A/N: I half wrote this one last night in a hurry, hoping to get it finished so that I could post last night, but now I'm glad that I didn't. I've worked on it again today and I think it's much better than it would have been if I had rushed it up.
I've made mention of the time frame as these one-shots are going to jump around a bit in my fifteen year gap. Think of them like little snapshots.
Timeframe: Seven years after Ch.39, Roughly one week post AJ.
Trucy kicked her legs absently as she watched her father. Phoenix sat across from her, his calm visage betraying nothing. The perfect poker face. She chewed her bottom lip, trying her best to read his expression, but as usual, she had absolutely no idea what he was thinking.
Phoenix leaned back against the window as the train rattled along rhythmically, his beanie almost covering his eyes as a ghost of a smile graced his lips. Trucy frowned. Why wouldn't he tell her where they were going? What exactly was going on? He'd rushed her out the door that morning without any further explanation and whenever she'd asked where they were headed, he'd simply responded with "You'll find out soon enough."
Last night he had sat her down for what was probably the most serious conversation that she could ever remember them having and Trucy couldn't help but feel slightly apprehensive and a little confused about what it all meant. He'd apologised profusely, but even now she still had no idea what for. She was nervous. Her father had always been secretive, but this was on a whole new level.
"Trucy, honey?" Phoenix asked. "Come over here and sit with Daddy. We need to have a talk."
Trucy placed the cards that she had been practicing with down on the table and moved to join him on the couch. She eyed her father expectantly, waiting for him to speak. Phoenix sighed heavily, as if he didn't quite know where to begin.
"Trucy…" he started before trailing off again. "Damn, this is hard," he muttered to himself.
"Daddy?" Trucy asked. "This isn't about the birds and the bees, is it? Because you don't have to worry, I already learned that at school."
"Err… no. It's not," Phoenix said, frowning. Surely she was a little young to be learning about that kind of stuff at school. But it was a relief to learn that he didn't have to have that conversation with her. He couldn't think of anything worse.
"Well then, what is it Daddy?" Trucy asked, her blue eyes wide as she watched her usually calm and collected father struggle to find the right words.
"We're going on a little trip tomorrow," Phoenix said finally.
Trucy grinned, clasping her hands together.
"Ooh! Where are we going? Is Polly coming too?"
"No, honey, it's just you and I. I'm taking you somewhere very important. It's… well… it's somewhere special." Phoenix replied.
"Is it like a surprise? Is that why you can't tell me?" Trucy grinned.
"…Something like that," Phoenix sighed.
She'd be surprised alright.
"Then what's wrong, Daddy?" Trucy asked, frowning. If this was a good surprise, surely he wouldn't be so nervous about it.
"Truce," he said, turning to face her as he placed his hands on her shoulders. "Before tomorrow, I just have to tell you that I'm sorry. I'm sorry that I kept things from you. You'll… you'll understand what I mean when we get there tomorrow. I just… I couldn't tell you if I wanted to keep you safe. If Kristoph had thought that you knew anything he could have…"
Phoenix squeezed his eyes shut, dismissing the thought.
"But he's in jail now," he continued. "So I can finally tell you everything."
"Tell me what, Daddy?" Trucy asked, a slight pout on her lips. "Is it something bad?"
"No, of course not," Phoenix said, smiling softly. "But I don't want you to be upset that I didn't tell you. It was important that I didn't. I had to keep everyone as safe as I could."
Trucy nodded slowly as her father picked up her hand and gave it a light squeeze.
"You can't even give me a little hint?" Trucy asked, her eyes pleading.
Phoenix chuckled as he placed a kiss on his daughters forehead before standing and heading towards the stairs.
The tomorrow that he had promised had arrived, but Trucy still didn't have any more answers.
Her mind started racing all over the place, jumping to a number of conclusions. Maybe her Dad was some sort of crime boss, and he was finally about to admit his sordid crime filled past. Maybe this was the day when he brought her into 'the family'. She narrowed her eyes, trying again to decipher his strange expression.
After a few fleeting thoughts about old mafia movies she decided that just couldn't be it. Her dad seemed relaxed right now, perhaps even happy. If he was coming clean about something like that, surely he wouldn't look as if he was really looking forward to reaching their destination.
On the other hand, maybe he was some sort of international super spy? And right now they were headed to some sort of secret underground facility! Trucy shook her head and mumbled softly to herself. No, that didn't make sense either. Spies lived lavish lifestyles with lots of money and fast cars. They didn't wear faded grey hoodies and scrape together the money to pay the bills playing poker at dingy nightclubs. If her dad was indeed a spy, Trucv decided that he must be deep undercover, and really good at his job. Come to think of it, crime bosses were pretty loaded as well.
"Strike two, Trucy Wright," she thought to herself.
Before she could ponder any further scenarios, the train lurched to a stop and Phoenix stood, motioning for his daughter to do the same.
"We're here," he said, straightening his beanie. He still wore that same unreadable smile. Trucy peered out the window over her father's shoulder. She didn't recognise any of her surroundings. They seemed to be close to the mountains. She didn't think there was anything even out here.
