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Strawberry Kisses

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It was spring, and the strawberries were in bloom. 

It was exactly 7:05 AM on the first Saturday of April, and as Phoenix Wright set to arranging his baked goods at his booth, he heard a low, baritone ‘good morning’ from across the way. 

Looking up, he couldn’t help but feel a hot blush come across his cheeks.  There, like he had been for the past three years, was the organic foods guy. 

Every Saturday during the spring, summer, and fall farmer’s market, Phoenix shut down his small town bakery.  It wasn’t that he particularly liked missing the busiest day out of the week to go make some extra cash at the market; no, he figured that, by now, going to the farmer’s market was more a habit than anything else.  The bakery, which he had inherited from a friend when she moved to southern California, was open every other day of the week.  Every Sunday through Friday Phoenix would be hard at work making sure that his pastries were freshly made and arranged in the showcase, close enough to the case that people could see the details, but far enough away so that they didn’t steam up the glass.  Open from 6:30 AM to 4:00 PM, the bakery had basically taken over his life.

It wasn’t that he minded the job, no.  He actually liked the job a lot, despite the early mornings.  The commute wasn’t so bad, either, considering that the duplex he lived in was the bakery on the lower half of the building, and his home on the upper half.  But as convenient as that was, sometimes he wished for days where he got out of the house. 

To be completely honest, it made going downtown that much more enjoyable.  The extra hours spent on Fridays making sure that everything would be set for the early morning was worth it, in the end.  He had everything he could possibly need; doughnuts, turnovers, pies, homemade bread, jams, jellies, rolls, and small, bite-sized caramels littered his table.  But at the moment, all was forgotten for the man standing opposite his table. 

The organic foods guy—as Maya liked to call him, Phoenix had never really caught his name—looked the same as he always had.  His light, feathery gray hair was bright in the sunlight, two thick pieces framing each side of his face.  Slight eyebrows graced his forehead above steel grey eyes, and the sleeves of the white button-up he usually wore were rolled up to the elbows.  He wore a pair of khaki slacks with dark suspenders, and like always, his lips were quirked up in a small smile. 

“G-good morning,” Phoenix sputtered.  Absently he missed Mia and Maya, who would usually do all the talking for him.  Ever since they had moved, though, he’d been fumbling through his conversations with the organic foods man.  If Phoenix wanted to thank anyone for reminding him about what sort of season it was, it was the man in front of them. 

April brought avocados, strawberries, lemons, oranges, celery, sprouts, and spinach, every year, but the most memorable to Phoenix were the strawberries.  They always sold out first for the man, but the were in season for most of the summer.  Every once in a while Phoenix wondered what it would be like to make jam out of the man’s fruit.

Purely platonically speaking, of course, he cursed himself.  As far as he knew, any romantic feelings he felt toward the farmer was completely one-sided.  Three words into their conversation and he already wanted to disappear. 

“Your…” organic foods guy started, and Phoenix couldn’t help but look up in wonder.  It was rare that they ever shared more than a few words with one another, “Your bread.”

“It’s homemade,” the man offered, and the farmer reddened.

“I was going to ask for a price.”

Phoenix raised his eyebrows.  Well, three years into this…whatever this was and he figured a little business back and forth was only typical.

The man opposite him raised a red kerchief bundle when there was no response. “Or a barter.  I have some extra fruit that I could offer.  It’s—,”

“Strawberries,” Phoenix heard himself say with a grin.  The man’s eyebrows rose on his forehead before the soft smile returned.

“Yes.”

“You always have so many,” Phoenix smiled in an explanation. “Take anything you want, it was all baked yesterday.”

The man’s eyes scanned the table in front of him, and Phoenix only wished he could see it from his eyes.  It was a moment before a strong hand reached out toward one of the loaves of bread.  Before it landed, however, he shot a wary eye toward the man seated.  With an encouraging nod, Phoenix watched as he procured the bread and held it like a football in the crook of his arm. 

“Thank you,” he nodded before he was turning back to attend to some of the customers at his own booth.  Phoenix watched as the trim frame moved, wishing more than anything that he could sit next to him, or in the booth next to him, or even speak to him again.  At the moment, he settled for weighing the strawberries in his hands.  They felt like they would make great jam.

 


 

Phoenix saw the Organic Foods Guy again the next week, and the week after that, and even the week after that, but it wasn’t until the first week of May that he finally mustered up the courage to go talk to him.  If you could see me now, Maya, he thought to himself with a pang of dread.  For all the grief she’d given him about Organic Foods Guy before they’d done business, she’d absolutely devour this turn of events.  He’d kept a special jar of jam in his bag on the bike ride there.  Maybe one day he would invest in a driver’s license, but until then, using his small trailer for the baked goods for his stand.  It’s gonna be today, he thought. I’m finally going to learn Organic Food Guy’s name. 

It was a bleary morning, the smog from the city still heavy in the air, but Phoenix breathed it in like it was the freshest air he’d ever breathed.  He had even more spring in his step as he set up the stand, making sure that everything was in its proper place. 

Like clockwork, at 7:05 AM, he heard the conventional ‘good morning’ from across the way.  Straightening, Phoenix turned to see that Organic Foods Guy was standing aside his table. 

Like always, May brought more colors to his stand.  Bell peppers, apricots, raspberries, rhubarb, and blueberries colored his table like an amazing display of crayons.  Phoenix couldn’t help but smile at the man, who was wearing much the same as he always did, except this time, the suspenders hung limp at his sides. 

