The doorbell to her apartment rang, melodic and shrill, jolting her from the miserable half-sleep she was in and causing her head to pulse in agony. Groaning, Taniyama Mai sluggishly pulled herself up from the bathroom floor, desperately hoping that she wouldn't be sick in the process of getting rid of whoever had decided to disturb her. That would be embarrassing.
Mai had started feeling sick around the end of her previous work day but had decided that she didn't feel bad enough to go to the store to buy medicine she probably wouldn't need, which was why she had been using the bathroom floor as an improvised bed. It was a decision she was now regretting, because she (of course) had caught the worst of the summer illnesses that were floating around and now her entire body was one big ache.
From a small runny nose at 5 in the afternoon the previous day to waking up at 3:00 a.m. drenched in sweat with a rolling stomach, her sickness had progressed rapidly, allowing her only brief respites from the constant nausea. Because it was a rare thing for her to be sick, Mai never really kept her medicine cabinet stocked like she knew she should, and soup wasn't something she ever felt like eating.
She wished she had those things now, because she felt absolutely horrid. Of course, when she had called work this morning, Naru hadn't made her feel any better (not that she had really expected he would, but still).
"Naru," cough, "I'm sorry, but I'm not going to be able," cough, "to come in today. I think I caught something." Cough cough.
She could hear him sigh in annoyance on the other line, and she was feeling so terrible that she hadn't even been able to muster up enough energy to be angry at him for being angry with her.
"Only an idiot like you would catch the flu in the middle of the summer, Mai. Take the rest of the week off, but I want you back in here on Monday at 8 a.m. sharp. Understand?"
From her position on the bathroom mat Mai sagged in relief. At least she wouldn't have to worry about infecting the rest of SPR.
"Thanks, Naru. I'll see you late—" Her stomach heaved and she clamped a hand over her mouth, taking deep breaths through her nose as she tried to quell the urge to throw up while she was on the phone with her boss.
"So-sorry," she gasped. "I've got to go. I'm going to be—" Unable to hold it back any longer, she bent over the toilet bowl and retched.
A few moments later Mai sat back, sniffling and wiping her mouth on a tissue, before she realized she had just thrown up. While she had been on the phone. With her boss. She was able to find enough energy to be embarrassed as grabbed for the phone, dropped and forgotten on the floor next to her.
"Hello?" she said frantically. "Naru?"
Nothing but a dial tone. Breathing a sigh of relief, Mai went back to her position on her bathroom mat. At least he'd had enough decency to hang up, she thought, closing her eyes and trying to get her body to agree to sleep.
That had been around 8 that morning, and it was now 11:30. Three and half hours with absolutely no change in how she was feeling. Normally, Mai wouldn't have wasted any time going to the store to get some medicine but she was afraid, with the limited amount of down time between her getting sick, that she would end up vomiting in the middle of a busy sidewalk or, even worse, in the middle of the store. She would just have to ride this out, she decided.
Her already black mood slipped lower as she contemplated a few more days like this one, and she scowled as she hobbled over to her door and swung it open.
Mai's eyes went wide as she gaped at the tall man waiting outside her apartment, her misery, for the moment, forgotten in shocked oblivion.
"Lin—Lin-san?" she rasped. Maybe she was worse than she thought, Mai mused, because surely she was hallucinating her co-worker before her. When he didn't say anything, she threw a hand over her eyes and huffed, running her other hand through her tangled hair as she began muttering under her breath, "Great, now I'm seeing things. Why can't I just get sick like a normal person? And why Lin? Why—"
"Taniyama-san," a smooth, deep voice said, interrupting her heated dialogue. "I can assure you, you are not seeing things."
Freezing to the spot, Mai slowly lowered her arms and gazed up at him, mouth once again agape. "You – you're real?" The tall Chinese man nodded, trying with all his might to keep his face as stoic as ever, and failing when the corners of his eyes crinkled with mirth. It was the closest thing she had ever seen to Lin's smile, and when Mai saw the evidence of amusement her eyes narrowed in suspicion. Lin almost smiling? In her presence? No way. She was so totally hallucinating.
Quickly, before she could register what she was really doing, Mai's hand darted out and poked his chest once and then one more time for good measure. With a squeak she drew her arm back to her side and finally blushed, going red to her roots. He certainly had felt real.
"Oh. Oh," she stuttered, looking down, away from his glinting eyes. "Um, come in." Mai moved away from the doorway, letting him pass by her and locking the door behind him.
Now she was really confused. Confused and slightly mortified. Why was he here? Why did he have to choose today to visit? And why, oh why, did she have to be wearing the pajama pants with tiny pink dinosaurs?
