A Bet and a Kiss

"I bet you can't get him to do that, Mai-chan," Yasu teased.

"Why would I want to?" Mai asked.

"We all know how you feel about the big boss," Yasu said.

"It doesn't matter how I feel. He doesn't feel the same way."

"I don't agree with that. That's why I'm betting that you can't get him to. That would be admitting he has feelings for you."

"Get who to do what?" Monk asked as he walked through the doorway.

A voice called from behind the closed office door. Everyone could hear the "Mai, tea." Mai sighed and hurried to the kitchen. For once, Naru's timing was perfect. There was no way she was going to get Naru to do that. Ever.

She quickly made tea. Carrying the tray with two cups, she ignored the two men whispering furiously to one another. Mai knocked on Lin's door and dropped off a cup for him first. He nodded his thanks as he was on his phone. She closed the door quietly behind her and went to her bosses' office. She placed his tea next to him. He stared at her and Mai felt her face turn red.

"What?" Mai asked. Naru shook his head and went back to his report. Mai waited a bit before leaving and closing the door loudly behind her.

- x X x -

Naru reached over and turned the volume up a bit on the speaker. Mai had been acting odd the last few weeks, especially after the others left. He had installed a hidden microphone so he could keep track on what his assistant was doing and what the others were saying that was upsetting her. Her productivity had suffered because of what was happening.

The voice in his mind insisted there was more to his need to know what was happening to her. He pushed the thought aside. Mai loved Gene. As long as that was true, there was no way Naru would settle for second best.

He wondered if they could talk her into the bet. Just looking at him, she'd turned red. What color would she turn if she actually asked?

- x X x -

Mai saw that Ayako had arrived and was whispering with the other two. She knew she didn't want to know. They had already told her that she and Naru were perfect for each other. She didn't want to talk about her confession and his reaction. It was her business . . . and she didn't want the others to know how badly he hurt her. She saved the self-pity until she was alone in her apartment where no one cared how much or loudly she cried.

Mai hurried to the kitchen and made four more cups of tea. She placed hers on her desk and put the tray on the table between them. Each of them grabbed a cup and got comfortable as they watched her sit down and start back to work.

"Are you going to do it, Mai?" Ayako asked, trying not to look too interested.

"No." Mai continued her work, ignoring the looks the other three were sharing.

"What we need is something big enough that Mai has a reason to try," Yasu offered. "I know, we can go on a date. I'll take you wherever you want to go." Mai picked up her filing and walked to the cabinets and started putting the folders into the right drawers.

"You're not a big enough catch," Monk laughed. "How about tickets to my next concert for you and your friends? I'll even pick you up myself." Mai slammed the drawer she was finished with and opened another.

"Obviously, you two don't know how this is done. Mai, if you ask Naru to kiss you . . . in front of us . . . I will pay for an entire year of university costs for you," Ayako smiled as she took a sip of her tea. Mai stopped filing and stood still for a moment.

"What do you mean by "pay my university costs"?" Mai asked.

"Classes, books, travel — all those things you need for college for an entire year. Of course, a new wardrobe would probably be a good idea as well." Ayako watched Mai. Mai finished filing and turned around.

"What exactly do I have to do?"

"Naru has to kiss you . . . on the lips . . . in front of us. It has to be a real kiss, not one of those light brushing of lips. Nor can be it on the cheek or top of your head." Yasu said. "Shall I demonstrate with Bou-san?"

"Only if you want to be found dead in the morning," Monk glared at the younger man who was moving next to him. Mai and Ayako giggled.

"And what if I can't get Naru to kiss me?" Mai knew that happening was a greater possibility.

"Any jobs your boss assigns me that might hurt my clothes or manicure is yours. It will have to be a year as well . . . just to be fair. Do we have a deal, Mai?" Ayako held out her hand. Mai thought about it. She already did most of those jobs anyway. Shrugging, Mai reached out her hand. Yasu and Monk looked at each other and grinned.

