by beaple leone michaelmas
I do not own Ghost Hunt; in fact, I'm not sure who does.
It was raining heavily outside.
Taniyama Mai frowned as she placed a steaming cup of tea of the table in the middle of the SPR office. How was it possible that earlier this morning she had walked to work in perfectly agreeable weather? At present, against the backdrop of the setting sun, the skies were dark and dreary gray, fat raindrops trickling down the window Mai was staring at.
What a bummer, having horrible weather on this day of all days.
"Is there something wrong?" a familiar deep voice asked. Turning around, she came face to face with her cold, calculating boss, Shibuya Kazuya, who stared at her with his passive eyes, a folder in his hands.
"No, nothing really," Mai said, shaking her head slowly. "Just… thinking of various things."
She ignored the stern look he gave her and cleared her throat audibly.
"What's that?" she asked, pointing at the document in his hands. "A new case? Are we taking on something new, Naru?"
In reply, her boss merely shut the folder with a loud snap. Sighing softly, he settled into the wide, dark armchair facing the window, a relaxed expression coming over his face. "Thank you for the tea."
Blinking rapidly, Mai hesitantly sank into a seat beside him, wondering what on earth was going on. Naru rarely thanked her for anything, especially for trivial favors like preparing his customary afternoon tea. "You're welcome?"
For a few awkward moments, she merely watched him, trying to gauge what he thought of the tea. If he felt anything about this particular blend, however, he didn't let it show, merely drinking in silence.
As was usual when she watched him during unguarded moments like this, Mai found herself wondering what distinctly good thing she had ever done in her childhood to deserve the company of this man. Surely, she was nothing more than a friend to him, but to Mai… being in his presence on an almost daily basis was a blessing. One with a cost, but a blessing nonetheless.
There was so much she owed to Naru. Her new life, her new friends, her new family – which was undoubtedly odd and eccentric but which gave her the love and security she had not felt from anyone else since her parents died. Despite her gratitude, however, she had never before thanked him for all he had done for her. Whether he had intended to change her life tremendously or not, there was no way to deny how much meeting him had changed her…
He lowered his teacup, surveying her anxious expression through the faint steam. "Yes?"
Her heartbeat speeding up, Mai bit her lip. Why was it so difficult to say thank you?
Two words. Just two words.
"Um… W-why… did you hire me?" Mai heard herself ask, flustering visibly as she gripped the tray in her hands with anguish. "I'm not complaining or anything but…"
Naru softly placed his cup on the table, a closed, pensive look in his eyes. "Why, I wonder."
"You know, it's a stupid question," Mai blurted out, laughing nervously. "Forget I ever said anything-"
She was already on her feet, walking away with an extremely red face when Naru spoke.
"You didn't trust me."
"What?!" Mai asked, incredulous, whirling around so fast her neck hurt. "What's that got to do with anything?!"
"You were the only one who didn't trust me, the moment I first met you and your friends," he recalled. "I figured your intuition had told you I was a dangerous person to deal with, and in that you were correct. I realized you had strong senses early on."
He directed another cold, penetrating gaze at her and added, "Moreover, you have good work ethic. You see things through, and you're ardent in fulfilling your duties. That's always useful in an employee."
Silently, Mai fumed. An employee, huh?
"Well excuse me for being earnest!" she retorted, tilting her chin up. "At least I show an ounce of enthusiasm in my work, unlike some people-"
"I also saw you in my future."
"-I know- What?" Mai asked for the second time. "What did you say?"
"I saw you in my future," Naru repeated simply. "After I finished the case in your school, I had a dream with you in it. You were several years older, and so was I, which is why I assumed somehow I'd meet you again."
He raised an eyebrow at the memory, oblivious to Mai's shock.
"I figured it would be best if I hired you, given we'd eventually cross paths again someday," he added nonchalantly. "And because I've had no reason to fire you, you're still here – two years later."
Having finished his explanation, Naru clasped his hands and looked at Mai, as though waiting for her to say something. Which, at that moment, she found extremely difficult to do, considering her mind was still reeling at this fresh discovery.
"And what… was I doing in your dream?" Mai finally managed to say. To her surprise, Naru smiled.
Whether he intended to answer her, however, was unclear, for at that moment the door banged open and a large group of people waltzed into the SPR office. There was Masako, holding a bouquet of roses in her arms, and John and Yasuhara-san, bearing several grocery bags. Bou-san was holding on to a bunch of multicolored balloons that bobbed against the ceiling, and Ayako was carrying a box tied with a large, bright red ribbon. Even Lin-san was laden with party supplies, a bottle of champagne in his right hand.
