We'll Have to Muddle Through Somehow
Notes: How nice to finally write a Christmas fic for a fandom where Christmas actually exists and I don't have to handwave it to death! Watching It's A Wonderful Life one evening was a huge inspiration for finally sitting down and getting this thing going, which will probably become obvious at the end!
The prospect of Trucy home from school for two weeks was a little daunting to Phoenix. Though, maybe that was mostly because she'd been asking him so many questions about Christmas since the beginning of December. Phoenix just wasn't looking forward to disappointing the nine-year-old with a meager celebration come Christmas day, but that was all he could offer. Though, he knew that if she were disappointed she would never let on. He warned her frequently that they wouldn't be doing much for Christmas every time the subject came up, and she always told him that would be alright, and continued with whatever she'd been doing.
But the one question she asked constantly in the weeks leading up to Christmas was, "Is Daddy coming?"
The first time she asked him that, Phoenix couldn't help but wince. Trucy peered up at him in confusion.
"Er...I don't know. I haven't heard from him," Phoenix answered carefully. "Maybe he will," he added, lying through his teeth.
At this, Trucy's expression went from bewildered to almost irate. Phoenix was only just beginning to understand the gift she had inherited from the Gramaryes, and he had yet to learn that lying to Trucy simply did not work.
But at the same time, Phoenix's discomfort with the subject of Zak was obvious to Trucy, and she didn't mention it again for a few days.
The next time she asked, she said, "Why don't you think he'll come, Daddy?"
And that was twenty times harder for Phoenix to answer. Why did he think Zak would be absent on Christmas? Because he hadn't been there for Trucy's ninth birthday, because she had been part of his plan to escape the courthouse, because he'd known about the forged diary page...
"Well, because he doesn't know where you are now," Phoenix answered, which wasn't entirely untrue.
Trucy nodded slowly, considering this. "Then I'll write him a letter!" she exclaimed suddenly, dashing over to her backpack and producing a pencil and a piece of paper. "If other kids write letters to Santa at the North Pole, can't I write a letter to real-Daddy?"
For some reason, the distinction between Zak and Phoenix stung a little. But why should it? Of course Zak was "real Daddy"! Trucy was just an exceptionally affectionate child who adopted pretty much everyone as her "family". She'd met all of Phoenix's friends in the immediate aftermath of the forged diary page, and Edgeworth became "Uncle Miles", for instance, while Detective Gumshoe was "Uncle Scruffy". Maya was "Auntie Maya", except sometimes – to Maya's amusement, Phoenix's chagrin, and Pearl's delight – Maya was "Mommy".
Phoenix hadn't heard from many of his friends for a month or two, with the exception of Maya, who wrote and phoned often. It was like she was trying to keep him grounded in reality – this reality of taking life one day at a time, because if he got too caught up in the future or the past it'd probably drive him crazy...
There had only been two months between Misty Fey's murder and Phoenix's disbarment, and he still marveled at how much Maya had seemed to mature in those short months. He'd never seen Maya so...responsible and selfless, the way she somehow managed to take care of both Kurain and Phoenix.
But in many ways, she was still the same old Maya. "What are we doing for Christmas, Nick!?" she'd asked one afternoon over the phone.
"We?" Phoenix repeated. Why was everyone getting on his case about this Christmas thing, anyway? "Do you even celebrate Christmas in Kurain?"
"Well, kind of...A lot of the men who married in did. Aunt Morgan didn't like it too much, though. But now I get to bring it back!" Maya said brightly.
"The perks of being the head of the main family, huh?"
"Yep! So...any Christmas plans at all?" she asked again.
Phoenix sighed and frowned at the phone. "No, not really. Trucy keeps asking me about it, too." He paused. "Somehow, she's gotten it into her head that her real father's coming on Christmas. What am I supposed to tell her when he never shows?"
"Yikes," Maya said softly. But when she spoke again, after a short pause, she sounded cheerful and confident. "I know it'll work it out, Nick."
"Call it 'spiritual intuition'!"
"How about I call it a load of bull?"
"Aww, c'mon, Nick, you need to be a little more optimistic!"
Phoenix could just see the pouty, scolding expression on her face. Yeah, sure, be optimistic – believing in people, believing in things working out? That had worked so well for him last time.
Maya's words were lost on him, though, and come Christmas Eve he wasn't doing much of anything, just as he'd said. He had bought a plastic Christmas tree for the apartment, mostly for Trucy's sake, and come eight o'clock that night, she was hanging the ornaments. It wasn't much, but Trucy was excited about it just the same, running over to Phoenix every so often to show him a bauble that she particularly liked.
