Disclaimer: I don't own the DCMK characters
Genre: Romance/Science Fiction
Pairing: KaiShin [KaitoxShinichi]
Summary: The world of hover racing has a lot to offer to a young man who dreams big: adventure, fame, wealth, excitement, and sometimes even romance. And Kuroba Kaito, the man they're already calling the second Phantom of the race track, is determined to seize them all with his own two hands.
Quick note on the title: I meant the title to refer to the idea of racing with/towards your dreams. It wasn't until after I named it that I realized it also sounds like a very blunt reference to the setting… -_- I decided not to change it though since I still like the original concept.
The engine of the hover racer purred like a large and very happy cat. Seated in the cockpit, Kuroba Kaito felt that familiar grin stretching itself across his face. The adrenaline was pumping through his veins, bright and ecstatic and unstoppable. Outside, the track streaked by in a blur of yellows, browns, and blues. Only the road straight ahead was clear. Everything else had long since melted into the background.
Indigo eyes fixed themselves on that distant horizon where sky met earth. At moments like these, he always felt like he was heading for the ends of the earth. If he went fast enough, he'd be able to leap into that horizon and break through it into another world entirely—a place full of light and wind and the freedom of motion.
He would never get tired of this feeling.
Ahead of him, the horizon line grew ragged. Cliffs were rising to either side of the track, their rugged, sandstone faces challenging the fleet of racers zooming towards them. It was a welcome and a dare.
Kaito's hands tightened on the steering wheel. His grin grew sharper, the edges going from manic to predatory. This was where the amateurs were going to be weeded from the stars.
This particular track was famous for the stretch of treacherous, twisting canyons through which it passed. Many a hover racer had met its demise at the hands of its unpredictably sharp turns and unforgiving walls. Like everyone else in the race this time, this would be Kaito's first attempt at the canyon road, but, far from dreading it, he'd been looking forward to it. After all, his father had conquered this track on his first go. Kaito knew he could do the same.
More than that, he'd vowed that he would. And a Kuroba always honored his vows.
The next instant he was plunging into the mouth of the canyon. The walls to either side closed in rapidly. Kaito spun the wheel, twisting and turning the hover craft as he blasted down the length of the canyon. Behind him, more than half of the other racers had slowed down, favoring caution over speed. Kaito ignored them. The path ahead vanished and he banked sharply, just barely avoiding a headlong crash into the canyon wall.
There were two other racers left flying neck and neck with his. Before them, the track split. One swerved off to the right. If he recalled correctly from the simple map they'd been shown before the race began, that was the long way. Straight ahead, a tunnel cut straight through the cliffs to come out again on the other side and rejoin the track.
He didn't even stop to think about it.
His hover racer shot into the tunnel straight as an arrow headed for its target. Ten, nine, eight, seven—
A jolt threw him against his seatbelt. Outside, sparks flew as one of the hover craft's small wings clipped a jutting ledge at the tunnel exit. Then he was out in the open again and far ahead of the pack.
Wait, no. A second racer erupted from the tunnel behind him. A few seconds later it had drawn up level with him.
Annoyance spiked. So they wanted to play, did they? It was a newer racer model, he saw. One of the newest, in fact. It was the kind of racer that had a load of technology built in to compensate for less than competent pilots. More experienced pilots didn't like that particular model because it was slightly heavier than the average hover racer, making it just that crucial fraction less adept at taking unexpected turns and stops.
Kaito smirked. In one quick motion, he ducked the right wing of his hover racer under the left wing of the opponent's and gave it a flick as he put on more speed. Obviously caught off guard, the other racer swerved wildly and went careening out over the desert dunes away from the track. Kaito shook his head at the lackluster performance. Honestly, that was one of the oldest hover racer tactics in the book. That was the problem with a lot of the amateurs coming out onto the tracks these days. Half of them forgot that a little interference action was allowed and expected and therefore should be watched out for and used to the best of your abilities. The other half went overboard the other way and got themselves disqualified because they didn't understand that interference did not include adding weapons to their vehicles. Armoring up was fine. Adding guns and whirring saws was not. It was a simple line in Kaito's eyes, but it was amazing how many racers didn't get it.
He wasn't at all surprised when he crossed the finish line a considerable distance ahead of the rest of the competition. This was only a preliminary race after all. Almost everyone in his group was an amateur. Even so, the elation of the victory was as thrilling as ever because he'd fulfilled his own expectations, and that in itself was worthy of celebration. It wasn't, after all, so much about beating other racers as about beating his own records.
