~Right now three things remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.~

~1 Corinthians 13:13~

~ I consider irresponsible words like "I'm doing this for someone" to be the worst of all!~

~Xerxes Break, Pandora Hearts~

Yes, this should be Chapter 8 of my Pandora Hearts fic, and I'll have that up soon. Sorry, but this is bigger and took a lot of time and effort. It gets finished and posted first~

This started out as a simple what-Maya-was-doing-for-seven-years fic, but soon turned into something much, much darker. Please forgive me! ;_; I…don't know how this happened…the only explanation I can offer is that I just like to do really sick things to the mental health of my favourite characters.

This fic was getting VERY long, and I wanted to finish it, so I didn't put in some stuff I was planning to – for instance, an appearance by Pearl, and more detail on Trucy. Oh well.

Blue Deity – this is that fic I mentioned. Moonshadow, yes, this is my 'Secret Evil Master Plan™', and yes, I've finally finished it. Everyone else, please don't kill me.

Twelfth Night is by Shakespeare, btw. Find the quote!

#

It is very like a dream, actually.

His hands hang loosely by his sides. He stares vacantly, uncomprehending, refusing to comprehend. He can only look at the world as though through a dark tunnel. Maybe this is a dream – after all, it feels like one. This has to be a dream.

What would they do with the thing, anyway? It wasn't like he'd taken very good care of it. He'd kind of taken it for granted. It was chipped and the gold paint was peeling. They couldn't very well give it to someone else, to some other up-and-coming lawyer. They'd probably just chuck it in a bin or something.

His fingers creep up to his lapel, where his badge, serial number 26381, no longer rests.

Kristoph, the one man who stood up for him, smiles at him blandly. Phoenix doesn't smile back.

It is very like a dream, or perhaps a nightmare. It is like a dream in every aspect but one.

Phoenix Wright's badge is gone, and he isn't dreaming.

i

Out of habit, he returns to the office. It's the same as ever. Dusty books that he had never read and now never will, the couch, the TV, Charlie the pot plant…

Maya isn't there. It's odd. He knows she's in Kurain, but it still feels wrong.

He collapses onto the couch, turns on the TV, and starts to flick through the channels. His mind is blank – this can't be happening, he can't deal with this! Thoughts flick through his mind – how am I going to pay the rent? How am I going to feed myself? What am I supposed to do with myself now? How do I tell her…

Well. She probably already knows. It's all over the papers already, though he'd only officially had his badge taken away that afternoon.

And then it hits him, really hits him that he isn't a lawyer anymore, and he will never be one again, he won't ever again stand behind the defence's bench, or object, or have that chance to believe, to really believe in someone, to place his faith in them like Mia taught him…he has lost his job, and he can see no future for himself. But it is more than that. He has lost…lost the only thing he really wanted to do…

He breaks down and cries.

Later, it occurs to him that even then he hadn't known what it feels like to lose everything.

a

Maya rings him. He seizes the phone, grateful for relief, for escape from the relentless misery of his own thoughts. If I'd just done that differently, if I hadn't taken the evidence, if I hadn't – If I had –

"Nick!" she shouts, sounding like she's in a panic. "Nick! Did you hear? You've been DISBARRED! Do you know what that MEANS? This is terrible! Nick, you've gotta call the cops!"

"Um, Maya –"

"Pearly told me – she said you'd been disbarred – "

"Maya –"

"She found out from some shady tabloid – I thought you needed to know –"

"Maya, do you know what disbarring means?"

"Well…uh...SORT of…but that doesn't matter! This is a crisis –"

"You don't know what it means."

"Fine, fine. Tell me, then?"

"I kind of already know I've been disbarred. It'd be kind of strange if I didn't. See, it means…" he pauses. Before this, he hadn't really said it out loud, and he doesn't really want to. Because if he says it, it might somehow confirm it, make it real…

"Did they take away an important internal organ or something? Or was it your right to drink at a bar? Well, that doesn't seem so bad to me…"

"They stripped me of my attorney's badge," he says heavily. "It means I'm not a lawyer anymore."

Dead silence.

He waits.

"OK, OK. I'm listening. You can tell me properly now."

He doesn't reply.

"Nick, no…you're not…serious, are you?"

He doesn't trust himself to speak.

"Nick, stop it. What did they…"

He sighs.

"Oh my…" she said in a small voice. "Nick…you're not a…they…"

"It's fine," he says, voice empty. "Bit of a stupid job to have, anyway. What with the risk of third degree burns and all."

"Oh, no…Nick…no…but this can't be…" Her voice is completely stunned. She can't believe it either. Maybe she, too, is begging for this to be a dream. "It's not fair! This can't be right –"

"Well, there are a few pluses. After all, only thing I really have to worry about now is not being able to pay the bills–"

"Nick, no, stop –"

"-which is heaps better than having to do crazy stunts like running across burning –"

"That's horrible," she snaps, sounding close to tears. "Nick…I can't believe it…tell me what happened!"