“Good morning,” he grinned, setting down the last loaf of bread again.  The moment continued on, and neither of them moved, Phoenix’s blue eyes locked in the man’s gray ones.  He wasn’t sure if he was just projecting, but something felt…different about the air.  He figured that three weeks of just ‘good morning’ was long enough before their barter went forgotten.  Steeling himself, he turned and reached into his bag.  Organic Foods Guy had given him enough strawberries for two pints of jam, and Phoenix figured that he should share it with the grower.  He took another loaf of bread, as well.  If he could get more fruit, he could make more jam and it would be better for the both of them.  By the time he turned around, he saw that Organic Foods Guy had already turned his back.  For a moment, he felt his shoulders fall, thinking that it would be just a week more of ‘good morning’. 

The almost-distant memory of their conversation three weeks ago spurred him on.

“Hey!” He called, moving out from behind his stand and across the way.  Organic Foods Guy looked up in surprise, from where he was pulling out the day’s newspaper.  He stopped with the paper halfway open, eyebrows raised and mouth slightly ajar.  His eyes turned to the jar that Phoenix held in his hands, and one brow returned to a confused position.  How it had happened that Phoenix was actually standing in front of him, he didn’t know, but he was at a loss for what he was actually going to say.  Maybe he should have thought something through first.  His tongue, however, picked a fantastic time to stop working, so to ask his question, he held out the jar.  The gray eyes turned to it, then back to Phoenix’s flushed face, and back again.  Both men, unsure what to do, just stared at each other for a long moment.  Phoenix finally found his voice again, and managed, “It’s jam.”

“I see,” Organic Foods Guy nodded, and a small smile came to his face as he eyed the bread. “Are you going to tell me that’s bread?”

Phoenix blanched.  If it weren’t for the amusement in the man’s eyes, Phoenix would have felt humiliated, but when he saw there was no malice, he took a deep breath in. 

“Well, it is,” he muttered before he cleared his throat. “I made it with the strawberries you gave me, and I don’t mean to boast, but…it’s really good,” he offered, and looked back up.  Organic Foods Guy’s face softened, and the earnestness in which he watched Phoenix made a smile come to the man’s face. “Since you gave me the strawberries, I figure it’s only fair that you get some jam, too.”

Organic Foods Guy’s eyebrows rose in surprise, and he looked from the jar, to Phoenix, and back to the jar again, and then back at Phoenix, before he raised his hands in front of himself. “I couldn’t possibly—,”

“Take it as a thank you,” Phoenix insisted, “or as a barter.  I live by myself, and I can’t eat it all by myself.” The man behind the booth’s shoulders relaxed, and he eyed the bread again.

“How do you explain that, then?”

“…Part of the trade?”

That finally cracked Organic Foods Guy, and he ducked his head to try and mask his snickering.  Phoenix couldn’t help but smile.  The man composed himself after another moment before he turned back to his booth.

“What would you like?” He asked, the traces of laughter still on his face.  Phoenix pursed his lips and let his eyes scan the table in front of him.  In theory, he could use everything but the bell peppers and flowers.  The rhubarb would work if he had something else to compliment it, but the raspberries…

“Your raspberries look good,” he nodded to the red berries.  Organic Foods Guy finally took the jam from his hands, and turned to where the berries were nestled.  As he worked, pulling out a small container for them, he eyed the bread again. 

“And what do you want for the bread?” He asked as he pulled a handful of raspberries out of their place and into the container.  Phoenix opened his mouth to say ‘rhubarb’, and had he not had another idea, he would have said so, but let a grin come to his face instead. 

“Your number?” He asked in a rush, and watched when the other man’s eyes widened.  His hands stilled, and he turned to look at the other man in bewilderment.  Immediately Phoenix felt terrible, and he started backing away. “I mean, if that doesn’t work, the rhubarb looks good—,” He cut himself off.  Organic Foods Guy, face calm, only fixed him with a small smile.  He reached across the peppers to where a few business cards were stacked.  He carried a pen in his breast pocket, and took it out.  Phoenix was mesmerized as he clicked the pen open and wrote ten digits across the back. 

“Gladly,” he grinned, holding the card between his pointer and middle finger across the table.  Had Phoenix any friends at all, they would have come along and closed his mouth for him, but as it stood, he could only gape for a moment.  This guy—whose name he still didn’t know—had actually played along.  He finally shut his mouth and smiled, handing the bread across the table and taking the card. 

“Thanks,” he forced himself not to immediately look at it.  There would be enough of that when he was home again.

“If you text me, I’ll let you know how the jam is,” Organic Foods Guy offered, and Phoenix nodded vehemently.

“Sure!  Sounds good!” He smiled, and raised a hand in a wave. “I should get back to my table—,”

“The raspberries,” the other man cut him off, and Phoenix took the offered container again. 

“Right!  I’ll—I’ll talk to you later!” He sputtered.  From the corner of his eye, he could see someone approaching his booth, and he scurried away, slipping the card into his breast pocket. 

