I was overwhelmingly nervous about writing this, and it ended up being much longer of a pointless "one shot" than what was wanted. But that does not matter, I hope you are ready in. . .three. . .two. . .one. .. - the lights dim and the fic begins -

- BUT FIRST! A disclaimer! - I, MasterMindOfFiction, do not claim ownership of the Ace Attorney series or it's many beloved characters! I swear, I'm a mere fanatic!

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Title: On Break

Word Count: . . . . .

Genre: Romance/Friendship

0~0~0~0~0~

Don't you just love a beautiful autumn afternoon? The scenery paints the perfect picture of what life is all about: changing leaves fluttering in the crisp breeze and littering the streets, a bright and somewhat hazy blue sky, lawns decorated in orange and pale yellow decorations, vegetables and fruits being delivered to the local marketplace, children jumping for joy at being off on their holiday breaks, and the silly but amusing decorations hung and placed around buildings and the busy streets.

Phoenix Wright lifted his head for just a few seconds, gazing out of the window at his special office he had taken over from his late mentor. He sighed wistfully for a moment, taking in all of the mentioned scenery and letting his mind wander away from the piles of documents and files he was looking over in preparation for an upcoming trial.

Yes, this trial had something to do with a college student whom was accused of having plotted and carried out quietly killing his roommate from a small town in South America. Apparently, this college student had been labeled suspicious from day one and illegally schemed to acquire slow, but deadly drugs. That's the gist of it, the next trial would be in only one week and that was when Phoenix would rush to the rescue and clear up the confusion.

After all, the college student claimed he never once thought of killing his roommate, that he loved him like a brother and they had been through so much crap together that he felt the same way and wouldn't have suspected him of murder. Plus, his testimonies proved to make some sense, and the theory of him being framed by someone else in the local university weren't too ridiculous any more.

Some documents detailed information on what everyone knew so far. What kind of affects the drugs brought and how it was made, what this South American guy had been doing during his last days and how he took in the drugs. The files detailed prime suspects and what they claimed when cornered about the whole affair.

Phoenix had been cramming this all in for, oh, about three weeks. During this time, he hardly slept and only left the office for receiving food from his partners and friends, Maya and Pearl, and going to where the accused murderer was locked up at and prying information out of him and also snooping around the university. The whole thing was definitely taking a toll on him, and it was very obvious.

Sometimes, Phoenix wondered if he could ever have a break from the courtroom and the chaos. . .slip away into a world where that didn't matter for only seconds and relax and refresh his mind. So he could tackle this upcoming trial head on and utterly demolish the arguments provided by a certain formal, composed, well-known prosecutor by the name of Miles Edgeworth.

The piles of documents and files seemed to never go down, and his eyes were feeling more tired than what they should be. Phoenix suddenly leaned close to the desk and pushed himself up, now more alert. There was no way he could relax now, not when he had been so close to narrowing down whether the ever-suspicious twin sister of the "murderer" was more likely a suspect or the guy's elderly chemistry teacher from grade school whom he still associated with.

Suddenly, the handle of the unlocked door jerked about. In seconds, it was shoved open and a girl in her late teens and a younger one burst into the room dressed warmly for the season and being chipper and greeting the spiky-haired lawyer.

"Afternoon, Nick! We're back from the Steel Samurai movie!" Maya proclaimed at what seemed to be the top of her voice. She was smiling brightly and still carrying a round, half-eaten bucket of popcorn.

"Sorry you couldn't make it, but it was so amazing!" Pearl informed, first sounding and looking sympathetic but then grinning and letting her voice rise with thrill.

Yes, there was no mistaking they had a good time. Phoenix was glad they could be so casual and without any stress, although they were definitely needed in the courtroom for their advice and channeling abilities in case the situation turned sour. He merely gave them a quick smile and then grasped his nearby pen and began jotting down his theories surrounding the two main suspects of sabotage on a separate sheet of paper.

Maya and Pearl exchanged expressions, before the former took a few handfuls of the popcorn, stuffed them in her mouth, and set it aside onto the couch before walking over to the desk.

There was a rather awkward silence in the entire room, Maya approached the desk and leaned forward to take in the scene of scattered papers and meet Phoenix's confused face looking back at her. No one expected that she would smile playfully and raise a hand, shoving all of the files and papers away from the spiky-haired lawyer and to the farthest corner.

Phoenix stared.

Pearl smiled, because she knew what was coming.

And Maya sighed in a 'don't you know better' way and then sat on the desk, turning her torso to him.

"Maya. . .why did you clear the desk?" Phoenix awkwardly asked, give him so credit, this wasn't exactly an anticipated situation. And the way she sat there could be kind of arousing.

"Nick, all you've been doing lately is hiding away in your office cramming for that upcoming trial!" Proclaimed Maya suddenly. Phoenix leaned back, mildly startled, and his partner went on very dramatically; "Don't you realize that you've been missing out on the great things life has to offer? I'm worried, to be honest. . ."

In the background, Pearl gasped and then clasped her hands to her cheeks. The Phoenix/Maya supporter commented with glee, "Mystic Maya is worried about Mr. Nick! She doesn't want him to become a hermit in his office and never see her again!"

The assumed couple mentioned chose to ignore Pearl's 'outlandish' statement that time. And so, Maya returned to looking into Phoenix's eyes and wearing a childishly pouting look that would make anyone forget she was supposed to be in her late teens.

"You hardly come out or hang around town with us...and you missed a totally awesome movie too! I think it's about time you put down the pen for a second, put your badge in your pocket for the time being, and just. . .goof off, you know?"

"Maya, as much as I would like to take a break, the trial-"

Phoenix was cut off when Maya slammed a palm to the desk, a little too closely to his, and mustered a powerful. . . "HOLD IT!" Wow, that was so much more fun for her to say than what it should have been. . . ". . .Er. . .you know that there's still one more week before the trial and we have more than enough evidence to prove to the court that our client didn't do anything and that someone close to him was the real killer. We're totally going to burn up the room with our saving dunk, you don't have to cram for anything!"

"(Maya, it's a trial, not a basketball game. . .)" Phoenix had thought for a brief moment. He soon cast that out and met Maya's eyes again, which was kind of awkward to do because he had been noticing more and more how dazzling they could be. But if he admitted this to, say, Pearl, he would never hear the end of it. "Still, I just don't know which of the most suspicious suspects it could be. So, please, can't you just go out with Pearl for a walk in the park or something. . .?"

"Nick! Come on!" Maya pushed herself away – to the dismay of Phoenix whom was studying her eyes up close – and stood back upright. "Hey, I know a way to get your mind off all of this work you've been burying yourself in. . ."

That didn't sound good. To elaborate, there were many times before that Maya had said those last few words whenever he was getting carried away with work, and she did a rather outlandish action that prevented him from doing any more. . .so he was all but forced to forget it and let her drag him around the town on a break. It wasn't that he didn't want to be with her, because he did. Even if she was unpredictable and loved to leave him with the bill at her favorite hamburger restaurant, she was fun to be with.

Just as Maya usually did, and Phoenix couldn't believe he was too slow on reacting once again, her arms reached out hastily and scooped up a lot of the files and written paperwork. - "Pearl, get the rest of it before Nick does!" - she had shouted while carrying it all away.

It was a rather distressing moment for Phoenix, filled with heart-pumping action and he was much too slow to be able to do anything about despite knowing it was coming. He tried to chase the girls around, they all went in pretty much circles around the office and cried out various things like. . .

"Come on, give it back!"

"Catch us if can, Nick!"

"We're just doing this for your own good!"

"Maya. . .! Pearls. . .!"

