Title: The Taste Of Flames
Fandom: Phoenix Wright - Ace Attorney
Genre: Psychological, Angst
Summary: When Nick loses his badge, Maya is determined to help him recover it. Whatever the price, she’s willing to pay it, even if that means letting an old enemy in – and by then it’s too late to turn back. Maya/Phoenix, of a sort.
Characters: Maya Fey, Phoenix Wright, Dahlia Hawthorne, Mia Fey, Pearl Fey
What’s done is done, it feels so bad /
~‘Komm, Susser Tod’, End of Evangelion~
Maya reflects that it must be an example of some twisted humour on the world’s part that the worst thing possible had to happen on such an absolutely perfect day. It was the last day of April. The sun had been shining, and the birds had even been singing, and the sweet smell of spring flowers floated on the warm air.
The council of senior mystics had even granted her a day off from that stupid Mastery training they were always insisting she do, even though she had never needed it. Nick had been at a trial in the city without her these past couple days, but he hadn’t called her to tell her how it was going yet.
She remembers contemplating his inevitable failure without her around to help him out and wonders maybe if that’s why. Thoughts have power over actions and actions have power…so whose actions?
But that’s silly, of course.
So, the sun was shining, the birds were singing, Maya was cheerfully pummelling the TV in order to coax some life into it. Then the newly installed satellite dish did its work and she was just a bit early to catch the new episodes of Cruel Angel’s Samurai, and there was a news spot –
That moment right there - that was when the world collapsed. All nineteen years of her existence with the last few as a highlight folded up behind her and became the past, and the future became a strange and terrible thing. Though the perfect day kept ticking along, the sun kept shining and the birds kept singing and the air kept smelling sweet, she still thought she could hear it all returning to nothing, tumbling down around her.
Maya leaps onto the train without looking back. The council protest and say she mustn’t leave, but, well, who’s Master of this town again?
She rummages in her bag and discovers that in her hurry she’s gone and forgotten her phone. Well, darn. She'll just have to wait til she reaches the city, then use Nick's phone to call Pearly and explain.
She thinks about calling Sis and asking her for help. But then she imagines the council sneering at her – Mystic Maya, the Master of the Kurain Tradition, calling for help from her big sister!? She sighs regretfully and waits some more.
The landscape rushes past. To keep herself from thinking about...the thing, she imagines herself as the Pink Princess, zooming about the fields, saving people and righting wrongs. But it all feels sad and fake and horrible because she can't forget what she's learned. Trying to distract herself with thoughts of happiness just contrasts them more sharply against the misery.
She thinks about it some more and puts her chin in her hand. Nick's not a lawyer anymore. He's had his badge taken away and reputation ruined. She doesn't know how much of the extra bits are true and she can't believe the part about forging evidence, but at the core of it he's not a man with a badge anymore.
For some reason, she's never been able to think of him as one without the other.
It was all going to be perfect from now on! Dahlia was gone, even though she isn’t, really. Aunt Morgan was gone. Why – how - had this happened?
Her thoughts travel in a tortured circle. She's stuck waiting on a train to get to a place both close and far away, and she’s not there yet. All she can do is think about it, and what if he did do it – but what if it's lies? She needs to talk to him, see him, hug him - but she's waiting on a train, and she's not quite there yet.
She realises at the last moment that she’s drifting off to sleep, and panics. How could she have forgotten –
Hello again, brat.
Maya looks around for somewhere to run, but there’s nowhere to go, as usual. She’s trapped here with the demon.
I always look forward to these little meetings. I know you don’t enjoy them as much as I do, but humour me. The demon grins her grin full of shiny sharp white teeth and her eyes dance with glee.
Go away! Maya cries.
No. Sorry. Back at Kurain you’ve always got those silly demon wards around your bed and I can’t get through, as you very well know. It’s not often I get the chance to visit you. The demon laughs. Now, come closer…
We defeated you, Maya says sharply. You’ve got no right to come and hurt people again. Since the demon had made itself known to her since that last case, she’s had to resort to exorcising her sleeping quarters, setting up charms and wearing a demon-warding hood every night.
And who are you going to complain to? The demon laughs her tinkling laugh, like the bubbling sound of a clear brook. Your big sis? Your mother? Oh, wait!
SHUT UP! There are tears building at the corners of her eyes now. I hate you so much…
Oh, dear Maya, I didn’t think you were capable of such an ugly emotion. And…wait, who am I kidding? I know the first person you’d run to, the demon croons, sweeping close enough that Maya can feel her death-rattle breath on her face. Blood red hair tickles Maya’s cheeks and collarbone. It’s that man of yours, if you can call him that. Phoenix. Nick. Feenie. She laughs again. Have you told him about your silly, childish, pathetic little feelings yet? Oh, don’t make me laugh…
Please, just leave me alone – STOP it –
Dahlia laughs again and continues working steadily away at her revenge.
Maya hates this dream. She hates the demon’s taunts, and she hates how she can’t get away, and she hates, most of all, that here she is reduced to begging.
She wakes at her stop with a sick feeling in her stomach and the acrid taste of smoke and burning in her mouth.
Maya dashes off the train, out of the station and hails a taxi, not wanting to wait for a bus. "Wright and Co. Law Offices," she says to the driver. "Do you know where that is?"
"Yes, ma'am," says the driver cheerfully. "Wright...that's the fraudulent lawyer guy, right?" He starts the car and moves off. "If you didn't know, he was disbarred today. Didn't you hear about the evidence forging scandal a few days ago? I wouldn't go to him if you need a lawyer. I can take you somewhere else - maybe Gavin and Co.?"
Maya opens and closes her mouth a few times, glaring at the taxi driver, her fists clenched. She wonders if she's being childish but can't really bring herself to care. "He's not fraudulent! He's a good guy!"
The driver coughs politely. "You did hear me, right?" he says, not unkindly.
Maya remains sullenly silent, cursing herself for not being able to defend him better. He would be able to defend her, even without his badge.
"Sorry for asking, ma'am...are you his girlfriend or something?"
The answer - "no", as it always is - automatically rises to her lips, but this time she finds herself unable to choke it out. She can't reply.
There is an awkward silence.
The driver sighs. "My apologies for butting in."
"He is a good guy," Maya manages to say. "The best."
She can see the driver shaking his head regretfully. "Afraid I'm not seeing it. Sorry. All I can say is that he's got to be a bit of a bastard for stringing a girl along like that." He coughs, embarrassed. “Um...sorry."
"That's not how it…” Her voice trails into silence. Her face burns hot with shame and her hands are fists in her lap. This man has it all wrong. His impression is so far into wrongsville she doesn't know where to start.
But she can't even bring herself to speak, her voice choked up with embarrassment and shyness. He won't believe a word she says. How can she make him take her seriously?
The taxi stops next to the Gatewater Hotel. Maya hands the driver a ten dollar bill. "You're wrong about him,” she wants to say with all her heart, “and I wish I could prove it. I’m not his girlfriend, he’s not leading me on, he’s the most wonderful guy you could ever hope to meet, and this is all a horrible mistake.” Though she needs to say it, her mouth won’t make the words.
“I’m very sorry about all this, ma’am,” the driver says. “You remind me of my son. He couldn’t believe it at first either.”
Don’t you wish you could rip the pitying look out of his face…starting with the eyes –
Then she blinks. What a horrible thought to have.
“What’s your name?” she asks.
“Haley Justice, best cab driver in the city,” he says cheerfully. “Nice to meet you.” He hands her a card. “If you need me again, give me a ring!”
She puts the card in her bag, thanks him politely, then walks away without another word.
Maya pounds up the stairs, her heart beating in her throat. The door is where it normally is. She pauses for a moment in front of it, and wonders if he’s in there at all. Why had she assumed he would be here in the first place? This isn’t technically where he lives, even though she’s seen his apartment and it’s practically unlived in compared to here. He’s even slept on the couch here a bunch of times.
