AN: Here we are with the fourth and final installment in this story. Thank you all for your kind words on the last chapter! It was a hard one to write, and it makes me very, very happy to know that it was worth it. I hope you enjoy this last part. A couple more author's notes will be at the end. I don't own DC/MK!
All things considered, it was sort of a relief for Nakamori-keibu to walk into his office and find Kaito sitting there in one of the chairs, waiting for him. It meant that he wasn't going to be scared out of his skin when a low voice came from his window.
Of course, the fact that he had been within easy sight of his door during the few minutes he had been out of his office and had not seen his door open told him the story. "Kaito-kun, one of these days I will get you to use the door like a normal person. You might actually enjoy it," the Inspector said dryly.
"Normal is boring, Keibu. Someday you will understand," the teenager grinned.
Nakamori crossed the office and sat down. "I'll have you know that this whole brothel business has the media in an absolute frenzy, and the trial of the kidnappers is going to be one of the biggest we've had in years. The police are heroes for solving the case. Yet somehow, the fact that there was an agent on the inside seems to have been missed by all, save one person."
"Oh?" Kaito arched a brow. "Who's that?"
"A little girl named Kisa, who swears that an angel in white came in and took her and the other kids through the walls to safety," Nakamori said, visibly amused. "She was quite taken with you. But she's safely at home with her family. Same with the other kids."
That answered the question Kaito had been about to ask. "Good to hear."
"You've also made an impression on my superiors," the Inspector went on. "Even Tokishiro can't find a single fault with the way things went down. You planned it out in less time than most police experts could. You did exactly what you said you would, and things went off without a single goddamn hitch, which is more than I can say for ninety-five percent of plans around here."
"I'm glad to hear it."
"They're pleased with your work, and eager to see what else you can do," Nakamori said, leaning his elbows on the desk. "It might be a while longer before you win over Tokishiro, but the other three are completely convinced. Don't screw this up, Kaito-kun, and you're set."
"I never screw up, Keibu," Kaito said with a laugh. "Mostly I just wanted to stop in and ask how things were going and if the kids were okay, but you've answered those questions already. Sounds like this will be an easy conviction."
"Between being caught in the act, firing on police officers, and everything in between, their lawyers are scrambling for a deal. It might take a while, but they're going down," Nakamori's eyes narrowed. "And prison is rarely kind to people who commit crimes against children."
Kaito nodded. There was a certain code of honor to the criminal underworld. It was not one that people outside it would necessarily grasp, but it existed. Rules. Ethics. Morals of a different sort. There was a structure, a hierarchy to things. And those who would harm children were below the bottom rung, the most detestable of an already seedy world.
Satisfied with the answers he had received, Kaito stood. "I just wanted to check on that. That's all."
"You've come out of this very well," the Inspector said as Kaito crossed to the window.
"Perhaps," Kaito said slowly after a moment. "But there's still one more thing that needs to be taken care of. And it might very well be the hardest one of all to fix." As he vanished out the window into the night, Nakamori Ginzo realized that Kaito had not actually said what it was, nor had he let himself be asked about it.
But at the same time, he realized that he already knew exactly what that final loose end was.
When the knock came on the door, Aoko realized that she should have known who it was right away, without having to look. Who else would come calling at this hour of the night? At the same time, it had been a very long time since the person in question had actually knocked on her front door, but still…
She opened the door, one hand moving up to stifle a yawn that froze in her mouth when she took a good look at her visitor. Her hand dropped limply to her side. "Kaito," she said, startled at how foreign the name suddenly felt on her tongue. "What are you doing here?"
Kuroba Kaito shifted a bit. "I was just checking on you. How're you doing?"
"I'm fine," she said in a voice more clipped than she had intended. "I'm sure that matters a great deal to you. You're the big hero now, even if no one knows it, aren't you?" She made a mental note to have a word with her mouth about this nasty habit of running off without checking with her brain first. "Eleven children you saved, all but singlehandedly. Not bad for a night's work."
So her dad was keeping her in the loop. He couldn't blame the man for that. "I'm not a hero. Shouldn't be a hero for doing what you'd like to think any person would have done…" He sighed and leaned against the doorframe. "I'm worried about you."
"I don't need your pity," she said.