"See? You've been at the desk too long, you can't even catch up to us!"

"Hurry, Mystic Maya, swipe the closet key!"

It was probably really unprofessional for an attorney to be chasing two girls with spiritual abilities all around the office like something out of a bad cartoon. But this was just another everyday occurrence he had to deal with.

Maya couldn't exactly swipe the key to the closet that Phoenix didn't even know existed until just now, because she had been cornered against the couch by him. She stared with mock horror as he smirked with triumph and reached for the files supposedly safe and sound in her arms. She gasped and did the only thing she could, she faked him out by preparing to hand over everything with an ashamed look on her face.

And then: when Phoenix stopped and stared, noting how becoming that look could be for her, she finished this up by falling onto the couch, noticing that the key was buried within a cushion when it bounced through the air and conveniently at Pearl's feet.

Long story short, Phoenix was exasperated and couldn't find any way to stop Pearl from grasping the key with her free hand and making a mad dash for the closet door to help out the person she looked up to greatly. Since he couldn't stop her, he turned his attention to Maya and lowering himself to her and desperately reaching out for the source of his lack of relations with the rest of the world.

Pearl jumped off her toes and struggled to reach the door handle. It's too bad that she was short, otherwise she would have been more useful in that moment. But, then again, she turned her head around to get a glimpse of Maya cackling evilly and using a free hand to shove Phoenix away as he climbed over her and and tried to grasp the work so he could finish it and be free to do whatever. She sighed contently, noting how weird it was they expressed their love.

Oh, right, the task at hand. Pearl hurriedly assumed a thoughtful position and tried to sort out her thoughts to reach that monster of a door handle. Wait. . .an idea had stricken her suddenly. . .

"You're going to have to try harder than that, Nick!" Maya teased, she wouldn't admit it without feeling all weird and stuff. . .but she was having so much fun. Her hair was tousled and falling down her face and she would probably soon get a paper cut from these files against her neck.

Hmm. . .it was totally worth it. Getting to play around with Phoenix, she could tell by the look in his shimmering blue eyes fixated on her face that he wasn't truthfully giving in to their antics because he was a workaholic. And she knew him well, well enough to be assured he hated cramming and really wanted to go out and enjoy the peaceful moments of life.

In the meantime, Pearl returned back into the office with a large empty box she remembered seeing deserted by elevator. She placed it against the closet and climbed to the top, now she was able to reach the handle. When the door opened and hit against the box, she pulled it away and threw her share of the documents and papers inside.

Phoenix finally took notice to that. He quickly untangled himself from Maya, briefly questioning how she had managed to flip their positions over to where she was grasping both his wrists together with one hand and on her knees over him with a smug smile in her face. "(Okay, I don't know how that just happened. . .but I have to admit she does look kind of attractive when she smiles like that. Does she realize it?)" Pearl would be on cloud nine if she could be informed of his new-found fixations on Maya and his thoughts detailing how weirdly attractive she could sometimes be.

"(Wait, they're going to lock up the documents in there again!)"

Quickly, Phoenix bounded from the couch over to the door and grasped it, but he didn't get to pry it open any farther because Maya ran over and threw the rest of the work inside. He cried out with a protest, but she just accepted the key from Pearl and slammed the door shut, the key infiltrated the hole and locked it with ease.

Phoenix kind of knew what was coming next. Yet, he had to slip up and try to approach Maya for the key, and her response was to shove it down the neckline of her brand new lavender sweater. . .and she whirled around from his view briefly to possibly stuff it into her bra and then turn around smiling innocently and swaying teasingly.

The only choices Phoenix had were to somehow grope the key out of her unmentionables and have something go very wrong like having Pearl think he's a pervert or having someone like Gumshoe or Edgeworth, or Larry, or even Franziska come in and witness it only to get unfortunate implications. Or let her have it her way and go out somewhere away from the slightest hint of work.

And the first one. . .well. . .just thinking about it never failed to send a hot blush on his cheeks and cause his knees to seemingly collapse. Much like right now. Maya must have noticed he was contemplating that move, her cheeks reddened slightly but she still wore a victorious smile.

0~0~0~0~0~

That was how Phoenix and Maya ended up where they were. Dressed in warmer clothes and walking down the chilly streets of town pretty closely to try and stay. Seriously, just to try and stay warm. . .

Phoenix kept adjusting the scarf around his windpipe, wondering why fate seemed to enjoy making it almost slip right off and he have to retrieve it. Literally, the autumn breeze resulted in him often having to chase after it since the left the office. He was still cold even though he wore two shirts and a jacket zipped all of the way up. He looked over at Maya, and wondered how she was making out considering she had to discard the short kimono and robes for a thick sweater, a skirt reaching just to the end of her knees, and boots.

It wasn't supposed to be this cold in autumn, he guessed this was the climate suddenly becoming screwed up and having a prolonged summer. Whatever the reason was, he could not get over it. But maybe this wasn't such a bad thing, he had noted when he let his eyes shift to a certain spirit channeling girl alongside.

"(I wonder. . .if I should. . .)" He thought to himself, letting his eyes fall to where her hand rested on the side of her torso twitching slightly to break the numb sensation. He inwardly sighed, troubled. "(What's with all of these random impulses? I never had these when we first met, and now they've been showing up at the most unpredictable moments. If I were to grab her hand now, we'd look like a couple to everyone else and spark rumors. But still, her hand is resting right there, almost tempting someone to come along and. . .)"

What Phoenix wanted to do and his awareness of reality were at an inward, gory war in his head. It was true that he wanted to make some sort of move. He had for a while, and like he told himself, this was so strange because he felt nothing of the sort when they first met. When he first defended her. When they decided to partner up. Over time, he did notice these random little moments he thought something leaning to a hint of attraction.

No matter how much he ignored Pearl's implications they could be a couple; he couldn't ignore that he was really moving into the thoughts of if they really could end up like that. But he wasn't sure if Maya felt it too, because she could be kind of immature for her age and she didn't exactly give off certain signals. If she was just as troubled about how she felt, she would at least try to speak up about it or make a move before he could.

Maybe. . .maybe he could use this break from work to figure it all out. Why not? It was just him and Maya, and no one else to screw up the moments he would lure out information or at least make some feeble attempt at signaling to her how he felt. Whether or not she picked up on what he was trying to do was going to be hard to spot, but Phoenix wouldn't dare give up! He just had to harbor some determination and not lose his cool!

. . .Well, so much for the 'not loosing my cool' part anyway. Because suddenly, Phoenix felt a cold feeling blast throughout his palm and some fingers curl around his own. When he shifted his eyes lower, he noticed that Maya had made that move he was debating, but she didn't look his way as she walked. Her eyes were focused on the sidewalk instead.

His mind drew a blank then. Certainly not good sign, considering he wanted to figure out what made him like their contact. He guessed she probably did this because her hand was cold enough to grow icicles, but despite it was enough to send heat into his cheeks and ears rapidly and his only response to that was to let his hand relax and let her hold on.

They were walking for several more seconds, close to a minute, and that was when Maya's eyes widened with delight and she used her other hand to point across the street. "Nick! Let's get some burgers, I'm starving!"

Phoenix glanced over at the burger place, somewhere he knew a little too well considering Maya constantly asking for them to eat there. He didn't feel all that hungry, but he exchanged looks with her to see that she was smiling widely and trying to beckon him along with her.

And he just couldn't find the strength to pass on this one. "Okay, Maya, I guess-"

"Hooray! I haven't eaten a burger in one entire week and I'm prepared to stuff myself now!" Gleefully, Maya dragged Phoenix with her and they stood by the street waiting for the traffic to clear, that was when she took a moment to hold another gaze with him. "Do you have the money, Nick?"