Still, she can’t talk – she’s done the same sometimes. The apartment she stays in when she’s in the city is tiny and not that comfortable. Even the leather couch of her sister’s old office is better than that place. Plus, there’s a nice view of the hotel across the road, while Maya’s allowance could only afford a window facing onto a crumbling brick wall with some fading graffiti.
But Nick, he’s…he’s not a lawyer anymore. He doesn’t need to come here. Quite apart from the fact he’s lost his calling in life, the dream occupation that fitted him perfectly, he doesn’t have a job anymore, either, and he’ll need to pay the sizeable rent at some point. She contemplates going straight back out again and getting a burger, before deciding whether to go to his apartment –
–no. She sets her jaw stubbornly. She’s being ridiculous. Of course he’ll be here. This used to be Mia’s office, and Mia was important to Nick as well. She knows him, and she knows this place is home to him, just like it’s home to her. And when you’ve suffered something terrible, when you’re in pain and alone, where’s the first place you want to go?
Don’t be afraid.
She grabs the handle –
She stops trying to turn it when she realises it’s a futile effort. It’s locked.
She peers in through the glass panes on either side. All the lights are off. She raps on the door and rings the bell, which she knows is pretty loud, and there’s no response.
Maya knows Phoenix Wright. She knows this is the first place he’d want to go, and he knows her, so he knows she knows him, and so if he wanted to avoid her out of shame or a misguided attempt to protect her or something, after, say, having something terribly humiliating and soul-destroying happen to him, and then maybe wanting to mope in solitude for a bit, he would know that the first place he wanted to go would be the wrong place to be because that would be the first place she’d go. So, under the circumstances, he might lock up and leave and go somewhere she wouldn’t expect.
She doesn’t even entertain the thought of him sitting quietly inside the office, ignoring her. He’s better than that.
Maya checks his apartment first and manages to convince the receptionist to tell her about his movements. He hasn’t come here since yesterday. She assumes he slept in the office last night.
She checks People Park and has a walk around, keeping well away from the big property nearby – she suspects the family who lives there is a bit dodgy. Then she buys a burger, which feels like cardboard in her dry mouth, and catches a bus over to Gourd Lake. No luck there. She stares at the chilly grey water, and shivers, imagining swimming in it.
It’s approaching four o’clock, and she’s really beginning to regret forgetting her phone. She catches another bus and tries not to fall asleep.
And at last. He’s there.
Maya finds him sitting in the back of Très Bien. There is an untouched cup of coffee in front of him.
Mr Armstrong sees her on her way in. “Ahhh, if it isn’t ze belle mademoiselle Maya!” He twinkles at her. “’Ave you come to work for me again?”
Nick looks up in surprise and their eyes meet. He half rises from his chair.
“Sorry, Mr Armstrong,” she says guiltily. “I just came here to find Nick. I’ll find you if I need a job again…” He never had paid her for that day in the cute outfit, but she might need something to do in the city until Nick gets his badge back…it’s an idea. After all, she is currently jobless for the moment, if you don’t count Kurain Master as real work.
“Oh, I see ‘ow it is, zen,” Mr Armstrong says in a hurt voice. “Never mind moi. Hem-hem. Would you like anything to eat or drink, mademoiselle?”
“Sorry, I already ate…”
She walks closer to Nick, who gets fully to his feet. The air between them feels strangely brittle for a moment. He knows, she thinks, he knows that I know that he was running away…
Maya can feel tears brimming in the corners of her eyes. Nick looks down and mumbles something.
“You…you heard about it, then,” he says, sounding like he’s forcing out each word.
“Yeah. It was on the news...look, Nick, why didn’t you call me?” She looks up at him plaintively. “Why weren’t you at the office? You knew I’d look for you there…”
He shakes his head mutely, and her tears spill over. He doesn’t need to say anything, she thinks, because she knows why.
“It’s okay, I know,” she says quickly – and then it’s just the most natural thing to lean forward, and hug him tightly, because when has she ever shied away from doing that?
“Nick, I’m sorry – I’m so, so –“
“Maya – please, no, it’s my fault. I’m sorry.” Unconsciously, it seems, his hands tangle in her hair as he wraps his hands around her back, which gives her a lovely tight shiver inside, laced with guilt at the very feeling.
“I’ve lost my attorney’s badge,” he says quietly. “Everyone hates me now. Forging evidence…” He looks to the side and clenches his eyes shut. “The innocence of my past clients has been called into question. Everything’s ruined.” And hovering unsaid behind that – how could I have been so stupid? She wonders where he slipped up.
He looks pleadingly into her eyes. “Maya, you have to believe me. It was a mistake, someone handed me that evidence –“
“I do,” she says firmly. “You should believe in me, Nick. I’ve never doubted you.” She gives a watery grin. “I never believed for a second that you would do something like that. But I knew you’d be in trouble.”
“Thanks, Maya.” His smile is beautifully honest. “I guess it was a bit stupid of me to run off like this.”
“Don’t worry about it!” She beams at him. “Mia willed all her funds to me, you know. So I’ll pay the office rent for you.”
His jaw drops open. “Maya, you don’t know how much money – I can’t ask you to…”
“Shush,” she says cheerfully, overriding his protests, and continues. “You’ll need it for when you get your badge back.”
Nick can’t help it. He gives a disbelieving snort. “Maya, you know that won’t happen…”
“It will,” she says firmly. “No matter how long it takes. I’m the Master of Kurain. I’ve got…I’ve got money and power now. I can help you. I’ll, I’ll clear your name and return your badge, I’ll see to it!”
How pathetic. You’re still just a child, Maya Fey. That’s what he’s thinking, you know. You’re a child in a position you don’t deserve, with money your sister earned and power your family handed you on a platter-
Nick is shaking his head. “Maya, you can’t throw away your reputation too! Everyone knows the Master of the Kurain Tradition was my partner –“
He means in law. Enough of that heart-skipping-a-beat nonsense.
“- and if you continue to help me, it’ll just make things worse. Kurain has only just started to regain its good image…”
“Didn’t you hear me?” Maya says in exasperation. “I told you I’m going to get your badge back!”
He’s actually kind of right, thought she doesn’t want to admit it. If the council of senior mystics hears about this, it’s going to be a trial to get anything off them. They probably won’t want a Master who associates with ‘someone like him’.
“Thanks,” he says, and smiles at her again, but this time it’s less honest. She narrows her eyes and peers into his, and she suspects they’re filled with doubt. He doesn’t believe she can do it, does she? He does think she’s just a child…of course he doesn’t see her and she’s a fool to believe for a second that he ever did.
“I mean it,” Nick says, as if he’s sensed what she’s thinking. “I do. Maya, I hope to God you can do it.”
She opens her mouth to ask if he’ll believe in her, truly, in the way she know that he can –
You’ll just embarrass yourself.
-and closes it.
“You understand, right, Maya?” he says gently. She thinks it’s strange, after all this, that he’s taking the comforting tone with her. “I believe you can do whatever it takes, I really do. I just don’t want you to get into trouble on the way, because…look where good intentions got me. And I don’t know how I could ever pay you back…”
He’s lying, he’s lying!
She giggles cheerfully, forcing the doubt down. She can’t ask him to believe in her if she can’t believe in him. “Oh, Nick that’s easy. Just let me borrow your phone.”
“Maya, why didn’t you just find a public phone? It’s not like they’re rare around here.”
“Oops. Um…yeah, guess I didn’t think of that!”
He’s lying to save your feelings. You don’t deserve him.
Maya licks her lips. She hadn’t thought the subpar burger she had eaten was particularly burnt, but from the aftertaste in her mouth, it must have been practically charcoal. She asks for a glass of water to wash out the acrid taste.
She goes back to Wright and Co. with Nick instead of back to her own place, because she knows he needs her.
Maya doesn’t deign to reply this time. She won’t be able to help Nick if she remains unsure and afraid.
