Notes: This case apparently isn't in the anime at all. So enjoy my take on it, I guess?

Summary: When Mai is early to work one day, finally arriving before her narcissistic boss for once, she uncovers an essential piece of the mystery surrounding her boss and the man in her dreams. But will Mai's discovery place her boss even further out of her reach? Slow/eventual romance.


Mai slid out of the back seat of the SPR van, grasping the frame of the vehicle as she stepped down onto the ground to ensure she stayed steady on her feet. She blinked back the splotches in her vision and the slight dizziness that accompanied them. It was only yesterday morning that she was discharged from the hospital, and everything seemed to make her tired.

In fact, she had nearly fallen asleep during the meeting with the client yesterday. She had been to the point where she could see and hear that the mayor was talking but none of the words were registering and for a moment, she could have sworn that she was actually in class listening to her teacher drone on rather than in that little cabin in the woods. When the meeting had ended she was pulled out of her daze and she hurriedly imitated the rest of her colleagues in standing politely as the Mayor and his assistant made their goodbyes and left. She didn't remember much of the case details but knew better than to ask Naru or Lin what she'd missed.

Mai tilted her head back to take in the entirety of the schoolhouse they were hired to investigate. It was in surprisingly good condition after being abandoned for a few years. It was two stories tall and none of the windows on either floor had been busted out as she would expect from kids exploring or playing around the building. There were a few cracked glass panes but nothing any small critters could use to scurry their way into the building. There was no visible graffiti and if she hadn't been told otherwise before they took the case, she would have thought that classes were still being held there.

"Since the case details are vague and we don't have as much equipment as needed for an investigation this size, I want the microphones set up around the perimeter of the building. We will strictly monitor for the day to see if this case is even worth our time," Naru instructed briskly.

Mai went to unload the equipment with the others when Naru's voice cut through her fatigued compliance, "Not you, Mai. Come here."

She furrowed her brow and stepped closer to him. She was used to the curt orders from Naru, but it was unusual for her boss to pull her from setup duty. She couldn't remember him ever doing so before.

"Yes, Naru?" she asked cautiously, hoping that he didn't have something worse planned for her to do. Mai wouldn't put it past him to stick her with an odious or tedious job.

He gestured to the spot next to him. "Sit down. You aren't to do anything strenuous during this case and you will stay with me, Gene, or Lin at all times. No wandering off by yourself."

She remained standing. "What? Why?" she asked taken completely off-guard. A gentle warmth bloomed in her chest. Was this an indication that cared what happened to her?

"You just got out of the hospital yesterday and you still look sickly. It would be annoying to have to track you down and take you back to the hospital if you wander off and overexert yourself enough to collapse again," he stated with cool indifference.

The spark of hope in her chest rapidly extinguished itself. Mai crossed her arms and huffed. "Fine, I won't wander off alone. Are the others sufficient babysitters too?"

"No, as your employer, I'm responsible for your welfare and I don't trust the rest of them to be properly vigilant," he said absently and turned away from her to check the rest of the SPR team's progress. They didn't have enough equipment to spare if some of the members started up their regular unprofessional shenanigans.

"I can take care of myself," Mai said, aiming a sharp glare his way. After nearly a year of working for Naru, she had thought they were friends, but she'd been thoroughly disabused of that notion several times over the last week or so. It stung that he could so easily make her feel like a little child and the casual way he seemed to be able to dismiss her as nothing more than his irritating assistant didn't help.

She thought they had made progress in understanding each other over the last several days. She and Naru had hardly argued or squabbled while waiting on the dive team or since she had gotten out of the hospital, and she had felt his appreciation when she had anticipated his need for tea or quiet companionship on several occasions even if he hadn't said the words aloud. Clearly, she had been imagining that progress or they had taken a giant step backward because they were back to arguing again.

He turned back to her and raised a brow at her outburst. Oliver hadn't expected her to be happy about his instructions, but he hadn't expected her to be upset at having the chance to get out of the grunt work that she normally complained about, and as far as he knew, she didn't actually have a problem with Lin, Gene, or himself so he wasn't sure why she would object to being in their company during the case. "I disagree and since I'm the boss you'll do what I say. When the rest of them get back you can have your choice of babysitters out of the three of us that I've listed."

