READ THIS (please): Hi! Did you know there is an Audio Fanfiction Library? It is a separate but related site. I'm not on their staffing team or anything, but authors do have the option to record their own stories and send them in and- you guessed it! I recorded an audio version of this one-shot. Personally, this isn't just shameless self-advertising. I love the idea of an audio-version of this wonderful website, and I'm glad someone put it together. I think their biggest drawback right now is probably just that a lot of people don't know they exist... So please, if you're interested, check it out! Maybe record one of your own stories to submit to their archive. (Though you'd have to look up their guidelines and whatnot...) And, if you feel like it... you could go listen to my recording of Seventeen. Have a nice day!
Hello, world! Thank you for joining me in my first foray into the Ghost Hunt fandom. (Writing for it, anyway.) Maybe it's only a big deal to me, but I rewatched the beginning recently and got caught on the part where Naru tells Mai he "will be seventeen this year." As in, he was still sixteen at the start of the story. As in, the twins' first birthday since Gene's death took place while Naru was in Japan. (That was my understanding, anyway. Like I said, is that only a big deal to me?)
Also… I am a Naru/Mai shipper. I hesitated to add that in here, because I really didn't want their relationship to become the focus of the story (that's a tale for another day) but it is mentioned vaguely. The exact nature of their relationship and how they came to be together after his return to Japan, I'll leave up to your imaginations. And lastly, I tend to switch between "Noll" and "Naru" and "Oliver" pretty freely. I don't know if that annoys some people or if it's pretty common in this fandom, but I figured I'd give you a heads up. So. Onwards!
The first year was… debilitating. There was no other word for it. In general, Noll felt he handled grief with quite his fair share of dignity. He certainly handled it better than either of his parents. His mother hadn't had to listen to him wailing for hours at a time those first few weeks. His father hadn't had to find him wandering the halls of his own home like it was a foreign place, a lost, bereaved look in his eyes. Noll took pride in his ability to move on. It was evident even in the smallest of gestures. Already, Martin and Luella had become his parents. For eight years, he'd been thinking in terms of 'their'.
But on that day… September nineteenth… It had never meant much to him. Gene was the sentimental one, getting all worked up over things like birthdays. Their parents had tried, of course, but after years of living in an orphanage—without a proper family to make a fuss over it… Well, to Noll, the nineteenth of September was just another day.
Which is why it caught him off guard to be so overwhelmed with pain upon checking the calendar that morning. His vision tunneled. He couldn't breathe. It was almost as if he was back in his brother's room the day this had all begun, clutching the shirt that had brought on that fateful vision.
Lin had awoken early that morning. He had been prepared. His assistant and mentor was not exactly the comforting type. But in the end, even if the Chinese man had planned something, it didn't matter. The recently-christened "Naru" refused to let him in. Lin was ordered to call Mai, inform her that the office would not be open that day, and that was the only interaction the two had all day, despite being located in adjoining hotel rooms.
Noll took pride in his ability to contain his emotions. A pride that was tested that day. The proud, esteemed Dr. Oliver Davis spent the majority of his waking hours that day hunched in on himself, struggling to control those demons in his head known as feelings.
But perhaps the true demon was knowledge. The knowledge that he was seventeen today. And Gene never would be.
The second year was supposed to be easier. It wasn't.
Oliver was still in England the day he turned eighteen. It was supposed to be over. Gene had been found and buried. Noll was not a spirit medium, but he was sure his brother had finally moved on.
And yet… He still found himself being assaulted by all those damn emotions. As much as he wanted to consider himself above such sentimentality, he could not fathom how his parents continued to return to this house, day after day. It was the slowest suffocation he had ever experienced.
Even without leaving his room, there was nothing he could look at that didn't bring Gene's voice rushing back to him with startling clarity. How many conversations had been held in this house? How many words had Gene ever spoken? And why could he suddenly remember seemingly all of them?
Lin would play the logic card here. (If he was confiding in Lin, that is.) Tell him that of course he could remember Gene's voice. They had the same voice, after all.
The same voice… Used in very different ways. Sometimes he was still unsure how Mai hadn't known immediately that her spirit guide couldn't possibly be him.
