Summary: Naru and the others are about to learn that hell hath no fury like a woman scorned and lust spells are dangerous indeed. Slight crossover with CLAMP in some chapters—very slight, but you've been warned. Ghost Hunt manga and anime compliant.
Disclaimer: I do not own Ghost Hunt, or anything by CLAMP used herein.
A big thank you to my fabulous beta-reader TitianWren—who had to read about two different (almost) versions of this chapter. I seriously don't know what I'd do without her. All I can say is I'd have mistakes up the wazoo if not for her.
Chapter one: Unusual circumstances
He's… he's going to ask that little tramp out! How dare he!
You don't want that?
Startled, her head shot up and she looked around the room wildly. Who's there?
Why do you care who he dates?
He dumped me for her! I hate her!
So you want to punish him?
Punish? She probably seduced him!
So it's her who caused the betrayal?
Yes! The little whore, how dare she!
Then it's her you want to punish?
I do! I most definitely do! He's mine! We were meant to be together forever!
Then I can help you. I can help you rid his mind of what poison she's put there.
Yes, for a price.
Who are you?
Think of me as your guardian angel.
Where are you, though?
She got the impression of a slow smile and a manicured hand sliding through her hair. Within you, came the slow, thought-out answer.
Hate her. That will suffice enough for now.
Her heart turned black. I do. I do hate her! Help me!
She felt another smile that caused shivers to run down her spine. Now close your eyes and we'll begin.
Her eyelids were suddenly very heavy and they fluttered shut.
In retrospect, Mai decided, dropping her stuff so she could run faster was a big mistake; she could have used it to hit her current assailants, who happened to be two upper-classmen from her school. They weren't the only ones that were acting oddly; the entire male student-body and a few male teachers had all been odd ducks for the past week! Except…none of them had chased her from school. The bad thing was that she'd been caught only twenty-feet from Shibuya Psychic Research. When the stairs leading up to the office where she worked had come into view, she'd dropped her book bag and the large paper bag filled with chocolates and a vase of flowers; it was about to break anyways—Mai was surprised it lasted until the SPR building. She'd been hoping and praying that she would make it into SPR before they caught her. Once inside, she could lock the door and hopefully Naru, Lin, or both would be able to take it from there. That plan grated on her independency, but as the saying went, desperate times call for desperate measures. No such luck, she thought, struggling against the hands that held her.
"Come on, Taniyama! Why ya gotta be such a tease?"
The boy holding her arms leered at her and laughed at his sandy-haired cohort. "Nice one, Kichiro!"
What's up with these two, she wondered. They're class clowns, sure—but they've never pulled pranks that cause physical harm. I've never seen them act like this!
Kichiro grabbed her hair, jerked her head back, and leaned in close. "Come on, Taniyama-chan," he said in a sugary voice, "it's just a kiss. But we'll see where it goes from there," he finished, drawing nearer and nearer.
She began to struggle in earnest. Tears of pain and fear slipped down her cheeks as she tried to escape from Takahiro's hold. Someone help me! Naru, Bou-san, John, anyone, she thought desperately, scrunching her eyes closed and still trying to get loose before Kichiro could kiss her.
Kichiro paused and looked behind him, Takehiro looked up, and Mai stopped struggling; she knew that voice! Opening her eyes, she looked at Lin, willing the tears swimming in her eyes not to fall. The tall man was staring at the scene in shock: the same expression she'd seen when Madoka had made an appearance at SPR not too long ago. Taking advantage of both boys' surprise, she slipped out of their holds and charged over to her boss's assistant. "Lin-san!" she cried, diving at him, wrapping her arms around his waist, and burying her face in his side.
If Lin was nonplussed about being clung to like a leech by SPR's young employee, he didn't show it. Putting one hand on her back, he looked around, taking note of the soaked department store bag and her book bag in close proximity of each other. The two boys from her school looked surprised at his interruption and Mai was currently soaking his suit shirt and trembling violently.
"What," he asked slowly, "is going on here?" He looked at the two boys. "Well?" he asked, pinning her former assailants with an accusing look.
"Hey, hey, we're just trying to talk to Taniyama, that's all," the dark-haired boy said with an inane grin and gesturing with his hands to show that he was harmless.
"Talk?" Lin repeated incredulously. He thought back to what he'd walked up to: a struggling Mai held captive by the black-haired kid and the sandy-blond-haired boy jerking her head back and trying to force a kiss on her. He'd just returned from gathering information for Naru when he'd heard a voice call Mai a tease. Worry had spurred him into walking faster and forgetting about the stuff in the car. He didn't want to think of what he would have found had he been just a few minutes later. If that was talking, I'll eat my tie. "That really didn't look like talking to me," he said finally.
"Look," the sandy-haired-boy said shortly, "either way, it doesn't concern you! You can just go on your merry little way and leave Taniyama here."
Lin stared back at him. Well, he certainly was a belligerent brat, wasn't he? "I'm afraid, gentlemen, that that's where you're wrong. This is private property and you're sexually harassing our employee."
"Uh…" the dark-haired one stuttered. Taniyama had run to her bosses?
