Disclaimer: Tekken and Tekken characters are the property of Namco Limited. This is nonprofit fan fiction.
Summary: It has been twenty years since Paul Phoenix and Michelle Chang competed at the same tournament. Now, their reunion has a taste of warmth and a touch of nostalgia.
Loving Paul Phoenix
featuring Michelle Chang
"Paul? Paul Phoenix?"
Paul Phoenix looked up to find a woman looking at him expectantly. "Yeah?" he grunted.
"You don't recognize me?"
"I don't know, lady. Should I?" Paul wanted to be left alone. He had little energy left after the day, and the fact ate at him. He was in no mood to play twenty questions with a stranger.
"It's Michelle Chang."
The name took a trice to register. "Michelle Chang," he echoed, and then did a double take. As he looked at the woman more closely, he recognized her with a bang. "Michelle!" Paul rose hastily. "I'm sorry. I didn't realize it was you."
"It is good to see you. It has been a while."
"Please, ugh, sit down." Paul gestured haphazardly at the table, and she took a seat, as did he. "Sorry about the reception. I wasn't expecting company."
He realized how that sounded, but she waved it off instantly. "My fault entirely. I saw you sitting there, and I couldn't resist." Michelle Chang placed the bags she had been carrying on the seat next to her and divested herself of the long coat she had been wearing, thus revealing a beautiful, embroidered dress. The elegant boots that climbed to her knees complemented the outfit.
"Of all people... How long has it been?"
Michelle thought about it. "Twenty years? It was with that Kazuya business..."
A shadow passed across Paul's face, but he controlled his expression quickly for the benefit of the company. "Something like that. You look great," he said sincerely. He knew he didn't; the five o'clock shadow he could safely sport had turned into two-day stubble long ago, and it wasn't the '80s anymore; the scruffy looks were no longer awesome any more than flamingo shirts or sockless loafers were. Speaking of which... Paul pulled his feet under the table.
"Thank you. You look well."
Pity compliments: nothing boosted a man's ego more. At least he still had hair on his head, Paul decided, and ran a hand through his mane. It was getting long, and he recalled someone saying he should get it cut. When was that—six months ago? He was starting to look like the Mishimas with their hair issues... Instantly, Paul Phoenix promised himself he would pay a visit to the barber's. Right now, he should try to talk to the lady at his table, as the lady was probably starting to think he was a nutter. "What have you been up to, Michelle? What do you do?"
"Well, I suppose I should just give you the highlights; two decades could get tedious to recount," Michelle said with a light laugh. "I've worked on environmental projects at home in Arizona: aquatic ecology, wildlife preservation, reforestation, environmental protection..."
"You always did do that important stuff," Paul said with a sigh.
Michelle frowned. "It is important."
"No, that's what I meant. You always did important things, like things that really mattered." Paul's voice grew a little gruffer. He tried to think of something important he had done or accomplished. In his hours of drunken honesty, the count always amounted to zero. Brawling and punching people were the only things he had ever been good for.
"The world needs different kinds of people, with different interests, doing different things," Michelle remarked. "It would make a dull existence otherwise."
"Suppose so." It felt sort of nice, with her talking away with him as an equal. Most got scared or acted like he didn't have half a brain. He always set them straight, but he sometimes wished he didn't have to.
"What about you? You still want to be number one?"
"That's not me, that's—!" Paul caught himself. "The toughest in the universe, yeah. Still my intention to prove just that."
"Never one to lack confidence, Paul Phoenix."
She didn't say it as a slight, though, and Paul had the grace to chuckle himself. "Just growing tired with the victory being taken away from me, s'all." Paul Phoenix gazed at Michelle in what he hoped to be a subtle glance. That woman was still as pretty as they came. "What brings you here? You're not training, are ya?"
"I don't compete anymore," Michelle said in good humor. "I'm bringing supplies to my daughter, Julia."
