Disclaimer: I do not own Ghost Hunt.
Stages of Love
Stage II - The Irritation & The Reasoning
It had just been a few weeks since S.P.R had been back in business, but cases were flooding in as if there was no tomorrow.
Naru was definitely irritated by the amount of people pleading him to exorcise the screaming spirits and the looming menaces in their house, yet there was a profound happiness in his heart for being able to work again. Working unstoppably was the only thing he derived pleasure from. He wondered if he did even have any guilty pleasure?
The assistant came in immediately after the call to attend to his demands. She smiled at him, completely annoyed with his tea-addiction. Placing it on the desk with a rather unwanted force, literally slamming it, the teacup cracked. Naru's desk was now officially a mess of files and papers wet with tea. The tea was everywhere, the floor, the desk and even (unfortunately) on Naru's clothes.
Immediately, the assistant blushed and started stuttering, but then a rather devilish expression, just as expected, took over his assistant's face.
"I'm sorry Naru," she apologized profusely, "It wasn't the least of my intentions to get tea spilled all over your hard work."
The sly smile spoke more truth than her lips. Smirking at her little victory of ruining his day, she failed to notice that he smirked at her with even more devilishness. She knew that the paperwork would keep him busy and the possibility of calls for tea decreased by ten percent. She almost squealed happily when her boss coughed.
"How about you start cleaning up the mess?" He asked.
"Uh, sure." She said, slightly disappointed that this was the best counterattack that he could come up with.
"And Mai," He began, "You are going to get all these papers redone again."
"What!" She cried, fuming with anger. "That's absurd! You are the one who does all the paperwork, I'm just supposed to file them!"
"Who spilled tea all over the papers?" He asked, looking at her, wooden-faced.
"F-Fine!" She hollered.
She left the room, blushing and quite furious with her boss. As soon as she left, Naru felt even more pleased than earlier.
Maybe he did have a guilty pleasure after all.
Dusk had set in. The office was illuminated with bright lights and so were the streets.
After filing up the remaining papers, Mai looked at the tower of papers to be redone. Ignoring it, she went into the kitchen, put the kettle on the stove and had readied everything required for tea-making except the fact that she had none to make from. Her boss had depleted every remaining resource of tea. She looked at the clock and decided that it was better if she had somebody to accompany her.
"Naru, accompany me to the shop, will you?" Mai called out to him.
"Ask Bou-san." He answered, highly engrossed in one of his client's file. Flipping the pages incessantly, he failed to notice his assistant tapping her foot in impatience. Unable to concentrate, he sighed and looked at her warily. "Ask Matsuzaki-san."
"Both of them are out." She answered. "Nobody is in the office, not even Lin-san."
Even though Naru hated being dragged around, he was currently being forced to shop with his assistant. She was bargaining at the counter relentlessly. He coughed, expressing his displeasure at her parsimony. She continued to ignore him and went ahead with the war of words she was currently having with the woman at the counter. Naru pushed her aside to make her stop.
"What?" She huffed. He felt no need to answer her. She ignored him and went back to her earlier doings.
"Mai." He began. "I'll pay."
Paying the lady her amount, he turned to her and raised his eyebrows. Taking the bag full of purchases from the lady, Mai smiled at her - a cold smile. The lady offered her the same but she turned warmly towards Naru and bowed. He nodded and bowed slightly. After settling things smoothly, Naru pulled the door of the shop for Mai courteously and walked with her, headed in the direction of the office.
"I'm not paying you back." She said out of the blue.
"I never asked you to." He answered. "Miser." He breathed quietly, but he kept it audible enough for her to hear.
"Well it's not like I'm buying something for myself, it's for your tea. Much better if you pay it yourself!" She retorted, her reasoning completely stupid.
"You don't drink tea." He said slightly amused at her. Mai blushed. Looking at him angrily, she stuck out her tongue.
