Phoenix Wright had not planned on being a father. It wasn't a decision he had made. He was not married. He didn't have anyone to help him raise her. His child wasn't biologically his, nor was she an infant.
He hadn't planned on being a father, but he was, and this was all that mattered. Trucy (now Trucy Wright) was his responsibility now. He loved her, more than he'd ever expected to love anyone or anything.
Though Trucy's mother had left a decent sum of money for him, Phoenix quickly realized that the living he earned selling paintings wasn't going to be enough. Eight year old girls were expensive. When it had been just him, it was okay to fall behind every once in a while and spend a month eating nothing but instant ramen. But he had a child now. He had to be more responsible, had to bring in a higher income.
Trucy was the sole reason Phoenix decided to go back to law school. He'd started a degree just after high school, but hadn't had the motivation to get through the difficult classes and had dropped out after only a year. Now that he was twenty-six, he felt he was better equipped to deal with the the pressure.
Phoenix got to work. He took advantage of every scholarship that he could find, and managed to qualify for several grants. He swore he'd never written more essays in his life, but it all proved to be worth it when he managed to settle his tuition. Once his classes had been scheduled, he found a proper part-time job.
Phoenix both attended classes and went to work for two months before proved to be way too much. He was constantly hiring babysitters whose fees differed wildly, and too many times he'd come home to find his daughter upset because of something the babysitter had said, or to find her hungry because the babysitter hadn't bothered to make her dinner. It seemed most babysitters he found were flaky, and he had to call out of work a few times because they cancelled at the last possible second. It would be one thing if Trucy was older, but she was eight. She couldn't be left alone.
It was too much for one man to handle on his own, and with this in mind, Phoenix sat down with his local newspaper in hand, determined to hire a nanny. He tucked Trucy under his arm as he read off names and biographies, and many of the entries she shot down immediately.
The classifieds had a special section for nannies and babysitters. Nannies, in general, were expensive, especially if they came with the guarantee of an agency. It was a worthwhile investment. Guaranteeing that Trucy would have someone to feed her and comfort her and tuck her into bed while he was away was the best investment he could possibly make.
Before long, he stumbled across an ad that he could hardly believe. Even Trucy found it somewhat strange. The rate was low, almost ridiculously low. The nanny in particular was no longer with an agency, but did boast impressive credentials and a degree in child psychology from an Ivy League school. Phoenix explained to Trucy what a degree was, and what Ivy League schools were, and she whistled.
The ad easily received Trucy's approval. Her name was Miley, apparently, and she said she was also twenty-six. She spoke of nurturing, of believing it was important to expose children to things early in as gentle a way as possible. She believed in allowing children to grow into the individuals they truly were, in giving them the encouragement and independence they needed to become functional and healthy adults. It seemed that she knew how to simplify her speech to explain difficult subjects in a way that wasn't condescending.
It was everything Phoenix believed, everything he had tried to do. Trucy wanted to be a magician, and teachers often told him she was too young to be so set on a career path, but Phoenix wouldn't hear any of it. If his daughter wanted to be a magician, she was going to be the best damn magician the world had ever seen and he was going to do everything in his power to make sure of that. Of course he taught her other skills, and warned her not to narrow her path, but he supported her dream.
Phoenix sported a wide grin as he opened his laptop and emailed Miley. The ad had left email as a preferred contact method, as Miley was apparently a bit awkward over the phone. Phoenix could empathize in that regard. As he'd expected, Miley took a short while to respond, and said she'd received many offers. She intended to become a full-time, completely devoted nanny to only one household, preferably only one child, and people were tripping over themselves to be the one to hire her.
Phoenix asked what method Miley was using to determine whose offer to accept. She said it was mostly a matter of how the interviews went (she would schedule specific times for 'email interviews' with each potential client) and income level. He asked for clarification on this, and Miley said she offered her services at a low rate because she knew wealthy people could already afford nannies. Phoenix was oddly relieved to hear he was on the low end of the income scale in terms of people who had contacted her, which raised his chances somewhat.
Three days passed, and Phoenix got another email saying that the list had been narrowed down to him and two other people. Miley scheduled their formal interview, and clarified in advance that most of the questions would be about Trucy.
"Good," he replied. "I'll take any excuse to ramble about my daughter."
Miley said this was exactly the response she had wanted to hear.
The interview went perfectly. Miley's ideals for child-rearing lined up with Phoenix's perfectly, and she often proposed things only moments before he was about to. She asked all about Trucy, about her likes and dislikes, and sent Phoenix a list that described every book in her children's library. She had plenty of books on magic tricks, and admitted that she had learned a few tricks herself because they always went over so well with kids.
Phoenix talked about how smart Trucy was, how mature she was for her age, and Miley asked out of nowhere if she'd had a difficult childhood. Phoenix swallowed thickly before confirming it, and then Miley said she understood, that her childhood had been no walk in the park and that it was part of why she'd chosen to work with children. This brought a soft smile to Phoenix's face.
On top it all, Miley was sharp, and had a dry sarcastic humor about her despite her overall kindness. Phoenix found himself chuckling at her messages constantly, and Trucy kept asking him what was so funny. To his surprise, Miley also laughed at his stupid puns (in the form of text, anyway).
It seemed like a match made in nanny heaven, and he wondered if there was some kind of catch, especially because her fee was so comparably low.
"No particular reason," her response to his question read. "I find the work fulfilling, and am more than comfortable living on family money. I was left enough that I don't need to work, but to sit around in an empty decadent townhouse eating foie gras seems awfully lonely. I figured that I don't need to charge an astronomical fee."
Phoenix felt a momentary sting of jealousy at that, but made a point to dismiss it. The fact that Miley was taking the job not for need of money, but for a genuine love of children, was actually comforting once he thought more about it.
Another day, and Phoenix actually jumped for joy when he received the message informing him he'd been chosen. Him! Over everyone else!
"Will you have me?" Miley asked, confirming whether he still needed her services or not.
"Of course! You're hired!"
He grinned as he sent his last message, and received an excited reply asking for the address, what to bring, and when to stop by. He relayed those final details, and then ran to find Trucy. She'd be delighted to learn she no longer had to spend her afternoons with strange college girls.
"My new nanny's coming today?!"
Trucy jumped up from her seat on the couch, her fists raised to chest level. Phoenix smiled widely at her and nodded, picking her up to spin her around for a moment before planting her back on the couch.
"Yes, ma'am! She'll be here at six-o-clock tonight. She's going to stay the night in the guest room so she can be here to make you breakfast tomorrow morning— Daddy has to be at work reaaaaally early. She's gonna make you pancakes with whipped cream and strawberries!"
Trucy could only squeal at that, too excited to form words. Phoenix put his hands on his hips and looked about the condo, frowning to himself.
"I have to go to class an hour after she gets here. I've got some time... I oughta get this place cleaned up a bit."
"Should I help?!"
He laughed, touched by her sincerity.
"No, that's okay. Tell you what— you can let me know when you see Miley coming, okay? That way daddy can pretend he wasn't frantically cleaning."
Trucy took her seat in the armchair closest to the window and pulled out her deck of cards, immediately engrossing herself in rehearsal of her latest magic trick.
The girl asked question after question as Phoenix dusted, vacuumed, and moved things around to make the house look presentable. For once he was thankful to have such a small place, as it meant he had less to clean.
Just as he was finishing his work, he noticed Trucy squinting at something out the window. She remained silent for a minute or two, and then asked a strange question.
"Does daddy need to get his eyes checked?"
Phoenix looked over his shoulder at Trucy, who was standing near the window, and smiled. He left the room for a moment, setting his final stack of books and magazines on the shelf in the tiny closet, and returned to the living room.
"No, sweetie, daddy's eyes are fine. Why do you ask?"
"But you must be blind! That's not a girl!!"
Phoenix felt his eyebrows raise, and finally wondered just what the girl was staring at so intently.
"Wha— who's not a girl?"
It occurred to him just then that it was nearly six. He wondered why Trucy hadn't announced the nanny's arrival, but then, she seemed both confused and transfixed.
Trucy was propped up on the windowsill to better see out of the glass, and she pressed her index finger against the pane. Phoenix, laughing, walked to her side and further pulled back the curtain to get a closer look. Maybe Miley had broad shoulders, or wore ill-fitting pants, but he didn't care much about her appearance and hadn't even asked for a photograph.
He couldn't see them too clearly, but whoever was getting out of their car and grabbing their large bag stuffed full of things and double-checking their watch and the address didn't appear to be a woman. They could be, he guessed, but kept their hair pretty short for a girl and wore what looked like men's clothing. Phoenix furrowed his brow.
"See? Not a girl!"
"Well, she could just be a, um, muscular girl..."
The approaching nanny looked up, towards the window, and Phoenix reflexively sprang away from it. He didn't want to come across as creepy, especially not this early. Trucy could get away with staring. She was eight.
He held his breath, and tried to hold Trucy in place behind him after pulling her from the window and moving towards the front door. He could feel her trying to jump up and down. Nearly a minute passed, and he imagined the nanny readjusting their bags and rehearsing their introduction, maybe stopping on the front step to take a deep breath.
Then the doorbell rang.
"Sit still," Phoenix warned his rambunctious daughter.
He opened the door, and the nanny smiled as they asked if they had the right address.
It was not a woman's voice.
"That's not a girl!!" Trucy repeated, and she was laughing so hard that she was having difficulty standing. Phoenix felt his face go beet-red and shoved his way through the front door, slamming it shut behind him. The nanny looked mildly surprised, but took the hint and stepped back.
"Is something wrong?"
"What kind of a man's name is Miley?!"
Phoenix wished he had phrased himself better, as 'Miley' looked somewhat offended now. ...Also, he was very handsome, but that was beside the point.
"That's not my name, you're the one who decided to call me that."
"I— it wasn't me, it was the paper!"
Phoenix was now glad he'd decided to keep the ad folded up in his pocket, and pulled it out to prove his point. He handed it to 'Miley', who quickly scanned it. He huffed and rolled his eyes as he handed it back.
"I'll have to call and advise them to be more careful in the future, but it's not Miley. It's Miles." His indignation passed after a moment, and then he laughed, one of those dry chuckles that didn't carry any joy. "I kept wondering why you were calling me that! But you never used any gendered words, so I didn't think you thought I was a woman."
"Why didn't you correct me?!" Phoenix was truly perplexed now.
"I just thought you were odd. That you're one of those people who nicknames everybody shortly after a first meeting— you know the kind."
He did know the kind, but still, it was strange that he hadn't bothered to correct a misspelling of his own name.
"I was mostly focused on Trucy, I'll have you know," Miles continued. "The nickname struck me as odd for about half a second before I became focused on her."
Phoenix blinked at him. He couldn't exactly find any fault in that statement. And besides, he didn't have any problem with having a male nanny, as unusual as it was. After a moment, he sighed.
"Yeah, okay, I get that. I guess that's the best I could ask for, right?"
"...Is it alright if I meet her now? I'm sure she's getting awfully impatient, just standing there in the middle of the—"
"Oh, jeez, I forgot! Uh, here." Phoenix turned and carefully slid the front door back open, peeking in at Trucy. "We're coming in now, you sit still."
He opened the door and made an 'after you' gesture, and to his amusement, Miles bowed before entering. The door closed behind the two of them, and he watched as Miles' expression and tone changed completely. He knelt down and put his hands on his knees so that he'd be closer to her eye level.
"Hi, can I assume that you're Trucy? I've heard an awful lot about you," he said in a strangely soothing, quieter voice, and Trucy giggled.
"That's me!! Do you like magic tricks?!"
"As a matter of fact, I do. Actually..." He trailed off to glance quickly up at Phoenix, and then he reached forward and pulled a flower out from behind Trucy's ear, one that seemingly came out of nowhere. She screamed. A happy scream, but loud. She took the flower and then pulled the man into a hug without any kind of warning.
"Um, sorry about that—"
"It's fine," Miles reassured him. "Trucy, what do you want to do today? Do you have any homework?"
Trucy thought for a moment, looking up as she did, and then nodded furiously.
"I have a little math homework and then I wanna watch Kiki when we're done!"
"Kiki's Delivery Service. Miyazaki," Phoenix explained. "Those ones are her favorites, 'cause all the heroes are average little girls like her."
"Ah, yes," Miles responded, and a flash of recognition passed through his eyes. "I do have a few of Miyazaki's films in my library, but not that one in particular."
"Do you have Totoro?! 'Cause we don't have Totoro and I only get to watch it at my friend Pearl's house!!"
"I do have Totoro."
Trucy stared at him, both eyes and mouth wide, and then looked up at her father as she took his hands in hers.
"Daddy, I love him. We have to keep him, daddy, I don't care that he's not a girl."
Phoenix blushed, and Miles laughed.
"U-uh, daddy doesn't mind either. You go and get your homework, okay? Miles will help you with it."
She turned on her heels and bounded up the stairs, almost losing her top hat in the process and taking two steps at a time, an impressive feat for someone with such small legs. Miles remained in his kneeling position for a moment, still laughing, and then stood and turned to face Phoenix. Both men smiled somewhat awkwardly.
"I do hope it's not a problem, anyway. I know it's not exactly the standard..."
"No, it's fine, I was just surprised is all. Hell, my friends in class'll probably find it hilarious that I hired a manny."
Phoenix heard something crash upstairs and cast a worried glance at the ceiling.
"Is she always so...?"
"Energetic? Yeah, usually. She knows when to keep quiet, though. Doesn't cause me trouble in the store or anything. I got pretty lucky."
Miles straightened his stance somewhat, suddenly looking much more professional, more like a secretary than a nanny.
"Now, I don't want to be intrusive, but these are questions I need to ask... Is the mother involved at all? Is there one?"
"...No. Nobody. It's just me. There's a lot to that, though, and I don't have time to explain it all right now."
"Right, you have to get to class. Law school, right?"
Phoenix stood up proudly and flashed a thumbs-up.
"That's right! Still got a ways to go, but a lawyer's salary would be nice."
Miles smiled somewhat sadly.
"My father was a lawyer."
"Oh? Funny coincidence."
Phoenix had noticed the use of the word was, but chose not to comment on it. Not now, anyway. He'd just met the man. He'd just realized he was a man.
"Well... I'll get all of my things set up. The kitchen is...?"
"Oh, it's just over that way. You can use whatever you have to, just don't go snooping around in my room or anything like that," Phoenix called over his shoulder as he moved to pack up his laptop and textbook.
He'd get to class a bit early at this rate, but he did have to drive (something he had been very reluctant to learn), and he didn't like to leave it up to fate whether or not he'd miss the beginning of class due to traffic. He heard Miles rummaging around in the kitchen, and heard Trucy pounding her way back down the stairs.
He stood, and Trucy leapt into his arms, shrieking a thousand thank-yous. Suddenly she pulled away from him, her eyes wide and curious.
"Daddy, what's a manny?"
The last thing Phoenix heard from Miles before leaving the apartment was a distant and muffled burst of laughter.
hE WAS WORKIN' OUT OF A SMALL CONDO IN JAPANIFORNIA (I'm sorry I'll stop now)
Remember when I said I had a long Wrightworth AU planned? Haha, this isn't it!! This is an idea that came to me like literally four hours ago that I had to write because it's short and sweet and I can't focus on things!! Probably won't be too consistent with updates on this one, though, I'm gonna warn ya now.
