Franziska waited in the airport, near the baggage claim. She was holding an elegant bouquet of lilies. They were for Adrian, who would be arriving any minute now.
It had been a long three weeks since Adrian left. Franziska started therapy right away, and was forced to acknowledge the fact she was more emotionally damaged than she thought she was. Turns out perfectionism was just the tip of the iceberg. Thankfully, she was also learning to cope with those problems, although it seemed almost impossible at times. She was learning so much, in fact, she was convinced her little brother probably needed therapy too.
Suddenly she saw Adrian coming down the stairs. While Adrian was gone Franziska gave her the space she wanted. She sent a simple text message letting Adrian know she was starting therapy, and that was all. Then suddenly Adrian had called her almost out of the blue, saying she would be back the next day. She wanted to resume their relationship, saying she felt much stronger than before, and she missed Franziska terribly.
"Franziska!" Adrian yelled out when she saw her. They rushed over to each other, meeting in an embrace in the middle of the baggage claim. After a moment Franziska gave her a long kiss, as if making up for lost time. She was fully aware that she was making an incredibly foolish scene, exactly like those pathetic romance movies, but she honestly couldn't care less. Adrian was finally home again.
"So how was your trip?" Franziska asked as they walked to her car.
"Busy, but I managed to take some time for myself. I went to a few support groups, and I think that really grounded me."
"I'm glad this trip helped you."
"It really did. Nothing like being forced to stand on your own two feet for a while."
A few minutes later they reached Franziska's car. It wasn't until they were slowly leaving the parking garage that Adrian finally breeched the subject.
"I got your text about going to therapy. How do you like it?"
"It's…difficult," Franziska finally answered. "I'm being forced to realize just how abusive my father was, and just how badly it affected me."
"Wow, that does sound rough."
"I thought I was simply too focused on being perfect. Instead all my life I've been desperately trying to get the love and attention my father never gave me, any way I can." She thought she was done with her father after he died. Now she realized just how long and painful the recovery process really was.
"But enough about that. I finally bought a house while you were away."
Adrian gasped in surprise. "Oh wow! I thought you were just going to get another apartment?"
"I was debating it, but then I realized how illogical it was to get another apartment when my goal was to permanently reside here."
"So what's it like?"
"It's in Brentwood, near the Wilderness Park. It's not too big, and I made sure it had a stable."
"A stable? You mean you got a horse too?"
"Not yet, but I am looking. Anyway, the commute to the Prosecutor's Office is longer, but it is nice to finally have a place of my own."
"Well, congratulations on your new house. You know I have to see it as soon as possible."
Franziska smiled. "How about now? Although I must warn you, I'm still in the process of moving in and I haven't decided how much furniture to bring over from Germany." Which actually meant it was almost empty inside. Franziska was strongly leaning towards hiring an interior decorator to furnish the house. She didn't like the idea of von Karma furniture in her house as a daily reminder of her past.
Adrian didn't answer right away. "I suppose I could manage a brief visit. Not too long, though, I'm exhausted from the trip."
Franziska frowned. She was pushing her, wasn't she? That was something she was trying to avoid. "Let's hold off until tomorrow then, if you're that tired."
"Yeah, sounds good."
They continued on to Adrian's place in silence. Within a few minutes, Franziska looked over to find Adrian dozing off. Good thing they hadn't gone over to Franziska's place if she was this tired.
The next day Adrian came over, and Franziska showed her around. It was a four bedroom house, all on one story, sitting on over five acres of land.
"Well, it is empty, that's for sure," she said once the tour was over. "I'm surprised you're functioning with only a mattress and your clothes. There isn't even a TV or anything in the living room."
"I have everything I need to get ready in the morning, so I'll be fine for a while. Although coming home to such an empty house isn't very comforting."
"So, what's the plan?"
"I think I'll hire an interior decorator as soon as I can. If I do bring anything back from Germany, things can be changed around without much difficulty. After that I will see about getting a horse, perhaps two."
"Two?" Adrian asked with eyes raised.
"Well, you'll need one when you ride with me, of course."
"Oh wow, my own horse. Are you sure you can handle taking care of two? I mean, I don't know anything about horses."
"I'll have to hire a groom either way, so it's not really a problem."
"Oh, I see."