Phoenix recalled checking his wallet that morning, only having enough money leftover from grocery shopping to give some for Maya and Pearl to spend on those movie tickets and their popcorn and drinks. He smiled somewhat wistfully.

"Maya, you probably shouldn't stuff yourself today."

". . .I guess you don't have any money?"

She caught on. Not wanting to lead implications to him beginning to struggle with money, Phoenix quickly replied, "It's not that, I just. . .wouldn't want you to lose your figure or anything!" He forced a chuckling fit afterward, implying that all was good and merry.

Maya, however, was silent. She pulled her hand away, feeling self-conscious a little too suddenly. "Um. . .what?"

Just as the traffic slowed and the two began swiftly crossing the cleared streets, it occurred to Phoenix what he just stated in that flustering moment. Maya didn't go on, she didn't even seem curious as to what he was even saying. Then it began worrying him, he could have easily offended her or just admitted he noticed the vague amount of curves she did have.

There was a silence lingering between the two as they arrived at the burger place, hands stuffed in pockets – well; Phoenix had to keep one settled on the rebel of a scarf he wore.

0~0~0~0~0~

At long last, some of the awkwardness that had been building up that day, probably courtesy of Phoenix not taking any breaks away from work and being around her. The two were seated at a modest table in the corner of Maya's favorite burger place finally in warmth. The two began chatting like there was no problems any more, it was so natural and casual that it was like old times.

Maya ordered a large burger with all of the fixings, and extra of some, and some french fries. Phoenix just ordered some soda for himself, just imagining eating all of the stuff she requested made his appetite lesson more and more. But sometimes he did nibble on things when he came here, the atmosphere wasn't so bad although there were a lot of customers today.

The food and soda was carried to them on a tray by an overly-enthusiastic employee and it wasn't long after when Maya hungrily pulled hers close and began to ravish it. Phoenix assumed the conversation on the current news around town would have to pause there, to pass the time he sipped on his soda and briefly glanced over the bill.

With a mental picture of a grinning Gumshoe in his head, Phoenix swore he suddenly knew what it was like to be in his place. And how was he supposed to get out of dishing out cash whenever they left? He didn't want Maya thinking he was helplessly broke, but. . .there didn't seem to be much of a silver lining to aid.

He shook his head and then leaned forward and rested a hand against his cheek. For a second, Phoenix zoned out of reality, watching Maya across from him at the table smile with satisfaction as she repeatedly dragged out french fries and scarfed them down. Even though she appeared rather immature, there was something about it was endearing. Really endearing.

A lot of things she did were endearing. The way she watched the television with wide eyes when the Steel Samurai was on, the way she grinned with mischief when she suckered him into doing something, the way she became passionate about saving their client's behind in court, the way she puffed out her cheeks and grimaced when angry or disagreeing.

Before Phoenix ever realized it, he was smiling like he just won the jackpot in the lottery. And to Maya's eyes, it was rather random and. . .out of place. But she didn't speak up, she turned her attention back to the remains of her burger, scooped it up in her hands, and devoured it.

"(You know, this isn't so bad. All of this time, I guess I was waiting for Maya to drag me away from work. It's nice to be alone with her, just able to talk and have fun, minus the random impulses incoming.)" Phoenix pulled himself back to the real world and then sat back in the chair, reaching for his soda to take a few quick sips to cool the heat flooding his cheeks and ears. "(Just get out already! I'm not going to slip my shoes off and brush across her feet!)"

A darker and edgier voice suddenly passed through Phoenix's head again, almost as if it was a split personality talking back at him. This was utterly weird, for he wasn't mentally unstable and he had enough people in his life to not need other personalities to keep company. He guessed this was just himself acting as a voice of what he really wanted but knew he couldn't possibly find the courage to do.

"(She won't know if you do it. Hey, what if she doesn't mind and returns the action?)"

"(We're in public, it would look too scandalous! On top of that: Maya doesn't even have any awareness I think things like this about her!)"

"(Well, hold her hand or something; like you did when walking here.)"

"(. . .Um. . .wouldn't she become suspicious and think something else?)"

"(Just grab that girl's hand, lock eyes, say what's on your mind. And you know what you're going to have to say: 'Thank you for pulling me away from cramming for the trial, Maya. I know that is important, but you're also important. Jeez, sometimes, I think you are the most important female in my life. Have you ever considered me a possible boyfriend-)"

"(Y-yes, that's more than enough! I get the point, I guess I would love to say something of that effect. I really would.)"

"(Then why won't you do it?)"

"(. . .To be honest, I just have the strange feeling a relationship like that would ruin what we have now. Maya's important, random and loud voice in my head. We're more than partners, we're friends. But all of the good times may become cringe-worthy awkward and unsure if we step up. Secondly: how do I know how Maya feels? She doesn't wear her heart on her sleeve too often so it's difficult to-)"

Interrupting Phoenix's chaotic thoughts at war, was a new presence incoming. A rather familiar guy happily bounded over and greeted him and Maya with; "Hey! What brings you two here so early in the afternoon?"

The new presence standing by their table was a scruffy, smiling man whom will be known for now as detective Gumshoe. He didn't seem to notice that his loud greeting had mildly disturbed a few other customers, whom had stared over at him before returning to their greasy burgers and sodas. He often helped the two out by bearing reports of cases and giving his testimonies to the court, they got long rather well despite the fact he frequently worked with a certain pink-clad prosecutor.

Maya, whom still had her mouth stuffed with fries and the remains of her burger, gazed up at Gumshoe and greeted him back rather un lady-like. Little pieces of food landed on the table, but this wasn't acknowledged.

Phoenix was actually relieved that his thoughts were interrupted, he almost couldn't believe he was really contemplating doing and saying such things to Maya, and risking the kind of friendship they had. He glanced at Gumshoe and gave a typical 'hello'.

Afterward, Phoenix decided to be the one to explain why they were here so early. He rested an arm on the back of the chair and turned to meet the eyes of Gumshoe. "Maya thought it would be a good idea to eat early, in spite of previously pigging out on popcorn at the movies. . .so, what are you doing?"

"Oh, it's payday. And, check this out," Gumshoe suddenly grinned with glee and reached into the pocket of his coat for his wallet. He all but whipped it out with a flourish. "Two extra dollars, pal! I recently helping Edgeworth get away from that Oldbag lady gave me a bonus."

"You helped Edgeworth dodge Oldbag? That must have been a challenge!"

"Oh boy, was it EVER! Yesterday, she infiltrated his office before he arrived and wouldn't leave for anything. . .she kept rambling about things from her past, something about the park, and something about them going out for Italian food. Anyway, he called me in and I managed to distract her by showing her my badge, prompting her to ramble about she was loosing faith in the police." Gumshoe was looking away dramatically, obviously reliving the shaking experience. Phoenix and Maya gazed at him with curious expressions, both eager to hear anyone fade out Wendy Oldbag of all people. "In the end, Edgeworth had no choice but to make a quick dash through the door and I could hear him press elevator buttons and then the elevator to descend. He got away safely, all thanks to me distracting her~!"

Maya finally cut in, having swallowed her food. Her eyes glimmered as she asked with childlike curiosity, "What did she do when she realized Edgeworth escaped? C'mon, tell me!"

"She may still be in the office, pal." Gumshoe shrugged his shoulders and then smiled a little sheepishly. "I ran away and didn't look back, she's really scary when she gets talking. She may be ranting and stalking the premises for his return."

While Phoenix and Maya exchanged freaked out expressions, obviously wandering what may have happened if neither of them could have escaped from the building. And just how long the talkative old woman would go to stalk the office for her beloved.

