"Yeah," Apollo responded, removing his own jacket. "Odd weather for out here, though. Hot chocolate?" Clay nodded, so Apollo walked into their kitchen and started grabbing things out of the cupboard and preparing the two mugs. "That comedian kind of sucked, didn't he?"
"He was terrible. I still don't understand the joke about the pickle." Apollo grunted in agreement. "We need to get Trucy better gigs."
Apollo placed the mugs into the microwave. "Yeah. I think that place is pretty popular though, so maybe some important people saw her? She did really well." Apollo grabbed a banana off the counter, peeled it, and began to eat it, tearing off his bites and popping them into his mouth.
Clay walked toward him. "Why do you do that?" he asked casually, pointing to the banana.
"Do what?" Apollo responded, tearing off another piece of banana and plopping it into his mouth.
Clay pointed at the banana again. "Do that. Just stick it in your mouth and eat it." He laughed.
Apollo looked at the banana. "Oh. I dunno. I just have a thing, I guess."
"Yeah, I dunno. I've always done this, I think. It's a thing." Clay chuckled. Apollo gave him a look, which only made him laugh harder. "Oh come on, stop being immature. Here," he offered the last bite of the banana to Clay, who took it straight from the peel.
"Thanks," he said between chews. The microwave beeped. Apollo took the mugs out of the microwave and handed one to Clay. "So," Clay mused. "You're really proud of Trucy, huh? She's like a sister to you, I've noticed." They made their way to their couch, where they flipped on a music channel that still played music rather than trashy reality television shows."Yeah, she really is." Apollo took a long sip of the hot chocolate. "I'm always amazed at how quickly she picks up everything, and how good she is at reading people."
"So if she's like your sister, I guess that makes Nick like your dad," Clay teased.
"Ugh, no. No no no." Apollo shook his head. "I mean, obviously I love the guy, but he's more like... an older brother or something." Apollo stared into his hot chocolate. "Though that'd make me a crappy younger brother. I don't know what's going on with him."
Clay shifted closer to Apollo. "You mean with Maya?"
"Yeah." Apollo took another sip and turned to Clay. "I guess, they've been together pretty much as long as I've known them, but he doesn't really talk about her. When she comes up in conversation, he'll contribute, but if we talk about her too long, like if Pearl is telling some story or something, he leaves the room. Says he has work to do or some other excuse."
"So it's rough."
"I mean I guess? I imagine it'd be hard for them, being long distance and everything. It was hard for us."
Clay shrugged. "But we knew it was going to end. I knew eventually you'd get everything set up here, and I'd be at the Space Museum, though of course, you know, sometimes I'd be going into space."
"Yeah. I guess it would hurt a lot more not knowing if it was going to end."
"Or worse... Knowing that it wasn't." Apollo tilted his head, so Clay continued. "She's like, the head honcho up there or something, right?"
"She's in training to be the head of the Fey clan at Kurain Village, yeah."
"So she's not going to be moving to LA anytime soon." Apollo had to agree there. "And I don't see Nick dropping his job as a defense attorney."
Apollo had to laugh. "Well, he's been a defense attorney off and on. He played piano for a while. Played poker, too. But that was... due to a lot of things. Now that they've ended the dark age of the law, him and Miles I mean, and of course me and Athena and Simon, I don't see him leaving again."
"So he's not going to move to Kurain Village anytime soon."
"Oh. Yeah." Apollo sighed. "I mean, I've tried talking to him about it before. I dunno what I was going to say. It's not like with you, I can't just make him insist things are going to be fine."
"He'll figure it out." Clay took another sip of hot chocolate.
"Oh yeah. I mean I don't know him as well as you do, of course, but he seems like a strong guy. I don't know what happened between him and Maya, but he'll work something out. He always does."
"Yeah, I guess you're right." Apollo finished his drink and offered to take Clay's back to the kitchen as well. Clay handed Apollo his cup and Apollo went to place them in the sink. Clay followed behind him and wrapped his arms around Apollo's waist.