The demon grows annoyed, impatient. What’s with you tonight?
Bullies only do it to get a reaction out of you, right? Maya forces herself not to react.
Dahlia’s slap catches her across the face, but strangely it doesn’t hurt.
You don’t know anything, Maya says steadily. Stop trying to torment me.
The demon growls and sinks her fingernails into Maya’s wrists...
…then she lets go.
Maya jerks in surprise. She had expected some kind of mystical fire flowing through her veins, and had been all prepared to face it. Had Dahlia suddenly got bored of her now that she wasn’t crying any longer?
Fine, Dahlia says. Fine. I’ll just hop on back to the Spirit Realm, then.
Good, Maya says angrily.
I’ll say hi to your sister. Have fun doing whatever it is you do. Get your boyfriend’s stupid job back. Don’t mind me.
Maya opens her mouth to protest, then frowns. Wait just a second. How do you know about–
Dahlia whips around and glares. GOODBYE.
and she opens her eyes. Nick is snoring gently there on a couple of blankets on the floor. He had insisted on giving her the couch.
She stares out the window for a bit. The Gatewater is kind of busy tonight. Light is spilling into the room and it’s quite noisy out there.
How on earth is she going to get the money for the rent off the council of mystics? It’s a fine idea in theory, but in practice she has no idea how she’s going to do it. It was hard enough to get them to buy her a new satellite dish. They won’t just hand her the huge sum of money Mia left her. Technically she hasn’t got full control of it until she’s twenty-one, and Nick can’t wait until then.
She’ll have to rush straight back to Kurain. They’re not going to be happy about her running off with no advance notice, so if she wants any chance at the money she’ll have to get there as soon as possible. She’s called Pearly and told her why she’s here, but the council will be furious if she doesn’t give them a good excuse for staying too long, even though they do allow short trips out of the village. She’ll be pretty glad to come back to her dream wards again, though.
Her head leans back against the couch and she closes her–
You came back? the demon growls. I told you I was leaving.
Well, maybe you just suck at this dream invasion stuff, Maya shoots back.
I know what I’m doing, thank you.
Dahlia drifts closer.
I’m in a bad mood right now. Can I hurt you?
Just you try it. Maya is shocked at the venom in her response. She glares daggers at the demon. I don’t care how much you taunt me. I’m going to help Nick.
Dahlia huffs and taps Maya on the forehead condescendingly. Maybe you will. Maybe you won’t. Will those senior mystics even let you?
How do you know about this stuff? Maya narrows her eyes.
I have my ways. Look, you aren’t going to get anywhere. How are you going to convince them to give you that much money?
I have my ways.
Ha ha ha. Oh, do you now.
She taps her again and this time it hurts, it hurts like hell. Maya screams.
Maybe you’ll succeed, the demon whispers in her ear. But first, I’ll make you burn.
Maya shakes her head.
No. I’m going to do this.
The pain recedes.
She wakes up with the pain fading from her limbs.
She has to get out of here. The Gatewater is still noisy, still shining a bright light through the window. Grumbling, she gets up, puts on her shoes and grabs a coat, then staggers out of the office.
She wanders up to the door and stares into the reception hall. They’re holding some kind of dance. Nice of them to do that while she’s trying to relax, if not sleep.
The man at the door notices her. “Do you have an invitation, ma’am?”
“No, it’s just really loud,” she mutters. “Just having a look.”
She can see a couple waltzing in a circle, staring into each others’ eyes with smiles on their faces. They’re wearing expensive clothes. Presumably they have jobs and money to pay for them. Maybe they’re even rich lawyers. Her heart constricts and she feels sick all of a sudden. She wants to cry and punch them and run away. But she has to act like an adult now. She’s responsible for Nick, and she promised to help him. She’s nineteen, nearly twenty. She needs to grow up and handle the money, and not whinge and sulk at a couple of lovebirds because she can’t get–
There it is again, the taste of burning. It makes her want to throw up.
The couple kiss.
Maya turns on her heel and trots away.
When she opens the door and looks inside the office, Nick isn’t on the reception couch. She rushes in. The noise from the Gatewater must have woken him up, right? Okay. Stay calm. She dashes into the office room and finds him sitting on the floor with his back against the desk. He’s sobbing, his head in his hands.
She crouches down, biting her lip. This is just Nick. She can handle it.
She pulls his hands away from his face. He stares at her like he can’t believe his eyes.
“Maya,” he says, but it’s not like him, it’s too thick and unsteady. “I thought…you left…you left me…”
His cheeks glisten and his hands tremble. It occurs to her that he is really not in a good place right now. He woke up in the middle of the night and she wasn’t there…he must have panicked, thought the last thing he could rely on was gone…
“It’s okay,” she whispers, feeling inadequate. “I’m – I’m here.”
She thinks about the dancing couple and wonders irrationally if maybe she should bend her head and find his lips with hers, and make it all better, but for some reason, the first objection to that (and it’s not the only one) is that she doesn’t want him to taste the disgusting flavour of smoke and burning in her mouth.
He clings to her and cries, and Maya wonders what her sister would do. Maya herself has done plenty of crying onto her sister’s shoulder, and it usually seemed to make it all better. But Maya’s not Mia, she’s not really a grownup, and even though she can be, Nick wouldn’t want that right now. She thinks, or she wants to think, that he wants to be clinging to her.
They fall asleep like that. For some reason, Maya doesn’t dream this time.
In the morning, he seems kind of embarrassed, but too miserable to care. It’s like the shock and horror is finally sinking in, and he’s got past his noble urges of protecting her and now just doesn’t want to be alone.
He finishes drinking a bottle of apple juice, looks at it moodily, then puts on the floor. The office is already a huge mess, but it’s not like clients are coming.
“It’s too sweet,” he mutters. “I need something with more…punch.”
“You aren’t allowed alcohol,” Maya says firmly. She’s heard stories about drunk people. “Or coffee.”
Nick sighs. “But alcohol seems like the perfect thing to turn to in this situation.”
“Not a chance. I’ll go out to the store and find you a safer alternative, ‘kay?”
His face freezes into panic for a moment. “No. It’s okay. Stay here.”
Maya frowns, but shrugs in assent. It’s not like they’re really out of milk or anything – there’s a mini kitchen thing tucked away in the main office area, and the fridge is always kept stocked, probably more so than the one in Nick’s actual apartment.
She busies herself cleaning up instead.
“Nick,” she says as she dusts the bookshelves. “I’m going to have to leave at some point…”
He’s sitting on the couch, staring down at his empty bottle of juice. He looks up sharply at her words.
“But there’s still so much to…”
“Not really,” she tells him. “The main issue is sorting out the rent. I can get that done in Kurain.” She doesn’t know how, really, but hey.
“Maya, please don’t leave.”
“Nick, you know I have to. Why don’t you come down to Kurain with me, then?”
He looks around the office, mouth opening and shutting, hands trembling.
“I can’t just stay forever!” she snaps, her frustration boiling over. “I need to talk to the council of mystics! Nick, just don’t be ridiculous!”
Nick seems to deflate. He closes his mouth and sighs, then kicks the juice bottle over, scowling. It rolls for a bit then smashes against Charley’s pot.
Maya isn’t really sure what to do now. Should she apologise? But she doesn’t feel like she was wrong. Nick’s still shaken up. He’s probably trying to cling to something, anything that’s normal. He wants her with him. The clear fact of this sends a tingly thrill through her, but she pushes it away because everything’s changed now. She can’t fall back on old assumptions. The world has revealed itself for what it truly is, and she needs to grow up along with it. She needs to get things done.
But Nick needs her. She knows him and she knows he –
…But what does he need her for? She licks her lips, tasting smoke. What he really needs her for isn’t simply her being there, or her sitting around telling him to cheer up. He needs the clean, overwhelmingly simple fact of money, which he can get from her, and then of course his badge.
