Rolling green fields and pastures streamed by in the window. A quaint countryside the likes of which she'd only ever seen in movies. Mai stared, taking it in. "Is this...England?"
She then looked around, examining her surroundings. She sat in a cozy train compartment. Alone, except for one other person.
Naru sat across from her, clad in his usual black suit. He was shuffling a deck of cards. Over and over, the cards flowed through his hands like water. His eyes focused, but at the same time, lost in thought. It appeared almost meditative.
She watched him for a while, mesmerized. Then finally spoke up.
"Hey. So where are we headed?"
He paused, and his gaze drifted out the window. But then, as if deeming it too much trouble to figure out, he just shrugged.
"Huh? What kind of answer is that?"
But Naru resumed shuffling, paying her no more attention.
Mai sighed. Out of a lack of anything else to do, she looked back out the window. Just in time to catch sight of white puffballs scattered about the scenery.
She gasped. "Wow! Are those sheep?"
Now she was glued to the window.
"Look, Naru!" She waved towards him. "Aww, they're so cute!"
Naru paused again. He looked up, first at her, and then out the window.
When he spoke, his voice was oddly soft. "Yeah…"
"What the hell?"
Mai slumped face down over her desk, clutching her head. Her dream from this morning still hadn't left her mind.
It wasn't all that significant of a dream, really. She probably would have forgotten about it if not for one detail.
Why was she dreaming about Naru? Now of all times?
No, no, no. She'd learned her lesson once. She wouldn't fool herself into thinking this might mean anything. After all, it wasn't as if he was being especially kind to her in the dream. He was just being his usual aloof self.
But...was it really him?
Since he was playing with cards, she'd immediately assumed it was Naru. But couldn't it just as well be Gene? And the way he'd responded at the end...that definitely sounded more like a Gene thing to do. If it were Naru, he would have just called her childish for being excited by sheep. He wouldn't agree with her, let alone waste time watching the scenery with her.
So it must be Gene.
A thrill of excitement ran through her. He'd come to visit her, even outside of a case? But at the same time, she wasn't convinced, precisely because of the fact that they weren't on a case (in fact, they had just finished one a few days ago). Why would Gene appear to her now? It didn't make sense.
Still, she hoped it was him. What if Gene had figured out a way to stay awake even off of cases? What could that possibly mean?
The door to Naru's office opened then, and he stuck his head out. "Mai. Tea."
"Okaaay..." she sighed, and got up from her seat. Seeing him act as usual made her ideas suddenly seem silly.
It was too soon to get her hopes up. After all, it could have just been a dream.
And yet that night, just like clockwork, they were back on the train again.
Mai bounced in her seat. This was it. It was one of those dreams. It had to be.
Gene sat across from her, engrossed in reading through a bundle of papers.
Mai smiled. Leaning forward, she asked gently, "Gene…? That's you, right?"
He froze. Then looked up with a smile. A deeply cynical smile. "I'm sorry to disappoint."
"Naru?!" Mai drew back, mortified. Oh god, no. She didn't mean to confuse them again!
The shock was enough to jolt her awake. The next thing she knew, she was in bed, hiding her burning face beneath her hands.
"Crap," she murmured. "That's not good."
That day at the office, Mai tried to avoid Naru as much as possible, still feeling awkward.
Fortunately, Naru seemed to be avoiding her too. The most she saw of him all day was when he called for tea, and even then...
The door to Naru's office cracked open. Mai jumped.
Through the crack, he said curtly, "Tea." Then closed it again.
She groaned, sinking down into her chair. "Ugh…"
Yasuhara chuckled. "Would you like me to get it?"
He stood and headed to the kitchenette. "Did something happen between you two?"
"No…?" Mai frowned and shook her head. "I don't think so."
"Then why so tense? You've both been prickly all day."
"I don't know, why don't you ask him," she grumped, crossing her arms. "I know I didn't do anything wrong." At least, not while awake…
Yasuhara returned from the kitchenette carrying a cup of tea. "Very well. I think I'll ask."
Mai watched intently as he disappeared into Naru's office. But when Yasuhara emerged again, the amused twinkle had left his eye, replaced with a puzzled look.
"What? What'd he say?"
"Well…he denied that anything had happened between you two. When I asked about the tension, he said I must be imagining things."
"Wait. So he didn't blame me for anything? Not even one little thing?"
Yasuhara tilted his head. "If you had bothered him somehow, he would usually make some complaint…"
"Right? He'd say something petty like, 'Why can't she keep quiet?' or call me stupid."