 


 

Later that night, Phoenix lay on his back, staring up at the ceiling of his apartment’s bedroom.  The fan lazily swung in a circle, trying to move the air that hung around.  He hadn’t bothered to change yet; he liked how the farmer’s market smelled, and as long as he could sit in his thoughts, the better off he would be.  The rest of the morning had passed without more words between himself and Organic Foods Guy, and when he’d gotten home, he’d almost forgotten about the card.  After he’d felt it moving around in his pocket again, he felt a knot of anxiety in his stomach.  What if he’d left a fake number, or even worse, written a note for him to not come back?  A part of his brain told him that he was being ridiculous, but he refused to listen to it.  He was about to call it a night when his phone buzzed in his pocket.  He pulled it out to see that Maya had sent him a picture of herself and her sister at the beach, with the caption ‘we miss you!’.  A smile came to his face, and like he did so many times, he wondered what she would do in his position.

That was a silly question.  He knew what she would do.  She’d already have texted him.  In fact, she probably would have sent him a message with her name right after he’d given her his number. 

That would have been a good idea, he thought, and spurred on by what Maya would do, he reached into his pocket. 

The business card was quite simple; white stationery with magenta wording, and an emblem on the left side.  It was small,  with a red-colored silhouette of a lilac in the middle, and two circles around it.  Between the two circles, in a worn typeface, was printed ‘GREGORY EDGEWORTH FARMS’.  An absent thought that the man didn’t quite look like a ‘Gregory’ passed through Phoenix’s mind before he finally landed on the information.  There, in a much clearer, bolder typeface read Miles Edgeworth

Miles Edgeworth. 

Phoenix tried it out quietly, once.

Miles Edgeworth. 

It was so much better than Organic Foods Guy. 

Giddiness took over his actions, and before he could really think of what he was doing, he was sitting up and unlocking his phone.  His hands buzzed as he did so, and he couldn’t have removed the smile from his face if he tried.  It took him three times to find his contact list, and four times to spell the name right.

Miles Edgeworth. 

Send message.

 

[To: Miles Edgeworth]
Hey, this is Phoenix Wright from the Farmer’s Market, I’m the baker from across the aisle.

 

He hit send before he could think about it, and then locked his phone.  If he didn’t look at it, he wouldn’t think about it.  In the meantime, he preoccupied himself with sending Maya a quick message.

 

[To: Maya Fey]
Organic Foods Guy = Miles Edgeworth

 

He was about to lock his phone, or go read his message to Miles, when there was a soft buzz.  Surprised, he looked to see ‘New Message:  Miles Edgeworth’ pop up in his notifications.  His eyes widened, and his lips parted with a smile. 

 

[From: Miles Edgeworth]
Hello, Phoenix Wright.  I’m opening your jam right now.

 

“Oh no,” Phoenix fell back  onto his bed and covered his face with his pillow. “Why did I text him now?  I should have waited a day…” he lamented into the cushion.  At the moment, he’d forgotten completely about replying to the man, and he shot straight up again. “What if he hates it?” Phoenix’s eyes widened.  He hadn’t even asked if Miles had liked the bread the first time, what if he wanted something else?  What if he’d wanted to avoid Phoenix?  What if he only said ‘good morning’ every morning because he was trying to be polite?  What if he had just thrown away the bread when he’d gotten home? 

When the phone buzzed again, it scared Phoenix so much that he squealed.  Hiding behind the pillow like it was a blast shield, he peeked at the screen.  New Message:  Miles Edgeworth’ stared back at him. 

Maya, help me, he thought as he unlocked the phone.

 

[From: Miles Edgeworth]
Congratulations.  You have ruined me for store bought jam.

 

That was good, right?

 

[To: Miles Edgeworth]
That’s good, right?  :D

[From: Miles Edgeworth]
You have to tell me how you made it.

 

Phoenix grinned.  So it was a good thing. 

 

[To: Miles Edgeworth]
Secret family recipe XD I think the only thing it’s missing is rhubarb. 

[From:  Miles Edgeworth]
Do you need any?

[To: Miles Edgeworth]
I can pick some up from the store!

[From: Miles Edgeworth]
Nonsense.  I have some that you can use.

[To: Miles Edgeworth]
I can’t do that!  That’s your livelihood!

 

For a minute, there was no response.  At least, not the rapid fire that had been coming before.  Did I insult him? Phoenix wondered with a grimace.  As he sat quietly in the pause, his stomach began to growl.  With a groan, he stood and moved out of his bedroom again, flipping on the lights.  The sun was still out, but just far enough down on its descent that he needed an extra boost to see.  Like he was on autopilot, Phoenix bent to take out a frying pan.  As soon as his hand was around the handle, there was a loud vibration from above him.  He started, forgetting that there was a counter above his head.  He cried out in pain just in time for the pan to hit his foot and make him grunt again.

“Ow, ow, ow,” he hissed, taking a full step away from the counter before he looked at his phone again.  He unlocked it to see that there was a picture message waiting for him.  Still wincing, he picked up the phone and squinted at it. 

In the setting sunlight, he could see three lines of large leaves reaching from a few feet in front of the camera down to where the lens stopped picking up pixels.  For a minute, he just stared as his mental picture of Miles changed.  Up until then, he had imagined that Miles lived in a downtown apartment like himself and just commuted wherever he had to go.  Now, looking at the picture, he felt jarred.  He should’ve known that Miles would live on a farm.  It was only logical.  When the shock was over, he returned to the caption that had come with it.

 

[From: Miles Edgeworth]
This is going to go bad before I can sell all of it. 

[From: Miles Edgeworth]
Please relieve me of my curse.

 

Pain forgotten, Phoenix laughed.  It was with a smile that he typed out his response.

