Disclaimer: "Detective Conan" belongs to Gosho Aoyama, and "Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon" belongs to Naoko Takeuchi.
This is an alternative story to my other fanfic "Encounter in Venice" and one of the possibilities of what could have happened if Ai had taken the antidote before Shinichi brought down the Organization.
Thanks a lot to my friends and betas Rae (Astarael00) and SN1987a and the Aicoholics on LiveJournal, without whom I would never have started this fic.
Ghost at Twilight
Under normal circumstances...
Under normal circumstances, you might not have recognized the bike at all. Eight years is too long a time to remember a motorcycle you've only seen twice in your life. And even if you had noticed that it looked familiar (the model is one of its kind), you would have shrugged it off as a prop you had seen in one of your fashion magazines where it must have served as the background for two or three scantily clad girls presenting the new summer collection. But after being haunted by the red-haired girl all night, you immediately jumped when you spotted it: a blue-yellow motorcycle with two helmets—one white and one blue—on its seat, its back illuminated by a street lamp and its front looming in the shadow of a tree like a ghostly apparition.
"Are you all right? Feeling dizzy again?" your companion asks, supporting your arm. Judging from the look on his face, he fears that you're going to have another fainting spell.
"It's nothing... I only thought I've already seen your bike somewhere."
Maybe you really have, he muses, because it was a very famous model seven or eight years ago, featured at many motorcycle shows. People still offer him horrendously high prices for it, and he wonders why no one has stolen it yet.
"I didn't expect that you're interested in motorbikes, though."
"I could say the same about you. You don't look like a biker to me."
He wouldn't label himself as "a biker" either, he agrees with a smile, handing you the white helmet. To him, the bike is only a practical means of transportation in the rush hour even though he usually prefers the car, especially when he can be a passenger instead of driving himself.
"I prefer driving myself," you remark. "I like being in control of the vehicle."
"Can you ride a motorbike, too?"
"Of course." One of the benefits of growing up in the Organization was the seriousness with which those things were taught. Being able to use all modes of transportation was for an Organization member just as important as knowing the phone numbers of the closest associates by heart.
"You can give me a ride if you like." He hands you his keys with a mischievous smile.
"I'd rather not," you decline. "I don't know the way to Two Lights."
"I can give you directions."
"But it's your bike, and I don't have a license," you protest, refusing to drive without a license even though he doesn't seem to mind. You're sure you wouldn't be able to focus on the way since you would be fighting with your dress during the whole ride. What type of man would let the woman accompanying him give him a ride on his own bike, anyway, you wonder, bewildered by his unpredictable character. One moment he is carrying you through the streets, the next he is as girly as Sonoko can be, asking you to give him a ride on his own motorcycle.
"What a shame!" he sighs, climbing on the bike in mock disappointment. From behind and with the blue helmet in his hand, he reminds you almost of the blue-clad biker from eight years ago.
"Say, did you ever have a red-haired girlfriend?" you ask him in mistrust.
He shoots you a quizzical look through the rearview mirror, his eyes meeting yours in genuine surprise, and grins when his gaze lands on your hair.
"Not yet." He winks. "I already told you I've never had a girlfriend. Why do you ask?"
"Just forget it," you sigh, putting on your helmet, as he has just put on his. Making yourself comfortable on the seat, you reassure yourself that the probability of him being connected to the red-haired girl in any way is so tiny that it might as well not exist. What you're feeling can't even be called a premonition but only paranoia or superstition, fueled by an especially long sunset and a particularly intriguing perfume...
"I thought I could read your mind; but it seems I can't make you out at all." He laughs, starting the engine.
"I'm glad you've finally come to your senses!"
...And yet... there is this strange sense of déjà vu when you hear the familiar smooth sound of the engine, a deep tremolo which slowly rises and accelerates, growing gradually louder as it builds to a climax and then dies down like a mournful howl, the prélude to disaster for another couple eight years ago.
"What do you usually get up to at weekends?" you ask him in an attempt to make small talk while the colourful lights and blinking signs characteristic of Tokyo by night are flashing past you. After leaving the quiet southern part of Azabu Juuban for the more lively north, you've been overtaken by many other bikes and cars packed with people heading in the same direction, you observe, wondering whether they are all heading for Two Lights' even though the party has already started hours ago.
