In which are discussed vices, teakettles, and the importance of a balanced breakfast.
The man in magenta himself, meanwhile, was in an equally bad mood. A hot temper was rote at this time of the morning, to keep him warm between the heat of bed and the heat of his first cup of tea, but the saucers rattled with extra aggression today. Ingredients slammed into the cup with as much vengeance as could be mustered without caffeine, shotgun rounds of taste. Bag. Water. Milk.
Edgeworth stopped, momentarily forgetting his belligerence, and regarded the clear plastic bear before him. The exorbitant nature of the container's shape usually struck him with annoyance, but this morning the absurdity of it was enough to slow him from hostility to thoughtfulness. The clock ticked over to 9:02 as he measured out a perfect teaspoonful of honey, and, after the usual stubborn hesitation, touched his tongue to the tip.
It was becoming a vice, he thought, briefly savoring the small taste of sweetness. The von Karma family had always frowned on anything as indulgent as sugar in tea, and he had always thoughtlessly lectured the bellhop as to such values. Now that he was left to his own brewing devices, however, he found to his dismay that the silly little bear was emptying faster and faster by the week. Stirring the remaining honey grimly into the cup, he failed to notice the progression of the minute hand to 9:03.
Vices. Edgeworth knew about vices. They were the bane of a successful man, grit in the cogs of a well-oiled machine--and he was a well-oiled machine, he thought, allowing a moment away from his irritation to preen. That was what had upset him in the first place, wasn't it? Something wrong about the day. Something out of place. He didn't know what it was yet, but when he worked it out, there would be words said to the one responsible, well-placed sardonicism to cut down the mystery offender where he stood. Of course, odds said the cog out of place was...
Edgeworth's scowl deepened, and he swept to the window of his office as only a man in a bright magenta suit and an immaculately-fluffed cravat can sweep. He knew about vices. By all means, they should be something he couldn't afford, as shaky as his position was now. However, as maddening as it was, some desires grew stronger despite even greater strengthening of the case against them. Not the honey; he could quit the honey any time he wanted. Honey was nothing compared to the high of his other vice, the rush of power at making the larger, stronger man squirm and pant beneath him like a dog, the magnum blast of ridiculous physical indulgence so preached against by his adoptive father, the violent, virulent victory of domination, the...
By 9:05, the breathing exercises had done their work, restoring steadiness to Edgeworth's hand and blood to his heart from the outlying regions it had rushed to. He sipped tea that no longer rippled in the trembling throes of distraction and glanced automatically out the window, to the parking spot furthest from the door.
He froze. He remembered.
At 9:06, the cup still spun in a wobbly circle on the floor, the contents soaking into the carpet around pieces of the shattered saucer. The teakettle looked on with some satisfaction at the disarray, silently cheering at a door still slammed wide open, then resumed its clinically depressed thoughts.
"Mister Scruffy Detective? Are you okay?"
Gumshoe snapped out of his reverie, looking around for a moment at eye level before directing a smile down past Phoenix's desk. "Fine, pal! Never been better!"
Pearl gave him a dubious look, chewing a finger. "Are you sure? You looked kinda funny for a second there."
"Just thinkin', missy. Don't worry, I'm not slacking off!" He gave the desk an extra-enthusiastic polish to prove his point, knocking over the lamp in the process. "Oops..."
Pearl winced at the crash, and again at the not-quite-stifled groan from Phoenix in the next room. She liked Gumshoe a lot, even if she didn't always remember his name, but she had to admit that he was, well, pretty clumsy. It seemed especially bad today, though. She'd counted three spilled cups of coffee, one torn curtain, two knocked-over trash cans, one paperweight dropped and lost in a heating vent--that one was to her profit, actually, as he'd given her fifty yen to keep it a secret--eight minutes spent staring off into space, and now, one broken lamp, all in the single hour she'd been at the office.
As he began sweeping up the remains of the unfortunate appliance, she added one tummy growl to the tally. She thought that one over, then brightened, figuring it out. "Are you hungry, Mister Detective?"
Gumshoe jerked in surprise, glass fragments jittering out of the dustpan at the motion. Recovering, he smiled at her again and resumed sweeping. "Yeah, maybe a little, pal."
Pearl pulled herself up to sit on the edge of the desk and swung her legs idly, a guilty pleasure taught to her by Maya. "What'd you have for breakfast?"
"I, uh...skipped it." He straightened up, tipped the glass into the trash, careful not to knock it over this time.
"Wow, you must have had a big dinner last night!"
Gumshoe cringed a bit, bracing himself to absorb the wrath of Pearl. "Skipped that, too."
"But...!" Shock quickly turned to righteous indignance, and Pearl puffed up as only a scolding eight-year-old girl can. "You have to eat something right now!"
"Hey, I can afford to miss a few meals, kiddo," he laughed nervously.
