"Nick?"

It's been two years since I've seen him. He's standing in front of my place. I know it's him, but a part of me isn't sure. What is he wearing? Whatever it is it definitely is not the shade of blue that looks best on him and pink accents? Really, Nick? Oh, well I'm one to comment I'm still spending all my time in this stupid acolyte uniform. He's standing in front of a car and from the looks of it he should be glad it managed to make it up the hill. The thing is a sickly yellow with one red door and it's covered in little dings and dents. I hope he didn't pay money for that thing. Maybe it's Gumshoe's. I could see him driving something like that.

"Maya?!"

I run to him and throw my arms around him perhaps a little too eagerly. Was it too eager? I don't know. I don't really know why he's here. He just called up out of the blue and said that he needed to see me.

"What's up? Where's Trucy? I was looking forward to meeting her. She sounds so sweet."

"Oh, she is, but I needed to see you…alone."

"Is something wrong?"

"No. Well, not anymore than usual I guess. I don't know."

Way to be decisive, Nick. Could you give me a little to go on here? I have no clue what's been going on with you. Not that I haven't tried to get you to talk to me…

"Come on let's drive up to the trailhead and go for a walk." I suggest.

"Sure."

What on earth does he need to talk to me about? I've never seen him so…nervous…unsure…something. I can't tell, but he might be mad at me. Nick and I don't really fight so it's hard for me to tell.

He has to help me open the door to the car. It has been dented such that it doesn't open without a fight. I step into the car and am immediately met with the aroma of cat pee. Please, don't tell me his whole life is like this now.

"Sorry about the smell. I wouldn't have borrowed it if I'd known."

Thank, God he didn't buy this hunk of junk.

"Is this Erma's car?" I ask. Erma lives in 3C of Nick's building and has an insanely large number of cats living with her in her apartment.

"I see your investigative skills are as sharp as ever."

"My nose more like."

"I said I was sorry, OK?" Nick snaps.

Nick never snaps. He sighs, he grumbles, he rolls his eyes, he tells me to grow up, but he never snaps. Something is definitely bothering him. Something pretty big I'd guess.

I run through the list of possibilities in my head. Trucy? No, Nick was born to be a dad. He's a natural with kids especially little girls. They adore him. I'm sure being a single father is tough, but I can't imagine it making him upset. Losing his attorney's badge? That will bother him until he gets it back. He said he would investigate who set him up and fight to get it back eventually, but he has made it clear that lately settling into life with Trucy has been his primary objective. Maybe he is starting the process of finding out who framed him, but I would think that would make him excited rather than…I search for an accurate description of his mood…angsty? Is that even a word, I wonder?

Come, on, Maya, he's your best friend what else could it be?

Money? It's obvious he's broke. Iris? Maybe he wishes they hadn't broken up, but why would he come to see me if this is about her?

We ride to the top of the small hill in silence parking at the base of the bigger hill so we can hike up to the viewpoint. It seems like a good place to talk and it's a little chilly because it's still early in the season so I figure we won't run into anyone. Nick's silence concerns me. I've never felt so awkward around him. Did we really only talk about cases and the Steel Samurai? It seems to me like our friendship was deeper than that, but maybe I'm wrong. Maybe now that he's not an attorney we have nothing to share. The thought makes me want to cry, but Nick seems sad enough for both of us. He is downtrodden and he's come to Mystic Maya to work her magic and make him feel better. So, damn it, Maya figure out a way to cheer him up!

"You never told me where Trucy is or why you wanted to come for a visit."

"Trucy's visiting my parents and since when do I need an excuse to see my best friend?"

He's being defensive. That's ok. I don't mind, maybe he doesn't really know why he's here. Sometimes we just gravitate to one another. I remember on more than one occasion showing up on his doorstep uninvited saying I wanted his company and having no real idea why all of a sudden I felt like I needed to see him.

"No, of course not, but it's been two years. I just thought there might be something in particular… but no worries. We'll just have some fun."

"Sounds good, but since when does an uphill hike constitute as fun? You're not going all healthy on me are you? I won't know what to do to apologize to you if I can't buy you a bag of greasy burgers."

I laugh. I am definitely not going "healthy". I went on a blind date with a health food nut and it was a miserable experience. He kept telling me how many calories everything I was eating was, not he said because he worried I would get fat, but because he cared about my health. What a jerk. I told him I had a special metabolic condition and he could Google it after he deleted me from his e-mail list.

The terrain is a little steep, but I didn't really want to walk with him through Kurain. Not after everything. Not after his breakup with Iris. Not after the tension all of that caused our family.

"So, how is spirit channeling?"

"Ok, I guess. I'm traveling a lot."

"Yeah, I saw that. The last postcard was from…Brazil?"

"I wasn't sure you got it…you didn't write back…or call… or e-mail."

"Yeah, sorry. Things have been weird."

"So, tell me more about Trucy. How is she doing? I can't believe her dad just abandoned her like that."

"Yeah, I know. I can't imagine doing that if I had a kid. I mean I'd never do that to her."

"I know you wouldn't. You're not that kind of person. You don't run out on people or responsibilities like that."

He seems to consider saying something in response, but changes his mind and says, "Trucy reminds me a lot of Pearls only she's a little more…"

"In touch with reality?"

Nick chuckles. "I was going to say self-reliant. She's already doing magic shows at birthday parties and making dinner for us and stuff. It's actually kind of scary she seems like a little adult. And she's insanely good at trivia games. I have no idea how she knows so much stuff that happened before she was born. She's really perceptive, too."