She’s the Master of the Kurain Tradition, even if she is still just a pathetic little girl. She can do it. She has to.
Nick believes in her. She can’t let him down.
Maya leaves a few hours after noon, after tidying up the apartment a reasonable amount. She buys a bottle of flavoured iced tea at the train station and hops on the first one to Kurain.
On the train, the sweet clear taste of watermelon-pineapple-tea lingering in her mouth, she realises that she shouldn’t have left. It’s only been a few days since the world ended, though it seems like longer. She curses herself, realising that she’s been terribly stupid, that he needs someone to take care of him even if it is just her.
Okay. Positive attitude. The world has ended before, she remembers. Back when Sis died, she thought there was nothing left, until Nick came. That was a long time ago. She can talk to Sis with simply a pen and paper and a little effort of will. But she can’t summon back those days, Phoenix Wright in the courtroom with Maya, Edgeworth, Mia, as easily as that.
So, maybe it won’t be easy. But she can try anyway.
She wanders into the village, and it feels like home.
“Mystic Maya! Mystic Maya!” Pearl shouts, running up to her and hugging her. Maya crouches down so it’s not just her midriff getting all the attention.
“Heya, Pearly! How’ve you been doing?”
“I missed you. And I miss Mr Nick. You’ve come back to help him, right?” Her eyes are large and sorrowful.
“That’s exactly right, Pearly.” And Maya grins a sharp little grin. “I’m going to help him pay the rent, first off, and then it’s badge time.”
“That’s a scary smile, Mystic Maya! But I’m glad you’re going to get Mr Nick’s badge back!”
“Is it?” Suddenly worried, she drops the look. “Okay, Pearly, never mind that, this is important…”
“Yes, Mystic Maya?”
“Have you been recording the latest episodes of Cruel Angel’s Samurai for me?”
“Yes, Mystic Maya, yes! Would you like to watch them right now?”
“I have to see the council today, but let’s watch them tonight with some burgers and popcorn. How ‘bout that, Pearly? What do you think of a movie night?”
Pearl joyfully skips off to fetch the microwaveable popcorn. Maya goes back to her room, hastily brushes her hair, and changes into a long purple yukata. The council dislikes it when she wears her acolyte clothes. She takes a deep, steadying breath, and then she walks to the council chamber.
It’s three in the afternoon, the time Pearly said they’d be convening today. She walks in, back straight and gaze steady.
“Mystic Maya,” says one of the senior mystics. “Master of the Kurain Channelling Technique. Take your seat.”
Maya stumbles out of the council chamber, feeling exhausted. She’d tried every roundabout, circuitous way she could to approach the topic of being allowed a large sum of her own money, because the idea of saying it directly frightened her to death, and she had been shut down every time. It was hopeless.
Back in her room, she shrugs off the yukata and wraps her comfy old acolyte clothes around herself. After a little thought, she takes the beads out of her hair and plaits it, as it’s a hot day.
This is never going to work, is it? It’s useless going in to try again. At one point they’d mentioned Nick. They’d called him a cheat, a scoundrel –
Oh, dear. You don’t think you might be dealing with this wrong? Maya, don’t you know your own rights? If you can’t argue down a bunch of pathetic, doddering old women, then you are worse than useless.
Maya stares at nothing, licking her lips. They taste foul.
She’s the Master. She’s the head of this council, no matter how much they like to pretend otherwise.
She’s only nineteen, and penniless. But she’s the Master of the Kurain Technique, and that title wields more authority in this town than age ever will.
Just one more meeting. It’s to help Nick. And then the Master can be put to rest and she, Maya Fey, can come back. With a positive attitude and a smile on her face, she will take the bar association by storm and take back the badge, and her lost past with it.
She addresses the matter head on this time, and the senior mystics try to icily stare her down. But Maya is happy, now. She knows what she’s doing, and she doesn’t care what they say because she’s going to help her friend.
She commands them, like she’s never dared to before. She knows it’s dangerous. But it doesn’t matter for the moment.
It actually takes quite a few meetings to chip away at their defences. She bluffs to make Nick proud, with a huge smile on her face and a bounce in her step and a cheerful, teasing tone in her voice. At times, though it scares her to do so, she finds it necessary to hint – she gulps at the thought – at veiled threats and punishments. Though they’re not in the majority, she has her supporters in the council, and she relies on them to prevent the others from ousting her from the position of Master.
And at last…she’s done it.
“Very well,” the council chair mutters, disconcerted at Maya’s bright smile, at the fiery cheerfulness in her voice. She’s sick of moping. She’s going to get things done. “We hereby…grant you the portion of your inheritance required to continue paying for the rent of your sister Mystic Mia’s old law firm premises.” And you’re going to pay for this, Mystic Maya, she doesn’t say out loud. We’re going to make you pay.
Full of euphoria, Maya laughs. “Thanks! Good to know I’m still Master in this town.” And she grins a bright, brittle grin, triumphant in this one thing at last.
There’s a hissing in her ears. Humiliate her. Tear her down. Scare her. Take revenge.
“Mystic Margaret,” she says again, sweetly, “you should have watched your back. You’re off the council.”
Margaret goes white, then dark red. She stands, knocking over the chair. “You insolent-“
Maya just stands up and walks out of the room.
You could’ve done better than that. I suggest that you watch yours.
There’s still work to do, but this she can celebrate.
She signs the cheque, places it in the envelope and dashes onto the train once again. Why does she listen to those mystics about random stuff, anyway? Pffft.
She eats a burger for lunch and hails a cab. It’s the same driver as last time.
“Hi there, Mr Justice,” she says. “Wright and Co, please.”
“You seem unusually happy today, ma’am.”
“Oh, this is usual. Last time I was just a bit bummed out, is all.” She grins, perhaps a bit too widely. “You won’t see me like that again!”
Maya can’t wait to be back. She wonders how much he missed her as she knocks on the door, rocking cheerfully on her heels. She’s wearing a yukata printed with pink butterflies today. Does Nick like butterflies?
A little girl answers the door.
“Hello,” she says gravely. “Who are you?”
“Hello!” Maya says cheerfully. “I’m Maya Fey, and I’m here to see Phoenix Wright, who is my closest friend. Who are you, and why are you in this office?”
“Trucy,” says the girl. “Mr Wright is my new daddy. So I live here!”
“Your…daddy?” Maya frowns, confused. “Can I come in?”
Nick is sitting on the couch, watching TV.
He turns around and brightens up instantly at the sight of her.
“Maya, you came back!”
“And guess what I brought?” She produces the envelope with a grin. He takes it gratefully.
“Thanks so much, I owe you big time.” He looks her over, and then he narrows his eyes, and opens his mouth to say something.
“What is it, Nick?”
“Oh, I just...your hair’s in a braid,” he says lamely.
She wonders if that’s really what he wanted to say. “Yeah, only ‘cause it’s a hot day. Hey, when’d you get a daughter without telling me?”
“Trucy? She’s from…the case. The defendant’s daughter. He did a runner, so I took her in.” Phoenix yawns and stretches. He seems much happier today. “Do you think Pearl would like to meet her?”
“Maybe,” Maya says. “I don’t know.”
“Are you going to spend the night here, or at your apartment? I’ve set up a bed for Trucy, well, kind of, so you can have the couch…”
“My apartment, I think. It’s getting pretty crowded in here.”
“Oh.” He looks crestfallen. “Well, you’re welcome here any time you like. Thanks for getting the money.”
“Next time it’ll go straight to your bank account,” she says proudly. And if anything happens to her, Pearly will take care of sending the money after that. “It wasn’t easy, but I got it off the elders in the end. Now we’re in it for the long haul. It’s time to get your badge back.”
She is motivated now. She’s going to win this one, too.
Oh, why won’t it work, Dahlia says, exasperated. I’m trying to torture you! Be tortured!