"Fine. Let me get my bag from the van." She sighed heavily but ultimately didn't have the energy to argue with Naru. Her shoulders dropped and she uncrossed her arms before striding the short distance to the car to grab her school bag. She could feel Naru's heavy stare on her back the whole way. In the distance, the others' bright laughter rang out. She plopped herself down on the building's stairs, several feet away from Naru's position, and pulled out her schoolwork. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Naru open his black notebook and begin reading and writing more notes.

She resolved to ignore her boss and keep his eagle-eyed attention off of her. That resolution turned out to be easier than she expected as she started her math homework. She'd missed the last several days of work and while her school allowed her to miss class time, she still had to turn in all her assignments. This was the last of her assignments and then she would be two days ahead. Tomorrow was a school day, but she didn't think that they would be back in time for class. Even so, there was no telling how involved this case would be so it was better to get her work done ahead of time instead of showing up to school exhausted and behind on her work.

"If that's the sin then the cosine of A is that number over this one," she muttered to herself as she tapped her pencil on the corresponding parts of the diagram in the book in her lap.

Naru sighed. "Do you have to be so noisy at everything you do?"

She looked up from her textbook and stared at him until her brain processed what he said. "Yes, and I have three more problems after this one," she replied tartly.

It served him right. He was the one who decided that she was to sit with him while they waited on the others. He was in for a very long case if he was determined to keep her within eyesight the whole time. If it wasn't so depressing that she drove the man she was in love with mad just by existing in his space, she would have laughed at his predicament.

"Are you muttering because you need help?" he asked, his pen stilling over his notes as he looked at her over his own work.

She cocked her head. It seemed almost like he was offering his help with her work albeit in a very patronizing way. "No, I only have a couple of problems left. They are just tricky, but I can manage on my own," she answered evenly, determined to not let him rile her up since he did seem to be offering her his assistance.

"Good, I wouldn't want your idiocy to interfere with my important work on the case. I'm sure it's a lost cause but do try to be quieter," he said drolly and ducked his head to bury his grin at the nearly feral growl his assistant emitted. He bit his tongue, barely smothering his urge to comment about her animal instincts and tendencies.

She glared at him and his stupid black case notebook. That rude, arrogant narcissist!

She dropped her gaze back down at the paper she was writing her math work on and nearly whined. The conversation had interrupted her concentration enough that she forgot where she was in the problem and now, she would have to start it all over again. She gathered up the dregs of her focus and started back on the last few problems.

Mai was tucking her book back into her school bag when the others came back from setting up the equipment. Mai shared a grin with Yasuhara, judging by Ayako's stomping and furious eyes as well as the way Bou-san was rubbing the back of his head they'd had another argument while they were gone.

There was a pit of worry in her stomach and since she wasn't feeling particularly anxious about this case yet, Mai darted her gaze to Eugene to find him staring up at the schoolhouse. She stood and sidled up next to the boy whose trepidation she could still faintly feel even though they had been careful not to touch each other since yesterday.

"Do you see anything?" she asked lowly, aware that Naru was watching them surreptitiously. She wondered if Naru was just watching to make sure she listened to him or if he suspected that she and Gene were keeping something from him. She had meant to tell him about the strange connection between her and Gene yesterday, but Naru had disappeared after the meeting with the client and the other SPR irregulars had kept her busy right up until she had gone to bed directly after dinner on Ayako's orders.

Eugene smiled wanly at the girl beside him. "No, I haven't opened up my abilities and I'm not sure I want to, yet."

"Wait, you can stop sensing things?" she asked completely baffled.

He raised a brow. "Of course. Walking around all the time sensing things and using my abilities would be exhausting."

She scowled down at the ground. "Is that why I'm always falling asleep everywhere?"

"Falling asl-," he started incredulously. He pinched the bridge of his nose in a motion more suited to his brother. "I don't know. Maybe, but you should ask Noll since he probably has a better sense of what type of abilities you possess."

"Oh," she said glumly. Why hadn't anyone told her before?

