So this was the newest of Wright's collection of strays. The brother. The protégé. Miles Edgeworth chose tact, and refrained from leading off with, "I thought you would be taller."
"Mr. Justice, I presume?" He didn't bother offering a hand. "Is Wright in?"
A nod. A swallow. The fleeting but inescapable feeling he was being sized up somehow.
Justice stayed in the doorway, half-turning his head to call out over his shoulder. "Mr. Wright! There's somebody here to see you," he bellowed, and Miles winced at the volume. He was familiar with the complaints around the Prosecutor's Office, but had dismissed them as more of Gavin's usual petulance when things didn't go his way. Until now.
Justice realized his mistake almost instantly, ducking his head to hide the color rising in his cheeks. He looked like Pess when Miles had come home to find her chewing on his slippers, in the few short weeks before he'd trained such undignified behaviors out of her entirely. An unflattering comparison, yes, but if the man wished to be taken seriously in a court of law instead of trading on sympathy, a firmer hand wouldn't be remiss.
Unfortunately, the only hand he had was Wright's.
Dear god, there are going to be two of them. The world isn't ready.
"Sorry, sir." Justice said. Embarrassment had returned his voice to a socially-acceptable level, and Miles wondered how long he would keep himself under control. "Please come in. He'll be right down."
Miles followed him inside, taking the offered seat on the sofa with two cushions free of clutter instead of only one. The office was a mess even by Wright's exceptionally low standards, but Miles swallowed any biting commentary that came to mind. He'd seen Wright's exhaustion firsthand during the lead-up to the Misham trial. As if it wasn't enough working two jobs just to pay the rent and keep his daughter fed, he had to go and near-singlehandedly reinvent the state legal system in his downtime.
Miles had helped where he could, had argued for the jurist system before his superiors, had cleared the way for Wright's rise from the ashes, but none of it felt like enough. He wanted to lift the burdens from Wright's shoulders, to let him know there would always be a place for him in Miles' home, and in his heart. Foolish hopes for a foolish man, as Franziska would say. Had said, many times.
Wright had pushed him away as easily as the rest of them: the Fey girls, Larry, former clients with connections and long memories. In his arrogance, Miles thought he would be spared, that he would be the one to save Wright as Wright had saved him so many years ago. He had been wrong.
Enough. It was pointless to dwell on Wright's self-imposed exile when he had come to bring about its end. Besides, Wright had finally decided to join them, looking tired but otherwise normal. To Miles' surprise, he was even wearing a shirt with a collar, untucked and in desperate need of an iron as it was. It seemed like the idea that he might soon be practicing law again was beginning to sink into that spiky head of his.
Justice was watching Wright too, an unexpected ferocity in his posture and expression. Admiration, maybe? Misplaced pride? Or was it something else entirely? His curiosity had gotten the better of him. He'd let his gaze linger too long, and now Justice was watching him, one hand straying to the ornate bracelet around his wrist.
Wright was either oblivious or pretending to be, and settled into the open seat on the opposite couch with nothing more profound to say than, "Hiya."
"Is…this a bad time?" The question was meant for Wright, but he couldn't help glancing over at Justice, who continued to hover over Wright's shoulder, hands jammed in his pockets. "I won't impose on you for long."
While he enjoyed Wright's company, sitting in this office, surrounded by the trappings of Wright's patchwork life, made Miles uncomfortable in a way he couldn't yet explain. He owed Wright the information he came to deliver. Anything beyond that would have to happen somewhere else.
Wright laughed, harsh and hollow. "I spent three months practically living in your office. You can impose whenever you want."
He picked at a bit of lint on his hat, waiting for someone else to pick up the conversation. No one did.
"Oh right, you two haven't met," he continued, after a moment's uncomfortable silence. "Miles, this is Apollo Justice. He works here—despite his better judgement, as he informs me on a regular basis. Apollo, this is Chief Prosecutor Edgeworth. We go back."
"It's an honor to meet you, sir," said Justice, earnest but restrained. Gavin must have found the time to pass along some manners in between his bouts of criminal insanity. And what other values did he see fit to instill in an eager young mind, I wonder.
Miles shook his hand, pretending not to notice that he'd tried to discreetly wipe his palm on his pant leg first. "Wright speaks of you often," he replied. He thought it best not to add that most of those conversations ended with a giddy, "You should have seen the look on his face!"