He doesn't want to reply, doesn't want to relive the whole horrible incident again…

"There was a piece of evidence," he says. "It was given to me by a little girl, I don't know who commissioned it, they planted it on me. I used it in the trial. It was forged. The prosecutor knew…called a witness…proved it and everything…and then..t-then –"

He can't speak any longer. His throat seems to have constricted too tight to talk, and his eyes burn.

"But Nick…that's not your fault…none of that's your fault…"

"Mistake," he whispers. "Stupid mistake…if I had just –"

"I…I'll help you…"

Good luck with that, Maya.

"Nick, I'll find them."

"…What?"

"The person who fixed you up with the forged evidence," she says forcefully. "I'm Kurain Master, now. That means I have authority. I can help you – I'll find them and get you your badge back. Nick, I'll help you."

"You think you can…" He feels the faintest glimmerings of hope. "You can get my badge back?"

"I'm sure of it." She is completely determined. "I promise, Nick. I'll do it, I have to."

"Thanks," he whispers. He is having trouble speaking.

"So, that's settled!" she chirps. "The culprit will be captured and I'll get your badge back in no time!"

"Yeah," he says more confidently.

"OK, don't leave the office. I'm going to catch the train down to the city. See ya!" She hangs up.

It feels like a heavy, sickening weight in his insides has suddenly lightened. There is hope, after all! Maybe, this situation is salvageable…this isn't permanent…Maya will help clear his name, and then everything...everything will return to normal…

When he puts the phone down on the desk, something rattles. He opens the drawer –

-and his insides freeze –

- because he has seen that black device attached to his phone line before, or something very similar.

He snatches the phone back up and dials Maya's number, before realising he only knows the number of her mobile. She isn't picking up. She must have been calling him from the Kurain phone earlier…

Oh, no - damn damn DAMN -

He rips out the wiretap and throws it in the bin. Who had put that wiretap there? He can't say for sure, but he has a sinking feeling that it had something to do with the mysterious evidence forger. A sick, uneasy feeling is growing in the pit of his stomach. If he's right about the person who placed the wiretap…then…

Paralysed with worry, he can do nothing but wait.

m

It's getting later in the day. If Maya is coming, why isn't she here by now…?

The knot of worry in his gut seems to grow even larger. He falls asleep on the couch, and dreams of Maya bursting in through the door, his badge in her hands. But he's only dreaming, after all.

He wakes when the phone rings, and scrambles for the desk. Holding the phone to his ear, he croaks out a "yes?"

"Is this Mr Phoenix Wright?"

"That's me! What is it?"

"This is Hotti Clinic…"

Please, no…

He listens. His hands, clutching the phone, begin to tremble uncontrollably.

Surely –

-not.

No.

Surely he is.

Dreaming.

He.

No.

This -

Has to be -

a dream -

"No…"

"I appreciate that this situation may be distressing you, Mr Wright. Ms Fey worked for you, yes?"

He remains silent.

She…

Can't be…

No…

His vision blurs. He cannot see.

"Maya," he chokes. "I…I need to know if she's alright…"

"I'm sorry, Mr Wright. We are doing our best to identify the poison, and possibly the cure, but it is highly likely that she will remain in a coma. We hope she'll wake up as soon as possible. However –"

He hangs up.

d

She does not look calm and peaceful, lost in her dreamless sleep. She is just empty, cruelly empty, gone, devoid of life, absent of energy, wit, everything that she had been.

There are two doctors and a nurse at her bedside. Her skin is deathly pale. She is hooked up to a life support system, pumping breath and food into her. They've taken the beads and ties out of her hair, and she's wearing a shapeless white hospital gown. She looks different, like a stranger, a faded husk. Phoenix swallows, his hands shaking. Maybe if he just touches her – the spell will break – and she'll wake up -

He reaches forward and grasps her white hand. She is so lifeless. This is so wrong. He feels numb all over, like this can't be happening. Can't be happening! He can't possibly have lost everything he has, everything he cares about, in the short space of twenty-four hours…

How's he going to tell Kurain? What's he going to do without her? How's he going to get his badge back now?

He blinks back tears. She wouldn't have wanted him to cry…No.

NO. She's still alive! He won't accept this, he can't, he just can't. He has to believe in her, believe she will be alright. If he has faith in her, like he would for a client – and when hasn't that worked? Oh right, YESTERDAY - if he just keeps his hope alive…

"Are you the visitor?" the nurse asks, coming forward.

He nods, not trusting himself to speak, and lets go of Maya's hand.

"Take a seat. As you're here, we'd like to ask you to fill out this form."

The nurse hands him a sheet of paper, which he scans briefly. It contains questions about whether Maya had any allergies or special circumstances.

"Do you know…who did this to her?" he says, his voice unsteady.

The nurse shakes his head. "All we know is that she was riding on the train down to the city, when she simply…collapsed. A bystander rang an ambulance, which was waiting at the station when the train arrived."

"I-I see…"

"How'd you find out her details? She doesn't have a driving licence, how'd you find out her name and that you had to contact me?"