"It sounds like no one taught you how to control the flow of information you get."

She scratched the back of her neck as she replied, "Ah, not really. At least I don't think so?"

Eugene wanted to beat his head against something or at least smack some sense into his brother. It could be dangerous to be a psychic without any control and Noll, of all people, knew that. Having her abilities constantly on like that was probably lighting her up like a beacon to any nearby spirits and putting her in danger. While his problems hadn't been quite as bad as his brother's PK issues as a child, he'd had several nasty encounters with spirits before he'd learned methods to protect himself.

He knew that his brother had been grieving but, how hard would it have been to spend a few minutes a day instructing his assistant or at least pawning it off on Lin? Why had Lin not intervened either? He knew they hadn't realized the extent of her gifts, but even a little display of them ought to have prompted them to teach her some meditation and visualization techniques to help ground her.

Gene sighed but offered her a small comforting smile. "We'll work on it after this case. If I can't help you then either Lin or Oliver will be able to."

She gave him a puzzled look that he couldn't decipher the meaning of, but she nodded slowly in agreement. Mai brightened a little bit, realizing that his offer to help her meant that at the very least, Gene didn't intend to completely lose contact with her after they left the country. She could keep up with emails or phone calls and perhaps learn how to at least limit the intrusiveness of her abilities.

Mai grumbled as she heard Naru order Yasuhara and Bou-san to gather information from the village and pick up some more supplies. Naru wasn't assigning either of them a babysitter. Luckily, neither Yasuhara nor Bou-san seemed to mind his brisk tone or orders and left in Bou-san's car with their normal cheer.

Soon after they left dark clouds rolled in overhead and Mai shivered against a particularly cold gust of wind. Naru snapped his book shut and held out a hand to help Mai up from where she was resting. Another gust of wind ripped through the schoolyard and Naru sighed before taking his coat off and dropping it over Mai's shoulders.

"Gather the equipment and bring it in. It looks like it's going to rain," he ordered. The others looked worriedly up at the sky and then hurried off to gather the equipment. Mai went to follow them, but Naru caught her elbow, stopping her abruptly. She turned her startled eyes up at him.

He shook his head and said, "Not you, Mai. Wrap that around you and let's go inside."

"I'm not that cold," she said. The wind ruffled her skirt and a shiver ran through her. He raised a brow at her and smirked. She scowled at him but ultimately complied.

He helped her as she petulantly shoved her hands through the sleeves. He turned her around so that she was facing him, tugged on the coat to straighten it, and then buttoned up the coat. His jacket was a little big on her, but there was something strangely pleasing about seeing her wrapped up in his clothing for warmth. She was staring up at him again with large, bewildered eyes and a soft flush on her cheeks.

He cleared his throat. "Don't make this a habit or I'm going to start mandating you wear pants on our cases."

She went right back to scowling ferociously at him. He hid a smile at her predictability.

Her demeanor fell. "I should think that you won't have to worry about it after this case," she said. She turned away from him and walked up the steps and into the schoolhouse without a backward glance.

He blinked in confusion at her words as he rubbed absentmindedly at his chest. He didn't like watching her walk away from him and especially when she was clearly upset.

It took him a moment to realize what she had meant. He'd told her after he found his brother's body that he'd be closing down the office and going back home. Something about that didn't sit right with him now. Besides, nothing had turned out as he'd planned. For one, his brother was alive and now he had a mystery to solve, one that may very well involve her.

He followed the slim girl into the building. The others rushed in soon after with microphones and their coats tugged up over their heads. They shook the few raindrops that had accumulated on them off. As the last person through the door, John closed the door behind him.

Naru glanced up at their entrance and counted the microphones they had brought in. Once he had accounted for all the microphones, he looked at the group dispassionately. "We'll wait out the storm here until Takigawa-san and Yasuhara-san return."

Ayako brushed her wet bangs back from where they had been plastered to her forehead. "Guess we won't be investigating much today."

"The storm would cause too much interference with just the microphones. There should be a few handheld cameras in the van. It's not my preferred method, but it will have to do for today." Naru answered.

