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To Cast Off Chains

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To Cast Off Chains

Lana studies the clothes that Ema brought for her, running the fabric through her fingers, surprised at the feel of it.

She shouldn't be. They're very similar clothes to those she wore ten years ago. The black skirt is one size larger—Ema had been very practical, demanding measurements from the guards so that she could ensure Lana was comfortable when she walked out. The dress shirt is far simpler than what Lana used to wear, missing the ruffles and tassels of rank, the medals of honor that she long ago stopped deserving, but it fits quite well. A dab of eye shadow, a hint of a pale red lipstick, and Lana studies herself in the mirror, not certain she recognizes the woman looking back at her.

She is a decade older than she was the last time she chose her own clothes. Or... that's not entirely right, since these were chosen for her by Ema. Chosen by Ema based on Lana's previous choices, though, not given to turn Lana into one more identical cog in a machine of the damned.

"You're being melodramatic now, Lana." She forces a smile as she studies her reflection in the mirror. "You're free."

Ema included jewelry with the clothes, though Lana usually wore very little. They are in a small plastic bag, with a smiley face and an uncertain hand-written note. If you want them. -E

Does Lana want them? She hasn't been able to wear jewelry for the last decade. Not only is it against regulations, it would have been dangerous. Using her scarred right hand, Lana gingerly touches the small white line on her right cheek. Not that it's worth thinking about, really.

Picking up one of the little clip-on golden hoop earrings, Lana attaches it to her right ear, watching the woman in the mirror as she does. "You survived."

Picking up the left earring—or the earring that she has made into the left one, by dint of placing its brother on her right ear—she attaches that, as well. "You've paid your debt to society."

A gold necklace with two gemstones dangling from it sparkles in the bag. Lana recognizes the gems—her birthstone, a light amber topaz, and Ema's, a clear shimmering diamond. How could she ever have thought that Ema would break, that her diamond-souled sister wouldn't be able to handle the truth?

The necklace settles around her neck, an unfamiliar weight, the gems catching the light and sparking. "We're free, Lana. So let's start acting like it."

She dumps her prison uniform in the laundry basket that has been helpfully set inside the bathroom. She gathers the make-up and deodorant and scarf that she doesn't want to wear into the bag that Ema had delivered yesterday. She exits the bathroom, nodding to the guard who leads her down to the prison entrance and turns her over to Cassandra.

Cassandra pulls out a small stack of paperwork, asking Lana to sign all of them. Lana does, reading each one carefully, though she doubts anyone would try to trick her at this point. Given everything that has happened in the time between her arrest and her release, she doubts anyone else remembers she exists, save on those rare occasions when it is brought to their attention.

She signs that everything Ema detailed as being in the bag yesterday was still there this morning. She signs a statement saying she has no complaints to make about either the facilities or the guards. She signs a statement saying she understands the terms of her parole. She signs a dozen silly little statements, none of which would really hold up in a court of law with a good defense attorney, and then Cassandra takes back the clipboard and asks her if she's ready.

Lana blinks, her mind trying to understand the question.

"Your sister's here." Cassandra speaks gently, slowly, as though Lana were a child. "So when you're ready..."

"Oh." Lana draws a breath. "I'm ready."

"Good." Cassandra's hand lingers for a moment on Lana's shoulder. "Good luck out there, Lana. I'm sure you'll do just fine for yourself."

Lana summons up at least the ghost of a smile for the woman. Cassandra has been one of her kinder jailors, even going so far as to say she didn't believe Lana should have had to serve time for the crimes that she committed. The least that Lana can force herself to do is acknowledge the kindness she is being shown—kindness that she should try to encourage, an aid and a balm for the next individual who will undoubtedly be filling her cell.

Cassandra returns the smile, re-entering the guard booth and buzzing Lana through one door.

Lana allows her eyes to move to the front and her smile to drop away as she studies the second door, the one that will lead to... what? How does she want to define it, the world outside the prison walls?

A decade.

She has lost a decade of her life, a quarter of her time alive. Sometimes, especially when she is around people like Cassandra, it seems like far too high a price to pay for the crime of attempting to protect her sister. At other times... when she sees the way walls erode humanity, the way society's contempt and certainty of their guilt eat at the inmates, and imagines people trapped here who didn't deserve to be...

When she hears of murders, beatings, blackmailings, done by people she let walk free, people who could not be retried for a crime they had already been cleared of...

Society seems unable to decide if the time that Lana has served is too light or too harsh a penalty for the crimes that she committed, so perhaps it is fitting that Lana can't say for certain, either.

A rap on the window next to her, and Lana realizes that the door has closed before her, that the tone of the buzz has changed to indicate that the one in front of her is open. Forcing another smile for Cassandra, she steps forward, out of the prison and into...

A room that looks very similar to rooms she has been in, and that shouldn't surprise her. Why should the architecture change between the prison and the areas where visitors are allowed? Why should the dividing line between the free and the condemned be a physical thing, when the emotional line holds so much more weight?

Ema is waiting for her.

She hasn't changed much since Lana last saw her. Given that Ema has been coming to visit her at least once a week since she took a job with the police force, Lana shouldn't be surprised by this.

"Hi, Lana." Ema attempts a smile, but it's clear to Lana's eyes that it's strained, uncertain. "Ready to go?"

How should she respond? Drily? Flippantly? Eagerly? She doesn't know what emotion to give to the simple yes that is really all she needs to say in response, so instead Lana just inclines her head.

Ema appears to take her cue from Lana, because she doesn't say anything else. She gestures for Lana to follow her; she holds open the door to the outside; she points toward her car.

