A/N: For those who have read my story "Changes," this takes place a couple of months before that story. If you haven't read it then feel free to ignore this message. Also, special thanks to Xero Wright for acting as my beta on this. Enjoy!
Disclaimer: Phoenix Wright obviously does not belong to me.
Iris shivered and huddled closer to Phoenix, who was standing right behind her, as a chill ran through her that was only partially due to the winter cold. Hazakurain Temple was particularly beautiful at this time of year, but that only made what she was about to do harder. Standing in front of the main hall, Iris could recall all the wonderful memories she had growing up here with Sister Bikini.
Noticing Iris's sudden hesitation, Phoenix wrapped his arms around her tightly and kissed her neck tenderly. "Are you okay, Rissy?" he whispered into her ear.
The warmth of his breath on her cheek caused Iris to smile for the first time since they had arrived at the temple grounds, and renewed her determination to go through with this. It was against temple rules for a shrine maiden to be romantically involved with a man, and for this reason Iris knew that she would have to choose between her old life and Phoenix. Iris shook her head in amusement at the thought. It wasn't even a contest. She had lost her Feenie once and she wasn't about to allow it to happen again, but the thought of leaving behind the only life she'd ever known frightened her. In response to Phoenix's question, she tilted her head up so she could see him. "I'm fine, Feenie." Seeing the doubt etched on his face, Iris was quick to comfort him. "I'm really okay. Let's head in and find Sister Bikini. I'm...I'm ready now," Iris said, forcing a confidence she didn't feel.
Obviously not convinced, Phoenix frowned as he pulled away for a second. Looking deeply into her eyes, he asked "This is really what you want, right?" There was some trepidation in his voice as he spoke, and suddenly he averted his gaze as if afraid of her answer.
Her answer was soft, but surprisingly firm. "Feenie, all I've ever wanted is to be with you. This is my choice. I love you."
Kissing her forehead, Phoenix smiled. "All I want is for you to be happy, Rissy."
"I am happy, and I will always be if I can be with you." Iris's answering smile was all the encouragement Phoenix needed. He leaned down to kiss her again, this time on the lips.
His kiss caught her unaware; she stiffened for a second at the feel of his lips on hers. Pleasure quickly replaced the shock as she found herself returning the kiss as tenderly as it had been offered. There was a comforting familiarity in his kiss that she had been without far too long and which transported her back to a time when she had been truly at her happiest; it renewed her determination.
"Wa ha ha, what do we have here?" a familiar voice teased, interrupting the tender moment.
Iris pulled away from Phoenix suddenly as recognition came to her and she felt her face flush bright red as embarrassment flooded though her. She hadn't even formally renounced the temple and here she was in the arms of a man. Unable to look into the newcomer's eyes, Iris said shyly, "Hello, Sister Bikini. It's good to see you again."
In a rare moment of seriousness, Bikini was quiet for a second. She considered the situation; a small smile crept across her face as she studied her adopted daughter's face, and she was actually surprised this day had come so late. Bikini had been certain when Iris was twenty that the girl had been working up the courage to request that she be permitted to leave, but that changed suddenly one day. Bikini could still remember it well. Iris had gone into town again as she had doing increasingly often; however, this time instead of the smile she always had when she returned from her visits, Iris's face had been covered with tears. Iris had refused to discuss that day, but the topic of leaving had never come up again after that; in fact, Iris threw herself fully into her duties at the temple. Still, a mother knows her daughter, and Bikini knew that something was wrong even if she wasn't sure quite what. The sorrow suddenly lurking in those pretty eyes gave Iris's hidden pain away and it had killed Bikini that despite her best efforts she had not been able to help her dear daughter.
There had been a change after Iris went to prison, which surprised Bikini. When she would go visit Iris, she had noticed that her former brightness had returned and that there was no trace of that sorrow any longer; despite the fact that Bikini thought being in jail would have made things worse. Bikini's gaze shifted to Phoenix for a second and her smile widened. Even if she hadn't witnessed them kissing, there was no mistaking their relationship to each other. Their body language told her everything. With everything she had learned in that case a year ago, the changes in Iris over the years suddenly made sense.
"Sister Bikini?" Iris asked, her voice tight with concern. "Is something wrong?"
It suddenly dawned on Bikini how strange her reaction must have seemed to the pair. Bikini spoke up quickly to relieve the worry on Iris's and Phoenix's faces, her normal playfulness reinserting itself into the situation again. "Of course I'm okay! It's so wonderful to see you again." Bikini embraced Iris, who laughed with relief to see Bikini behaving normally and hugged her back. Bikini then turned her attention to Phoenix who was watching the exchange with dry amusement. "Mr. Wright, it's good to see you again. It's been a while."
