Maya's eyes snapped open. She shook her head slightly. Part of her felt as if she'd been asleep for years. The other part felt as if she'd not gotten enough sleep at all. She rolled to her side, watching the sun filter in through the blinds and onto Phoenix's resting face. There was such a sense of peace about him at this time in the morning. She smiled. Her eyes traveled along the lines on his face, the creases forming around his eyes that hadn't been there the year before, the way his lips parted ever so slightly when he breathed out. His hair was a mess, so unlike how it looked when he was on the job. There was no other man on the planet who could make her feel so comfortable, so free.
Then the guilt set in.
He deserves better, Maya thought. She hated this part of the trip, where she knew she was wasting his life. He was too loyal to leave, to selfless to let her know he was miserable waiting for her. She was so close to mastering the Kurain Channeling Technique. That was what she wanted, and why she had trained so hard in the first place. But she was also so close to being permanently stuck in Kurain Village, with even less time to go out and travel. Less time with Phoenix. Phoenix had promised he could do this, but... could she do this to him? Could she seize control of his happiness, only releasing it every couple of years?
She asked herself these questions every visit. Every morning she awoke earlier than he did. Every morning she looked for evidence of change in his face from the last time she was able to visit. And every time she told herself she could do this, because she loved Phoenix. She loved him more than anyone could love anyone else, she imagined. And every time she pushed those feelings down. With Phoenix's happy exterior breaking more often over the past year, usually during their hours-long phone calls every week, she'd held on tighter than ever. She couldn't lose him.
But... If she really loved him, would she keep him hostage like this?
"Oh, not again," she groaned, and leaned herself up against the headboard, her hands on her face, elbows on her knees. Tears began streaming down her face.
"Wh-what's wrong?" The movement had been enough to wake Phoenix, it seemed.
"N-Nothing," Maya lied.
She threw her hands down to her sides. "Why are we doing this?" she asked defiantly.
Phoenix blinked. He was not awake enough for this conversation. "Doing what?" he asked, immediately realizing what she meant after the words had left his mouth.
"Why are you wasting your life with me?" The tears weren't stopping now. "Why do you let me hurt you?"
"Wait wait wait," Phoenix held up a hand. "You don't hurt me, Maya. I choose to be in a relationship with you." He squinted, trying to figure out what was happening.
Maya stared Phoenix down. "I do hurt you. I'm never around. I know that makes you sad. You--"
Phoenix sat up and put his fingertips on his forehead. "Just yesterday you were arguing for us to stay together."
Maya returned her gaze to her knees. "I know." Phoenix sighed. "It's just... it's hard. I know you choose to be with me, and I choose to be with you, but I can't help but feel like I'm holding you back."
"I also know you're not in touch with yourself enough to know any better." Maya sighed. "You could have a relationship here. You could be out having fun with your friends. But you stay here, so you can talk to me on the phone sometimes. So you can imagine what life would be like if things were different. But they're not different. They never will be. Do we really think this is going to last forever? That you'll stay with me, like this, for the rest of your life? If nothing else, aren't you tired of us always having this conversation?"
Phoenix exhaled, unaware he'd been holding his breath, and leaned his head against the headboard. "Can we... can we just table this conversation for a bit?" It was unlike him to not want to talk things out, but he knew Trucy was going to want to have help getting ready for her show tonight. He was surprised she hadn't called already. Maybe Pearl had convinced her not to.
"Fine." Maya shifted off of the bed and went into the bathroom, and Phoenix could hear the shower turn on.
The phone rang. It wasn't Pearl, but Edgeworth.
"Miles? Uh. No, no this is a good time. I could use the distraction." He slid off the bed and into his Steel Samurai slippers. Athena had gotten them for him as a joke, but they were actually pretty comfortable. "No, nothing's wrong. Just... what's up?"
"I NEED ALL THE DETAILS!" Pearl yelled at the top of her lungs.
Apollo covered his ears. "Why are you yelling?! And why are we in the office on a Saturday?"
Trucy was getting ready. "I left all my stuff here!" she yelled from the bathroom. "It's so... clean... in here. Like, aggressively clean."
"Yeah, Apollo was in a mood," Clay responded, returning from the coffeemaker with two cups of coffee. He handed one to Apollo, and blew over the top of the other before taking a long sip. "Ahhh. So. Yes. Deets, girl."
Athena blushed, and Widget flashed green and blue. "I don't know what to say, I mean, he picked me up, and Gumshoe drove us--"
Apollo nearly spit out his own coffee. "GUMSHOE drove you to the restaurant?"
"I mean, neither of us have cars..."
Clay hit Apollo on the shoulder. "Let her talk!" Apollo rolled his eyes in response.
Pearl followed suit and hit Apollo on his other shoulder. "Yeah! Let her talk!"
