Mai groaned as her head rolled back and forth on her arms jarring her from the sleep she so desperately clung to.
"Five more minutes." She mumbled grabbing the fabric of the couch cushion to better cement herself on the furniture.
The next moment she could feel her perch moving again. Her eye's shot open, the unwelcome and involuntary movement jolting her awake.
Mai squinted against the sunset that was pouring in through the window. She could make out the blurry shape of a figure. A dark spot against the bright light streaming in around them.
The figure moved and the blinds fell over the window. Bathing the room in relative darkness. Mai found her eyes once again struggling to adjust.
A cold blue stare greeted her once she could see clearly again.
"Naru?" Mai asked. She rubbed at her face. A small part of her brain reminded her that she should be embarrassed and apologize for sleeping at work. But she could barely hear it over her yawn.
Oliver watched as Mai worked her jaw with what he could only assume was some sort of attempt at conversation before she continued to blink bleary eyed at him.
He merely stared back.
"Sorry," She said with her hand in front of her mouth. "What time is it?"
Their eyes held one another's for a moment longer. Mai found the golden glow of the sunset back lighting his face to be far too distracting.
"Mai, Tea." Oliver stated before he turned and walked back to his office.
Mai's face scrunched in a frown and she let out a small growl as she headed into the kitchenette.
It wasn't until she came back, tea in hand. That she noticed the critical change to the main office space that she how somehow missed before.
Every single piece of furniture had been moved flush against the walls.
Even the couch she had been sleeping on. She realized that must have been what had woken her up.
Noticing the slowing of her steps Oliver looked over his shoulder at her from across the room one eyebrow arched inquisitively.
Nervous energy began to buzz in her chest. Mai looked around the room hoping for a distraction.
Oliver finished with the computer in front of him and approached her.
"I sent him home." He answered matter-of-factly, reaching out for his tea. The buzzing intensified. "We are the only ones here."
Mai felt a jolt as the jittery energy exploded, goose flesh raising allover her body, her heart hammering in an erratic pattern.
Oliver wrapped his fingers around the cup just in time to catch it as it slid from her grip.
"What…"Unable to speak any further Mai spread her arm to take in the rearranged room.
"Dancing requires a certain amount of space. I made sure to make it extra wide lest you should find a way to trip over something." Oliver took a sip from his tea his eyes still locked on Mai.
Mai's fingers twitched, the tips felt numb. She clenched and unclenched them hoping to restore feeling.
Oliver hadn't stepped away as he continued to enjoy his drink. And if he was being completely honest with himself, he was enjoying Mai's attempts at stifling her fidgeting as well. The twitchy energy was nearly palpable and Oliver felt the hairs on his arms raise in response. He found a strange sense of comfort in her disquiet. It was proving a more than adequate distraction from his own proximity uneasiness. He wondered how long he could stand this close. How long until his own anxiety made space for itself between them?
Mai found herself immobilized as he continued to stand less than an arm's length away. She was dumbfounded as to why Oliver would set this up. Other than a quick command of, 'You will be expected to waltz' when he had first mentioned the dinner Oliver had avoided nearly all discussion on the impending event. Mai wondered if Eugene had spoken to Oliver. It made sense, Gene had told her to ask for Oliver's help, but she had remained noncommittal.
Finishing his cup Oliver turned away and set it on the pushed aside coffee table. Mai took a deep breath, realizing that her lungs had forgotten to function in the waning light which had insisted on reflecting in Oliver's eyes.
"But why?" Mai asked, her voice still airy and fried by her nerves.
Oliver turned back to her and Mai felt her heart stop. She tried to convince herself that it was a trick of the shadows. Or that her flustered energy had finally scrambled her brain.
Oliver, was smiling. He took a step closer to her.
Mai dug her fingernails into the palm of her hand. Testing to see if she would wake up.
Oliver's hand came up and gave her forehead a slight tap. "You need a teacher."
Mai found herself smiling back, face burning.
Oliver brought his hand down to her chin. Mai's breath caught as his other pressed against her back.
"Posture is important, you have to hold this. Mai." Oliver pressed his palm harder into her back forcing her to stand straighter while pinching her chin to hold it in place.
Mai wanted to scream, but she found her jaw clenched in irritation. Rage intensified the energy coursing through her and her nails bit deeper into her palms.
Oliver took a quick step back. "Arms up." He barked.
Oliver crossed is arms and took his chin in hand. Mai found her anger redouble at the scrutiny.
"Adequate." He said walking around her. "Now. Begin with the right."
