CHARACTERS: Phoenix Wright/Mia Fey
WORD COUNT: 5,550
SUMMARY: Phoenix Wright, fresh out of law school, turns up on Mia Fey's doorstep.
NOTES: For lesbillion's birthday.
Mia Fey may not have actively been advertising a job opening at Fey and Co. Law Offices, but she's a woman who appreciates initiative being taken. That's why when Phoenix Wright turns up at her office unannounced, with every intention of explaining why she should hire him, she doesn't do what most employers would do, doesn't show him the door. A big part of it is to do with the fact that she's so unbelievably relieved that he's not coming to her as a client; she's always been able to tell that he's good at heart, that he only wants to help people, but he was always a tad naïve, and she could just see him having the worst sort of luck that ended with him being held accountable for other people's misdeeds.
He sits down in front of her, all smiles and fidgety hands, unable to suppress neither his excitement nor his nerves, and there's just something different about him. There's something in the way he holds himself that tells Mia he's capable of far more than even he believes he is, and she's always been a fan of going with her gut. As an aside, she notes that he looks much better without a hand-knitted jumper, thrown together from various shades of pink, bogging him down, even if the twenty-dollar grey suit he's wearing looks so cheap that Mia's certain she could reach out and tear it in two like a wet paper towel.
“Look,” he says, reaching inside his jacket, so that he can flash his badge, “I finally got this.”
She remembers him saying something about studying law on the side, but she'd never expected that to actually amount to anything. He certainly had the determination for it all along, but it wasn't the easiest of fields to get into; he's a hard worker, then. That's one point in his favour, though Mia has no real intentions of hiring anyone, quite yet. She reaches out, taking the badge from him, as if trying to discern its credibility. She weighs it in her palm, and it doesn't feel any different to her own, but that isn't to say that forgeries can't be made. Not that she believes Phoenix would do something like that, but she has to be a professional, has to do all the appropriate background checks.
“Really?” Phoenix asks when she tells him as much, “It's not like it's made from cardboard or anything, but alright...”
She could charge up her magatama and see if he's being truthful in half a heartbeat, but Mia's used to doing things the long way by now. She asks him for his résumé. With a nervous laugh, Phoenix scratches the back of his neck, as if hoping that the subject wouldn't come up.
“Is this your first time working?” Mia asks, arms folded across her chest. She's trying to be reasonable here, but he's making it difficult to be fair. Coming unprepared earns him no points in her favour, but still, there's this energy about him that makes it difficult to turn him away completely. It's probably what he said when he first arrived that won her over: how he wants to work for her because she's done so much to help him, and without her, he wouldn't be a free man today. Mia wonders if she's too easily swayed by gratitude, but she manages to remain firm, hasn't shown a drop of inclination that this interview is going particularly well.
“Of course it isn't! I helped at my dad's garage whenever there was work,” Phoenix explains, though he certainly doesn't look like the sort to work around cars. “And then at a fast food place near my college. That's not forgetting the corner shop, or the clothes store down the road... Phew! At times, balancing them all almost felt impossible.”
Mia raises an eyebrow. It's definitely more than she was expecting, but if it's true, he's definitely got the sort of drive a lawyer needs.
“You worked for four different employers at the same time?”
“That's right! Law school isn't cheap, you know. In fact, I still haven't seen any of that money...”
Again, she still has to make sure that there's truth behind his words, but it's considerably more difficult to doubt him when he begins scribbling contact numbers out on the back of one of her business cards. A little more intrigued now, she asks him where he's living. At either one of his parents' houses, he says, but they're a little over an hour away from the city, so it can be inconvenient for him. For them, too, he adds, because he's twenty-four now, and they don't want another mouth to feed. Recently, he's been crashing on the floor of his friend's houses, but, he adds with a sigh, people feel less inclined to have him around when they realise that being a lawyer doesn't mean he's instantly rich. Mia asks if he's been living in his car, and he only laughs, saying that he wishes he had a mobile home with functioning locks.