Maya shrugs, in no mood for Dahlia right now. I’m busy. Go away.
You’re so rude.
No, you are, Maya says childishly.
Oh, I thought we had a reasonable setup for banter there. Why must you always ruin my plans?
Are…are you in a good mood tonight? Maya says, amazed.
Maybe. Dahlia yawns.
Her bottle of iced tea falls to the ground and smashes but she doesn’t hear it. “What?!”
“Here’s the relevant article, ma’am.” The secretary looks her over, pursing his lips at her unusual attire, and waves a cleaner over. “You can read it for yourself, if you like.”
Maya snatches the paper off him and skims its contents.
“Can…challenge the decision of the bar association, with a solid case against it, for only up to seven days after said decision…this is so stupid!”
The secretary shrugs. “You must know how fast our justice system goes.”
There has to be another chance, even if they’ve missed this one. Has to be! She keeps reading but can’t find a thing.
Maya has never hated her country’s legal system more than she does now. She glowers, feeling her face heat up. The paper crumples in her fist.
“May I ask which case you are inquiring after, miss?”
“Phoenix Wright’s,” she says curtly.
“Oh, well. He’d have had no chance, even if you weren’t out of time.”
“Phoenix Wright never forged any evidence. And he never will.”
Go on, just set the place on fire. Make them all burn.
She stalks out of there before she does anything she might regret. And as she leaves the building, she realises that was it. Her plan. Her only plan. The law courts aren’t going to accept anything she does. It’s over, she’s finished. The very system she’s spent her life admiring and being part of is rejecting her attempts to reconcile Nick with it.
This isn’t justice. It’s meant to be, but it isn’t. And if that’s so, then there is no damn justice. She thinks of Nick. His greatest desire, the thing he wants most, is to rejoin the thing that cast him out and won’t hear of taking him back.
Maya is angry, now. She’s very angry. So she’s surprised to find that when she catches her reflection in a glass window her face still looks young and clumsy and childish, and she’s wearing a smile that doesn’t suit it – hard and bright and grim.
Do something, and don’t bother regretting it!
She walks unsteadily forward.
There’s no justice here. Just us. Us and them. If the law won’t help her, she’ll do this herself. It’s for Nick. It’s to see him happy again. It’s to see him truly alive once more. He believes in her, he said so, and she can’t let him down.
Of course, she can’t face him now. She’s failed, and he doesn’t need her – he’s got Trucy. She goes to her apartment without calling him, and thinks about how she’s going to do this on her own.
You know, you’re actually being surprisingly intelligent at the moment, the demon remarks.
Maya splutters. What? What? Stop being nice to me, it’s scary.
You’re growing up. Realising that life isn’t very kind, not really, and that you have play the game like they do to win.
Huh. Not sure I like that you approve. Maya shrugs. If this is intelligence, I’ll take stupidity any day.
Maybe I won’t torture you this time.
Maya laughs. Well, thanks. I don’t think it would work, anyway.
Why not? the demon says in an injured voice.
Because it just hasn’t lately. You said it yourself. I don’t think you can hurt me anymore. Maya puts her palms together and nods happily. So you’d probably better find some other entertainment!
Bummer, Dahlia says. Any suggestions?
I dunno. Board games?
I’ve tried. Your sister won’t play them with me.
Maya bursts out laughing.
The first thing she realises as she gets out of bed the next morning is that since she’s going to have to do this outside the law, she might have to do some bad stuff, illegal stuff, to complete her mission.
Maya swallows bile down at the thought of committing real crimes, trying to tell herself that the system is broken anyway, it’s all a mess, and it’s hurt her so many times in the past. Not everything in it is objectively right. But she can’t deny that some things are wrong. She can’t be amoral. She can’t bring herself down to Dahlia’s level.
And you were doing so well.
Okay. Time to take stock. She decides to head back to Kurain again.
“Going somewhere, are you?”
She looks up. Dahlia is sitting on the seat opposite, wearing a white sundress and a sweet, serene smile, her red hair flowing over her shoulders. Delicate pink butterflies cluster around her.
Maya takes a deep, steadying breath. She is the Master of the Kurain Tradition, and she must not scream.
“Are you real?” she says. “Or just my imagination?”
“If I’m your imagination,” Dahlia purrs, “you’re probably too far gone to be caring, really.” A flicker, and suddenly she’s sitting next to Maya. “I’m getting the hang of this, aren’t I?”
Maya tries to edge away from the demon’s burning form, but Dahlia snuggles up close.
“Oh, it’s like we’re best friends out on a date. Going to see the sights.” She looks real, but is insubstantial as breath.
“Why are you here?”
“For fun,” Dahlia says. She grins her sharp grin, lips pulling back to reveal her gleaming white teeth. Her eyes glitter.
“Yeah. Already people are wondering why you’re talking to yourself. Look.”
Maya does look. People aren’t staring, exactly, but they are sneaking glances at her, a lot.
“Maybe it’s the clothes,” she suggests.
Dahlia shrugs and settles back. They remain in silence for a while, until Maya realises something that frightens her and saddens her at the same time.
“What do you want?”
The train rattles through the countryside. Light streams through the windows as the scenery flashes past.
“You’re lonely, aren’t you? That’s why you’re following me around. You don’t have anyone else.”
Dahlia doesn’t fly into a rage, and neither does she react or reply. After a while, Maya wonders vaguely if she ever said it at all.
As the minutes of the trip edge by, Maya grows used to the bright warmth of Dahlia’s side, and nods off to sleep against it. She dreams, but the dream is much the same as reality. When she wakes up, the demon is gone, she can taste acid and smoke, and the train is pulling up at the station.
Maya walks into the village purposefully, but this time Pearly doesn’t come running up to meet her.
It’s a beautiful day. The sun is shining, and the birds are singing. She walks on, accompanied by a horrible sense of dread.
“Ahh, Mystic Maya. We were hoping you’d come back soon. The council is waiting.”
And now the world is ending, shattering, tumbling down all over again.
“…you may cease residing in the village of Kurain. You are forbidden the use of the Kurain Channelling Technique at all times. Pearl Fey, as the next in line, will quietly take over the now vacant position of Master. Mystic Margaret will resume her position as head of the council of senior mystics…”
She wonders if she’s dreaming. Her hands hang loosely by his sides. She can only view the world as if through a dark tunnel.
She tries to speak, but all that comes out is a dry croak. She licks her lips and tries again.
“Where’s Pearly?” she asks.
“That is no longer your business.”
Maya looks around at the innumerable blank faces, some frowning in disapproval, but most filled with smug satisfaction. They’ve won. The council has turned against her and Maya has lost.
She’s been too reckless. She’s done everything wrong and now she has even less than before.
You were doing well until you failed miserably, the hissing in her mind tells her. You took action. That’s good. But you made the same mistake as me. You were overconfident and unsure at the same time, and that made you reckless.
I can’t stay here, she thinks. There are tears welling up in her eyes, and she feels hot and cold at the same time. They weren’t going to put up with her for too long, anyway. She said too much, pushed them too far, associated with the wrong people. Silly mistakes. She’s been so stupid.
“Can I talk to my sister?” she chokes out.
They confer for a moment, whispering.
They grant her request out of pity. She was Master once, she thinks.
Mystic Margaret takes her to the Channelling Chamber, and then she turns around and oh, it’s Mia, and though everything has changed and everything’s been lost since the last time she saw her, her big sis is here now. She’s home again.
She breaks down and cries.
Mia rushes forward, hugs her, whispers comforting things.
“It’s okay. Maya, it’s okay…what’s wrong? Did Pearl call me?”
“N-no,” she sobs.
Mia freezes. “Has something – has something happened to–“
“No,” Maya says again, and cries harder, sinking to the floor.
Mia holds her until she’s calm enough to talk.
“I, I, I…”
“Maya, it’s okay.” Her voice is soothing. “I’m here.”