He was good and he knew it, but he wanted to be better. And with every race he flew in, he strove to do better than he had before. One day he was going to be the best, but it wouldn't be an end. There could be no end to the search for true greatness.
"That was a really reckless thing you did, rushing into that tunnel like that. If you'd come out just a little bit more off center, you could have torn the racer's wing right off."
"Can't you congratulate me for once?" Kaito asked with a laugh as he hopped out of the hover craft to land lightly on his feet. The roaring cheers of the crowd were still ringing in his ears, though here at the hangers, the audience was nothing but a memory and a distant rumble in the background. Not that this place was a proper hanger, he mused. It was little more than a stretch of empty ground marked out by irregularly shaped boulders that had been rolled into rough rows. He could look across the golden sweep of the desert and count a dozen other teams going over their vehicles and laughing amongst themselves. Compared to the small crowds within the borders of those other lots, his own assigned space felt almost desolate. The only occupants of this lot other than himself and his hover racer was a transport craft and the slim young man who'd greeted him.
The boy in question stood a little shorter than Kaito himself. His hair was black and neatly groomed but for a single tuft that sprang up rebelliously at the back. He was giving Kaito a disapproving look with eyes the same endless blue as the sky over their heads. Kaito took a moment to admire the color and fire in those eyes before continuing.
"I'm sure the other mechanics congratulate their pilots."
"That's because their pilots don't almost tear their hover racers apart every single time they race," the smaller boy grumbled, striding past him to circle the vehicle in question. "Can't you at least try to be more careful?"
"Hey, I won. Doesn't that count for something?"
"That's a completely different issue and you know it." Those blue eyes turned to glare at him again from beneath tightly knit brows. "If you can't learn some caution, you're going to get yourself killed when you start racing on the more treacherous tracks."
"Aw, Shinichi's worried about me~. I'm flattered."
A pink flush rose in the mechanic's face and he huffed. "I just don't want to see you landing yourself in the hospital because you can't resist showing off. Besides, if you wreck your racer, I'm the one who's going to have to fix it."
"For which I am very grateful," Kaito assured him with his most sincere smile.
Shinichi snorted and turned away. "Don't you have an award ceremony to get to?"
"Aren't you coming with me?"
"I'd rather get a head start on the racer."
Kaito shrugged, hiding his disappointment. He hadn't expected Shinichi to agree anyway. The mechanic disliked screaming crowds.
"I'll be off then."
As he turned to leave, he caught a glimpse out of the corner of his eye of Shinichi kneeling down beside the battered hovercraft.
"You poor thing," the mechanic murmured, running his hands lightly over the dents and scrapes and making a disapproving clucking noise. "Look what that ruffian's done to you this time. Let me see what I can do about this."
Kaito heaved a mental sigh behind his Poker Face. Shinichi was always gentle when he was talking to his beloved vehicles—nothing like the way he was with people: all awkward and stubbornly critical. He really did love the things. It was rather cute even as it was incredibly frustrating.
He had first met Shinichi at the end of spring two years ago when they were both sixteen. Kaito had just won his third race. It had been the most challenging race he'd been in at the time—as was to be expected. These things should get harder as you moved up the ranks. Proud of his own performance and still high on adrenaline from the race, he'd left his old mechanic, Jii, to go see the sites.
The track for that race had been the star attraction of a city that had once been little more than a tiny farming village. The people had wanted to expand, and so they had designed and built a sprawling, cross-country track that was not only amazingly long but also amazingly beautiful. Different stretches of the track had been dedicated to the flora of different regions and seasons. They had even created obstacles to go with them. There were drifting fogs and sudden rains, bright, baking sun tunnels and even a broken bridge that had to be jumped if you didn't want to have to lose ground by going around it. On days when the track wasn't being used for racing, it served as a tourist ride. Kaito thought the whole idea was pretty cool.
Apparently, so had quite a lot of the rest of the world. The area was now a thriving town with its own hotspots and celebrities. Best of all, racers got a discount at a lot of the shops and restaurants. As the day's winner, he'd barely had to pay for anything because everyone was fighting to give him free stuff and cheer him on. He had the distinct impression that he was developing a fan base, and he hadn't even meant to. Go figure.