Lana nods her understanding, though she allows herself to take a moment when they are just outside the prison. She turns her eyes up to the sky, relishing the view—different, finally, a new angle, one that she has not spent the last decade looking at. Deciduous trees instead of pine, and so long as she doesn't look behind her the only wires she sees are those bearing electricity and communication, not those designed to keep people contained like beasts.

The wind still smells the same, though. The sun still feels the same, a gentle caress against her skin, and before a full minute has passed Lana is following her sister to the car.

Ema curls up behind the steering wheel, her eyes not quite meeting Lana's. "So. Um. Was there anywhere you wanted to go?"

Lana considers the question for a minute.

Apparently too long a minute, because Ema's hands become white-knuckled on the steering wheel, and she begins speaking again, her tone faster and faster. "Because we could go anywhere. There's this nice little restaurant I know of—or if you'd prefer to do that for dinner, we could go to the park, or there's always the movies or—"

Laying her hand over her sister's, Lana waits for the younger woman to raise her head and meet her eyes.

Ema has grown, in a decade. Not so much in height, though she is a little taller than she was when Lana last touched her. But her eyes, oh, her eyes are so much older than they were, and Lana wishes she could go back in time, find her younger self and shake her and make her understand that Ema can survive anything.

Strange, that trusting her sister to survive back then may have made her eyes not quite so old and weary now.

Taking Ema's hand in hers, Lana turns it over, her fingers caressing against Ema's palm, along Ema's fingers. "Thank you, Ema. For picking me up."

"Of course." A brief snort of laughter takes some of the hesitance from Ema's face, and Lana can feel tension flow out of the fingers that she is holding. "You're my sister."

"And thank you for offering me a place to stay." Releasing her sister's hand, Ema reaches for her belt. "I'll try not to stay long. I should have my affairs in order well enough to rent a place of my own within a week or so."

"Stay however long you want. It's the least I can do." Ema fixes her gaze on the road, glancing at Lana guiltily from the corner of her eye.

Closing her own eyes, Lana plays through the conversation that Ema is very clearly trying to avoid. You don't owe me anything, she says to the girl who is now a young woman.

You wouldn't have been in there if not for me, Ema retorts.

I was in there because I failed at my job—and because I failed at trusting you. Lana has spoken words to that effect so many times over the last decade, and she knows how every little variation on them will be met and countered.

You were in there because an evil man thought power was only good for getting more power. That's how Ema usually counters that argument, at least, though sometimes she will change her description of Gant.

Now Lana is not in jail, though. Now Lana is free, and the only thing holding her back is what to do with that freedom. "I'd like to go home, first. To your home. To see it."

"Sure." A flash of a smile from Ema, both proud and nervous. "It's nothing big—let me tell you, the pay difference between a prosecutor and a detective is nothing to sneeze at—but it's nice. I like the neighborhood. There's just the one bedroom, but the kitchen and dining area is big enough that I'm able to do experiments."

"Oh?" Lana smiles, remembering many, many, many conversations they used to have about experiments. "And you haven't been evicted for them yet?"

"Only one resulted in sufficient smoke to alert the landlord to a problem."

Lana nods. "How many resulted in fire but not enough smoke to provoke detection?"

A brief flash of a grin, and Ema shrugs. "Three. Maybe four, though that one didn't require a fire extinguisher. There are three in the kitchen, by the way—three fire extinguishers. Just make sure that the one you grab is rated for the type of fire we're having."

"The only fire I'm intending to have is the one that results from overcooking toast. Or possibly overcooking eggs." Lana pauses. "Or possibly overcooking—"

A brief laugh from Ema, and it is good to see her sister smile again. "I get it. Though keep making threats like that and I won't let you cook period."

"You say that like it's a threat."

"Well, you haven't tried my cooking yet." A sheepish tilt of her head, and Ema's foot presses down just a little harder on the accelerator. "Sometimes I come up with good things, but other times bagged and frozen dinners are a lifeline."

Lana sighs. "You still haven't learned to properly follow directions, have you? That's all I do—follow the directions in a recipe."

"Directions are guideposts, outlines of experiments that have already been completed! If an experiment's been done already, what's the point of doing it again?"

Lana sighs again, burying her head in her hands. "Perhaps the point is achieving something edible as an end product?"

"Lots of things are edible." Ema weaves in and out of traffic, far faster and with more skill than Lana would have expected. The last time she was in a car with Ema, though, Ema was just learning to drive, so Lana supposes it makes sense. "Just because something's edible doesn't mean I would foist it onto another sentient, sapient being."

Lana arches an eyebrow. "Perhaps we should go out for dinner."

Ema nods. "Sounds like a good idea. It'll be my treat."

The rest of the drive passes in silence and small-talk about various scientific advances that Ema has been reading about, and Lana smiles, keeping herself just in the moment, pretending, for a little bit, that this is how things always have been and always will be between them.

XXX

Lana waits patiently in the Chief Prosecutor's office, trying not to look at anything.

Trying not to remember anything, and it was easier yesterday, when it was just Ema and her.

She had enjoyed herself yesterday, more than she had expected to. Ema had shown her around the small but tidy apartment, and Lana had looked properly impressed with the life her little sister has made for herself. (Lana had been impressed, had been happy to see the signs of friendships and camaraderie that littered her sister's residence. A DVD from Trucy Wright; a book from Apollo Justice; a CD whose name is in what, to Lana, is an indecipherable European code from Prosecutor Gavin; a photo of Ema with an older Phoenix Wright and two other young people who must be Trucy and Apollo. Ema's apartment is small, but it is a home, the home of someone who has friends and support, and that is all that Lana could ever ask for.)