 

[To: Miles Edgeworth]
XD I mean when you put it that way…

 

He hit ‘send’ and set the phone back on the counter.  He would have been content to leave it at that when his mind started replaying their morning interaction again.  Miles had asked him for a trade, so if Phoenix wanted to stay on his good side, he should do the same…right?

 

[To: Miles Edgeworth]
What can I trade you?

[From: Miles Edgeworth]
Trade me?  You’d be doing me a favor just by taking the rhubarb 

[To: Miles Edgeworth]
And you would’ve done me a favor by taking the jam XD Seriously, what do you want?

[From: Miles Edgeworth]
Bake something equivalent to how much you want.
I can give you my address and you can come pick some.

 

Whoa. 

Phoenix read that again, put the phone down to actually focus on his dinner, and then picked it up to read the text again.  Yesterday, he didn’t even know Organic Foods Guy’s name.  Now Miles was offering to let him into his home, to pick some vegetables.  He wasn’t sure if this was moving too fast, or just right.  I mean, I have known the guy for three years.  ‘Known’ was a strong word.  They’d been acquaintances?  No, that would have meant that Phoenix would have known his name before today. 

Business partners?

 

[To: Miles Edeworth]
Sure!  How does quiche sound?

[From: Miles Edgeworth]
Quiche sounds fantastic.

 

When they had exchanged information, times, and addresses, Phoenix set down the phone with a contended feeling.  By now, the sun was gone, street lights were turned on, and the cheese he’d taken out for a grilled cheese…questionable.  But Phoenix Wright held the phone to his chest and took in a large, happy sigh.  Just as he had closed his eyes to remember the feeling, the phone vibrated again.  Raising an eyebrow, Phoenix unlocked the phone to see that Maya had replied with an army of kissing emojis.

 

[To: Maya Fey]
You stop that.

  

Phoenix spent the entirety of May and June making everything rhubarb.  Strawberry rhubarb pies and pastries, berry rhubarb jam, rhubarb cake…you name it, it had rhubarb in it.  Turns out, Miles hadn’t been lying when he said that his plants had been overgrown.  Or when he said that he had a large estate when they were exchanging information.  The estate was gigantic; Phoenix was halfway through asking how he paid for it all when Miles explained that his father had passed when he was little, and he’d been raised in Germany for fifteen years by a wealthy family.  He’d studied finance, business, and agriculture in his time there, and when he’d returned, he’d found that his father’s best friend had taken care of the land.  He’d bought it back when he was twenty-four, and it was right after that they met at the market.  Phoenix felt sheepish when he told Miles his life story, how he’d lived in the same place, and had planned to be an artist before Mia and Maya had left him the bakery.  The other man was gracious about it nonetheless, and their trades became commonplace. 

Once a month, Phoenix would go to the Edgeworth farms with a basket filled with fresh food, and Miles would take him to a new part of the estate, and they’d have a picnic lunch before Phoenix picked his goods.  It was comfortable, Phoenix realized.  He and Miles rarely ran out of things to speak on, and when they did, they would enjoy the quiet in each other’s presence.  And, as much as Phoenix wanted the entire affair to turn into something more, he was also extremely content with simply being Miles’ friend.  When they were busy with other things, like every other day of the week when Miles was out doing business to keep his farm afloat, or when Phoenix would get busy with the bakery, they would text.  Miles was one of the people who would never use emojis, while Phoenix always found his littered with them.  It didn’t bother him, necessarily, but it did take a while for him to learn when Miles was being serious, or when he was joking. 

It was the beginning of July when Phoenix sorely missed the relief of spring in the heat of summer.  The farmer’s market was at the point where it was no longer brisk in the morning, but his ride over was almost insufferable.  He’d spent most of the morning at his booth sweltering, but doing his best to stay positive to everyone that came by.  A peek across the way told him that Miles was much in the same boat, but as soon as they met eyes, both of the men’s fatigue was pushed out of thought. 

Miles had told Phoenix that he felt terrible for not having much to offer in July.  It was the end of apricot and cherry season, but while they were going out, his squash was starting to ripen, and every day, Phoenix was gifted with some picture of apple blossoms or his many tomato plants.  The fact that Miles took care of the farm almost by himself was ridiculous, but Phoenix had met his assistant a few times.  Gumshoe seemed like he was a gentle giant, and his wife Maggey was a little clumsy, but when it came to tending to the estate, they were perfectly capable of their duties.  Maggey was excited for apple season, just like Phoenix, and the next time Phoenix visited, he promised to take some of the early bloomers to make her something with them.

 


 

By the time August rolled around, it became less and less necessary to ask Miles if it was okay to come over.  Their monthly picnics had soon turned into a weekly affair, and he was the last person to complain about it. His collapsable bike was getting more mileage than ever, and the long bakery hours finally felt a little suffocating.  He was up early, and in bed early, and he knew Miles was doing the same thing, but with the heat of the ovens and his canning jars, it was easy to start counting minutes.  Not to mention that it finally felt like his air conditioning had gone out. 

It had been a long morning when Miles decided to make it even longer. 

The picture of the early sun made Phoenix smile, but what made him excited were the apples finally blooming.

 

[From: Miles Edgeworth]
I am looking forward to our picnic tomorrow.

 

Gosh, he always used great punctuation.  Behind the counter, Phoenix smiled at his phone. 