He'd always loved the spotlight though, and he found the whole atmosphere most gratifying.
Whistling a jaunty tune to himself as he made his way back to the inn where he and Jii were lodged for the duration of the event with his stomach full of good food and his head full of happy thoughts, he'd caught a whisper of angry voices drifting on the wind. Curious, he climbed up a tree and crept his way towards the voices from above.
He found the source in the form of two racers he only vaguely remembered from the competition. They were new to the scene but well backed by wealthy families. He'd seen quite a few racers like them in the past. They were the thrill seekers who thought it looked like a fun pastime until they lost their first game. Kids from rich families with too much time and lots of money who weren't used to the idea of losing.
These two were definitely that sort. Their racers were brand new and had been chosen probably for their impressive appearances rather than for their merit as hover crafts. It was such a waste, Kaito had thought. Those were not vehicles for beginners, but they were awesome. It was a shame the poor things were in the hands of people who wouldn't take the time to understand them. He could see one of the men kicking his craft now, and it sent a jolt of annoyance through Kaito.
Sore losers that they were, Kaito had overheard them complaining about how the poor performance of their hover crafts had cost them the race. Then they'd kicked the crafts some more and harangued the machines.
Kaito had just gotten fed up with the whole scene and was about to drop in and give the disrespectful louts a piece of his mind when Shinichi appeared.
Though Kaito hadn't known it at the time, Shinichi had been the mechanic working with the team the two louts were with. The blue-eyed boy had marched up to the two and gave them a royal tongue lashing about the need to respect not only your teammates but your vehicles because the hover racers were just as much members of the team as the people were. When the louts laughed at that, he'd scowled and pointed to the first hover racer.
"You see this? This is an A2 Speed Racer. It's one of the fastest hover crafts on the market. But it's built for straight tracks and gentle curves. It doesn't like sharp turns. The way you took that turn in the corn field was exactly the wrong way to do it in an A2 Speed. It's no wonder you flipped over. And you, your RB4 Dual Racer has different modes for a reason. You're supposed to switch into B when you need more maneuverability and agility. If you'd done that, you wouldn't have wasted so much time crashing through that rock garden like you were playing blind man's bluff."
More words were exchanged, many of them not the kinds of words that should have been aired. Things were getting really heated by the time the team's manager appeared. The argument expanded and accelerated. Apparently, Shinichi also disapproved of the manager's approach to managing. In his opinion, the manager should take more responsibility for teaching his racers the proper etiquette of sportsmanship. He also felt that it had been stupid to assign beginners to such high end vehicles. It was an insult to the hover crafts, he'd said.
By the end of the evening, Shinichi had been fired.
And that was the end of that.
A cross between curiosity and a sense that he ought to make sure nothing untoward happened to the mechanic after that less than friendly parting of ways led Kaito to tail the blue-eyed boy. He'd discovered that they were staying at the same hotel. It was from one of the receptionists that he got Shinichi's name.
"He's here quite often," the receptionist told him. "During the high season, he does a lot of contract work for different groups. It wasn't until recently that he agreed to work for one of the pro teams, though I hear he's been asked a lot."
Except that he wouldn't be working with them anymore, Kaito thought. But he kept it to himself. It wasn't his news to spread. Instead, he smiled at the helpful young woman and asked if she knew anything else.
"Why he didn't join a team?" she repeated, tapping her chin as she thought. "I don't really know. There're a lot of stories about it, but I never could figure out which ones were real, you know? For all I know, none of them are. It's just the way the rumor mill turns."
"What do you think though?" Kaito persisted. "It sounds to me like you've formed your own theories. I'd love to hear them."
"Oh, well…" She smiled faintly. "If I had to guess, I think he's waiting for just the right team. I have a few friends who work around the tracks, and they say that Shinichi's really good at his work. They say he can save crafts that everyone else said were unsalvageable wrecks. Apparently that's one of the things he does on the side. He takes old, wrecked crafts from the scrap yards—you know, the ones where other mechanics go to salvage parts from—and he'll fix them up as good as new."
"He must have quite an interesting collection then."
"I guess he would, but I think he sells them to the local dealers. I have another friend who works at one of the amateur racer training centers. They sell some hover crafts too, and he told me Shinichi sends a lot of his work to them. He doesn't charge much, but he does ask to meet the people who want to buy them." She giggled. "It sounds a bit like when you're adopting pets out, I guess. So you don't care too much about the money as long as the home and family are right."