Mai turned and watched Lin glance around her small but comfortable home, the blush still lingering around her cheeks. After a few more moments of silence, she couldn't take it anymore. "Um, I don't mean to be rude, Lin-san, but why…" Her voice trailed off as he held up a small white plastic bag, clearly marked with the logo of the local pharmacy.
"Naru informed me you were sick and probably had no medicine," he said by way of explanation. Raising his other hand he held out a brown bag. "Juwaari soba*."
Her mouth dropped. "Lin-san, you didn't—." At that moment, the smell of freshly made soba reached her and her stomach rolled. Turning green, Mai bolted past him and into the bathroom, barely making it to the toilet in time. She had nothing left in her stomach, but it didn't stop her body from trying to push her insides out through her mouth for the next minute.
Groaning and close to tears, Mai flushed the toilet and rested her feverish head against the cool porcelain of her bathtub. She didn't have enough strength to get up and brush her teeth again, and, to be honest, she didn't see the point if she was only going to get sick again in half an hour. Besides, it hurt her head to move.
Mai yelped, starting violently as her eyes flew open. Lin was crouched in front of her, holding out a cup of water and two white pills. She had completely forgotten he was there, in her apartment. Dumbly, she stared at his outstretched hands, her mind, for some reason, going curiously blank.
"It will settle the queasiness," he murmured, voice low.
Mai gulped and looked away from him because her stomach had fluttered, and not in an 'I'm-going-to-be-sick' way.
What the hell?
Shakily, she reached out and took the glass before gingerly taking the pills. The slide of her sensitive fingertips over his smoothly rough palm once again did funny things to her, and she pulled her hand away as fast as she could without seeming like a total nutcase.
"Thanks," she whispered, taking a swig of water and tilting her head back as she downed the two pills at once.
Lin stood with a secret smile. "They'll make you drowsy quickly so it's best if you eat now. You'll need the energy to recover while you sleep."
Mai nodded weakly, not doubting his words. She was already tired, so if the pills made someone already alert sleepy, it would only be a matter of time before she was completely knocked out. She had begun to struggle to her feet when she was, quite abruptly, swept up from the floor and into a pair of strong arms.
She squeaked and clutched Lin's shirt in surprise, suddenly thankful that she had just been sick because she was sure that if she hadn't, she surely would have been at that moment. The sudden change in position and height had her head spinning, and without realizing it, she let it rest against his shoulder.
He even walks smoothly, she thought distractedly, thankful for his even gait.
Too soon for her liking, Lin was lowering her onto the pulled out futon in her room. Was it just her, or did his hand linger on her back longer than necessary? She gave herself a mental shake. Of course it was just her. Psh. As if Lin would ever…
Because she wanted to be held by him longer, Mai forced herself to let go of his shirt as soon as she was able and reached to the side to pull her comforter over her legs, trying to put a layer between her and Lin in a vain attempt at disguising how flustered he was making her.
What was wrong with her?
Murmuring an unintelligible thank you, Mai looked down to hide her blush and fiddled with the edge of the blanket. It had been mere minutes, but she could already feel the effects of the medicine. Her limbs were beginning to feel heavy and her stomach had stopped its imitation of a ship at sea.
She hadn't noticed Lin leave her room, but she did notice when he walked back in holding a steaming bowl of noodles. Now that she didn't feel like vomiting at the mere thought of eating something, the young woman realized that she was famished. She had skipped out on dinner, what with not having much of an appetite, so her last meal had been around 24 hours before.
Lin moved to the other side of the bed and sat, looking at her. "Can you hold the bowl?" he asked, noting that she looked even more fragile than usual.
With a small nod, Mai held out her hands and took the bowl from him slowly, making sure that she really could hold it on her own. She could, and Lin watched her as she began to eat.
The food was gone in minutes and she sincerely hoped the medicine would keep on working because she didn't want Lin to have gone through the trouble of getting her Juwaari soba only for her to throw it up. Slightly amused by how quickly she had eaten Lin held his hand out.
"I wish I could've actually tasted it," she pouted, frowning at the empty bowl as she passed it to him.
"I'll buy you some more another day," he said matter-of-factly, nonchalant, as if he hadn't just told her he'd get her lunch again, and on a day she wasn't as sick as a dog.
Shocked, and more than a little confused, Mai watched him leave the room with heavy lids. Yawning, she decided that she would think about his words later, because right now, she was exhausted. Her comforter was soft and warm and welcoming as she stretched out and wrapped herself with it, closing her eyes contentedly.