Please note that I haven't actually played AA4, DD, or SOJ, but I know vaguely about Trucy because spoilers literally fucking everywhere (made the mistake of looking up art and fics and things right after finishing game one). So if her personality is off, sorry about that. And I also don't know anything about her parents before Phoenix, so I've created a separate story for the sake of this AU.
(That other AU is still a thing, though, I have like 1.7 chapters finished)
Chapter 2: Manny McPhee
TW for discussion of drugs and addiction.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Phoenix couldn't have possibly predicted it, but Trucy fell madly in love with Miles practically overnight.
Phoenix came downstairs the morning after he'd hired the man to find them drawing some elaborate pictures together. He peeked over Miles' shoulder and saw that Trucy's appeared to be dress sketches... Very small dresses.
"Whatcha doing there?" He asked, and Miles stiffened. Trucy was all too eager to tell.
"Miles can sew clothes!! We're gonna make the coolest dress ever for my next magic show and he's gonna be my assistant and have a matching outfit!!"
Phoenix grinned down at Miles, who was deliberately hiding his face.
"Is that so? And did you decide all that while I was gone?" Phoenix's eyes flickered down to the stack of books near Miles, a stack made up entirely of books on magic tricks. It seemed that magicians always did wear pretty grand outfits, but that usually the girl was the assistant.
"Look at our sketches, daddy!!" Trucy insisted, shoving her many papers into his hands in fistfuls. Trucy had designed the dresses and Miles had taken the sketches as reference for his matching suits.
He watched them sketch for a few minutes, and then kissed Trucy goodbye as she bolted out the door to catch her bus. Miles smiled softly as he watched her go, and once the door was shut, Phoenix shrugged.
"So you're also a tailor?"
"Children ruin their clothes all the time, so I found it necessary to learn basic sewing rather early in my career. The rest came from making Halloween costumes, actually."
Phoenix giggled, and Miles sighed.
"Oh, that's cute. I didn't even think of that," Phoenix said as he made his way to the kitchen, and he couldn't help but notice that Miles looked mildly disgruntled. Maybe he was embarrassed? He gestured at him to follow, and he did, albeit slowly. Phoenix started moving things on the countertop. After a minute Miles cleared his throat.
"...Does she actually know how to do all of the basic tricks? Because she is very determined to saw me in half, and I fear somewhat for my safety."
Phoenix laughed so hard at that that he nearly dropped the coffee beans. Miles didn't seem to think it was very funny.
"You— you know that no one actually gets cut into, right? It's just an illusion."
"I know that, but she keeps... She keeps..."
Phoenix laughed again, and Miles seemingly relaxed and joined him in it.
"She's a little weird, I know, but... She's great," Phoenix said. Miles nodded in agreement.
"...So what was it you wanted?" He asked after Phoenix fell silent. He jumped up from his spot at the coffeemaker.
"Oh, sorry! I wanted to know if you wanted breakfast. I mean, you don't have to stick around while Trucy's at school. You've got a life of your own. But I figure we should probably get to know each other seeing as you'll practically be living here."
"...Alright. I can help, if you want. I should get as used to this kitchen as possible."
Phoenix tried to insist on doing it alone at first, but eventually capitulated to Miles' request. He made bagels and coffee while Miles made eggs and bacon— which Phoenix could hardly argue with, as the best he could do was prepare sausages.
Phoenix was surprised to learn that Miles took his coffee nearly black. He himself was the kind of guy who put so much creamer and sugar in it that it hardly qualified as coffee by the time he was done with it, but Miles gulped down the hot bitter drink like it was nothing. He shrugged at Phoenix's perplexed glance.
"I prefer tea, usually, and the kind I drink is often quite bitter. I don't do too well with sweets... Unlike you, apparently."
Phoenix glanced down at his own cup, noticing how much paler his liquid looked, and laughed nervously. He took a few bites of his breakfast before striking up a conversation.
"So. How long have you been in the business?"
"I started just after graduating. A friend of mine recommended it as a starting point— I wanted to be a therapist originally. I found that the work allowed me to get a bit more personal, so I stayed."
"And why'd you decide to work without an agency?"
"The local agencies are good for getting started, certainly, but they're full of shallow young women who don't take the job very seriously and overzealous bosses who establish lots of arbitrary rules. I left as soon as I developed a good list of references."
"Where, uh, where did you grow up?"
"Here, for the most part. I did live in Europe for a while, but I came back as soon as I gained my independence."
Phoenix nearly dropped his fork.
"Germany. Cologne, mostly, but sometimes Berlin."
"Can you speak German?"
"Well, I didn't have much choice but to learn it, and it turned out to be remarkably easy for me. It's how I learned I have a knack for languages, and now it's something of a hobby of mine."
"How many do you speak?"
"...Let me think... Putting English aside, my German, French, and Spanish are fluent, my Italian and Portuguese need some polishing, and I'm just starting to learn Russian. If we're only including those I'd consider sufficient, I speak four."
Phoenix whistled. He really was lucky to have nabbed this guy.
"But enough about me," Miles piped up. "What about you? Why law school?"
Phoenix chuckled and scratched the back of his head. He wasn't anywhere near as impressive as his nanny.
"Well... I was in the debate club in high school. And even though I was far from the smartest guy in the room, I tend to think a little outside the box, and I'm good at bluffing— at convincing people I'm a lot more confident in my argument than I actually am. So... Law school."
Miles stopped eating and stared at him for a moment. Phoenix wondered if he'd said something stupid, or perhaps offensive. He'd said his father was a lawyer, after all. But after a second, he laughed and shook his head.
"Those traits certainly lend themselves to a career as a defense attorney. My father always said that if something seemed impossible or wrong, he'd just turn the situation around and think about it backwards, and usually some discrepancy would come to light that way."
Phoenix breathed a sigh of relief. He glanced at his watch and saw that time had flown by rather quickly, and he had to be at work soon.
"Y-yeah, sorry. You'll be on call in case Trucy gets sick and needs to go home or something, but you can do whatever you want until school lets out. You don't have to hang around here."
Miles looked around the house, deep in thought, before answering.
"I think I'll get myself properly settled in. Do you mind if I look through some of Trucy's clothes? I want to see what I can do about her costume."
"Oh, wait, come with me!" Phoenix chirped, and he led Miles to a colorful chest. It was in the living room, hidden in the corner of the room between couch and armchair. He knelt down to open it up. "Her magic stuff is in here. All her props, her hats, and her costumes. It's convenient to keep it down here for when she wants to put on a show for guests."
"That's sweet of you," Miles said somewhat teasingly, and Phoenix blushed. He saw the nanny kneel down in front of the box as he left the condo and said his goodbyes.
Phoenix nearly jumped out of his skin. He hadn't been addressed in a stern tone like that since he was a child. He crept slowly and carefully into the kitchen, and it was there that he caught the full force of a glare, the kind that could only be delivered by steel-grey eyes.
Miles had made himself quite at home over the course of the two weeks he'd been living there. Phoenix had gotten so used to his presence that he'd started ordering three portions of foods when he was out, just in case Miles wanted some too, and had started calling out to him to verify where Miles was when he stepped into the house.
Trucy was constantly attached to his hip. Whenever people asked who he was, she would introduce him not as her nanny, but as her "bestest friend in the whole wide world", and Miles had never once corrected her. Phoenix would then be left to explain the situation quietly to the interested party. Men would either laugh or ask why he'd chosen to hire a man, and women would squeal and swoon and giggle.
Miles gets an awful lot of attention, Phoenix had noticed with a flare of jealousy. On top of being ridiculously smart and handsome, he could also play the piano. It was downright frustrating sometimes. But then he'd watch as Miles played a song on Trucy's little keyboard and she put her all into the singing and dancing portion of the performance, and all of his anger would fade in an instant. She was happy.
Phoenix wasn't sure when it had happened, but Miles had taken on something of a guiding role in his life as well as Trucy's. It wasn't uncommon to be scolded by him, particularly when he stayed up all night studying, but he hadn't heard this particular tone before. He gulped before answering.
"Wh-what is it?" He forced an inconspicuous smile.
"What's this about you not knowing how to cook anything?"
Trucy was standing on a stool near the counter, and had apparently been watching Miles prepare to cook their dinner. She was giving her father a disapproving look. After a moment it changed to a knowing smirk.
You love watching your dad get scolded, don't you? Phoenix thought, giving her a stern glance that she returned by sticking out her tongue at him.
"Th-That's not true, I can make sausage! And burgers, and hot dogs!"
"That's not cooking, that's... That's essentially microwaving with a pan!"
"Microwa— that doesn't even make any sense!"
"All you need to do is spray the pan, cook the meat, and flip it over every once in a while, right? Do you even season it?!"
Phoenix bit his lip and looked at the ground, and Miles rubbed the bridge of his nose and groaned.
"Look, if you expect to raise a child you'll need basic cooking skills. Not just for her, but for you, too! You aren't getting the nutrients that your brain needs for—"
"I can't take you seriously in that apron."
Trucy, who'd been giggling the whole time, started laughing so hard she had to jump down from her stool so that she wouldn't fall down. Miles put his hands on his hips, which only brought more attention to his frilly-edged apron.
"I didn't buy it!" He argued.
"I. Didn't. Buy it."
Phoenix realized he was getting Miles off topic and thought that maybe, just maybe, he had found an escape route. Trucy, as sharp as ever, was eying him even as she continued to laugh. She was onto him.
"You look like a girl—"
"You have five seconds to get over here and let me show you how to boil water before I boycott your breakfast tomorrow morning," Miles interrupted.
"But I'm paying you to take care of my daughter!"
"I said your breakfast."
"Yeah, daddy! No breakfast for you!" Trucy jeered. Phoenix sighed and moved to stand near the counter. Miles gave him a condescending pat on the head before forcing him to pay attention to the stove.
Everything went relatively well at first. Phoenix watched how one rose water to a boil, and Miles went to get the pasta and the tomato sauce and the ground beef. Phoenix was charged with getting the spices and cutting vegetables.
Everything went well up until the moment that Miles stood next to Phoenix and moved to cut open the plastic wrap around the beef and Phoenix colossally fumbled in his attempt to cut an onion. The next thing he knew, Trucy was shrieking and punching him in the side and Miles was clutching his hand and biting his lip so hard that it had to hurt. Phoenix gawked at him for a moment before he put together what had happened.
"Oh, God, I cut your hand open, didn't I?!"
"...I... Cannot believe... That you even managed that. Maybe I shouldn't be teaching you how to cook! Maybe it's best for everyone that you be allowed nowhere near a kitchen!"
"The stove, daddy, turn down the stove! Move the pot or the water will spill!"
Trucy knows more about kitchens than I do, Phoenix realized as he frantically threw open drawers in search of the first aid kit. He moved the pot off of the burner and turned the stove down, careful not to spill it.
"I don't think there's any blood on the beef," Miles muttered to himself. He appeared to be wiping the countertop.
Is that what you should be worrying about right now?!
He found the first aid kit and seized Miles by the wrist, guiding him to the couch. Trucy continued to scold him as he knelt in front of the nanny and made him uncurl his hands so he could look at the wound. He instantly cringed.
It was nothing that required a hospital visit, but it was a pretty good cut nonetheless. The placement looked quite painful. The gash was in the skin right between where thumb met palm, and he had to stretch his fingers out to expose the wound. There was almost no way to hold the hand that didn't hurt.
"You injured me. You actually injured me. That's never happened before."
"I didn't mean to, I swear to god, I'm so so sorry!" He cleaned the wound and the excess blood, ignoring the hiss that escaped through Miles' teeth. Trucy had stopped shouting and now looked like she was trying not to cry. Miles assured her that he was alright, that her "idiot father" hadn't hit a nerve or anything serious. Phoenix couldn't really argue with him at this point. Miles hadn't even been holding a knife, and he ended up with a cut somehow.
It seemed that even after bandaging, the wound hurt, and made if difficult for Miles to use his hand. His face twisted into a cocky smirk.
"As for your punishment, you have to finish dinner by yourself. I won't touch a thing."
"Punishment?! I'm paying you!"
"And you injured me while I was on the job! Think of it as worker's compensation!"
...He couldn't argue with that, either.
Phoenix was forced to learn how to sauté beef and onions and how to cook and drain pasta the hard way: by doing it himself, with only vague instruction from Miles, who sat at the counter and watched with that smirk still in place.
He plated the food for the three of them, and Trucy did her best impression of a food critic as she thoughtfully chewed. Miles watched her, refusing to try it himself until he got her seal of approval.
"...It's good!" She said, and Phoenix felt his head slam down onto the table as he let out a long noise of pent-up frustration turning into immense relief.
"A little salty, but acceptable," Miles added.
"Wow, thanks," Phoenix groaned. Miles pointed at his bandaged hand and raised an eyebrow, and Phoenix laughed nervously and mouthed an apology.
It was the first of many dinners Phoenix reluctantly prepared with limited guidance. Before long, he was cooking every night he was home in time to do so, and after a while, Miles stopped criticizing his use of seasoning. It seemed Phoenix wasn't as bad at home-making as he'd suspected.
Three more weeks passed, during which Trucy's first school talent show of the year drew closer and closer by the day. Miles worked continuously on a costume, and was apparently working on something at home for himself using clothes he already had. Phoenix reacted strangely to that comment— he'd forgotten that Miles had an apartment of his own.
The talent show came on a Saturday, and Phoenix planned for someone else to take his notes for him and took the day off from school. He planned to change his classes next year so that he wouldn't have to go in the evening.
He'd gone out to shop for groceries, leaving Miles and Trucy to prepare by themselves. They had gotten permission to let Trucy use him as her assistant, and she did intend to saw him in half. He threw open the door and pushed inside the house with bags of food under both of his arms.
"Honey, I'm hooooome!"
He was immediately hit in the face with a stuffed rabbit from the direction of the living room. Gently, though. More of a half-hearted toss than a throw.
"That's very funny, Mr. Wright."
Phoenix frowned at the continued use of his last name as he walked into the living room to find both Miles and Trucy.
"I told you you don't have to call me that," he reminded the nanny, who only shrugged. He didn't look up from Trucy. He seemed to be adjusting her hat, or making sure something would stay in place.
"It's weird!!" Phoenix shouted, as he was now halfway down the hall to the kitchen. He put the food away and then made his way to the living room.
"I don't call you Mr. Edgeworth, do I?" He asked. Miles looked a bit guilty for a moment, but didn't answer him. He finished adjusting Trucy's outfit, and she did a twirl.
"Don't we look awesome, daddy?!" Phoenix looked the two of them up and down and had to admit he was impressed.
They seemed to have some sort of theme going. Trucy's dress, while it was still short and seemed suitable to a magician's show, was rather classical, almost Victorian, in style. Her red silk top hat had a fancy feather decoration on it now, and had a black ribbon around it. Miles had on a well-fitted red tailcoat with a black collar. He wore a black vest with gold buttons over a white dress shirt and black slacks. Both wore nice leather boots that had been well-polished.
"You guys look great! Are we ready to go?"
Trucy double-checked her bag, which Miles wore over one shoulder, and nodded. She'd gotten halfway to the door when she suddenly stopped and gasped.
"Miles, your neck puff!!"
"Oh, goodness, you're right. Where is my neck puff?" Miles replied, looking around the room.
