33 The Way You Look Tonight (Grande Finale Part 1)

AUGUST 23, 2019:

A/N: I know I’ve been unpredictable with the updates for this story… But aside from recently getting outside inspiration from some incredible people to who I will pay homage momentarily, I will shamelessly confess that my wonderful reviewers are a huge factor in the frequency of the chapters. I’ve always believed as a writer you have to write for yourself first and foremost, but I’m not above being pumped up and motivated when I get feedback about how much my readers are enjoying this story and have had zero qualms letting me know this publicly despite its racy content! THANK YOU! You guys ROCK!💖

I hope nobody has any objections to the fact that I respected their time and figured no one had enough of it to actually sit through a 20,000 words chapter (hell I don’t even do that with Turnabout Everlasting!), which this was turning into!

The other reason this official penultimate chapter (no-take backsies this time!) has been split into two parts was due to the sage advice of my wonderful friends and brilliant FF writers Peoplepersonsof DooM and TheFreelancerSeal (a heartfelt thanks to the latter for taking the time to beta read these last couple of chapters for me!).

This story was and still is dedicated to a wonderful reader, who I really hope will get to read this, even though it’s been a lengthy, unstable ride, named Ariastella. Without her, I would never have been able to finish this story; I’d have been so lost without her clever and hilarious ideas for some of Phoenix’s nightmare shagging scenarios that you guys have gotten such a kick out of! Thanks again doll! 

That being said, there are some other amazing readers of this story who have been so loyal to me and reviewed pretty much all my works, so I want to give a shout out to them as well because this chapter is dedicated to them (they’ll soon know why!) 😉 ❤

CzarThwomp: CT, my musical parody partner in crime… without hopefully sounding like a broken record, you are an unparalleled comic genius and the funniest guy in this fandom. I cannot keep track of how many ideas I have been inspired into using in this and other stories because of your side-splitting reviews and your own wonderful works. I really hope you enjoy this chapter. Thank you for being awesome! 😊👍

Peoplepersonsof DooM: Lyn, aside from essentially being the funniest girl in this fandom, you have inspired me and my creativity beyond words since we become friends. The evidence is right in front of you … I’ve gone from updating the story on an annual and semi-annual basis to actually getting this thing updated and now pretty much completed within three months! Thank you! I cannot wait for our upcoming collaboration! 😘❤

Joeclone: while my mini nod of thanks to you here, my dear loyal reader, might be minor in this chapter, it will become much more evident in the second part of the finale, Tahrust Inmee! 😉 ❤

Babar Bar, Kingdom of Khura’in – July 11, 2026


As the erstwhile Ace Attorney’s descending face drew nearer, Maya could make out his raffish expression, even in the dim lighting.

Bedroom eyes narrowed into a flirtatious smile in acknowledgment of their prey; lips slightly parted into a roguish smirk. Phoenix knew he had her exactly where he wanted her but he wasn’t about to give in to any sort of temptation.

At least, not here, on a crowded dance floor amidst dozens of horny, canoodling twosomes who were in the process of sucking out one another’s fillings!

The disappointed Master barely stifled a disheartened groan.

So much for that titillating premise of her nearly 30-year-old virginal ass finally getting to osculate for the first time!

I can understand Nick not wanting to play tonsil hockey in such a public location – I’ve seen less face-eating in Silence of the Lambs! Regardless, I still can’t help but feel as neglected as Quasimodo at a Sadie Hawkins dance!

Maya hadn’t realized till that instant that it was even humanly possible to feel turned on, disappointed and agitated at the exact same time!

Yet that was exactly the case here, and it was seriously rattling her cage!

All the diviner knew was that while she felt as though he’d gotten her more shaken and stirred than a James Bond martini, he appeared to be all cavalier and devil-may-care about this whole thing. Hell, it was as though Phoenix was more amused than aroused by her limerence to him!

Was it possible her hard-up lady boner had made her delusional? That the mutual sizzling moment they’d just seemingly shared had been nothing more than a fevered conjuring of her sorry-ass, concupiscent imagination?!

Argh! Screw you, Nick! You – you farting butthole! You’ve gotten far too cocksure for your own good! The lovable, diffident dork I used to know would get jumpier and more flustered than a virgin at a prison rodeo whenever anything remotely feminine came within five feet of him! Yet now, when this female is smothered all over him like a fart in a spacesuit, it’s no biggity whatsoever! Suffering lab rats! He’s as sangfroid as a guy who just walked out of the shower with no towel… Nngwaaah!

The mere notion of Phoenix wearing nothing but his birthday suit caused a rush of heat to flood her cheeks.

Brains in a blender! I shouldn’t have let my mind go there! I – I’m not ready to be alone with Mr. Sex-On-A-Stick! Not yet!

“Since you seem to be the one dragging your heels this time, do I need to coercibly transport you to that aforementioned lānai?” The grin was evident in his cadence even over the din. “Or can I entrust you to trail behind if I lead the way?”

Maya wasn’t sure she trusted her stems to hold her up after this latest encounter but dragged together the rags of her rattled composure. If, despite their propinquity, he could remain chiller than Snoop Dogg lighting a spliff off the Olympic torch, then so could she!

“Let go of me, please.” Untangling herself from his arms, she then jutted her chin in a display of atrabiliousness. “Of course, I’ll follow you. It’s so stifling in here amongst all these sweaty, dry-humping couples that this area now bears the putrid stench of an armpit smoking a cigarette! I’m all in favor of getting some air!”

“There’s quite a crowd we need to veer through to get outside, so curb the stalling tactics, Miss Fey, and take my hand.” He smiled indolently. “Like it or not, you’re coming with me.”

“Oh, baby!” She quipped with an impish wink. “Just promise to be gentle!”

The brunette was feigning a breeziness she was far from feeling as she timidly accepted the outstretched palm, feeling an electric jolt as their fingers brushed. Time seemed to stand still. She paused to squiz at their interlaced fingers, before raising her gaze and catching his intense stare.

Her cheeks flamed again, and she felt a surge of self-disgust.

Jumping weasel fritters on a hot cross bun, Maya! Can you be any more of a sophomoric ninny?! She thought crossly. At this rate, instead of playing catch-up with my old pal, I’m going to spend the entire evening blushing like a jejune, tongue-tied, schoolgirl!

Someone was now crooning an old Elton John ballad at the karaoke machine.

There was a time
I was everything and nothing all in one
When you found me
I was feeling like a cloud across the sun

The mood music was not lost to the bountiful, quixotic pairs in the bar, most of them still all over each other like a mullet on a redneck.

Not that the ex-lawyer could blame them for succumbing to their tender persuasions and pouncing upon their partners like flies on a big, steaming turd loaf; the dreamy lyrics, just like all the others that evening, couldn’t have been more suited than if Phoenix had chosen the song himself.

I need to tell you
How you light up every second of the day
But in the moonlight
You just shine like a beacon on the bay

The skin of his hand tingled with a pleasant warmth where the raven-haired woman was touching him, which he felt spreading throughout his body, touching and igniting something he had long kept repressed in his soul.

And I can’t explain
But it’s something about the way you look tonight
Takes my breath away

It’s that feeling I get about you, deep inside

Those ingénue, searching dark orbs held so much unrestrained yearning and fervor, which she had neither the guile nor experience to hide, that it nearly tore his ragged self-restraint to shreds.

And I can’t describe
But it’s something about the way you look tonight
Takes my breath away
The way you look tonight

Behind his calm and collected façade, the poker champ’s heart thudded loudly against his chest; he could hear his blood in his ears.

I need to tell you
How you light up every second of the day
But in the moonlight
You just shine like a beacon on the bay

Even if she was too virtuous and inexperienced to know it herself yet, Maya wanted him.

With a smile
You pull the deepest secrets from my heart
In all honesty
I’m speechless and I don’t know where to start

Just as much as he needed her.

And I can’t explain
But it’s somethin’ about the way you look tonight
Takes my breath away
It’s that feelin’ I get about you deep inside

But it was much more than her innocence that spoke to his soul. He knew that now.

