A Von Karma is Perfect
Phoenix and Edgeworth discuss Edgeworth's coming out to his adoptive father.
Phoenix had not changed one bit since their school days.
"So what was it like, coming out to von Karma of all people?"
No warning, no build-up, just Phoenix lifting his head off Miles's shoulder, and then sudden and overwhelming heaviness.
To Phoenix's credit, he seemed to have realized he'd said something off, and he pulled away, sitting up straighter. "Ah, sorry, if that's too personal-"
"No. Though perhaps you could have been more subtle about it, I suspect." A twinge of a smile tugged at the corners of Miles's mouth, but the humor drained from it all too quickly. "... I'd like to answer. But it's a difficult question. So, first I'd like to ask a question of you. How did you know that I came out to... that man?"
"I didn't," Phoenix admitted.
Miles scoffed. Of course, another bluff...
"But I figured you must have. Back when we were in school, you were still-"
Miles braced himself. Here it came - the name he had used in his school days. Before he had dared share his name with anyone other than his father and a few other close relatives.
"-a kid, and even with as supportive as your father was, I don't think you could have gotten surgery then. Right?"
Miles let out a breath he wasn't aware he'd been holding. As clumsy and desperate as Phoenix could get at times, he cared deeply, and he was always thoughtful.
Miles did not like thinking about who he had been in the past. Not about the time when he was a von Karma, and not about the time before his transition had begun.
"Not that I know anything about that sort of thing," Phoenix admitted. "But now you're... well... Mmmm..."
Phoenix's cheeks went red. Thinking about Miles shirtless had left the man speechless.
Miles smiled to himself. Phoenix had described the scars under that shirt as making Miles more "rugged". As Phoenix was the one who had taken a dive off a bridge into a freezing river, Miles had to disagree... but he appreciated the adoration in Phoenix's voice, anyway.
"Mm. And what led you away from the conclusion that I got surgery on my own, after leaving Manfred's care?"
"It wasn't news," Phoenix said.
"It- During that first case, when I found out my opponent's name was Miles Edgeworth, I thought it was you, and I looked you up. I found hundreds of news articles about you, from the real newspapers to the tabloids, analyzing every detail about you, down to the company who made your cravats, but... nothing about you being hospitalized for anything. Even the great Miles Edgeworth can't perfectly hide from the press."
... Observant. Miles didn't give Phoenix enough credit.
"Why in the world would you have thought someone named Miles would be me? I am... grateful, but..."
"The age was right, and... Your father."
"No, your birth father. Gregory Edgeworth. He called you Miles on the phone, once. Then he blamed a bad connection, but I told him I had heard clearly."
Perhaps too observant, Miles thought wryly.
"So he explained. And he told me it was a secret, and I could tell no one until I heard it from you, but if I had questions I could ask him. So... I just... kind of guessed. That you had transitioned since I last saw you."
A sting in Miles's heart - less potent than it had been, but more powerful for its suddenness - left a numb ache in his chest. Grief that seemed like it would never go away... loss that was as fresh all these years later as the day it happened... The remains of the all-destroying, all-consuming guilt...
He looked away from Phoenix's earnest face, his fingers curling into his upper arm. "I suppose I should be grateful. He made his mistakes, but he tried his best to be supportive. ... Does Maya know?"
Phoenix shook his head. "That you're trans? No. I've told her nothing except that we went to school together. I thought it was up to you to say so if you wanted her to know."
The smile returned to Miles's face, this time with all of its warmth back. He liked the girl, but was hardly known for being social outside of a business context and didn't know how to approach her. He relished the thought of sharing something personal with her that wasn't fanning out about the Steel Samurai. "Hm. I appreciate that. And I do want her to know. Could you recommend a hamburger restaurant that I could invite her to?"
"Of course! Well, there's Regrub's Burgers, that's a favorite of Maya and I..." Phoenix stroked his chin with one finger.
"I asked for a restaurant, Wright, not a health code violation," Miles said. His voice had a scolding tone, but the smile had not left his face.