Nick is really something, a single guy in his twenties beaming about the brilliance of his little girl.

"Sorry, am I talking too much?"

"No, I love hearing you talk about…"

"My daughter? The words sound weird don't they?"
"A little, but I think what you did is sweet. Only you would be so sweet."

"So insane more like." Nick never can take a compliment.

We're coming to the top and we find a log to sit on and look at the view. It looks out over the deep ravine with the raging river below it. I can't look at it without remembering that day and how he jumped onto the bridge trying to reach me on the other side. No one could ever figure out why he did that. It was obvious the bridge was coming down. What a fool! He's lucky he didn't get himself killed.

"Wow, it's really gorgeous up here this time of year." He says.

"Yeah, it makes it worth the hike. I just wish I'd grabbed a snack."

"Well, maybe you can get something after you walk back." He sounds as if he's not sure we'll be walking back together or something. He must be really nervous about something.

"Nick, what's bothering you?"

He is debating about telling me something. The turmoil of the decision is written all over his face. Knowing him he is probably weighing the probabilities of various outcomes just as he would in court before presenting a piece of evidence.

"Nick, just tell me. What's so important you couldn't tell me on the phone? Is something wrong with Trucy?"

"No, I think something's wrong with me."

"Nick, quit talking in riddles or I'll hit you!"

He slumps- he knows my punches can hurt when I want them to.

"You know how hard I had to fight to get to adopt Trucy?"

"Yeah."

"Well, I had to go through a sea of paperwork and have home inspections and I had to be evaluated."

"Evaluated?"

"Yeah, like an interview for parenthood. They have to look for skeletons in the closet. You know, anything that might make you a less than ideal parent."

"Well, I'm sure they had to work pretty hard to find anything on you."

"Other than that I present forged evidence in court and have been disbarred?"

"Oh. I forget people think that's for real."

There was no doubt in my mind when it happened that Nick had been set up. I was just surprised he didn't realize it before he presented the forged evidence in court. He's usually so sharp about these things. I could never figure out why he slipped up. For some reason he got sloppy on that case or his luck ran out or something. I feel terrible about it. If I'd been there maybe just maybe I would have made him take a closer look at that mysterious diary page. Maybe I would have picked up on something and saved him from this misery. But I wasn't there and what's done is done. One little mistake and his life was sent in a completely new direction. It doesn't seem fair for one so committed to his work who really believed in his client's innocence to have it all taken away from him. I'd do anything to help him earn his badge back, but unfortunately the best idea I've come up with so far has been to create a time machine. Fat lot of chance that's going to happen.

"Maya, you and Trucy are the only people who think I was framed. Other than whoever did it, of course."

"Any ideas?"

"Ideas, yes. Proof, no and I haven't had much time to work on it. Plus, it's kind of depressing."

"You shouldn't think of it that way. It's your greatest challenge yet, that's all. Just imagine the day you return to the courtroom you'll have the last laugh on them all as you put the bad guy in jail for their crime against you and you'll finally solve the mystery around Trucy's grandfather's death. Mia will be so proud. I'll be so proud."

He thinks about this. "Mia wouldn't have made my mistake. She was always so thorough. She always told me I needed to better prepare. I got careless. I had a lot on my mind and I didn't pay enough attention. It's really my fault. I know better."

"Hey, just because you're an ace attorney doesn't mean you can't make mistakes like everybody else."

"I feel like I've been making a lot of mistakes lately." He sounds sad and I again wonder what is really troubling him. It doesn't seem like it's the disbarment and I can't imagine anything that could be more troubling to him than that. His work was his life. He was devoted to helping his clients. I know, I was one of his first.

I grab his arm and he lifts it up automatically and wraps it around me, but when he looks down at me it's a different look than I'm used to. It's not the classic "Maya, I have work to do" look or the "Maya, not in public what will people think" look. He looks grateful, happy somehow despite the fact we are talking about sad things. Things that probably make him feel angry and frustrated.

I sit there just enjoying being with him and being out in the wilderness. Kurain village is really a beautiful place. I complain about having to be here, but that's really only because I miss my friends in the city. Mainly, I've missed Nick and helping him. I'm glad he has Trucy. He needs someone to take care of him, probably now more than ever. As I sit there I think about the time we had together working on cases, hanging out, and struggling thru catastrophe to catastrophe and I find myself missing it terribly.

I've now lot track of where the conversation was going and I think maybe Nick has too. We are silent for a while, but then I become aware he isn't looking out at the view. He is watching me looking at the view.

I decide to do a test to see if I'm imagining the level of concentration he has on me so I say, "Isn't that one tree over there pretty? See it? I like how it's trunk is twisted." I expect him to turn his head towards the ravine, but he merely acknowledges my statement with a "mmmhhhmm" and his eyes don't leave me. I'm not sure what to do so I just lean on him and just then a gust of wind blows and I cower against the wind.

Nick stands up and unzips his hoodie and hands it to me.

"No, it's ok. It's my own fault. I don't know what I was thinking I should have grabbed a jacket." He gives me his "don't-make-me argue-with-you-about-this" look and I take his sweatshirt and put it on. He must be cold, but he doesn't seem it. He looks kind of at peace. It must be being outdoors. He has to spend so much of his time cooped up in the city. This must be a real treat for him.