"...Your what?" Phoenix asked, and just then Miles straightened his stance again and started to tie something around his neck.
"It's actually called a cravat," he whispered. "But we're calling it a neck puff for now."
Phoenix laughed, and then ushered them into the car. He drove them to the school and took his seat amongst the other parents in the audience. The woman next to him asked where his wife was, and scowled at him when he said he didn't have one. He paid her no mind— he'd gotten used to that sort of silent judgement.
He sat through boring and cringe-worthy acts, one after the other. He guessed that the important thing was for the kids to be having fun, but he knew he'd have been embarrassed at their age. Trucy had insisted on going last, on being the finale. Teachers had tried to tell her this meant she was the one people would remember, and she replied that that's why she wanted to close.
Trucy and Miles appeared with some kind of smoke bomb, it seemed. There was a bang, a flash of lights, and faint smoke, and then they appeared. Phoenix was genuinely unsure of how she'd pulled that one off. The woman on the other side of him asked him who "that man" was, and he explained that it was her nanny. This lady apparently wasn't as judgmental, and said she thought it was sweet that Miles was so attached to Trucy.
Trucy managed to successfully saw Miles in half, and pulled her stuffed rabbit out of her hat, and did a few card tricks in which she called up a member of the audience. The magical duo did a bow as the crowd stood to clap and cheer, and Miles laughed when he heard Phoenix scream "that's my daughter!!" over the roar of the crowd.
He met them backstage, where Trucy was being fussed over by a few teachers and other kid's parents. He waved to Miles, who smiled at him.
"So, we've been meaning to ask, but who exactly are you, sir?" The teacher asked Miles, and he blushed as he fumbled for a response.
I guess he kind of forgot, huh? Phoenix thought, chuckling.
"He's my bestest friend!" Trucy exclaimed, and she hugged him from the side.
"I'm also the nanny and housekeeper," Miles added, draping an arm around the tiny magician as best he could with the difference in height.
"Oh, how sweet! You like your nanny an awful lot, don't you Trucy?"
Trucy nodded, and smiled sweetly up at Miles.
"He reminds me of my mama before she went to heaven, and when she wasn't sick," Trucy murmured, her smile turning somewhat sad.
Phoenix didn't know to describe the look on Miles' face.
"Um... You were asking about Trucy's mom."
Miles paused his movements with this cravat and looked to Phoenix, his expression momentarily guilty. Trucy had been sent to bed as soon as they'd gotten home, and Phoenix could plainly see that Miles had been attempting to decipher the girl's comment in his head.
"You don't have to talk about it if you don't want to. I just want to know more about Trucy. These things are important."
"They are," Phoenix agreed. "And it's why I think you should know."
Miles stared ahead for a moment, then continued fiddling with his cravat. Phoenix took the silence as permission to continue and took a deep breath.
"She was a friend of mine from high school, and she had a problem with drugs."
Miles couldn't hide his surprise.
"I think heroin, mostly. Painkillers, too. She tried to get clean a bunch of times. That's why Trucy already knew me and already sort of thought of me as her dad... I was constantly having her sleep here while her mom was too high to think, or in the hospital from an overdose, or supposedly in rehab. At a certain point I was the only stable thing in her life. Uncle Nick."
Miles' face formed a hard frown.
"That... That's awful. Where is she now?"
Phoenix blinked, and then he looked away, feeling a familiar burn in the corners of his eyes.
"She's... She's not anywhere. She's dead."
"...I should have known that. Trucy said she's in heaven," Miles muttered to himself, clearly feeling bad for having asked. Phoenix shook his head. Don't worry about it, he tried to say.
"She came to me with Trucy and lots of money and made me swear to look after her. She promised she was gonna get clean, once and for all, but that she needed to settle some debts first. I believed her, and she dissapeared... Three months passed and I didn't hear a word from her. Trucy would constantly ask me where her mother was, and then... One day she started calling me daddy, and she stopped asking where mommy had gone. Almost like she'd been expecting it. I got the call that same day... That they'd found her."
"No. Crueler than that, actually. I think she really did mean it this time, that she wanted to quit... But she pissed off the wrong dealer, I guess. She was shot. The last thing she did was sign everything over to me, and just like that, I had a daughter."
Miles' brow was so heavily furrowed now that his eyebrows nearly touched in the center. He must have had a habit of doing that, Phoenix mused. It would explain the permanent little crease there.
"Does... Does Trucy know—"
"I've never directly said to her 'Trucy, your mother was a drug addict and a dealer shot her in the head', if that's what you mean. But... She knows mommy's not with us anymore, and that she was 'sick'."
"...Before she was sick. She meant... She meant when she wasn't high or in withdrawal, right?"
"...Yeah. She was a really nice girl once, but the drugs destroyed her. ...I always did whatever she needed me to, no questions asked. Sometimes I wonder if things would have turned out differently if I had put my foot down—"
"No," Miles interrupted. "No, don't do that. You are not responsible for what became of her, and you did all you could. Trucy has a safe home now. That's what matters."
Miles' face flushed, and he looked away. He'd gotten uncharacteristically emotional and seemed to be embarrassed about it now. After a minute he gulped, and then changed the subject somewhat.
"...That explains it, then. Her sudden attatchment... She can tell. Children are surprisingly attuned to these things."
Phoenix quirked an eyebrow and sat up to better face him.
"What is it? What can she tell?"
"...My father was a lawyer. And he raised me alone until I was nine. But... Well, there was this earthquake at the law offices, and half of the building caved in, and then... People were trapped in the rubble—"
"Oh, God. I'm sorry I asked." Phoenix wanted to pinch himself. Being crushed to death by rubble or suffocated for lack of oxygen wasn't a pretty way to go, and Miles surely didn't like being reminded of it.
"It's... It's fine. The point is, I lost my father very suddenly that day. I was only a year or so older than Trucy is now. And unlike her, I didn't end up with a new family that loved me. I got plenty of money from that man, but he was no father, of that I can assure you."
Phoenix couldn't help but wonder who that man was and why he spoke of him with such vehement hatred, but that wasn't important now.
"I was terrified of earthquakes for a long while. I would lose consciousness every time I felt one. But the school I attended took such things very seriously, and appointed me to a school psychologist. ...She was my saving grace." He smiled sadly, and for a moment Phoenix didn't know what to say. He hadn't expected this level of honesty or depth.
After a moment he decided it made perfect sense. Miles was so passionate about what he did, and did it for love rather than a need of money. Up until now Phoenix had been unable to determine where it came from, how someone like him had ended up in this profession. Now, it all fit.
"...And that's why you went into child psychology. To make sure other kids got the help they needed," Phoenix murmured, mostly to himself, and Miles nodded.
Phoenix felt self-conscious all of a sudden. He guessed it was because he wasn't used to talking so seriously or openly with someone. His embarrassment must have showed on his face, because Miles laughed suddenly.
"Has anyone ever told you you're incredibly easy to read?"
"Pretty much on a daily basis, actually," Phoenix admitted.
Miles stood and bid him goodnight, and picked up his cravat and jacket and vest and made his way upstairs. Phoenix stayed on the couch for only another minute or so, and then he slowly trudged up the stairwell. He stopped when he noticed Trucy's bedroom door slightly ajar and paused to look inside.
Miles sat gingerly on the edge of the bed, careful not to wake her. He was talking, very quietly, to no one in particular. When he'd finished, he smiled down at the sleeping girl and brushed stray hairs from her forehead, and then he leaned in to give her a gentle kiss on the top of the head.
Phoenix held his breath as he watched, and he was suddenly perplexed. Miles didn't know that he was being watched, and Trucy was asleep, so for whose benefit was he doing this?
After a moment it occurred to him that the answer was quite simple— Miles loved Trucy.
Phoenix smiled as he quietly scurried away to his own bedroom and easily fell asleep, feeling safe and warm.
Whoops this turned out way longer than I meant it to
"Wow!! So pretty!!"
Trucy rushed into the fancy apartment while her father stood in the doorway, jaw hanging open. Miles laughed as he pushed past him to follow the girl.
Miles had elected to stay in his apartment for the night, and since the three of them had been in the car anyway, they'd decided to swing by his place to drop him off. Miles had invited them to come inside for a short while, just to see where he lived. Trucy had been excited by the idea, though she voiced aloud Phoenix's thoughts— "I forgot you had your own house".
Now that he was standing in it, Phoenix found himself downright confused.
It wasn't an apartment, it was a penthouse. The walls were a deep, textured red and had detailed white molding, and the floors were a shining dark hardwood occasionally covered in a Persian rug. His furniture was elegant, a combination of rich woods and golden and cream-colored upholstery, and tables were decorated with crystal vases full of lilies and expensive-looking clocks and lamps and candlesticks. He even had a marble fireplace and one of those crystal chandeliers.
Looking at it all, Phoenix could see that it was expensive and grand and more than comfortable. So the question arose: Why on earth do you choose to spend all of your free time in a cramped condo? It had been nearly six months now, and Miles almost never went home.
Trucy ran after Miles somewhere, and Phoenix found himself wandering into the kitchen. Beautiful granite countertops and mahogany cabinets, and state-of-the-art stainless steel appliances. Definitely a lot more to work with than what his barely-a-kitchen provided, and probably enough room to avoid injuries.
Phoenix looked around to make sure no one was following him and snuck down the hallway, and in the process confirmed to himself that, yes, his nanny's apartment was bigger than his entire house. He opened the door at the end of the hall and found what he'd been looking for— the bedroom. It actually wasn't as ostentatious as what he had expected. He'd been waiting for a four-post canopy bed, and instead saw a king-sized bed with a nice upholstered headboard and comforter. It was impeccably clean, which wasn't surprising.
...Wait, were those figurines on the dresser? Why did he have—
"Daddy, come here!"
Phoenix closed the door and scurried after the voice, trying to look like he hadn't been snooping. Miles' expression showed that he knew, but didn't much care.
Miles was seated on the bench of a beautiful grand piano, and Trucy was squeezed beside him and flipping through papers. A book of sheet music, apparently.
"You said that you played, but I didn't think you had a big piano like this at your place," Phoenix murmured. Miles affectionately patted the instrument.
"I wanna do this one, I wanna do this one!" Trucy squealed, directing Miles' attention to a particular page. He looked at it for a moment and then nodded. He started playing before Phoenix had a chance to ask what they were doing.
Together, they performed a piece from some Disney movie, and Phoenix couldn't remember which one. The important thing was that Trucy had a blast. Phoenix asked why Miles had a book full of kids' songs, and he explained that it always provided entertainment when he had to watch children at his own place. It wasn't especially common, but he liked to be prepared for anything.
"There's actually a spare bedroom," Miles mentioned, and Phoenix hummed in interest. It must have been one of the other doors in the hallway. "I have it set up for children, and it's gender-neutral."
"Can I see it?!" Trucy asked, and Miles laughed and nodded.
"It's the first door on the left past the kitchen," he called after her as she skipped away.
Phoenix noticed that Miles got the same proud twinkle in his eye that parents usually did when he watched Trucy walk away. But then, Trucy had that effect on people. Phoenix was certain that not a single person had met her without being changed in some way.
When they were alone, Phoenix glanced back at the fireplace mantel. The single photo there had caught his attention earlier, but he hadn't wanted to bring it up in front of his daughter.
"Who's this?" Phoenix asked, and he saw Miles' shoulders stiffen as he glanced over at what Phoenix was pointing to. He locked eyes with the photograph for only a moment before he looked away, his expression strangely pained.
"...That's... Um." He faded out for a moment, and he seemed to be searching for the right words. "I suppose you could say that she's my sister."
Phoenix furrowed his brow. He'd never heard anyone so vague when describing family, and looking at her, she didn't look much like him. Her hair was a silvery blue, and her eyes were a different shade of grey, had a different shape. Her jaw was different, and her skin, while pale, had a more muted tone to it. She had a stern expression and fancy frilled clothing. She looked to be barely a teenager.
"Your sister? Do you mean from when you were, uh, adopted? In Germany?"
"Yes," Miles breathed, sounding somewhat relieved that he didn't have to explain it further. "From Germany."
"Well, how come I haven't heard from her? You've met all of my weird friends, and my parents... What, you embarrassed or something?"
"I... Actually haven't spoken to her in several years. She's still in Berlin."
"...Oh. ...But you miss her, right? You wouldn't keep her picture up here if she didn't mean something to you."
"...She, unlike me, was upset when her father passed away. I couldn't give her the sympathy she needed, and then I moved to the States, and we drifted apart. It's... It's complicated."
Phoenix nodded, feeling sad all of a sudden. Miles' family life was always described like that— complicated. Exactly the opposite of what he had found with Trucy.
Trucy returned from her expedition, rambling about all the shiny things she'd seen. Miles told her she could spend the night sometime if she wanted, and then Phoenix took her hand in his and made his way back to their much smaller home. They both sang their goodbyes, and the door closed, and Miles was left alone.
Miles looked around, completely unimpressed with all the gaudy baubles. He'd always had expensive taste, but at some point decorating this way had become some kind of defense mechanism, had become a way to make up for that fact that there was no one else in his apartment with him. He'd always hoped the glitz and glamour would distract from the lack of refrigerator magnets or magazines or smiling family photos.
At some point, his home had stopped feeling like home. At some point, home had started to mean wherever Trucy was, wherever Phoenix was. Home was delightfully cramped, stuffed full of crayon drawings and magic props and law books and empty pizza boxes and cheap bottles of wine.
Home meant bumping into people when trying to cook a simple dinner or wash dishes and running out of refrigerator space. Home meant having too much laundry to sort through, where someone's sock would inevitably end up in the machine with the rest of the clothes and stain some article of clothing that would later have to be replaced. Home meant tripping over toys, and finding sleeping law students sprawled out on couches in front of open textbooks when they should've gone to bed hours ago.
This empty apartment was just that— an apartment.
Miles sighed at the lonely ache in his heart as he trudged slowly to his bed, and took far longer to fall asleep than he usually did.
"Daddy, when are you going to ask Miles on a date?"
Phoenix nearly fell over at that, and barely rescued his haphazard stack of pots and pans. He'd been trying to organize his cabinets, as said nanny had mentioned that wrestling cookware out of them was a chore in and of itself, and had thought him to be exaggerating until this very moment.
They'd barely been inside the house and alone for ten minutes before the girl, emboldened by Miles' absence, sprung the question.
"Wh— Trucy, honey, he's your nanny." He managed to get the stack of cookware onto the countertop after a moment of tilting and swaying, and used it as an excuse to avoid looking at Trucy.
"So?! That just means he already likes me!" She hopped in place, as she always did when she was frustrated.
"You said that that's the most important thing! Trucy's seal of removal!"
"It's approval, sweetheart, and— no, that's— Honey, daddy doesn't like-like Miles like that."
"Well, you should!"
"It's not that simple! Besides, Miles is a boy, remember?"
"But you said you like girls and boys! You're a bike!"
"I— I'm bi, sweetie." Phoenix held his head in his hands and sighed. Trucy understood the concept of bisexuality, and didn't have any problem with it ("girls and boys are both nice," she had said), but she couldn't pronounce the word.
He turned to look at his daughter and saw her pouting angrily at him with her arms crossed. He forced a smile and ruffled her hair, as she wasn't wearing one of her top hats for once.
"Now, Trucy, I know you wish you had two parents, but you can't force these things. And if we dated, we could break up, and then Miles would have to leave and you wouldn't get to see him anymore. Is that what you want?"