"I'll go grab them," Lin said as he grasped the car keys in his pocket and made for the door. He pushed the door, but it didn't budge so he tried pulling it towards him, only the door still didn't move, not even a little bit. He frowned and tried again with more force.

"Noll, the door won't open," Lin stated.

"Would you like Gene and me to break it down?" he asked dryly. He already knew what Lin's answer would be.

Lin shot him a dirty look. "Absolutely not! After what happened you need to test your abilities out in a controlled environment first. We don't even know if Gene can still channel your power."

"Fine." Oliver sighed. "Let's look for a window first then."

But they tried the windows and none would open nor would any amount of force be sufficient to break the windows. Lin vehemently protested the use of the twins' PK and while Gene agreed easily, Oliver gracelessly acquiesced after Lin pointed out that Takigawa and Yasuhara should be back shortly. In the meantime, they set up a temporary to base and covered it in Ayako's protection charms for their safety.

Mai tugged at one of Masako's long sleeves gently from her seated position on the floor. "Hey, Masako. Can you see anything here?"

"This place feels lonely. There is something here, but they are very good at hiding," the doll-looking girl answered softly.

Mai pursed her lips. "Oh, that's too bad. It would have been useful to know what we were dealing with."

Masako turned up her pert nose and crossed her arms. "What are you sensing? Oh wait, you haven't fallen asleep on the job. At least I don't have to be asleep to be useful."

Mai ground her teeth together. "I didn't mean it like that. I can tell this place feels lonely too, but it's not my fault I'm most useful asleep."

"That's the only work you are to do while we are here, Mai," Oliver cut into their argument sharply.

She pouted. "I know. I know. You already told me to take it easy."

"If I catch you doing anything else I will dock your pay," he warned, meeting her eyes with his intense stare. Mai fought to not get caught up in his exotic gaze and broke eye contact.

Once her brain registered his words she grinned and cheerfully said, "Ha! Normally you threaten the opposite- that if I fall asleep, you'll dock my pay."

"That was before I knew you were being useful and dreaming about the cases. Especially since you weren't forthcoming about the information you were gaining," he answered matter-of-factly.

"Well, there was a nice, smiling version of you in them so I thought I was delusional," she griped, cuddling into his jacket that was still wrapped around her. It was warm and smelled like him with notes of bergamot and ozone. She hid the grin that played on her lips. He smelled like the tea she brewed for him and the energy that buzzed chaotically under his skin.

Gene was holding back laughter at his brother's expense as he asked, "No one has told me what talents you actually possess, Mai. What is it that you can do?"

She scowled and grumbled, "Apparently sleep and dream of you."

Her eyes widened. "Wait! No! Not like that," she said frantically waving her hands and fighting down the rampant blush that was spreading over her cheeks. Mai slumped down with a groan and put her head in her hands as everyone laughed. Even Lin was laughing quietly into his fist.

Naru was still smirking as he interrupted Mai's embarrassed sulking, "We've confirmed that she has post-cognitive dreams, an intuition for danger, and has, on at least one occasion, demonstrated some astral projection capabilities."

Mai looked up through her spread fingers and intoned suspiciously, "You never describe my ESP that nicely."

"Was that too challenging for your simple brain? I figured you had embarrassed yourself enough in the last few minutes, but I can go back to describing it as heightened animal senses if you'd like," he intoned.

Eugene stared at his brother incredulously. Was he trying to flirt with her? No wonder she was calling him Naru the narcissist. He apparently didn't like her attention on anyone else, but his flirting needed serious work. He wondered if Noll even knew that was what he was doing or if he realized that he even liked the girl beyond just tolerating her presence. Eugene had never seen his brother try to flirt with any girl before. He'd seen him brushoff dozens of others by being tactless and short, but even though Noll was still being condescending, this was more playful than the normal brushoffs he gave other people and clearly designed to provoke Mai into engaging and extending the interaction with him rather than end the conversation.