"Oh, from that strange card she was carrying, with the funny design on it–"

"I need to see the card," Phoenix cuts in, scanning the room. He spies a plastic tub sitting on a bench next to the bed, containing some purple cloth. Maya's clothes…

"Hey, easy now," the nurse says, looking alarmed. "I can't just go around letting people see patient's private-"

"I don't have time for this," Phoenix snaps. He stands, grabs the tub and finds the card.

The tub falls to the ground, but Phoenix merely stares at the pink shell design on the card Maya had been carrying. The mark of Shelley de Killer, the assassin…

On the flip side of the card is written Maya's name and Phoenix's phone number. At the bottom, De Killer has written in very small letters:

To Whom It May Concern:

I have done my duty, and have kept faith with my client. However, due to our…history, I have decided to give you a chance. She will remain in a coma for seven years at the most, after which she will die - unless, of course, you wake her up first.

Keep faith.

-De Killer

So there is a chance…all hope is not lost…a slim chance, but one he will take. He will wake her up.

Phoenix surreptitiously slips the card into his briefcase. "So she was poisoned?"

One of the doctors nods, fiddling with a complex system of tubes. "Yes. We've run a blood test. The type of poison administered to Ms Fey causes the victim to sink into a prolonged coma, and then death…"

This isn't looking good.

"Is there a…is there a cure?"

The nurse shrugs. "Not an official one. But we've had a patient in poisoned with the same stuff before, and he woke up after smelling some coffee. 'Course, that might've just been his coffee addiction, and he wasn't in very good shape afterwa –"

"What did you say?" Phoenix interrupts. "Who was this guy?"

"Does patient confidentiality mean nothing to you, Williams?" the doctor asks exasperatedly.

"Oh, you know him, don't you?" the nurse says, ignoring the doctor. "You're Phoenix Wright, right? You've met Godot."

o

"The poison," Phoenix says. "The poison that put you into a coma. Do you know anything about it?" He leans forward, white-knuckled fists resting on his knees.

Diego Armando sits back and waits.

"Do you know…do you have any idea how you were cured? Really, I mean."

"I told you," says Armando lazily. "I smelled coffee. And then I woke up." He sips at the mug in his hand. Phoenix meets his gaze, red slits of the visor leaving imprints on his vision.

"That can't be true, and you know it."

"Oh, can't it?"

Armando beckons to a security guard, whispering something. The man pales, takes the cup from his hands and rushes out of the cell.

"What was that?"

"It had milk in it." He shrugs. "Milk dulls the bitterness of even the best brew."

"Mr Armando. Are you telling me that none of the medical staff taking care of you ever brought coffee to work? That the first time you breathed in coffee was five years after you were placed in a coma?"

Armando surveys him coolly, reaching out to accept a new mug from a quivering security guard. "Well, that is what happened, Wright. Don't make me say this again…I smelled coffee, and then I woke up."

When Phoenix slams the desk hard, the table rattles, and several pens roll off it and onto the floor. He stands. Armando remains motionless.

"I need to know," Phoenix says, voice barely shaking at all, "if there is a cure for the poison. I need to know what it is. And I need to know how to get it…"

Armando waits.

And then.

"…Please…" Phoenix bows his head, his shoulders slumping.

Armando leans forward, so that his face is very close to Phoenix's.

"Who was poisoned, Wright?" he asks softly.

Phoenix looks up. The red lights of the visor bore into him. He feels like they can read the answer in his soul, like they somehow know that he has, once again, failed to protect –

-but no, he has not failed, he is not like Godot. He has to keep faith, he must believe that she will wake. He will make it happen.

"Maya," he says.

Godot chugs the coffee down in one gulp, and then throws the mug aside. It shatters on the concrete of the cell floor.

"Something different about you today, I've noticed," he says, smooth and deep and not at all simmering with rage, right?

Phoenix blinks. "What?"

Armando leans forward again, and jabs a finger at Phoenix's lapel, the empty spot where his badge had been not so long ago.

"That right there." He smirks slightly. "Tell me, Wright…what happened?"

"Don't you read the papers?" Phoenix's voice is neutral.

"Heh, papers? They're all a pack of lies."

Phoenix made a sound that made have indicated agreement.

"Are you going to tell me or not?"

"What difference does it make? Fine…I'll tell you…" He rests his forehead into his palm. "I've been disbarred, on the charge of presenting falsified evidence. And now…Maya is gone too..."

Silence.

"I'm, uh, going to get her back, though," he says to fill it.

"That's a shame," says Armando pleasantly.

"What?"

"I thought you were good," he says, still in a calm, pleasant tone of voice. "I thought you were Mia's equal. I laid down my pride – " his voice is rising now "—and I admitted I was wrong and I let you throw me in here, and now, you – you come and tell me that you're a SHAM, you've been disbarred because you're an evidence forger, and you've gone and lost Maya Fey, all in the SAME DAY!"

