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[personal profile] cuttlefishery
Title: Begin Again
Characters/Pairings: Phoenix/Edgeworth, Trucy
Rating: PG/PG-13
Warnings: Serious character injury.
Summary: When an accident leaves Edgeworth wheelchair-bound for life, he's left relying on a certain scruffy ex-lawyer and little girl to help him recover. AU.
This fic is my baby, my pride and joy, and sadly still not finished FINALLY FINISHED!


Miles Edgeworth would never remember exactly what it was that had led him to go shopping at that particular department store on that particular day, but for the rest of his life he would regret that decision and look back on it as the worst he had ever made.

The day had been a sunny but cool one, on the cusp of winter and spring; Miles always silently welcomed the return of the sun and the escape from the colder months. He would much rather deal with a few allergies than an onslaught of December memories, after all, and there was something strangely exciting about the touch of life in the air as spring neared. And so, despite having the day off, he had decided to go out and get some necessary shopping done. His more casual warm weather wardrobe was in need of some updating. The department store a few blocks down from the court house seemed the best option for remedying this problem. He set out at noon, stopped for a quick lunch, and then moved on to his shopping destination with the thought of new cotton shirts on his mind.

Unfortunately, that department store (one of the busiest and most well-known in the city) also served as someone else's target that day. The papers the next day would refer to the group as anarchists; whatever label they were given, it did not change the fact that they, for whatever reason, had seen fit to simultaneously set off a total of seventeen homemade bombs throughout the building at precisely 1:03 in the afternoon.

Miles had been thumbing through a rack of short-sleeved button-downs on the first floor of the two story building at the time, grumbling to himself that none of that season's colors at all suited him. In one instant he turned to move toward a different part of the store, and in the next, he could hear something akin to a deep ripping sound.

"What in the world?" he said aloud, and then the screams of his fellow shoppers and the explosions of the other bombs drowned out all else. His mind processed a little too slowly - an earthquake? but no, it's not the same, and why is there fire? - but still he ran, as running seemed the proper thing to do - but shouldn't I be taking shelter somewhere? - until a chain of fire devouring racks of clothing stopped him abruptly.

There were others around him, but he hardly registered them. Babies screamed (screaming is not helping the situation), mothers cried (can't you try to be a little more brave?), a girl gave a piercing shout for her father (oh, god), and Miles stood in mild shock and tried, tried to find some logical answer as to what had happened and how to get away from it.

With a creaking and a deep sigh as if it simply could not find the strength to go on, the burning ceiling began to collapse, bringing the second floor with it. In some strange way, Miles found himself staring at the sagging ceiling and thinking simply, "Well, this is an old building, so it makes sense, really," before it gave way and everything around him grew suddenly much more quiet and dark.


It seemed as though he had been unconscious for only a minute or two when Miles again opened his eyes. He could hear a man groaning in pain - is that me? - and feel sharp spikes stabbing various points throughout his body as his vision slowly, very slowly, began to clear. Instead of the pile of destruction he was expecting to see as the memory of what had happened reinserted itself into his thought process, he found himself gazing around at a token mostly-white hospital room. The beeping machines nearby and the chatter and barked orders from just past the partially-open door to his room solidified that fact, and he groaned again upon its realization.

"Awake?" said a voice, and Miles jumped a little, started to find that his peripheral vision was so poor and he had not even begun to notice that he wasn't alone in the room.

He turned his head to look to his left. There was another bed in the room, and in it, a girl sat propped up against a pile of pillows, reading a book called "Extremely Advanced Magic Tricks for Pros" that had a library sticker on its spine. He raised an eyebrow at this, and somehow that hurt and he said something not unlike "ugh" in response to her question.

"I bet you're hurting a lot," she said. A look of genuine concern passed over her face, but then she broke into a wide smile and added, "Want to see my magic panties? I bet that'd cheer you up!"

"What?" Miles croaked back.

"Magic panties!" she repeated.

Convinced that he must have been hit in the head by something very large, he shut his eyes tightly and took a deep breath before letting it out in a sigh. "I'm very confused right now," he managed to say after a moment.

The girl was quiet until he opened his eyes again. "You were in the department store too, weren't you?" she said. "You got hurt by the bombs."

The memories, still flitting back and forth through his mind, landed on the collapsing ceiling, and he gave a painful nod. "Were you… screaming for your father?" he asked her.

"Yes."

"Was he alright?"

She gave him a look that clearly said why are you asking me that?, but nodded. "He was outside waiting for me. He saw the blasts from out there and he was one of the first people to call for help."