. Flashback .

"How dare you pull out that shiny badge and try to distract me from him! Doesn't anyone respect their elders anymore? Or their elders whom are in love, for that matter! True love knows no age limits, you know! And anyway, speaking of that, do you have any luck with women? I don't know what makes you think causing me to go into a very long rant will do to help anything, but I swear you will not get away with this, Mr. detective! I will call up all of your superiors and complain so much that they will fire you in seconds for indirectly roughing up a poor, aged woman like myself! And speaking of age, I'm using this anti-wrinkle cream on my face and back but it doesn't seem to be working overnight like the label clearly states! Look at this label: 'Reduces wrinkles overnight, really'! I should sue this company right down to every darn employee and factory!"

Gumshoe backed up against the wall, really freaked out by this woman's ability to go on such long rants and not even have to take a few seconds to breathe. Oldbag still was ranting, and it all started to sound like gibberish to him.

No longer able to take it, the detective took off running out of the building to try and catch an elevator ride, and he didn't forget to shut the door in his path. As far as he knew, she was still in there rambling about everything that existed in this world.

. Flashback End .

"Anyway, I decided to celebrate by coming here for lunch. How is the food, pal?"

"It's great, you haven't lived until you've tried these french fries!" Maya was quick to reply, gesturing to the very big plate of french fries, which didn't even look half-eaten despite how long they had been there and she was chowing down on them. "Here, try some of them."

Just as suggested, Gumshoe readily took some of the warm and crisp fries from the plate and stuffed his face with them. It wasn't long before he was finished, and immediately sighed happily and voiced his concern he may never get to eat anything like that again.

It was probably because, from what Phoenix understood, the french fries were actually homemade and didn't have much fatty oil smothered in them. Yet they managed to be crisp and delicious, he had never tried any but Maya constantly described them to be this. And even Gumshoe was seemingly in a daze from it.

He felt a little out of the loop, but it wasn't that he was concerned about it. Besides, he wasn't even that hungry. But Maya finally took notice that he hadn't eaten anything and the theoretical light bulb lit up inside her head, so she smiled and reached for one of the french fries.

"Nick, you should try these too." Maya offered, holding out the fry to Phoenix's view. He gazed at it before muttering something about not wanting it and backing away, so her cheeks puffed and she stared him down. "Don't be stubborn! They're really good, and homemade at that!"

Unfortunately, Gumshoe had to join Maya's side. He gazed at Phoenix brightly, thinking that maybe he could help break him down. "Yeah, try them! You don't want to want to miss out!"

Why did everyone always have to gang up against him? Somehow it didn't seem fair, but it was actually nice too. Getting away from the office and back in the midst of everyday chaos. It wasn't that Phoenix didn't want to eat that stuff, but the only reason he came here was to please Maya. Everything he did usually consisted of pleasing her, it could have been because of him not wanting to hear her whine and pout. Or maybe it was because he genuinely wanted her to be happy. From giving her money to go out and buy seemingly useless items and movie tickets, to stopping by her usual eating choice and dishing out almost all of his money with a large bill.

While the two repeatedly insisted he try the food, he kind of slumped in his seat and tried to say things to get them to stop acting like someone told them the apocalypse was beginning. This worked for a solid 3.0 seconds and then it got worse. Or better. Depending on which battling voice in his head he had been listening to.

He chose an interesting moment to open his mouth and protest firmly, it was also the same anticipated moment that Maya leaned across the table and shoved a few of the much-beloved fries into in there at a rapid speed. It was as if she had been calculating that one, and Phoenix didn't have much reaction time, he stared with shock and had no choice but to try them.

Meanwhile, more than likely unknowing of his shock, Maya and Gumshoe wore innocent and approving smiles as they asked together - "Isn't that good?"

Phoenix had taken the time to chew the fries and managed a quick nod. He had to admit that wasn't bad, but he suddenly questioned why these two insisted on making crazy scenes in public places. Because several customers had taken the liberty of looking at their table with raised eyebrows.

Several minutes went by, Gumshoe eventually left them for another table and debated his order. They couldn't help overhearing that what he wanted had the price of eleven dollars. . .and his sad sigh and then a complete change to the cheapest item on the menu. The young man serving him was more than a little sadistic and actually mocked his lack of money. . .douche.

Since he was gone, Phoenix intended to chat with Maya a little longer. He hoped to bring up the topic of what exactly happened when they were walking down the streets. . .because it had been dominating his thoughts all of this time and he needed to know what she was trying to imply. He had managed to keep any doubts of this working out at bay, and he actually started with the comment of – "Maya. . .I wanted to ask you about-"

Yet again, a voice cut through. The high-pitched tone of the young waitress serving them, with a comment of, "You finished with your meal, guys? Here's the bill~!"

A white flash was thrown onto a clear spot on the table. The two glanced down at it, having varying reactions. Phoenix's face paled with unspeakable horror and Maya shrugged off any trace of her nervousness with a crooked smile and giggle. The pretty waitress was not exactly patient, but she concealed that well with swaying on her feet and wearing her perfected toothy smile.

"(Well, here we go. . .)" Phoenix sighed and turned to where his jacket was resting on the back of the chair and slipped a hand into it's pocket. Almost dreading taking a glance into his wallet, since he already had a theory of how much it contained. "(It's time to see how much damage you've taken and then beg and plead with that unsettling girl to. . .wait. . .Maya. . .?)"

Before Phoenix would have to beg and plead with the waitress to get her to let them skip for now – like he has actually done a few times in the . . . not so distant past – Maya stepped in and placed the correct amount atop the bill. He stared for what felt like several minutes, he was sure he looked like a complete idiot but he was too surprised to care.

The waitress' practiced and polished smile increased and she swiped all of the thirty dollars and fifty cents off the table and bid them a goodbye before skipping away. Back at their table, Phoenix was still trying to comprehend what just happened. She usually didn't carry around money, mostly due to her not having pockets on her everyday clothes and depending on his wallet.

"What just happened?" Phoenix asked aloud, not meaning to. He looked over at Maya, directing this question. The spirit medium merely rested her chin on her folded hands and smiled without saying anything right away. "Maya, do you have a secret life I don't know about?"

"Not a secret life, just a secret stash of money." Maya replied, giggling through it. Her chin remained propped as she outstretched one of her hands over to Phoenix whom leaned closer. "You're always having to give me money, today I just wanted to help you out instead. By the way, thanks, Nick."

Phoenix was silent for several seconds, taking in what she revealed. He couldn't help smiling, as hers was becoming contagious the longer he stared at it. "You don't have to thank me, Maya."

Maya's hand returned to helping rest her chin, and her dark eyes blinked. "What do you mean? There's so much that it would take, jeez, I think a hundred days to name everything!"

He didn't think he had done – that – much for her, though he knew there some things. Defending her in court, becoming her friend, bailing her out of trouble, putting up with her childish personality and views of the world, ect. But she was still grateful, and it really showed in her eyes that he caught quiver briefly before she could get her emotions back in check.

Suddenly, it was like there wasn't anyone else in this entire restaurant. In Phoenix's eyes, it was just the two of them. And even though this could be considered odd, he didn't mind. He would have liked to reach out and grasp her hand this time, to tell exactly what was in his thoughts and he felt he really needed to say.

Alas for him, Maya suddenly stood up and pushed her chair back. "Well, come on! I've got a full stomach and the day is still young!" She walked over and practically dragged Phoenix from his chair and to his feet. He barely had the time to slip on his jacket and rebel of a scarf. "We should go to the park or something. . .yeah, that sounds fun!"

