They never did anything before his disbarment. Back then they’d been kids, and then Edgeworth had been dragged away. And as soon as he had come back he had run, and then he was always, always leaving.
And they don’t do anything after, either.
But God, Phoenix wanted to. He had for years; probably always had.
Since he was nine and he had such a schoolboy crush that he made his mom cry with how desperately he had begged her to let him live with Edgeworth and his dad. That year they were supposed to make Valentine’s Day cards for everyone in their class, but Phoenix spent so long decorating a card for Edgeworth that it was really the only one he made, and the cards he left on everyone else’s desks were little more than just folded card paper. He’d gotten a detention for that, his teacher having it out for him ever since his innocence in the money-stealing incident had been proven. But it had been worth it to see the way Edgeworth displayed the card proudly and appreciated his hard work.
Since he was 21 and in university and changing his major for a photograph he saw in the paper. Edgeworth had grown into a handsome man; tall, sharp features, a steady, confident gaze even in print form. Even Larry had said so, and Larry is the straightest person Phoenix knows, probably hasn’t even had the shortest, idle thought about kissing a man.The newspaper had a sticker that marked it as properly of the university library, but Phoenix had ripped the photo out anyway and stuffed it in his wallet. He took it out, sometimes, when he was doubting himself. And the more he looked at it, the more he released that Edgeworth had broad shoulders and long fingers and a strong jaw and he held himself with a tight control; but his eyes were sad and he still had a little bit of baby fat to his cheeks. His Dollie had caught him looking at the photo once just before an exam, and that had opened the floodgates. He had talked about Edgeworth at every possible opportunity, and maybe he had still been a little in love with him then; with the idea of Miles Edgeworth.
Since he was 24, and Edgeworth came back into his life. Impossibly cold and impossibly distant and impossibly tragic; with a murdered father and an abusive mentor and a seemingly endless string of people who had no qualms about taking advantage of a traumatised little boy and a man who never had the chance to come to terms with any of it, who tried to hide that trauma behind anger and bitterness. It had seemed like everything had worked to keep them separated. Edgeworth had pushed him away time and time again, even as he had so naturally helped him to find the truth in the court room. And then there had been the glass in the detention centre, a physical barrier stopping Phoenix from doing anything but watching helplessly as the world Edgeworth had been taught to believe in had fallen apart and betrayed him at every turn. But still, he had tried so hard to reach him.
Since he was 25 and Edgeworth came back again, to save his sister and to save Maya. For nearly a year, Phoenix had almost been able to convince himself that he hated him. Thinking about Edgeworth had been a little like touching a hot stove, sharp and angry and painful, like his chest physically could not expand enough to fit everything in. He could not stop himself from flinching the first time Maya had mentioned his name after months of pretending Edgeworth had never existed, and whenever he saw something that reminded him of him he could only imagine the object turning into a deep, black abyss that Phoenix tipped into and fell and fell and never stopped falling. He didn’t know if he wanted to yell or cry or just stare at his little Signal Blue keychain and not feel anything at all. It took Edgeworth returning again before he recognised that was he was feeling was grief. Grief for the loss of what Edgeworth had represented to him, yes. Grief for the loss of that distant figure; nine years old and so serious for his age, 21 and so different, but still a guiding light to steer his life towards. But also, grief for the loss of Edgeworth the man, who he was just getting to know. Who was so smart and so driven and so hurt, but was just starting to show him those rare, tiny smiles - barely a tilt of his lips but still, they soften his entire face - that took Phoenix’s breath away.
Since he was 26 and Edgeworth had chartered a plane to see him. They had parted on almost good terms. Phoenix hadn’t been thrilled about him leaving again, but he understood that Edgeworth had a job and a life and people that relied on him in Europe, so he had gone to the airport to shake his hand and see him off. When he got back to his apartment he saw that the photo that had been taken of the group of them after the Engarde trial was missing from its frame, and in it’s place there was a phone number written in Edgeworth’s handwriting. It had taken him a few days to call, worried about what he wasn’t sure; that he would seem desperate, that Edgeworth had given him a fake number as some cruel joke, or worse, that Edgeworth would send him to voicemail and never call back, furious with himself for making the mistake of giving it to Phoenix. But call he had. Initially it had been stilted, awkward conversation, but soon they were speaking twice a week and then at least once every two days. Phoenix would have even gone so far as to call them friends again, which was why the only reason it was a surprise that Edgeworth had visited him in hospital was because Phoenix had thought he was on the other side of the world, not because he was surprised Edgeworth would want to see him at all. He had considered feigning sleep when he saw the flash of magenta coming though his doorway, but Edgeworth’s eyes had found him immediately and they had been afraid. So Phoenix had given him his badge and magnamata and told him he trusted him.