"Oh - good."

Silence fell between them, and Miles dozed off for a few moments, only to be awakened by voices once again.

"He was awake a few minutes ago. Oh, see? He's awake again now," said the girl.

"So he is."

Miles whipped his head around to look at the owner of the second voice, which of course sent another spike of pain down his spine, and he bit his lip to stifle another whimper. The man who had spoken was staring at him with a fairly unreadable expression (something like surprise and a little concern and that better not be pity), and he smiled in a distant way and sat down on the side of the other bed.

"How do you feel?" he asked, and Miles did not reply.

The girl poked the man and said, "He was talking to me, really, Daddy."

Miles coughed.

The man shrugged. "He can't possibly be feeling well," he said.

"Stop… talking about me as if I'm not in the room," Miles finally spat.

"Will you answer my question now? How do you feel?" said the man.

"I feel like a building fell on me."

The girl frowned. "You were being much nicer when it was just me. What happened?"

Miles took his time in mentally forming his response to that, since neither of the other two seemed in any great hurry to hear it. Finally, with a deep breath, he said, "I didn't know your father was Wright."

"Oh." The girl looked at her father and then swatted him with the book she was reading. "What did you do to him, Daddy? You better not have done something really bad!"

It was him. He never denied it and the girl simply confirmed it, and Miles wondered if his mind was reeling more from the apparent bombing he had survived or from the unkempt father who stood there blinking as if through the haze of a hangover. The man - Phoenix, somehow - merely chuckled and shook his head. "As far as I know, I didn't do anything 'really bad' to him, so don't worry, Trucy."

"Then why is he so mad at you?" she asked.

"No," said Miles, and both Phoenix and his daughter turned to look at him again. "I'm just… what are you doing here?" He struggled to move out of the prone position he had been lying in, to try to sit up so he could have a better view, because Wright was here and it had been so many years, and because looking weak and injured to a young girl and looking weak and injured to an old rival were two entirely different matters altogether. He managed to heave himself into something a little bit less like lying down (at least Wright wasn't trying to help), but in doing so something clicked and he froze in place.

The room seemed to freeze with him as the realization dawned on him and he clenched his eyes shut in an attempt to steel himself against vomiting. Something was very abnormal. Something felt extremely wrong. Finally, a quiet utterance broke the spell:

"Miles?"

Surprised by his own voice, Miles replied. "What… happened?"

It was the girl - Trucy - who answered him first. "A couple of people died," she said. "Some people were really lucky like me. And some were hurt really badly… like you."

Phoenix put a hand on Trucy's shoulder as if to tell her to be quiet, and Miles stared at him, growing more and more unnerved by the second. There had been a bombing - he had been injured - the hospital room he ended up in had also contained one Trucy (was it Trucy Wright?), Phoenix's daughter, and now… this. He wanted to tear his gaze away from that sullen, scruffy face, but he couldn't, because he knew he would look at his own body then and that would be the end of it all.

"Wright," he said after a long while, and he wished he sounded less like an animal than he did.

"Miles," Phoenix said again, and added, "It's going to be okay."

"My leg," said Miles, and he turned to look.

Phoenix nodded. "I know."

Miles could see beneath the thin bed sheet, now, that his right leg was simply not there; he could feel (or rather, not feel) the sensation of a missing limb, strange and foreign and excruciatingly uncomfortable despite all of the numbing agents that must have been administered. But pulling back the sheet was fairly impossible right then, and he mentally, stubbornly refused to do it. Instead he swallowed and stared at the empty space the sheet seemed only to accentuate.

"it's going to be okay," Phoenix repeated.

And Miles could only stare, and think, and wonder, and wish, and couldn't he offer a pat on the shoulder when he says that? and how can he even say that at all? A thousand thoughts chased each other around his head, and in the chase, began to trip and fall and plummet all around him as he sat there in their midst, at a loss for what to do or say or think about what had happened.

Where could he even begin?





"Try leaning more on the cane, Mr. Edgeworth."

Miles grunted angrily in response. Walking with a cane was simply not going to happen; was this physical therapy nurse completely daft? There was no logical way to take a step with only one leg and a metal rod for support. After two attempts that ended in his near-collapse onto the floor of the hospital room, Miles had no intention of trying such nonsense again. He stood there, feeling like he might as well have been trying to hover as to walk, and glared.

"Well, it'll be easier than a crutch," the nurse chirped, plastering on a fake smile. Miles guessed she probably hated having him for a patient. He continued to stand there next to his hospital bed and glare until she sighed and said, "Never mind, then… you can try again tomorrow."