"I AM HOLDING A HOT CUP OF COFFEE PLEASE DO NOT HIT ME!"
"Continue," Clay said, ignoring his boyfriend.
"Um, so the restaurant was really nice, and we got a really cute seat, and Aleksi was really nice and got us some good food and wine..."
"Wine? You had wine?" Apollo asked aggressively.
"Um, yeah, a glass or two..."
Apollo' eyes narrowed. "Did he take advantage of you?"
"...What? What? No!" Athena's face turned bright red.
Apollo's eyes narrowed further. "...Did you take advantage of him?"
Clay actually spit some coffee out of his mouth, but it landed back into his cup. "Can you shut up for two seconds? We'll get to the sex!"
"WE. DIDN'T. HAVE. SEX." Athena couldn't possibly turn more red. Widget was flashing between red and yellow. After a large breath, she sat back down. "After dinner, we went back to my place in a taxi and talked."
"Talked." Apollo clearly didn't believe her. Trucy dropped something in the bathroom and murmured to herself.
"Yes," Athena responded, huffing. "We talked. About... things."
"Sex," Clay offered.
Athena slapped a hand to her face. "I hate all of you. But yes, at one point we did."
"Is he a top or a bottom?" Clay joked, and it was Apollo's turn to hit him on the shoulder as Pearl asked what that meant.
"Nothing, don't worry about it."
"It wasn't like that. It wasn't lewd or anything. And it's not all we talked about."
"Did you kiss?" Trucy asked, coming out of the bathroom, adjusting her collar.
Athena smiled, mostly to herself. "Yeah, right before he left." Widget was glowing bright blue. She sighed. "It was just really... nice." She looked at Pearl. "It was so romantic. We fed each other dessert, which was super silly but also kind of something I've always wanted to do." Pearl squealed.
Apollo pretended to gag. "You've got to be kidding me."
Clay raised an eyebrow. "Oh, and you're no romantic, yourself. I've got some stories if you guys want to hear them." Pearl squealed with delight.
Apollo glared at Clay. "Not. Even. One."
Trucy flopped down on the couch. "Oh, but I'm so happy for you, Athena. Simon seems like a really nice guy."
"Yeah," Apollo mused, with a slight tone of suspicion. "It did go better than I thought it would." Athena smiled, though she noted his lack of enthusiasm.
Clay leaned his head on Apollo's shoulder. "Are you going to tell me I'm right?" He frowned when Apollo shook his head.
"We'll see. I hope it works out."
"You guys, I'm so nervous about my show." Trucy stood up and smoothed her costume out. "Does this look okay?"
Pearl stood up and helped her adjust. "I think it looks adorable! I think you will steal the show." Everyone else nodded. "You're... opening for some kind of comedian, right?"
"Yeah, I've never heard of him though. If he sucks, we can just leave. I'll be able to come out in the audience after my part, I just have to do some stuff backstage first.
"Sounds good," Apollo responded, taking Clay's coffee cup from him and walking toward the sink. "I guess we should head to dinner and then to the theater, yeah?"
"Yeah, that sounds good," Pearl responded, and everyone gathered their things. Eldoon's was calling.
"I'm so glad you could all make it!" Trucy exclaimed, giving Maya an ecstatic hug. "You too, Simon!" She moved to hug Simon, who raised his eyebrows but allowed the exchange to occur.
"Hello. I do not believe we have met." Simon extended his hand to Maya.
She smiled and returned the handshake. "You must be Simon. I've heard a lot about you. I'm Maya. I... used to work with Nick."
Simon made note of the hesitation but let it lie. "Ah. Well it's nice to meet you."
"Where's Gumshoe?" Apollo asked, but no one knew.
"Oh, crap, I forgot mine," Athena motioned toward Edgeworth's umbrella. "I had heard it was going to sleet tonight."
"Seriously? Ugh," Apollo let his head drop back. "Good thing you drove us here," he said to Clay, who nodded in agreement.
The group was directed to a large round table near the front but to the side. Athena and Simon sat together, with Simon casually placing a hand on Athena's. Maya watched their hands as their fingers rubbed against one another and smiled to herself. Simon noted Apollo was looking at him across the table with unusual intensity, but again let it lie. Clay whispered into Apollo's ear and Apollo choked on air and then whispered something back. Clay smiled at Apollo. "Mhm," Simon heard Clay utter. A waitress stopped by the table and everyone began ordering drinks. Edgeworth ordered Gumshoe a beer and asked for it to be placed next to Clay when it arrived.
Pearl sat behind Simon but thankfully still had a good view of the stage. Beside her, Maya, and beside Maya, Phoenix and Edgeworth, who was next to Apollo. Pearl smiled at Maya, who did her best to return a strong smile. "Are you excited for Trucy, Maya?" Pearl asked.