"No, I prefer when you call it intuition," Mai pouted, crossing her arms and ducking her chin to her chest. Out of the corner of his eye, Eugene noted that Masako motioned at Mai. Just a tilt of her head and a 'go on' wave with one of her pale hands, but Mai subtly shook her head. Masako scowled but didn't push or speak up. He wondered what that was about. Noll, of course, didn't see. He'd have to remember to ask or get his brother to later. Noll might already have some idea what the interaction between the two teenage girls was about or at least have better luck coaxing the answer out since he was more familiar with Mai.

"That's a weird cocktail of skills," Eugene said, noting that Oliver left out any mention of the possibility of PK they suspected she might have. As far as he knew, his brother hadn't yet talked to Mai about what had happened the day he'd been revived and she'd suffered a stress-induced heart attack. It was unlike Oliver to wait this long to interrogate someone but perhaps he was trying to make sure Mai was well enough to have such a potentially distressing conversation.

She nodded and with a resigned sigh said, "Yes, and aside from the intuition, I have to be asleep for them to work."

The precognitive dreams were probably similar enough to Oliver's psychometry that he would be able to assist her. The ESP was something they could both help her hone, she probably just needed confidence and practice telling between what was something only she could discern and what everyone else was limited to. However, the astral projection was a strange skill and not one that either he or Noll had practiced helping anyone with. Lin might be the best bet for that particular ability or he might know someone else who could help with the projecting. "Cheer up, Mai. Sounds like you probably just need practice and training."

"Oh, probably," she said with a smile that she knew didn't reach her eyes. After all, they'd be gone soon and she had a feeling that the type of help she needed would be far more than could be provided from a distance. It's why she wasn't going to ask about the time she had astral projected her key to Masako on the last case. The twins and Lin were going to go home soon so there was no point. She would just have to find a way to manage on her own. She had been managing on her own for years at this point and she'd figure out how to manage this too. If she got truly desperate she'd see if Monk or his family had any contacts that could offer her a bit of guidance.

Oliver narrowed his eyes at his young assistant. Her words and expression weren't matching up again and he didn't know why yet. Although she often held information back, her emotions and the reasons behind them were normally easy to decipher. The fact that he couldn't discern what was causing the discrepancy between her words and her emotions aggravated him. He made a note in his field book on the occurrence just in case her strange behavior was case related.

He closed his notebook and stood up. "We might as well investigate since we are locked in here. Everyone should stay together."

When he brushed past Mai he murmured, "Remember the rules. Stay close to Lin, Gene, or me and I'll dock your pay if you overdo it."

"I remember," she huffed and refrained from rolling her eyes.

The classroom where the desks were full of student possessions and the blackboard had a date written on it just waiting for the children to come back the next day sent a shiver down Mai's spine. Only the accumulation of dust hinted that it had been years rather than days since there were students in the school. The tufts of animal fur and filthy aquatic tanks in the next classroom only served to further unsettle her. The school felt haunted in a way that had nothing to do with spirits. There was something empty and sad about the space that had been caught and suspended in time.

Despite the fact that all of them were diligently looking for clues, everyone stopped what they were doing and looked up at the ceiling when there was a loud, sudden bang from the second floor.

Lin met Naru's eyes. "I'll go check it out."

Mai's stomach tightened into knots and she stepped closer to Naru. She didn't think Lin should leave but by the time she had decided to speak up, Lin was already at the top of the staircase. Mai swallowed her protest and watched the stairs unrelentingly, waiting for Lin to reappear while the others chatted around her.

By the time children's laughter floated down the empty hallway, Mai's unease had only grown and cumulated into a sickening sense of wrongness, and she nearly raced up the stairs ahead of the rest of the group. Only Naru's sudden grip on her wrist and his long strides kept her from breaking the rules he had set for her.

There was fresh blood on the floor only a few steps away from the top of the stairwell and Lin was nowhere to be seen. Ayako bent down and examined the blood on the floor. "It's very little blood. If it's from Lin-san then it is from a minor injury. There's too little blood to be from a head injury or from a serious wound," she stated though it didn't change the grim countenances on anyone's faces. You didn't need to bleed in order to die. Lin was the most knowledgeable and defensively capable member of their group and it was a very bad sign that he was missing. It meant that whatever kind of spirit or entity they were dealing with was immensely dangerous.