Like hell, Miles thought, as he dragged himself back into his hospital bed. It had been five days since he had awakened in the hospital, and for four of those days, this ridiculous nurse had been coming in to spend hours with him, trying to teach him how to do things he should already have known how to do. Changing clothes was the first lesson, and he mastered that well enough for a man unwilling to look at his own body from the waist down; it was a struggle, but he accomplished it. Standing had come next, and with the assistance of a cane or a crutch that was no great difficulty. He had hoped to have the opportunity to use a wheelchair for some time before trying to walk, but the physical therapy nurse believed in a very swift recovery, and he hated her for that.

He would have just gone back home and worked on recovering there, away from the prying eyes of this falsely chipper woman, but there was no one there. And as much as he refused to admit it aloud, he knew in his heart that he needed assistance. So, with no one to help him and plenty of money to fund a lengthy stay, he had opted to take his time convalescing at the hospital instead. Unfortunately, that meant many frequent interruptions from doctors and nurses, and otherwise, long stretches of silence, since that girl - Trucy Wright - had gone home after only one night. The silence in the downtime between annoyances provided Miles ample opportunity to do some thinking - about his injury, his life now that he was disabled, and about… well. Phoenix Wright. The haggard presence that inserted himself into the midst of other, more pertinent lines of thought.

How will I stay in shape now? Jogging is out, soon became why on earth did Wright adopt a child? ; I wonder when I can return to work dissolved easily into I wonder if Wright has worked a day since the incident I seem to recall hearing about. And so Miles spent his hospital time, dwelling and pretending not to dwell, wondering and telling himself he was not lonely.

The physical therapy nurse finished making notes on the chart she carried with her, scowled, and said, "I'll be back tomorrow, Mr. Edgeworth," before leaving the offending cane propped up against the end of his bed and hurrying out of the room. Miles was glad to have her gone. He fidgeted with his bedsheets, pulling them over himself - no need to look at myself yet, he told himself, every day, many times a day. It was no easy task to adjust the sheets to his liking while staring stubbornly at the ceiling, and so it was that he did not notice that his solitude had been once again infringed upon until the culprit spoke.

"Something interesting up there?"

The soft voice made Miles start and divert his attention instead to the doorway. Phoenix stood there, staring at some point on the wall above Miles's head, one hand holding a plastic bag full of something and the other shoved into a pocket of the same pants he had been wearing when he came to collect Trucy some days ago. Miles almost asked why the unshaven man would repeatedly wear such ragged, torn old clothing, but then stopped. I suppose that answers my question about his employment, he thought idly.

"Mind some company?" Phoenix asked. Miles frowned.

"I assume it won't make a difference how I answer that."

Phoenix gave a hollow smile and crossed the room to sit on the side of the now-empty second bed.

"As I thought," Miles muttered with a snort.

"How are you feeling?"

Why won't he make eye contact with me? "I've been better. How is your daughter?" Miles spat the last word without really meaning to, and he winced. He hadn't intended to bring up that little matter already.

"She's wonderful," Phoenix replied, bristling, his words loaded with emotion. The subject of Trucy hung in the sterile air between them as years of why didn't you ever contact me? and days of how could you have a daughter that age that I didn't even know about? circled around Miles's mind. Phoenix continued to stare at anything that wasn't Miles, until finally he added, "I adopted her about six years ago. She's thirteen."

"Adopted?"

"Did you think she was biologically mine?" Phoenix barked a hard little laugh that Miles didn't like at all. "You know I never had much luck with women."

Miles simply stared. He had wondered for years what had happened to Phoenix. How could they have been in the same city and never once crossed paths? Miles had been out of the country when Phoenix had allegedly been stripped of his badge - he supposed that legend must be true, judging by the shadow that sat across from him now. Miles opened his mouth to ask another question, but instead all that he managed to utter was a soft whine, as pain suddenly shot up the trunk of his body from the place where, a week before, there had been a right leg.

Phoenix was on his feet in an instant, leaning over Miles and asking, "Are you okay?" with all previous irritation forgotten.

Miles gasped in response. This had been happening periodically over the past few days, but it always shocked him. He gripped his sheets as tightly as he could for a few moments before the pain began to wash away again and he glanced up at Phoenix, who still stood over him.

"I'm fine, Wright," he snapped. His face was growing hot.

"It's nothing to be embarrassed about," Phoenix replied, and for a moment, he sounded like his old self. "I'm surprised you're doing as well as you are already, really."

