As far as Miles Edgeworth was concerned, it had been a very pleasant evening. He was at home, relaxing on his sofa. The lights were dim, Gumshoe had an arm around his shoulder, and he was sipping a glass of rather good wine. Pleasant, indeed. Gumshoe had, of course, already drained his glass, and was currently trying to pour himself another with his free hand. Somehow, he was managing not to spill. Edgeworth leaned back against him more solidly, taking another sip of wine, a lazy smile stretching over his face.
He was feeling wonderfully relaxed. Which was perfect for the little... treat... that he'd been working on.
“Richard... do you remember that film we made?”
Gumshoe looked confused for a moment, before his eyes widened in realization. Edgeworth chuckled slightly as the detective cleared his throat, face darkening in a blush. “Uh, yeah. It was pretty memorable, pal.”
“Well, I was wondering... if you'd like to watch it with me.” He took one more generous sip of wine before setting his glass down. He turned in to face Gumshoe, amused by his flustered expression, but smiling hopefully.
“I dunno, Miles. I still think it's kinda... weird.” He frowned, taking a large gulp from his wineglass. “Didn't you say that it was mostly about filming it, anyway?”
“Well, yes,” Edgeworth admitted, “but I took the liberty of doing some minor editing and thought that the results were... well, rather enjoyable.” Truthfully, the whole idea was terribly awkward. But that didn't prevent it from being a little exciting, as well. And he hadn't been displeased with the results – not at all. “We'll delete it right after we watch it.”
“Well, okay, then...” Gumshoe set his glass down, still looking a bit doubtful. “Just seems a little weird and narcosistic to me, is all.”
“Narcissistic, detective. And it's not, really. It's just a bit of fun. You'll see.” He put a hand to Gumshoe's cheek, giving him a quick peck before standing up to fetch the camera. After finding it and opening the file, he settled back next to the detective. He held out the camera, angling it so both he and Gumshoe could see the display. “It's not a big screen, but my... er, research suggested that it would be better with less detail.”
“If you say so, Mr. Edgeworth.”
“Well... let's watch it, then.” Edgeworth said, a bit nervous. He pressed play, and the tape started.
Immediately, the screen lit up with the soft lighting of Edgeworth's room. The bed was carefully made, with the sheets folded back slightly. A few candles flickered in the background. The camera lifted, and was suddenly pointed at a somewhat stiff looking Edgeworth, who was slowly unbuttoning his dress shirt. The camera stayed awkwardly still as Edgeworth worked every single button, starting slow and theatrical, but clearly losing patience as he got further down his chest. Finally he tried to pull the shirt off with a little more flourish than he was accustomed to – and got tangled in the sleeves in the process.
“I thought I cut that part out!” Edgeworth cursed, face growing hot with embarrassment.
The screen went dark suddenly – the camera had been set down on the bed, lens blocked. Muffled voices could faintly be heard. “Um, here you go, Miles.....”
After a brief pause: “Richard... did I hear that rip?”
“Uhhhhh.... just a little bit, sir.”
On the couch, Gumshoe laughed nervously. “I'd, uh, forgotten about that bit. Oops?” Edgeworth just rolled his eyes and continued watching the screen.
The camera was lifted again, and set somewhere with a decent view of the top half of the bed. Edgeworth and Gumshoe sat on the side, presumably kissing... though their faces were almost entirely cut out of the shot, so it was a little difficult to tell.
“This is all wrong....” Edgeworth moaned. “I'd added some music, and cut the sound.....”
Gumshoe looked a little confused. “Why?”
Edgeworth didn't answer, crossing his arms. “None of the changes I made are here!”
“Did you forget to save? I do that a lot.”
Edgeworth scowled humorlessly. “I've no doubt that you do, detective.” He sighed, tilting his head back and shutting his eyes. “Well, I don't believe we need to finish watching this.”
Frowning slightly, Gumshoe looked back at the little display on the camera. Their faces were still almost completely out of the shot, and now both of their shirts had been discarded. Edgeworth stroked Gumshoe's shoulders, before slipping his arms around the bigger man's neck. “I dunno. This isn't too bad, really.” He smiled, giving Edgeworth a little squeeze. “And there must've been some good stuff, if you wanted to watch any of it, right?”
Edgeworth breathed out slowly, glaring accusingly at the camera. “I suppose there's no harm in continuing. Though it was considerably nicer with a bit of music.”
“What music was it?” Gumshoe asked, cocking his head inquisitively.
Edgeworth picked up his wine again, taking a small sip. “Just a classical piece.”
Gumshoe seemed vaguely puzzled, but nodded. “Um, okay. A sexy classical piece?”
A peevish look was all he got in reply.
On the screen, Edgeworth was now kissing down Gumshoe's chest, taking his time, nipping at his skin. His fingers reached down, teasing at the button of his trousers. Watching, Edgeworth felt Gumshoe squirm slightly. A bit of his sour mood drained away as he smirked up at the detective. “And here I thought you said this was 'weird', Richard.”
Gumshoe flushed. “It kinda is. But... uh, it feels really good when you do that, you know.”
“Hmmm.” He tucked his free arm snuggly behind the detective, leaning into him. “And how does that feel?” he asked, seeing how nicely the video was progressing – with Gumshoe's pants undone and Edgeworth wrapping his lips around –
Gumshoe's face went, if possible, more red. “Well, I think that's kinda obvious, pal.”
Edgeworth just grinned and gave him a quick kiss.
“It looks pretty goofy when you're not actually there, though.” Gumshoe continued thoughtfully.
“I suppose it does.”
They watched for a while. Both cringed as, in the video, they stood up and tried to remove their pants with a bit too much urgency, causing Gumshoe to trip and knock against the table that the camera sat on. The screen shook, and when the image cleared up again, it had settled in the wrong position. When they finally settled back on the bed, Edgeworth straddling a prone Gumshoe, only their feet and lower calves were visible.
“Think of it as an artistic angle,” Edgeworth suggested casually. “Really, I hear it's better to keep the shots more... discrete.”
Gumshoe shrugged. “Yeah, I guess so.”
There wasn't a lot to watch, though, besides Edgeworth's feet jerking and relaxing, barely discernible on the small screen. The audio was poor, but some soft gasps could be heard. It grew monotonous. Slightly bored, Edgeworth turned toward Gumshoe and toyed with the fabric of his shirt. Gumshoe looked down inquisitively, and, with a bit of a chuckle, leaned in and kissed the prosecutor. Edgeworth responded happily, setting the camera safely aside before threading his fingers through the other man's hair, parting his lips. Gumshoe tasted like wine. As, he supposed, did he. But it was very nice, and he couldn't help but drag the kiss out, slow and lazy. Finally he pulled back. “A little more fun then watching?” he breathed.
“Yes, sir.” Gumshoe grinned crookedly. Edgeworth started to lean in once more, but was interrupted by a short, strangled moan from the camera – clearly his own. He blushed , picking the camera up and pausing the video.
Gumshoe chuckled. “I thought it was cute.” Edgeworth whipped around, eyes narrowed, and Gumshoe quickly continued, “...so, is the rest of the video just, uh, feet?”
“A lot of it, yes.” Edgeworth set the camera down and looked cross. “But there is that bit where, erm, I picked up the camera near the end.”
“Oh... oh. So that was when you tried to –”
“Yes, yes!” Edgeworth interrupted, face reddening. “That's when. But we don't need to relive that bit, now, do we?”
“Uh, no.” Gumshoe wisely agreed. “So did you leave all the foot stuff in the version you made?”
“No...I cut out most the 'foot stuff', as you put it. Really, the edited version was pretty short,” he admitted. “Maybe a minute and a half. With music. But not too much else, truthfully.”