“Everything’s ruined…Nick’s…Nick’s been disbarred, and, and –“
“WHAT. When –“
She shakes her head. “Weeks ago. S-sorry.”
“Maya, you should tell me these things,” Mia says. “It’s too late to appeal to the bar association now. You’re going to have a tough time helping him get it back.”
Maya notes that she doesn’t imply at all that it’s impossible. She expects her to do it – no, she knows Maya can do it.
But it’s too late now. Their belief, from Nick and Mia both, is wasted on her. She can’t do anything right.
“There’s more,” she whispers. “The same thing just happened to…to…”
She starts crying again. Mia waits.
“I’m not Master of Kurain anymore,” she says. “They won’t let me channel –I…I was stupid – I listened to her…”
Oh, thank you very much I don’t think.
“Maya, Maya, what happened…what did you do?” Mia is so kind, so sympathetic. “I’m sure I can fix this—“
“I listened to Dahlia!” Maya sobs. “She’s in my head! She’s following me, she visits me in my sleep – I can’t get away, she tells me things, and I – I – I dunno, it’s scary because I think she might be right about some stuff—“
Mia’s hands clamp down on Maya’s shoulders.
“So that’s what she’s been doing,” she hisses. “That’s where…Maya, what have you done?” She shakes her head. “Why did you listen to her? She’s full of nothing but lies, bile and evil and murder.”
“But she’s lonely too, Sis,” Maya says thickly, and then wonders why she said that.
“Then that all she deserves. Really, Maya. Don’t let her trick you into thinking that her having a single emotion that isn’t pure evil means that her crimes are somehow absolved—“
“I’m not saying I like her! But she helped me. She didn’t have to.” Maya realises she doesn’t know what she thinks about Dahlia anymore. Without her, Nick wouldn’t still have the office.
“I’d be wary of any help offered by her. Look where it got you.”
“Yeah, but …Nick’s alright now. And they can’t really stop me channelling, can they?”
“No.” Mia bites her lip.
Maya realises that in her attempt to somehow, well, not defend Dahlia, but close…she’s ended up unsettling Mia much more than that. She realises she’s not crying anymore.
“It’s okay,” she says. “I won’t make any more mistakes like this. I won’t lose anything else, anyone else.”
“Maya,” her sister says sadly, “I’m very sorry…but it might be too late for that.”
Maya looks up. Mia’s fading away now.
“See you soon. Call me again if—“
And then she’s gone.
Maya leaves quickly, quietly, without even getting to say goodbye to Pearl. Then she finds herself on the train once again, but this time she’s carrying more bags, and she’s leaving Kurain in disgrace, with no prospect of return. They had just been waiting for her to make one wrong move, and she’d made it.
She wonders what she will do now.
She can’t bear the thought of seeing Nick without having something to show for her absence. She doesn’t want to tell him about her failure. He had believed in her, damn it.
So she doesn’t see him. She doesn’t contact him for months. When he rings her, she pretends she’s still in Kurain, sorting things out, very busy, call later. It gives her a sick feeling of shame.
She goes to visit him on her twentieth birthday, feeling that perhaps the future could take a different turn if this goes well, but he’s out, and she doesn’t have the courage to wait for him. He rings her later to say happy birthday, do you want me to come down and visit you – but she declines. He’ll find a village full of blank faces and empty words, and Pearl trapped in the middle of it all.
Pearly. She desperately wants to know how Pearly is, but she’s not allowed back in the village, and her calls don’t get through.
Then he reminisces about the good old days, Phoenix and Maya in the courtroom, cracking cases and chasing down criminals. He wants them back. She does too.
Maya adjusts her frilly apron, grabs the tray and trots out of the kitchen. She takes a deep breath and approaches the dark-haired figure at the table.
“Your order, ma’am...”
The girl nods silently.
Maya stands there for a moment, chewing at her bottom lip.
Go on. Ask her. Don’t be a coward.
The girl turns her head. “What is it?”
“Um,” she says. “Viola, right? Viola Cadaverini?”
“Do you remember me? I was a member of the defence team in State vs. Byrde. Are you out of prison?”
“My grandfather paid the bail,” she says, cupping her hands around her coffee but not drinking it, like most of the customers who usually come to Très Bien. Mr Armstrong is apparently not the greatest barista who ever lived.
There’s some more silence.
Maya coughs nervously. “So…do you remember me?”
That’s all she’s getting, apparently.
“Um, okay. Good. Well, actually, I was just wondering about, um, your grandfather. He runs a powerful group, right?”
“He’s a mafia boss,” Viola says. “What do you want?”
Every sentence that comes out of her mouth has the sound of being put together with extreme care, and then edited for brevity.
“There’s something I really, really need to get,” Maya says quietly. She doesn’t want to admit it, but she’s frightened of this strange girl. “I…I was wondering if your grandfather’s group could help me.”
“You need to pay,” Viola says, seemingly not taken aback by Maya’s request at all.
“I don’t have money.”
Viola waits for her to continue. Since Maya had made the request, then she must have something to give.
“I don’t have money,” she says again, “but I’ll do anything they like, as long as they give me the thing I want.”
You’re…really putting yourself on the line, you know. Be careful. You probably can’t do what they’ll want you to.
“Don’t demand anything.”
“I’m not. Anyway, this is to help Phoenix Wright. You may have been put in jail for a while because of him, but so was Furio Tigre.”
Viola’s knuckles turn white, her fingers clenched around the boiling cup of coffee.
“I’ll do anything you like,” Maya says again. “I’m a practitioner of the Kurain Channelling Technique, too. I can be useful. Just…I need to make Nick a lawyer again.” And anything’s got to be worth it if she can do that.
Anything, right? Anything.
The first thing they ask her to do is simple enough. They ask her to channel someone, so she does it for them. They’re impressed. Anyone who isn’t missing half their brain could see that channelling isn’t a trick, so of course when she wakes up, they praise her and tell her she’s in. She can be useful to them.
The second thing they ask her to do is quite simple enough too, when she thinks about it. They want her to spy on someone. She’s small and childish and innocent looking, so no one would suspect her of anything, right?
Maya follows the ‘target’ – (spy language! It’s so cool!) and reports back and all that jazz. She lets her boss know the guy’s movements, and what he’s doing next. Then when she comes home at the end of the day she wonders why they wanted to know, and why she’s telling the mafia where an innocent guy has his coffee every morning.
You’re really not cut out for this sort of thing, dearest.
It’s to get Nick’s badge back, though. And there’s so many things tied with that desire that she can’t contemplate giving it up.
The third thing they ask her to do is simple, too, in its way. And so is the fourth, which is to channel again, so she does. She wakes up covered in…well. It’s not pretty. She decides not to ask. She has a long, hot shower after that.
Hi there. What is it?
I never thought I’d say this, but seriously, this is just getting worse every time. Get out while you can. Dahlia shrugs. Your call, though.
What do you mean? It’s only getting easier.
The demon shakes her head in amazement. Haven’t you learned anything, you idiot? I’d find it easy, personally, but you…
Maya is affronted at this. I can so do stuff.
You’re so childish.
It all just gets simpler and simpler, easier and easier until it boils down to the simplest act of all, which she honestly should have known was coming. Perhaps she did know, really, deep down.
Still such a child.
“I can’t do this,” Maya says in amazement. “I…I can’t do it.” She stares at her pale hands. So many times, people have accused them of being covered in blood. Never once have they been right.
She’s also terrified that the law would catch her.
It gets easier after the first time. And who knows? You might not be as foolish as me in the end.
“Shut up,” she snaps. “This is too far.” She shakes her head. “Can’t I ask them…”
But she can’t. She said she’d do anything.
So you did. And what did I tell you–
“You hypocrite,” Maya says quietly.
What was that?
