Inspiration: Have I ever mentioned that the Ace Attorney series are some of the best games ever EVER?! No? Well, now you know, and knowing is half the battle! You know what else is pretty awesome? Musicals. Most of the time. And so, you can blame this story on my friend, the amazingly talented and just plain fun Deja from the Phoenix Wright Musical Project. She drew me a wonderful picture, so here's my birthday reply to her.

Disclaimer: Don't own it. That's why I'm writing fanfiction. Wish I owned it. I also wish Diego Armando hung out at the local Starbucks, 'cause I'd be all over that like hot on coffee. (Get it? GET IT!?) Yeah, that'd be cool...

Clarification: Yes, the title is from "The Little Mermaid" which is also a movie that holds a special place in my childhood. You know, they type of movies Disney used to make before they only started caring about the scum of the Earth, like High School Musical 3 and just about every teen drama they show on Disney Channel. Why is there a Disney reference in an Ace Attorney fanfic? I guess you'll just have to read to find out!

HAPPY BIRTHDAY DEJA! I hope you like it. X3


Percussion...
Strings...
Winds...
Words...


Kiss The Girl

It was inconceivable. This couldn't be happening. These things simply did not happen. Not to Miles Edgeworth.

Especially not to Miles Edgeworth. For yes, he could concede that a similar scene had most likely presented itself to Wright many times. But Wright was a different breed; the sort of fool who believed so purely with such foolish fervor, that his foolishness seemed almost wise. Edgeworth pinched the bridge of his nose and exhaled slowly; his thoughts were beginning to sound like Franziska.

Or maybe they always had. If it wasn't one von Karma in his head, it was another.

Though to be honest, considering the current voices screaming in his ear, he'd take Franziska any day.

"C'mon, you promised!" whined the Fey girl, Wright's eccentric assistant, tugging at his sleeve. He really wished she wouldn't paw at him so much, especially considering what had occurred earlier. "You can't chicken out now. Pearly's counting on you!"

"You don't wanna make a kid cry on her special day, do ya pal?"

"Yeah Edgey, at least you're not the one in a dress…"

"Larry, one more word out of you and it will be your last." Edgeworth replied in a deceptively calm voice. Honestly, if he does make one more peep, I may need Wright to defend me for murder again after all…

Taking a deep breath, Edgeworth shook the pleading girl off his arm and peeked out of the kitchen, into the living room where little Pearl Fey sat quietly, hands folded politely in her lap, as she awaited his entrance with wide hopeful eyes.

Damn it all, she was probably the only one around here who didn't seem completely dedicated to humiliating him. And it was her special day…

Steeling his courage, Miles Edgeworth desperately tried to make quick sense of how in the world he had ended up in such a position in the first place.

Oh yes, now he remembered. As usual, all his troubles had begun with one person…

Phoenix Wright.


xXx

It was supposed to only be a two minute stop at the most. Just pop in, give Wright the files he had procured for him, and then be on his way. After all, he had a lot of packing to do. His flight back to Europe was tomorrow.

Normally he wouldn't have gone out of his way on some silly request of Wright's, especially when he had more important things to do, but the very nature of the request had been one that Edgeworth simply could not refuse.

"Please, Edgeworth. Just any files on Elise Deuxnim's movements over the last few years that you might be able to dig up. Maya hasn't quite been herself since that case, try as she might to hide it. I think it would do her some good to know more about where her mother was all this time."

How could he deny her, as frivolous and loquacious as she was, information on her mother? Edgeworth knew, had anyone been able to offer him something that would make him feel even the slightest bit more connected to his father, he would have done anything to obtain it.

And also, he did owe her…

How could he forget? The trial of his life, when she had spoken up in the face of threats of contempt, and been dragged out of the courtroom for it. Even Edgeworth, who had always prided himself in his ability to remain detached and in control, couldn't help his lip from trembling at the sight of such undeserved loyalty. Sure, he had paid her bail, but that hardly covered the debt; she had helped save his life.

Stupid, silly, loud girl with only nonsense in her head. And yet he owed her, not that he could have denied such a request anyway.

It was under these circumstances that Edgeworth found himself knocking on the door to the Wright and Co. Law offices, manila folder swollen with documents tucked firmly under his arm.

The door opened almost immediately, but it was not Wright's slightly frazzled expression that greeted him. Instead, the perky little medium herself stared up at him from across the threshold, her eyes widening in surprise for a moment before sparkling with a sudden burst of inspiration. Oh no, that was never good. Better to make it a brief visit, then.

