"The greatest mistake you can make in life is to be continually fearing you will make one."
- Elbert Hubbard
"It's been six months since Judge Mathis officially dismissed the criminal case of James Dumont and Doctor Oliver Davis is reportedly 'doing well', says his father, Professor Martin Davis. Rumor is he is planning on leaving London later this year to open a satellite SPR office in Japan."
Noll paused in his typing. He glanced over the laptop at her, eyebrows furrowed. He was slouched in his seat, chin in the hand. His shoulder still bothered him sometimes, but at the moment it didn't seem to mind the angle, especially because he'd spent the last few hours at his keyboard.
He breathed an indignant sigh. "I really wish you wouldn't read those things," he murmured, turning back to the laptop and scrolling back through the document. It was almost done now, his complete account of what happened in the basement of that abandoned house and everything that followed. He isn't sure what he's going to do with it once he's done, probably keep it stored away somewhere on his computer.
Noll, clicked the save button, catching Mai's eyes as she continued to grin at him. He replayed their conversation in his head, realization hitting him. She couldn't hold back her giggles as his blazing blue eyes widened, laptop completely forgotten as he rose to snatch the magazine out of his girlfriend's hands. "How do they know about Japan?"
Mai shook her head. "Who knows? It's a wonder how they even got your picture on the front cover." She snatched the magazine back from him. "Though, you do look handsome."
He almost laughed when she flipped the cover around to face him. It was ironic really that the person staring from behind those intense blue eyes both was and wasn't him. It was Gene impersonating him at one of SPR's Gala's a few years back when Noll couldn't have been bothered to show his actual face.
The mirth in his eyes must have given him away because Mai adorned a pensive glare, turning the page back to look at it. "That's not you, is it?"
"If it walks like a duck," Noll offered, shrugging as he exited the word file and shut the computer.
Mai looked perplexed. "Is that another one of your 'idioms'?" When he nodded, she pushed herself to her feet, letting the magazine fall unceremoniously onto the desk. "I will never understand the English language."
"It meansー" he tried but Mai had other plans. She leaned over the remainder of the desk that separated them and placed a soft kiss on his lips. Noll had the sudden urge to do more than just kiss but he quickly dismissed that thought. "Never mind that," he said, pushing his sleeve back to check his watch. "Ready to go?"
Alarm colored Mai's face as she spun to glance up at the wall clock, her eyebrows furrowing, melting into confusion when she saw it was only just after noon. "I thought our flight was at four?"
"It is ー but," he turned away, suddenly much more interested in readjusting his watch than meeting her gaze, "there was somewhere else I wanted to visit before we left."
"Oh," she said. A smile worked its way to her lips as she studied him. This was the Naru she knew; stone-faced, arrogant, and illusive to the point of annoyance for everyone around him. Well, the soft pink coloring his cheeks was new but that was just one of the many new quirks Naru's acquired since The Event. It was obvious to anyone who knew the young scientist before that he had changed. Whether or not he himself noticed it, Naru had dropped his indifferent mask, allowing witness to his inner feelings.
Over the days, Mai had memorized and cataloged nearly all of them.
Embarrassment made his eyes narrow and his cheeks burn. Joy made his eyes crinkle at the sides even if he didn't smile. Anger earned a piercing glare and ridged posture. Sadness was the worst. It made his dark eyes distant and his skin pale. One could almost watch the past come back to life, gazing in those dark blue irises.
Then he had moments like those when he was almost back to his irritatingly somber self. But it was this part of him that she loved the most.
She grinned, looping her arm through his. "Lead the way,"
They paused to give one last goodbye to Martin and Luella. The rest of the JSPR crew were fluttering about London, getting in last minute shopping and sightseeing. So the manor was quiet as Luella pull Mai into a tight hug and whispered about how much she would miss her. Mai smiled bashfully, making her promise to visit the satellite office soon. Martin had agreed whole heartedly to this idea, one arm around Noll's shoulder. Even Noll himself looked pleased with this idea. They laughed and hugged again and then they were off.
Mai watched the Davis manor fade from view as they pulled out of the driveway and onto the private dirt road. "Are you going to tell me where we're going?"
Noll's silence was enough of an answer. You'll see when we get there.
Though, it didn't take long for the young Japanese girl to recognize the street names and the towering buildings. By the time they pulled off the main road, Mai was positive she knew their destination. Not long after, they were passing through the Victorian-style iron gates and driving along a narrow dirt road.
She had expected him to stop about halfway up the rolling hill, where Gene was buried, but Naru didn't even tap the breaks as the Toyota pushed on, further up the hill and down the other side. They were further back into the cemetery than she had ever been before when they finally stopped.
He had his mask back on as he unbuckled his seat-belt and motioned for Mai to follow him. The grass crunched softly beneath their feet, still partly frozen from the cold night, as they walked sit by side, between the gravestones. Some stones had carvings on them so old they were nearly impossible to read, others were newer, with roses and lilies laid in front of them.
Noll pulled her to a stop in front of one of these. The roses and lilies had begun to wilt already, as if it had been a few weeks since anyone had come to visit this grave. Mai took in the elegant scripture carved into the stone. Below that was a name she felt she should have recognized but was meant with only a twinge of familiarity.