"But Maya. . ." Phoenix tried to say, he broke it off with a sigh. But it was still finished in his head at least, "(. . .There's something I wanted to tell you. So when will I get to do it? When you're asleep tonight?)"

"Hmm? Did you say something about sleeping?" Maya suddenly questioned, tilting her head and glancing over at Phoenix. That was weird, it was still afternoon so why would he want to curl up in bed?

Phoenix let that question remain unanswered. Instead, he adjusted the rebel scarf and began to exit the restaurant with Maya. He felt he shouldn't try to explain how sometimes important or at least awkward thoughts escaped his head and were voiced. So, without explanations, they walked out of the door and into the cold.

Gumshoe still sat at his table, eyebrows scrunched with concentration and his eyes burning holes through the menu he gripped. He was still trying to think of some way to order what he wanted, even though it was somewhere around five to twelve dollars more than what he had. But he wouldn't let this defeat him, he would eventually place a reasonable order!

The young man serving him tapped his feet impatiently and began glimpsing at his watch every six seconds.

0~0~0~0~0~

To begin with, Phoenix didn't think they were going anywhere besides the burger place. But when Maya suddenly threw out the suggestion of taking a stroll through the park to walk off the lazy feeling she got from eating so much, he felt it was best to go with the flow and agree it was a good idea.

Besides, despite the bone-chilling cold, the scenery looked fantastic and he had to admit that this cold also helped in getting closer to Maya almost literally. It was interesting how this very morning, Phoenix was buried in a murder mystery and was dreamily glancing out of the window wondering what he would do with Maya as soon as this was all over and if he would finally tell her the strange feelings that he had been experiencing for months.

And now, he was on a break and strolling through a really chilly and scenic park with her providing much warmth and security as she clung to his arm as they moved along the path. He loved this turn of events, he loved it so much more than anyone would ever be able to comprehend.

Although Gumshoe kind of interrupted his plan to make some form of a move, Phoenix remained positive that nothing like that would happen again. While they were out, he would let Maya be in the know of how grateful he was and that all of this time. . .there's been some interesting thoughts in his head about taking this relationship up one notch.

There shouldn't be any interruption by someone else. While they walked along the paths covered in orange and red leaves, the mildly-cloudy skies covering them, and the interesting scenery, Maya, not Phoenix, was the one to make what could be classified as a move.

She suddenly stopped, prompting him to do the same, and then Maya said; "Why don't we go relax on that bench?"

"(Something suspicious is going on when Maya would rather sit on a bench than roam the park trying to spark off chaos. Could this be my chance to tell her I was glad she pulled me away from work after all? I may not get another chance, so I guess I should take it.)" Looking down at those wide, dark eyes staring at him anxiously. . .Phoenix shrugged his shoulders and tried to seem casual as he replied; "That sounds fine, though I'm kind of surprised you're not wanting to walk around any longer."

"Oh. . .well. . .it's just so hard to in these clothes, you know?" Maya's reply was weak, almost too easy to see through. Although that slightly could be believed.

She wasn't used to dressing like that, especially with a warm and long skirt rather than her short kimono. Phoenix knew she probably felt awkward, but he had to disagree. When he glanced at her when he assumed she didn't realize, he actually thought she pulled it off well.

Moments later, the two arrived on a spacious bench that was a few feet away from the leaf-covered concrete path. It was old, with marks of paint chipped, it remained in good condition nonetheless. Phoenix was the first to take a seat, he leaned against the bench trying to not appear anxious to say what he wanted. Maya, joined him in a rather. . .different way.

The look on her face was playful and knowing, so Phoenix knew she was just trying to get a reaction from him on purpose. He glanced down to see that she was now lying on her back across the rest of the bench, her legs kind of dangled off the edge and her head rested on his thigh. She knew exactly what she was doing, although she didn't say anything to acknowledge the position.

Asking her was useless too, this was how that resulted:

"What are you doing?"

"Just getting comfortable. . .that's not a problem, huh Nick?"

"Ah. . .I guess it isn't."

"Good! Now that we're all alone in the park, there's something I should tell you."

And that was how it went down. The both of them were kind of flustered about it, but it hardly showed because of their determination to a hide a trace. Phoenix could deny that he was tempted to lower his head and kiss her lips now that he finally had a good enough moment, and Maya could deny that she brought him out of the office to take advantage of being alone and confess a few things driving her crazy in the head.

She didn't bring Pearl along because she knew that she would not be able to flirt in her own way without her catching on and bursting into comments of thrill that they were realizing their feelings for each other. Pearl could take care of herself just fine, and right now she wanted to ensure her and Phoenix were totally alone so she could come out with it already. Without an enthusiastic audience. And if Gumshoe hadn't appeared from seemingly nowhere, she probably would have blurted something relationship-changing out already. Not that he was a problem.

The two have been around each other long enough to be certain that there were things they both wanted to spill already. And it just became infuriating to the max when they lost the enthusiasm when they assumed something wrong happened. Right now, they saw nothing keeping them at bay from talking.

Not waiting around any longer, Phoenix began, "Maya, there's something I wanted to tell you. It's been on my mind all day and you need to hear it." God, now his heart was pumping and his mouth was drying. But he would not let this opportunity be left alone. He had to say it, right now. He continued; "I've been. . .thinking about our. . .friendship all morning, actually, for a long time now."

Maya's eyes rolled upward to meet his, she shifted slightly and then folded her arms across her torso. "You're not making too much sense. What are you trying to say?"

"I just. . .I care about you a lot."

"Same here! I wouldn't change anything at all!"

"I mean. . .you're more than a partner or friend." If his heart was pounding any more, it would explode. Phoenix found easy to meet her eyes, but he didn't know if she understood what he was trying to say.

"I'm a BFF?" . . .Obviously, she did not get it straight away. Maya's smile faded for the time being when she noticed that Phoenix was looking away, she didn't understand what she said that was wrong.

Quickly, she hoped to save herself now that he was actually going as far as to say something that bold. Maya threw herself up and twisted her body around the bench until she was sitting correctly on it, she then grasped one of his hands seemingly desperately.

". . .Nick? Did I screw something up?"

She sort of, but yet she did not. Phoenix adjusted his position to where he could see her clearly. Noting her worried face, he gave a reassuring smile to signal he wasn't disappointed in her question. At first, he thought she may be serious but then it dawned on him that she could have been trying and failing to make a humorous remark.

The smile was so radiant in Maya's eyes, she always thought so and usually didn't shy away from pointing that out. Too relieved by seeing it, she missed the opportunity to say it again. Now she slumped comfortably against the bench and closed her eyes, gently zoning out.

It didn't occur to her that she was still grasping Phoenix's hand, and their fingers curled together fittingly. Neither acknowledged it aloud, yet anyway, it did feel rather nice. The contact was not only warming, but secure.

When the atmosphere surrounding was reduced to calmness and peace, that was when Phoenix decided it was best to continue at where he left off and tell Maya what was distracting him from – almost literally – everything lately. So that she would know, he wouldn't have to keep quiet, and maybe their relationship could take the next step after all. To the point of Pearl's fantasies being not so much unrealistic.
". . .As I was saying, there's something that's been on my mind lately." Phoenix began again. Maya looked his way. Again. He took his hand and softly brushed across hers up to her wrist, she seemed more than accepting of that. "No, you haven't screwed anything up. The only thing that's doing so is my stupid tongue, but that's an entirely different story."

"You can't seem to get the right words today." Offered Maya, smirking and leaning back again, one leg crossed over the other and she suddenly looked one of those smug murder suspects on the witness stand that they had seen plenty of times. But something about that could be arousing from a certain point of view. "Does it have anything to do with us being alone? If so, I understand, it does feel strange not having Pearl tagging along with us. But I really think sitting here among the real world is actually helping you, Nick."

