Author's Note: I consider this a semi-sequel to my previous story, 'It is a Mystery,' though it is certainly not required reading.
"Hey there, Mozart."
Phoenix grinned as Maya strode over to her usual table next to his piano, sandals clicking against the hard wood floor.
"You're early," he said, "that's strange even for you."
"Hardy har har," she shot back as she sat in her chair and crossed her legs. The waiter came around and she ordered her usual, a vodka martini. When he left, she continued. "I happened to have a last minute cancellation, so I thought I'd drop by a little earlier than usual. If that's a problem, I could just leave."
"Oh no, no problem," Phoenix replied in his usual uninterested tone. "It's just that I usually have another girlfriend come in earlier than you and leave before you get here, and now you'll probably run into each other."
He turned toward her and couldn't help but grin as he saw the look on her face. She had almost bought it. "Just play the tune, Bach," she said with a long suffering sigh, not quite succeeding at hiding her amusement.
Phoenix couldn't resist needling her a little bit more. "Bach was an organist, not a pianist."
"You mean he was a doctor?" She asked, staring at him oddly.
"No, not that kind of organ, the kind-" Phoenix cut himself off and stared at her. She was smirking at him. He smiled and stifled a chuckle. Almost fell for it.
They sat quietly for a while, the only sounds Phoenix's piano and the gentle background noise of a fairly busy restaurant - business was starting to pick up at the Borscht now that Spring had arrived. As the waiter returned with Maya's drink, Phoenix turned the page on his sheet music.
He broke the silence between them before it became too oppressive. "Sooo." He said in his best approximation of a nosy housewife. "What's new?"
Maya sighed and slumped a little in her chair, whether out of actual weariness or her innate lethargy Phoenix couldn't tell. That was one of those things about Maya - one minute she could be mature, elegant, even austere. The next she could be sprawled out like a sunbathing cat. Well, that wasn't exactly accurate. A sunbathing cat looked more dignified. Maya acted more like an old, tired truck driver.
"Nothing much." He could believe that. They got together once a week, unless something came up, but the longest period they had gone without seeing each other since they got back into contact was two weeks. Not much happened in a little village like Kurain in two weeks, let alone one, and since she couldn't talk about her work as Master in detail, they usually just shot the breeze and enjoyed each other's company.
"Wasn't Sheena supposed to have her baby this week?" He asked idly, fingers dancing gracefully across the keys. If you plugged your ears and just watched him play, you might actually think he was good.
"Supposed to, but the kid's not wanting to come out yet." Maya sipped her drink, ignoring the olives. She hated the things. "The midwives are never exactly accurate in their predictions for date of birth either."
"She supposed to have a boy or a girl?"
"Boy, but again, the midwives are never exac-" She stopped in mid sentance and peered at him.
Phoenix did his best to look innocent. "What?"
"Since when do you care about Sheena's baby?" Maya asked suspiciously.
"You're saying I shouldn't?" He shot her a look, eyebrow raised.
"That's not what-" She stops again and wags a finger at him. "Oh no you don't. Those old lawyer tricks won't work on me, buster."
Phoenix's redirection having failed, he tried a different tactic. "I was just making conversation."
"No you weren't. You've never shown this level of interest in Kurain gossip before. You're hiding something."
"And you're crazy."
Maya set her drink on the table, crossed her arms, and stared at him with the full force of her big brown eyes. "What's happened in the last week?"
Phoenix glanced sidelong at her. He refused to meet her gaze. "Nothing important."
"It must be important if you're trying to avoid talking about it." Her expression softened. She was beginning to get a little concerned. "Nick, it's not something bad, is it?"
"No." A brief moment of thought. "Well, maybe. It depends on how you look at it."
He hoped his tone of voice was light enough that she wouldn't be too worried. Sure enough, the concern slowly edged it's way off her face, replaced by a burning curiousity. "Nick, what is it? C'mon, you can tell me anything."
"I know that. I really do." He smiled genuinely at her.
"So?" She asked expectantly.
"I just don't want to."
She growled in frustration, and it was right then that Phoenix realized it was hopeless. This would keep eating at her until she got an answer. His mysterious, cryptic persona didn't have the same effect on her as it did on others. Maya Fey was not so easily discouraged.
