"I think that will do for today," Arainn said as she slipped off her glasses. The dark-haired teen stretched his arms above his head, shoulders popping as he stood. She handed him his jacket with a knowing smile. "Are you going to see her?"
Noll raised an eyebrow as if his answer should have been obvious. "It's Wednesday."
Arainn chuckled. "Of course."
He left her office without another word, hugging his jacket closer as the winter wind burned his cheeks. It was only a short walk to the hospital from Arainn's office but it was one Noll enjoyed taking. It seemed like the only time where he was free from the prying eyes of his friends and family.
As he climbed the short flight of stairs leading to the hospital lobby, Noll let himself relax. His shoulders sagged and his back ached from the tension coiled there but he still managed a small smile as the nurse greeted him.
"How are you today, Doctor Davis?" She gave him a kind smile, rummaging through a tall filing cabinet.
Noll shrugged halfheartedly, signing into the visitors' log. "I'm okay," he said. Nearly all of the hospital's main staff knew of the Davises due to Gene and Noll's regular visits. It was almost ironic, now that he was here for someone else. "How is she?"
"Stable," the nurse supplied, looking into the file. "It looks like the wound is healing well, but she'll still need stitches for a while. Here, I'll take you to her."
He nodded and followed the nurse to the elevator which they rode to the third floor. She led him through the maze of halls until they came across one with TANIYAMA, MAI plastered over the linoleum.
"Here she is. I'll come get you when visiting hours are over ー unless you're planning on staying again?"
"Unfortunately, I'm not," Noll said, remembering the lecture Martin had given him when he slept at the hospital for two weeks straight. "Thanks though."
The nurse nodded, giving him another smile before heading back the way they had come.
Noll pushed the door and it opened with a muted creak. She was there, lying placid in the bed in the middle of the room with an IV hooked up to one arm and a heart monitor constantly checking her pulse. Golden sunlight filtered through the window, lighting up her pale skin. He approached her slowly and stroked her short hair with a watery smile. "Konbanwa, Mai."
He waited the space of a second for her to respond but she just breathed evenly, expression serene. Sighing, he pulled a chair up to the side of the bed and sat down, cupping his hand around Mai's smaller one.
"I'm sorry," he whispered, as he always did when he saw her. And that would have been everyday if Martin and Luella hadn't thought it detrimental to his health.
He smoothed back her bangs with his free hand, wishing, not for the first time, to hear her energetic thoughts humming beneath his own. But her mind was silent as she slept. The superficial cuts and bruises had all healed but Mai hadn't shown any signs of waking.
And it was all his fault.
Noll talked for a while before running out of things to say. Then he sat there in silence, lay his head on the firm hospital bed, and watched the sun set. The heart monitor beeped rhythmically as he stroked the back of her hand, a smile teasing the edges of his lips as he remembered the first time he held it.
6 months earlier
It had been a few weeks since Mai's arrival in England and Noll had successfully annoyed Luella into allowing him back to work. Though, on the condition that he not leave his desk for any reason.
Nonetheless, he had sat in his dark office, thankful for the change in scenery. Mai, having just returned from an English lesson with Luella, sat across from him, taping a pencil to her chin in thought. He watched her from the corner of his eye, letting her thoughts slowly seep into his own.
Her focus was on him, debating which hand he used more. She knew he would write with his right hand and then eat with his left. She rationalized this in some odd roundabout way that left Noll feeling quite confused. And he was about to inquire as to why she was studying him when Gene's name got his attention.
Knowing she was watching, he very deliberately reached ー with his right hand ー for his tea. "Gene was left handed, Mai."
She squeaked, pencil flying across the room, as the realization that he was listening dawned on her. "S-So," she stuttered, leaning over the plush chair to retrieve the writing utensil, "you two weren't completely identical, then."
He didn't look up from the laptop. "He was left-handed because his right arm spent most of our childhood in a cast."
"Oh." Her soft pink lips formed an 'O' shape as she settled back into her seat. "Is that why you're ambidextrous?"
Noll finally looked up, surprised. Apparently, while he could hear her thoughts, he couldn't hear all her thoughts. "No. I've never considered myself as such." He set his tea back down and quirked an eyebrow, remembering his original question. "What are you doing?"
She gestured to the paper in front of her with a look of disdain. "Homework." When he only continued to give her a blank stare she added: "My psychology final is a paper on profiling."
"When did you start taking psychology classes?"
"The beginning of the year?" Her answer sounded more like a question. She tapped her chin again. "It was the only advanced social-science class available."
"Hm," he hummed as he turned back to his work. "Well, I would appreciate it if you refrained from using me as your guinea pig."
Mai cracked a grin, leaning in closer. "Ara? Afraid I might uncover something?"
"No," he said, a sardonic smile slipping over his features. "If you were as good as you think you are, you'd already know ー I'm not afraid of anything."
"Not even Luella?"
