Title: Masquerade
Fandom: Detective Conan/Magic Kaitou
#6—stolen heart
Pairing: Kuroba Kaito/Nakamori Aoko
All characters are the property of Gosho Aoyama. I do not own them. I merely borrow them, drop them in a blender, hit puree, and watch them dance. Yes, dance, my pretties…ahem.
Supposedly, this jewel has the power to make people fall in love.

Kaito looked up from his newspaper in surprise at Aoko's words. "A party?"

"Yup!" she grinned. "It's one of those big formal dance parties where you have to dress up and wear a mask and everything. The party's in honor of this new display—it's this enormous gem called the Blue Heart, one of the world's largest sapphires."

Kaito tried to maintain just the right level of interested boredom. He already knew about the party and the jewel in question, and he had a pretty solid suspicion as to why Aoko was talking about this particular dance: a certain police Inspector, one Nakamori-keibu, had received a note from a certain jewel thief, one Kaitou Kid, two days prior. Said note announced said thief's interest in the gem and his plans to appear at the museum's gala and steal it.

Aoko's next words proved him right. "It's next week. Dad gets to go because Kid's going to show up and try to steal the Blue Heart—the entire Taskforce will be there. So I get to go too, and…" she fidgeted slightly, "…well, I was kind of hoping that you'd go with me."

That wasn't quite what he'd been expecting. "Me? Why?"

"Well, I don't want to go by myself," she sat down in the desk in front of him and continued her explanation. "Especially if it turns out to be really boring. Besides, I need someone to keep me company while I stand in the corner and blend into the wallpaper."

"Now what makes you think I'd let you be a wall-flower?" Kaito asked wickedly.

"Because I can't dance to save my life," Aoko said shortly. "I just think it would be kind of fun to get all dressed up and stuff. So please? Will you come with me?" Her tone softened as she asked again, from mild irritation to a more pleading tone—and with just a hint of the puppy-eyes.

…I am a sucker, Kaito decided wryly as he sighed. "All right. You've got yourself a date."


It wasn't necessarily that Kaito minded wearing a suit—far from it. It was part of his night-job, after all. The white suit and red tie were part of Kaitou Kid's trademark look, as set forth by his father, and he embraced that. But as a general rule, he was more comfortable in casual street clothes.

He stared in the mirror for a moment, fiddling with the top button of his black dress shirt, before deciding to just leave it open and skip the tie—the outfit was good enough without it. He slipped on his dark gray blazer and gave himself a last once-over. Not bad—not bad at all. He'd already accepted that there was nothing he could do to control his hair, but overall, he thought he looked pretty darn good.

"Kaito! They're here!" his mother called from the bottom of the stairs. He gave his reflection one last grin before hitting the lights and leaving his room and bouncing down the stairs to where his mother was waiting with good-natured impatience. "Wait, wait…" she waved a hand as he moved to breeze past her. "Let me take a look at you…"

He paused obligingly so she could take a look.

But he wasn't quite prepared for tears to well in her eyes. "Oh, Kaito…" Her arms were around his neck before he had time to even blink. "You look just like your father…" she half-sobbed.

Kaito fidgeted and gave her an awkward pat on the back. She didn't get like this too often, but as he'd gotten older and grown to look more and more like his father…one of these little spells would pop up every now and again. This time, he assumed it was the outfit that did it.

After a moment or two of this, Kaito got a bit impatient. "Mom…I have to go."

"Oh yes…sorry," she smiled sheepishly and released him; she wiped her eyes absently with one hand and waved him towards the door with the other. "Off with you!"

Kaito grinned and headed out, pausing only long enough to slip on his black dress shoes before walking out of the house. The car was waiting by the curb; he opened the door and hopped in the backseat, taking a seat beside Aoko. Nakamori-keibu, in the driver's seat, offered a grunt of a greeting and drove on.

"Took you long enough," Aoko said archly in lieu of her own hello.

"Sorry. Mom was having a moment," he replied.


"Yeah. She said I looked like my dad," he explained, a tinge of sadness coloring his words.

"Oh…" Aoko's voice was now more understanding than scolding.

The rest of the ride there was relatively quiet. Kaito did take a moment to try and see what Aoko was wearing. In the dark, it was hard to tell much in terms of specific details—but he could see that her arms were partially bare, save for something around her elbows, and that something on the bodice was very sparkly…and it went without saying that Kaito liked sparkly things.

