Larry Butz was not the brightest of kids, that he knew. But now he was no longer simply a child, but a middle schooler. It was a week before the beginning of school, the sixth graders being told to arrive at the school for orientation and photos were present. His best friend however, was not. Because of a family summer vacation, the Butz child was not able to meet up with his friend at all over the summer. Sure, phone calls were exchanged and chats were commenced, but it just wasn't the same as meeting in person and beating the other into mercy via paintball. Larry knew, since his best friend's last name started with a "W", and his started with a "B", that there was no way they were going to be in the same group. He knew this, but yet he was adamant about finding his friend, the orientation as a whole wasn't alphabetized afterall. His WEB (Where Everybody Belongs) leader introduced herself to his group, but he promptly forgot the eighth grader's name, as he was too busy searching for his friend.
There was a female in a dress that caught his eye though, looking strangely similar to the person he was looking for. Larry shook his head at that. Phoenix was male. That, he was certain of. Besides, that girl was way too cute to be Nick, as Larry called him. The orientation eventually lasted without a hitch, or a meeting. He even loitered on campus for a bit in hopes that his friend had thought of the same thing. The cute girl was there too, and Larry was sure she kept sneaking a glance at him. Whenever he met her eyes, she would look away, as if she was not staring at him like a stalker in the first place. Unfortunately said friend mentioned didn't show up, and the remaining kids that were lazing around campus were shooed off, to allow the staff to close and secure the school gates.
Larry watched the girl get into her car from the back seat of his own. He found himself thinking that the girl's car was the same model that Phoenix's mom had. He shrugged it off, it wasn't that rare to have the same car. Even though the image of the Nick-look-a-like was in front of his mind during the whole ride home, he set her aside to deal with Phoenix instead when he arrived back. Larry dialed his friend's number the moment he got through the front door.
"Hello, this is the Wright residence," a female voice answered the phone.
"Hello, Mrs. Wright. Can I talk to Nick, please?" Larry asked the woman. There was an immediate pause, followed by distant shouting for said boy to come. After a few seconds, Larry was greeted with the familiar voice of his friend.
"Hello?" the raven asked.
"Nick, where were you?" Larry whined immediately. He could feel Nick cringe at that over the phone, and he smiled. You still got it, Butz.
"I was there, you just weren't looking hard enough," Nick nonchalantly replied. His voice sounded slightly...annoyed?
"Nah, man. I looked high and low for you. There was this really cute girl in a blue dress though, I think she's interested. Not even officially a middle schooler yet and I might even have a girlfriend soon."
"Hardly, I highly doubt she was looking because she was interested in that way," Nick said.
"Oh? And how would you know?"
"Just trust me," his friend replied. Larry could have sworn he heard Nick grin on the other end of the phone.
"Uh...okay, you excited for middle school?" Larry changed the topic, not knowing how to respond to...whatever Nick just said.
"Pretty so-so, it's a big step for us, getting an actual schedule and all. Don't get lost on the first day, okay?"
"H-hey, I will not get lost. You have your schedule, right?" His friend hummed in affirmation and they began to compare. Six classes, and they had half of them together. Social studies, P.F. - which was short for Physical Fitness, but the other schools had Physical Education, how weird was that? - and Art. They had the same science teacher, but during different periods.
"You have her third, right? Counting on you for all the juicy details about homework and tests," Larry joked.
"Larry," his friend said, but Larry knew Nick was smiling as well.
"Cooking? Nick, come on Metalshop is much cooler."
"I can always get it next semester, besides we'll see who's crawling to the other one after his snickerdoodle craving can't hold out any longer."
"We'll see who's crawling to the other after I make a sick metal dragon!"
"Pfft, yeah right," his friend scoffed, but there was a hint of jealousy in the raven's voice.
"We should meet up before school starts, you know, watch a movie or something?" Larry proposed his plan to the other boy. The raven was silent for a bit. Larry could hear him ask his mom for confirmation. When did Nick have to ask his mom anything? They hung out all the time.
"Sorry, my mom said no," Nick finally answered, evident sadness in his voice.
"How about a sleepover? Haven't been to your house for over two months, man," Larry suggested. Another pause, another question, another even a louder and more aggressive reply. Larry knew the answer before Nick could give it to him.
"Dude, what is wrong?"
"What is wrong? You never had to ask your mom to hang out with me, and now your mom is not even letting you hang out with me, what is up with that?" Another long pause.
