It had been fifteen months.
To be precise - and Miles Edgeworth was nothing if not precise - it had been fourteen months and twenty-two days.
Today he stood on his apartment balcony, hair wet from a recent shower, jeans half-buttoned, loose white shirt un-tucked and un-ironed. Resting his elbows on the wrought iron balustrade, he sipped a glass of wine, the sun warm on his face as he looked across the Paris rooftops towards Notre Dame. August’s heat baked the tiles, creating a haze that softened the edges of the distant buildings and left behind warmed concrete that felt pleasant under his bare feet.
Fourteen months and twenty-two days since Miles had last heard his voice. Fifteen months and nine days since he’d last seen him, touched him, tasted his lips; smelled his hair, his cologne. Miles’ heart fluttered slightly and his mouth set in a thin line as he remembered that stilted goodbye at the airport. The unsaid words, the formal handshake, the constant looking at the clock. He remembered walking through the gate, forcing his feet forward while his heart pulled in the other direction. He frowned. If he’d known then that it would be the last time, he would have listened to his heart.
A soft rustle of movement from the French windows at his back made him glance over his shoulder.
“As-tu bien dormi?” Miles smiled softly and the other man shrugged, before joining him on the balcony, mimicking Miles’ pose against the balustrade and gazing down to the street below. He wore just a sheet wrapped loosely round the lower half of his body, right hand securing it at his waist while the rest trailed behind him. The whiteness of the bed linen contrasted sharply with the warm brown of his skin and his black, tousled hair. He had a cigarette in his mouth and he lit it, half-closing his dark eyes against the brightness of the sun.
They didn’t speak. Miles watched out of the corner of his eye as the other man smoked, slim fingers touching his lips lightly, thumb brushing the stubble on his cheek, inhaling with soft breaths, unconscious of the sensuality inherent in such mundane actions. But, Miles reflected, that was one of the things he found most attractive about Samir - he just had no damned idea how sexy he was. The smoke from the other man’s cigarette drifted undisturbed in the windless air and the scent of it caught temptingly at the back of Miles’ throat.
“Veux-tu?” As if he could read Miles’ thoughts, Samir casually offered the cigarette without looking up. Miles took it, letting his fingertips brush and linger on the other man’s hand unnecessarily as he did so. That elicited a knowing smile, although Samir still didn’t look up. Miles chuckled lightly in return. “Merci.” The other man pushed away from the balustrade and disappeared back inside the apartment – moments later, Miles heard the bathroom door close and the sound of running water.
They’d met in June, at a reception for the Paris Summer Institute and where Miles had given a lecture to PhD students that Samir had attended. Conversation about the law had been followed by eye contact held just that fraction too long, smiles that were just a fraction too intimate, and eventually dinner at Lapérouse.
He was just a distraction, of course. Miles knew that. Samir knew that. At the end of the summer he’d be leaving anyway, going back to Morocco. But in the meantime, it was a pleasant way to be distracted. Miles put the cigarette to his lips, inhaled and relished the taste of it – dark, bitter, unfiltered - with the flavour of black coffee. He held the smoke at the back of his throat for a while before exhaling.
It was a habit he’d given up years ago – concerned about his health and his professional image when he started working in Los Angeles. But in the past fifteen months he’d stopped caring so much. A pack of Gitanes and the bottle of vodka he kept in the freezer had helped him through many sleepless nights. Phoenix would no doubt be appalled. A bitter smile curved his lips at that thought, and he took another slow drag on the cigarette, watching it glow brighter in response. He still didn’t smoke often enough for the nicotine not to have an immediate effect, and he suddenly felt light-headed.
He couldn’t remember a day that had passed in the last fifteen months when he hadn’t thought about Phoenix in one form or another. Sometimes it was to wonder where he was, worry about what he was doing. At other times it would be more mundane – he’d see something in a shop, a restaurant, a street and find himself making note of it to tell Phoenix later. But of course there was no later, and instead those mental notes made their way into letters that never elicited a response. He had no idea if they reached their intended recipient or whether, if they did, they remained unopened. A box of unopened letters in his own wardrobe inclined him to the pessimistic view, but he still kept writing. He couldn’t stop.
For weeks he’d fought the urge to call, to fly home; reminding himself that Phoenix had asked him not to, had made it clear that he didn’t want Miles around for whatever he had to do. Miles suspected revenge was involved, but he didn’t know against who, or what form it might take. He’d wrestled with the temptation to call Gumshoe, get a private investigator, to try and find out. But whenever he’d started to dial a number he could hear Phoenix’s voice, clearly. “Don’t try to find me. Please.” And so he never had.
In the end, the frustration had led to anger. It was the anger he most remembered. Irrational, occasionally violent, in his mind its target fluctuated constantly between whoever was responsible for the falsified evidence, Phoenix, and his own stupidity.
"You have a life in Europe. You have to live it and leave me to live mine.”
I don’t have a life at all without you. That was what he had wanted to say, what he should have said. But he hadn’t. And Phoenix knew that he wouldn’t. That was really what hurt, what he resented the most. Phoenix knew Miles was incapable of saying those words, then. He knew that no protest would be offered. Miles had made it easy for him, and Phoenix had taken advantage of that weakness and dismissed him as a complication. He suspected that the other man would never know just how deeply those words had been felt. He barely trusted himself to say Phoenix’s name out loud, now. He hadn’t even talked about it to Franziska when he’d visited her at Christmas, although he was aware she knew something had happened.
The forgotten cigarette suddenly reminded him of its existence as it started to burn his fingers. Hurriedly, he stepped over to the table and stubbed it out in the ashtray, taking a swig of his wine as he did so. He could still hear the shower running in the apartment, so he didn’t need to dress for dinner yet.
Miles had given up his old job in the end, to ensure that he never had to return to Los Angeles. If anything was worse than being five thousand miles away from Phoenix now, it was the prospect of being in the same city under the same circumstances. He’d been offered a job lecturing at the Sorbonne and had taken it, immersing himself in his work, and studying in his spare time. He had made a life in Europe, of sorts, but it was a hollow one.
The hardest times were still those first few moments after waking, the memory of warmth and happiness that was always there, before reality rushed in and reminded him of what he had lost.
Sometimes Miles thought he saw his face, or his suit, or his hair - in a crowd on the Metro, or in a gallery, or a restaurant. It was as if his subconscious was punishing him constantly for his failure to act or speak. He’d learned to deal with it, over time, but he couldn’t prevent the slight leap of his heart whenever it happened, no matter how irrational he knew it was.
Even now, after fifteen months, he sometimes woke in the middle of the night and reached out for someone that wasn’t there. Sometimes he reached out and touched warm skin, or woke with an arm across him and imagined for a moment that it was Phoenix lying there, next to him. Those were the most miserable nights, and they inevitably ended with him laying awake and unmoving until daylight, or spending the rest of the night on the sofa with Pess and a bottle of vodka for company.
“Then don’t say anything. That’s usually how it is.”
The worst thing about it was that Phoenix had been right. And for that, he would never truly forgive himself.>