I'm glad he seems happier now. Maybe he was just lonely. I get lonely a lot. When I get lonely I usually make Nick a care package. I send him a DVD or two with my comments and thoughts about it. Sometimes I just send him random stuff. Once I sent him bubble gum.

But, as his best friend, I should probably try to make sure there isn't something more major that's bothering him. Let's see, we've talk about Trucy, his parents, being disbarred, the only thing left is Iris I guess. I really don't want to have this conversation, but I'm his friend. He might need somebody to talk to about it. It doesn't seem like the kind of thing he can share with Trucy.

"So, have you heard from Iris?"

"Iris?" He says her name like he doesn't know who I'm talking about, like it's a foreign word.

"Oh," he says coming back from wherever his brain was. "No, after we got the appeal done we sort of lost touch."

"I'm sorry."

"Don't be. It was mutual."

Funny, the way I heard it he dumped her for no apparent reason. Nobody could figure out why either. Some of the elders blamed it on cold feet, Iris wanted to get married and Nick didn't, but that didn't sound that plausible to me. Nick is a pretty traditional kind of guy. He never struck me as marriage-phobic, not like his friend Larry Butz anyways.

He sighs, "Iris deserves better than me."

Now, this I won't stand for. I can deal with grouchy Nick, exhausted Nick, stressed-out Nick, and super-uptight-doesn't-know-how-to-have-a-good-time Nick, but self-deprecating Nick I can't stand. "I'm sure Iris doesn't care that you're not an attorney anymore. You don't need to be embarrassed. I'm sure she still loves you-"

"Maya, I didn't love her. I only thought I did and we broke up before I lost my attorney's badge. That had nothing to do with it. The whole thing was a mistake."

Wow! You could have fooled me. The way his face would light up when she was around, the way he blushed when she batted her beautiful eyes at him, the way he stumbled all over himself to open the door for her, he sure seemed to like her.

"Well, I'm still sorry. I was hoping you two would be happy."

"I know you were. That's why you left."

"Well, I didn't want to be the third wheel you know and we both knew I had stuff to do in Kurain."

"Maya, I've made a lot of mistakes lately. I have a lot of regrets."

I shrugged. "Who doesn't?" He laughed. "You don't have any regrets?"

"Sure, I guess. But you gotta live for today you know?"

He seems sad again. I shouldn't have mentioned Iris. Obviously, it's too painful.

Then he changes the subject. "So other than traveling and sending me packages what have you been doing?"

"Ugh. Training, training, training, and more training. Sister Bikini is such a slave-driver. I started a barf bag collection. I tried to keep a couple houseplants, but they died. I guess I need a plant like Charley… let's see what else… Pearls and I hung out a lot and I went on a bunch of really horrible blind dates."

"Horrible?"

"Horrible. You know me, would you set me up with a calorie counting-health food nut?"

Nick cracks up.

"What about the others? They can't all have been bad."
"Yes. Yes, they were. One guy was a professional snowboarder and used the word extreme twenty times during dinner. Another one seemed to be in love with his cat." Nick looks at me skeptically. "He brought pictures of her to dinner and told me how he sets aside an hour of his day everyday to bath, brush and comb her."

He doesn't believe me, but I swear on my life I'm not exaggerating to him.

"Oh, I can't imagine it was that bad. You must just have really high standards."

"I guess." Inside I know it's because I have formulated my standards based on him. That's the danger in having such an incredible person in your life everybody else pales in comparison.

"Well, what about you? So it didn't work out with Iris. Don't tell me you're giving up."

"I went out on a couple dates with a woman who works at the Wonder Bar."

"And…" I was actually interested in this. It was easier to hear about than Iris.

"And… she wasn't my type."

Funny, me and Nick had never talked about his type before, but then again for some reason he never dated when I was around.

Nick is looking out at the view and I think that even with the silly hat Trucy gave him for Father's Day that he is still very handsome and despite what the world might think he is still a pursuer of the truth in all things, a trust-worthy individual who doesn't lie and probably the most caring person in the world. Honest, sweet, caring, gentle, handsome.

"Maya, I need to tell you something. It's really been bothering me."

This is it- I can feel it. This is what all this has been leading up to. I lean in and smile, "Ok. I'm ready. Shoot."

"Well, at one of these child safety evaluations they asked me about you."

"Oh? Why would they do that? We don't live together anymore. I hardly get to see you."

"Well, I was adopting a little girl and they wanted to know the nature of our relationship, because you were only sixteen when you started working for me and there were rumors…"

"So you set them straight. You told them the truth that nothing happened."

"Of course, and then I had to say I didn't have feelings for you. That you and I are like brother and sister, just pals." I'm wondering what the big surprise is. This is what we always say, so what is the punch line? And then he turns to me with a look of pain on his face. "Oh, Maya! I lied!" and his lips are on mine and his strong arms are around me. He's held me hundreds of times, but never like this. It is so exciting! I close my eyes and even though the world has gone black I see sparks. I feel electricity shouting through me. I've dreamed of this. I can't deny it. I've wanted him. He is the greatest person I know. I love everything about him, but….

He stops and pulls away to see my reaction and all I can say is "What?"

He kind of slumps down like he did in the courtroom when he claimed to have found a contradiction in someone's testimony and the judge disagreed.

"Yeah, that's what I figured. I'm sorry, but I had to get it off my chest. I'll leave you alone and I'll never say another word." But he doesn't get up to leave. Instead h just sits there looking dejected. I realize he is misinterpreting me. He has been so blind to my obvious feelings for him that he thinks I'm rejecting him. The same feelings that Pearly and Edgey and Gumshoe and even the elders can see he has been completely blind to. Even as I sit there fighting my desire to climb on top of him and kiss every inch of his body or shout off the mountain that he finally figured out the case he was most challenged by, my feelings for him he thinks that I don't and there's something at work I don't understand.