Phoenix remains quite still, his head bowed. He doesn't speak up, doesn't try to defend himself.

"I'm going to wake her up," he whispers. "And then I'll get my badge back."

Armando stands. "You listen to me, Trite," he growls.

"…my badge back…"

"You're a failure, a pathetic excuse for a man –"

"…wake her up…"

"-I can't believe Mia ever put her trust in you, you've never been worthy even to wash Mia Fey's feet –"

"…and then I'll…"

"—after all, now it turns out that you're a CHEAT!"

"…I'm going to…"

"Did you cheat when you were up against me? How many times have you –"

"I'm going to wake her –"

"What are you muttering, Trite?" Armando snaps, breaking off his tirade.

Phoenix raises his head and looks straight at him.

"It no longer matters what you think of me," he says, in a voice that is far too calm. "All I care about now…all that matters…"

His voice is strong, and his eyes are wild, and he is shaking, all over –

"-is that you tell me the real cure for the poison, RIGHT NOW!"

The roar leaves a deathly silence in its wake.

Armando blinks, and sits down, feeling all the rage suddenly drain out of him. Just tell him the cure. Maya has been poisoned with the same drug that he had been…he needs to have sympathy…this is to save Mia's sister…

"I'm bound by law not to disclose the cure to anyone," he says. "It's illegal for anyone to know but medical specialists and patients who have been treated with it. I don't think Maya was poisoned with the same stuff I was, that'd be too much of a coincidence. But I'll bet that the cure that worked for me will work for her."

Phoenix nods. "So how can I get hold of it?"

"It took years for the hospital I was at to secure access to this medicine," Armando says. "Took a lot of legal wrangling and signing of forms, apparently. There isn't any of it left in the country, because it's illegal to import it nowadays."

"And why is that?"

"Apparently, they make it from this foreign type of cocoon, but you can also make deadly poison from them. They decided it was too risky to have medicine made from the cocoons, even though that medicine can cure practically anything, and made them illegal." Armando shrugs. "I got the last of it. I don't know where you could find some more."

Phoenix sits back, and Armando notes that the slightly mad look in his eyes has vanished.

"Thank y-"

"Mr Wright, you can leave now."

"Mr Armando-"

"I never want to see your face again. Just go."

i

Ring, ring.

Ring, ring.

Ring, ring-

"Hello, Miles Edgeworth speak-"

"Edgeworth!" It's Wright's voice, sounding panicky and urgent. "I need to speak to you!"

"Ah," Edgeworth says. "I assume that this is in regards to –"

"Hear me out, please!"

"—the loss of your badge?"

Silence.

"Ehehe, yes…kind of…"

"Well, I'm sure you'd be glad to know that I am convinced of your innocence. I'm on the plane to America right now, in fact."

"Really?" Wright's voice is stunned. "Edgeworth, I-"

"Think nothing of it," Edgeworth interrupts, smiling slightly. "It's my duty to you…as your friend."

"Thanks Edgeworth," Wright says, sounding heartened. "Well, I've got some stuff I really need to talk to you about. Not just about the…thing. Something…something really terrible happened yesterday…and I really need your help…"

Edgeworth frowns. "What's the matter?"

"Can't say it on the phone!" Wright hisses, suddenly whispering. Edgeworth isn't sure why. "I – I found a wiretap on my phone the other day, they might be watching me – they might be listening to this very call –"

"Wright, calm down! I'll sort everything out when I get to you, agreed?"

There is a short pause.

"Yeah. That's right. Yeah."

"Meet me at the airport, alright?"

"Yeah. See you."

n

He puts down the phone, and turns around. Kristoph Gavin is standing in the doorway.

"Phoenix Wright, I presume?"

"I met you at the…thing, right?" Phoenix asks. "You were the one who stood up for me?"

"That's right." For a moment, Kristoph's eyes are obscured by light reflecting off his glasses.

"Uh, well…thanks," Phoenix says lamely.

"May I sit down?"

"Yeah, sure…" He grabs a chair and pulls it up so that it's facing the couch. "Uh, can we make this quick? I have to go out to the airport…"

His voice trails off as Kristoph sits, superbly immaculate. Feeling like he should have dressed in his suit instead of an old T-shirt and jeans, and at least brushed his hair, Phoenix clears a space on the couch and sits down nervously. Kristoph leans forward, his expression grave.

"Mr Wright…I have reason to believe that there is someone out there who has a deadly grudge towards you."

Oh, really? You THINK? But Phoenix keeps his thoughts to himself. He can't risk alienating one of the only people who believe him.

"Whoever this person is…they arranged the forged evidence scandal, I'm sure of it. And I have reason to believe that they will do anything to stop you getting your badge back. That way, you might find out who they are."

Maya, in a coma…just after she had proclaimed that she would get Phoenix's badge back, no matter what…

"It is my belief…that this person will find a way to dispose of anyone who professes a desire to help you regain your badge. I myself have hired two bodyguards and an armoured car."

Anyone who wants to help him…

"Maya," he says blankly.