And I can’t describe
But it’s something about the way you look tonight
Takes my breath away
The way you look tonight

Just as they were about to step out onto the patio, the necromancer abruptly halted in her tracks as another wave of panic washed over her.

Jeepers Creepers! Whether I’m ready to be alone with him in more private surroundings or not, Nick’s no longer giving me a choice!

She spotted a waitress approaching in their direction and made the snap decision that a final dose of Dutch courage was just what the doctor ordered.

That’s it! A drink! If I’m going to do this, I at least need to put some hair on my chest first! I need a drink – one so stiff I could blow it!

Hold it! I –I – need a drink!”

The pianist turned around, sporting a quizzical glance.

“Wait – what?”

The young server had been striding towards the tables with a smorgasbord of lowball cocktails in her arsenal. She’d just been about to pass them when, without preamble, Maya impulsively plucked two snifters off the loaded tray.

“Pohlkunka! You can’t do that, lady!”

Ignoring the startled protest, the village leader blithely tossed both libations back as though they were water, spluttering slightly as the unknown concoctions blazed a fiery trail down her throat.

“Holy Mother of pearl in a sidecar going 80!” The bar employee, whose gold-plated name tag read Lucianna, hollered incredulously. “You got some nerve there! Who do you think you are?!”

As the gullet burning subsided, Maya belatedly grasped Lucianna’s resulting anger for her impudent actions and managed to splutter out a semi-lucid apology.

“Sorry about that, Miss – but it couldn’t be helped! Believe me, I needed those more than they did!” She offered the stony-eyed girl a sickly grin. “Um, don’t worry – I can replace what I pilfered, no problem! Just tell my sweetie Joe at the bar to put them on Maya Fey’s tab!”

As the astounded Lucianna continued to goggle at the necromancer like she’d acquired a second head, Phoenix swiftly intervened.

“It’s all good, I swear!” He placated the server, a winsome smile on his mien. “Miss Fey has the same tab that I do with my good man, the bartender. You can just as easily supplant the drinks under my tab if you prefer. Just tell him it’s for Phoenix Wright.”

Instantly, Lucianna’s annoyance dissipated as she turned to face the musician, and was now in full eyelash-batting mode.

“Holy Mother of mole sauce! Hap’piraki to you, sir.” The glare that’d hitherto been reserved for the Master was now substituted with a blinding, megawatt beam that would have put the sun to shame. “Guess I can’t ignore the gentlemanly request of the most handsome patron in our humble establishment, can I? Your wish is my command!”

The relieved DILF was treated to a jaunty final wink as the pretty brunette sauntered back to the bar, swinging her hips provocatively as she did so, much to Maya’s mounting aggravation.

She was still fuming over the whole exchange as the openly chortling ex-attorney ushered his friend out onto the empty deck.

“As Larry Butz would say, holy shitzit yo! Things could have gotten darn messy if I hadn’t intervened! You’re still the same old Maya, aren’t you?” The reformed wino derided. “Even seven years later, you just can’t stay out of trouble!”

He was trying to be playful, ribbing her the way she always did with him, but what with her gallimaufry of feelings, coupled with the higgledy-piggledy effects of mixed cocktails to her unaccustomed, booze-addled mind, it only compounded her ire. To the blasted rake, everything, from her puerile, scaturient behavior, and even Maya herself, was just one big joke to him!

Her teeth gritted in response, but he seemed oblivious to her escalating inquietude.

You know that tingly feeling a woman gets when she’s twitterpated with somebody? The experience of feeling the tiny hairs on her arms standing up and an overall horripilation of excitement tingling down her spine? That’s goddamn common sense leaving her body!

In this case, it was all the above, on top of way too much mysterious, potent hard stuff now coursing through the empty stomach of a tiny sylph who weighed a buck-oh-five, soaking wet!

And it’d be the pernicious effect of said hooch she’d later blame for her solecism when she finally snapped.

“By the way, since when do you guzzle the firewater like a parched pirate, anyway? I seem to remember you could pretty much get falling down drunk just by sniffing a beer cap, back in the day!”

That does it! The japing was bad enough, but now the son-of-a-gun is judging me?!

“That shows how much you know, Phoenix Wright!” She hiccupped slightly, which, unfortunately, slightly lessened the intended effect of her glowering. “The last time you saw me I was still a teenager! I’m all grown up now, in case you failed to notice!”

Is she freakin’ serious?! Blessed scuba diving Buddha on a banana boat with cocktail onions and a map to the star’s homes! He groaned inwardly. Notice?! What am I – blind like Lamiroir? Of course, I’ve noticed that she’s no longer a girl and now all woman! That’s why I’ve been trying to pump the breaks on the lewd train and stifle just how much I’ve been noticing her, before I’m busted and she notices me, noticing her! But it’s like trying to put out a forest fire with a garden hose!

“Also, Phoenix Wrong, I’ll have you know that before stumbling upon you tonight, I’d already ingested two very potent glasses of fermented yak’s milk, yet here I remain, still standing!

Sure, it’s on ever-so-slightly unsteady feet at this point, but hey, it still counts!

“Yak’s milk?! Ugh!” He made a face. “Why do I have sickening visions of that being the grotesque equivalent of curdled goat’s milk on a warm summer day?!”

“Humph! I’ll have you know while it’s an acquired taste, it’s considered to be a local delicacy lemme tell you, foreign devil!”

She scowled at him, the ingested liquor loosening her tongue dangerously as all her newfound imbroglio of emotions, mingled with the pain and jealousy from Violet’s flinging open the Pandora’s Box, reared its ugly head.

“Although, I suppose a few drinks would be a walk in People Park to you, wouldn’t it? Word on the street is you got very well acquainted with wetting your whistle… while whetting your insatiable appetite for whatever pink taco that crossed your path!”

The flummoxed Phoenix felt his jaw drop to his chest.

Fuck me dead! Has all conceivable logic in the universe gone on holiday and lost its luggage?! She couldn’t possibly be referring to my wino, man-whore days! But how could she possibly have found out about that while she’s been out here in the boondocks?!

“What are you talking about? I’ll have you know that I haven’t had even one drop of spirits tonight!” His defensiveness was compounded by her unladylike snort at this proclamation. “And for the record, despite what you may or may not have heard, while I did have a spell of drinking something stronger than grape juice, which was the sole bottled item I had tonight, I’ve been pretty much dry for the last couple of years!”

“Way to go, Nick!” She jeered. “Kudos to getting on the wagon, although that was the only dry spell you had all this time, wasn’t it? You may have put the cap back on the bottle, but couldn’t put the cork on that insatiable libido, could you? That’s right, I caught the news!”

Caught the news?!” The pianist gawked at her in disbelief.

“More like I caught a whiff!” She noted his gobsmacked expression and glared at him accusingly. “Hell, I can still smell it! And Holy Mother of all things hairy and disgusting, even traveling from overseas, the effluvium of your hedonist indiscretions still assaults my olfactory senses! The lingering stench was more fetid than two bums porking in a kiddie pool filled with piss!”

Hedonist indiscretions?” He echoed, still taken aback beyond measure by this unprecedented attack.

“Quit repeating everything I say! Who are you, Polly the parrot?” She put her hands on her hips. “I know all about your drunken womanizing ways, buster! Detective Badd retrieved my absconded phone once they were done scanning it for evidence. This rube country now has full cell tower reception, so I had a lot of time to kill when they dumped me off here! I read up about your Phoenix Wright Fanclub site and its member newsletters! Boy, I say, boy, you’ve had more loose screws than a hardware store in an earthquake! Holy bouncing boomerangs at a barbecue, Nick! What the hell are you? Part jackrabbit?!”

The unprecedented paroxysm made Phoenix disregard the curious anecdata laced into the onslaught because his shock was now rapidly morphing into outright indignation.

First, he’d had to endure Edgeworth’s sanctimonious jobation (with a side of sucker punch!) about his debauchery days, but now Maya, of all people, based on pure hearsay hyperbole, was going to play the high-and-mighty, judge-and-jury card, too?!