Why now?

"Nick, what's going on with you?"

"Maya, are you telling me you don't want this?" He looks like he's about to cry. I don't know that I've ever seen him look so sad.

"No, I just don't understand. What about Iris?"

He shakes his head and laughs. "Iris and I are way over. I thought you of all people would know that."

"I know that, but I don't understand it. Why, Nick? Why are you here doing this now?"

"I don't know, that's just it. I know we can't be together, but I can't get you out of my mind. I miss you so much. You want to know why Iris and I broke up?"

"Yes, yes I do. I thought you two were meant to be together."

He kind of snorts. "I thought so, too. Till we were together. This is going to sound dumb, but Iris isn't you. I thought about you all the time, even when she and I were together. Everything reminds me of you."

"Nick, are you sure you're not just missing the way things used to be? Maybe it's not me maybe it's just the way it was. Things change." I hate myself for suggesting this. He was telling me he loved me, that I was who he wanted to be with and I wanted so badly to just accept it. But I have to make sure, because I won't let him go again, not for anything or anyone-cousins be damned.

"No, Maya! I know it took me far too long to figure it out, but I love you. You gotta believe me."

"Are you sure? You said you loved Iris and you've been under a lot of stress."

"I made a mistake with Iris. I thought love was supposed to look and feel a certain way and I missed that I already had the woman of my dreams by my side everyday."

I'm having a hard time digesting this, maybe it's my empty belly or maybe it's that crazy hat of Nick's but I can't believe this is happening and I can't believe I'm trying to talk him out of this. I have had a crush on him forever. For me, he is the basis of comparison for all men, hell all people really, but I can't believe this! Surely, I'll be waking up in a few moments. It's another one of those confessing our feelings dreams. I get them a lot.

"Maya, look me in the eye and tell me you don't feel the same way about me and I'll never say another word."

I turn my head and fix my eyes on his and open my mouth. Iris is family. I know he hurt her. Nick is my best friend, but more…no words are coming out of my mouth. He's looking deep into my eyes with his chocolately brown ones and I feel a strange wave come over me.

Aw to hell with Iris! He was mine first! I deserve him! He needs me! I WANT HIM!!

I'm moving towards him and we're kissing and kissing some more.

Its several minutes later and I've come up for air while Nick kisses my neck. I can't believe how much I feel like I've just been dunked in a raging warm river, but I guess both of us have been waiting an awfully long time to take the plunge.

"Nick, what are we going to do?"

He stops kissing me but continues holding me close to him, very close. He has a serious pondering look on his face.

"I can't let them take Trucy, but they could if they find out I was lying."

"Nick, I just don't know how we can do this. The elders are really mad at you about breaking up with Iris."

"I know."

"Don't worry, Nick! We'll think of something."

I snuggle into him and kiss his neck.

"So, how long is Trucy with your parents?"

"Till Sunday."

I grin. A plan is formulating.

"Then we have almost a week to be together."

"What? No, I can't stay with you. You know that."

"We'll go away. I know a place. Just you and me. Come on it'll be fun. Come on Old Man! Let's go have some fun!" and I grab him by the hand and start running down the hill with him.

As I walk back into my house I wonder a little what I am doing. How could the idea formulating in my head actually be fulfilling enough? But Nick loves ME. I'm not going to let this slip through my fingers.

I remember with embarrassment how I had pretended not to be disappointed when he and Iris saw each other. Nick was my best friend, but he was still just a friend I had told myself. I had no claim to him. I just felt like I did because we spent almost all our waking time together and I loved everything about him and because we often shared a bad at night or fell asleep on the couch together watching movies. But I was sure that any romantic feelings I had weren't returned from him. I had told myself I was a silly girl for thinking a grown man would choose to be with me an awkward, immature CHILD. So, I had been supportive pretending that I was thrilled that the two of them were together when really seeing them together killed me. Every time she called him "Feenie" I had felt like I was being stabbed in the heart, but I told myself it was my problem. I was the one who had let my imagination run away with me. He had never been mine.
Yet, here he was telling me that he missed me. That he couldn't stop thinking of me that at some point his feelings had evolved and he hadn't realized it. I wondered when it had started.

I blush thinking of mine. I had always loved him on some level or another, but I remember seeing him reading Pearly a bed time story one night and thinking what a good father he'd be and freaking myself out and how the older I got the more I found myself thinking how good looking he was. Once I accidentally walked in on him changing and the image of his naked chest had burned itself into my mind.

So, I walk into my room and throw stuff into my big roller luggage and call Pearls, "Pearly, sweetie, I need you to do a super big favor for me. I'm feeling…stressed… I need to get away for a little while to unwind. Could you cover all my duties this week? I'll find a way to pay you back. It's super important!"

If Pearly is suspicious she keeps her thoughts to herself. And before I know it I'm on a bus headed to a coastal town called, Whaler's Cove.

Whaler's Cove is a little seaside town with a boardwalk and a tiny bay with a beach. There will be lots for Nick and I to do here to distract ourselves from the obvious complications of our romance and I am convinced no one will think to look for us here. It's off the beaten path and it's kind-of rundown, but I think it's homey.

