Gaze

Gaze
a story by Dot


A hawk, the boy remembers thinking as Prosecutor von Karma fixes his piercing gaze on the lady from Social Services and tells her in no uncertain terms that the boy will go with him and no one else. He has eyes like a hawk.

And then the dark orbs swing in his direction, and the boy remembers nothing else.

The boy feels the eyes watching as he pores over his studies, being careful to handle the pages that look older than he is. Watching as he brings home his first report card, his palms sweating and his mouth dry. Watching as he settles into uneasy sleep in an unfamiliar bed.

When the boy prays he imagines the throne of heaven to be like von Karma’s study, the aura therein a sacred space that must never be breached by one so unworthy. Even when von Karma speaks, it is never to address the boy to his face, but few words are needed.

The boy learns to interpret every look. Nothing escapes his attention. He memorizes every quirk of those mountainous eyebrows, every twitch of those thin, dry lips, every flare of those narrow nostrils. Von Karma’s face speaks a language that only he can understand, and he is almost more proud of this than becoming the perfect prosecutor he was meant to be.

The boy is sent to reclaim von Karma’s old hunting grounds alone, and he falters. State v. Fawles falls apart before the unrelenting attacks of the defense–the nerve of that woman, daring to question him!–and though Fawles’ death means the case can no longer proceed he cannot shake the conviction that he had lost.

The boy finds it almost impossible to look von Karma in the eye for God knows how long afterwards.

The famed King of Prosecutors returns to the courthouse where he had first made his name with little fanfare, refusing any interviews during the media feeding frenzy that ensues as he reascends the long stairs up on his first day back. He chases the cameras away with a single imperious glance and continues on his way.

The years pass by in what seems to be an endless parade of suspects, witnesses, and victory after victory. The boy earns his own nickname, but he pays no mind to what the public, his peers, or even his superiors think of him. Only one man’s opinions matter, and his presence in the courtroom is enough to give him the strength the boy needs to push through the web of lies and contradictions to the inevitable verdict.

Phoenix Wright ruins everything.

It is with great reluctance that the boy forgives his rival for marring the perfect win record. Wright seems to possess the devil’s own luck, and does not know when to quit. So it is with a profound sense of irony that he requests Wright as his lawyer, relishing the thought of Wright having to face von Karma as an opponent.

And then the boy steps behind the defense’s desk.

He may as well have fallen into the abyss.

He has never seen this look in von Karma’s eyes before. As terrifying as von Karma’s visage has been while defeating the many money-hungry defense attorneys who would put a criminal back on the street just for a paycheck, he has always shown nothing more than contempt for their lot. But this–this sort of seething, undisguised hatred aimed at none other than the boy himself–is too much to bear. He shrinks as von Karma rages, objects, and accuses him of the unthinkable, and if not for the stalwart defender standing by him he would almost believe the lies being slung across the courtroom.

And then Phoenix Wright achieves the impossible, but it is too late. Even if the boy has been declared innocent of one man’s blood, he cannot–should not–be absolved of another. The echos of the sin he committed fifteen years ago still reverberate during every waking moment. Confessing now, a decade and a half too late, wouldn’t undo what he had done, but at least this way he could at long last stop running from the past and show everyone that he should’ve been the one to die on that horrible day.

“OBJECTION!”

This shout from Wright seems to startle even von Karma, but the boy is horrified when he recognizes Wright’s tone of voice as the same that heralds the beginning of one of his improbable turnabouts. What are you doing? the boy wants to say, but no sound comes out. He is frozen, caught between fear and–hope? What sort of hope could he, a murderer, dare dream to have?

No doubt von Karma shared this sentiment, for his lip was curled in contempt, as if he was doing everything in his power to keep himself from scoffing at Wright’s futile attempts to stave off the inevitable.

And yet–and yet–

And yet, for the first time since the trial has begun, von Karma’s gaze has focused on Wright instead. Does he now consider Wright a credible threat? Of all the absurd things that have happened so far–rampant boundless speculation, obvious bluffing so reaching even the otherwise easy to sway Judge would buy it, cross-examining a parrot–the idea that the invincible von Karma would be intimidated by a man who had yet to earn the distinction of the badge he wore was so outlandish that the boy couldn’t believe he was thinking such borderline heretical thoughts.

And yet, a case was forming amid Wright’s desperate grasps at threads so thin they might as well be woven from angel’s whispers, driven by Wright’s unshaken conviction that the truth was not as simple as anyone believed or made it out to be. And with each passing moment, the boy finds himself wanting to share in that conviction more and more, despite every reason not to. He’s played out That Awful Day in his head over and over and over again so many times that he lost count, and every time, it ends with him holding The Gun in his hands, pulling The Trigger, and committing The Ultimate Sin.

“HOLD IT!”

Wright’s stance grows ever more confident, while von Karma’s theatrics descends into ever hollower posturing. A different picture is starting to emerge from the mess of memories, contradictions, and lies, and the boy reels as the implications begin to sink in. That the man who saved him from an uncertain fate could have been, even in the remotest of possibility, responsible for that very state in the first place, is an idea so abhorrent that the boy almost prefers to remain a supposed murderer.

But hadn’t von Karma himself taught the boy that a Prosecutor’s duty was to unearth the truth, no matter how awful it was, no matter what it took, no matter who wanted to keep it hidden? No, they couldn’t stop now, shouldn’t stop now, mustn’t stop now. The truth of DL-6 would be dragged to light even if it destroyed him and everything he believed.

“TAKE THAT!”

The truth strikes von Karma much like the errant bullet did all those years ago. He roars, clutching at the ghost of the past embedded in his shoulder. In his rage, he seethes at the boy, all the while confessing to have killed the boy’s father–whose blood the boy had believed stained his hands such a crimson red that he couldn’t ever imagine wearing another color for the rest of his life–and spitting out the boy’s true name with such vitriol that von Karma may as well have used the foulest epithets known to man.

When the judge pronounces the verdict and von Karma has to be dragged out of the courtroom by a contingent of police officers, the boy finds himself unable to move from his spot, his knuckles white from clutching the witness stand with both hands. He is falling, a kite with its string cut.

“Edgeworth,” a voice cuts through the fog in his mind, and again in softer, kinder tones, “Miles. It’s over. You’re free.”

The boy looks into the eyes of the man who, for reasons he has yet to comprehend, calls him ‘friend’ and takes in the expression of open, searching worry like one who had been wandering the wilderness and stumbled upon an oasis.

“Thank you,” he manages.

Von Karma’s eyes haunt his nightmares for years afterwards, but Miles Edgeworth decides it is a small price to pay to have a different set watching him.


Unnecessarily Long and Tiresome Authoress’ Notes:
I wrote this mostly to prove to myself that it is entirely possible to write mindfuck without any physical abuse. The reader is free to fill in the blanks, of course, but personally I see von Karma as the kind of bastard who would be able to torment Miles without ever laying finger on him.
I bent continuity a little for the sake of drama: IIRC, 1-5 claims that von Karma won the King of Prosecutors award almost every year, and 1-4 asserts that von Karma only missed work the 6 months after DL-6.

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