As they pulled up to the museum where the party was being held, they were stopped by one of the police-guards already in place. After gaining security clearance, they were allowed through to the parking lot. Once the car had been parked, the two teenagers followed the gruff Inspector into the building.

Once they were inside and in good light, Kaito could actually get a good look at Aoko—and he was not at all displeased with the sight before him. His first impression from the darkness was correct: her bodice was, indeed, covered in small silver sequins—a nice compliment to the rich blue color of the dress itself. It was held up by two very skinny straps, and it had a nice poofy skirt, and her hair was all done up and she was wearing some pretty silver jewelry that he was sure he'd never seen her wear before and she had this wrap around her arms that was a lighter shade of blue…

Kaito liked.

Kaito liked a lot.

Unfortunately for Kaito, his scrutiny did not go unnoticed.

Aoko poked his shoulder. "What?" she asked before her tone turned teasing. "Like what you see?"

She was startled when Kaito offered a cheeky grin in response. "Maybe."

Aoko gaped for a moment before giving him a halfhearted swat on the arm. "Stop that." She was blushing as she said that, though, and prettily so—which definitely didn't hurt her cause, in Kaito's humblest of opinions. Not that he was thinking any such things about his childhood best friend, never, nuh-uh, no way. Still, he was mature enough to admit that she looked beautiful.

There was nothing wrong with that, and he said so. "What? I can't compliment you?" His smile was genuine, and a far cry from his usual teasing smirk. "You do look really nice—your dad really went all out on this idea, didn't he?"

She stared at him before smiling back. "T-thank you. And yes, he did—every once in a while, he likes to spoil me. And for the record, you don't look too bad yourself."

"Thank you!" he beamed.

The conversation stalled then as Nakamori-keibu reappeared with the word that they could proceed, and so they followed him through the museum halls, through a door bearing a sign that said 'Employees Only.' On the way, they passed numerous people dressed up to the nines—some even to the tens. Men in full tuxes with tails, and women in enough diamonds to make a rapper jealous.

Kaito's Sparklie Radar was pinging all over the place.

Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Aoko fidgeting nervously and toying with the end of her wrap; she suddenly looked very self-conscious. Making a quick decision, he poked her in the side and gave her a reassuring wink when she glanced in his direction. It worked: she smiled and nodded.

Finally, they stepped through a door and into the midst of several men in tuxedos, all standing around a table. One of them—an older gentleman with glasses—turned and walked towards them, one hand outstretched for a handshake. "Ah, Nakamori-keibu! You've finally arrived."

The Inspector nodded. "Izumi-san." He gestured to the two teenagers standing uncertainly in the doorway behind him. "My daughter Aoko, and her best friend, Kaito-kun. Izumi-san owns tonight's target" Bows and polite greetings were exchanged before Nakamori-keibu continued, "So where is the jewel?"

The older man—Izumi-san—gestured towards a padlocked box on the table behind him. "There." In short order, he produced a key from his pocket and unlocked the padlock to lift the lid. Inside sat an enormous, vaguely heart-shaped sapphire. "The Blue Heart, one of the largest sapphires in the world."

Aoko and Kaito peered at it inquisitively. "How pretty!" Aoko breathed.

"Ah, but there is a legend surrounding this particular gem," Izumi-san said, smiling slightly at the girl's awe; Kaito quietly found himself liking the man. "A story has been passed down from owner to owner. Supposedly, this jewel has the power to make people fall in love—anyone who touches it." He nodded knowingly. "If you don't believe me, ask my wife—I met her two weeks after I acquired ownership of the Blue Heart. Thirty-two years later…well, I'll let that speak for itself." He looked pleased when Aoko sighed dreamily at the story.

Kaito had been listening to the story with no small amusement. But at that last, he just couldn't help himself. "I think Aoko wants to know if she can touch it," he grinned, feeling a little bit evil.

"And why would I want to touch it?" she asked.

"…you need all the help you can get?" he blurted out and automatically ducked the swing she took at him with no regards for her settings or her current state of dress. To say Aoko looked furious was a vast, vast understatement. But he still couldn't help that she looked so pretty when she was angry.

"Aoko!" Nakamori-keibu started to admonish his daughter.