- x X x -

Mai stood watching the teapot as the water heated. She wasn't paying any attention to it though. Ayako paying for a full year would really help her out. The problem was how she could convince Naru to kiss her . . . in front of Monk, Yasu and Ayako.

This was going to be *so* embarrassing.

- x X x -

Naru stared at the speaker. Mai truly was an idiot. He knew she had enough money for school. He had been very thorough before giving her a raise to make sure she had enough money for school and her apartment as well as a generous amount for other expenditures.

Mai had surprised him before. Perhaps there was a reason she needed the money that he had missed. Naru frowned as he heard a tentative knock on his door. It swung open a bit and he heard Mai say "tea." She put it down on his desk and picked up the empty cup.

"Mai, you don't normally bring me tea without my asking. What is the occasion?" Naru decided to see how she approached him. She glanced at him. A blush crossed her cheeks and she looked down. After the third time she did that, Naru glared at her. Even though her cheeks got brighter every time and he enjoyed seeing her reaction, it was becoming annoying. "Either tell me what you need or leave. Some of us are very busy."

"Naruwillyoukissme?" Mai blurted out, staring at her shoes. Her face was bright red.

"Can you possibly ask clearly enough so those of us without brain damage can understand?"

"Will you kiss me?"

"And why would I want to do that?" Naru picked up the report he was working on and glanced at it.

"Well, I made a bet with Ayako. She said she'd pay for a whole year of university if you did."

"Don't I pay you enough?"

"Yeah, but with more money, I could move to a better neighborhood . . . or take a few more classes . . . or have a head start when I get out of school . . ."

"You expect me to do something like that when you get the benefit and I get nothing? Perhaps you should reexamine your argument."

"What do you want? I know it's not money because you pay me more than any other job I could get." Naru turned toward Mai.

"Anything I want?" He raised his eyebrows, a small smirk on his lips.

"Within reason. I could clean your apartment or do your laundry. I could make you tea to take home with you." Mai continued mumbling to herself.

"I'll agree upon the following conditions. I will make my demand after you win the bet. You will do as I ask at that time with no whining, screaming or pouting. Until you win the bet, you will make my tea without complaint or I won't help you."

"How long will that be?"

"How long do you have until the bet is forfeit?"

"I don't know. Ayako didn't say I had to do it quickly. Hang on . . ." Mai pulled her cell phone out of her pocket. She quickly found her contact and called Ayako. Naru listened to Mai's side of the conversation as he watched her hand play nervously with the edge of her skirt. When she twisted it, it got shorter and he could see the edge of her underwear. He didn't understand how someone so naive of her surroundings didn't attract more than just paranormal trouble.

"Okay . . . I have two weeks." Mai turned toward Naru. "I will make your tea without complaint the entire time. Is it a deal?"

"I don't think so." Naru put his report down and turned toward her. "How many boys have you kissed?" Mai started sputtering and her face started turning red again.

"What does that have to do with anything?"

"I don't want you drooling all over my clothes."


"How many boys have you kissed?" Naru stared at her until he didn't think she could turn redder. She was cute when she was flustered. He could get her to agree to anything now.

"Just the boys I babysat when they went to bed and wanted one," Mai admitted.

"So, you need practice. Unless you want to be even more embarrassed because you don't know what to do . . . not to mention taking some of the money you'll be winning to clean my clothes."

"I'll find someone to practice with," Mai said.

"No, you'll practice with me." Naru stood up and moved in front of the flustered girl. "Or are you afraid?" Mai pushed her chin out in stubbornness.

"I'm not afraid of you."

"Well, first I need to evaluate your technique." Naru bent down. He made sure his mouth was close to her ear before continuing. "Kiss me, Mai." Mai turned her head slightly, staring into his blue eyes. Swallowing, she kissed him quickly and pulled back.

"We have a lot of work ahead of us," Naru said, shaking his head. "Now let me show you." As he kissed her, he could feel her relax. He pulled her body against his and continued.