Franziska began to fidget as their conversation reached a lull. She knew she had to bring up the subject about living together, the sooner the better. With a sigh, she jumped into the conversation headfirst. "We need to talk about living arrangements. You know I want you to move in with me."
"I know, and I do want to move in with you. It's just…it's too soon right now. I still need my own space, somewhere that I know I'm my own person."
Franziska nodded. She was afraid of that. "I understand. I don't want to pressure you into doing anything we're not ready for."
"That means a lot to me, really. And you know you're always welcome to spend the night."
"All right, then I won't ask you again. Consider this matter resolved until you want to bring it back up. Take as much time as you need to, I mean it."
Adrian gave a weak smile. "Can I still come by and go horseback riding with you?"
"Absolutely. I certainly can't ride two horses at once."
"Yay!" Adrian gave her a big bear hug and kissed her on the cheek.
"Then let's get to work on this place, you can help me pick out an interior decorator. I know you've dealt with at least one in your line of work."
"Yeah, and I absolutely don't recommend them."
Franziska let out a soft laugh. She would wait for Adrian to be ready, just like she waited for her to come back. This time it would hardly be difficult at all.
Miles sat down at a bench looked across the park. Phoenix wanted to see him, and suggested the park near his office of all places. Miles didn't really mind it, it wasn't quite as hot as it had been lately, and it felt good to get out in the sun. The only problem was, it seemed like everyone else in the neighborhood had the same idea. Sighing, Miles could only hope Phoenix didn't want to talk about anything too private.
Less than a minute later, Phoenix came walking up and sat down next to Miles.
"You're early," Miles said with a raised eyebrow.
Phoenix revealed a playful grin. "Don't worry, it won't happen again."
"See that it doesn't."
"Anyway, um, I wanted to ask you something," Phoenix began, looking nervous.
"What is it?"
Phoenix let out a big breath of air before speaking. "Can I move in with you?"
Miles frowned. "Is there a problem with your place?"
Phoenix slumped his shoulders, seemingly a little disappointed. "No, I just think…we're ready for the next step in our relationship, you know, and I doubt you want to move in to my apartment."
Suddenly Miles started blushing and looked away. Phoenix didn't want the spare room, he wanted to share the same bed as him every night. How did he manage to misinterpret what Phoenix was asking? "Oh, like that."
"Yeah, like that."
Miles was silent as he thought about it. He liked it when Phoenix spent the night. He didn't like it quite so much when he spent the night at Phoenix's, but that was beside the point. He would much rather wake up with Phoenix than wake up alone. However, that wasn't all there was to living together. They would be with each other constantly, and every little annoying habit would be revealed and relived every single day. Phoenix kept his apartment messy and disorganized, which was fine when Miles only had to see it once in a while. Living with it was something completely different.
On the other hand, being messy and disorganized was a part of who Phoenix was. Loving Phoenix meant loving all of him. Besides, if they lived together, it wouldn't be just his house, it would be their house, and Phoenix leaving his stuff everywhere would be proof of that. Miles rather liked the idea of "their" house.
Smiling, Miles finally replied. "I would be happy to share my house with you."
Surprisingly, Phoenix looked more relieved than happy. "Oh, thank goodness, I wasn't sure what I was going to do had you said no."
"Why is that?"
Phoenix scratched the back of his head. "Well, I had been thinking about asking to move in with you for a while now. Then I got a notice saying my apartment lease was expiring at the end of the month, so I figured it was the right time to ask you. Had you said no I would've had to go apartment hunting."
Miles frowned. "You're a lawyer, Phoenix. Surely you could negotiate your way out of a lease agreement if you wanted to. You didn't have to wait until it ended to ask me about moving in."
Phoenix looked even more sheepish. "Real estate law isn't my specialty? Besides, I was nervous about asking you."
Smiling, Miles shook his head. "Sometimes you're too nice for your own good."
"Yeah, but that's why you love me."
"Of course." Miles got up from the park bench and turned towards Phoenix. "Well, let's start packing up your things. With any luck I can convince you to get rid of some of the truly horrendous stuff in your apartment."
Naturally, Phoenix looked a little defensive. "Like what?"
Miles raised his eyebrows. Phoenix had to know how bad some of his things were, right? "Souvenir cups from Ivy University football games that are at least five years old? The worn out towels in the bathroom? Half the clothes in your closet?"