Miles exhaled sharply through his nose, a half-grunt, half-sigh that he'd become more and more prone to doing in recent years. "Did you come here for a reason today?" he asked.

"I did."

"Well?"

"Here," said Phoenix, and he fished in his plastic bag for a few seconds before shoving a disposable bowl and chopsticks under Miles's nose. "I came to bring you noodles."

Miles frowned as he took the bowl of noodles, pulled off the plastic covering, and sniffed the food. "What in the world is this for?" he asked.

"Eating, usually." Phoenix perched, this time on the side of the bed Miles occupied, and started slurping up noodles of his own.

Miles poked at his with the chopsticks before tentatively tasting a bite.

"Well?"

"These are terrible, Wright. Where did you find these?"

"I know a guy."

"That's… specific."

"Well, free food is free food." Phoenix shifted uncomfortably.

Miles convinced himself to eat more of the noodles.

Some minutes passed in silence before Phoenix looked over and suddenly, unexpectedly, met Miles's eyes with his own. Miles put down his chopsticks and gazed back into that hazy expression, wondering what could be brewing behind those blue eyes. And then Phoenix said the last thing Miles would have expected to hear in his current situation:

"Come home with me."

Miles almost laughed. "Be serious."

"I am." Phoenix looked back at his now-empty noodle bowl. "I mean, home is my old office right now, and Trucy and I sleep on the sofas, but you can have my sofa and I'll take the floor."

"Wright, I…." Miles stopped himself. He had to go about this delicately. It was more than obvious that Phoenix was offering a great personal sacrifice, but he was not going to be pitied and tended to by someone so very - well, so very pitiable himself. He took a deep breath and started again. "Wright, I have a very large apartment of my own, you know. I have no need -"

"Your apartment has two floors, doesn't it? I don't think you can get up and down the stairs."

"I'll just stay on the first floor and sleep on my own sofa, then."

"Or," said Phoenix with a crooked little grin, "you could come and sleep on one of mine and then I won't have to be worried about you falling and hurting yourself because you're too proud to ask anybody for help."

Look who's talking. Miles sighed deeply. "It's impossible to win an argument with you."

The grin fell from Phoenix's face, and for a moment, Miles regretted having said such a thing. But the moment passed, and a true, genuine smile replaced the near-unreadable expression. "Good! I'll just tell the nurse - Trucy's going to be happy that I talked you into this. It was her idea in the first place."

Miles watched as the man he had once known as a very dear friend staggered out of the hospital room. What am I getting myself into? Sleeping on a sofa in an old law office and eating overly salted noodles every day doesn't sound very promising. He would find out soon enough, anyhow, he told himself; Phoenix would be back any moment with the nurse to check him out of the hospital, and then he would be on his way to - well, to something.

And soon enough, Phoenix did return, with two nurses who protested continually about the bad decision that was leaving the hospital with next to no physical therapy experience. Miles ignored them, for the most part, though he was secretly grateful for their help as he slowly and painfully moved from his bed to a wheelchair. Sitting in the chair was more than a little unnatural, but not impossible; his leg had been completely destroyed from just above the knee, however, so his balance was off-kilter even in sitting. He tried to adjust to a more comfortable position in the wheelchair, his face burning red with shame all the while.

Phoenix made a great show of not noticing any of this as he pushed Miles out of the hospital room without a word. In fact, they were nearly to the end of the hallway in which Miles's room was located before Phoenix said anything at all.

"You know, we're on the fourth floor," he mused idly.

"I know," Miles replied.

"I'm not carrying a wheelchair down four flights of stairs."

Miles stiffened, and turned around to the best of his ability to stare seriously at Phoenix. "I'm not taking the elevator, Wright."

"And, once again, I'm not carrying a wheelchair all that way. I don't even think I could."

Miles took a few deep breaths and sat back in the wheelchair. "I can't," he said quietly. Then, "I can't," a bit louder; "I can't, I can't!" he shouted, and bent over, clutching his hair in his fists.

Phoenix looked around wildly, alarmed by this outburst. "Miles, shh!" he said, hurrying around to crouch in front of the wheelchair and put his hands on his friend's shoulders. "Miles, come on, it's okay!"

"It's not okay!" Miles reached out, found Phoenix, held onto his forearms for dear life. "It's not just now - not just this elevator - it's always, Wright, always."

"Always?"

"How will I ever take the stairs like this?"

"I… I don't know. I don't know, just yet, but for now, anyway… I have an idea."