"Concerts, art exhibitions, museums... I'm a real culture vulture just like both my brothers although, sometimes, I prefer going out to town alone or staying at home to work. And you?"
"Cinema, shopping, reading in bed. Nothing interesting, really..."
"Not shutting yourself off in your basement to mix perfumes? I'd have expected that from you with your awesome sense of smell."
"I don't only have an awesome sense of smell. I have an awesome sixth sense as well."
"What exactly do you mean with 'sixth sense'?"
"Intuition? I often know when something is wrong, when I'm in danger or when someone I know appears in my vicinity without looking. Other people can do that, too, but I'm especially good at it."
"And? Are you in danger now?" he asks in a mysterious voice, which would have sounded creepy if it weren't for his low chuckle.
"Not with you. You're absolutely harmless."
"Somehow I'm really sorry to hear that," he sighs, flirting again although this time you're not sure whether he has done it out of habit or out of gallantry towards you. "I can sense people as well," he continues in a more serious voice. "Back then, when I was walking past your balcony, I could feel with certainty that you were there. Strange, isn't it?"
"Hmm, strange indeed."
Vaguely wondering whether you still possess the aura of the Organization, you continue to stare past his shoulder at the illuminated streets until the two shooting stars announcing Two Lights' emerge from behind the tall ginkgo trees of Ichinohashi Park. Contrary to your expectations, it's a very picturesque two-storey building with a large patio and a roof garden, which are still bursting with guests at half-past four a.m. Driving past the just as crowded parking lot, the stranger turns to the left and instantly applies the brakes when he spots the group of people in front of the back entrance.
"There he is!" screams a high voice, and you two are suddenly engulfed in a sea of flashing lights, cameras, microphones, and fashionably dressed people while the stranger whirls the bike around and—much to the shock of the car drivers behind you—escapes with you through a small opening between two cars in the opposite direction.
"Why did you pull such a stunt?" you shout at him in dismay as you two are racing down the street. "Do you want to kill both of us?" His speed has made it increasingly harder for you to keep your balance with your hands on your knees, and you angrily grab at the back of his jacket in front of you, pulling a bit more forcefully at it than you intended to.
"Please let go of my hair," he groans in pain. "Can't you just hold my waist instead of jerking at my ponytail?" Sighing in relief when you let go of his back and grab at the pockets of his jacket instead, he chuckles and mocks, "You're such a prude, constantly straightening your dress and trying not to touch me even though you're about to fall from the bike. And that despite having at least two ex-boyfriends. How come?"
"Why did you suddenly pull such an idiotic stunt?" you ask, still breathless with anger since you can already see yourself lying on the street in a pool of blood like the red-haired girl eight years ago. At your age, you should have known better than to trust a man who asks a complete stranger for a rendezvous at night. Despite feeling like a complete mess tonight, you don't really want to die.
"Paparazzi and reporters are besieging Two Lights'," he explains, calmly evading a car, which has suddenly overtaken you two from the wrong side. "Unless you want to appear in the news as my latest girlfriend and be slandered by the gutter press by tomorrow night, we have to flee."
"Weren't they there when 'Odango' and you watched Kaito's performance? How did you get past them the last time?" you ask. His melodious voice has a soothing quality in contrast to his dangerously impulsive character, and you try to put yourself at ease with the thought that at least he seems a capable driver with quick reactions.
"Luckily, they weren't there the last time. Someone must have seen Taiki and Yaten entering the club and informed them. It's the first time that Two Lights have officially visited their own club, you know..."
"But they weren't there for Two Lights," you insist. "It looks to me like they've been waiting there for you."
"Maybe," he says thoughtfully. "Someone must have tipped them off about my bike. Otherwise they wouldn't have recognized me."
"So why are they so interested in you? Are you a famous actor or singer I don't know?" you ask. It might not be a coincidence that his voice is the same as the singer's voice you heard in the café eight years ago.
"I was once a bit of everything," he says, evasively. "Maybe the reporters still want to have my face in their gossip columns because they can invent so many morbid stories about me. I only sing for my own pleasure now although I consider returning to the stage with Yaten and Taiki. And what do you do?"
"I don't sing," you declare in a deadpan voice, wondering whether it's safe to assume that Two Lights' names are "Yaten" and "Taiki". "But I like listening to music. You can sing something for me if you want to."
