"The marriage bed" had certain connotations.
Those connotations were intriguing, more than a little naughty, and terribly exciting. Of course, Phoenix Wright thought as he stretched and yawned his way into another morning, he and Miles Edgeworth weren't yet married. Despite having spent several weeks in their new home, they weren't even close to it. Perhaps that explained why they'd cuddled during chilly nights, kissed to end their days, and nothing more.
This was a perfectly normal state for two boyfriends to be in, or a weirdly affectionate one for two roommates. In no way, however, did it feel like what he'd pictured once he and the love of his life had moved in together. Both of them knew they'd made a fast decision with getting the condo. If they hadn't taken this very big step, then their romance would seem on track. But instead, Phoenix was locked out of the bathroom while the person who shared his bed each night took a shower, because Miles was very particular about being seen in anything skimpier than a five hundred dollar spa-quality robe.
"It's Edgeworth," Phoenix told the ceiling. Holding conversations with the building helped him think of something besides Miles' pale, bare flesh under the water. "He doesn't rush into things. And I won't rush him."
Except for how he rushed into kissing me on that balcony. Or throwing away his career here and going back to Europe. Or deciding to buy this place to begin with.
That was all fine. Just because Miles had been impulsive with buying a condo for the two of them certainly didn't mean that he owed Phoenix any other behavior. Of course... 'owed' and 'would be nice' were two very different concepts. As his conversation with the ceiling sputtered out, Phoenix looked morosely down the length of his body. The morning's typical lump greeted him under the covers.
With a sigh, he turned to his side and waited for Miles to finish in the shower. (Once it was available, he'd also... finish in the shower.)
At least it was a comfortable bed.
* * *
Apollo took a deep breath. "I have to prove that Sheila didn't poison the victim through her scalp, even though someone planted that bottle of poisoned dye. And I can do that if I can prove that the victim never colored her hair. She looked like a natural blonde. Maybe."
That part was fine. The next step was the one that was tripping up his brain.
"We're thinking that there must be some dirty pics on the boyfriend's camera," Athena said. "Super simple, right? We check to see if the carpet matched the drapes, and if it does why are you making that face at us, Boss?"
"We're idiots," Apollo muttered before Phoenix could respond. "If she went to that spa all the time—"
"Oh," Athena groaned. "You're totally right! That won't work. I bet she waxed."
"Stop." Phoenix ran a hand across his face. Just because this was the most salacious case the Agency had taken in, well, forever was no excuse for his junior attorneys' minds wandering so far afield. This was a case like any other, with process and evidence and motives. Nothing fundamental had changed just because the victim had collapsed on her way to a producer's orgy in the Hollywood Hills. With three A-listers in attendance. And a Grammy winner. And some man in a full-body latex suit. "I will ask Ema to have them run labs on the victim's hair. If there was poison on the scalp, the strands would hold onto some even after a shampooing."
He never thought he'd be grateful for the nitpicky process of choosing employee health insurance packages. Some had offered follicle tests for drug screenings. Phoenix had looked elsewhere, almost offended that they even considered his office as a potential den of ill repute. Of course, that was before his junior employees had planned on arguing a case with dirty selfies as their only evidence. Maybe he should reconsider those tests.
"That approach probably makes more sense," Apollo admitted.
"Pardon, Boss." Athena smiled sheepishly. "Guess we kinda had 'down and dirty' on the brain. Not that you can really blame us. Did you see the pictures of that guy in the bodysuit?"
"It's called a gimp suit." Apollo nodded, proud of whatever godforsaken research he'd conducted. "Apparently he's going to show up in it when he testifies, to really set the stage for our client's social circles. So we might get lucky with a heat wave. If he passes out on the stand, the trial's gotta go to a second day. Right?"
Athena frowned. "It's February."
"Oh my god," Phoenix whimpered as he covered his face again. "Why did we take this client? This is going to be our reputation. This is who we are as lawyers, now. Brazilian waxes and gimp suits."
"To be fair," Apollo said, "did we really have a great reputation before this case?" Phoenix looked at him with the measured, perfectly reasonable hint of a threat that comment deserved. "I. Uh. Sorry, Mr. Wright. I'll go talk to Ema about the follicle tests. Don't worry about calling her."