Although he’d known the curmudgeon prosecutor much longer, this rancorous attack was much, much worse.

While the one-time defense attorney had initially been devastated by Edgeworth’s scathing, knee-jerk judiciousness regarding his ribaldry, hearing such adjudication, based on stories that were mostly ben trovato, from the only woman he’d ever loved, stung a whole lot more.

Could life truly be so cruel as to finally let him be reunited with the one he’d yearned for all this time, only to have his past be what tore them apart yet again?

I’m not afraid that I cannot live without you. I know that I technically can. I am afraid that without you, I will feel the same, small perpetual emptiness. That same, aching loneliness that makes my existence miserable, breaks my heart into a thousand pieces, and still, each broken part of my heart misses you as my heart missed you as a whole. Life becomes vulnerable as I am enslaved by thoughts of you; I try to be normal but I just can’t. Each and everything seems meaningless; at the start, everything seems extraordinary and ecstatic, but in the end, I am left with nothing except agony and emptiness. And I’m afraid that will never go away.

Underneath his despondency though, he felt a flash of aggravation at the injustice of being convicted without a trial! Whether or not Maya only felt superficial desire for him now like all the others, and not the same level of ardency as he, she was still supposed to be his friend.

His best friend.

Friends aren’t supposed to judge each other. They’re supposed to make “inside” jokes amongst themselves and judge other people… together!

Sure, he’d indulged in more salacious than saintly conduct over the years, but despite a few trips to the ER, he hadn’t broken any hearts during his lengthy expedition of Exploring Punarnia! If anything, except for that one time, when his sordid sexploitations had nearly traumatized his poor, unsuspecting daughter, the one who’d gotten the most hurt, physically, mentally, and emotionally, was himself!

It was time to knock this sanctimonious, semi-sloshed spirit medium off her high horse and halt this defamation in its tracks!

Well, excuuuuuse me, princess! He fumed. I didn’t mean to offend your delicate sensibilities! Forgive me for not languishing away, spending my nights wanking to pretty ponies in my big rubber masturbation Crocs!

“I mean, seriously, Nick – you legit stuck the llama’s head up the lift shaft known as Lotta Hart?!” The psychic was presently shouting at him. “That crass, rambunctious Mouth of the South?! How could you have sunk so low to go drilling for fish oil with that talking hairpiece, who is essentially Disco Stu with boobs?! Any way you slice it, that nerve-grating hillbilly is half-hair, half-moron!”

“And 100% kink!” He shot back reflexively. “Handcuffs and spankings galore! She was like something out of a fetish magazine!”

The waspish rebuttal had come flying out of his mouth before he could stop it. Right now, though, he was so riled up, he really couldn’t give a flying fuck!

Fucks must be earned. I can’t go down the street with a bucket of fucks, giving them out to everyone. If I feel you’ve earned it, I will give a fuck.

Oh, well, what did it matter anyway, if, in the end, Maya thought he was pond-scum? If such was the case, he would have to lament over that later!

However, it appeared that he would have to exculpate himself against this conjectured character assassination first!

Besides, as a broke-ass single dad, I need to watch the fuck expenditure in my fuck budget, because I can’t afford too many fucks. Fucks aren’t cheap these days!

The spirit medium seemed floored for an instant at his crass, knee-jerk retort, but then puffed out her cheeks in a huff.

“Well, obviously that skankwad is proof you weren’t exactly selective with where you blew your load, quondam Mr. Turnabout King… turned King Dick!”

She just stood there with her hands clenched into defiant fists after this, and the card shark wondered if the tirade was finally done.

He wasn’t about to be so lucky.

“You seem discontented at being confronted about all your dirty deeds.” The spirit medium narrowed her eyes. “Welp, why don’t you just swing that massively overused Long Dong Silver thing around and knock me out into the street with it then?!”

Never mind, that was just the prelude of long sullen silence, followed by mean comments… which will hopefully be followed by more silence!

The poker champ shut his eyes, let out a long-suffering sigh, and silently cursed Tiffany the waitress for leaving such a detailed account of their rendezvous in her Fanclub review.

As if branding him with a Sharpie, “10/10! Would fuck again!” on his butt cheeks hadn’t been bad enough – she’d been very lavish with also praising the size of his meat rocket!

Anywhore, he’d been called – and endured! – much worse things than Long Dong Silver and King Dick. His former assistant was certainly more creative than cutting in the direct name-calling department!

“Maya, I don’t care who is wrong or right, I don’t really want to fight no more.”

The fire was slowly draining out of him. He hated arguing, especially with her.

“I lost my badge, and I became a single father. You can pick up your jaw off the floor, by the way. Trucy wasn’t a result of my sleazy trysts – I adopted her as a little girl shortly after I got disbarred. If you know about my dalliances, then you also should have heard about the earth-shattering events that preceded them, as well! Times were stressful, so I sought solace in cheap wine…”

“And even cheaper women,” she finished snidely. “Angel Starr? Oh, Holy Mother of mercy in a toboggan! Sure, she’s smoking hot but… holy jumping mother o’ God in a side-car with chocolate jimmies and a lobster bib! Instead of going where no man has gone before, you went where every man has gone before! I hope you were sheathing that sausage when you were a love bug in that broad’s rug, because if real life was a game of Monopoly, That Ho Over There would be The Community Chest!”

The card shark desperately wanted to laugh at this particular slur, refreshingly not targeted at him this time, but he didn’t dare.

Besides, the feisty Kurain Master still wasn’t done.

“You lost your badge…so taking the hot dog bus to taco town was your solution to dealing with stress? I’m not even preaching the Zen shizz like some people, who manage stress with prayer, meditation, yoga, and long walks – let’s get real; we both know I am Couchus Spudus in its native habitat! However, I manage stress with copious carbs, screaming into a pillow, and swearing!”

She paused to intake some much-needed air into her starved lungs.

“And then… the cherry on top of those that you may have popped… you slept with my cousin!”


Her mouth fell open.

He grimly noted that the mention of doing the devil’s dance with the shrine maiden’s diabolical twin sister had the desired effect of making the psychic stop dead in her tracks, her eyes the size of saucers.

“Shit the kitty litter! You negotiated the forested chasm with Dahlia Freakin’ Hawthorne?!”

“Unfortunately. And what an accursed, foredoomed forest it was! You do remember that Dahlia was my girlfriend first before Iris started impersonating her, don’t you?”

Maya’s temper had fizzled by now and was exchanged by utter stupefaction.

“But – but I thought you saw that demoness only twice? The second time was during that murder trial where she tried to frame you, and the first time you met…”

“And that was enough,” he finished hollowly. “She wanted to ensure I kept that necklace she gave me, and a round of mort douce was her way of ensuring the deal was sealed.”

Mort Douce…French for sweet death, she mentally translated in her mind, her brain still slowly registering what a true Faustian nightmare this was. She’d seen what a pansy-ass weenie Feenie had been back in his college days in photos. She’d also heard about his cringy, crybaby antics from Mia – he’d hardly been the stuff that lady-killers were made of!

Which meant that when he’d been pressure washing the quiver bone in the bitch wrinkle of the malevolent, bête noire, that must have meant…

“I see the macabre reality has finally dawned upon you,” he confirmed dully. “Yes, Maya, I lost my virginity to a serial killer! And I’ve been staring down the barrel of my Kafkaesque life, ever since! I guess I’ve just been doomed from the start! My inevitable fate in this comedy of errors will be dying a natural death, alone, at the age of 102… just like Detroit!”

The spirit medium felt every trace of petty jealousy within her become annihilated as she saw the now unveiled anguish in his eyes.

“Yeah, I drunkenly sought comfort from my plight in the arms of many an eager female – but so what? I didn’t lead anyone on, and it was always agreed to be a mutual, one-time deal each and every time. Even if I ever had wanted more, women weren’t exactly lining up for a relationship with the disgraced Phoenix Wright of forging attorney acclaim!”