Gumshoe shrugged. “Okay. So this one was pretty much as good, huh?” He smiled, as warm and open as he always was. “I kinda liked it. Even the not-so-sexy parts.”
Edgeworth shook his head, but couldn't fight off a smile of his own. “Hopefully, detective, it will not be too disappointing when I delete it.”
“Go ahead, pal.”
Edgeworth picked up the camera and, with a grin, removed the file. “Now, if you're interested, detective, I wouldn't mind reliving some of those... moments. Now.” He traced a hand down Gumshoe's arm.
“You mean... y'want to have sex now?” Gumshoe asked warily.
“Just checking.” He smiled. “Alright. Reliving moments. Just not that bit near the end with the –”
“Yes, Richard, not that particular moment.” He stood and grabbed the detective by the hand, pulling him up and yanking him off toward the bedroom.
Though it was not impossible that he had simply forgotten to save, as the detective had suggested, Edgeworth couldn't stop himself from checking the next day, just to be sure. That wasn't a video he wanted sitting around just anywhere! The contents were a little too... personal.
Furthermore, he and Gumshoe hadn't exactly been open about their relationship. There wasn't a good reason to be, and there were several good reasons not to be. A man of his position and background had certain expectations, after all.
He wasn't ashamed of his involvement with the detective, exactly – it was a little more complicated than that. He cared deeply for the man, but would be the first to admit that they had almost nothing in common between them. And, while he was well aware that gossip that already circulated about his own preferences, (mainly based on his style of dress,) he had no desire to encourage such prattle. A public... liaison... was sure to draw comments, questions, and he certainly didn't need more of that.
He looked through all of the files on the camera, twice, but found nothing.
Which is when the thought occurred to him that, maybe, the edited video hadn't been saved on the camera.
With a nervous twist in his stomach, he turned on his computer, starting blankly at the desktop for a moment. He cursed himself for being so quick to delete the video from the camera – he couldn't recall what its title had been.
He opened the 'video' directory; it was empty. He sat back in his chair, exhaling slowly. After a moment of thought, he clicked on 'recently used', eyes flickering nervously over the file names that appeared. Documents, spreadsheets, and one video.
And there it is.
He moved to delete it... but at the last moment, hesitated. It would be better to know exactly where the thing had been saved to, after all.
If he was lucky, it would be located somewhere completely inconsequential. He already suspected that it had been mistakenly saved into a work folder. Those were the directories that he used the most frequently, after all. There were many such folders that would not cause him any grief. And a few that would be catastrophic.
He drummed his fingers, trying to remember what he might have been working on just before that video. He opened the file itself, and breathed a quick sigh of relief – it wasn't in the networked folder. The one shared with half of the prosecution office. If the video had been in there, it would have been humiliating beyond comprehension.
No, it was just in the folder he'd written on the WR-5 case.
A folder which, only a couple days previous, he'd uploaded to the district's online archives.
He closed his eyes briefly.
Without any ceremony, he deleted the video from his computer. Before even thirty seconds had passed, it had also been removed from the district archives. It was gone.
It had just been a random file in a random directory in the archives, a place most people never needed – or bothered – to check. Nothing important. That case had been rather recent, and uninteresting, to boot. No one would be needing anything from it yet, for certain.
Most likely, it had not been seen at all.
And even if someone had stumbled across the file, they'd certainly have the good taste to never mention it.
He buried his head in the hands and moaned.
“Yes, I would like to have the autopsy report on Albert Eby. No, I'm not prosecuting that case. I don't need to answer that, I just need that report. Send it over with Detective Gumshoe. Thank you. Good bye.” He hung up with a little more force than might have been necessary.
Maybe now he'd be able to focus on his case.
He opened the folder again. But couldn't make himself read. Every time he glanced down at the words, his mind drifted, self-incrimination throbbing dully through him, making his head ache and his stomach churn.
Now Gumshoe was on his way. Edgeworth could tell his everything, and... what? The problem would not be alleviated in the slightest – it would just burden Gumshoe, as well. He wondered, idly, if Gumshoe was going to be angry. Of course not. Even when he deserved it, he had never seen the bad side of Gumshoe's temper.
Maybe he needed a cup of tea to settle his stomach.
A knock sounded on his door. Could Gumshoe be here already? It seemed far too early. “Come in,” he called, watching the door warily.
Phoenix Wright peeked in.
Heaving a sigh, Edgeworth rubbed his temples. Just what he needed – a chat with Wright. Perfect. “What are you doing here? Please don't tell me you're working on this case.”
“Uh... nope. No clients at all, actually. So, if you know someone who really needs a good defense attorney....” he joked, grinning a bit sheepishly. Edgeworth didn't break his glare. “O-kay, then.” He took a deep breath. “Uh, actually, I'm here for... well, this isn't going to be super fun, but I need to tell you about something.”
“What is it?”
Phoenix shifted on his feet, eyes dancing evasively around the room. “Well, you see, I look up your case files sometimes. You know. Keeping up with friends and all that. And I happened to look up this one case you'd been in charge of recently... and, uh, I think you should check it, again.”
Edgeworth's hands tightened. “The... issue... was dealt with.”
Phoenix went a bit red. “Are we thinking about the same....” he trailed off at Edgeworth's glare. “Uh, good! Just... er, wanted to make sure you knew about that....”
“And...” Phoenix rubbed his neck. “Well, I just wanted to say that it's fine. Great, really!” He gave a winsome smile.
“I know that.” Edgeworth ground out, eyes narrowed and hands clenched.
“Well... great! Uh... I'm going to just... leave, now.” He slipped out, clearly just as eager to be done with the conversation as Edgeworth was.
Edgeworth put his head on his desk, cursing silently. Of course it hadn't gone completely unnoticed.
Though, if someone had to find that video, there were people worse than Phoenix Wright. The man might be a bit... immature... in some ways, but he was trustworthy. In fact, the more he thought about it, the better he started to feel. Someone had found it, and everything was still fine.
It was still very possible that someone else, someone less upright, had stumbled across the video. He couldn't disregard that. But, somehow, a weight had been lifted, and this time when Edgeworth opened his case file, he was actually able to settle himself enough to read.
Some time later, he was interrupted knock on his office door. Ah, Gumshoe at last. “Come in,” he called, getting up from his desk. The worry he'd so recently quelled began anew, but he tried to swallow it down.
Gumshoe stepped in, grin on his face, waving a folder emphatically. “I got those papers you requested, sir, though I don't really know why you want a report on....” he trailed off as Edgeworth stood up and carefully shut and locked the door. “...um. Anything else I can do for ya, sir?”
Edgeworth closed his eyes for a moment. “I feel that I should tell you... that I have made a considerable error.” Gumshoe cocked his head to the side, eyes wide with confusion. “That video that you suggested I'd forgotten to save? It was saved, actually... just not on the camera.”
He took a deep breath to steel himself for the last part of the story, but before he could continue, Gumshoe interrupted, “And here I thought it was something really bad! I really had fun with the other version, so it's okay, you can probably just delete the one you found.” He gave his familiar lopsided grin, and Edgeworth's chest ached.
“No... that's not all, unfortunately.” He gave the detective a steady look, and continued, “I found it online.”
“The internet?” Gumshoe frowned, looking suddenly wary. “Uh... where?”
“Just... just in the precinct archives. It had been there for a couple of days.”
Gumshoe bit his lip, looking down, gears clearly turning in his head. Processing the information. But when he looked back up at Edgeworth, his worry melted away, replaced with pure concern. He stepped up and wrapped his arms around the prosecutor, ignoring his protests. “It's okay, Mr. Edgeworth, I bet no one saw it, and you know what? I screw stuff up all the time, and you always forgive me – well, usually, anyway...”