Edgeworth had called him “partner”, and Phoenix had thought maybe, finally this time. He had thought “I want you”. He had thought “I want everything about you”. But Edgeworth had had to go back to Europe so soon, and Phoenix had thought next time, when Edgeworth was back for good.
Since he was 27, and he was disbarred. Edgeworth had been on a case and hadn’t heard straight away. For a moment, Phoenix had imagined that maybe he would be able to never tell him, to have one relationship that wasn’t blown up, one untouched good thing in his life. Thinking about disappointing Edgeworth weighed down his stomach with a dark, crushing feeling, and he had had to run to the bathroom twice after Edgeworth told him he was coming to see him. But he had gone to meet him at the airport anyway, and when he saw that grey hair and magenta suit he had squeezed Trucy’s hand so hard she had squawked at him. More than a few people had turned to look at them at that sound, and one of them had been Edgeworth. As soon as he spotted them, Edgeworth had smiled, wider than any smile Phoenix had seen from him before, his eyes twinkling behind glasses that intellectually Phoenix had known about, but he could not have prepared himself for the way they had made Edgeworth look. He had crouched down and told Trucy to wait where she was, and strode towards Edgeworth, meeting him half way and, not giving himself a second to think about what he was going to do, he had hugged him in the middle of the departing passengers. Edgeworth had gone as taunt as a violin string at the unexpected physical contact and he didn’t let go of the handle of his case with one hand, but his other arm had slowly and softly come to rest around Phoenix’s waist. Phoenix had been slapped and tasered and whipped in court so he knew how rude people could be, but it had seemed like there was some invisible barrier around the two of them and no one even bumped into them to let them know they were in the road, so for a moment Phoenix had hugged Edgeworth, buried his face into his shoulder and clutched tightly and let himself forget about everything but Edgeworth’s hand at his hip, the rise and fall of Edgeworth’s chest as he breathed against him. And then Edgeworth had sighed, so softly that no one but Phoenix could have heard him, and leaned back a little to ask of Phoenix was going to introduce him to his daughter. And Phoenix had chased the solid warmth of him, nodded into his collarbone and hung on for just a little while more.
Edgeworth had paid for the taxi ride back to Phoenix’s office, and for the food delivery. Phoenix felt distantly that he should be ashamed of a friend paying for everything, but all he really felt was relief that Edgeworth there, and a bone deep exhaustion. He hadn’t let Trucy out of his sight since adopting her, too worried that something would happen or her father would return and take her away. He’d never really thought about kids, had figured that Edgeworth wouldn’t want one, but Edgeworth and Trucy had gotten along well, pictures of Edgeworth’s dog on his phone acting better as a mediator than Phoenix ever could. He had been half way through his box of pad thai when Phoenix had been hit by the sudden need to be alone. He stood up carefully, quietly while Trucy was distracted, cooing at a video of Pess wagging her tail and snuffling in her sleep. Edgeworth had noticed him trying to slip away, and before he even managed to open his mouth Phoenix had waved him off and jerked his head towards the side room where they kept a spare bed for late nights at the office. He supposed that he wouldn’t be having any of those anymore, and his desperation to be inside and behind a closed door had shot up, his heart beating far too fast for all the sitting he had been doing, his palms sweaty. There had been a dark worry in Edgeworth’s eyes, but he had nodded in acknowledgement and flicked to the next video on his phone to keep Trucy’s attention.
As soon as the door was closed behind him, Phoenix had collapsed on all fours; great, heaving breaths in and out that rattled around in his ribcage and bounced off the walls of the room. It had taken a few minutes for his heartbeat to quiet down enough to hear that he was sobbing, loud and ugly. He had almost detached from his own body, and he had heard Trucy chirp something and Edgeworth’s low murmur in reply, and he had laid his head down on his folded arms and curled up on himself to muffle his crying. He couldn’t say how long he had stayed on the floor, time stretching and compressing seemingly at will with his eyes squeezed shut and his heart thumping, but eventually he had caught his breath and dragged his way to the bed, where he fell asleep instantly.
When Phoenix had woken the next day, Trucy was curled up on the bed beside him, still sleeping. Phoenix had gotten up quietly and tiptoed back into the office. The first thing he had noticed was that Edgeworth was asleep on the couch, his back and legs curled awkwardly to fit his frame. The second had been that Trucy had laid her cape over as much of his torso as it could cover, like Edgeworth was sleeping under some tiny blanket. It’s a cliche, Phoenix knew, to say that someone looked different when they’re sleeping, and Edgeworth did; his face squished up awkwardly against his arm, mouth pushed to the side and open just a little, hair flopping down and into his face. But he still had the same dark lashes resting against pale skin and sharp cheekbones, the same long fingers curled into loose fists.
And the third thing Phoenix had noticed that day was that he had waited too long. That it was too late.