"Maya? Who is that?"

"Never mind," Phoenix says quickly. "So…are you saying that anyone…"

"Yes. I'm certain that anyone at all who wishes to help you is in danger." He tilts his glasses. "I'm afraid that should anyone else approach you with help…the best course of action, if you wish to protect them – would be to cut off all contact with them entirely. I am sure you value the lives of your friends over your badge, yes…?"

Phoenix groans. He can't handle this! "Can't I just…"

He trails off. It's no use – Kristoph is right. Even if they were forewarned…de Killer had so many resources, so much expertise…

"Thanks," he says half-heartedly.

Kristoph smiles at him pleasantly. "Good day to you. I hope I have been of assistance…after all, I believe you. I just want to help."

Phoenix barely registers Kristoph leaving. His heart is heavy and his hands are numb and shaking and he can' t believe he's doing this…

He picks up the phone. Dials.

Ring.

Ring.

Ring.

"You again, Wright?"

He takes a deep breath.

His badge, a fading memory…the chance of recovering it, slipping through his fingertips – vanishing –his whole life – the time he spent as a lawyer – he can see it vanishing, like a distant dream -

"Take the plane home, Edgeworth."

"…Excuse me?"

"You can't help me," he says. "I'm sorry. But you can only help by uncovering the truth…"

"That's correct! What are you blabbering about, Wright?"

"I forged that evidence to present in court, and it cost me my badge," Phoenix says. "That's all the truth there is. You can't help me. Take the plane home."

He hangs up.

Part of him hopes that Edgeworth will come anyway. That he'll see through the lies, and come, bringing the badge with him…

He's going to get Maya back.

He's going to wake her up. He has to. He's going to. He will.

And when she wakes up, she'll get his badge back for him, like Edgeworth never will.

Edgeworth never comes.

g

Phoenix starts scrounging through his wardrobe, looking for something comfortable and clean that isn't a suit. He can't bear to look at the suit anymore, let alone wear it. He finds a reasonably new looking hoodie, and decides to go with that. Tracksuit pants work, too. Complete the outfit with a pair of sandals…and he's looking in the mirror and laughing, because –

"Nick, you idiot, you can't dress like that! We can't show up in court with you looking like a hobo, seriously!"

"Maya, my badge is gone," he explains patiently. "We're not going back to court."

"Aww, meany head…you flushed it down the toilet while cleaning it, right? I know that's what you did."

"I did not –"

There's a ring at the doorbell, and suddenly Maya is gone again.

It's a little girl in pink. She wants to stay with him.

"If you want," he says indifferently, trying not to think of Pearls, and how similar she is to this kid. Trucy. But he can't feel sorry for her. He's got Maya to save.

Trucy nods happily and thanks him, then promptly nicks a frozen pizza out of the fridge and microwaves it. Maya had made him buy those pizzas. He was saving them for her. He would wake her up soon.

He lets Trucy eat it anyway, then tosses her a blanket for her to sleep on the couch. He's got a makeshift bed set up in one of the adjacent rooms – this is a top-rate office, after all. It's got plenty of rooms. How's he going to keep paying the rent? He's had to give up his apartment already…oh, and now he's got to buy pizza for this kid.

When he gets up in the morning, he finds a letter posted to him anonymously. Inside it is a cheque for $500. There is a note alongside it. As he reads, a lump forms in his throat.

Wright – make this last. It's nothing – I have a salary, and you don't. I'll send another next month. Swallow your pride – you need this money.

I don't know why you told me to turn around and leave last week, but I know you. You didn't forge that evidence. You're too poor to afford the fee, anyway.

I trust that you have a good reason for so rudely telling me to fly all the way back home.

Edgeworth trusts him. His heart swells.

t

He is sitting in the hospital once again, staring at Maya's lifeless form as if it will bring him answers. How's he supposed to get hold of the medicine, honestly? But he will, he must, he will -

Behind him, in the corridor, he can hear the slight click-clack of rolling wheels. Like a wheelchair, perhaps.

"You've visited the coma ward before, Mr Dingling?"

"Whenever I get the chance." The voice is deep and calm. Phoenix turns around.

His hands are cuffed and he is wearing prison gear, but it is unmistakeably Acro who is wheeling himself into the ward for coma patients. He gives no sign of having noticed Phoenix, but merely wheels himself towards a curtained bed that Phoenix hadn't thought to check before.

The nurse draws the drapes away. "He's doing fine," he says quietly.

"Any sign of…?"

"No. Not yet. But the doctor thinks that there's still – a significant chance –"

Acro wheels himself forward, stares into his brother's sleeping face. "Sean," he whispers, and he reaches forward with his cuffed wrists and takes hold of his brother's hand. The nurse retreats into a corner, trying to look unobtrusive.

Phoenix doesn't want to face Acro, or talk to him. The guy probably knows all about the forging incident by now, everyone does. As he stares at Maya's cold, pale face- Maya, Maya, Maya, he croons, and strokes her hand, and just wants beyond anything else for her to wake - it occurs to him that now he finally has an inkling of what Acro went through when his brother was put into a coma.