She looks over to Phoenix, down at the badge she's still holding in her hand, and then around her office. It really is a terrible mess; there's a shipment of books that've just come in, and she hasn't even attempted to move yet, and no one's worked the front desk in months. It's a good thing that she's a renowned enough defence attorney to still get business in spite of her current working situation, she thinks, and then sighs, knowing that this is ridiculous. She can't hire somebody simply because they're made themselves broke in an attempt to get through law school, no matter how sorry she feels for them.
Still, there definitely is something about Phoenix she's drawn to. She trusted him as a client, and she'd trust him as an employee, too. More than that, she knows that she could teach him better than anyone else could. He just has this energy about him, an enthusiasm for the job he doesn't yet have, kept under-wraps by a healthy dose of sarcasm. Mia sighs, dropping his badge into her jacket pocket. He can have it back if and when it turns out to be real.
“Can you move those boxes into the next room for me, Phoenix?” she asks, pointing at the stack almost blocking the door. Best to get rid of any fire hazards, she reasons.
Phoenix is on his feet in an instant, so excited that the chair falls back, landing with a clatter against the floor.
“You've got it, Boss!” he says, and Mia blinks, holding up a hand to stop him in his tracks.
“Boss? I've not said anything about hiring you, have I? I need some help around the office with heavy lifting, but that might be as far as it goes.”
Apparently, nothing she says will wipe the smile off his face.
“Okay. Then you've still got it, Chief,” he says, correcting himself.
Mia turns in her chair, watching as he throws his jacket onto the sofa, so that he can roll his sleeves up and take hold of the first of the boxes. He's definitely not made for manual labour like this, and Mia winces, worried that he's going to put his back out in an effort to impress her.
She really doesn't know what she's got herself into.
The boxes are all moved and the books stacked on her shelves in alphabetical order in no time, but Phoenix comes by the next day, and the day after that. He does odd jobs around the office, including those he isn't particularly good at, but Mia appreciates the sentiment. She also appreciates that he's willing to run out and get her lunch or a coffee at a moment's notice. As nice as having somebody around the office to do all the menial tasks is, she doesn't have any intention of stringing him along. She gets in touch with his college and manages to speak to his teachers, and they all have glowing things to say about him. Most of the impromptu references revolve around his dedication to the subject, to how he succeeded in passing the course in spite of the odds stacked against him – after all, he had no real background in anything involving law, and was entering the fray as a complete beginner.
His employers, too, have good things to say, even if most of those good things consist of the fact that he never complained about how little he was paid.
With that much in mind, at the end of the third day, when she's packing her bag to leave and Phoenix is about to show himself out, Mia points at the sofa opposite the reception desk, and he obediently sits down, even if he doesn't understand why. She throws him a set of spare keys, and he grabs them, fumbling with them between his palms like she's just plucked them out of a furnace, and then he just looks at them dangling between pinched fingers, as if he doesn't understand what keys are. Mia lets out a light, breathy laugh, and Phoenix grins up at her, even if she hasn't explained herself.
“Did you hear what's been happening? Two of the offices in this neighbourhood were burgled in as many weeks. It made me think that I need some sort of security; some, but not too much. Any potential security guard could probably sleep through their shifts! If you want, the position's yours,” Mia explains, and she knows Phoenix knows this is her way of offering him a place to stay of a night, because she can't bear the thought of him spending his few remaining dollars in a seedy motel, or begging an old friend for use of their sofa. Still, there's more to it than that; it's an expression of trust, a way to let him know that she is taking this seriously, and that his efforts are appreciated.
They both know he wouldn't make much of a security guard, but when she looks at him, she's damn near convinced that he could scare anyone away with the sheer force of all the enthusiasm suddenly built up inside of him alone.
“Chief!” he exclaims, jumping to his feet. He makes an awkward swooping motion, which Mia suspects is him going in for an embrace, which he then confirms by adding: “Let's hug it out, okay?”