"I'll tell you later...Don't come to my house until I tell you it's okay to do so or I'll never speak to you again. Goodbye, Larry," Nick said. His voice was shaking, holding back some tears. Nick was still a crybaby despite all that distance he tried to put into his emotions during the call.
Larry was hung up on before he could even utter another question. He stared at the receiver in his hand with disbelief. Scenario after scenario flooded his mind, was Nick in danger? Was his family in danger? Everything that was inside the eleven year old's head was straight from an action movie. He shook it away, hoping that it was not anything serious. It didn't' stop him from "accidentally" passing by the Wright's residence that week, but they weren't home.
School finally started, and he had first period with Phoenix. With all the excitement a child can have on their first day of middle school could muster, he started the day with a plan. A plan to get Nick to spill the beans. It wasn't just about their friendship anymore, it was about Nick's safety to boot.
He waited in front of first period. More and more students from his class gathered after a few moments, schedule in tiny hands, double checking the room number for confirmation.
"Hey," a voice called out to him. Larry looked up, it was that super cute girl again. Her hair barely touched her shoulders, ebony in color. Instead of a dress today, she wore a skirt. It was short enough to show off her slender legs up to the knees. Her eyes stared at him with expectation, as if she was waiting for him to notice..well...something.
"Uh...hey, I saw you at orientation," Larry said. The girl nodded. "Why were you staring at me so much, it couldn't have been my dashing good looks, right?"
The girl laughed, "No, I just wanted to make sure you were the Larry Butz." What? Did something happen to enable him to be sought out for over the summer? He wasn't even in the country! Did she notice the sick tan he got?
Larry opened his mouth to speak, anything really to remove this cloud of confusion. But the door opened, and Mrs. Lee's first period social studies class was let in. Each student picked a card from the deck of playing cards that she had held, and was ordered to find the desk with the corresponding card. The one with the same color suit and the same number, basically. Behind her back, some students in the classroom were already switching cards, just so that they can sit near a friend.
"Hey, mind if we switch cards?" the unnamed girl asked the boy that sat next to Larry. He stuttered a bit in affirmation as the girl took her new seat.
"...Hey.." he said.
"Hey," she replied.
"How'd you know my name?" Larry asked, he was sure there was no such a girl in his elementary school. The girl simply put her index finger against her lips.
"Shhh, class is starting," she smiled. The room quieted down as Mrs. Lee returned to her position on the desk and took out a clipboard.
"Larry Butz!" the teacher called out, obviously starting roll call.
"Here!" he declared, shooting his hand into the air. It was then when he looked around the room that his best friend was yet again nowhere to be found. Did Nick end up transferring? He had heard about this. How sometimes students transfer to a different class at the last minute, to accommodate a switch in another class, a change in electives, something or other. Maybe Phoenix switched to Metalshop afterall?
"Phoenix Wright!" Mrs. Lee called out. Larry held his breath for a sign. The sign he didn't expect however, was the raised hand of the girl seated next to him.
"Here," she said, with a half raised hand. Mrs. Lee nodded and marked it on the attendance. Mrs. Lee called out a few more names until she went over the entirety of the roster. During that time, Larry did not remove his eyes from the female, who had apparently revealed herself to be the Phoenix Wright. The best friend he had waited to meet again over the summer, the girl at orientation that he thought was cute. The best friend who he wanted to meet over the summer and the girl he thought was cute and the best friend he had confessed to that he had thought he..she was cute. His head hurt. He screamed.
Brunch arrived, and Phoenix still had that shit eating grin on her face.
"I can't believe you screamed," she said.
"I can't believe you're a girl," Larry said.
"I've always been a girl," Phoenix replied, shrugging her shoulders.
"So can I still call you Nick or..."
"You can still call me Nick."
"Oh, thank god. I am not that creative to give you another nickname without it sounding terrible on my tongue. To me, you're just ...Nikki...Nicole...Phoe?" Nick laughed at that.
"Never change, Larry," she smiled. There were tears in her eyes, and Larry felt his heart stop.
"H-hey, bro - Nick. Why are you crying? People are gonna think I pcos on you or something," Larry said, flustering. "It wasn't me...right?"
"No," she said, biting her lip. With one hand Pheonix wiped some of the tears that were rolling down her cheek. "I was just afraid you wouldn't be my friend anymore."
