-After State vs Engarde-

I can't breathe, and tell him so in choking gasps. He releases me from the tight hug and apologises. His arms really are quite long. He's a tall guy, could be intimidating if he wanted. But that's not who he is - it's so, so far removed from his personality that I literally can't imagine Nick being genuinely scary any more than I can imagine Mr. Edgeworth being a fan of Steel Samurai.

I'm so glad, he says. So glad you're alive.

Well, here I am, I reply. I would say more, but I'm too hungry.

DeKiller could have killed you, Nick says. He would have killed you.

Maybe Nick is hungry too. Something tells me he wouldn't try and remind me what I'd been through if he was fully awake. He's swaying slightly on his feet, and there are shadows under his eyes.

Sorry, Nick.

Don't apologise. He nearly killed you! I nearly failed...

He enfolds me in another hug, as if checking that I'm actually here, actually alive. Pearly's crept away, probably to give me some alone time with my "special someone". No matter what I try, I can't get her to realise that we're just like brother and sister. But she's right about one thing; Nick is someone who I know very, very well. I practically live with the guy.

So I can tell that he's saying to me, this very moment; Maya...I'll protect you. I'll make sure you're safe. Whatever it takes. It's just that he's not using words.

It should be comforting. But behind me, Mr Edgeworth is asking Mr. Powers for an autograph and I'm getting chills down my spine.

Well, tell you what, you can make it up to me by letting me eat as much as I can tonight!

Like I can ever stop you from stuffing your stomach to the brim... He lets go of me, scratching the back of his neck and grinning. I lunge at the nearest food-laden table and begin to eat. I can feel Nick looking at me for a moment, and then he turns around and begins chatting to Mr. Edgeworth.

But even the steak I'm munching on right now can't dispel the nervous lump in my stomach.

Whatever it takes.

***

-Post State vs Iris, pre State vs Gramarye-

February 15, Hotti Clinic, 2:17 PM

Ow. Owwwww. My head.

I lick my lips, attempt to open my eyes, and groan. It's too bright, so that plan doesn't work out. My head feels like it's been bashed with the Samurai Spear, or possibly the Magistrate Mallet. Ow.

Is this how you feel after you've drunk too much rotten grape juice? Nick explained that feeling to me once. He said it was called a 'hangover' and that he'd sworn off alcohol to avoid ever having another one, ever -

That knife, in his hand. That damn knife. The glass table's in ruins. Razor sharp shards scattered everywhere. Two figures; one lying prone on the ground, blood on his neck. The other one is kneeling next to him. He drops the blood-covered knife, leans forward, and smooths the body's eyes closed with one hand. Then he turns around and looks at me.

No. I don't think I have a hangover.

"You awake then, sweetie?"

I try licking my lips again, and manage to get out a sort of breathy 'yeah'. Ow. My head.

"Took a nasty blow to the head, you did. Admitted to the clinic by an ambulance."

"R-really?" I try opening my eyes again, blinking a couple of times to adjust to the light. I'm lying in a hospital bed. My hair's undone – dang, it'll take ages to brush the knots out of it now. My clothes are folded up and resting on the table next to my bed. I'm wearing one of those a white hospital gowns.

The speaker is a nurse, with a warm smile on her face and a badge proclaiming that she worked for 'Hotti Clinic'. Hmm. I think Nick mentioned that place once –

-blood streaming from his hands, blood on the knife, blood on the other man's neck, red glass scattered on the floor...

I take a deep breath, and try to stop trembling. Right. First things first; find out what on Earth happened to give me a knock on the head this bad.

Hmm. Nothing. I search back through my memories, but I can't find a memory of getting knocked on the head like this. There's nothing...just...nothing. I try to recall the vision I just had, the memory of blood and steel but it's already fading, leaving just an impression of fear and anger.

Well, it's not like I've lost my memory. My name is Maya Fey, I've got a kid cousin, Pearly, who is the most adorable person on the planet ever, in episode 13 season 4 of 'Samurai of Time' the Timey-Wimey Samurai was cloned, and his clone lived happily with Sakura in a parallel universe for the rest of time. I work for a lawyer with a blue suit who's closer to me than pretty much anyone, and my (late) older sister is the closest thing I've known to a mother...yeah, I know all that stuff. Check.

But when I try to remember exactly what happened...

Well, it's probably time to use the Deadly Secret Unknown-to-mere-mortals Maya Investigation Technique, then...