"Not on the streets," he declines, sounding suddenly so distant that you feel obnoxious for asking him.
"It's a shame that we can't go to Two Lights' now," you remark, changing the topic. "So what are we going to do?"
"Anything you want to," he says, sounding accessible and cheerful again, "just say the word."
"I don't know. I'd have liked to know what's so special about Two Lights', though."
"I think the hype is more about Yaten and Taiki than about the club. What about driving through Roppongi for a while and then trying to go to Two Lights' again?" he suggests. "I have a key to the back entrance. Even if they close before we arrive, we can still empty their bar without anyone disturbing us."
"No alcohol," you warn him. "Only non-alcoholic drinks. I want you to be sober when you bring me home in the morning."
"Don't worry," he chuckles. "I never drink anything alcoholic when I drive, and I never drink more than a tiny glass of sherry even when someone else gives me a ride. You can drink as much as you like, though."
"Sherry?" you exclaim, astonished at the coincidence while, simultaneously, the thought that Two Lights seem to be very close friends of his is nagging at you.
"My favourite wine. Want to try?"
"No thanks. I've stopped drinking long ago... But two cars are following us." You tighten your grab at his jacket. "The paparazzi really love you. Step on it since we don't want to get caught!"
In the end, he managed to get rid of your followers without killing either of you so that you two are now drifting idly through the night in silence, both in a fairly amiable mood despite the appalling weather. Although it's spring, the night feels more like a gusty autumnal night with its strong, chilly wind and its freezing rain suddenly coming down in sheets. Through the wet visor of your helmet, the streets of Roppongi are only a blur of neon lights flashing up and running down in streams of garishly coloured water.
However, it's impossible to stay amiable when you are soaked to the skin; and a feeling of slight irritation once again rises to the surface when a few half-witted young bikers overtake you two with loud whistles and vulgar remarks directed at your now translucent dress.
"You were right when you predicted the rain," the stranger says. "I'm sorry I didn't take any raincoats with me. What about staying in a bar or a game centre until the rain stops?"
"No, I'd rather not," you brush his offer aside. "I'm already soaked, anyway. Let's go back."
"Okay," he readily agrees, and you're strangely irritated by his obvious indifference until you see the sign with the shooting stars again and realize that he must have misunderstood you and is now heading towards Two Lights' instead of bringing you home. For a moment, you seriously consider coming with him despite your wet dress, but then another icy gust of wind makes you shiver and you sigh, resigning yourself to the fact that the weather objects to your overnight date.
"Why do I have the feeling that we're doubled jinxed when we're together?" you shout to him, peering past his shoulders through the curtains of pouring rain into the rearview mirror in a futile attempt to catch a glimpse of his face.
"It's only you who is jinxed," he laughs. "I love the rain. It reminds me that I have a cozy apartment to return to. Just look on the bright side!"
"Is there anything you don't love?" you ask in disbelief. "I'm so drenched that I can't go to Two Lights' in these clothes. We must go back now. Just bring me home! You can stay at my place until the rain stops."
"Isn't your detective sleeping on your sofa at the moment? We can't go to your apartment without waking him up. Apart from that, I'm really not in the mood to meet him."
"What do you suggest then? I'm not going to Two Lights' like this!" You pull mournfully at your thin dress, which has become perfectly transparent, clinging to your knees. If it weren't for the cardigan, you might as well have gone out naked.
"Let's go to my place. It's directly on the way between your place and Two Lights'. You can have a shower to warm yourself up while I wash and dry your clothes for you."
"Good idea," you hear your own voice saying, going along with his outrageous suggestion without thinking about it twice.
There are certain unspoken rules a woman should always stick to. Never talk about your love life with an attractive stranger, don't go out at night with a man whose scent you like, and don't stay overnight at his place unless you want the inevitable to happen. But once again, you find yourself ignoring whatever rules you thought you have learned in his presence. The stranger has a way of doing whatever he wants without thinking about it. And tonight you feel like tagging along.
Hence you follow him through the garage to the lift and enter his apartment on the twenty-third floor with the air of someone who is living there, distractedly slipping out of your dripping wet cardigan without remembering that your thin dress underneath is clinging to your skin before you notice his gaze.