 

[To: Miles Edgeworth]
I’m bringing something special for everybody

[From: Miles Edgeworth]

[To: Miles Edgeworth]
You’ll like it, I promise. 

[From: Miles Edgeworth]
Secret family recipe?

[To: Miles Edgeworth]
Nope!  new recipe i think its going to make waves 

[From: Miles Edgeworth]
I look forward to trying it. 

[To: Miles Edgeworth]
I look forward to seeing your flowers

 

Flowers?  He’d meant to say ‘face’, but okay.  The text was forgotten when a customer entered.  Luckily for Phoenix they were a regular, and he had their order placed within minutes, so he could return to his phone.

 

[From: Miles Edgeworth]
I didn’t realize you were a botany fan.  

[To: Miles Edgeworth]
Oh yea love em.  XD

[From: Miles Edgeworth]
Noted.

 

At first, Phoenix had panicked.  He didn’t actually know anything about flowers, except what a rose was.  All night his stomach turned.  What if Miles didn’t want to be with someone who didn’t care?  He’d told him about the meanings of different flowers, but it had all gone over Phoenix’s head.  What if he expected Phoenix to remember what he’d said?  He tired remembering their conversation, but when he tried, all he could remember was that Miles was wearing a straw hat that day, and he’d had a bit of dirt scuffed on his chin.  He’d wanted so badly to reach up and brush it off, but for his dignity, he decided it was better not to. 

 

[To: Maya Fey]
What if I’m going to fall flat on my face in front of him
what if he asks about flowers

[From: Maya Fey]
tbh you’ve already fallen for him, what’s the worst that could happen?
besides if he sends you flowers he probably wants to smooch your face

 

That was the last item in their conversation when Phoenix sent her a picture of a bundle of zinnias.  She sent back a screenshot from one ‘flowermeanings.com’ stating that zinnias represented lasting friendship and daily remembrance.  Despite his arguing that they were just flowers, Maya insisted that if any more flowers were going to be sent, Phoenix would have to brush up on their meanings. 

Which was why, when he was gifted with a pink bundle of calla lilies, Phoenix started getting flustered.  His findings showed that they meant admiration and flirting, and that only made his wires cross more.  It was getting harder and harder to just stay Miles’ friend.  Every week he would battle with himself to not just lean over and kiss the man.  His dopey heart kept beating faster, and he was adamant to do anything he could to keep the lilies from dying. 

September brought more apples and sweet potatoes, but the purple hydrangeas on his counter were supposedly a symbol of a ‘desire for deeper understanding of someone else’.  They replaced the wilted calla lilies on the counter, and Phoenix couldn’t stop looking at the little fluffy, cloud.

In October, the pumpkin patch in the back corner of the Edgeworth estate finally started producing pumpkins.  The hydrangeas finally wilted, but were replaced by a bundle of delphiniums.  The air was slowly getting colder, but Phoenix warmed whenever he saw them.  Openness to new emotions and feelings, in a romantic sense.

 


 

By the end of October, Miles was tending to his guavas, and finally capitalizing on his sweet potatoes.  He’d started branching out into a few more local stores, selling his wares more and more, and keeping a close eye on his withering plants.  The California winter was nothing compared to German winters, but he was glad that the ground stayed fertile all year round.  Mostly, he was moving his remaining plants into a greenhouse so he and the Gumshoes could start preparing for spring.  What he was most excited for, however, were his tulips.  He’d been wanting to grow tulips in the spring for a very long time, and he’d cracked open some bulbs in October.  He was determined to keep these ones alive until Wright came by again. 

“Wright, Wright, Wright,” he murmured as he stared at the one red tulip that had survived.  He’d tried a few seeds, and at the beginning there had been five, but he figured the one was going to have to do.  The pink and yellow ones were growing quite well, however, and if he could arrange them correctly, he would be able to save this month’s bouquet. 

Now if only the man spoke the language of flowers. 

He’d been dropping as many hints as he possibly could without outright saying that he was interested.  He did not want to seem like he was pushing Wright into anything, but he had asked for his number, right?  It was almost six months ago, yes, but…Miles pursed his lips.  He’d have to say something this time.  He was getting tired of not knowing what to do, or if his feelings were requited, or if his imagination was just getting ahead of itself.  The tulips would be fully bloomed in a month, he guessed.  If Wright could stay in his life until then, he could muster up the courage to say something.  Maybe.

 


 

Two seasons had changed since Phoenix learned Miles’ name, the farmer’s market had ended for the winter two weeks ago, and it was all starting to turn into a game of chicken.  Occasionally, something would slip out of his lips that had’t meant to do so, and the air would change around them, but it would always lead back to the same thing; the thought would lay there, and Miles’ cheeks would flush.  Phoenix had no idea what he was going to do about it.  And then there was the flowers.