And then he hears Acro's voice. "Mr Wright –is that you?"

Unwillingly, he stands and turns to face the acrobat, shoving his hands in his hoodie pockets.

"Yeah," he says. His voice is cracked. He hasn't been speaking much.

"I read the news last week," Acro says.

"Uh-huh."

He wheels himself closer. "Mr Wright…you didn't forge evidence in the trial I was convicted in. I know that much."

"...that's right."

"I don't know if you've changed since then…" He looks Phoenix up and down; takes in the hoodie, the sandals, the tracksuit pants, the purple bags under his eyes. "I know I have. Maybe you did forge evidence. Did you?"

"No," Phoenix says wearily, and turns away. "But it doesn't matter anymore…" I need to wake up Maya first…

"…Is that…that girl who was with you? Maya?"

Acro's finally seen Maya. "Yes," Phoenix says.

"Oh," Acro says.

"Go back to your brother," Phoenix snaps.

"I'm sorry," he says. And then he does.

Phoenix sits down again.

Acro leaves half an hour later. He stops at Phoenix's chair, an oddly strained look on his face, and says, "I'm so sorry. I really am. I'd like to give you some advice. Don't…don't let it eat you up. You can hope, you can have faith that they will wake up…but you can't let it take you over, because then it'll twist you and turn into something horrible. That happened to me, remember? And because of that…I killed the Ringmaster…"

Phoenix says nothing.

"Get on with your life. You owe it to her." And then he rolls out through the door and Phoenix knows he will never see him again.

But he can't get on with his life, Acro knows, can't he see? It's impossible, unthinkable. The only thing he can think to do next – wake Maya up. And then she'll get his badge back. And then he'll wake up from this horrible dream and the world will snap back into place and this will be over –all over – all over –

h

"Hey, Trucy…do you know anything about Borginia?"

"Yep!" the kid chirps. "I think it's some place in Europe. The Gramaryes come from there. My daddy says that Grandad Magnifi could speak the language!"

Magnifi…it hurts to hear that name.

"Okay…what about Borginian cocoons, then?"

"Oh, I'm sorry…don't know anything about them," Trucy says, suddenly anxious, twisting the hem of her cape.

"Hey, uh…no need to be anxious or anything," Phoenix says nervously. He doesn't know how to deal with little kids other than Pearls, really. "I'll just find out some other way…"

"No!" Trucy leaps up, suddenly determined. "I'll find out about them for you, Daddy! You can count on me!"

"…Daddy?" Since when was he her 'daddy'?

But she has already left the office. Phoenix shrugs, and continues to think about ways to wake her up. If he has faith, he can do it.

i

"Daddy! Daddy! I found someone who knows about Borginian cocoons!" Trucy yells excitedly, barging in through the door. Phoenix looks up, jolted out of his reverie.

"What? Really?" he asks in surprise.

"Yep! Want to go and see him? If you want to get one, he can help you get one!"

Phoenix leaps up and grabs his hoodie, pulling it on. "Lead the way, Truce!"

s

The man is sitting in the downstairs room of a dingy bar with a Russian word in its name. Phoenix beats him at poker.

"You're good, you are," he observes, leaning back.

"It's easier than law," he says, but that's only part of it. He made quite a few good calls because of Trucy eagerly whispering hints in his ear. That girl has a gift. He wonders how she can tell what people are feeling like that.

"I have quite a few useful contacts in Borginia," says the man. "I can get them to make you the medicine…for a price."

Oh, great. "How much?"

"A, uh, fair amount. It's quite difficult to get hold of and make. You don't look all that rich, though."

"You're right, I'm not," Phoenix admits.

"Well…I can see you want this medicine bad." The man interlocks his fingers together and leans forward again. "Tell you what, I'll get you a job here and you can pay for it that way. I'm the owner of this place – the Borscht Bowl Club. This room here is the Hydeout. It's where the resident poker champ stays. You need a respectable front while not playing poker, though, so at all other times you'd be playing piano upstairs. Sound like a deal?"

"I'll take it," Phoenix says.

f

He visits Maya every day. Sometimes he thinks he can hear her voice, whispering in his ear. One time, she wakes up, and embraces him, and they go home together, and Pearls and Edgeworth are there. Not the twisted mockeries of his dream, Trucy and Kristoph. But it turns out that that was a dream, too, and he still cannot wake up from this nightmare.

The medicine, his new boss says, will take at least six months to find ingredients for, a day to make and then another six years to mature. Before maturation, it's poison. Coma inducing poison.

"Six – six years?"

His boss shrugs. "Take it or leave it. You've got no other way to get hold of this medicine."

And he sighs, nods and accepts that. Perhaps this will take a bit longer than he was expecting, but it's a solution, one that he's very lucky to have. Maya will wake up. He will get the medicine and wake her up.

Trucy is eager to please. He feels like he should pay more attention to her, and maybe treat her like she's his daughter – she needs a parent, after all! – but he can't seem to bring himself to do it.