"I'm glad you found me," Clay mused, burying his face into Apollo's shoulder.
Apollo closed his eyes and smiled. "I'm glad I found you, too. And I'm glad we're both still here to enjoy each other." He turned around slowly, maneuvering one arm above Clay's head, and hugged him back. "I'm glad I didn't lose you." The two stood in silence for a moment, taking in each other's presence.
Apollo couldn't help but laugh.
Gumshoe laughed and took off his coat, careful to not drop the flowers he picked up on the way to Maggey's. "It was great," he said, "Trucy was really great! I'm sorry you had to miss it." He made his way to the dining room, grabbing a vase from her cabinet. "How was patrol?"
"Oh, it was good. Only two accidents tonight, amazing huh, given the sleet?" Maggey had been fired from the force, but after her sour grapes period, Gumshoe convinced her to allow him to make an argument on her behalf to be reinstated. It took some convincing--both of Maggey and of the police force--but he'd been able to make it happen. Maggey bit into her peanut butter and jelly sandwich. "Do you want a sandwich?" Gumshoe shook his head as he used Maggey's water dispenser to fill the vase up. "Oh! Are those for me?"
"Of course, sweetheart! I knew ya liked these stargazer lilies, so I thought I'd bring some over." He placed the flowers into the vase, and admired his handiwork. "There. Those look nice."
Maggey put her sandwich down and went to hug Gumshoe. He bent down and kissed her forehead. "So. Tell me all about the show!"
"Oh man. Oh man. It was amazing. Trucy is somethin' else!" Gumshoe could hardly contain his excitement as he retold the events of the magic show, with plenty of embellishment on the more complicated tricks. "And then, and then, get this, three doves came out of her scarf!"
"Oh! So it was like the trick at Blackquill's party you were tellin' me about, but three doves?"
"Yes! Oh man, it was great." His demeanor changed quickly to one of confusion. "But that comedian that came on afterward. He was not good."
"Very bitter dude. Also something about pickles I didn't quite pick up on." He shrugged. "And then Maya had to leave early, she wasn't feelin' well." He leaned down and kissed Maggey on the forehead again and wrapped his arm around her shoulder. "Kind of put a damper on the whole evenin', so we called it a night. So I'm here! But I'm not gonna stay, 'cause I got work early in the mornin'. I just wanted to see ya."
"Aw, okay." Maggey snuggled close to Gumshoe. "Oh, I almost forgot."
"So I stopped by the prison, 'cause I had to deliver some paperwork there."
"They were havin' trouble with that one guy, the old police chief. He was havin' a breakdown."
"Old police chief? Gant?" Gumshoe rubbed his chin. The guy had always been a bit off, calling himself the crime computer, but he'd been different after getting arrested. He'd seemed to be getting better, and due to his age--he was nearing 80--and good behavior, was close to being released.
"Yeah. I guess he started laughing and clapping the other day. They're not sure why, but they're lookin' into the tapes to see if anything happened."
"Interesting. I'll definitely need to follow up on that." Gumshoe sighed. If it wasn't one thing, it was another. Edgeworth was going to have a field day with that one, if it did turn out Gant had reverted back to his old ways. He wasn't sure the guy's health could handle it, regardless. "Maybe I can ask Athena to get a look at him."
"Mm," Maggey agreed, admiring the flowers, but without touching them, for fear of knocking the vase over.
"Well, I wanted to stop by and say goodnight and see how work went. I gotta head home." Gumshoe gave Maggey a kiss and held her tight for a moment, then headed toward the door. "I'll see you tomorrow?" he asked, as he put on his jacket.
"Yes, sir!" Maggey responded, playfully saluting. "I got patrol again."
"See you tomorrow, then." Gumshoe smiled, waved, and walked out the door.
Phoenix sat alone in his apartment, staring out of the window into a local park. Everything was silent for once. Very few people were out, thanks to the uncharacteristic sleet. He watched as it fell, covering the trees and roads, watched as the occasional car drove by, his heart skipping a beat when it was a taxi. Phoenix knew she wouldn't be coming back, not for him. He closed his eyes and rest his head on the window, feeling the cold against his forehead.