Mia laughs with her brow furrowed, like it's the daftest idea she's ever heard, but soon finds herself with her arms wrapped tightly around him, and the breath nearly knocked clean out of her lungs. It's not until then that it hits her how nice it is to have someone in the office, someone around to talk to. That's the thing she's always struggled with most in the world outside of Kurain; there are so many people surrounding her, and yet the city seems to revolve far too quickly for her to keep up with. It's not as if she's gone out of her way to avoid making friends, but none of it has happened as naturally as she would've liked it to. When she isn't in the courtroom, she feels like nothing less than an outsider.
She might say that she's doing all she can to give a young, struggling lawyer both a chance at having a roof over his head and furthering his career, but some part of her knows that deep down, this is as much for him as it is for her. But that's okay, she thinks, bidding him farewell for the night. It's alright for her to be selfish from time to time.
In some respects, Mia is a very private person. There are a lot of things most people wouldn't understand or accept about her family, and so quite simply, she doesn't bring it up. She doesn't go out of her way to bury her past, either. She keeps the Fey name, keeps a magatama hung around her neck, and would never shy away from telling the truth, if pressed. Because of all that, she's become a remarkably good listener, which only helps in her professional life. She knows what to listen for, how to pick out all the discrepancies and clues, and following on from that, she knows what questions to ask, and when to ask them.
She learns a lot about Phoenix in a short amount of him. Of course, there are things she's smarter than to bring up, and they certainly don't speak about Dollie, or any girlfriend he may have had since then. He tells her all about why he's become a lawyer, and it seems that his reasoning, his dream, hasn't changed since she first met him. He wants to save his friend, he says, and then mentions that said friend happens to be Miles Edgeworth; Mia thinks that he might really be onto something there, because there is something utterly unnerving about squaring off against that man that almost makes her think he's beyond hope. But if anyone can make him believe that it's the lives of people they're putting on trial that really matter, and not a perfect win record, it's Phoenix Wright.
She gets to her office at eight AM every morning, and Phoenix is there to greet her, eyes forced open far too wide in an effort to stop them from looking bleary. She ignores the fact that he's spent a better part of his so-called shift sleeping, though they both know he hasn't been keeping a vigilant eye out, and then dismisses him for the day. He's never gone for long, though. He always pops back once midday rolls around, always with a different reason she can't very well turn down. He wants to know if she'd like him to get her lunch for for her; he wants to know if it's alright to come back in to carry on reading one of the books on her shelves that caught his eye; he wants to know how things are going with her latest case, and if she needs help with anything, anything at all.
And so she spends her afternoons with Phoenix, the two of them sat either side of her desk, pouring over some vital piece of information or another. Mia tests him without him realising it most of the time, and while Phoenix certainly knows enough to have passed the bar, and has the sort of fighting spirit a person needs to face off against a prosecutor in a court of law, he does have a terrible habit of occasionally tripping over the obvious. He certainly has the potential to think outside of the box, but he has an awful way of confining himself to it by focusing too hard on one single point, on the first thing that comes before him. It's no real problem, though. The spark's there, and Mia just needs to nudge him in the right direction now and again.
Two weeks later, once Mia's used to having him live in her office, she withdraws three hundred dollars from her account and hands it over to him. He takes it firmly in his hand, grasping it so tight that his knuckles turn white, as if he's terrified some passer-by on the street below will smell the scent of cash, and run up to steal it from him. For a moment, Mia thinks he's about to swoop in for another hug, but then he seems to remember that they're in a work place, and simply clears his throat, thanking her as he folds the money into his tattered old wallet.
When Phoenix returns in the afternoon of the same day, he's wearing a bright blue suit, made to an almost passable standard. Almost. Mia knows it has to be new, because she's seen him down at the laundrette once or twice; all he seems to keep on him are two of those horrible grey suits and a pair of jeans and a t-shirt, the latter of which he only wears while his work clothes are being cleaned. A new purchase, then. She wants to jump to her feet and yank his tie so hard that he can't undo the knot, because who in their right mind buys a new suit when they can barely afford two meals a day?
“Wright!” she says, getting to her feet in a flash, hands slamming down against her desk. “Don't tell me that's what you spent your pay on.”