"And, ah, what I wanted to tell you was that I really do like having you around in my life. Even if you drive me crazy sometimes. . .no offense."

Maya's free hand waved as if to dismiss him and his possible offense. "None taken. What I was trying to tell you in the restaurant was that I like being around you too, it's not because you've saved my skin several times without a doubt." Her pale cheeks pinked and she scooted closer to Phoenix, he didn't make any attempt to keep space between them. "It's good that we're both so comfortable with each other, huh?"

"Maybe you arranged this 'break' so that you tell me that?" Phoenix didn't really ask this, by now he was sure that she had been planning to do this. And when he basically presented the situation to her, Maya's bright smile reappeared – easily speaking louder than words. The spiky-haired lawyer rolled his eyes briefly and added; "I don't mind. Actually, I've wanted to ask about us. . .maybe. . ."

Whoosh – that was the sudden sound that tore through the building suspense of the important declaration Phoenix was about to make. He didn't see it coming, neither did Maya, some kind of blueish greenish object was thrown in his direction. It collided against his head pretty painfully and he yelped and slid off the bench.

Maya stood up immediately, gaping and looking around frantically at what that could have been. She then noticed Phoenix lying on his left side trying to sit up, she lowered herself to her knees and put an arm around him, asking if he was harmed by whatever that was.

"Where's the disk?" The voice of a young boy could be heard asking loudly.

"I think it – oh! I see it over there!" An all too familiar voice replied in a carefree like way.

Luckily, Phoenix wasn't really injured from that object which was thrown at him almost too accurately. He merely laughed the whole thing off when he and Maya noticed that the object was a blueish, greenish toy disk. Although Phoenix did wonder why someone would be playing with that in his cold weather.

"How's my hair, Maya?"

"Just as spiky as ever, I guess."

"Thank God. . ."

Even though it wasn't very necessary, Maya still held her arm around Phoenix and carefully helped him back to his feet. His hair remained as spiky and unharmed, and the only thing that he guessed would happen to him was a bruise on his neck and stomach later that night.

Promptly, an old friend of Phoenix's, Larry Butz, ran up with some unfamiliar little boy at his side. The two paused momentarily to breathe and then the kid took back the disk.

It was after several awkward seconds of glancing at the kid scoop up the disk and Maya scanning Phoenix's hair did he fully notice the situation. It just occurred to him that he was the one whom through the toy a little too powerful.

"Sorry about that," Larry laughed nervously as Phoenix and Maya sent blank stares his way. He summoned the kid by his side and began talking excitedly just as he always did. "I was playing with this kid – his mom is single and totally hot by the way – and I guess I threw that a little too hard. Ah, whatever, I'm sure it wasn't a big deal! You guys looked pretty comfortable over here too!" Suddenly, he all but materialized beside Phoenix and draped an arm over his shoulder, leaning in with some kind of crooked grin on his face. "I guess you've got your own girl to make points with? She may not be totally hot like the kid's mom, but I guess that's just in the eyes of the beholder?"

Neither Maya or the kid heard the last parts Larry was speaking of into his friend's ear. But they exchanged blank looks and their shoulders slumped, equally they were sure whatever he was saying was crazy or dripping with unfortunate implications.

Even if he statement wasn't utterly ridden with undertones, the fact that Larry pretty much pointed out he believed the two of them were together in a romantic sort of way didn't fail to make his eyes bulge with surprise and his tongue tie as he tried to convince him otherwise.

"There's nothing like that going on, Larry!" Phoenix sent Larry an irritated glance, but he assumed his nervousness was clear even through that. Maybe he was too obvious, he should work on that. "Every time you see us together, you-"

"Hey, don't put down the idea! Besides, I see the way you look at her. . .it's all in the eyes." Larry's crooked grin never left his features, it was almost as if he didn't notice that Phoenix could deck him in that moment. Especially for saying all of this while Maya was in earshot, he didn't want her to think he was actually planning a move on her. Larry continued smugly; "By the way, you do send off obvious hints when it comes to Maya. You. . .you should really work on that sometime."

"Can we talk about this another time?" Phoenix said much too quickly, desperately. His eyes shifting to see Maya barely a few feet away lowering herself to eye level with the kid and asking him if he's ever heard of the Steel Samurai.

"Whatever you say. . ." Larry stepped away and turned around, so that Phoenix wouldn't see his 'I totally know what you are hiding' kind of smirk as he coughed and quickly added; "You're totally into her."

Thankfully interrupting Larry, Maya clasped her hands with child-like thrill and proclaimed; "Hey Nick! We should join the game for a little while, it looks like fun!"

Phoenix could only stare blankly. "(She seriously wants to play with a plastic disk on a chilling day like this? Well. . .I guess. . .could it harm anything? Maya won't let it go until I break anyway.)"

Maya still gazed up at him, her dark eyes sparkling with unable-to-contain excitement that only a child should possess. Strangely, the boy at her side wasn't half as excited as she was. Then again, that's not strange.

That was when Phoenix crumbled in like a cave in the aftermath of a rock slide. "Even though this doesn't seem ideal, I guess we could play for a few minutes." He looked away as Maya grinned and then excitedly told Larry and the kid of their entry into the game. Phoenix's eyes rolled and he couldn't deny that he was smiling anyway.

And several minutes after was how he found himself spending a little more of the afternoon 'on break' from work playing with a plastic disk – in the park on a chilling day – with Maya, Larry, and the little boy – whose name was mentioned to be Rich. But if it was what the childish spirit medium wanted to do, if she was confident that it would be fun, Phoenix went along with it and joined in. It wasn't quite as awkward as he imagined it to be, other people didn't even look at him, Larry, or even Maya in funny ways.

The game seemed to drag on without much winning involved. In fact, that didn't seem to be the goal at all. Mainly, the four threw the disk around and competed to get in their hands longer and faster, and often had to resort to dirty tactics to obtain it again. Like, for instance, Maya once started running in the opposite direction greedily taking the disk with her, and Larry tore after eventually catching up and having to tackle her to the ground – no one was harmed.

That Rich kid had a powerful throw, that was the only thing going for him because he ran ridiculously slowly and wasn't really athletic, threw that disk around, often making it get stuck in trees and causing him and everyone else to insist that Phoenix to climb up and get it out. He did, but only after much protesting and asking why Larry, whom was apparently the one who instigated this game with the kid for his mom couldn't climb and get it. Larry's excuse was that he remembered he was allergic to trees.

Halfway into the game, the points were already tallied up. Currently: Maya was in the lead with thirty catches in a row and only three mistakes, Rich was in second with twenty-one catches in almost a row with four mistakes, Phoenix in third with a surprising fourteen catches and six mistakes, and Larry in an unfortunate last with six catches and thirty mistakes. Not that it mattered, but Larry insisted to begin with on keeping the score for some bizarre reason.

It wasn't over yet as far as Phoenix knew. And as thrilling as this simple game could be, he was getting tired and continued to accidentally drop the disk or throw it too close or too faraway for his target. He tried though, as it must have been years since he's done something like this. Just like Larry and Maya – whom really should haven't been having as much fun as they were – he could smile and laugh. The kid, Rich usually looked kind of stoic actually broke the facade of his and would whoop and holler throughout.

No one even walked by staring or questioning aloud why they were playing with a child and seemingly greatly enjoying themselves. The people must have seen things like this all of the time and weren't fazed at all. If so, that's actually really comforting.