He thought back to his conversation with Miles, about allowing people to flourish. Maya had spoken about holding him back, but was the truth that he had been holding her back? Clearly, it must have been hard on her to not only train, but hold their relationship up as Phoenix buckled under his own doubts. His fear of not being good enough. He turned and walked over to his photograph of Mia. "I'm sorry," he said quietly as he picked the photograph, knowing she couldn't hear him. "I thought we could do it. And I thought I could protect her. But as usual... I was wrong."
He half hoped for a sign Mia disagreed, but nothing came. As to be expected.
Phoenix often thought about his old mentor. Mia had given up her place as the heir of the Fey clan to become a defense attorney. She had been a damn good one, too. If Mia hadn't forsaken her title, she wouldn't be dead... and Maya would have been free to do what she wanted with her life. But if she hadn't, Phoenix probably wouldn't have met her, either. And Miles, Miles wouldn't have been able to overcome his father's death. Mia had been instrumental in that endeavor, even if she wasn't able to close the case herself.
And it's not like Maya was being forced to head the clan. It's what she wanted to do. Phoenix had to keep reminding himself of that. She could come back, eventually. It was possible. But Maya was right--he couldn't live his life waiting for that to happen.
Phoenix leaned against the wall and slid down it, tears forming at his eyes. He held his head in his hands, the photograph frame uncomfortably digging into his skin. All he could hear was the pitter-patter of the sleet hitting his window, and the occasional car passing by.
"Hi Taka!" Athena attempted the greeting, but the bird simply glared at her. "I see he's still not warming up to me..."
"He only teases. Don't you, Taka?" Simon pet the hawk, who closed his eyes and grinned sheepishly, as if hawks could do such a thing. "So, you regularly carry shorts around?"
"Well, I run a lot," Athena explained, looking down at the shorts she'd changed into. "Technically this is my workout outfit, though obviously it's clean since I wasn't gonna run outside in that," she said as she motioned outside.
Simon smiled as he watched her look out the window. Her hair was tied up in a rather large, messy bun, having gotten surprisingly wet from their trip from Gumshoe's car to Simon's apartment. Of course, Gumshoe had gone on and on during their trip from the theater home, finally deciding he was going to get lilies for Maggey. Simon had been content to sit quietly and zone in and out of the conversation, distracted by thoughts of Phoenix and Maya. He didn't know either very well--Maya not at all, in fact--but he too had noticed the pained expression on Phoenix's face as he followed Maya out. He had also noticed Edgeworth leave with his umbrella a few minutes later, returning with Phoenix--alone--quite some time after that. Trucy had returned to them shortly after, distraught Maya had left. She sat quietly next to Phoenix, glancing at him anxiously for the rest of the comedian's show. In truth, Simon had not enjoyed the comedian, and would have preferred to leave, but apparently--and, he supposed, understandably--there was an unspoken agreement among entertainers that they stay. So the group had stayed through all 45 minutes of the man's terrible set.
"--and then I said--Simon? Are you listening?" Athena poked Simon, who shook his head, surprised.
"I must admit I was not. I apologize."
Athena scrunched her face up. "Are you okay? What are you thinking about?"
"Yes. I did not understand his joke about the pickles."
Athena rubbed her chin. "Come to think about it, I didn't either. Everyone else seemed to think it was really funny though. Everyone not at our table, I guess."
Athena placed her hand on Simon's arm. "Are you sure that's what you were thinking about?"
"Yes." Simon smiled at her. "Although, that does remind me of something."
"Justice-dono appeared to be rather intently staring at me prior to the show." Athena laughed. "Did I do something?"
Athena shook her head and wrapped her arm around his. "He's just protective."
Simon frowned. "Does he have a reason to think I would hurt you?" He noted Widget flash dark blue.
"Well, no..." Athena felt his stare. "I guess, he's just... He's just worried. Because of my abilities."
