Maya is practically melded to his side when Phoenix wakes the next morning in her bed, her soft curves pressing against him. Her silky hair is everywhere and she's tucked herself under his arm, one of hers thrown over his chest. He runs a finger down her side lightly and she stirs.
"Nick... That tickles."
He smiles. "How long have you been awake?"
"A while, but I know you like your sleep. Besides, I'm just enjoying this as much as I can before you have to leave tonight."
He sighs. "If I could, I would take an extra day off to stay longer, but I just can't afford to miss work."
"What about you? Can you take time away from your position, maybe for New Year's? You know the city always has those fireworks..."
"I could probably manage that."
He smiles and closes his eyes again. "Good."
"Sorry to bring this up but are you still worried about, you know, that little German problem?"
"Yeah, I was already thinking about that. But you know what, we'll handle that if it becomes an issue. Maybe you're right. Maybe I'm just overthinking things and being paranoid. We'll still be careful, just in case, but I don't want to worry too much."
"That's good to hear." He nods, twirling a piece of her hair around his finger absentmindedly. "Will you do something for me today?" she says, speaking up again.
He pulls his arm back and moves over a bit, turning on his side to look at her. She props her head on her hands as she rests them on her pillow, her bare shoulders peeking out just above the blanket. The only thing she's still wearing is the necklace he'd given her. It's not even a question that needs answering, he absolutely would do anything she wanted.
"Just tell me what."
"I know it's not the most romantic thing ever, especially after Christmas and after… last night," she says, smiling fondly. "But will you come with me to Mia's grave today? I need to go visit her."
He reaches over to stroke her cheek with his knuckles. "Of course. I should probably pay my respects too." He pauses, thinking. "I don't mean to sound dumb or anything, but why don't you just have Pearls channel her if you want to see her again?"
She reaches up to grip his hand in hers. "You're not dumb. I can understand why, as an outsider, you would want to know. As long as we've known each other I guess I've never really explained a lot about my village's customs to you." She lets go of his hand and scoots a bit closer in the bed. "With spirit channeling, it's possible to channel a spirit from any time period. You want to talk to Anne Boleyn before she was beheaded? Well, like I said, it's possible, despite the fact that she lived hundreds of years ago. The thing is, it's kind of looked down upon. It's sort of taboo to channel a spirit that's been gone for so long. There's an unspoken rule that at some point, you have to let the spirit rest."
Phoenix watches Maya's face closely as she explains, and he can see the pain on it. It's no surprise that she wants to be able to channel and talk to her sister whenever she needs her; even he can't help feeling a little sad hearing this and knowing that he may never actually get to talk to his mentor again. But he understands. "So you want to let her rest now, after everything we've gone through and everything she's helped us with, right?"
Maya nods sadly. "It's only right. She deserves it. She's been gone for almost five years now, but knowing that she probably won't ever be channeled again finally makes her death feel real, and I'll never see or talk to her again."
He slings an arm over her waist and she settles her hands on his chest. He's always tried to give her strength when she's needed it, and they can work through this together too. "After breakfast," she mumbles, "we can go. It's a bit of a walk."
"Sure. Is it okay to leave Trucy and Pearls here?"
"Yeah, the manor is safe, and Pearly knows the neighbours and who to go to if anything happens."
"Alright." He sits up, rubbing a hand over his face.
Maya points to a door across the room. "That's the bathroom." She crawls out of bed too and grabs her housecoat to cover up with, then turns to him and smiles slyly. "Want to save some water? I could use some cheering up."
Breakfast with Trucy and Pearl is mostly quiet, and after telling the girls that they're heading up to the cemetery, Phoenix and Maya set out. It's a bit of a walk, but the sun is out and the snow from the previous night's snowfall looks fresh and glittery. Aside from Mia's funeral the year she died, Phoenix has never even visited her gravesite, so he doesn't remember the way. He was so used to Maya or Pearl channeling Mia whenever he needed help that it never felt like she was really gone. It was more like she lived far away and he could only see her on special occasions. It's hard to come to terms with the fact that Maya doesn't plan on channeling her again, even though he knows it's the right thing to do. Mia does deserve to rest.