Noll opened his mouth to say something, then thought better of it. Instead, he sat back and studied Mai, the room, the interns buzzing just outside his office. "Mai."
The short haired girl had already dubbed the argument over and had returned to her homework. "Nandesuka?"
"Come with me," he said, pushing himself out of his chair.
Mai watched him with wide brown eyes. "I thought Luella said not to leave-"
"It was more of a suggestion than an actual stipulation." Noll shrugged, tugging on his white lab coat instead of his usual black duster.
"Is that why we're sneaking?" She asked dubiously but followed him out the door anyway. Noll kept his head bowed as if he were reading something, but to Mai it just looked it he was being shy. It was an incredibly endearing thought.
He hid his face from the passing interns, pulling in his overwhelming presence until even Mai was having a hard time sensing him.
Without the commanding dip to his shoulders and his confident air, Oliver Davis was just an ordinary 17-year-old boy.
Albeit a really good looking 17-year-old boy.
Noll led her through the maze of hallways until he reached what he had been looking for. Mai followed him into the biggest room she had ever seen ー it was at least ten times the size of her bedroom in Japan. All the walls were stark white and half covered with 2-way viewing windows. "What is this place?"
"The Dungeon," Noll said in a grandiose voice, spreading his arms wide. A small smirk lifted the edges of his lips. "At least, that's what Gene called it. It's Training Room B."
Mai looked about the empty room, skeptical. "Training? For what?"
Noll pressed a button and a large door slid open to their right. The small space was filled with equipment: ball-machines, boxes of EMF measuring devices, cameras, and a bunch of other stuff Mai didn't recognize. "Everything."
She giggled as she tiptoed through the room and took in as much as she could. Everything looked well-used yet in mint condition; it shouldn't have been possible. Mai picked up a small silver box with slits for a speaker. "What's this?"
"A white-noise machineー"
"Noll, are you in here?" Luella's worried voice echoed through the room, punctuated by the sound of approaching footsteps.
Shit. Noll returned Mai's wide-eyed stare with his own. He wasn't supposed to be anywhere but his desk and ー of course ー Luella would go looking for him as soon as she found out he wasn't there.
He didn't think. Noll pushed Mai by the shoulders, hard enough to send her careening into the closest shelf. She cried out but he cut her off with his mouth. Closing the space between them, he wrapped an arm around her waist, the other sneaking up to tangle in her hair.
Mai made a surprised grunt but all Noll would think about was how much she tasted like oranges. Her lips were soft against his, maybe a little chapped from the cold weather, and warm.
Mai jumped beneath him, squirming to get out of his hold. She murmured something against his mouth as Noll pulled back slowly, eyes fluttering open. Was that what it was like to kiss someone? No wonder Gene did it so often.
He let the thought of going further cross his mind before dismissing it. A very confused Luella stood in the doorway to the storage room, hand held delicately over her mouth. Martin stood behind her.
Noll could practically see the gears turning in his parents head as the room fell into an awkward silence.
"Wait," Martin said, looking quickly from his Japanese house guest to his son. "So... Mai isー"
Noll took a breath to steady himself. Lips still buzzing from the kiss, he looked between his adoptive parents, trying to remember what his plan had been. Or if he ever had one. "Uh, it's n-not what you think."
"I... I uh..." Mai resembled a fish, mouth falling open and then quickly closed as she volleyed between feeling surprised and embarrassed. The sight would have made Noll laugh if he hadn't hastily bitten the inside of his cheek and choked down the urge.
Eventually, a grin formed on Luella's face. "Noll! Why didn't you tell us?" She clapped her hands excitedly, hopping on the balls of her feet. "Oh, this is wonderful!"
Beside her, her husband seemed less than ecstatic. His eyes had narrowed at the young couple. "She's not pregnant is she?"
Noll felt the blood simultaneously drain from this face and rush to his cheeks. "You know that's notー"
"I know, I know." The father figure chuckled, relief washing over him as a smile crinkled the corner of his dark eyes. "I just had to be sure."
Luella's eyes were positively brimming with curiosity. "When did this happen? The relationship I mean."
Mai had a deep blush on her cheeks, whether from the question or the kiss, Noll couldn't decide. Her heart thrummed erratically under his fingertips.
"You girls can talk about this over lunch," Martin said with a weary smile, "we were just going to get you guys when we saw that you were gone."
"I was giving Mai a tour."
"Yeah," Luella rolled her eyes sarcastically, "if that's what they're calling it these days."
Noll jerked around, having not heard the door open. His adoptive father hovered just inside the doorway with the nurse from earlier just behind him.
Martin smiled kindly. "It's time to go, Noll."
He nodded, rubbing his eyes as he stood. "Goodnight, Mai," Noll whispered, leaning down to kiss her cheek. Her skin was soft and warm beneath his lips and ー God did he wish she would wake up. He held her hand for another moment, watching her breath come in soft, even puffs. And then he left.
Until next Wednesday.