Phoenix scratched the back of his head, that sheepish grin plastered all over his face. "Ah? Ah! I'll... I'll um... look something up online later..."
The comfortable air in the Wright & Co. Law Offices meant Miles could not resist ribbing his boyfriend, and he adopted a faux smug air. "I thought you had said that of course you can recommend a hamburger restaurant."
"Well, it's just all the ones Maya and I go to are..."
"Health code violations?"
Phoenix nodded. "... yeah, heh. Anyway, I don't mean to push, but..."
Miles let out a breath. "... Yes. We seem to have gotten quite off topic."
"I'll be quiet," Phoenix said, laying his head back against Miles's shoulder. "Take your time."
Miles closed his eyes, resting his head against his boyfriend's for comfort. "... I was shocked, at first, when von Karma was able to adopt me without knowing my... legal name. I didn't discover until recently that he had strong-armed my new guardian into making and signing the adoption papers and hardly even read them himself."
"That doesn't seem very perfect," Phoenix murmured.
"So, I... I must admit, I took the easy route. I hid. I was given the chance to be a boy, without an asterisk beside the word, and I took it. I hid it from him a long time. At night, I sneaked out and bought things... I... didn't want him to see. Sports bras, tampons. I was so intensely ashamed that I had to hide, but I did not want him to know. I could not predict what he would do, what he would say. Perhaps he would put the asterisk beside 'boy', or strike it out entirely and write in 'girl'. Perhaps he would..." Miles was choking up. The memories came back in a rush so heavy he couldn't stop them. His hands were shaking. "You understand, I had already lost one father, and for all his faults... And Franziska... I could not lose my sister. Thus I hid it from him. I kept lying about where I was going, what I was doing... I felt so guilty... And after what happened with my father-"
"Ooh. Somebody has broken the rules and needs to be brought to justice," Phoenix said, sitting up and running a fingertip over Miles's shirt, down his chest.
This was absolutely the wrong thing to say and the wrong time to say it, but Miles snorted anyway, feeling a tension in his chest relax. Phoenix's sleepy flirting was so innocent, it took him back to the present. "Did you not just say you'd be quiet?"
"Mmmmm... I can't object? Sorry," Phoenix lay his head back again. "It seemed like I was losing you to those days, so I had to do something silly to wake you up."
Miles was speechless for a moment. "Sometimes I wonder how I tolerate you." Or what I'd do without you.
Phoenix leaned in for a kiss. "There will be time for wondering that after you finish your testimony. So... you were living in secret. You didn't want to lose your new father and your new sister, but it was killing you."
Miles took a moment to compose himself. "Yes... von Karma's ruthlessness had made a positive impression on me in one way, at least... it made me willing to make this work at all costs. But then, I... I made a mistake. I was careless, and he found my... my tampons."
Phoenix tilted his head up, but Miles avoided eye contact, and Phoenix obligingly lowered his gaze again to keep the pressure off. "What happened?"
"He simply asked me to explain. But you knew him as well, did you not? He is incapable of seeming gentle about anything." Miles closed his eyes, picturing the unreadable, neutral look on Manfred's face. "I claimed they were Franziska's, and he snapped his fingers and told me that was impossible. He had only chosen the most perfect tampons for his daughter. And these were an inferior brand."
"I don't really want to picture Manfred von Karma buying tampons... Thanks for the image." Phoenix muttered, giggling to himself.
"I assure you, it was a sight to be seen," Miles agreed, a faintly nostalgic smile on his face. "... But I was forced to come clean, then."
Phoenix's hand squeezed Miles's thigh. "What did he say?"
"He asked me if I was binding my chest. I told him I was. He asked if I would prefer surgery. When I said yes, he simply left the room."
Phoenix sat up suddenly, his eyes going wide. "That wasn't Franziska!"
"I beg your pardon?"