Kaito laughed too at the picture that conjured up in his mind. A small herd of tiny, dog-sized hover crafts hopping and bumping at the legs of prospective buyers.
He chatted with the receptionist a little longer before excusing himself and going up to his room. He was met by his old friend and surrogate grandfather, Jii Kuronosuke. The man had once worked as a mechanic with his father, Kuroba Toichi, and he had retired after the elder Kuroba met his end in an accident. When Kaito had announced his intentions to head out onto the tracks himself though, the man had decided to come out of retirement and help him. Kaito appreciated his efforts, and he truly believed that he couldn't have asked for a better assistant. The problem was that Jii was getting on in years and though he was still quite an energetic old man, that was the point. He was an old man. The constant traveling and the long days and sparse nights were taking a toll on him. Kaito could see it wearing him away like the elements eroding away the earth, and he didn't like it.
Like it or not, Kaito knew that Jii would have to retire for real soon. And that meant Kaito would need to find a mechanic to replace him.
"Yes, young master?"
"Have you heard of Kudo Shinichi?"
"Kudo…Kudo… I do believe I have if his mother is Kudo Yukiko."
"What, the actress?"
"That's her. I remember she had a son called Shinichi. Is that the boy you're talking about?"
"I'm not sure," Kaito admitted. "I saw him arguing with his team earlier today. They had a bit of a row and he got fired."
"Oh?" Jii had been good friends with the Kuroba family long enough to know that there was more to this conversation than simple curiosity. "Do you want to meet him? I hear he's quite an accomplished mechanic. They say a vehicle can be a lost cause until he gets his hands on it."
"Do you know where I could go to find him? I know he's staying somewhere in this hotel, but I don't think barging into his room would make a good first impression."
Jii smiled fondly at his young friend as Kaito continued to illustrate possible plans of approach. So the young master wished to make a good impression, eh? Well, it was true, he was getting old. While he would love to be able to be there and support Kaito, the boy he saw as a nephew or grandson despite the lack of any blood ties, throughout the rest of his career, he knew that he wouldn't be able to. If this Kudo Shinichi was as good a mechanic as the rumors made him out to be, then he just might be the person they were looking for.
"I received a request the other day from one of the local training centers," the old man said. Kaito paused in his pacing around the room to glance at him.
"They asked if I could come teach a special class on hover craft maintenance for their trainees and maybe tell them a few stories about life in the circuits. Their students are all kids who want to either race or work with the teams. I'm sure that they would love to be able to meet you too. And I hear a lot of the other mechanics and competitors from around here have been invited as well. Of course they don't know how many of them will show up, this not being a very big or promoted event, but I have heard a few names that have promised to be there."
Kaito grinned. He didn't have to ask to know who one of those names was. Jii was a lot like the Kurobas themselves that way.
"I'd love to meet the new talent around here. Count me in."
Two days later, Kaito and Jii walked through the front gates of a small but well kept facility with its own miniature track. Kaito was impressed by how good a condition everything was in. The training center's main building consisted of only one large auditorium and a handful of offices, but everything looked like it had been well cared for. The floors were clean, the furniture a little worn but also neat, and the track was definitely being cared for. Not a single weed anywhere.
Due to the special event being held, many tables and chairs had been brought out to the open lot beside the track where six different hover racers had been parked. There was a different mechanic at each racer, explaining to a small group of kids about the make and model of the craft, its strengths and weaknesses, and the basics of good maintenance. Other speakers sat at the tables, chatting with students and answering questions. Jii had immediately attached himself to the oldest hover craft model there and was enthusiastically describing its history and associated myths to a trio of wide-eyed boys and girls. Kaito wandered amidst the tables and crafts, stopping now and then to listen in on one of the impromptu lectures being given. Eventually, he ended up at the smallest of the hover racers present.
This was another old model, he noted. It was one of the most original models from when the sport had first begun. This craft, however, had been touched up in order to make it more competitive against its modern cousins. The teacher here was a familiar slim, dark-haired teen.
Kaito smirked. Bingo.