Perhaps he'd glowered a bit too intently, Phoenix thought as Apollo shouldered his bag and darted for the door. But really, his reputation wasn't that bad. Just because he'd been framed for seven measly years as a sign of all that was wrong with criminal defense attorneys was no reason to... Forget it. I can't even convince myself. Fine, gimp suits it is.
At the edge of his vision, he saw his other junior associate's expression and turned toward her. From the smirk Athena was giving him, she might have developed sudden psychic powers on top of her emotional assessments. He was all for hiring people with an insight into people's reactions, but outright mind-reading was a bit much. With a firm effort, Phoenix cleared any thoughts of latex bodysuits, or orgies, or even the very standard sex that he was not getting in his own house. "Can I help you with something else?"
She leaned in and smirked. "Okay, now that Polly's gone: we weren't the only ones with 'down and dirty' on the brain. Right?"
Jolted, Phoenix's eyes widened. Holy crap, she is psychic.
"I knew it! Your voice was all tense when we mentioned—"
"This is perfectly normal!" Phoenix said, even as he knew this was a conversation he absolutely should not be having with his subordinate. "We don't need to rush!"
"That's... wait. What?" Athena's confusion morphed into surprise, and a blush spread across her cheeks and nose. "Oh. Wow. I am super sorry. Es tut mir leid to über levels. That was really not the kind of tension I thought I was hearing. More of a 'congratulations, you strained something' sort of tension."
Well, this was just fantastic. "It's fine," Phoenix said, feeling a hundred times more humiliated than she looked. The romance between him and Miles had become a point of public discussion when they'd needed the group's collective effort to put them back together. Sex, at least, should stay private. When sex happened. If it ever did. "It's fine." Was that really his voice? He didn't need Athena's supercharged hearing to know that he had sounded nowhere near 'fine.'
"You haven't moved as fast as you want," Athena guessed. Speaking over his protests that it was none of her business, she continued, "Boss, you sound a lot more upset than I bet you even realize. I've heard how much you love him in your voice. It's really sweet. I'm jealous. But this? It's not sweet. It's a big problem that's getting bigger. You've gotta talk to him."
"Yeah," Phoenix grumbled. "I know." It was absolutely the right thing to do and he did not want to do it. Sex was supposed to be impulsive and fun, a geyser of sensation that caught them when it erupted. Instead, this felt like scheduling love in their day planners. Their first time together would have twenty efficient minutes blocked off before they left to meet with their financial advisor.
"I will talk to him," Phoenix repeated when Athena's hopeful expression became a bit too strained. "I will. Now please forget we ever had this conversation, and never mention a word of it to Trucy. Or anyone. Just keep your mind off my personal life and go research your gimp suits."
With a heroic struggle to control her expression, Athena nodded and saluted. "You've got it, Boss. I won't think about your gimp suit."
"What does my voice sound like right now, Athena?" Phoenix asked through gritted teeth.
"Like I should go," she said, and went.
* * *
They'd been nice days in many other ways. The household experimented with a new restaurant for takeout, and it had been a rousing success with plans for a return visit. The only neighbors Miles and Phoenix didn't like (loud, no sense of boundaries) listed their condo for sale. Trucy asked if she could go over to a girl's house from school, because now she was making friends in her classes.
Even what seemed like a negative somehow turned positive when Miles brought home files for a delicate case. They'd managed to avoid working at home for weeks, though of course it had to happen eventually. But Miles became rumpled and tired by the end of that long evening, and—adorably—kept acting like he wasn't. To Phoenix's amazement, he was actually allowed to dote on Miles a bit and then pry him away from his work. Miles let himself be led away from his desk, they kissed gentle and slow, and then they both got some much-needed sleep instead of arguing over the blurring of home and office.
This conversation, though, would not be fun. He was sure of it.
"Edgeworth, I need to ask you something."
Miles looked up from his drink. Concern tightened his expression. "What is it?"
This wouldn't be easy. Phoenix hadn't said that magic, terrible, 'we need to talk' phrase, but Miles already looked worried. All week, every word Phoenix had spoken earned ever more pointed looks from Athena. Now Phoenix's anxiety must have come through worse than ever, and so he and Miles had started off on the wrong foot. Even touching on the topic of their non-existent sex life could feel like pressuring Miles. That would turn into something even worse.
