Departure


Everything was hazy, and Shinichi felt like he was floating on the edge of exhaustion. His body felt too heavy, and sluggish. He couldn't even tell if his eyes were open or not. What he wanted, more than anything, was to slip back into the blissful black depths and just sleep.

"Shinichi," a dark voice murmured, and Shinichi immediately turned toward the sound. "Stay awake a little longer."

Forcing his eyes open he stared up at the blurry world. A hazy figure was leaning over him, all white and dark navy, and details he couldn't make out. Shinichi mumbled something that he thought might have been Kuroba's name, but it was so slurred that even he couldn't tell what he had said.

A blurry white hand came into his field of view and palmed his cheek. The way Kuroba's thumb slid back and forth over the skin of Shinichi's cheek was oddly tender, and only made everything feel far more surreal than it already did. "Shhh," Kuroba shushed.

The hazy figure leaned down, his lips molding gently against Shinichi's in a slow kiss that tasted like blood, and made Shinichi sigh as he relaxed back into the mattress beneath him. Kuroba's hand slid up as he pulled away, and brushed his fringe back.

"C-cold..." Shinichi whispered.

He hadn't realized how cold he felt until now. That sluggish feeling was dragging at him even more, black eating at the edges of his vision.

"Shhh," Kuroba murmured again, stroking his hair back in absent sweeps. "I'll make it better in a moment."

He tried to roll over and curl against Kuroba's side, a heavy presence on the bed next to him, but his body refused to move, was apparently too weak to so much as twitch, and Kuroba's other hand was splayed on his chest. It wasn't even a weight, just resting there but was more than enough to keep him still.

"Young master, I've brought you the last of it. I'm afraid there isn't much." Shinichi gave a small curious sound at the vaguely familiar voice. His mind was swimming too much to place it.

Kuroba turned away from him, his hand lifting from Shinichi's chest but Shinichi was beyond caring then. Soothing blackness was creeping over his vision and drowning the world. The sound of their voices was starting to gain a sort of muffled quality as if he were slipping to sleep, or listening at a distance.

"It's enough for what needs to be done." A glass full of clear liquid that seemed to catch every bit of faint light and glitter moved through his swimming vision before Shinichi felt the cool, smooth, lip of the glass against his lips. As if from a distance heard Kuroba's voice coax softly, "Drink. Just a mouthful."

Eyelids fluttering fitfully, Shinichi could just make out Kuroba hovering above him as the liquid poured into his slack mouth, as it slid down his throat, it felt like swallowing oil.

Shinichi closed his eyes, and finally gave in to the heaviness dragging insistently at his limbs.


"Why were you even out there?"

"I happened to see Kudou-kun as he left! So Ran and I followed him to see where he was going, and we stumbled across... T-that...what I told you about! Anyway, are you sure we should wake him up?"

"I want to know from Kudou's own mouth if what yer tellin' me is true, ahou. I don't care what some creepy maid says about him still sleepin'! I've never heard of Kudou sleepin' this late anyway."

"WHAT?! You don't believe me, Heiji? You complete AHOU."

"Stop screamin' ahou!"

Shinichi groaned as his door was slammed open, the heavy sound of storming footsteps seemed to be in his head rather than on the floor itself. His head was throbbing, his stomach twisting angrily, and he felt that if he moved he was going to throw up.

"Yer screamin' too!" Toyama snarled as she stomped in right behind Hattori. "So don't you tell me to stop. I can't believe you don't believe me!"

"It's kinda hard to believe you when yer tellin' me all kinds of wild tales!" Hattori bellowed.

Slowly peeling his eyes open Shinichi noted that they felt awfully gritty and dry. He felt completely awful to be honest, and his entire body ached. Shinichi really, really wished the pair from Osaka would shut up. The moment he tried to open his mouth and tell them that, though, he realized what a bad idea that was. Bolting up faster than he'd expected to be able, Shinichi rolled to the side and wretched over the side of the bed.