"Of course! I'm glad I was able to make it down."
Trucy stood at the head of the table. "Sorry, this is the best seat I could get you guys." Everyone insisted that the seats were fine, and she smiled. "I'm excited!"
Edgeworth stood. "Trucy, Phoenix and I have something for you." He reached into the inside of his coat and pulled out a small box.
"A present? For me?" she rushed to him and took the box from him. "I can open it?" Edgeworth nodded, and she ripped into the wrapping paper. Inside the box was a small top hat-shaped pin made of gold. "Oh, is this a badge?" Edgeworth smiled and nodded again. "I... LOVE IT!" She jumped and hugged Edgeworth tightly, leaving him slightly out of breath. "You're like a dad to me, Miles! I love that about you."
Edgeworth chuckled, adjusting his cravat as Trucy backed away to put her pin on. "I'm glad you like it."
Trucy rushed to Phoenix's side and gave him a hug before he had the chance to stand up. "Thank you, daddy!"
"You're always welcome, Trucy." Phoenix smiled and accepted the kiss on the cheek.
"Wright," a stage manager called. "You're up soon."
"Gotta go!" She waved to everyone as she ran to the stage. "That's me!" they heard her respond, and she was led backstage. The waitress returned with their drinks.
"This is exciting," Simon said. "I've never been to a magic show before. How long has Trucy been a magician?"
"Well, that's an interesting story, actually..." Phoenix relayed the story of how he met Trucy, when she was eight years old and was involved in Turnabout Succession, when she was Trucy Enigmar, and how he eventually took her in as his own. As he finished the story, the announcer walked on stage.
"Come one, come all, to see Trucy in Gramarye-Land! The great Trucy will show us some of her favorite magic tricks!" The announcer was a balding man in a red suit, round glasses sitting precariously on his face.
"Oh, good, I'm not late!" Gumshoe said, pushing his way to their table. "Sorry! Sorry!" He kept apologizing to people he knocked into. "Sorry! I'm a fan!"
"Here," Clay offered, and Gumshoe sat next to him in the last available seat. "The show is just starting, so be on your best behavior!" Clay joked.
"But I'm always on my best beh--"
"Hello everyone!" Trucy called, to great cheers, none as great as the Wright table.
Trucy was a real show-stealer, even when it was her own show. She interacted with the audience, calling for volunteers. Phoenix couldn't help but notice more than one teenage boy clamoring to go on stage with her. Instinctively, he kept his eye on them. At one point, Edgeworth noticed his glares and smirked. Trucy levitated objects, made them disappear and reappear, found people's cards in decks, and even performed the trick Simon had showed her. The crowd cheered, gasped, and clapped away. She finished with her dove trick, this time releasing three doves.
She received a standing ovation. Gumshoe nearly lost his mind. Maya wrapped her arm around Phoenix's waist and the two smiled at one another.
"She did great, huh?" Maya asked, noticing Phoenix wipe a tear from his eye.
"She's getting so good!" he exclaimed, and everyone at the table agreed.
Clay added, "You can tell she's been practicing a lot. And she even included your trick, Simon!"
Simon laughed. "I noticed! She picked it up pretty quickly."
The group sat down and ordered another round of drinks. The announcer asked the audience to give Trucy another round of applause as she bowed and left the stage. "Next up, comedian extraordinaire Tom Sowhiny!" A short man with a crew cut and polo shirt came on stage as the crowd clapped, still excited from the magic show.
"What a magic show, huh?" Tom started, and the crowd agreed.
"Has anyone seen this guy before?" Clay asked the table. Everyone shook their head.
Athena leaned forward. "I read a little about him online. The reviews were mixed. Some thought he was funny, others just thought he was crass."
"Interesting," Edgeworth mused, and the group turned their attention back to the comedian, who was finishing up his first joke.
"You call it a restraining order, but I call it a long distance relationship!"
Nervous chuckles came from the Wright table. After having prosecuted--and defended--multiple domestic violence cases, no one particularly felt amused by jokes about them.
"Speaking of long distance relationships, they suck, yeah?" A couple of people cheered. Phoenix shifted in his seat. "Oh, yeah, tell me all about it. Gotta start faking orgasms to keep the phone bill down, am I right?" The crowd laughed. "And no matter how much Viagra you take, the distance is still too far!" More laughter. Phoenix was staring at the ceiling at this point. From the corner of his eye, he could see Maya finish her drink. Apollo and Clay were furrowing their brows, and Athena glanced at Phoenix, sensing his and Maya' discomfort.