"Plus, you should be careful of how you spend-"
Suddenly she stopped dead in her tracks. Moving closer to the window of the shop, she stared through the glass. Immediately she handed the purchases to Naru, went in speedily, ransacked the store, payed the shopkeeper and came out joyfully holding something in her hand which became her object of her attention for a while.
"He is gorgeous." She mumbled happily. Staring at the front cover of the magazine she held in her hands, he frowned.
"…" He felt a little annoyed that she was rather engrossed in flipping the pages of the magazine, than in paying attention to him - not that he talked much. Even after returning to the office, she kept staring at the cover page. She had completely forgotten about the paper-work, the tea. It was almost as if she was relaxing at the beach.
Rather displeased with his assistant's love-struck behavior, he reminded himself that she was just infatuated - which was quite normal for young women. He kept repeating the same thing in his mind, that this infatuation of hers was temporary. All women were the same, exactly as men - engrossed in something that they can't have.
But he couldn't deny that he was irritated.
After a while, he ordered his assistant to bring his dose of tea. While waiting for the tea to come, he looked at his now clean desk and wondered if she had managed to get all the pages rewritten. Soon enough, his assistant came in cheerfully keeping the teacup on his desk. Much to his annoyance, she still carried the magazine in her hand. Absentmindedly, she placed the magazine on his desk when she collected the previously empty teacups and prepared to leave, forgetting about it's existence for a few seconds.
Naru looked at the cover with a menacing expression. Immediately enough, his assistant came searching for it. She was about to reach for it, when unknowingly or knowingly he let the cup slip from his hands. The tea was running all over the desk, the marbled floor and also over Mai's precious magazine. She stared at him, her eyes wide enough to make him raise his eyebrows. It's not like blood had been spilled, it was only tea.
"Why did you do that?" She hollered, glaring at him. She took the magazine in her hands, dripping with tea, while she tried to dry the cover page. Accidentally, the page ripped as she tried to wipe off much tea from it. She screamed.
"My hand slipped." He said stoically.
"N-No! It didn't!" She fumed. "I know you wanted revenge for earlier!"
"Not really." He said coolly.
"Just because I couldn't get the paperwork done! That is really mean!" Mai continued her cries. "I just spent a good deal of money on it!" She flung the completely wet magazine on his desk angrily.
"Really Mai, even if you failed to get the paperwork done, Lin already has a copy of everything in his laptop." He muttered, rather irritated that she cared more about a silly magazine. He looked at her with a slightly surprised expression when he realized that he had let it slip unknowingly.
"What! Then why did you ask me to-!" Her face reddened with anger. "You conniving jerk!"
She stormed out of the office.
"You didn't really need to go that far." Lin muttered unhappily. Naru noticed him for the first time after he had returned from his break.
Although he didn't express his thoughts, he knew what he had done was just - childishness. He knew that spilling tea over a magazine for revenge doesn't suit him, but he wanted to avert her attention towards him. He looked at the man in the magazine. Naru felt a little irked. Mai was drooling over him. Drooling. He sighed. What was so good about a bare-chested man who had his face smothered in make up?
Something was bothering him. Even after all his childish behavior, he felt that what he had done wasn't completely wrong.
After all, if he made her angry, won't she look his way?
Even if it was with contempt.
Completely absorbed in his thoughts, Naru had lost track of time. He was lying comfortably on the couch. His arms supporting his head, he stared at the ceiling blankly. Maybe what he did was really absurd. He shouldn't have done that. The absurdity of the fact that he was jealous of a man smothered in make-up made him chuckle. He wondered if it was really he who spilled the tea over the magazine. It seemed to him that he had acted so - unnatural.
He closed his eyes, imagining the scene that had just happened. Mai's angry eyes and words bothered him. Maybe he went over-board with his irritation - rather, jealousy. It was wrong of him to have done that. He sighed and continued to stare at the ceiling.
Really, why is it Mai?