This was exactly why Edgeworth hated admitting fault. Not because he couldn't see his own shortcomings – far from that! But he hated how people reacted. Especially when they reacted with such overbearing sympathy, as it was inevitable that Gumshoe would do. It just made the whole process all the more humiliating. He'd known, as soon as he'd deleted the file for good, that the detective needed to hear about his mistake. It was only responsible. And he'd known that Gumshoe wasn't going to be angry about it... but he'd dared to hope that he'd brush the issue aside without dwelling on it too long.
He pushed the detective away, straightening out his jacket. “Yes, yes. I think that we'll be alright, detective. I felt that you should know, is all.” He tried to keep his voice perfectly level. “And... I am sorry.” He scowled as Gumshoe patted his hand, looking far too lighthearted. “Anyway. That's all I needed to tell you. You should probably get back to work before people start thinking you've been gone for too long.”
Gumshoe shrugged. “I don't think a few minutes really matter much, but okay. Uh, here's the files you wanted... guess you didn't really need them?”
“Not really, no.”
“Ah, okay then. Well, I'll get back to the precinct!”
Edgeworth felt another twinge of guilt. “Isn't that a thirty minute drive?”
“About that, I guess. Well, see ya later!” After a quick kiss, he left.
Edgeworth wearily sat back at his desk, resting his head on his folded arms.
It was terrible, sending the detective away like that. Gumshoe may have made that drive willingly and happily, but that didn't prevent it from being a hassle. And why had he demanded the detective come at all? Because his guilty conscious had been making it difficult for him to read a paper. So selfish.
I should have let him stay longer. Or bought him lunch. Something like that. But even as these thoughts crossed his mind, he knew that he couldn't have acted on them. He and Gumshoe needed to be very strict about their interactions. Going to lunch one day, talking for too long another... it cumulates, and people begin to read things into Gumshoe's friendly demeanor, Edgeworth's slight smiles.
Neither he nor the detective needed that.
He turned on his computer and opened the district archives again, re-affirming that the video was gone. He let out a breath, rubbing his temples.
Maybe he'd call the detective when they were both off work. He deserved a good turn, after driving all the way to the prosecution building for Edgeworth's peace of mind. The two of them rarely went out to dinner, but Edgeworth was decently talented at cooking, and Gumshoe always loved to lend a hand in the kitchen.
Yes, Edgeworth decided, that would be very reasonable. And it would be nice to have the detective around. His presence was oddly relaxing, for all the folly that seemed to follow in his wake. And he could use a relaxing presence right now, until his nerves calmed and he could finally put this messy little mishap behind him.
Days passed without incident, and every one loosened the tiny knot of anxiety that had built in Edgeworth's gut. Worries still plagued him, especially at night as he tried to fall asleep – he'd find his mind drifting to that video, wondering fruitlessly if anyone else had seen it. He'd tense, thinking of a hundred things he could have done differently to avoid the whole mess, creating multiple scenarios in which he could have prevented it all.
After several fretful nights, he asked Gumshoe to stay with him for a day or two. He couldn't allow his poor sleeping to affect his work, and he was able to rest a bit easier when the detective was nearby.
It seemed more and more likely, though, with every passing day, that nothing would ever happen. And slowly, Edgeworth began to relax.
So when, one morning, he stepped into the prosecution building and no one met his eye – when Ms. Fright didn't greet him with her customary 'good morning' – he only thought it mildly strange.
It wasn't until he turned on his computer and looked through his messages that it all came together. Or, perhaps, fell apart.
The message was untitled. It had no official sender – it came through the prosecution offices, from an empty account that someone appeared to have set up for just this occasion. With shaking hands, Edgeworth tried to trace it back further, to no avail. He was never particularly good with computers. Obviously. He wished, now, that he had learned a little more than he had. Dear lord, he wished he'd known something, done something that he hadn't, because this... this....
Just a short little message. “In the spare time of Prosecutor Miles Edgeworth.” And a video. This morning, it had been in the inbox of everybody in the prosecuting offices and precinct.
He picked up his phone, dialing with numb fingers.
“Hello, Phoenix Wr – ”
“Did you tell anyone?” Edgeworth hissed into the reciever.
“Uh... Edgeworth?” There was a pause. “No, no I didn't –”
“Are you sure?”
“No. I mean, no, I really didn't!” a pause. “Edgeworth, what happened...?”
He clenched his free hand. “Nothing at all.” he spat, hanging up and slamming his phone back onto the desk.
He turned back to the computer. Closed the message, and reopened it. Closed it and reopened it. Even without playing the video, the image displayed was... for lack of a better word, incriminating, with Edgeworth straddling Gumshoe's lap, pressed close and pushing the bigger man's shirt off of his shoulders. Only the bottom halves of their faces were visible, but they were unmistakable. And what they were doing was distastefully obvious.
He shut down his computer, staring at the blank screen for a few empty seconds. The room was so silent that it seemed to buzz in his ears, pressing in on him.
What would he do?
There wasn't anything he could do.
He pulled out some paperwork, but his hands were too shaky to decipher the words. He anchored his wrists on the desk, but his eyes bleared. He took a deep breath, trying to compose himself, trying to keep himself from doing anything untoward. Because the longer he sat, the more he wanted to break something.
He put his head down on the desk and breathed for a moment. Tried to calculate the damage. It was fairly straightforward. All of his associates knew that he was involved with Detective Gumshoe. That he engaged in sexual activity with him. Well. Fine. What did that really matter, when all was said and done? Sure, they'd tried to keep their relationship to themselves, but it was inevitably going to come out sometime, and this way was....
He wondered if Gumshoe knew yet.
He tried to call the detective, but his phone was turned off. Moron.
Unless... he didn't wish to speak with him?
Irrational, Edgeworth scolded himself. The detective misses one call, and he blows it out of proportion. Ludicrous.
Gumshoe had never been angry with him before.
He took a shaky breath before willing himself to sit up and read. He had work to do, and he couldn't let silly things distract him.
He focused on the paper he was reading, cutting all other thought, ignoring everything but black words printed on white paper. All else was inconsequential, meaningless, gone. So absorbed was he, that when a tentative knock came at his door, he started. “Yes, come in...” he called, voice a little more shaky than he would have preferred.
Ms. Fright pushed the door open, holding a cup of tea. “Prosecutor Edgeworth?” she said cautiously. “Are... will you be seeing anyone today?”
Edgeworth stiffened, sitting arrow straight. “If they are scheduled, then of course.”
Ms. Fright nodded. “Okay... Prosecutor Lynch will be here in a few minutes. I... I made you some tea. Here you go.” She handed it over to him and turned to leave. Before she slipped back through the door, she hesitated. “Mr. Edgeworth, I want you to know that – ”
“Unless it has something to do with Prosecutor Lynch, I don't really care to talk about it, Ms. Fright,” he interrupted sharply.
She flinched, then nodded. “Yes, sir.” And, without another word, she was gone.
When Lynch walked in, Edgeworth was completely composed. And if she had an odd expression coming in, some hint of curiosity or disgust or pity, it withered under the steely, level gaze of a man who'd built his career on being cold.
The morning passed in a haze of paperwork and meetings. Edgeworth was well accustomed to blocking out things that he couldn't change, and what did it really matter if he could feel people's eyes following his back as he walked down a hallway? No, that was utterly meaningless in the face of consultations, reports, and trying to piece together a convincing case.
No one tried to speak to him directly about the... issue. No one spoke to him at all, unless matters of work came up. Anyone who may have wanted to address him on a less professional level was easily deterred with a steady glare.
He had no wish to dwell on... certain things.
It wasn't until several hours later, as he sat trying to read a case file, that his mind wandered and he found himself reaching for his phone and calling the detective again. No answer. As he expected. He leaned back in his chair with a heavy sigh.
