AN: Before we go, we did want to say thanks to all the people who have stuck with us throughout this entire massive project.
Ihni, voldysXangel, kahuffstix, mikoamaya-hikari , The Oblivious Captain Anna, inu-youkai 911, KittyMojo, Kaguranne, FlashDrive, Rio Hime, Wind91Rider, and so many others.
ASN: You've been with us all the way, and we so loved having you along for the ride.
AN: We don't often answer reviews, being horrible people—
ASN: We have enough trouble posting on time.
AN: --But we want you, everyone, to know that we do read your reviews and we appreciate your comments. Thank you all. Without you, we never would have gotten this far.
ASN: Thank you all.
Chapter 5: April
Daisuke turned to see Satoshi standing by the stairs. "What is it, Satoshi?"
"There's something I want to show you," the pale-haired teen said simply, gesturing up the stairs.
Daisuke grinned. "A surprise present, huh?"
Satoshi gave him his old implacable deadpan, but a hint of nervous apprehension lurked behind the ice-blue eyes.
The redhead's humor faded at seeing the normally unflappable Satoshi uneasy. The last time Satoshi had approached him with this amount of anxiety, he'd learned that his girlfriend was his cousin. "Are you okay?" Daisuke asked in concern.
Satoshi looked surprised at first, but then smiled. "I'm fine, Niwa-kun, I just have something for you upstairs."
"Oh," Daisuke said, relieved. He held up a finger to signal Satoshi to wait for a second and poked his head into the kitchen.
His mom was stirring something on the stove, the twins were peering into the oven through the glass door, and Towa, in her bird form, was gleefully stringing streamers all over the room. She squawked when she noticed him.
"Dai-chan! Out of the kitchen!" the maid said, waving a wing at him chidingly. "You're not allowed to come back until we have your birthday cake decorated!"
Daisuke waved his hands reassuringly. "I just wanted to tell you that Hiwatari-kun and I are heading upstairs, so yell for us whenever you're ready, okay?"
"Fine," Emiko said, sounding distracted. "Have fun; don't destroy anything."
Daisuke smiled as he slipped back out into the living room. "Ready when you are," he said cheerfully.
Satoshi nodded and headed upstairs. Daisuke followed, curious. The older teen opened the bedroom door, stepping in and aside so Daisuke could precede him.
Daisuke stepped into the room, and his gaze was instantly captured by the covered easel set up in the middle of the floor.
Shocked, he turned to gaze at Satoshi. "You…painted something? For me?"
Satoshi shifted his weight uncomfortably and nodded towards the painting.
A shy, pleased smile crossed the redhead's face. "Thank you, Satoshi," he said softly. "I know how important this is to you."
A tiny smile and almost imperceptible relaxation was Satoshi's response, and he again nodded in the direction of the painting. "Go on."
Daisuke crossed the room to the easel and slowly pulled the sheet off the painting underneath.
The background of the painting was immediately recognizable as being from the same newspaper clipping Daisuke had carried with him; however, the depth and clarity of the stars and lighted buildings gave the painting a sense of realism that had been lost in the blurred photograph.
And in this painting, Dark was fully and triumphantly illuminated. The light of the police spotlight was harsh, as in real life, but it only highlighted the texture of the feathers in his wings and glinted off the random buckles and straps on Dark's purplish-black outfit.
But the most impressive part of the painting was the expression on Dark's face. Satoshi had captured the peculiar mix of impishness, arrogance, and absolute, manic glee that had been always reflected in Dark's eyes. The smirk that curved the thief's lips was instantly recognizable as the one he always wore when he had pulled a particularly satisfying and spectacular heist—and had managed to outwit the police once again.
It was the most perfect, most accurate picture of Dark that had ever been recorded.
Satoshi swallowed nervously as Daisuke continued to stare at the painting without saying a word. Maybe this had been a bad idea, after all.
Then Daisuke turned around, and the look in his eyes said more than words could ever express. "Satoshi…"
"I know that you miss him," Satoshi said softly, glancing down at the floor, "and I know that I can't replace him. But I hope this helps."
A touch on his shoulder prompted him to look up, and Daisuke was smiling at him, only a few centimeters away. "Satoshi…I…"
"Just kiss him already," a voice interrupted.
Surprised, Satoshi and Daisuke jerked apart and whirled towards the stairs. A flash of movement caught Satoshi's eye, and he turned towards it.
His painting was now minus one phantom thief.
Beside him, Daisuke gasped.
Satoshi followed Daisuke's gaze to his desk, where said missing thief was sitting cross-legged on top of Daisuke's homework. "Miss me?"
Daisuke's mouth dropped; Satoshi's eyes narrowed. "Dark? How?" the redhead stuttered.
The thief opened his mouth, but Satoshi was the one who answered. "The painting."
"A beautiful recreation, I must say," Dark said cheerfully. "Only a Hikari could paint my level of arrogance so well."
Satoshi folded his arms across his chest, keeping his outer façade calm although his mind was racing. "It was merely the result of having studied your face for almost a year."
"And you put it to good use. Without that level of accuracy, I could never have used it to return."
forward, worried. "Return from where? Are you okay?"
The smirk softened into a real smile as the thief climbed off the desk and looked at Daisuke. "Never better. How about you?"