"HAPPY BIRTHDAY, MAI!!!" all of them cheered, slightly unsynchronized and too deliriously happy to make sense. Laughing, Bou-san ruffled Mai's hair as Masako wordlessly handed over the bouquet, a small smile playing on her lips.
"Minna," Mai whispered, throat constricted in shock. "How did you…?"
"You've got Naru to thank, actually," Bou-san admitted. "He called us up one day and said you were turning eighteen soon. Told us we should celebrate or something."
"Oh, don't think he's going the extra mile for you," Masako said, covering her mouth with a sleeve of her kimono. "He didn't help us with the preparations at all. He simply gave us permission to celebrate in his office."
Mai frowned, pensive. Even if you say that, she thought, Naru never liked celebrations. I remember he once told me to take down a Christmas tree…
"Speaking of which, where is Naru?" Ayako asked, looking around for a familiar figure in black. "Wasn't he here just a moment ago?"
"I saw him walk into the pantry," Yasuhara-san noted. "And I hate to complain, but shouldn't we put our load down? These bags are killing me."
There was a hubbub as everyone rushed to set their baggage someplace. Taking this as an opportunity to get answers, Mai made her way to the pantry where, sure enough, Naru was rinsing his used teacup.
"You should have let me take care of that," Mai chided, walking over to stand beside him.
"Think of it as a birthday gift," Naru replied calmly, hanging the cup on its rack. "You're not getting anything else."
"No surprises there-"
Naru smirked, albeit softer than usual. As he dried his hands on a towel, he caught Mai's eye and asked, "Do you still want to know? What you were doing in my dream?"
Silence. Mai had been asking herself the same question. Then-
"No, I don't think I'd like to know after all," she admitted sheepishly. "Knowing the future can be dangerous. I'd rather take things one day at a time."
"Yes. I knew you'd say that-"
"Nevertheless!" Mai cut in, scowling. "You could at least tell me if it was a good dream or a bad one. That's a good enough compensation, I think."
Naru was quiet for a moment. "It wasn't bad," he admitted, lost in thought.
"Do you want it to happen?" Mai was almost afraid to ask.
Naru looked at her. He simply looked at her.
Feeling warmth creep up her face again, Mai stammered, "W-well, at least we're sure I'm not going to kill you in you sleep or something. That ought to be good for something, right?"
This earned her a rather pointed look from her superior.
"You'd better join them," Naru advised in his usual, uncaring tone. "It is your party, after all."
"But what about you?" Mai asked, brows furrowing as she watched Naru lean against the sink. "Are you going to stay here the whole night?"
"I'll join you later," he assured her, opening his folder again. "I just have to finish something first."
Mai narrowed her eyes. Workaholic, as usual.
"Well then, have fun," she said grumpily. "Enjoy your paperwork."
She had already taken two steps towards the door when she remembered. Turning around with deliberate slowness, she was surprised to see Naru staring at her, the folder open in his hands though his eyes were oddly fixed on Mai.
For some reason, his stare did not bother her this time.
"Thank you," she said softly, mustering as much sincerity as she could. "For this and for everything else."
Acknowledging Mai's statement with a nod, Naru turned his eyes back to his work.
"Happy birthday," he added in a bored voice, as though he was merely commenting on the weather. But Mai knew better than to take him seriously.
Smiling despite herself, Mai left the room without another word, thinking that whatever the contents of Naru's dream had been, she would do everything she could to make it come true. The look in his eyes was enough reason for her to pursue this goal, for never before had he looked at her that way – as though he was seeing her for the first time.
She rather hoped she wouldn't be working on her goal alone.
Yes, I know it's crap, but it had to be written. It's been pestering me since this morning, and the plot bunny would not quit bouncing 'til I had this written down – in ink and paper, which I haven't done since grade school. It's always bothered me, actually, the fact that Naru hired Mai, of all people. And is it just me or was there something in his voice when he was asking Mai to work at SPR?
Also, sorry if you find Naru a bit OOC. To paraphrase Mori Madoka, however, "Naru doesn't talk about himself unless asked, but he's not a particularly secretive person." Actually, I think Naru can be rather talkative when faced with a select audience. Thanks for reading! ::D