"Naru, where are you going?" Lin called after him as he walked down the road, hands deep in his coat pockets. The wind was a bit icier today than normal.

"Just wait for me. I'll only be a moment," Naru called back.

He continued down the road at a sedate pace, quietly admiring the setting sun casting a golden glow over everything, until he came to his intended destination. He'd quietly informed Monk to take Mai, John, and Miss Hara back to the office with him and Miss Matsuzaki. He had needed to visit this place once before he left with Lin and he didn't want anyone around to witness his very unusual lapse in character, most especially Mai.

Naru removed his hands from his pockets and walked through the playground. It was strangely deserted at this part of the afternoon but he didn't question his good luck. He paused by the swings and watched them sway in the breeze. The place still emitted a magical aura as Mai had described it the night before.

She had fallen asleep in his arms. He could still remember the feel of her in them. He'd carried her all the way back to the house. She had been light in his arms, breathing softly against his neck. The most powerful primitive feelings he had ever felt before had stirred to life within him in a split second, the desire to protect the young woman in his arms almost unbearable. He had tucked her into bed, and draped the blanket over her, hoping he wouldn't wake her. He had been careful not to make a sound that would alert Miss Matsuzaki and Miss Hara to the fact that it hadn't been just the three females in their room last night. He had even pressed a soft kiss on Mai's forehead, unable to resist her serene sleeping face.

Then he'd backed out of the room quietly and gone back to the one he shared with the others. They had all been sound asleep, thankfully. He knew Lin had woken the minute he entered, but had feigned ignorance to the fact that Naru had crept into bed long after midnight. He was grateful the older man hadn't questioned him. It would have been difficult to explain his situation to him, not that he had wanted to anyway. He wanted to keep that moment a secret that he shared only with Mai, even though she thought it was only a dream.

Naru had tried to hold out as long as he could against her, but being with her had caused his usual impeccable guard to crumble into dust. He really hadn't meant to admit most of the things he had said to her but she had a way about her that made him want to open up to her. But he couldn't. Some secrets he wouldn't share with her. They were his burden to bear. And with the Dar'kan and Spirit World components coming to light he didn't think it would get any easier.

Naru had been terrified when he'd heard the name pass Mai's lips. He knew what that had meant for her, what that meant for all of them, if the nefarious plans of those hooded men couldn't be discovered in time. Once he got back him, Lin, and Madoka would sit down and have a serious discussion about it. He still suspected that as much as Madoka knew about the Spirit World there was still something she wasn't telling him, and he would find out what.

He now even suspected the dream Mai had described to him was only a small part of what was to come if they failed in their course of action. He wouldn't have thought any more about it if he hadn't heard her utter the Dar'kans' name. Without that bit of information her dream would have been just that: a dream. But now a darker side had started to show, something that she might only hold to key to. He gritted his teeth.

It wasn't something he could have told her. She would be fired up even more and unconsciously put herself in danger. It was probably selfish of him but he didn't care. He had been unable to save his brother but he would be damned if he let anything happen to Mai while he was still breathing.

Naru sighed and shoved his hands back into his pockets as he sat in the swing he had occupied the night before. He had said a lot of things to Mai that night, things he would never have said right to her face. He'd also played one hell of a mind game on her. Maybe it had been for him as well. After all, he had been free to say what had been on his mind for months. He'd even had the freedom to kiss her, as he'd wanted to do since the start.

Unconsciously he touched his own lips, still feeling the pressure of her soft ones gliding over it. He clenched his hand and lowered it. He'd also been speaking the truth about the kind of life he lived. He would never subject Mai to the true horrors of it. She deserved much better. She really did deserve someone who loved her as much as she loved him, and though what he felt for her ran in those realms, he would never act upon it. He couldn't.

And yet at the same time he was loathe to relinquish her to another man, even though she technically wasn't his. He hadn't been joking about her not mentioning Gene to him either. It still rubbed him raw that she shared something special with his brother, his dead twin brother, whenever she slipped into her dream world. He was always beside himself with jealousy whenever she went to him. It had taken a hell of a lot of self-control in suggesting she use Gene as a source of information on finding out who Ammit was. Every minute she had been in there had twisted his stomach into such tight knots it was a wonder he was still mobile.

And yet he wouldn't change anything. From the moment he had first met her, right up until the day he would have to let her go. Even if given the choice he would still choose to walk down this path with her. Even if she couldn't stand by his side, he would always know she was right behind him, with that beautiful smile curving her lips up and that impish look in her cinnamon eyes.

So that's it for the first instalment :D I was thinking of making it into a series of stories that lead up to the big finale. No point in just spilling all the secrets now.

The next one is called The Puppet Master. Thanks for reading! :)