He brings her to work, and she helps him beat all his opponents at poker. Nothing will help his piano skills, though. He soon builds up a reputation for being undefeated, and more clients come in. Soon it becomes difficult to get away from work to visit Maya. He still makes it, though. Every day. And he contemplates her still, cold face, and sometimes she whispers in his ear.

o

One night, he beats a rather nasty man called Rory Lane at poker, and he's proud of it, because he had made sure that Trucy wouldn't be here for this match.

Lane is mean and tough and he cheats. And when he loses, he isn't happy at all. He grabs his bowl of borsch, and smashes it on the table, and he smashes his bottle of beer, and swears at Phoenix, who really isn't cut out for this kind of thing.

The boss runs downstairs with some bouncers, and they drag the guy out, but he comes back the next day, and knocks the bouncers out with a brick. He forces his way down to the Hydeout, and challenges Phoenix to another game.

Phoenix is winning when the boss enters again.

"Wright, what's going on?"

"I'm, uh, playing poker with Mr Lane…"

The boss nods, eyes impassive. "I see. Do you know what he did to one of the bouncers for this club?"

No.

"He knocked them out. They're heading to hospital about now. And he already renounced his right to play you again when he had that temper tantrum last night."

"Shut up!" Lane spits. The guy's a psychopath. He knocks over the table, and grabs his chair and throws it at Phoenix's boss, who dodges.

"Wright, I don't have time for this guy!" he yelps. "Can you get rid of him for me?"

Phoenix flattens himself against the wall. "What? What do you mean?"

"What do you think I mean, you idiot! Don't you have a knife on you?"

"No!" Phoenix shouts, desperate. "No, what, no, I can't do this – you can't tell me to – I can't do this – I can't – kill – I can't kill someone –"

"Oh, must have forgotten to put it in the job description, sorry!" his boss yells back, dodging the plates that Lane is now throwing. "Here, use this knife!"

Phoenix catches it by the blade by accident, and swears when blood starts trickling down his hand.

"Look, Wright, I'm the one who's getting you this medicine!" says the boss furiously. "If you don't do this right now, then you're not up for the job and I'll go upstairs and phone Borginia and tell them their client is a freaking coward and that they don't have to bother! Do it, or you're out of a job!"

Phoenix is frozen, his eyes wide, he can't think, no – he can't lose this chance! Maya. NO –

Lane rushes at him, howling, and Phoenix stabs out blindly and it goes through the man's throat and there is so – much – blood –

I'm doing this for Maya for her–please – please – forgive me – no –I'm doing this for her – for her – for her –for her – for Maya, so that she will wake up, I have faith, please –

He has seen blood many times before. It has never, never, never been this red.

r

Phoenix is paranoid that they'll find out somehow, that they'll track him down, but his boss is less worried. "You spent too much time as a lawyer," he tells him. "You uncovered a lot of killers, but I'm betting that twice as many went free. Besides, the guy deserved it." But you can't start thinking like that, because that's when you stop thinking of people as people.

They've been as thorough with eliminating the evidence as possible. Phoenix was a lawyer, after all; he knows what can catch you out, the vital evidence, the vital witness that you somehow miss. But he can barely stand the guilt, the fear, the overwhelming desire to escape from this dream. The thought of Maya, and that he must save her, is the only thing keeping him from turning himself over to the police. Phoenix tugs at his new hoodie. It's not as comfy as the old one was, but it's not covered in blood.

He gets yet another cheque from Edgeworth, and considers writing back to tell him to stop sending them, he doesn't deserve the money, especially not from someone as good as Edgeworth, but he needs the money and he can't give it up. What would Edgeworth do if he knew that Phoenix was a killer, a murderer, a criminal…hah. There's no question. Edgeworth would take him to court and he'd be in jail by now.

And then, three months later, there's another disturbance, another customer who won't play by the rules.

Phoenix buys another hoodie, and then he breaks down and cries in the middle of the store. He doesn't tell Trucy why.

She makes him a beanie to cheer him up. It's bright blue and pink and tacky, and further adds to his 'decrepit hobo' image, but he accepts it anyway. She might start crying herself if he doesn't.

h

And time wears on. And he makes more death. But only to the people who deserve it.

He's doing this for Maya. Even if the whole world turns against him, and he drowns in a sea of blood, he has to remember that he's doing this to save her.

Nick…you'll save me, won't you?

Of course I will.

You'll wake me up?

I'm doing this for you.

Keep faith. Don't give up hope.

And the fire of hope surges within him, and he knows that he's doing the right thing, and then his guilt lightens, and then it fades, and soon he is wondering what it felt like - if it was ever there at all.

e

He stares at Maya's cold, pale face, and grasps her hand, as he so often does. There are no visitors, and the nurse is out fetching something.

Nick, you aren't worried, are you?

'Course not, Maya.