A rapping sounded on his door. He ignored it – he wasn't aware of any scheduled appointments, and Ms. Fright would have announced anyone important.
But the knocking continued, getting a note louder. “I'm rather busy, please come back later,” he called, frowning deeply.
A balding man in a grey suit peeked in the door. “Hello, Mr. Edgeworth.”
“I didn't ask you to come in. I'm terribly busy.”
The man put a hand to his chest. “Oh? I must have misheard.” He had a truly unpleasant voice. Edgeworth clenched his teeth. “But I'll only need a minute.” The man smiled slyly, crossing his arms.
“What do you want?” Edgeworth demanded, hoping that he sounded suitably irritated.
“Well, I saw that you were in a bit of trouble.” The man tapped his nose conspiratorially, and Edgeworth's expression frosted over. “As a more senior prosecutor, I thought I'd offer my assistance, if you need it.” He gave a slight bow.
“I am not in need of any such assistance. I am not in any 'bit of trouble'. I would very much like it if you would leave.”
“Now, now, I'm not a stranger to these sort of matters,” he said nodding solemnly. “You know. Matters dealing with sex ta–”
“I'm just saying, my wife and I really know our way around a video camera, if you know what I mean, so if you need any pointers – ”
Edgeworth was about to say some very unpleasant things to the man, but that moment, the phone rang. He picked it up and spat, “Yes, what is it?”
“M-Mr. Edgeworth?” Ms. Fright. “The chief prosecutor is here to see you.”
The indignant fury that had been running rampant through him suddenly went icy. The chief prosecutor was here. And it was very unlikely that he was here to congratulate him for his last victory in court.
“Show him in, please.”
Before he could order that balding man out of his office, the door opened and the chief prosecutor walked in. He nodded to the other man. “Payne.” Payne? “Mr. Edgeworth, may I speak with you for a moment?”
Edgeworth sat perfectly poised in his chair. “Yes. Of course. Mr.... Payne... if you would please leave?”
Payne nodded cordially and shot Edgeworth a cheerful wink. Edgeworth, in turn, did his best to not let his severe, seething distaste show in his face as the man turned around and slipped out of the office, shutting the door solidly behind him. He rubbed his temples briefly before gesturing to his couch. “Would you like to take a seat?”
The chief prosecutor shook his head. “This should be brief.” His face was carefully blank, not revealing anything. “I'm sure you can guess the nature of this visit?”
Edgeworth tried to swallow a sudden wave of nervous nausea. “If not the nature, then certainly the subject.”
The chief prosecutor smiled wanly. “Right. I don't really have too much to say – it's an unfortunate thing that happened, but not nearly so professionally damaging as the... sender... may have wanted.”
Edgeworth looked at his desk, cursing himself for the way his face was heating up, even as a knot in his stomach loosened somewhat. “That's... good. Do you know anything about this 'sender'...?”
“No. The message came from within the Prosecution offices. We know that much. And the... video... was hosted on an unaffiliated website. That has since been blocked,” he added with a kind smile.
“Thank you. This has been... difficult.”
“I can only imagine. But I think most people will be able to see past this. It's not the end of the world.” He frowned. “Of course, you won't be able to work with Detective Gumshoe any more.”
Edgeworth hesitated. That was predictable, but unacceptable. “If there's nothing to be done,” he finally muttered, his desire to be left alone outweighing his irritation. He'd fight the issue later.
“Alright then. Don't worry yourself over this – it'll all blow over soon enough.” The chief prosecutor raised his hand, as if to clap him on the back, but seemed to think better of it at the last moment. Instead, he gave another sympathetic smile before excusing himself.
The clock ticked on the wall, loud in the following silence.
That was it?
The chair creaked as Edgeworth sat back. Of course, he would still need to deal with everyone in the office. With their side glances and disproving looks. But that was easy enough for him – he cared about very few of them. He could handle their scorn.
His thoughts turned to Gumshoe, and he felt a sudden pang. The man was strong in so many ways, but...
He tried to call the detective, again. Nothing. As expected. He felt ill.
Gumshoe woke up to the sound of his cell phone ringing. Groggily, he rubbed his eyes and looked at the time – 6:30. A bit earlier than he usually got up, but it'd do. With a yawn, he put the phone to his ear. “'Lo?”
“Dick, this is Benny.” Benny Valiant. An officer Gumshoe worked with sometimes, and a very nice guy.
“Hey, Benny.” Gumshoe smiled, sitting up in his creaky, narrow bed and stretching. “What's up? D'ya need a ride in or something...?”
“You might wanna check your email before comin' in today.”
Gumshoe frowned. “Uh... the only computer I got is at the department. What's in the email?”
A drawn out sigh on the other end, but no answer. “Look, Dick... you got any sick days?
“Huh? No... not paid ones, and I kinda need the cash... what's happened, pal?”
“I – ” a muffled curse over the line. “I really don't wanna say. But... well, get in early and see for yourself. I-I'm really sorry, Dick.”
And with that, Benny hung up. Gumshoe lowered the phone, baffled. What? He shook his head, still trying to shake off his drowsiness. This wasn't the sort of thing he cared to wake up to. With a grunt, he pushed himself up off of the bed. He wouldn't know what had happened until he got to the precinct, and Benny'd told him to get there early.
With another yawn, found a suitably clean set of clothes, and set about getting ready. Ten minutes later he was ready to go, grabbing a packet of off-brand pop-tarts to eat on the drive.
He got to the precinct at a few minutes before seven. There were a few people sitting at their desks, but most wouldn't get in until much later. Benny wasn't there. Maybe he was out on patrol? Gumshoe had enough trouble keeping his own schedule straight, let alone remembering other people's.
“Good morning,” he said cheerfully, walking up to his desk and booting up the computer. It was an ancient thing with a boxy old monitor, and took several minutes to wake up.
“'Morning, Dick,” someone mumbled back, but pretty much everyone ignored him. Huh. Well, it was pretty early, he reasoned – he still felt half-asleep, himself. But Benny's words had left him on edge, and he felt a little self-conscious as he waited, shifting nervously back and forth in his chair. He almost felt like he was being watched – but when he looked around, people seemed focused enough on their own work.
It was a relief when, finally, his computer flickered to life, allowing him to log in. He opened his email. There was one new message, with no title.
He breathed in sharply, backing out of the email and glancing around to see if anybody had seen... and found that, now, everybody was staring at him.
His pulse hammered in his chest. “Did... you all...see...?
People dropped their gazes awkwardly. “Sorry, Dick...” someone – Officer Morris, a nice lady with two kids that visited sometimes – mumbled.
He reopened the message, scanning over the names it had been sent to. It was a huge list. He bit the inside of his cheek and looked for... Edgeworth, Miles. He groaned, closing his eyes – Edgeworth was going to be horrified. And, glancing over the message again, Gumshoe felt a lick of anger ignite in his gut. That's why someone sent it to everybody, isn't it? To hurt Mr. Edgeworth.
And, he was disturbed to realize, his own hurt was completely inconsequential to whoever'd done it all.
Didn't really seem fair.
It was seven, now, and a few people started arriving. One man glanced at him, face blank. Had he checked his email yet...? His stomach lurched, and he turned around, staring at his computer screen, trying not to listen to the bustling of people around him.
How many of them were opening their messages, right now? He rubbed his neck and pulled the collar of his coat up more securely, hunching over his desk. Voices rang around him. He raised his eyes – and met the gaze of a woman who'd been looking at him. She glanced away immediately – but not before he'd seen the disapproval carved into the line of her mouth.
He staggered to his feet, making his way up to the chief's desk. The chief glanced up, and, seeing the detective, stiffened, a frown spreading across his face. Oh. Gumshoe swallowed, wringing his hands nervously. “Um... sir? You got any street work I could help with?”