Even so, he still had to do it. With resolve, Phoenix took a seat near Miles: close enough to feel intimate, but not enough for physical contact. "It's about us." As fear flared in Miles' eyes, Phoenix amended, "I love where we are now, and I love you. It's about us past where we are now, though."
That lessened Miles' worry, but only slightly. He had to be too confused to feel at ease. "I know we rushed into this condominium purchase, and perhaps we should have waited. But I have to admit, although it might seem a logical next step, I'm not at a place to consider marriage. Not yet."
Marriage? Phoenix swallowed. "No. Uh. Me neither. I mean. We can have that talk some other day, but... no. Right. That's not what I meant."
"Very eloquent, Wright," Miles said cautiously.
"I wanted to know how you felt about...." Grimacing, Phoenix shook his head. He was hardly some casanova, but from the experiences he could claim, sex wasn't a negotiation. It didn't get discussed like they were at a conference table. How was anyone supposed to hold this conversation? "I'm just curious about when you think... I mean...." Whatever scant composure he'd mustered failed him completely. "We're sleeping together a lot for two guys who aren't sleeping together."
After a moment, confusion smoothed out around Miles' eyes and brows. His cheeks colored soon after. "Ah. I understand what you mean, now."
"Well?" Phoenix prompted in the following silence. It was hardly the gentlest of responses. He'd already whiffed this, clearly.
"Physical relations aren't something into which I enter lightly. You know that."
Phoenix couldn't help but interrupt Miles, despite the twinge of annoyance he got in return. He didn't want to ruin what they had, but he'd raised the point and Miles hadn't run. Phoenix also wanted to stop greeting each morning hard and aching. "Okay, but we've pretty much said we're it for each other, right? How much not-lightly can you get? We're in our house, Edgeworth. We wake up next to each other!"
From the way Miles' jaw had set, this was absolutely heading into worst case scenario land. Terrific. "I didn't realize you assumed immediate intimate access. That would have been nice to know beforehand."
"Well, yeah! I... no." Phoenix shook his head. "I don't think I have a right to anything, but who buys a bed together and then doesn't do anything with it?"
"We sleep in it," Miles said archly. "Beds are well suited for that."
"I want you." Phoenix stared at his own fingers where they rested on the table. It was easier than meeting Miles' eyes. "I'm sorry if that makes you uncomfortable, but you were the one who started everything by going all remora on my face."
"Uncomfortable," Miles said, and stood, "is an understatement."
Buying such an enormous condominium had a hidden downside. In the middle of a fight, it was all too easy to sulk in their own far-flung corners. When Trucy came home late, the tension sent her scampering to her room without a word from anyone. It hung thick like fog down every hallway. Eventually the clock ticked past any reasonable hour to go to sleep, even on a Friday. Though he'd prefer to stay in his couch-and-blanket nest and brood more in front of the television, Phoenix relented and headed for bed.
The sight of Miles' still form made him pause in the doorway. The man hadn't woken when Phoenix entered. This wasn't how the script went in Phoenix's mind. Miles was supposed to either say everything was all right, or launch into a royal snit and send Phoenix back to the couch in an effort to protect his ruffle-clad virtue.
For a good ten seconds Phoenix stood there, uncertain. They'd fought plenty of times, but this was their first real argument since moving in together. He didn't know what to do next. Whatever, he decided abruptly and pulled off his shirt. It was late, he was tired, and Miles was deep asleep. He pulled on his pajamas right there, rather than in the bathroom, and crawled into bed.
"We'll talk tomorrow," Miles informed him. His eyes didn't open, and his breathing never changed its pace.
You couldn't have let me assume you were really asleep? Phoenix thought, stared silently at the ceiling, and waited for oblivion to come. And waited, and waited.
* * *
"Hi," Trucy said when Phoenix walked into the kitchen, then focused on the plastic baggies she was arranging. "I'm heading out."
"Oh?" Phoenix asked, poured a cup of coffee from the pot she'd brewed, and reached for the cereal box on top of the fridge before he remembered that this new kitchen had ample room in its cabinets. Every box and appliance was put neatly away, like Miles preferred. It was annoying, sometimes.
