Fandom: Ace Attorney. Yeah, I was surprised, too.
Characters: Phoenix Wright, Miles Edgeworth, Maya Fey, Pearl Fey
Spoilers: Through "Justice for All: Farewell My Turnabout" (the fourth case). Major spoilers.
Notes: I can't remember if I've mentioned here that I started a replay of the original Phoenix Wright trilogy, thanks to the sneaky practices of the iPhone App store. Last night, as I was coming up on endgame of "Farewell My Turnabout", I was struck quite forcefully by a plot bunny regarding a possible, very dark, AU outcome to the story. So forcefully that I had to save the game and start writing at that very second. This is the result.
I don't usually prefer to do this, but just this once I am going to warn for character death. Summary is behind the cut because of spoilers.
Summary: Maya's kidnapper goes back on his word, even after Phoenix wins him a full acquittal. Phoenix does not take it well.
"That bastard! That heartless, remorseless, utter bastard!" Phoenix sank down in his desk chair, hands disappearing into his hair as his elbows hit the desk. "How could-- how could he--" The words vanished, locked away by his closing throat, and he closed his eyes against the tears he could fell welling up again. They slipped down his cheek, but they couldn't wash the image away, of Maya-- Maya's--
"I did it," he whispered, looking through the haze at Edgeworth, the only other person in the room. Gumshoe was already at the crime scene, scouring it for evidence. Upon hearing the news, Mia had vanished, and then Pearl... they'd had to sedate Pearl. She was sleeping now, on a cot in the back room. Phoenix wished he could join her in oblivion, but he couldn't. He didn't deserve escape. "I did everything he asked. I helped a guilty man go free. I sent an innocent woman to jail in his place. But it was all for nothing!" He banged his hand on his desk, so hard the phone jumped out of its cradle. "Nothing."
Leaning against the wall, arms crossed, Edgeworth shook his head. "It's not your fault." His voice was uncharacteristically gentle. "You couldn't have known that Engarde would order de Killer to murder Maya even after his acquittal."
Phoenix shook his head. "Couldn't I? You didn't see him in that detention center. You didn't hear his evil laugh, or see the look in his eyes. Even if Matt Engarde never wields a knife or shoots a gun, he still has the soul of a killer." He closed his eyes again and laid his head on his desk. "I should have listened to Maya, and seen that justice was done. No matter what."
Silence fell for a moment, the only sound the beeping of the phone still off its the hook. Then Phoenix heard footsteps followed by the soft click of the phone hanging up, and a strong hand fell on his shoulder. "I'm sorry, Nick." Somehow, Phoenix registered that this was the first time Edgeworth had called him by his first name in -- a very long time. Edgeworth patted his arm, the touch awkward but still welcome. "I'm sorry we couldn't save her."
"I know," Phoenix murmured, twisting around to look up into Edgeworth's concerned face. "I know you did everything you could to find her and to stall the trial proceedings. Thanks for trying."
Edgeworth headed for the door. "At least I expect we'll have enough evidence to charge Engarde with the kidnapping and murder of Maya Fey." He paused, hand resting on the doorknob, and looked at Phoenix again. "We will put him away, Nick. I promise you. This time, Matt Engarde will face true justice."
Phoenix looked away. "Too late for Maya. Or Juan Corrida, or Adrian Andrews."
"It's not truly adequate," Edgeworth agreed. "But it's the best I can do. I wish it were more."
"It's-- it's okay." He lifted his eyes and considered Edgeworth -- once his rival, now the only real friend he had left. "Thanks, Miles."
Edgeworth started, and then he nodded. "Call me if you need anything." He opened the door and walked through, leaving Phoenix totally alone in his office.
Phoenix pushed himself back from his desk, staring at the phone. He would have to call Kurain Village soon, he knew -- tell them what happened, arrange for someone to pick up Pearl. Poor Pearls. He glanced at the door to the back room, but it was still silent within. Part of him wanted to throw himself onto the sofa and scream, but he was afraid of waking Pearl with the noise. Instead, he sunk further down into his chair. His eyes fell on the radio transceiver that de Killer had used to communicate with him during the trial. Would it work both ways? "True justice," Edgeworth had said. But Engarde had always escaped justice before. Could he-- did Phoenix dare to solve this problem in a new way?
As if in a dream, his hand drifted forward, then closed around the transceiver. It was heavy in his hand, like a rock. Or a loaded gun. He lifted it to his mouth and pressed the talk button. "Hello? Is anyone there?"
After an age, the transceiver buzzed. "Good evening, Mr. Wright."