"It has been, Sister," Phoenix agreed. "I'm happy to see you well. How's your back these days?"
Making a face, Bikini responded, "It always acts up when its cold like this, but what can you do?" Reaching for something else to say, Bikini asked, "How's that law thing of yours going?"
Neither Bikini nor Iris was ready for Phoenix's reaction to the seemingly innocent question. Recoiling like he'd been struck, the smile fell from his face to be replaced with a strangely blank expression. "I...I gave it up," Phoenix finally answered with a smile that was clearly forced, his voice strangely lacking its usual warmth.
In an attempt to soothe his distress, Iris reached out to lay a comforting hand on his arm, but Phoenix stepped away suddenly putting himself just out of range. It was now Iris's turn to recoil, pulling her hand back and dropping it limply beside her as she fought to restrain the hurt his action had caused. "Feenie..." she whispered, her voice barely audible.
Seeing the flash of pain that crossed Iris's face, Phoenix felt a wave of guilt. Never had he wished to hurt her. He'd just reacted. "Iris...Rissy, I'm sorry." The coldness dropped away instantly and Phoenix stepped forward anxiously. With a weak smile on his face now, he touched her cheek gently. "I was just a bit distracted, I guess. I'm sorry."
Iris's smile returned, but it was an uncertain one. This growing distance worried her, but she wasn't sure what to do about it. This was a hard time for him, after all. She was sure this whole thing would pass in time. Putting it all behind her, she said, "I understand, Feenie. No harm done." Iris wasn't sure why her stomach tightened as she said these words, but she chose to ignore it.
As Phoenix leaned in to kiss her, a loud sneeze reminded the pair that they were not alone. With the drama of the moment, Bikini's presence had been completely forgotten. This time it wasn't just Iris who reacted with embarrassment but Phoenix also could feel his face turn red. The scene had been rather personal.
"Look at that. I interrupted the best part," Bikini teased, covering up her own concern well. She made a mental note to discuss Phoenix's behavior later with Iris. "Don't stop on my account. I'm enjoying the show."
"Sister!" Iris protested, trying to cover her embarrassment with a poor show of mock shock. "I...I don't know what you mean. We weren't doing anything!"
Raising an eyebrow quizzically, Bikini laughed. "No, you're right. Nothing was going to happen. People staring at each like that with their lips only inches apart always do nothing."
Iris started to protest again, but Phoenix spoke first in an attempt to change the topic. "Why don't we head inside? I'm starting to lose feeling in my fingers from the cold."
Acknowledging the point, Bikini led them inside. Sitting down together with a pot of coffee, they spent the next hour getting caught up until Phoenix's phone rang and he had to excuse himself to take the call.
Sitting together, Bikini watched Iris in silent amusement as the young woman stirred some more sugar into her coffee half-heartedly, eyes fixated on the door as she waited impatiently for Phoenix's return. Bikini laughed softly at her daughter's single-mindedness. "Staring at the door won't get him to come back any faster."
"Hmm," Iris mumbled absentmindedly, having missed Bikini's comment. Suddenly realizing Bikini had spoken, Iris refocused her attention. "I'm sorry, Sister. I guess I'm a bit distracted."
With a quick glance over at the door, a mischievous glint entered her eyes. Bikini spoke again, her voice playful, "No kidding. I wonder why."
"What?" Iris asked in confusion, having missed the implication in Bikini's words.
Iris's innocence had always made Bikini smile, but this time it saddened her. In her heart she now knew she had done the girl a disservice by keeping her so sheltered, even though she had done so out of love. The thoughts of the past pain that could have been avoided if Iris had some extra insight and the difficulty of really starting her emotional growth at twenty-six made Bikini realize the magnitude of her mistake. Still, Bikini was quick to cover these thoughts with a teasing smile. "So you like him, huh?" The understatement of the century, she knew.
"Oh," Iris said quietly. "Yes, I like him a lot."
"Yes," Bikini encouraged, sipping her coffee while she waited for Iris to continue.
"Sister Bikini..." Iris started to speak again, but stopped abruptly as her confidence disappeared. Iris starred into the coffee in her cup as though some truth was waiting to be discovered in the dark liquid.
"Iris," Bikini prompted, frowning slightly. As she moved closer to comfort the young woman, Iris spoke again.