Miles could see the look on his face now—questioning, bordering on suspicious, and directed straight at Wright, who only shrugged—and as with many things Wright enjoyed, he didn't understand the appeal.
Before this evening, his only experience with Justice had been on the recording of the Misham trial, where he had come across as a bright and determined young professional—a little out of his depth at times, but what defense attorney wasn't when the system was stacked so neatly against them? Now, up close, he was all wide eyes and nervous energy as he fluttered around the room in a futile attempt to bring some semblance of order to Wright's confined chaos.
When he passed behind the sofa for the second time, Wright caught his arm, holding him in place.
"Apollo, why don't you make some tea?" He spoke in the low tones someone would use to calm a skittish animal. Or a disgraced prosecutor brooding away his visiting hours in the detention center, if memory serves.
Miles half-expected the younger man to bristle at the obvious dismissal—Wright had mentioned a temper, once, laughing and rubbing his jaw at the memory—but nothing came. If anything, he looked relieved, scurrying off to make himself useful elsewhere.
"The nice stuff in the top cabinet, if you don't mind," Wright called after him, not that he sounded at all concerned with Justice's feelings on the subject. He turned back to Miles, a fond smile playing at the corners at his lips. "He's not usually that jumpy. I think surprise visits after hours from one of the most powerful men in law enforcement make him nervous."
"I was a little surprised to see him, myself," Miles said. Seeing as it's after eight on a Friday night and Miss Trucy is nowhere in sight. What is he still doing here? "You gave the impression he and your daughter have been attached at the hip since they learned of their relation."
"Trucy's at her mother's until Sunday," said Wright, which answered Edgeworth's follow-up question. "Apollo…isn't ready for that yet. Maybe he never will be, I don't know." Another shrug. "He knows he's always welcome here. It's the best I can do."
Miles nodded. Wright never could resist a rescue. Who better than the boy from the broken family, snatched from the clutches of his murderous mentor not a moment too late? Stop me if you've heard this one before.
Wright held up a finger, smirking. "Hold on. He thinks he's subtle," he said, then louder, "Okay, Polly, we're done talking about you. You can stop listening at the door now."
Unlike Wright, Miles was facing the door in question, and he hadn't seen any trace of Justice lurking behind it, nor could he hear anything but the faint whistle of a kettle. "How did you know he was there?" he asked. And what kind of man with any shred of dignity lets his associates call him 'Polly?'
"Educated guess." Wright shook his head. "I don't think the idea that some things aren't any of his business has ever occurred to him."
This from a man who solved a fifteen year old homicide case for someone who fought him every step of the way. Wright's nonchalant hypocrisy was almost refreshing.
"Sounds like karmic justice to me. No pun intended."
That earned him a snort, whether from amusement or derision he wasn't certain. "I hope you're not implying what I think you're implying," he said. "I have a healthy curiosity about the world around me and my fellow man. Apollo's just nosy."
As if on cue, Justice returned, two steaming mugs in hand. He set the first, emblazoned with the leering visage of the Blue Badger, in front of Miles. The tea smelled flowery and inoffensive. Not what he would have chosen, but he could appreciate that Wright was making the effort to put him at ease.
"I can probably find some sugar if you want any," Justice offered.
"That won't be necessary."
"You never offer me any sugar," said Wright, propping one foot on the coffee table.
"You already know where we keep it. And I'm not your tea boy," he added. "Why, did you want some?"
"Nah," Wright said. "Sometimes it isn't about the sugar, Apollo, it's about the asking."
The second mug was dropped in front of Wright with considerably less care, and the two exchanged a long look before Justice backed down. Watching them together felt like starting a book halfway through—he could learn the names and follow the action, but without context and foreshadowing, the payoff was meaningless.
"Okay, hint taken." Justice flashed a sheepish smile. "I'll head out, give you two some space."
"Thank you," Miles replied, at the same time as Wright said, "Wait."
"You haven't shown up on my doorstep without calling first since we were nine, Miles. Either somebody's dead or this is about yesterday."
There were times when Wright was more perceptive than Miles otherwise gave him credit for, and this was one of them.
"As far as I'm aware, all of our mutual acquaintances are alive and well."
"That's always good news." Wright's tone was light, almost teasing, but the relief in his eyes was sincere. "So it is about the hearing." He straightened, taking a long gulp of his tea before continuing. "Okay. First, thank you for setting everything up. I know you had to pull some strings, and I appreciate it."