Not wanting to interrupt the lecture, he settled himself down at the back of the group listening to Shinichi detailing how to check for certain common issues encountered by older hover racers and how to fix them when found. Kaito knew quite a lot of it already, having always been the kind of racer who took an interest in his own craft. But there was some new information for him too. It was most interesting. More than the neat tricks he may have some use for in the future however was the beautiful sparkle in Shinichi's blue eyes as he talked about the vehicles. It was clear that Shinichi loved the hover crafts he was talking about. He talked about them as though they were living creatures with their own personalities and temperaments, their own likes and dislikes, and even their own desires and frustrations. It was interesting and, in some way that Kaito couldn't quite put a finger on, inspiring too. He could almost see that same light flickering to life in the eyes of Shinichi's students.
When the lecture was over, the kids ran up to ask Shinichi if they could touch the hover racer. He agreed with simple instructions to make sure they were careful. Then he stood back and watched with a warm smile as the children ran around the craft, running their hands over its gleaming sides and climbing up into the cockpit.
Seeing his chance, Kaito stepped up to him. "You're Kudo Shinichi."
The blue-eyed boy glanced up at him in mild surprise then nodded. "I am."
"I know. I want to hire you."
Now those blue eyes stared.
"My name is Kuroba Kaito." Stepping back, Kaito swept into a deep bow. "I'm from Ekoda, and one day I'm going to win the Red Diamond."
Shinichi stared at him for a moment longer before recognition dawned on his face. "You were the winner from the race two days ago."
"That's right. This was my third race. It's only the beginning. It's going to be a long journey," he continued, turning to sweep his arms out as though he could encapsulate the world in a single gesture. "There are circuits all around the world. The Black Diamond, the White Diamond, and the Red Diamond are the crowning jewels, but it's not just them. I am going to be the best, and that means I'll need a team who are willing to go the distance with me. So, Shinichi, will you join me?"
The mechanic had stared at him for another long moment before frowning. "Excuse me, but you don't even know me. And I don't know you. Doesn't this all seem a bit sudden?"
"You don't have to say yes right now, but my old mechanic tells me you're good, and I trust his judgment. I need someone with your skills on my team, and I know you aren't currently attached to any teams. So why not give mine a try? I promise it'll be worth it."
"I don't know." Shinichi was looking uncertain now. "Thank you for your offer. It was kind of random, but it was nice. But the kind of team I want to join is… I know this will probably sound weird, but I want to join a team that cares about something more than winning. I want to really create and fly a unique craft that can be tested in all the circuits and shine whether it wins or not. I want to build something that can really be the wind. That can touch the sky in our dreams and race the sunset to the end of the world!"
"Whoa, big dreams there. Now I know I want you. I promise you, if you come with me, you'll have more than enough opportunities to chase your dreams. For me, I just want to catch the sun. I promised my old man I'd bring home the Red Diamond one day, but for me, I want to go beyond that. I want to open the gateway of the sky and fly into that golden sunset on the other side."
"That…didn't make any sense at all."
"You think not? Well, maybe some of it was a whim, but really, I mean it. Most of it anyway. I want you to come be part of my team. You can think about it. Give me an answer sometime tomorrow. I'll be in the hotel lobby in the evening. Give me your answer then."
The conversation hadn't gone exactly how Kaito would have liked, and he had no idea if Shinichi would really come. Even so, he'd kept his fingers crossed and waited in the lobby. It wasn't until later that he learned that Jii had approached Shinichi as well. What he did know was that Shinichi did indeed show up that evening.
"I haven't decided whether or not I want to accept your offer yet," was the first thing he said as he sat down in the seat opposite Kaito in the lobby's small café.
Kaito raised an eyebrow, amused. "So then why are you here?"
"You said some things to me that I didn't understand, and I was hoping I'd be able to find answers if I came."
"Fair enough." Kaito paused to wave at one of the waiters. He ordered another cup of hot chocolate then glanced at Shinichi. "My treat."
The mechanic frowned slightly then ordered a cup of plain coffee.
"Right then." Kaito said once the waiter left. "Fire away."
They had talked mostly about the usual things that night: about teams and goals, pasts and futures. Kaito could see and hear in the younger boy's demeanor a real desire to understand. It was, he thought, a good sign. At the same time though, he had the feeling that Shinichi's questions weren't all about the team and their goals, but he also had a sense that the answers the other boy was searching for might still be found with them.
"Even if you don't want to sign on for the long term, there's at least one thing I'd appreciate if you would look at."
Blue eyes blinked at him, full of curiosity. "What is it?"