This melancholy is a cloak I can’t simply let fall to the floor, and though I hold it so tight I can’t find the warmth I need, it clings. It is the anchor to my feet, the reason I can’t find the surface or the sunshine, that feeling of soft joy that lives in memories that can’t rise within.

“Maybe I wanted to feel love. Maybe I wanted it to burn me. Maybe I wanted to hurt, for once, from a good thing; to feel so much of everything that it hurt me. Maybe I wanted to give in to every emotion that I’d ever felt, let it take me to the woods and shoot me in the chest. Maybe I was tired of fighting to maintain my numbness, tired of fighting against vulnerability. Maybe I was sick of being ambivalent, of being skeptical, of not believing in love – or at least the notion that it could last. Maybe all I wanted, all I really wanted, was for someone to knock me out so I could forget every little piece of cynicism I’d ever swallowed, and allow myself to be consumed by everything kind and good and light. But it never happened. Not even once.”

“Oh, Nick…” she whispered, reaching out to place a comforting hand on his arm, but he drew away, shaking his head. “I’m so sorry…”

“I admit I did some things which I regret now, Maya, but at the time, it was better than the alternative which was being alone with my thoughts and reflecting about what a degenerate failure I had become!”

His expression was tormented when he turned to her again, and her heart nearly tore in two at the pain she saw there.

Maya Fey… you’re nothing more than a ginormous wheezing bag of dick tips!

Alcohol was a pathetic excuse for her atrocious behavior – all because she had felt inclined to act like naught more than a bitter, spiteful bitch. How could she have attacked an already broken man in such a ruthless manner?

Not just any man, either, but Nick.

The man who’d saved her life so many times, and had been the keeper of her heart ever since.

“You were gone. Edgeworth was gone. All I wanted, needed, was a friend, Maya,” he whispered brokenly. “And I couldn’t even have that.”

Phoenix was risking the only woman who had ever made his heart race out of control with his next words, but if losing her again was to be the outcome now that she knew what he’d become, what choice did he have?

“All these years…I would have given anything to have heard a word from you. To know that you still gave a damn. For nearly a decade now…it’s like you have become a silhouette; as if you walked out of a photograph and left behind blackness. There is an ache that comes and goes, always returning in quiet moments. I wanted so much to keep you close, to talk and laugh like we once did and I know that your absence is down to me; I was told when I called the village that you wanted nothing to do with me. I understand. You’re a respectable village leader now, and I’m nothing more than a bindlestiff derelict.”

When he called the village?! Maya’s heart lurched with distress. He must have talked to Violet! That wretched harridan deserves to be sodomized with a sandpaper dildo for saying such a heinous lie! Nick must have been so crushed… and they made sure I had no way of connecting with him, so what choice did he have but to believe that I’d turned my back on him, too?

The hobo clenched his stinging eyes shut. He couldn’t look at her as he spoke his next words.

“But please, understand that disassociating yourself from me is for the best at present. Nothing good can come of this right now and I’d rather take the pain sooner than later. Maybe in a few years, we can be together again – friends, all close and happy… Then we can have something that’s actually good, that has a chance of lasting. I see you everywhere I go – in the things we both love – in nature, in music, in silly things. So, though you will be gone, your aura remains, beautiful and strong, making the pain all the worse, keeping the feelings so raw… But at least I’ll still have my memories of you.”

The speech made tears burn behind her lids. She couldn’t even begin to fathom the agony he’d endured over the years. Phoenix desperately needed her now more than ever– but was willing to let her go for the sake of her supposed reputation, even though being alone was the last thing in the world he wanted.

Holy shit swizzles! Whoever coined the phrase “emotional baggage” really missed the opportunity not going with “grief case!”

“In time, Maya, I’ll learn new skills to cope, I always do, I am a survivor after all. Don’t worry about me. The passage of time can dull many things, and allow the brain to redirect, and reinvest energy elsewhere. In your tough times know that I will miss you, and always extend my hand in friendship to you if you ever want it again. That I’d come running if you ever had any need, but for now our paths diverge and every step is heavy.”

The diviner was positively aching with the weight of her sympathy as he buried his face in his hands. All she wanted to do was reach out and hold him in her arms…and promise him she wasn’t going anywhere, ever again.

For the reason that she loved him with every fiber of her being.

I see those gravity-drawn shoulders painting a picture of your heart as if neither it nor your soul would welcome a beat. I see in your eyes that your brain has built some new walls with you so lonely on the other side. If you’ll give me a chance, we can take them down brick by brick and start to feel together what it means to be a real friend. A friend is someone who knows the song in your heart and will sing it back to you when you forget the words. You’ve always been there for me. It’s my turn to be here for you. To let you know if nothing else, you’ve got a friend in me.

She swallowed the lump in her throat.

“Nick, I hope since you lost your badge, you decided to become a dentist or a podiatrist, because I’ve been suffering from a serious case of foot in mouth.”

Phoenix lifted his head and fixated sorrowful eyes on her.

“What do you mean?”

“I mean I frickin’ suck harder than a Hoover and a Dyson and all those Slutzillas you bedded combined! I am the biggest sack of ass in 37 States and Mexico, and I am so, so sorry! I beg you to strike every mean, unfair thing I’ve just said from the record and find it in your heart to forgive me. I didn’t mean it. Any of it. I swear to you on my mother’s grave I didn’t!”

A hesitant gleam of hope flickered in the lugubrious sapphire orbs, and she took his hands in her own, wishing she could find the courage to utter the underlying message weaved within her next words.

“Never be defined by your past. It was just a lesson, not a life sentence. You said all you wanted is a friend? While you’ve got one, right here. For the rest of your days. And I’m not just any friend – I am, and always will be, your best friend. I’m not the flash friend, the one everyone wants to copy and follow around… I’m the raw and vulnerable friend, the one who wears her heart on her sleeve and makes it okay for you to do the same. Our friendship is the soft colors of nature, the delicate browns, and the sky that clearly shows us the stars, it is an earthiness that lasts a lifetime.”

She stepped closer to him, still clasping his hands, so they were now standing barely a foot apart.

“I’m not interested in your past, I’m interested in what makes you tick, what makes you angry, what keeps you sane – tell me those things. You have my undivided attention. People waste so much time on a reputation that they simply forget that you aren’t the same person who did those things back then, this is you. This is now… I want to watch you happen in this single moment now. Everything else is time wasted.”

Feeling emboldened slightly, she softly rested her cool palm against his cheek.

“You might think you don’t matter in this world, but because of you, someone has a favorite mug to drink their tea out of each morning that you bought them. Someone hears a song on the radio and it reminds them of you. Someone has read a book you recommended to them and gotten lost in its pages. Someone remembered a joke you told them and smiled to themselves on the bus. Someone’s tried on a top and felt beautiful because you complimented them on it. Someone has a memory that makes them grin that involves you.”

The diviner squeezed his hand and let her free one fall from his cheek at last as she continued.

“Someone now likes themselves that little bit more because you made a passing comment that made them feel good. In all these cases, that someone was me. But God only knows how many others’ lives you’ve changed with your goodness and your benevolence. Never think you don’t have an impact; your fingerprints can’t be wiped away from the little marks of lenity that you’ve left behind.”

When he met her gaze again, his voice was thick.

“Do you honestly mean it? Everything you just said?”

She nodded as tears of regret and compassion sparkled in her eyes.

“But I’m not the same soul I once was,” he lamented miserably. “A lot has changed. A lot had to change. So, you shouldn’t expect out of me what I embodied in the past for that part of me no longer exists. All I am now is broken. A shell of the man I used to be. Maybe… maybe we shouldn’t see each other at all. Maybe keeping in touch is a bad idea. I’ll only drag you down. Forget about me, Maya. It’ll be what’s best for you…”

His words trailed off, as his chest now burned so badly that he couldn’t speak anymore.

It gutted her to the core to see him so woebegone – for which she was partly responsible.

“Nick!” Her heart was breaking so much at this point; she couldn’t bear to hear another awful, self-loathing word from him. “You’re not seeing the whole picture! You don’t see what I see!”

“And what do you see?”