Simon motioned for the two of them to sit on the couch, and they did. "Your powers to sense emotions?"
"...Yeah." Athena sighed. "You see, he thinks... well, that you build walls around yourself. And my abilities involve sensing emotions. So... if I can tell something is wrong, but you don't want to talk about it..."
"It would hurt you more than someone without these powers, as you would be fairly certain your sense is correct, and I would not want to talk about it, making you think you had done something wrong or that I did not trust you." Athena nodded. Simon furrowed his brow. "I see."
A few moments of silence passed.
"I know that it may be difficult for me to express emotions. I spent seven years locking them away, suppressing my sadness, anger, and guilt. I lost touch with happiness, excitement, love... You have helped me open up over the past year, and I imagine that will continue. I give you my word that I will do my best to never hide anything from you."
Athena smiled. "Promise?"
"Then tell me what you were really thinking about."
He walked right into that one. Simon sighed. "I was thinking about Wright-dono." Athena tilted her head in confusion. "He and Fey-dono seemed to be having quite the rough night."
"But it feels like no one really knows what is going on, other than perhaps Edgeworth-dono, who seemed to know he needed to fetch Wright-dono."
"Well," Athena began, stretching, "Nick doesn't really talk about their relationship much, not even with Apollo or Trucy or Pearl. I guess it'd be hard, being that far apart all the time. I guess you probably don't know much about them at all." Simon shook his head, casually placing his arm around Athena's shoulders and allowing her to lean into him. "So, Phoenix used to work for a defense attorney called Mia Fey--"
"Ah, yes, I have heard of her. Quite the talented attorney, from what I recall of the stories."
"So that's Maya's older sister. But she died, and Maya was accused of killing her. Nick proved it wasn't her, and she started working for him. I guess they started dating sometime after that. But Maya is a spirit medium, and needed to take over the Fey clan back in Kurain Village. So for a while, I guess she did both, but then had to go back to Kurain Village to do more intensive training, and eventually sent Pearl to check in on him. Pearl's her cousin."
"And I dunno, I guess they've been calling each other weekly or something. Trucy says he talks to her a lot, but sometimes they yell. Not like, screaming, but just upset. She doesn't hear exactly what they talk about. And I guess the yelling is more frequent now, but Trucy pretends she doesn't hear it."
"That is... quite unfortunate."
Athena sighed. "Yeah, I think Pearl especially wanted them to be together. She and Trucy would be cousins of some kind then, and she'd get to see Maya be happy. She hasn't really had a lot of exposure to relationships. I guess Mia and Maya's father is off somewhere or maybe even dead, and their mother died. And Pearl's family isn't the nicest, so she's happier here. I guess when she was little, she used to get really mad if Nick talked to other women." Athena chuckled.
"Could Pearl become the clan head?"
Athena scrunched her face again. Simon mentally noted the image. "I guess? I don't know how all of that works. I guess Maya would have to renounce her claim." She sighed. "Poor Nick, though. I want to do something nice for him, but I don't know what he'd want or need."
"That is somewhat surprising, given how close you all are."
"Yeah, I mean my powers tell me when he's upset, but not why. He doesn't talk about it. And I don't know what you give someone with a broken heart."
Simon sighed and rested his chin on Athena's head. "I do not believe I know, either."
Athena turned toward him, their faces close. Simon suppressed a gulp. "Do you think... I could stay here tonight?"
Simon's face turned red. "I... believe that is quite... fast, is it... not?" He immediately regretted the words as he watched Athena's expression turn into a frown.
"N-not like that... I just... um. Nevermind." She turned away and put her hands on her knees.
Athena sighed. "No, it's dumb."
Simon gently turned her face back toward his and smiled. "I do not want you to hide anything from me, either. It is only fair."
Athena hesitated. "I just... do you remember when we were younger, before my mom died? We all went to the park, and you and Aura would spin me on that one merry-go-round."
"Yes, I believe that was during your astronaut phase. You claimed it was a part of your g-force training."