When they were done getting Lana situated, Ema had suggested they go for a walk, and they had bundled up and wandered the blocks around Ema's apartment. Ema had introduced Lana to neighbors that they passed, and it had been deliciously normal, pleasant and calm.

Perhaps she should have put this off. Perhaps she should have given herself a few more days to adjust before tagging along with Ema to work.

Lana has never been one to put off what needs to be done, though, and she needs to have a conversation with the man who has taken over the Prosecutor's Office these last few months.

"Ms. Skye. I'm sorry for the wait."

Opening her eyes, Lana stands and turns with a smile that she hopes doesn't look too mechanical to face Miles Edgeworth. "It's not a problem. I'm just grateful to be here."

He has aged very gracefully, growing into his handsome features. Glasses perch on his nose, and from the way he studies her through them she's fairly certain they are for practical use rather than show. His handshake is firm, strong but not threatening; his voice is calm, cool but not frigid. He is not the man she would have pictured him growing into, a decade ago; he is better than that man, she thinks, something softer and kinder in his eyes, but perhaps that is just the stories that Ema told her bleeding through into her impressions now.

He's gone. Ema had been near-hysterical by the time Lana was finally able to take the phone call, almost a decade ago. He's gone, he left a note and he said he chooses death and—

It had taken her far longer than her allotted fifteen minutes of phone time to calm Ema down, to pry the story of Edgeworth's disappearance from her, to reassure Ema that Lana had no plans to commit suicide anytime in the near future. Thankfully the guard had been understanding that day, or Lana's tearful pleas had been too genuine to ignore, and she had been able to do what she needed to for her little sister.

It was amazing, I had so much fun! Ema stopped in to see her, both times she came back from high school in Europe and somehow stumbled into Edgeworth investigating crime scenes. I can't wait to work with him full-time as a forensic's specialist!

He's the Chief Prosecutor now. Ema had munched quietly on Snackoos as she told Ema the big news. Though Ema had never come out and said that she hated her job before—hated the system that she and all the other unlucky children inherited from Lana and her peers—it had been clear to Lana from the way Ema stopped talking about work and forensics as soon as she became a detective. With Edgeworth's return to the country and the Prosecutor's Office, though, a shred of excitement seemed to shine in Ema's eyes again. I'm not going to say that everything will be better now, but... maybe it'll be a good change.

Has it been a good change? It is too early to tell, only two months having passed since Edgeworth ascended to the position, but certainly there don't seem to have been any changes for the worse.

Edgeworth looks like he belongs here, now, striding purposefully around his desk and settling down, and Lana finds herself having to fight to stay in her seat. She belonged here, once, a long time ago, but that isn't why she's here today. "Prosecutor Edgeworth. Thank you for agreeing to see me."

"Any time. Your little sister has been a wonderful employee and, I like to think, a good friend." Edgeworth hesitates, his fingers steepling in front of him as he studies her.

Remembering that they were friends, maybe, kind of, a decade ago? Though she was under Gant's thumb, and he was being twisted into knots and cracked in preparation of being broken by Von Karma, and the fact that they were polite to each other, respected each other, were as kind to each other as two people in such a situation could be—does that count as friendship?

"I'm already doing what I can to streamline the re-opening of your accounts, and the re-acquisition of necessary documents such as your driver's license." Edgeworth slides a handful of forms out of a file and towards her.

Not for her to sign, though her hand automatically reaches for a pen. They are just photocopies, to show her what he has already set in motion, and a wave of gratitude runs through her. "Thank you."

"You're very welcome." Edgeworth inclines his head. "When you are feeling up to it, I would also wish to talk to you about your future plans."

Lana lowers her head, resisting the urge to moisten her lips. They are already moist—a layer of lip gloss ensures that they will stay moist—and it is just a nervous tic that she can easily suppress. "I wanted to talk to you about that, too. About... what my options are."

Edgeworth nods, studying her with his disconcerting silver-grey eyes. "What career path are you hoping to pursue?"

"I'm... not sure." Her hands tighten into fists, and Lana forces them to relax. This isn't what she was expecting. She was expecting to be denied, immediately, without possibility of appeal. She had prepared herself for it, for every variation on I'm sorry, but... and yet that doesn't seem to be where this conversation is heading.

Nodding, Edgeworth reaches for the file that he pulled the photocopies from. "I haven't been Chief Prosecutor for long, and I only have so much leverage and political maneuvering ability at the moment. But you were a good prosecutor, when your hands weren't tied. And I... well, I can't say I approve of your actions. But I... understand why you took them. And if anyone deserves a second chance..."

It is a contract. An offer, of a job. Just a year-long contract, nothing binding long-term for either of them, and she would be starting in a rookie's position, with a rookie's pay, but it is still a job contract.

Lana runs her fingers over the text, her lips moving silently at relevant parts. Oversight, to ensure there could be no questions put before the court as to her ethics; a clause that she and Ema aren't to work together, and Lana would be upset except Ema is her known Achilles heel, and this would protect both of them from that.

Her old life, if she wants it, offered to her by an aged-up version of a man who suffered similar-but-different abuses to the ones she survived, and she has to close her eyes for a moment, just breathing.

"If there's something in particular that's troubling you, I am open to discussion." Edgeworth's voice is hesitant, tentative. "I can't promise I will agree with you or have the ability to change what the issue is, but—"

"It's a good deal." Lana turns it back to him. "A better deal than I de..."

"No." Edgeworth takes the paper, sliding it back into the file, his voice gentle. "Not a better deal than you deserve. Trust me, there is nothing but agony lying down the path that words like that pave. You made a mistake; I've made similar."