"No, you can't! You'll never grow up big and strong if you don't eat breakfast!" Pearl jumped down and tugged at his sleeve, digging her heels in in an attempt to drag him to the door. "Let's go get something to eat right now!"
Gumshoe hesitated a moment, then stooped. "Wanna know a secret, pal?"
Pearl hesitated in turn. "Like the paperweight?"
"Kinda." He stood long enough to kick the door closed, although he was pretty sure Phoenix had nodded off again. He seemed a lot more tired now that Gumshoe was working for him, a fact that Gumshoe wondered about briefly before turning attention back to Pearl. "You know I don't work for the Police Department anymore, since Miss von Karma, uh, got mad, right?"
Pearl nodded. "That's why you're here."
"Yeah, it's why I'm here. Only I don't wanna mooch off Mr. Wright more than I have to, see?" He brightened, although Pearl noted that it was an awfully tired smile. "So I'm savin' my money for important things."
"But...eating is the most important thing of all!"
He patted his stomach lightly. "Don't worry, kiddo. I've got plenty here to last me a few days, see?"
Pearl stood in silence for a long moment, staring at the floor. Then, in a sudden flurry of determination, she dug into her pocket.
Gumshoe tilted his head curiously. "Whatcha got, missy?"
With brows fiercely furrowed, Pearl produced the fifty yen he had given her. "I'll give this back...but only if you get something to eat with it!"
Confusion slipped into a smile, slipped into a chortle, slipped into a hearty laugh that filled the entire office, and Gumshoe hoisted Pearl onto his shoulders. "Accepted, pal, but only if you join me for breakfast!"
Pearl giggled in delight as the detective strode forward, wrapping her arms around his neck. "Yay, I've got a date!"
"Instant noodles for two tonight, kiddo--" Gumshoe said, and was hit by the door.
Edgeworth paused only for a moment as Gumshoe recoiled, Pearl clinging desperately to his neck as he clutched at his nose. He was livid, or as much so as a man permanently the shade of porcelain could be livid. It was 9:28, well outside of schedule, and he was decidedly satisfied by Gumshoe cringing harder at his scowl than at his ill-timed door-opening. "What are you doing here?"
"Why aren't you at work right now?"
"I am at work, p--Mister Edgeworth! I was fi--" Gumshoe pleaded, one hand still over his nose.
"Do you think I don't know that?" Edgeworth snapped, and thrust something at him. "Here!"
Gumshoe closed his hand over it, recognized the familiar weight without looking at it. "My badge? But--"
"I had you reinstated," Edgeworth said, voice cold and meticulous as ever. "It has nothing to do with you. Franziska needs to be put in her place. Be grateful I bothered."
"But...I..." Gumshoe swallowed. "Th-thanks! Thanks so much!"
Edgeworth snorted. "It's for Wright's benefit, not yours. He's enough of a blithering idiot without your incompetence to weigh him down." He gazed for a moment in calculated disdain at Gumshoe, then threw something else at him, allowing himself a tiny smirk at the surprised grunt produced by the package slamming into the larger man's stomach. "Take that, too."
At 9:29, Edgeworth turned on his heel and swept back toward the door, paused after opening it. "And that saucer's coming out of your paycheck." Slammed it behind him, leaving Pearl and Gumshoe in shock.
After a moment of recovery, Pearl gazed down at the package in Gumshoe's hands with abject curiosity. "What is it?" Still unable to speak, Gumshoe opened the little pink box.
As sweet and welcoming as sunlight after a long winter, a round of soggy Salisbury steak, a pile of dubiously mashed potatoes, and a lonely stalk of broccoli looked up at him.
Gumshoe closed the box, a single tear splashing onto the Angel Starr logo. "Thanks...pal."
Pearl tilted her head, then shook it in resignation. She just didn't understand grown-ups.
At 9:01, the teakettle tried to whistle, as always. It was snatched up again, as it knew it would be, but it felt less disappointed this time, largely as a product of the progressive thought therapy it was now engaging in with a nearby coathook as counselor. It did have to admit, however, that some small part of its acceptance was because the good mood radiating off the man in magenta was hard to resist. Maybe, it thought, a compromise could be reached. Then it resumed thinking about therapeutic yoga, a very big concept for an inanimate object, but one the coathook promised would yield beneficial results.
The man in magenta prepared his tea more lightly today, himself consumed with thoughts of the night before. Vices. He knew about vices. Perhaps more this morning than the last. This was evidenced by the moment of rote hesitation being followed not by a guilty, tentative fraction of the daily sweetness he allowed himself, but by a reshelving of the teaspoon and a healthy squeeze of the silly little bear straight into the cup. He stood at the window and listened to the seconds tick by, eyes set on the parking spot furthest from the door.
At 9:05, a patrol car pulled in, taking up its usual two spaces in its owner's haphazard parking. A larger, stronger man got out, looked up at Edgeworth's window, and waved enthusiastically, as always.
Edgeworth smirked and sipped his tea. Like clockwork.