Miles nodded, fighting the urge to look away. He'd gotten better at this kind of conversation when Wright had been around to push him. In his absence, the walls Miles put up between his feelings and the logical, useful parts of himself had only grown taller.
Wright didn't reach out, the way he once might have, but at least he kept talking. "Still, we never would have made it that far if Apollo hadn't cleared my name. If there's been an update, he's earned the right to know."
Miles had been under the impression that Wright had cleared his own name, and Justice was merely a convenient mouthpiece for his allegations against Kristoph Gavin. Perhaps, like the image of the pathetic has-been Wright had hidden behind for so long, Justice's role in the Misham trial was another smokescreen for a more complicated truth.
If so, he had no objections to Wright's line of reasoning. He did think it odd that the same Wright who had been complaining about Justice's unwelcome intrusion into his private affairs no more than five minutes ago was now prepared to fight to keep him in the conversation. However, Wright's internal logic had always been a mystery beyond his understanding, and it was easier just to let this latest contradiction stand unchallenged.
"I see. In that case, you should stay."
Justice glanced at the empty space next to Miles, but thought better of it and perched on the arm of the opposite sofa instead. Next to him, Wright leaned forward, resting his elbows on his knees. He'd been nervous before the tribunal as well, fidgeting in his old suit like a child on picture day no matter how many times Miles assured him it was just a formality.
"What happened in there today? Don't tell me they've decided already." Wright frowned. "The only other time they made up their minds this quickly was—"
"When you were disbarred, yes. Something about you does seem to bring out the rash decisions in everyone." Present company included.
Justice was silent. Like Wright, his eyes were on Miles, but his hand had slipped down to Wright's shoulder. Wright didn't flinch away—he'd always had a higher tolerance for unanticipated affection. His last assistant had thrived on it, as did his daughter, and if it were either of them sitting there instead of Justice, Miles would have thought nothing of it when he reached up to cover the hand with his own.
But, it was Justice, whom Wright seemed to keep around out of some strange combination of familial obligation and potential entertainment value. Moral support seemed an unlikely use for him, given his temperament, but Miles supposed that with Trucy away, Wright was only making do with what he had.
"So?" said Wright. "What's the verdict?"
"Gavin—that is, Prosecutor Gavin demanded the chance to testify on your behalf, and refused to leave until he was accommodated," Miles said. "It worked—the decision was completely unanimous. All charges against you were dropped. You can retake the bar whenever you're ready."
Wright's whole body sagged, and he buried his face in his hands. Not exactly the response Miles was hoping for, but considering all Wright had put himself through to make it to this point, perhaps it wasn't so surprising.
"Mr. Wright?" Justice, too, looked unsure of how to respond. "Isn't this what you wanted?"
Wright took a deep, shuddering breath before looking up at last. "It's really over." His voice was uncharacteristically soft, like even he didn't believe what he was saying. "Just like that, I can be a lawyer again?"
"Wright, you might have been calling yourself a piano player, but not even the Bar Association could stop you from being a lawyer. The success of the Jurist System is proof enough of that."
Miles stood, closing the distance between them. From here, he could see that the harsh lines etched by stress and exhaustion around Wright's eyes had smoothed out. He looked younger, more like the man Miles had once known, the only person he had almost come to love. Miles hesitated, but decided that the point he needed to get across outweighed the risk of discomfort, and reached out to lightly touch Wright's arm.
"The people who mattered always knew you were innocent," he said. "Everything else is just paperwork."
Wright took Miles' hand between his own, and before Miles could process what was happening, he found himself swept into a clumsy embrace. It was almost too much—low words of gratitude murmured against his ear and Wright's broad hands warm on his back, pulling them so close together he could feel Wright's heart beating in frantic counterpoint to his own. Just as the rush of sensation threatened to overwhelm him, Wright let go, gave him room to breathe again.
He needed a moment to collect himself. It had been a long time since anyone had touched him like that, not that he wished them to. There was an intimacy to it that still unsettled him, and most of his associates had come to understand that he preferred to avoid more than incidental contact.
Wright, as always, was the exception.
Miles didn't read anything into the other man's actions. He might have been a lost cause when it came to matters of affection, but he wasn't delusional. Still, he could feel the lingering heat on his skin where Wright had been pressed against him, and he pushed aside the flicker of arousal at the thought of it to be reconsidered in more appropriate circumstances.