He was stopped by the older gentleman's chuckling. "Let her be. She has spirit." Aoko blushed, which certainly didn't hurt her cause in the 'hot damn!' department one little bit.

Kaito grinned, and was about to say something when Izumi-san gestured towards him. "Why don't you try it instead, young man?"

Kaito blinked owlishly. "Me?"

"Yes. You."

"Ehehe…I don't really think that's necessary. Girls seem to like me enough as it is," he rubbed the back of his head nervously and thought back to the previous Valentine's Day, when he had nearly been buried beneath a mountain of chocolate and love letters. He hated having to turn all those girls down—he knew that what they felt for him were just crushes, but that didn't make his rejection hurt them any less.

"Just touch it," the gentleman insisted. "See if there is any truth to the stories of magic."

When Kaito didn't move, Aoko apparently decided to add the kicker. "Unless you're scared?"

There was no way for him to defend against that and still keep his dignity intact in the eyes of his best friend—if he refused now, it would be a very long time before she let him live it down. "Fine," he sighed and rolled his eyes. "I'll do it—just to prove you wrong, Aoko." He grinned at her annoyed expression and walked over to do as he was told.

It was sort of strange, though. He put his hand on top of the jewel, privately thinking that while it was a sweet story, it was rather silly. But at the moment of contact, he swore his fingers tingled. He didn't move or let it show in his expression that anything odd had happened, but still…there didn't seem to be any reason for it. He chalked it up to his imagination and stepped back. "There. I touched it." He turned and looked at Aoko. "Happy now?"

She looked quite smug. "Very."

"I still think you should give it a try," he teased.

Aoko gave him one of her patented Looks (the one that said 'You are an idiot and sometimes I really wonder why I permit you to continue breathing'), but huffed, took two steps forward, and touched the gem. "There. Now be quiet."

It was at this point that Nakamori-keibu spoke up again. "I think it's time you two headed to the party while we make sure we're prepared." After the two teenagers both thanked Izumi-san, he ushered them towards the exit.

But Kaito paused in the doorway. "Izumi-san…you really don't seem all that concerned about Kaitou Kid showing up to steal that jewel." It really was bothering him a bit—most people were up in arms with the arrival of a heist note, yet this gentleman seemed to be taking everything in stride.

Izumi smiled. "Oh, I think it will be a great show. And Kaitou Kid does not tend to keep his targets. If my property is returned to me, then no harm has been done." He chuckled again. "I might not have your youth, young man. But I appreciate a good show…and a bit of chaos here and there. It keeps life interesting." He winked, and Kaito decided that he really did like this man. He also couldn't help but feel that in some strange little way…Izumi-san reminded him of his father.

When he turned to go catch up to Aoko, though, Izumi-san spoke again. "Although I wonder…if the story about the Blue Heart is true…will its magic affect even the legendary Kaitou Kid?" He shook his head and waved a hand. "But I've kept you too long. You had better hurry if you're going to catch up to your pretty friend."

Normally, Kaito would have stammered some sort of a disclaimer. But there was something about the man's tone that made it impossible for him to do anything except smile, blush slightly, and nod before he turned to do as he was instructed and catch up to Aoko.


It seemed that all of the guests were wealthy business investors and patrons. The few people they had seen on their way in proved to be just a minute fraction of the guests. Most of them were decked out in their fanciest and finest…and sparkliest. But a few seemed to have taken a slightly more relaxed approach to the formal dress code. So Kaito didn't feel too out of place in his suit.

Aoko, on the other hand, looked lovely (in Kaito's humblest of opinions) and seemed dressed perfectly for the occasion. But even though she looked more at home amidst the fashion plates there, she looked incredibly uncomfortable. She kept looking at everyone else, to be followed by tugging absently at her skirt or touching a hand to her hair to make sure that something hadn't come loose in the twenty seconds since the last time she had checked it.

After about fifteen hair-checks, Kaito sighed and leaned over. "You look fine."

She obviously hadn't noticed that he was paying that much attention because she jumped at the comment. "Oh…but I just…wanted to make sure—you know, that everything's okay…" Now she was toying with her hands, one of her classic nervous habits.

"You're fine," he assured her. "I think you're just bored, so you need something to take your mind off of things. We could go dance?" He found himself privately hoping that she would say yes, but knowing that she would refuse.

He was right. "Kaito, you know I can't dance very well."

