trucy said, “Yes,” at the same time Miles sighed, “No.”

Trucy dragged him to sit at the table. “Miles thinks that having a summer wedding wouldn’t be practical.”

Phoenix, pressing a hand to his chest in mock horror, locked eyes with said man and gasped. Miles rolled his eyes at him and hid another smile in his drink.

“This from the man I love,” Phoenix sighed dramatically, slumping against Trucy, who pat his back, making sympathetic noises. “A horrible betrayal. I’m wounded, damaged beyond repair.”

Across the table Miles muttered something about brain damage, and Phoenix laughed, pulling away from Trucy. “What’s got you talking about summer weddings, anyway?”

Trucy moved back to her breakfast, answering easily. “My teacher is thinking about proposing soon.” Miles was still reading over the news, watching Trucy out of the corner of his eye occasionally, so he didn’t see the knowing look his daughter was giving Phoenix. “I told her that she should have a summer wedding. Because I think it would be sweet. And romantic.”

Phoenix moved to prepare himself a cup of coffee, asking conversationally, “Oh? She’s thinking about it huh? When does she think she’ll go through with it?”

Trucy, his traitorous daughter, sighed dramatically and gave him a look that spoke volumes. “Oh, I don’t know. See, she says she wants to propose to her boyfriend, but she just keeps dragging her feet. I keep thinking she’ll come in to the classroom one day and say, ‘Hooray! I’m engaged!’ but it never happens. I think we’re all starting to get a little impatient.”

It was kind of hard to swallow his coffee past the thrill of…not fear, but something like it, something some how sweeter and mushier, but he did it with a series of coughs. Miles looked up form the paper with worried eyes.

“Are you alright?” he asked.

Phoenix waved him off. “Fine,” he choked out, clearing his throat. “Just went down the wrong pipe.”

Trucy pressed a hand to muffle her giggles. “Anyway, I was just asking Miles if he’d prefer a summer wedding, or a fall wedding, and from what I’ve gathered he’s very against summer weddings. Despite how romantic they are.”

Phoenix hid his expression behind his mug as the conversation continued. Trucy hadn’t really been pushing for it, but he had had some trouble planning exactly when it was going to happen. There weren’t many ways it could go wrong—sure, he could say no, and he was prepared for that. There was just no right time to do it. According to Maya, there wasn’t ever a right time to plan one, and that Franziska—perfect, scheduled, always-has-a-plan Fran—had done hers spur-of-the-moment instead of the way she’d been planning for months. Trucy had said much of the same thing.

“I think that when you’re ready,” she’d told him one night over dinner, “you should do it daddy. Aunt Maya said there’s no way to schedule when things like that are supposed to happen. I’ll feel right when it feels right. Probably.”

He supposed that was true. It was only eleventh months into the relationship, and he’d been planning to do it sometime before Thanksgiving. Or possibly Christmas. He’d like to be a cheeseball and do it on New Year’s Eve, but he didn’t think he could get away with that without feeling like an over emotional idiot.

Which, don’t get him wrong, he was. The way he felt small a smile tug at his lips whiled watching Miles laugh warmly at something Trucy was telling him confirmed that.

“I should probably go get ready,” Trucy said suddenly. “Is Athena here yet, daddy?”

Phoenix set his finished mug in the sink behind him and nodded. “She is. And she’s ordered one Trucy hug for here, so you better get going.”

Trucy smiled and saluted her father.

Miles stood and folded the paper neatly. “I should get ready to leave as well.”

“Did you bring a change of clothes?”

Miles, for some reason, flushed. “Er. No. I’ll be making the trip back to my own apartment to drop Pess off. I’ll change and get ready there.”

Despite himself, Phoenix laughed. “Not feeling the ‘walk of shame’ look today?”

“It’s hardly the look I’m sporting, number one,” Miles started in, and Phoenix could see the telltale signs of the other trying to suppress a grin. “And number two, your daughter is still in the room.”

Trucy laughed behind him, and Phoenix turned to raise an eyebrow over his shoulder. “Don’t you have school?” he jabbed, giving her a lopsided, teasing grin.

“Teacher conferences,” she replied easily. “Got today and tomorrow off, and then next week for the holiday.”

“Do they ever actually hold classes?” Phoenix asked.

“Nope!” she piped, chipper, and moving to give her father a hug and a kiss on the cheek. “See you later, daddy. I’m meeting up with Jinxie, Bonnie, and Betty around lunchtime, so I’ll be back at dinner. Okay?”

“Sounds good.” He gave her a kiss on cheek and a quick hug before letting her go. She waved to Miles as she did so.

And after a much slower, sweeter kiss from Miles, Phoenix returned to his work downstairs.

The bakery was bustling once again, and Apollo looked up with unmasked relief on his face when Phoenix tucked himself behind the counter to head into the kitchen.

About half an hour or so of switching from register to serving to baking, the crowd slowed to a trickle again. Apollo was in the corner by the window, taking to an elderly couple about the scones they were serving that morning, and laughing about something the husband had said.

Athena was somewhere in the back, playing a very catchy French tune, making some extra croissants for the lunch crowd and singing along loudly and a bit off-key.

The bells on the door to the café rang and Phoenix paused in his own activities—cleaning the crumbs off the counter and rearranging the display case—when Klavier walked in.

He turned to Apollo without any kind of greeting that he’d normally give to whoever was at the register, and anyone with eyes could see the poor guy looked nervous.

“Herr Forehead,” he started, and Apollo flinched, and excused himself from the conversation.

Before Phoenix could catch him, Apollo was brushing past him and disappearing into the kitchen in hopes of finding some kind of solitude to brood in, or whatever it was the kid did.

“Uh.” A clever opening line, Phoenix.