"No way, Nick. You're my best friend, there is no way I would stop being your bestest of best friends just because you're a girl. I mean you were always a girl, right? So you're still you, so it shouldn't matter, right?"
Larry's rambling in turn made Phoenix slightly stunned. Her surprised look soon melted into a smile.
"Thanks, Larry. That means a lot to me," she gleamed, wiping a stray tear away from her eyes. They stayed like that, in silence with nothing else but the other's comfort until the bell rang.
"Ah, crap." the bow muttered before waving his friend goodbye. It didn't take long for the other middle school student to gather herself together and head off to the next class as well.
"Hey Nick, go out with me," Larry blurted out during lunch one day.
"Excuse me, what?" Nick said, her face visibly blushing.
"Go out with me, Phoenix Wright."
"Larry, we're only in sixth grade. We're pixies, eleven. Your voice hasn't even dropped yet!"
"But Nick, your ferramonies are making my making me heart beat everytime I look at you. And has anybody told you this, but you're damn cute."
"The word you were looking for is pheromones."
"I'll think about it."
Larry went home that day with regret in his heart. Without removing his jacket, he jumped onto his bed and screamed into his pillow. Did he ruin his and Nick's friendship? He rolled onto his back, resting the back of his arm over his eyes. Maybe it was too soon? Too sudden. Phoenix was right, they were only sixth graders, barely even!
Without thinking, Larry took the home phone and failed Nick's number. She wasn't home. Lacrosse practice. God, what is up with lacrosse? It's gotta be the most aggressive female dominant sport ever. It wasn't like no males played, but man. Larry had to play it for a week for fitness class and damn did he still have bruises from those few days.
Using the term loosely, Larry had to confess that he was scared. Very scared. There was no way that he would be able to deal with Phoenix rejecting him. Sure, they'll still be friends. Probably. But there is no chance that the relationship would stay the same. Maybe she'll forget about it after a while. But Larry didn't want her to think of him as just a friend...did he?
He threw the phone aside, ignoring the device. If it fell of his bed, too bad for it. Hopefully, the cord didn't break.
The next day, Phoenix said yes and Larry became the happiest boy in school.
"Let's go on a date," Nick said to his friend. They were at lunch, again. The two were sitting across from each other at a table - a miracle for two scrawny pixies to accomplish due to the aggressiveness of the two upperclassmen grades.
"Yes! Yes, absolutely!" Larry practically whooped, almost forgetting to swallow his food.
"So, where do you want to go?" the girl asked, taking her now-boyfriend's hand and playing with his fingers.
"Hmm," Larry thought, stroking his chin with his free hand. That new pirate movie is still in theaters right? No, this was a date, Larry! A girl doesn't want to go watch a movie about pirates killing each other on her first date-
"How about that new Johnny Depp movie? It's still playing despite being released over the summer. And I haven't watched it yet, despite it being full of pirates. You haven't either, right?" Phoenix held his wrist with one hand, and moved her other's fingers to entwine with his. Larry's heart skipped again. This girl was perfect for him. Oh, if only he had only dated her sooner.
"Oh man, I was about to say that," Larry said with his crooked smile. He squeezed Nick's hand that was grasped around his.
"So it's a date then," Nick said.
"And so it is." As if on instinct, the hands that were in an embrace were released from their intimate hold. At the same time, the two new romantic partners balled their hands into a fist, and made contact with the other's. "Man, are girls even allowed to give their boyfriends fistbumps like this?"
Phoenix withdrew her fist and shrugged, "I don't know, and I don't care. I'm not going to change the way I act around you just 'cause we're dating now." Yep, definitely should have asked her out sooner.
Saturday was the day of the date, and Larry would have been lying if he said he wasn't nervous. He didn't dress any different than he did on a regular day, but hopefully even a dense person like Nick can notice that he had actually put effort in his hair that day.
"Oh my God, Larry. Did you comb your hair?" a voice chided. Larry turned around to meet face to face with his date. Her bangs were brushed to the side, held in place by two cornflower blue clips. She had on an oversized knit sweater, making her look even more petite than she already was. The rest of her outfit comprised of jean shorts that cut off mid-thigh, with black leggings underneath - most of it hidden by her tall brown boots. When she blinked, his attention drew to her faces and-
"Oh my God, Nick, are you wearing make up?" Larry teased back, immediately noticing the longer lashes and the pinker cheeks of the young Ravenna She looked cute. And Larry couldn't help but feel special that Phoenix had wore makeup on their date. The girl seemed to fidget at this, apparently that one lock of her hair became really interesting. Rolling the lock between her forefinger and thumb, she began to look off into the distance.