“I see a man who is strong, loving. A man who is funny and adventurous. He takes care of those around him and plows through life, no matter what it’s throwing at him.”

“But I’m not the strong Superman people think I am.” His voice quavered. “Everything seems to hurt.”

“Of course, it does. But you go forward anyway. You haven’t given up. You have so much strength and decency that you don’t give yourself credit for. You lost everything, but still had enough love in you to make a home for another man’s child and raise her as your own.”

He shook his head. The liquid beads she’d seen glistening hadn’t fallen, but his eyes were still red.

“How can you see all those things in me? I’ve been suffering Eeyore levels of depression since the last time we saw each other! Look at me, in this hobo bum attire! At first, you probably didn’t even recognize me!”

“You’re right.” She agreed with a titter. “I didn’t.”

“So where are you getting all of this information from?”

“I think I just sensed it. From the very beginning. On that first day, I could see a special light in you simply because it was there. It doesn’t matter what had happened or how far down in a dark hole you were. No matter what you wear, or where you go, you’re still my Nick.”

His eyes widened at her last words. Cursing inwardly for letting such telling detail slip out, Maya quickly grabbed him by the hoodie and pulled him into a squashing bear hug, releasing a gladdened sigh when he didn’t resist.

There is the hug of gentle arms that still gives the space to breathe; then there is the hug of strong arms that tells everything that you are – body, brain, and soul – that they are with you. I love both, the duvets and the human shields, each has its time.

He embraced her right back and rested his chin atop her head.

And with that simple gesture of holding me in her arms, she ran her hands over my past, lingering over the dance and worn edges of my heart. And when I thought she’d run away as the others had, she told me I was a warrior and that I’d never fight another battle alone.

“Thank you, Maya,” he whispered. “For everything that you are to me.”

“Nick, there aren’t enough words in this world to describe what you are to me.” She snuggled into him. “Also, you’re the only person I know that gives indefinite hugs.”

“Guilty as charged.” He chuckled softly and only tightened his hold. “Where else would I rather be?”

At that moment, his arms squeezed a fraction tighter and she breathed more slowly, her body melting into his as every muscle lost its tension to the warm summer night air.

Your hug is stronger than anything I’ve ever known. If holding me wasn’t quite enough, you have to feel every ounce that I am pressing into every ounce that is you. In that moment of feeling you so close, I am awake somehow, more alive than I have been in so very long. For there are times I am like a butterfly who yearns for the cocoon, to be safe within walls, protected. That’s what I feel. It helps. So, if it would be OK, if it’s what you want to do, wrap those arms around me every chance the universe is kind enough to bring. For in this world, this is our gold, our food, and pure rain… it is the love that makes everything else possible.

“There’s just one little thing I have to ask you, now that I know we’re friends again.”

“Go ahead.” She closed her eyes dreamily and rested her head against his granite chest. “You should know by now that you can ask me anything.”

“I can understand being flabbergasted when you became privy to my admittedly out-of-character actions amongst the feminine persuasion all these years…” His tone was rich with amusement. “But when you were confronting me about the licentious detailshow do you explain why it sounded more along the lines of you being a green-eyed monster about all of it, above all else?”

She froze in his hold, her entire body going rigid while her mind frantically wracked itself for some sort of plausible excuse for her behavior while she forced herself to peer up through her lashes at his knowing smirk.

Somehow, she managed to conjure up a light laugh.

“Get over yourself, Old Man!” She scoffed, averting her gaze. “Are you honestly accusing me of being jealous?! Give me a break! And while you’re at it, break me off a piece of that Kit-Kat bar!”

“Well, if the circumstantial evidence seems fitting, the charges do generally tend to stick!” He drawled. “Come off it, Maya! If your nose got any more out of joint, you would need rhinoplasty!”

She drew back, flushing from head to toe as she saw that his eyes were dancing with jollity.
A litany of excuses ran through her brain… And were promptly discarded.

“Fine, you win!” She groaned, her shoulders slumping defeatedly. “I got triggered by that vampy waitress that was undressing you with her eyes inside the bar, because that same lying, vicious troll village elder who lied to you and claimed I wanted nothing to do with you also made sure that I knew, in no uncertain terms, all about your indiscretions all over town. When I saw Lucianna eye-banging you, it all just came flooding back to me, and it was just too much, seeing firsthand, this irresistible lure you now seem to have with women, whether you want to or not or even noticed it or not, I did, and it drove me crazy!”

“But why?” He prodded, his merriment gone and replaced by genuine bewilderment. “I still don’t understand the reason my getting attention from the opposite sex would bother you so much?”

“Because I was essentially imprisoned for seven years in these bassackwards sticks, literally in the middle of farking nowhere, where I was supposedly sent to be training and was instead enslaved by that horrible termagant Violet and her sadistic, tatterdemalion, harridan cousin!” Maya burst out, tears flooding her eyes as she saw his poleaxed expression. “The worst part was, I wasn’t even under lock and key during this entire nightmare… I was free to leave that dusty hovel Natasha called home any time I pleased! However, doing so would have meant you became the next targeted hit of Shelly DeKiller!”

“Jesus H tapdancing Christ on a taxicab!” Phoenix’s eyes were the size of golf balls. “was marked by DeKiller?! But why?! When?! How…”

She held up her hand.

“Please, let me finish. I promise to answer all your questions afterward.”

He nodded silently as she continued.

“Violet was Morgan’s bastard half-sister who was hellbent on fulfilling Lady Macbeth’s final wishes of avarice, and making Pearly the Kurain Master and thus had me trapped here not long after my mother’s funeral. The only way they could get me to cooperate was to threaten your life, as they knew how much you meant to me. Also, they forced me to write Pearly a letter telling her to train for the role in my stead, and took my phone, effectively cutting me off from the outside world. The poor girl had no clue about my whereabouts either. I wrote a secret message to her in that one correspondence, which only got cracked when I randomly stumbled across Edgy on a Plumed Punisher message board and let him know I was in trouble. He’s the one who got the wheels in motion and is the main reason I was able to be rescued at last. I owe that man everything.”

A dark cloud crossed over her lovely visage as she recalled her ordeal.

“Day in and day out, I was forced to do degrading, backbreaking Cinderella duties. These were, including, but not limited, to having to massage the knurly, manky, hircine Hobbit feet of that geriatric spinster whom my rescuer, Detective Badd, fittingly dubbed Ah, Satan! That man, incidentally, as well as his cousin, Thunderwolf, the prison warden, are both fuck-mothering badasses! May the Holy Mother bless them both for their part in me being here with you right now.”

The waves of helplessness and anxiety that hit her caught her unaware. They must have been silently building up and gaining momentum while she was recalling the string of heartrending events.

“Every day, I endured a different sort of fresh hell – including but not limited to observing explicit, eye-scorching, Daliesque acts involving nation’s leaders which can never again be unseen! – while still being kept abreast of all the horrible things that happened to you by my captors. They made sure I was privy to your third murder trial earlier this year, and your hit and run, yet still was not given any mercy and allowed to contact you! It was killing me softly, day by day, knowing you must’ve felt like I abandoned you when your world turned upside down. Ultimately, I regret nothing – it was all worth it if it meant you were spared a madman’s bullet. If I had to do it all again, I still would, because I would do anything for you.”

Her voice was threaded with tears now.

“Nonetheless…Pobody’s nerfect, Nick! I’m only human! Imagine how it must’ve felt, knowing what I had to undergo for your sake… And then hearing that back home, you were having the time of your life! Just merrily gallivanting around town, bringing your al dente noodle to so many spaghetti houses that if sex were fast food, you’d have a flipping golden arch over that spiky head!”

The droplets began spilling down her cheeks faster than she could wipe them away, and without another word, he pulled her back into his arms.

“It’s now my turn to say I’m sorry, Maya. I am sorry as hell, not only for the acherontic tribulation you suffered through for my sake but for not having enough faith in you. I should have trusted you more, and never believed that you would ever willingly turn your back on me, despite what I was told to the contrary. Most of all, I’m sorry that you were boondoggled into believing I was living La Vida Loca when all I was trying to do was slake my own excruciating sense of despair and loneliness. I guess you could say I was vainly looking for love – in all the wrong places.”