Phoenix sighed and slumped his shoulders in defeat. "Fine, maybe some stuff can go. I suppose I should get rid of all my furniture, too."
"You don't have to, I mean, it'll be your house too." Miles could feel himself start to blush. "We can talk about what stays and what goes."
"Wow, here I was just hoping for more cuddling when we moved in together." Phoenix stood up and gave Miles a quick kiss on the cheek. "Now who's the one being too nice for their own good?"
Miles was now completely red. "You're the one who wanted to move in."
"You're the one who agreed."
"Let's just go before we end up making a scene."
Phoenix laughed. "All right, I doubt it's going to take long to pack up my stuff, though."
The two got up, and Phoenix immediately started listing the things they would be doing together and the things they would be sharing from now on. Miles smiled at Phoenix's enthusiasm, as it was so infectious it even got him eager to start living together.
Less than a day later Phoenix was moved in and mostly settled. Most of Phoenix's furniture did end up being donated, but Phoenix didn't mind it at all.
"Are you kidding me? Your stuff is so much better, why would we switch it out with my cheap crap?" Phoenix replied as they got into the rented truck Miles got for the move. They had just finished unloading everything at the donation center.
Miles shut the door but didn't turn on the ignition. "Well, if you want anything replaced or redecorated, just let me know. It still feels like you're just staying at my house."
Phoenix rubbed his chin in thought. "How about blue towels in the bathroom? Beige is kinda boring, you know."
"We can turn the entire bathroom blue if you want."
Phoenix smiled and shook his head. "Here I am so happy and grateful to be living with you, and your incredibly nice house. I mean, never in a million years would I be able to afford half of this stuff. Yet all you want to do is make sure I'm feeling at home."
"Well, it's what I can do. Besides, it's not just my house anymore."
"Just like buying me a car, huh?"
"Something like that, I guess." He could feel his cheeks getting warm.
Phoenix's grin grew even wider. "Wow, did I ever win the boyfriend lottery."
Miles blushed even harder. "I could say the same about you, you know."
"Did I ever mention how much I love it when you get romantic?"
"Several times now."
"Just making sure. Come on, let's go back to our house, I still have a bit of unpacking to do."
Miles grinned as he started the truck and pulled away from the donation center. He liked the sound of 'our house.'
Miles soon discovered that he enjoyed Phoenix living with him more than he expected. It wasn't just waking up with Phoenix right next to him, although that was nice too. Miles would usually wake up first, and after taking a shower woke up Phoenix. Every once in awhile Phoenix would wake up first and surprise him with a hot breakfast. If Miles worked late, Phoenix was there waiting for him, often with dinner ready. Phoenix wasn't the best cook, but Miles couldn't care less. Phoenix was cooking for him simply because he wanted to. Even just being around the house with Phoenix was surprisingly comforting. Sunday afternoons usually consisted of Miles reading the latest law journal with Phoenix sprawled next to him on the couch, either watching a bad movie or a baseball game, or even taking a nap. Those days Miles couldn't be happier.
Despite Miles' misgivings, Phoenix did leave his mark on the house. Most noticeably it was the mess he always managed to make just about everywhere. The cleaning service that came once a week had no chance to keep up with it. Clothes were always strewn about the bedroom, socks and dirty dishes were left in the media room, and the bathroom was a disaster area. Miles thought since the master bathroom had double sinks there wouldn't be any problem. Miles thought wrong.
Then there were Phoenix's things, shoved haphazardly wherever they would fit. His books were left in stacks around the bedroom, and all his leftover art supplies and drawings took up a good chunk of the den. The area around the TV in the media room was cluttered with Phoenix's old gaming system and small library of games. Boxes of who knew what were stored in the spare bedroom. The only place where there was plenty of room was the closet.
Miles wouldn't go so far as to say he enjoyed the mess and the clutter, but he did like what they symbolized. Phoenix felt at home. That alone made all the newly minted chaos absolutely priceless.
Miles was almost finished presenting his case against the obviously guilty party. It was a murder trial, and the defendant was either very stupid, or else just wanted to get caught. Either way, Miles had plenty of damning evidence on his side, along with two very reliable witnesses. Witnesses who could state their name and occupation without any trouble. Those were always the best witnesses.