Athena laughed, blushing. She adjusted her hair bun. "Yeah, I guess I did say that. But one time, my headphones, they hit the merry-go-round or something, and I lost balance, and I fell off."
"You came over right away, and you scooped me up into your lap, and you held your hand over the knee that was scraped in the fall. You got me to stop crying."
"I just... I've never felt so safe as I have when I'm around you. When I was in your arms, it was like, nothing could touch me. No one could mess with me, not even the gods." Athena stood up. "Okay this is dumb," she forced herself to laugh, "nevermind, it's fine. I should go home."
"No, wait." Simon stood as well and grabbed her hand. "I understand." He smiled, kissed her forehead, and then, in one fell swoop, scooped her up into his arms. Athena squealed, and Simon laughed heartily. "I, Simon Blackquill, shall protect my woman from all harm that could come before her! She is mine, and no one else's! No one shall have her!" he yelled.
"Oh gross, no," Athena laughed, hitting Simon on the shoulder. They laughed as Simon carried her into his bedroom and placed her, gently, onto his bed. He leaned up against his headboard and motioned for her to come to him. Blushing, she complied, and rested her head on his chest, his arms enveloping her.
"I will always protect you," he murmured, kissing the top of her head.
Miles sat in his apartment, soft jazz playing as he swirled a glass of Merlot in his right hand, his chin resting in his left. It had certainly been a strange night. He had offered to take Phoenix home after the show, but Phoenix had declined, and so, Miles had returned to his apartment. He had considered watching the newest episode of Steel Samurai, which he had taped, but decided against it. It was safe to say he wasn't in the mood.
Miles leaned back in his chair, resisting the urge to yawn. His mind flashed back to a few hours before, when he had admitted to Phoenix he had been in love with someone, once. "Foolish," he murmured, before taking a long sip. There were advantages to being alone, surely. Anyone who had ever been betrayed would know this. His mentor, Manfred von Karma, had murdered his father, Gregory Edgeworth, and raised Miles as if he were von Karma's own son. He had seen other betrayals over the years, often performed by lovers. Phoenix's own love life was no exception. Exhibit A: Dahlia Hawthorne. And now, Phoenix had remained with a woman who would be perfect for him, with one tiny flaw: she was half a world away. He sighed. He knew he cared, and he knew he cared too much. But it was also difficult for him to not feel as if Phoenix got himself into these situations.
"But what can one do, when one falls in love?" Miles mused aloud. "We cannot control who it is we love, nor can we control their feelings for us." Even if it was a disappointment.
Even if it left one alone.
"I'm glad you got to spend the night again," Pearl said, helping Trucy out of her hat, which had somehow gotten stuck on her head. "I always like it when Nick lets you stay here."
"Yeah, though I think it's mostly 'cause he wants to be left alone," Trucy responded, finally getting out of the hat. "Ugh, my hair is a mess."
"Yeah..." Pearl huffed. "I don't get why they can't just be happy together."
"It's not that easy..."
Pearl put her hands on her hips, letting the hat drop to the ground. "It doesn't have to be that hard!"
Trucy sighed and rolled her eyes, plopping on Pearl's bed. "We can't make them be together. It doesn't work like that." Pearl sat next to her. "I mean, that'd be cool, 'cause we'd finally be cousins and all, but..."
Trucy sat up. "I dunno. I don't get all that family tree stuff. Second cousins, once removed? Something like that. Or maybe not. I really don't know. Hey, gimme that banana you were carrying. Did you eat it?" Pearl shook her head and grabbed the banana from her bag, handing it to Trucy. Trucy peeled it and began tearing pieces off one at a time, popping them into her mouth and chewing. She was starving, so it went quickly.
Pearl sighed. "I just wanted to see Maya happy... We've both been through so much, but her especially. She's lost nearly everyone. And now Nick."
Trucy stared at the ground, swallowing the last bit of banana. "Yeah... Poor daddy."