"What...happened?"

The nurse shrugs, writing something down on a clipboard at the end of my bed. "You tell me, sweetie. The doctor says that nasty blow to the head, so you might have just a smidge of amnesia."

"Amnesia..." I ease myself into a sitting position. Turns out I'm just pretty groggy. I bet I could get up and walk home right now if I wanted to.

"Yeah, but Doc said it wasn't too bad. You were quite lucky, actually. Should be up and running in no time, but we can't discharge you until we're sure of your condition."

I groan inwardly, wanting to get out of here ASAP, and try out a hopeful grin that will dazzle her with its chipper-ness and energy. It makes my face hurt. She laughs and leaves the room, carrying the clipboard with her.

Well, dang. I slump back against the pillows. Nick had better come and visit me soon.

A couple of hours pass. I contemplate just leaving, like I'd thought about earlier, but my throbbing head makes the decision for me. I'm just about to search among my clothes for my phone, so I can ring up Pearly and tell her I'm in hospital, when Detective Gumshoe barges into the ward.

"Gumshoe!" I yell, overjoyed that something interesting is finally happening, and sit up straight in my bed."What's going on? Who was murdered? Why'd I get hit on the head? Where's Nick?"

"Hey, pal," he says cheerfully, though he's looking a little pale and tired. Of course, he always looks like that – hungry, too. He sure could do with a burger. "It's my day off, so I figured I'd come down to the hospital to visit ya! Oh, and the Chief wanted someone to ask you a few questions..."

"Just as well – I was tearing my hair out down here!" I say, puffing my cheeks out in protest at the hospital staff's indirect injury to my hair. "And I'm really confused – apparently I got hit on the head really hard, and now I can't remember what happened! Where's Nick?"

"Oh yeah, the paramedics said you might have a bit of a headache, pal," he grins, scratching the back of his neck. "And that thing...ammy neza?"

"Amnesia. But why do I have it in the first place, anyway? And why isn't Nick here, bringing me grapes and sobbing in relief that I'm not dead?"

"He really wanted to see you, but he's in a bad state," Gumshoe says uncomfortably. "Covered in blood. He's down at the detention centre right now, in questioning."

It's not right, after everything that he's done for me, every time he's saved me and believed in me and paid for my lunch, that I should jump to the worst conclusion right now. It's straight out wrong.

Well. Too late.

"Why?"

"Um..." He shifts nervously in his seat, and begins to babble. "I don't really know, pal. Nobody told me about it. It's my day off, and everyone's stressed about Mack Brie being murdered and Subby Way being the murderer, y'know, and Mr Wright...well, I don't know, I don't even have the proper autopsy results! Stop staring at me like that, pal!"

I slowly let go of the blankets, and rub my knuckles. They've gone white.

"Um, could you, you know, start from the beginning?" I ask.

"Well...it's kinda all my fault," Gumshoe mumbles. "One of our best detectives, Mack Brie, was found dead in his house at about 11:30. The murder weapon had been taken away. And another top ranking officer, Mr Way, hadn't turned up that morning. You two didn't have a case on, so I asked you to have a poke around his house...y'know pal, you do turn up a lot of stuff that we detectives miss...and then, half an hour later, Mr Wright called 911, a couple of officers arrived at Mr Way's house to find you unconscious, Mr Wright in shock and the dead body of Mr Way on the floor...oh, and a knife. I'm not sure, 'cause nobody will tell me anything much, but it turns out you two stumbled onto something. Then Mr Way turned up and...I don't know what happened, pal. He didn't come out of it alive, though."

Blood and shock and darkness.

"What about the other dead guy? Mr Brie?" I ask.

"Dunno, but I bet Mr Way killed him, pal. He'd been murdering Brie instead of turning up for work, is my guess...not surprising – they'd been rivals for a long time. I know how Brie died, anyway. Stab wound to the heart, with a knife about six inches long. The murder weapon was taken away from Mr Brie's house, though. "

I nod -

"Found anything interesting?" he whispers to me, as he searches through Mr Way's bookshelf. I'm sifting through the mass of paperwork on the glass kitchen table. Seriously, who has a kitchen table made of glass? It might be pretty, but if you wanted to stand on it while acting out scenes from the latest Steel Samurai movie you'd be seriously injured before too long.

That gushing noise, like running water, is starting to bother me.

"Not yet- wait! Nick, look what I found!"