"But why would you break up?! Miles is nice, and smart, and so so soooo pretty!"
...Well, I suppose he is 'pretty'. Miles had long bangs and soft silvery hair, and thick eyelashes and full lips. His figure had some curves to it as well. He was pretty, even if his shoulders were broad and his jaw was strong. Phoenix realized a bit too late that he'd noticed too many details of the nanny's appearance and shook his head.
"...Sweetie, daddy isn't ready to start dating yet. Now come on, let's get you to bed."
Trucy growled under her breath and glared at him, but offered no other resistance and trudged along behind him. Phoenix tucked her into bed and kissed her forehead and read her a chapter of one of her books, which she said Miles always did for her, and then softly closed the door behind him as he left.
He sat on the couch and sighed heavily. The condo seemed emptier, somehow. It was too quiet. By now he'd usually be getting scolded for being up so late when he had class in the morning, and he'd argue that it wasn't even late. He had a pretend argument in his head, and then relented to the imaginary stubborn nanny and marched up the stairs.
It was oddly hard to sleep knowing that the guest room was empty.
Six months had gone by far too quickly.
Miles had become as much a part of the house as the furniture. It was entirely possible that he spent more time there than Phoenix did, between work and school.
Phoenix had started thinking of him as a good friend, as a confidante. Some days he'd come home from work or school exhausted and completely drained of focus, and Miles would put Trucy to bed and then make him something to eat. They'd sit on the couch and talk, oftentimes enjoying a cold beer or a glass of wine, and some nights they'd fall asleep there and Trucy would shake Miles awake in the morning.
It was one of those mornings when Trucy had started to reach over to shake her father that she'd stopped. Miles had fallen asleep with his head on Phoenix's shoulder, and Trucy watched, a strange and wide-eyed expression on her face, as Phoenix had slowly woken and then gently moved him aside. He'd looked at her, and she had started giggling.
Trucy first asked him if he liked Miles later that very day, as soon as he was out of earshot, and Phoenix had been too shocked by the sudden accusation to formulate an answer.
...He had elected not to think too much about that for now.
Phoenix felt like he knew just about everything there was to know about Miles some days, and other days he felt like he knew very little. He knew only very general details about the man's childhood. Miles didn't talk about childhood hobbies or early romantic interests or fond memories in the way that other people did. He seemed to live permanently between the present and the future. And there were benefits to this, to be sure, but Phoenix couldn't shake the feeling that he was wounded somehow.
His suspicions were confirmed one day as they stood together at the sink, washing dishes. Miles had been talking about his career thus far, and had said something about being with his last family for over two years. It didn't sound like a long time to a lot of people, but considering how close Miles had gotten to Trucy in only a couple of weeks, it was easy for Phoenix to tell that he'd cared a great deal for the child.
"So if you were with your last family so long, why did you leave?"
Miles froze completely. Time froze completely. The dish he'd been washing slipped from his hands and clattered against metal. Phoenix had never seen such a grave expression on someone's face, and he regretted asking.
"...I'm very sorry, but... I'm not comfortable talking about that. Not now, anyway. ...It's a fresh wound. I hope you can understand."
A fresh wound? It had been six months, at least. Phoenix immediately knew it that it had not been a standard career move. Had Miles... Had Miles been fired? Why on earth would anyone fire him? He couldn't imagine any possible reason. Miles was almost absurdly qualified, and he was technically as much a housekeeper and a personal chef as he was a nanny.
He'd have to figure it out eventually.
Miles was determined not to talk about his previous client, but he had apparently decided to open up in other ways.
Phoenix and Miles were alone, in the early evening just as the sun was setting, sitting on the living room couch and half-watching some overdramatic medical soap opera. It was the sort of thing that was fun to watch with another person if only to add sarcastic commentary. Miles was stirring his glass of wine again. Phoenix had always wondered why he did that so often.
"The Von Karmas adopted me shortly after my father died," Miles began. Phoenix immediately put his soda can down to pay his full attention to it. "They're a renowned legal family. Von Karma was a rival of my father's when he lived in the States, and after the accident he adopted me solely because he hated me."
Phoenix blinked, feeling completely dumbfounded.
"That doesn't make any sense," he said, and Miles shrugged.
"You've never met a man like Manfred Von Karma."
"That name is ridiculously evil and sounds made-up."
Miles laughed, the sort of quiet laugh that was mostly a quick exhale through the nose, as most of his laughter tended to be. It was the sort of thing one would miss if they didn't know what to look for.
"It was his real name, as far as I know, as absurd as it is. Anyway, he could abuse a person without laying a hand on them. He didn't have to. The things he said and the games he played and the expectations he held everyone to were so much worse."
"That... That's horrible." Phoenix gently patted Miles' knee. He didn't show any reaction to it. His expression had darkened somewhat.
"Franziska— my sister— she's never known anything else. It's to be expected that she would love him, even if he didn't ever really love her. We each got half of his estate when he died. A heart attack, I believe. He more or less worked himself to death. Maybe I should feel guilty living off of money that I had no hand in earning, but I figure he owes me at least that much."
Phoenix laughed at that. He certainly didn't plan on faulting him for it.
"So... Franziska had a falling out with you after that and stayed in Berlin, and you moved back here and took up child psychology."
Miles nodded. He didn't say so aloud, but he was grateful that Phoenix had been paying such close attention.
"Why nannying, anyway? I mean, it seems you wanted to make up for your own childhood, so I'd think you would want a kid of your own."
Miles smiled, and his eyelids lowered like they did when he was imagining something.
"I do want a child of my own, but that won't be for a long while yet. I don't know that I'm ready for an adoption right now, and I'm not sure how I feel about surrogacy if I don't even have a partner."
Phoenix quirked a brow. Miles gave him a blank stare for a moment, and then his cheeks flushed a little and he laughed.
"I... I'm sorry, I thought you knew. I'm gay. I won't be having any children the old-fashioned way anytime soon."
"You— oh. Oh."
Well, there goes one of my excuses, Phoenix thought, glaring at his soda can in lieu of his stubborn daughter.
"Is... Is that going to be a problem?" His expression tightened for a moment, and he looked pained. "I had mentioned it to Trucy because she kept asking me whether I liked boys or girls for whatever reason, and I thought she must have told you."
"Wha— No, no! I just... I dunno, I guess I'm surprised? I'm actually bi myself, so it's not like it's unusual to me. Or, well, I'm a bike, if you listen to Trucy."
"She did say that. I... I admit that it took me a long time to decipher what she was trying to say, until I eventually got her to say that you like both boys and girls."
They shared a laugh at that.
Phoenix changed the channel after a little while, and this time he settled on a comedy movie, one that actually managed to get a chuckle out of Miles every once in a while. Something occurred to Phoenix, and he smirked as he stood up. Miles watched him leave, plainly confused.
He returned a few minutes later with a leather album.
"Since I saw your picture of Franziska and you told me all about it... I thought maybe you'd like to see some of these," he chirped, and he plopped back down on the couch and opened the book to its first spread of pages. He looked at Miles out of the corner of his eye and saw his face brighten.
"Is that her?!"
"Yeah, that's my little girl. She'd literally just been born."
The pictures on the first page were of the first time Phoenix had held Trucy. Her mother couldn't really be seen, but she was resting in the hospital bed just behind him. The younger Phoenix smiled proudly at the newborn infant with teary eyes. Miles started to snicker at something, and Phoenix looked at him questioningly.
"I didn't realize that was you. You look like a goddamned hobo."
Phoenix couldn't force himself to be too angry, because Miles wasn't wrong. The person they were looking at bore little resemblance to him now. The man in the photo had skin that was significantly darker, and hid his spiky hair under a wool beanie, and apparently had a perpetual five o'clock shadow. He had dressed in nothing but hoodies and sweatpants back then.
"Well," Phoenix relented, "I wasn't in a great place. This was taken not too long before I dropped out of law school. It was before I had any motivation."
"At least you cleaned up."
"They called me hobo dad for a little while," Phoenix admitted with a sheepish laugh, scratching his neck.
Miles had commandeered the album by now, and was flipping through photos at his own pace. Phoenix was having a good enough time just watching his expressions change. He'd never found someone so genuinely delighted to look at Trucy's baby pictures with him. He'd always secretly hoped that he would, just so he had an excuse to show them off.
The album contained just about all the important things. All of her birthdays, her Christmases, her first magic show, everything. It was a picture near the very end, the one on the second to last page, that made Miles' smile fade, and Phoenix felt a slight pang of regret.
Trucy sat on the lap of a woman with eyes exactly like hers, but they were slightly faded, almost cloudy. It wasn't difficult to discern why when one knew the whole story. Miles clicked his tongue.
"She looks just like her."
"...Yeah. This book, uh, only has the pictures leading up to... Leading up to when I took her in. Her mother left us not long after that one was taken."
"...That's what this one is," Miles breathed, pointing at the very last photograph. Trucy and Phoenix were together, the girl propped up on his elbow with her arms wrapped around his neck, and both looked somewhat sad even through their smiles. Phoenix held up a piece of paper. It wasn't clear enough to read the words, but Miles could guess what is was.
"That's her adoption certificate," Phoenix mumbled.
Miles stared at those two pictures for a long while, and then he seemed to make up his mind about something. He closed the book and quietly placed it on the coffee table, and then he pulled out his phone.
"What are you doing?" Phoenix asked after a minute or so of silence. Miles flinched.
"I was, um... I was checking to see what time it is in Berlin."
Phoenix nodded, and didn't say anything. Miles excused himself once he'd dialed the number and left the room to stand in the hallway. Phoenix did the best he could to eavesdrop on the conversation, though he didn't understand why he was bothering, since he didn't understand a word of German.
Apparently Franziska wasn't too happy to hear from him. Not at first, anyway. After a while she seemed to calm down, and as far as Phoenix could tell from tone, they had a civil conversation and a bit of a heart-to-heart. He sprang back to his previous position on the couch when he heard Miles' footsteps returning and pretended he hadn't been eavesdropping.
"She wasn't thrilled to hear from me, though... surprisingly, she was more upset that we haven't spoken in so long. She doesn't hate me. That's a small comfort."
"It's somewhere to start," Phoenix reassured him. He looked up at the ceiling and smirked. "And maybe we'll get to meet her some day! I've never met an angry German girl before, but there's a first for everything."
Miles casually slid a soda can onto the table. It hadn't even occurred to Phoenix that his was empty, but he offered a grateful nod as he took it and twisted open the tab.
"Are you planning on turning in soon? It's not exactly late, but I'm already pretty tired."
Phoenix had asked the question somewhat absent-mindledly, and it took several long seconds of silence before he realized that Miles was staring at him. Phoenix furrowed his brow in confusion, and Miles groaned.
"Trucy isn't here."
"I know that! Did you think I forgot my own daughter?!"
"Trucy is not spending the night here. She's at Pearl's. She won't be back here until after school tomorrow."
"...I still don't get why you're just saying stuff."
"I'm her nanny."
Phoenix stared at him for another moment before it clicked. Miles was her nanny. Meaning he only spent the night for Trucy's benefit and to make breakfast for her in the morning. Meaning there was literally no reason for him to stay the night.
"...O-oh. Yeah, you're right, I, uh... I guess I just forgot. You're almost always here."
Phoenix really didn't want to sleep in the condo alone, but he couldn't just ask a grown man to spend the night. Miles looked at him for another few moments. He seemed mildly disgruntled, and then he quickly looked away and moved to fiddle with his nearly empty glass just to look like he was doing something.
"But I mean it is getting dark already and I'm sure there's a lot of traffic at this hour and I doubt you want to be alone as you probably miss your daughter and I don't like to waste gasoline if I don't have to so I guess, just for tonight, I could stay."
Everything had come out as a too-quick jumble of words, and Miles squeezed his eyes shut and reddened slightly. Phoenix hadn't seen this particular expression of embarrassment before. He tried not to laugh.
"I mean, you know, carbon emissions and the environment and all that," Phoenix added loudly. "You shouldn't waste gas! This is California!"
"Y-yes. The, um... Ozone layer," Miles mumbled. Phoenix's agreement seemed to alleviate the redness of his face somewhat.
Phoenix held up his soda can, proposing a mock toast, and Miles laughed at him as he clumsily attempted to clink his glass against the aluminum.
"To the environment!"
Parent-teacher conferences had always made Phoenix nervous.
The other parents always seemed so put-together compared to him and always had detailed, insightful questions. They were always married couples, and the husband was always an executive accountant or something and the wife was always a Martha Stewart soccer mom type. And then there was Phoenix Wright— single adoptive father, too-old-to-be-in-college law student, and generally disorganized.
Thankfully, the conferences had changed their formatting somewhat. The group sit-down had been significantly shortened, and afterwards each parent group got to sit down alone with teachers and ask more specific questions about their child. This was an enormous relief, because Trucy had been studying a lot more than usual recently and Phoenix worried that she was having trouble, or was maybe making up for not paying enough attention in class.
He'd spoken to Trucy's other teachers, and the sun was beginning to get low in the sky as he entered the last classroom to speak to her homeroom teacher (were they called that in elementary school? He wasn't sure). Her assistant was there, too, seated in a rolling chair pulled up beside the desk. Phoenix took his seat across from the two of them and offered up a tired smile.
"Oh, you poor thing. Didn't I tell you to stop overworking yourself?"
The woman laughed, and Phoenix blushed. Mrs. Fresmond was a bit of a jolly soul, and looked to be in her fifties or sixties. He was less familiar with Miss Endwood. She was one of those young secretary types— very smart and very good at her job, but not particularly warm or social. Not unfriendly, but a bit difficult to talk to. She smiled professionally at him just before scribbling something down in her notebook.
They went over all of the basics. Math had always been Trucy's weakest subject, as she was more of an artistic than technical person, but to his surprise, her grades were good. He asked if this was because of all her studying, and both women laughed.
"Did she not tell you about the game? Maybe she wanted to surprise you with her improved grade," Miss Endwood wondered. Phoenix squinted at her.
"Your nanny invented some kind of math game, and it's helped her learn to have fun with it. Her grades have improved significantly since that one came along," Mrs. Fresmond explained. She always giggled when Miles came up in conversation. Phoenix had wondered why until he heard her gossiping with the receptionist about how good-looking he was. Phoenix laughed.
"Speaking of which, I wanted to give this to you," Miss Endwood said. She dug through the folder in her lap and pulled out a piece of paper, which she handed to him.
Trucy's Family. It was a creative writing assignment, apparently, and the subject was exactly what one would expect based on the title. There was space at the bottom for a drawing. There was a red A+ written on the top corner, and a little golden sticker.
"This one was a bit of a contest, and the five children who won got the sticker on their paper and a piece of candy," Mrs. Fresmond added. Phoenix vaguely recalled Trucy saying something about that, and coming home from school with an impressively large lollipop. He hadn't known about the assignment, though. Trucy had difficulty explaining herself when she was excited.
Both women laughed at his touched expression as he read. It was heartwarming, but he was also surprised. The paper was about Trucy herself, and about him, but it was also about Miles, and she depicted herself standing between the two of them in her drawing.
As far as Trucy was concerned, Miles was a part of the family.
He heard Miss Endwood laugh quietly and realized his face was pink. He shook his head and yawned in an effort to cool down.