I meet Nick in front of a carved statue of a dolphin that I guess is actually supposed to be a whale since this is Whaler's Cove. At any rate, it's not very attractive whatever it is.

Nick whines, "What are we doing? I don't even have a change of clothes."

"You won't need clothes!" I shout this automatically, not meaning anything by it and then realize what I've said and blush something awful.

"Oh, really now?" he teases me.

"Oh, shut it! You know I didn't mean it like that. I mean quit being…practical. We're having an adventure, Old Man."

And indeed we do. We walk on the beach and a wave sneaks up on me and I get my shoes and socks soaking wet. Nick spots something poking up from the sand and because I insist its buried pirate treasure he digs it up for me. It's really a flattened rusty bottle cap, but I treat it like treasure placing it gently in my pocket because he went to all the work to dig it out up for me.

We explore the shops with their gitchy Made in Taiwan Whaler's Cove souvenirs and the tiny aquarium with the octopus. Nick slowly loosens up. We walk along the boardwalk together and see bumper cars and immediately start running over fighting to see who will get to pick their car first. He does better than I do and knocks me off my course a bunch of times. Afterward he says that it is only because driving a bumper car feels a lot like driving Erma's car. I can believe that.

Finally he asks, "What should we do for dinner? You must be hungry, because I'm starving." We didn't have lunch we just snacked on junk food: elephant ears, ice cream, and corn dogs.

"I know just the place, the best part of Whaler's Cove!"

I lead him a few blocks over off the boardwalk and show him Mr. Burger's Burger Joint. The building is shaped like a hamburger complete with cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion, and pickle.

He laughs, "Now I see why you picked this town. They any good?"

"The best, but I've only been here once."

Then I get embarrassed. I've taken Nick somewhere I went on one of my "Nick-is-with-Iris-now-so-I-better-find-me-a-man" dates. It had been an awful one just like all the rest. I think the guy was an insurance salesman or maybe a funeral home director or something. I can't even remember I've tried to block the experience from my mind, other than of course, the memory of the great burgers. Nick seems to have caught the fact I'm not elaborating on my previous adventure at Mr. Burger's, but he's a gentleman and, therefore, he doesn't ask.

The seating is all outside so we find a place out of the wind and start to munch. Nick and I scarf the food like it's going out of style and then I admit, "I'm really tired."

"Me too I got up pretty early to drive out to see you."

I think back to this morning. It seems a million miles away now. It seems like it's just Maya and Nick again, hanging out. Maybe we're just too good of friends to have relationships with other people, but not in love enough to be together. The thought makes me sad.

"What's wrong, Maya?"

"Oh, nothing." I lie. I'm trying not to admit to him that this is the most fun I've had since we parted. That I'm only truly happy with him, but something holds me back. Maybe it's the fact he's said we can't be like this at his place or maybe it's that I keep thinking he is just infatuated with the memory of me and not really in love with me. I still feel insecure how could he possibly LOVE ME??

I got us a room at a little motel that had been built in the fifties. After we check in I flop on the bed and turn on the TV. Nick comes and sits beside me and nods off. With him asleep I can really look at him for the first time. Study him. He is obviously trying his best at this post-lawyer lifestyle, but I think he is too much the ace attorney to know how to live differently. He has hidden his spiky hair under his hat, but I know it's there. His accusatory finger he keeps corralled in his pocket, but I can feel it itching to get out. I lie next to him and drift off.

When I wake up the room is dark and I am temporarily disoriented. I roll over and accidentally whack Nick in the face with my elbow.

"Oh, gosh! I'm really sorry, Nick! Are you ok?"

"Yea, yeah I'm fine." He smiles at me and says, "Better than fine." and he brushes my hair behind my ear and I feel these waves of energy running through my body as he touches me.

I lean forward to kiss him and I literally bonk my forehead into him as he has leaned in to kiss me, too. I laugh and then we're kissing like nothing I've ever felt before. My hands are all over him I don't know what I'm doing. I can't be any good at this. I feel like I'm having an out-of-body experience. Me and Nick are making out in a hotel? I guess it's been a long time coming. I can remember how often I dreamed of that first kiss and now I've already lost track of the number. His lips are so soft and sweet and my hand reaches to pull his hat off so I can run my fingers through his hair. I've always loved his hair, but then I find myself not stopping there. I'm pulling off his clothes while my lips explore every inch of his face and neck.

I'm moving too fast and enjoying this way too much to freak out even though it's all new to me. And then I'm feeling his hands in places they've never been before and I realize that things have changed. He's still my best friend in the entire world, but somehow we've become lovers, too and I give in to my need to be one with him.

I wake up the next morning naked next to Nick who is snoring. That boy can sleep, but I guess this time he has a good excuse. I roll over and kiss his chest and he makes a little murmuring sound that sounds like he's saying not to stop, but maybe it's wishful thinking. I wake him up by climbing onto him and kissing him.

"So what's the plan for today?" He asks me. To my relief he seems like normal Nick. He doesn't seem weirded out by what happened last night and he doesn't seem to have gone all lovey-dovey on me, which is a major relief.

"I dunno. I figure more of the same." I mean hanging out and stuff, but he takes it as an invitation and is rolling me onto my back and kissing me.

It is almost noon before we decide to emerge from bed. I go into the bathroom to clean up and alone in the bathroom I do a happy dance. I am SOOO happy. I open the door and peer out at Nick. He's still there!! This has been the best day of my life! I am SOOO excited. I look at myself in the mirror and realize I am grinning like a moron.