"Good afternoon. Is Wright he—"

"Mr. Edgeworth! Thank Mia, you've come to save us!" Before Edgeworth could so much as register her bizarre comment, he was grabbed tightly by the arm and yanked inside.

Little Pearl Fey was there—she was Maya's younger cousin, he believed?—clutching two colorful scraps of paper in her round little fists and looking quite distraught.

"You're just in time! He was here earlier and he gave us some tickets to the show for her birthday, but he isn't back from that place yet, so we have no one to take us, and we're going to be late!"

"Maya, please!" Edgeworth interjected, trying to get a word in over her rambling. "A few nouns here and there would greatly increase your likelihood of being understood."

"Right." Maya nodded, moving over to stand behind little Pearl and placing comforting hands on her shoulders. "It's her birthday, so Larry came by earlier with some free tickets to the new musical that's playing down at the Fantageous theatre."

Did I just hear her correctly? Larry came here bearing gifts rather than with the intention of borrowing? Something smells…

"But Nick went down to the Detention Center to visit Iris, and he hasn't come back yet. He probably lost track of the time, he always does when he goes to visit her." At this, Edgeworth almost thought he heard little Pearl unhappily mutter something about special someones and disloyalty, but he couldn't be sure. "Anyway, the show starts in less than an hour and we have no one to take us!"

"You have my condolences. Now, where may I leave these files for Wright to find—"

"Mr. Edgeworth!" Maya interrupted in a heavily scolding tone which nearly made him jump, if it wasn't for his impeccable control, that is. "How can you just stand there, offering half-hearted apologies on her special day? A Fey's birthday only comes once a year, you know!"

"Indeed, Maya," Edgeworth said dismissively, already inching back towards the door, "as do everyone else's."

"Exactly!" Maya marched over between him and the door, blocking his only means of escape, hands on her hips in determination. Damn, he'd have to find another way! "And you have the power to do something about it! Are you so cold, so cruel, that you would leave a pretty little girl and her beautiful older cousin abandoned on such an important day. Which, as you said yourself, only comes once in the entire year!?" She put a hand to her forehead melodramatically, feigning a swoon.

She began to approach him, and yet she did not appear to be coming any closer. Edgeworth suddenly realized he was backing away, and his back promptly collided with the wall. He was cornered!

"I-I'm sure I don't know what you mean…" The gleam in her eyes was almost predatory. Of all the things he had thought about this girl, he had never imagined her to be so frightening.

"Duh! You can give us a ride to the theatre. You have that flashy red sports car, right? I'm sure it would just make Pearly's day to take a ride in it!"

"But Mystic Maya, what does Mr. Ej-i-worth giving us a ride to the show have to do with—?" Pearl squeaked up, only to be shushed by an overzealous Maya.

"Shh, s'kay Pearly. Let me handle this." She said sweetly before rounding on Edgeworth, her smile dissolving into a disapproving glare. "Look at Pearly, she's such a good person, she doesn't even want to trouble you. Doesn't she deserve her very own knight-in-shining armor, at least on this special day?"

Edgeworth opened his mouth to politely but firmly decline, but instead found himself staring at little Pearl, listening to her barely concealed sniffles, and suddenly nodding his head in assent.

A Cheshire cat grin instantly broke out on Maya's face. "It's settled then! Get your coat, Pearly! We're gonna get to see the show after all, all thanks to your very own charming prince for the day!"

A thousand different objections flashed through Edgeworth's mind at once, all crashing together and blocking any coherent train of speech. But when he saw little Pearl, smiling up at him expectantly in her pink little coat with the fluffy white trim, her round little hand trustingly offering him the tickets to hold, he couldn't help but duck his head in surrender. Shaking his head in self-disapproval as he took the tickets offered him, Edgeworth walked over to the exit and, ever the gentleman, held open the door for the two young Fey ladies.

And anyway, it was just a ride to the theatre… right?

The ride itself wasn't especially eventful. Maya and Pearl sat in the back, whispering excitedly amongst themselves in hushed voices, much to Edgeworth's relief. Soon they pulled up in front of the Fantageous theatre, Maya gushing at Edgeworth's use of the valet parking, and walked up in front of the theatre.

All around, bright posters proclaiming "THE LITTLE MERMAID" decorated the entrance. He should have guessed. Well, at least Larry had managed to find something age appropriate. Who knew?