Kaito grinned in spite of himself. "Well, let's find something else to take your mind off things, shall we? Let's see here…" He looked around the room at all the people (he was a people watcher both by nature and necessity, after all), and had an idea. "Okay, see that guy over there? The one with the really obvious dye-job?" He pointed discreetly until Aoko nodded that she had seen the man in question. "What kind of animal does he make you think of?"

Aoko frowned in thought before replying, "A zebra. Because I can't decide if his hair is black on white or white on black…but it's probably black on white, isn't it?" She laughed, proud of herself.

"Oooh, good one!" Kaito laughed and nodded. "I was going to say a skunk, because the roots look like a stripe right down the middle of his head! Now you pick someone."

She looked around. "How about…ooh, that woman over there. The one in the brown dress."

He followed her gaze to a striking, rather portly woman in an elegant chocolate-colored dress. She seemed to be taking a very careful note of what was going on around her. "I'd call her an hawk. All in brown, with eyes that don't miss anything…possibly for gossip material."

Aoko giggled. "Oh, that's better than what I was going to say. I thought of that puffer fish from Finding Nemo!" Kaito shuddered as she explained. "Same color, you know? Now you pick one!"

"The woman over there in the green dress," Kaito gestured towards a tall figure.

"Praying mantis," Aoko smirked. "Because of the way she's hovering over the buffet table."

"I say caterpillar—she's long and skinny," he grinned, both at the comments and at the fact that he had found a way to make Aoko relax. It wasn't necessarily the nicest thing in the world to say things like that about other people, but it was all in good fun, and none of these people would ever hear about it. "You're good at this game! So who's next?"

At that moment, a woman walked—well, not so much walked as strutted—past them in a blue dress with sparkles decorating the bodice a swath of multi-colored feathers at the hemline.

They both looked at each other and whispered in unison, "Peacock!"

The game went on for a while longer—one man was a porcupine because of his rather distinctive hair style. Another woman was a watch-dog, as she growled every time the man on her arm would glance at another woman (which was frequently). Aoko seemed to be totally enjoying herself; she wasn't tugging nervously at her skirt or trying to adjust her imaginary hair disaster.

Sadly, though, Kaito realized that it was getting to be That Time. He needed to sneak away. He really didn't want to leave Aoko sitting here by herself, but duty called. He had an appointment to keep.

"I'll be right back," he whispered, standing up. "I'm going to find the bathroom."

She nodded. "Okay. Hurry back."

He couldn't quite help himself. "Don't go off with any strange guys before I get back." She gave him a Look as he grinned, turned and headed off.

Kaito moved from the ballroom out into the corridor and made his way to the bathroom. He made a point of talking to the restroom attendant for a few minutes—he had a little surprise rigged up for the police, to get the evening started off right. So when the lights suddenly flickered and went out, he felt secure in the knowledge that he had an alibi. The attendant could place him as being right there.

Not that it was necessarily needed, but it was always good to have a back-up plan.

Quickly, he made the excuse that he wanted to go make sure his date was all right and took off. But he didn't head back to the ballroom. Instead, he took a detour down a hallway towards the museum offices and storage rooms—where he had stowed his gear not long before.

Had anyone been around to watch the scene, they would have seen Kuroba Kaito go into the room. And if they had continued observing for a mere minutes longer, they would have seen Kaitou Kid, the illustrious phantom thief, slip back out.

He moved like a ghost down the hallways—he had cased this place, and selected his precise path. There was a room he knew was not in use for the evening's festivities (it was remarkably easy to find out such details), and so he had selected that room—or more specifically, its balcony—as his gateway to the roof. Once there, it was almost offensively easy to sneak, undetected, to the point just above the room where they were attempting to hide and protect the Blue Heart.

Kaitou Kid tilted the brim of his hat down a bit further and smirked.



It had all gone beautifully, as far as Kid was concerned. In and out, gone in sixty seconds. Right over the heads of the Taskforce and one very loud, very vocal, very creative Inspector. Nakamori's cursing was music to his ears…in the sense that it meant things had gone very right.

But now it was time to make his escape…or rather, slip away somewhere to examine his prize and make certain it was not Pandora—in all probability, he knew, it wouldn't be, and he would find a way to return it to its rightful owner. And then he would get back to the party. And Aoko.