Was Edgeworth doing this on purpose?  He couldn’t tell.  Before Maya had started hounding him after what flowers he’d received this month, he wouldn’t have thought twice about it.  The flowers were pretty in his shop, but if Phoenix was actually going to take it seriously, he was in some deep shit.  And the worst part was, the longer he tried to ignore the petals that he’d pressed into his books, the more that showed up.  He was sitting outside the bus station now, on his way to Edgeworth’s house in the first week of December.  It was cold out, and Phoenix was holding on to another packed lunch.  He was cradling the same kerchief that Edgeworth had given him that day in April in one hand, and an insulated basket in the other.  Since it was getting colder, Phoenix packed soup and peppermint cookies.  He felt a knot of anxiety twisting his stomach as he waited.  His bike was folded in his backpack next to him.  How he was ever going to make the transportation of that bag from the bus to Edgeworth’s farm was a mystery.  He’d consider putting the cookies with the soup, but the entire basket was insulated and he was sure that pumpkin-trout soup wouldn’t mix well with peppermint.  He hadn’t planned to make the soup, but Miles had had a few small squashes left over, and he’d had the recipe laying around.  They’d planned to have an indoor picnic this time, so Phoenix had left the bakery a little later than he was used to.  Miles had said something about their den having a wonderful atmosphere for what he had planned.

Planned?  He planned something?  Phoenix had panicked.  Upon telling Maya about it, she had assured him that it was fine.  Not everyone operated like Phoenix did; sometimes when other people had company, they always had something planned.  Phoenix felt like a bad host; whenever someone came over, he just asked them what they wanted to do, and then called it good.  Maybe he would…try more with Miles.  If Miles ever came over.  Which he hoped would happen if he could ever stop working.

The bus came to a rolling stop, and Phoenix stood.  He took better hold of the basket before he stepped off of the moving vehicle.  He had to set down the soup and cookies for a moment, unzip his backpack, and unfold his bike.  He stared at it for a moment before he draped the basket on his handlebar and started moving again.  As he pedaled, he thought about Miles.  Maybe he had a fireplace in his den.  Maybe he was waiting there now, with a glass of wine…it was four o’clock, he could see it.  Besides, with the farmer’s market being out of season, they had been meeting after the bakery closed on Sundays, and he’d seen Miles with a glass of wine before.  If he wasn’t such a lightweight he would join, but as it stood, he was terrible when it came to alcohol.  Maybe, if he actually got over himself and told Miles how he felt, he could manage to stay the night. 

Why not tonight? The Maya voice in his head suggested, and his eyebrows shot up to his hairline.  He hadn’t expected to really say anything tonight, or tomorrow, or the next day, but…

The flower petals pressed in his library at home cheered him on, and a grin came to his face. 

Tonight, then, he nodded to himself.  He’d tell Miles tonight.  Subconsciously, his feet pedaled faster, and before he could think more, he was turning down the drive to the estate.  It was a large, thousand acre farm, but luckily for bikers, Gregory Edgeworth had placed the house near the road.  As soon as he was to the gate, Phoenix pressed the bell. 

And waited a moment. 

And pressed it again. 

He looked at his phone.  Okay, so he was a few minutes late.  It was fine, right?  It’s not like it should have surprised Miles.  The day that Phoenix Wright was on time for something was the day when there wasn’t anything growing in the front window’s flower box.  He smiled at the poppies peeking out of the ceramic pot, when the static from the intercom shocked him.

“Hello?” A new, unfamiliar voice came over the radio and Phoenix started.  Did he have company?  It was Sunday, right?  He leaned over and pressed a gloved finger into the button.

“Uh, I’m here to see Miles?” He asked.  Maybe Miles got an office assistant.  If it would keep the man from working twenty-four hours a day, good for him. 

“Can I ask who this is?”

Definitely an assistant, Phoenix told the worry eating his insides. “I’m Phoenix Wright, Miles’…” what were they? “Friend.”

It was quiet for a moment, and Phoenix bounced on the balls of his heels again.  It was fine.  It was fine.  It was fine.

Right?

“You’d better come to the house,” the man said, and like that, the gates were opening.  Dumbfounded, Phoenix stared at the speaker for a moment before he dismounted from his bike.  The gate was close enough to the house where he could just walk up there faster than getting back on the bike.  It was a medium-sized house, wood and stucco with a red roof.  Phoenix had decided a long time ago that it looked exactly like Edgeworth. 

But at the moment, all he could think about was the strange man standing on his porch.  He had unkempt, black, curly hair that was only tamed by the fedora pressed onto his head.  He wore a maroon shirt and blue tie, with gray slacks.  Phoenix stopped in his tracks.  The facial hair on his upper lip and chin only accentuated the grimace he wore. 

“Is everything okay?” Phoenix asked, his knuckles white under the gloves.  The man descended the stairs and extended a hand to Phoenix.

“My name is Ray Shields,” he offered. “Friend of the family.”

“Phoenix Wright,” he nodded. “Where is Miles?”

“He didn’t call you?”

Phoenix shook his head.

“There was an incident with his foster sister.  She was shot in the shoulder, and Miles went to Germany to go take care of her.”

Germany? Phoenix felt hollow inside. 

“She’s a prosecutor, and someone tried taking her off of the case.  Miles asked me to come and watch the farm for a few weeks.”

Weeks?” Phoenix parroted, and Ray’s expression only soured.

“At best,” he shrugged. “As soon as Miles knew that she was in trouble, he dropped everything.”

“Do you know when he’ll be back?” Phoenix felt the panic again.  He was going to say something tonight.  He’d been looking forward to this for a long time, and it was all out the window now because of his foster sister.  Not that she could really be blamed, but she was the closest thing Phoenix could focus on.  Ray could only shrug.

“He said anything from three weeks to three months,” he explained, and Phoenix felt like the floor had been dropped from under his feet. “I’m sorry he didn’t say anything,” the condolence fell on deaf ears, as Phoenix stared at the ground to make sure it was still there, “but he did leave you something.”

