Tea Leaves and Amber

The first time it happened, they were investigating a love hotel.

She was walking with him along the corridors, her senses going overdrive with the number of spirits roaming the velvet-decorated hallways. Most of the spirits she encountered on cases were stricken with sorrow - bound to the places they very dreaded. The ones present at the hotel actually seemed happy to be stuck in such a place. One ghost passed her, a woman in her late twenties. And then another, a man this time. More and more, she sensed weak spirits coming frequently the more they treaded ahead. She looked around, confused with the sensation that filled her. A gust of soft, cold wind swept past her back, raising the hairs on her nape. Such things were rendered impossible in a hallway without windows. She shivered inwardly, despite being quite used to such experiences.

All of a sudden, she felt his arms wrap around her waist, his head looming above her left shoulder. He was so close to her that she could feel his warm breath clinging to her cheeks and smell the faint scent of his cologne. It reminded her of tea leaves and amber.

Subtly sensual, she noted.

But then again, knowing his personality, he probably didn't realize the overtones of his choice. Oddly, she liked it.

His arms moved, and ran up and down her sides. She tensed. Feeling incredibly uncomfortable, she shifted away from him. It became apparent to her moments ago when he whispered upon her ear that John was possessed. She mused over the fact that he failed to exorcise a weak spirit in time to stop it from entering his body. Almost instinctively, she started to pray.

Needless to say, it ticked the ghost off.

It was the spirit of a young man, most likely in his teenage years; it was carefree and playful, almost to the point of being completely child-like. Masako would have pondered over the sadness of dying at such an early stage of one's life if she wasn't currently occupied by the lips occupying her lips.

She was taken aback, literally, as she stumbled backwards and softly hit the wall. This amused the ghost even further, seeing as the priest had smiled into the kiss. Oh goodness. She just stood there, not knowing what to do otherwise. It was only until John - err, the spirit, tried to shove the priest's tongue down her throat that she had gained enough consciousness to push him back. She blushed furiously, muttering her ritual prayer as fast as she can, while trying to keep nasty thoughts about the priest at bay. She wanted to strangle him for his stupidity and recklessness. How dare he let some... amorous (she blushed even more at the thought, if that was possible) spirit take over his body? He was supposed to protect her, damn it!

Masako liked to think that she could handle exorcising spirits herself, and that Naru only sent people to go with her just to make sure she was safe. She also liked to disregard the fact that these people were probably hired to take care of the exorcism, just as she was wanted for her abilities as a medium.

She felt the ghost evaporate as she said the last of her prayers.

Personally, she didn't think she can continue to look at John the same way after their little... encounter. She hated to admit it, but she was a bit put off by his boyish charms from the moment she saw him at that school. Not to mention how considerate and attentive he had been to her when she got pushed off the stairs during one of their cases.

That, and his stupid (she hated to admit to herself that it was endearing) Kansai accent, of course.

Now that she had shared her first kiss with the forbidden fruit (he was a priest, for heaven's sake!), she didn't know how to act without the urge of hiding behind her kimono sleeves anymore.


His voice was raspy, and it sent her over the edge. She jumped a bit.

Hiding behind the sleeves.

"Are you ok, Hara-san? You don't seem too well."

"I'd hate for that to be the case, Father John," she cringed as her voice broke, "why would I not be perfectly fine?"

He must have noticed her unease (and very weird phrasing) as he cocked his head adorably to his side. Adorably.

"Are you sure?"

Yes she was sure! Other than the fact that (1) it was an adorable priest and not a specific handsome researcher who kissed her for the very first time, (2) said priest have no recollection of the said kiss, and (3) she was flustered from her head down to her toes, why would she not be perfectly fine?

"Actually, no," she hid her reddened cheeks from his view, "I can't breathe probably. Can we go back to the base?"