"I-is it okay if I keep this? I'm sure he'd like to see it, too," Phoenix stammered, and Mrs. Fresmond waved a hand as she nodded. He tucked it into his pile of papers. He always ended up with too many flyers at these conferences, usually for events that wanted money from him in some way or another.
The three of them conversed normally for a little while after that, and after they'd run out of school-related topics, Phoenix found himself on the receiving end of a barrage of personal questions. Most of them he didn't mind, but one in particular made him a bit self-conscious.
"So, when do you plan to start dating again?" Mrs. Fresmond asked. Phoenix paused.
"I... Um... Why do you ask?" His earlier conversation (several of the same conversation, actually) with Trucy popped into his mind for a moment, and he quickly dismissed it.
"Well, obviously a child deserves to have two parents. Every child needs both a mother and a father!"
Why did that statement...
Why did it bother him so much? Why did it irk him so?
Phoenix couldn't place the reason, but he had that uncomfortable sinking feeling in his gut. It was the feeling one got while they waited for news about a hospitalized friend, or when they'd just turned in a test they needed to pass and had only known half of the answers for. He was unsettled.
"Now, Mrs. Fresmond, it may be best for him to raise Trucy alone, and I think it's quite clear she's being raised properly and has a good enough support system in place to make up for another parent." Miss Endwood's voice was stern, but restrained. Phoenix could tell by looking at her that she hadn't particularly liked the comment either.
Mrs. Fresmond glanced at her, too startled to be offended. She opened her mouth to respond and was immediately cut off.
"And besides, ma'am, the typical image of a family is a bit old-fashioned. Two fathers or two mothers is just as good as one of each, is it not?"
Phoenix smiled gratefully, the odd sensation in his gut dulling somewhat. Perhaps that was what had bothered him about it... The notion that Trucy could only be happy if she was raised in a traditional two-parent household. His smile dropped the moment he heard Mrs. Fresmond scoff.
"I'm quite sure Mr. Wright isn't gay, darling," she said almost mockingly.
Phoenix felt his fist curl with annoyance. It lasted only a brief moment, and then he felt a sinking feeling of fatigue and didn't say anything. Miss Endwood, too, kept her mouth shut, though she did cast a sympathetic glance in his direction. A long moment of silence passed.
"Trucy is happy," Phoenix supplied a bit more aggressively than he'd meant to. "She's happy and she's healthy and she's being raised just fine without a woman in the picture, thank you."
Mrs. Fresmond bit her lip as she processed his words. She looked mildly concerned, or perhaps guilty, and Miss Endwood looked warily at her out of the corner of her eye.
"I meant no offense. As long as she's happy, that's all that matters," the older woman relented.
Phoenix noticed how much more awkward the atmosphere had become when he shook both women's hands and left. He mentally punched himself as he walked down the hall. After a minute he heard the sound of heels tapping rapidly against tile, and he turned to find Miss Endwood walking after him as quickly as she could. He stopped.
"Oh, uh, hi. I'm sorry for snapping back there—"
"No," she interrupted. "I'm the one who challenged her on it, and she wouldn't have added that last part if I hadn't said anything. I put you in a rough spot, and for that I apologize, but I don't much appreciate that kind of heteronormativity being perpetuated in a public school environment. Children learn from what they hear, after all. No one is born a bigot."
Phoenix felt his eyes go wide, and his heart warmed. His respect for Miss Endwood had shot way up in a matter of minutes.
"...I've tried to teach her acceptance. I don't know how well I'm doing with that, but..."
"You've done a wonderful job. Actually... A while ago I had to get her out of trouble. The librarian was reading the children a book that used a phrase she disapproved of... Something that implied that all boys only like girls, and vice-versa."
"Oh? How'd that get her in trouble?"
"She argued with the librarian. She said that sometimes boys like other boys, like her nanny does, and that's okay, and that the same applies for girls. And she said that sometimes, people like boys or girls... Like her daddy."
Phoenix didn't know what to say to that. He was thankful, at least, that Miss Endwood had pled Trucy's case to the librarian. He hoped that maybe Trucy had gotten through to some of her classmates, ones who had more traditional parents and perhaps wouldn't have heard this from anyone else. He looked up to find the assistant still looking at him, her face a bit nervous.
"...A-and maybe it isn't my place to tell you this, but..." Miss Endwood trailed off for a moment, clearly unsure if she should continue. "I think that your nanny may have a bit of a crush on you. Trucy thinks so, anyway."
Phoenix had to consciously avoid reeling back in shock or letting his jaw fall open. He tried to look somewhat composed, even as his mind started racing with questions.
"W-what gave you that idea?!"
"Well, after the assignment— the one you have there in your hand— was done, she told me that there were some things she thought about writing and decided not to. One of the sentences she considered was Miles loves daddy almost as much as he loves me, but he won't say so because he is shy."
Miss Endwood lost her composure and started laughing as Phoenix sputtered and held his head in his hands. As best he could manage with the stack of flyers, anyway.
"...She's suspicious of you, too," the woman added when she'd stopped laughing. Phoenix managed a chuckle.
"I know. She keeps demanding that I ask him out."
Phoenix reflected on this, and noticed Miss Endwood still eyeing him curiously, the hint of a smirk appearing on her face.
"So?" She asked. Phoenix didn't know what she meant.
"Do you like him?" Her mischevious smile widened. Phoenix couldn't help but flinch.
"Th-that's— I, u-uh..."
She laughed as he floundered for an answer, and then shook her head.
"Okay, okay, I won't pry anymore. I'll see you again soon, Mr. Wright."
Phoenix hadn't seen such an amused look on Miss Endwood before. The expression was actually quite similar to Trucy. He wondered if she enjoyed teasing the other parents as much as she apparently enjoyed teasing him. He guessed not.
Phoenix bid her farewell, all too aware of how hot his face was, and drove home, where he found both nanny and little girl passed out on the couch. He decided against waking them for now. Phoenix took a moment to pause, looking at Miles.
Miles loves daddy almost as much as he loves me, but he won't say so because he is shy.
Phoenix grinned, and decided he'd pester Miles about the assignment and his little math game when he woke. He placed the stack of papers on the coffee table, making sure the drawing was on top, and tiptoed to the kitchen to start on dinner.
WHY DO MY CHAPTERS KEEP GETTING LONGER HOLY FUCK (actually it's because I keep getting more ideas as I'm writing)
Flustered dumb Phoenix is one of my favorite things. So is flustered dumb Miles. Flustered gay lawyer nerds are my favorite thing, generally, even if Miles isn't actually a lawyer here. I may or may not include Phoenix and Trucy meeting Franzy as a bonus chapter?
...I want to do several extra spinoff oneshots for this AU because I have lots of cute scenarios in mind that don't really fit with the whole story. Bonus chapters, if you will.
Chapter 4: I Accidentally Fell for You
Oh my GOD I have no self-control why is this so long someone kill me I almost doubled the length
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
"Your hand is warm!"
Trucy giggled as she tightened her mittened little hand's grip on that of her nanny. It was a welcome source of warmth in contrast to the chilly bite of the air around them.
"Did you have fun?" Miles asked, and she nodded. She jiggled the ice skates draped over her shoulder.
"I'm not good at it yet, but I'll get good and then I'll win!!"
Miles chuckled. Trucy always planned to "win" at everything, even when it wasn't a contest. Perhaps to succeed was a form of "winning" for her.
"I'm sure that you will. These things take practice."
"Miles is a really good finger skater!"
"It's called a figure skater, sweetheart. It's often quite cold in Germany— cold enough to snow, unlike California. Ice skating is a common pastime."
Miles smiled warmly down at Trucy, whose eyes were fixed straight ahead. He loved her little mistakes, and the way she said everything like it had six exclamation points attached.
It had been Phoenix's idea for Miles to take Trucy down to the rink.
"It may be wintertime, but we don't get any real snow or ice here. And you said you used to skate on the lake with Franziska, right? You should teach her how to skate! I certainly can't." Phoenix had laughed sheepishly, and Miles had agreed, mostly to spare him the embarrassment of trying to teach a child to do something that he couldn't do. Miles' only condition had been for Phoenix to promise he'd allow his nanny to teach him, too.
As excited as she had been to learn, Trucy hadn't actually skated so much as she'd gripped Miles' entire arm and allowed him to pull her along. She couldn't seem to stay upright when allowed to stand on her own, but her careful nanny had never allowed her to fall. Miles had a wonderful time nevertheless, even though four different women had asked him where his wife was. One had taken his saying he didn't have one as an opportunity. She'd been shut down by Trucy.
"Miles doesn't like-like girls!!" Trucy had shouted angrily at her as she sat beside him on the bench, trying to regain her energy. Trucy had gripped his arm almost defensively. The woman had practically tripped over herself apologizing.
"You got very angry at that woman," Miles said, mostly to break the silence. Trucy growled at the thought of her. "Why?"
"Because I want Miles to be with daddy!! She was gonna ruin everything!!"
Miles shook his head. His guess had been entirely correct. He didn't notice Trucy staring at him, or how his own face had reddened, until she started giggling.
"See?! Your face is all red!!"
"I suppose it is."
Miles had stopped making any serious effort to deny Trucy's accusations. There was little point to it. He sighed, and attempted to change the subject.
"I called my sister again," he said, and Trucy squealed in delight. "Things are going well. She's graduated from school, and just passed the bar exam."
"Can we meet her soon?!"
"Maybe. Germany is very far away, though, so she would have to clear at least a week's worth of time in her schedule. She's thinking of coming to visit for Christmas."
"...What's the bar exam?"
"Oh. Well, that's the test people have to take before they can be practicing lawyers."
"She's a lawyer, too?! Daddy is gonna be a lawyer!!"
Somehow, no matter how hard he tried, the conversation always got back to Phoenix before he'd recovered from his embarrassment. This time, though, Trucy seemed to sense his discomfort and didn't push him.
"It's been a whole year," she breathed quietly. Miles smiled.
"A bit more than that, but yes, it has." It had been, perhaps, the shortest year Miles had ever experienced. And truthfully it had been well over a year, but it had happened so fast that no one had noticed it.
"Are we gonna celebrate?"
"Hmm... Maybe. We could do something, I suppose."
They walked hand in hand and talked about fancy dinner or party ideas until they made it to the bus stop, and once they got home, Miles helped Trucy remove her boots and her coat and her mittens and sent her to her room. Phoenix wouldn't be back for another hour or so, and so Miles made them a snack to munch on as they worked on her math homework together.
She finished it early, as she'd greatly improved at math over the last few months. Trucy seemed a bit tired, and said it had been a long and difficult school day. At some point they got to talking, as they always did when this happened. Trucy may have been a small child, but that didn't mean Miles couldn't have a meaningful conversation with her. Quite the opposite, in fact. Her mind wasn't yet tainted with the cold cynicism of an adult, and unlike most adults, she was open to new ideas.
"So you said you lost your daddy, right?" Trucy asked eventually, her voice small and sad. It was something they talked about from time to time, and she had a different question about it each time she asked.
"...I did, yes. Did you... Did you ever know your biological father? The person people would have called your daddy before your new daddy came along, that is," Miles clarified. Trucy looked up as she thought.
"Nope! But that's okay. Daddy is a much better daddy, I know it!!"
"Hmm. I was always told my mother died not long after I was born. I don't remember her. My father used to say that I have her sense of humor, though. I'm not sure what that means."
"It means that she was sassy!!"
Miles laughed at that. He hadn't expected it, but perhaps she wasn't wrong. Perhaps he had been referring to the distinctive Edgeworth attitude.
Miles talked to Trucy for another half hour or so before her father returned, and as always she practically tackled him by leaping off the bottom stair and wrapping her arms around him. By now, Phoenix probably expected it.
Once he'd put Trucy down, Phoenix grinned in the nanny's direction, and as always, Miles found some excuse to look away.
It was always hard to feign disinterest in the wake of that bright smile.
Hours later, after Miles had gone to bed, Phoenix trudged down the hall and heard Trucy whisper at him through her cracked door.
"Trucy, you should be sleeping!" he hissed at her as he pulled her door closed behind him. She giggled and hoped softly up and down on socked feet.
"It has to be a secret!" she replied, and Phoenix bent down to her height so she could share her secret plan.
A year. A year and nearly three months— it was amazing how no one had noticed the first year had passed until they were well into the second.
A lot of things happened in a year. Birthdays (for all three of them), a first Christmas (the second of which was coming up), and many parent-teacher conferences and talent shows and playdates.
Christmas. It was only a few weeks away now.
Miles' first Christmas with the Wright family had been somewhat awkward and uneventful. As quickly as Miles had bonded with Trucy, the nanny had still insisted on calling Phoenix Mr. Wright back then. He had hung in the back, as he'd been uncomfortable taking the spotlight. This year, his own presents were included beneath the tree.
Miles had made the mistake of forgetting how self-conscious Phoenix was about providing for his daughter when he'd done his Christmas shopping. His presents were expensive, and dwarfed Phoenix's in terms of quality. But Phoenix did want his daughter to be happy and to have nice things, and Miles had plenty of money that he didn't mind spending on his favorite child, and so they compromised. All of the wrapped presents were unlabeled and would be referred to as a joint effort.
Miles reflected on that conversation as he looked into his grocery bag and confirmed that he had everything that was needed. It was strange— it had technically been his and Phoenix's first real fight, and yet it had hardly felt like that. Though there was an initial bit of bickering, they'd both been level-headed and respectful, and the conflict was resolved rather painlessly. Miles wondered why more people couldn't learn to get along in such a way.
As he stood quietly in one of the only two available check-out lines, he registered familiar voices nearby. He looked up and saw two women he recognized as parents of two of the children from Trucy's class standing in the line next to his. They were talking to each other and laughing. They were busy, so at first Miles intended to say nothing, but then he heard it— "Mr. Wright". And as soon as he heard that, they had his full attention.
"He's only shown up to maybe one or two of the parent-teacher conferences these past few months," one of the women said through a scoff. Miles thought her name was Karen. She looked like a Karen, anyhow.
Wait. Was she... Was she criticizing Phoenix?
"It's the nanny, that nanny does everything! I always thought that was just a rich people thing, but apparently late-blooming college dads are doing it too these days."
She was criticizing Phoenix. She was openly questioning his parenting choices. Miles looked down and literally bit his tongue. It's not polite to eavesdrop.
"What does he even do all day that he can't take ten minutes out of his day for his daughter? Sarah said he just has some part time job, not even a real job."
It's not polite to eavesdrop. The other woman was agreeing with her now, though. Annalisa. She was nearly as pretentious as her name was, Miles remembered.
"He's always got a suit on, though. He's got plenty of money for suits and not enough for the fundraisers, I suppose!" Annalisa laughed. Karen laughed with her. Laughing at Phoenix's expense.
It was funny that they felt they had the right to judge him when they'd never had to physically drag him to bed because he'd passed out from exhaustion in a kitchen chair.
"And you wanna know something bizarre? Apparently he's not even trying to find that poor girl a new mother. Mrs. Fresmond says he got all weird when she asked him about when he plans on dating, and he insists she's fine without a mom!"
And that was it. Miles couldn't take another word. Thankfully (he never thought he'd use the word thankfully to describe such a situation) the cashiers were having difficulties, and the lines were delayed.