Wright had turned his exuberance on Justice now, and Miles got the sense that anything Wright was holding back for his benefit had returned in full force. Breathless and beaming, he threw his arms around the smaller man, lifting him off his feet entirely.
"We should start over," he said. "Whole new law firm—two names on the door and everything. What do you say?"
"I'll think about it after you put me down!"
Justice had his hands pressed flat to Wright's chest, trying to get enough leverage to pry himself from Wright's grasp. All of his squirming proved fruitless, however, and after one final shove, he went still. Nearly still. The motion was so slight Miles thought he may have imagined it, but no. There, at odds with with his dangling feet and put-upon expression, Justice's fingers curled to clutch at the front of Wright's shirt.
The odd, queasy ache Miles had felt in the pit of his stomach since he arrived was becoming too much to ignore. He still believed there was an innocent explanation—after all, he didn't know or particularly care about Justice's preferences, but he was well aware that Wright wasn't interested in men. Wright was only caught up in the emotion of the moment, no surprise there, while long-suffering Justice put up a token protest against the inevitable. It was the physical manifestation of their idle bickering, nothing more.
A well-placed kick forced Wright to drop his captive at last, and the mood between them shifted. Wright didn't pull away like he had from Miles, instead letting his hands linger on Justice's waist a moment past the limits of propriety. Despite his continued grumbling, Justice didn't seem to mind, and when he looked back up at Wright, it was with undisguised adoration.
Miles found himself forced to reconsider his assumptions. This clearly went beyond mere childish hero worship, and Wright, out of ignorance or loneliness or the petty cruelty of boredom, was encouraging these inappropriate feelings in his young charge. It was a delicate situation that Wright should have handled with grace, not allowed to escalate into something that could only end in anger and heartbreak.
But then, when Justice stood on tiptoe to tug off Wright's obnoxious headwear, mumbling some insipid remark about hats in court, Wright confirmed the unthinkable. It was the same wistful expression he'd seen on Gumshoe's face a hundred times, whenever he spoke of his pretty young wife or their two small children, or on Gavin's anytime Miles caught him bowed over a guitar in his office instead of finishing his paperwork in a timely manner. Smitten.
A litany of fragmented thoughts ran through his mind, butting up against each other in a sickening jumble. Your daughter's brother, and one of Kristoph's sick traps, and Christ, Wright, he looks fifteen. And underneath them all, over and over like a pathetic mantra of jealousy and betrayal, Why is it him instead of me?
Miles must have been staring, and the ice running up his veins must have been written all over his face, because they jumped apart as if they'd been burned. Justice looked as if he might chew his lower lip right off, and every little darting glance up at Miles screamed guilty, guilty, guilty. Wright was still smiling, ever the poker champion, but his features had taken on a strange, glassy-eyed cast.
"Miles?" he said. "Is everything alright? Do you need to sit down?"
Yes. Anywhere but here.
Miles shook his head. "I'm fine," he lied, "but I've taken up enough of your time. I really should get back to work."
"You look like you're about to faint." Wright may have been playing dumb, trying to fool Miles—or maybe himself—into believing he hadn't just seen anything untoward, but his concern sounded genuine. "Are you sure you don't want a glass of water or something?"
"I assure you, nothing is the matter, but I'm afraid I do have business elsewhere." It wasn't a lie. There was always more work to be done, and Wright didn't need to know that it could probably wait until morning. "If you'll excuse me?"
Wright nodded, not bothering to mask the hurt and confusion in his eyes, and let Miles brush past him without another word.
"Congratulations on your reinstatement," Miles said from the doorway, not waiting for a response before he fled into the relative comfort of the dark streets below. He couldn't say if he wanted Wright to follow.
This was ridiculous. Wright was supposed to be safe. He was friendly and chaste and a sucker for any pretty girl with a sob story, and in all of the time Miles had known him, he'd never expressed anything but a vague discomfort at the thought of being with another man. He was quite possibly the straightest man Miles knew—Larry had lost that title in a haze of alcohol and regret that Miles refused to speak about to this day—so how was it that a loudmouthed runt like Justice had him spellbound?
Miles walked without purpose, not ready to drive back to the empty apartment that awaited him, and let his feet steer him into the small park down the street. It was a cool night, and the only other people around were a huddled trio of teenage boys that shuffled off deeper into the shadows when he glowered at them. He settled onto a bench overlooking the river and lit a cigarette, taking a long drag in the hopes it would calm his uneasy nerves.