They're quiet as they make their way through the village, but Maya does slip her hand into his halfway there. They reach the top of a ridge on the outskirts of the village where a black wrought iron gate stands. The cemetery is relatively small, and Maya leads him through it to the special section where Feys of the main family are buried.
She stops in front of a large black granite headstone, engraved with Mia's name and birth and death dates. It's blank aside from that and Phoenix knows all too well why. He can still remember the heart wrenching sound of Maya's sobs when she told him that her aunt was in charge of funeral arrangements. He didn't understand the big deal or why she was so upset that her aunt was taking care of it until he actually went to the funeral. It was probably the fastest and clearly cheapest funeral he'd ever been to. He knew that even as a rookie lawyer with hardly any money to his name at the time, he would have been able to put together a better service. Mia had deserved better than what Morgan Fey had given her.
Maya kneels in front of it now, placing some flowers she brought with her near it. "I've been thinking of getting a new headstone, or at least having this one engraved now."
He kneels down beside her. The snow is wet and cold, but he doesn't mind. They're heading back to the house after this anyway. "That'd be nice. I know you always disliked how Morgan handled everything."
"She couldn't even put aside her hate for my family for this one thing," Maya says, before taking a deep breath. "But I didn't come here to get mad at my aunt again." She puts her hands together in front of her. "Pray with me, Nick." They both sit together silently for a minute or two, each saying their own prayers. He finishes first, and waits for Maya. She takes a bit longer, but eventually lowers her hands and opens her eyes. "I kind of wish I could channel her again one more time, to tell her about you and me."
"Do you think she'd approve?" he says, smiling at her. "Her old student with her little sister?"
Maya shrugs, a smile on her own face now. "I think she would. After all, she trusted you with me after she was gone. I think she at least knew somehow that we'd become good friends. I guess when you go through something traumatic together like we did, you can't help growing closer." She reaches over to take his hand. "Who knows if she thought far enough ahead to know we'd end up loving each other. Which I do, Nick. I didn't say it last night, but I do love you. I've loved you for years."
"I love you too, Maya. I'd like to hope Mia would approve if she was still around."
Maya stands up and brushes the snow from her knees. "She'd be happy as long as I was happy, I think. And I am happy." He gets up and wraps an arm around her as they stand in front of the headstone. A light wind whips up around them, making Maya's hair flutter around. "Let's head back now, Nick."
"You go ahead. I'll be right behind you."
She nods and starts walking back towards the front gate. He turns back to the headstone and clears his throat. "Chief… I don't know if you really can hear me but given everything I've witnessed with you Feys, it wouldn't surprise me. I just wanted to say… I'll miss you. And don't worry about Maya. I won't let anything happen to her anymore. She's been through enough to last a lifetime." He slips his hand into his pocket to touch the magatama he still carries with him. He doesn't need it as much anymore, but it's still a comfort to have there.
Take care of her, Phoenix.
Mia's voice sounds like she's standing behind him and whispering into his ear, but when he lets go of the magatama and whips around there's no one there, of course. He tentatively reaches into his pocket to touch the magatama again, but there's nothing this time, not even a breeze. Still, he has to smile. "I will, Mia. I promise."
When he makes it back outside the cemetery gates, Maya is waiting for him. "What were you doing?"
"Just talking with your sister, that's all."
She smiles and hooks her arm through his. "Really? What did she say?"
Maya gazes up at him quizzically but doesn't question him. "Well, I'm glad."
"Let's get back to the manor now. I'm starving," she says, letting go of him and walking ahead.
"We just had breakfast a little bit ago!"
She turns around to walk backwards and smiles sweetly. "That only filled one of my stomachs, Nick."