"Wow. Mystic Maya, it's amazing!" Little Pearl gasped, her hands flying up to her face in awe.

"That's nothing Pearly. Just wait 'till we get inside! This show's tops!" Maya assured her, taking the girl by the hand and bravely leading her forward, stopping only to glance back in his direction. "Right Mr. Edgeworth?"

"Pardon?"

"Well, I've never seen a live musical myself," Maya said thoughtfully, "but you're one of those classy types, right? You must come here a lot. Is it a good show?"

Edgeworth blinked at her for a moment, before frowning. How typical, people seemed to love jumping to conclusions about him. "There was a time I frequented the theatre, yes. But that was a long time ago, and this show just opened. I can't say for certain—"

"You hear that, Pearly? Mr. Edgeworth used to frequent this place! That means it's really great!"

"Yay!" Little Pearl said, bouncing in enthusiasm. He didn't have the heart to correct Maya's mistranslation of his statement.

It wouldn't be long now then. As long as he kept things cordial but concise, he could still get out of this with minimum time wasted. All he had to do was drop them off and then give Wright a call to remind him to pick them up later. After that it would be Wright's problem, he'd still have done his part, and little Pearl would have a pleasant memory of her birthday. Good.

But as usual, the powers that be seemed intent on ruining the best laid plans of Miles Edgeworth.

"What do you mean they aren't legitimate?"

"I'm sorry, sir," said the teller at the ticket booth, "but they aren't in our system. They look real enough, but there's no barcode for me to scan. I'm afraid you got jipped."

The teller placed the tickets back in the window well, pushing the tickets back to Edgeworth's side of the glass. Snatching the tickets up, Edgeworth inspected them closely, turning them every which way. Yes, they did look legit, but the barcode was indeed missing. Giving the tickets a closer look, Edgeworth pressed his nail against the edge of the hard paper, peeling away the lamination. A thin layer of paint came up with it. So that was it!

"Forged theatre tickets." Edgeworth pursued his lips in irritation. That's right, Larry fancied himself an artist nowadays, didn't he? "The saying holds true as ever. If something smells, it's gotta be the Butz!"

"Does this mean we don't get to see the show?" Pearl asked, her sweet, innocent white-voice lined with concern.

"Don't be sad, Pearly. I'm sure there's a way…" Maya began, reassuring but unable to hide her own uncertainty.

BAM! The teller started as Edgeworth slammed his finest platinum credit card on the stainless steel table and deftly slid it into the window well. He had agreed—albeit grudgingly—to take the girls to see the show, and Miles Edgeworth was a man of his word! And what was a couple hundred more dollars to him anyway?

"Two tickets please."

The teller nodded, biting his lip to keep his nerve against the sudden dark aura which was emanating off of the prosecutor in front of him, (for who hadn't heard of the famous demon prosecutor?) and turned to the computer to check the system.

"Sir, I'm terribly sorry, but we're all sold out for the week." The teller winced, anticipating Edgeworth's reaction.

But Edgeworth simply clenched his jaw and turned to Maya, seeking approval. "It'll have to be for next week, but if you accept the delay then I'll upgrade your seats."

Maya's eyes widened in that deer-in-the-headlights look she sometimes got, surprised by Edgeworth's sudden display of charity. "Wow, Mr. Edgeworth! I had no idea you were so generous." Little did she know he was just trying to get rid of them as quickly and as quietly as possible.

Taking her irritatingly dumbfounded expression as a yes, Edgeworth turned back to the teller, looking down his nose at the poor man, and fixed him with an authoritative glare. "Then I'll take two tickets for next week. And make them the best seats in the house."

The teller typed rapidly at his computer, horror filling his face at what he found, and then faced Edgeworth with a gulp. "T-t-terribly sorry, sir. But the good seats are… solmffernffn."

"Speak up, man! I can't hear you over your own mumbling!"

The teller swallowed, wiping at his brow which had suddenly broken into a cold sweat, and cleared his throat nervously. "The good seats are sold out all month, sir. Ahh!" The teller screamed, throwing his arms over his face as if expecting Edgeworth to break through the glass with super-human strength and hand him court papers. "I'm sooo sorry, sir! There's nothing I can do! It's a new show and everyone's coming out to see it! I'm sorry, I'm sorry!" The teller looked away, anticipating Edgeworth's considerable wrath.

But Edgeworth did not become angry. He didn't burst through the glass and serve the teller papers, nor did he demand to speak to a manager. He didn't even raise his voice. Edgeworth only tucked away his platinum credit card and gave the teller a curt thank you before turning on his heel and heading back towards the parking lot, signaling for a very confused Maya and Pearl to follow.