"You know him so well," Yasuhara chuckled.
"Then I guess it doesn't have anything to do with me after all…" Mai mused. Which should have been a relief. But something didn't feel right. What was bothering Naru? And why did she feel somehow responsible?
The third night on the train. Naru sat across from her again, this time writing in a notebook.
Mai felt stupid. In hindsight, there had been every indication that it was Naru the whole time, save for that one moment with the sheep.
But now that she was sure it was him, what to do about it?
She moved to sit next to him, watching him carefully. After a moment, she peered over to take a look at what he was writing. It was all in English, of course, so she couldn't read it. But soon she realized that he was just rewriting the same line over and over, crossing words out before penning them in again.
"Do you like this face that much?" Naru suddenly asked, giving her a quick glance.
Mai jumped and looked away. "N-No...I'm just bored."
Truthfully, she was a bit disappointed. If she was going to have actual recurring dreams about a guy, the least she could ask for was that they would be a little more interesting.
She sighed. "What am I even doing here? I want to leave…"
"Be my guest," Naru muttered.
"Fine." Mai huffed and got up from her seat. "I'm getting out of here."
She opened the door of the compartment and closed it behind her without looking back.
Now she stood in a narrow corridor connecting several compartments. Beautiful countryside continued to stream by in the windows. No other passengers were in sight.
"Hmm, now what…"
Mai took a few steps down the corridor, and out of curiosity, peered into the next compartment.
Naru sat in this one as well, reading a book.
She went back to the compartment she had just left. Naru was still in there.
She walked down the corridor, peering into every compartment she passed. Naru. Naru. Naru. He was in every single one of them!
"Okay, now this is scaring me." Just how obsessed with him was she?! No, don't answer that!
Mai crossed over to the next train car, hoping there would be some way off this damn train, or at least another soul she could talk to. But the compartments in this car were full of Naru too.
She walked faster, giving each compartment only a passing glance. She only stopped when something caught her eye.
"Wait, is that...me?"
This compartment was different from the others. Instead of Naru sitting alone, there was another person sitting across from him. Someone who looked exactly like her.
The Other Mai was saying something. Mai pressed her face against the door's glass, trying to overhear.
"Why'd I have to get stuck with someone so boring anyway?" she whined. "I wish Gene was here instead. That'd be so great." She sighed forlornly. "He'd smile at me and be so nice and actually talk to me like a normal person. It's just my luck…"
Mai couldn't help but cringe. Not that she didn't totally agree, but wow, did she really sound like that?
But it got worse.
"I mean, why are you even alive right now? That doesn't make anyone happy. What's the point?"
Her blood chilled. "Wait...that's…"
Going too far.
The Other Mai let out a loud sigh. "I wish you were the one who died instead! Now that would make me happy..."
Mai slammed her hand against the door. "No! I'd never say that! I would never…!"
"Can't you do something about it?" Other Mai asked.
Naru didn't say anything. The entire time, he just stared down at the floor, expression blank.
Mai banged on the door. "Stop it!"
Why wasn't he talking back? Why did he just sit there and take it? He didn't deserve this. No one did.
Hastily, Mai found the handle of the door and slid it open.
But when she entered the compartment, no one was there. Both Naru and the Other Mai had disappeared.
The door slid shut behind her. Mai whirled around. "Hey!"
She pulled at the door handle, but now it would not budge.
That was when she heard the water.
Mai turned at the trickling sound, just as it started to pool around her ankles. Cold, dark, muddy water, rising fast.
She threw her weight on the door, straining to get it open. "What is this?!" she said through grit teeth. The water rose to her knees.
"Come on! Please!" It rose up her thighs. Panicking, Mai banged on the door. "Help! Someone!"
The water was nearly up to her chest, when a pair of slimy, decomposing arms emerged from the depths, encircling her waist.
"Huh?" She only had a second to react before the arms tightened, and tugged. She screamed. They were trying to drag her under the water!
"NO!" Mai clung desperately to the door. "Naru! Help! Naru, please! NARU!"
She heard footsteps running down the corridor. There he was, outside the compartment, eyes wide. "Mai!"
"Naru…" She nearly cried in relief.
He immediately began pulling at the door. He seemed to have better luck at it, and the door finally slid open, causing the water to rush through the opening, dragging Mai with it out into the corridor.
"Oof!" She landed on the floor with a splash. Except it felt harder than the carpeted floor of a train. It was colder, uneven...were these...cobblestones?