"You were manipulated; I was..." Lana pauses, because she, too, was manipulated, and she needs to find the right words to elucidate the distinction. He is patient, watching her, giving her a chance to find them, and gratitude for that fills her voice when she speaks again. "I knew what I was doing. I knew that he was dirty, that he was doing everything for his own gain. I knew what I was participating in, and I chose that. For my sister, yes, but I looked into the darkness and I agreed to follow it. You... they were trying to blind you, to make darkness the same as light. Similar, but not the same."

Frowning, Edgeworth folds his arms in front of his chest. "If the end result is the same, justice twisted and corrupted, does the path you took to get there really matter?"

Lana knows the answer to that one, and she smiles as she delivers it, though the smile tastes slightly bitter in her mouth. "Would you have offered me that contract if the answer to your question wasn't a resounding yes? If I had done what I did for some other reason, for something not related to saving a loved one, would you still think I deserved forgiveness?"

After long, long seconds Edgeworth inclines his head, his expression flickering for a minute, no longer calm and collected, instead... tired. Not exhausted, not beaten, but tired, an acknowledgment of the price paid to get this far.

It is a feeling Lana understands quite well. "You're still called the Demon Prosecutor, but it seems it's taken on a bit of a different meaning now. The bane of corruption. The man who is going to see the system rededicated to true justice."

Edgeworth arches an eyebrow. "Both Ema and the papers are being a bit.. melodramatic in their assessments, if that's the end conclusion you've come to."

"No. They're both being and hopeful, and fair. You've grown into a good man, Miles." Standing, Lana holds out a hand for him to shake. "And I appreciate the offer. You have no idea how much I appreciate it, how much it... just knowing you would make it, that you have faith enough in me to risk so much for my sake... thank you."

"You're welcome." Standing, Edgeworth takes her hand and shakes it. "And if you ever change your mind..."

"I might." Lana flashes him a genuine smile. "I'd say if I get desperate, but I'm not going to do that to either of us. If I ever feel it's... right, that this is where I belong again, I'll give you a call."

"I'll be here." Edgeworth settles back down in his seat, already pulling other files out of carefully organized racks to fall open on his desk. "Good luck, Lana. With whatever you decide to pursue."

Lana murmurs out a final thanks, and then lets herself out of the office.

She's still not certain exactly what she's going to do, and the bus ride back to Ema's apartment puts a slight damper on her mood, but she is still smiling when she lets herself into Ema's apartment with the spare key that Ema had made for her.

She is alive, and she is free, and the system she helped destabilize is recovering.

Surely it's not too much to hope that she can do the same, too.

XXX

Ema comes home from work tired but happy, clearly satisfied with a job well done.

Lana greets her with a lasagna that, while it may not be inventive, is at least extremely edible.

"Oh man." Ema sighs as she settles down in her chair and takes a bite. "I understand why people get married now. Being able to just come home and have a hot meal magically appear on the table is absolutely beautiful."

"I'm fairly certain there are ways to achieve the same thing without marrying."

"Yeah." Ema swallows another bite. "It's called the microwave. Not only is it a beautiful example of scientific knowledge revolutionizing the world and becoming accepted as a commodity without being understood by the society it's serving, it's another reason I haven't starved to death. Maybe I should put a wedding ring on it."

The last is spoken tentatively, a joke that Ema clearly isn't sure Lana will take well. Lana smiles, showing that she understands the humor, and shakes her head. "I've heard you can also con family and friends who live with you into being cooks, provided their schedule is less hectic than yours."

"True. And I guess not all marriages result in cooks being achieved." Ema takes another bite, grinning. "Anyone hoping to marry me and acquire a cook would get more than they bargained for."

"Anyone marrying you had best know enough to do their baseline research and learn how home-life will be before jumping in to defend their hypothesis." Lana smiles, though it falters after a moment. How should she continue the conversation? Let it go, as though they were simply friends or old acquaintances? Or pursue the line that Ema let drop, the one that no big sister could ignore for long? Drawing a breath, hoping she's not making a mistake, Lana decides to try being the big sister again. "Is there... anyone you're thinking of? Anyone you've been dating, or...?"

"No." Ema laughs, as if Lana's said something funny, though her expression is more fond exasperation than true irritation. "You've heard about my coworkers and friends. None of the guys are really exactly my type."

Lana arches her right eyebrow, leaning forward conspiratorially. "What about the girls?"

Ema laughs again, picking up the napkin that Lana placed beneath her spoon and fork and hurling it at Lana's head.

Her aim is true, and Lana clutches the napkin to her face, falling back and acting stricken for a moment before refolding the napkin at her side. (It has been a long, long time since they joked like this, since they laughed like this, and though at least a part of her is simply acting out the expected charade, perhaps if they keep it up long enough it will become truth again.)

Folding the napkin and setting it down on the table again, Lana watches her sister, taking a bite of her own meal as she does. She hasn't seen Ema look so happy and relaxed in... well, in well over a decade, her sister kicking her feet under the table as she grins at Lana.

Ema stabs another mouthful of food, popping it in her mouth and chewing thoroughly before speaking again. "I'm not currently interested in any of the women I know, either. I'm just not really... in a dating mood right now. Maybe in a year or two, or if one of the idiots impresses me sufficiently, but right now... right now I'm happy with where my life is."

With having her older sister living on the couch? With working in a system that has had more corruption scandals in the last decade than it did in the century before?

With having her sister free. With working hard to fix a system that deserves to be repaired, that society demands function better, now, than it has in the past. "I'm glad, Ema." There is too much weight to the words, too much of her own unspoken thoughts, and Lana tries to smile, to take some of the severity from the gladness. "I'm really proud of how you're doing."