The clink of something being set down made her open her eyes slowly. Lin had put a new glass of water on her bedside table, along with the bottle of pills she was now regarding as pure magic.
Noticing her open – though slightly glazed – eyes, Lin stopped and crouched down again. "Take two every six hours," he instructed. "There should be enough for three days, but I doubt you'll need to take them that long. I hope you feel better, Taniyama-san."
He had just reached her door when she called out in a soft, tired voice. "Stay." Lin turned to look at her, about to ask what she meant, but her eyes were already closed. "Stay, please…" A small, delicate hand reached out from the warmth of her blanket and stretched towards him.
At that moment his younger fellow assistant looked so small, vulnerable, and helpless that he knew, even before he nodded, that he'd be unable to refuse her request.
"If that's what you wish, Taniyama-san."
Lin blinked. "Pardon?"
She yawned and snuggled deeper into the covers, her voice coming out slow and languid and on the verge of sleep. "Call me Mai, Lin-san." He was silent for a few minutes, and was positive, as he watched her side rise and fall rhythmically, that she was asleep until she said in a distant voice, "Thank you, for making me feel better, Lin."
"You're very welcome … Mai," he murmured, rolling her name around in his mind. He decided that he liked the way it curled from his tongue. Lin glanced at her, expecting to see some sort of blush dusted across her cheeks.
She had already fallen asleep.
The following Monday…
Mai hesitated outside of the front door to the SPR office, for once wanting to be somewhere else. It wasn't that she wanted to avoid her responsibilities as a (now) full-time employee; it was that she wanted to avoid a certain someone – a tall, silent, Chinese someone.
She was grateful, of course. If it hadn't been for him, she probably would have been sick all through the week and into the weekend, but the medicine he'd gotten her had worked wonders and now she was back on her feet, refreshed and as good as new.
But still … She'd rather be somewhere else. Anywhere else, because the thought of facing him after what she'd said – or rather, revealed – the last time she saw him made her heart clench and beat double time.
Blearily, Mai opened her eyes and looked around, noting that Lin was sitting at her desk reading a book she'd never thought he'd ever, in a million years, read**.
That's why I thought I was still dreaming, she thought petulantly.
He looked up and gave her small smile, sending her heart racing. "Good evening."
That is also why I thought I was still dreaming, she huffed. I mean, he isn't supposed to smile.
Mai beamed back at him, recalling what he had just saved her from.
For some reason, she had ended up in a bamboo maze and was being chased by a crazed clown with Naru's face, and had just reached the end of the maze ('salvation!' she had cried) when a hundred Naru-clowns had popped into existence and had begun to demand tea, all at once. Dream Mai had spun in circles, disoriented, when Lin, wearing a blue and red spandex uniform she would swear she had seen on the cover of some American-type manga, flew down, swooped her into his arms, and flew away with her.
"Thanks for saving me from the Naru-clowns, Lin," she said gravely, before giggling lightly. "I can't believe you wore red and blue spandex, though."
Lin looked at her as if she had suddenly sprouted a new arm and it had waved hello. "What?"
And, in growing absolute horror, Mai slowly realized that, no, she was not still dreaming, and yes, she had just effectively told Lin Koujo she had been dreaming about him; not only that, but had been dreaming about him wearing spandex.
She had been unable to meet his eyes after that, not even when he had given her a new glass of water and told her that he was looking forward to seeing her on Monday. She had been able to hear the amusement and curiosity burning behind his voice, and her ears burned as the echoes of her mortification reached her.
With a self-sacrificing sigh, Mai turned the handle and stepped into the office, deciding that she would have to return at some point (unless she wanted to quit, which she didn't) and that facing her embarrassment head on would be best. In her experience, avoiding something only gave it more power over you.
She hadn't been inside the door for more than five seconds when Naru's voice rang through his closed door.
Hello to you too, Mr. Boss, she thought sarcastically. It's not like I've been sick for the past five days or anything.
Grumbling, Mai scowled at the area on the wall where he would roughly be, but decided that she would let this one go, considering she had been out since last Wednesday (it didn't really matter that she'd been sick – he still hadn't gotten his tea). Naru without his tea equaled a grumpy Naru, she knew.
Quickly and efficiently, she made three cups of tea, putting two on a tray and walking to Naru's office. She didn't bother knocking; she never did. Instead, she walked in, set the cup down, and turned to go (she had long since learned that Naru would never say thank you – ever) when he cleared his throat.
Curiously, she looked over her shoulder at him.
He smirked. "Superman, Mai? Really?"