“I said, you HYPOCRITE! I’ve had enough of you! Sis was right. You’ve murdered plenty of times, and done horrible things to people! And now you’re just sitting in my head telling me what to do! It’s because of YOU and your stupid advice that I was kicked out of Kurain. It’s your fault. Everything’s your fault. I can’t believe you. You’re disgusting. Just GO AWAY.”
There’s no response and she’s kind of glad.
Maya doesn’t do what they ask. She waits, terrified, for a hooded man knocking at the door, or Viola with a cigarette lighter, or Nick, even, asking about his badge…
But none of them come. There’s just…silence.
She goes to work the next morning and Viola is there, but she doesn’t even acknowledge Maya’s presence. Maya feels too awkward to say anything herself.
Nothing happens for a whole week and by the end of it she’s out of her mind, her thoughts travelling in tortured circles. She’s waiting, and for what she doesn’t know, because it’s not quite here yet. She needs to do something, but she needs to wait until something happens, but she doesn’t know what that something is, and it hasn’t arrived, not quite yet.
Dahlia hasn’t spoken since then. Not for a whole week. Maya doesn’t have anyone else to talk to, and she’s actually feeling kind of lonely.
Then, finally, there’s an envelope from her boss, and the letter inside simply says tonight or nothing.
The badge, or everything she’s ever believed in? What good is Nick being a lawyer if she’s betrayed him, by doing something like this?
But if she doesn’t continue with this, what’s left for her? She’s lost everything else. She hasn’t seen Nick, her closest friend, for ages. It’s all got to have been for something.
He said he believed in her. That if anyone could do this for him, it would be her.
For some reason, she then thinks about the old, shameful desire to kiss him. If there’s anyone she loves, it’s him.
She wonders what to do.
Maya wakes up to find herself on the floor. She’s lying on her side, but her braid is tucked under her arm, which throbs with pain and pins-and-needles. She groans. Her mouth and throat are utterly dry, but are filled with the taste of burning, smoke and burning and something metallic. Her back aches.
Dahlia’s ghost is lying opposite her, staring into her eyes. Maya yelps and scrambles to her feet. Dahlia flickers, and is suddenly sitting on her bed.
“Well, I did it for you.” She chuckles dryly. “Just like you asked. Aren’t you going to thank me?”
“Thanks,” Maya whispers. She staggers to the bathroom for a drink, feeling kind of numb. There are brownish-red stains on her butterfly print yukata. She tears it off in revulsion and throws it in a corner, not caring that Dahlia’s watching. After all, Dahlia has been her, once again. The feeling after that last trial had been horrible – burnt out and reduced to nothing but ash, in the face of the scorching flames of Dahlia’s rage.
It’s a little better this time, but she doesn’t really feel like it.
“You’ll have to pay the price for this, you know,” Dahlia calls after her. “I’m not doing this for free.”
“That’s fine,” Maya mutters.
She has to pay for this somehow, after all. Otherwise it wouldn’t be right.
She is in her element – that is, blood – and that makes her happy.
It feels like fire is racing through her veins as she lowers the gun, and then pulls the trigger, hitting the man in the foot. He howls and collapses. She steps forward, humming, then stabs him. And again. And again, and again, and after it’s over and done she doesn’t leave a trace of evidence, because she knows Maya wouldn’t want that, and she can’t do to Maya what she did to herself –
Maya wakes and stares at the ceiling for a minute. Then she rushes to the bathroom and throws up.
Urgh, that’s foul.Why must you be so squeamish?
The next time she’s asked to kill, she channels Dahlia again, and she dreams of blood again, and she throws up again, and then scrubs her hands until they bleed.
Maya goes to visit Nick again on her twenty-second birthday, three years now after the fact, and discovers that she’s not the only one who’s changed. He wears a beanie now, one that Trucy made for him, and the kid is slowly populating the entire office with ‘magic tricks’. She dodges all his questions about how she’s doing now, how Pearl is, how’s being Master, all of that, and he dodges her questions on how his investigation into that case three years ago is going, so she guesses it’s even.
“By the way,” he says, “thanks for the DVDs. How do you find the reports I’ve been writing up?” He gestures at a small pile of Samurai DVDs on the bed. She picks out Cruel Angel’s Samurai, Timey Wimey Samurai and Pandora Samurai, among others, and gets the urge for another rewatch.
“Oh, fine,” she says, nonplussed. What has Pearl been up to?
“Hey, Maya, what happened to your old clothes? The purple ones. I just don’t see you wearing them a lot lately.”
“Oh, you mean my acolyte clothes,” she says. “I’m not an acolyte anymore. So I wear this sort of thing.” She smooths down her yukata. “I feel kinda weird in modern stuff, y’know?”
He nods vaguely. “I like this one better than the other one.”
“The butterfly one?”
“But why not? I like that one, Nick!”
He doesn’t answer when she presses him more on the subject, just frowns.
“Bye, Nick. See you later, I guess.”
“…yeah.” He doesn’t really smile. “See you.”
When’s he going to ask her about the badge?
Maya is a waitress during the day, and Dahlia at night, when she’s not being someone else for her boss, and her dreams are filled with screams and dying. But she can’t stop, can’t contemplate stopping. Unthinkable. She mustn’t.
She finds it kind of strange how she speaks to Dahlia more than she does to Nick now, and is actually kind of friendly to the demon, who is friendly back, though she keeps sending the dreams. Maya doesn’t complain because that’s the price Dahlia named and she must pay it.
Months, to her surprise, stretch out into another year. The time Nick has spent disbarred is now officially longer than the time she knew him as a lawyer. She visits him on her twenty-third birthday, and she doesn’t stay long. She doesn’t feel comfortable talking to him anymore, really, because she still can’t do anything for him. She can’t stop working because she owes him. She told him she’d make him a lawyer again, full of promises and hope – but that was so long ago, and she still hasn’t done it.
She still feels a trembling guilty thrill at the idea of kissing him, though her image of him in that dream wears a blue suit, and has his hair uncovered, and seems like a much younger man. He’s not even close to old yet, but he looks it.
Soon she is turning twenty-four, and she had stopped vomiting after waking up a long time ago.
Dahlia is with her, too, always whispering in the back of her mind, sometimes showing up in person. She’s less angry now, much less of an unrestrained force of rage, but Maya knows all too well that the demon still finds killing all too easy.
Still, it’s funny, because Dahlia isn’t lonely anymore. And though she’s gone for ages now without speaking a word to her closest friend, neither is Maya.
On Maya Fey’s twenty-fifth birthday, she feels she’s nearing the brink of collapse. She can’t take this anymore. She doesn’t go to work, during the day or the night.
It isn’t fair,
It isn’t fair,
Dahlia nudges at the edge of her mind, but Maya screams loudly in response and pushes her away, sobbing. She’s going to DO THIS. WITH DAHLIA OR WITHOUT.
Nick must miss her, right?! She imagines him coming for her, golden badge shining on his lapel and a soft smile on his face. He’s taking her home. He’s there, he’s right there, sitting on the bed –
She wakes up crying. Mia is there too, shaking her head. So disappointed, she seems to be saying.
No. I don’t need you. Strobing lights flash in front of her vision. I can do this on my own.
In the end of course, she can’t. Dahlia manages to persuade her to see the doctor, who prescribes her some medication and a month off work, with weekly checkups. If it were the tiniest bit worse, she’d be in hospital.
Nick finds out, and comes to see her, in her dingy little apartment with the window facing onto the wall. He’s wearing that awful hat again, and his chin is covered in stubble.
This isn’t Nick, she realises vaguely. She puts her head under the covers and refuses to speak.
After a while, he leaves.
Dahlia sits on the end of the bed and watches him go. Maya wonders if he can see her.
When Maya recovers properly, she finds that he left a note under her pillow.
Hey, Maya. Sorry to hear you’ve been ill. How’s it going?
I’m doing okay. I think I’ve got something worked out for my big plan. The Gavins won’t know what hit them.
Get well soon,
She clutches the letter and realises it’s shaking. Her hands are trembling.