Mai opened her eyes. She lay in a narrow alley, dark but for a dim streetlamp at the far end, just enough light to cast stark shadows from the dumpsters and trash bins lining the walls.
"Wh-Where am I…?" Mai struggled to her feet. She was dripping wet, shaky, and cold, but at least the arms were gone. But so was...
"Naru?" She hugged herself, shivering. "Where are you?" There was no other sign of life anywhere.
Slowly, she made her way down the dark alley.
"Naru? Where did you go? Na—"
She tripped on something and stumbled.
Mai fell to her knees, catching herself with her hands. Reflexively, she looked back at what she had tripped over. Her eyes widened.
A body lay on the ground behind a dumpster, hidden in the darkness except for a pale arm outstretched into the alley. And a pale face.
Naru's face, speckled with blood. His eyes, lifeless.
"Mai. We need to talk."
Those were the first words Naru said when she came into the office. Apparently, he had been waiting for her, sitting on the sofa and watching the door.
Before she could say anything back, Naru stood and went to his office, beckoning her to follow.
"Close the door behind you," he said, sitting in his chair. Mai did so, and stood before his desk, twisting her fingers together.
The air felt heavy. Naru couldn't seem to look her in the eye, and settled on staring at his desk. He hesitated to speak, choosing his words carefully.
"Have you had any...unusual dreams lately?"
Mai took a deep breath. Last night, after a series of nightmares, most involving finding Naru dead in various ways, she had woken up in tears, and promptly vomited. It had taken her a while to regain composure after that, and even now, she felt shaken. She'd seen awful things like that before, but seeing it happen to someone she knew was something else.
Given all of that, she decided to be honest. "I've been dreaming about being on a train. With you. And last night...it was awful. I went to look in the other compartments, but...I only found horrible things. You...you were..." She put a hand to her mouth, as another wave of nausea washed over her.
Naru held up his hand, signaling that that was enough.
There was a long silence before he spoke again. "...You have also appeared in my dreams. Several times."
"What?" Her heart beat faster. "What does that mean?"
"It seems you have been...sharing my dreams."
It took a moment for the full horror of what he said to sink in. Wait, did that mean...those Naru's in her dream were actually him? All of them?!
He let out a long sigh, pinching the bridge of his nose. "Gene."
"R-Really? You think so?"
"I can think of no other explanation. He's transmitted my visions to you before. I don't know of anyone else who has both a telepathic connection to me and a close spiritual bond with you."
"Well, that's true…"
"Furthermore, it started soon after our last case. You saw him then, didn't you? Did he mention anything? Whether he would try something?"
Mai shook her head. "I don't get it though. Why would he do this?"
"It's possible that he did it by accident. Or perhaps he meant well, but did not anticipate the adverse effects. That would be like him."
She had to admit, that did sound like something Gene would do.
"We will have to ask him." Naru stood, signaling that he'd come to a decision. "Mai. The next client who comes to us with a case, report it to me immediately. We will accept."
"What? But you don't even know what the case will be—"
"It doesn't matter." He looked dead serious. "We need to fix this as soon as possible. And to do that, first we need to contact Gene."
Mai gulped. The fact that Naru, who was usually so picky about cases, was willing to take on any potential case that came his way…
"Right," she nodded.
"Also…" He averted his gaze again. "I'd like to ask that you keep this a secret."
"Even from Lin-san?"
"Can I ask why?"
"It would get back to my parents. If possible, I would like to solve this between ourselves."
A bead of sweat ran down his face. Mai realized that he looked even paler than usual. What had happened on his end of things last night? She got the feeling it involved more than tears and vomit.
On one hand, keeping this secret didn't sound like a good idea. But she could also understand how it would complicate things; would his parents demand that he return to England? Would he have to explain to them that Gene was still hanging around?
"Fine. But if talking to Gene doesn't work, then we need to tell them. Okay?"
Naru reluctantly agreed.
Mai had hoped that the new understanding of her situation would help her cope with the dreams that night. But no sooner did she see the train compartment again than it filled her with immediate dread.
Thankfully, Naru leaned forward, placing a tentative hand on her knee.
"Mai. Is that you?"
She took a shaky breath, trying to calm herself. "Yeah. It's me, Naru."
He nodded, then stood, surveying their surroundings. "Don't go wandering off this time. If you stay here with me, you'll be safe."
Compared to the past few nights, his attitude had done a 180. Now he paced the small compartment and peered through the door, checking the corridor. Restless beneath his cool exterior. She knew what this reminded her of: he only acted this way on their most dangerous of cases.