Then there came a knock at the front door.
Before he could stop her, Trucy was making a run for the door. "It's Daddy, I know it is!" she shouted excitedly. "Daddy!?"
Phoenix hurried after her; there was the sound of the door opening and then silence. He winced as he rounded the corner into the hallway; Trucy was going to be so disappointed –
"Ho ho ho, Pal!"
Trucy whirled around to face Phoenix. "Look, Daddy!" she cried. "It's scruffy Santa!"
It took Phoenix a moment to process the sight of the bulky man standing in their doorway, wearing a threadbare, obviously second-hand Santa Claus outfit.
Before Gumshoe could answer, Pearl Fey was charging through the door, running at Phoenix and squeezing him around the waist. "I missed you, Mr. Nick!" she said excitedly.
Phoenix put his hands on her shoulders. "I...missed you too, Pearls!" He looked back up at the doorway. He'd been so shocked by Santa-Gumshoe's sudden appearance that he hadn't noticed there had been others with him – now Edgeworth and Maya were entering the apartment, as well.
"I told you Christmas would work out!" Maya grinned. She was carrying a couple of large bags.
Phoenix just shook his head at her. He should've known she'd cook something up. "Are you moving in or something?" he asked, watching as she set her things down.
"Nope!" she chirped. "Me and Pearly were gonna spend the night, and spend Christmas with you tomorrow."
If Trucy looked happy before, now she looked positively ecstatic. "Yippee!" she exclaimed, throwing her arms around Phoenix.
"What are you hugging me for?" he asked. "This is all Maya's idea, you know."
At this, Trucy turned and ran over to Maya, nearly tackling her with an enthusiastic hug.
Phoenix shook his head at the scene. He could feign annoyance at Maya's sudden invasion, but in all honesty he was truly grateful that she was here, especially when he looked at Trucy's bright face. He turned to Edgeworth and Gumshoe. "So I take it neither of you are sleeping over tonight?"
"No," Edgeworth said, "and as a matter of fact, I have a plane to catch tonight. And I'll expect compensation if I miss it because of the...festivities."
"Bah humbug, Edgeworth," Phoenix said lightly.
"I didn't have much of a choice in coming here, you know," Edgeworth said, nodding towards Maya. "She's...persuasive." Despite his words, Edgeworth didn't look reluctant to be there at all, and they both knew he wasn't.
"What about you, Detective?" Phoenix asked. "Were you dragged here against your will too?"
Gumshoe gave him a lopsided grin. "Not really, pal. Tonight I'm free, it's only tomorrow that I – " Suddenly Gumshoe clamped his mouth shut, as if he'd already said too much.
"He's spending Christmas Day with Maggey and her family," Maya joined the conversation, a mischievous tone in her voice.
Phoenix had to smile as the nostalgia swept over him. "Way to go, Detective."
Edgeworth left first at ten that evening, much to Trucy's disappointment. "Do you really have to go, Uncle Miles?" she asked, frowning pitifully and hanging on to his arm.
"Yes, I have a plane to catch – " Edgeworth began, trying to gently remove Trucy from his arm, get to the door, and double check his pocket for his plane ticket all at once. He frowned, unable to find the ticket. "Where did I...?"
Okay, Edgeworth going around misplacing things was just weird. "Trucy..." Phoenix began warningly.
At this, Edgeworth fixed the girl with a suspicious look. In return, Trucy beamed and held out her fists. "Pick a hand!"
Edgeworth sighed and tapped her right hand. She opened it, revealing Edgeworth's plane ticket. "I'll take that, thank you very much," he said, taking the ticket out of her hand before she could try anything else.
Trucy was unperturbed. "Merry Christmas, Uncle Miles!" she smiled, hugging him around the waist.
Edgeworth sighed in defeat and patted her shoulder. "Merry Christmas, Trucy."
"If I tried that, I'd get my pay docked for a whole year," Gumshoe muttered, as Edgeworth finally got away from Trucy and out the door.
"Well, you're not a little girl, Detective!" Maya said.
Phoenix gave a little shudder at that mental image. At the same time, he marveled at Trucy's incredible charm. She and Pearls could probably take over the world, with their combined cuteness.
Gumshoe left not too long after Edgeworth. "I hate to leave, Pal," he said, "but they're showing Santa Claus Conquers the Martians tonight, and I wouldn't miss that for the world!"
"You can't just record it?" Phoenix asked.