Michelle Chang had a girl of competing age? When did that happen? A lump settled in Paul Phoenix's throat. He could've had a son by now, too. He was pushing fifty, and what did he have to show for it? Not much in the way professional success, no money, and zilch in the way of a family. He could always hang around with the little Law, though... Come to think of it, he should. It would help out Marshall and that missis of his. Marshall had been down lately... But, it wasn't like having your own kid. Paul shook the thought off. It hadn't been an issue so far, so what was he hallucinating now for? He had championships to win and people to beat. Bears to skin, for that matter.
Waitaminute, what had she said? Julia . . . Chang? The name connected to the image of a petite brunette in a flash. Of course. The moves, the name... Why hadn't he seen it? "You don't look alike." Michelle threw him a startled look, and, instantly, Paul Phoenix congratulated himself on a foot well put. "I— I didn't mean..."
"You know, I have never heard that before," Michelle said and tapped at the table thoughtfully, and Paul Phoenix wished he would mysteriously catch on fire and be excused of his blunder. "Strangers always say we look exactly alike, and my daughter has heard it all her life. Julia would love you."
"That's not really necessary," Paul Phoenix said gruffly, and Michelle Chang burst out laughing. Her laughter was joyous and crystal clear, and it occurred to Paul he had never heard her laugh freely. She had always been such a serious girl, so driven by her ambitions. It seemed she had forgiven him for his big mouth, and he briefly wondered if the Michelle of twenty years ago would have let him off that easily.
"You are right, though: Julia is adopted."
Talk about a save; what were the odds? A small grin flashed on Paul's lips. Like the phoenix from the ashes... Out loud, he said, "An adopted daughter, huh?" He took a swig from his bottle.
Michelle regarded him squarely. "You get a child and none of the labor," she said with a sly look and watched in open mirth as Paul stared at her in shock and nearly choked in his beer. "Oh, come on, Paul. We're not teenagers anymore."
Paul was still coughing his pipes clear when Michelle's gaze landed a familiar profile. "You must excuse me; she is here. Julia!" Michelle rose from her seat with an apologetic look at Paul and leaned over to pick her coat. Paul got up quickly with the last suffering cough, and watched as a young woman made her way over to them.
"Mother, where—" she started quickly before realizing Michelle wasn't alone and taking in Paul's ruffian looks and 6'2" figure.
"Julia, this is Paul Phoenix. Paul, my daughter Julia."
Julia looked at him with all the suspicion of her nineteen years before trying, "Hello."
"Hi, kid," Paul greeted, trying to be nice, but earning an affronted look from Julia and a slightly reproachful one from Michelle, whose eyes betrayed her amusement.
"Mother, I was—" Julia couldn't hold back and she started a story on something Paul wasn't really keen on hearing, and so he sat back down. As Michelle picked her belongings and replied to Julia's account on the side, Paul noticed how her voice had caught a motherly tone. Melodious, even-tempered words soothed away the anxiety, and, by the time Michelle was done, Julia had calmed down enough to spare a shy smile in Paul's direction and speak in lower, musical notes herself.
"Would you take this? I'll say goodbye and come right after you." Julia left them with one stuffed bag in hand, and Michelle remained standing by the table. Her eyes shone softly and filled Paul with a warm feeling as well. It felt good to meet a real lady. It was as though it rubbed off on him and made him a better person, too. In the end, Michelle touched him lightly, and a beautiful smile lit her face as she said, "It was good to see you, Paul."
"Take care, Michelle."
Paul listened to Michelle and Julia's retreat. As he heard the girl go on about something again, his spirits boosted. Maybe it was a good thing not to have kids of his own. Too much work with them; it was far better to have someone else raise them. He wasn't meant to go for that staid father-mode.
Paul's beer had gone mostly unattended, and the bottle still had half left. He raised it to his lips, but suddenly, he wasn't feeling like lager or that big frosty he had planned on gulping afterward. Paul put the beer aside and threw a few bills on the table. He didn't have time to sit around; he had to get back in shape. Paul Phoenix had a universe to beat and a championship to claim.
Cordial thanks to Gypsie (Gypsie Rose) for the proofreading!
Published March 7, 2009.
Over time, I hope to expand this to a collection of three single pieces on Paul Phoenix. Thanks for reading and reviewing!