"Uh huh." In neat succession, Trucy popped on the lid of her coffee thermos, grabbed the snack bags, and tucked everything in her backpack. "I'm going to run some new tricks past Apollo. I figure if I can get them past his eyes, then I'll be able to fool everyone. Also, I don't want to be here when you and Miles finish whatever argument you were having last night. So. Bye!"
Grimacing, Phoenix looked to where Miles was sitting with a cup of tea and the newspaper. Normally, Phoenix found it charming how Miles still read an actual newspaper, just like all of his other old-fashioned habits. On that morning, though, it was all too apparent that a newspaper could serve as an excellent shield. Miles flipped to the next page without meeting his eyes. Every movement was rigid.
"Like that," Trucy muttered, grabbed her pack, and hurried toward the front door.
So. They were doing the silent treatment, even though Miles had promised him they'd talk. Fine. Sure. Phoenix could do this. He wouldn't break. With determination, Phoenix poured milk on his cereal, returned it to the fridge, and took a seat opposite from Miles. He scooped, and he crunched, and he drank. Halfway through Phoenix's coffee and most of the way through his breakfast, Miles hadn't looked up from that damned paper and the remnants of his tea were growing cold.
"Fine," Phoenix relented, bolted down more of his drink, and sat the mug aside with a clatter. "I'll start. Last night... kind of went off the rails."
"To say the least." Miles didn't look up.
With a surge of annoyance, Phoenix pulled the paper from him. It fluttered to the floor like dead leaves. "Hey. Edgeworth. Look at me, all right? This is important. Even if you don't care how—"
That wasn't the brick wall Phoenix expected to face. The pain in Miles' eyes said that he'd done anything but dismiss the previous night. Phoenix's words died in his throat. "You were saying?" Miles eventually prompted in the silence. He was very still where he sat, and let the paper lie in a messy heap at his feet.
Phoenix finished his coffee before it went cold, and because he didn't trust his voice. It came out all rough and hesitant when he did speak. "I'm sorry. We needed to have that talk at some point, but it shouldn't have happened like that. I shouldn't have surprised you. Or made you feel like I was pressuring you."
"We should have had it before we moved in," Miles agreed, looking away. "If we'd been smart about things. But that hasn't been our priority in recent months." He leaned over and collected the paper, tidying it back into a neat stack, but left it folded and pushed off to one side. "And Wright... to whatever you were about to refer, I promise you that I do care."
Phoenix looked out the window. It was a dim morning, with clouds that would probably break up by midday. "I don't know what I'm supposed to say. I love you. I'd never want to hurt you. So if you say 'no,' it's a no. But I just..." He just didn't understand. Miles had been the one to make their relationship physical in the first place. A kiss was hardly equal to sex, but after that balcony confession it had certainly felt like Miles was attracted to him. Wanted him. They'd both gotten awkward over those nudes at the Getty.
There was only one explanation he could think of. Swallowing hard, Phoenix wished he hadn't already finished his drink. "Do you think we made a mistake moving in? Is that it?"
"What? No. Of course not. That is... unless it set up expectations. Which, going by your reaction last night, it must have." Miles began rubbing the thumb of one hand over the bones of the other wrist. It was a throwback to nervous gestures that Phoenix hadn't seen from him for a long time. "I'm sorry, but—"
"I love you," Phoenix said uncertainly, and with not a little fear.
"I love you, too," Miles immediately countered. "Please don't doubt that. It just takes me longer to be comfortable with physical relations. That's all."
Relaxing, Phoenix sat back and studied him. Miles Edgeworth looked shaky like he hadn't in a decade, but was still the man Phoenix knew. More, he was still the man who'd purchased this condominium and, caught up in their romance, agreed that he couldn't wait for a proper, sensible timeline to move into it with Phoenix. Most of all, he was a man who was telling the truth. No magatama was needed to see that.
Was that really it, then? Miles was just nervous? "All right," Phoenix said. "It's okay. I'm sorry I turned it it into a big deal. I made my problem into your problem. 'Longer' is all right. I was worried that we were facing a 'never' situation, and I just freaked out a little, I guess."