"It's not pity."
"Is there anything else you'd like to discuss with me? If not, I have a lot of homework to do, and I'm very tired," she said. She was already kicking herself before the last word was out of her mouth, but at the same time she wanted nothing more than for him to leave, to be gone from her sight.
His expression didn't change outright, but something flickered. He looked sadder all of a sudden. "I just really wanted to talk to you about…well, about everything that happened, really." One hand moved to the back of his neck. She recognized that as a nervous gesture.
"What could you possibly have to say to me?" she demanded, voice rising with an anger she wasn't completely sure she felt. "You lied to me, you tricked me, you used me, and now you want to talk to me? No thank you, Kuroba Kaito. I'm done being played for a fool, and I'm done with the person who made a fool of my father so many times."
"I don't want to talk to you."
Before she even realized she was doing it, she had slammed the door. She only comprehended the action when she heard the lock shoot home, sealing the door between them. Not that it truly could have kept him out if he had wanted to come in, but somehow she doubted he would cross that boundary.
Still, her hand had barely left the doorknob before Aoko started to cry.
The sound of the door closing and the lock clicking shut hurt more than any bullet ever could. Kaito stared at the wood paneling in front of his face for a long, long moment, unsure of what to do. There was no way he would go in now, not a chance. But walking away felt like a defeat he wasn't prepared to accept just yet. So he stood there, debating…
And then his excellent hearing picked up the sound from the other side of the door.
He recognized it as Aoko immediately, not that there was anyone else it could have been.
Kaito leaned his ear closer to the door and listened carefully. After a moment, he heard her say something to the door, probably unaware that he was still there, could still hear her, and would act on whatever it was she said. And her words here were muffled, but he understood every one of them.
"I didn't mean it…"
That was all he needed to hear. Making a quick decision, he turned and walked down the stairs, off the porch, and towards the side of the house. This would only take a second, and he had better do it before she went back upstairs. If she caught him, somehow he didn't think it could end well.
When a tear-streaked Aoko finally picked herself up off the floor by the front door of her house and walked up the stairs with slow, dragging steps, she was surprised to walk into her bedroom and discover that someone else had been there. Or at least, had been to her window.
She crossed the room and picked up the item left on her windowsill like a silent messenger: a single rose, bleached silver-white in the moonlight.
Aoko stuck her head out the window and glanced around for the giver, but saw no one.
It was two roses later that she finally caught him. She waited patiently, silently and out of view of the window until she saw that hand reach up. Then she jumped out and grabbed his wrist. "You know, Kaito, stalking is illegal in most civilized places," she said dryly, almost amused at the sheepish look on his face.
Even though she knew, deep down, that if he hadn't wanted her to catch him in the act, she wouldn't have been able to. Which meant he wanted her to catch him, which probably meant he wanted to talk. That really wasn't a surprise. She just didn't know what it was that he wanted to say to her, or what he wanted or expected her to say to him.
He crawled in through the window, though he did not venture into the room. He stayed near the convenient escape route of the window, obviously prepared to beat a hasty retreat if need be. Aoko almost thought it was funny, that the great Kaitou Kid would be so scared of her.
"There is actually something I wanted to say to you," Aoko said after a moment of silence had passed between them. "I've been thinking about it for a while." She shot a glance at him; he was looking back at her expectantly. She took a deep breath. "Name one thing. I'll do it."
That took him by surprise. "What?"
"You saved my father's life, and I owe you a lot for that," she went on, squaring her shoulders in preparation for whatever was to come next. "So in exchange for my father's life, name one favor. Anything you want. I'll do it."
Kaito stared at her in blank surprise for a few long moments, long enough for Aoko to get very nervous. When he spoke, it was sudden enough that she jumped. "There's only one thing I really want from you, Aoko, but…" he chuckled lightly, though there was precious little humor in the sound. "…but I don't think it's anything you would want to give me."
His words sent a cold shudder down her spine, but she resolved not to show it, nor would she back down. "I told you. Name any one favor, and I'll do it So just say it, okay?"
He reached out and carefully brushed an errant strand of hair away from her forehead, catching it between his long, clever fingers. "…forgive me?"