"Listen, listen. I was seeing this girl one time, right? She lived in another city. I swear to God I'd have died for this chick. You know how I knew she was cheating on me? I called her one night because I was missing her. Ring, ring, ring... I swear, it rings forever. Finally she picks up the phone, is all out of breath. 'Hey babe...' and I'm like, is that 'Love the One You're with' playing in the background? What's that shuffling? TURN ON FACETIME! And that's how I know all long distance relationships end with cheating! Don't waste your time with 'em!"
"This comedian is kind of awful," Simon mused, unaware of the tension rising next to him.
"This guy sucks," Gumshoe agreed, also oblivious.
"I'm... sorry, guys. I'm really tired." Maya stood slowly. "I think I'm going to call it a night."
Edgeworth frowned. "Already?" He turned in his seat to get a good look at Maya. "Are you unwell?"
Maya smiled and pushed her chair in. "I'm sorry, you guys," she whispered, as Phoenix rose. "I just don't feel right. Can you guys apologize to Trucy for me and tell her I'm so impressed with her progress?" Athena nodded, still watching Phoenix.
Phoenix put his hand on Maya's upper arm, and she stopped herself from moving away. "Let me walk you out," he insisted as gently as possible. After a moment's hesitation, Maya nodded. The two walked out as quietly as possible.
"...I don't think Phoenix's date went well this weekend," Pearl mused.
"Date?" Simon asked as he watched them leave. He realized what Pearl was insinuating. "Oh." He glanced at Athena, who looked distraught. "Are you alright?"
She nodded. "There's... just a lot of pain there."
"Indeed." Simon turned his attention back to the comedian, who continued his tirade against relationships. Perhaps it was because he was in a good place at the moment, and never felt the pain this man must have felt, but he just found the comedian sad.
Meanwhile, Phoenix was grabbing Maya's hand outside of the theater as she tried to hail a taxi. It was beginning to rain. It wasn't quite cold enough to sleet, but it would get there by the end of the night. "Maya."
"I think I'm right, Phoenix." She turned to him as a taxi pulled up. Tears were beginning to well up in her eyes. "I love you, I love you so much. And I wouldn't regret a moment of my life if we stayed together. But I realized... I do regret making you wait for something that is never going to happen."
"I don't care about any of that," Phoenix pleaded.
"I know." Maya sighed. "But. Look. I just can't. I can't live with myself thinking that I am the reason you're not out living the only life you're ever going to have."
Maya leaned in and kissed him on the cheek. "Perhaps in the afterlife, Nick. After we've both lived our lives, helping people, we can reward ourselves with spending the rest of eternity together." She choked back some tears and turned to get into the taxi, which was waiting patiently for her. "I want to stay, but you know I can't. I can't hurt us anymore."
Phoenix found himself letting her hand go. He watched her step into the taxi. He watched the door closed. He watched the car drive off as Maya put her face into her hands. He sat on the stairs of the theater, the rain picking up slightly. He placed his elbows on his thighs and watched raindrops fall onto his palms, barely feeling the freezing sensation cover his hands and the back of his neck. Where did this all go wrong?
"Wright?" Phoenix recognized the voice as Edgeworth's. He felt someone sit next to him, opening up an umbrella.
"You're going to get that suit dirty," Phoenix mumbled toward his hands.
"I suppose that is why they make dry cleaners." The two sat in silence for a few minutes. "Are you going to be okay?" Edgeworth finally asked.
"I don't know." More silence. "I just don't understand why she feels the need to protect everyone from anything bad that could ever happen."
Edgeworth chuckled. "Sounds like someone else I know."
"She's right, though." He heard Edgeworth make an inquisitive noise. "She lives in Kurain Village. I live here. I'm never going to give up being a defense attorney, not really. And she can't not be the head of the Fey Clan. I can't deny that. I can't deny that she's right, because I've made those same comments to her. Maybe if I'd kept my mouth shut, she wouldn't have doubted us." Phoenix sighed. "Then again, I guess I've been doubting us. I just... don't want to let her go."
"Some say the best things in life are not free," Edgeworth mused, "but I suppose there are also times where we must realize that in order for the ones we love to truly flourish, we must let go of our own selfish desires and allow that person to do what they are meant to do. It hurts, of course, and it will always hurt, to see them with other people, to love, and live, and laugh, without us. But there is also a joy knowing the true depths of happiness those we love can accomplish, and to see them soar above what even we thought was possible."
Phoenix looked at Edgeworth. "Have you ever been in love, Miles?"
Miles smiled, then looked up at the rain, which was beginning to turn to sleet. "I suppose you could say that."
The two sat together in silence for a few more minutes. "I guess Trucy should be coming out to the table shortly," Phoenix mused.
"Yes," Edgeworth responded. "The show must, as they say, go on." The two stood and brushed themselves off. Edgeworth led them to the door, where he shook off the umbrella and opened the door.
"Miles?" Phoenix asked as he walked through the open door.