His head shot up at that, and without speaking, Ray moved into the house.  He was only gone for a moment before he was coming back outside, a bundle of tulips in his hands.  Phoenix blinked at them in confusion.  Tulips weren’t supposed to be in season for a bit longer…

“He grew these in his greenhouse,” he explained. “He told me that a man would be coming here on a bike and that I should give these to him.”  Phoenix stared.  They were a mixture of pink and yellow petals, all nestling around a lone red tulip at the middle. 

“They’re beautiful,” he breathed, and Ray shrugged.

“The kid’s got a green thumb, what can I say,” he smiled, and Phoenix looked up to see him giving Phoenix a sad smile. “Always has.”

“Can I call him?” Phoenix’s voice was small. 

“I’m sure you can, in a couple of hours.  His flight only left a few hours ago.”

Hours.   This all probably happened while the bakery was still open, and there was nothing on his phone.  No texts, no calls, no nothing. 

“Uh, it looks like you’ve got your hands full.  Do you want a ride back to wherever you’re going?”

Phoenix wasn’t sure how he got in the car again, or what happened to his bike, but Ray was nice enough to make sure everything he’d brought got back into the car.  He was sure that the nice man was making pleasant small talk with him, but at the moment, all he could think of was the flowers.  He wanted to look up what they meant.  He couldn’t stop staring at the red flower.  It was exactly in the middle, between ten yellow and ten pink flowers.  His one track mind just wanted to know what it meant. 

He wasted no time when Ray dropped him off.  Phoenix asked to stop by every week just in case, and the man had shrugged and said sure.  Phoenix had also left the soup with him; eating it without Miles would feel just…wrong.  He stormed up to his apartment and ripped open his laptop, typing in ‘tulip meanings’ in the query bar.  A few clicks later, he was staring at the webpage.

“Yellow is the color of unrequited or spurned love.  Sending a yellow tulip to someone means you love them, but you know they don’t return your feelings.”

That’s a lie, he thought, biting his lips together. Miles, I was going to tell you, you stupid—

“Pink is less intense admiration and love.  This offers a more appropriate choice for friends and family. 

“Bright red is the color of passion and perfect love.  Don’t send a bouquet of these flowers to a family member or you’ll be sending the wrong message!”

He read the line over and over again. 

Passion and perfect love. 

Looking back to the bouquet, he felt his heart ache. 

“Miles, you stupid,” he buried his face in his hands.  Everything had been a message from the start, Phoenix realized with a bone-crushing sigh.  Twisting his hands in his hair, he closed his eyes tightly.  A couple hours, Ray had said. 

It didn’t mean that he leave him a text for when he landed. 

 

[To: Miles Edgeworth]
I stopped by your house today.  I’m sorry about your sister.  Give her my well wishes, okay?

 

He locked the phone and set it on the night stand next to his bed. 

And waited. 

And waited.

He got up to force some bread and butter down into his system, but when he saw his homemade bread, he thought of the first time they had actually spoken.  So he crawled back into bed.

And waited. 

Before he was about to fall asleep, his phone buzzed.  He opened it without even thinking that it was important.

 

[From: Miles Edgeworth]
Wright.  I am so sorry that I did not inform you of this emergency.  Franziska is in surgery now.  I hope that Raymond delivered the flowers to you?

 

Phoenix was immediately straight up again, his fingers moving quickly over the phone’s keyboard.

 

[To: Miles Edgeworth]
Yes!  He did!  They’re beautiful!  They’re in the kitchen right now, I looked up what the meaning is.

 

Five minutes passed with nothing, so Phoenix kept typing.

 

[To: Miles Edgeworth]
We don’t have to talk about it now.  We can wait until I get to see you again :)

 

The reply was almost instantaneous.

 

[From: Miles Edgeworth]
You have my many thanks.  I hope it isn’t late over there, your messages are making this go by faster. 

 

Phoenix smiled, and relaxed into the bed again.  Maybe three weeks would go by fast.  He could be optimistic, right?

 


 

December turned into January, and Franziska’s shoulder was still having complications.  The bullet had missed her heart by three inches, but the trauma it left in its wake was making raising her left arm away from her body almost impossible.  According to Miles, he was becoming excellent at being her hands.  Phoenix had briefly met her in a video call.  Sweet William flowers had been placed in the flower box, and Ray still credited their growth to Miles.  Phoenix had only smiled and taken the soup basket back, much lighter now that it was empty.

January turned into February, and Miles had good news about Franziska.  She was feeling much better, but would not be able to move her arm much.  Phoenix took the news with as big of a smile as he could manage, but couldn’t help the feeling that he missed Miles more and more every day.  He had promised himself not to say anything.  The man had felt terrible about leaving in the first place; bringing up how much he was missed there would only make it worse, he figured. 

“I should be back in America by the second week of the farmer’s market,” he offered during a video chat.

“Yeah?” Phoenix looked up from where he was cooking.  It was mid-afternoon for Miles, but for Phoenix, it was his usual breakfast time.

“Franziska is doing well, and she refuses to hear otherwise.”

I hear you talking about me, Miles Edgeworth,” she snapped from the room over, and Miles’ lips curled in a smile.  Like always, he ducked his head to laugh.

“That’s because I am, little sister,” he turned back to the computer. “My apologies.”

“You’re fine,” Phoenix waved a hand in front of his face and flipped his eggs.

