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.
“Mm?” Edgeworth’s eyes are closed and his voice is relaxed. They’ve spent the evening camped out in his living room, working on separate cases, bouncing ideas off one another, until they finally agreed that it was time to call it quits. Now they were just relaxing, having a nightcap, before Edgeworth retired to bed and Phoenix caught a Lyft back to his place.
It seemed like as good a time as any. “I’ve been thinking.”
“Usually worrisome,” Edgeworth notes, with a little curl of a smile.
“You have no idea,” Phoenix mutters, and takes a moment to pluck up his courage. “I guess I’ve been wondering why nothing ever… happened, with you and I. I mean, I’ve, uh… kind of wanted. For a while. And I thought something was going to happen, that time we were in France, but it just… didn’t, and we never talked about it.”
He tries to keep his voice light and casual, like he hasn’t been working up the nerve to finally talk about this thing between them for weeks. (Months? Possibly years?) Like he hadn’t spent ages trying to mentally prepare himself for whatever reaction Edgeworth might have, arguing back and forth with himself about whether risking what they had was worth what could be.
It had been kind of like having a trial in his head, and if he’s being honest he still hadn’t come to a definite conclusion before he looked at Edgeworth, relaxed on the couch and looking almost soft around the edges, and couldn’t keep it in a second longer.
Edgeworth tenses, then, eyes opening and finding Phoenix’s. In the thousands of times Phoenix had gone over this scenario in his mind, he had imagined a lot of responses, good and bad. On the negative end of things, he mostly expected to be brushed off with a practiced excuse; in the worst case scenario, he had feared Edgeworth would be defensive and angry. But he hadn’t expected the look on Edgeworth’s face, the way he looks caught out and… a little afraid?
It’s enough to make Phoenix open his mouth, ready to take the question back, but Edgeworth shakes his head before anything comes out.
“No, I,” Edgeworth starts, and then stops, and then he pushes himself up from his recline against the couch. He turns his body toward Phoenix, lifts his eyes and straightens his shoulders. “I would be lying to say it had never crossed my mind, either. Especially, yes, that time in France, but.”
“Edgeworth,” Phoenix says, quietly. And then even softer: “Miles.”
“At first I told myself it was because I was focused on my career,” Edgeworth says. “That it was just a distraction that I didn’t let myself think about. But then there was… afterward, and I still never really had the urge, and for quite a while I assumed it was the fault of what I’ve since accepted was a fair amount of serious depression and not-insignificant trauma, that it had… impacted my ability to feel things the way I should.”
Phoenix opens his mouth again at that, but this time Edgeworth actually holds up a hand to forestall what he’s going to say, and almost smiles. “It’s alright. I know. It’s been… some time since I approached my emotions that way. And a lot of that has been, well, thanks to the extensive work I’ve done with my therapist. She was the one that told me that…” He puts his hands in his lap, and looks away. “That could be part of it. The… depression, and everything else, I mean. But there was another possibility, and that was that it - this - is simply the way I am, and of course that there’s nothing wrong with that, but most importantly nothing to fix. Nothing that could be ‘fixed’.”
Edgeworth looks up again, even though Phoenix can tell how difficult that is. “I am attracted to you, Wright. I want to - be with you, romantically. But I don’t want to have sex with you - I never have, and I probably never will. And so I’ve never said anything because it wouldn’t be fair. To you.”
Phoenix stares, feeling like all of the air has been punched out of him. He never expected any of this, and that’s probably why, before he can think better of it, he says: “That’s it?”
“‘That’s it?’” Edgeworth echoes, features twisting, but Phoenix is already shaking his head, reaching out to take one of Edgeworth’s hands.
“No, no, I’m sorry, that’s - God, I can’t even imagine how it’s been for you to have to question that on top of dealing with everything else,” Phoenix says, squeezing Edgeworth’s hand gently and, not for the first time, cursing von Karma’s fucked up revenge-fueled version of fatherhood. “But it’s also - it’s fine. I mean, I’m only like… passingly interested in that stuff, anyhow. I can totally take sex or leave it. And even if that wasn’t true, I love you, Miles. I’ve loved you for years. Being with you is so much more important than sex.”
Edgeworth - Miles - stares back, looking a little like Phoenix had felt just a few moments ago. When he finally speaks again, his voice is small, but Phoenix can still hear the hope there. “Really?”
“Absolutely,” Phoenix breathes, and he let’s go of Miles’ hands to wrap him up in a hug instead. Miles is stiff in his arms for a moment, and then it’s like a switch is flipped and he presses closer instead, burying his face against Phoenix’s shoulder and clinging tightly.
“I love you, too,” Miles says, voice muffled but steady. “Thank you so much.”
Phoenix can’t help it - he barks out a laugh, and gently pulls back. “I’d say I should thank you, but I think we’d just get into our first argument as a… couple?” he tries, glancing at Miles for confirmation.
“The first of many, let’s be honest,” Miles responds, and Phoenix’s grin couldn’t be wider. He reaches up a hand to cup Miles’ cheek, feeling a little trill at the fact that’s just something he can do, now.
“Would a kiss be alright?” Phoenix asks, and Miles is nodding before he’s even finished asking the question.
“Yes,” he says, immediately, and then: “Please.”
The kiss is soft, and sweet, and it feels like a beginning.