The man frowned, not making eye contact. “I think we have everything we need covered....”
“Please sir,” Gumshoe asked, knowing full well that people behind him were watching. He opened his mouth and tried to choke out some reason, some excuse, but nothing came. He cleared his throat.
The chief sighed, pinching the bridge of his nose. When he finally looked up, his eyes were tired, but sympathetic. “If you want, you can help look into the burglary on Monroe. It's not your division, but it's the best I can do.”
Gumshoe nodded, barely able to mumble, “Thank you, sir.” He turned and walked out the door, head down and hands shoved deep into his pockets.
He wondered how Mr. Edgeworth was doing. He wished that he could go and talk with him, but he had a job to do, now – and, besides, the prosecutor wouldn't get into his office for at least an hour. Gumshoe wasn't sure he could walk through the prosecution building, anyway. Not now.
He looked at his cell phone – he could call Edgeworth at home, he knew. That's be the right thing to do – just like when Mr. Edgeworth told him about accidentally uploading the video. There was nothing he wanted to do less, though – Edgeworth took things like this so hard. His stomach twisted again as he remembered the last time something had blown up like this – back when Edgeworth had found out about the evidence that Mr. Gant and Ms. Skye had faked. When everybody was talking about how Miles Edgeworth had used fake evidence to win a case.
When Edgeworth had walked away. And he'd barely heard from him for two long years.
What happened back then was worse, he tried to comfort himself. Much worse.
With a deep breath, he dialed Edgeworth's home number – and tried not to be relieved when no one answered.
He made sure his phone was on, so that Edgeworth could call him. It wasn't great, but it'd have to do.
He drove straight to the scene of the crime – a house where there'd been a break-in. A patrol car was there already, and two officers were outside, examining the glass from a broken window. He joined them, silently relieved when they greeted him with friendly smiles and a brief explanation of what they'd found so far.
Before too long, he started getting phone calls.
The first was from a guy from work. They'd gotten drinks together, sometimes. “It's a fake, right, Dick? I know they've got that photoshop an' all that other stuff these days. I bet some bastard just wants to make the police look a bunch of fruits who suck up to the prosecutors.”
Gumshoe cringed, but tried to laugh it off. He said something quick to end the conversation, and hung up.
About ten minutes later, the phone rang again. Not Edgeworth's number. Against his better judgment, he picked it up. “Gumshoe here.”
“I hope,” a voice spat, “that you are completely ashamed. That was sick. Completely sick. I knew you were a moron, but I'd always thought you understood basic decency, at least. I hope you get fired, you disgusting – ”
“I didn't send it!” he cried, recoiling from the phone.
“You shouldn't have done it at all, you – ” Gumshoe hung up, heaving a shaky breath.
His phone rang again, not too long afterwards. He checked the number – not Edgeworth. He didn't answer. And then it rang again – not Edgeworth. With more than a little frustration, he tried to shove the phone back in his pocket – but, at that moment, tripped, landing hard on his hands and knees.
“Whoa, buddy, you alright?”
Gumshoe sat up, wincing as he scooped up his phone – screen dark and cracked. He mashed the power button, to no avail, biting the inside of his cheek, cursing himself. So stupid, so clumsy, can't do anything right....
“You okay, Detective Gumshoe?” one of the officers asked.
Gumshoe gave his best grin. “You bet, pal!” He wiped his nose on his sleeve, and stood up with a slight grunt, brushing off his knees. “Now, let's get crackin'.”
He'd been told that he wasn't the smartest guy around. A lot. And it was true enough, he figured. But he was pretty grateful, right now, for his ability to single-mindedly focus on gathering information and dusting for fingerprints. Everything else was shoved to the back of his mind. It was still there, and it hurt like mad every time his thoughts drifted in that direction... but he was able to keep it under wraps, pal, no issues here.
A little girl who lived in the house took a shine to him, and started introducing him to her favorite parts of the living room.
“That's a plant. I get to water it sometimes. D'ya know what kind of plant it is?”
Gumshoe thought a bit. “Chlorophytum comosum.”
She giggled. “No, silly, it's a spider plant. But don't worry, there's not any spiders in it.”
“Rachel, sweetie, let the nice policeman do his work!”
“Nah, she's just fine.” She beamed up at him. “We're almost done, ma'am, and then we'll get out of your way.”
He scribbled observations in a beat-up notebook as the little girl continued chattering. “That over there is the piano. My mom makes me play it, but I don't like it at all.”
“Aw, I've always liked the piano. Never learned how to play, but I wish I could.”
She crossed her arms. “It's stupid. I want to play the flute.”
A painful pang hit Gumshoe. “The flute's my favorite instrument,” he said with a half smile. A few months ago, he'd gotten Mr. Edgeworth to play a song on the flute for him. Bach or something, he couldn't quite remember. Something classy. It was real pretty, though. Edgeworth had been a bit reluctant at first, but as soon as he'd agreed you could tell that he was really proud, smiling in that little way he did.
He wanted to be happy, thinking of a good memory like that. But instead it just drudged everything else back up.
He wondered how Mr. Edgeworth was doing. Something like this was going to upset him so much. He ached to talk to him, but was afraid that he'd only make things worse.
“You see, mom? The flute is the best instrument. Not the piano. So I should play the flute!”
“Nah, they're both good, really.” Gumshoe smiled, closed his notebook, and turned to the mother. “Well, I think that we've gotten all the information we need. Here's a number – it'll put you through to the chief, so just call in if you think of anything. And we'll make sure to let you know what's happening.”
“Thank you, detective.”
He grinned. “Happy to help.” And with a nod to both the mother and the girl, he left.
He checked the time as soon as he got outside - 1:30 – and turned to one of the officers. “Any other places we need to look into?”
“Nah. No leads, yet. Just need to submit the report.”
“Okay then,” Gumshoe said with all the false cheer he could muster. “Back to the station.”
He felt the room quiet, just a little, when he pushed the door open. He tried to ignore it, not making eye contact with anyone as he walked up to his mail box, grabbing his paperwork and sitting down at his desk. He shuffled through the papers, trying to find the report to fill out on the burglary, pausing only briefly on a fistful of handwritten notes that had been stuffed in with the other papers. I used to wonder how a detective as shitty as you stayed in work. I guess screwing the prosecution has great job security. He crumpled it up and threw them all away, not even reading the others.
He pulled out a pen to start filling in the information on the burglary. As he scratched out the first few words, though, the ink began to sputter until, no matter how he dug the pen in the paper, nothing came out. He shook the pen, furrowing his brow, and tried again – no use. He combed through his desk, but found only a yellow highlighter. With a small sigh, he turned to the man next to him. Peterson. “Hey, pal, can I borrow a pen?”
Peterson didn't move.
Figuring that he hadn't heard, Gumshoe tried a little louder. “Sorry to bug ya, pal, but could I borrow a pen, please?”
He still didn't move, didn't even look at Gumshoe – though he'd stopped typing. He simply glared at his screen, hands hovering slightly above his keyboard.
Gumshoe straightened in his chair awkwardly, looking away. “Uh... sorry to bother ya.” He stared at his hands, still grasping the dead pen.
Someone tapped him on the shoulder. “Here you are, Dick.” He looked over, and it was Morris, holding out a pen with a feeble smile. Gumshoe took it, stuttering out a thank you. He tried to write, but his eyes were starting to well over. He wiped them on his sleeve. Taking a few deep breaths, he thought about Mr. Edgeworth, and how strong he was. How he could do anything, even when the whole world was against him.
Gumshoe wiped his eyes again. If he could only be a fraction of that.