Not much came out, just a bit of saliva and stomach acid, before he was left dry heaving. Still, the way his stomach was convulsing was enough to make his eyes leak a bit, and set his nose to running. At least it had made Hattori and Toyama stop arguing though.

"Shit, Kudou," He heard Hattori murmur at the same time Toyama gasped, "Kudou-kun!"

Groaning quietly, Shinichi brought his hand up and dashed the back of it over his lips, grimacing at the feel of snot and saliva on his skin. A hand touched his shoulder and Toyama's voice, laced with concern, asked, "A-are you okay, Kudou-kun?"

Her touch was light, barely there, as if she were going to jerk away at any moment. Shinichi didn't bother to think about it, refused to think about it. Last night... It couldn't be real, could it? He... he was in his bed, though. It was a dream... right? Groaning again, and breathing through his mouth as his stomach threatened to heave again, he swallowed hard, refusing to answer.

Footsteps thumped across the floor, and a moment later he heard Toyama yelp, "Heiji! Don't!"

With a slight clatter and a rustle, Heiji jerked the drapes aside and let a brilliant spill of golden tinted sunlight enter the room. In a detached manner, Shinichi's mind noted that the thick coloration of the light meant it was late afternoon. He'd lost an entire day.

"What's yer problem?!" He heard Hattori snarl as he whirled away from the balcony doors toward Toyama who'd taken several quick steps toward him.

Shinichi, now that his stomach no longer felt like it was trying to crawl out of his throat, sagged back onto the bed, his gaze riveted on the canopy. His skin felt tight and hot, feverish, but it was starting to fade as if he were rapidly getting over some sickness.

"For all we know you coulda killed him, you ahou!" Toyama raged.

"And how d'you figure that?" Heiji growled. "I wasn't anywhere near him!"

"He coulda been a vampire! What then?"

While Hattori sputtered at Toyama's claims, Shinichi went cold all over as the implications of that single grouping of words sank in with unshakeable tenacity. Images from the night before assailed him in a dizzying whirl that just about made his stomach rebel again. Slowly, Shinichi turned his head to stare at Toyama.

The sleeveless blouse she wore bared her upper arm, showing the stark bandages wrapped there and her shorts displayed a number of scrapes and bruises on her legs.

It hit him then, as he stared numbly at Toyama that Ran... Oh god.

"Ran," he half whispered, half croaked, voice rasping harshly in his throat. It felt like sandpaper just to speak. He didn't think they heard him though.

"Don't tell me yer still on about that!" Whirling away from Toyama, Hattori stomped over to the side of the bed where Shinichi was busy trying to extricate himself. "Kudou!" he barked, "Tell this ahou that there aren't any vampires!"

Finally kicking his blankets aside Shinichi sat up, only half noting that he was still dressed in the rumpled cloths he'd worn yesterday, his shirt still open and unbuttoned and dried blood caking his chest and neck. Through his sudden dizzy spell, Shinichi thought he heard Hattori swear and ask him what had happened.

Shoving Hattori's hands aside, Shinichi staggered to his feet and took a swaying step toward Toyama. Hattori's hand caught him under the elbow and kept from from crumpling.

"Where's Ran?" Shinichi demanded, voice much stronger and more clear.

Toyama seemed to flare up at his words, anger coloring her cheeks a temperamental shade of red. She stepped forward hand coming up, and a finger prodded him in his chest with surprising strength. "You! I can't believe you would dare to ask that after what you did! Do you have any idea what you did to her? Huh?" She didn't even pause, and Shinichi wouldn't have answered even if she had. He just stared at her as she continued her tirade, Hattori's grip on his bicep tightening. "She saw everything! I saw everything, and then we were attacked by those things. You don't even care at all do you? Well?!"

Shinichi stared at her, trying to make sense of her accusation and anger through the dull throbbing in his head. "What goes on between Ran and I has never been, and never will be, any of your business Toyama," he snapped at last, feeling both guilty and pleased when the girl reared back as if she'd been slapped. He'd been wanting to say that to someone, anyone, for so long. He was damned tired of everyone insisting that his 'relationship' with Ran was their business. It just wasn't.