Phoenix straightens out his tie with a proud grin, and Mia has to wonder what on Earth made him think pink and blue went together.
“That's right, Chief! I don't have to spend all my days worrying that the washing machine's going to tear up my suit, now.”
“Even if that is a valid concern, a suit's going to be no good to you if you starve to death.”
But to her relief, it seems that Phoenix had no intention of wasting away in the first place. He jerks a thumb over his shoulder, over into the reception area-slash-make-shift bedroom, and Mia cautiously circles around her desk, eyes on Phoenix the entire time. Stood next to him, she peers through the doorway, only to be met by the biggest pile of pots of instant noodles she's ever seen. Utterly unimpressed, she grabs hold of the front of his shirt, in order to be able to lecture him properly.
“And how many of the vital food groups do you find in dried out noodles, Wright?” she asks, and Phoenix is starting to understand that she only uses his surname when things are serious.
He makes an odd face, like his mouth is trying to mimic the shape of a question mark, and then stupidly ventures an answer.
“I'd have to go with— carbs?” Later, he points out his reasoning was that everyone seemed wary of eating too many carbohydrates, so of course they'd try to sell them off for as cheap as possible. Mia isn't particularly pleased by his logic then, either.
With a huff, she lets go of his now crinkled shirt, realising that he's a grown man. She can't tell him how to spend his money; not until he passes out from hunger at the very least, and that will serve him right.
“Don't worry about it, Chief,” he says, trying to get her attention when she returns to her stack of paperwork. “Come on, Mia—once I've saved up enough money, I'll take both of us out for a real meal.”
And that certainly garners it well enough. She raises an eyebrow, looking up to him with a look so sceptical that she swears she sees a chill run through him.
“You're going to take me out for a meal with the money I've given you?” she asks slowly, as if she's not quite understanding him. “Phoenix Wright, you're the definition of a gentleman.”
Phoenix opens his mouth to reply, but shuts it back up pretty damn fast. It's like that much didn't initially occur to him, and when it finally does, he finds himself laughing. Mia's expression remains neutral for all of three seconds, at which point her lips twitch, and she's laughing too. The more she laughs, the more Phoenix laughs, and it's a vicious cycle that's as ridiculous as it is hilarious, because there's nothing particularly funny. She dabs the corners of her eyes with a tissue, just enjoying the chance to laugh without restraint for once.
“Oh,” she finally says, when she can speak without losing herself to laughter, “I'd better up your pay, hadn't I?”
Phoenix Wright becomes part of the furniture, and Mia starts to wonder how the office functioned as smoothly as it did without him. She'd hired plenty of temporary workers in the past, but their interest had always been transient, stretching so far as their pay cheque did. No one had thought to make the place their home as Phoenix does, and he goes about it more literally than most. After a few months, she thinks to tell Maya about him. Not any of the details, of course, because business is business and she likes to keep that side of things away from Maya, but enough to stop Maya from fretting; she always says that Mia hasn't made enough friends in the city. Maya's harmless naïvety is still endearing to her, even after all these years. It's just not like Kurain, where everyone knows one another, and always has time for their neighbours. She's past the same people in the street hundreds of times, seen them change over a handful of years, but has never even said hello or given them a nod of acknowledgement.
One Saturday, despite having allowed herself to stay in bed a full two hours later than she would on a workday, Mia finds herself restless. There is absolutely nothing for her to do, and the day drags on needlessly long. By twelve o'clock, she feels as if she has been awake for a week, and she idly finds herself wondering what Phoenix's doing. A second later, she comes to the conclusion that he's most likely gorging himself on instant noodles and pouring over a stack of her law books. She can only hope that he has the common sense not to drip any of the so-called soup over the pages.