His palms soothingly caressed her satiny, inky waves until the storm of tears had mostly passed.

“It was very cruel of that vile hag to have tried to hurt you by bloviating about the erroneous details of my love life, knowing there was no way you could ask me to confirm or deny it. She made damn sure of that! I despise her for that evil deed most of all!” His jaw tightened. “Pardon my French but…Fuck Violet! Fuck that degenerate piece of donkey butter… with a bladed broom handle shoved right up the turd gutter! Just…run along and die now!”

The psychic snickered slightly at his colorful rant.

“Holy Mother of Double Jeopardy backstroking in butterscotch, Nick! Do you kiss your mother with that mouth? How dare you sully the fine word Foxtrot Uniform Charlie Kilo by putting it in the same sentence as Violet!?”

He cracked up then, relieved to see her indelible wit slowly returning, and expelled a long breath.

“Nevertheless…cripes on toast! Someone needs to run over that douche baguette with a Zamboni! And as for Ah, Satan… Some people just need a high five. To the kisser. With a chair. Made of metal. Twice. By The Hulk!”

She twittered a bit more, then sniffled slightly and buried her head against his chest. In an attempt to further lighten the mood, he opted to continue on the humorous route to smooth things over.

“But now you know the truth about everything. That since you’ve been gone, my life has been like a romantic comedy except there’s no romance and it’s been just me laughing at my own jokes! Don’t get me wrong – in terms of love… I love everybody. Some I love to be around. Some I love to avoid. And others…

The sneering phizog of the Count of Monte Fuckface, aka Kristoph Gavin, popped into his mind.

“… I’d love to punch in the face!”

Maya began to giggle.

“In the end… was my life any sort of love story? Ha! I think not! Mother of bleary-eyed gambling addiction, it’s all been more of a tragicomedy than a Snu-Snu flick! The entire thing comparatively bears the sheer irony of a stripper named Chastity!”


With that, the spirit medium dissolved into gales of mirth. The sound was music to his ears. He’d always loved hearing her laughter.

“You were totally laying it on with the verbal smackdown you know! I thought you were about to next accuse me of banging your brother’s nephew’s son’s camp counselor!”

She swatted at his shoulder.

“You dork! You know I don’t have a brother!”

“Exactly! So at least there’s no way I could have slept with them!”

They both howled uproariously for a good minute, then he sobered slightly.

“Honestly, Maya, hand to heart, as much as it would probably put me down as a legend in the stud muffin book if I were to tell you that rather than being a series of unfortunate events, my life all these years has been one long, hard phantasmagoric boning-fest, nothing could be further from the truth. Please believe me when I tell you that being intimate with someone doesn’t mean a damn thing if your heart is not involved, and try as I might, that never was the case. Yeesh, I made more trips to the ER than I ever came close to making it down the altar! Hell’s bells; due to some of my sexual snafus, I am now literally on a first-name basis with a Hickfield Clinic surgeon named Sukhdeep Mann!”

“Hahaha! You did what with a man?!” She snickered loudly. “Jeezy Pete, Nick! All this time I thought you at least were sticking with one team for all these events, Mr. Man-Candy!”

“Hardy har-har! The doc is actually a delightful and chatty Punjabi fellow – with a memory that rivals an elephant’s, let me tell you! And as much as I would love to tell you that the only dick I encountered all this time was our detective pal Gumshoe – that lug stumbled across me not once but twice due to phutzing went wrong! – I’d be lying. Even though I’m only into women, I’ve needed to make that abundantly clear more times than you would think necessary! I have been personally responsible for the sound of at least two men spontaneously ejaculating! Hell, I’m so good at flipping dudes, they could call me the skillet!”

“Bwahahahaha!” The Master was roaring with laughter. “Stop! I’m gonna pee my pants!”

But Phoenix was on a roll now.

“I’ve nearly been subjected to being the unsolicited recipient of cock goblin cock gobblin’ on four separate occasions – five if you count the oasis of semen my unsuspecting self was nearly drowned in at work! At least three of these guys would have been over the moon if I’d at least offered to braid their dongs into Twizzlers! Even so, flyby tea-bagging still would have been preferable to the time I almost got raped by Wendy Oldbag!”

Maya’s eyes nearly bugged out of her head.

“Holy shit zombies! Are you serious?!”

“The truth is stranger than fiction! I don’t want to think how much sand is in that centuries-old vagina, but I bet you that thing could mummify a penis!”

“Grk! Dang it, Nick! You just made me throw up in my own mouth a little!” She shuddered. “I’d truly rather receive a Dutch Oven from Sal Manella!”

“Ditto! Thankfully, I was rescued from a fate worse than death by Dee Vasquez, who made sure that she was er… properly thanked for her heroics…”

“Uh-huh…” She raised a knowing brow at this part, and his cheeks reddened.

“But anyway, unfortunately for Dee, she ended up almost breaking her face, thus being the second time, I had to encounter Gumshoe, and the third time I had to deal with Dr. Mann. For the record, that dame has an even bigger Steel Samurai fetish than you do! Don’t ask! Please!”

He regarded her somberly.

“I wish I could tell you that those were the last of my woes but the highlight reel also entails…being chased out of a public park by a cleaver-wielding head mobster, getting deep-throated by a strap-on, having a ball shoved up where the sun doesn’t shine by the mafia princess granddaughter of another Godfather, encountering a deviant freak whose vagina nearly swallowed itself at the concept of golden showers and misleadingly man pretty girls who turn out to be the Europhile rocker responsible for taking my badge away!”

Achtung, baby! Do you mean that German protégé from your last trial? That Rockstar kid, Klavier?!”

“That would most definitely be the euro trash of which I speak.” He grimaced. “Thankfully, I never went past second base, as the hard evidence of his gender literally whacked me in the kisser before it was too late! You should see him nowadays… he’s sporting a long, golden braid like Elsa’s from Frozen! If you had a few drinks under your belt, you would also have had a mistaken case of ‘dude looks like a lady!’ And unlike the other overly amorous guys, he claims he’s not even gay! That horny, oversexed fop is just a walking, talking… trap!”

“Ahh haha! Jesus what is the H for Christ, Nick?!” The psychic was laughing so hard now that she could hardly breathe. “Have you ever thought about turning your illustrious pelvic lust-and-thrust into a cash-making operation? Maybe you could make a side business with Gumshoe… Is he still living on a Ramen only diet? I’m sure he could use the extra income! You could use an old, unmarked police car and turn it into The Looove Mobile!”

Objection!” Phoenix was no longer in a merrymaking way. “If I didn’t stoop to becoming a stripper all these years, why in God’s name do you think I’d subject myself to being a gigolo for hire?!”

“Because you’d probably make more than you ever did as a lawyer!” The village leader wiped at her streaming eyes, her shoulders still shaking. “There would be a line rivaling those for the rides at Disneyland of people eager to take a trip to Feenie Town, including, but not limited to Edgeworth’s old assistant and Badd’s niece, Kay, because she wants to see what the hype’s all about. Plus Klavier…because he wants to finish what he started and squeeze in the second round of experimentation! Hee! It would be the ultimate moneymaking operation! You and the good detective could split the proceeds- he’d be the ticket attendant standing guard outside the vehicle and charging admission to all those thirsty folks dying to take a ride on the Feenie Peenie!”

As she doubled over, clutching her stomach from laughing so hard, it was several moments before she realized that she was alone in her mirth, as the pianist was standing there stonily, tight-lipped and with arms crossed while he glared at her.

“Are you quite done?” He demanded crossly, his curt tone effectively hosing down all lingering effects of hilarity.

Maya hastily straightened up, instantly contrite as she saw the hostility- and even worse, hurt – in his expression.

“Forgive me, my friend,” she said quietly. “I haven’t laughed in the last seven years, but while it was cathartic, I’m sorry it was at your expense. Jokes aside, though, thank you for trusting me enough to confide everything you’ve been through, even though it all sounds most unpleasant.”