And so it was that an empty wheelchair took three trips up and down in the hospital elevator while Phoenix Wright carried Miles Edgeworth piggyback-style down four flights of stairs to the safety of the ground level below.





It had been two weeks since Miles had agreed to spend a couple of nights sleeping on the sofa in what was once the law office of his rival. Upon his initial arrival, he had been more than certain that he would stay there long enough to quell Phoenix's worries about his living alone in his present condition, and then he would return home to his comfortable, familiar apartment, where he would begin to put all of this behind him.

But when he awoke to find himself mentally ticking off day number fifteen of sofa-sleeping, Miles realized he might not be telling himself the truth after all.

The truth wasn't something he wanted to admit to himself. The truth made him hurt in confusing and frightening ways when he attempted to do the simplest of tasks - such as sitting in his wheelchair. The truth woke him up in the middle of the night at the sound of his own inhuman whimpering, only to find Trucy's worried eyes and Phoenix's bleary ones peering at him in the darkness. And, worst of all, the truth kept him desperately in need of the company - and assistance - of others. He was at the mercy of his missing leg.

After the first five days, Phoenix had halfheartedly suggested that Miles return to his physical therapy sessions in the off-chance that they might help improve his mobility, and Miles had obliged, if only to prove to himself that he could learn to survive without Phoenix. The learning was a slow process. Miles loathed the idea of relying on a cane in place of the leg he lost, but found it easier than hobbling on crutches in most situations. Regardless, he practiced both options as well as wheelchair control every day, as the physical therapist took notes and barked orders at him. It was enough to make him desperately happy to return to Phoenix, Trucy, their sofa, and their overall kindness toward him, although not quite enough to make him admit to that.

"Morning, Miles!" Trucy chirped as her alarm rang on day fifteen. She rolled off the loveseat she curled on every night, stepped over Phoenix, who was still snoring loudly on the floor with an arm flung over his eyes, and headed toward the miniature refrigerator, microwave, and hot plate that served as a kitchen. "I have to get going soon, but I'll make you some eggs first, okay?"

"That isn't necessary, Trucy. I think I'm capable of making my own eggs," Miles replied, softly.

"I'm sure you are, but I'm already doing it!"

Sit up. That's it. Easy. Don't topple over. Miles mentally recited every move he made in the struggle to get up from lying on the sofa. Use your arms. Put your weight on them. And don't look. Move around and sit up - and don't look. That was the most important part of every moment of every day. Don't look. He didn't know what he expected to see where his leg ought to be, but he didn't care to find out. Don't look.

He let out a heavy sigh as he leaned back, and Trucy said, "Do you need painkillers?"

"I'm alright. Thank you."

Phoenix had insisted on doling out the heavy-duty painkillers only when necessary, and he otherwise kept them stored high on a shelf Miles had no hope of reaching without the ability to stand on something. Trucy went along with this plan without question, but Miles was more than a little irritated by it; he wasn't nearly the suicidal mess Phoenix must think him to be, and he needed those painkillers more often than not. But he chose not to belabor the point… even though sometimes he desperately wanted to.

Phoenix snorted suddenly in his sleep and his eyes flew open. "I smell eggs," he said, casting a crooked grin toward Miles. "Morning."

"Good morning."

"Daddy," Trucy called from the pseudo-kitchen, "don't forget I'm gone tonight, okay?"

"Crap," Phoenix replied as he scrambled to his feet. "I totally forgot, Trucy, baby - I'm sorry!"

"I thought you probably had. But I'll be back first thing in the morning, so maybe you two can manage here without me for just a little while?"

Miles craned his neck around to look at her seriously. He was not prepared to be left alone under the care of Phoenix; the man meant well, but he was hardly capable of doing anything for himself, much less for someone else. At least not without Trucy there to boss him into it. Miles frowned. "Where are you going, Trucy?"

"I've got a magic show gig! It's kind of far away, though, and it's probably not safe to take the train all the way back after it's over. So I'm staying with my friend who lives there!"

"Do you think this is really safe, Wright?" Miles asked. "She's a bit young to be traveling so far alone."

"I'm twelve, I can do it!"

"She's tougher than I am, Miles," Phoenix said, the ghost of a smile passing over his face. "Besides, the noodle guy's going with her."

"…the 'noodle guy'?"

Phoenix nodded and offered no more information. A vague memory of salty noodles in a hospital room flitted past. Miles sighed. "Why aren't you going with her? You're her father." The idea still did nothing less than startle him.