They can’t be together. Phoenix’s disbarment slams down between them like guillotine, severing the romantic bond between them that had always just been potential, but that Phoenix had known was there.
It’s not that Edgeworth doesn’t believe he’s innocent. He never, even for a second, thought Phoenix was guilty. Never asked for clarification. It’s not even about Edgeworth’s career, as such. It’s about what will happen if Edgeworth’s integrity is questioned.
Every case they worked on together now rests on the public perception of Edgeworth’s credibility, and that is thin ground already. There are still many who look at him and see rumours of corruption and evidence tampering and forgery. And if anyone thought that Edgeworth had thrown a case because he and Phoenix were involved, then the appeals would start. Maya ending up on death row is not a risk they are willing to take, not even for them.
Plus, there is the question of Kristoph Gavin. Phoenix has to work hard not to be charmed by him in spite of himself; has to remind himself that there is something off behind those eyes, something rotten underneath those well tailored suits. Phoenix doesn’t know what it is yet, but there is a reason why he had a near-perfect run of innocent clients; and he learnt a lot from Engard. But still, Kristoph has a way with words and a quick, dry wit and a calm head. Too calm. Phoenix has to shut himself off from softer emotions lest they start to wander without his control.
They don’t talk about it. Phoenix doesn’t lean forward to kiss him only for Edgeworth to tell him “no”. Edgeworth doesn’t reach for his hand to be stopped by Phoenix telling him “not now”. They don’t need to. They know what the other is thinking. They sit on Phoenix’s couch a respectable distance apart and they don’t talk about how they feel for each other; how Phoenix wants to just lean across that gap, put his head on Edgeworth’s lap and just stay there forever with Edgeworth’s hand in his hair.
They do talk about what they’re going to do about Kristoph, how they’re going to catch his lie. About how Phoenix is going to get his badge back. About Trucy and Phoenix getting a job and about money, no matter how uncomfortable that is. Phoenix won’t let him pay for anything, but Edgeworth does eventually convince him to let him set up an emergency fund that will automatically transfer to Trucy as a college fund when she turns 18. Phoenix hates it, but Edgeworth reasons that college is extravagantly expensive for families with two working parents, and that he has more money than he’ll ever need and he likes spending it on his friends.
In the end, Edgeworth books a flight back to Germany. The cases they handled together are kept in the back of everyone’s minds as long as Edgeworth is on the other side of the world. And from Europe, Edgeworth can research freely, no chance of Kristoph looking over his shoulder. It’s the perfect plan, except that Edgeworth is leaving again, he has to say goodbye again, when there is nothing Phoenix wants more than for Edgeworth to stay, for Edgeworth to come home from work to Phoenix and Trucy and watch cartoons on their couch and eat takeout and drop the peanuts from his pad thai into Phoenix’s container. More than getting his badge back, more than clearing his name, Phoenix wants Edgeworth.
Instead he saves every phone number Edgeworth has for his various work phones in his own, and upgrades his data limit so he can video-chat, and he and Trucy see Edgeworth off at the airport.
Edgeworth deals with some messed up stuff in his job. Phoenix has been involved in his fair share of murder cases, but Edgeworth has prosecuted his own, bigger share, and more than that and then some; assaults, abuse, kidnappings, people who have ruined lives for nothing more than fun or boredom. Phoenix knows that it sometimes hits Edgeworth too close to home, the raw parts of his psyche that still don’t want to acknowledge what happened to him. Particularly when there are kids involved.
So Edgeworth wraps his arm around his body - grabs the opposite elbow and squeezes tight - like a wild animal protecting its belly. He wears his suits like armour, layers of wool and silk covering pale, delicate skin. They make him look boxier than he is; harsh, sharp lines building a frame like a brick wall that Edgeworth can hide behind. Phoenix learns this slowly. Back home they had only seen each other in court, never the time to meet up outside of work. Their friendship had been rebuilt over telephone conversations, not face-to-face.
Phoenix sees him without his jacket for the first time when Edgeworth wakes up on his couch. Underneath, his shoulders are still broad, but they slope gently downwards and just a little forwards instead of the harsh angles when Edgeworth is dressed for court. He keeps it off all day as they discuss where to go from here, and Phoenix finds himself watching the way his arms move as he talks. He can’t see the muscles shifting under the sleeves of his shirt, but he can see how the material bunches and twists as Edgeworth waves his hands about, and it’s just enough of a hint to imagine what’s going on underneath.