- x X x -

Mai steeped the tea, excited to make it for Naru. He said her kissing was improving. Lin looked at her oddly as she placed his tea on his desk.

"Mai-san, are you feeling well?" Lin asked.

"Of course, why wouldn't I?"

"You seem happy to get Noll's tea. I haven't heard you refer to him as a narcississt or jerk in a week."

"That's because he's been very nice this week. I'd better get him his tea before it gets cold." Mai smiled and left the room.

Lin shook his head and returned to work. It wasn't worth the headache figuring out what Noll did to make her happy. Whatever it was, it would work out soon enough and things would return to normal.

- x X x -

Mai placed Naru's tea on his desk. She bent over to kiss him, but groaned a bit. Naru glanced up at her.

"Is something wrong?"

"I think all the bending over to kiss you is making me use muscles I'm not used to using. My lower back is hurting."

"Sit on my lap."

"What?" Naru raised an eyebrow at her and Mai shook her head and sat on his lap. She wiggled as she adjusted her skirt to make sure nothing was showing. She missed the look on her boss' face as she moved around. He slid a hand under her shirt and touched her bare back.

"Naru . . ."

"Would you hold still?" Gently, he started rubbing the muscles of her lower back. Mai shuddered slightly as he continued rubbing. Slowly, she could feel her muscles relaxing.

"That's better. Thank you, Naru."

"Don't forget," Naru's slight smile reminded her and she twisted her head to kiss him. Mai started to shift to get up, but Naru shook his head. "Now, it's time for your next lesson. When you see two people kissing, do they just kiss and walk away from each other?"

"No, they usually hug," Mai said thoughtfully.

"Kissing isn't just about lips. Today, you're going to learn more." Mai nodded her head.

- x X x -

Naru waited until Mai was comfortable on his lap. She was worried about her skirt and he was worried she'd notice his reaction to her sitting in his lap and squirming. It was all he could do to hold back the moan. The kissing had been a way to see her face reflect her embarrassment . . . always something he enjoyed. However, the kissing had changed after a couple days. It went from one kiss to two. Then, Mai would occasionally brush against his arm. His reaction was simply hormones, he tried to convince himself. A pretty girl kissing him and touching him was making his body respond.

He slid his hand under her shirt. It was easier to massage her tense muscles, he assured himself. Mai pulled away from his hand, not realizing that arching her back was making another part of her body move closer to his face.

"Would you hold still?" He started rubbing her back, afraid of hurting her as he rubbed the sore muscles. He could feel the knots that had formed. As he rubbed, he realized he could also smell her . . . her shampoo and soap. She was warm in his lap. This was much better than a simple kiss each time she brought him tea. Mai shuddered slightly. He wondered if it was because he was helping her muscles or something else. Looking down, he saw her lips slighty parted. He wanted to kiss her . . . and more. As his mind started fantasizing, his hand stopped rubbing.

"That's better. Thank you, Naru."

"Don't forget," Naru said. Mai reached up and kissed him. Her lips were soft as he knew they would be. He could taste the tea and honey on her tongue. As addicted as he was to tea, it was nothing close to his addiction to her. It had to be an addiction. Why else would he want her kissing and touching him? He wanted more than just an accidental brush. "Now, it's time for your next lesson. When you see two people kissing, do they just kiss and walk away from each other?"

"No, they usually hug," Mai said thoughtfully. She needed help with the concept, obviously. Was Mai really that oblivious?

"Kissing isn't just about lips. Today, you're going to learn more." Mai nodded her head. Naru bent down and kissed her, but this time, his tongue ran along her bottom lip. Mai pulled back and looked in his blue eyes. They looked darker for some reason. She reached up and kissed him, licking his bottom lip. Naru's tongue touched her and Mai couldn't stop the moan. Naru's tongue entered her mouth, exploring it as he would a haunted house. Mai refused to let him win. She twisted in his lap and Naru couldn't stop the moan. She moved her hands up his chest and behind his head, running her fingers through his hair.

