The day after he’s officially disbarred, Edgeworth comes by the office. He talks extensively about things like getting the decision overturned and appealing to higher courts and it’s a good ten minutes before Phoenix can actually interject firmly enough to say: “You aren’t even going to ask if I did it?”
“Wright, after the antics you’ve pulled in the courtroom, I’d have to have taken leave of my senses to believe you’d resort to forgery,” Edgeworth responds, without so much as a second to think about it. “You’ve cross-examined a parrot. Forgery is beneath you. It’s gauche.”
Phoenix doesn’t really know what to say to that, and since his only other option is just… crying, or something equally embarrassing, he helps Edgeworth look into alternatives.
“We can appeal to a higher court, but without any other evidence, we’d be wasting our money and their time,” Edgeworth finally admits, weeks later. Between investigating the circumstances of Phoenix’s disbarment and his normal duties as a senior prosecutor, he looks as exhausted as Phoenix has ever seen him.
Phoenix’s crash course in wrangling an eight-year-old without any other family, apparently, hasn’t exactly left him in the best state of mind, either, which might have been one of the reasons he sighs and says, “It’s fine.”
“It’s fine?” Edgeworth hisses. “Phoenix, you are the single most stubborn person I’ve ever met. Not once in your life have you given up-”
“There’s a first time for everything,” he says, quietly, and Edgeworth stops talking. He searches Phoenix’s face, and whatever he finds - or doesn’t find - makes his expression do something subtle and awful.
“Then I suppose there’s no use continuing, is there?” he says, and he stands up, gathers up his coat. “I’ll be in touch, Wright,” he says, hesitating at the door like he’s waiting for some sort of argument, but Phoenix just looks at him, and, eventually, watches him leave.
Edgeworth does not remain in touch. It hurts, and Phoenix thinks he should be angry, but every time he makes an effort he remembers the look on Edgeworth’s face, and after that he has to focus on all the reasons a single parent can’t go out to get raging drunk.
(On the anniversary, he sends Trucy up to stay with Maya and Pearls, and does it anyhow.)
In October, Edgeworth calls and asks to meet him for dinner (his treat), and Phoenix goes, mostly because he wants to see how the restaurant Edgeworth has invited him to will react to his outfit.
(As it turns out: not well, and it’s pretty amusing, but he also immediately regrets it, because when Edgeworth sees the new, improved Phoenix Wright his face does that awful thing again.)
He has to amend his previous conclusion, because this is the most exhausted he’s ever seen Edgeworth, and he wants to do… something. Something that probably wouldn’t be right to do in the middle of a restaurant where the waitstaff was already looking at him like he’s going to steal the silverware. Something that might not be right at all, or at least, wouldn’t be keeping in the strange orbit they’ve found themselves in, the past few years.
(You aren’t a defense attorney anymore, a little voice whispers to him. You’re already out of orbit.)
“I’m taking a leave of absence,” is the first thing Edgeworth actually says to him, beyond the usual pleasantries, once they’ve ordered.
“What?” Phoenix says, startled. “Why? Is this because of...” Even if he hadn’t kept an ear to the legal ground, so to speak, it would be hard to miss the news about Simon Blackquill, especially after the local paper ran that front page story with a handy list of the various legal professionals that had been proven guilty of major offenses over the last few years.
Edgeworth gives him a look that’s, yeah, miserable. “I know - I know - he didn’t kill Metis Cykes,” he says. “And there was nothing I could do. It was barely a trial, between his confession and the ‘gentle suggestion’ from upstairs that we didn’t need to look into it any further.” He sighs, and rubs his forehead. “I can’t do my job if can’t trust the person across from me, Wright. And I can’t do my job if I don’t trust the system anymore. Life was so much simpler when the victory was all there was.”
His newfound cynicism makes him want to say something awful, some tasteless quip about missing the days of the Demon Prosecutor, but he chokes it back and shoves it down because holy shit, that would be absolutely uncalled for at the best of times.
“Thanks for letting me know before you disappear, this time,” he says instead, and he’d kick himself if it hadn’t come out terribly, terribly sincere.