Kaito glanced around to make sure that no one was close enough to hear then lowered his voice. "The thing is, the hover racer I use is one that my parents designed together. It's a great racer, but it's actually incomplete."
"My dad left me the plans when he passed on, but to be honest there are parts of the plans that Jii and I can't make heads or tails out of. My mom helped us out with some of it, but a large part of it was Dad's work, and we think some of it isn't actually done yet. If you would, I'd like you to help us figure out exactly what the plans are getting at."
He could tell before he'd finished making the request that Shinichi would say yes. The light that had lit in those beautiful, blue eyes at the idea of a completely new hover craft design was vibrant and impossible to miss.
And that was the beginning of their working relationship.
"This is it." Tossing aside the tarp, Kaito stepped back and swept out an arm to indicate the sleek, blue and silver hover racer.
"I've never seen this model before," Shinichi exclaimed, excitement bright on his face as he moved to get a better look.
"Of course not. This is a one hundred percent custom built craft. Like I said, my parents worked together to design it."
Back when Kaito had still been a kid himself, his father had been making a name for himself on the tracks. Kuroba Toichi had not only been one of the most skilled racers the world had ever seen, he had also been an innovative mechanic with a flare for aiming high and reaching those goals in dramatic ways. He and his wife had developed and patented the first ever hover craft system that could travel over liquid surfaces. That alone had ensured that their family would never be in want for money. But that was a story for a different time. They had continued to work on refining the technology in the hopes of creating a truly unique craft that would be able to go anywhere. There had been rumors that they were even working on a way for hover racers to fly beyond the atmosphere and travel through space like spaceships.
Kaito didn't know if that last bit was true. His father had never mentioned it, and his mother only smiled when he asked. Her husband's death in a crash during one of the preliminary rounds of the Red Diamond had turned the entire sport into a terrible reminder of lost dreams for her. When Kaito had first announced his intentions to follow in Kuroba Toichi's footsteps, his mother's first reaction had been to say no. She would not lose another loved one to such a dangerous sport. But Kaito had never been one to give up on something he wanted. He wanted his mother's blessing for the path he'd chosen, but he would walk that path whether or not she gave it. He had vowed that he would one day bring home the Red Diamond himself, and he would do it with the hover racer his dad had designed. He would fulfill the dream his father hadn't been able to, not just in honor of the man he had so admired, but also for himself because he loved the freedom of the race and the thrill of the game. There were risks, but it was precisely that that made the game worth playing.
"I want to help you finish this," Shinichi said that night, expression a mix of embarrassment and defiance that Kaito found rather cute. "This," he gestured at the schematics laid out on the table between them. "It's an amazing idea. There's so much potential. There are a few holes, but if we can figure them out, put the pieces together, then I believe this could be one of the greatest crafts ever built!"
"So you'll join my team?"
The mechanic hesitated, uncertainty creeping back into his face. He sat silent for several moments, just staring at the diagrams. Kaito let him think. Pushing now could only be counterproductive. Finally, Shinichi squared his shoulders and met Kaito's waiting gaze with his own determined one.
Shinichi had been a bit nervous about the idea of actually joining a professional team, especially a team belonging to Kuroba Kaito, the man they were already starting to call the second Phantom of the race tracks—the man who was never where you thought he was. It wasn't exactly that he didn't think he could measure up—okay, maybe there was a bit of that too. He had learned almost everything he knew from an old family friend, Agasa, and the rest had been his own trial and error. He was proud of the skills he'd gained, and he was constantly striving to expand his knowledge and understanding of the crafts, but he wasn't exactly the best mechanic out there. Kaito could have picked from hundreds of other hopefuls with tons more experience. But Kaito had asked Shinichi, and he had to admit that he wanted to do everything in his power to show Kaito that he had made the right decision.
Immediately upon being hired, Shinichi set himself to learning everything there was to know about Kaito's hover racer. It truly was an incredible piece of work, and he thought that he may very well have fallen in love. The shape was streamline, the interior design even more so. He knew from the moment he placed his hands on its gleaming, silver sides that this was the one. This was the hover racer that was going to make all his dreams come true.
He spent hours going over every inch of the racer. He turned it on and listened to the engines hum. Sometimes, he slept in the hangar beside the hover craft, just bonding with it.
Kaito walked into the hangar early one morning to find Shinichi curled up in a fluffy blanket and leaning against the side of the racer, fast asleep. It looked like he really had spent the whole night there. And Kaito had thought with some chagrin that this was the first time in his life when he was actually jealous of a machine.