She was really a frustrating woman, laughing at small things, getting angry even faster and who blushes at every single thing. Such a frustrating, extremely irritating being! Yet why does he end up being so dysfunctional when she is not around? Why does he end up being a complete mess when she is angry with him? Answering such thoughts was not easy. He did not feel obliged to answer them, as he already knew that he had a soft spot for her.
Yet, why her?
He sighed and turned uncomfortably in the couch. Still being reminded of Mai's infuriated expressions, he continued to twist and turn.
Maybe it was her smile.
He smiled softly at the thought. She definitely had a contagious laughter that rippled through the office every time she was made happy.
Maybe it was his guilt.
The fact that he had let her go at such a crucial moment, hurting her with unwanted words. Words that could pierce through a stone. Words that shattered hopes. He shifted uneasily. It was probably the insecurity of not having one's love returned. Maybe she still was in love with Eugene. Maybe it's because he knows he doesn't stand a chance and that's why he ends up being desperate for her to look his way. He laughed slightly at his hopelessness. He was afraid that she was in love with a man who doesn't exist anymore?
"Gene..." He whispered. Maybe it was his own loneliness that was causing him such excruciating pain.
After a whole deal of shifting, he finally got up and reached for the phone on Mai's desk. He stopped for a moment, thinking that he was overreacting, but he went ahead with the plan. He knew that it was hard to let go of one's pride and he knew that the best. He rarely apologized, but now he needed to. He just needed to call and – he was immediately stopped in his actions by a knock on the door.
He opened the door to stare at a rather unhappy Mai. She shifted uncomfortably under his gaze and kept her eyes from meeting his. She continued to stare at the floor.
"Mai." He said, a little surprised by her sudden arrival.
"I-I just wanted to apologize for my unacceptable behavior this evening." She stuttered.
"…" He kept silent.
"I know it was rude of me to call you a-a jerk for no reason." She continued. "Really, I'm sorry."
"I promise I'll get the paperwork done!"
"The magazine cost me only four hundred and twenty yen." She began rambling.
"I hope you won't let this incident affect my pay-" She stopped as she heard him chuckle. She blushed. "What! What is it?"
"Mai," He said softly, "It's nine, what are you still doing here?" He pointed at the clock.
"Uh, I was just at a nearby cafe." She said. "Trying to cool my head and reflect on my actions - something like that?" She was doubtful of her own reasoning. She was just as remorseful as he was. Even if it was money in question in her case, he knew that Mai wouldn't be able to bear the pain of being hated by people close to her. Not that he'd hate her for such an idiotic reason. Now he knew the reason why he ended up being mesmerized by Mai's warmth.
"I don't sack my employees for such a reason." He said, still amused with her odd behavior.
"Oh." She answered blankly.
They stood staring at each other for a few moments before she coughed awkwardly. Mai looked away, still blushing. Still standing there, Mai laughed nervously and then bowed.
"T-Then I'll be going." She said.
"Wait." He caught her by her arm, as she was about to escape the awkward situation.
"W-What?" She stuttered.
"I'll walk you home." He said.
"N-No need." She bit her lip, trying to act polite.
"It's fine." Naru put on his coat and shut the door behind him.
Such small things are what probably made him notice Taniyama Mai.
His childish actions were probably a result of not wanting to share this wonderful treasure with the rest of the world. He smiled softly and quickly went back to his monotonous expression. If he showed her his good side, maybe she would fall in love with him. He did believe he had one.
Maybe things were still progressing. One can't predict when or with whom one falls in love with. Things will take their course in due time. He just needed to go along with the pace.
And be patient.
Author's Note: Oh, I know women get irritated if their male counterpart looks at other woman's posters, but do men feel the same...? I probably don't know because I haven't had the joy of being in love with someone.
After much thought, I decided to combine two stages in one for every chapter and ended up changing the layout of the first chapter. So, now the first chapters looks rather clean and neat. For some reason this chapter makes me blush, even though there aren't much romantic scenes, except a few cliché one's.
Leave behind a review and anticipate the next (exhilarating) chapter!