Then the earth started shaking.
Miles barely had any time to panic, as this seemed like an especially strong earthquake. Within seconds the room went quiet, and he fell to the floor as blackness overcame him.
He had no idea how long he was out for, but when he woke up, he was in the back of an ambulance rushing to the hospital.
"Sir, can you hear me?" asked the EMT in a loud voice.
"Yes, I can hear you." Miles realized he was strapped to a gurney, IV already in place.
"There was an earthquake, and you hit your head. We're taking you to the hospital for further tests."
"Were there any other injuries?"
"Nothing serious, but we'll know more later. Right now I need you to stay calm."
Well, this was a fine mess, Miles thought. He must have hit his head when he fainted, and the emergency workers probably assumed the worst. Now everyone would have to waste their time with him rather than people who really needed medical attention. "I'm feeling fine, so if-"
"We need to make sure of that, sir, so please just relax." the EMT replied, cutting him off.
Miles sighed as he resigned himself to his apparently inescapable fate. This was going to be a very, very bad day.
Within an hour he was wearing a hospital gown while sitting in a hospital bed. He was in a curtained off section of a separate ER room, so even though he couldn't see what was going on, he could hear every word of it. The preliminary examination proved he was indeed just fine, but additional tests were still ordered. Tests that would take several hours, if not days, to complete. How irritating, just for a little bump on the head that hardly even bled much.
"Miles!" Phoenix came bursting through the curtain, looking especially worried. "Are you all right? I got here as soon as I could!"
"I'm fine, Phoenix. I just hit my head slightly when I fainted during the earthquake."
"Thank goodness. When they said you had a head injury I didn't know what to think." Phoenix looked so relieved it almost made Miles smile.
"Except now I have to wait for a MRI scan, and then wait some more for the results before I can finally leave."
"Well, better safe than sorry." Phoenix leaned over and started rubbing Miles' back in slow circles through the opening of the hospital gown. "Besides, the courthouse is going to be closed for the next few days anyway. Us lawyers won't have anything else to do but wait."
Miles finally smiled. He was silent for a moment, just feeling the warmth of Phoenix's hand on his back. It felt better than he thought possible.
"So how bad was the earthquake?" Miles asked after a few minutes.
"Nothing major, really. Some structural damage here and there, and the news said there weren't any life-threatening injuries."
Phoenix gave Miles a peck on the cheek. "You might have been the worst of it."
"I doubt that."
"I wasn't talking about physical injuries."
Miles stiffened. "I don't want to talk about that."
"You're right, let's just focus on keeping you relaxed. Your back feels tense enough as it is." Phoenix started massaging his shoulders. "Wow, your back is all knots."
There was silence as Miles just sat there and let Phoenix rub his shoulders. The last time he was in an earthquake this bad he was on Eagle Mountain investigating that case from hell. Even then Phoenix was annoyingly concerned about him. Now, however, Miles had learned to appreciate just how much Phoenix cared about him.
Suddenly Phoenix's phone rang, still with that Steel Samurai tone.
"Oh, that might be Franziska," Phoenix said as he answered it. "Hello…yeah, I'll let you talk to him."
Miles took the phone and assured Franziska that he was just fine, but was still in the hospital and would be for the foreseeable future. She was at the Prosecutor's Office when the earthquake hit, and the building held up just fine. She was on her way home to make sure her house and horses were still okay. Adrian was fine, but the earthquake had wrecked the delicate promotion display she had been working on.
"Franziska said everything was fine," Miles said as he hung up the phone and gave it back to Phoenix. "Although Adrian sounded almost as annoyed by the earthquake as I am. The display she had been working on was ruined by the shaking."
"See, you're not the only one to have a bad day today." Phoenix was grinning like an idiot, but it still made Miles feel better. "Besides, it can't be too bad, I'm here to make sure you don't stress yourself out."
Finally Miles smiled. "Well, if I get to spend the day with you, then I guess I can't be too annoyed." He gave him a quick kiss in appreciation.
Phoenix scrounged around and produced some paper and a pen. "So, how about another chess lesson while we're waiting?"