Klavier sighed and rubbed the bridge of his nose. “Guten Morgen, Herr Wright. Wie geht?”

“I’m sorry?” Even after a few years of this, he still didn’t know that that meant.

“How are you?” Klavier clarified, moving with a defeated sort of heaviness to the register. “I supposed you are doing alright today? You look to be in good spirits.”

Phoenix shrugged. “Sort of. What’s uh…” he looked over his shoulder toward the door. “What are you having?”

“Two black coffees, one with enough sugar to make me forget it is black, please.” He handed over a card, silently, watching the door during the whole exchange.

“So, what was that?” Phoneix asked. Perhaps it was prying a bit too much, but when it affected the workplace, maybe he could justify him stepping into this admittedly curious bit of drama.

(I am worse than those nosey-neighbored old ladies) he thought with a grimace, pouring the drinks.

“Was?” Klavier leaned both of his elbows on the counter and crossed his arms. “Do you mean your employee running from me today? Or every other time I have tried to apologized to him?”

Phoenix frowned. “Apologize? What did you do?”

Klavier put his head in his hands and laughed a bit. From here, he could see a blush beginning to creep up to the man’s cheeks. “New Year’s Eve last year was. Not my best or finest moment. Apollo was caught up in the whirlwind of alcohol and adrenalin, and does not seem to forgive me for that.”

He set the cups near the musician’s elbow and swiped the card. “For having a bad time? I mean, the kid is as introverted as an introvert can get sometimes, but that’s not—“

“Nein. The New Year makes many people make silly decisions. And. Well. You, ah…have a tradition on New Years, I believe.” He was certainly blushing now.

Phoenix blinked. Well. That would…certainly explain why Apollo was avoiding emotion and anything that had to do with Klavier like a plague.

“Ah,” was all he could say.

Klavier snorts, and took his card and drinks. He sighed and put on a fake smile. “I will see you and your family on Friday for talent night, ja?”

“Ja,” Phoenix nodded. “And uh. I’ll tell Apollo to stick around that night in case you want to talk. About. You know. That.” He looked over his shoulder again and put his hands on his hips. “You know, that really is a stupid-long time to hold a grudge. Almost a whole year?”

Klavier laughs. “He is the king of grudge holding, I think. I am exempt from his mercy.”

Klavier walked out the door as another familiar face walks in, wearing a purple hoodie and her florist apron underneath. “Morning, Klav!” Maya says, chipper as always. “How’s it going?”

“It is…going,” he murmured, before heading out.

Maya pouted. “Is he still upset about sucking face with your employee?”

Phoenix chuckled. “One, no one says that. No one calls it that, ever. Two, why do you always know what’s going on with everyone before I do?”

Maya wiggled her eyebrows. “I’m psychic. I see all, I know all.” She embellished her words with fanning her fingers out near her temples, wiggling the digits just a bit.

He snorted and reached over the counter to give his friend a quick hug. “What brings you in today?”

“Coffee, tea, and scones for me and my sick wife, please” she sighs. “She’s sleeping in right now, and I wanted to surprise her.”

Phoenix frowned, moving to make the coffee. After this long, he knew both orders by heart. Maya leaned against the counter, watching him. “Franziska is sick?”

“Not super sick,” Maya offers. “It’s just a bad cold. But I made her call off work anyway and promised her breakfast. And we all know I can’t bake, so here I am!”

“Taking credit for my baking skills?”

“Naturally.”

Phoenix laughed, setting both drinks on the counter and grabbing a bag for the scones. “Well, tell her I said feel better, and text me whatever insulting, backwards thank you she gives me, please. You know the drill.”

Maya laughed. “Sure thing. And what about your beau?” she asked, reaching out for her drink and humming in satisfaction at the flavor.

“Where are all of these terms coming from?” Phoenix asked, raising an eyebrow.

“People say them all the time!” she argued without heat. “So does your lack of an answer mean he’s here right now?”

“He’s upstairs.”

Maya beamed. “Cool. Mind if I wait around a bit and ask him something? I have an arrangement I’m working on, and I need to know if he can get the client to come in and decide on a few different things.”

Phoenix shrugged. “Go ahead.”

Behind him, the kitchen door opened, and Apollo slid out, holding a tray of fresh slices of coffee cake.

Finished now with the scones, Phoenix scooched over to make room for his employee, who was wearing a pretty sour expression on his face again. “Doing alright?”

“Uh-huh.”

“You look peeved.”

Apollo shook his head, focusing a little too hard on setting the slices in the display case.

“You know, talking helps,” he offered, ringing Maya up without looking at the register.

“I’ll keep that in mind,” Apollo grumped.

Maya winced sympathetically. “Secrets don’t make friends, Apollo.”

“Morning, Maya,” he greeted, finally turning to look at both of them. He raised a curious eyebrow. “I don’t know what you’re talking about. Secrets?”

Phoenix shrugged. “You know. About he-who-must-not-be-named?”

Apollo flushed. “He’s not some kind of villain, Mr. Wright. It’s—he’s just a guy. Just Klavier. And there’s no secret, either.”

Phoenix shrugged. “I mean, if you say so. But he just came in, and you ran with your tail between your legs to the back, and you’ve been avoiding him for pretty much a year, and according to my sources there was a kiss, so—“

“Speaking of secrets,” Apollo said, red-faced, his suddenly loud voice carrying a little too far across the small space of the cafe, “did Mr. Wright tell you that today was the day, Maya? Since we’re, you know, talking about secrets and all.”

The reaction had wasn’t exactly unexpected—besides Trucy, Phoenix had expected her to be the second most enthused person to find out when it was going to be. But perhaps yelling, “What?” and putting Apollo’s nervous shouting to shame was a bit much.