"I'll get you a bathrobe and a towel," he quickly says and disappears behind a door while you're looking about yourself, taking in your surroundings with the curiosity of a detective on a crime scene. The wide corridor you're standing in is tastefully furnished with a large antique mirror, four antique coat hooks, and a long bench with an elegant parasol in the umbrella stand next to it, a sight evocative of a woman's presence. Apparently, the room the stranger has disappeared into is his bedroom, as you can discern through the half-closed door a small bed and an electric guitar before the door fully opens again and his dark head reappears.
"Here," the stranger smiles, handing you a bathrobe and a towel before he proceeds to take off his wet jacket and put it on a hanger. "You can have a shower now if you like. I'll make us coffee in the meantime. Or do you prefer tea?"
"Either is fine for me."
Following him to the large green bathroom, where he puts the hanger with his jacket on a hook and drops your cardigan into the washing machine, you stop in front of the door and thoughtfully behold his curly ponytail, which is much longer than you expected, swaying like a real tail with every of his movements and brushing against the floor when he knees down to plug in the washing machine and to turn on the heater. Its silky smoothness and its layered style trigger a memory, reminding you of Two Lights' trademark flying ponytails, and all of his odd and cryptic remarks suddenly make sense when you realize that Two Lights must be his foster brothers and that you are in the apartment of Sonoko's favourite idol.
According to Sonoko, he was all the rage eight years ago, famous for his extraordinary voice and his air of reckless abandon. At sixteen, he had also begun to make himself a name as an actor and dancer and become one of the three most popular teen idols of his time when he suddenly disappeared from the public and never accepted a role again. His disappearance seemed to have made him even more interesting in the public eye, just like his penchant for pretty women, cultural activities, and extreme sports. Rumour has it that he had quit the idol business to spend his life as the modern-day Casanova, travelling incognito from city to city to visit the museums and seducing the local women. Last year, he was seen more than once in Venice or, to be more precise, waiting for Aino Minako in front of her dressing room at La Fenice during the new production of The Beauty and the Beast, in which she was cast in the leading role. There are also talks about him moving to Venice to be near Aino, who is said to be one of his more serious romantic entanglements. Just idle gossip and unsubstantiated rumours, Sonoko—the same person who told you all the gossip—has said, because she doubts he would ever get that attached to a woman. Still, those unsubstantiated rumours were enough for her to decide that she would study art history in Kaioh Michiru's private academy in Venice instead of going to New York like her mother wanted.
While you don't really want to give any credence to the rumours, you can't help wondering whether there is a grain of truth in them. Being unhappily in love with a married woman who is out of his reach doesn't necessarily mean that he is really leading a life of abstinence. Twenty-four and never kissed anyone in a romantic context, he has claimed, looking so sincere that you were completely taken in. The little cheat has most probably taken you for a ride! He has already demonstrated his cavalier attitude to the truth when he hid his identity from you.
"Is there something on my face?" he asks, rising to his feet with an infuriatingly charming smile. You don't want to know how many hearts he has already broken in his life. But he can rest assured that yours will never be a piece in his collection.
"I just realized I have information for which some people would kill," you smirk and, in answer to his inquiring gaze, tug at a strand of his ponytail. "I should have guessed your name when you said you had the key to the club. As a revenge for lying to me, I should make your address public on the internet for all your obsessive fans who are still hunting you."
He laughs without showing the slightest hint of surprise at the fact that you know about him.
"But you won't do it, will you? And why do you think I lied? I can't remember lying to you at all."
"You told me you've never been kissed, and I even fell for it. Or was none of the kisses between you and all your affairs romantic enough to be counted?"
Romantic or not, he has never kissed anyone except Odango, the women in his family, and the few actresses he had to kiss in front of the camera for a few odd commercials, and that not even on their lips, he insists. He doesn't know who spreads all the rumours about him and all the women he is supposed to have been with.
"So one-night stands without kissing? Just spill it. How many women have you been with?" you ask, not believing him a bit. "Is the figure still in the double-digit, or have you already lost count of it?"
"None, I swear," he sighs, exasperated. "I only need to say 'Hi' to a woman and people will immediately claim that we're having an affair. That's why I'm usually in disguise when I meet up with Odango. They would make her life a living hell if they knew."