"Kudou! You are a complete and utter bastard, you know that don't you?!" Her hand came up again, and for a moment he was sure she was going to hit him, and she seemed sure of it as well until she clenched her hand into a fist and let it drop back to her side. "I hope you know you broke her heart with the way you were lettin' that... that creep put his hands all over you!"

Curling his lip into a sneer, Shinichi shot back, "Did you enjoy the show?"

The girl jerked back a step this time, and Shinichi couldn't help but wonder at his own defensiveness. He'd never been like this, and couldn't really understand what was wrong with him now, but... Everything she was saying was putting him on edge.

Hattori tugged on his arm, spinning Shinichi around to face him. The yellow tinted sunlight made Hattori's tan skin look bronzed, though the faint yellow overtone made Shinichi flashback to when he'd first laid eyes on Kuroba, and he blanched slightly. If he'd known what he did now would he have turn and run?

His stomach clenched at how uncertain and indecisive he felt. Surely the answer was obvious? Meeting Hattori's green eyed glare impassively, Shinichi barely heard the growled words his friend spoke, "I don't know what yer problem is Kudou, but don't you talk to Kazuha like that."

Shinichi obstinately turned his head, staring blankly at a nearby wall. Hattori's grip tightened on his upper arms, and Shinichi imagined it was taking everything the other detective had not to shake him.

"Heiji, just... stop."

"Kudou!"

Slanting a look at Hattori from the corner of his eyes Shinichi asked, "What do you want Hattori?"

Hattori was gaping at him like he'd never seen anything so strange. Shinichi just wished he would get his hands off of him. "What the hell is wrong with you Kudou?! 'Neechan and that other guy are missin' and Kazuha's tellin' me our host is a psychopathic vampire with a taste for you, in particular."

He could feel a hysterical laugh bubbling up, and Shinichi couldn't stop it. In moments he was laughing so hard it hurt, and he could see them: See the way the two stared at him like he was insane, and maybe he was. He couldn't tell anymore, and maybe he just didn't care. He laughed, gasping out between fits, "I told you, didn't I? Told you that you didn't have to worry about his supposed interest in your little not-girlfriend."

His friend released him like he was touching a red hot metal and stepped back, staring at him with wide eyes, "Kudou... I think you've finally cracked."

The announcement only made Shinichi laugh harder, and he sunk down on the edge of the bed, his head in his hands. He laughed until he didn't know if he was laughing or sobbing, and never saw the nervous glances the pair exchanged over his head. Reaching unconsciously for the bite marks he knew should be on his body, he found only the irregular texture of small, barely noticeable, scars.

"Ran and Hakuba are gone?" he heard himself ask, and was shocked at how calm and detached his voice sounded. It took every bit of control he had not to add 'But he promised!' like some child who'd had the promise to go to the park broken. Everything just felt so completely surreal, and he... He felt bereft and confused.

He needed to find Kuroba. Needed to demand, once and for all, what the hell was going on. Needed to... Shinichi swallowed hard, refusing to follow that train of thoughts, because they made his belly clench in anticipation.

"Hakuba-kun saved her," Toyama whispered. Shinichi looked up, finding the girl hovering behind a rather pale looking Heiji. Her arms were wrapped around her stomach, her head angled down. She refused to look at him, her eyes darting around frantically and never focusing anywhere near him. "I bet your little vampire friend killed them."

Biting back the arguments, that Kuroba had promised he wouldn't, Shinichi stood abruptly and made his way toward the door. Without looking back, without really thinking about it, he simply said, "I'm going to go search."

Except, he wasn't going to go look for Ran and Hakuba, he was going to find Kuroba, and he had an idea of the best place to start.

As the door closed behind him he heard Toyama's faint, "He saved Ran...which is more than you did."

The accusations didn't hurt as much as Shinichi thought they probably should, and yet tore at him so much more than he expected in totally different ways. Toyama could be angry all she wanted, but maybe it was just him... Wasn't he just as much of a victim in this twisted scenario as anyone else? He supposed he made an effective target though.