About two hours earlier:
Edgeworth had been trying to read all morning but, much to his vexation, he periodically found his mind drifting to Gumshoe. Gumshoe, with his friendly, eager nature, and his damned puppy eyes. What were people saying to him? How was he dealing with them? Edgeworth tried to block it all out. It was pointless. There was nothing he could do.
A thought occurred to him – it was almost noon. If he gave himself a little over an hour for lunch, he could drive to the criminal affair department and see how Gumshoe was doing, himself.
His presence would certainly do Gumshoe no favors.
He knew that visiting him was a bad idea. But the things he he didn't know – they were needling at him, preventing him from thinking. Not knowing was maddening. Not knowing if Gumshoe was angry, or hurt, or if there was anything Edgeworth could do to improve his situation.
He could call the department. He could even request that they send Gumshoe over to the prosecution offices.
That would go over splendidly, he thought to himself with a bitter smile. He may as well request that they send him over with a bouquet and bottle of wine.
Heaven knows what they think we've been up to, as it is.
No, calling was not really an option. It was a better idea, by far, to be patient. Get through the day. Contact the detective later.
Cursing his own stupidity, he found himself standing up and walking out of his office. “I'm going out to lunch,” he told an anxious Ms. Fright as he brisked by.
If he'd believed in omens, he would have turned back after hitting every red light between the prosecution offices and the criminal affairs department. Instead, hand tightly grasping the steering wheel, he drove on, cursing his ill-though plan and his futile worry.
There was simply no way that this would end well.
He finally arrived. His face was cool and stern as he pushed the door open, and he stepped inside without hesitation. More than a few pairs of eyes flicker towards him, but he paid them no heed, scanning briefly for Gumshoe. With a minor note of worry, he saw that the detective's desk was vacant – but he tried to remain expressionless as he walked to the chief's desk in the back.
“Could I speak with Detective Gumshoe?” he asked in a practiced, level voice.
The chief frowned, eyes dancing over the prosecutor. Examining. Edgeworth had no idea what he wanted to see, and cared very little. Finally, the chief answered. “He's not in. Out investigating a burglary. Don't know when he'll get back.”
Edgeworth gave a solemn nod. “Thank you.” A hollow feeling overtook him, but he tried to swallow it down, closing his eyes for a second or two. “Is... he alright?” he asked, voice carefully tempered.
The man sighed, pinching the bridge of his nose. “He seemed to be having a bit of a rough morning.”
“I – yes. Thank you.” Edgeworth coughed uncomfortably. “Would you ask him to contact me, when he gets in?”
That searching look again. Edgeworth hoped, with a bitter curl of the lip, that he found whatever it was he was looking for.
“I'll leave him a note.” The chief finally said.
Edgeworth gave a curt nod, and turned away.
He walked by Gumshoe's empty station, glancing down at the disorganized surface – papers stacked haphazardly and a few blunt pencils strewn about. He plucked a post-it note off of his chair with two thin fingers. “Fag,” he read aloud. He looked up, glancing around the room with cold grey eyes. A few people met his gaze. “Charming. And so clever.” He stuck the note into his pocket and began walking toward the door.
“And that's all the demon prosecutor has to say for himself?” Someone called out.
There was a dead silence as Edgeworth turned back around, to face the man at the desk next to Gumshoe's.
“I don't have anything to say for myself.” Edgeworth said coldly.
The man crossed his arms defensively. “'Course not. You know, it must be really easy to rig trials when you've got a detective stupid enough to do whatever you tell him.” A tired looking lady put a hand on his shoulder – as if to cut him off – but he shooed her away with a glare. “C'mon, everybody's thinking it! People were talkin' about it years ago! Gumshoe's a moron, and has always been weird about his precious Mr. Edgeworth. Who, incidentally, is known to fake evidence. It doesn't take a genius to put two and two together.”
“Peterson, that's enough!” the chief stood up at his desk.
“No, no,” Edgeworth said, crossing his arms. “Please elaborate. I don't think anyone's accused me of falsifying evidence in years. Not since that business with Damon Gant.”
Some murmurs spread at the mention of the old police chief's name.
Peterson took a deep breath. “Yes, well, he had some dirty ties to the prosecution office too, didn't he?”
“And you'll recall that the only reason he was caught is because one detective was stupid enough to go up into his office and find the evidence that Mr. Gant had hidden?”
“That's not the point.”
“Or...” Edgeworth suggested, tapping his temple mockingly. “Are you suggesting that he planted that evidence, to mask my wrongdoings? And Damon Gant was framed, by my own design? After all, I am the demon prosecutor.”
“I... well, no, but...”
“Clearly, Richard Gumshoe is a man of no personal integrity,” he spat, “Or else his peers would think that talk like this was an immense disservice to a detective that has put nothing but sincere devotion and hard work into his career!”
“Into you, you mean.” Peterson mumbled.
Edgeworth smiled humorlessly. “Let's not be crass, now.”
Not the sort of attack that Edgeworth generally thought was decent or necessary, but he couldn't help but feel gratified as Peterson flushed red and a few nervous giggles broke out in the room. Crossing his arms across his chest, Edgeworth finished, “Finally, I would like to remind you that I have lost my share of cases due to Detective Gumshoe's work. Including the case against Ms. Skye.”
He turned to leave, when another person piped in, “Corrupt or not, it's disgusting. Do what you want behind closed doors, but that video – ”
“Was shot behind closed doors, and not sent to you by Detective Gumshoe. Or myself. So if you would kindly do your best to forget about it, if it so offends you, we'll all be much better off.”
“So I guess it's true what they say, then.” A third voice piped up, filled with mirth.
Edgeworth whipped around, mouth tight. “That depends on what they say.”
“They say that Prosecutor Edgeworth likes Dick.”
Snickers spread through the room, but Edgeworth felt no need to respond.
He just left.
Outside, he picked up his phone. “Ms. Fright? Do I have anything pressing this afternoon? No? Good. I'll see you tomorrow.” He hung up with an emphatic click.
He was going home.
Gumshoe slipped into the break room, grateful that no one was there. He was pretty dang thirsty, but didn't much feel like talking to anyone. He walked up to the water cooler, grabbing a paper cup and beginning to fill it.
“DETECTIVE GUMSHOE, SIR.”
He jumped, water sloshing out of his cup and splattering on the floor. “Uh, hey, pal, how's it going – ”
“I JUST WANTED TO TELL YOU THAT YOU ARE A VERY BRAVE MAN, SIR.”
“Gee, uh, thanks, Mike, but – ”
“YES, SIR. PROSECUTOR EDGEWORTH IS A VERY FRIGHTENING MAN, SIR. HE SHOUTS A LOT SIR. IT IS TOO MUCH FOR A MAN OF MY YOUNG AGE, SIR.”
“I LOOK UP TO YOU A LOT, SIR.”
“Awww...” He rubbed the back of his head sheepishly. “You're a good kid, Mike.... Er, would you mind keeping it down a little bit, though?”
“YES, OF COURSE, SIR. GOOD-BYE, SIR.” With a violent salute, the officer walked away, accidentally bumping into the door frame.
Gumshoe shook his head, but smiled a bit as he took a sip of water.
Which is when he was interrupted, again. “Hey, Dick! Been meanin' to talk to you!”
Gumshoe hesitated, looking up to see two other officers, Tommy and Lou, walking in. He tried to smile. “What's up, pal?”
Lou smiled, crossing his arms. “So was it that bad when Byrde shot you down? Turned you off to girls altogether?”
Before he could piece together a coherent reply, Tommy interrupted, grinning. “Well, you see, we were just wondering about you'n Prosecutor Edgeworth....”
Gumshoe took a sip of water, trying to hide his face, which he could feel flushing. He turned to the side. “Look, pal, I'd really rather not talk about that right now.”
