The Winding Way (Chapter Three)Author: kiyalaWord Count:
February 19-20, 2019Rating:
Spoilers for 3-5 and for AJ:AA (in later chapters).The Winding Way - Chapter Three
Phoenix knew that going to the beach with Maya and Larry would be a mix of entertainment and embarrassment, but if he’d known how much more of the latter it would be, he wouldn’t have looked forward to it so much.
As he had said to Edgeworth, being with both of them felt very similar to taking care of two children. Phoenix never saw himself as the most responsible person – with good reason, considering the trouble he managed to get himself into on a regular basis. Responsibility was something he would happily push onto Edgeworth, but he didn’t have that option.
“Do you have sunscreen? You remembered the sunscreen, right?”
“Ooh, I think it’s in this pocket here! Hold on Nick, let me find it!”
He sighed. “You forgot it, didn’t you?”
“I… uh, no! I’m sure it’s here! Larry? Do you have any?”
Phoenix sighed. At least Larry was honest. “Never mind. I’ve got some here.”
“Yay! Thanks!” Maya took it from his hands and covered herself with it before handing it to Larry. “Come on! Race you to the water!”
“You’re on! Coming, Nick?”
“Sure… just give me a sec. I’ll meet you in the water.”
Phoenix didn’t enjoy having to play the adult, but dwelling on it only made him miss Edgeworth more than he already was. Picking the bottle of sunscreen from where Larry had dropped it, he sighed to himself. He was thinking too hard, that was all. Maya and Larry were fun to spend time with and that was the important thing.
By the time he joined them in the water, Maya and Larry had started a splash fight. He paused for a moment before deciding that being responsible didn’t mean he had to miss out on the fun.
Larry cried out in surprise when he was hit with two splashes of water instead of one.
“Great work Nick!” Maya laughed, clapping until she was also hit.
“Serves you right for dropping your guard!” Phoenix was grinning the widest that Maya had seen since Edgeworth had left. She splashed water at him in return, not wanting him to lose the good mood.
“Hey!” Larry splashed at Phoenix too. “If you’re splashing my sweet Maya, I’ll have to splash you!”
“How valiant!” Maya beamed. “Just like a knight in shining armour!”
“You bet!” Larry winked with a grin, just before a wave knocked him over.
“Beach: one, Butz: zero,” Phoenix laughed as Maya helped Larry up again.
“Oh man, you’ve already started counting?” Larry complained. “Way to embarrass me in front of my girlfriend, Nick!”
“Counting…?” Maya looked at Phoenix questioningly.
“Larry was a beach bum when we were in junior high. We’d go to the beach on the weekends and he’d try to surf. I’d count how many times he fell over. I think the record’s fifty.”
“That’s so cool! Can you surf now?”
Larry laughed, looking pleased with himself. “A bit.”
Maya clapped her hands together. “We should rent surfboards! I wanna learn how to surf!”
“You want to learn from Larry?” Phoenix asked warily. “Are you sure that’s a good idea?”
Already dragging both Larry and Phoenix out of the water, Maya nodded. “It’s good to experience new things!”
They returned to where they had left their belongings in the sand. Larry looked through his wallet and shook his head. “Looks like you’ll be paying, Nick. I don’t have any money on me.”
“But weren’t you asking for change for a fifty at the train station…?”
“Sorry. I’d totally pay if I had the money.”
Phoenix sighed, picking his wallet up. “Alright, I’ll pay. Come on.”
“You’re the best, Nick!” both Larry and Maya chorused.
Holding a surfboard emboldened Larry rather than giving him second thoughts the way Phoenix had hoped it would.
“It’s all coming back!” Larry announced as he led them back to the waves. “The good old days when I’d ride a wave, no matter what kind! I was the best surfer the beach had ever seen! Women swooned left, right and center!”
Maya looked at Phoenix for confirmation. He shook his head.
“Aww, c’mon Nick! I was just trying to make things more interesting!”
“You don’t have to do that, Larry!” Maya assured him with a smile. “I think you’re interesting enough as it is!”
Larry beamed. “Really? I knew it! My Maya really is the best! See, Nick? I have the best girlfriend in the world!”
Phoenix smiled at the way Maya threw her arms around Larry, catching her surfboard before it fell to the ground.
Watching Larry attempt to pass his limited knowledge of surfing on to somebody else was entertaining. He didn’t know any of the proper terms, relying on vague hand gestures and made-up names instead. By the end of it, Maya still looked as enthusiastic as she had to begin with, enjoying herself even when they actually took to the water to be knocked over by wave after wave.
Phoenix’s own knowledge of surfing had faded over time but as they kept going, he found it slowly returning and could guess the same of Larry. After a while, Larry had gotten to the point where he spent more time on his surfboard than he did falling off. Maya was even more impressed by this, enjoying herself even though she couldn’t stand on her board at all, which only served to encourage Larry to show off.
They took a break in the middle of the day to eat the sandwiches that Larry and Maya had made.
“This one’s a new recipe I’m thinking of trying for my stall,” Larry said as they ate. “It has avocado, carrots, tomato and lettuce. I’m not really a big fan of vegetables but Maya told me to try it out and I love it!”
“Sounds like you’re both really helping each other out,” Phoenix said with a smile.
Larry grinned, giving Maya an affectionate look. “I’m glad I have her.”
“I’m going back in the water!” Larry announced when they finished their meal.