At least, he thought grimly as he stalked down the hall, he knew exactly where to begin looking for the vampire. Shinichi had no idea what he was going to do when he found him, but... Well, he'd figure it out as he went along. He just had to find Kuroba.

His steps carried him into the main hall, and, without really giving it a thought, he strode across the balcony toward the entrance to the west wing's third floor. Shinichi wasn't sure what he was expecting, but the hall wasn't it. It was... Well, rather ordinary and looked every much like the one in the east wing.

Slowing his pace down as he reached the first door, Shinichi reached out and turned the handle. Pushing the door open he peered inside. In the hazy gloom of the room he couldn't make out anything much at all. Some odds and ends of furniture, hidden beneath dust covers and sheets, perhaps, but that was it.

Turning away he continued on, checking each door as he came to it. Each room revealed more of the same, until now. Shinichi stared silently at the room, eyes taking in the bed tucked against one wall. Bookshelves stood against another, and a desk sat at one side. Old things, like favorite childhood toys and knickknacks, stood here and there, and everything was covered in a fine layer of dust.

Forcing himself to let go of the doorknob, Shinichi stepped into the room. The thick layer of dust on the carpet muffled his footsteps. Walking over to the desk he looked down at it, at the pencil sitting there a top a piece of paper. Reaching down he pinched a corner and pulled it up, dust and grime slid off revealing a dirty, yellowed, sheet beneath. The pencil rolled to a stop on the surface of the desk.

Spots on the paper looked water stained.

Eying the sheet, a few shakily penned kanji caught his attention.

"Aoko, I'm sorry I couldn't stop her and," he read softly, the words cut off after that, too faded to be seen. Further down more said, "Too sick to do much."

Feeling an odd sort of trepidation, Shinichi put the paper back down, and turned away. This whole thing had a dream like quality to it, and Shinichi half wondered if, in a few moments, he would wake up and find he was still in the car with the other three traveling toward the next case.

Whatever the case may be, he needed to see this through to the end.

A faint glimmer in the thick shadows caught his attention, and Shinichi stepped quietly over, his arms unconsciously wrapping around himself. For some reason he felt oddly exposed, or maybe the right word was oddly helpless. Stepping hesitantly closer to the shelf he squinted at the items. Rectangular in shape, with a glass front...picture frames. The glass was just as heavily frosted in grime as everything else, and, with tentative hands, Shinichi reached out and picked one of them up.

Pulling up the hem of his shirt, Shinichi used it to wipe away the thick layer of dust. Slowly, from beneath the sheet of grime an image was revealed to him of a girl and a boy. The boy was easy enough to recognize with his messy hair and gleaming eyes, but the wide happy grin was nothing like the predatory smirk Shinichi was so used to seeing.

Strangely, he ached at the sight, because there was something so horrifically saddening about seeing this glimpse of the past. Even through the faded colors of the already old styled photograph, he could tell that the girl was the same one from the painting in the music room.

Feeling suddenly like an intruder, possibly because he was one, Shinichi set the picture back down and pulled back quickly. He hadn't made sure it was balanced correctly, and, even as he turned away, heard the sharp snap of it fall onto the wood of the shelf.

Shinichi didn't dare look back, and merely hurried out the door, closing it behind himself, and attempting to get his breathing under control. He had a feeling that he was beginning to garner an understanding of Kuroba, but, now, the question was...Did he want that understanding or not?

What, in the end, would it cost him?

Shaking aside the plaguing questions, Shinichi shoved away from the door and continued down the hall where he stopped before a pair of double doors. They weren't ornate, and didn't even seem imposing, and yet... He half wanted to shy away from them. Still, something told him, whether it was detective instincts or that nagging need to find the vampire, that this is where he'd been heading this entire time. Kind of like he'd just been stalling so he could avoid making the choice he would have to make.

Only, Shinichi realized as he tugged open one of the doors, he had no idea what that decision was.

Everything had been so confusing lately, and he just didn't know where he stood anymore. It was like his entire world, packed neatly into a little box, had been shaken from the very foundations on up. Everything was disordered, nothing made sense anymore, and Shinichi wasn't sure how he could make it make sense again.