"Hey Shinichi, I heard that this new restaurant just opened not too far from here. It's supposed to have awesome food. Would you like to go there for lunch with me?"
"No, that's okay. I wanted to run a few more tests on the new parts we installed."
But that was an issue for another time.
The important thing was that by the end of the second week, Shinichi already knew the hover racer inside out. Jii exclaimed with approval that the boy may even know more about the craft than he did now. If it was going to grow into the machine that Kuroba Toichi had intended it to be then Shinichi was definitely going to be the one who carried it on its way.
It was in this whirl of activity and hopes that Kaito, Shinichi, and Jii made their way to the sprawling seashores and windswept bluffs where the White Diamond's preliminary rounds were being held. Kaito had been in high spirits, Shinichi was riding a confusion between hopeful and excited, and Jii was just the same old friendly, watchful guardian keeping an eye out for his two young charges.
He could see Shinichi's skill and passion, and he approved heartily of both. He could also see that Kaito was much more interested in their new mechanic's pretty, blue eyes than he was in his ability to put hover crafts back together. It made the old man smile. Life was going to be interesting. His job, however, was to make sure that the two boys would be able to survive in the circuits without him when he retired in a year. That gave him twelve months and one major race in which to do so. Hopefully, he would be up to the challenge.
This was their first major race as a team. Their first and their last, Jii told the boys.
"Then it'll be all up to you two."
Kaito had not been happy to hear the news that Jii would be retiring so soon (he'd hoped the man would be around for another two years at least), but he hadn't been surprised by it either. It was time for his old friend to get some well deserved rest.
"I'm sure you two will do great without me," he told Kaito over dinner one night as they settled into a new hotel room. The light from the lamps was orange and the beds were hard and small. They had a window, but it was only letting in the darkness of a heavily overcast night. Not much to see, basically. Even so, it was actually pretty good as far as the kinds of accommodations they'd had before went. The last hotel they'd been in they'd ended up vacating after only half an hour. That week they'd camped out.
"But it's not going to be the same without you around," Kaito said, setting out some simple boxes of takeout that they'd brought up with them. "You're like family."
"And family goes their separate ways before that time when they will all return to the nest and share the lives and things they've learned." The old man chuckled. "Besides, you don't want this old busybody hanging around really. You want to spend some time wooing your blue-eyed beauty, eh?"
Kaito coughed lightly. He didn't embarrass easily. Shame was not a word in his dictionary. But this was one topic on which being teased by Jii almost made him want to blush. Almost.
"Shinichi's only interested in hover crafts," he said because it was true. And damn didn't he wish it wasn't. He didn't understand it.
"What am I doing wrong anyway?" he complained, picking up a box of takeout and a pair of chopsticks and beginning to eat. He had a feeling that Shinichi's portion was going to be cold by the time the mechanic remembered to come eat it. Maybe he should bring it to the hangar. "I'm good looking, I'm smart, and I'm practically a celebrity on the tracks—and off, considering how many people love watching these things. They're like shows all by themselves, not just races. And yet when I asked him if he wanted to go out with me, he asked me where we were going and said we should make a list so we don't forget anything. Turns out we went grocery shopping." The racer heaved a melodramatic sigh. "Hey Jii, was Mom like this when Dad was trying to ask her out?"
The old man chuckled. "Your father was a very forward man."
"So am I. I think…"
"What I mean is that perhaps you should try making your intentions more clear to your young friend."
"I don't want to scare him off though, especially considering your retirement."
"Well, only you can figure out the balance that works for you. But you know, if you wait too long, someone else might come along and steal him out from under you. He's quite well known for his skills, and honesty of his sort is hard to come by these days."
"I'll say." Kaito thought back to the afternoon three days ago after the second preliminary round. A stranger (probably associated with an opposing team) had approached Shinichi, offering to pay quite a hefty sum for detailed information on their hover craft and its unique technologies. Shinichi had sent the man packing with a severe reprimand. He hadn't mentioned it to either Kaito or Jii. Kaito only knew about it because he had overheard the exchange (no, he hadn't been spying—er, not exactly anyway), but he noticed that Shinichi had started keeping a closer eye on those who came near their assigned hangar. He really had lucked out when he found Shinichi. "And what's this about stealing anyway?" he added, drawing himself up. "I'll have you know, no one steals anything from me."