People tend to make a lot of assumptions about him, he tells you, and he has decided to take it as a compliment. After all, most rising stars are craving the media attention he gets, and even during his teen idol days, his scandalous reputation never harmed his career in any way.
Not very credible, you tell him, although in view of his air of innocence, you're willing to give him the benefit of the doubt.
Leaning against the bathtub with his arms crossed in front of his chest, he contemplates you thoughtfully, almost coolly, as if he, too, has begun to see you with different eyes.
"The knowledge of a name does make a huge difference, doesn't it?" he asks at last. "You seem to have made a lot of assumptions about me, too, even though you've never met me before."
With a start, you remember the expression on his face when he told you that you were the first woman in years he could really talk with and who didn't immediately force her phone number on him. No matter what he might have lied about, your odd friendship—or whatever this is—feels real, and most probably he would never have told you about Odango and taken you to his private apartment while a hotel would have served the purpose if he only wanted to have his way with you as you had paranoiacally feared.
"It's not about you or your name but all the things that are associated with it," you admit. "But since I'm in a generous mood, I'll ignore them for now, stranger-san."
A glint of humour steals into his eyes before his distant gaze turns into the familiar smile you no longer want to miss. Winking at you as he breezes out of the bathroom, the stranger (he will always be the stranger for you now that you've decided to ignore his name) lightly tugs at a strand of your hair as if he were paying you back for what you did to his.
"You really need to get out of your wet clothes now," he remarks. "Just leave them on the floor or put them into the washing machine. I'll wash them later for you."
"And you?" you ask, indicating his wet jeans.
"Later," he smiles and cheekily adds, "You don't want to suggest that we take a shower together, do you?"
Dream on, you're about to say when you realize that this is the ideal chance to test whether he is really as pure as he claims.
"Why not?" You fix his eyes with a challenging smile. "We can save a lot of time that way."
He stares at you in speechless surprise, his face changing colour as he tries to visualize what you just suggested, and you think to yourself in amusement that he is not even half as cool as he pretends to be when a flicker of recognition in his eyes shows you that you've revealed your true intentions too early.
Much to your dismay, he gives you an impish grin, steps into the bathroom, and casually begins to unbutton his shirt. "Agreed. But don't try anything funny with me," he playfully growls, imitating your tone of voice perfectly. "I'm saving myself for an idiot who adores me so much that she will do all my paperwork for me."
Eventually, he ends up occupying the shower while you—for lack of a better way to save face—claim that you prefer a bath. Running a bath while trying to avert your eyes from the transparent shower enclosure directly next to the bathtub, you curse yourself for the stupid mistake of smiling a second too early so that he could guess that you never meant to shower with him for real. After stripping shamelessly in front of you and—wearing only a pair of black boxers—strolling into the shower with the air of a top model on the runway, the impertinent little wretch has flashed you a victorious smile over his shoulder and invited you to join him, an offer you should have accepted since you were the one who suggested it. And the fact that you didn't dare to—added to his knowing and self-satisfied smirk because he knew that he had won—irked you so much that you decided not to walk out of the bathroom but to stay for the bath. Stubbornly refusing to retreat, you tell yourself that there is no logical reason to be disturbed by sharing a bathroom with someone who obviously has the mental age of a kindergarten kid. And you stayed even after he successfully shocked you the second time by removing his boxers and throwing them with unerring accuracy into the open washing machine before shutting the door to the shower with a cheeky little grin.
Emptying your pockets on the sink table, you notice that Kaito's card is damp but still in a good condition and dry it with your towel before slipping it into the pocket of the bathrobe along with your mobile phone and your keys. For a moment, you wonder whether you should take a photo of your new friend to pay him back for his prank before you resign, deciding that you don't want your peculiar date to escalate even more than it already has.
"Do you have any bath salt or bubble bath?" you ask with a knock at the shower door (which is, luckily, in contrast to the rest of the transparent enclosure, only translucent), hoping that he has something which makes enough bubbles for you to hide in it.
He turns off the water, sticks his fragrant wet head out of the shower, and efficiently wrings the water out of his ponytail. After the shower, his ever-changing eyes are of a shockingly bright blue and, making a dramatic contrast with his deep black eyelashes, catch you off-guard again when they flash you a mischievous smile.
"Just my shampoo and wash gel," he shrugs and then chuckles, "Have you changed your mind and want to come in?"