Wright's earlier words echoed in his mind, mocking him. "He knows he's always welcome here. It's the best I can do." Hah. Had that been Wright's intention from the beginning? Had he been looking for someone young and vulnerable, someone who couldn't help but depend on him, someone who might feel certain obligations?
Miles pushed the idea of it from his mind. Wright may have changed, but he could never be that kind of man, and Justice didn't act like he was being coerced. More like a schoolboy with a crush, practically begging his teacher to notice how good he's been—and you wouldn't know anything about that, would you, Miles?
He shivered, waiting for the unwanted memories to pass. How could Wright indulge this? Did he really believe there was a happy ending awaiting him? And what about Trucy? Had he ever stopped to consider how she might feel about her father and her brother twisting the branches of her family tree?
"That's a terrible habit, you know." A familiar voice from just behind him startled him out of his thoughts. "Room for one more?"
So Wright had decided to follow him after all. Miles resolutely ignored the faint flutter of elation in his chest. "If I say no, will you leave?" he asked.
"Nope!" And to prove it, Wright flopped down on the other end of the bench, their knees not quite touching. "What kind of a friend would I be if I let you turn green and run out on me without at least making sure you weren't passed out in a ditch somewhere?"
"Wright, I appreciate your concern, but I am fine," said Miles.
"So you keep telling me," Wright said. "Was it something I said?"
"Not at all," which was more or less true. "If it will satisfy you, I confess to feeling a little queasy when I made my excuses. Perhaps something in the tea disagreed with me."
"Could be. Maya gave me that stuff like ten years ago—does tea go bad?" Wright shrugged, not waiting for an answer. "By the way, did you know that your jaw clenches up every time you're hiding something? Yeah, just like that." He pointed, and Miles swatted his hand away.
"What are you babbling about? That's preposterous!"
"Hey, don't feel bad. I didn't know either," Wright said. "Apollo noticed you doing it when we were talking earlier. That's what he does—notices things. It's a neat trick when he's doing it to somebody else."
Miles had done his best to stamp out the persistent rumors around the Prosecutor's Office about Apollo Justice and his soul-piercing gaze. Such paranoid superstitions only served to give an ordinary young man power he didn't deserve over people smart enough to know better. People like Wright, apparently.
"Hmph. And what else, pray tell, did Mr. Justice notice?"
"Well, he seems to think he's the one that offended you. He wouldn't tell me why, but I think I can figure it out."
Miles froze. He was willing to accept that Justice might be unusually perceptive, but Miles had kept his feelings for Wright buried for years. Even when he'd finally come to terms with them for what they were, there had been no point in expressing something that could never be returned. He thought he was at peace with the situation, and that his inconvenient infatuation could be safely ignored until it ran its course. Had Justice really seen through him so easily?
"Enlighten me." He tried to keep his voice even, but he could feel the tension in his neck and jaw, and he was sure Wright saw it too.
"Would it be fair to say you have concerns about the nature of the relationship between Apollo and myself?" It wasn't an accusation—Wright looked more worried than angry. If he proceeded diplomatically, kept the basest of his own emotions in check, it was possible Miles could still escape with his dignity intact.
"I would question the wisdom of forming an emotional attachment to a close associate of Kristoph Gavin's, yes."
"And you think I would have let him anywhere near my daughter, her brother or not, if he couldn't be trusted?"
Miles sighed. A perfectly reasonable rebuttal—so much for that line of attack. Fortunately, the relationship was ill-considered on so many levels that it was trivial to find another point to press. "I suppose not, but what about Trucy? Does she know?"
"Before I did, actually," Wright said. "Turns out Apollo asked her for permission to go after me, which sounds backwards, I admit, but compared to the other way around…" He shuddered. "I guess it took him a week to convince her he wasn't kidding, and I only found out about the whole thing when I overheard her using it to blackmail him into doing her chores."
"Charming," Miles muttered. He had only had the chance to meet her a handful of times, but even the stories he heard secondhand left him wondering what exactly Wright was teaching that child.
Wright ignored him. "Things were strained for a while after Thalassa gave them the talk," he continued, "but Trucy's a resilient kid. She knows she'll always be the most important person in my life, and I think she just wants everyone to be happy."