"Keep your voice down!" He hurries to join me by the kitchen sink

It's a stainless steel kitchen knife – the stainless steel part is engraved into the blade – about six inches long not counting the handle, which is also flat and metal. The blade is covered in drying blood. Nick opens the kitchen drawer. The style of knife doesn't match the others Mr Way owns.

"I think we've got our proof," says Nick. The gushing noise has stopped.

Behind me, a door clicks open. "Yes, you do."

I turn around. This man must be Subby Way. His hands are wet, like he's been washing them. I've seen the look in his eyes before. It's the slightly mad look of a killer who knows he must go to any lengths to conceal his crime.

Nick tries to speak, but Mr Way is at the bench and has grabbed the knife and pointed it at me and suddenly everything is happening very fast.

I take a deep breath.

"Pal? Maya?" Gumshoe's waving a hand in front of my face. I blink.

"Sorry," I say. "Right. I bet you know some stuff about Mr Way's death, though. How'd he die?"

"I don't know anything for certain, pal, I didn't even get the autopsy, but from what I've heard..." He shrugs. "Blood loss from a wound to the neck."

But I knew that already, didn't I?

No. No. No. No. No.

"Did Nick...he...did he do it?" I can feel tears starting in the corners of my eyes. He can't do this to me. No.

Dead silence.

"See, pal, I don't know anything but what I've told you..." He shifts uneasily, yet again. "He could have. Could be in detention 'cause he's a suspect. Or they could just be questioning him. And he did alert the police..."

I think there might be tears running down my cheeks now. "You think he did it. You think he murdered someone."

"I heard of one time when he shoved a man over and then concealed it from the police when that man was found dead..." Gumshoe tries.

Yeah, that case. Nick told me about that case after Iris's trial. But whoever he was then, he's not that person anymore.

"Visiting time up," says the nurse, bustling in.

Three glowing bars of red light in the darkness – I have to hide what I saw! But he uncovered that lie in the end, didn't he? He showed me what was right.

Is that the world falling to pieces around my ears? Might be.

"He didn't do it!" I say, but it comes out as a sobbing moan. "He's innocent! You're wrong!"

I'm wrong! Please.

Gumshoe is ushered out with a stricken expression on his face, protesting to the nurse that he has to ask me some questions. When he's gone, the nurse awkwardly makes attempts to comfort me, but I burrow under the sheets and ignore her, like a petulant child. That's all I am to people, right? She writes something on a clipboard and leaves.

Mia Fey, my big sis, taught me about right and wrong when I was a little kid. Sometimes I didn't listen. But when she died, suddenly everything about her, especially her moral code, got a lot more precious.

And Nick practically lives that moral code, right? I trust him to do the right thing. To find the truth, to believe in his clients, to follow the law. Well. The important laws, anyway.

The law about murder's a pretty important one, wouldn't you think?

When I was trapped in Matt Engarde's cellar, I told him by way of a note to do the right thing. Don't rescue me, don't even think about letting that evil man go. I trusted Nick to do his duty as a lawyer. To do the right thing, not to put protecting me first. I wondered what I'd have done if he'd failed to rescue me, and had chosen to pursue the Not Guilty verdict. I think I remember promising myself that I'd never see him again.

This time, I don't think I can quite bear seeing him again either. What the heck do I do? He didn't murder anyone! He didn't! He's believed in me so many times, now I've got to believe in him! Why should I? It's so obvious. It's so cruelly, painfully, apparent, the possibility that Phoenix Wright has murdered a man.

And suddenly the knife is pressed against my throat, and I've been backed up against the table. Mr Way looks at Nick, whose eyes are wide and staring. "You say one word to the police, and –"

Nick barrels into him, knocking him sideways. I'm thrust away, and I crack my head hard against the marble kitchen bench. Through my slowly dimming vision, I watch the knife fall to the floor. Nick snatches it up.

"Don't. Touch. Maya."

He rushes at Way, who dodges sideways, smashing into the glass table, which turns out to be really quite fragile after all. Nick loses his balance and I close my eyes. I hear sounds of a two men

When I look back, still attempting to fight back the tide of unconsciousness threatening to drag me away, Nick is still holding the blood-covered knife, and he's kneeling next to Mr Way, who has blood on his neck and is gasping in pain. Then there's silence.

Nick sets the knife down next to him and smooths the body's eyes shut.