“I miss your cooking,” Miles said after a moment of quiet, and Phoenix stopped, stared at the wall for a moment, and then turned back to the computer.  Miles’ face was earnest. “I’m afraid I do not have your skill.”

Phoenix could only smile.  He had hoped that Miles would say something. “Well, I miss you,” he replied. “Ray’s got sweet peas in your flower box, and trust me, things are not so blissful over there.”

Miles groaned. “Do I even want to know what he’s doing to my décor?”

Phoenix laughed, “Not even a little.  You’ll probably end up taking down the Christmas decorations yourself.”

“That buffoon,” Miles muttered. “As if I didn’t like Christmas enough.”

Miles Edgeworth, we will be late for the doctor,” Franziska appeared in the doorway behind Miles, and she nodded at the computer screen. “Phoenix Wright.”

“Good to see you’re doing better, Franziska,” Phoenix offered with a smile, and she scoffed.

“I will not be doing better until I am perfect,” she informed him. “Come, little brother.”

With a sigh, Miles turned back to him. “I’m afraid that’s my cue to leave.  I’m sorry.”

“It’s fine, it’s fine,” Phoenix shook his head, holding his breakfast plate up. “I’ve got my own business to run, anyway.”

Miles smiled. “I look forward to seeing you again.”

“Same here,” Phoenix smiled, and they only stared at each other’s projections, waiting for the other to hang up first.

Miles Edgeworth,” Franziska’s sharp voice came from the entryway. 

“Well, I will text you from the doctor’s office,” he sighed.

“Talk to you later,” Phoenix nodded, watching as the camera flew down away from Miles’ face before it turned black.  He let out a long sigh, and looked down at his eggs. 

He took a mouthful with a grimace.  He knew that pining didn’t do much in a practical sense, but his cooking tasted so much better when he was in the presence of someone he loved. 

 


 

February turned into March, and spring meant that the first week of the farmer’s market came up quickly.  Before he knew it, Phoenix was waking early on a Saturday morning and packing his baked goods into the trailer of his bike.  The actions felt like he had for the past three months: unmotivated.  In Miles’ absence, he wouldn’t have called himself lost, no, he wasn’t that dependent on his feelings, but when Miles was there, everything made so much more sense.  So, while he waited for Miles to return, he’d suffer through this one farmer’s market alone.  The plans hadn’t changed, for what he knew.  Franziska’s arm had healed enough to where she was simply annoyed at Miles fussing over her, and since she was footing the bill to get him back across the pond, he couldn’t change what she had already planned. 

The bike ride to his usual booth was boring, and the early morning meant that the sun was just on its ascent upward and the breeze was crisp.  He set up his booth, arranging his pastries in neat rows like always, placing his jars behind them, and business cards on the bottom left corner.  A noise came from behind him, and he turned to see a local beekeeper setting up across from him.  Blinking blankly, he spoke without thinking.

“Excuse me,” he said, and the woman looked up. “Is that your booth?”

“It’s thirty-eight, isn’t it?” She asked, defensively crossing her arms over her chest. “Look man, this is what I was assigned.”

“Okay, sorry,” Phoenix held up his hands in defeat, letting his unspoken words eat his thoughts.  That’s Miles’ booth, replayed over and over in his head.  He sat and pulled out the latest issue of the Steel Samurai, hoping to pass time until more people showed up. 

“Hey,” a familiar voice came from his left, and Phoenix turned to see Ray Shields waving at him.  Phoenix greeted him with a smile.  The man turned to the booth he was standing in front of and set down the first large crate of many.  With a look of confusion, Phoenix turned from the crate to the man, and back again.

“What are you doing?” He asked.

Ray blinked at him. “Setting up the Gregory Edgeworth Farms’ booth, what are you doing?”

It was like a light had been lit under Phoenix’s stomach, and he felt a grin coming to his face.  He stood and moved to the other side of his table to see the assignment himself.  The crate was full of strawberries.  He grinned at them, impatient for when he could share them with Miles again.  He couldn’t help but stare at them, remembering the jam that he’d shared with the man. 

Then, at exactly 7:05 AM on a Saturday morning, the first day of the farmer’s market, time stopped. 

“Good morning,” came a voice from behind Phoenix, and he almost jumped out of his skin.  He turned to see an absolute vision smiling back at him. 

There, like the past three months hadn’t happened, stood Miles Edgeworth.  He wore a cornflower button-up shirt tucked into khaki pants held up with khaki suspenders.  On his nose sat a pair of top-rimmed glasses.  Absently, Phoenix knew that they were new, probably from a family doctor in Germany, but at the moment, he didn’t care.  His hair was washed, face clean, and his eyes were bright in the early morning sun.  Phoenix felt the air leave his lungs in a rush.  Before he knew what he was doing, he was turning toward the man.  His legs carried themselves to close the distance, his ears deaf to whatever Miles was trying to say.  The suspenders felt real in his hands, and if he was dreaming, he never wanted to wake up.  Phoenix had had the last three months of Miles’ absence leading up to this.

The feeling of Miles’ lips against his own only told him exactly what he wanted to hear; that the man was back and real.  After the surprise wore off, Miles was kissing him in return, his hands flying to Phoenix’s cheeks and holding him like he was about to fall away.  They stayed like that, drinking in each other’s presence in the new day’s early light.

It was spring, and the strawberries were just coming into bloom.

And Miles Edgeworth made Phoenix Wright the happiest man on earth.