It was strange. He had been made his way to the roof and watched as the Taskforce shouted and rushed about, trying to catch him. And in the midst of the fuss, he had seen Nakamori-keibu…except for some reason, in that instant he thought of the man as "Aoko's dad."

That was dangerous, in its own way. As Kaito, he was perfectly content to think of the gruff Inspector as Aoko's dad. As Kaitou Kid, however, he had to keep himself removed from that way of thinking. It personalized things at a level that he couldn't afford—he had to keep detached.

But nevertheless, he found himself kneeling on the rooftop, thinking about Aoko. How bizarre…it wasn't that he had never entertained certain thoughts about her. He wasn't blind by any means, and he was well aware that his childhood best friend had grown from an adorable, hot-tempered little girl into a lovely, hot-tempered young woman (though he wasn't one hundred percent sure when she had picked up the vocabulary). Said young woman was currently waiting in the ballroom, waiting for him to come back and keep her entertained as they watched people go by and listened to the music.

…she really did look beautiful.

Why was he thinking these things now? And why so strongly? Had something changed?

Crap—the Taskforce was coming. Time to jet.

He took the escape route he had planned out during his earlier walk through the building. Over, over, over, down, onto that balcony, and into the office. The room was dark (they had fixed the lights, he knew—he could see that they were on through the windows of the ballroom), but Kaitou Kid didn't immediately feel relaxed. There was something here…

"Good evening."

He had been aware of that presence from the moment he had entered the room, and knew exactly who it was. So he didn't jump when the voice spoke from the shadows. He waited until the person had taken a few steps towards him before he turned and executed a courtly bow. "Good evening, Izumi-san."

The elderly gentleman who owned the Blue Heart was standing there, looking…well, if anything, he looked rather amused. "I was rather hoping you would stop in here for a visit. It seems you have had quite a successful night."

Overall, Kid wasn't too concerned…but there was a little voice in the back of his mind that was whispering all sorts of warnings: what if this was a trap? What if this man was one of Them? Could a person really be that calm with watching their very expensive property being stolen right before their eyes? Although…he trusted his instincts. And his instincts said that there was nothing to fear.

"Indeed," Kid replied in his usual smooth tones. "Although I must say, Nakamori-keibu was on his game tonight. An excellent chase, indeed." It wasn't a lie, either—the Taskforce had done an exceptional job…right up until the very end, when they had apparently given up the ghost (as it were) and just went for a round of their favorite game.

…he really was going to lose a great deal of entertainment when they finally realized that Doggie-Pile on the Bandit just didn't work. But until that day came, he was going to enjoy it. It really was a part of the heist ritual, after all—right up there with Nakamori-keibu cursing his right to exist.

"Forgive my curiosity, Izumi-san," Kid asked conversationally, "but you seem very unconcerned about the fact that I have walked off with the Blue Heart." To prove his point, he withdrew the jewel from the breast pocket of his jacket and held it up for the owner to see. "The owners of most of my targets are in an angry panic by this point."

"Are you going to be keeping it?" Izumi-san asked in an equally-pleasant tone.

Kid looked up at the sky, where the moon was glowing, silver and full. He strolled back towards the balcony and held the gem up enough to let the moon's light hit it. He was actually torn as to whether or not he wanted this to be Pandora or not. If it was…

No reaction.

The stone didn't glow.

He couldn't decide if he was disappointed or relieved. On the one hand, it wasn't Pandora, which meant that his search wasn't over yet. On the other hand…some part of him really didn't like the idea of depriving this gentleman (and he was a gentleman, in every sense of the word) of his rightful property.

Izumi-san was watching and waiting patiently for an answer.

"No, sir," Kid sighed. "It will be returned to you."

"Then why should I be angry?" Izumi-san chuckled.

"You are wise," Kid said respectfully.

Izumi-san shook his head. "I am old, and I have lived long enough to know that some things aren't important enough to get upset over." He leaned back against the desk and crossed his arms. "You have given my guests a good show tonight. No one has been hurt. Nothing has been damaged. And nothing has been taken from me. But I must ask you a question, Kaitou Kid."

Outside the door, the sound of voices and pounding footsteps faded into earshot. The Taskforce was coming. That meant he didn't have much more time to stand here and chat.

"Do you believe in magic?"

Kid thought it over for all of a second before he nodded.