A short while later, the game began to wind down. The sunlight stretched over the trees and cast shadows from one end of the park to the other. With the scores now altered: Rich in first, Phoenix in second, Maya in third, and Larry in fourth, the next round of catches would determine the 'winner'. Larry had control of the disk and threw the disk to Rich, whom was switching to a running pace alongside Maya as they both tried to get a hand on it. In the end, Maya made a mistake by leaping to catch the soaring disk, and she fell to her knees. Rich seized the opportunity to catch the disk just barely and then try to pass it back to Larry.

Something went wrong. Rich must have tucked in his good throwing arm a little too well, he sent that disk absolutely flying through the air and. . .in the wrong direction. Larry had tried to move in to catch it while Maya pushed herself to her feet, but the disk had already chosen to meet Phoenix whom was just trying not to get attacked. Well, the disk clean smacked against Phoenix's forehead.

In seconds, both the disk and Phoenix collapsed to the ground. Rich cringed and appeared scandalized with himself, and both Larry and Maya scurried over to check the damage. It should be noted that they didn't find it strange that a kid like Rich could damage his score by making such a mistake.

"Nick! Nick, are you okay?" Maya asked, panicked. She lowered herself to the ground and tried and failed to lift Phoenix up. He just moaned in pain and rubbed his forehead before falling back.

Larry lowered himself to the ground too and panicked for a moment, saying things like; "Don't die on us! Come on, you have to live! Live. . .!"

Maya paused in helping Phoenix up and gave Larry an exasperated expression. "You know, he's not dying. The impact just stunned him, I guess."

"Oh." Larry gazed at Phoenix sympathetically for a second before sighing with depression. "That doesn't change the fact that he could have brain damage or something. Who will defend me when I'm in trouble then?"

". . .Forget that! Help me lead him to the park bench so the people walking by won't mistake this for a murder."

0~0~0~0~0~

It felt like at least sixteen minutes passed by the time Phoenix regained consciousness. He awoke draped across the nearby park bench with Maya, Rich, and Larry all staring at him looking as if they were scared to death of what may have happened. When he convinced them that he wasn't a victim of brain damage or suffering internal bleeding, they all sighed with relief and Larry called the paramedics and told them they didn't have to come after all. It kind of made him wonder just what he had done.

Anyway, Rich's – totally hot – mother appeared from the park's walking path dressed in workout attire and gulping down a bottle of water. She thanked everyone for occupying her son while she finally achieved jogging ten laps and walked away with him. Larry tried to request the two of them go out for some dinner that night, all he got was an unamused stare. With that, Phoenix and Maya quietly slipped out of the scene because they didn't want to get involved.

"Come on!" Larry called after the woman, picking up his walking pace and following. "Aren't you grateful I took him off your hands? You're probably really hungry from all of that exercise, and I'm good company! I swear!"

"I'm on a diet, so no thanks!" The woman replied, not even turning around as she ushered her son to walk really fast with her.

"But we could really make this work!"

"Get lost!"

"What about Saturday? Do you have plans for Saturday. . .?"

0~0~0~0~0~

Maya didn't want to, but she wore an amused smile as she guided Phoenix down the less-bustling streets, he was still kind of out of it from the attack of the toy disk, but maybe he was just shaken that a disk could cause so much pain and make a bleeding cut on his forehead. At least he didn't have brain damage.

Phoenix's fingers rubbed at the large band aid on his forehead, his eyes traveling upward to try and see it. "This doesn't look obvious, does it?"

"No, not really. The band aid blends in with your skin tone." Maya replied, trying to down her rising chuckles. "You know, I had fun in the park. And even if things got a little out of hand, it was good exercise after a meal like that!"

They carefully avoided any passing people and their footsteps seemed to echo among the peaceful silence. The sun was beginning to set in the sky, and its colors covered the town, making it a beautiful sight especially with the changing leaves. It was then when Phoenix realized they had been goofing off for the remaining day and haven't once brought up the topic of anything having to do with murders or evidence. And although he felt he should be discouraged of the lack of progress. . .in actuality he just felt calm and content with the way it all played out.

Maybe he would pay for it at the trial, but as long as he remained positive then it would work out fine. Lately, he hasn't been able to spend much time with Maya. . .just getting to see her smile or enjoy herself was totally worth all of this. He even had to admit it was interesting in a good way.

Phoenix wouldn't have changed anything about the day. It was just. . .almost perfect. Well, almost. He knew one thing that would totally make it. . .but he wasn't sure if it would be appropriate to bring up that topic. He tried to at the park, could he do it now?

Could he really do it now. . .?

Would Maya listen. . .?

". . .Want to return back to the office?"

Phoenix dragged himself from the thoughts whirling in his head, heaving caught that part of what Maya said. He glanced down at her, she was blinking repeatedly and wearing a curious expression. And it took several seconds to make him realize that they were standing right in front of the office from the outside.

Phoenix turned his attention to the building in front of him, knowing that he did need to continue reviewing the work that he had been doing.

But then he glanced at Maya, knowing that he did want to goof off today and he did so, with her company that he was so fond of.

And even though the sun was setting. . .the day wasn't over yet.

Wait a second, this could be a good moment to tell Maya what he wanted to for a while. Of course, it would seem random considering that she just asked if he was ready to return to being buried in papers. Perhaps a good choice of words would cover that up, and she would find herself led to give her honest thoughts of his thoughts.

But this was going to be especially hard to do. He was nervous as he could be, he had the vibe she was aware of it. He just wished that this wasn't so awkward, he wished that he could embrace her on the spot and proclaim what he felt without any hesitation.

It was only a few little words. . .that were drowning him in frantic thoughts. So much for using this entire situation to his advantage, huh?

Maya didn't wait for his response, during his increasingly long pause she just began walking closer to the front doors. She almost made it inside when a hand reached out and entwined with her free one.

She just smiled softly, not having to look behind her to know Phoenix caught up and was the one to grasp her hand. Oh well, might as well let him know that she was willing to listen to what he had to say. . . "What are you doing, Nick?"

Her prompt response wasn't at all shaky, although Phoenix could have sworn his tone was wavering as he stated, "Why should we return so soon? The day isn't over yet, I think we can make enough time for dinner and a visit to that recently-built shopping center."

Maya turned around to look at him fully, surprised to hear him basically say he wanted to spend some more time out. She knew that they had work to do, but she did have fun today. And it was just the two of them. It all felt satisfying and not at all dull.

Worried about her lack of fast replies, Phoenix's spirits lowered and was prepared to release her hand and go back into the office anyway, wondering why he actually had to spoil everything by. . .

However, what Maya did next made his mind black out and throw him into a state of pleasant surprise. He was nearly knocked right off his feet as she moved in closer and reached a hand to the back of his neck, pulling him down and letting their lips connect.

Phoenix, at first couldn't believe what just happened. He couldn't believe that this was happening. His spirits once again rose and he felt like everything was just okay. He couldn't help Maya was keeping the kiss more prolonged than what it should have been, could she have been waiting for him to throw caution to the wind too?

Whatever the case, he did throw every last amount of caution and doubtful thoughts away. It was just him and Maya. Nothing else mattered. With only that in mind, he tried to keep up, returning the kiss. Although it had been a long time since he had done so, he just knew he was so clumsy and killing the romance factor due to it.

The good news? Maya was equally inexperienced, she obviously hadn't much idea what she was doing or what direction she should take this – if she should even lead at all. It was all a mystery, and yet she let herself be swept away into the unknown for a moment to show him just how she felt about the whole situation.

They must have been kissing for several seconds, too many to count. It was all a pleasurable blur to say the least, although neither of them didn't know what to do and couldn't make it quite as passionate as it would normally be. At long last, they realized air was needed. At near the same time, their lips retreated.