"So, we're leaving?" Pearl asked shyly as the valet brought the car around.

"Yes."

"But we can't go!" Maya protested, her voice rising to a pitch which seemed designed for the sole purpose of clawing up Edgeworth's spine. "Pearly so wanted to go! And on today, of all days! You can't let her down like this!"

"Maya." Edgeworth said, his voice even but firm enough to catch her attention. "I'm taking care of it. Now," he opened the side car door and ushered the girl's inside, "let's be on our way."

Shutting the door behind the Fey girls, Edgeworth strode calmly to the driver's side of the car, took a seat inside, and pulled out his cell phone to make a brief call as he pulled away from the Fantageous theatre.

"Gumshoe." Edgeworth spoke into his cell. "I'm on my way to the precinct as we speak. I need you to pull an address for me on one Larry Butz, alias Laurice Deuxnim. Have it ready for me by the time I arrive." Without so much as a cordial goodbye, he hung up.

A few minutes later found the Feys and the cravat-ed prosecutor in front of the Criminal Affairs Department. True to form, Gumshoe was waiting for them at the entrance with signature dopey grin plastered on his face. Before Edgeworth could ask for the address, Gumshoe invited himself into the car, smiling broadly, painfully oblivious to Edgeworth's chagrin.

"Laurice Deuxnim, got the address right here. So what're we headed over there for, pal? Got an interrogation to do?"

Edgeworth didn't bother to correct Gumshoe's assumption that he was invited, or to kick him out. Instead, Edgeworth remained silent and sped away from the Criminal Affair Department, biting his bottom lip. Maya noticed Edgeworth's savage assault on his own lip and quickly caught on; Edgeworth wasn't calm at all! He was just saving his wrath for the right man.

A few more minutes later found the Feys, the silently simmering prosecutor, and the clueless detective in front of the humble apartment of not-yet-renowned artist Laurice Deuxnim. It was with an incredible feat of self-discipline that Edgeworth managed to knock on the door without banging his fists in fury.

"Ye—es?" Chanted Larry amiably as he opened the front door to his new apartment, only to have a pair of all-too-familiar theatre tickets shoved in his face.

"Explain. Now." That sounded like Edgeworth. Ducking under the outstretched arm which was currently holding the offending tickets only millimeters from his nose, Larry smiled sheepishly to face his guests. Edgeworth's expression didn't seem upset. Ah, but there was an eye twitch! Oh no, he was holding himself back! That was even worse!

"Edgeeeey!" Larry cried, tears immediately springing to his eyes. "You haven't come to arrest me, have you?"

"Arrest you for what, pal?" Gumshoe said, scratching his head absentmindedly.

"Eep!" Larry shrieked, catching sight of the detective, and dove behind Maya for protection. "Don't you do it Edgey! You can have the detective drag me out of here by force if you want, but believe me, you'll regret it! If you even try to prosecute me, I'll just hire Nick to defend me! Tell him Maya!"

"I thought you still didn't pay him for the first time?" Maya said, unable to stop herself from laughing at the mental image of Phoenix and Edgeworth pitting off against each other to decide Larry's fate.

"Yeah, then you'll be sooo embarrassed when he gets me off!" Larry continued, undaunted by Maya's lack of support. "And I'll never let you live it down! I think I may even write a children's book about it! Yeah, I can see it now, Edgey Wedgey: The Meanie Weenie Prosecutor!"

"Larry!" Edgeworth barked, his usual poise erased by his pure frustration. Stepping around Maya, he bent down and grabbed Larry by the lapels of his tacky orange leather jacket, pulling him up to eye level. "I'm not here to arrest you, but I am here to make sure you go through with your promise like a real man!"

"W-what?"

"You promised this girl," Edgeworth unceremoniously pointed to little Pearl as he pushed his way inside the apartment, dragging Larry behind him, "free tickets to see The Little Mermaid. And, so help me, you are going to deliver!"

"Huh? Pearl? How did she get tho—"

Not listening to a word of Larry's excuses, Edgeworth threw Larry onto his own tattered sofa like a rag doll and then took a deep breath to settle himself, straightening his cravat. After a moment he combed his fingers through his bangs quickly and then faced the rest of the group.

"So now that I have your undivided attention, Mr. Butz, how are we going to do this?" He said, his usual royal grace back in place. The sparkle of mischief returned to Maya's eyes.