Pearl clapped her hands against her legs. "Well, but we shouldn't worry about it, right? Quick, which of the boys you pulled on stage did you like the most?"
Trucy laughed. "Uh... I guess the blonde one was pretty cute."
"With the glasses? He totally liked you!" Both girls laughed. "Did you get his number?" Pearl was almost bouncing with excitement.
"Uhhh. No. That's not going to happen. Can you imagine what daddy would have done? He knows cops."
Pearl deadpanned. "Yeah, he knows Gumshoe."
"...True. Dang. I should have gotten his number."
"I'm sorry ma'am, but there are no more flights to Japan tonight, especially with these weather delays. I could move you up to tomorrow morning, I think there's a seat left. Yes, one. 8am. Would this work for you?"
Maya sighed. "Yes, thank you." She waited as the man printed out new tickets for her. Maya glanced at her luggage, knowing she had packed everything but feeling like she had missed something.
The man held out the new flight tickets. "Here you go, ma'am."
"Thank you." Maya took the tickets and put them into the large purse she was using as a carry-on bag. She noticed the box... the gift she'd meant to give Phoenix, before... everything. She sighed and headed toward security. It could wait. If it ever happened at all.
Security was a breeze this time of night. Maya wasn't sure why she was going through, as her flight was hours away, and they hadn't even assigned a gate at this point. But she'd had nowhere else she felt she could go. So here she was, nearly midnight at the airport, knowing Phoenix wouldn't be running to security to beg for her to stay. He knew better.
She gathered her things and headed to a coffee shop. After ordering the largest tea they had, she found a quiet table and placed her things down. She felt exhausted. She also felt stupid. She could have stayed a few more days. She could have visited with Pearl, if nothing else. She could have stayed there. But if she knew Phoenix, she knew he'd be pushing people away right now, and that means Trucy would likely be at Pearl's. She didn't want to talk about it.
Her hand instinctively reached toward the present for Phoenix. Maya knew better, but she opened the box anyway. It was a scarf, similar to the red one she'd heard he wore while at Ivy University, but with little hamburgers patterned on the end. An inside joke, between the two of them. She'd made it herself, learning to crochet during the quiet times at Kurain Village. She'd known it was an unusually cold winter, and thought he'd like it. He was probably silly enough to actually wear it, too.
Part of her wanted to say, screw the tickets, screw Kurain Village, screw everything, and run back to him. Beg him to take her back as an assistant. She knew he would. She also knew Kurain Village needed her. Pearl wasn't strong enough to take her place, though she was talented and growing ever talented through her work with Phoenix.
It's probably for the best. Yes, she had to convince herself of that. She'd consulted with Mia one evening after training. Mia, who had the worst advice of all: follow your heart.
"My heart is pushing me in 29 different directions," she'd protested.
"No, your head is pushing you in 29 different directions," Mia had responded. "Your heart knows exactly what to do."
Mia had been right. Her head had justified it all. The long phone calls, telling Phoenix it would be okay. Hearing his laughter on the other end of the line, reassuring her that she was doing the right thing. Crying herself to sleep. Spending entire mornings trying not to imagine how it felt for him to hold her. The occasional fight, though they had become more frequent lately. She didn't know what to tell Phoenix when he lamented how much he missed her. This was the way it was going to be, unless something changed, which it wasn't likely to. Her heart had told her, in no uncertain terms, that it was best to let him go. It would hurt her, and more importantly, it would hurt him. But he'd be better in the long run. And she had meant what she said. She knew spirits existed; after all, she was a spirit medium. If it turned out that they were not meant to be together in this life, there was always the next. And the next was eternal. There were no courtrooms to draw him away from her, no familial responsibilities to pull her away from him. But still, in this lifetime, she felt destined to be miserable and lonely, her relationships failing, just as the other women in her family had experienced. Perhaps it was a curse, placed on the Fey clan long ago, unbeknownst to them.
Maya placed the scarf back into its box, retying the bow as neatly as possible. She gathered her things, and on the way to one of the lobbies, she threw the package into a nearby trashcan.