A few months later they’re in Rome in the middle of summer, sun absolutely beating down and the air sticky with humidity. They’re used to the LA heat, but Trucy wants to see everything and doesn’t slow down for a second. It’s an effort to keep up with her as she bounces around from sight to sight. Phoenix has already stripped off his hoodie and beanie and is seriously regretting his sweatpants. Edgeworth has his jacket folded over his arm, and Phoenix is trying incredibly hard not to notice the way sweat gathers at his temples and along his collar. He thinks he’s almost succeeding too, until Edgeworth stops with a huff. “Please.” He says, and he holds out his jacket. Phoenix takes it with a wordless nod as he watches Edgeworth reach up and untie his cravat, slip it off and shove it in the pocket of his pants. When Phoenix had allowed himself to think about such things, he had imagined Edgeworth would wear his shirt buttoned up to the collar, but now he is seeing far more neck and even collarbone than he had anticipated, the top button undone and collar falling gently open. A few drops of the sweat that had gathered along the top of his cravat now drift slowly down Edgeworth’s neck and down under his shirt and Phoenix practically throws the jacket at his face to cover everything up and looks around widely for Trucy who he sees watching a small group of men in replica gladiator outfits fleecing money off a second group of tourists. He can practically feel Edgeworth smirking at the back of his head.
It’s probably a good thing that Edgeworth is living in Europe. Whenever he’s near him, Phoenix feels as though he’s about to buzz out of his skin. He makes a conscious effort not to touch, not even an incidental brush of arms as Edgeworth walks past. He knows that if he does, if he does touch Edgeworth, then he will shatter; his carefully crafted and maintained persona falling away as if it were never there at all. So instead he calls over video messenger, and he can run his fingernail along the sharp lines got Edgeworth’s face on his laptop screen.
The next time Edgeworth flies them over it’s to Berlin, and a likely incredibly expensive babysitter for Trucy. Edgeworth had suggested that he leave her with Maya, but Maya is one of the people Phoenix has had to limit his interaction with, lest the façade of his new attitude crumble around him. Still, Edgeworth had insisted that she not attend court with them, and it takes about a minute of reading the case notes for Phoenix to understand why. The case is horrific. There’s a foster home and child abuse and multiple instances of self-harm and suicide. Trucy has been along to murder trials before, but this would weigh on her.
Phoenix can see the way that it weighs on Edgeworth. If that life was a tiny, distant possibility for Trucy, then it is far too close to Edgeworth’s reality. In court, Edgeworth is perfect. No one would guess that underneath those pressed shirts and pants, that fitted jacket and blank expression, there’s a man who is barely holding it together. No one but Phoenix. He can see the anger in those grey eyes, the little crescent moons that Edgeworth is digging into his own palms and Phoenix longs to slide his palm against Edgeworth’s, tangle their fingers together so Edgeworth is forced to unclench his fist. Instead he works to be the best legal assistant he can, hands over notes and evidence before Edgeworth gets the chance to ask for them.
They pass the babysitter in he hall of the hotel after the case wraps up for jury deliberation. Edgeworth barely even looks up to acknowledge her, and Phoenix is officially worried. Edgeworth walks through the door to their suite in front of him, strips off his jacket and cravat as soon as he crosses the threshold and starts woking in the buttons on his waistcoat. He yanks that off too, his shirt pulled from its neat tuck in the process. Phoenix watches from where he’s frozen just inside the door, sees the way Edgeworth is heaving in breaths, the way his hands shake violently, and doesn’t know what to do.
Even in his distressed state, Edgeworth manages to drape his clothes over the back of the armchair before sinking down onto the couch, his head in his hands scrunching and releasing his hair. Phoenix doesn’t know what to do to help him, to leave him be or to talk or to get closer, and he is about to break his own rules about physical contact when Trucy makes herself known. He had almost offhandedly heard her barrelling down the hallway when the door had opened, always tuned in to any sounds she makes somewhere in the back of his mind, but he had been so focussed on Edgeworth that he hadn’t looked to greet her. She must have noticed something was wrong, however, because she steps around Phoenix and makes her way over to the couch slowly and quietly, like she was approaching the cat that she sometimes saw running about the hallways in the office building.
She sits on the couch carefully, not quite touching Edgeworth, but close enough that she could lean over and onto him easily. “Do you want to see a magic trick, Uncle Edgeworth?” She asks.
Phoenix steps forward quickly, goes to put himself between Edgeworth and Trucy. The last thing Edgeworth needs right now is something surprising, he thinks, but he is the one surprised when Edgeworth nods into his hands. “Thank you, Trucy.”
Trucy pulls a packet of cards out of her pocket, very deliberately and where Edgeworth could see them if he was looking. She picks three cards out of the deck. “Let’s play Find the King.” Edgeworth lifts his head out of his hands to look at the King of Diamonds that Trucy is holding in front of his face. Phoenix can see that his eyes are red, but otherwise there is no evidence of his panic attack, apart from the way that he watches Trucy move her cards around on the table with the same intensity that he would look at decisive evidence in court. Phoenix feels his heart squeeze painfully at the ease in which Trucy diffused the situation, when he himself could not even think of how to help. It used to be as natural as breathing, helping. And Trucy just stepped up without even asking him if she needed to. What must she think of him?