That gave her a start. There were any number of things she had been expecting, a couple of them nearly unprintable, but that was not one of them. "What?"
"I know I shouldn't be asking. Don't really have any right to ask something like that of you, but it's what I want the most from you, Aoko," he said. He had slipped into that quiet tone of voice, one he rarely used. It was soft, soothing, bordering on the hypnotic, and somehow it had the power to make her feel like everything was right in the world.
Like she wanted to just forget everything that had gone wrong with him, between them, and just fall into his arms and let things go back to the way they were before.
When she didn't reply, he smiled. It was like a physical manifestation of that voice, quiet and calming and with a power over her that she could not understand. "I'm sorry. I shouldn't have asked." He turned away from her, that smile never wavering or sliding from his face, and he headed back towards the window with obvious intent to leave.
The thought of him leaving now broke her heart. "Kaito!" she said his name before she really realized she was doing it. He paused and glanced back at her. She hesitated, then again spoke before she truly grasped the words coming out of her mouth. "What if…I already have?"
If the situation wasn't so precarious, she might have felt a sense of victory at the fact that she had managed to surprise him, if the goggled look in his eyes was any indication. But at that moment, it just made her want to cry.
And cry she did, to her utter chagrin. The first tear slipped free and ran down her cheek as she repeated herself, helpless to do anything else. "What if I've already forgiven you? What then?"
By the time the whole situation caught up with her, there were arms around her and her face was pressed into a blue sweater, and her fingers were clutching desperately at the soft blue fleece. The spell was short lived, though, and she quickly regained control of herself. It almost hurt to step out of the circle of his arms, but she did so and looked at him through clearing eyes. "I'm sorry."
"…you'll need to pick another favor," Aoko said after a moment.
"You meant it," Kaito said softly, disbelieving. "You forgave me."
"I don't know why. But I did. I do." That wasn't completely true. She did know why. There were a couple of reasons, but she was determined to keep those close to her heart for the time being. It was not yet time. "So think of something else."
How strange that she could almost feel like things were how they had once been between them. It was almost like old conversations, where she had been teasing him, demanding he tell her something he wanted for his birthday or Christmas or some such thing. It was almost like she could have woken up and found the whole thing to be a sickening dream.
Kaito visibly thought for a moment before he looked her squarely in the eye. To her surprise, he smiled. A big, wide grin that said it was just plain good to be alive. Before she had time to get worried, he spoke up. "Let me take you flying."
"Let me taking you flying."
Aoko swallowed hard and again peered down over the edge of the skyscraper's roof. It was a really, really long way down, no matter which way she looked at it. She stepped back again, wrapping her arms around herself against the wind and her own nerves. Agreeing to this was starting to seem like it had been a very bad idea. "Kaito, I'm not so sure about this anymore."
When she turned around, she was startled to realized that sometime in the thirty seconds between them arriving on the rooftop and her looking at him now, he had changed clothes. When he had come to get her for this little outing, he had been neatly dressed in a suit, sans tie. Now he was Kaitou Kid, the white light of the moon glinting off the circle of his monocle.
Aoko swallowed hard. It was like seeing him here and now, in that outfit, had finally driven home the truth. He was Kaitou Kid, and she had agreed to put her life in his hands and let him carry her off into the night sky. Only now did it seem truly real to her.
At her stare, he shrugged. "How else would I take you flying?"
She glanced away quickly. "I know. But—"
A wave of one white-gloved hand. "You don't have to explain anything. But thank you for agreeing to this, Aoko. It does mean a lot to me." A dazzling smile that shone through the darkness and had probably melted hearts far harder than hers.
Her eyes drifted back towards the edge of the roof they were about to jump off. "I'm starting to really regret letting you buy me dinner tonight, Kaito. Because I'm really not sure that salad is going to stay where it's supposed to be." Her stomach was already turning at the whole thing, and they hadn't even moved over towards the edge of the roof.
She did, however, spare a moment to be grateful that she had possessed the common sense to wear pants for this little adventure. Pants were her friend. Pants were her companions. Pants would prevent Kaito from having more fun with this than he was really entitled to.