Large wet spots are appearing one by one on the paper. She touches her cheek, and it’s wet.
Oh, your poor thing...
She doesn’t go to see him, because he didn’t ask her to.
She moves apartments. Dahlia follows.
Cadaverini’s organisation promises her the badge, eventually. They’re working on it. It’s happening. But won’t she consider staying? She’s been so useful…they seem to like having a renegade channeller on their side.
Maya is twenty-six, now. That means Nick must be thirty-three, by her count. It’s been so long, hasn’t it? And yet it’s been no time at all.
“Philosophical today, are we?”
Dahlia looks coolly out the window, examining her ghostly fingernails for imperfections.
She stares at the dress folded neatly in the corner. It’s the one Dahlia always takes out at night, the one covered in butterflies and blood.
“You know,” she says, and she’s kind of surprised, “I’m sad.”
Maya pulls on her coat and shoes and dashes outside, remembering at the last minute to bring her keys. She had no idea there was a trial today – no idea Nick had been accused of murder – why hadn’t he told her? If she’d known –
He’d have told you if you stopped trying to hide from him.
“We’re late,” she mutters, checking her watch. “It’s probably finished by now.”
She rushes into the courthouse just after the trial finishes, heart in her throat – and almost collapses with relief when she sees that Nick isn’t being dragged out in chains. He’s talking to a young man, a couple of years younger than her, with a golden attorney’s badge on his lapel and a glint in his eye that’s so familiar it hurts.
Nick hasn’t spotted her. She edges closer. The lawyer is holding up a playing card, with a drop of blood on it.
She listens to the conversation, and once again, the world is ending.
I forged that evidence, he says.
The words clunk one by one into place, their meaning filtering slowly into her unwilling mind. She shakes her head. No. She steps back, her shoes thudding on the tile. No.
Nick’s head tilts to the side, and suddenly she knows he’s seen her. His composure flickers for a moment, and then he looks back at the man and keeps on talking, still with that half-smile on his face. It’s so unlike the Nick he’s meant to be that it makes her want to gag.
She takes a step back, then another, and then she’s running away. She ends up on the stairs of the courthouse.
A few minutes later, he finds her leaning against the courthouse wall. She’s staring with unfocused eyes into the distance.
“Maya…I’m sorry, but...”
His words fade away into the dead silence surrounding her.
He sighs. “You shouldn’t have been here for this. I haven’t seen you for ages. Maya, I can–“
She mumbles something.
“Sorry, I didn’t catch–”
“What was it for?” she says. Her fingers clench and unclench.
Phoenix shrugs hopelessly. “What? I’m sorry…”
“I mean, what was it all for?” Maya seems too far gone for tears. “Why did all that have to happen, why did I have to do all…all this, if this is who you are now? Why?”
Then she shakes her head, and gives a short, cracked laugh. “I guess I did betray you, after all. So you’re allowed to betray you, too.”
That horrible man, Dahlia hisses. That pathetic, wretched, sad excuse for a human-
No, YOU shut up!
Dahlia bleeds into her mind, full of effervescent rage, potent as a white-hot coal. Smoke floods her veins.
“Maya,” he says again, sounding unsure, slightly guilty, and it seems more like the old Nick than anything she’s seen of him for ages.
Too late. It’s not enough. This isn’t the real Nick.
Maya smiles so that her teeth show, and her smile is hard and bright and grim. And then it seems the most natural thing in the world to lean forward, standing on tiptoes, take his face in her hands, and kiss him. He gives a muffled mmph of surprise as she scratches at his cheeks, stumbling backwards so his back is against the wall. She bites down and salty metal fills her mouth and for once the taste of burning is drowned out by something worse.
She tries to make him taste it – not the blood, but the fire.
She wants him to suffer, now.
Once Maya’s satisfied he’s hurting enough, she draws back, her lips shining cherry-red and bright, and then she turns and runs away. She can hear him following her, and she sort of cares but sort of doesn’t.
She’s burning, now, and it’s like she can feel it, all the pain her –mine –yours– her victims have suffered, her blood alight with dancing flames.
She hails a cab.
“I think I remember you,” the man says curiously. Haley Justice, isn’t it? “You told me to go to Wright and Co.”
Maya grins happily, feeling the drying blood crack on her mouth, puts her palms together and nods. “That’s right! But this time I don’t want to go there. Take me to Gourd Lake, please.”
As the car moves off, her thoughts are calm and peaceful, or maybe they’re just frozen. It’s all gone, lost. Everything. What’s the point, now?
Dahlia makes no comment, but maybe that’s because she is Dahlia now, too, and everything she thinks is tied up with that.
She’s sitting watching the world go by, waiting to arrive somewhere both far away and very near, and she’s not quite there yet.
And that’s okay.
The sun is shining and the birds are singing. It’s a beautiful day for the world to end.
She’s kneeling in the shallows of the lake, feeling the chilly water bite into her legs. Relief.
Her reflection shimmers on the surface of the water, and once it would have scared her, but now she just smiles, and it’s far too sweet. She reaches up and unbraids her hair. She imagines butterflies clustering in it.
Maybe it’s just the family resemblance. Or maybe this is who she is now.
The heat in her veins reaches fever pitch and the taste of flames lingers in her mouth. It’s not the world, she realises, it was never the world. All along it’s been her, it’s been her that’s shattering, fading, returning to nothing –
Maya gives herself to the water and it takes her in, surrounds her with blessed cold, fills her nose and mouth. She wonders where the fire will go.
She imagines that Nick is coming for her. He drags her out of the water, holds her close, tells her it’s all going to be okay. He tells her he’s sorry.
He wonders why they haven’t talked for so long. Was she scared of coming to see him? Because he was, too, and that’s why…he’s sorry. How did everything end up like this? She’s changed so much. He liked it when she had her hair tied with beads. Has she burned that awful butterfly dress yet?
She opens her eyes and looks, reaches up to touch his face, and then she sighs.
He hasn’t come for her. This is just an illusion. How disgusting.
Dahlia is there with her, taking her hand and sinking her ghostly nails into it, telling her harshly to get up, please, just get up, you can’t do this to yourself. She shakes her head sadly. Too late. If she was Dahlia’s chance at redemption, then that’s lost now too.
And now Mia’s there, too. Maya, what’s happened to you? I’m so sorry. I wish I could have helped you. You’re burnt out, like ashes…but you know, there’s a legend about ashes…
Ha ha, Sis, very funny. You know I’m not a phoenix.
Her mother smooths back her hair, and tells her not to worry, because things are better somewhere else, in a different life. If only she could turn back time.
And then, finally, there’s Phoenix Wright. The real one, come home at last. And he smiles at her – don’t worry Maya, it’s okay – and takes her other hand, and together they lie on the sand, and Maya stares up at the sky, as it comes tumbling into darkness with her and the last of the flames in her heart flicker out–
Don’t go, please – come back –
And now, at last, there’s a mouth on hers, and there are tears falling on her face.
I suspect that much of this fic was born out of guilt at not having answered my emails and then actually seeing the people I hadn’t emailed in real life, and wanting to hide. Oh, the angst.
If you enjoyed this story, you may enjoy another one I wrote along the same lines, ‘Faith, Hope, Love’. It’s kind of similar, but in many other ways it’s the opposite. The idea for this actually came about in the form of ‘hey, why don’t I write that fic again but with Maya instead?’
If you want to read this kind of scenario, but where nobody gets possessed by Dahlia/goes axe crazy/has a psychotic break/ ends up with their life being horrific and miserable, check out my other story ‘That’s Not Who We Are Anymore’. It’s very short, possibly because everything going fine just isn’t as compelling to write about for over ten thousand words. :P
Also, woot, GS5! If it ever comes out here I really want some mention of Phoenix getting his badge back / going to live with Maya, even if he doesn’t show up for the whole game. My headcanon is the most important thing here, you know.