He wanted to touch her, but was afraid too much would scare her. He placed his free hand on her knee and slowly massaged his way up under her skirt, stopping at the bottom edge of her panties. His other hand softly stroked her back and stomach.

After a few minutes, Mai leaned back, panting. Naru realized he was also panting.


"Yes, Mai."

"I don't want to stop." Naru smiled . . . a real smile and bent down again.

- x X x -

Eventually, Naru had sent her away. He said she was a distraction to his work. As she got up, he said she needed to sit in his lap from now on when she brought tea. She had nodded and left.

Now, all she could think about was how he tasted. How his skin felt. How his hair had moved through her fingers. She looked at her desk, but couldn't force herself to work. She glanced at Naru's door. Was it too soon to make tea again?

Lin's door opened and he came out with a stack of file. Placing them on her desk, he looked at her. Mai didn't move. She didn't notice his presence. Worried that she might be having a vision, he put his hand in front of her face when she suddenly jumped back.

"Yes, Lin-san?"

"I brought out more filing. Are you okay?"

Mai looked at him and put her fingers to her lips. He noticed they looked swollen.

"Did Noll kiss you?" Mai nodded and blushed furiously. "Well, it took him long enough. I don't want you leaving unless one of us is with you. Okay?" Mai nodded again. Lin shook his head. All he needed was Mai to walk out into traffic in the daze she was currently in. He just hoped Noll wasn't as bad as Mai was.

- x X x -

"Keiko, I have to ask something," Mai said softly into her phone. No one else was in her apartment, but she was still embarrassed. Keiko had a boyfriend, so perhaps she could explain what was happening.

"Are you okay, Mai?"

"I don't know. I feel funny. Like this is a dream," Mai admitted.

"Who did you kiss?"


"The first time I got a real kiss, I felt that way."


"Your boss! You finally kissed him . . . or did he kiss you?"

"Both, I think," Mai said, blushing. She was glad Keiko couldn't see her.

"Intense, huh? What else did you feel?"

"Warm all over and he kept touching me. I didn't want him to stop."

"Did you tell him you love him?" Keiko asked, only to hear silence. "I guess not, then. From what you told me, he won't confess first. You're going to have to make the first move."

"Like what?"

"Well, you could ask him to kiss you. That will show that you're receptive to him. You can sit on his lap and cuddle. That would show you trust him. You need to wait to confess until he is comfortable around you, though. You don't want to become serious too fast."

"I did that," Mai said. She had asked him to kiss her. After her botched confession, she swore to never do that again. When she asked him to kiss her, had he taken it as a second confession?

"You did what?" Mai thought furiously. Which would be less embarrassing . . . asking him to kiss her or sitting in his lap. She decided to go with the former.

"I asked him to kiss me."

"Well, from your reaction, I'd say it went well. Now, you need to share your feelings and see if he has any. If so, you can become girlfriend and boyfriend. Are you on the pill?"


"Well, you'd better start. Sometimes it's easy to get carried away. We'll stop after school tomorrow. Let him know you'll be coming in late."

"Do you really think I need to start that?"

"It's better to be safe, Mai."

- x X x -

Lin pushed the button. The car was locked and Noll couldn't get out. Traffic was bad. That would give him time to question Noll. It was time for some hard truths. Lin didn't want to watch SPR destroyed because his charge and Mai decided to become a couple only to break up. Lin had never considered Noll would deliberately hurt her, but he needed to make sure.

"What are your intentions towards Mai?" Naru flinched, but quickly hid it. He wasn't quick enough. Lin caught it.

"I don't see how anything between me and my assistant is any of your concern."

"I took her home. She was so dazed she didn't notice me putting files on her desk. I didn't want her walking into traffic." Naru smirked.

"I just kissed her . . . well, technically, she started it."

"How did Mai start it?"

"She kissed me first." Lin glanced over at the dark-haired boy before concentrating on the road again.