"Excuse me," he called to them, and they both looked shocked and embarrassed to see him. Their mouths hung open, and they gaped at him like fish. "Yes, hello, I'm sure you remember me— I couldn't help but overhear your conversation just now."
"O-oh? We meant no offense to you. You're clearly doing your job," Annalisa managed through a nervous laugh. Miles frowned. He would ignore her implication, for now, that Phoenix wasn't doing his.
"You, Karen... If you're really at all of these meetings and fundraisers and class events, then surely you've spoken to Trucy, yes? And you've heard how highly she praises him, how clearly and genuinely she loves him?"
"Of course she loves her father, no one's questioning that. It's hard to disappoint a kid like that. I just... I just happen to feel that if he's really committed to this whole parenting thing, he'd make more of an effort to be at all the various meetings and parent functions."
Something about that comment made Miles' forced calm facade fade, if only slightly.
"Ah, so he can sit around and gossip about what awful parents all the others are? I apologize— I forgot that it was a social game."
Annalisa gasped, that sort of offended or horrified noise that almost no one actually made. The cashier, who was just then getting to their large hoard of groceries, winced, but didn't comment. Miles felt a brief pang of guilt for subjecting the cashiers to this, but they'd surely seen worse.
"It's not a social game, and it's not all that time-consuming! All you have to do is show up!" She retorted. Miles was glaring now. He hadn't felt his temper flare like this in years.
"Which is easy to say when you have a wealthy husband and several babysitters and neighbors and other parents to help out, isn't it? I mean, I'm sure it's hard work being a glamorous upper-class housewife, but that doesn't mean you get to criticize single fathers trying to get by while working and in school," Miles replied angrily. He noticed the cashier nearest him nod slightly in agreement. This brought a smile to his face for the briefest of seconds before his glare returned.
Karen, for some stupid reason, was laughing. Miles wondered how a child as well-mannered as little Stephanie had come from her. Annalisa's son, Ethan, was a nice boy as well, but painfully shy... Something his mother apparently thought could be cured by forcing him into social circles he clearly wasn't comfortable with.
"Obviously you're very protective of your boss, Mr. Edgeworth. I'm sure he pays you very well! He can afford all those suits, after all—"
"Both his job and his mentor in law school require him to wear a suit, you pretentious snob. Are you aware that he gets them mostly from Goodwill, or have you never even heard of it?"
The cashier near the women was having a lot of difficulty trying not to laugh now, and Miles' was nodding along steadily. He was taking far longer than necessary to scan Miles' items. Somehow, this emboldened him, and he no longer bothered trying to keep his voice down as he launched into a tirade directed mostly at Karen, who was both the instigator and one of his least favorite people.
"Who the hell died and made you god, anyway? Why are you the sole worthy judge of who is or is not a good parent? Does the amount of work he does mean nothing? Does the fact that he's doing all of this for a child he had no say in having mean nothing, the fact that he's working his ass off so he can provide a better life for her than her dead drug addict mother or nonexistent father did? Or do you judge the merit of a parent solely on who shows up to those redundant fucking meetings?!"
"No, save it. You're clearly too shallow-minded to understand! You're both the kind of helicopter parents that ruin kids these days— you make parenting a competition, sit around and judge how many meetings the other parents attend or whether or not they give their kids all-natural organic essential oil fruit chews or whether their shoes are too expensive and they should've spent that money buying their kids a phone they don't need instead, because you're also apparently an accountant and get to decide where other people put their money!
"How about instead of condemning everyone's financial choices and investment of time, you focus on your kid's actual wants and needs?! If you had paid attention to your own child for more than half of a second, Karen, you would have noticed that Stephanie is clearly overwhelmed with all of the activities you have her enrolled in and would like to slow down and enjoy being a kid for a goddamn second!"
Miles paused and took a moment to regain his breath, and heard a couple of customers behind him clapping or howling in approval. He felt his face turn red. He hadn't realized they'd drawn a small crowd. Karen and Annalisa's groceries were bagged, and Annalisa hastily gathered them up as Karen stared, unable to form words through her shock. When she'd stuffed their groceries back into the cart, she turned to face Miles with her hands on her hips.
"I think you ought to reevaluate your professional attitude here, Mr. Edgeworth. You're getting a bit too personal for hired help." She spat those last two words, blatantly reminding Edgeworth that he was not, in fact, Trucy's mother. Miles did his best to swallow his hurt pride and forced a polite smile.
"And I think you ought to learn to mind your own goddamn business," Miles replied. His tone was polite, but the tension and anger behind his eyes was plain, and Annalisa recoiled in surprise. She shook her head, and then placed a hand on Karen's back and guided her out of the store.
"We'll be filing a complaint about you with the school," she shouted over her shoulder. The old man next to Miles piped up before he could form a response.
"Yeah, you go ahead an' try! Get outta here wit dat nonsense!"
Annalisa stomped away, her fashionable wedge heels pounding furiously against the concrete. Miles offered the older gentleman a nervous smile of thanks just in time to see his wife gently smack his arm. She could only hold her anger for a moment, though, before she laughed. She patted Miles on the shoulder.
"Parents these days, am I right? When did it turn inta some kinda pageant?"
Miles offered a tired smile and a nod, and then thanked the cashiers for their patience as he took his own groceries and made his way back to his car. He packed everything up and drove home a bit faster than he probably should have. He couldn't help it. His mind was racing, and he continuously fumed the whole way home.
At first it was who do they think they are?
And then, after he'd gotten halfway to the condo, it was why can't I hold my tongue?
Miles sighed once more as he pushed his way through the Wright family's door, his arms stuffed full of bags. He was still angry.
Why had he gotten so worked up? They were just some women, women whose opinions hardly affected anything about him or his life.
He felt stupid. He felt childish.
He pushed the door closed with his back and gritted his teeth.
He wanted to cry, and he didn't know why. The words hired help kept bouncing around in his head.
Miles dropped his grocery bags in shock, and grimaced at the sound of jars rolling around on the floor. The shout was a joint one, and came from the direction of the living room.
"Christ, you nearly gave me a heart atta—"
He fell silent when he looked up.
Phoenix and Trucy both stood in the hallway, and were doing their best to properly hold up a poster board sign. Trucy was standing on a box to maintain her position, so that she could at least attempt to hold the sign as high as her father could. How long had they been waiting, standing there like that?
Happy Nannyversary, the sign said, and he wondered who had decided to call it that.
"You're a little late, aren't you?" Miles mumbled, still surprised and a bit confused, and Phoenix scoffed.
"I told you he'd say that," Trucy giggled. "We wanted to do something nice anyways! Late is better than never!!"
Miles couldn't think of anything to say. He covered his face with his hands and shook his head. He hadn't been prepared for such a wild swing in mood, and it was somewhat difficult to switch gears so fast. He felt Phoenix looking at him with that searching, hopeful expression.
"Is something wrong?"
"No," Miles supplied too quickly. "I'm okay. I'm happy."
Phoenix didn't look entirely convinced, but he smiled anyway. Trucy hopped off of her box and set the sign down before running to Miles' side, where she immediately set to picking up the fallen cans and jars.
"Don't just sit there, daddy! Come and help!!"
Phoenix apologized under his breath about thirty times as he helped collect the groceries, and between the three of them everything was gathered up and put away rather quickly. Trucy blocked Miles from entering the kitchen at first. He stood quietly and waited, waited until Phoenix reappeared.
"Okay, now you can come in," he said, and he put a hand on Miles' back to guide him to the kitchen. It was something he did a lot, that gentle touch, and Miles wondered if he did the same to other people.
Miles laughed as soon as he saw the kitchen. They'd hung banners all around, and he could tell at a glance who had hung which, as some were crooked and much lower down the wall. There were heart-shaped balloons tied to everything, and Trucy had done several drawings of dogs that she stuck all over the place. The fridge was entirely covered in drawings she'd done of herself, her father, and her nanny.
"Do you like my dogs?!" She immediately asked, and Miles nodded.
"I love them, but you know I like all dogs," he replied.
Phoenix dragged Miles over to the stove, and Miles laughed when he saw that Phoenix had prepared a pasta dish— the same as the first one he'd ever made. And apparently, he hadn't injured anyone this time. Miles did ask if there was any blood in it, just to be sure, and earned himself a gentle smack across the arm.
Miles let Trucy show him all the various dogs she had drawn and listened as she explained their names and interests while Phoenix set the table. When they'd finished their meal, Phoenix handed Miles a couple of cards, one from each of them. Miles blinked in surprise at Phoenix's.
"This is... This is really good."
"Oh, the drawing? I was actually gonna be an art student before I settled on law, so..."
"How come you've never mentioned it?"
"Ah, I didn't see the point. It's nothing I could make a living off of."
"But I can clearly see that you enjoy it. There's nothing wrong with continuing to draw as a hobby," Miles argued. Phoenix scoffed, though not in a condescending manner.
"Yeah, in all of my spare time," he joked, and Miles blushed. Phoenix really didn't have a whole lot of time for a hobby. Most days he too tired to do anything in his spare time but watch TV or read.
"...Well, maybe you could just get a sketchbook and draw something while we sit on the couch," Miles suggested, and Phoenix looked up in thought.
"Well, maybe," he relented after a moment. It was accompanied by an embarassed laugh. Miles looked down once more at the portrait of the three of them. It really was good— a near-perfect likeness.
Trucy was put to bed, and Miles stayed behind to help Phoenix take all of the decorations down. He carefully stacked up all of Trucy's drawings to add to his collection, and the best one remained on the fridge, where children's drawings generally belonged. Phoenix blushed as Miles also put his portrait there, using magnets to hold the card open on the door.
"Who says we can't put adults' drawings here?" Miles asked, and Phoenix shrugged. There was no law against it, after all.
"Oh— I almost forgot. I thought you might be embarrassed if I did this in front of Trucy, but I actually have something else for you. Go and wait at the table, I'll be right back," Phoenix said, his words getting jumbled in his excitement. He disappeared before Miles could ask what was going on, and so he obeyed and took a seat.
Phoenix reappeared with a box, one that wasn't especially large, but looked heavy. Phoenix was hunched over a bit as he carried it in both arms, and he placed it on the table in front of Miles and sat down across from him. It wasn't gift-wrapped, but was taped shut, and Phoenix slid him a boxcutter. Miles looked at him, waiting for an explanation.
"So I got picked up for that mentorship program at my school, as you know. My mentor is really cool. She's a strong lady, the kind I want around Trucy so she knows she can do anything she wants to."
"Yes, Miss Fey," Miles confirmed. "What about her?"
"Well, as it turns out, it's a small world. Mia used to work at the same law office that your dad did... Grossberg." Phoenix paused for a moment to let Miles soak in the information. His mouth parted slightly in surprise. "As soon as I knew that, I asked her to check in with her boss and see if they still had anything of Gregory's, and, well... They did. It'd been collecting dust for a while because no one had the heart to get rid of it. They let me have it instead."
Miles looked at the box with wide eyes, and didn't wait for further permission to cut into the tape holding it closed. He could smell the age of it as soon as he had it open, and the first thing he pulled out was an old leather journal.
"Now, they obviously couldn't give me his real records or case files for confidentiality reasons, but he kept that journal where he wrote in a sort of code," Phoenix explained. Miles flipped through some of the entries. At face value, they had nothing to do with law or criminal investigation and seemed mostly to be about food. Miles knew better. He was sure he could decipher at least some of it.
The rest of the box contained photographs. Most of them depicted Gregory standing with clients and shaking their hands after an innocent verdict or an overturned conviction. Said clients almost always had tears in their eyes. Miles smiled to himself as he flipped through them, until the one at the bottom made his eyes instantly sting.
It was a formal photograph, apparently taken in a studio, that depicted a younger man, one with fewer wrinkles, standing beside an elegant woman holding an infant in her arms. Her smile was gentle, and her soft eyes were a radiant green.
"Is... Is that my—"
"That's your mother, yes."
Miles spent a long moment looking at her face. Something about it was familiar, though he hadn't seen it in over two decades. Perhaps her image had never really left him.
"...He didn't keep pictures of her around. It made him sad. I had forgotten what she looked like," Miles admitted.
Miles knew he was tearing up, and Phoenix, to his relief, pretended not to notice. He casually pulled out a large photo album, one that was new and empty.
"I found this in the closet. It's nice and big. I figure you can keep them in here along with all of Trucy's drawings."
Miles took the album, and he immediately got to carefully placing the photographs inside. He already knew which drawings he planned to put in it, starting with a few of the dogs she had drawn for their little party. Phoenix seemed content to watch him and smile.
"...This is a bit excessive to do for hired help," Miles thought aloud in a shaky whisper, and Phoenix frowned.
"What? Don't say that. You're a friend, not my maid." He laughed nervously, and Miles flinched when he realized he'd said it aloud.
"Thank you," Miles said, still very quietly, hugging the album to his chest. Normally he would have frowned at the audible lump in his throat, but he was too happy.
Phoenix stood up, walked to his side, and gave him a quick hug. Or at least, it was probably supposed to be quick, but then he lingered, and after a moment of hesitation, he kissed the top of Miles' head. And then he turned and fled to his room, offering a wave in lieu of a proper goodnight.
Miles had to wait for his blush to fade before he went to bed himself.
A few more days passed, days during which Trucy did almost nothing but prepare for her school's Christmas show. It would be the last thing she would do in school before getting two weeks off for winter beak, and she wanted to make a lasting impression. The winning performer would get a shiny ribbon and a cash prize of fifty dollars— a sum that was astounding to a nine-year-old.
She'd have to perform solo this time, as were the rules of the contest. No adult assistants were allowed, as some parents did a lot more than others in terms of helping, giving some of the children an unfair advantage. Though she was a bit saddened, Trucy was ready to give it her all anyway, and Miles promised he'd still make her a wonderful costume.
As soon as Trucy had caught the bus, Miles returned to the kitchen and looked shyly at Phoenix. He was quiet for a long moment, and then he loudly cleared his throat to get his attention.
Phoenix, as always, took a second longer to respond than he should have. Hearing Miles call him that sent a little shiver down his spine. It was a somewhat recent change. Miles had picked it up from talking to an old friend of his, one who'd always called him 'Nick'.
Phoenix wondered, briefly, if he should call Larry and thank him for giving Miles that bit of advice. He decided against it.
"What's wrong?" He asked. Miles' tone was nervous, something just barely reflected in the furrow of his brow. He gripped his elbow and looked away, a tic of his that Phoenix recognized as discomfort.
"I... There's something I've been wanting to tell you, and I really think I should get it off of my chest."
Phoenix's heart stopped, and then it started beating too hard.
"Y-yeah? What is it?"
"I..." Miles trailed off for a moment, and then he took a deep breath. "...I actually sold my apartment. Last month."
"...Oh?" Phoenix didn't see what the big deal was, and he shrugged. Miles scoffed, and his brow furrowed further.
"No, you don't understand! I sold over half of my belongings and almost all of my furniture, and I got rid of the apartment and moved what little I had left into my room. I... I live here. I don't have an apartment to go back to!"
Miles was visibly upset, now, almost sad. Phoenix still didn't understand why this was important and laughed.
"Why are you all worked up about it? I don't mind! I mean, I'm sure rent was pretty expensive for a place you never even use, right?"
Miles stared at him, his expression blank. Phoenix looked around nervously. He made a conscious effort to continue smiling.
