Disclaimer: Don't own, don't sue.

In the Dark

(A.N.) This was just something that was hopping about my brain ever since I read volume eight. I hope you all enjoy!!

Mai wandered purposelessly down the dark hall of the resort, her most recent nightmare heavy on her thoughts. What did it mean? Mai tried to make sense of her dream. Naru murdering Akifumi-san. The desperate flight towards the shrine. Those horrible cursed souls closing in all around her and the others… And then, of course, there had been her other dream, the one where she followed Dream Naru to the cave to see the hokoro shrine and the souls that gathered there.

He said he was fine, that everything would be okay, but… But Mai could not help but doubt. With Naru, real, tangible Naru, possessed and in a spelled sleep, how could everything be okay? It was awful. What if Naru never woke up? What if he woke up with that evil spirit still possessing him? It seemed to be a loose-loose situation no matter how Mai looked at the situation. Her heart constricted painfully in her chest at the thought.

Silently, she walked on, pausing every now and then to peer around a corner to make sure no one, and nothing, waited for her on the other side. She'd never be able to explain, exactly, why she was up and about at this time at night, not without telling whoever found her about her dreams. And she wanted to avoid that as much as possible. Mai was uncomfortable with her ESP and didn't like talking about it unless it was absolutely necessary.

The minutes ticked by and still Mai crept through the corridor, apprehensively eyeing the looming shadows. She'd never been afraid of the dark, but with the circumstances of the case… Well, she just didn't know what could be lurking about in the middle of the night.

Eventually, Mai forced her feet to cease moving and looked around. Inky blackness obscured the details of the hall, making identifying her current location difficult, but Mai finally spotted an Edo Period vase outside a pair of sliding doors and knew instantly where she was. Biting her lip uncertainly, Mai stared at the doors. It was where Naru lay asleep. Lin was supposed to be in the room as well, keeping vigil over the possessed teen.

Maybe I should…see if everything's alright… Mai put her hand on the door, fingers gently prying it away from the frame. The door slid soundlessly aside, revealing a surprisingly awake Lin and spelled Naru. The only source of light was a paper lantern with a candle inside of it. Lin seemed to have been meditating before Mai had entered, but showed no surprise as the brunette sat next to him.

"You should be asleep," Lin quietly admonished. The sorcerer had a feeling that this case was going to get much worse before it was solved, and suspected that Mai would feel its negative effects strongly. She needed sleep now, while she could still get it.

"So should you," Mai replied, fingering the hem of her pajama top. "Why don't you take a break Lin-san? At least for an hour or two. I can stay with him." Her heart pounded when she made the suggestion.

With piercing eyes, the Chinese man appraised her, suppressing a smile. Such devotion… What an idiot you are, Noll. Outwardly, Lin nodded and stood up. "I'll be in the next room. Wake me in two hours or if anything happens."

"I will," Mai promised, smiling up at him. "Don't worry."

Bidding her good-night, Lin disappeared into the adjoining room and slid the door closed, and silence descended once more.

Mai checked the candle in the lamp to make sure that it would last for at least an hour, and found that Lin must have put a new one in just before her arrival. With nothing else to fuss over, she gazed down at Naru's relaxed face and absently brushed his bangs away from his forehead. Lin's magic seal stood out starkly against Naru's pale skin. In fact, Mai thought that her boss appeared paler than usual. When this case was over, she resolved to find some way to drag him outdoors. It wasn't healthy to spend all the day inside with nothing but books and a computer for entertainment.

Unthinkingly, Mai voiced this idea, in a very soft whisper, to her slumbering crush. "Maybe I'll invite Monk-san and Ayako and everyone else, too. And I won't let you argue, either. Well, I'll try not to let you argue, but I'm sure we'll fight about it. We always fight about stuff like that, don't we, Naru?" She paused, almost expecting a scathing answer, but Naru continued to sleep. His silence gave her courage. "I like it when we fight, actually. It means you know I exist, that you see me. Pathetic, huh?"

Again, no reply.

"I wish sometimes that we got along instead and that you were nice to me, but then you wouldn't be you. And I don't think I'd love you as much as I do. I love that you're so stubborn and arrogant, even if it irritates me all the time." Mai couldn't help the bright smile spreading across her face. "There are some days when my dearest wish is to strangle you, you know. And there are also days when I just want to be near you, when I want nothing more than to hold on to you and never let go.

"I think about you all the time, even when I'm at school. I see you in my dreams. It's like an addiction or something. I remember reading a book that described what I'm feeling pretty well. One character, a boy, explains his attraction to the other, relating it to a heroin addict wanting his drug. The girl asks him, 'So I'm your brand of heroin?' and the boy replies, 'Yes, you are exactly my brand of heroin'. That's what you are to me, Naru. You're my brand of heroin. If you ever left me, in any way, I'd fall apart."

Once the confession had left her lips, Mai wanted desperately to take it back. What if someone had heard her? She'd die of embarrassment. Quickly, she glanced around, searching the shadows for any hint of an eavesdropper. When she found nothing to be alarmed about (after a brief scare when she mistook the shadow of a bonsai tree for the silhouette of a human), Mai settled herself in a cross-legged position on the floor.

Hesitantly, she continued quietly, "I know you can't hear me, Naru. That's what makes this so easy. I'm too terrified that you'd send me packing if I told all this to your face. But I have to say it. I love you. I love you and I'll never leave you. No matter how many secrets you keep from me or how many times you snap at me." She was surprised how easily the words came out. There was something intimate about the darkness. Secrets were meant to be whispered in the dark.

Mai continued to pour out her heart, confessing until there was nothing left for her to say, and Naru slept through it all. In Mai's mind, she herself was the only one who knew what she said that night.

But deep in the center of Naru's soul, where the teenage ghost hunter faced off with the spirit possessing his body, Naru smiled widely. I love you, too.

(A.N.) Please review! (Oh, and Lessons hasn't been discontinued or anything. I just haven't had the time to sit down and think one up. College searching is a bitch.)