But Phoenix still held her securely with his arms around her back. And Maya had yet to release her hands from settling on his chest and holding on to that rebel scarf to keep him in the moment. They must have looked like two complete morons standing outside refusing to let the other go and the chilly temperature increasing.

Somehow, that was just okay. Because neither could deny the personal source of heat flaming between them in that moment. As corny as it may be, it sure was warmer than it had been a little while ago. And Phoenix couldn't have been happier with himself for choosing to wear that rebel scarf.

"You're right, Nick. Who says we have to end this enjoyable evening so soon...?" Maya's smile turned to a complete toothy grin as she continued speaking. Her joy was probably the best part about today, even if Phoenix had to suffer a little money issues and a disk to the forehead. Maya nodded and then stood up on her toes and reached up to his ear. "We're going to make the most of this day, but don't worry, I'll pay."

"I'm glad you feel that way I. . .kind of like seeing you so content, Maya." Phoenix sighed and absentmindedly continued on. Although what came out next was supposed to be kept in the mind rather than the tongue; "As long as I get to be the one to make you smile."

A beat occurred.

Maya stared, surprised by that last comment. Though she couldn't deny thinking that was rather sweet.

Phoenix slowly realized that he actually voiced that comment. He nearly threw himself backward with shock, but seeing Maya's pleased smile again. . .well. . .maybe that was okay. As once again, he was doing just as he desired. And that was all he needed to recover from the awkwardness of actually saying that thought aloud.

Phoenix never had been more happy with his nonexistent way with words in a social situation than he had been right then. Being awkward definitely had its certain payoffs.

"Aw, Nick, you really want something so simple like that?" Maya asked, hoping to lure out some more sweet little words that weren't directed at her very often. She suddenly approached his side and affectionately pressed herself against him after snaking her way under his arm. "You're always the one to make me smile, it's impossible not to considering how sweet you are."

"Come on, that's not entirely true. . ." Phoenix laughed nervously, but it totally gave away how flustered her words made him. He continued gazing into her wide dark eyes and responded to her touch by resting his arm around her upper back securely.

"Don't deny it. That's something I love the most about you."

". . .Uh. . . .something that you 'love'?"

"Yes, what are you trying to say?"

"Are there. . .any other characteristics you love? Perhaps more than what you lead on?"

"It's possible. However, if you wanna know so badly," Maya promptly slipped out from Phoenix's hold, she was very fast as she began running a little distance down the sides of the street, turning her head as she added; "You'll have to get your legs moving and catch me! If you can't by the time we reach the shopping center, you'll have to put it all on the credit card~"

"M-Maya. . .!" Phoenix, stunned, could only stand there and gawk as she laughed and dashed away. He slowly recovered and realized what was happening. Nevertheless, he did get moving rather fast. Hurrying as fast as his legs would allow him, he chased after.

0~0~0~0~0~

EPILOGUE

A few groans and desperate attempts to get air could be hard from the office. Phoenix was resting on the couch, he still had that band aid close to his temples and a few rising bruises on his legs from where he had been chasing after Maya and kind of, well, ended up tripping over a part of the sidewalk.

It was because of all of this that Maya decided to give sympathy and take him back right where they started. She managed to lead him back slowly and securely,

For several silent seconds, Maya was on the floor on her knees, resting a head against the arm of the couch and just watching Phoenix attempt to drift off. He kind of deserved some rest, she thought, as he put up with all of the chaos today so epically. No mere person could deal with so many facepalm-inducing words or actions.

The fact he was willing to do it for her, something about that secure thought made her smile involuntarily and her heart miss a beat or two. Or maybe three. At the most.

Her hand reached forward and slowly inched closer to his cheek. She still sported a smile on her lips as she caressed it gently. And whether or not he would hear this, she leaned closer and blatantly said; "Even though you didn't catch me, I suppose it wouldn't hurt to reply anyway." Maya's tone was strong and she sounded sure of herself, although inwardly she was somewhat sheepish. "There's a lot of things I love about you, Nick. What's the point in even listing them, when I'll just run out of space?"

Unexpectedly, Phoenix rolled over onto his stomach and locked eyes with her. Maya's hand briefly flinched and her eyes began to widen. But he still propped his head against the arm and a rather dreamy smile passed over his lips.

"It's convenient how you said that. . .because I was kind of thinking the same thing." He briefly paused to completely close distance between them, by pressing a gentle kiss against her lips. Once separating, he was not at all hesitating in beckoning her closer with a finger. "I have something else to confess: it's kind of cold in here. Maybe. . .I should find a way to warm up?"

It didn't take long for Maya's smile to twist and turn into an all-out smirk as she leaped up to full height. "Thanks for the invitation! I'll gladly accept!" And, in no time at all, she rounded the couch and then pretty much plopped down on top of him. On her stomach.

Whoa, she was somewhat heavier than he expected. It must have been all of the popcorn and fast food. But, Phoenix tried to overlook it for both of their sakes. He awkwardly rolled onto his back and she comfortably lied down over him like it was totally not strange.

But, Phoenix had to admit it was definitely warmer than it was eight and half seconds ago.

Maya had to admit she would have done this anyway, sneakily, as soon as he drifted off good.

Grogginess began to creep in, taking over their bodies from all of the chaos today. Maya yawned loudly and then lowered her head against his stomach and her legs that were once kicking slowly in the air plopped down roughly. Phoenix extended his arm and rested it around her shoulders, holding her loosely. With his jumping heartbeat starting to settle, he closed his eyes and began drifting into a slumber.

Even though there was much work to be done for a defense attorney, who says one can't just take a simple break now and then? Despite all of the work and paper cuts – but especially paper cuts, damn them – a chaotic day out may not be so bad as it seems. By the end of the day, or at least close in that time line, Phoenix found it to be totally worth it because he always found a way to beckon Maya over for an intimate moment.

If you asked him, he may be a little too flustered to give a clear understanding, but he knew that she was kind of important to him. Perhaps he loved her. That theory wasn't ridiculous, he would have to seriously consider it one of these days.

. . .Okay, who are we kidding? There's really no fancy to say it, he loved her. And he wasn't hesitant to voice that declaration, Phoenix decided that he would the next time Maya burst in telling him he should get out of the office and take a break.

Knowing Maya, that wouldn't be too far away. As a matter of fact, just before drifting into a slumber entirely, her head was full of ideas for the next outing – and knew it would be even more chaotic but perfect for her to voice her own feelings all the same.

But right here, right now, there was plenty of sparks zapping into the air as they held each other and slept peacefully. It was so. . .almost too good to be true.

Of course, the door had soon flung open after that. Larry stumbling inside freaking out and disturbing them by proclaiming they had to hide him – because the woman he tried to hit on at the park called the police because she thought he was attempting to get inappropriately touchy-feely.

. . .And the chaos started all over again. But that, itself, is a story of facepalm-worthy proportions and should be recited at a better time. . .

The End. . .for now, anyway. . .

0~0~0~0~0~

Remember when I promised a new AA story on my profile? Well, here it is! I had started writing it back in 2012, like, in the December range and I'm just now finishing it. Because of settling back into the UK and regrouping with my friends, I had been somewhat on delay to finish it. Well, whatever, I hope you liked it!

It's rather long, I hope that's not too intimidating. See, I just got carried away because I had so many ideas for a plot like this one. And maybe some other time, I can use a similar plot (with different events) for one of those "on break" stories for another AA story. Because I'm envisioning one with Mia and Diego as we speak, er, type.

"For now anyway". . .Er. . .I don't know if I will make any form of continuation to this story. But the thought is somewhat amusing.

Well, see you around, read and review!