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Don't Ask

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Lin was getting sick of Noll's emotional constipation. He and Mai had been avoiding each other, acting depressed, and otherwise being as annoying as angsty teenagers could be. Someone needed to get Noll's head out of his ass, and, as his guardian, that job fell to Lin.

He had walked out of his own office once he heard Mai and her boyfriend leave, only to find Takigawa, Matsuzaki, and Yasuhara sitting in the waiting area. He was all for ignoring them as he looked over the completed paperwork on Mai's desk, but then Yasuhara said, "Lin, you're the closest to the big boss. Surely you know what he said to Tokiwa-san just now. What's been eating him."

"Why?" he asked.

"This is getting ridiculous," Matsukazi sniffed. "If he's going to let Mai get away that easily, he deserves it."

Takigawa was silent for a long while, staring out the window. "I know Mai's trying to get over Naru, but she's been acting oddly the past few weeks, too. I don't like seeing her so down."

"Maybe you could talk to the big boss," Yasuhara suggested, "try to figure out what's going on between them."

Somehow, he'd ended up telling them that he would try. Though talking to Noll was sometimes harder than talking to a brick wall. But this seemed to reassure the three, who were then quick to leave.

But then, as the time approached to close, Lin had to walk into Noll's office to find the boy sweeping the remains of a shattered teacup into the garbage. He looked paler than usual, and Lin noticed a few books on the floor that were usually situated on the shelves. Great. Just great. But he didn't say anything, watching Noll put the broom away, and following him out of the office.

When the two of them got in the car, however, he couldn't hold it any longer. "There were some concerns about what you said to Mai's boyfriend."

"It's nothing to worry about," Noll said.

"And I suppose the way you and Mai have both been sulking isn't, either?"

"I have not been sulking."

"Oh, really? Then how would you care to explain your recent behavior? You two haven't been speaking to each other unless it's necessary. We both know you hate making your own tea, yet you're doing it. Why? Did you two have a disagreement?"

"I fail to see how my relationship with my assistant is any concern of yours."

This was one of the many times Lin was tempted to slap some sense into his young charge. Instead, he gritted his teeth and started the car. "I'm not one of the irregulars, Noll. You can't fool me that easily. Mai's a good person. You care about her. Why can't you just tell her that?"

"There's nothing to tell."

"We can all see how much she means to you. Everyone except Mai, herself. Do you really want this boyfriend of hers to take her away from you?"

"She's free to do whatever she wants. I will not interfere."

"So you're admitting it, then?"

"Admitting what?"

"Don't play dumb. It's very unbecoming of you."

"What I choose to do with my personal life is no concern of yours."

"Of course not," Lin said, the sarcasm heavy. "I'm just the one who has to sit back and watch as you tear yourself apart over a girl. How could that concern me?"

"Precisely, though I'm not tearing myself apart over anything."

"Which explains the mess in your office after Tokiwa-san left." Lin swerved around a driver who was going too slow. "Noll, you can't keep avoiding everything you don't want to deal with. That's not how it works."

"Focus on the road, Lin," Noll said as Lin took a corner a bit fast, causing the tires to squeal. "I'd rather not be killed by a car, as well."

"Don't change the subject."

"I was merely attempting to think of my parents. Don't you tell me I should do that more often? That was a red light, by the way."

"You're avoiding it again."

"Avoiding what?"

"You've been acting oddly toward Mai since we got back."

"The police are heavy in this area. You should really slow down."

"Damn it, Oliver!" Lin only pressed harder on the accelerator, the car zooming past others who were adamantly sticking to the speed limit. "Even I know that Mai's in love with you. But apparently I'm the only one who knows you love her, even if you won't admit it. Whatever game you're playing, I'd rather not have to check you into the hospital again. Either talk to me, or I'm calling your parents."

There was a long silence, and Lin was pretty sure Noll wasn't going to say anything. And then, "She isn't."

It took him a moment to realize what Noll meant. She isn't, as in, she isn't in love with me. Oh, how adorable. "Oh, really? You obviously haven't seen how she looks at you."

"That's because I look like Gene."

Lin turned to stare at the boy. Noll had told him about Gene being Mai's spirit guide. But going that far was ridiculous. "Gene's dead."

"I am aware. Keep your eyes on the road."

Lin turned his eyes back just in time to avoid running onto the sidewalk. Rather smoothly, if he did say so, himself. He'd been helping this idiot stabilize his emotions enough to prevent poltergeists for years, now. Emotions weren't Lin's strong point either, but Noll was bottling everything up. "So you think Mai's just after him, and therefore, you're not going to ever tell her anything?" he summarized as he pulled into the parking structure for their apartment building.

"There is nothing between us and there never will be, even if I wished it to be otherwise." Noll said.

This was going to be difficult.