Yo! This was something I actually started writing back in October, and I've only just finally finished it. It was meant to be a funny little oneshot, but the more I wrote the angstier it got, sooo yeah. It's got a happyish ending though. I don't like sad endings. Those are depressing.

Disclaimer: I do not own Ghost Hunt or any of its characters...

The SPR team had only just returned to the office after having completed a rather emotional and gruelling case. Even though they generally parted ways once returning to Shibuya after these cases, this time, they didn't. Instead the group gathered in the office lounge, sitting back and talking about everything they had experienced.

The case had been dangerous, and this time Mai hadn't been the only one who's life had, at some point or another, been at great risk. Naru had used up far too much energy than he should have, and even Bou-san had been horribly attacked. Luckily, they had managed to figure out what the heck was going on and take care of the issue, hopefully stopping the terrible haunting for good.

No, they didn't want to think about this right now. They needed a break from all this seriousness. So, as expected, it was Yasuhara who broke through the tension first, cracking a joke that had the monk of all people blushing. How adorable. And creepy.

John laughed almost immediately, unable to help himself, and Ayako soon followed. Mai tried to hold back her own laughter, but quickly failed and ended up laughing too, and oh, did Lin just crack a smile there? Naru scowled though, as usual. Did he even have a sense of humour? ...Probably not.

They continued chatting, telling jokes and funny stories, all tension in the room gone as if it had never existed in the first place. Naru and Lin didn't really join in, but that was to be expected. The others didn't really even notice, far too busy enjoying themselves.

After yet another zinger by Yasuhara (where did he come up with this stuff?), Mai and Bou-san, both of them laughing loudly, leaned into one another, trying to keep each other up from where they had been slumping, arms linked. They didn't realize they were being watched by a cold, blue gaze.

They were close, he noted coolly. Too close for comfort. His comfort, that is. Naru's eyes, which were locked on Mai and Takigawa, narrowed slightly. He knew they were friends-he had no qualms about that, but he disliked that the man always seemed to be-be touching Mai.

No, he didn't dislike it. He hated it. The sight filled him with a coiling, burning, irritating jealousy that only served to confuse him, even though he knew it really shouldn't have. It wasn't as if he had any right over Mai and who she touched. It shouldn't have mattered to him, but it did.

It bothered him because he wished he could be the one to make Mai smile and laugh like that. He wished he could be the one who could touch Mai so casually like Takigawa could-like everyone else could.

So why didn't he? Why was it so hard? Mai was hardly opposed to casual physical contact from those she cared about. And clearly loved to smile and laugh as well. So why didn't he do that? Why couldn't he do that?

It didn't have anything to do with Mai herself. It wasn't her fault. He knew that-acknowledged it. The problem here was him, no one else. The problem was that he was scared. Scared to grow attached only to lose someone he cared about again. Scared to become vulnerable.

And those thoughts only made him mad at himself. Mad that he couldn't be...normal like everyone else. Mad that he couldn't even explain it to the others so that they would understand.

He knew they thought he was strange thanks to his behaviour. He made himself act coldly, made himself keep his distance, made them keep their distance just so they didn't become close to him, and he to them. Because then he would lose one of them and then end up mourning all over again, unable to move on. Just like with Gene.

The others seemed to be fine with the distance. They always tried to include him, but never seemed to force the issue if he reacted coldly or refused. They never appeared offended by it, but...Mai was a different story altogether.

Mai seemed to have made it her mission to get him to join them in things, regardless of what it was they were doing. She would crack jokes and pat him on the shoulder or arm, doing whatever she could to bring down his shields, even if just for that one instant.

And he never let her. It got harder and harder every time, but he never let those shields fall-refused to let them fall. He didn't want to deal with the emotions that would come with that, deal with the eventual losses either.

So now he was stuck here, left watching Mai laugh with everyone else, watching as she and Takigawa remained slumped against one another, tears of amusement in their eyes. Left feeling angry at himself.

And like always, he did as he usually did when angry. He snapped. "Mai, tea." It was a curt demand, cutting through everyone else's laughter, even as he cursed himself inwardly for his behaviour, knowing it was wrong but unable to stop himself.

Mai looked at him from where she was still leaning against Takigawa, their arms still linked, and instead of appearing annoyed, she merely raised a brow-almost as if in mimic of him. "No."

It took Naru an embarrassingly long moment to actually comprehend the word, but when he did he only repeated it slowly. "...No?"

"No. Go do it yourself. The kitchen's right there."

"What do you think I pay you for?"

"I'm not working right now. I'm not on the clock-none of us are. You want tea? Go make it yourself. Lin-san and Ayako both made coffee for themselves, didn't they? It's not that hard."

No one spoke for a very long moment, and if someone had walked into the room right at that moment, only a glance would have shown what they were all feeling right now, even if they wouldn't know why.

Naru was shocked by the blatant refusal, Bou-san, Ayako, John, and Yasuhara were all in clear disbelief, and Lin seemed to be struggling to hide his amusement. Mai herself appeared quite determined.

After another moment, Naru stood and stalked off to the little kitchen area, and once he was out of sight the cheerful conversation from before resumed. And while they chatted and laughed, Naru leaned back against the counter and buried his face in his hands.

While he hadn't thought Mai would refuse (she'd always argue and fuss, but never said no before), he knew he shouldn't have made the curt demand in the first place.

Mai was right, she technically wasn't working right now. All of them had come back here after completing their case so they could just...relax and calm down before going home. And that was what they had all been doing. Until he had gone and screwed it all up.

...Or maybe not. The others had clearly continued enjoying themselves, even after he had gone into the kitchenette. They hardly seemed to mind his behaviour-not even Mai, who he could hear laughing.

This was why he couldn't afford to allow himself to become close to people. There was no reason for it. They were all perfectly fine without him. They didn't need him to be anything beyond a boss. That was it. And that was fine. It was.

"Naru? Are you alright?"

He started at the sudden voice, head snapping up and his hands dropping back down to his sides. It was Mai, and she was standing there before him, looking up at him in concern.

Why was she concerned? Hadn't he just made her angry again? Hadn't she just told him to make his tea himself? Hadn't she just been content to sit and laugh with the others? What was she doing here with him now? Why was she here?

"Naru?" She stepped even closer, brow creased with worry, reaching up to cup his cheeks.

He hugged her, feeling her sharp intake of breath as much as he heard it, practically crushing her against him, her hands just barely managing to make it down to his chest, only to now be trapped in between them.

"N-Naru...?"

He bowed his head, nose in her hair. She always smelled so sweet. She always was sweet. Too sweet, sometimes, and often enough towards the wrong people. Himself included.

Naru knew he didn't deserve to have Mai in his life, but at the same time, was entirely aware that she was always going to be there, regardless of what he said or did. Because Mai was such a stubborn idiot and would never let him distance himself or leave her. And knowing that, knowing that she would be there, only brought him great comfort. Because he knew she would always have a smile for him.

Perhaps that was why he loved her...

FIN

Whelp, hope you guys liked it. Looking forward to reviews! Laterz!