“Just – I mean, we don't care or anything – we were just wondering if Edgeworth is always so....” he trailed off, trying to come up with a word.
“Stuffy, ya know? I mean, obviously he's not super stuffy if he's into... well, you know, but he just seems kinda... crabby. So, is he... nice around you?”
Gumshoe scratched his head. “Uh... he's just... he's always Mr. Edgeworth, ya know? I don't think he's crabby.” He toyed with the paper cup, glancing back to the door. “Well, not all the time, anyway,” he amended.
Lou frowned. “Do ya call him 'Mr. Edgeworth'? 'Cause that's kinda messed up, buddy...”
“Uh, I guess I call him that at work....” the cup ripped in Gumshoe's hands. With a frown, he tossed it into the garbage can, before turning to the officers with an artificial smile. “Well, pals, I need to get back and finish that report.”
He clearly wasn't fooling them. Lou cocked his head to the side frowning. “Look, Dick, we don't mean to be out of line or anything – this is just something of a surprise, you know?”
“Yeah, I get it, pal. Surprised me, too.”
Tommy smiled, clapping Gumshoe on the back. “For what it's worth, Edgeworth seems to like you a lot. He sure ripped Peterson a new one, anyway.”
“What, you didn't hear? Edgeworth came down to the Precinct at... oh, noonish or something, and completely blew up.”
“Damn funny,” Lou snickered.
“Why? Is he okay?” Gumshoe asked, eyes wide.
Lou rolled his eyes, but Tommy elbowed him, and answered, “Yeah, he's fine. He just didn't approve of some... uh, comments he heard 'bout you.”
“You know why he was here?”
Tommy looked at Lou, who shrugged, before continuing, “Dunno. I mean, I'm guessin' it had something to do with that email, 'cause he doesn't come down here a lot and all... but, yeah, he just talked to the chief, yelled a lot, and left.”
“Okay... so he wasn't here for me, then.” Gumshoe nodded. “Good, I guess, since I was gone and all.”
“What, you jealous?” Tommy smirked playfully.
Gumshoe forced a laugh. “I... uh, broke my cell phone today, so if he's tried to call me...” he slumped a little.
Tommy gave a low whistle. “Damn, you've had a heck of a day, haven't you?” Gumshoe just nodded, not trusting himself to actually say anything.
Lou shrugged. “If he left a message it would've been in your mail.”
“It... oh....” Gumshoe ran back to his desk, leaving the two officers, and started rooting through his trashcan, digging out the handful of notes that he'd thrown away, reading through them.
We all knew Edgeworth treated you like a dog. Had no clue he was a bitch. He threw that one out without a second glance.
I've been there, so if you need to talk to anyone, I'd be happy to listen – McHugh
That was obscene and I'll never be able to look at you the same way again.
Hey Dick – just want you to know that I think you're a great guy, no matter what.
Never pegged you for a fruit. But I guess Edgeworth's kinda girly, anyway, what with the pink and all. Anyway, just want you to know that it's cool. I don't mind. – Teddy
I hope you're happy – you made the police look like a bunch of morons who literally suck up to the prosecution. More than you usually do.
Finally he found it – a simple note on lined paper. Prosecutor Edgeworth came by, and wanted you to call him.
He took a deep breath, scratching the back of his head as he tried to ignore the people that he could feel watching him. He walked up to the chief.
“Sir? Could I go to the prosecution offices for a bit? I'll be right back, I swear, and – ”
The man looked up, sighing. “Detective Gumshoe? Just take the rest of the day off.”
Gumshoe froze. “R-really?”
“Yes. There's some... extenuating circumstances at work here, I think. Go home, rest up a bit.”
Gumshoe wiped his nose on his sleeve, then gave a wide smile. “Th-thanks, pal, I really appreciate it.”
As he drove to the prosecution offices, he was struck with a moment of hesitation, realizing that he'd have to walk through the whole building to get to Mr. Edgeworth's office. He'd have to walk through hallways, stand in elevators, with people who'd seen that email this morning. People he respected. People he was more than a little afraid of, if he was perfectly honest – he'd been whipped one too many times to be comfortable in that building on the best of days.
But if Mr. Edgeworth could come and visit him, he could certainly do the same.
He took a deep breath and pushed on.
His phone was out on the table, but at this point he'd really given up on the idea of receiving a call from the detective. Certainly he'd be done investigating a simple burglary, now. Maybe the chief had lied, and there'd been no message.
Maybe Gumshoe hadn't felt like talking to him.
He cursed, and flipped on the television, trying not to feel sorry for himself. So selfish. He'd just settled more comfortably into the cushion when a knock sounded on the door. He jolted up, hurrying over and, with a hopeful breath, he cracked it open.
“I'm sorry it took me so long to get here, pal,” Gumshoe said. He looked thoroughly miserable, shoulders slumped and eyes shining. “I, er, didn't get your message at first 'cause I threw it away – there's a story behind that one – and then my phone... well, uh, I guess I broke it, kinda, and then I went to your office but you weren't there....”
Edgeworth grabbed him by the lapels and tugged him in, wrapping his arms around the man's solid chest. “You're sorry?” he mumbled into his neck. “That's the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard.”
Gumshoe's arms rested around Edgeworth, but his shoulders sank further. “Yeah, I know. Sorry's not good enough. If I just hadn't – ”
Edgeworth pulled back, frowning. “No. What I meant was, you have absolutely nothing to be sorry about.” He bit his lip, eyes darting to the side. “Unlike me. Richard, I – there is nothing I can do to fix this. But if I can...” he trailed off helplessly.
Gumshoe tightened his arms around him, pulling him back against his chest. “S'okay, I'm alright, I'm just fine. A-are you alright? I've been worried sick.”
“Then you should have called,” Edgeworth complained, somewhat muffled.
“Yeah, I should have. But you're okay?”
A short laugh. “Of course I am, you ridiculous buffoon.” He allowed himself to relax, rest against Gumshoe, sighing as the detective stroked a hand through his hair.
“Just don't want you runnin' off to Europe again for another two years.”
Edgeworth chuckled, stepping away. “No, I don't think that will happen. I'm a little better grounded than I used to be.” He smiled affectionately, and reached for one of Gumshoe's hands, tugging him fully inside.
He shut the door, the soft click of the lock prompting a frail smile, before turning to face Gumshoe. “Do you need to go back to work, detective?”
“Nah, the chief said I could take the rest of the day off. Accentuating circumstances, and all.”
“Extenuating circumstances, Richard. You should know that one, as an officer of the law.” But he couldn't quite stop from smiling as he pulled Gumshoe into the living room and settled down on the couch, tugging the detective with him. He flipped the television off and faced the other man.
“Do you want to talk?”
They were still holding hands, and Gumshoe's fingers tightened, slightly. Edgeworth's eyes danced over his expression, trying to read every emotion in his all-too-open face.
“I dunno. I'm used to screwin' up, and having people upset with me, I guess... but this is pretty different. And there's some people at work who I don't think are gonna talk to me any more.” He curled in a little bit on himself, big shoulders drooping. Edgeworth squeezed his hand. “And I don't think I did anything wrong this time, so that's kinda rough.”
“You didn't.” Edgeworth affirmed, looking away. “It was all my fault, and you're bearing the brunt of the consequences.”
Gumshoe straightened, eyes wide, and shook his head vigorously. “No, I didn't mean that at all, Miles! It's not your fault!”
“I fail to see your reasoning, detective.” He leaned into Gumshoe, eyes on the floor, and gave a small, bitter chuckle. It was his idea in the first place, after all, to make a video. And if he just hadn't been so foolish as to....