"Er..." Gumshoe rubbed the back of his neck. "Nope, no VCR. Anyway, it was great to see you guys. Merry Christmas, Pal!"
"...Wow," Phoenix said, as Gumshoe closed the door behind himself.
"Yeah, really," Maya sighed. "I guess now we know what to get him for Christmas."
"Hey, I wanna watch Santa Claus Conquers the Martians!" Trucy exclaimed then.
"Is it scary?" Pearl asked, frowning. She certainly wasn't about to watch any scary movies on Christmas Eve.
"Doesn't matter, it's bedtime anyway," Phoenix said.
"Aww!" Trucy folded her arms. "But it's Christmas Eve, can't Pearly and I stay up?"
"Hey, the sooner you go to bed, the sooner it'll be Christmas morning and we can open presents..." Maya offered.
Trucy frowned, considering this. "...Okay, I guess you're right." She seized Pearl by the hand and pulled her toward her bedroom. "C'mon, Pearly, you and me can sleep in my room!"
"So, Nick..." Maya began, once the girls were out of the room. "You really don't mind me and Pearly spending the night, do you?" She gave him an overly sweet smile.
Phoenix sighed. "Even if I did, do you really think I'd kick you out right now?"
Maya grinned in response, settling back on the sofa.
Trucy came shuffling back into the living room, wearing her pajamas. "Daddy, will you come tuck us in?" she asked Phoenix, folding her hands behind her back.
Phoenix blinked. "Well, sure," he said, getting up off the couch and following Trucy back to her room. How could he refuse a request like that?
Pearl was sitting in Trucy's bed, and there was a sleeping bag on the floor next to it, which Trucy dove into enthusiastically. "Pearl is gonna sleep in my bed, and I'm gonna use my sleeping bag!" she chirped.
"I see that," Phoenix answered, moving around her to pull the covers up over Pearl.
"Goodnight, Mr. Nick," Pearl beamed up at him.
He couldn't help but smile at her. "'Night, Pearls." After a pause, he leaned toward her. "...I'm glad you and Maya came to spend Christmas with us. I thought Trucy would be lonely."
Pearl nodded solemnly. "That's why Mystic Maya said we should come."
Phoenix nodded. "Yeah..." He rested a hand on her head for a moment, then turned and squatted next to Trucy in her sleeping bag. She was frowning.
"Something wrong?" Phoenix asked.
Trucy turned to him. "I really thought my other daddy would come tonight."
"...I know, Trucy. I'm sorry that this won't be a very fun Christmas-"
Trucy's eyes widened, and she sat up. "Are you kidding, Daddy!? I got to see everybody in my new family tonight, and tomorrow's going to be really fun, and you and me and Pearl and Auntie Maya are gonna have a great Christmas!"
Phoenix blinked. It took so little to make her happy...yet he knew she did miss Zak. Would he ever come back for Trucy? It was hard to say. Did Phoenix want him to? ...Probably not. He was already quite attached to Trucy; it hadn't been long before he'd taken to introducing her to people as "my adopted daughter".
"I'm glad you're excited, Trucy," he said quietly. "...Now get to sleep, before Santa gets here."
She grinned. "Right!" She flopped back down, curling up tight in the sleeping bag. "G'night, Daddy!"
Phoenix left the room, still marveling somewhat at Trucy's words. He flicked the light off, and suddenly paused in the doorway – "other daddy". It was the first time she'd referred to Zak as anything other than "my real daddy".
He went back out into the living room, where Maya had turned on the TV and was vainly searching for something to watch. Phoenix's amazement must have shown on his face, because Maya asked him what was wrong as he sat down next to her on the couch.
"...Thank you, Maya," he said finally.
Maya blinked. "For what?"
Maya looked at him questioningly.
Phoenix gave her a slight smile. "Trucy just told me how happy she is that you all came tonight."
It clicked, and Maya grinned widely. She'd hoped if she could make Trucy happy, it would make Phoenix happy, too.
They sat in a companionable silence for a while, the TV lighting up the dim room.
"There's nothing on!" Maya complained, flipping through the channels.
"Of course there's nothing on, it's almost midnight," Phoenix answered matter-of-factly. "Though it might be easier to find something to watch if you'd cool it with the remote!"
"Pff, amateur," Maya said dismissively. "You obviously don't know how to flip channels - "
"Hang on, go back a channel," Phoenix interrupted. Maya complied. An old film in black and white lit up the screen.
"Ew, what's this? It's in black and white," Maya frowned.
Phoenix rolled his eyes. It was so easy to fall back into bantering with her, like they used to do. "Just because you usually watch those seizure-inducing action shows for kids... But I was right. It's a Wonderful Life. Haven't seen this movie since I was a kid."