Then he turns to look at me. That brutal anger that made him pick up a knife is fading from his eyes, and I know he's ashamed.

"Maya," he says, and reaches out a hand to me just before I finally pass out.

Oh, and he did it because of me. I guess we have a motive now. That just about takes the bloody cake.

I think that might be the first time I've ever, ever said 'bloody' in that context. Even in my head.

I groan and drop my head in my hands. That image of Nick clutching the bloodstained knife as he kneels over the dying Mr Way keeps popping up every time I close my eyes. I can't believe I'm thinking this. He's got to be innocent. He wouldn't have killed someone, just because that person threatened to hurt me. He wouldn't have.

But there is a ton of evidence that he did commit murder. And I don't have any that contradicts it.

Follow the law.

Find the truth.

Believe in your clients.

But Nick never needed evidence to prove to him that his clients were innocent. He just believed. Believed in anyone who ever asked him for help. He took impossible cases and fought them so that the innocent could go free, so the truth could be found. I was right next to him. He's believed in me, even when I myself was convinced that I was a murderer.

The evidence in my head is stacked up against him. But I reach a conclusion.

It's all wrong.

I could just escape from hospital, go down to detention, barge into questioning and ask what actually happened. But I want to do this myself. I want to prove this to myself.

What would Sis say? Look at the situation from a different angle. All I've got to go on is my memories of the fight, right? And Phoenix would never, ever, ever kill someone (you weren't so sure of that a minute ago, a snarky part of my head reminds me). Therefore, something is wrong with the picture in my head.

Nick is kneeling next to the man on the ground. He drops the knife, which is covered in dried blood, on the ground next to him. Then he leans forward and smooths Mr Way's eyes shut. The two men are surrounded by viciously sharp shards of glass. Nick has a couple of scratches on his arms and legs. Then he turns around and looks at me.

I can barely suppress a grin. I get out of bed, put on my coat and sandals, and leave the room, avoiding nurses and doctors and that creepy guy with that pink tuft of hair. I head down to the detention centre and sit down on a chair in the visitor's room, swinging my legs impatiently.

When Nick comes out of questioning, looking pale and tired and with scratches and scrapes covering all his limbs, I leap up and barrel into him before he even registers my presence.

"NIIIIIIIIICK!"

"Maya!" he exclaims in surprise. "What are you doing here?" He wraps his arms around me anyway.

"Visiting you," I say cheerfully. "They only let you out just now? That's police brutality!"

"You're alright..." He hugs me tighter.

"Oh, I'm always alright," I say. I think I might be crying again. Dang.

"Maya – what is it?" He looks worried and uncertain. I smile at him to reassure him.

"Oh...just glad...you know..."

"What is it?"

"Y-you didn't kill him. The blood on that knife, it was totally d-dry," I sniffle, wiping my face. "It was Mr Brie's blood, not Mr Way's. He cut his neck open on the glass shards in the scuffle when you were fighting, and he bled to death."

Nick lets go of me. "I was going to," he mutters. "I had that knife in my hand and..."

"But you didn't. You're better than that, Nick!"

He smiles again. "Yeah. I hope so. I hope so."

"I had ammy neza, you know," I tell him.

"What? Oh, amnesia. Really?"

"Yeah. I couldn't remember anything that happened yesterday at Mr Way's house. But I had these flashbacks, and then Gumshoe turned up and he told me everything he knew, 'cept the details, and I kind of...got the wrong impression..." I shrug, embarrassed. "Sorry. But I worked it out in the end."

He grins, and that might just be the happy grin of a lawyer who's proud of their student.

"It's not over yet," he reminds me. "We're the only two witnesses. We'll have to stand up in court, and I could still be a suspect."

"Well, we shouldn't have anything to worry about," I tell him. "After all, it's only the witnesses who lie in court that end up being accused by murderers. And we've already got the truth. We just have to tell it."

He laughs.

"Anyway, I should...probably be getting back to hospital," I admit, then give one of my trademark 'Maya pouts'. "I don't want to, though!"

"C'mon, Ms Fey," he says affectionately, and I take his hand and walk out of detention and into the afternoon sun.

But there's something bad coming. I can feel it. Something tells me that this might be one of the last truly happy days Nick ever has again.

But I think I'll believe in him when that day arrives. And I'll keep doing it, for however long I need to. Because if being surrounded by lawyers has taught me anything at all, it's managed to teach me that.