"All, right, I'll teach you some basic opening moves and when to use them. You remember chess notation, right?" Miles started drawing a chess board as Phoenix looked on with deep interest. Noticing how serious Phoenix was taking the lesson, Miles had to smile. Phoenix was always doing so much for him, even learning chess so they could play together. Once again he was reminded of how lucky he was to have such an incredibly loving and caring person in his life, and how much he loved him in return.
It was late that night before Miles was finally discharged from the hospital. On the plus side, Phoenix managed to get a hold of a chess set, and they had time for so many lessons that Phoenix was starting to grasp the basic concepts of chess strategy. Namely, that strategy is actually needed in a game of chess, as bluffing and guessing would only result in quick and complete defeat. Miles was beginning to think Phoenix might turn into a decent chess player after all.
The courthouse was still closed for inspection the next day, which left Miles with nothing to do. His paperwork was all up to date, and his current case was already so completely prepared there was nothing to do but argue it in court. Thus, Miles spent the day at home, and not surprisingly, so did Phoenix.
"So Miles, how are you feeling after yesterday?"
They were sitting in the breakfast nook off the kitchen, Phoenix eating a bowl of Frooty Os and Miles reading the paper.
"I'm feeling perfectly fine. With any luck the courthouse will be open tomorrow and I can finally finish arguing my case."
"That's good. Do you think the earthquake will back things up?"
"Of course. I figure the next week is going to be hell trying to catch up."
"Oh." Phoenix let out a little sigh and returned to his cereal. He was finished a minute later and left to put his bowl in the sink, and promptly returned to the table and started tapping his fingers.
Miles raised his eyebrow. It wasn't like him to stall. "What is it, Phoenix?"
"Don't you think it's time you dealt with your fear of earthquakes?"
Miles sighed as he folded up the paper and put it aside. He knew Phoenix was going to bring this up. It had been in the back of his mind ever since Phoenix stayed with him at the hospital. It was reminding him of another relationship.
"You remember Adrian taking a job in New York that lasted a few weeks, right?"
Phoenix looked a little confused. "Yeah, so?"
"You asked me if Franziska was okay with it, and I said she was."
"Yeah, I was worried how it would affect their relationship, and you said it would be fine. But how does this-"
Miles waved his hand to cut him off. "I wasn't telling you the whole story. In reality, Adrian took that job to be away from Franziska. Their relationship was on the rocks and she needed to be alone. I didn't tell you about that because there was nothing you could do to help."
"Wow, I had no idea. When Adrian came back they moved in together so soon, I just assumed there was never anything wrong."
"Well, they had a problem and then they fixed it."
"What was the problem, anyway?"
"They were depending on each other too much. I know you're aware of Adrian's history, but Franziska was also relying on her for almost everything."
Phoenix was silent for a moment. "I didn't know Franziska had that problem. I always thought she was so strong."
"You have to remember what she's been through, and how young she really is. However, now she's stronger than she's ever been." Miles made a point not to tell Phoenix about Franziska's therapy. It would be up to her if Phoenix knew about that. Until then, he would keep his promise.
"Well, that's great, and I'm glad it worked out for them. But, um, how does this relate to your fear of earthquakes?"
Miles paused a moment as he picked his words carefully. He certainly didn't want to say anything he would regret later. "I know how much you want to help me and get rid of all my problems. I want you to know how much I love and appreciate you for that."
Phoenix looked slightly confused, perhaps even a little worried.
"However, ever since you visited me in the hospital, I've been thinking about our relationship and how it relates to Adrian and Franziska's. You visited me and made sure I was fine, and you cheered me up when I was stressed. You fixed everything for me."
"Of course I would do that. I know how bad earthquakes are for you, and I was more than happy to be there with you."
"I know, it's just…You're always helping me with my problems. Sometimes, like yesterday, it almost feels like you're helping me too much. I don't want to feel like I'm depending on you for everything."
Phoenix actually smiled. "Oh, is that it?"
Miles frowned. Phoenix wasn't taking this seriously enough. "What do you mean?"
"You're afraid that because I help you so much, you're becoming dependent on me, right?"
Phoenix rubbed his chin for a second before talking. "Do I help you at all with any of your cases? Even the tough ones?"
"Well, aside from a word of encouragement, no."
"Remember last week when you wanted me to come with you to some boring international law seminar?"
"Yes, and it wasn't boring."