Two hours later, Mai's feet were aching and her head was spinning even when she wasn't.
"Again." Oliver demanded.
"Naru." Mai whined. "Can't we stop for tonight? It's late."
Oliver glared at her. "Again."
Mai raised her arms and made a silent vow to get back at both of the twins for this humiliating and miserable situation.
Stepping back with her right Mai resumed her solitary revolutions around the room.
Not surprisingly, Oliver's teaching methods were very different from Eugene's. Gene had pulled her along allowing her feet to catch up with them at the expense of his own. Oliver's approach was far more detached and clinical. Other than the occasional flick to her back when she started slouching Oliver had kept his distance. Observing her movements with his ever present critical eye.
Mai wondered, how had she let herself get so worked up about this earlier? She had let her heart get carried away with romantic notions. She knew better than to think that Oliver was going to take her in his arms and carry her across the room. She knew better, but she had let her supercilious heart get the best of her anyway. But that smile.
"I said stop."
Mai knew it was all that smile's fault. There should be a law prohibiting him from flashing a real smile like that in such delicate situations.
Mai turned her head towards the call as the back of her legs met with the edge of the couch and she fell backwards onto the material.
Back where she had started mere hours ago. Mai looked up to the sullen face Oliver standing over her.
"Perhaps I should have moved the furniture into the other room." Oliver said before turning away and heading back to the window.
"Sorry," Mai was sick of hearing that word come out of her own mouth. With heavy limbs and a heavy heart Mai pulled herself back up from the couch. "I just want to go home, Naru. I'm too tired. Let's try again tomorrow, ok?"
After the sun had finished its decent earlier Oliver had reopened the blinds. He had been taking moments to stop and stare out at the city lights whenever his annoyance with her ineptitude peaked.
"I should have known better," he started his voice cold. "Your clumsy nature prohibits you from truly achieving a graceful form."
"I was an idiot to think that I could teach you." Oliver said his voice clipped as his anger grew.
Mai's back went ridged. Hot tears stung her eyes.
After all this work, all this time. He was giving up on her. He had been rude before, but this hurt more.
It was one thing to think she was ignorant. It was quite another to say she was unteachable. She had been trying her hardest to perform every task he had commanded of her. She kept her mouth shut. She hadn't even complained once.
Did he appreciate it?
No. He tells her she is hopeless.
Oliver hit the light switch casting the room back into darkness.
Her finger shot out accusatorily in what she hoped was still his direction. She wanted to tell him just where he could shove his ridiculous dance lessons.
But she couldn't see anymore and her lip had developed a very annoying tremble.
"I was an idiot." Oliver's voice came from closer than Mai had expected. A warm hand took hold of the one she had brandished. Fingers interweaving with her own. "What you need, is a partner."
Shock traveled down her arm and radiated out from her back where Oliver had once more pressed his palm against her.
A sharp tug on Oliver's part closed the gap between them. Mai looked up, too confused to be concerned with the heat she felt radiating off of her own cheeks. His face was turned away, eyes locked across the room. Despite the dark Mai could see the tight set of his jaw and she could feel the rigidity with which he held her.
Mai stared at Oliver's face and began to feel all of the shock and the anger drain away. She realized that he must be just as uncomfortable as she was.
His hands twitched, nearly letting go of hers then squeezing far too tight. His palm on her back was hot like an iron and trembled as well.
Oliver was trying so hard to maintain his cool façade, but Mai could see the exertion radiate off of him. Mai's heart swelled. It was endearing to be reminded that Oliver struggled too some times.
Mai pushed back in an attempt to detangle herself from him.
Oliver tightened his grip.
"It's ok, Naru. You don't have to—"
"It is proper form." He interrupted stiffly.
"Screw proper form. I want you to be comfortable. How can we dance if you are terrified the whole time?"
"Don't be ridiculous, I'm not ter—"
Mai put her free hand on his chest and Oliver visibly jumped his eyes squeezing shut.
Two hours. Two hours, he had prepared himself for this. He had watched Mai moving around the room more than adequately performing the steps for a majority of the time. He should had tested her partner skills after the first few minutes. But he found himself unable to propose the idea. Instead all he could do was find some perceived fault and shout 'again!' Growing angrier at himself each time.
After all that wasted time he had found the nerve to move forward. Only to falter immediately. What was he even doing here? He should never have agreed to this.
She wanted him to be comfortable? How could she be comfortable at this moment?
Perhaps they should give up.