Miles smiled, though it was one of his older, smaller ones, and stood to put his teacup in the dishwasher. "Certainly not 'never.'" As if to prove his point, he stopped after one step and leaned down to kiss Phoenix. It started off soft and hesitant, a reminder that they were both still new to all the formal commitments they'd made. After a few seconds, the heat of all those long years of inadvertent foreplay flared. Phoenix deepened the kiss as warmth bloomed in his chest, then his belly. His hand trailed down Miles' neck, and one finger caught the top button of the fine silk pajama top that Miles still wore—
With a clatter of teacup against saucer, Miles jerked away. He bit his lower lip and said nothing.
Dammit, Phoenix thought, miserable. Had he pushed? If he said they could take their time but then he pushed, he was an asshole. Awful. Gross. But it had really felt like Miles was kissing back with just as much passion, and Phoenix just didn't know what to do with all of the information of the last five minutes. "Sorry," he mumbled, and wondered for one defeated moment the two of them really could work together, or if they'd rushed into something too big to handle. "It felt like you wanted that."
As soon as the words came out, he cringed. It sounded like testimony in an assault case. Terrible testimony, of the kind that a prosecutor could tear apart. The mere fact that he'd said it, thought it, felt it... Phoenix's stomach burned, sick. They'd just said that Miles needed longer, and then the second he'd felt even a bit of heat from the other man—
"Stop, Wright," Miles said, but it was gentle. He laid feather-gentle fingertips against Phoenix's cheek, and whatever miserable expression Phoenix was making fell away. "You weren't wrong to respond to that kiss. I felt... excitement. You weren't imagining things." Hesitating, he put the saucer and teacup in the sink, then returned to the table. He knelt next to Phoenix and rested his hands on Phoenix's knee. "I didn't pull back because of you. Everything that you were doing was in response to a movement that I'd made. You were more cautious than you're giving yourself credit for, and I appreciate that. It was me."
By that point, Phoenix had accepted that he would say nothing correct that morning, and stayed silent.
"Losing control unnerves me. Sexual relations involve a complete loss of control. I love you, Phoenix Wright. Please don't doubt that."
Mute, Phoenix shook his head to say that no, he never would. To think, only two months ago he'd never touched Miles Edgeworth as more than a friend, and now the man was open and honest before him with a declaration of love. Whatever the difficulty was, they could tackle it together. They always did.
"I will want to be with you," Miles continued, emphasizing his words in a way that sent fresh heat running through Phoenix. In Miles' low, cultured voice that usually talked of legal decisions and cultured living, it sounded positively filthy. "And I trust you. It will just take me a while to trust every sensation that comes along with that, and not reject them midway through. When we... connect like that, after so long, I want it to be perfect. From the very first time."
'Perfect' and 'first time' didn't really go together, but still, that was a lot more information than Phoenix had the night before. They could work with this. "All right," Phoenix said, and squeezed Miles' hands. "Then you set the pace. I'll respond, and if you need to stop, I'll understand. But unless you start something, I won't. Okay?"
"Thank you," Miles said, and kissed him again. After that he pulled back, frowning. "Why are you smiling? Like something's funny?"
"That was a great first fight for our new place. It lasted a whole night but then we fixed it as soon as we tried. See? A first time, and it was perfect." Phoenix grinned. "Pretty encouraging, I think."
"And I think," Miles said dryly, "that we're more experienced with arguing than with anything else. Well, then. I still need to work on those case files before Monday."
"Sure. Of course." Phoenix nodded toward the niche Miles had converted into his office. It was a small but beautiful space, with a broad window that faced the hills. Not that Miles bothered to look up from his work, of course. The man was utterly single-minded with a task in front of him. "And you're right. We're pretty good at arguing."
The younger, uncertain Miles fell away. It was the modern, more grounded man who smirked and nodded at Phoenix, and brushed his shoulder as he moved to leave.
After a moment of thought, Phoenix reached for another cup of coffee. He wasn't going to push, and that meant he wouldn't share the thought that had just risen. He would respect Miles' boundaries, but in return, Miles could hardly expect him to shut down his imagination entirely. Yes, it was true: they were much better at arguing than nearly anything else. They'd practiced arguing an awful lot.
Phoenix smirked into the steam rolling off his fresh drink. That probably just means that we should start practicing other things, too.