"Well, to you it wasn't. So you went and I stayed home and spent the day doing laundry."
"All that means is that you're not dependent on me. I don't help you with the stuff you don't need help with, and you don't need me to be by your side all the time."
There was silence as Miles thought about it. Phoenix did have a point, it wasn't like they needed each other for everything.
"Look," Phoenix continued, "I don't really know the details about co-dependency, but I'm pretty confident we don't have that problem. I mean, I'm the one who pushes you to deal with all the hard stuff in the first place, so naturally I'd be there to help you with it. Besides, you're the one who's doing all the hard work. I'm just here to cheer you on."
Miles couldn't help blushing. "You know I couldn't have done it all without you."
"And that's okay too. It just means we're there for each other." Phoenix barely paused before changing the subject. "However, this still doesn't have anything to do with your fear of earthquakes."
Miles frowned. He had no idea what Phoenix was talking about. "What? But that's what caused this whole thing."
"Well, yeah, but that was just incidental. The earthquake happened, then I came over to cheer you up, then you were feeling like you were depending on me too much, but then we straightened it all out."
"We haven't gotten into why you fainted during the earthquake in the first place, and that's the real problem here."
"Oh." Somehow Miles wasn't thinking about that part. Maybe because he didn't really want to.
"Wouldn't it be nice if you didn't faint during earthquakes?"
Miles sighed. It sounded like Phoenix was about to push him to deal with another hard subject. "I guess."
"Now, as much as I want to just help you through it, I think we might need professional help this time."
"Why is that?"
"Because I think you have post-traumatic stress disorder, and that needs professional help."
"Let me guess, you've been doing research on this."
"Yep, and not just from the internet, either. That little earthquake in San Francisco a while ago got me thinking about it, and I decided to look into it as much as I could. I got a whole bunch of books on the subject, and I read through them at my office. Apparently that DL-9 incident was so traumatic for you, every time you feel an earthquake, your body actually relives the experience and you faint."
"I see." Miles figured that was probably what was going on already, but maybe Phoenix had some new insight.
"Also, I bet the same thing would happen if you ever did use an elevator, you'd faint after the doors closed."
"That's possible, but I don't especially want to test out your theory."
"Don't worry, it's just a thought. Anyway, what we have to do is train your brain not to relive the experience every time you feel the ground shake."
"And how do I go about doing that?"
"Going to therapy, for starters. I hear EMDR therapy is good for that kind of thing."
"And what is EMDR?"
"Eye Movement something something. Apparently it processes traumatizing memories and turns them into regular memories or something. It sounds incredible from what I've read."
"So you want me to start this kind of therapy."
"As soon as possible, really. Once you get started with that I'm sure the therapist can recommend other things."
Miles let out another sigh. Franziska said her therapy was going well. It was probably just as well that he go, considering he too was raised in the von Karma household. "Very well, I'll go see a therapist. You wouldn't happen to have anyone in mind, would you?"
"Well, I got a list of therapists that specializes in PTSD and EMDR, but you might want to find out about them yourself."
"I guess I'll do that today, since I have nothing better to do."
"You're really taking this well, I'm impressed."
Miles shrugged. "It's true that fainting during earthquakes has caused me problems, and since you did all this research to come up with a solution, I don't really see how else I'm supposed to respond." That, and he wouldn't be the first person close to him to start therapy.
"I guess I was expecting more of a fight."
"Perhaps in the past I would have, but now I know that you just want what's best for me. Now, about those therapist names. I'd like to see those books, too, if that's okay. It would be good to find out more about what I'm getting into."
Phoenix smiled, and left the table. He quickly returned with a crumpled piece of paper with half a dozen names on it. "Here's the list, I tried to narrow it down a little for you. The books are still in my office, but I can go get them for you. I was meaning to go in today anyway, just to make sure everything is still in one piece."
"I appreciate that."
"Well then, I'll leave now, and shouldn't be gone long." He gave Miles a quick peck on the cheek and left the room.
Once Phoenix was gone, Miles got up and went to the den, where he researched the names on his laptop. They all seemed competent and trustworthy, but he did more digging, reading countless personal reviews and testimonies. Finally he settled on a name, and dialed the office number. This time Phoenix hardly had to push at all.
"Hello, I would like to begin therapy, please."