"Are you?" The question slipped out before Miles realized what he was really asking. Why does he make you happy? He knew no answer Wright gave would satisfy him, yet some desperate, cringing part of him still needed to hear it in Wright's own words. And here he had thought himself above the petty laments of rejection.
"I am," Wright said. "I know what it looks like, but this isn't some power trip or mid-life crisis or whatever else you might be thinking. I mean, no one's more surprised than me by how much I like having him around. That was never part of the plan."
Miles raised an eyebrow. "There was a plan?" He shouldn't have been digging deeper, but this he had to hear.
"Of course!" Wright grinned. "Making it up as I go along until you bail me out might be good enough for a court of law, but Kristoph was too clever for that."
"Wright, don't make me regret having you reinstated, please."
"Heh, sorry," he replied. "Still, Apollo was just the first step. You've seen what he can do—now imagine what he'd be like if Gavin had gotten his claws into him."
Miles already had. In exhaustive detail, all of the ways Wright's incredible faith in Justice could be exploited, and all of the ways his years of work and careful plans could be toppled like a house of cards. At the time, he'd done all he could to convince Wright to reconsider introducing such an unknown factor into the equation, but in hindsight, Miles supposed Wright's trust hadn't been so misplaced after all.
"I had all the proof I needed to nail down Gavin for murdering Zak Gramarye," Wright continued. "Any lawyer could have put that case together if I'd given them all the pieces from the start, but I wanted the chance to see what Apollo had to offer, and if I got to take away Gavin's favorite toy in the process, even better."
"That's…quite cold, Wright. I never knew you to be so calculating."
"It wasn't my proudest moment." Wright looked down, scuffing his foot against the dry dirt below. "At the time, it didn't matter—I always intended to cut him loose after he played his part. I shouldn't have underestimated his passion. Or his persistence."
Miles was almost relieved to hear the guilt in Wright's voice. He could learn to live with the Wright he knew falling in love with another, given time, but the thought of his oldest friend, who always placed the needs of others above his own, becoming the kind of person who could use and discard someone without care or remorse was chilling.
"It wasn't like I didn't try to keep him at arm's length," said Wright. "I was terrified he was going to blunder in and ruin everything for a while, but no matter what wild goose chase I sent him on to get him out of my hair, he was stubborn enough to see it through. More than through, actually."
Wright began to tick off on his fingers. "He didn't just find the careless jerk that put me in the hospital, he managed to catch the guy's killer and make friends with the local mob," he said. "I asked him to chaperone my daughter at a rock concert, and by the end of the week, he had their guitarist behind bars—using one of your favorite tricks, I might add. And, well, you saw how the Misham case went down."
Miles nodded. He was pretty sure he remembered both of the cases Wright mentioned crossing his desk, but hearing them described now made Justice sound, well, like Wright, in his early days. Stumbling into conspiracies, beating impossible odds, driving the opposition crazy—it all felt eerily familiar. Perhaps what Wright saw in Justice was a second chance. That much, Miles could understand.
"He's winning the hearts and minds of the people, Miles. Can you blame me for wanting him on my side?"
"I suspect you may be exaggerating on that last point," said Miles, "but it does seem that Justice has proven an invaluable asset to your work."
"He's been more than that," Wright said, not that Miles wanted or needed the reminder. "You can't chase the Devil without learning a few of his tricks. Without somebody there to keep me honest, I'm not sure I'd like what I would have become."
Miles felt his heart drop at the memory that flashed to the forefront of his mind, when he, too, had found himself on that same moral precipice. Only one man had believed that he could still be pulled away from the edge, that he hadn't yet passed the point of no return—the same man that was sitting here tonight, sharing his own brush with darkness.
For seven long years, Miles had been waiting to return the favor. He hadn't counted on someone else getting there first.
"I'm familiar with the feeling," he said, at last. He doubted Wright would understand the implications in full, but it was the closest he'd ever come to a confession.
Confusion flickered across Wright's features before understanding set in. "I guess you would be, huh?" He paused, staring out somewhere across the water, and let out a heavy sigh before speaking again. "That feels like a different life."
"It's been a long time," Miles agreed.
They settled into an almost-comfortable silence, Wright fiddling with a loose string on his jacket while Miles focused on his cigarette and tried not to look at him. He'd jumped to some terrible conclusions tonight—behavior not befitting a man with his reputation for logic and precision, to be sure. The thought of them together still churned his stomach, but the resentment weighing down his heart was starting to feel a little more like guilt.