Mai turned to him. "Naru. If we're going to be stuck like this until we can talk to Gene, then I think we need a plan to deal with it."
"I've just told you the plan. We stay here."
"But what is here?" She gestured around her at the compartment. "How can you say that this place is safe?"
"But is that foolproof? Can you guarantee 100 percent that this won't turn into another nightmare? That I won't see you turn up dead again?" Her voice cracked.
He pursed his lips. "No."
"Of course you can't. Because you're not the only Naru here." She pointed to the corridor. "All those other Naru's out there...they're all a part of you, aren't they? All of them, combined, make up the real you."
Since he didn't want anyone to know, she'd tried not to talk about it at the office. But now they were alone. And after keeping it in all day, she couldn't hold back any longer.
"Some of those things I saw the other night...that was from your psychometry, wasn't it?"
His jaw tightened, but he didn't answer, glaring out at the corridor.
"You always act like you aren't phased by anything. But you actually do get hurt, don't you? Somewhere deep inside."
Naru still didn't reply. But it wasn't like he could deny it, what with all she'd seen.
"Do you just box everything away, so you don't have to deal with it? Is that what this is?"
Tears pricked at her eyes. "It's messed up…" By now, Mai's shock had morphed into anger. Anger at herself, but also, at the circumstances that led to Naru having these dreams in the first place. "Why are your dreams either mundane or horrible?! Don't you ever have any good dreams? Even you must have one or two!"
Again Naru was speechless, but this time, the reflection of his face on the glass showed surprise.
Mai took that opportunity to push past him and slide the door open. "Come on! We're going to find one!"
He tried to stop her, but she had already stormed over to the next compartment and grabbed the handle.
She opened the door, and froze.
Inside was the middle of a dim forest. A short distance ahead, a man was shoveling dirt into a hole in the ground. Sticking out from the soil, she spotted a pair of black dress shoes.
The door slid closed. Mai looked up. Naru had shut it from beside her.
"This isn't a good idea," he said quietly, gaze distant.
Mai shuddered. It's not like she wanted to see Naru dead anymore either. But… "If it's all the same no matter where we are, then I'd rather take a risk, to find something positive."
"This isn't your dream. It's not for you to decide."
He had a point. And from his expression, he didn't seem too optimistic about their chances.
She clenched her fists at her sides. "How about this? I won't look. So you tell me whether something is worthwhile."
At last, he sighed. "Fine."
They went down the corridor, Mai in the lead. Naru quickly peered through the door of each compartment, and without comment, moved on. Mai tried to keep her eyes facing straight ahead. This went on for three more train cars.
Just as she began to worry whether Naru really didn't have any decent dreams, he paused at one door and stared inside.
"Naru?" Mai stopped and came to his side. "...Is this it?"
He gave a short nod, and slid the door open.
Four people were inside the compartment. Closest to the door, sitting opposite each other, was a middle aged British couple. And closest to the window were two identical twin boys. A young Naru and Gene, maybe 7 or 8 years old.
Mai immediately identified which was Gene. He was glued to the window, staring at the countryside in awe.
Naru looked a little overwhelmed, as the woman plied him with various baked goods.
"Luella, you're scaring the poor boy," the man chuckled.
"But look how skinny he is! He'll never grow if he doesn't eat!"
She thrust a scone into his hands, and Naru looked at it, confused.
Gene let out a noise, somewhere between a squeal and a gasp. He grabbed at Naru's clothes and dragged him to the window, pointing outside. "Look, Noll, look!"
The man and woman peered over the boys' heads, then exchanged a smile. "Those, boys, are sheep."
Mai smothered a laugh behind her hand. She glanced at Naru beside her. He stood leaning against the door frame with his hands in his pockets, now at ease.
She looked back at the scene playing before them and smiled.
"Yeah, I think this counts as a good dream."
A week later, a client finally came in with a promising case. Promising, in that at least it didn't sound totally bogus, but it was still the type of case that Naru normally wouldn't take interest in. Nonetheless, he accepted the job, to Lin and Yasuhara's visible surprise.
The next issue was whether this case actually had any legit paranormal activity, and if not, would Gene even appear? Naru had Mai contact Masako right away, and while they were setting up the base, she spied him checking a hand mirror periodically.
They had managed to get through the past week without another nightmare marathon, but Mai could tell he was impatient to get his dreams back to himself. She tried not to take it personally.
Masako arrived on the evening of the first day. So far, they had collected very little data, and their investigation showed that the reported phenomena could be easily explained.