"She can do this. It's okay."

"That's a bit irresponsible of you. I should think you'd be more concerned about your child than this."

"I would be, if I thought there was any reason to be. It's not like this is the first time."

"This has happened before? Wright, I don't exactly think - "

"Look, Miles, can you just drop it?"

"You need to think about being a better father."

"We can't all be your perfect wonderful dad."

Miles stiffened and scowled. Phoenix flopped down on the loveseat that served as Trucy's bed and huffed, running his hands through his unkempt - but somehow still spiked - hair and staring at the floor.

"I'm sorry, Miles. That was out of line."

"It's fine."

"I know it's not."

"It is fine, Wright."

"Stop fighting," Trucy said, stepping between the two and handing a plate of scrambled eggs to each of them. "Eat breakfast and like each other again! I'll feel too bad about leaving tonight if you're just mad at each other."

Miles poked at the eggs and tentatively pushed a few into his mouth. Trucy's simple cooking always tasted good, but he hated knowing that he would ordinarily be capable of making so much more out of the same basic ingredients - if he could stand up long enough to do so. He stole a glance at Phoenix, who was in turn watching him.

"I really am sorry," Phoenix said quietly. "Your dad was great. If I could be half that kind of father - "

"I don't want to talk about this," Miles interrupted. "It's alright. Please, eat your eggs. They're very good. Thank you, Trucy," he added, and Trucy smiled brightly before shoveling the remnants of her food into her mouth and hopping up to continue her preparations for leaving. Phoenix and Miles sat in silence together until Trucy, complete with a bag packed full and slung over her shoulder, bid them "bye till tomorrow" and they both returned the sentiment. Neither of them mentioned Phoenix's parenting skills again.


Miles was unsurprised that lunch was a bowl of noodles, but he struggled to swallow each consecutive bite. The food wasn't setting well with him - and the painkillers, which he had opted to take the moment Trucy was out of the building, upset his stomach badly. He gave up halfway through the meal, and Phoenix had no problem finishing the remainder of Miles's food for him.

"You should be eating, though, you know," he said when he was finished. Then he stood up and held out both arms. "Come on. No more just sitting around on the sofa today."

Miles sighed and grasped Phoenix's arms, hoisting himself to a wobbling standing position with the added assistance. He hated himself for leaning a little too much on the other man. Phoenix gave no sign of noticing.

"Here's your cane."

"Thank you, Wright." Miles attempted to respond with as much dignity as he could muster, but he felt his face burning hot with embarrassment. Regardless of fifteen days of this, it never felt any easier to have to rely on Phoenix.

"There's no reason to be that formal. Just call me Phoenix. Or even Nick."

"I'm being respectful."

Phoenix barked a hard little laugh, and Miles thought for a moment that he saw the bare truth of what the once-vibrant man had become. "Respectful of what, exactly?"

The man I used to know, Miles thought; aloud, he said, "Simply someone deserving of respect." The only response was a snort, so instead of pursuing that line of conversation, he asked sullenly, "What are the plans for today?"

"You won't like the answer to that." Phoenix picked up a newspaper from the floor, blinked at it as though he'd never seen one before, and tossed it back down again. "So I think you should just go in the bathroom and take off your pants."

"…excuse me?"

"Go on." Phoenix waved a hand idly as he peered now at a discarded box that had once housed some sort of microwaveable food item. "I'll be right there."

"…I'm leaving."

"Eh?"

"I will most certainly not join you in the bathroom for… pantsless activities."

Phoenix frowned in confusion for a few seconds before breaking out into laughter. "Oh, god, Miles, not - no. No no no!"

"You have fifteen seconds to explain yourself."

"Okay, okay. I want you to go back there and take your pants off because you need to look at your leg. Or, you know. Lack thereof."

Miles's scowl quickly transformed into a snarl. "I will do no such thing."

"I know you've been avoiding it, but you've got to start coming to terms with yourself. You'll never heal - emotionally and stuff - if you don't. That's what they say on the talk shows, anyway."

"Precisely why I never take advice from talk shows."

Phoenix gave a distant smirk. "Too bad. I could pick you up and carry you in there if I had to. Or just strip you right here, if you'd rather."

"You wouldn't dare."

Five minutes and an elbow to the eye later, Miles found himself pinned unceremoniously between Phoenix's weight and the flattened springs of the worn old sofa, the too-weary blue eyes of the ex-lawyer shining surprisingly with the joy of victory.

He had never quite hated Phoenix as much as he did in that moment.





"Get off of me."