How immature! Wipe that grin off your face!

But as I step out of the bathroom I see Nick has the same smile on his face and I'm less embarrassed.

"You look beautiful," he says to me. I wonder if he knows how much I feel like he just saved my life. Like all of a sudden I have a chance at happiness again. I kind of do a dancing strut over to the bed.

"Nick, I love you." God it feels good to be able to say that. Just like that no conditions on it. No "man" at the end of the sentence, no pretending its just palsy love. I've said it to him before but only when he's been asleep. I remember whispering it in his ear while he slept hoping it would make him dream about us.

"I love you, too."

"Did I find a way to cheer you up?" I wink at him and he blushes.

"Maya, I don't want you to think that I came to see you hoping this would happen. Well, I mean I was hoping, but I don't mean....Ugh! That's not what it's about. I mean I just couldn't lie anymore."

Nick is flustered. Discovering he's in love with me has thrown him for a loop. I'm more calm. I've known I loved him for longer. I'm used to the feelings whereas he is still wondering how this happened.

"Nick, are you worried that I think you had some evil plot to seduce me? I should be so lucky. I've been dreaming about this for so long." I hop on the bed beside him and throw my arms around him.

"Maya, if you felt that way why didn't you ever tell me?"

"Because we're friends and I didn't want to ruin that. I'd take you any way I could get you and I figured there was no way you'd be interested in somebody like me."

"Well there you go proving how little you think of yourself. You know why I finally realized I was in love with you? I couldn't get you out of my head. I'd be walking through the park with Iris and I'd see a tree and think if Maya were her she'd challenge me to climb up that or oh, look a person making balloon animals I'd buy Maya one just to get her to stop pestering me."

"Great you do make me sound like a kid."
"No, it's great! You are more fun to be around than anybody I know. And I can't even drink good coffee because I've gotten so used to that nasty bitter stuff you make and I love spending time with you. I was just too stupid to realize that was because I was in love with you."

I laugh. "Well, now you know how I feel all the time about you, Nick. Welcome to the club. So, thanks for coming and telling me, because I don't know if I ever would have been brave enough. And thanks for being so wonderful all the time. And though I have no basis for comparison, thank you for being dynamite in the sack."

I grin at him, but he looks back at me strangely. I expected a blush. Nick is always embarrassed if anyone compliments him and talking directly to his face about his love making abilities would definitely qualify as embarrassing to him I'm sure, but he just looks at me.

"Maya, you never? Not in all this time? I just? We just?"

Oh, that's what that shocked look is.

"Maya, why not? Why not with any of those other guys?"

"I told you all those dates were awful and I wasn't in love with any of them. And I was waiting for love. Let's face it you are a hard act to follow, Nick! No guy seems appealing after you."

"You were never going to tell me were you? Maya, what would you have done if I had stayed with Iris? If I had married her like she wanted me to?"

This is a tough question, because I truly wanted them to be happy. I wanted him to be happy. I would have done anything to make him happy.

"I would have been happy for you guys and I probably would have bought myself a cat. It seemed to be working for that one guy OK and Erma loves 'em."

I expect him to laugh, but he looks sad.

"I can't believe how blind I was. You've been waiting around this whole time for me."

"No, not waiting. I never thought this would happen. I knew I loved you, but that didn't mean you felt that way about me. I just wasn't that interested in anybody else. It was my choice to wait for love and you're the only person I love. But, honestly, you thought I'd be with one of those blind date guys? You really could picture that?"

"I didn't want to. I guess that was another good piece of evidence I missed. Or how I'd get so jealous when you when out with Miles. That was the point wasn't it? All along you've been trying to give me opportunities to reevaluate how I felt about you and I was too big an idiot to realize it."

"Yeah, Edgey and I were trying to push your buttons, see if you'd make a move. Edgey figured you might be a little territorial when it came to me, a little overly protective."

Nick puts his head in his hands his antics in trying to keep me safe are legendary. They include almost getting an innocent person convicted of a crime and jumping onto the collapsing bridge.

Ok, maybe there were hints he loved me that I missed, too.

"Edgeworth talked to me about you, too." Nick admits. "He kept telling me all this cryptic intellectual stuff. I guess I was supposed to realize he was telling me to think about how I felt about you."

Edgeworth really cares for Nick. When Edgey and I went out we spent almost the entire time taking about Nick. In fact, I think in some ways Edgeworth is like me. He deeply admires Nick and he wants him to be happy. I'm not the only person fond of Nick, but I'm not going to talk to Nick about my nagging suspicions about Edgey's feelings for Nick today. He has more than he can handle already and, frankly, I don't want any competition.

"Well I started to think maybe just possibly if I was super lucky you might kinda like me or might at least not laugh me out of town over having a crush on you right before everything happened with Iris."

Nick pulls me to him and says, "I'm sorry Maya. Will you ever forgive me for being such an idiot?"

"Of course! This has been the best day of my life."

We debate about what to eat and where and settle on Chinese. At the Happy Chow Mien he asks, "You want to eat here or get it to go?"

"I think we better eat here. If we take it back to the hotel I'm worried I won't eat any of it."

"Why?" Then he catches me looking at him and I see him do an embarrassed "oh".

Over dinner, we don't talk a lot about what has happened, but when we get back to the hotel we snuggle up and I start my wheels turning.

"Nick, I love you."

"I love you, too."

"But what are we going to do?"

"I don't know."

"Come on we're two smart people we gotta think of something. I can't lose you again."