ACE attorney, get it? get it?? haaaaa, you get it.
After Simon Blackquill is finally exonerated and the “dark age of the law” slowly begins to loosen its hold on the court system and public, Edgeworth finally feels comfortable being more open about his relationship with Phoenix Wright. Granted, they hardly make a big show of it - he’s always been more at home with reticence and Phoenix seems content to be as far away from violently pink sweaters and loud declarations of love as possible - but the rumors that have always swirled around them slowly coalesce into established fact. Phoenix greets him with a kiss when they meet for meals and tangles their fingers together as they discuss cases on evening walks with Pess; he even moves in, which hadn’t actually been something they actually discussed, but which Miles realizes has happened nonetheless when he reaches into his closet and ends up trying to put on one of Phoenix’s waistcoats.
He has never been the most comfortable expressing his feelings, a leftover trait from von Karma that’s taken too many years and, more recently, a healthy amount of therapy to even begin to shake, but he thinks - he hopes - that Phoenix understands how happy he is even when he can’t get the words out. They still argue, of course, but then they’ll always argue, and nowadays it ends more often than not in kissing. They trade endless e-mails to keep each other occupied on slow days and fall asleep tangled together on his couch after the busy ones, and when he wakes up first Miles stares at the other man and thinks about how lucky he is, after how many chances he had to lose this.
Until May, at least, which is when he becomes fairly sure Phoenix Wright is going to dump him.
He’s fairly sure that there are a number of people to which the idea of being dumped by Phoenix Wright would be absolutely hysterical and entirely humiliating, but they’re almost all people they’ve put in jail, so he feels justified in languishing in sorrow on the couch in his living room instead. He’s not sure what changed, but - Phoenix has been spending more of his time at his office, breaking lunch dates and then outright refusing others; they hadn’t been arguing any more than usual, but it was a big hard to argue when you were being avoided outright.
And tonight: they had reservations for Miles’s favorite restaurant, the one you could only get into with a reservation, and which Phoenix didn’t like at all, considering it overpriced and snooty.
At least he was going to be let down easy.
“I could just lay here instead,” he muses. Avoiding feelings caused by Phoenix Wright, after all, is his second greatest talent after prosecution. But Pess whines and nudges his leg and he sighs, instead. “Yes. Of course. You’re right.”
If he’s going to be dumped by Phoenix Wright, at least he can take it like a man.
He makes himself presentable and drives to the restaurant, where Phoenix is waiting, dressed to the nines and smiling at him in that stupid, soft way of his. Miles weighs the pros and cons of just begging him to stay over their drink orders.
“Miles?” Phoenix says, eventually, giving him a vaguely concerned look, which is about when he realizes he’s been silent, a thousand miles away, for a good while.
He draws himself up. “Wright, I think it’s time to end this charade,” he says, in his best Courtroom Voice. “However, I feel it’s only right to inform you that if you truly want to break up with me, I’ve compiled several very convincing arguments as to why we should stay together.”
“What,” Phoenix says, a little loudly, because several people at nearby tables turn to look at them. He drops his voice. “You thought I was going to dump you?”
Miles deflates, slightly. “Yes?” he says. “You’ve been avoiding me for weeks. I would have asked what was wrong if I could corner you long enough to have an actual conversation. And you hate this place.”
“It is overpriced and the waitstaff is stuffy -”
“You tried to wear sandals and a beanie -”
“- but you like it,” Phoenix finishes, looking massively guilty. “Miles. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to make you think anything like that, I was just… I've been a little nervous, and not dealing with it super well, but that's - it's because…” He looks around. The people at the other tables are doing poor jobs of pretending like they aren’t interested. He sighs through his nose, and reaches into his coat. “I was planning on doing this after dinner, during a nice, private walk in the park, but -”
It’s a small, black velvet box. When Miles decides that he is not, in fact, dreaming, he opens it to find a wide platinum band set with a small diamond, tasteful and discreet. He touches the ring and thinks about missed lunch dates, and wonders how long Phoenix has been planning this.
“I’m an idiot,” he says, at last.
“You prosecutors do have a tendency to jump to the worst possible conclusion,” Phoenix agrees, watching him nervously. “But are you dumb enough to marry me?”
The other diners and, now, several members of the waitstaff are doing, if anything, even worse jobs of pretending they aren’t interested in what’s happening at the table by the window. Miles takes the ring out of the box and puts it on, and then he goes around the table to kiss Phoenix, because it's the only possible option, and he doesn’t care who’s watching.
“I obviously need someone around to prove me wrong,” he murmurs, and falls in love all over again with the way Phoenix smiles at him.
(Later: The assorted members of the Wright Anything Agency and a frankly embarrassing number of both the police and prosecutor’s office have taken over Wright’s less than spacious office for a party under a glittery banner reading “CONGRATULATIONS”, followed by a really unnecessary number of exclamation points. When Miles arches a brow at him, Phoenix rubs the back of his head, embarrassed.
“We made two banners,” he says, “in case this ended up being a ‘sorry you got rejected, now let's drink’ party instead.”)
(Later still: Trucy confesses to him, as things die down, that she only made one banner. “I knew we wouldn't need the other one,” she says, and Miles hugs her tight.
As it turns out, the idea of him being dumped by Phoenix Wright is laughable, after all.)