"...I-If you don't mind, then... I just feel like it's bad karma. Like I'm setting myself up for something had to happen. I did this last time, too, and I had to spend a few weeks in a hotel—"
"I'm not going to fire you, Miles."
Miles twitched. Phoenix sighed and shook his head.
"I never said that I was—"
"You didn't have to," Phoenix said, cutting him off. "I can tell. You're still upset about it, which probably wouldn't be the case if it was an amicable split."
Miles' expression tightened. He was clearly mulling everything over, debating whether or not he should say anything. After a few seconds, he left. He stormed up the stairs without a word. Phoenix sighed and started to move towards the dishwasher. Before he could open it, he heard footsteps again and knew it was Miles. Their difference in weight meant that Miles and Trucy made very different sounds when moving about.
When he reappeared, he was holding the photo album he'd received a few nights prior. He didn't wait for Phoenix to ask him any questions. He set it down on the counter and flipped it open to the very last page, where he'd more or less hidden a single photograph.
Phoenix squinted at it. It was Miles, at least a few years younger, standing in front of a bus. By his side there was a boy. He looked to be twelve or thirteen, and had a backpack thrown over one shoulder and a lopsided grin. His hairstyle was somewhat ridiculous, with the way two pieces sort of jutted out the top like he was a cockatoo.
"His name is Apollo," Miles mumbled. "Though I usually called him Polly just to make him mad. Not really mad, just a bit of friendly teasing. He'd call me Milly in return."
"That's... That's a hell of a name for a kid," Phoenix squawked, and Miles laughed.
"He was an odd one. Loud, very determined. I feel that the the name suited him. And that cockatoo thing of his was natural, believe it or not. It was impossible to get those things to stay down without using a pound of gel and about sixty bobby pins."
Phoenix whistled. Miles' smile faded somewhat, and his eyes became sad, distant.
"I did care a great deal for him, though I was much more professional with the Justice family. I was strictly hired help, even if I did eventually live there. Apollo, however, considered me his friend. It was a bit different than it is with Trucy because he was older, and a boy. I'm sure you understand."
Phoenix nodded. He kept his hand on the counter in such a way that it slightly touched Miles's wrist. A gentle touch of reassurance.
"Both of his parents worked, and he had trouble making friends, so we often just sat around talking or kicked around a soccer ball or played video games. He said he wasn't lonely when I was around."
"...If you made him so happy, why did his parents fire you?"
Miles frowned. There was no longer any hint of that smile. It was more than sadness— there was an underlying anger there.
"...I got to the house one night to find that Apollo had not started his homework. He'd been crying, and I was able to tell by the tissues strewn everywhere that he'd been crying like that for at least an hour."
"Wow. You'd think his parents would've checked on him."
"Well, they weren't home. Apollo was old enough that he could be by himself. He was about fourteen at this point. ...Anyway, he was quite upset, and as you probably know, the early teen years are when everyone starts dating."
"Oh. Girl trouble?"
Miles paused, and his eye twitched at that comment.
"...I asked him exactly that. I asked him if he was having difficulty with a girl he liked. And that really upset him. It became pretty clear that it was something a lot more serious than that. And then he said something that I instantly recognized. I knew what the problem was as soon as he said it."
Phoenix felt an impending doom, somehow.
"...What did he say?"
"Don't look at me, I'm gross. There's something wrong with me."
Phoenix's eyes widened. He did recognize that train of thought. It was something that had gone through his own head at that age, and he knew Miles had probably experienced the same thing.
"He liked another boy," Phoenix groaned under his breath. He sighed. It was difficult to confront it so young. He hadn't been open about his bisexuality until he was eighteen and out of the house. Miles more or less ignored him and kept on talking.
"I eventually pried it out of him, and he kept repeating the same thing— that he was the only one, and that meant that something was wrong with him. No one else feels this way, he said. And, I just... That just wasn't true! What was I supposed to do, just sit there and say nothing?"
Phoenix could hear the exasperation in his voice. He thought that, maybe, he already knew what was coming, but he hoped he was wrong.
"You told him?"
Miles sighed. He sounded both tired and annoyed.
"Yeah. Yes, I told him. Because then at least he'd know that he wasn't the only one, and that it was normal. And do you want to hear something strange? I had literally never told anyone else, not anyone that hadn't asked, and I usually ended up dating those people and it stayed between us. But he was—"
"He was scared. You didn't do anything wrong."
Miles stared at him, not saying anything, for a painfully long second before he sighed again. Each sigh seemed to get longer and heavier.
"It's nice to hear that from someone."
"What do you...?" Phoenix furrowed his brow.
"Well, little Polly was rather emboldened by our chat. Not that I blame him. He didn't do anything wrong, he just... He assumed better of his parents. He sat them down for a talk, and I got dragged into the conversation, and then the next thing I knew..."
He paused. Or rather, not a pause, but a sudden break in his voice, like a lump had risen. He took a moment to clear his throat, and Phoenix patted the back of the hand that was still on the counter. Miles took a deep breath before continuing.
"And then the next thing I knew... I was asked to leave. They were concerned that it wasn't, um... That it wasn't appropriate to have me around anymore. And... That was that. I took my things and I left."
Phoenix blinked at Miles for what felt like several uninterrupted minutes. He kept waiting for Miles to elaborate, to add a legitimate reason that his position had been terminated.
He said nothing. That was really all it was.
"...No. No, you can't be fucking serious."
Miles' eyes shot open. It was mostly because he was around a nine-year-old all the time, but Phoenix rarely swore. It was a sign that he was genuinely upset.
"No, seriously, are you kidding me?! You take perfectly good care of their kid for them for over two years, and then suddenly they're concerned about whether it's appropriate to have you around or not?!"
"If anything, they should have been thanking you for helping him with something that important when they couldn't be bothered! And where did this idea even come from that all gay guys are pedophiles or something?! What, like you would have hurt him?! Like you just couldn't help yourself?!"
Miles jerked away and grabbed the album, slamming it shut. He kept his eyes tightly closed. Phoenix settled down almost immediately upon seeing that wounded expression. He could fume later, but that wasn't what Miles needed right now.
"...I'm sorry. I shouldn't have said anything. Now I've gone and upset you—"
"No, Miles, no. Just... Just come here."
"What do you—"
Before Miles could ask for further clarification, Phoenix pulled the nanny into a hug.
He stiffened, or perhaps flinched, as he always did at first when showered with any kind of affection. Phoenix rubbed soothing circles into his back, and felt Miles slowly relax and place his head on his shoulder.
"It's okay. That's not going to happen here. You're part of this family and you're here to stay, you understand?"
After a moment, he felt a hesitant nod. He lightly slapped Miles on the back.
A more firm nod, and a quiet noise of confirmation.
"...You're a lot more than a maid here. Or, well, hired help, as you keep putting it. You're at all the birthday parties and family functions and everything, y'know? And we wouldn't do that for a housekeeper." Phoenix did his best to reassure the other man, and for some reason Miles snickered. He could feel the vibration of it in his chest.
"It's not like I intentionally got this involved. You refuse to take no for an answer. You're the one who dragged me into this current predicament," Miles teased. He wasn't wrong, but his phrasing was a bit strange.
"I wouldn't call it a predicament!"
"...Actually, I suppose it's Trucy, too. She's... Hard to stay away from."
Miles' phone chirped, and he finally broke the embrace to pull it out of his pocket. Phoenix realized just then how long they'd been standing there like that. Though he missed the contact, whatever text message Miles had received had apparently made him quite happy. His eyes lit up, and he hurriedly brushed stray hairs behind his ears.
"...Ah. My... My sister. She's coming down after all... Says she intends to catch a flight in a week or so, just in time to have a few days here for Christmas."
Phoenix grinned. He was determined to meet and tame this angry German girl if it killed him, and Miles had warned that it very well might.
"That— that's great, Miles! I'm really happy for you. Let her know she's welcome to join us!"
"I'm ahead of you on that one," Miles muttered as he hit the send button on a reply text. Phoenix was able to glance at it. Miles really had been ahead of him. It was simply the address of the condo.
Miles offered one last smile and a quick "thanks" before scurrying away with his photo album and phone. "I have to go pick up the dry cleaning and you have to get to work," he called down the stairs. Phoenix nodded and got to work himself, quickly unloading the dishwasher before he threw on his suit and ran out the door.
He got home late at night, after Miles and Trucy had both gone to bed. Phoenix sighed the moment his bedroom door closed behind him. He leaned against it, suddenly drained of energy.
He was tired, and not from a long day of work. He was tired of constantly lying.
Six months ago, he'd been somewhat unsure when people asked him if he liked Miles. Now there was no denying it. And in fact, he was now beginning to fear that it was more than that— much more than a crush.
The worst part of it all was that Trucy was sharp. She easily picked up on how often Phoenix's face went red and how he'd sometimes lose his train of thought while sneaking glances at Miles.
Phoenix groaned and flopped face-first into his pillow, knowing full well that he wouldn't be able to sleep as long as a certain nanny was plaguing his thoughts.
Phoenix cut his way through the crowd as best he could. It was infuriating that all of the parents knew each other and felt the need to stand around and chat when other people were trying to get to their seats. Miles more or less clung to his back. He was certainly assertive enough to get through the crowd, but Phoenix had commanded him to hang back for fear he'd be too assertive.
They eventually got to their seats. Phoenix had had to put up a fight to get two, as he didn't have a wife— something the school board loved to remind him of whenever possible. Phoenix could already feel people looking at him and whispering. Miles had been at many of these performances, but almost always in costume and on stage with Trucy, or standing the back of the auditorium. This was the first time he'd sat beside Phoenix with the other parents.
Phoenix heard someone hiss at him to get his attention, a pssst sound. He looked up and saw Miss Endwood wave at him from her seat in the front row. He smiled, and waved back. He'd started considering her an ally after she'd stood up for him. She quickly took notice of Miles, and she winked. Phoenix pretended to cough. Thankfully she took the hint and smiled one last time before turning back around.
"It's starting," Phoenix whispered as the lights dimmed. He saw Miles brace himself. In the last second he had of quiet, he looked around and saw a familiar parent glaring at him and Miles.
"Why is Karen Nichols glaring at us?"
"I haven't the slightest," Miles replied immediately. His tone was completely flat. He wasn't even putting any effort into the lie.
"Because I put her in her place. That's all. Though it seems her friend is all talk, since no complaint has been filed against me." Miles said it loudly enough for the nearby parents to hear, and Karen huffed before looking away. Phoenix hissed at him to quiet down and tugged on his arm.
"Complaint?! What did you—"
Miles hushed him as the curtain opened to reveal a well-lit stage. Miniature Christmas trees, complete with lights and the stars on top, made up most of the decoration, along with a few giant candy canes and some fake snow. The banner hung across the top advertised the Christmas talent show and concert.
Phoenix laughed as soon as he saw Trucy standing amongst her classmates. Much to her chagrin, everyone had been required to wear the same angel outfit for the first choir performance. It wasn't the idea of the costume that she minded. She liked wearing costumes, and wore them more often than regular clothing. But she had high standards for her outfits, standards that had been raised even higher by Miles' fine handiwork. This simple white gown and glittery pipe-cleaner halo combination was not to her professional liking.
Even so, Phoenix thought she looked like a real angel.
"She does," Miles whispered. Phoenix flinched in shock. It was like the nanny had literally read his mind. ...He felt somewhat violated.
The children performed a few traditional carols, getting all of the popular religious ones out of the way early. The more commercial songs would come later, Phoenix guessed. When the performance ended, the curtains closed long enough for the students to get off of the stage and the wooden bleachers to be removed. When they parted again, the vice principal stood alone under a spotlight. She announced that the talent portion of the show was beginning, and that they'd first do group acts.
"Saving the best for last, I suppose," Miles said, gently elbowing Phoenix. Phoenix chuckled, still trying to keep his voice down.
Most of the groups were dancers, though some children also sang duets. Phoenix kept an eye out for other magicians. It would be easier for Trucy to steal the show if she was the only one. When the groups had finished, a choir of older students dressed as elves sang a few more carols, the ones themed around Santa, before clearing the stage again for the solo acts.
Only a few children really shone. A boy performed a song with his guitar and sang along, and while he was talented for his age, he choked up a few times out of nervousness. Another girl tap-danced quite well. Trucy, as always, had insisted on going last, and she got what she wanted.
"I'm sure you all miss the sight of my lovely assistant, but rules are rules," Trucy said, which earned a laugh from the audience and an embarassed chuckle from Miles. Phoenix affectionately ruffled his hair.
Without Miles to aid her, Trucy had had to come up with more tricks that she could do using only her card deck, magic hat, and stuffed rabbit. Phoenix blinked in surprise when Trucy managed to convince an audience member to assist her with the vanishing trick (the volunteer would get inside of a closet and would magically disappear and reappear inside of it). He smiled when he realized that it was Miss Endwood who had volunteered. She disappeared as planned, and looked genuinely perplexed when she reappeared, as if she hadn't been able to figure out how the device worked even when inside of it. Trucy surprised him again when she ended her show by vanishing into a puff of smoke and confetti. How had she figured that out by herself?
Phoenix snuck a glance at Miles as everyone stood to clap (the parents had been warned not to shout this time) and was rendered speechless by his expression. His face was pink, and his eyes watered. He was almost unbelievably proud of Trucy.
I got really lucky, Phoenix thought, and he meant it in regards to both his daughter and his nanny.
When all of the performers were finished, several finalists were selected, and Trucy was among them. Phoenix and Miles both leaned forward in their chairs as the judges deliberated, which took several minutes. One of the judges didn't seem to agree even when the "unanimous" decision had been reached.
To Phoenix's (and the audience's) surprise, the boy with the guitar was crowned the winner. Mrs. Fresmond pinned the ribbon to his jacket. Actually, even he looked surprised.
"What?" Miles groaned. He didn't sound too angry, just annoyed, and even though he wasn't happy he was still polite enough to clap. "My obvious bias aside, Trucy didn't make any mistakes, and he forgot the words a few times."
"Oh," Phoenix grumbled. "That... That's the principal's kid. Of course he won."
Trucy didn't look upset. She hugged and congratulated the boy. He seemed overwhelmed.
"Shouldn't that kind of bias be against the rules?" Miles asked.
"Well, it would be hard to prove here. The kid was good— not the best, but still pretty good— and the principal isn't on the judge's panel. There's nothing we can do about it. Besides, Trucy knows that winning isn't everything."
Phoenix was right. When the two of them went backstage to pick her up, Trucy bounded towards them full of energy and joy, and didn't even mention having lost. She was happy enough with the way the crowd had responded to her, and with how well she'd pulled off all of her tricks, even the ones she hadn't gotten to practice as much. She thanked Miss Endwood for her help.
"I actually couldn't figure out how that closet worked," she admitted to Phoenix in a whisper. He giggled.
"I won't tell. Magicians never reveal their secrets!"
Miles laughed as he saw Annalisa Rogers loudly and emotionally reassuring Ethan that it was okay to lose. She was clearly much more upset about it than he was. Stephanie, meanwhile, hadn't been allowed to enter. Dancing was her passion, but her mother had apparently insisted that she devote equal practice time to volleyball and choir and the school's gifted program.
Miles really hoped that those kids would turn out alright.
Trucy congratulated the winner one last time, and then she took her father's and her nanny's hands and walked outside between the two of them.