Would forgetting all of this do it? Or, was the only way to set things right with himself to move forward?

Steadying himself, and drawing on that stubborn determination that had him solve every mystery he came up against in the past(Except that one, but thinking of that failure now wouldn't do him any good.), Shinichi stepped through the door. The room he entered wasn't anything like he'd been expecting it was... like a sort of sun room. An elegant chez lounge was settled across the room from him. It was devoid of the thick dust that had plagued the rest of the rooms. That was, at least, proof that this room was lived in.

However, the most prominent features were the huge bay windows facing east and west, the ceiling above was a skylight, and through the windows spilled the thick red orange glow of the setting sun. It turned the entire room fiery, tinted it all with that fading glow and a warning of how little time he truly had left.

What really drew the eye, though, was what was settled at the center of the room. There, on a central pedestal was a fist sized red stone. The vibrancy of the sunset set its facets alight, reflecting glancing red sparks from the smooth surface and sending them dancing across the room. The stone was not contained in a case, but, instead, sat atop its pedestal in a delicate looking gold stand.

From the jewel, Shinichi's eyes were drawn to the large painting behind it. It was, to be frank, an extremely eerie painting. The main focus was a woman with long, dark red hair. Her arms were hauled above her, wrists twisted in thorns, and her chest was open from the flesh down, bare breasts hanging to the sides in a macabre display. What was the strangest part, Shinichi felt, was the fact that her face didn't display any sort of pain. Her breast bone and ribs may have been splintered, her lungs and organs on display (and, Shinichi noted with a hint of unease, that she had no heart), but her face looked covetous. She stared directly out of the painting, her lips twisted in a come hither smile, and greed in her eyes.

All around her demons twisted and writhed, thorny vines crawling over her bare hips and disappearing along her pale thighs toward the bottom of the frame.

And, there, beneath the painting, and beneath its name plaque, there was something that drew Shinichi's attention. Stepping around the pedestal on which the ruby red gem was placed he moved closer to the painting. A shelf of sorts was suspended there, raised edges cradling a velvet lined interior over which a glass lid lay closed.

Briefly, Shinichi's attention paused on the brass nameplate, reading the title: The Red Witch's Envy.

Lowering his eyes further he peered through the glass at the object contained within: An athame who's blade was as black as the metal of its hilt. It wasn't ornate, or bejeweled, or anything special at first glance, though, as Shinichi lifted the lid on the case and picked the blade up by the hilt, he thought he saw the shape of some sort of runic writing glimmer on the surface of the flat side. Tilting it slightly in the slowly dying sunlight he watched light glance off the tip and slice along the double edges of the tapered blade.

Clenching his fingers around the leather wrapped hilt, Shinichi turned and faced the door he had, until now, ignored. Knuckles white, he strode purposely toward it and pulled it open without giving himself a chance to think about what he was doing.

Stepping slowly into the room he stood still, his eyes adjusting to the thick darkness, and his heart thumping double time in his chest. He was waiting, any second, for Kuroba to appear and... Well, he wasn't sure what would happen. His body, mind, heart seemed to be torn in multiple directions of where that encounter could go.

It was pitch black here, no windows to let in even a sliver of light. The only illumination seeped in from the door Shinichi himself stood in, spilling across the floor and nearly reaching the foot of the large four poster bed standing in the center of it, headboard against the far wall. Though he could not tell the color of the bedding, it was dark and made the single figure laying in the middle of the bed stand out shockingly.

Kuroba looked the same as he'd seen him last, his suit jacket undone, and the rest of his clothing disarrayed. His face was pale, and the wild mess of his hair seemed to blend with the shadows and blankets. The vampire hadn't even bothered to slide beneath the covers, merely lay atop them on his back.

Creeping silently across the room, Shinichi came up alongside the bed and settled a knee onto the giving surface of the mattress. He was reminded, vividly, of his first night here when it was Kuroba who had come creeping into his room, into his bed.