Be that as is may, said thing did happen, and Maya had pulled back in incredulity so forcefully, the coffee from her cup sloshed out and onto her wrist and floor, which caused her to yelp, and suck in a breath.

“Shh!” Phoenix hissed.

“Oops,” Apollo winced. “Uh.”

He grabbed a dishtowel from under the register area and handed it to Maya, who was staring back at him with a huge grin and wide, excited eyes. She looked like she was about to pop.

“I’ll go get a mop?” Apollo’s voice hitched a bit, sounded almost like he was asking question. “

Before he could say anything else, Trucy’s voice came from the stairwell, heralded by the sound of her shoes clicking on the wood. “Everything okay down there?” she called. At the same time, Athena’s head popped out from the kitchen door, looking concerned.

“Everything’s fine,” Phoenix said with a wave. “We’re all good. Apollo just—“

“No we are not! The day?” Maya insisted, dabbing at her hoodie with the towel. “As in the The Day?”

“Shh!” Phoenix hushed frantically, waving his hands at her. “Not so loud!”

Trucy had finally descended the stairs. She stared at Maya a little oddly, and Phoenix groaned, soft enough for only Apollo to hear and say a rushed, “Sorry again,” before ushering Athena back into the kitchen and going in himself to search for a mop.

“What was that?” Trucy asked. “Are you guys planning Christmas presents or something?”

“More like an anniversary,” Maya snickered. Phoenix thumped her shoulder, which earned him a smack with the dishtowel.

“Anniversary…?” Her eyebrows knitted together in utter confusion. She was probably trying to remember dates. Phoenix could see it catch up to her, and bless her, the most she did was gasp and grin and press her hands to her mouth to cover her small squeak of, “Oh my god!

It was that moment Miles chose to appear behind Trucy, Pess at his heels. “Er. Good…morning?”

“Morning!” Maya chirped, perhaps a little too cheerfully.

He raised an eyebrow at her. "Maya. Good morning.”

“Morning!” she said again.

The other eyebrow went up. (Oh real subtle, Maya.) “How is Franziska doing? She told me a few moments ago she was home, sick.”

As if just remembering, Maya snapped her fingers and straightened up. “Right! Yeah, she is. I was just picking up breakfast for us for today. I should go make good on that promise.”

She turned to grab her drinks, now securely balanced in a travel tray and her bag of scones, and looked Phoenix in the eyes. “Call me later, okay?”

“Sure,” he promised weakly.

She was out the door before he could remind her she’d wanted to speak with Miles.

Whose eyes were fully on him now, and looking very careful and somewhat surprised. “She seemed unusually hyperactive.”

“Who, Maya?” Phoenix asked, all shrugging shoulders and waving hands. “Nah. She was probably just really awake this morning.” He looked the man up and down, offering a softer smile. “Heading back so soon?”

Miles nodded. “I’m already going to be late to my own workplace.”

Phoenix pouted, and behind him, Trucy giggled. “Well, shoot.”

“Don’t,” Miles groaned. “You act like it will be months before we see each other again.”

“Won’t it?” he teased.

“I will see you in a few hours. If we’re still meeting this evening?”

Phoenix swallowed. They definitely were, and this was definitely happening. He nodded. “I’ll see you at six?”

Miles nodded in return. “Yes. If I finish early, five thirty.”

And then, as per usual during their goodbyes, Phoenix leaned a bit over the counter, and Mile met him in a quick, blissful goodbye kiss. His heart stuttered.

He really, really couldn’t wait for tonight. And yet…well, it wasn’t just a normal date, was it? It was the day. The date. It was going to be perfectly fine, he was sure of it—a small dinner, coffee, a walk in the park. Simple. Fun. Cute. But still, the butterflies and anxiety that settled in his gut when Miles pulled away from the kiss and wished his daughter a good day remained.

As soon at the door shut, Trucy whirled on him. “The day?” she asked, and the tone of her voice was equal parts hope and excitement. “I heard Aunt Maya shout it, and Polly before that. Does…are you…?”

Phoenix grinned, sheepishly. “I was going to tell you before Maya found out. Sorry, sweetheart.”

“Daddy,” Trucy said seriously. “Daddy, oh my gosh, it’s a yes or no question.”

“Which I basically answered!”

“Daddy!”

He laughed, and simply nodded, and her face lit up as she scrambled around the counter to hug him fully. He held her close, kissing the crown of her head in thanks when she congratulated him.

When she pulled away to go to the back, probably to coo over it with Athena, he sighed blissfully and moved to lean his arms on the counter. He smiled to himself, the weight of the ring heavy in his pocket.

Today was the day Phoenix proposed.

 

November 15

12:57 PM

Milestone

Lunch with Kay was taken in his office today, for no other particular reason than neither of them felt any need to leave, or to actively avoid any of the clients who might be giving them a hard time.

A quiet day at Milestone wasn’t really a blessing anymore now that the Kitaki wedding had finally been settled. Ema seemed far less frazzled, and Kay more focused on her work when she didn’t want to actively avoid it.

They’d been slow recently, most of the couples having come in to plan their weddings closer to the New Year and setting most of them after it. Really it was just paper work and photography for a few families.

Truly, the lack of weddings was a little frustrating. Not in a way that Miles would ever advertise, but he did miss the familiar thrill of planning and creating that special day for two people in love. That light, airy feeling of excitement from designing that he usually got. That and…

Well. The only difference between weddings before and after starting a relationship with Wright was that there was no longer a weighted feeling of loneliness and longing to have…something close to the same thing. He still threw himself into planning with as much vigor, but with an attitude Phoenix had once described as, “aggressively romantic” and which Kay described as, “a terrifying, starry-eyed vigor.” He supposed it wasn’t entirely inaccurate. Having Phoenix in his life was like seeing the sky lit up with a million stars after years of living in a city with nothing but fog. He wasn’t blind to the beauty, nor was he ignorant of it, but he never knew this clear, concrete feeling of absolute adoration could be so…beautiful.