"Me? I…" Daisuke shook his head and took an unsteady step towards Dark, then another, until he practically flew at Dark, slinging his arms around the surprised phantom thief.
Dark put his hands on Daisuke's shoulders and looked down at him worriedly. "Daisuke?"
The redhead looked back up at him, eyes wet with unshed tears. "I can see you."
A smile spread across Dark's face, and he returned the hug, squeezing the younger boy gently. "When did you get so tall?"
A frown furrowed Satoshi's brow as he studied the pair. "Interesting."
He hadn't realized
that he had said it out loud until the other two turned to look at
him. "What's interesting, Commander?" Dark asked curiously.
"I'm not going to run off with him, if that's what you think."
Satoshi scowled. "No. I find it more unusual that you have returned through my painting. I am not your creator; logically, whatever I paint should have a personality of its own, if anything. And I deliberately tried to avoid doing that."
Daisuke frowned. "He's right. The art the Hikari create have their own lives."
"Not…quite," Dark shook his head.
And that's when Satoshi realized that his 'mad' ancestor Hikari Akio had been right all along. "The art are portals."
"And your rather perfect recreation of myself, in all my glory, allowed me—and only me—to return. Krad was rather unhappy about being left behind, but I was tired of his bitching anyway."
"We banished the Black Wings," Satoshi said slowly, beginning to understand. "But you're not a part of it anymore. That's why you could return through the painting alone."
"When Hiwatari separated us, he did so permanently. Krad and I could never become whole." The thief smiled deprecatingly. "Of course, I don't have nearly as much power as a painting compared to being half of the Black Wings, but I can improvise.""So…you're really from another dimension or something?" Daisuke asked bemusedly, still thrown by the utter reversal of everything he'd thought he knew about Hikari art.
"Well, it's actually another plane, but you're essentially right." The thief grinned wickedly. "I mean, come on. Did you really think that a clan as boring and straight-laced as the Hikari could have created me? Even by accident?"
"I'd wondered about Towa," Satoshi said distantly.
There was a brief moment of silence as the three stared at each other.
"Well!" Dark said brightly. "You two have your moment, I'm gonna go down and tell Emiko the good news!"
The phantom thief bounded down the stairs, and Daisuke and Satoshi stared at each other wordlessly.
Then faintly, from downstairs, they heard Dark's cheerful "Emiko! Riku, Risa! I'm back!"
There was an abrupt scream and the crash of what sounded suspiciously like birthday cake hitting the floor. "What are you?! Demon!"
Dark gave a startled squawk. "I'm not—it's me, not a demon!"
Emiko no longer sounded scared. Instead, she sounded angry. Very angry. "Kosuke! Something's impersonating Dark! Kill it!"
Daisuke sank down onto the sofa, the shock that had been keeping him immobile beginning to fade. Satoshi sighed and rubbed the bridge of his nose above his glasses. He could practically see the generations of Hikari ancestors spinning in their graves.
"Daiki! Tell her it's me!" Dark begged from downstairs.
"Who are you? I don't know you!"
"Daiki?" Dark sounded a little lost, but his next words were slightly more panicked. "Whoa—Kosuke, put the amulet down!"
Daisuke started laughing helplessly.
After a moment, Satoshi couldn't help himself and began to laugh softly as well. He sat down on the couch next to the redhead. "When I made you the painting, this wasn't what I had in mind…"
Daisuke was still smiling when he gently reached over and took Satoshi's hand. "This was the best birthday present you could have ever gotten me. You have no idea how much this means," he said softly.
Satoshi banished the ghosts of mortified Hikari ancestors from his mind and merely stared at the redhead in front of him. "I'm glad you like it," he said simply.
Daisuke blinked at him, and a mischievous smile appeared on his face. He gave Satoshi's hand a sharp tug, pulling him closer, and kissed him soundly.
After a moment, he drew back, still grinning fondly. "You know I love you."
Satoshi felt his eyes go impossibly wide at the declaration and could not move as Daisuke stood up.
"Come on," the younger teen said cheerfully and held out a hand. "We should probably go downstairs and rescue Dark."
Somewhat numbly, Satoshi put his hand in Daisuke's and let the redhead help him up. They got to the head of the stairs before Satoshi finally got to his senses and stopped.
Daisuke stopped as well and looked at him quizzically.
"Daisuke," he began softly, then stopped, at a loss for words.
The younger teen smiled and reached up to tenderly brush Satoshi's bangs away from his eyes, trailing his fingers down the taller boy's cheek. "I know," he said simply, a look of understanding in his eyes.
Satoshi pulled the redhead into his arms and held him close. Daisuke wrapped his arms around him in return and the two stood like that for a moment.
"Niwa Daisuke!" Emiko yelled from below. "Get down here this instant and explain to me exactly what is going on!"
Daisuke laughed and pulled away, still holding Satoshi's hand. "Coming!"
The redhead started down the stairs, Satoshi a step behind, smiling slightly.
Satoshi wasn't sure what was going to happen next. He wasn't sure what Dark would do now that he had returned. He didn't know what this new revelation about Hikari art would mean for all of them.
He did know that his life would never be normal, but that was okay; it had never been normal before.
In any case, it would be…interesting.