One hand touched her arm, guiding her towards the precipice. She shivered slightly, though whether it was from the sensual touch of smooth silk against her arm or just the fact that it was his hand she wasn't sure. Eventually she decided that it was because of the slight chill in the air and left it at that. But she did not resist, and let him move her right up to the edge. Her toes stopped perfectly in line with the end of the roof.
Again Aoko looked down, and again she had second, third, fourth, fifth, and twentieth thoughts, all in rapid succession and all more elaborately fatal than the one before. "Kaito, I don't think I can do this." She sort of hated herself for saying that, especially after she had promised him that she would do any one favor. She didn't want to break that promise, and yet she truly wasn't sure that she could let herself step over the edge and drop like that.
Behind her, she heard Kaito chuckle. "There's nothing to be afraid of."
"Easy for you to say. I'm going to drop like a brick," Aoko swallowed hard. Her heart was making a frantic attempt to jump up into her throat, and she was fairly sure that her stomach was no longer where it was truly supposed to be.
One arm slid around her waist; the other came to rest on her shoulder, and she was pulled back ever so slightly against a solid body. There was a warm breath, tickling the back of her neck. And then Kaito's voice was in her ear. "Do you really think I would let you fall?"
Try as she might, she couldn't even truly entertain the thought. "No…"
"Then don't be afraid," he said in that same soothing voice. His hold on her hadn't loosened in the slightest. "I wouldn't have brought you up here if I thought there was even the slightest chance it might put you in danger. There's a reason I wanted to do this with you, and you'll see what it is in just a minute. Just hold onto me, and you'll be fine."
She felt something else around her waist, and realized that he had actually anchored her to him. It made her feel better, if a bit silly. He wouldn't let her fall. Now if she could just get past the fact that she seemed to have developed a rather sudden fear of heights…
"Ready?" he asked.
"No…" Again, her dinner was threatening to make an unscheduled reappearance.
"Aoko, I'm not moving until you say it's all right," Kaito said. Now he sounded just the tiniest bit exasperated. "And I warn you, I have no real qualms about standing here all night."
"You're sure it'll hold the weight of two?" she asked after a moment.
"It has before."
She swallowed hard in an attempt to dislodge a lump that had taken up residence there. As frightened as she was, she was also curious. She wanted to know why Kaito liked flying so much, and why he was so eager to share this with her. He had said she would understand once the wind was beneath their wings, but she just had to work up the nerve to take that step and take the plunge.
Behind her, he was waiting patiently, calmly, for her explicit permission. If it came down to it, he would not force her off the roof and into the arms of gravity. Somehow, that gave her a bit of courage.
Aoko took one more deep breath and barely managed to choke out a single word: "Okay."
He tensed behind her, hesitated. And just when she was about to open her mouth to change her mind, she felt him move. He tightened his hold on her, pushed her forward slightly, leaned into her—
And just as Aoko started to scream that maybe it wasn't okay, they were off the roof and plunging into the embrace of the night wind, towards the ground. Which was coming up to meet them far more quickly than Aoko would have liked. Really, he couldn't possibly get the glider out fast enough to stop them from hitting the pavement, could he?
Aoko heard a scream tear from her mouth, and she closed her eyes. Just then, she felt Kaito tense again (how could he be so relaxed in the first place that tension would be noticeable?), and then there was a pull and they were jerking up towards the sky and away from the ground and the pavement and the inevitable messy splatty death—
And then there was just the wind in her hair and Kaito's arms around her and Kaito's laugh in her ears.
"You can open your eyes now," he whispered.
She obediently did so, and was immediately happy that she did. It was a clear night over the city, and the result was almost like a light show. Below them, the artificial lights of the city with its cars and skyscrapers and towers. Above them, the stars and the moon and the guiding lights of the heavens.
For a moment, Aoko forgot to breathe.
And for once, Kaito didn't tease her about it. He just asked her a question. "Do you see why I wanted to show this to you?" She could actually hear the smile in his voice. It was easy to forget that she was technically in the arms of a wanted fugitive, being held by a man she cared for deeply while he was wearing the guise of the man she hated most as they flew without true wings.
Tonight was a night for paradoxes, it seemed.
For now, she pushed them from her mind and just took in the sight for what it was: magic of a sort both real and fantastic. It was easily one of the most beautiful things she had ever borne witness to. And somehow, sharing it with him made it all the more wonderful. Not that she would actually so, of course.