He understood all too well what Wright had gone through. He knew what it felt like to be lost at sea, only to have someone unexpected throw you a line. He also knew how deceptively easy it was for gratitude to grow into trust, and trust to become something far more complicated. Perhaps now it was time for him to learn to let those feelings go for good, and enjoy what he already had. No more secrets, no regrets.
"Wright?" he tried.
"Yeah?" Wright turned to face him, and Miles forced himself to hold his gaze.
"I…would like to apologize, for my actions inside," he said. "The nature of your relationship with Justice is for the two of you to decide. It wasn't my place to react as I did, or to question your choices." He took a deep breath, and pressed on. "However, I appreciate your willingness to explain the situation in greater detail. I can see you've thought this through, and I'm sorry I doubted you."
"You were concerned," Wright said. "I probably would have reacted the same way if I walked in on you getting cozy with, I dunno, Larry or something."
Miles coughed, suddenly finding the illegible graffiti carved into the end of the bench to be very interesting indeed.
Wright gave him an odd little look, but changed the subject anyway. "You're lucky I've been getting back into the habit of giving people straight answers to personal questions."
Miles chuckled. "I suppose it must be difficult for you to keep up that air of mystery you so enjoy if Justice is as observant as you claim." At the very least, he could appreciate the irony in a legendary liar taking up with the only man who could read his every tell.
"I've had some practice," Wright admitted. "At least Trucy has the decency to pretend she can't tell when I'm lying through my teeth. Apollo just sits there looking disappointed in me until one of us gets annoyed." He shrugged. "On the other hand, he has no poker face. If he were half as crafty as his sister, then I might be in trouble."
There was another brief lull in the conversation, broken this time by Wright. He squeezed Miles' shoulder, his hesitant half-smile betrayed by the sadness in his eyes. "Really, I should be the one apologizing," he said. "I should have just told you about Apollo weeks ago, instead of…whatever this is."
He let his arm drop and looked away, mouth set in a hard line. "I know Kristoph isn't a threat anymore, but sometimes it still feels like the people I care about are just weaknesses he can use against me. If he managed to hurt Trucy, or Apollo, or you, or anybody because I wasn't careful…" He trailed off, shaking his head. "Remember what happened to Maya? That crazy bastard who took her—she almost died because of me. I couldn't live with myself if that happened again."
So there it was, the real reason Wright had cut and run. How pointlessly noble. How very him. Kristoph Gavin may have already been on death row, but Miles felt the fleeting temptation to rid the world of that monster himself. Satisfying as that might be, however, getting himself into another bout of legal trouble would do little to ease Wright's immediate fears. The usual comforting platitudes always felt forced and hollow on Miles' tongue, but he was sure there was a more rational approach he could take to this particular concern.
"Even if Gavin were able to strike out at you," said Miles, "which I assure you he cannot, there is no need for you to worry on my behalf. I have the entire police department at my disposal, should the need arise." And Head of International Affairs or not, Gumshoe would probably be the first to volunteer for my personal security detail.
"Miss Fey has more resources available to her than even I am aware of, and to harm her, he'd first have to find her. It's difficult to search the mountains from a prison cell," he continued. "As for Trucy and Apollo, they have someone who would stop at nothing to protect them. Against you, I don't care for Gavin's odds."
Wright had no immediate response, and Miles feared he had overstepped his boundaries. Unsure of what else to say, he put out his cigarette, flicking the end into a nearby can, and stood.
"Er, anyway," he said. "I'm sure I've taken enough of your time. I'll just, um, be going."
"I should probably get back too. Trucy will want to hear the good news," said Wright. "Thanks for coming out tonight. And, you know, thanks for listening."
"What are friends for?" Miles said. Perhaps they would never be anything more, but after everything they'd been through, both apart and together, they could never be anything less.
Wright rose to join him, stretching his arms out above his head.
"Hey, before you go, I was thinking it might be nice to have a little celebration when Trucy gets home from Thalassa's. Maybe even give Maya a call, if she'll talk to me," he said, wincing a little. "I know you're a busy man, but if you have a couple of hours free in the evening next week…"
"I'll see what I can do," Miles said, and was surprised to find himself looking forward to it, just a little. "Oh, and Wright?"
"I'll see you in court."
Wright's grin was radiant, and Miles felt a rush of happiness tight in his chest for the part he'd been able to play in getting Wright where he was supposed to be.
"You can count on it."