"Do you...not like it?" she began. Oh no, shit, shit, you fucked up, Butz.
"N-no! You look cute!" her floundered, waving his arms around like mad in front of him.
"Nah, just kidding, Butz. I know I rock this look," Nick said, sticking out her tongue. Crap, Larry thought as his heart skip another beat. This girl was toxic to his heart or something.
"Well, I wore clean pants today, so that's something, right?"
"Of course, Larry Butz," Nick giggled into her hand, "You wearing clean anything is a miracle, Mr. I-wore-the-same-undershirt-everyday-to-school-during-the-fourth-grade." Nick smiled that radiant smile of hers.
"H-hey, I changed that shirt at least once every few days, and my underwear was changed daily to boot!" Larry said in an all knowing manner with his eyes closed. The gesture was completed with one hand on his hip and the other pointing to nothing in particular.
"It didn't smell like it," Nick muttered under breath, loud enough for Larry to hear it.
"Are you accusing me of being an unhygienic child?"
"You are still a child, Larry."
"Correction, I'm a junior high-schooler now."
Phoenix nodded, "I stand corrected, you are still a child. We're only pixies afterall"
"But that's only a year away from being a sevvy, which is one away from being a troll."
"Oh Jesus Christ, can you just believe how stupid those names are," Nick said, rolling his eyes.
Larry scratched the back of his head, "Yeah, I bet a seventh grader come up with that one."
Phoenix laughed, "Yeah, and they didn't think too far ahead, they did become a 'troll' the next year afterall."
The two bought the largest popcorn available, dumped it into the cardboard box that was supplied for the drinks and nachos, and came back for their refill immediately. They also bought a box of curly fries...each. Because man although they were damn expensive they were so damn worth it. Along with two large slushies, the two were ready to watch some pirate action and eat some fatty junk food.
"Aw man, that that was great!" Phoenix said, stretching as they exited the theatre.
"Wanna go theater hopping?"
"I thought you would never ask," she smiled.
They tried to kiss in seventh grade. But nothing happened like it did in the movies. No sparks flew. No foot popped. It was just, well, that just happened. Nothing significant or special about it, other than the fact that it was both of their first kisses. Larry didn't want to say he was disappointed, but he was pretty bummed out.
Neither of them had felt anything during that kiss. Their first kiss. Something that was suppose to be special to them. I mean yeah, their first kisses were with their best friend, which was nice and dandy and all, it just was wasn't what they expected.
Phoenix bit her lip, "Maybe we're not old enough to feel anything."
"Yeah...we shouldn't do that again until...later," Larry trailed off. Larry couldn't figure it out why nothing happened. His girlfriend was simply adorable. And he was..well, alright. They were best friends so they already knew everything about each other, as a result there was none of the initial awkwardness of Oh what do you like to do or Hey do you like this or that. They had fun on all their dates, and regular outings. Just simply hanging out and being with the other was enough to make them both happy, it was like spending time with each other in elementary school.
Maybe that was it. Nothing in their relationship had changed. The only difference now is that instead of saying the other is their best friend, they've categorized the other as boyfriend/girlfriend. Sure, they hold hands now, and hug a lot more than they did prior to the relationship. But other than that, their chemistry hasn't jived or moved around in any way at all.
The two awkwardly said goodbye after that, leaving the date on a sour note. It was good until the kiss at least. The next day Phoenix decided to dash away the awkwardness immediately with an impromptu visit to Larry's home the next day.
"You know, I hate makeup," Phoenix said as the two were lazing around on the Butz's living room couch.
"Hmm? Then why do you wear it?" Larry asked, reaching for the popcorn bowl that was haphazardly balanced between the two tweens.
"I don't know, it was just something some of the girls at school were doing. My mother has also started nagging me to be more..feminine...so I just followed along," Phoenix said, whilst trying to remove a kernel that was stuck between her teeth.
"You don't have to wear it anymore if it makes you uncomfortable," Larry suggested.
"But I'm worried about what others will think, I was one of the first ones in our grade to wear it to school after all. If I suddenly stop, what will they say?"
"Screw what they say..." Larry boomed. There was an awkward silence before he continued, "Then how about you stop wearing it on our dates? I mean yeah, you look cute with makeup, but if you don't feel good, then what's the point?"