After the kiss at New Years, everything had fallen almost too easily into place, and paced itself beautifully, like the ending to a romance novel or a good movie. It was as easy as breathing, second nature. Trucy had accepted the relationship just about as quickly as he and Phoenix both had. It’s about time! she had stated, hands on her hips the next time they met in the bakery. Daddy had done nothing but sigh and look into the distance like a love-struck fool before this. Whether that last line had been a product from too much exposure to Franziska, he’d never know. Maya had a similar reaction, only hers was much more high-pitched and came through the speakers of his cell phone, probably nearly damaging them.

But he’d fallen right in step with him after it all. Visiting, planning, sleeping over at the Wright’s, either or both Wrights staying at his apartment, everything had become so utterly domestic and second nature.

Sometimes, when it was the four of them—the forth being Pess, of course—Miles had trouble remembering they weren’t already married. And then, of course, it would be the thought, (Already? It’s a little early to be thinking that.) And then reasoning that it wouldn’t be that early. Eleven months was plenty when you’ve known the person for the better part of two years before hand, and have thought of kissing him ever morning for roughly the same amount of time.

And maybe it was too soon to be thinking about marriage. Maybe they would never toss around the idea. The thought did not puncture his heart the way he thought it might have. Even if they never married, being with Phoenix and all that came with it—sharing kisses, talking with Trucy, working in the bakery, the feeling of Phoenix’s hand in his, and so much more—it was enough.

And still, the question came bubbling out of his mouth in a wry sort of sigh that afternoon, while eating take-out Thai with Kay and daydreaming about his boyfriend, “Would eleven months be too early to think about marriage?”

Kay had been mumbling about something before Miles had begun to zone out, and her casual cadence came to an abrupt, startled halt, chopsticks full of pad thai halfway to her mouth.

He had about three seconds of silence to think, (I wonder if I should have offered some context to that) before Kay had dropped her food back into its container, slammed both hands on his desk—really, wasn’t that a bit over the top? —and shouted, “You’re proposing?!”

Miles flinched at the sudden loudness, nearly sending his own food flying into his lap. “Kay,” he snapped. “Volume, please.”

Kay rolled her eyes. “Volume-shmolume, you’re getting married?” She’d lowered her voice about two notches, so at least his throw away comment would now only reach a block or two away, instead of the whole state of California.

He took a deep breath, even though the subject did set his heart stuttering into overdrive. The thought of being married always did, and when it was about Phoenix, it was doubly hard to get a hold of himself. “I only asked if it was too early to get married. I announced no future plans.”

“But you’re thinking about it!” Kay argued, her eyes bright and excited. “You’re thinking about marrying him, and you’re thinking about doing it soon, aren’t you? You don’t even have to say anything, I know that soft, doe-eyed look anywhere.” She was bouncing a bit on the balls of her feet.

“That—what on Earth are you talking about?”

Kay cackled. “That big ol’ mushy look you get whenever you think about Nicky.”

He could feel his face grow hot. “I do not have such a look, Kay, don’t be ridiculous.”

Instead of answering, she gave a theatric sigh, tinged with romance, and lowered her voice in a mock imitation of Miles’ own. “Look at me, I’m Miles Edgeworth, and I sigh and go all soft when I think about my boyfriend and how much I love him! I like to slouch a little and put my head in my hand and smile and pretend like my best friend Kay can’t notice when I’m thinking about romantic things, even though she’s seen me make this face for—“

“Alright!” Miles interrupted. The blush was now fully there, he knew. He could feel his ears burning. “Sit down, for heavens sake, I get it. I’m completely transparent. Do not rub it in.”

Kay laughed loudly, but sat again, resuming her lunch. “But seriously. You’re going to propose?”

In response, Miles shrugged. “I’m…unsure.”

Kay gestured with her chopsticks to continue when Miles only picked at his food. He did, albeit slowly. “It has been eleven months. I won’t lie and said I don’t think about it, because I…do. Often, in fact.”

Kay smiled softly at that. “Aw.”

He could only look away and try to hide his own grin with his hands. “It’s not been a year yet, but this morning…”

He hesitated, still trying to hide his grin, and Kay set her food aside to lean forward. “What happened this morning?”

Miles sighed, a blissful, airy thing that one does usually when utterly smitten with someone who has proven time and again to be the love of your life. “It was nothing really. It was simply…domestic. Wright woke me up to…well, tell me he was going to work, which I found incredibly unnecessary since he works directly below us, and because it was, oh, five in the morning? A preposterous hour to be awake fully, and even more so to be woken up by ice cold water dripping onto your face.”

Kay giggled. “You don’t have to look so aggravated when you say it.”

“I don’t see why not,” he grumbled. “It was aggravating.”

“And?”

He sighed. “And endearing, as it everything that ridiculous man does.” He paused a moment more, just to recapture the image of a freshly showered Phoenix smiling above him, and laughing softly. His heart clenched fondly, and he was grinning again. “When I later woke on my own terms, I spent breakfast with Pess and Trucy speaking about summer weddings. We ribbed each other a bit about whether or not my stance on them was correct and then…” another sigh. “After Phoenix walked in I was simply, hit with…wanting that for the rest of my life. That utterly domestic feeling. To sit in the kitchen talking with Trucy Wright about anything under the sun, and looking up to find…the love of my life, smiling softly.”

Kay cooed again, and Miles couldn’t help the blush that rose into his cheeks again. “That’s really sweet, Miles,” she told him after a bite of her food. “People wait a really long time to feel that domestic bliss. You waited like, forty five billion years? How old are you now that you’re getting your fairy tale ending?”