"Now can you tell me where we're going?' Trucy asked as they left the station and started making their way up a dirt road. Phoenix pointed ahead.
"There's a village at the end of this road," he explained, without really explaining at all. "That's where we're going."
Trucy nodded. That was hardly informative, but at least she now knew where they were headed. It was the why that was still a mystery.
"Does this place have something to do with why you're sorry?" Trucy asked.
Phoenix sighed, slipping his hands into his pockets.
"Yes it does," he replied.
"I still don't understand, Daddy." Trucy said, frowning lightly.
After ten minutes of walking, the pair reached the main gates. They were wide open, almost like a silent welcome to anyone who happened to pass by. Trucy looked around her in awe at the quaint Japanese style village. This place was amazing! If her Dad had known about this place, why hadn't he taken her here before?
She spun around in a circle, taking in her surroundings. The village seemed to branch off in all directions and was much larger than it looked from the gates. People in strange looking clothes bustled around, openly staring as she and her father headed further into the village. Some people even nodded in greeting at her dad, indicating that they knew him. He definitely must have been here before.
Phoenix came to a halt before what appeared to be the largest and most impressive looking building in the village. Trucy nearly knocked herself over, bumping into him as she continued to gawk at her surroundings.
"This is it," Phoenix said, smiling up at the grand structure.
Trucy looked up at the building before them.
"What is it, Daddy?"
"That..." Phoenix began, "...is Fey Manor."
Something clicked in Trucy's mind upon hearing that name. Fey… Fey… that name was familiar somehow. It was then that she remembered where she had seen it. The packages that kept arriving for her father! The Steel Samurai DVD's. They came from someone with that name. They had to be from someone that he knew here.
Phoenix turned, grinning as a girl who looked to be about Trucy's age called out from further up the street. She tackled Phoenix in a giant hug as Trucy looked on, slightly confused.
"Hey Pearls!" Phoenix said happily. "Ease up a little, I can't breathe here."
"I'm so sorry Mister Nick!" the girl said, pulling back with a sheepish grin. "Oh!" she cried, turning towards Trucy. "You must be Trucy!"
"Trucy, this is Pearl," Phoenix said motioning to the strangely dressed girl. "You two are about the same age."
Pearl lunged toward Trucy, hugging her tightly just as she had Phoenix.
"I've heard so much about you, Trucy!" Pearl grinned. Trucy hugged the girl back, unable to hold back her own grin. This was quite the welcome.
Pearl stepped back, grinning again at Phoenix as she bounced on the spot.
"I'll go tell Mystic Maya that you're here. I can't believe you're actually here! It's been months!" Pearl grinned before turning and heading into the grand building.
Whoever this Mystic Maya was, Trucy thought, she must be in there somewhere.
Phoenix glanced down at Trucy, still grinning.
"I think Pearl likes you," he said.
"I think so!" Trucy laughed. "That was quite the greeting though, Daddy. Is Pearl like that with everyone?"
"Oh no," Phoenix said, shaking his head. "Pearl is very shy. But I've told her a lot about you. She probably feels like she already knows you."
Trucy chewed her lip. He may have told Pearl a lot about her, but he hadn't told her a thing about Pearl. Maybe this was what he meant when he said he was sorry about keeping things from her. But what was so special about this Pearl? Why couldn't he have spoken about her?
"Is Pearl why you are sorry Daddy? Is she what you were talking about last night?" Trucy asked.
"She's one of the reasons, yes." Phoenix nodded, turning his attention back to the manor.
So there was more to this than just Pearl, then. Trucy grinned. This was like solving some sort of mystery. She wondered who they would meet next. She looked around again, but stopped when she noticed her father staring intently at Fey Manor again. Why didn't he just want to go inside? Was he waiting for this Mystic Maya person?
Then, like magic, her father's face lit up and a huge smile spread across his face. A tiny girl with raven hair had appeared on the porch and was taking uneasy steps in their direction. Crouching down, Phoenix grinned at the little one, holding his arms open.
The girl's eyes widened when she finally noticed Phoenix. She gasped in delight, running as fast as her little legs would take her towards his waiting embrace. He stood, lifting the girl as she latched her arms around his neck.
"Mia…" Phoenix whispered emotionally, cradling the girls head as he kissed her temple. "I've missed you so much."
Trucy watched her father, eyes wide. She had so many questions that she wasn't sure which to ask first. That little girl… it looked like… No. It couldn't be. Could it?
"Daddy, who is…" Trucy trailed off, her voice filled with wonder as she realised who she was looking at. "Is she…?"
"Trucy," Phoenix began, as he smiled down at her. "This is your sister, Mia."
Mia buried her head in Phoenix's shoulder, before peeking out shyly at Trucy. The little girl smiled cheekily before hiding her face again.
"My… my sister?" Trucy said, barely able to hold back her grin as she registered what he was saying. "Wow... you mean that she… that you…" she stammered.
Phoenix smiled again, opening his mouth to speak before he froze suddenly. Following his line of sight, Trucy saw a beautiful woman with flowing black hair, dressed in rich purple satin, staring down at her father just as he was staring up at her.