Lin didn't give them a chance to respond. He fixed them with a cold glare and said, "Get lost. And don't let me catch you back here again."
One thing about him could be said with certainty: he knew how to intimidate people. Is it just me, or did the temperature just drop, Mai wondered, shivering. She looked up at Lin. Oh. She quirked a wobbly smile at the cold expression on Lin's face. It never fails. He and Naru are almost the same. Realizing that she was still holding onto the older man, she detached herself, took a few steps back, and clasped her hands behind her back, unsure of his reaction to her invading his personal space the way she had.
He turned to look at her, his frigid expression gone and a concerned look in its place. "Are you all right, Taniyama-san?"
She didn't answer him. She knew he'd ask, but frankly the question took her by surprise. What was 'all right'? She cringed and prepared herself for a lecture when she heard his frustrated sigh. Noticing this, Lin checked his temper; he had no reason to be upset with her. Walking over to her book bag, he scooped it up. "I thought Naru gave you the week off to make up what you missed. Don't tell me you miss working so much," he teased, moving to the other bag and picking it up gingerly. The contents caught his eye: a lovely bouquet of flowers and a multitude of chocolates. Mentally, he reviewed the calendar; it wasn't Valentine's Day and it certainly wasn't White Day. It seemed that Mai had an admirer… or two, or three. That was quite a lot of chocolate—it couldn't have come from one person only.
"My apartment's worse," she told him.
Her voice startled him from his thoughts and he turned to look at her. "Pardon?" he asked.
Her sad smile faded and her face crumpled. "I'm sorry!" she cried, burying her face in her hands and trying her best to stem the flow of tears.
"I know Naru's going to be upset that I'm here, but I just can't take it anymore! This has been going on for the entire week!"
This wasn't like Mai at all, Lin knew. "Taniyama-san," he said carefully, "what's been happening the entire week?"
She didn't answer; she simply stood there sobbing. He looked at the flowers and then thought about the boys who'd been harassing her. What, he wondered, was going on? Approaching her, he grabbed her elbow gently and led her into the SPR office. Once inside, he deposited her bags on the counter, ushered the young woman to the couch, and gently coaxed her to sit, promising her some tea. Going over to the tea maker, he rummaged around for mint tea, instead of the normal black that Naru preferred. Mint, in his opinion, was a comforting tea that had a heavenly scent, and since he was the one making it, it was his preference that mattered.
Reaching into the cabinet, he bypassed the proper teacups and saucers and pulled out two earth-ware mugs tinted with a soothing green glaze. He rather liked them; Naru rather hated them; they'd been something of a housewarming gift from Madoka when they'd set up the SPR office here in Shibuya. And because Naru hated them so much, they were only ever used if something was very, very wrong. He glanced at the young high school girl sitting on the couch: something was obviously very wrong. He hoped the young man would only notice in time before he said something caustic. The last thing Mai needed right now was Naru's apathy.
While waiting for the tea, Lin removed the flowers and chocolates, taking care not to cut himself on the glass shards littering the bottom of the bag—the vase was beyond repair. He tossed the bag into the garbage can. It didn't take him long to find another vase for them, one that Matsuzaki-san had given them on Valentine's Day; she still hadn't forgiven Naru for not giving her a return gift. He watched Mai from the corner of his eye. She looked like a zombie sitting there and staring at absolutely nothing. If Takigawa-san were here, he mused, what would he do? He'd know how to cheer her up, or at least pull her from her funk—he always did.
Lin would be the first to admit that he didn't deal very well with people: SPR's case in the church had proved this beautifully. He'd sent a possessed girl running off into the elements without a jacket to gods-knew-where out of sheer frustration and a lack of understanding of the entire situation. And when he had understood… well, it was no wonder his young boss had told him to grow up. In retrospect, his unwillingness to understand the situation had made it worse; it had been detrimental.
Stupid, he corrected himself. Detrimental was far too tame a word; his idiocy could have killed Mai. If Brown-san and Takigawa-san hadn't found where Kenji had hidden, Mai might very well have frozen to death. And after the case in the mansion… perhaps he did need to grow up. To think that a high school freshman had also told him it was time for him to let go of past grudges was nothing short of embarrassing. He eyed the girl again. His main concern was snapping her from her funk. He looked at the flowers and had a sudden bout of inspiration. Picking them up, he put the vase on her desk, which for the better part of the week had been very empty…the entire office seemed empty without Mai there to bother Naru and Lin rather missed their quarreling. Life at the office had become boring very fast when she wasn't there to argue with Naru—and inadvertently disturb Lin at the same time.
She looked at the desk that was now adorned with flowers and then at him with a quizzical expression.
"There, now your desk doesn't look quite so empty. Think of them as a gift from SPR for all the hard work you do."