He rolled his eyes, giving her a mirthless look. “Keep it up, and maybe you’ll owe me for lunch this time around, with interest.”

Kay placed a hand to her face in mock-horror and gasped. “Interest? Oh no! I can see you mean business.” They shared a laugh at that, and Kay settled back against her chair with a smile. “So,” she said, gesturing to him.

Miles raised an eyebrow. “So?”

“Oh for crying out loud!” Kay groaned. “Are you going to propose or not?”

“Ah.” Well, the short answer would be no, he wasn’t planning on it. The longer answer was yes, someday, but it hadn’t been a year, and while Miles personally didn’t mind, he wasn’t exactly sure where Phoenix stood. So he shrugged and said, “Not just yet.”

“Aw, man,” Kay whined. “I was going to ask to do the wedding.”

Miles snorted humorlessly at that. “Kay, I have been wanting to plan my own wedding since the first wedding I’d ever gone to. Though I appreciate your offer, I will have to refuse it. Even if nothing is set in stone.”

Kay shrugged. “Worth a shot,” she tittered, shoving the last of her meal into her face. She didn’t bother waiting to swallow, asking around it, “How serious are you though? Do you have a ring?”

“I haven’t gone looking yet.” The admission of “yet” only set it further into his mind how much he truly wanted this. “I might never. We haven’t exactly discussed if marriage was in our future.”

“You talk about marriage every day,” Kay offered, unhelpfully. “You’ve never thrown it in the mix?”

“I…hadn’t thought it pertinent.”

“You didn’t think talking about your wedding while talking about weddings pertinent?”

It did sound silly when put into words. “Kay,” he groaned anyway. “Attempt to understand here. I didn’t find it fair to talk about a future with him during work. It would be unwise, not to mention unprofessional—“

“He’s your boyfriend!” Kay interrupted. “You literally talk about other people getting married with your boyfriend, your boyfriend who works with you on those marriages!”

“That’s not the point!”

The point was this: though he didn’t doubt that they loved each other, he was unsure the next step was wise to take. He didn’t want to simply propose to Phoenix without any preparation, first of all, though Kay had a point—talking about marriage as a part of their jobs softened the suddenness of a proposal, that was for certain. But Phoenix was…Phoenix. Miles wanted it to be perfect. The perfect setting, the perfect timing, the perfect day and time of the year, and maybe even the perfect planet alignments, all of it to tie together exactly how much he wanted to be with Phoenix. Which was…absurd to think it would all pan out perfectly. If last New Years was any indication to how their love worked, it was that it was clumsy. It had no time for things like plans and timing. It worked the way a beginner knitting a scarf might work, with bumps and waves and missed points and gaps that made it perfect. And that’s what it was. It was perfect.

He wasn’t sure the reason why he felt like delaying it. But the point was he was waiting for that imperfectly perfect moment to say something, to buy a ring, to ask Phoenix for…well, for forever.

And while he argued and chatted with Kay, he couldn’t help but think that though he felt he should delay in putting forth any kind of proposal, he couldn’t wait for the moment to come.

 

November 15

5:30 PM

Gourd Lake Nature Park

Gourd Lake Nature Park was a family friendly place with lots of green space, beautiful nature trails, dog rest areas, and a wonderful lakeside view. It was the host of may Earth Day events, nature education programs, dog park-esque activities, and, of course, dates.

The dinner had been wonderful. Phoenix had paid, of course, and they’d sit outside to accommodate Pess, who had yet to go for a walk that day. The whole evening had been utterly perfect, just as planned. The food was wonderful, the conversation flowed, and Phoenix couldn’t get enough of Miles’ laugh every time he cracked a joke about their lack of wedding work, or told a silly anecdote about the bakery and its many colorful customers.

The butterflies in his stomach were plentiful of course, so much so he was surprised he didn’t have to tether himself to the chair just to make it through dinner, lest the weightless anxiety in his veins send him floating away.

Right now, they were in the park, the perfect date spot with plenty of gazebos and benches over looking the lake and the sun setting low enough to cast the world in a romantic twilight. The sky was cloudless, and a few stars were beginning to blink awake above them as the streetlights around the park glowed a hazy yellow-pinkish hue.

The setting was almost too perfect and Phoenix’s heart was thrown into overdrive the moment they’d passed the threshold twelve minutes ago, Pess excitedly sniffing a few paces ahead.

This was it. They just had to make it past the small docking area and boat rental up toward the gazebos that were lit with pretty fairy lights, and then he’d get down on one knee, and reach into his pocket and—

He felt his pocket in a quick but subtle panic to ensure for the fifth time that yes, he did have the ring, tucked into a small black box.

He was really doing this.

Phoenix shut his eyes and let out a shaky sigh. (Better shake off those nerves now. I can see the docking area from here. Oh god. I can see the docking area from here. Oh god.)

A hand on his arm halted his forward motion, and he turned. Gray eyes met his, and he his brain skipped like a broken record and stuttered to a stop.

“Phoenix?” Miles asked.

“Uh.” Huh. Well, he was never the most eloquent of men, but tonight of all nights, being at a loss for words was probably the worst thing that could happen to him. (I totally forgot what I was going to say at the gazebo. Oh man.)

Miles snorted, and raised an eyebrow. “I know neither of us had alcohol at dinner, but would you be so kind as to tell me where your mind is at before you trip over your own two feet?”

Tongue-in-cheek, Phoenix said, “I’m not gonna fall. Unless you’re accusing me of falling for you,” and gave a nervous bark of laughter, praying his poker face was better at displaying nonchalance than his traitorous heartbeat, which had kicked up a few more impossible notches.

