It was a well known secret that Mai made really awful tea. No one was quite sure how she managed it, whether it was too many leaves or not enough, lukewarm water or even cold, steeped too long or not steeped enough, Mai wrecked every cup of tea she made.
No one said anything though. Not through any formal agreement, rather it was an unspoken consensus. Mai would never know about her horrible tea making skills, or her skills at making horrible tea, whichever.
So Bou-san asked for coffee, Ayako drank bottled water, Masako held a sleeve to her lips and declined, John took the smallest sips possible before pouring it down the nearest potted plant as soon as Mai's back was turned, Lin accepted gratefully before conveniently forgetting it was there, and Yasuhara in a move no one understood drank it down in one gulp, smiling widely but passing on seconds.
Only Naru and Mai seemed to actually drink the stuff.
Ayako watched as Mai set several cups around the table. She pitied the new clients who were about to lift the cups to their lips. No doubt today would be one of the days Mai made it strong enough to get up and kick you in the pants.
Ayako watched as they both took deep sips, before simultaneously choking, she applauded their restraint, they managed to swallow.
"Umm, the tea..." One of them began, no doubt thinking that this pot of tea was extraordinary and not the norm.
"Oh, did you need more?" Mai asked brightly.
"No, no." A franticly waving hand accompanied the statement. "It's just-"
"Mai, tea." Naru held his cup out to her cutting off the other man. "Now, what exactly were you here for again?"
Sufficiently distracted the man forgot his complaint about the tea and launched into a very long winded, much clichéd and depressingly boring story of woe and grief. Ayako stopped listening sometime around when he began describing how the spirit had tossed his underwear around.
Rather, Ayako's attention turned to Naru. The man was even now calmly sipping at his overly powerful tea. Out of morbid curiosity Ayako picked up a cup herself to try it.
It was awful!
Ayako felt her eyes water and she had no choice but to give in to the hacking cough making it's way up her throat.
"Eh? Are you alright Ayako?" Mai asked, thumping the miko on the back in a misguided attempt to help.
"Fine!" Ayako gasped out, holding out a hand to forestall the cup of tea Mai was attempting to pass her.
"If you say so." Mai put the cup back on the table before checking the tea pot, it was nearly empty. "Ah! I'll just go make some more."
"Dear god, how can you drink that?" Ayako hissed at Naru as soon as Mai had left.
"What was it this time? Too strong?" Bou-san asked with a laugh.
"I thought I was going to die!" Ayako slapped at him.
"There is nothing wrong with Mai's tea." Naru stated before taking another sip.
"You should do like me and gulp it down. You can hardly taste it that way." Yasuhara lifted his empty cup in salute.
"Why are you even here?" Bou-san asked after a brief pause. He got only a mysterious smile in exchange.
"Erm, our problem?" The man who may or may not become a client interrupted.
"Yes, I'm afraid I'll have to decline your case." Naru stated calmly. Inwardly he wondered why this man and his wife had even come, it seemed as though they wanted nothing more than to waste his time. He didn't listen as they began to protest his decision, instead standing to make his way to his office, taking his tea cup with him.
After Naru had sequestered himself in his office, and Lin had all but shoved the couple out Ayako returned to the previous topic.
"Seriously! Can he not taste how awful her tea is?" Ayako hissed at the others in the room, not wanting to speak too loud in case Mai was nearby.
"Maybe she's used to it always tasting like that?" Bou-san suggested.
"Hmph, she'd have to be." Masako sniffed, kimono-sleeve held to her lips.
"Lin-san, you must know, does Naru honestly like Mai's tea?" John asked the Chinese man.
Lin didn't say anything but he did recall one time, a couple of years ago, that Gene had made him tea.
It had been truly awful.
Author's Note: No I don't think Naru would put up with bad tea, but the idea was too funny to pass up. Also, Mai's tea making skills are identical to my mother's, not that anyone would ever dare tell her. Incidentally not much tea is drunk at my house.
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