"It was in the tabloids. Maya and I had wondered what von Karma could have been thinking, scheduling a mastectomy for a daughter so young. We always just assumed she wore prosthetics. But... of course. The mastectomy was never for von Karma's daughter..."
Miles smiled. "If there is one thing I can count on you for, Wright, it's that given all the clues, you will always solve the mystery at the very last minute. Yes, Franziska was my cover. Which meant I had to tell her... about me."
"Oh no..." Phoenix whimpered.
"No. Franziska was... Clumsy, youthful, but a true support. A better sister I could not have asked for. Although her father claimed that he would do nothing to help me should I choose to share this information with anyone, it seems that Franziska had just happened to have gender studies added to her curriculum due to a last-minute change by the school board." Miles's lips quirked. "What an unusual coincidence."
Phoenix was utterly incredulous. "Really? Franziska was always wanting to beat you, wasn't she? So... even though she wanted to win, even though she's so young, she was kind to you about this?"
"Beat me, yes. But... Manfred and Franziska shared this philosophy. It means nothing to kick a weakened opponent down. You must face your enemy at their full strength... to make your victory perfect. Reducing me to less than who I really was went against everything the von Karmas stood for. It is why Manfred used me in his lengthy revenge fantasy." Miles closed his eyes, bitter tears coming to them. "What I thought was paternal love was merely the desire to build me up so he could tear me down."
Phoenix grimaced sympathetically. "Respect for you as an opponent... wanting to see you reach your full potential. Even if his ultimate ends were cruel and horrible, that man believed you could do amazing things, and he was right. He believed that you could one day be his equal, and then in the end, not only did you equal him in strength, you defeated him. It's not love, but... it's not hate, either. Complex."
"Hm." Miles swallowed the lump in his throat. "But I did not defeat him. You did."
"Very well. We did," Miles agreed reluctantly. "In any case... Franziska listened patiently, then assured me that if I thought this would make her go easy on me, I was completely wrong, and she would see me defeated before long. And when the surgeon called me 'she', and I did not correct him for fear of shaming the von Karma name and losing my chance, Franziska was up with her riding crop, telling him off." Miles affected Franziska's accent. "His name is Miles, and he's a boy. If you are such a fool you cannot keep something so simple straight during this brief meeting, then I wonder whether you are really fit to operate on my brother."
"Wow, it's like she's right here..." Phoenix said with a shiver.
"So... that is what happened. Save those first moments, Manfred never called ill attention to my being trans, never disparaged me, never misgendered or deadnamed me once. Never even asked me my deadname, though I suppose he still had the old adoption papers. Never relaxed his standards. He had my legal name changed, got my surgery and hormones, and went no further. That was its own kind of exhausting. I had to struggle to establish that as a trans man, I needed different things than if I had been a cis man. Franziska did her research, and he did whatever the two of us asked him for, no questions asked. I no longer had to sneak out to buy tampons and such, because he bought them for me. It was a lot, all in the name of making me a more perfect Miles Edgeworth. Because he needed to defeat a perfect Edgeworth to be satisfied."
Phoenix snuggled into Miles. "That may be true. But thanks to him, there's a perfect Miles Edgeworth sitting beside me right now. So even if he had evil intentions... I'm glad he did it."
Miles was stunned for a moment, then smiled. "You are a shameless flirt, Phoenix Wright."
Phoenix nuzzled his face into Miles. "Someone has to be, or we'd never get to the bedroom. Though honestly, I think you get off on your work..."
"How dare you," Miles said, insulted. "... Though I suppose you are, in fact, my work."
Phoenix cackled, rolling off the couch, tossing his suit jacket over his arm, and heading for the door. "That's right. I'm your job. You said it yourself. So, take me back to yours, and let me use your wifi to find a burger place. The neighbors put a password on theirs. But I'm just warning you, Maya might not like anything fancy..."
"Passing the health examination does not a fancy restaurant make!" Miles called after him, but he was already out the door.
Honestly, Phoenix was impossible... but he was Miles's. Miles sighed, smiled, and picked up his jacket.