The comment did its job. Miles stuttered out an, “Honestly,” and offered nothing more than a roll of his eyes and a halfhearted scoff. Still, he linked hands with Phoenix, and the man could see the small smile he worked hard to hide.

They passed the docking area, and started up the hill.

(Here goes nothing.) “So,” he started lamely.

“So,” Miles responded, squeezing his hand.

“How was work?” Ah, yes! This was it. This was how he was supposed to get on track! Ask about work, and ask about weddings, and then drag the conversation out long enough to make it up to the gazebo, and then just…do it. “We talked about my day, but you didn’t say anything about yours.”

Miles chuckled. “It wasn’t that interesting, to be honest. I did paperwork and set forward a few meetings with venues. Hopefully, I’ll be meeting with the Virginia Robinson Gardens about another venue there in two weeks.”

Phoenix grinned at that, this one finally not nervous at all. “No way! They’re going to let you hold another reception there?”

Miles laughed. “Yes, I was quiet surprised myself. After nearly drowning twice there, you’d think my going back would be prohibited.”

“Because you’re a safety hazard?” Phoenix joked, and outright laughed when Miles looked aghast.

“I beg your pardon, you nearly drowned me the first time!”

“You should have planted your feet and broken my fall!” Phoenix retorted through his laughter.

Miles scoffed. “Oh, you’re right. I should have foreseen the disaster area that is your personage and learned to accommodate you accordingly.”

“Exactly! See, this is why I love you. We’re totally in sync.”

Miles’ face grew a little softer, his mirth a little warmer as he responded with a soft, “I love you, too.”

They were at the top of the gazebo now, and those words, as they always did, made Phoenix feel like he was flying. Truly, he did love this man with his hidden smiles, and whip-crack sarcasm. This man who was so warm inside, and so careful with his words and excitement. This man, who was so talented with expressing his devotion to love in his work and in his relationship, who wore varying shades of pink and called it things like “wine” and “magenta,” insisting it was anything but. This man. His man. His Miles.

His Miles, who he loved so wholeheartedly that the feeling was ever expanding, like a balloon in his chest, making him weightless. Why was he afraid of doing this again?

They reached the gazebo, and ducked under it. Pess went to sniffing at the grass in front of them, careful not to step to far into the incline of the hill, lest she lose her footing.

“Er, Miles…” Phoenix started. “Speaking of your job…”

Miles turned to look at him, humming.

“So. Weddings.” Oh for fucks sake…

Miles snorted. “Yes? That is what I do.”

He put his hands in his pockets, trying to looks casual. Grabbed hold of the box and ran his thumb along the velvet for courage. “I mean speaking of weddings, and wedding planning…”

Miles only raised an eyebrow.

Phoenix cleared his throat. “Alright. So, uh. You said you don’t have a lot of weddings to do now, right? You’re planning but you’re not really planning anything, right?”

Slowly, Miles nodded. “Not quite so intensely, yet. Everything will start roughly around New Years. Why?”

“I…” he licked his lips, and bounced on the balls of his feet. “So I’ve uh. Been thinking. About your job. And about weddings, and…and y’know.”

Miles’ other eyebrow rose. “Alright. Consider me intrigued. Are you interested in planning weddings now?”

“Uh.” Well. Kind of. “Not really. Not like, a bunch of them. Just…I mean, I think I have a wedding in mind for you to plan is all. Uh. You know. A nice wedding. Something…something you would hopefully…” Hopefully, hopefully, “…enjoy? It might need to fall to Kay, depending on your stance or…” He was rambling.

“You…have a client?”

“No. Yes? Not exactly. I think I do, but uh. Well, we’ll have to see if they say yes…” And he pulled out the ring. Sort of.

It happened very fast. Phoenix’s hands were shaking, watching Miles so carefully, searching him for any hint of understanding of the words he was tripping over. He was supposed to say this: “Miles, I’ve known you for around three years now, and danced around you for around two. I don’t want to dance around anything ever again, unless it’s around our room to cheesy romance music. I love you, Miles. And I want to love you for the rest of my life. Will you marry me, Miles Edgeworth?”

But, true to form or fate or something that was intent on proving his boyfriend right in that Phoenix was in fact a disaster area, the ring box slipped and fell from his hands, tumbling past Pess and toward the murky Gourd Lake waters. So what came out of Phoenix’s mouth was, “Miles—shit!” He spun and watched as the box thumped and thunked its way down. “Shit, shit shit shit shit!”

Startled, Miles jumped. “Phoenix? What on Earth—“

“Fuck!” Phoenix yelped. There was no way he was going to catch up to it in time. He tore off his coat and tossed it to the ground. “Uh, stay here! I’ll be right back, just stay here!” he called over his shoulder.

He stumbled after the box, exciting Pess as he passed. The lake that had once looked romantic now looked foreboding and horrible, and Phoenix prayed the box would stop before it hit the water. Momentum didn’t work like that, but asking for a miracle had never hurt anyone, right?

“Phoenix!” Miles called behind him, sounding only a little panicked and a lot confused. “What in heaven's name is going on?”

“J-just hold on, I’ve got this!”

(Don’t don’t don’t don’t!)

Plunk!

It disappeared into the lake with a taunting splash, and as it sunk, so did Phoenix’s stomach. He was going to have to just do it. On this ice cold November night, he was just going to have to dive in.

And well…he did that. Waded in to where the ripples in the water started from and dove under. It was just as terrible as he imagined, perhaps more so. (This is kind of like the Virginia Gardens thing, if you think about it) he thought. Plunging head first into ice cold water because of something to do with a wedding. Miles watching on in horror. Déjà vu.

He could feel the ring box under his hands, and the water was only waist deep and easy to wade out of unlike the pool from so long ago, so maybe not a total embarrassment, and not total déjà vu. Just…mostly.