ANNALISE JUNE FOSTER
April 1987 ー December 2002
So young, Mai thought watching as Naru sank to his knees, ignoring the way the damp grass soaked the knees of his pants and clasped his hands together. It almost looked like he was praying the way he bowed his head, his bangs shadowing his face.
"Annalise," he whispered, voice carrying on the wind, soft and solemn, as if speaking any louder would break him. "It took me far too long to come here but I thought... I thought you should know...It's not over." He sighed, shoulders sagging, "I'm not done. There were others like you, children taken from their families... and I couldn't live with myself if I turned away.
"I promise to find them. I will spend the rest of my life saving them because I couldn't save you. And I hope you can find peace knowing that." Naru fell silent again as he reached out to trace a hand over the carving. Mai, so entranced by his words, never noticed the couple that lingered behind her, waiting for their chance to speak.
Tears rolled down the older woman's face as her husband took a step forward. "Are you Oliver Davis?"
Naru never moved so quickly. He made no attempt to hide his fear or surprise as he rose to his feet, turning to face the couple. He was quiet for a long moment, drinking in the sight of them, noting their obvious resemblance to the young girl whose grave he had been talking to. Finally, he bowed his head, "Yes,"
The woman hiccuped. Mr. Foster's grey eyes lowered into a glare, nostrils flaring. He took another step closer.
Noll didn't flinch even when his instincts were screaming for him to move, to ready himself for the blow. Whatever this man did to him, he deserved it. He knew now that his lose of control of his powers hadn't killed Annalise. After hours and days of researching, he knew now that Annalise had... chosen to die. Along with her psychometry, Ana possessed the uncanny power to amplify others powers. She had seen her chance to end her torture with him, and she had taken it.
Mr. Foster didn't hit him. He closed the distance between them, his large arms encircling the teen in a tight embrace. Noll tried not to yell in surprise as they teetered back a few steps, the older man whispering harshly in his ear.
"Thank you for freeing my daughter."
Noll settled into his seat, waving away the flight attendant as he pulled his bag into his lap. Mai watched him curiously, sipping her Sprite as he produced a small stack of manila folders. Some were singed around the edges, some were filled to the brim with messy stacks of paper.
"What are those?" She asked, tilting her head to read one of the names neatly printed on the side.
Noll shrugged, leaning his cheek on his fist as he opened the top file. "Files on all the people Dumont took, or was researching. These were the only ones that survived the fire."
"...How many were there?"
He shook his head, face sullen. "Too many, Mai."
Mai sank back, wondering how many people had been forced to go through what Naru had been through. "What are you going to do with them?"
This time, Noll's eyes narrowed. He read the name at the top of the file over and over again, committing it to memory. "I'm going to find them."
He didn't answer.
Mai pouted, but didn't press him. "Oh, I almost forgot!" She jumped from her seat, digging around in her bag. "Here," she said, thrusting a thick, rectangular shaped present into his lap.
Noll inspected the beautifully festive wrapping paper with a confused lean to his head. "What's this for?"
Mai felt a blush heating her cheeks even as her abdomen ached in remembrance. "Since I missed Christmas and all I, uh, I didn't get to give you your present."
"I didn't..." He started to say but held his tongue. Neither of them had been in any condition to celebrate the holiday, and to be completely honest, it had never crossed his mind to get her a gift. Normally this wouldn't bother him, but he could already feel his ears heating up. He wished he had gotten her something, but instead of apologizing he forced a small smile and mumbled, "You weren't obligated toー"
"I didn't feel obligated," she challenged quickly. Then she blushed a deeper shade of red all the way up to her own ears and plopped down rather ungracefully beside him. "Aren't you gonna open it?"
Noll studied his girlfriend for another second before he ever-so-slowly peeled back the tape that held the wrapping in place, chuckling when he heard Mai's impatient growl.
"Will you just open it already?"
He obliged, ripping the rest of it off in a single movement. It was a book; a thick, red, hardback novel that bore no title nor author. He checked the back cover and the spine but they were both equally blank.
"It's a treatise on the manifestation of supernatural talents." Mai offered, sensing his confusion. She looked sheepish as she added, "I noticed you had quite a number of manuscripts on the subject in your library so..." she drifted off, ending with a shrug.
Noll watched the different emotions flit over her expressive face with a soft smile. "Yes, it is a recent interest of mine. This is very thoughtful of you, Mai. Thank you."
She blushed again, grinning as she sat back in her chair. When she didn't say anything else, Noll dubbed the conversation over and studied his gift. He had intended to sleep the first leg of the 12-hour flight back to Tokyo, but decided to indulge his curiosity instead. The scent of fresh ink and old parchment reached his nose as he cracked the book open, skipping over the nondescript title page and index. On the next page, however, he paused.
Like the ones before, it was blank ー except for a beautiful gold lettered inscription centered near the bottom of the page.
He traced his fingers over the elegant gold-lettered inscription, smile deepening with every word he read.
"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. Your playing small does not serve the world;
there is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you.
It's not just us; it is in everyone. And as we let our own light shine we unconsciously give others permission to do the same.
As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others."
- Marianne Williamson