The case wraps up the next day. It was so cut and dry that Phoenix is surprised it even took that long. But they get the guilty verdict and Phoenix heads back to the hotel to start packing their things. He never stays long after the case is finished. If he did, it would be too easy to convince himself that this is his real life: him and Edgeworth and Trucy in Europe. Not the shadowy, secretive life he has back home, sneaking around and lying and hiding parts of himself in places where he isn’t sure he’ll ever be able to find them, trying to rebuild his career and the criminal justice system; but Trucy’s bright, excited face when she walks past a building that she’s only seen in pictures before, Edgeworth’s small, satisfied smile when they wrap up a case and put a criminal behind bars.
Edgeworth would let him, he knows; let him leave that life behind and just stay, stay like Edgeworth never could manage to do for him, but Phoenix could be the first one to take that step and stay. And he would be happy with it. He’d probably be happier. But he’d never quite be able to put the what if behind him. What if he did clear his name? What if he did change the way law was done? What if he did help to build a system that saved innocent lives?
To Phoenix’s surprise, Trucy has already packed their bags and is waiting for them in the hotel room, bouncing on the balls of her feet. She’s never happy to leave Europe, so that is his first clue that something is wrong. The second is the third suitcase waiting next to theirs. And the third is the way Trucy and Edgeworth exchange a look, and Trucy grabs her own suitcase and darts out the door before Phoenix has the chance to ask what is going on. He turns to face Edgeworth, who is holding out a plane ticket to him. “I won’t take no for an answer, Wright.” He says, and wiggles the ticket a little. “It is Trucy’s birthday, after all.”
Phoenix takes the ticket and looks at the fight details. Barcelona. The word “no” is on the tip of his tongue, regardless of Edgeworth’ statement and how much it would hurt Trucy for him to say it. But then he remembers Edgeworth confiding that his therapist had told him to take time to decompress after a difficult case, and Phoenix seriously doubts that Edgeworth takes that advice when he’s alone. And he had seen Edgeworth’s breakdown, seen his legs unable to support him, seen him shake, seen the circles under his eyes as dark as bruises, clear evidence that he has not been sleeping. So far be it from him to sabotage Edgeworth actually taking a break for once. He rolls his eyes instead and snatches one of the tickets. “You spoil her, Edgeworth.”
Edgeworth shrugs as he follows him out the door. “I’m not going to spend the money on myself.”
It’s a relatively short flight to Barcelona, and the taxi drops them off at their hotel room a little over two and a half hours after they leave Berlin. Trucy is a good flyer by now, and she preforms little card tricks to anyone who will pay her any attention. Phoenix still hates heights, but as long as he looks straight ahead and never catches a glance of out of a window he’s fine. Strangely, Edgeworth is the worst of them. Phoenix has seen him in his office or on the couch, reading through case files for hours and barely moving except to turn a page or sip some tea. The flight itself is only an hour and a half, but Edgeworth is up and out of his seat half a dozen times in that time. Phoenix watches him the first couple of times, but every time Edgeworth passes by a window he starts to feel nauseous, and pretty soon he just closes his eyes and wills the plane to go a little faster.
By the time they step into the hotel suite it’s almost midnight. Phoenix is still pretty wired from flight anxiety, but he can feel that he’s about to crash soon. Trucy is barely hanging on to consciousness beside him, but determined to drag her suitcase along regardless. And Edgeworth looks at him with eyes shaded with deep purple shadows in a face even paler than normal and tells him to go to bed, but to dress nicely tomorrow, no sweatpants, Wright, because he’s taking them out.
Phoenix almost throws on his tracksuit when he wakes the morning, before he remembers Edgeworth’s words from last night. He thinks about putting it on anyway just to spite him, to get back at Edgeworth buying him an expensive holiday without asking his permission. But in the end he settles on his suit pants and the cleanest t-shirt he owns. They probably don’t go together, but it’s that or his full court suit. And Phoenix has better things to do on his holidays - even his forced holidays - than worry about how the shoulders on his jacket are sitting.
He also doesn’t worry about being quiet when he leaves his room. Trucy will sleep through anything, and he knows from these trips overseas that Edgeworth still suffers from insomnia most nights. Phoenix had once foolishly thought that clearing Edgeworth’s name would stop his dreams and help him sleep at night, but he has learnt over the years that PTSD does not bend to rationalising, and Edgeworth's trauma runs far deeper than some lies and false memories.
Edgeworth is already up. Phoenix can hear him watching something quietly on the television while he makes himself a coffee in the kitchen. He shuffles out towards the sound of the TV a few minutes later, and almost drops his mug on the ground. Edgeworth isn’t wearing his suit; no jacket, no cravat, not even his pressed dress pants. Instead he’s wearing a linen shirt, the collar still starched and high, but the colour a deep plum and the cuffs unbuttoned and loose. And he’s wearing jeans. Fitted jeans, revealing lean legs that had been hidden under his shapeless suit pants. Even Edgeworth’s hair looks more relaxed than usual, the peaks somehow less peak-y.