“No,” the detective said with bull-headed certainty, “I mean, you accidentally putting it online was kinda your fault, I guess, but that was just a mistake. An' you fixed it. But the rest wasn't you at all.” Edgeworth didn't answer. He just sighed and toyed with Gumshoe's hand. “Look, pal, I'm just fine, and whoever sent that email didn't win, okay? 'Cause we're both fine, right? You're fine?”
Edgeworth nodded, still saying nothing. He justed sighed again, closing his eyes and resting.
“Did... did anything happen? Do you need to talk?”
“Hmm. No.” A pause, before he decided to continue. “Really, no one said much of anything about it. I don't think they'll let us work together anymore.”
“But – ”
Edgeworth shifted, eyes still closed. “I'm not overly fond of the idea, myself.” It was understandable, perhaps, to not want romantic entanglements between detectives and prosecutors, but it had certainly happened before without intervention. “...but I don't feel like arguing at the moment.” He was so tired, suddenly. So tired. It wasn't even five in the afternoon, but he was exhausted.
As if reading his mind, Gumshoe let go of his hand, instead reaching his arm across the prosecutor's shoulder. “Need a rest, pal?” Edgeworth nodded, and the detective shifted a little bit, letting Edgeworth lean against him more solidly, supported by his arm. Edgeworth let out a contented sigh, allowing himself to be lulled by the way Gumshoe stroked slow little circles into his shoulder.
When he finally opened his eyes again, it was getting late. The sky out the window already a dusky grey, and only getting darker. He sat still for several groggy minutes, curling into the warmth of Gumshoe's chest. The detective was sound asleep, breathing deeply, and Edgeworth enjoyed sensation.
Finally, with a bit of regret, he pushed himself up. Gumshoe made a soft noise of discontent, but didn't wake.
Edgeworth stood there for a moment, looking down at him. He rubbed his arm which, no longer pressed up against the sleeping detective, was suddenly very cold. But he was quite hungry, and he imagined that Gumshoe was, as well.
Perhaps a soup would not be amiss. He walked into the kitchen, flipping on a light, and set about preparing something.
He chopped a few carrots, feeling... hollow.
What he'd feared most of all had happened.
And, at the moment, he just felt empty.
He paused, closing his eyes briefly, clearing his mind.
Eventually, right as Edgeworth was sliding the last of the ingredients into the pot, Gumshoe made his way into the kitchen, yawning and running a hand through his badly ruffled hair. “Need any help?” he asked, bleary eyed.
“No, I'm just about done.” He put the lid on the pot and turned to face the detective. “There. Now it needs to cook for a while.”
Gumshoe nodded dully and sat down at the table, rubbing his eyes and blinking, trying to shake off the last of his nap. Edgeworth sat next to him, tapping his fingers nervously.
He clasped his hands, trying to still them. “Did... you watch that video?”
Gumshoe blinked up at him, confused. “I... uh...” He trailed of, rubbing the back of his neck and wincing. “Do we have to talk about that right now...?”
Edgeworth looked down, feeling a stab of guilt. He continued, regardless. “No. But... if I could... work something out, I would feel much easier.”
Gumshoe slumped, but answered, “Uh... no. Didn't watch it. Didn't even look at the email for more than a couple'a seconds.” He scratched the back of his head nervously. “Should I have?”
Edgeworth didn't answer at first. “I... think that we should watch it. You and I.” He bit his lip. “I doubt that very many people actually chose to watch it, of course, but... let us see what's out there.”
Gumshoe squirmed in his chair. “But... we mostly know already, don't we? And I'd kinda rather....”
“Ignore it all?” Edgeworth said, face blank. Gumshoe nodded with a grimace. “I... understand.” He swallowed. “But I would be very grateful, if you would watch it with me.” It was unfair of him to ask. Truly unfair. Because he knew that Gumshoe would not say no.
And he didn't.
Edgeworth grabbed one of his hands, squeezing it in thanks, and ran off to grab his laptop.
Gumshoe hadn't moved when he got back, but his hands were tense. Edgeworth, again, took one of them, hoping that physical contact would do something to comfort the detective as his computer booted up.
He shouldn't make Gumshoe watch this. But the more he thought about the whole mess, the more he needed to see exactly what everybody else had seen.
And, heaven help him, he didn't want to watch it by himself.
He pulled up the email, and took a breath, pressing play.
It began much the same, with Edgeworth unbuttoning his shirt, frowning slightly as he worked button after button, beginning with something of a flair but soon, clearly, just trying to get the buttons off as efficiently as possible. The sound had been cut, and a soft piano piece was layered over the top. Chopin. 'Sexy classical music', Edgeworth remembered with a weak smile. He glanced at Gumshoe, but the detective just stared at the screen, face uncharacteristically blank.
The scene cut rather abruptly to them sitting, kissing, Edgeworth's hands working the button's of the detective's shirt, while Gumshoe ran his up and down Edgeworth's sides. They both watched in silence as the scene progressed. Gumshoe looked away as, on screen, Edgeworth started to undo his pants. The most explicit shot, Edgeworth noted. I'm sorry.
The screen cut again, to a shot of their feet. Their movements were erratic, and the blankets had been kicked loose. After maybe 15 seconds, the shot changed one last time – the camera lifted, Edgeworth having picked it up, and panned up Gumshoe's torso as he lay on the bed. He awkwardly crossed his arms over his chest, but he was grinning, embarrassed.
And with that, it finished.
“That's what people may have seen.” Edgeworth finally said.
“I...” Gumshoe coughed. “I, uh, see that you cut most of that end out.” He tried to smile.
An attempt at levity... that was good. Edgeworth smiled back, more out of relief than anything else. “Yes... well, I thought it ended well enough, as is.”
They were silent a moment.
“Thank you... for watching it with me.”
Gumshoe gave a short laugh. “No offense, Miles, but that wasn't a great sex tape. Just kinda R rated.”
“So it would seem.” Edgeworth agreed dully. He took a deep breath. “Richard... are you going to be alright? Is there... is there anything I can do...?”
Gumshoe curled in on himself. “I already said, I'm gonna be fine.” He didn't offer anything further – and that was never a good sign, for this detective who was usually so ready to bear his soul – but Edgeworth recognized when not to push.
Gumshoe sat for a minute, slumped, staring at his hands. Finally he stood, none-too-gently pulling Edgeworth into a tight hug. Edgeworth wrapped his own arms around, holding Gumshoe in a way that he hoped was comforting – though he'd never been good at this sort of thing. Nonetheless, he tried to relax, stroking the detective's back slowly, taking his own measure of comfort in the feeling of the strong arms around him.
“We're okay.” Gumshoe murmured, burying his head in Edgeworth's shoulder.
Edgeworth breathed out a sigh, nodding. “You will stay here tonight? Please.”
Gumshoe laughed, shoulders shaking. “Yeah, alright.” He pulled back and wiped his eyes, giving Edgeworth a watery smile. Edgeworth took one of his hands again, and they stood silently for a few moments.
“I think dinner will be ready soon,” Miles finally said, “So would you like to help me prepare the table?”
Gumshoe's face lightened a considerable degree. “Sure thing! Boy, I'm starving.”
“Have you eaten much today?”
Gumshoe thought for a moment, before sheepishly admitting “Just a couple'a pop-tarts, I think....”
Edgeworth narrowed his eyes. “Richard.”
Gumshoe laughed nervously. “Uh... busy day, and all....”
Edgeworth shook his head. “Honestly. What am I going to do with you?”
Gumshoe smiled, but after a few seconds, his face fell. He rubbed his arms. “Miles? What are we gonna do tomorrow?”
“Will you go in to work?” Edgeworth asked. Gumshoe nodded, hesitant. “Well then. We'll do the same thing we did today, I suppose.” He reached up, giving the detective a soft kiss. “But we'll worry about that tomorrow.”
“And the day after that, and after that.” He gave a weak smile. "Okay, sir."