A hot rage rose up in the back of his throat. "Don't you 'good evening' me, you cold-blooded, murdering, son of a-- you-- you--" Phoenix sputtered, tripped up by his sudden fury. This man had killed Maya. What was he even doing, making this call?
"Now, now, Mr. Wright." De Killer chuckled beneath the crackle of static. "You know I'm little more than a weapon in the hands of my clients. It was nothing personal, toward you or Ms. Fey."
"I-- I know. That's-- why I'm calling." Phoenix took a few deep breaths and steeled himself to continue. "I'm wondering how I might go about arranging for your services."
"Ah. I thought that might be the case."
Phoenix pulled back from the radio and stared at it for a second. "You did?"
De Killer chuckled again. "You'd be surprised, Mr. Wright, how often a target becomes a client. Now, I don't think we need to discuss whom you'd like me to kill. I'm assuming, courtroom chatter aside, that it's not the judge."
"No." Phoenix shook his head. "It's who you think it is. But-- don't you have a conflict of interest?"
He could almost hear De Killer's shrug. "Why should I? Once the job is done, we go our separate ways. Now. About the matter of arranging a meeting--"
"Nick?" The voice, so unexpected, caused Phoenix to drop the transceiver. It clattered on the desk, hitting the button to hang up the call. "Nick, what are you doing??!"
He looked up, his hand covering his mouth from its own volition. "Ma-- Maya?!!"
It was her -- in Pearl's pink and gray channeling garb, with Pearl's little girl braids piled atop her head, but it was Maya nonetheless: her face, her voice, her wide eyes. Phoenix could only stare, and then the truth hit him. "Pearl's channeling you. So that means... you're gone. For real." It wasn't a bad dream, or a terrible mistake. Maya was really, truly dead.
"Yeah." She ducked her head a little. "Sorry. But you haven't answered my question. What do you think you're doing?"
Phoenix gestured at the radio. "What do you think I'm doing?"
She shook her head wildly. "You can't do this, Nick. This isn't you!"
"Isn't it?" He laughed, the chuckle harsh in his throat. "I've already destroyed everything else I thought I believed in: truth, justice, the law. What's one more thing?"
"Everything!" She narrowed her eyes and glared at him, hard. "You're not a killer. And you aren't going to become one. Not for my sake."
"For your sake," he repeated, softly. He brushed a knuckle across her rounded, rosy cheek. "Maya. For your sake, I defended a guilty man, and I pulled every dirty trick in the book: I delayed the trial, threw suspicion on an innocent woman, and got a false verdict. And it didn't-- it didn't even work!"
Maya tipped her head sideways and grinned at him, hands on her hips; it was such a perfectly Maya look, and Phoenix's breath caught. "Well, I did tell you not to do it." She raised her eyebrows. "Unless you're going to claim that you never found my note."
"No, I did, but..." Phoenix turned away, and he drew back, resting his hand on the quiet transceiver. "I couldn't do it. I couldn't let you die." His hand tightened on the radio as he spoke. "But you-- Engarde... he killed you anyway, and I-- I can't let him get away with it. I can't! The law failed me, and it failed you." His voice broke, and he squeezed his eyes shut. "I can't fail you again!"
Maya leaned forward over the desk to rest her narrow hands on his shoulders; he looked up into her face and blinked back his tears. "Please, Nick. Please don't do this. Trust the system. Trust Gumshoe and Mr. Edgeworth. Trust yourself. You don't have to kill Matt Engarde and put the stain of his death on your soul. For my sake, if not your own. Please."
Phoenix felt his face crumble. "M-- Maya, I--"
She closed her eyes and touched her forehead to his. Then he jumped out of his chair and almost leaped over the desk in his haste to pull her into his arms; he hugged her to him, crying into her hair. "I'm sorry," he murmured. "I'm so, so sorry."
Her hands closed around his back, and she held him tight. "It's okay, Nick. I forgive you. But only if you forgive yourself. And you'd better not change your mind about Engarde. I'll come back and haunt you if you do."
Phoenix let out a strangled laugh. He heard Maya sniffle, and she pressed her face against his chest. "Goodbye, Nick. I'll see you again." And then her body shifted and she was Pearl again, still clinging to him, tears still on her face. When she spoke, her voice was raw and thin. "Mr.-- Mr. Nick? Was that... Mystic Maya?"
"Yeah." Phoenix hugged her close. "She came to say goodbye." And to talk me out of making a terrible mistake. He reached over to the transceiver and switched it off. He'd give it to the police later -- maybe they could use it to track down de Killer, even to link him to Engarde. Then he returned his attention to Pearl. "I'm so sorry, Pearls."
"Me too," she whispered. Phoenix lifted her up and carried her to the couch, where they sat together, quiet in their shared grief.
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