He broke the surface with a yelp that was part triumph and part cry, wrapped up in the word, “Fuck!” that echoed across the area. “Cold!”

At the edge of the lake stood Miles and Pess, the latter’s leash having been shortened to keep her close. Miles stared at him like he’d grown another head.

He had about three seconds to explain before a vein burst in Miles head, judging by the look he was giving him. “Uh. W-water’s great.”

That did it. “Are you out of your mind?!” Miles shouted. “Have you lost it? What on Earth was that?”

Phoenix waded closer, the box tucked safely back in his sodden slacks. “F-fancied a s-swim.”

“In the middle of November?” Miles argued hotly. “Are you trying to get pneumonia or out of a bad conversation? You fool, that water has to be less than sixty degrees.”

“Feels l-like forty,” he joked.

Miles didn’t even crack a smile, eyes wide in confusion and tinged with worry. Oh well. Couldn’t blame a man for trying. “What the hell is wrong with you? What are—what on—are you alright?” Miles finally settled on.

Well, now was as good a time as any. It wasn’t exactly how he planned it—far from it. For one, he was supposed to remain dry during this particular event. Second, he was going to have to think on his feet for this one. The proposal didn’t really work now, with him dripping water and Miles looking rather alarmed. “Alright, c-can I try this again?”

Still shocked, Miles snorted. “Oh, you mean after your leisurely swim in the lake?”

To this day, neither Phoenix nor Miles could tell what set it off. Pess was a strange animal that seemed to serve in causing as much torment as she did joy. It might have been seeing Phoenix emerging out of the lake like a half drowned lake monster. It might have been the word, “swim.” It might have been the excitement from seeing him run toward the lake, and then running toward it herself with Miles. But whatever the reason, no one knew for certain.

Pess gave a joyous bark before launching herself into the water just as Phoenix reached calve-depth. She was close enough to land next to Phoenix with an excited splash.

She was also close enough to send Miles tumbling ass-over-elbow into him, Phoenix’s arms stuttering and barely catching him before they both went down. He could feel the mud sink into his shirt, a gross, chilling feeling that he felt in his teeth before someone grabbed his shirt collar and yanked him out of the water, coughing and sputtering.

Phoenix sat up, the water to his chest and Miles half in his lap, his hair falling into his face, absolutely drenched. A foot away, Pess yipped and jumped playfully. The water lapped at both their chests from her movement. Phoenix wiped his hand on the front of his shirt before pushing the hair from Miles’ face and keeping in there.

“C-come here often?” he asked.

The light was almost gone in the sky, but a few streaks of sun remained, and the droplets on the others eyelashes glistened as he tried to blink the water and shock from his face. “I…what?”

“Come here often?” Phoenix asked again, and then laughed at the absurdity of it.

Miles only responded with a frustrated, weary sigh of, “Of course not,” and Phoenix leaned in to press a soft kiss to his lips. It was brief, kind of swampy, and very wet and cold, but it was wonderful as it always was, and warmth bloomed in his chest.

When he pulled away, Miles offered a wobbly grin. “You both taste and smell like lake water, Phoenix.”

He laughed. “S-so do you. Isn’t it r-romantic?”

“N-not in the least.”

“Aw,” Phoenix whined. “N-not in your top f-five most romantic kis-kisses?”

“I didn’t say that,” Miles said softly with a blush. “Ce-certainly the top three most uns-sanitary.”

Behind them, Pess barked.

“Are you okay?” Miles asked, moving to get up. “I didn’t intend to fall into you.”

Phoenix nodded, taking the hand that was offered to him once Miles was standing again. “I’m good. Freezing, but good. And you?”

Miles shrugged. “I’m unharmed. Shaken and cold, but fine otherwise.”

A shiver ran through both of them then, and Pess wiggled her way in between the gap that divided them, still holding hands.

“Whatever you were trying to say earlier,” Miles started, “I suggest you keep in mind until after we are showered and warm and after Pess has had a bath of her own.”

Phoenix could only agree. “I’m closer than you are. I’m sure Trucy won’t mind you spending the night again.”

“Will you?”

“Not one bit.”

 

November 15

10:51 pm

Wright and Co. B&C

A car ride, two showers, one messy dog bath, a set of bathrobes and a two bags of rice for his and Phoenix’s phones later, both men were sitting with semi-dried hair sipping warm drinks in the closed café.

Tonight had certainly been…an adventure. Miles couldn’t say this was expected, but it certainly was odd. Phoenix could get himself in to all sorts of strange trouble like falling into lakes, or pools, or what have you. But diving into one on a whim? Downright odd.

Currently, the man was pretending to close everything up, as if it hadn’t been done hours prior by Apollo. He was writing something down in a binder, or double-checking something when Miles finally spoke, softly so as not to cause disturbance upstairs. Trucy was sleeping, as was Pess, and lord knew neither needed to be woken up. There was enough chaos today to last a lifetime.

“Phoenix,” Miles started.

The man jumped a foot in the air at the sudden sound. They’d been relatively quiet since the ride home, only exchanging short snippets of comfortable conversation.

“Yeah?”

In truth, he wasn’t sure where to start. With the new wedding client? With the impromptu dive into Gourd Lake? With an apology for sending him tumbling back into the water and ruining a perfectly good shirt and pair of dress pants? “Is everything alright?”

Instead of nodding outright and reassuring him, Phoenix paused. It shouldn’t have, but for some reason Miles heart clenched, and made a slow, elevator crawl toward his stomach. That wasn’t good. He wasn’t sure if it had just been the night, or something bigger, but a small ripple of anxiety crawled its way into brain, and would not let him go.

Phoenix gave him an uneasy smile. “Sorry for jumping into a lake and ruining the date.”