By five in the evening, once she's done all of her household chores and has enough clean washing to last the better part of a month, Mia realises that she really needs to stop putting off the inevitable, and decide on what she's going to do with Phoenix. It's not fair to keep stringing him along under the flimsy guise that he's her security guard, even if he gets a place to stay and constant access to all sorts of resources he otherwise wouldn't have. She knows that Phoenix probably couldn't scare off even the most nervous of first-time burglars, and would probably be putting him at risk, if any of the break-ins in the area she'd mentioned had actually happened. Still, whether it's safe or not, Mia can't afford to be paying his way when she's not even getting as much use from him as she could.
With her thoughts finally in order, Mia decides that it's best to break the news to him in person. She picks up her jacket and purse, heads out of her apartment, and takes a little detour, before reaching her office.
One thing that was always incredibly bizarre to her about the city (about anywhere outside of Kurain, honestly) were people's eating habits. Back home, it was a way to socialise, a way to share with your friends and family what you'd done throughout the day, or the dreams you'd had the previous night. The food was all home-made, home-grown, and carefully presented, and it was never something that was rushed, never taken for granted, either. Imagine her surprise, then, when she had first come across people buying ready-made sandwiches, take-aways, and devouring them as they walked, as they worked, barely even seeming to register the fact that they were eating in the first place. Meals, for the most part, were an inconvenience, and eating was something that unfortunately had to be crammed into an already hectic schedule.
It amuses Mia to think how naïve she had been all those years ago, because here she is, carrying a large pepperoni pizza between her hands, a six-pack of beer perched on top of the box. It's certainly not something she makes a habit of, but it doesn't even feel like a novelty anymore.
She places the meal that's probably just as unhealthy as Phoenix's instant noodles on the floor as she unlocks the office door, because though she tries, knocking doesn't garner Phoenix's attention. He might not even be in, she realises, not really knowing how he spends his free time, or how many friends he has in close proximity. It really would be depressing to have to spend the evening alone in her office, eating greasy pizza and drinking warm beer, Mia thinks with a frown, but a few seconds later, she does, indeed, come across Phoenix.
All she can do is laugh. Her mental imagine of him studying hard throughout the weekend is entirely shattered, because there he is, sprawled out on the sofa, snoring with his mouth open. He's got a blanket thrown over his torso, but if the pile of clothing scattered across the floor is anything to go by, probably only has boxer shorts on right now. Or so Mia hopes, at least, because that's a level of awkward she's not sure she knows him well enough to get into, just yet. Without moving to wake him, she stands over Phoenix with her arms folded, staring down, waiting for him to stir of his own accord.
It doesn't take long. The sound of the door unlocking and Mia placing the pizza and beer down on the sofa must've disturbed his dreams, because within thirty seconds, he's blinking his eyes open, staring blearily up at her. He just has this completely sappy, hazy expression on his face, where he's not yet awake enough to realise what's going on, and Mia lets it all sink in without saying anything. A few more moments pass, and then all of a sudden, Phoenix has bolted upright, clutching at the blanket around him.
“Ch-Chief—!” he exclaims, voice coming out an octave or two higher than is strictly necessary, “What are you doing here? Oh, man, don't tell me I slept through the whole weekend...”
Mia shakes her head, letting out a long suffering sigh. Best to leave him with some of his dignity intact, she thinks.
“I need to check something in one of the books in my office. It shouldn't take any more than five minutes,” she says, and quickly makes herself scarce.
With the door closed behind her, Mia leans against the edge of her desk, watching her watch. She might be generous, but not infinitely so, and if Phoenix hasn't made himself decent within the allotted amount of time, she's going back out there anyway. Working such odd hours for her must've messed up his sleep pattern, she supposes, but then thinks that maybe it's how he likes to spend his weekends. It's disappointing if it is, because she had much higher hopes for him. She can hear him scrambling to get ready in the other room, and the sound of what may well be him hopping across the floor as he tries to get one of his leg into a pair of unruly trousers, and lets out a laugh, deciding that she can stand to allow him six minutes, when she really thinks about it.
When Mia cautiously opens the door and peers out, she finds that Phoenix has fixed himself up surprisingly well. He's got trousers on again, which is always a bonus, and the shirt he's pulled all is almost entirely free of creases. The tips of his hair are wet where he's splashed water on his face in order to wake himself up, but for the most part, he looks completely with it. He even offers her up a lopsided smile, and she can't hope but mirror it.