Edgeworth is reading something on his phone while some bright and animated show plays across the television screen in the background, and Phoenix stops in his tracks so abruptly that his coffee spills out the top of his mug and onto his hand. He hisses reflexively at the burn, and Edgeworth looks up from his screen to see him staring at him. He blinks at him from behind his glasses, and it’s so domestic, like this is something he could wake up to every weekend, and Phoenix’s heart trips over itself so hard and fast that he turns on his heel without saying a word and hides out in this room until it’s time to leave.
Phoenix doesn't know more than a few words of Spanish, but even so, it isn’t difficult to take a guess at what “màgia” might mean. The building Edgeworth takes them to jumps out from the other shopfronts lining the streets, the façade a glaring red with gold letters and trimming. As far as Phoenix is aware, Trucy doesn’t have much of a gift for languages, either. In fact, he’s pretty sure he remembers that she came very close to failing her last Spanish test. But she seems just as capable as him of putting two and two together and coming up with “magic”. He sees her consciously having to hold herself back from sprinting into the building, and he gives her a short tap between the shoulder blades as silent permission to go on ahead.
Edgeworth holds the door open for him when they wander in in Trucy’s wake, and Phoenix is glad that he was not in that position, because he doesn’t even know where it’s safe to look at Edgeworth right now. It’s been a couple of hours since he first saw him dressed so casually, so free of the suit he wears as a shield of professionalism, cloth so that he never has to be close to anyone, never has to let himself be vulnerable. That he is choosing to change that now, Phoenix doesn’t know what to make of it. Only that it means something.
Inside the shop the walls are lined with glass cabinets displaying sets of cards and magic props. To Phoenix’s untrained eye it all looks a little amateurish for Trucy, but she is standing in the middle of the room and looking around with clear delight on her face. Edgeworth walks up to stand next to her. “This is one of the oldest magic shops in the world.” He says, and Trucy looks up at him with her eyes wide. “it also houses a very thorough exhibit on the history of magic in Spain.”
Trucy looks back to the room around her, her eyes darting everywhere until she sees something that makes her beam. She grabs Edgeworth’s hand and drags him to the exhibit behind her, and Phoenix feels a flash of something half like jealousy at the casual way Trucy reaches out an grabs on, and amusement at the startled look and blush on Edgeworth’s face as he allows himself to be tugged along.
Phoenix smirks to himself as he wanders forward to look at his own information plaque, and it takes a good few seconds to really register that it’s written in Spanish. It shouldn’t be a surprise, and yet somehow it is. He stares for a few more seconds, willing the words to change language, before he sighs and looks around for Edgeworth to translate.
Phoenix spots him over the other side of the room, still with Trucy. He’s bending over and squinting a little, and Phoenix makes a mental note to hound him to get his prescriptions re-checked. He had waited far too long to get glasses in the first place. Phoenix watches as Trucy points to a plaque, and Edgeworth’s lips move, clearly reading the information back to her, and his daughter already beat him to his plan.
Phoenix can’t resent it. When he had adopted Trucy, his first worry after whether or not he could even be a father was for how she and Edgeworth would get on. Back then he had hoped that his disbarment would be brief, a blip, and he and Edgeworth could soon pick up where they had left off, moving slowly towards something. And he had always assumed that kids made Edgeworth uncomfortable. Now his hope of a romantic future with Edgeworth has been put on serious hold for the foreseeable future, but he needn’t have worried about Edgeworth and Trucy disliking each other.
Edgeworth is awkward around her, Phoenix wasn’t wrong in assuming that. But he wasn’t uncomfortable. Edgeworth never really had much of a childhood himself. Even before DL-6 he had been a serious kid, with a dead mum and a dad who loved him but who was always working. After school every day he had caught the bus to his dad’s office and ordered takeaway and made sure the rooms were clean. At the time, Phoenix had found him impressive and grown up. Looking back on it now, the memory of a tiny Edgeworth in a bowtie throwing crumpled up paper that had been tossed in the general direction of the rubbish rather than actually into the bin is adorable.
And then afterwards, well, that doesn’t bear thinking about.
For a while Edgeworth had not known how to talk to Trucy, falling back onto being overly formal and being clearly embarrassed by his own floundering. But Trucy had liked that he spoke to her like she was an adult, even if she didn’t always understand what he was saying, and they get along well.
Even so, it wouldn’t hurt for them to spend some time together. Phoenix decides to just look at he pictures.