One of Kuroba's hands was laying on the pillow by his head, fingers curled in toward his palm. His chest did not rise and fall, though his lips were slack and parted and, Shinichi noted with a faint start, there was still a rusty stain on them. Shinichi startled when he realized he'd been reaching toward the vampire's face.

Pulling his hand forcefully back, he hadn't even realized he'd been reaching for the vampire, Shinichi adjusted his grip on the athame.

It was the right thing to do, wasn't it? The only way to end this was to make sure Kuroba was gone, and to do that... To do that he had to pierce him through the heart. It wasn't a wooden stake or anything, but it would work. He was sure of that.

And, yet, despite that, even as Shinichi raised his hand poised to plunge the blade toward the vampire's chest, his hand trembled with indecision. The choice shouldn't be hard, he should want Kuroba gone for everything the vampire had done to him. Enthralled him, bewitched him, changed him...

Shinichi stared at Kuroba's pale features, the way his messy fringe fell over his forehead, wisps of coarse ink dark hair curling against the lighter tone of his skin, and dark eyelashes resting on the upper curve of his cheekbones that held no healthy human flush... Even the strange stillness of him as he slept. It was... strangely enticing and a part of Shinichi merely wanted to lay down, curl up against the vampire's side and wait for him to wake.

His mind, the hunger that had been settled in his stomach for as long as he'd been conscious whispered to him of possibilities, and begged him to submit, to give in, and languish in the promises Kuroba had whispered to him.

He didn't know how long he sat there, poised to destroy Kuroba as he argued with himself, body and soul. All Shinichi knew was one moment he was staring at Kuroba's placid, sleeping face and the next he was looking into fathomless eyes that made his breathe hitch.

In the first few seconds of his waking, the vampire looked dazed and confused, weak, and the logical vicious part of Shinichi's mind that refused to bend to any of this screamed at him that now was his last chance to strike, but.. he just couldn't bring himself to do it. The next moment Kuroba had gotten a hold of himself, and taken stock of his surroundings. A stillness settled over the vampire, that slowly transformed into a smoldering anger that crawled beneath his pale skin like a living thing.

Kuroba's hand snapped up, closing around his wrist hard enough to make it ache. Shinichi didn't fight, merely turned his hand when Kuroba began putting pressure on it and willingly dropped the athame. It fell against the dark coverlet without a sound.

The expression on Kuroba's face scared him slightly. It was stillness and anger and such a deep seated fury that Shinichi nearly lost his nerve right then and there, almost began to struggle to get away. Something else, though, held him still. He couldn't say what it was for sure, and maybe he was just fooling himself, but he thought that he could see betrayal and pain in those gleaming eyes as well.

But, why? He was just another human, just another source of food for him wasn't he? This wasn't some stupid vampiric romance like those stories Ran's friend Sonoko seemed to find so amazing. He didn't feel anything for Kuroba beyond an intense lust, which was disconcerting in and of itself, yet, despite that he didn't like the way the vampire was looking at him.

The only warning Shinichi had was when Kuroba's grip tightened, then everything seemed to shift and, for a moment, he was confused before his back thumped against a wall, and his breath exploded from his lungs in a quick burst. Dizzy, Shinichi gasped for breath and watched the world tilt like he was on the deck of a ship. Shaking his head he was finally able to focus on Kuroba as the vampire slid off the bed and prowled toward him like a panther, all loose easy movement and predatory grace.

It was only then that Shinichi realized he'd been tossed across the room like a rag doll. He was slightly frightened by the fact that Kuroba's sheer strength hadn't registered until right then. Numbly, Shinichi was finally able to focus on the vampire looming over him.

"You," Kuroba hissed, and Shinichi could hear the breath he didn't really need forcing its way passed Kuroba's clenched teeth. "You dare..."

Shinichi felt numb, cold, stupid, like he couldn't think, couldn't move, didn't know how to react. Part of him wanted to try and speak to Kuroba, talk him down, and tell him he wasn't going to... but would he have, given the chance? Could he have struck, plunged the knife into Kuroba's chest and forced it down, somehow, through bone and muscle until he hit his heart?

