Disclaimer: I still do not own Ghost Hunt; no copyright infringement is intended, etc, etc.

Chapter 8

Mai entered the office with trepidation the next morning. Last night had been wonderful. She really had wanted to see that movie, and Naru had been almost…pleasant about it. He had treated her with a kind of fond indulgence, like and adult giving a small child a treat. He hadn't made any cutting remarks when she clutched his arm, and hadn't even objected when she continued to hold on. He had taken her out for dinner, and they had a good discussion of the movie. Well, good in Naru terms, anyway. He had gotten in a few cutting remarks involving terms like 'superficial' and 'juvenile,' but that was to be expected.

He had insisted on walking her home, and then...Mai still wasn't sure she hadn't imagined the rest. It had been too like a fantasy. He had kissed her so gently, and it had felt so nice...but if it had been a dream, he would have stepped away and looked at her with that soft smile. The smug, self-satisfied gleam in his eyes had been pure Naru. And then grabbing the keys from her, shutting her inside her own apartment, and calling her an idiot—that all had the ring of authentic Naru. Narcissistic bastard.

All of it left her unsure of how to act. Had that been work? A date? Had he meant to kiss her, or had he temporarily gone insane, or been possessed by something? The thoughts went around in her head like a hamster on a wheel. She had hoped his manner in the morning would tell her something, but he acted the same way he always did, the ungracious, selfish narcissist. He might have given her a quick, gleaming sidelong look when she set his tea down, but it was so fleeting she couldn't persuade herself she hadn't imagined it.

Lin saw Mai's flushed uncertainty and drew his own conclusions. Naru was positively radiating smug satisfaction—his plan must be progressing extraordinarily well. He sighed inwardly. If ordinary Naru was difficult, he was afraid that a Naru pampered and flattered by an adoring girlfriend would be insupportable. And having gotten away with this much, Naru was sure to push his luck. He foresaw troubled times ahead.

It was perhaps inevitable that Bou-san and Ayako arrived on that thought. They bustled in demanding iced coffee in high spirits. The monk was quick to observe Mai's abstraction, and immediately called her on it.

"Oho, you're flustered this morning, missy. Hot date with Naru last night?"

Naru himself had heard them come in, and had been lurking inside the doorframe of his office. That cue for an entrance was too much to resist, and he didn't try to resist it very hard. He glided into the lounge like a shadow, enjoying Bou-san's guilty start.

"Yes, not that it's your business," remarked Naru coolly. "Mai," he leaned against the arm of his chair and ghosted his lips across hers in the lightest of touches, "tea." With that, he retreated, pausing only briefly to enjoy Bou-san's bugging eyes, Ayako's gaping mouth, and Mai's blushing confusion. He dwelt with contentment on the thought of Yasuhara's regret at missing this little scene.

As he closed his office door, he heard the monk exclaim, "Mai, are you actually dating Naru?

He paused long enough to hear her response, a faint, confused, "Hai? Maybe?" He closed the door on the resulting babble with satisfaction. Confirmation before witnesses. He took up his black notebook and penned a few concluding notes before closing it with a final snap and placing it contently on the shelf of finished cased. He settled back in his chair and regarded the notebook, reposing in its new spot, with contentment. The groundwork was laid. Now it was just a matter of repetition, to confirm the behavior—more dates, more kisses. Nicer restaurants, he thought with pleasure, and more lingering caresses. He'd found a couple of moderately useful texts, and had some ideas on how to proceed.

He hesitated, and then drew out a fresh, blank notebook. The future stretched out before him, and he had all sorts of plans. Mai had to finish high school, and then there was college. He had some thoughts on the most useful ways she could continue her education. He began to sketch out a timeline, and jotted down some more notes. It didn't do, he thought, to leave important things to chance.

"Mai," he called, "where is my tea?"

Author's Notes: Yes, folks, this is the end. Many thanks to everyone who wrote such overwhelmingly positive reviews! I am planning a follow-up (or two), but in the meantime, enjoy the holidays!