"Last week . . ." Lin muttered.

"How did you know it was last week?"

"That's when Mai started acting odd. How did you not notice she made tea every half hour? She was very happy to make tea. That tune she kept humming got stuck in my head all weekend."

"I noticed." Naru smirked as he looked out the window.

"If you're not serious about her, don't start something that will end badly." Naru turned and looked at Lin.

"Truthfully, I'm uncertain how I feel. Mai defies any logical assessment. She's a puzzle I can't solve. An addiction that's getting stronger every day." Naru frowned as Lin chuckled.

"Just tell her you love her and get it over with," Lin said as he inched the car forward.

- x X x -

Mai looked at the familiar landscape. Black as far as she could see with orbs floating around her. They didn't have a case, so why was she here?

"Hello, sunshine," a voice behind her greeted.

"Gene," Mai said, hugging him before pulling away. "Why am I here? We don't have a case."

"I need to talk to you about Noll." Gene watched a variety of emotions cross her face. "He does love you, you know."

"No, he doesn't. He's just helping me."

"And why would he go to the trouble to kiss you if he didn't love you?"

"I asked him to so I could win a bet. Besides, I know he doesn't like me like that for a fact." Gene chuckled.

"I can tell you for certain he does."

"If he did, he wouldn't have turned me down when I confessed," Mai said, quickly putting her hands over her mouth. She didn't want to say anything.

"He didn't turn you down, he didn't want to be second best. When we were in school, the girls were attracted to us . . . you can see why." Gene held out his arms and spun around. Mai groaned. One narcissist in her life was enough. Gene laughed.

"Anyway, there was a girl that wanted to go out with me, but I had a girlfriend so I declined. She asked Noll and he went. When he didn't treat her the way she thought he should, she told him that he was just a substitute for me and that's all he was. After that, he turned down every girl who asked for a date . . . a dance . . . anything."

"So when he asked if I loved you or him . . ."

"His insecurities were talking. He couldn't believe that you love him."

"But you believe me."

"That's because here, I can see the layers of time. I help you see and understand the past. I communicate with you in the present. I have seen what happens to you in the future."

"Then tell me," Mai whispered. She wanted what he said to be true. She wanted Naru to love her like she loved him.

"That would be telling. I will say one thing only and you are never to ask about the future again." Gene looked at Mai and waited until she nodded her head. "I have the best sister-in-law ever." Mai's eyes got big as she stared at Gene.

"So, he does love me?"

"In his own way . . . and only if you think you can put up with him." Mai nodded and hugged Gene.

"Now, remember. Our secret, Mai."

"I will not willingly disclose that you are still my spirit guide so your brother doesn't worry." Mai said slowly. Gene had made her repeat that line so many times it was etched into her brain.

"Good, now it's time to get up. You'll be late for school."

- x X x -

Naru walked out to Mai's desk and back into his office again. Mai said she'd be a little late, but it had already been an hour. He wanted his tea . . . and his special Mai treat. Lin had come out the first time Naru came out, but went back into his office when he realized it was Noll going through withdrawal.

Mai slipped into the office an hour and a half after the time she was supposed to start. It had taken her a lot longer than she anticipated. Keiko said about half an hour so Mai told Naru a full hour. By the time they were done examining her, discussing types of birth control and getting her some, the hour had flew past.

"So, where were you?" a deep voice said over her right shoulder. Mai squealed and jumped. With her hand on her chest, she confronted Naru.

"I had things to take care of. I called and told you I'd be late."

"That's not what I asked," Naru said, spying the white bag on her desk she had just put down. He stepped around her and grabbed the bag. He heard Mai gasp and her footsteps as she followed him into his office. He sat in his chair and held up the white bag.

"Do you want to tell me what's in here?"

"No. Please give it back," Mai's face was pale. She did not want him to know what was in the bag. Naru shook his head and opened the bag. He grabbed the first thing he saw . . . a brochure about pregnancy. He looked at the brochure, then at Mai, then the brochure again.