"Alright, alright..." He ended his tuneless excuse for a song and sighed. He reached down, grabbed a bottle of his favorite grape juice out of the crate Mr. Vasili always left for him, uncorked it, and took a long drink. When he looked back at Maya, she had moved to the edge of her seat and was leaning forward, hands together, staring at him intensely.
He crossed his arms, grape juice bottle still in hand, and briefly averted his gaze. He had a policy of making her wait as long as possible whenever she was impatient about something. He had started doing it just to teach her a lesson, but over time he started to take a sick sort of pleasure in it. To him, it was one of life's many little joys.
"Well?!" She practically shouted when he didn't speak right away. Time to come clean.
"My birthday was this week."
Maya's jaw would have fallen straight through the floor had it not been attached to her face. She looked disappointed. "That's it?! Your birthday?!" Suddenly she gasped and covered her mouth. "I...I forgot."
Phoenix smiled sheepishly, something he rarely did anymore except with her. "It's okay. That's why I didn't want to tell you. I figured you didn't remember, and I didn't want you to feel bad about it."
"Nick, I'm sorry, really." Apparently she didn't care what he said, Maya was determined to feel bad about it anyway. "I didn't even get you anything."
"It's no big deal, Maya, really." He kept his tone light, trying to cheer her up. "As you get older, birthdays stop being all that great anyway."
"Did Trucy remember?" She asked, her expression sullen.
He wasn't going to lie to her. "Well, yeah, she did. She got me a gift and we went out to eat, but it was nothing special or anything, really."
That wasn't exactly true. Trucy had saved up for months to buy him a nice vintage suit from the secondhand store. It didn't fit quite as well as he would have liked, but it was certainly the right shade of blue, and though he had his doubts he'd ever wear something like it again, he had been quite touched by her gift.
Phoenix grimaced. She was taking this conversation in a direction he didn't want it to go. "He did send me a little something, yeah."
'A little something' was an understatement. Edgeworth had sent him a Swiss-made pocket watch which Phoenix suspected might actually be older than he was, along with a handwritten note detailing how to care for it. There was a word in German inscribed on the front - Schwager. Once he'd looked up what it meant, Phoenix was almost moved to tears - 'brother-in-law.' Clever. The watch hadn't left his possession since.
Maya looked positively crushed. Phoenix hated seeing her like this.
"Look, Maya, it's no big deal, really. I didn't even want anything."
"That's not the point," she retorted sternly, her expression turning angry. "The point is I should have remembered. I owe you so much, Nick, I've known you for ten years and I don't even remember your birthday? What kind of friend does that make me?"
Phoenix tried desperately to reason with her. "You've been busy," he said, "and we only got back in touch a year ago. It's perfectly understandable."
Maya just shook her head and turned towards her table. "No," she said, taking her martini and downing the whole thing in one swig. "This is unacceptable."
Phoenix opened his mouth to try and console her, but he knew it wouldn't help. He shut it and just sat there staring at her.
A minute had passed when she suddenly jerked her head towards him. "Is Trucy at home?" She asked.
"Uh, no, she's got a big gig at the Wonder Bar tonight. She'll be there 'till seven." No sooner did he finish speaking than Maya pulled a ten dollar bill from her pocket, slammed it down on the table, and grabbed his arm. She dragged him to his feet as she spoke.
"Alrighty then, I may not have remembered your birthday, but that doesn't mean we can't still celebrate." Her eyes were steely and her voice commanding. She was super serious about this.
"Where are we going?" Phoenix managed to ask as she dragged him hurriedly across the restaurant.
"We are going to your apartment, where I am going to give you the best gift I can think of on such short notice."
As they neared the door, Mr. Vasili, the owner of the Borscht, spoke up from behind the bar. "Where are you taking my pianist?" He said in his thick Russian accent, not looking up from the glass he was cleaning.
Maya halted, turned, and said in her most professional and businesslike tone, "I am taking him home so that I can screw his brains out."
Mr. Vasili froze momentarily, then slowly raised his head and stared at them. Maya's expression was indomitable, Phoenix's was incredulous, and she was still gripping him tightly by the wrist.
Slowly, Mr. Vasili smiled. An uncommon sight to be sure. "Have fun."
Maya bowed slightly, then dragged Phoenix out the restaurant. The old Russian shook his head and returned to cleaning the glass in his hands, mumbling something about "young love."