“Uh, shouldn’t you wait for a while after eating…?” Maya frowned a little. “…I think I’ll wait here for a while, okay?”
Phoenix nodded. “Same. I think you should stay out of the water for a while, Larry.”
“Aww Nick, you’re no fun! Waiting is for wimps! I’m going ahead. I’ll see you later!” Larry ran off with his surfboard and Phoenix sighed, looking at Maya.
“I think you might actually be more mature than he is.”
Smiling, she shook her head. “Oh no! It’s just that I went swimming with Pearly a while ago, just after having three burgers and ended up with a really bad stomach ache. I learned my lesson then.”
“Heh…” Phoenix didn’t know why he was surprised. “Well at least you know now.”
About half an hour had passed when Larry came running back towards them.
“Hi! Are you feeling sick?” Maya called out.
“I’m fine!” Larry replied. “But I’m thinking of getting people to join me in making a human pyramid on surfboards. Wanna join?”
“Are you crazy?” Phoenix asked incredulously, looking at Maya and feeling his heart sink at the way she was smiling and already getting to her feet.
“Count me in! How many people do we have? We can’t make a pyramid with just three people – we need another level! You think that family over there would join in?”
“Hey, three? When did I say I’d join in?” Phoenix protested. “I’m staying here!”
“Aww Niiiiick!” Maya and Larry whined.
One of the people sitting nearby walked closer. “…So I hear you’re making a human pyramid?”*
“So,” Phoenix said to Edgeworth on the phone that night. “It turns out that Larry can’t even build a human pyramid on land, forget on surfboards.”
“Oh…” Edgeworth bit back a curse. “Tell me you aren’t calling from the hospital. I told
you not to do stupid things—”
“Miles, I’m fine
. I didn’t join in.”
There was a long sigh of relief on the other end. “Good.”
“Good? That’s all I get?” Phoenix frowned.
“Do you truly expect me to reward you for making use of your common sense, Wright?”
Phoenix grimaced at Edgeworth’s tone. “Just a joke, you know.”
“Yes, well…” he could hear Edgeworth clearing his throat. “Forgive me if I’m not so eager to joke around when your life is at stake. I should be thankful that you aren’t a paraplegic by now.”
Phoenix chuckled. “At least that way, you’d have to stay in L.A. and take care of me.”
“Nonsense, I’d bring you here to watch over you as I did my work,” Edgeworth replied automatically. There was an awkward pause before he continued. “…That is, because you wouldn’t be able to defend if you were a paraplegic, you wouldn’t even be able to lift your arm to make objections and point at people the way you do—oh, why are we even talking about this anyway?”
Phoenix smiled a little. “…I don’t even know if I should be glad that you’d take care of me or frustrated that it still wouldn’t bring you back.”
“Phoenix, I’ll be back soon enough.” Edgeworth’s voice was strained. “We just need to be patient.”
“I know,” Phoenix sighed
There was a silence as they both tried to think of what to say. Edgeworth cleared his throat. “…Goodnight, then.”
“Have a good day, Miles.”
“I’ll speak to you soon.”*
“Maya’s a really great girl, you know,” Larry said with a nod. They were sitting in a bar with their respective drinks – non-alcoholic in Phoenix’s case, as he knew he was a light weight and wasn’t keen on navigating public transport while drunk. Larry nodded again, mostly to himself. “Really great. I mean it.”
“…Are you okay?” Phoenix asked with a worried frown. “You sound… upset.”
“I am! Nick, I don’t deserve someone like Maya! She’s so sweet and caring! She doesn’t even boss me around, she just lets me do whatever I want to do! How weird is that!”
Phoenix blinked. “…You’re… bothered by the fact that she lets you do what you want?”
“Yeah! Aren’t girls meant to be like… ‘get me expensive things! You go, girlfriend!’ …Aren’t they meant to be like that?”
“Uh… I’ve never seen Maya act like that – isn’t that what your ex-girlfriends were like?”
“Exactly! I… I thought all girls did that.”
“Maya’s nicer than that. But hey, remember when you were selling Samurai Dogs? Didn’t your girlfriend then support you? Was that Bennifer—?”
,” Larry corrected, pouting. “But she always wanted me to spend all the money I earned on nice jewellery for her. And then they’d all ditch me for models they meet on photo shoots! It’s not fair!”
“…But Maya’s nothing like that. Isn’t that a good thing?”
“Yeah…” Larry shrugged a little. “But you know what it’s like when you’re used to one thing instead of another?”
“Even when the new thing is better…?”
“Look, take Edgey for example. You hang around him a lot, right? Even if he’s a bit mean and really obsessed with whatever he’s working on. So you’re used to that. Wouldn’t it be weird if you suddenly had to deal with him being all nice and laid back?”
Phoenix frowned. “But you’re talking about him suddenly being different. It’s not the same, Maya isn’t the same person as al your other girlfriends.”
Larry made a vague gesture with his hands. “But same idea, right?”
Phoenix sighed and nodded for the benefit of the conversation. “Yeah. That makes sense. But still, if you know that something is better for you, it’s worth getting used to it, right? The same way that if you know things are better as they are, it’s worth the patience to deal with whatever you don’t like about it.”
“Hey, you’re right Nick. Thanks!”
“Any time,” Phoenix nodded, deciding that It wasn’t necessary for him to admit that it had been helpful for him as well.