"Then," Izumi-san straightened and started towards the door, sticking his hands into his pockets as he moved, "perhaps the Blue Heart will have its affect on you."

Behind Kid's mask, Kaito was starting to wonder if maybe…just maybe…

The cops were getting close. It was time to go—his respite was over.

"Perhaps. But I must be on my way," Kid took a bow and headed back towards the balcony. "A pleasant evening to you, Izumi-san." And he swept out into the night as the Taskforce came barreling into the office to report the events of the evening to the jewel's owner.

Meanwhile, Kid had already slipped back inside, shed his uniform and hidden the evidence away, and headed back towards the party and Aoko…still wondering.

Still wondering…


The party had come to a screeching halt when the lights went out. There was no little panic as the music fell silent and the room fell dark. She heard a few people scream, though she herself remained in her chair. This was one of Kaitou Kid's tricks, she realized. So the lights would probably be fixed shortly. No sense in freaking out…but she did feel the usual rise of anger at that damned thief and all his stupid tricks.

Sure enough, it didn't take them long to get the lights back on. There was some nervous chatter amidst the guests, but the museum curator took a microphone and announced that everything was all right, no need to worry, please return to your regularly scheduled entertainment. And amazingly enough, most did just that, although a few continued to whisper theories about Kaitou Kid and what might have happened during the heist that night.

Aoko watched the couples all moving on the dance floor and sighed. This was really boring without Kaito around to talk to and make her laugh with his dumb jokes. Where was he, anyway? It was strange, how lonely she actually felt without him there…why?

Maybe he had gone to see if he could catch a glimpse of Kaitou Kid. Fantastic. She couldn't help but wonder if she really meant less to him than that stupid thief did…no. That was horrible. Kaito wasn't like that. She closed her eyes to try and shake off the thought and resigned herself to just listening to the music and wondering why she felt so weird…

"Miss," a familiar voice broke into her thoughts, "may I have this dance?"

She opened her eyes in surprise. "Kaito! Where have you been?"

"You'd be amazed how hard it was to find the bathroom in this place—especially in the dark!" he said, exasperated. It wasn't totally a lie—this place really was like a maze when the lights were off. He just…failed to mention that he'd had a flashlight. He was also wondering how long it would take for Nakamori-keibu to realize that there was something very blue about that one chunk of ice in the punch bowl. "But anyway, I'm back now. So c'mon! Let's dance!" He reached out and grabbed one of her hands with the obvious intent of pulling her out amidst the milling, whirling couples on the dance floor.

Aoko quickly pulled her hand back. "Kaito, you know I can't dance…"

"Oh, I think you can dance!" he cheered. "You just need the right partner."

She raised an eyebrow. "And…you're the right partner, I take it?"

"Absolutely." He executed a courtly bow and held a hand out to her, inviting her both with the gesture and with his winning smile to accept his proposal of a dance. Aoko hesitated, but found herself unable and unwilling to resist either his offer or his smile. She was proud that her hand only shook a little when she placed her palm in his; it became a moot point when his fingers closed around her hand and pulled to lead her out onto the floor.

As soon as they reached a vacant spot, Aoko found herself being swept up by strong arms into the rhythm of the dance music. Before long, the upbeat song came to an end, and faded into a far slower song.

Aoko was startled to find that Kaito had been right. The few times in her life she had tried to dance like this, she had wound up tripping over her feet or her partner's feet or something, and it was just a big mess. But somehow, Kaito managed to step around her rebellious feet without tripping or missing a beat while guiding her around the floor; she didn't dare try to lead, but rather followed his steps and his tempo. And somehow, it worked.

After a while, he chuckled. "So what were you saying about not being able to dance?"

"All right, you win," she rolled her eyes good-naturedly.

"I win? Oooh, what's my prize?" Kaito grinned.

A number of thoughts flashed through Aoko's mind—where did those ideas come from? There was no way he would actually…she gave her head a little shake to clear the notions away and smiled up at him. "You actually want a prize? What do you want?"

Kaito didn't reply verbally. But he shifted the way he was holding her. He pulled her right up against him and slid his arm all the way around her waist, keeping her other hand comfortably in his. The natural position was for her to let her head come to rest on his shoulder.