"Really?" Ema clears her throat as soon as the word is out, staring down at her plate. "I mean... yeah, why wouldn't you be? I'm pretty awesome."

Pretty awesome, despite having failed her forensics exam. Pretty awesome, despite not having been able to protect Lana from her own stupidity.

Or maybe that's not what's lying under the words. Maybe Lana is projecting what she vaguely remembers from her sixteen-year-old sister onto this twenty-six-year-old woman who grew up before Lana's eyes but out of her reach, in snapshots and ten-minute monitored conversations. "You are awesome, Ema. You're the best little sister anyone could ask for, and I..."

Lana bites the inside of her cheek, keeping the words that will start a fight from following. She cannot say that she wishes she were a better sister—Ema will say that she has been the best sister, that any sister who will sacrifice a decade for their sibling is beyond reproach. She cannot say she misses the time she didn't get to spend with Ema—Ema knows that, and Ema has done what she can to keep Lana in her life and appraised of her friendships and failings, and Ema would see the words as censure, as saying that Ema herself has not done enough. She cannot say she wishes the last decade had gone differently—that she had made better choices, and perhaps if she had not been so wrapped up in her own misery she would have been able to respond to Mia, when Mia sent out tentative tendrils asking for help. Perhaps she would have made Chief Prosecutor on her own, and been able to see and respond to the threats that Manfred von Karma and Blaise DeBeste were, sparing others agony.

Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps, but she cannot change the past. She cannot dwell on the past, and strange, how it seems to be chasing her now even more strongly than it did when she was behind bars. Hopefully it will be easier to evade the ghosts when she has a routine established again, a paycheck and a purpose beyond simply existing in the space her sister is lending her.

"We're both doing pretty good for ourselves, given everything." Ema stands abruptly, having finished off her lasagna while Lana was brooding. "So let's go celebrate."

"Ema, I'm not sure—"

"Nothing big. Nowhere with alcohol." Ema smiles, the expression tentative and strained. "Not until I've got proof that you're over twenty-one, at least. I mean, I could be trying to sneak a minor into the bar, right?"

Lana's hand reaches up to pat at her hair, where gray strands have just started to spring up, and she returns her sister's smile, trying to pack all of the fondness burning in her heart into the expression. "I am clearly well underage."

"So let's go do something a little more age-appropriate." Ema gathers up her plate and glass, taking them to the sink, speaking over her shoulder as she does. "There's a new Marvel movie in theatres, and maybe... if you wanted..."

She has not seen a movie in theaters for a long, long time.

One of the last ones they went to see together was a superhero movie, one that Ema loved though she spent most of the movie gleefully picking apart all of the scientific inaccuracies. Or perhaps because she could spend most of the movie picking apart inaccuracies, while still enjoying the emotional arc of the hero?

"With lots of popcorn?" Lana smiles, bringing her own plate over to the sink. It may be a mistake, going out in public, into a crowd of strangers. If it is, it's the kind of mistake she wants to make, if it gives her even a fractional chance of reclaiming some of the relationship she had with her little sister.

"All the popcorn and all the butter." Ema grins as she turns on the water.

Picking up the towel hanging from the cupboard door in front of the sink, Lana begins drying the utensils that Ema passes her. "I think I'd like that very much."

Ema fills her in on what's been happening in the superhero universe over the last five years while they wash the dishes, though she repeatedly assures Lana that this will be the first Kamala movie and thus should stand alone.

Lana just listens, content to be with her little sister, the two of them working together against the forces of entropy—even if those forces are as small and insignificant as the dirty dishes from dinner.

XXX

They don't make it to the movie theater.

Lana thinks Ema is going to explode when her phone rings three-quarters of the way to the theater.

"What is it, Gavin?" Ema practically growls out the words, her body posture going from relaxed and nervously excited to ramrod stiff with irritation. "No, I can't—I'm on the way to—Gavin, don't you dare—"

Ema stares at her phone in evident confusion, her mouth moving silently.

"I take it he hung up on you?" Lana gestures through the windshield. "Also, the light is green."

Ema revs the engine, barreling them through the light and into a parking lot, where the car spins in a ridiculously tight circle and shoots out onto a side street. "I can't believe he did that. I am going to punch him so hard in his pretty mouth—"

"If you don't mind..." Lana tries not to make it obvious that she's hanging on to the door with all her strength. "Where are we going?"

"Gavin wants me to meet him at a witness' house." Ema breezes through a yellow light; she does deign to stop at the red light that follows, but her fingers drum on the steering wheel as she glares at it. "If we get this over with in the next fifty-eight minutes, we can still make the late showing of the movie."

"If it's work related—"

"Just because Gavin no longer has a life doesn't mean that I also have no life." Ema huffs out a breath, but when the car starts moving again, it's at a slightly saner speed. "And I want to spend time with you. Plus I want to see the movie. It's scientifically proven that spending all your time at work is detrimental to your mental health and productivity. Hobbies make you better at your job."

Lana doesn't quite know if going to the movies counts as a hobby, but she recognizes when it's not a good time to press her little sister, and the rest of the car trip passes in silence.

They pull up behind a glittering motorcycle in a wealthy part of town, and Lana climbs out of the car, following her sister as surreptitiously as she can. It helps that Ema apparently thought Lana would prefer dark colors for her clothes and bought everything in shades of black and dark blue and gray, making Lana just another shadow in the still night.

The man on the motorcycle disembarks, swinging his leg over the seat in an exaggerated manner that is clearly designed to be graceful while drawing attention to the lengths of said legs. Removing his helmet, the man shakes out a mane of pale blond hair, smiling at Ema as he does. "Guten Abend, Fraulein Detective. Thank you for—"

"Gavin." Ema marches straight up to the man, invading well into his personal space, and for a moment Lana is afraid that Ema really is going to punch her superior.