You sure? And he imagines that she is smiling. You seem plenty worried to me. C'mon, lighten up, old man –

And on an impulse, a whim, he leans down and touches his lips to hers.

He can feel her deep, slow, breaths, her pulse, the coldness of her skin. He reaches around and grabs her long black hair, and tangles his hands in it, and he kisses her, explores her dry, cold mouth. He pretends she is alive, she is with him, she is moaning into his embrace -

Nick, she whispers, and he cradles her in his arms and realises – a blank, my lord; she never told her love, but let concealment, like a worm in the bud, feed on her damask cheek – and how had he never guessed, never realised? And he finally understands; he has faith, he has hope, he has love, and so did she.

He pulls away, breathing hard.

This is love, she whispers in his ear.

The passing of time is less painful now. It is almost quick.

r

And finally, the cure, the medicine! It is here, in his hands, and she will wake up! The hospital purchases it all in a flash, and there – he rushes into the ward, six years, all for this moment – he sees the medicine pumping into her arm from the IV drip – and –

The monitor beeps to indicate her heart rate is rising –

-she stirs – raises a finger – an arm –

"It's working!" the doctor says in excitement.

And it is; she is attempting to open her eyes – and there, she is opening them, still unfocused and hazy – but she is awake! He knew it, it's paying off, euphoria soars through his veins.

"Have a seat, Mr Wright."

But he can't, oh, he can't! He is jubilant, triumphant, dizzy with happiness. And Maya sits up – "steady, there you go –" and she licks her lips and says "Water…"

"Here, Ms Fey."

They help her pour it down her throat. She gasps and wipes her mouth clumsily.

"I was on the train," she says hoarsely, slowly. "Where am I?"

"Ms Fey…I'm really sorry. This might be hard to accept. You're in hospital –"

She gasps. "What? No!" She is trying to speak fast, speak loud, but her voice is breathy and quiet from six years' lack of use. "I need to get to Nick –"

"Ms Fey, you have been in a coma for six years," the nurse breaks in. The doctor hisses through his teeth, something about being sensitive, Williams.

Her face is completely blank with shock. "You've got to be kidding me," she says.

"I'm really sorry," says the doctor gently. "But that's the truth. You were poisoned while on the train, and fell into a coma. We thought we wouldn't be able to wake you up, but we've finally acquired the medicine...and here you are."

"Ah," she whispers. Her head falls back onto the pillow.

The doctor is smiling broadly. "Amazing! It's just like with that Armando fellow, wakes them up straight away!" She bustles out of the room. "I must update the records…"

"Sir, if you could please leave, now," the nurse says, turning to Phoenix politely. "I don't know how you got in – we were performing an important medical procedure – but Ms Fey still has a lot of recovery to do. You can come again t-"

He grabs a scalpel from the bench.

Yes…

Well. Now he's going to have to throw out this hoodie, too.

He drops the scalpel, and Maya is there, she is alive, she is awake. "Maya," he says, and saying her name is like heaven, it is bliss, because this time she raises her head again and she looks at him hazily and she says "Nick?" and she furrows her brow and says, "Who are you?"

"Oh, Maya," he says, and he reaches forward and gathers her up and she smiles in delight and throws her arms around his neck and squeals indignantly and punches him weakly, faintly, because she's been in a coma for six years. "Get off, Mister! And – what, is this blood on your clothes– is that –oh my God, I can't handle this! Get off!" Tears gather at the corners of her eyes.

He sets her down on the clean white floor, and she stumbles slightly, her knees giving way. But Phoenix supports her, placing an arm around her waist. "That's a dead body!" she yells. "Murderer!"

She smiles at him, radiant as ever, and he smooths down her hair and he looks into her eyes and then she ceases her struggles, because she has seen, seen something staggering, horrific, not-true-can't-be-true-please-don't-be-true –

"…Nick? Is that…you?" She reaches up and tugs off his beanie. "It's…you're…no…"

"Yes," he says. "Can you walk?"

"Nick…what…what's happened to you?" She leans into his chest and starts to cry. "I don't understand…is this a dream?"

"It's not a dream," he says, lost in bliss. "This is waking up." And he leans down and kisses her, and she moans in delight and reaches up and threads her fingers in his hair squeals and struggles, but she is weak, too weak. She places her feet on the ground firmly, and she can walk, she can, if she concentrates.

And now they are spinning in a circle, and he has one arm around her waist and the other clutching her hand and they waltz, they dance, around around around she laughs and butterflies gather around her and their feet slip and slide in the blood on the floor. Maya is laughing crying and chatting protesting, and she is wondering if they can go out for burgers has he killed someone, why has he killed someone, this isn't Nick, no – but it is – it's him – why – he kisses her again, he had faith, he had hope, but the greatest of these is love, and love conquers all, it keeps no record of wrongs, it does not delight in evil but rejoices in the truth, and the truth is here, now, and forever, and the truth is bliss love happiness screaming in his arms.

This is very much like a dream, actually, and she wishes it were so. There's only one problem.

Maya Fey has just woken up, and she isn't dreaming.