As Edgeworth pressed Larry to resolve the problem he had carelessly created, it was Maya who presented a solution; they could all enact the play for Pearl themselves! Everyone knew the story of The Little Mermaid, didn't they? It wouldn't be too hard. And of course, since Pearl was to be their intended audience, that left Maya as the only female participating, casting her in the lead role by default.

At first Edgeworth regarded the idea with trepidation, until Maya pulled out a black frilly dress from the back of Larry's closet—stars knew where it had come from or who it belonged to—and announced it to be Ursula the sea witch's costume. Instant inspiration struck Edgeworth, and he declared that their villainess should be none other than the one responsible for this whole mess. Larry whined and wheedled in response, but in the end Maya's charm won out and Larry was forced into the frilly black dress.

Next it was time to elect the mermaid's charming prince. Leaving the decision to Pearl, the little Fey selected Edgeworth. Her reasons were obvious enough; Edgeworth carried himself quite regally and spoke in a refined manner, usually. Still, the selection caught Edgeworth by surprise. He didn't expect to actually be included in this mess!

Gumshoe was assigned all the remaining parts, mostly playing the mermaid's strict father, the King of the Sea. Larry noted that he was the only one being forced to wear a costume, and Maya responded by taking a green blanket that was draped across the sofa and wrapping it around her waist to serve as her tail.

"Only the leads need costumes, so Gumshoe's fine the way he is."

"But what about Edgey?" Larry argued. "He's the Prince, that's a lead!"

Setting her make-shift mermaid tail aside, Maya put a finger to her chin in thought for a moment before approaching Edgeworth with a critical look on her face. Edgeworth crossed his arms, ready to object should anyone suggest any sort of costume for him. There was only so much indignity Miles Edgeworth was willing to bear, no matter whose birthday it was.

But Maya did not bring him a crude prince's outfit, nor did she list off any ideas. She said nothing and just continued to draw closer, closer than Edgeworth had expected her to, and definitely much closer than he was used to. A puckish grin painting its way slowly across her lips, Maya reached out. She did not grab him or tug at him like he'd expected. Instead, she placed a gentle hand under his chin.

Electricity ran through Edgeworth's system at the unexpected contact. He started, jumping slightly, and uncrossed his arms as he drew back. Remembering himself, he did not move away enough to break the contact, not wanting to draw attention to himself. But it was unavoidable. His position was conspicuously one of a person trying to keep themselves from running in fright, and to his mortification, he felt his cheeks grow uncontrollably warm. He wasn't, was he? Was he actually…? Edgeworth felt Maya's hand, small and soft where it lingered against his skin, shift slightly, and at that moment he knew it was true. He was actually blushing.

"Hmm…" Maya said, nonchalant, not seeming to notice Edgeworth's inner tumult. "Nope, he's already dressed the part of a Prince if you ask me, Larry," she concluded and drew away as if nothing had happened.

Everyone went to their places, prepared to make their entrance. They all seemed oblivious to Edgeworth's discomfort, and for that he was eternally grateful. The situation wasn't half as degrading if no one else seemed to notice his overreaction to it. Though, if he had looked anything like how he had felt, he couldn't see how anyone could have missed it. Or perhaps they just didn't care. He was overreacting… he was overreacting…

Clearing his throat to calm himself, Edgeworth went to take his place.

The act went decently enough. There were a few snags, as there was no script and the entire play was being ad-libbed, but fortunately everyone knew the story well enough to get through the scenes without too much difficulty. Even more fortunately for Edgeworth, he really didn't have to do much save stand around so Maya the mermaid could fawn over his princeliness. Unfortunately for Edgeworth, there were few things he could imagine that could possibly be worse than having Maya fawning over him. Every time she came close, as hard as he tried to suppress it, he could feel that traitorous flush return to his cheeks and his entire body tense up. He just could not get over that scene in the kitchen. It was an outrageous invasion of his privacy!

Though again, no one seemed to notice his distress. None except little Pearl, the sweet little girl casting him an uncharacteristically vicious glare every time Maya got too close. Or maybe she wasn't glaring. He could just be imagining things.

When at last mermaid Maya sold her voice to Larry the sea witch, Edgeworth was only too grateful. She had been prancing about, singing at the top of her lungs for far too long. Not that her voice was particularly bad, if anything she had a decent sense of pitch. She was just so infernally loud. He breathed a sigh of relief, wishing Maya's muteness would outlast the performance.