Apparently Gavin is, too, because he takes a hasty step back, calm smile disappearing.

Ema just glares at him, though, leaning forward to fill the space he has just vacated. "What are we doing here?"

"Talking to a witness, as I told you on the phone." The faintest trace of a foreign accent touches Gavin's words.

"We talked to all the witnesses. Repeatedly. At length. Then we took our suspect into custody, and then we went home." Ema jabs a finger into Gavin's chest. "So tell me exactly why I am standing here, when I could be—"

"Justice accepted a position as defense attorney for Mr. Haring." Gavin's right hand reaches up to toy with his bangs.

"Oh." Those simple words seem to deflate Ema, and she spends a second just studying Gavin.

He uses that second, reclaiming the easy smile that he had greeted them with. "When I heard that Justice was convinced Haring was innocent, I went back to the crime scene. You had been concerned about the extra fingerprints on the table, ja? Well, canvassing the neighborhood, it appears at least two people saw small children enter but not exit the house prior to Mr. Guy Letty's arrival. Children that he did not mention, and that we have not found."

"So you want to question him about it." Ema continues to scowl.

"I want to question him about it." Gavin seems oblivious to Ema's scowl, flashing her a brilliant, blinding smile that Lana is certain many young women and at least a few young men would kill to receive. It would be more effective, she thinks, if it actually reached his eyes—troubled eyes, that don't quite seem to want to meet Ema's. "And I trust you to keep a bullet from ending up in my pretty little glimmerous head. More than I trust anyone else at the precinct."

For several long, long seconds Ema just studies her boss.

Lana watches him, too, piecing together the scattered bits and pieces that Ema has told her over the months. A stupid, sex-obsessed, misogynist jerk, Ema's first assessment had been, but Ema had been bitter and angry and frustrated about everything to do with her new job during that preliminary report after she joined the force. A terrible musician, but not a terrible person, Ema had said quietly, her voice filled with conflicting emotions as she summed up Daryan Crescend's betrayal and her and Klavier's reactions to it. A good man, Ema had finally upgraded that to two months ago, after Gavin had both helped put his own brother in jail and apologized to Phoenix Wright, and probably a little crazy now, just like the rest of us on Team Science and Soap Operas.

Eventually Ema sighs, shoving her hair up and tying it into a quick ponytail. "I was off-duty. How do you know I've even got my badge and my gun?"

"Because you are as proud of both as Herr Forehead is of his attorney's badge. You do not ever leave them at home." Gavin watches Ema's hands as they dive into her purse, re-emerging with her service revolver, which she clips to her belt.

"You should be off-duty." Ema removes the gun from its holster, checking it thoroughly before replacing it. "Sleep is not a dirty word, you know."

Gavin shakes his head. "If there are children involved, children who are missing, you know as well as I that our chances of recovering them are highest in the first twenty-four hours after the crime."

Ema just scowls harder, though she doesn't contradict him. "I was supposed to be taking my sister to the movies."

For the first time Gavin seems to actually notice Lana, his smile flashing out again as he turns to face her. "I was wondering who the beautiful fraulein with you was. It is a pleasure to make your acquaintance, Fraulein Skye. And I apologize for commandeering your sister. I will return her as quickly as possible."

"Do what you guys need to do." Lana touches Ema's arm, offering her sister a small smile of her own. "We can always go to the movies tomorrow, Ema. And this looks like a beautiful neighborhood to walk around in."

"I guess." Ema sighs, checking her gun and badge once more before nodding to Gavin. "Let's get this over with as quickly as possible."

"As quickly and thoroughly as possible. Always my motto." Turning on his heel, Gavin leads the way to their witness' front door, a smile that is all predatory intent replacing the more genuine one that he had given her.

Lana watches until the two of them disappear into the house, her sister's outline swallowed by a wash of yellow light that is closed off a moment later by a door that appears to be real, solid wood.

For a second Lana just stands, breathing in the cool evening air. Tilting her head back, she studies the stars, trying not to let dark thoughts rise.

(What would they say, these respectable people in their well-kept homes, if they knew she had spent the last decade in prison? How would they react, to the stranger in the dark, these people who use lawns and hedges as shields from even those neighbors they like?)

Standing still is clearly not a good option, so Lana begins pacing, walking from Gavin's motorcycle to the edge of the property they disappeared onto. The car in the driveway is expensive, though she doesn't recognize the model immediately. Something new, maybe? Something with a large trunk, and there is a scuff mark on the driver's side door.

A scuff mark caused by driving too close to one of the ornamental bushes that line the drive, she realizes as she further studies the scene. Not the type of mistake she would expect from people like this. Unless they have a child just learning to drive? Or were, perhaps, driving too quickly, distracted by something else?

She paces to the very edge of the driveway, craning her head and squinting her eyes. The moon is high and nearly full, providing enough light for her to see, and is that a crushed trail in the grass there? Is that a rose bush that has been flattened by something other than neglect?

It's a poor amount of evidence to hang a warrant on, but if she closes her eyes and uses just her ears, does she maybe hear...?

It is a violation of her parole, probably. Certainly if she's caught and doesn't find anything she's going to be in a great deal of trouble. But if she's right, if she's putting the pieces together properly...

There is a thrill as she steps over the invisible line defining public and private property. A surge of adrenaline through her veins like she hasn't felt in a long, long time as she studies the scratch on the car and the scuff in the dirt and the crushed grass more closely, finding that her initial impressions had been right.