Once they'd gotten home, Phoenix did the last remaining bit of his work for the day, and then he joined Miles and Trucy on the couch. Miles offered him a smile as he sat, and Phoenix slid him a glass of his usual wine, which he took gratefully.
Trucy was a bit small for her age, and when she slept on the couch she insisted on curling into a tight ball, something like a kitten. She only took up about half of a couch cushion, and her father and her nanny sat on either side of her.
She'd fallen asleep watching a game show with Miles. She was exhausted from her earlier performance. She didn't have school the next day, as it marked the beginning of winter break, and she had plans to go to Pearl's house a bit later in the morning, so she'd been granted permission to stay up past her usual bedtime. Miles had used it as an opportunity to teach her some basic trivia. Phoenix could hear her snoring softly, the sound muffled slightly by the couch cushion. He yawned.
It took Phoenix a minute to process that he'd been asked a question, which could be considered an answer in and of itself.
"Y-you mean class? Er... Yeah. It was a long day. Had a bunch of tests. I hate when they stack up like that."
"I always hated that, too. I made a point to study constantly so I never fell behind... Never got to enjoy college."
"It's not like I'm partying every night!"
"No, you're not. You're coming home to your daughter. ...Are you the only one?"
Phoenix took a second to glance at Miles before responding. He wasn't even looking at him. These questions were casual, almost effortless for him. ...It was nice.
"...The only parent? No, there's actually a couple of women in their thirties with kids at home. It was a relief to find out it's not just me, really."
Miles continued to ask the occasional question, and Phoenix would blurt out a blatantly incorrect answer to one of the game show's questions every once in a while just to get a reaction out of him. The longer they sat there like that, the warmer Phoenix felt. He glanced again at the nanny and smiled to himself.
He leaned over as best he could without disturbing Trucy. Miles wasn't facing him. He seemed fully engrossed in the TV, and Phoenix was grateful for this.
Just one peck on the cheek. That would be okay, right? It was affectionate, sure, but could be dismissed as platonic while still letting him know that he cared an awful lot about him. Just one small kiss on his cheek while his attention was diverted.
Or that was how it was supposed to go, anyway. Nothing like this ever had gone right for Phoenix, so of course Miles turned to look at him at the last possible second. Of course he accidentally kissed him briefly on the mouth. Of course.
He jumped back so fast that he scared Miles in the process and made him jump, too. He was shocked that the sudden jolting hadn't woken Trucy. Miles' expression was completely blank, as if his head had yet to catch up to what had just happened.
Why do you do these things, Phoenix?! Why are you so friggin' stupid?! You kissed him on the mouth. ON THE MOUTH!
"I... I am SO. SORRY. I don't know what—"
The interruption was quiet and casual. Phoenix froze.
"Don't be sorry," Miles clarified, and he shrugged.
The usually subdued other man seemed emboldened all of a sudden, and he leaned forward and pulled Phoenix toward him to plant an intentional kiss on his lips. The contact lasted only a second, and Miles tried to pull back. Phoenix caught his jaw with one hand instead, held him still while he returned it with a proper kiss, and Miles tilted his head slightly and pushed forward— gently. He didn't want to wake the little girl sleeping right between them.
It was more poignant this way, somehow. The way they both had to stretch forward to reach one another, the burn in the muscles of Phoenix's neck— somehow it made the kiss sweeter. He almost felt like he had to fight for it. Each of them continued to scoot towards one another, until finally there was no room left to move without disrupting Trucy. Now it was only a slight stretch, but Phoenix felt a longing to touch the other man, to feel arms wrapped around him.
There was a quiet yawn, and both men froze. A shuffling movement, and both pulled back, both pretended they'd only been watching TV. Trucy sat up and covered her mouth as she yawned again.
"Trucy, darling, you shouldn't sleep here. Do you want to go to your bed?" Miles asked in a near-whisper. He pretended he couldn't see how red-faced Phoenix was and hoped Trucy wouldn't notice.
She gave a sleepy nod.
"Are you too tired? Do you want me to carry you?"
Another nod, and Miles sighed through a smile as he stood and pulled the girl up into his arms, letting her head rest on his shoulder. He nodded at Phoenix before he walked upstairs with her. The moment he was out of earshot, Phoenix released a breath he hadn't realized he'd been holding.
Miles returned after a few minutes.
"She was being fussy. She's asleep now," he said quietly.
It was awkward. Neither man wanted to look at the other. Phoenix cleared his throat, intending to speak, but Miles did so first.
"It's probably a good thing I'm not with an agency anymore."
Miles smirked at that and scooted closer on the couch, still without making eye contact, until their legs were touching.
"Because I could get in a lot of trouble. In theory, anyway. The rules are really meant to deter those cliched nanny/husband affairs, but—"
Phoenix impatiently kissed the corner of his mouth, and his words broke off with a sputter. He glared at him for a moment, and Phoenix laughed sheepishly.
"You're awfully presumptuous," Miles nearly whispered.
It was a snide comment, but completely lacking in bite, and he leaned forward the moment he'd finished saying it, so Phoenix didn't take it as a no. There was no child in between them now, so Phoenix was able to pull the other man closer like he'd wanted to, though the angle of being seated next to one another was still a bit uncomfortable. He didn't mind it much. After all, he now had painless and unobstructed access to Miles and his soft lips.
Miles was surprisingly forward about certain things. He moved to lay back against the arm of the sofa, and then he tugged Phoenix in his direction by his shirt collar.
"You're awfully presumptuous," Phoenix chuckled into the other man's open mouth as he crawled over him.
Long, lazy kisses. Soft hums of appreciation. Unhurried exploration with tongues and hands, and the occasional whispered snarky comment returned with a quiet huff of laughter. It was no rush to get anywhere, no buildup to some greater or grander thing. There was no need to stop and catch one's breath or to strip the other of their clothing as quickly as possible. It was kissing just to kiss, something Phoenix had nearly forgotten about. He hadn't experienced anything like it since he was a teenager and sex was an unexplored or barely-familiar territory.
It was a welcome change.
That was what Miles was, really— a comforting peace, a quiet sort of rest. School was hard and unnecessarily stressful at times, work was hectic and physically draining, and every once in a while he would still look at Trucy's photograph in his wallet and feel a sudden surge of inferiority, of anxiety as he wondered if he was doing the right thing for her and making the right choices.
And then, he'd get home and see his daughter happy and healthy and safe, and see Miles silently reading, and he'd feel better.
He would tell Miles his anxieties, and the man would slap them down with dry wit without so much as looking up from the page of his book, because it wasn't a question to him whether or not Phoenix was a good man and whether or not he could do it. It was a fact, a reality that Phoenix was needlessly doubting or delaying. Phoenix would go silent at that, and Miles would casually add some sweet little thing about what Trucy had said or done that day— you're doing a good job in not so many words.
Miles offered up so many of those small, somewhat tired smiles that would momentarily warm the steely grey of his eyes, and those smiles were what got Phoenix through the day sometimes. Other people could scold him and tell him to get his act together, and he'd find comfort in remembering that there was someone waiting for him at home, someone who knew that he did the best he could and didn't ask anything more of him.
Phoenix wasn't exactly sure how to summarize or explain all of these things, but he knew that it could be wrapped into a neat little package that he could label love. In love with the nanny— he was a walking cliche, and he knew it, and he didn't care.
Miles pulled their lips apart and craned forward to look over Phoenix's shoulder at the wall clock.
"Mm?" Phoenix pretended like he hadn't really heard him, and planted kisses along his jaw. Miles gripped his hair and wrestled him away. Phoenix actually whined.
"You should be in bed."
"So should you," Phoenix retorted, clearly pouting. Miles glared at him. A soft glare, but still a glare.
"Fine, okay," Phoenix grumbled as he sat up properly, allowing plenty of room for Miles to do the same. The nanny's face was almost entirely pink. It was cute.
He allowed Miles to go to his room and turn in for the night, and after a moment of silently pumping his fists into the air and dancing around, Phoenix skipped up the stairs to do the same. It was hard to fall asleep thinking about all of the things he wanted to say to and do with Miles.
Phoenix felt a little ashamed to admit it, but he rushed Trucy out the door and into Pearl's mom's car the next morning. By the grace of some kind of romance fairy, Phoenix had neither work nor any classes scheduled for the day until late in the evening. He had hours, several uninterrupted hours, to be alone with Miles, and he was eager to seize his chance.
He turned to face him as soon as the door was closed.
"I think it's time we went on a proper date," Phoenix declared, and Miles, still reading the newspaper, rolled his eyes.
"Really, now? What gave you that idea?"
"Don't sass me! What do you wanna do?"
Miles set down the paper and looked up. He smiled deviously after a moment.
"You said you would let me teach you how to ice skate," he sang, and Phoenix laughed nervously, but still nodded.
"O-okay, if that's what you really want to do. Afterwards, though... I wanna cook you something. Something nice. Maybe while we're out I can get some non-cheap wine?"
"Wouldn't it still be a bit early for a romantic dinner?"
"We have to take what we can get," Phoenix reminded him. Miles nodded. After a moment, his face lit up as he seemed to remember something.
"Which reminds me... Trucy."
Phoenix slapped his hand against his forehead.
"...Oh. Oh. Oh, jeez, she's gonna flip."
Miles' lips tightened into a flat line for a moment.
"Do... Do we tell her? Or is all of this happening too soon? I mean, this... This literally just happened, and I don't want to—"
"Miles." Phoenix recovered from his momentary panic very quickly. He put a hand on Miles' shoulder.
"We're kind of married."
"We know everything about each other. We already know what it's like living together, so we don't have to get past that awkward phase of things. You've met my family and all of my friends, and I'll meet your sister soon. You're raising my daughter with me, and I can't think of a better person to officially co-parent with, and besides, you're already great at it."
"S-so...?" Miles blushed at the unexpected compliment.
"So... I don't exactly see this as a rush. Just a confirmation." Phoenix smiled softly, and took Miles' hands in his. "Besides, she'll be thrilled. She's been pushing for this to happen for a while now."
Miles' eyes widened slightly.
Phoenix laughed, a bright and warm laugh.
"Oh, yeah, definitely. She was selling you like a used car. Had a pitch and everything."
"Children say the strangest things," Miles sighed. One look at his face confirmed that he wasn't actually annoyed.
"They do," Phoenix agreed with a chuckle as he held the door open and allowed Miles to pass by him. "But, then again... They're always right."
Phoenix did make a fool of himself at the rink, and several people laughed at him, but he saw it as a chance to grip onto Miles without any condemnation from the other couples around them. Not that he cared what they thought— he'd tell the entire world how he felt about Miles if given the platform. He fell on his face many times, and Miles would laugh as he pulled him back up.
They walked home, still hand in hand, and Phoenix made pasta and poured wine and lit a too-large vanilla-scented candle (the only candle he had) and they talked as they ate. There was no pressure between the two of them, no grand expectations. It was warm and natural and comfortable, and this was more than enough.
When "dinner" was finished and the dishes were washed, Phoenix suggested they watch TV until Trucy got home, and though the show was somewhat boring, Phoenix thought he could stay like this forever. Cuddling on the couch and sharing occasional kisses was a better "date" than any other he'd had. When he was young it had been about gauging interest and impressing the other and following all of the rules. Now he could just sit and breathe together with another person, and idly play with their fingers and their hair and have those mindless affections returned.
It made him feel both safe and loved.
Trucy burst through the door exactly on cue, and she froze the moment she saw the two of them snuggled together. Her eyes widened, but she looked like she was afraid to say anything in fear of having her fragile hopes dashed upon the rocks. Miles grinned at her, and her face lit up a bit at seeing that kind of expression on his face. He patted the seat beside him and she hopped onto the cushion to look expectantly at her father, who sighed.
"Okay, Trucy... You win," he said, tightening the arm he had wrapped around Miles, and she screamed the moment he said it. She kept asking if it was true, if they were really together, and Miles reassured her several times that they wouldn't joke about something like that.
"So when are you getting married?!" Trucy suddenly asked, leaning into her father.
Phoenix was taken aback by that for a moment, and he sputtered, red-faced, as Miles laughed. Then he focused on Miles, who smiled at him, and grinned back.
"Soon," he said. Miles looked a bit surprised, but not upset, and after a moment he nodded.
"Yes," he agreed, smiling softly. "Soon."
Phoenix watched as Trucy jumped on Miles and started rambling on and on about her plans to be both the flower girl and the ring-bearer, and her idea of making the rings appear out of her top hat using a magic trick. She was already way too excited.
Phoenix had never planned on having a child, and he'd somehow ended up a single dad with a young daughter. He'd never sought out a husband, but he'd accidentally found one in a misspelled newspaper ad. None of it had gone according to plan.
He watched as Trucy climbed on Miles to shake him by the shoulders and he complained that she was crushing his ribcage and cutting off his air.
Phoenix hadn't asked for any of this, but he wouldn't change a single thing.
LMAO EVERY CHAPTER GOT SLOWLY LONGER BY LIKE TWO OR THREE THOUSAND WORDS THIS WAS SUPPOSED TO BE A SHORT AND SWEET AU AND IT ENDED UP LONGER THAN PROMISE YOU'LL STAY
I actually like how the chapters read in order. Chapter one is "I just met you", chapter two is "wow I'm seeing you in a new light and learning to respect you a lot as a person", chapter three is "you're like my best friend now and I think I might be developing a bit of a crush on you and it may or not be mutual", and chapter four is "oops we kind of fell madly in love when did that happen whoops we're kind of already married".
The fact that the previous kid Miles looked after was Apollo doesn't mean anything significant, I just wanted to use an established character rather than making up some random kid the audience feels no attachment to, and using him/knowing who at least half the fandom ships him with gave me the further idea of establishing HOW it was discovered in the first place that Miles is gay. I knew early on the reason he got fired, but hadn't decided how it would have happened. (So far nearly all of my stories have included tragic or internalized homophobia in some way, and others I have planned are EVEN WORSE!! ...I have a problem.)
Also, the scene with the asshole parents was based heavily on shit that's actually happened to me, or more specifically to my mother. Everyone thinks they should get to judge how well single parents are doing and where they choose to spend their money. It's especially bad in a private religious school where everyone else has two parents, one wealthy and one fuckin' Martha Stewart in pearls.
The main story is officially over, but stay tuned for the Christmas epilogue, which will include Franziska, Pearl, Maya, and Larry! I also want to do some themed around A) Valentine's Day (based on a prompt I found) and B) Phoenix finally passing the bar exam.
Chapter 5: IMPORTANT UPDATE!
So you guys have been waiting for me to update this story with the beginning of the Christmas special, right?
Well, in keeping with the theme of this entire series, it's ending up WAY longer than intended. Part one of this special is already longer than part one of the main story. Like, four times as long, probably. And it's the simplest and least eventful chapter I have planned.
With this in mind, I decided that instead of updating it here, as I had originally planned to do, I'm going to create a category for the series and start posting it as a separate story under the series tag. The series is labeled "Wrightworth Nanny AU", as its quickly becoming its own expansive universe. I'm in no rush to write all of the stuff I have planned for this series/universe, as it's not on the top of my priority list in terms of writing projects, but it's nice to have a way to track it and still keep it all grouped together.
Anyway, I'm finished the first part of the special, and it should be edited and posted within the next couple of days! And I DO hope to start posting chapters for my other AU sometime in the next month or so.