His relief was short-lived, however, as Larry the sea witch came to Edgeworth's palace in disguise and tried to win his affections. Edgeworth had never been so quick to cuff a man in a frilly dress before. But to be fair, Larry had tried to kiss him, albeit on the cheek. Edgeworth began to wonder if he was the only person in the world with any sense at all of personal boundaries.

Once Larry's exaggerated cries of pain were quieted, the play began to wind down. The villain was defeated, much to Edgeworth's enjoyment. Maya's voice was returned, much to Edgeworth's vexation. And Gumshoe offered his blessing for Maya and Edgeworth to wed, much to Edgeworth's sudden alarm. He had completely forgotten about the wedding scene! How could he have been so inept? It was the finishing scene!

As Maya approached him, Gumshoe leading her forward, Edgeworth could feel bullets of cold sweat forming on his brow. No, no, no! She didn't really expect him to do this, did she? He couldn't, he…

He didn't know how…

It was a strange thing to admit, at age 26, that he had never kissed a girl. It wasn't because he was disinterested. Well… perhaps it was. As Maya approached him, silly grin on her face, the world around him slowing to an excruciatingly sluggish pace, Miles Edgeworth really considered the question. Why?

Why, at age 26, hadn't he ever engaged in any sort of personal relationship? Even that incompetent Wright had at least one girlfriend in his past. And the complete imbecile Larry had more than he probably remembered. Even stupidly absent-minded Gumshoe had his Maggey. So then why?

Truth be told, he hadn't really ever thought about it before. He had been only eight when his father had died, and at that age girls were really of no importance to him. After Gregory Edgeworth's untimely passing, his feelings towards the fairer sex had never changed. They existed; he acknowledged them, even interacted with them. Still, Miles always found himself occupied with more important things to really notice. But why?

Manfred von Karma. That was the reason. In the end it always came down to that man. When von Karma had taken him in, perfection had become Edgeworth's only goal. Nothing else mattered, only the perfect win. He had to do it, to keep criminals off the streets and spare others the pain that had been inflicted on him. Edgeworth had spent all his time studying, working, immersing himself only in that which would further refine him into a perfect prosecuting machine.

He had forgotten, he supposed. That's all it had been. Miles Edgeworth had simply forgotten to start caring about women, forgotten to care about a lot of things. He had forgotten to be human at all.

And then Wright had come and shattered everything Edgeworth was. Wright had ripped everything away, stripped Edgeworth of his perfection. Everything he had ever worked for was taken from him, without remorse. At first, Edgeworth had thought he would die.

But he didn't die. He lived. No, he lived. It was only after Wright had liberated him from the curse of perfection that Edgeworth had begun to learn to be human. Prosecuting was what he did, not who he was. He was a person.

The time spent abroad had helped him discover what it really meant to be a prosecutor, to truly fight for justice instead of just victory. And in that time he had caught glimpses, small inklings of desire within himself. There were things in his life which were lacking. Some things were missing. He wanted.

That's why he had returned abroad again, hoping to find whatever it was he had yet to find, to complete the puzzle.

But he hadn't had the chance. Less than a year later, Larry's emergency call—how ever did he get his phone number?—had brought him back. And here he was, preparing to return abroad yet again, still searching, groping blindly, what was it he was looking for?

And then she was in front of him, smiling too widely, too happily, too expectantly. As Edgeworth looked down into Maya's eyes, he was surprised by the dullness he found there. He hadn't expected that. How much of her cheery antics were only an act? How much of it was put on for the sake of other people? No wonder acting came so easily to her. She was always acting.

She was hurting, horribly, crushed by guilt over the death of a parent. A death she couldn't have prevented, and yet which her very existence had somehow caused. Who could possibly understand such a dreadful feeling?

He could.

And with a sudden clarity it dawned on him. That emptiness inside him which had recently begun to fill, with friendship and a truer understanding of himself, what was still missing…

Maya reached up towards him, throwing her arms around his neck. Edgeworth resisted the urge to side step and let Maya lean her weight against him, his own arms hanging unsurely at her sides.

She hugged him, that was all. He hadn't anticipated that. But he definitely hadn't anticipated how warm she would feel, how soft, pliant, or how small and fragile, and yet how perfectly she would fit against him. It was nature, he supposed. A woman's body should feel pleasurable pressed against a man's. He couldn't have imagined…

Then, too soon, she was moving away. In a burst of panic, he felt his arms move of their own accord to wrap around her waist, pulling her back towards him. In the back of his mind he thought he could hear Gumshoe announce the end, as little Pearl and Larry applauded happily. But then it was gone, filtered away. All he could hear was Maya's breathing against his chest, causing him to muse about how short she was for her age and how much shorter she looked compared to him.