"Nick!" she cried, before running towards them just as little Mia had. "Nick, I can't believe you're here."
Trucy watched them embrace before the woman cradled her father's face in her hands, kissing him tenderly. The mystery woman began crying.
"It's all over now, Nick, isn't it?" she asked, before kissing him again. "It's over, right?"
"It's over," he nodded, touching his forehead against hers.
"Then I can finally give this back to you," she said, reaching into the pocket of her kimono. A golden object gleamed in the sunlight between her fingers. Trucy gasped when she realised what it was, as she slipped the item on to her father's ring finger.
"I'm never taking it off again," Phoenix said, smiling down at the woman who was still crying happily, clutching at his shirt.
After a moment, the woman turned towards Trucy, extending her arms.
"Oh Trucy," she said, as more tears started to flow. "I've wanted to meet you for so long. Nick has told me so much… I even snuck in to the city to watch a few of your shows!"
Trucy allowed the woman to embrace her, eyeing her father questioningly. Excitement was building within her. Her father was wearing a wedding ring. Could this really mean…?
"I never knew about that," Phoenix said, scowling lightly at the woman.
"That's because I never told you," the woman responded flatly, placing her hands on her hips as she turned back towards Phoenix. "I wanted to see my daughter perform," she finished proudly.
"Your daughter?" Trucy asked. The woman stepped back, beaming down at her as she nodded eagerly.
"Any daughter of Nick's is a daughter of mine," she said happily. Trucy turned to her father and grinned.
"Trucy, I'd like you to meet Maya." Phoenix explained. "Maya is… my wife."
"You're married?" Trucy cried. "All this time I've been begging you to find me a new mommy and you're already married?"
Phoenix nodded, a small chuckle escaping his lips.
"How long? When? Why didn't you tell me?" Trucy cried, grinning widely as stepped back towards her new mother for another hug.
"Almost four years now," Phoenix admitted, relief flooding through him at the knowledge that Trucy was more far more excited than upset. It seemed he had worried himself over nothing. He'd once again underestimated her. "You probably guessed that Mia is our daughter..."
"And Pearl?" Trucy enquired as she looked back and forth from Maya to little Mia, who still had her arms wrapped tightly around her father's neck. Trucy grinned, completely enraptured with the fact that she now unexpectedly had a complete family.
"Well, Pearls is Maya's cousin," Phoenix explained."...but her mom... err... her mom isn't here anymore. So Maya adopted her. Since Maya and I are married, technically that makes Pearl your sister as well."
Trucy let out a huge breath that she hadn't realised she had been holding. She felt like she could burst from how happy she was.
"Oh Daddy, how could you have possibly thought that I would be upset at you for something so wonderful?" Trucy smiled.
Phoenix smiled in return. He'd felt so guilty for keeping it from her, but she didn't seem to be worried about that in the slightest.
"My baby sister..." Trucy cooed as she stroked Mia's arm. "She's so beautiful! And my new mom... She looks like a princess!"
Maya laughed at Trucy's exuberant declaration. Phoenix's daughter was exactly what she had expected and she couldn't have been happier.
"I wish I could have told you years ago, Truce. I really do." Phoenix frowned apologetically. "But I couldn't risk Kristoph thinking he could use you to get information. I'd never be able to forgive myself if anyone hurt you."
"I understand, Daddy, really," Trucy said sweetly as she moved over to her father. He wrapped his free arm around her, pulling her close.
Maya stood back slightly, holding her hand over her heart. It was difficult to keep her tears under control. She had waited so long for this day, and watching Phoenix with the girls was even more amazing than she could have imagined.
"Come on you guys!" Pearl cried as she poked her head through the large wooden doors. "Mystic Maya had the chef prepare a huge feast for lunch. The food is starting to get cold!"
"We'd better get inside," Maya said with a smile, moving to take Mia from Phoenix's arms.
"No!" the little girl scolded her mother, hiding her face away in defiance. "Daddy!"
Maya chuckled to herself.
"Well I know when I'm not wanted," she laughed. "I think she missed you."
"I know the feeling," Phoenix said, patting his young daughter on the back gently.
"Well I'll meet you inside," Maya said with a smile, glancing at Trucy as she made a totally transparent exit, allowing Phoenix to have a private word with his daughter. Well, private apart from Mia, anyway.
"You okay, Truce?" Phoenix asked, squeezing her shoulder.
"Are you kidding?" Trucy grinned. "I'm just trying to take this all in. I've got sisters and a mom. I don't think I can remember feeling this happy."
"And a brother too," Phoenix thought to himself. But that was something for Thalassa to explain to her on another day.
"I'm glad." Phoenix sighed. He settled Mia more comfortably on his hip before leaning down to place a kiss on Trucy's cheek. "I just didn't want you to think that you'd been replaced. I love you just as much as my own daughter. Pearls too."
"I know that, Daddy." Trucy smiled happily as she gripped her father's hand, dragging him towards the house. "Come on, let's go get some lunch. I want to hear all about Maya!"
Phoenix chuckled as he followed Trucy into Fey Manor.
All of his girls were finally together.
Phoenix felt like the luckiest man alive.