“So you came for a book... ?” he asks in a way that tell her he knows that's not why she's there, unable to take his eyes off the pizza for long.
“Actually, I'm here to celebrate,” Mia says, sitting down on the sofa that wasn't Phoenix's bed short minutes ago, crossing one leg over the other. Phoenix forms a silent, curious oh? as he sits down next to her, hands clasped together as he leans forward. “I finally hired myself an assistant.”
As soon as she says the words, it's as if time's stopped. Phoenix stares at her, doesn't even seem to blink, and Mia smiles back, waiting for some reaction from him. Eventually, his eyes go wide, and he opens his mouth to say absolutely nothing, having to stop to clear his throat.
“That's—that's great!” he says, uncertainty rife in his every syllable, “And I think I know who it is, but I've been really wrong about these things before. Do you think you could turn down the suspense, Chief?”
If Mia had, in fact, turned up with pizza, beer and the explanation that she was there to celebrate getting a new assistant, and said assistant wasn't Phoenix, then that would make her crueller than what she's even heard about Manfred von Karma. Not needing to say anything to dispel Phoenix's fears, she holds out a hand for him to shake.
“... no way. You really mean it?” he asks, staring down at her hand like it's made of solid gold.
“The job's yours if you want it, Phoenix.”
And then Phoenix is grasping her hand between both of his, grip as tight as his grin is wide, and Mia can't help but bow her head when he does the same, head-butting him on the top of his head. He laughs through his thanks, seemingly amazed that he's actually managed to get a job, as if he doesn't yet believe in himself. That will have to change, Mia thinks, but for now, she's willing to believe enough for the two of them. When he finally composes himself, he's still wearing that lopsided grin of his, and Mia tells him to calm down; he's going to pass out, if he doesn't have something to eat.
They spend their evening sat there, cross-legged on the sofa so that they face one another, sharing the pizza and the beer, and even play black jack for a while, when Phoenix manages to dig out an old deck of cards from his belongings. It's only when the city outside the window is pitch black that Mia realises how long they've been talking, because Phoenix has so much to say, so much excitement to share; he talks about all the cases he'll tag along with Mia to, how he's going to help her with her research, her cross-examinations, how he'll even clean the office toilet, if that's what she needs. And that's what she likes about him, why she's willing to give him this chance, because there's no arrogance there. He isn't conceited, isn't aiming towards perfection; he knows he's only learnt a drop of what he needs to, and is willing to keep his mind open, to dive head-first into that ocean.
With the pizza all gone, they lean back against the sofa, both complaining that they've eaten too much, and Mia feels younger, without really knowing why. It's not until Phoenix says he feels like he's in college all over again, spending the night eating far too much junk food as if that will help him pass his next big test, that Mia realises what it is. One thing's for certain, despite his supposed college antics: Mia can hold her alcohol a lot better than he does. The conversation moves away from work, and Phoenix starts talking about apartments, because he's been looking for somewhere to live, honest, he's not just taking advantage of her generosity; there's somewhere he can move into as soon as he has a steady income, somewhere no bigger than an attic, but enough to call his own.
Mia pats his head when he rests it against her shoulder, slouching against her. He's got his eyes closed by this point, but keeps murmuring things to her, and for some reason, he's really, really insistent that he's still going to keep the office spotless, bathroom especially. Tilting her her head to the side, she rests her jaw atop his head, then bows her head to kiss his already ruffled hair. Even with his face buried in her shoulder, she can still tell how much is face is glowing from the way he clings to her, laughing as if he's never been happier.
He's a silly man, but so open and honest that Mia can't help but be drawn to him, even if he is bound to get himself in mountains of trouble. That said, as he loops his arms around her in a way that's going to make him turn as pink as his tie tomorrow, she supposes that somebody has to become the Co in Fey and Co, one day.
Right now, Mia can't imagine anyone she'd rather have.