Somehow, he didn't think he was capable of it.

Kuroba, lips curled into a snarl, lifted his hand, and Shinichi resigned himself to whatever he was about to do somehow sure that this was it. However, Kuroba merely pointed toward the door and growled, "Get out."

Despite himself, Shinichi found himself scrambling through the door, and into the jewel room which was now suffused in moonlight. His steps were immediately arrested as he saw the jewel, no longer did it sit simply in its golden stand it glowed a beautiful, yet horrible, color. And, more than that it pulsed, a steady, rhythmic, beat... Like the beat of a heart, Shinichi realized with a subdued sense of dawning horror and realization. The light the jewel gave off pulsed with every throb leaving him mesmerized and a little shaken. It was easy to recall Kuroba's words from last night as he stared at it.

"Pretty, isn't it?" Kuroba's dark lilting voice whispered from behind him. There was an edge of restrained anger in it though, that made Shinichi flinch. "I tore it from her chest myself, that bitch who took everything from me with her petty greed and curses."

What could he say to that? There was no way to respond to such terrible vehemence, no way for Shinichi to say anything, because nothing could be said. Turning on his heel, not wanting to have Kuroba at his back, Shinichi's breath hitched in his chest at the terrifying picture the vampire created. Kuroba stood there, half in the doorway with the shadows thick over parts of him while the soft spread of moonlight seeping through the large windows of the jewel room cut a jagged highlight across the rest of him.

It was a moment where everything seemed possible, and nothing was impossible anymore. The supernatural was very real, standing there before him, staring at him, and angered by him. Shinichi had no idea what he'd done to garner Kuroba's attention, wasn't sure he should like the fact that he had– except that he did like it, very much so, and now craved for it like nothing else before in his life –but couldn't bring himself to care much anymore.

Anything resembling caring seemed to have slipped off into that hazy part of his brain that didn't have any real influence over him anymore. After all, what was the point in caring when you were faced with something so world shaking? Something that shattered your perceptions of everything?

Kuroba's face was stone cold, his skin tight, and his fingers kept twitching in a way that told Shinichi that his temper was still very much in full force. It was, perhaps, far more terrifying than if the vampire had merely attacked him, raged, and been a monster. This quiet unknown made a fine trembling slide along his muscles that Shinichi didn't much like.

"I invited you in," Kuroba murmured at last, when it was obvious that Shinichi would not be responding. "Let you stay in my home, and offered you things most mortals would kill for, have killed for... and yet you seek to kill me."

Shinichi flinched, but remained quiet, edging toward the door ever so slightly. Right then, only one thing had dawned on him: He did not know what Kuroba would do now that his anger had been set off, and Shinichi's only worry was for Toyama and Hattori who were both unaware of what was happening.

He had to warn them.

Kuroba had promised, but... how far would the vampire take his word? Was it only a one time deal, or was it only for as long as Shinichi was complacent? Had he ever kept his word at all?

"I had hoped... Shouldn't have expected..." Kuroba's hands clenched into fists, his shoulders hunching and tightening and his eyes dark with a unreadable mess of emotion. "Get out! Leave. Now!"

The yelled words were enough to make Shinichi flee, like a startled deer, even before Kuroba lunged at him. Flying to the door, Shinichi threw himself out, but a last glance back only showed him Kuroba standing over the pedestal where the gem sat, caught between the contrasting glows of red and silver light. He didn't let that slow his pace, just pelted down the hall without further thought. The only thing on his mind right then was finding his friends, or, he guessed, perhaps that should be past tense considering how things had been going lately.

His path carried him back to the east wing, and down the hall to his room. The door stood open, and Shinichi, hoping against hope that they were still there, skidded to a halt and grabbed the door casing for balance. Panting slightly, disheveled and eyes slightly wild, Shinichi scanned the room and came up empty.

With a snarled curse he whirled away, and darted back down the hall to Hattori's room. Throwing the door open he was met with the same emptiness as his own. Another couple long strides brought him to the room Ran and Toyama had shared, and it was equally as abandoned as the others.