Miles only shook his head. “I…that’s quite alright. I’m hesitant to say it, but I think I’ve grown used to tripping over just about everything thing and falling into trouble right after you.”

“Ha ha,” Phoenix said, scrunching up his face, and alright, it wasn’t about the lake then. But the mans heart wasn’t into the quip, and Miles drew his brows together, worried.

He tried again. “What were you saying before that?”

“Hm?”

“Before you threw yourself into the water with reckless abandon.” As if he needed to clarify.

Phoenix’s eyes grew a little wider. “Oh. That. You…still want to hear about that, huh?”

Miles rolled his eyes. “If you would be so inclined as to enlighten me to it, yes, I would like to know what it was you were on about.” He hadn’t meant to sound so clipped and cold, but Phoenix looked away at his words and Miles felt a sickening plunge in his chest. “Phoenix, is something wrong?” he asked, his voice softer.

That made the man start. Odd. “No! No, nothing’s wrong. I just. Hmm.” Phoenix made his way around the counter to pace in front of Miles.

After two minutes of the his boyfriend pacing and rubbing a hand over his face every time he opened his mouth to talk, Miles stood. “Perhaps I should leave.” It wasn’t a threat, but an offer. Something was clearly bothering Phoenix, and right now he didn’t seem to have the words to explain it. Perhaps time to think would clear his head.

“No!” Phoenix said, a little too loudly. He winced. “No, stay, please. I don’t mean to run you off, Miles. I just…have to think my words over. I messed up at the park and I…” he trailed off.

“You?” Miles pressed.

“I want to do this right.” He grinned a little at the use of the word, that stupid not-so-private joke about his surname that Miles had grown to love along with the rest of this man. “Sit. Please. I…I think I have it.”

“O…kay,” Miles hedged, sitting slowly. “Please.”

Phoenix took a deep breath. “So, the lake thing didn’t work. I…I don’t know if you noticed, but uh. That date was like…supposed to be really important. Like, the be-all-end-all of dates kind of important.”

Miles raised a curious eyebrow.

“And I thought a walk in the park would tie it all together, which is why I asked if you’d like to bring Pess. An excuse to go for said walk. Which, as it turned out, was both a little overzealous and a big mistake in the end, since she seems to have as much impulse control as I do.”

Miles chuckled. “You aren’t that bad.”

“True.” They shared a quiet laugh, before Phoenix went serious again. “I had it all planned. Dinner, walk, gazebo, speech, and then I uh…dropped the plan, as it were. Literally. Which is why I went running into the water. Sorry, again by the way, Miles.”

Miles waved a hand at the apology. “I don’t mind. If anything, it was quite like déjà vu. Perhaps mentioning the garden incident jinxed us both.”

“Maybe,” Phoenix said. “The point is I was in the middle of proposing to you, and the ring fell out of my fucking hands and into the damn lake, and now I’m standing here in a bathrobe, watching you sip hot chocolate and warm up and thinking how the hell could I have expected this to go any differently, because perfect setting or no, I love you more than anything. And that being in bathrobes after joining the polar bear club doesn’t make this proposal anything less than what it was before.”

Miles stared. He…well he was breathing, but he felt like he couldn’t. “I’m…sorry?”

Phoenix smiled a bit, and reached into the robe’s pocket, pulling out a ruined black box that fit into the palm of his hands. “Yeah,” he sighed. “I botched it, naturally. But I think that’s…I mean, it still feels right. I know it’s only been eleven months.”

(Which is enough time, it’s plenty.)

“But I’ve been…I mean we’ve fallen around each other for long enough, and now that we’ve have the chances to make it just right, I don’t want to think about time. I don’t…want to think about anything but waking up next to you in the morning, really.”

(It’s all I could think of. All I can think of. All I want to think of.)

“I want to wake up to you and think, that’s my husband. I want to kiss you and think, I’m kissing my husband. I want to…I don’t know, attend Trucy’s high school and college graduations side by side with you as my husband. I love you Miles. I’ve never in my life before loved anyone like this, nor anyone like you. And I want to love you for the rest of my life like this, with or without a ring. You…this sounds so bad.”

(It doesn’t, don’t you dare say that, you fool.)

“But you…I feel like you’re the end of the road? No. You’re not the end of the road; you’re my conclusion, like in a story. The characters that marry in the end, and you shut the book, and you’re confident they have their happy ending without a sequel, that the happily ever after doesn’t end there, like I used to think it did. That kind of serious, deep like of love, Miles, that I just can’t put into words.”

His eyes were misting over. So were Phoenix’s.

Phoenix kneeled in front of him. Held out the ring, a simple gold band with sideways indents that decorated the outside. It was simple. It was the most beautiful thing Miles had ever seen.

“All that to say, Miles, that I want to marry you. A lot. A lot a lot. So uh…Miles Edgeworth, would you do me the honor of…uh…doing that? Of marrying me?”

There were many things that this relationship was, that this love was. It was long-winded, long time coming, head-over-heels love. It was a tripping over each other, falling over feet, pets, words, and feelings love. It was a messy, uncoordinated, light-but-heavy, pure happiness love. A love that people waited lifetimes for. A love people found in stories and dreamed about. A love that came together in an imperfect jumble of words and a kiss, a love that was joined by so many strange events. A love that was forged in cake batter, wedding plans, pool diving, peacocks, lake swimming, leash tripping, party skipping, and a new year neither would ever forget.

It was a love that Miles Edgeworth had waited his entire life for.

And so he did nothing else but slide to his knees as well, cup Wright’s face in his trembling hands and whisper, “Of course,” before he kissed his fiancé with all the passion he could muster.

The kiss tasted like chocolate, happy tears, and a warmth of adoration that was theirs alone to understand and to keep, for the rest of their lives together.