Jii only smiled. "You're doing very well. Your father would be proud."
Kaito's hands stilled for a moment with his chopsticks halfway to his mouth. Then he continued eating without a word. Inside though, he was grateful. He didn't race out of some notion that it would please his father that he was doing so, but that didn't mean it wasn't nice to think that the man would have approved of his accomplishments.
The door to their room opened at that moment to admit a frowning Shinichi. He had a piece of paper in his hands.
"We're going to have to remove a few parts to meet the requirements of the next round," he said as though continuing a previous conversation. "The course they're using includes several stretches meant for testing piloting skills that would be rendered pointless if a craft can bypass them by going over the water. To make it fair, no hydro parts are allowed."
"Can't we just disable them?" Kaito asked, echoing Shinichi's frown. "We only have a day before the next round."
"No. They're checking all the crafts right before the race. Anyone found with any kind of hydro technology, enabled or not, will be disqualified."
"We should get an early night then," Jii said. "We have a lot of work to do tomorrow."
Five months and three dozen races later, when Kaito's craft tore through the ribbon that marked the finish line first for the White Diamond finals, Shinichi stood up in his seat and cheered with the rest of the crowd around him. He waved his arms and shouted for Kaito in the vain hope that the racer would hear him above all the other people screaming his name. It was elation in audio form. He wanted to jump up and down and holler. It was thrilling, it was uncontainable, and it was totally not the kind of thing he was used to feeling.
After he'd calmed down, he'd made his way through the crowds to the area where the top three racers were being surrounded by reporters and people who wanted to interview them. Shinichi hung back for a while, listening to the reporters bombarding Kaito with questions about everything from who had taught him to race to why he did it and if he had a girlfriend.
"My father taught me how to race, and I am going to be the best there's ever been. I'm going to win the triple diamonds like he wasn't able to."
"I don't have a girlfriend yet, but there is someone I have my eye on. This person's been extremely helpful to me both in my career and in helping me stay motivated."
As Kaito continued to banter with the journalists, Shinichi wondered who Kaito was talking about and why he hadn't introduced them.
As he had promised, Jii retired in the spring after a year of having Shinichi on the team. He declared that he really was too old for this now. The boys accompanied him to Ekoda, his and Kaito's hometown, where he still had his old house to go back to. There they also met Kuroba Chikage, who had come back from a culinary school in order to see her son again.
"I'm going to open a whole chain of high end bakeries," she told him, face alight with dreams. "We're going to be the perfect place for people to go and just be themselves. To have fun and be honest with their family and friends. Food brings everyone together you know."
"It certainly does," Kaito agreed and wished her luck. Though on the inside, he wondered at just how far from the racing world his mother had grown. And it made him wonder sometimes if he really was doing the right thing.
Last time he'd asked her if she wanted to come watch one of his races, she'd given him a sad smile and said that she couldn't. "I'm not sure my heart could take it," she had said. "I'm really sorry, but I…I just… I can still see it. And I know that if I go, I'm going to start imagining—" She cut herself off and shook her head, unwilling to continue lest her words invite misfortune. "Just promise me you'll be careful."
She hadn't clarified exactly what she would be imagining, but she hadn't had to. He knew all too well. And he was sorry too because he knew he could promise to be careful a million times and she would still be worrying about him. But he couldn't stop. Not now. He had fallen in love with the sport, and he really did want to outdo his father. When he was flying down the track, everything became crystal clear. Everything made sense. In that moment he felt like his father was right there with him, showing him the way to a golden, sunset world where the boundaries of reality melted away to become the dreams of men.
"It's just the two of us now," he said to Shinichi when he settled into the pilot's seat of their transport craft. They were leaving Ekoda this morning to head out east to a medium-sized event being held by some bigwig financial company celebrating their fiftieth anniversary. "Think you can handle it?"
Kaito laughed. He'd spoken half in jest, but he could tell that Shinichi was being completely serious. "Good."
A.N: I started out thinking this would be a one-shot, but it's turned into more of a eight or nine-shot with long chapters . . Anyhow, this story will alternate updating with Sky Colored Eyes. On a random side note, I saw on the news recently that there is a company that has actually created a real, working hover board. I don't know when they'll become available, and apparently balancing on it is really tough, but it sounds exciting~! Happy Chinese New Year ^_^