She gave him a small smile—that didn't reach her eyes—and nodded, but remained silent. Presently, she retreated back to her thoughts and returned to staring: this time out the window. Well, that had a partial success at least; it was better than nothing. He thought of how Takigawa-san treated her any time he was in contact with her. The ex-monk was more physical with her; he was constantly patting her on the head, giving her hugs, letting her cry on his shoulder, rumpling her hair (much to her annoyance, Lin was sure)—he acted very much like an older brother. Lin had the feeling that if he tried that, she'd think he was possessed. It simply wasn't in his nature. He looked at the door with some frustration. Now would be a capital time for Takigawa-san to put in an appearance. As if it were mocking him, the door stayed resolutely shut, and the window clear of silhouettes; he was on his own.
Teasing her was out. He simply didn't know enough about her to tease her. Moreover, he wasn't comfortable teasing others, prior one-sided banter with Mai not withstanding. Takigawa-san was simply not going to help him this time. One down, three people to think of—four, if he included Yasuhara-san. How did Hara-san comfort Mai? Lin blinked. She didn't, wrong person. Hara-san tried to have as little to do with Mai as possible, seeing the high school student as a rival for Naru's affections. Personally, Lin thought the young medium seriously needed to grow up herself.
Two down. Matsuzaki-san? Mother figure, big sister. No way, absolutely not. Brown-san? Hmm… nice, supportive, and generally not the one to offer Mai any sort of comfort—he was more a mediator who intervened when Takigawa-san was treating her a little more roughly than appropriate, or when she and Naru were fighting. He sighed and shook his head. Comforting people just wasn't his forte. But he couldn't leave the task to Naru; nothing would get done then and it would end badly. He was completely and utterly at a loss, on his own, and he had no idea what to do. Picking up the mugs, he carried them to the coffee table, set one down in front of her, and put his down right next to hers. "It's mint tea, Mai. Would you like honey or sugar?" he asked, deliberately calling her by her given name.
Startled, she snapped back to reality, blinking rapidly to re-orient herself. "Ah, honey, please,"
Nodding, he returned a few seconds later with a bear-shaped bottle of honey. "I prefer to drink mint tea this way, myself," he said, handing her the bottle and taking a seat next to her; he angled his body so that he could face her without having to strain his neck.
Mai looked at the mugs curiously. "I thought Naru hated these things."
"Oh, he does."
"Oh." So why are we using them, she wondered.
"Because sometimes they come in handy," Lin said, adding a liberal amount of honey to his tea and sipping it. "So?" he said. "What did you mean when you said, 'my apartment's worse'?"
She stared into her tea and frowned. "Just about every available surface except my room is covered with flowers and chocolate boxes. I don't know what to do with them."
"That's quite an admirer," he teased lightly.
She cracked a small, grateful smile. Hmm… maybe he wasn't as bad at comforting people as he thought. Learn something new every day, as the saying goes.
"It started at the beginning of the week," she began. "It was benign at first, but things were worse Tuesday morning. That's when all the flowers and candy began."
It was Friday, now. Whatever was going on was bad if it could progress like a virus. Before Lin could request a day-by-day account, the door opened and Naru walked in.
"Lin," he said, stripping off his black trench coat and hanging it, "I'd like to see the information that you gathered--" He broke off when he saw his part-time employee sitting on the couch. "Mai?" he asked. "Didn't I give you the week off? You'll never get smarter if you don't catch up on your school work."
If Lin were a more theatrical person like Matsuzaki-san or Takigawa-san, he'd have banged his head repeatedly against the most accessible wall, bemoaning his fate of being stuck with the most tactless kid in the universe as his boss. Someone needed to teach Naru what tact was. Really, it was amazing how rude he could be without trying hard. Instead of hitting his head he settled for glaring at the young man. "Naru!" he snapped, before the young man could say anything else.
Kazuya Shibuya froze. When was the last time Lin had used that tone of voice? Oh, yes, when Mai had ratted him out that he'd bent a spoon with his mind; he still hadn't completely forgiven her for that. He looked at Lin, who stared back with a disapproving glare. His eyes slid to the girl next to him. She was trembling—which was odd—and kept her eyes firmly trained on her lap as if it were the most interesting thing since sliced bread.
She hadn't said a word to him—hadn't snapped, yelled, or resorted to trying to inflict bodily harm upon him, as she was prone to do when he upset her. The sense of wrongness slid into him like oil and began to spread as he took quick stock of what wasn't right. Mai was usually the one who screamed at him and tried to insult him. Lin usually didn't associate with her even when SPR was on a case—but this time, he was sitting next to her and even protecting her by yelling at him. He looked around the room. There were flowers on her desk— and three boxes of chocolates on the counter; it wasn't Valentine's Day and it wasn't White Day. The scent of mint tea hung in the air. And where there was mint tea… yes, there were those mugs that he despised, the ones that were never used unless something was wrong. "What's going on?" he asked slowly.
The Chinese man climbed to his feet. "Taniyama-san was just getting to that. Why don't you grab some tea and take a seat while I get my laptop?"
It was phrased like a request—but there was an undertone in his associate's voice that told him it was more of an order.
Lin moved towards his office. As he passed Naru, he paused and added in a low voice, "Try not to upset her further. I think she's been through enough today."
"What's going on?" Naru asked again, keeping his eyes on the high school student sitting on his couch.
"I think Taniyama-san has brought us our newest case."
With that, he headed into his office.