"I more than like him, Sister," Iris whispered, so softly Bikini could barely hear her. "I love him and I want to be with him." Looking up again finally, Iris smiled. Her hands began trembling as she started to speak again only to discover that the words wouldn't come. Iris's fear of leaving her home was very real, but her love was stronger. Picturing Phoenix in her mind, and the life they would share together, Iris found the courage to move forward. "Sister, I'd like permission to leave the temple."
"I figured as much," Bikini admitted, surprising Iris. "Sure took you long enough to ask." The teasing tone was then pushed aside as seriousness reasserted itself. "This is what you want, sweetie?"
Iris was quiet for a second. "I don't think I've ever wanted anything more," she answered, her voice quiet but emotional. "He's the most incredible person I've ever met. Passionate, kind, and so strong... I just want to be with him. He's my Feenie." A sweet smile spread across her mind as it always did when she thought about him.
"You seem happy," Bikini smiled. "I wish you all the luck in the world, my child. You are the only one who can decide what path you wish to follow. You'd do well to remember that, Iris." On a lighter note, she added, "And of course you'll always have a home here."
"Thank you, Sister," Iris said happily, her eyes watering. Glancing over at the still empty door, Iris started to stand. "He's been gone a while. I should go make sure everything is okay."
Iris's comment triggered something in Bikini's mind. Recalling the events from earlier, Bikini knew she couldn't just let that go without an explanation. "Iris, sit for a second."
Turning back the old nun, Iris's face reflected surprise as she sat down again. "What's wrong?"
"What happened earlier with him?"
"Huh?" Iris asked, pretending not to understand. This was obviously something she didn't wish to discuss. "What do you mean?"
"Iris, you know exactly what I'm talking about. Tell me what's going on," Bikini demanded, her voice unusually stern.
Iris was quite as she thought over her words. "I don't know the whole story," Iris admitted. "Feenie doesn't like to talk about it. Something happened and his attorney's badge was taken away, but I don't know much more. It upsets him."
"So I saw," Bikini speaking slowly as she studied Iris's face.
"This is a hard time for him," Iris jumped to his defense. "Your question just caught him off guard!"
"Look..." Bikini started to speak, but stopped herself. What had she been planning to say? She had been planning to fix everything as she had always done when Iris was a little girl. Staring at the beautiful young woman in front of her, Bikini knew that she had to let go. She didn't doubt that they loved each other. It wasn't possible to fake feeling as strong as the ones she'd witnessed today. Bikini realized she would simply have to trust that love and step back. Iris would have to learn this lesson on her own. Bikini had faith, though. Bikini knew that Iris was stronger than she believed she was, and Phoenix was certainly no weakling, as he had proved repeatedly by winning cases that everyone believed were hopeless. They would get through all the hard times that lay before them. Bikini stood up and hugged Iris tightly. "Promise me that you'll visit."
"Of course we'll visit. Maybe we'll even bring Trucy next time. Feenie adopted her a little less than a year ago. She is the sweetest little girl you'll ever meet." Iris paused for a second. "Well, she and Pearl tie as sweetest, I guess."
It was then that Phoenix returned to the room, having finally finished his phone call. Despite his attempt to enter without disturbing the pair, he tripped and the noise drew Iris's and Bikini's attention. "Sorry about that," he said with a sheepish smile, straightening up and rubbing the back of his neck.
"Feenie! Are you okay?" Iris quickly rushed to Phoenix's side.
"I'm fine," he reassured her. Seeing the doubt in her eyes, Phoenix added, "Really, I'm fine."
Relieved that he was unharmed and completely free of the temple constraints, Iris wrapped her arms around him to which he responded by kissing her. "So what was that call about anyway?" she asked after releasing him.
A soft chuckle escaped Phoenix's lips. "Trucy's apparently being difficult again. I knew it was a mistake to leave her with Edgeworth, but I needed someone to watch her and he does alright with Pearls. I'm going to have to go pick her up sooner rather than later or I may never be forgiven."
"Well, Trucy can be more rambunctious then Pearl," Iris smiled. Turning to Bikini, she asked, "Do you mind if we leave? I'll call tomorrow."
"I'll be holding you to that, Iris. If you don't call, I will come looking for you," Bikini teased. "Well then, go on." Bikini led them to the exit. She and Iris shared another hug. Looking at Phoenix, she said, "You take good care of my darling Iris."
"I promise, Sister," Phoenix answered sincerely. "There's nothing for you to worry about."
Bikini nodded, accepting his response. "Goodbye, then."
As she watched them leave, she sighed. There was nothing more for her to do, but have faith in their love to help them over the hard road ahead. She paused before heading back inside to the main hall, glancing over her shoulder. "May my prayers smooth the path for you. I know you two will make it through," she whispered under her breath before heading back inside.