Before you can reply, he has already turned off the water of your bath, grabbed your wrist, and drawn you into the shower, which is, much to your relief, large enough for both of you so that your bodies don't touch. Spraying the warm water all over you, he quickly massages his shampoo into your hair (while you, eyes clamped shut, are cursing at him under your breath) before he slips out of the shower, shaking with laughter at his own silly prank.
"I wonder what your fans would do if they knew what you're really like," you remark while rinsing your hair, stupefied by the discrepancy between his public image and his behaviour towards you. "I shall give them a detailed account of this when I make your address public."
"I can tell you what will happen afterwards: They're going to murder you before they start to camp here, and my agent will take care of it as always by evacuating us. But I wonder what Kudo would say if he knew that you've just taken a shower with me." He laughs, beaming at you while drying himself. "If you tell anyone about my address, I swear I'll break his heart by giving him a call!"
"I doubt that he would care," you remark, convinced that Kudo must be accustomed to taking a bath with Ran.
"Let's tell him then," he dares you. "I bet he won't be able to solve any cases for weeks." In a sudden fit of decency or shyness, he wraps his towel around his hips before turning on the water and letting it run into the washing machine, adding a small cup of laundry detergent.
"Don't worry, I won't peep," he says, extending his hand towards you while demonstratively averting his eyes. "I'll only run the washing machine before I leave you alone. Just give me your clothes."
Slipping out of your wet clothes, you roll them into a small bundle and—imitating what he did with his boxers—aim at the open washing machine, accidentally knocking your elbow against the open shower door in the process. Alarmed by the sound, he swiftly turns round while rising to his feet in one single movement, catches your arm before you can throw the bundle, and stares when he realizes that you're not wearing anything at all and that his towel, too, has just fallen on the floor due to the sudden movement.
An awkward moment passes in which the two of you are only standing there wide-eyed at the compromising position and in which you are torn about what to do: to kick him into unconsciousness, rob him of some clothes, and leave his apartment immediately or to steal his first kiss as a revenge for his pranks on you. Luckily, he takes the decision out of your hand by letting go of you to retrieve his towel so that, in the end, you only toss the bundle of clothes onto the floor and shut the door to the shower with your heart pounding in your chest.
"I'm sorry." He lightly knocks at the shower door. "When I heard the sound, I thought you were dizzy again."
"It doesn't matter, just forget about it."
Smiling at the ridiculous situation, you proceed to shower with regained composure. A man who doesn't even try to lock lips with you under these conditions is someone you can trust to keep his hands off you for the rest of his life. Despite his reputation and his shameless flirting, he is depressingly innocent, and you grudgingly admit to yourself that he would probably flee from you if you just walked out and kissed him as you wanted to do since he pulled you close to him the first time on the street two hours—which seem to you like two years—ago.
It must have been the last thought which suddenly turned on the light in a dim corner of your mind, reminding you of something Kudo jokingly said to you during the course of the evening when he was sitting on your sofa, telling you about the case that prevented him from coming to your birthday two years ago—the one he has never managed to wrap up due to the obstinate refusal of the extroverted but stubborn culprit who has Kaito's charms.
What are the odds that there are three other celebrity brothers in the vicinity, you wonder, feeling your head spin as your suspicion grows. The owners of Two Lights' were only trying to support his career without telling him, Kaito said. Kuroba is an acquaintance of mine… It's directly on the way between your place and Two Lights'… I once met a detective... a very famous one... But the circumstances were not so favourable then, you can hear the stranger's voice in your head as you replay all the things he has told you since you met each other for the first time. Nevertheless, you still have the overwhelming feeling that there is a very important detail you've either blocked out or missed, and you aren't sure whether you really want to know what it is.
Turning off the water, you give up the detective work, deciding that you neither want to jump to conclusions nor probe into other people's private affairs which don't concern you. Everybody has a secret one had better not touch, so why shouldn't the stranger have one, too? Oddly enough, you like him even more now because he, too, has lost a sister he loved.
A/N: I wanted to post this chapter on Tuesday, but I felt too dead to do anything (but murdering the bots in Overwatch between naps). *catching up on sleep after months of sleep deprivation
From now on, updates will be irregular again, hopefully in the good way (I'll try to post two or three chapters every week to make up for the slow updates in the past months).