"Who is he?" Naru demanded. His face showed his anger. His fist clenched the bag. Mai swallowed, stepping back toward the door.

"It's not what you think," Mai started.

"What do I think?"

"I'm not pregnant. I don't want to be pregnant. I want to go to school." Mai said. Naru looked at her and dumped the bag's contents onto his desk. Mai ran up to him, trying to get her things when he saw the container. He picked it up and opened it, seeing one pill missing.

"You went for birth control?" Naru looked at her, shocked.

"I had a feeling I might need it," Mai said quietly. She looked up at the sound of the bag being moved around. Naru put everything back in the bag and placed it on his desk. He held out his hand and Mai took it.

"I see you're finally getting out of the depths of dumb," he smiled as he pulled her into his lap.

- x X x -

"Mai, you only have until tomorrow," Yasu said as he sipped his tea.

"Until what?" Mai asked, looking up from the forms Naru had given her to fill out. Sometimes she wondered if he made this stuff up to keep her busy.

"True love's kiss," he said. Monk and Ayako laughed. They had a side bet against Yasu that she couldn't do it. The two teenagers had been dancing around each other for years. Ayako was secure in the knowledge that her nails were safe for the next year.

"Oh, that," Mai said and shrugged her shoulders.

Suddenly, Naru's door opened and he walked to her desk.

"Mai, it's the half hour and I didn't get my tea." Mai looked at Naru, then the clock on the wall. She had forgotten. How had she forgotten? Mai jumped up and started to move past Naru when he grabbed her arm.

"First things first," he pulled her close and kissed her. Mai stood still, shocked that he would kiss her without warning her. As his tongue touched her lips, she opened hers, letting him in. Mai moaned and pushed herself against her boss. She didn't hear the gasps and after a few minutes they pulled apart.

"How many days, Mai?"

"Four." Naru nodded and smirked. "Mai, tea." He walked back to his office and closed the door. Mai hurried into the kitchen as Lin brought out another stack of files and placed them on her desk.

"Lin-san, what happens in four days?" Yasu asked. Lin looked thoughtful for a moment.

"Mai's birth control pills will be effective," he stated and went back into his office.

The only sound in the front office was Monk's teacup shattering on the hard floor.

- x X x -


Mai stood in front of her boss' door. She had won the bet. Ayako agreed to pay for her first year of university with only a little push from Monk and Yasu. Mai knew she should be happy, but she was worried. She still owed Naru for participating in the bet. He said to come to his office after everyone else had left so they could discuss what she owed him. Taking a deep breath, she knocked. Naru called for her to come in.

Carefully, Mai set a cup of tea next to Naru. She hoped the tea would keep him from demanding too much from her. He looked at her expectantly before touching the cup.

Mai slipped onto Naru's lap and kissed him. Even though the bet had been finished last week, Naru insisted on her "keeping in practice." Mai hadn't complained.

"You remember our discussion on your bet. After you won, I could demand one thing from you and you have to do it."

"With no whining or complaining, I know. What do you want?"

Naru pulled a calendar off the desk and handed it to Mai. She saw a red circle around one of the days. It was exactly one year from when Naru had kissed her last week in front of the others. Mai frowned. She had hoped he would want to be her boyfriend. Perhaps she had misread her boss.

"Why are you frowning? I haven't told you what you will be doing."

"It's a whole year away. How am I going to remember?" Naru smiled at her and pointed to the day.

"That's the day you're going to marry me, Taniyama Mai." Mai turned her head and face him, her eyes wide in shock. She could feel her heart pounding.

"We're getting married?"

"Yes. That is my payment for being part of your bet." Mai smiled and grabbed Naru's face and pulled it down to her. She kissed him hard and pulled back suddenly.

"I would marry you tomorrow if you asked." Naru shook his head.

"No, I want to enjoy being your boyfriend first." Mai felt his hands slide up under her shirt. She shuddered as she tilted her head up for another kiss.