"Maya, some problems can't be solved."

"I don't want to think of us as a problem, Nick! Meeting you was the best thing that ever happened to me- well other than the whole Mia being killed and me being accused of the murder and me thinking I must have done it-" I realize I am rambling. "But I'm telling you I love you. Let's find a solution, Nick. We're an unstoppable team."

He groans. I have a feeling he has considered all this before he came out to see me.

"Niiiiiccccckkkk, come on! Work with me!"

"Ok, fine."

"So, what are the challenges of this case?"

Nick grins. Putting things in lawyer-speak helps him to think.

"Well, I have a daughter who is not fully, legally mine and one of the conditions of her remaining with me is I appear of upstanding moral fiber ie. I don't fall in love or have sex with my employees who were living with me while underage."

"Right, the fact we're like this now would cast doubt on your previous testimony that nothing was going on, even though it was true. For the most part anyway."

"Exactly."

"Ok, is that the only thing?"

"No. We have your problem. Everybody in Kurain Village hates my guts."

"True, true. How do you elicit such strong emotions from people, Nick?"

Nick shrugs, "It's a gift."

"Any other problems?"

"Other than the fact I want to quit talking so we can make love again? No…oh wait… there is one…maybe two."

I raise my eyebrows at his proposition and then at the fact he has found more issues.

"Ok, shout. What other problems do we have, Old Man, that are dooming our relationship?"

"Well, I'm flat broke so I can't get away like this with you much and I have a daughter and I want to…"

"Not act like a horny teenager around her?"

"Yes, I think that would be preferable. And I really don't want Trucy to have to lie about us. I can't see how teaching her to lie is being a good role model for her."

Now Nick looks very sad. "Maya, I can't choose between you two. I can't."

My eyes get big. I realize this is what he has been worried about. He knows I would never tell him to give her up, but he worries he doesn't have a choice.

"Of course not, Trucy needs you."

I look at him. He is everything I want. I want to be with him all the time. There is no one else for me. I know this. I've looked.

"I have an idea."

"Oh, God, Maya." He groans. He knows that he has no ability to say no to me.

"Have you ever heard of anybody from the Department of Child Safety coming here?"

"To Whaler's Cove?"

I nod.

"No. I think they have more refined taste than you."

"Exactly! And so do the elders in Kurain. You and I are the only two adults I know who would actually like this place."

"Larry would like it if there were wore women wearing bikinis here."

"Don't you try to distract me, Lawyer Man!"

A plan has formulated in my mind. A pact, a promise, a something. Something secret. Something covert.

"We keep it a secret that we're together. We've told people for years we don't have feelings for each other. It won't be any different. We're just friends everywhere but here. This is our place. Here we… you know."

Nick looks around the room. "Whaler's Cove? You're proposing we have a clandestine secret lover's rendezvous point of Whaler's Cove?"

"Why not?"

"For one thing. The train doesn't come here. I checked. I'd need a car, well one of us would need a car and if we meet here we'd need two."

So, he was thinking the same thing. Nick, you sly dog you!

"But the bus comes here. That's how I got here."

"Maya, it's like four hours from the city. We could only come here when we had several days."

"Yeah, I know…but it would be better than nothing, right, Nick? It can be our secret. I saw this movie one time. This couple met once a year on the same day every year."

"Didn't one of them die?"

"No, she got hit by a car and he didn't know it… but it worked out in the end."

"Let's not get hit by a car."

"No, let's not, but I think it could be fun."

"Being hit by a car?"

"No! Having a secret love affair. I mean it's so romantic like when the princess tied a ribbon outside of her window so the Steel Samurai knows he's thinking of her."

"I remember that. That was a really romantic episode." And he actually looks kind of dreamy before his "I'm-considering-it" face takes over.

"Ok, I think I can get my parents or neighbors to take Trucy off my hands once in a while, but what about you? What the heck did you tell them to suddenly have a week to spend with me?"

"Honestly, I claimed nervous exhaustion to Pearly."

"Oh, boy. She's either going to see right through that and interrogate you as soon as you're home or be driving you nuts trying to pamper you for the rest of the month."

"I hope it's the pampering, but I probably won't deserve it I'm getting plenty from you."

Nick laughs, "Yes, I'm sure this is just how you imagined it. Your former partner now a washed -up disbarred attorney who makes money as a piano player shows up at your door out of the blue confessing his love."

"You told me you loved me. Details don't matter. Especially with how I've been feeling…"

"And how is that?"

Should I admit it to him?

"Lonely. Jealous. Angry."

"Lonely I understand, but jealous? Jealous of who?"

"Who do you think?"

"Iris?"

I nodded. "I had just started to think that you had feelings for me. That my crush might be mutual when she came back into your life. It seemed like destiny and I couldn't fight it so I stepped back."

"Why? Why didn't you tell me? Why did you do that?"

"Because I love you and I wanted you to be happy and if you'd seen the look on your face when you saw her I'm sure you would have done the same thing if you were me."

He hugs me. "You care about me so much you would sacrifice your own happiness?"

"In a heartbeat." I say and I start crying.

"Maya, I'm sorry I was so dumb! I'm sorry it took me being with her to realize that I was in love with you. I wish it hadn't worked out that way. I ended up hurting both of you and I feel terrible about it. Iris is so sweet she forgave me almost immediately, but she's just not the one for me. I really hope she finds someone. I understand why the elders are mad about our breakup, though. Iris deserves a lot better."

"Does she know why you left her?"