Silence from Phoenix. The expression on his lean, tanned face was stolid, almost brooding.

“Nick, please don’t be mad at me!” She begged. “I truly am sorry! Can’t we just go back to enjoying each other’s company the way we were before I opened my big fat mouth and unleashed this nasty can of worms? It’s a gorgeous, warm evening in a beautiful, faraway land… Let’s make the most of it!”

She tugged at his sleeve and pointed skyward. Countless sequin-silver stars, more than the eye could behold, glimmered like scattered embers of a dying fire, winking down at them, illuminating the atramentous draping of the night heavens.

“Wow! There’s Neptune!”

His gaze followed her finger which was pointed towards the corner of the glittering sky. The dark curtain draped over the sky and the twisted, warped shapes that the stars made against the blackness. The milky speckles twirled and danced along the sky in various patterns, tugging at the corners of his lips in a way that almost made him smile.

“Since when did you become an astronomy buff? How can you tell which constellation is which, when there are so many stars out at once?”

“Because.” Her dark eyes then landed on his, filled with meaning. “There are some things in this world that don’t require explanation. You just…know.”

At that moment, everything seemed to be in a state of tranquillity. An unsolved puzzle felt completely flawless to him; as if he needn’t go out of his way to find all the other pieces.

There are some things you don’t learn about yourself until you let someone into the most intimate parts of your heart; like discovering this journey wasn’t so much about becoming anything. Maybe it was about un–becoming everything that wasn’t the real me, so I can be who I was meant to be in the first place, and where I was meant to be. And where I was always meant to be is anywhere that allows me to be by this nonpareil woman’s side.

The knowledge made the card shark sigh serenely to himself, then turn his head and treat the expectant diviner a radiant smile – one that had found its way back on his face after seven long years of darkness, which the necromancer was now finding nigh impossible to resist.

Since I got disbarred, I’ve been forced to somehow still smile every day, but only those who truly knew me well could’ve discerned a real one from a fake. My grandmother always told me that life’s winners were the ones that smiled, the ones everyone wanted to be around. She never told me how lonely it would feel though, nobody around ever understood the things that brought pain. Maya, though, I know she can tell the difference. She’s always been able to see right into the depths of my soul.

The pianist offered no protest as she falteringly reached for his hand then, and he gently squeezed it before lacing his fingers with hers.

There was no one there but the two of them – spirited away by all that was cruel in the world.

And it was perfect.

The magical moment was only compounded as they both heard the familiar beginning strains of a beloved song from inside the bar. It was “Two Hearts,” a classic love song by one of their favorite singers.

“And the mood music continues tonight, lovers and other strangers,” the MC’s booming voice announced. “This is your host, Czar Thwomp, bringing you some classic Phil Collins, courtesy of another Romeo contender, Beau Vine, dedicated to his lady love tonight, Betty Bangzer! Heh heh! Guess that depends on how well he does up here on the mike, eh folks? Take it away, Beau!”

The poker champ bowed melodramatically – how did Edgeworth manage to make the antiquated gesture look so suave?! – and held out his hand to his friend.

“Shall we dance, milady?”

She smilingly took his hand, dizzy with anticipation of once again dancing with the man she adored out on that terrace, just the two of them alone, under the stars. What could be more romantic?

Unfortunately, as the male punter began to warble out the lyrics, the friends simultaneously cringed and halted in their tracks.

The sound of a mooing herd would’ve been completely preferable to the noise pollution of the current caterwauling Mr. Vine, who was unsuccessfully trying to mimic the legendary British singer’s melodic accent, unnecessarily stretching out all the vowels so it sounded like he had a sinus nasal infection.

Well, there was no reason to believe she’d always be there
But if you don’t put faith in what you believe in
It’s getting you nowhere…

Jiminy Cricket! Phoenix cringed. Mr. Moo Man sounds like somebody getting murdered by a trash compactor!

The dissonance was so godawful that Maya had to clap her hands over her ears.

M-Mpht! Even though he just started, I am already praying: Willie Effastop? It sounds like somebody machine-gunning a seal!”

Welp, the budding aura of romance has effectively been ruined! The ex-lawyer cast a hapless gander up at the heavens. Why? Because fuck you, that’s why!

“Well…” The beanie-wearer awkwardly scratched the back of his neck, trying to disguise his chagrin that the mood had just gone down the tubes. “To be fair, Phil Collins was definitely a lofty goal. There’s nobody else in this world that could mimic those golden vocals…”

“Ergo, they shouldn’t even try!”

The sudden chiming of a second feminine voice coming from the doors of the patio startled the two friends, who’d thought they were alone.

It was a pretty black girl with curly brown hair, wearing wire-rimmed glasses, and a disgusted expression.

“Holy mace-wielding minotaur kings! If I was still prosecuting, I would sue that tone-deaf tool for aggravated assault to the auditory senses!” She remarked by way of introduction. “I hate karaoke night at this bar… People would rather attempt to make their own harmony than have me serenade them with beautiful music. The shizz a gal’s gotta do to make a dahma around here, you know?”

She gestured to the acoustic guitar strap around her neck with a rueful grin.

“Normally I would apologize for ruining the moment between a couple of would-be lovebirds, but it sounds like current warbling on stage already did that for me. My poor, sensitive musician ears couldn’t take it anymore, hence why I ventured out here.”

“It’s nice to meet you. I’m Maya,” the necromancer greeted the guitarist pleasantly. “This is Phoenix.”

“My name is Lyn Doom – er, sorry, wrong story!” She gave her head a hard shake. “Here in West Asia, I’m known as Lyn Gwee’nee, serenade strummer extraordinaire in the Kingdom of Khura’in.”

“Pleased to make your acquaintance, Lyn,” the card shark flashed the young woman a friendly smile. “It’s good to know that we aren’t being overly critical jerks with objections to the current performer’s singing!”

“Is that supposed to be singing?” Lyn deadpanned. “I thought the poor chump got his sack caught in his zipper!”

The three of them chuckled collectively at her wisecrack, then the musician idly began plucking at the strings of her instrument, expertly playing along to the upbeat tempo of the current song.

“I’m trying to drown out the ear-grating bleating from in there by playing along with the tune.” She explained, flashing a conspiring wink at the poker champ. “Maybe you can help out with that? I know Phil is essentially impossible to replicate, but I heard your songbird skills earlier tonight, and am confident you can do the Englishman’s ditty much better justice!”

Immediately catching on, the poker champ flashed Lyn a grateful smile before grabbing the village leader around the waist before she knew what hit her. With a teasing laugh, he took her hand and positioned it on his shoulder while clasping her free one.

The village leader knew she was gone the moment Phoenix’s hand touched hers.

She flushed at his forwardness and their proximity, but he began to sing along to the sweet melody, and all was lost.

‘Cos it hurts, you never let go
Don’t look down, just look up…

He gently crooked his finger under her chin to lift her timorous, downward face upward, so their eyes could meet again, and then he began leading her into a makeshift waltz of sorts while he sang along with the harmonious sound of the acoustic in the background, it effectively made the bashful psychic blissfully unaware of anything but the resonance of his toe-curling crooning in her ear.

Cos she’s always there to behind you
Just to remind you…

The pianist’s eyes were now squeezed shut as he sang; as if sight might somehow hinder his interpretation of the music.

Two hearts, believing in just one mind
You know we’re two hearts believing in just one mind

At some point, he’d removed his beanie, so a thick lock of black hair tumbled down over his forehead, looking damp and silky under the starlight. Her fingers itched to brush it back, while at the same time, she thought he had never looked more endearing.

‘Cos there’s no easy way to, to understand it
There’s so much of my life in her
And it’s like I’m blinded
And it teaches you to never let go
There’s so much love you’ll never know
She can reach you no matter how far
Wherever you are

And if his countenance wasn’t beautiful enough, his voice certainly was. Maya’s orbs were unwaveringly transfixed on his visage, grateful for the fact that his lids were closed so he couldn’t see the unmistakable ardor in her eyes. In the corner, still gaily strumming along, Lyn caught the necromancer’s starry-eyed expression and flashed a knowing grin, and she turned away in embarrassment at having been busted in the act of being so visibly gaga. Resting her burning forehead against him, she slowed down their steps ever so slightly, so they were rocking side to side in one place while moving to the beat of the song.