Her mouth dropped, she let out a very audible gasp, and blood rushed to every available surface of skin. He'd told Naru? "I – what – I mean – oh, shut it, you narcissistic jerk!" she screeched. Turning, she stormed from his office and slammed the door shut with a resounding bang.
Oh my god, he'd told Naru. Who would probably let it slip (just by accident, of course) the next time they were on a case with everyone. Yasu had started to rub off on him in that respect, and it wasn't something anyone but Yasu appreciated.
She had bigger things to worry about than what Naru would probably do, though, because she still had one more cup of tea that needed delivering and Lin's door was right down the short hallway, a mere four steps away, six if they were really small. Deciding that the blush covering her cheeks couldn't be helped, and that what she dreamt of was beyond her control (as if her dreams on every single case weren't evidence enough), she threw her shoulders back, held her head high, and made it to his door in three steps.
Just as she knocked and he told her to 'come in' in that smooth voice of his, her sudden bout of confidence deserted her. Of course.
Lin looked up when she stuck her head in and seemed to be fighting for words. "How are you feeling?" he asked.
"Oh, I'm, ah, feeling much better, thank you." She shook her head, trying to clear it and get out what she had knocked on his door for. "Um, would you like a cup of tea, Lin-san?" she asked, voice unnaturally high and cheerful. She kept her eyes averted from his, somehow finding the carpet in his office (different from the one in the front room, she noted) interesting beyond belief. Please don't ask about that dream, please don't ask about that dream, please don't ask about that dream.
"I would love a cup of tea," he told her, finding her reaction to him both amusing and adorable, and there weren't a lot of things he, Lin Koujo, found both amusing and adorable.
She nodded quickly, moving forward and setting a cup softly before him. Her hand shook slightly, but he chose to say nothing of it.
"Thank you … Mai."
And the way he said it, husky and dark, as if he were caressing her with his voice, made her head snap up in shock.
He met her gaze evenly, his eyes dark and intense (had they always been that particular color, and why were they making her knees weak and her stomach flutter like that, she thought haphazardly, her mind in utter chaos) as he caught and held her attention.
"You're, ah, wel-welcome, Lin-san," she stammered, unable to look away from him.
And then he smirked.
She squeaked, blushed to the tips of her toes, bowed slightly, turned, and fled back to the relative sanctuary of the front room.
Behind her, Lin's smirk grew as he picked up the cup of tea and took a slow sip. He was beginning to really, really like that sound she made when surprised, he decided. A lot.
In the kitchen Mai leaned against a counter, one hand over her galloping heart and another on her flushed forehead. That look, she thought, bringing it to her mind's eye once again. Oh, god, that look.
As her heart calmed and her mind began to reorder itself, she thought about what that look might mean, and as it came to her (slowly), a tiny, pleased smile flirted with the corners of her lips.
Yes, she was feeling decidedly better.
*Juwaari soba: an expensive type of noodle and broth dish in Japan. Juwaari is the type of noodle, and it's the finest because it's made entirely of buckwheat instead of being only part buckwheat. (If I got this wrong, please tell me. I'm not all that familiar with Japanese cuisine, so I probably am. But for the story, let's just assume I'm right and that Lin bought her really expensive food.)
**She's referring to Twilight.
Hello, readers! This is my first attempt at Ghost Hunt fanfiction, so please forgive me if I make any glaring mistakes. This idea popped into my head earlier today and wouldn't leave me alone, so it is now 4:15 on a Sunday night (yes, I do indeed have school in about three hours), and I'm trying to get this finished. To clarify a few points:
1) it is three years after Mai confessed to Naru, and yes, she has (sorry to all the diehard NaruXMai fans) moved on from him. I've an idea about a follow up to this one shot involving Naru and who he'd be paired with, so keep an eye open for that (though it would be MaiXLin-centric).
2) Mai does know that Lin and Naru are from England, and she doesn't have an issue with it.
3) In my story, Mai was 17 when Naru left for England after finding Gene's body, 18 when he came back, and now she is 21. She opted to not attend University, instead choosing to keep her job at SPR full-time as a ghost hunter instead of secretary. This is why she has to be at the office at 8 in the morning on Monday.
4) She has never had a boyfriend, which is why Lin has such a large effect on her mental processes.
5) That, or Lin is just too sexy for his own good.
So! If you liked my story, you should totally leave a review because they make me happy! But, you know, I don't really need them. It's not like I can hold the next chapter hostage, because look at that! There is no second chapter! : P Aaaanyway, it's way too late for me to be up, so I'll go to bed now.
- Ete Soleil