A month later, Edgeworth calls him again, and asks him to come to Sweden. Phoenix makes a token argument that “still not a lawyer anymore, Edgeworth” and then goes anyhow, because hey, it’s Sweden.
And, more importantly, it’s Edgeworth.
Phoenix knows what Edgeworth is doing, even if they never make a big deal out of it. He does his best, but even with a child to look after, trying to scrape together enough money to keep them afloat while also ignoring what’s going on in the wider world of the justice system drags Phoenix down. When left to his own devices, he gets depressed, loses motivation, stops taking care of himself in favor of putting what energy he has into taking care of Trucy instead.
Helping Edgeworth in Europe gives him something to focus on, instead of letting himself be pulled under the crushing hopelessness.
He has enough friends that he can always find someone to watch over Trucy when he needs them to, even without resorting to Larry, but eventually Edgeworth calls him in June and asks him to come to France.
“I can’t. Trucy’s on break, and everyone is too busy to keep her for a week straight,” Phoenix explains.
There’s barely a pause on the other end of the line, and then Edgeworth says, “So bring her with you. It... might not be the most stimulating vacation, of course, but I'm sure we could think of - something.”
He's obviously trying so hard, and really it’s not like Phoenix has any choice after that.
It’s not the first time Edgeworth and Trucy have met, nor is it her first time in Europe, apparently, but she’s still delighted to see both him and Paris. Phoenix ends up pretty glad they made it work, too, because the case Edgeworth is working on is brutal. It’s reminiscent of some of their tougher cases, and there are times when Phoenix thinks the only time he’s been more stressed out is when he was defending Maya or Edgeworth himself. They barely manage to see the truth out, but when they do, and the verdict is delivered, Phoenix catches Edgeworth’s eyes across the courtroom and the expression lurking in them takes his breath away.
It’s not as if anything can happen then, of course; Phoenix has to act like something fundamental hasn’t shifted in him as they go through the rest of their day, treating Trucy to a trip to the Louvre and dinner before finally tucking her into bed. It’s only then, when they’re alone - after Edgeworth calls down for a bottle of celebratory champagne that they take outside - that everything finally coalesces. Their victory is still humming along Phoenix’s nerves, making everything else feel distant: for this single moment suspended in time, it doesn’t matter that he was framed and lost his badge, that he still doesn’t have a steady job even with a kid to take care of. All that matters is that they won, and now they’re here, on a balcony overlooking the Seine, with the light of Paris painting Edgeworth gold. Phoenix stares at him, so filled with gratitude and affection and something else, something deeper, that he can’t even speak, but he leans in and Edgeworth sways towards him, and -
Trucy’s voice is soft, and that’s probably the only reason that he doesn’t yank back like he’s been burned. He still jumps a little, plastering on a smile as he turns away from Edgeworth to see Trucy, standing at the door to her bedroom and rubbing her eyes.
“What’s up, kiddo?” he asks, sweeping her up into a hug, and she winds her arms around him, burying her face against his shoulder.
“Hadda bad dream,” she says, voice muffled, and Phoenix feels a pang. Trucy may have a performer’s dedication to acting constantly upbeat, but she also went through a hell of a lot of changes in a very short period of time.
“Well that’s no good. Let’s see if I can find something to take your mind off it, huh?” He meets Edgeworth’s eyes, caught between the desire to apologize for the interruption and a hesitancy to acknowledge that there was anything to interrupt at all, but Edgeworth just smiles his rueful not-really smile.
“I’ll call down for some warm milk,” he says, and Phoenix thinks this may be the most awkward moment in the world to realize you want to be with someone forever, because all he can do is take Trucy back to bed.
Even with the milk and Phoenix reading to her, it takes Trucy a while to drop off again. And when he finally steps out into the main room again, Edgeworth is nowhere to be seen, the door to his bedroom closed, and the light off.
Phoenix tries not to be too disappointed.
Phoenix keeps consulting with Edgeworth in Europe, sometimes bringing Trucy, and it doesn’t escape his notice that when he does, Edgeworth carves out a few extra days just for things like sightseeing. But they never have a repeat of that night on the balcony, and Edgeworth never talks about it, and Phoenix...
He’s lost too much to risk losing the only things he has left.