It wasn't necessarily a lie. She couldn't really breathe; she felt like the velvet-lined walls were caving in on her and it was as if the spirits were rampant and were screaming inaudibly. That, and she couldn't afford to stay in a secluded area of the hotel alone with the priest either. She could almost see the danger sign hanging above John's head.

He silently agreed and walked closely beside her. Knowing John for about a year now, he probably thought he was doing her a favour by seeing to it that she felt supported as they walked towards the base. Normally, she appreciated the apparent company whenever she felt disconcerted by spirits, but now was not a normal time.

She really wished she was with somebody - anybody else except this man.

A few minutes of awkward silence (for her), they neared the base, only a few more doors and one turn to the corridor to the right. That was when she felt it.

She was a medium, and it was a usual experience for mediums to be possessed by spirits. Sometimes, if the medium had a strong enough control of her conscious, she can resist being completely blocked off by the spirit. This was one of those cases.

The next thing she knew, she had an insatiable desire of kissing the very same person she wanted to be away from.

Oh my.

She was on the verge of dying from embarrassment. If John would not sense the presence of the spirit in the next five seconds, she was going to bury herself alive.

One more step…

Luckily for her, though, John's acute senses started kicking. Once she felt the heavy weight of the ghost off her body, she heaved a huge sigh of relief. She fell to her knees.

The woman who possessed her was not especially remarkable. She was another lowly spirit who was casually strolling the hotel and decided it was time to play fun and games. It was the events that preceded her possession that caused her to lose her stability.

Her fear was that if John had responded even a few seconds later, she might have considered kicking herself. Or maybe move to another prefecture. Or both. She was extremely grateful for the fact that John had no memories of their previous encounter, else, she might have to face working with a man who cannot bear to look at her without resembling an overriped tomato.

The young priest kneeled down beside her, panic evident in his boyish features. He was checking her condition without actually touching her – a bout of shyness Masako was thankful for. She didn't think she could resist the temptation.

Wait, what temptation? She crooked her eyebrows at the thought.

She surprised herself when she was able to respond with a proper "no need" after John offered to help her get back up. She honestly didn't think she could muster enough sanity to do so.

When they got back to the base, Mai was looking at her funnily. After asking her what was wrong, to which she responded with a nonchalant "nothing," (after gaining her much-needed composure, she was able to exercise her talent in acting once again, thank heavens) she sat down, obviously but not suspiciously away from where John sat. Mai came up to her and offered her a handkerchief. Wondering why, she lookep up from Mai's hand to her face.

"You're sweating up. Here."

She didn't even realize the change in her perspiration. Slightly, she shook her head and brought out her own handkerchief, murmuring a soft thank you to Mai's direction.

"What happened out there? You look really shaken up!"

She stressed apprehensively, nervously smiling as if her gesture would appease her inquiry.

"I'm fine, really. The hallways were a bit stuffy," then, as if remembering the purpose of her being there, quickly added, "A lot of spirits were roaming around."

John walked towards her, a glass of water in his hand. She cautiously accepted the gift. As long as he doesn't find out about what happened, nobody else has to know. She smiled at him for his consideration.

"I'm sorry." Masako accepted his apology, understanding that he was probably saying sorry for his inability to ward off the spirit before it took a hold of her body. She shrugged it off, waving her hand in dismissal.

That night, before going back to the girls' room, she passed by John in the hallways. The same hallway where she had been possessed, and was in danger of giving the innocent priest a good smack. Awkwardly, she bid him a good night's sleep.

He'd better be, she bitterly thought. He was spared the indignity of remembering what the heck happened between them today. She, on the other hand, had to go to sleep dreaming of tea leaves, amber, and forbidden blonde fruits.

In his defense, it wasn't an entirely bad dream.

A/N: Thank you for reading, everyone! I hoped you liked it. I might continue creating more 'encounters' like this for the pairing (isn't it obvious I adore them?), but I don't know. I don't really write on a scheduled basis, so I apologize if I don't update regularly. :(

That aside, I don't own the characters of Ghost Hunt.