Oliver opened his eyes and finally turned his head to look at Mai. A beam of light from his desk lamp in the other room fell across her face and made her eyes sparkle. She looked as if she were glowing. Her soft smile wiping away Oliver's previous thoughts.
His panic subsided, quelled by his inquisitive nature. How could she appear so contented? From what source could she be deriving pleasure?
Distracted, his grip relaxed and he found himself letting her slide free her face falling back into the shadows.
Mai stopped and held her hand parallel to his own, hovering slightly below it.
"We could fake it see?"
"That is stupid." Oliver replied. "I will be fine, I assure you." He continued before she could argue.
For a third time Oliver took her hand and prepared to dance.
"Begin." Oliver instructed, moving his foot forward. Seamlessly Mai followed his lead and they began to whirl around the room.
Mai was quiet. At first, she focused heavily on her feet terrified she would afflict Oliver in the same way she had his brother or that she would send them careening into a shadow that turned out to be a large piece of furniture.
But her mind soon wandered. Distracted by the rhythmic way the light from the other room would flash across Oliver's face as they moved. She wanted to see if he was happy. Or at least contented with the situation. The brief glimpses she had of his face, while highly compelling, did little to provide insight into his mood.
After a few moments more Mai gathered the courage to ask. "Are you ok? Should we stop?"
The soft measured sounds of their movements went uninterrupted.
"Naru—" Mai began, but he cut her off.
"Fine." He replied his voice brisk.
She scrutinized his features searching for some clue as to the validity of that claim.
"But thank you for offering." Oliver said his voice soft as he looked down at her. The light flashed across his face once more and Mai had to stifle a gasp.
The smile was back.
"We are going to try a spin in four steps." Oliver continued. "Prepare yourself. 3-2.—"
Mai allowed herself to be pulled to the side, her body pivoting on the ball of her foot as the room revolved around her.
"Good. Now back to the steps." He instructed. Mai complied, and they returned to their previous pattern.
Mai felt as if she was floating. Her mind and body were wrapped in a haze of contented exhaustion. But she didn't want to stop.
She never wanted to stop.
Mai's eyes slid closed and her head dipped slightly.
"Mai, posture." Oliver reminded her.
"Yes." Mai mumbled her head jerking back up. "Naru?"
"Mai." He replied.
"Why are you dancing with me?"
"Because I am helping you, idiot."
"No, at the dinner." She asked watching his face once more. She hoped he was happy. It would be awful to think that she would have to put him through something he detested more than once.
"Focus on right now Mai."
Mai's eyes slid shut again, her step wavering.
Oliver eyed her askance.
Mai's head fell onto Oliver's chest and she let out a tired mumble of "—Happy?"
Oliver stopped. Gene's last words ringing in his head.
Important. You. Happy.
Oliver had not truly thought on the emotion for some time. He had no difficulties when it came to meeting his basic needs. Food was plentiful. Rest easy to come by when necessary. His work provided appropriate mental stimulation. He was sated, but was that the same as happy?
Oliver shook his head, this was a ridiculous train of thought anyway. He did not require some form of emotional label in order to give his days value. The satisfaction was in the work, the job well done.
Mai, already unconscious, began to slide and Oliver shifted the girl in his arms before she fell from his grip. He took the opportunity to look down at her halcyon expression.
He did know happy.
Happy was watching Mai's face twitch when he said 'Mai, Tea'. The way she bit her lip in an attempt not to yell at him. The fact that she failed and yelled anyway. The completely different way she bit her lip when she was trying to solve something. Even the way she berated him when she thought he was wrong. Her ability to care so strongly for others. It was fascinating. How did she do it? Why did she do it?
Happy was… Mai.
Oliver held Mai tightly, his focus no longer on the risk of her falling. Instead he memorized how it felt to have her pressed against him. His uneasiness wasn't gone, but it was restrained. And for once he found that he could ignore it as it pounded against its containment. He used the opportunity to observe his own bizarre reactions and came to a startling conclusion.
The closeness wasn't as bad when it had been sought out.
Oliver led Mai to the couch and settled her across its cushions.
The movement caused Mai to stir. Her hand grasped Oliver's arm as he pulled away from her.
"Why?" Mai asked again.
Oliver expected to find her talking in her sleep. But her eyes, while bleary, stared back at him.
Oliver felt a genuine smile split his face for a third time that evening.
He gave her forehead a gentle tap.
"Because, it would make me happy."
Here we are part 3. I hope you guys enjoy.
Thanks so much to mysticalphoenix-avalon and Samantha-Girl Scout (whom this was written for on the GH exchange in the first place) for the lovely reviews!