The trail leads further onto the property, deep into the hedge-protected land, and Lana follows it. Notes what look like toe marks in the loose soil of a flower bed; finds a girl's ribbon hanging on a decorative bush, fluttering in the breeze.

The shed is locked, but by that point Lana is not inventing the sounds that she hears. By that point she is really hearing the muffled sobs and pleas of children, and she does what any sane person would do.

She squares up against the old wood of the door, and she rams the door right off its hinges.

The children are bound and gagged, huddled against each other in the center of the shed. Lana unties them with both hands, the phone that Ema bought for her held between her ear and her shoulder.

"Skye." Ema answers, her voice cool, but Lana can hear the slight tremor of worry in it.

"Ema, there are two children tied up in the shed. I'm untying them and taking them to the car."

She can faintly hear Ema telling Gavin what she's said; she more clearly hears the sound of a gunshot, a curious echoing effect as she hears it through the walls of house and shed and then again through the cell phone. The sound of a scuffle, someone swearing in German, Ema yelling for weapons to be lowered, and Lana is so focused on what's happening in the house that she almost misses her own danger.

Almost, but not quite.

The woman who comes at her with the tire iron is desperate and determined, swinging with all her might; Lana has just survived a decade in prison, and there's really no doubt who's going to win from the start.

"Lana? Lana! Lana!"

Picking up her phone, Lana wipes a hand across her eyes as she answers her sister. "I'm fine. I just took down an accomplice. If you could come with handcuffs—"

"Already here." Ema toes open the broken shed door, slipping her phone into her purse, her gun in hand. Her eyes fix immediately on the woman groaning on the floor. "Wow. Nice work, Lana."

Lana smiles. "Nice work yourself. Assuming—?"

"Both myself and the glimmerous fop are unharmed." Kneeling down by the woman, Ema pulls a pair of handcuffs from her purse. "As for you—you have the right to remain silent. Anything you say..."

Lana closes her eyes, the familiar words washing over her, and smiles quietly at the proof of how much her sister has changed and grown.

XXX

"I'm sorry." Ema flops down into the driver's seat shortly after midnight. "Movie is definitely out tonight."

"That's all right." Reaching across the car, Lana takes her sister's hand and holds it gently. "I'd say getting to save two children from being sold into slavery is enough excitement for one evening."

"We were pretty cool." Ema smiles. "You especially."

Lana pretends to consider for a moment. "No, I think you were cooler."

"You."

"You." Squeezing her sister's hand, Lana fights back a burning feeling in her eyes. Silly, to cry now, when she's just so happy and proud. "You were amazing."

Ema doesn't seem to know what to do with the praise, so instead she pulls her keys out and starts the car. "Movie tomorrow. I promise."

Smiling as she buckles up and settles back in her seat, Lana nods. "Tomorrow. It'll be good."

XXX

They don't make the movie.

"I'm sorry!" Ema sounds close to tears as she dashes around the house. "I completely forgot! It'll be fine, though. Mr. Wright always has some extra tickets."

"Ema, I really don't mind." Lana tries not to get dizzy watching her little sister run around in circles. "I'm happy to go see a magic show with you."

"Trucy's actually really good, it's not what you'd expect from a fifteen-year-old—maybe sixteen? I don't remember. Anyway, she's really good for being ridiculously young and—"

"Ema." Grabbing her sister's arm, Lana freezes the younger woman in place. "I'm happy. I'm excited. Now, do you need anything else?"

Ema spends a second mentally cataloging what's on her person. "Just the car keys, I think."

"These?" Lana dangles them from her free hand.

"Those." Ema snatches them out of Lana's hand. "You're not allowed to take them until you've got your license back."

"My test is scheduled for tomorrow. Now." Lana points to the door. "Shall we get going?"

The drive to the theatre passes in companionable silence, Ema seeming to relax once they're finally underway.

Inside the theatre there is no such thing as silence, and Lana finds herself falling back to trail behind her little sister as Ema weaves them through the crowd to the backstage area.

"Trucy! Apollo! Mr. Wright!" Ema waves to the trio standing in the wings, peeking through the curtain at the steadily-swelling crowd. The venue is small, but it's clear to Lana's eyes that it's going to be a packed house.

"Ema!" Trucy bounces up to them, her magician's cape flowing behind her dramatically. "You made it!"

"Despite everything." Ema grins at the teenager, reaching out to clap Trucy on the shoulder. "You ready to perform?"

"Am I ever not ready?" Trucy strikes a pose, though her attention almost immediately wanders back to the curtain. "I'm so excited. It's such a big crowd!"

"Well, you got some free advertising out of working with Apollo to catch the bad guys." Ema raises her eyes to the young man who has followed Trucy over. "Speaking of—sorry to finish the case before you even got into court, Justice."

"Well, you didn't quite finish it." Apollo has his hands shoved in his pockets. "You dropped the murder charge, but there's still a lot of paperwork involved in being an accessory to child smuggling."

Ema raises both eyebrows. "Does this count as a win or a loss for you—client not guilty of murder, but guilty as hell for a lot of other crimes?"

"A win." Justice grins. "I took him on to defend against the murder charge; I have done that successfully."

"Which means it's not our fault if the bastard spends the rest of his natural life in prison for the crimes he did commit." Trucy chirps out the words, sounding far too cheerful for the topic at hand. "That's all Polly's job stuff, though—tonight's supposed to be about my job."

"Don't worry, I haven't forgotten." Ema shrugs out of her purse, holding it out to Trucy. "If you've got somewhere to put this, I'd be happy to help with any other set-up you have."

"And try to figure out how I'm going to do my tricks." Trucy's grin says that this is an exercise the girl finds entertaining rather than stressful. "But you won't!"