Miles seethed; Phoenix grinned back at him. The two remained locked in a silent, still, mental battle on the sofa for a few moments before Phoenix spoke up.

"I'm only letting you up if you'll come in the bathroom with me and look at your leg."

"I hate you."

"I'm aware," Phoenix sighed, his grin slipping and his eyes unfocusing just a bit. "Doesn't matter, though, I'm not letting you get out of this."

Miles wanted to argue, wanted to rage and shout and pull out all the stops because he knew the man who was kneeling over him was so broken and vulnerable, but god the pain. The position he had landed in on the sofa was uncomfortable at best, and he was beginning to feel the fire lancing from the place where his leg had been, regardless of his painkillers. So instead, he pulled in a long, slow, shaking breath and said, barely audibly, "Fine, Wright. I will do what you say."

Immediately, Phoenix was on his feet and helping Miles stand as well. "This is going to be good for you, Miles," he said. "I promise. You need this more than you realize."

The two hobbled together to the small bathroom in the back of the office-turned-apartment, Miles scowling as he alternated supporting his weight on first his cane, then Phoenix, and back again to the cane. The walk wasn't a long one, but it was excruciating in more ways than one; Miles wanted desperately to run the other way, to get away from whatever it was Phoenix was going to force him into doing, but that was not an option, and he knew it.

Soon enough, they had reached their destination. Miles perched on the lid of the closed toilet, and Phoenix sat alongside him on the edge of the bathtub, as they once again stared each other down. "I won," Phoenix said after a while, a hollow chuckle hidden behind the words.

"What?"

"I won an argument with you."

"…this is a shock to you?"

"Nowadays, yes, yes it is." An anxious shifting of his weight, then: "But this is about you, not me."

Miles crossed his arms over his chest. "I don't want to do this," he said. He wrenched his eyes shut tightly, but opened them quickly once again when he felt Phoenix's hand resting on his knee. The other man's blue eyes peered upward, and he half-smiled - testing the waters? For the briefest of moments, Miles relaxed, but just as quickly he tensed again.

"It's okay to be scared," Phoenix murmured. "Would it help if I turn out the lights? You can take off your pants first, and then we can turn the lights back on when you're ready."

"Yes. Alright." Miles nodded, nearly imperceptibly. He watched Phoenix stand and move to flick off the lights, and then saw nothing, as darkness descended upon the tiny, windowless bathroom.

Phoenix's voice came out of the air near to him. "Is that good?"

"No," Miles replied instantly. He groaned at the strained note in his voice. "No, Phoenix, no, I'm sorry. This isn't going to work."

"Huh? What's wrong?"

The hand on his knee again; that moment of relaxation before the panic swelled once more. "I can't do it like this. Turn the light back on and open the door, please."

"That isn't going to -"

"Phoenix, please."

"Okay, okay."

When the light had been restored, Miles turned his head to face the bathroom sink. He could feel the heat of anxiety flushing his cheeks and the tears streaking down his face, and he hated himself for both. "I'm sorry," he croaked, more to the porcelain than to the other man.

"No," said Phoenix presently, and Miles was surprised by how soothing the tone had become, "I'm the one who should be sorry. How could I forget? Pitch black and tight spaces - god, Miles, what was I thinking?"

"It's alright. R-really."

Phoenix took a facecloth from the towel rack near the door, ran it under the cold water from the sink, pressed it against Miles's forehead. Against all of his better judgment, Miles sank into the touch, his eyes fluttering shut, and Phoenix took the opportunity to scoot back to his seat on the bathtub and pull Miles as close as the awkward positioning could allow for.

"I'm so sorry," he whispered. "I really suck at taking care of you, don't I?"

Miles smiled ruefully. "You're doing far better than anyone else I've ever known."

"Maybe that's because you're actually letting me in for once?"

"Something I question every day," Miles muttered in response.

Phoenix laughed, and in the space following his laughter, a comfortable, relaxing sort of silence fell between the two of them. Miles felt it wrap him up, safe and warm and thick, and suddenly his mind swam with a thousand things he wanted to say - thank you for being here, thank you for trying, I know I'm impossible and thank you for wanting to help me anyway, don't you have enough on your plate as it is? - but years of keeping emotions from bubbling forth stopped him just short of blurting everything on his mind. Instead he just smiled - a flicker, a small little twinge at the corners of his mouth, but it was enough to get across his gratitude, and Phoenix (with a newfound resolve not to let this moment go to waste) leaned forward and pressed his lips softly against Miles's cheek.