Mai watched anxiously as Masako walked around the house. At last, she came to a stop.
"There is a spirit here," she said.
They breathed a sigh of relief.
"It is the spirit of an old man," Masako went on to explain. "I see this kind often. I believe he must have passed away in his sleep and simply hasn't realized he has died. It would be very easy to purify him." She turned to Naru. "Shall I?"
"No," said Naru, a bit too quickly.
"I'd like to gather more data first," he lied. "If you could please come back tomorrow."
"If you insist," she smiled.
Mai facepalmed and sent the medium a mental apology. This wasn't what it looked like!
That night, Naru and Mai left Lin to watch the base and went to bed at the same time. This earned them a suspicious look, but they could deal with that later.
They sat in the train compartment and waited. And waited.
Finally, they heard someone walking down the corridor. Gene appeared outside the door, and his face lit up when he saw them inside.
He opened the door and came in. "It worked!" he said.
Naru stood up. "Like hell it did."
Mai jumped back. Yikes! She could actually see the murderous aura gathering around him. Naru was furious.
As his brother approached, Gene's smile widened nervously. "N-Noll?"
Naru grabbed his twin by the shirt collar, and Mai decided now would be a good time to intervene.
"Whoa, whoa, whoa!" She cut in between them, holding Naru back as best she could. "You can't kill your dead brother!"
"Do you have any idea what you've done?" Naru seethed.
"I'm sorry?" Gene looked confused. "I didn't know if it would work! It was just an idea I had...and then I fell asleep before I could fully see it through...why, did something go wrong?"
"Oh, Gene…" Mai groaned.
"What?" he looked at her, now worried.
"It worked," Naru said through grit teeth. "And it's been stuck that way for over a week."
"Oh." Gene looked between them. "Ohhh."
They watched as the news continued to sink in.
Then finally, Gene put on a smile. "Did you guys have fun though?"
Naru smacked him upside the head.
"I'm sorry!" Gene put up his hands defensively. "I'm sorry, both of you! I just...ow, why does that hurt, I'm not even alive…"
"Give me one good reason not to do it again," Naru said.
Gene hung his head. "I'm sorry…I only wanted to see if I could meet you face-to-face, instead of just through a mirror. So I thought, maybe this way…"
There was an awkward silence.
Naru lowered his hand and let out a sigh. "If you ever pull something like this again, I swear, I will exorcise you."
"I guess that's fair," Gene smiled wryly. "It is good seeing you again, though. Despite the violence."
"And? Can you undo this?" Naru crossed his arms, with an unspoken 'you'd better.'
"I'll try my best." Gene turned to Mai. "I'm really sorry, Mai. I didn't mean to subject you to my brother's subconscious for that long."
"Oh, it's okay," she said, blushing a little. "It was, um...interesting."
Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Naru huff and look away. A little bit of regret settled in her heart.
Mai and Naru saw Gene out at the doorway to their compartment.
"Just sit tight, you two. I'll go get this sorted out." Gene wandered off down the corridor.
As they watched him go, Mai gripped the door frame.
"Hey, Naru?" she asked. "Before we wake up...can I ask you something?"
"Do you ever dream about me?"
She already knew the answer. And judging by the look on his face, he knew that she knew.
"Sometimes," he admitted.
Mai knew that wasn't necessarily a good thing, as she'd seen before. But judging by how unphased he'd looked seeing her in his dream the first time, she hoped those instances didn't all become nightmares.
Hello, thank you to everyone who's read and reviewed!
I wrote this story for the 2020 Ghost Hunt Fanworks Weekend, to this prompt by seoulsborne123: "Naru and Mai shares a dream (or multiple dreams), but neither of them know they're actually sharing it."
I'd seen this premise done before in fics, but they usually went a more romantic (or sexy) route. So I decided to try something different and actually try to explore what Naru's dreamscape might be like. And when you take into account all of the horrible visions he's had, the trauma, survivor's guilt, and feelings he usually buries...the conclusion is pretty disturbing.
Of course, he can't be having nightmares all the time, or his PK would still be out of control. So let's say he's trained himself to have uneventful dreams most nights, and it takes a trigger, or a curious intruder, to open doors on the darker stuff. But that means much of the good stuff also stays locked away.
Anyway, I hope you enjoyed my attempt at psychoanalyzing Naru, and bringing him and Mai a bit closer together. Also, this isn't planned, but I kinda consider all of my works written for Ghost Hunt fan exchanges and events to be in the same timeline. So you can read them as a series if you wish! What will happen next? I don't even know. XD