"Isn't this that Christmas movie about that guy who wishes he'd never been born?"
Maya looked from Phoenix back to the TV, frowning. "...I don't wanna watch this." She changed the channel without giving Phoenix a chance to respond.
"...It's a classic," Phoenix said finally, "maybe because everybody gets to that point where they wish they'd-" He didn't have time to finish, before Maya threw the remote down on the couch and fixed him with an angry, frightened stare. "W-what did I-?"
Maya jumped up and turned to face Phoenix. "Don't you get started with that stuff!" she cried. "Don't you dare tell me that just because things went bad, you would have rather -!"
Phoenix was bewildered at why she was getting so upset over this. "Maya, c'mon, I only meant-"
"I don't care what you meant! J-just think about it! If you'd never been born – geez, Nick, who do you want me to start with!? Maggey, Ron DeLite, Larry, Will Powers, Iris!? Where would they be without you? Dead, or on death row – because you wouldn't have been there to fight for them! And Pearly, she'd still be growing up under Morgan's influence! Your adopted daughter, Nick – geez, what would have happened to Trucy if not for you?"
Phoenix gave a disdainful snort at this. "If not for me? That forged diary page wouldn't exist, and Zak wouldn't have run out in the first place."
"Oh, that's not the point!" Maya protested. She was getting more upset the closer to home the examples were. "D'you know what any other person would've done in your shoes? They would've dumped Trucy in foster care. They would've said, 'Forget it, after what her dad did, why should I care what happens to her?' But you cared! Because...because that's just the person you are, Nick! That's the whole reason they kicked you out – because you were trying everything you could to help!"
When she spoke again, Maya was much quieter, and she found herself blinking away sudden tears. "And what about me, Nick? You know where I'd be without you? I'd be on death row for Sis's murder. I'd...I'd be all alone."
She plopped back onto the couch next to Phoenix, angrily wiping her eyes. "What happened to you was awful. I'm not saying it wasn't! But you can't let it take away all of the good things you've done. You can't just wish it all away because you feel awful now. Because...because that's just insulting to me and all the other people you've saved."
"Wow, Maya," Phoenix said quietly, after a while. "...Didn't know you felt that way."
"Well, of course I do," she answered, almost indignantly. "I worry about you, Nick! Heck, we all do."
"...I think I'm okay," Phoenix said, his voice still quiet, playing with his hands.
Maya put a hand on his shoulder, smiling a little. "Yeah...it was when you told me you'd taken in Zak's daughter that I figured you probably would be. That's when I knew – no matter how awful you felt, you were still the same old Nick."
"...Maybe you're right. Maybe I'm still the same person. It's just...it would be really nice to believe in people again."
"And you can! You...you can start by believing in me, and Edgeworth, and Detective Gumshoe, and, heck, even Pearly! Because we'll always be there for you, promise."
Phoenix turned to face her at this. "But why? Maya, it was so obvious it was forged evidence – if I'd stopped to think about it for just two minutes, I would've – "
"We've always believed in you," Maya said firmly, interrupting him. "Why would that change just because you're not a lawyer anymore? And why should anything change? You can still help people, you know!"
"...Yeah." Phoenix smiled wryly. "Maybe that can be my New Year's resolution. Even though I'm terrible about actually following through with those."
Maya smiled brightly at this. "That's the spirit!"
Phoenix was just relieved she wasn't near tears anymore. Man, was that outburst sudden. But, as he thought about it, it was probably a necessary outburst. He'd gotten so caught up in his self-pity he'd hardly done anything for Trucy for Christmas. He'd taken advantage of the fact that she never expected too much from him. And Maya had snapped him out of it. Hopefully, he could stay out of it.
He shook his head at his friend. "You really did save Christmas, Maya. Heck, you could give Santa a run for his money."
"Don't I know it," Maya said smugly. Her face suddenly lit up. "Oh yeah, I almost forgot!" She jumped up and bounded over to the entryway, where she'd left one of the bags she'd brought with her. She opened it and turned to face Phoenix. "I brought presents!" she said, pointing at the brightly wrapped packages that now threatened to spill out of the bag.
Notes: Pretty pleased with how this turned out overall. Getting Phoenix right was a challenge – obviously, he would have changed somewhat by this point, but he wouldn't yet be the jerk-with-a-heart-of-gold we know and love in Apollo Justice. So, I hope I did okay there!
Santa Claus Conquers the Martians is pretty hilarious, by the way.