Another of those light chuckles against her ear. "Do you like it?"
"Kaito, this is wonderful…" she said. She wanted to say more, but the rest of the words seemed to get lost in her mouth. It wasn't until a moment later that she realized she was holding onto him a bit more tightly, keeping him a bit closer. It was all perfectly comfortable, and any fears of falling or being dropped had long since fled from her mind.
All too soon, she heard him sigh. "I think we need to land. We're losing altitude." Kaito hadn't said too much during their flight, instead acting as a silent observer to her reactions as she took in an entirely different vantage point on the world around her.
Aoko nodded, though not without regret. "All right…"
A smile full of hope. "We can go again sometime, if you want?"
A smile in return. "I'd like that." She glanced down and realized that they were, indeed, getting very close to the ground. "Do you know where we're going to land?" It was only now that she began to recall once again that they were heading towards the earth from a very high distance, and there was the potential for injury. Still, nothing had gone wrong yet. Best to just put her trust in Kaito.
"I do, actually. Mapped this out yesterday," he said. "You should recognize the place, too." He paused, then grinned at her. "How do you feel about a rolling landing?"
"…I can handle it."
"Great. Then get ready to do a barrel roll."
The ground was coming, coming…and then the glider was gone and she was falling for just a moment before she hit the earth. She felt and smelled grass and dirt, and instinctively pulled her arms in as tightly as possible as she rolled across the uneven ground, coming to a stop several meters away from her first point of impact. She was not harmed; rather, the whole thing had actually been sort of fun.
She heard Kaito land with a soft grunt and the small sound effects of his own journey to a stop. She sensed, rather than saw, that he was laying next to her. Her eyes were firmly fixated on the star-filled sky above them, the constellations partially obscured by the shadows of the trees overlooking the area. It was a beautiful night.
When Aoko lifted her head to look at Kaito, she realized that the Kaitou Kid uniform had vanished. He was back in the same dark blue suit he had been wearing when they had set out on this little evening adventure. There was nothing to indicate that he was anything other than a normal young man out on a normal date with a normal young woman.
…and good heavens had she really just thought of this outing as a date?
Kaito was already getting up and brushing himself off. He grinned and offered her a hand, which she accepted. "Sorry that was a little bit rough. Landing is always the worst part of that."
Aoko kept her hold on his hand for a second longer than she really had to. "Kaito…thank you for this."
He smiled, then glanced past her, over her shoulder towards the space behind her. "Do you recognize where we are, Aoko?"
She turned automatically, and found herself staring at a playground. The equipment was old and worn, nestled in a tree-lined area on the edge of the residential area where they both lived. It was a place she knew very well, though it was somewhere she hadn't actually come in a very long time. "This is the park," she said slowly. "We used to play here all the time when we were kids."
"Dad brought us here a lot, do you remember?" he asked.
"This is where I learned how to jump off a swing. Nearly broke my leg the first time," Aoko said. She had started walking towards the playground equipment, barely realizing she was doing it. "I landed wrong." One hand reached out to touch the rusty chain, and she turned, letting herself sink down into the swing. It creaked slightly in protest, but held her weight.
Kaito had followed her, and sat down in the swing beside hers. "I remember that. Or remember how it was sort of a personal mission to try and swing all the way over the bar?" He glanced up at the metal beam from which the swings hung. "Supposedly, you would either turn yourself inside out, or you'd wind up in some sort of a backwards dimension or something if you did it."
"No one ever managed it," she grinned. "No, my favorite was definitely jumping from the swing when it was at the highest point you could get it to. Then for a second or two, you could just fly." A happy sigh. "When you're six years old, that's pretty awesome stuff." She dug her toes into the ground and started herself swinging, not a lot but enough to make the old swing set groan.
Kaito stood up and moved behind her. She didn't even attempt to watch him move; she knew what he was going to do the instant he stood up, and she was right. Two hands touched her back and pressed, sending her swinging forward with a big more vigor than before. She went up and then back again. Once again, those hands were on her back, pushing again.
Leave it to Kaito to think a good date idea was pushing her on a swing.
"I remember that it took you forever to learn how to pump your legs on a swing," he said.
"I know. I just couldn't get the hang of it. It felt like I was just kicking and not really getting anywhere," she admitted. "It was a while before I realized that you had to get the whole body into it and lean back and time the push so you could really get some air."
"The physics of the playground," Kaito said.
"If only high school physics could be that entertaining."
They fell silent for a while, the only sound the creak of the swing set and the soft whoosh of displaced air as she traveled time and time again in that swinging arc. But after a few minutes of this, Kaito moved again, stepping around her to watch as she let herself slow down, coming almost to a complete stop. He caught her before she stopped entirely, though, putting his hands on the chains and pushing her swing back until they were at the same eye level. He was supporting her like that; her toes were barely touching the dirt.
"Did you enjoy tonight?" he asked quietly.
"I did," she said. She glanced down, then back up at him, startled to feel herself smile. "Kaito, I don't trust you right now. You know why, and I think you understand why. You hurt me very, very deeply, and it's going to take some time before I really get over it. But try as I might, I can't seem to hate you."
He did not speak, seeming to sense that she was not finished yet.
"I've been avoiding you because I wanted to do the right thing, but try as I might, I just could never quite figure out what the right thing is. And you know what? I still don't know. I don't know if there is a right thing for me to do in this situation," she tilted her head back and looked up towards the stars. "No matter which way I go, I betray someone or something, be it my friend, my father, or my principles."
"I always figured I'd lose," he admitted.
"But then I sort of realized it while we were flying," she went on, her eyes still cast skyward. "If you're doing this and working for the police, then…we're on the same side again. I know it sound simplistic, but you're working with my dad. With the police. And you saved those kids, Kaito. Not to mention the fact that I know you better than anyone else. I know you're not a bad person."
"…but this is very bad behavior?"
"Extremely bad," she laughed. Then her smile grew a bit more somber. "I don't trust you. It's going to be a very long time before you can say something to me and I take it at face value. I'll be questioning you a lot, everything you say and do. So I wanted you to know that, and understand that…" She took a deep breath, "…and decide if you think it's worth it."
Kaito was silent a moment. "If it's worth it to stick around and regain your trust, you mean?"
"It could take a long time…"
"But it's possible?"
She was a bit surprised at how eagerly he asked that question. "Yes, Kaito, it is."
His grin was as brilliant as the moon. "Tell me when the moment comes, okay? I'll still be here, and I'll make sure I throw a really big party." He was joking, of course, but she knew him well enough to understand what was going on behind the teasing words. He was thrilled.
"I'll tell you," she said. She paused, then said, "What are you thinking right now?"
"Just thinking about what should happen now," he said.
Aoko tilted her head to the side. Several possibilities flickered through her mind, and she decided that since they were this far into it, she might as well just be honest. "If you keep pushing me on the swing, I'll come up with more memories from when we were kids. If you take me for a walk, I'll hold your hand." She hesitated for a fraction of a second before she added, in a much softer voice, "And if you kiss me, I'll kiss you back."
There was a beat of startled quiet between them.
Then Kaito leaned his head forward ever so slightly, pausing mere centimeters from making contact. "You're sure about this?" he asked, the concern in his voice mixed with something she could not name.
"I don't trust you right now, Kaito," she said. "But I will trust you again someday." Someday. It seemed to describe a time in the distant future, and yet for the way things were going tonight, it could very well be tomorrow morning.
That statement seemed to be all the reassurance he needed. Kaito kept one hand on the swing chain, and moved the other to touch her cheek. He closed the distance between them and kissed her.
And true to her word, Aoko kissed him back.
It was several weeks later, after the raid on the brothel, after the trial of the kidnappers, and after a very special date in which two heartbroken young people found each other again that Nakamori Ginzo walked into his office to begin work for the day.
And found a note on his desk with a very familiar doodle on it, smirking at him.
AN: And with this, we conclude A Perfect Act. This is one of those ideas that bit a long time ago and wouldn't leave me alone. It just needed some time to develop into a full-length story, which it did! And then spawned more ideas. Yes, there will be sequels, though they are not yet really planned out. At present, I have two ideas for stories to follow this one. We'll see what happens from there.
I hope you enjoyed the chapter and the story. Thanks for reading, all! Much love!