As the song was winding down, Kaito moved his head. "Come on," he whispered, his breath warm against her ear. Never breaking step, he led her towards the edge of the dance floor. It was then that he released her, only to reach down and take her hand to pull her away, through the elaborate French doors and out onto the veranda. Surprisingly enough, no one else was out there to enjoy the lovely evening, though there were a few people walking in the gardens. But they were far enough away to be of no immediate consequence.

He looked at her for a moment, then let go of her hands and stepped back, turning away; he put both hands on the railing, leaned his weight on them, and gazed out over the fountain and gardens. It was a perfect night, lit by stars and the silvery glow of a full moon. For a long moment it was quiet, with the faint noise of the party inside as the sole accompaniment to the music of silence between them.

If Aoko had to put a word to the scene, she would call it romantic.

"…Kaito?" she asked softly when she just couldn't wait any longer. Her hands were clasped together in front of her, and she hoped to goodness that it hid the fact that they were trembling—she didn't quite know why, though.

Another moment passed.

Finally, Kaito turned around and looked straight at her. The moonlight caught his eyes; they seemed to glow blue-violet. "Aoko…" he said slowly, "…do you remember what Izumi-san said earlier? About that jewel having that special power?"

"The power to make people fall in love?" she replied. "Yes. Why?"

"Do you believe it? That story?"

"…I don't know—wouldn't it depend on whether or not there's such a thing as magic?"

Kaito nodded. "Do you believe in magic?" It was an echo of the question he had been asked. He had given his honest answer then. Now it was time to see what Aoko said.

"Maybe," Aoko said, swallowing hard. When had he moved so close? "What kind of magic?"

Slender fingers wrapped around her upper arms. "Any kind."

"…yes," she whispered. "I think I do." And when he pushed her backwards a few steps, pressing her flat against the nearest marble pillar, she realized that somehow she had forgotten how to breathe.

They had both touched that jewel, at Izumi-san's insistence. The story he told was sweet, but neither was so gullible as to believe that it was actually possible for a jewel to make people fall in love. And yet…here they were.

"Aoko, I think—" Kaito started to speak, but she silenced him by pressing one finger against his lips. While he stared questioningly, she let that hand trail down his neck to his collar; she gently tugged at his shirt, urging him to tilt his head down, and…

Before this evening, she had found herself wondering (on those very rarest of occasions) what it would be like to kiss Kaito—or to have Kaito kiss her. Not that it was anything she would have ever admitted to. She had told herself that it was simply a side-effect of watching all those silly fan club girls squeal over him. Their stupid was obviously contagious, and she had caught it, but rationalized it as something to just be brushed aside and ignored.

…well, now she had her answer. And it was nothing she would ever be able to ignore again.

When he pulled back, she opened her eyes (she hadn't even really realized that she had closed them in the first place) and studied him. He looked just as startled as she felt.

"Kaito…is this magic?" she asked softly. Some little part of her wondered if Izumi-san's story had been true, and this was all just the effect of the jewel's alleged magic. "Is this the Blue Heart's spell?" It occurred to her that if Kid's heist had been successful (and chances were that that was, indeed, the case), then the Blue Heart wasn't the only heart that had been stolen away that night.

He was silent for a few seconds before he replied. "I don't care."

This time, he pulled her to him, and Aoko decided that she really didn't care either.

Whatever it was that had happened to them, between them…perhaps the answer would come with the sunrise. But at that moment, this night was theirs. It belonged to them.

And only them.

PS. I am in love with this idea. I really am. Must be my "hopelessly romantic fangirl" side. Meh.

There are two scenes in this story inspired by Mercedes Lackey's Arrow's Flight: the scene where they're trying to match people with animals, and the scene where he's asking Aoko to dance and insists that she just needs "the right partner." I thought both fit them well.

Also, I had originally pictured Izumi-san to be more along the lines of the panicked gem owner, but somewhere in the midst of the Blue Heart story, he decided that he didn't want to be a curmudgeon, and so this kindly, rather interesting gentleman found his way onto the page. Half the time, I don't think I'm writing the stories—the characters do. In the form of these little hand puppets that steal my keyboard while I'm asleep. Seriously. What, you don't believe me?

And…wow…that's the end of it, isn't it? The end of the challenge. Forty themes to make forty stories about forty nights for Kaito and Aoko. So I'd like to thank you all for reading, especially to those of you who have been sticking with me since the very first story. This has been fun, but…I'm still rather happy to be putting this one to bed.

Thanks, all! Much love!