Trucy gets a job alongside him at the Borscht Bar. Phoenix hates it. It’s absolutely no place for a young girl, and besides that, what it really says is that he cannot provide for himself and his daughter. It’s humiliating, it’s devastating, but it’s true that he needs the extra money. So Trucy puts on magic shows at a dive bar, and she brings home her first pay packet after two weeks. She tries to hand it off to Phoenix to help pay his phone bill, but he stops her. “This is your first real pay.” He says. “You deserve to spend it on something you want.”
A few days later she comes home with a grey beanie and a sweater the exact colour of Edgeworth’ suit. When she hands it over so he can post it to Edgeworth for his birthday, it’s a little coarser than anything he imagines Edgeworth wearing, but he’s sure he’ll appreciate the gesture nonetheless.
Months pass before they’re invited back to Europe. Phoenix talks to Edgeworth regularly, and he’s pretty sure that Trucy sends him videos of her doing card tricks, but he resolves to let them have their own thing. But it’s not the same as meeting in person, and Phoenix’s hand trembles just a little when Edgeworth emails them tickets to Paris. That’s another thing he could feel resentful about, Edgeworth buying plane tickets for himself and his daughter. But it’s good for Trucy to get some time away from the tense atmosphere of home, and Edgeworth gets frankly incredible discounts on plane tickets. It would almost be a shame to waste them.
Edgeworth meets them at the airport. Phoenix is looking for the suit and cravat, and he doesn’t spot him immediately. Trucy has no such problems. She doesn’t run towards a tearful reunion, but she does set off at a brisk pace with total confidence, and Phoenix follows along behind. They’re barely 100 metres away when he spots Edgeworth, standing stiffly near the exit and scrolling through his phone. He’s wearing jeans and a shirt with a stiff, white collar and the sweater that Trucy bought for him. His hair falls into his face from the way his neck is bent slightly to look at his phone and he’s lit from behind by the soft autumn sunlight of Paris. Trucy hugs him when she reaches him, her arms around his waist, her head pressed against his stomach and he awkwardly pats her hair in return and looks down at her with a fond smile, and it’s not fair.
Edgeworth comes home two months before they make a move against Kristoph. It’s more dangerous, probably. Far more likely for them to be found out if they’re seen together. But Phoenix needs him there incase something goes wrong, someone who can take in Trucy if need be. He has been slowly and quietly rebuilding his relationship with Maya, but she has a demanding job outside of the city and Trucy wold never fit into life there. So Phoenix rewrites his will to name Edgeworth as Trucy’s guardian if anything happens to him, and when Edgeworth comes over to sign his agreement Phoenix thinks about just holding onto him and crying for almost ten minutes.
Things move quickly after that, half planned and half a matter of taking a chance when it’s available. In the end Apollo comes through for him; Kristoph is arrested and Phoenix is cleared of any wrongdoing. Trucy is waiting for him outside of the courtroom, and she hugs him hard enough that he’s almost not disappointed that Edgeworth isn’t there to greet him too. He knew he wouldn’t be, that he had taken a case specifically because he would be required to be making up case notes at the time of the trial, so that no one could accuse him of having an influence on the results. So he twirls Trucy around in a circle and thinks about the text he’s going to send Edgeworth.
They meet a few hours later at the nicest restaurant within walking distance of Phoenix’s apartment. Edgeworth is already there when he arrives. It’s not surprising that Edgeworth has beat him here; he lives a fair enough distance away, but he’s also the one with the aged sports car who doesn’t have to walk anywhere unless he feels like it. But Phoenix had kind of been hoping that he would be the one already sitting down when they saw each other. That Edgeworth would be the one who would have to decide what move to make from here. He’s wearing his work suit, and it’s a bit of a shock to see him in it outside of court. Not an unpleasant one exactly, but over time he’s become used to Edgeworth looking softer. Now, in a moderately nice restaurant surrounded by people in jeans and shirts, in the suit and the cravat he looks sharp, he stands out. Like a beacon, and Phoenix can’t look at anyone else. He looks so good, and Phoenix just wants to hug him but he doesn’t even know how to anymore. They’ve spent so much time not touching that reaching across the distance between them feels impossible.
Instead, he sits down across the table and Edgeworth with a grin. Edgeworth finds it within himself to actually, genuinely smile back, and Phoenix would probably just stare at him until the restaurant kicked them out, but their waiter puts a plate down in front of him and Phoenix looks away. Edgeworth can order for him while he waits because they ate together so often in Europe and Edgeworth pays attention to him and what he likes, and Phoenix is so overwhelmed by the thought that Edgeworth knows him, he can’t think of how to say thank you. He reaches his leg out and presses it against Edgeworth’s own, and he just leaves it there; a warmth, a physical reminder that they are both here together.