"Science can conquer any problem!" Ema follows Trucy across the stage, leaving Lana to sink back into the shadows of the wings.

She isn't left to her own devices for long, though.

"Hi there."

"Hello." Lana studies the man at her side, trying to decide what she feels. He has aged, in the last ten years, though not so gracefully as Edgeworth has aged. Or perhaps it is just a different kind of aging—where Miles has lost ghosts and steel from his eyes, gained a kindness that Lana would not have expected, this man has gained them. Where Miles has become more elegant, more refined, it seems that Phoenix has forgotten how to shave and chosen comfort over conformity in his dress.

"It's been a while." Phoenix leans back against the wall. "But it's good to see you."

"The same." If she keeps her answers short, succinct, perhaps Lana will be able to avoid saying anything that they will both regret.

He's not a lawyer anymore. Ema had spoken with cold fury. He hasn't been for years, and he didn't tell me. They're saying he's crooked, that he forged evidence, but it's not true. The thing that's crooked is the whole damn system.

Ema was right. Phoenix wasn't crooked, and Lana is glad that her sister was right, glad that there are still good people in the world, even as she wonders how the last seven years have changed him.

"It's got to be hard." Phoenix's voice is quiet, low, so soft that the three young people currently scurrying about the stage likely won't hear him. "Coming back. Trying to reclaim your life after a decade."

She almost snaps at him. She almost tells him it's nothing he has any business discussing with her, because he has no idea what it's like.

Except he does, maybe. He was not in prison, did not have the pleasure of living like a beast until part of him believed that's what he was and the horror of immovable walls that somehow seemed to get closer with every passing month, but he spent seven years stripped of title, rank, reputation, and calling. It was a prison of a different sort, but given that the worst parts of prison were the people, perhaps it was not so very different after all.

"I'm..." Lana considers her words carefully. "I'm doing... all right. I'll have my bank accounts and my driver's license in two or three days, an apartment shortly after that."

"Good." Phoenix nods. "Absolutely fantastic, actually."

"Well, I can't very well live off my younger sister's good graces forever." Lana watches her sister, glad to see Ema smiling again as she helps Trucy. "The hardest part, so far, has been figuring out what to do with myself. What career to pursue."

Phoenix nods. "It's hard. Deciding if you want to go back to who you were before."

"I can't go back to who I was before. And... I don't think I should." Lana runs her tongue over the inside of her teeth, her own voice falling to a whisper. "I couldn't really pursue promotion. If I was given authority over others... I would just remember that time. Gant. And I know everyone else would, too. It wouldn't be good for me or the system."

"That's why you turned down Edgeworth's offer." Phoenix nods, slowly. "But there are other jobs related to the legal profession, you know. I hear being a defense attorney isn't a bad gig."

A surprised laugh slips from Lana's mouth, though she covers it a moment later with a cough. "I appreciate your belief in my abilities, but I'm not sure that would be a very good fit. Especially since the clients most likely to come to me, given my reputation, are those I would not wish to defend."

"Fair enough." Phoenix returns her smile. "And I'm guessing detective's right out?"

"There's already one Detective Skye, and she's brilliant at her job." Lana sighs.

"You got to see her in action yesterday, I hear." Phoenix studies her. "The action part of action, too, not the let-me-science-that-for-you part of the action."

Lana nods, not feeling up to putting her thoughts about last night into words quite yet.

"You could always consider finding another way to help. A way other than actually being part of the system. Kind of like you did yesterday." Phoenix tilts his head to the side. "A sort of... private investigator, say."

"A private investigator?" Lana arches an eyebrow.

"They just need a bachelor's degree, experience, and someone in the Prosecutor's Office to sign off that they're all official." Phoenix leans toward her. "I have it on good authority that someone there would definitely sign it."

"I..." Lana blinks, turning the idea over and over in her mind. "Give me some time to think about it, Mr. Wright."

"No problem." Phoenix levers himself off the wall. "We've got all the time in the world, now. Well—all the time that anyone has, which is an unknown, fickle, changeable amount. But take your time. Think about it. Find the path that fits for you."

"I will." She speaks the words to his retreating back as Phoenix Wright heads out to round up Apollo and Ema to go join the audience. "I very much will."

XXX

She'll probably take Phoenix up on his suggestion.

Lana realizes it as she's sitting in the audience, watching as Trucy Wright puts on a brilliant performance. There's no reason for her not to, and she still has the skills that made her a good prosecutor, as well as new ones that will fit with her likely-glamorized idea of what a private investigator does.

She will be able to save people, again, on her own terms.

She will be one of the good guys. Bent, twisted, changed by her fall and her choices, but not broken. Not taken out of the game completely.

Ema's hand finds hers, after ten or fifteen minutes. "Watch this one closely. It's amazing, and I'm trying to figure out how it's done still."

Lana nods, watching the girl on the stage as an audience participant wraps her tight in chains and ropes. When he's done, it's clear that Trucy can barely move.

A black cloth is placed over the girl, the audience chants out a count of five, and when the cloth is pulled away only the restraints are left.

Trucy appears on the other end of the stage a moment later, a red rose in each hand, grinning triumphantly as she bows to the audience, the spotlight sharp and white where it outlines her body.

Lana finds her eyes returning, instead, to the collection of chains on the stage floor.

They aren't gone. Even a magician can't make the chains and scars of the past go away completely.

But they can be slipped. They can be left behind, taken out of the spotlight.

Squeezing Ema's hand, Lana smiles at her little sister, the beautiful strong woman who has become more than Lana could ever have hoped for.

Ema smiles back at her while the audience cheers for Trucy, and for a few glorious, precious seconds, all is right with the world.