He could feel her confusion and just picture her brow furrowing. But he didn't release her. Not yet. Ever so slightly, he craned his neck down so that his mouth hovered over her ear and whispered in a barely audible voice meant only for her, "Forgive yourself."

He released her immediately and she sprung back, a blank look like he had never seen on her face.

The moment had seemed lengthy to Edgeworth, but once the spell broke, he realized it couldn't have been long at all. Larry and little Pearl had just barely finished clapping. Catching Maya's eyes, she seemed equally surprised by the relatively brief amount of time his aberrant embrace had taken.

Their eyes remained locked tight, unblinking, as if searching each other for an answer for what has just transpired. But then little Pearl jumped up on Maya, congratulating her and excitedly jabbering on about how wonderful the performance had been. Maya looked away, turning to face her cousin, replying in her usual over-enthusiastic way.

The moment was gone.

After a light dinner, which miraculously ended without either Maya or Larry burning down the kitchen, everyone said their farewells.

Larry gave little Pearl a copy of The Little Mermaid soundtrack as an apology for the forged tickets, promising in a whispered voice which he assumed Edgeworth couldn't hear that next time he'd make sure to remember the barcode. As usual, the Butz hadn't learned a thing.

Edgeworth dropped Gumshoe off at the Department of Criminal affairs. It was a bit on the late side, but no doubt the detective would find his way home somehow. Not that it was really Edgeworth's concern.

Finally, Edgeworth drove the Feys back to the Wright and Co. law offices. Phoenix was already waiting for them at the entrance. Edgeworth exited the car and walked over to gallantly open the passenger door for the Fey ladies. Little Pearl hopped right out of the car, calling a quick thank you and goodbye to 'Mr. Prince Ej-i-worth' over her shoulder, before dashing into Phoenix's awaiting hug and diving right into a recount of her day.

Maya, on the other hand, did not. She took her time leaving the car, pensive, with such a deliberate slowness that Edgeworth felt the urge to offer his hand to help her down. But she came down from the car herself, standing straight, her eyes downcast. She had been wound up, talking a mile a minute just moments ago as they drove to the office. What had changed?

Ah, yes. Little Pearl was distracted. So then Maya was dropping the act while she and Phoenix were distracted. Edgeworth couldn't say quite why, but there was something about knowing that Maya was willing to show him her true self that was strangely touching, in a way.

"Mr. Edgeworth." Maya said softly, too soft for her, peeking up at him from under the dark curtain of her bangs.

"Yes, Maya?"

"I…" her eyes flew back to the floor, her mouth moving but no words coming. Whatever she had to say must have been extremely difficult if it had left the loquacious Maya Fey speechless.

Edgeworth understood. "Maya, you don't have to say anything if you don't—"

He was cut off as the breath was knocked out of his lungs with the force of Maya's abrupt hug. She had thrown herself at him with no warning, her arms wrapping around his chest with crushing force, clinging, as she buried her face against his chest. Catching his breath, Edgeworth was almost certain he felt her trembling.

"I… everyone..." She swallowed, gathering her strength to keep her voice from wavering. "Everyone tells me how it wasn't my fault, how much my mother loved me and was willing to sacrifice everything for me. But they don't understand. How could they? Even if I wasn't directly responsible, it still only happened because of me." A sob escaping her throat as she took a breath.

"Maya…"

"But you… Mr. Edgeworth, you're the first person to tell me that I should forgive myself. Because the truth is, yes, I didn't mean for it to happen, but I still caused it. Just by existing, I caused it. You're the first person to admit that, not blame me, just admit that I was the reason. And I…"

She stopped short, wiling away tears, rubbing her face against his chest. Idly, Edgeworth couldn't help but hope she wouldn't wrinkle his shirt. It was a completely inappropriate concern given the circumstances, but there it was.

Taking a breath and steeling his own courage, Edgeworth moved an unsteady hand, unsure of what he was supposed to do in this situation, and pat Maya's head in a comforting manner. His father used to do that when he was a boy and it was the only display of affection Edgeworth was really familiar with.

And it was enough. Retaining her hold on him, Maya drew back enough to look up at Edgeworth and offer him a smile; a real, genuine smile. Her eyes sparkled, not only with unshed tears, but with a painful sort of relief. How long had she been keeping this all to herself?