Edgeworth doesn’t react except to ask about the trial, and Phoenix is sure he would have already heard all about it, if not from official documentation then at least from gossip in the prosecutor’s office. But he tells him anyway; about how worried he had been that it wouldn’t all come together, about how scared he had been that Kristoph would figure them out and do something, about Apollo, brave and brilliant, who had gone with his gut rather than what his mentor had taught him. He tells Edgeworth that Apollo reminded him of him, and Edgeworth tries to dismiss the compliment with a falsely casual wave and a very real blush. Phoenix laughs and hooks his foot around the back of Edgeworth’s calf, pulls his leg out and closer.
Edgeworth doesn’t react, but he doesn’t pull away either, and Phoenix feels a boldness shoot through him like a bolt of lightning. They eat in silence for a while. Phoenix knows that they eventually have a lot to talk about, but he’s happy just to be here, now, with all the barriers behind them.
Eventually, Edgeworth speaks again. “I was offered the position as Chief Prosecutor.” They had known it was coming. The Prosecutor's Office has been headhunting Edgeworth for the job for years, but Phoenix’s heart still leaps in his chest to hear it, because it means Edgeworth is staying. If not for good, then for some time at the very least. He reaches out and takes Edgeworth’s hand in one of his own, laces their fingers together, leaves them resting on the table. He doesn’t really know how to say what he wants to say, so instead he holds on tight and shovels pasta into his mouth to stop something embarrassing slipping out. It was fortunate that Edgeworth chose a dish for him that could be eaten with one hand.
He looks up to see how Edgeworth is faring with his movements restricted, and despite the fact that Edgeworth never participated in his and Trucy’s quest to survive entirely on pasta while they had been in Italy, he too has some kind of spaghetti dish. Phoenix stares for a while, trying to figure out where Edgeworth’s sudden change in diet came from, and Edgeworth must feel his eyes on him because he looks up from his meal and smirks, squeezes Phoenix’s hand.
And Phoenix grins back. Because Edgeworth has never much liked pasta, but he has always been a sneaky guy with a plan.
It doesn’t extend far beyond handholding for some time. Even after Phoenix getting his badge back, even after sitting down and having an adult discussion about how they can’t face each other in court anymore or risk a conflict of interest. Not that Edgeworth will have much of an opportunity to prosecute in his new position, but they have enemies, and it’s better to be safe than sorry. Edgeworth has spent days on Phoenix’s couch that have rolled into nights on the couch that have rolled into nights sharing a bed, but never more than arms slung across shoulders or waists, heads pressed against chests and the back of necks. Once Phoenix had convinced Edgeworth to let him put his head in his lap while he was reading a court file and Edgeworth was watching the news, and Phoenix had taken in exactly zero information about his case.
Phoenix had thought that talking about what was going on between them would be the hardest part, considering Edgeworth’s tendency to run from anything that even slightly resembled emotional honesty. He’s been forced to deny feeling anything since he was a kid, and Phoenix had assumed that to get him to admit to anything he would have to corner him and block off any exits. But it had been surprisingly easy. He supposes in having to force himself to cut ties with softer emotions, Phoenix had missed how much Edgeworth had grown since Phoenix lost his badge.
In practice, the hardest part is that even the most simple of casual touches between them makes his skin buzz, and when Phoenix thinks about kissing Edgeworth his palms sweat and his stomach twists and his heart starts thumping almost out of his chest and Phoenix has to have a sit down and just breathe through it. He’s built it up to be this big thing in his head. Kissing Edgeworth. His ultimate reward. Finally being able to be with Edgeworth. It means his life is truly back on track, and every time he thinks about it’s too much and he can’t breathe.
Phoenix returns from a week spent with Maya and Pearl in Kurain Village to find Edgeworth on his couch watching the Steel Samurai. He’s wearing a grey shirt that Phoenix knows from experience is incredibly soft. And a black pair of sweatpants. A brand new pair, no patches faded or worn. Phoenix would bet Edgeworth wouldn’t even know where they even sell sweatpants if it wasn’t for him, and he went out to buy them so that he could be comfortable in Phoenix’s space.
Edgeworth stands to greet him, always polite even in Phoenix’s own home. Phoenix marvels at the way the sweatpants sit neither loose nor low, like none he has ever seen before. He wonders if Edgeworth even got them tailored. Baby steps. “New pants?”
Edgeworth looks down at his sweatpants, and then very deliberately across to the door of Trucy’s bedroom. “Really?” He says. “You go away without your daughter for the first time ever, and your first question isn’t to ask how she is?”
Phoenix grins wider, edges closer. “Yeah.” He replies. “I know you wouldn’t let anything happen to Trucy.”
Edgeworth flushes; a deep red, his eyes a little wild and one hand twitches like it wants to reach across and protect his belly the way he used to when they met each other again. But he doesn’t look away, mutters “ridiculous”.
And Phoenix doesn’t even think, just marches across the small distance between them, grabs his warm face in his hands and finally, finally kisses him.
It’s near a lifetime coming.