And in that instant, Miles's guard came crashing down around him, and he shuddered visibly to know how weak he'd just become. Regardless, he forced himself to speak: "I thought you wanted me to look at my leg."

"Right. Off with your pants, then."

"Really, Wright, it was just a peck on the cheek -"

"Oh hush." Phoenix stuck his tongue out and turned around. "I'll look at the wall while you take them off. Just tell me when you want me to turn around."

Miles struggled to wriggle out of his pants while remaining seated on the toilet; the feat was difficult enough when he had a whole sofa to sprawl across, but he managed, all the while reminding himself don't look, never look. "There," he said, when the pants were folded and carefully placed on the edge of the sink (the floor being a bit too questionably unclean for Miles's liking).

Phoenix turned around and tilted his head to one side. "You don't wear pink boxers. My fantasy is ruined," he said, as though this was the most natural thing in the world to say in the present situation.

Miles frowned and stared at the ceiling. "No need to make this harder than it already is," he retorted, and then added, "That was not supposed to be quite the Freudian slip it turned out to be..."

Chuckling, Phoenix sat for the third time that afternoon on the bathtub's ledge, fixed Miles with his distant gaze, and said, "You ready?"

"No."

"Take your time."

"Don't tell me that, or I'll never go through with this. And as much as it pains me to say so, you're correct... I know I need to." Miles inhaled deeply and bit his bottom lip, and slowly, purposefully, lowered his gaze past the shower curtain, past Phoenix's shoulder and elbow and thigh, to rest on the sight he'd been doing everything in his power to avoid taking in since he had awakened in that hospital room.

He had expected to see something bloody and mangled where once there was a leg; he had not expected the surprisingly clean and well-bandaged stump of a thigh that he instead found attached to his lower body. The remains of his leg ended some inches above where his knee should have been, and the majority of the thing was encased in a tight, white bandage. He had felt the bandage there, yes, but somehow never registered it. Looking at it now, he allowed himself a moment to be grateful that the sight had been far less gory than he'd imagined.

But that moment was brief, and the full weight of what he saw made him swoon, woozy and ill. There should have been a leg. He could even still feel it, sometimes, but it wasn't there. The stump he was left with didn't look like a leg, but more like a rounded cone, devoid of any real purpose or meaning. In his dizziness, Miles wondered why losing a leg felt so similar to losing his father, and he let out a soft groan before leaning over and heaving.

And Phoenix was there, one hand rubbing Miles's back and the other holding the little plastic bathroom trash can within easy vomiting range. Miles trembled as he heaved, but the warmth and rhythm of Phoenix's hand on his back soothed him, and he soon shakily wiped his mouth with the back of his hand and sat up as straight as he could manage.

"That's all," he croaked. "I can't look more. Not today."

"That's plenty," Phoenix replied, collecting Miles's pants. "It's probably easier to get these back on when you're not crammed into a bathroom, huh?"

Miles nodded. "But I don't know if I can stand right now."

Before Miles could put up much of an argument, Phoenix had hooked one arm under his remaining leg and the other behind his shoulders, and hoisted him up in the air in the same manner that a prince might carry a princess off into the sunset. "To the sofa!" Phoenix said, his voice only slightly straining; Miles wasn't heavy, particularly with one less limb, but Phoenix wasn't exactly in shape either, and the journey back down the hall was slow and more than a little perilous. At one point, Phoenix dropped Miles's pants and declared loudly, "I will return for them!" which, in turn, led Miles to dissolve into soundless, shaking laughter.

By the time the two of them had collapsed onto the sofa once again, they were both laughing aloud. "What would Trucy think of us now?" Phoenix asked as he gasped for a breath.

"She would probably be happy to see us getting along much better than we were this morning," Miles replied, matter-of-factly. Still recovering from his laughing spell, he leaned against Phoenix, resting his head on the other man's shoulder and distantly wondering when the last time was that hoodie he always wore had been washed.

Phoenix smiled. "I think today was a good turning point, don't you?"

"Mm," said Miles.

"Are you falling asleep?"

"Mm."

Phoenix rolled his eyes good-naturedly. "I'm not your pillow."

"It's been a difficult day," Miles murmured, stirring long enough to rest his head against the back of the sofa instead.

"I guess it has. You take a nap, and I'll go pick up some dinner."

"Oh, please, no more noodles. Get something Italian. Take my wallet."

Phoenix grinned. "Alright. No more noodles. See you soon, Miles."

"See you."

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cuttlefishery

August 2012

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