Then, without warning, she perched up on her tiptoes, and whispered against his ear, "Forgive yourself, too." As she lowered herself back down, she paused to press a chaste little peck of a kiss on his lower lip.

Edgeworth couldn't suppress the gasp that escaped him, or the clenching of his fists at his sides. He was rooted to the spot, paralyzed, as Maya skipped away to join Phoenix and little Pearl.

A million different emotions bloomed in his chest, foreign and frightening but not entirely unpleasant. He couldn't assign a name to any of them and remained where he was, until Phoenix walked over to say hello.

Snapping out of his stupor, Edgeworth said not a word but turned away and sat back in his car, speeding away, leaving Phoenix standing there, mid-sentence, a baffled and slightly offended look on his face.

xXx

It wasn't until a week later, comfortably settled in his office back in Europe, that it occurred to Edgeworth that he should call Wright and apologize for his rude conduct.

As always, Phoenix had already forgiven and forgotten about the incident. How typical.

"By the way, Edgeworth," Phoenix said, raising his voice in an attempt to talk over some unidentifiable din in the background, "I never got to thank you for taking Maya and Pearls out. They had a great time!"

"Yes, well, a gentleman never leaves a lady unaccompanied." Edgeworth replied in his usual holier-than-thou tone.

"Oh, c'mon Edgeworth! Give me a break! It was a special occasion, you know." Phoenix whined over the receiver.

"All the more reason!" Edgeworth chastised patiently, as if speaking with a particularly dim-witted child. "The very idea, leaving that poor child alone on her special day."

"Huh?" That din in the background had grown louder and was beginning to resemble music. "That poor child? What, you mean Pearls? What special day?"

"Her birthday, what else would I mean?"

"Pearl's birthday? Edgeworth, you've got it all wrong! It was Iris' birthday!"

Edgeworth's gut tightened, a strange suspicion beginning to dawn on him. "It was… what!?"

"Yeah, I went down to the detention center to spend Iris' birthday with her. I thought you knew. Didn't Larry tell you? That's why he showed up with those two tickets for him and Iris to see The Little Mermaid together." Phoenix laughed, further fueling the gradually building anger in the pit of Edgeworth's stomach. "Poor sap still thinks he has a shot with her. He didn't know she was still serving her sentence, so when he found out he left the tickets and Maya snatched them right up. But I couldn't take her since I had made plans with Iris. So thanks for taking the girls for me! I'm listening to the soundtrack now, it's not bad!"

The din in the background had become all too clear. That blasted soundtrack was blaring directly into his ear!

"SHA-LA-LA-LA-LA-LA! My, oh, my! Look at the boy too shy! He ain't gonna kiss the girl! SHA-LA-LA-LA-LA-LA!"

Edgeworth slammed down the receiver.

No… it couldn't be! But now that he thought about it… that crafty little minx! Maya had never actually said it was Pearl's birthday! She had said it was a Fey's birthday, and—that's right—Iris was technically a Fey, wasn't she? Oh no, Maya had implied it was Pearl's birthday, surely enough. But she had never outright said it.

It had all been an elaborate scheme to get him to take her to see that show! That blasted accursed DAMNED show!

MAYA! FEY!

In his white hot fury, Edgeworth's hand flew to his lip where Maya had planted her ill-begotten kiss. The spot was burning. Oh, that deceptive little…!

"Well, little brother, I have a case here I think you're going to like." Franziska announced proudly as she boldly invited herself into his office. She stopped in her tracks, her smarmy smile fading as she took in the state of the man before her. "Is something the matter?"

"No. It's nothing." Edgeworth breathed, his smooth and even tone betraying nothing of the wrath bubbling underneath the surface. "I just have the most inane song stuck in my head."


There you see her
Sitting there across the way
She don't got a lot to say
But there's something about her
And you don't know why
But you're dying to try
You wanna kiss the girl

Yes, you want her
Look at her, you know you do
It's possible she wants you, too
There is one way to ask her
It don't take a word
Not a single word
Go on and kiss the girl

Sing with me now

Sha-la-la-la-la-la
My, oh, my
Look at the boy too shy
He ain't gonna kiss the girl
Sha-la-la-la-la-la
Ain't that sad
Ain't it shame, too bad
You gonna miss the girl


HAPPY BIRTHDAY DEJA! Hope your special day is even half as great as you are!