Mai. His return to Japan was not much easier than his stay in England. He had expected to reacclimate slowly. To settle into his new apartment, convene with Madoka about business, and then reconnect with his old coworkers. He should have known Madoka couldn't be trusted with this knowledge. Mai was there to meet him at the airport.
She was thrilled to see him again. As contained as Mai could possibly be, yet still so emotionally loud.
Mai had always been a little hard to be around, in that sense. But now it was painful. How was it that Mai Taniyama was even more like Gene after his spirit had left her?
Gestures, phrasings, things she couldn't possibly be aware of. It was as if Gene's temporary stay had left a permanent mark on her. 'Painful' didn't even begin to explain it. Mai tried to keep her distance. To respect his forcibly buried emotions. But it was so out of her nature. No matter how distant she tried to be, it still felt like she was hovering.
Gradually, he fell back into the routine of presiding over Japan's SPR. Mai's presence in his life became tolerable and then comfortable. It got to a point where he could honestly say he enjoyed his work. His entire life, even. What an odd thought.
Perhaps time really did heal all wounds. Or perhaps his subconscious had finally decided to make him live up to all that talk of moving on. So the third year… He went to work.
Lin was surprised. Madoka was surprised. His parents were surprised, when it got back to them. But he was okay… He was now nineteen years old, and he was okay. There were no breakdowns, quiet or otherwise. He didn't lock himself in his office or refuse to interview the client scheduled for that day. He was okay, and to his surprise, Mai was the only one who seemed unsurprised.
"Did you ever think we'd be here?" Mai asked with a little laugh, setting his tea down in front of him. He didn't look up from his laptop. Mai already knew his answer. The time when it had been bizarre for Mai to be this comfortable in his apartment had long since passed. And so had the time when Mai would get worked up over his smallest rudenesses. She sat down across from him, unperturbed. "It doesn't feel like it's been this long, does it?"
Naru sighed, pausing his typing to finally look up at her. "Mai, I'm a little busy right now, so if you've got something to say, say it."
If possible, her sigh was even more exaggerated and huffy. She had learned from the best, after all. "You have no idea, do you?"
She succeeded in gaining his full attention upon switching—so casually—into English. Mai and his mother had given each other language lessons over the years. As a result, Luella's Japanese had improved drastically, and Mai's English was quite good.
He would not admit to knowing nothing, but his silence was answer enough. She got up from her seat, and he didn't try to move away as she kissed him. "Happy birthday, Noll."
And she left him to sit there and take that in. He was twenty-six today.
Ten years. It had been ten years since he and Gene had occupied the same plane of existence. Ten years was a long time. Still… it had been awhile since he'd had the luxury of forgetting the significance of today's date. Ten years.
Noll slowly walked the length of his living room, running his fingertips over every surface he passed. Normally, he would not bother enlisting his psychometry on his own belongings. There was no need. But these pictures—the ones chronicling his and Mai's life together—were filled with memories that he wanted to relive a little more viscerally.
He stopped only when he became aware of Mai standing in the doorway. Her cheeks were flushed and her smile was wide. She was dressed for a night out.
"There you are. Are you ready to go?"
"I've been ready for an hour, Mai," he deadpanned.
She puffed out her cheeks, looking perfectly childish. "I wanted to make sure I look nice. This'll be the first time we're all together again since… I can't even remember. It's been years."
"I'm sure they don't mind. They've all seen you at your worst, after all."
He received a smack on the arm for his sass, but Mai was rewarded with a soft look. After all this time, he'd finally grown into his own smile. It was quieter than Gene's had been, and he still only used it sparingly, but it was considered progress, nonetheless. It had taken him a while, but he finally had significant cause to smile.
"I was never that bad," Mai protested dismissively. And then, before he could counter, "And you could treat this a little less like a chore. Madoka and Lin went to a lot of trouble to set this up."
Ah, yes. The reason for SPR's reunion… Madoka had insisted upon throwing him a birthday party this year.
He was thirty-two today… Twice as old as Gene would ever be. There was a time when this thought would have been nearly unbearable. Now… It didn't cut quite so deeply. He no longer had any misgivings about being the twin who'd lived. That was life. And he had learned to adapt to the twists thrown his way.
"Well, let's go then. We don't want to keep them waiting too long." Mai had already made to leave the room. With one last look at the photographs lining their walls, he followed her.
I don't own Ghost Hunt.