"Hmm?" Larry turned his hard to face his partner, who leaned forward slightly and flicked him on the nose.
"How can you be so wise and yet so dumb at the same time?"
"I'll take that as a compliment. And hey, I'm always wise."
"Yeah right," the teen scoffed, whacking her friend on the head with the couch pillows. The first one caught Larry off guard, but he was able to catch the second one expertly.
"Careful of the popcorn," he huffed. Resting his chin on the pillow as he hugged it, Larry stared into space for a long time.
"What's wrong? Are you that worried about the popcorn? Here, I'll even put in on the table. There, now it would get everywhere if it does fall over."
"No, Nick. That's not it."
"Then what is?"
"It's just...you said your mom was suggesting that you should act a certain way, right? How do you feel about that?"
Nick just shrugged at that, "I mean she's correct, right? I mean, I am a girl. And girls should do things like wear pretty dresses and wear make up. So I'm just doing what's normal, I guess."
"But Nick, do you even like to do those things?"
"Not particularly, no..."
"Then you should stop," Larry sternly lectured Phoenix. This was scaring his friend, Larry was never serious. Not to this extent, at least. "I mean, look at what you're wearing now. It's what you like wearing, and not just things you wear for the sake of...I don't know...impressing your mom or something. I don't care what you wear, Nick. I just haven't seen you this comfortable in a long time."
It dawned on her, as she looked down at herself. Larry was correct. She was wearing a short sleeve t-shirt featuring the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles on it, and a pair of khaki shorts. She hasn't worn this type of clothing since...since forever! Phoenix started laughing.
"What's so funny, dude? It's weirding me out."
"No, no, it's not you," she gasped between chuckles. "Oh wait, I think it is you. You're right. You're totally right. I hate skirts. I hate make up. I hate being quiet and when adults tell me to act more lady-like. I miss shorts. Not those other shorts I've been wearing, shorts like these," she said, pointing to the ones on her person. Her face then blanked out as she quieted it down.
"I liked it...when I was mistaken for a boy," she whispered.
"What?" Larry asked his friend, Phoenix was being a bit too quiet.
"I liked it, when people thought I was a boy. When I did something wrong, and adults tell my mother to control her son, I liked it. And then mom would have to correct them, but eventually she stopped. But I liked it when they did it. When they called me a boy, called me my mom's son...But when I dressed like how mom wanted, that stopped happening. They started pestering me to act more like a girl, how girls shouldn't act like that or be more gentle. The last one wouldn't be so bad in some cases, but the fact that they also added because you're a girl. I want to go back, Larry. Go back to the time where people that I was a boy..."
Phoenix started to tear up and sob. Larry clenched his fists, unsure of what to say. "Mom even wanted me to no longer hang out with you. Started to say how I should hang out with girls my age instead. How it's important...for, something," she waved her hand around to emphasize the something or other. "I had to tell her I was going out to hang with the girls for her to even let me exit the house to meet up with you. She didn't want me to hang out with any of our other guy friends at all either. They've stopped hanging out with me too. Everyone but you..."
"Hey, don't tell me that-"
"I'm sorry, Larry. Yes. It's true...I only said yes to you...because I thought you would leave me if I said no."
Larry's heart started hammering, his palms began to sweat. He let out a giant sigh, "Nick, to be honest...I think I haven't been treating you as a girlfriend all this time..."
"Were you cheating on me?" Phoenix's voice rose out of concern.
"No! No, no. Not like that. I mean, other than the fact we hold hands a lot more now. I think I've been seeing you as the best friend that's been with me all this time. And Nick, you're wrong. Even if you said no, I would have remained friends with you. If you, of course...wanted me to."
Phoenix sat there for a while, wiping the tears that rolled down her cheeks.
"Hey Larry, can I ask you a favor?"
"Anything, Nick," the boy answered.
"Even if it's only you, will you act like I'm a boy again?"
"To be honest, I never saw you anything but a boy." The two laughed at that. It wasn't spoken, but Larry was pretty sure they broke up. It was a mutual understanding. The two just didn't see each other in that way. Larry was just in love with the idea of romance, all part of the junior high experience, he claimed, while Phoenix was afraid of losing a friend. But with all the misunderstandings aside, their friendship returned to normal. The best friends spent the entire day playing video games and eating junk food, and that was perfectly okay with them.