Two hearts, believing in just one mind
Beating together till the end of time
You know we’re two hearts believing in just one mind
Together forever till the end of time

With her face pressed snugly against the former attorney’s chest, she could hear the steady beat of his heart, smell his comforting scent which she missed so much, and feel her own cheeks heat up in speculative pleasure, basking in the sensation of blissful contentment and the emotional lyrics, made all the headier by who was singing the verses. Making it seem he was singing them directly to her; as if the song was made for her. For them.

She knows (she knows)
There’ll always be a special place in my heart for her
She knows, she knows, she knows
Yeah, she knows (she knows)
No matter how far apart we are
She knows, I’m always right there beside her

His face was relaxed and filled with contentment, now lacking any tension or anxiety. His eyes had a softness to them, there was something so welcoming in the deep blue depths. He made her feel just a little more lost, yet a little more at home, with each passing moment that they were together.

We’re two hearts, believing in just one mind
Beating together till the end of time
You know we’re two hearts believing in just one mind
Together forever till the end of time

Feelings she’d been desperate to suppress all came rushing back. Maya simply couldn’t take her eyes off him. When he was singing, Phoenix was in his element. He carried himself differently somehow; more poised and confident, serene and reserved, no longer burdened by shadows of grief, his former torments quelled under the forgiving soft moonlit glow.

You know we’re two hearts believing in just
Believing in just one mind, in just one mind, just one mind
Til the end of time
Two hearts, two hearts, believing in just one mind
Beating together till the end of time
You know we’re two hearts believing in just one mind
Together forever till the end of time…

While they’d been dancing, his movements had been unexpectedly graceful, but when the song concluded, he continued to gaze down at her. His current mood appeared to match his disposition; his eyes seemed brighter, bestowing his face in a more youthful, supple glow, and the expression on his mien could only be described as one of unmistakable tenderness.

He also made no move to release her from his embrace, even though Lyn had since discreetly slipped away, the music had subsided, and her heart pounded so hard that she swore it was audible.

Phoenix lowered his mouth and ghosted it over hers, and for one heart-stopping moment, Maya fervently prayed that the long-overdue moment to osculate had arrived at last.

Instead, with a teasing smile, his face only inches from hers, he murmured, “much obliged, fair lady. But of course, what is the point of such a fine dance… without a grand finale?”

The psychic was torn simultaneously torn between the slight disappointment of her impalpable yearning for the taste of him still remaining unfulfilled and an overall sense of giddiness. The feeling of light flutters in her stomach from earlier recommence as she felt his warm breath on her face, just hovering inches above hers as their gazes remained locked.

She blushed at the intensity in his gaze and had to briefly look away from him, and he took the opportunity to, without warning, dip her backward.

Unfortunately, she was no Ginger Rogers equivalent to the Fred Astaire-level flourishing move, and rather than arch back gracefully over his arm, she felt the heel of her sandal slip out from beneath her and let out a yelp as she reflexively wrapped her arms around his neck, joining his laughter as he pulled her back up.

Somewhere in the depths of those knowing navy orbs smiling down at her, Maya saw another sort of romantic magic sparking to life… something profound and silent. It held her captive, promising her something… asking… inviting….

His eyes still smiling into hers, his lids lowered, his gaze dropping to her lips, lingering long on them, then lifting.

It was a kiss! She realized. It was a kiss, and he’d meant for her to feel it, to understand that was what he was doing.

It was enough to make her go weak at the knees.

He took her hand and lifted it to his lips, cupping it with his hands and kissing her palm twice before pressing his nose to her skin and breathing in.

You’re so beautiful, Maya. Crushingly so. You look like the rest of my life.

Her other arm tightened around his waist as if she’d heard him and had liked the sound of the feelings he’d been harboring in his mind since the moment he’d laid eyes on her.

And that was when Phoenix realized he’d spoken the words aloud.

His breath caught, and his blood started to pump faster in his veins as the calescence of her emotions rose to the sensual slope of her neck and cheeks.

His breathing is getting quieter, but I can still see it there – see how he reacts to the propinquity of me against him, see how he wants to take my hand again and press it against his mouth once more, how he wants to breathe in the smell of me and how beautiful I look to him, and how he wants to lightly touch my neck, just there, and how he wants to pull me even more tightly against him …

“Dear Lord,” he whispered shakily, releasing her from his arms and turning away suddenly. “Maya, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to…”

No! Not again! Her stomach plummeted to her shoes in dismay. I am not a flippin’ light switch! He can’t just keep turning me on and then scampering away! I can’t take this for one more minute!

“Please stop this, Nick,” she whispered pleadingly. “I don’t know much about a lot of things, but what I do know is that somewhere along the line, even while apart, things have changed between us. It’s inexplicable and daunting and I know that you’re as scared to death about this impromptu turnabout from our old dynamic as I am. But while I may not know exactly what this newfound thing between us now is, I also know I’m not capable of fighting it anymore. Moreover, I am as sure as the day is long that for the rest of my days, no matter what happens, I will always want you in my life.”

She peered searchingly into his face as surprise and uncertainty flickered across his handsome features – and something else, as well. And then she spotted it. That familiar expression in those midnight blue orbs, the one she’d convinced herself was a figment of her imagination on the dance floor earlier.

Hungry eyes.

Unmistakable, flagrant, hungry eyes.

There was no mistaking it this time, and she intuitively knew the look in them matched her own.

Enough of this endless, Delphic mating dance! I need to act now before I lose my bloody nerve!

Without speaking another word, the petite beauty boldly stepped right up to him and stood on her tiptoes. Placing her hand to the back of his neck, she leaned her forehead on his, her breath rushing over his mien, and he could taste how sweet she would be in her scent.

Their noses rubbed together, and he froze abruptly when she tilted her head to the side and timidly brushed her lips against his.

Maya –?”

And then Maya Fey kissed Phoenix Wright squarely on the mouth.

And it felt like, finally.

He thought he’d imagined the featherlight sensation of those soft lips on his at first until he tasted her strawberry gloss.

With a startled gasp, Maya suddenly pushed away from him, covering her mouth, and he was too stunned to do anything but stare into those mocha orbs, wide with disbelief at what she’d just done. She backed up a few steps, and he grabbed her arm when he realized she was about to run. Swinging her to him, her hands fell from her mouth, and he pressed his lips to hers without another thought.

It was searing and passionate, seven years’ worth of kisses rolled into one stolen embrace. Maya returned the kiss feverishly, her lips parting as they moved with his. Running her hands along the back of his head, she laced her fingers through the spikes by his neck. She trembled. Whether it was from nerves or excitement, Phoenix wasn’t sure, but then her tongue came out to lick his upper lip and his breath left him in a rush, his body tightening in response.

His heart was thumping in his chest so fast that he thought it would explode. This was the moment he’d been aching for all night but had been too pusillanimous to make happen up till now.

The pianist held her head with gentle hands as his mouth settled over hers, their open mouths soft and searching. It felt new and exciting, but also so right. Their lips knew exactly how to mirror each other and move in perfect unison. She sucked on his upper lip and then he sucked on her lower one.

It was pure bliss.

Phoenix thought he’d died and gone to heaven. The nearness of her, what he’d been dreaming of for so long was finally a reality, but he wanted to take it slow, to savor every touch.

“Maya, my God,” he groaned against her mouth as he gathered her close, kissing her again and again. “Kissing you is every bit as incredible as I ever dreamed it would be….”

A/N: The final curtain call is coming at you in September, just in time for this story’s 4-year anniversary.

Elton John – Something About The Way You Look Tonight
Phil Collins – Two Hearts



Filling The Void Copyright © by JordanPhoenix. All Rights Reserved.

Share This Book


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *