Behind Closed Doors
File 10: The Angel of Music
"Hey, Mai," Madoka started, holding the teen's plate over the trashcan. "Should I save this for you? You barely ate."
Distracted from her duty of washing dishes, Mai turned around to assess the damage, though her hands still worked to wash the grime off of dinner plates in the soapy sink. She honestly didn't remember leaving that much on her plate, but her glance in Madoka's direction proved otherwise.
She was ashamed of herself. It was unusual that she leave food, especially since she found it rude. How could she waste food that Luella had made? The brunette blushed, bowing her head, "Yes, please save it. I couldn't let it go to waste."
The pink headed woman suddenly laughed, turning around in search of plastic containers. "No need to feel bad. Was your stomach upset at dinner?"
Mai went back to washing dishes. "Yeah, maybe that was it."
–a lackluster response to which Madoka quickly called bullshit on. She put the leftovers away without a word, but then slowly turned around. With one eyebrow raised in question, she placed her hands on her hips. "Mai, I know something's up. Is it the case? You injuries? Naru?"
The brunette quickly tensed up at the mention of her boss, and she knew there was no way the other woman hadn't noticed. Although noticeably more distant at dinner, Madoka was as sharp as a tack. Mai remained stiff, continuing to wipe the already-clean plate in her hand. She didn't even want to think about that at the moment, let alone tell Madoka.
"What did he do?"
"N-Nothing! Ah, shit," Mai cursed as she dropped dish she was holding into the deep sink. She could feel her face burning from embarrassment. It was painful how easy she was to read. "Naru hasn't done anything…"
"Jesus, what's going on between you two?" Madoka mumbled under her breath, joining her once again at the sink to help with dishes.
Taking it as more of a rhetorical question, Mai simply decided to change the subject. "What about you? You seemed down at dinner."
When she received no response, the brunette turned to gauge her friend's reaction. The pink haired woman stood frozen.
That was a strong indicator that something was very wrong. Madoka was never at a loss for words, nor did she ever make such a… Mai struggled to find the word for the type of expression that the woman was making, but she looked…terrified.
The brunette finally put down the plate she was washing. "Madoka, is everything alright?"
The woman in question seemed to recover, giving Mai a pained smile. "Yeah, yeah, I'm fine. I guess I'm just tired."
Now it was Mai's turn to call bullshit. She knew all Madoka had done that day was go to the doctor. But maybe something had happened? Now that she looked a little closer, Madoka's eyes looked bloodshot, like maybe she had been crying earlier. And Madoka didn't cry.
She knew there was something more, something deeper. The expression Madoka was trying to hide… Mai had never seen it before in her life.
"Seriously, Madoka… if something is wrong, you know you can tell me," the brunette said in a soft voice. She took a step closer, but the older woman took an even farther step back. Freezing at the unexpected reaction, Mai immediately dropped her hand. It was unusual for Madoka to act this weird. What was going on?
"Mai, I," Madoka looked conflicted before shaking her head and waving her friend off, "I'm fine, really. But I'm really tired so I think I'm going to go lie down."
Mai nodded slowly and watched as the pink headed woman left the kitchen. The door swung shut behind her, its loud creaking noise seemingly emphasizing how silent and empty the kitchen was now. She wasn't even sure what the hell had just happened. Now she knew for sure that something was wrong, she just didn't know what.
To get her mind off of Madoka and what might be wrong, Mai scrubbed at the dishes in the sink even harder, focusing on nothing but the circular patterns she was making with the dishtowel and the bubbles they caused.
The brunette jumped, her scream caught in her throat. She hesitated to turn around because she knew whom the voice belonged to.
"N-Naru," she breathed, resuming her task at hand. She didn't turn around, afraid to face her boss. "You didn't show up for dinner, so Luella put some in the fridge–"
"You've been washing the same plate for the past minute," he said, cutting her off. His voice seemed rather close.
Mai's hands suddenly halted and she looked at the plate in her hands. The same plate she had been continuously washing even before he came in the room. Of course it was spotless. She could feel and see her hands clearly shaking in the moment of stillness. Had she really been that out of it after Madoka left? And did that mean that Naru had been watching her for a while? The brunette felt her face turn hot. "Have to make sure it's clean, r-right?" She bit her lip in embarrassment after she stuttered.
She set the dish down, leaning against the counter. "I'm sorry," she apologized, suddenly out of breath. "I'm sorry I lost the necklace."
There was silence. Naru didn't say anything. Instead, she heard his quiet steps approaching from behind her.
"You thought I was mad about the necklace?" he inquired, his voice soft.
"Y-You mean…you weren't?" she said, finally peeking over her shoulder.
He had an amused look on his face, but rather than making fun of her he simply shook his head. "Why would I be?"
"I-I…" Mai couldn't come up with anything reasonable to say, so she just closed her mouth. There was too much chaos in her mind to even think.
"Besides," Naru said, trailing off. He leaned in closer to her, but his face remained impassive. For a second Mai thought he was going to kiss her, but he ended up pulling her into a light embrace. The sensation of cold metal on her neck made shivers run down her spine. As her boss pulled away, Mai looked down to see a necklace replacing her old one – this stone was larger than the ametrine he'd given her and was a dark, brilliant purple color. The slightest smirk tugged at his lips as Mai's face flushed a deep red. "I found a better one."
Mai took a deep breath, trying to calm her emotional turmoil. Had this been the reason why Naru missed dinner? To think that she had spent the past couple of hours brooding and thinking that he was mad at her, when he was just…looking for another necklace. What was wrong with her? "N-Naru, what is this?"
"A replacement," Naru said, straightening the chain around her neck. His eyes met hers for the first time since he entered the kitchen and the brunette was so embarrassed that she had to look away. "It reminded me of you."
She was surprised she was still breathing. "No, I meant…what is going on between us exactly? And why do I feel like your mother knows more about your feelings for me than I do?"
Naru ignored her questions. "What did she say to you?"
Mai frowned, pushing him away slightly. "Forget about what your mother said, that's not the point, Naru! I'm not even sure what our relationship is… And that may be okay for you, but it's driving me crazy. And I've never been able to ask you about it because you make me so nervous! My hands start shaking and my knees feel weak when I'm around you and I know that my face is probably super red," her voice shook, prompting Mai to stop her rambling. She placed her hands on her face, cursing herself for having such obvious external indications of nervousness. Her cheeks felt burning hot against her cool hands.
Suddenly realizing that Naru's arms had her pinned against the kitchen counter, his face very close to her own, Mai gulped. "Doesn't that just mean you're conscious of me?"
Mai continued to look down at her feet, her eyes wide. What did she say to that? "Of course I am! I have been since the moment I met you."
Naru smirked. Maybe he actually enjoyed seeing her so nervous around him. In fact, she didn't doubt it. "If you want me to establish what sort of relationship we have, I can do it right now," he said, finally getting to the point. He leaned in even closer, just until his mouth was at her ear.
"Anyway, Charlie…" The kitchen door creaked open and Luella walked in oblivious to what was happening, her phone wedged in the crook of her neck. "Sorry for leaving you to clean up the mess–"
Mai gasped, quickly tried to push Naru away, though he didn't budge all that much.
Luella caught sight of them and, with her mouth hanging open in shock, nearly dropped the tea tray in her arms onto the floor. Quickly recovering, she turned her attention back to the phone conversation she was having. "Sorry, I have to go. Yeah, I'll talk to you tomorrow."
If Naru was mentally cursing the universe for his bad luck, it didn't show on the stoic man's face. On the other hand, Mai was about to go into cardiac arrest, not to mention that she was so embarrassed she could crawl into a hole and die.
Luella simply ignored the awkward situation and glared at her son whom she had barely seen all night, placing the tea tray on the counter and her hands on her hips. "Noll, how many times have I told you that skipping dinner is bad for your health?"
The dark haired man sighed as if this was the response he expected. "I was busy," came his short reply, backing away from his brunette assistant.
"I don't care what you were," Luella countered quickly. "You need to eat like a normal person." If Mai had to guess, they probably had this argument a lot. Naru was such a work-a-holic that Mai would sometimes have to remind him that it was time to eat as well.
The brunette almost laughed at the interaction and the sour expression forming on her employer's face as his mother lectured him. It's not like the man was a college graduate or anything.
Before she knew it, Luella had wrapped her arm around Mai's shoulders and they were on their way out of the kitchen door – but not before the woman gave her son one last demand to eat the food she had saved for him in the fridge. The brunette was slightly panicked about whether or not Luella was going to say anything about the awkward situation she had walked in on, but the older woman continued to fume about her problematic child as she led them into the hallway.
"I swear, it's a wonder he doesn't starve to dea–"
Mai blinked, glancing at Luella in confusion. Not only had she stopped talking, but she had stopped walking as well. She followed the woman's eyes to the new item hanging around her neck.
"Was this what he was busy with?" Luella inquired, her entire demeanor changing in a split second. Her smile was so wide and her eyes so bright that Mai bit her lip. She couldn't lie to Naru's mother! Plus her flushed cheeks, embarrassed expression, and the situation Luella had just walked in on were probably all dead giveaways.
"Y-Yeah," she said quietly, fiddling with the purple stone. "I mean, since I lost the other one."
"I wouldn't say lost," Luella said with a cunning smirk. She pulled out the ametrine necklace from her pocket and dangled it in the air. "But now that you have a new protective charm, I'm taking mine back."
Mai gasped. So it had been his mother's. But…Luella couldn't have… "Did you– did you keep it to see what Naru would do?"
Luella tapped her chin. "And wasn't his reaction nice?" Her question rang in Mai's head as she headed down the hallway and left the brunette behind.
That's when Mai realized that Luella was definitely a force to be reckoned with.
Mai had been unable to fall asleep that night, partially because the pain she was in prevented her from sleeping on her back, but also because her mind had been running wild at all that had happened that day. Ayako and Bou-san were at odds. Something had happened with Madoka. And Naru…what had he been going to say?
Noticing her erratic heartbeat, Mai took a deep breath. She was going to have trouble looking at both Naru and his mother in the eyes today because she knew that as soon as she did her face would explode.
Looking out of her window to see the sunrise, the brunette sighed. She was going to really regret not trying harder to go to sleep, but at the moment she was still wide awake.
She got out of bed, her skin forming goosebumps as soon as the covers fell from her shoulders despite the heater running. She took about a half an hour to shower, putting on multiple layers of clothes afterwards, moving gingerly as to not irritate her sore back.
It was around 6 a.m. as she shuffled out into the hallway, searching for any signs of life in the quiet house. Maybe she'd go ahead and make herself some tea? Though coffee would probably be more beneficial if she wanted to stay awake and alert. Despite the fact that she had felt awake just an hour prior, her eyelids were suddenly feeling much heavier.
The brunette jumped, glancing behind her to find Martin sticking his head out of the door of his study. Her body relaxed as she saw the familiar face.
"What are you doing up so early?" the man inquired, his head tilted in concern. He must've heard the old floorboards creak as she passed by.
If she weren't so tired Mai might've just shrugged off his concern, telling him that she wanted to get an early start to the day or some sort of similar excuse. But as Mai covered her yawn, she knew it would be pointless to try and lie to him. He was much too clever to fall for it anyway. "I haven't gone to sleep yet," she said, blinking in an attempt to open her eyes wider.
Martin's eyes widened in shock. He simply waved her into his study, moving out of the way so that she may enter. He sat her down on one of the chairs in front of his desk, making her a cup of tea.
Mai looked around the room, shelves of books reaching the ceiling. She smiled tiredly, unable to deny the wave of nostalgia washing over her. "I remember my first time in this room," she said quietly. "Back then, I didn't even know that you were Naru's father."
Martin turned to her with a small smile, handing her a fresh cup of earl grey tea. "I was surprised to find out he hadn't told you his true identity."
"He should've," Mai huffed into the teacup, blowing on the steaming liquid.
"True," Martin agreed, sitting next to her instead of at his desk, "but you know the reason he couldn't."
Mai looked at the man contemplatively. She knew Naru probably hadn't told her because of how she'd react. That, and it might have put all of their lives in danger had word gotten out. Even now, the police were still investigating evidence related to Gene's death. And that woman had yet to be put on trial, though Mai had no doubt that there was more than enough evidence to put her away. She wondered if Naru would appear on trial to testify against her… if there was even a possibility of that. It's not like anyone would take him seriously if he testified with psychometry.
Snapping back into reality, Mai realized that she had slowly been slipping into to realm of the unconscious while thinking. Without even taking a sip, she slowly put her tea down onto the small table that rested in between her and Martin, afraid she'd fall asleep and spill it. "Sorry, I was somewhere else," she said, yawning.
"You should really try to sleep," the man said, his eyebrows furrowed in worry.
Mai rubbed at her eyes. "I know, you're right."
"Of course I am," Martin said, smiling. She wondered if this man had made some sort of contribution to Naru's astounding narcissism.
"Okay, I'll go," Mai sighed, putting all of her strength and effort into standing from the chair. "I'll see you later." She exited the room while Martin watched her anxiously and managed to stumble halfway down the hallway before an unexpected force pushed her into the wall. Her back stung at the pressure, causing her to cringe.
Slightly out of it, Mai had to remind herself that she was awake, not dreaming. She glanced at the person who had run past her only to see pink hair. What was Madoka doing running down the hallways at six in the morning? Thinking that it might have something to do with the woman's strange behavior the night before, the brunette followed as quickly as she could manage.
Mai leaned up against the bathroom door that Madoka had just slammed behind her, listening intently. At the sound of retching, the younger girl became worried.
Suddenly, the realization hit her.
The brunette covered her mouth in shock. There was no way. Sure, she was throwing up, but that didn't mean… But then again, it would make sense as to why Madoka had been so weird, not to mention cryptic, the day prior. And she had just come from a doctor's appointment…
Mai paled at the thought.
She jumped when she felt the pressure of a cold hand on her shoulder. She relaxed, taking a deep breath when she glanced in Lin's direction. Looking back to the door that was between Madoka and herself, the brunette chanced another glance at the pinkette's boyfriend.
"This has been going on for the past week," the Chinese man said softly.
Her eyes widening even further, Mai whispered in her softest voice, "You don't mean…?"
"She hasn't spoken to me since yesterday," the onmyouji admitted.
Could this mean that Madoka was actually pregnant? Mai wasn't sure how to take the news. As far as the brunette knew, the couple didn't even have plans for marriage, but here Madoka was with a potential bun in the oven? Would they decide to keep it? Mai couldn't help but hope they did, but she knew having a child out of wedlock wasn't always they easiest decision to make. Plus, what would either of their parents say about it?
"It's best that you go back to sleep for now," Lin suggested coolly, bringing Mai back into the world of the living.
Seeing as how it wasn't her situation to deal with, Mai nodded slowly, backing away from the door. "Take good care of her," she ordered, pointing a finger at the silent man. The slightest hint of smile tugged at the tired man's lips. Lin nodded, watching her drag herself down the long hallway.
She was standing in front of her room within the next minute, but her despite her body begging her to open the door, get into bed, and pass out, Mai looked further down the hallway to the room next door – Naru's door. Surely he'd be awake by now.
She walked to his door, her body practically moving of its own accord in its half-conscious state. She held her hand up in the shape a fist, debating whether or not she should knock. What if he wasn't awake?
A muffled voice came through the door. "Come in."
Mai jumped slightly at the unexpected greeting, but open the door and slipped into the room. She leaned against the door, taking in the room that Naru had spent most of his life in. It was messier than she had expected it to be, papers cluttered in piles all around the room. Naru was sitting at his desk, the light of his computer screen making his face look even paler than she knew it was.
"Mai?" the tone of his voice was quiet, almost soothing. He was probably wondering what she was doing up so early in the morning, but the dark circles underneath her eyes were sure to give her away.
"I couldn't fall asleep," she said suddenly. Mai hadn't been planning on telling him that she'd had zero sleep, but there was just something about being tired that made people infinitely more honest. She walked over to his bed, the striped pattern of his comforter becoming wavy as she did so.
Was she hallucinating, now?
The brunette fell onto the comfortable mattress, her body relaxing immediately. Her eyes refused to stay open as she breathed in his scent.
Seconds later, Naru had abandoned his computer and was sitting next to her. He put his hand on her head gently, as if asking for permission. When his brunette assistant sighed in content and leaned into his touch, he ran his hand through her hair. "Are you done working?" she inquired, her mumbling muffled by his sheets.
"Shh. You need to sleep," Naru said, simply ignoring her question. He'd much rather continue running his hand through her hair than work, anyway. He continued to do so until Mai's breathing was even and she was effectively unconscious, which only took a total of five minutes.
He felt a little guilty for not having been there yesterday when the situation went awry. He had taken it upon himself to protect her, and where had he been? But she was fine now and that's all that mattered to him in the moment. They would need to be extra careful in the future, though.
He couldn't tell whether this spirit had it out for Mai or had some sort of ulterior motive. Mai had mentioned that she felt like an obstacle more than the spirit's main target. Maybe she was right? Or maybe she happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time? Naru wasn't sure, but he trusted Mai's instincts and if she said that this spirit wasn't after her, then who was he to argue?
Mai stretched, quickly cuddling deeper into Naru's comforter after she did so as the cold air nipped at her toes when they poked out from under the blanket–
Mai's eyes shot wide open and she nearly rocket-launched out of her boyfriend's(?) bed. Her back burned with the sudden movement, but Mai bit her lip and the pain eventually subsided. That's right – in a delusional haze she had walked into Naru's room and had fallen asleep on his bed as he ran his hand through her hair. Had she woken up in her own bed, Mai might've thought it was all a dream. But the dark blue comforter was all the proof she needed to know that it wasn't.
To make things even more interesting than they already were, there was an unconscious Naru lying next to her.
Mai nearly launched out of the bed for a second time, her eyes wide from the revelation. She and Naru were napping on the same bed. His bed.
It took a moment of deep breathing for the brunette to calm herself. She took this time to let her eyes explore Naru's room. She had been so sleep deprived and delusional earlier that it was all kind of a blur.
His room was organized chaos. Piles of books littered the wooden floor, but stopped before they reached the carpet in the center of his room, which allowed for at least some walking space. His desk was a mess of papers upon which his laptop rested, the screen lowered and dark. Several frames hung on the walls – diplomas and chords and medals. The blue color theme made Mai smile. She then turned her attention to the unconscious Naru.
She seldom had the chance to see him sleeping. His face was so peaceful…and his mouth for once wasn't ruining the mood. The brunette laughed at the thought, her cheeks hurting from trying to suppress her smile.
"Your smile is creeping me out," Naru's rough voice said suddenly, surprising Mai out of her thoughts.
She laughed nervously, "Y-You're awake!"
Naru simply grunted, turning over onto his stomach.
Mai sat under the covers and contemplated. She didn't want to leave the warmth of Naru's bed, but he was probably annoyed that she was taking up space while he was trying to sleep. She should probably go to sleep in her own bed. But Mai somehow felt she wouldn't be able to sleep unless Naru was at her side.
Momentarily shocked by his movement, the brunette flinched when Naru's hand appeared in front of her face and pushed her backwards onto the bed. "Sleep," he demanded. Naru's arm extended across her waist, effectively trapping her against the bed.
Mai was at a loss for words, but gratefully snuggled slightly closer to her stoic boss.
"Okay, time to get down to business," Naru started, "I've already gone over the building's recorded history. According to Mai, the attic is cooler than any other room in the building. This could potentially be a result of inadequate insulation, but this will be one of the main areas we focus on. Another priority is the back employee hallway that Mai stumbled into. Our biggest concern is the main room. Occurrences of paranormal activity have said to be experienced on the stage as well as at the bar. We'll delegate jobs when we get there. Mai, you are required to have someone with you at all times, understood?"
Mai was momentarily offended, but it wasn't like he didn't have a reason to have someone babysit her. And while she would normally argue with him, she was much too tired and in too much pain to start a fight with him. Especially not after they'd such a nice nap together. She could only hope that he would offer to be the one to look after her.
The brunette blushed, nodding. "Understood."
Ayako raised an eyebrow in suspicion, leaning in close and invading Mai's personal space. "So complacent today, Mai… Did you wake up on the right side of the bed this morning?" Noticing further redness in her coworker's cheeks, Ayako's pursed lips widened into a grin.
Mai knew where the cocky priestess was trying to go with this, but she also knew how to successfully distract the miko. "Actually, I only got like three hours of sleep this morning. So, no." As she said these words, she noticed her eyelids slipping. Blinking quickly, she regained her nonchalant focus on the red-head's face.
Ayako glared at the younger girl. "Mai! You can't do that!"
"Ayako's right. Not sleeping is not good," Bou-san commented, his head sticking out passed his girl friend's angry form.
Mai sighed – she had expected this reaction. At least it got Ayako's mind out of the gutter. Playing with the seat belt strap going down her chest, Mai's expression turned into a pout. "I know that. I've just been having trouble falling asleep recently."
Ayako examined her younger friend's face, lamenting at her less than luminous skin. "Did your pain medicine not help you go to sleep last night?" she inquired, concerned.
"Ohhh," Mai's eyes glazed over with the revelation that she hadn't taken her pain medicine the night prior. That's why she was miserable all night.
"Don't tell me… you forgot to take it last night?" Bou-san deadpanned, looking at the brunette girl like he had expected it.
The brunette laughed nervously.
"And did you at least take your medicine this morning?" Ayako asked.
"Well…" Mai bit her lip, unable to hide her guilt. The red-head's expression became angry once again. In order to defend herself, the brunette continued, "I thought it would make me even more tired! I'm already dead enough as it is."
"Ugh, you are a hard-headed idiot," the priestess sighed, falling back into her seat.
Mai couldn't help but grimace at her stupidity. Not to mention, Naru and Lin were both listening from the driver and passenger seats, making the girl even more self-conscious. "I know, I'm sorry," Mai apologized, feeling genuinely guilty for not taking her medicine. Ayako and the others were just looking out for her and she was neglecting her health. What if her performance was affected? "I promise it won't happen again! In fact, I'll set an alarm right now!"
Mai's jaw dropped when her phone screen suddenly turned dark. She remained still for a second, simply staring at her phone. She must've forgotten to charge it last night…
"Did your phone just die?" Ayako asked quietly before promptly busting out in laughter. "Geez, you're hopeless."
Mai went to say something with her head hung in shame when the van came to a halt. They had already arrived at The Gate.
A/N: YO, GUYS! I'm sorry it's been a while. Quite a while… Anyway, I hope you guys enjoyed this chapter and I'll try to update again soon. Also, I thought y'all should know that amethyst is used to purify negative energies and is said to enhance cognitive perception as well as accelerate the development of intuitive and psychic abilities.