"Not exactly, but she may suspect. I talked about you a lot. It came down to that we wanted different things. She wanted to get married and have kids and…I wanted you. Maya, what was I ever thinking letting you leave me?"

"We did the right thing. I'm needed in Kurain."

Nick sighs. I feel it too. Everything in our lives is so darn complicated, like one of his cases.

Then he smiles, "Well, there is one more reason for us to keep it a secret. I'm not ready to admit to Pearls that she was right."

"Oh, I know! She'll never let us live it down!"

"So, do we have a deal?" I hold out my hand to shake on it, but he objects.

"HOLD IT. I'm confused on the details are we only boyfriend and girlfriend here? Or do we just say we're friends everywhere else. This is important."

"Why is that important?" I'm confused as to why this matters. Then I have a horrific thought, "Oh no, you're not planning to make me date other people in hopes of making me fall for someone else are you? No, Nick. I don't want anybody else. Once a year with you is better than anybody else all the time."

I've made him terribly embarrassed. I didn't mean to flatter him. I was simply stating fact. He is not tricking me into going on any dates to keep up appearances to the relatives.

I look at him, "Do you want to date other people?"

"No!" He looks terrified at the thought. The dates with the Wonder Bar lady must have gone really badly. "I know I should make you go out with other people, but I'm going to be selfish and say I'd honestly prefer you didn't. The thought of you with somebody else might drive me to do something stupid."

"Like jumping onto a collapsing bridge above a ravine?"

"No one is ever going to let me live that down are they?"

"And you still thought you didn't have feelings for me? God, Nick you are dumb."

"Thanks."

"Ok, boyfriend/girlfriend, but we only act like it in Whaler's Cove. We don't date other people, but we don't freak out if we don't hear from each other all the time. We both have a lot to deal with and we get together once a year here while Trucy visits your parents."

"Maya, this is gonna be really hard."

"I know, but I've spent longer pretending than you. You'll get used to it."

The rest of the week we spend hanging out. We go to the movies, we do more beachcombing, and we make love everyday. It is just like old times except Nick isn't a lawyer and we can do things together we never did before. One of the highlight of the week comes for me at the antique and collectibles mall when Nick walks up to the clerk and says, "My girlfriend is looking for the rare number forty-two Steel Samurai comic with the misprint on page 4. You don't happen to know where I could get one do you?" They are the most romantic words I've ever heard him say other than "I love you" and "Maya, I got you burgers."

But of course the shop doesn't have it. As we leave I tell him, "I can't believe you remembered I was looking for that!" He laughs. "You've only had it on your Christmas list for what, four years now? I ask at every comic and collectibles shop. I keep getting outbid online. But don't worry someday I'll find you one."

I realize then than Nick has to be one of the sweetest guys alive.

Our last night in Whaler's Cove I go out alone to try to get something special for Nick while he takes a nap. When I return I find he has brought a pizza back to the room and is happily munching on it and slurping grape juice.

"Hey, you forget I was here or something?" Nick says laughing as I return home hours later.

"No, I was thinking about you the whole time. I got you something."

I reach into my shopping bags and with a flourish present him with a brand new cell phone and he looks at me confused. "That's sweet, but you know I already have one."

I grin at him, "Yes, but not one with a mate" and I pull out a second identical phone.

"You have a phone, but you sure don't use it to call me. So, I got us each one on a family plan or as it should be called in our case the secret lovers plan. Unlimited calling between our two phones."

I hope I'm not coming on too strong. "Now you don't have to worry about money. Call me day or night. Just don't worry if I don't call you I probably just can't get a free moment to myself."

We mess around with the phones picking each other's ring tones and calling each other from across the room to get used to how they work.

"I think we need code names. Just in case we need to talk when other people are around or something. I could be Ayam."

"Ayam? Maya backward?"

"Too obvious?"

"I think so."

"If I had to give you a code name it would be based on your personality or something. Like Sugar High."

I punch him in the arm.

"Ow. Now you messed me up." He was entering info into his phone.

"You don't like that, huh? How about Raven after your sexy black hair?"

"Well, when you say it that way you could call me anything."

"Ok, what about me?"

"Other than Old Man?"

"Yes, definitely something other than that."

"I don't know I'll have to sleep on it."

The next morning at the check out desk we make a reservation for the same week next year. We walk outside and I stand by Erma's car and I start to feel the sadness. We have to go home, apart again. He comes over and forces the passenger door open for me and I get in. He's giving me a ride to the bus station. He offered to drive me home, but I thought it would be better if I went home by bus. He parks in front of the little rural bus station and he looks at me with tears in his eyes.

"Maya, I wish things could be different."

"They will be someday, Nick, you'll see. You and me-it'll happen. We'll make it work. I promise."

"Promise?"

"Yeah, and if you really need crappy tasty coffee I can make some and mail it to you."

He laughs and then he kisses me goodbye.

"Nick, just know if I'm not here next year I've been hit by a bus, Ok? Don't go assuming I've changed my mind. We're in this together."

"Same goes for me. I love you."

"I love you, too. Call me, OK?"

"I will. I promise."

And he runs around and presses on the door in the magic way he has to and it springs open.

I kiss him one last time and we hold hands for a moment before he takes a deep breath walks back around the car and gets in. He starts the engine and I watch him drive away. Then I see him circle back. He jumps out of the car leaving the keys in the ignition runs over and gives me one last passionate kiss.

"I'll make this up to you someday."

And I know because it's Nick, he will.