"Damn it, damn it...Hattori! Toyama?!"

Trying not to panic, and hoping that the two of them weren't dead– Shinichi wasn't completely convinced his conscience would be able to shoulder the guilt. –he paused, listening hard. A scream broke the stillness of the manor house, drifting up from below and, well used to hearing people scream, he didn't find it hard to identify it as feminine. The probable cause was easy to surmise, and Shinichi didn't waste another moment.

Darting back to the foyer he took the stairs downward, jumping down them, and nearly falling as he hit the second landing. As he rounded the corner and dashed across the second floor balcony, Shinichi glanced down. There, on the ground floor, was Toyama and Hattori. Hattori had the girl behind him, face twisted in a mask of shock and horror at something Shinichi couldn't see until he skidded around the top of the next stairs and began to descend them.

Creatures, he didn't know what to call them, were swarming out of the hall that lead back toward the dining room and sitting area, from the direction of the servants quarters. Long arms, elongated faces, hideous teeth and slanted, vicious eyes all set in a pale white body that rippled like smooth snake scales over lean muscles, with long reptilian tails curled in the air behind them. Tattered scraps of fabric that resembled the staffs uniforms made it well clear what they had been before.

Shinichi wondered if they were reacting to their master's anger.

They were surrounding the pair from Osaka and, as Shinichi neared the bottom, he yelled, "Duck!"

Hattori automatically dragged Toyama down, and Shinichi grabbed the banister, vaulting over it and kicking out, hard, with one leg. His foot connected with the side of the nearest creature's head, making it squeal and back away, hissing and shaking itself.

Stumbling as he landed, Shinichi fell to the floor, elbow cracking against the hard wood. Wincing, he hardly noticed Hattori hauling on his arm until the Osakan detective bellowed his name in his ear. Shaking off the eye watering pain, Shinichi allowed Hattori to help drag him back to his feet. Putting himself between the creatures and the two, he motioned them to back toward the door.

"Come on, we need to get out of here."

"I think that's kinda obvious, Kudou!" Hattori snarled.

With every step back that the group made, the keening, hissing creature's edged forward after them. Shinichi would put this down as one of the creepiest moments of his life. He didn't know what they were waiting for, or why they were waiting at all. It was like being cornered by a huge predator, knowing that if you ran you were likely to trigger something, some sort of chase instinct, but you wanted to run anyway. It was better to run, right?

Yet, the unwavering stare and attention made him wonder about that. And, much to his chagrin, there was still a great part, perhaps greater than the rest, that didn't want to run at all. A very large part of him wanted nothing more than to go back up there, and crawl into Kuroba's bed again.

Shaking off the thoughts, the almost physical ache in his bones, Shinichi murmured, "Toyama, get the door."

As soon as he'd said the words he heard hurried footsteps as the girl turned and dashed the last few feet to the door, the heavy sound of a body hitting wood, and then the scrambling sound as she tried to get the door open. An exclamation of triumph heralded the doors opening, and Shinichi turned with Hattori. The two of them followed Toyama out of the manor house, Shinichi pausing to slam the door shut behind them, and darted down the front steps toward the car that sat, so distressingly normal, in the gravel drive.

Toyama and Hattori darted straight to it, yanking open the doors and prepared to get in, but Shinichi had slowed to a stop several feet away.

"Kudou-kun!" Toyama called. "Hurry up!"

Hattori stared at him, his expression an interesting mixture of understanding and perplexity. "Yer not comin' with us are you?"

Shinichi stared at them, face blank, and the grip of indecision slowly receding as the hunger, the craving increased ten fold with the thought, the knowledge, that if he left now he'd never feel that white hot, overpowering, sensation again. He'd never find something like that again, he was sure of it, and... did he really want to, no... Shinichi realized with a sinking feeling it wasn't a matter of want anymore... Could he give that up?

"Kudou-kun, if this is about Ran-chan I'm sure she's fine. Hakuba-kun really seemed to–"

Glancing up, confused at the way Toyama's words had cut off, Shinichi caught the end of Hattori shaking his head sharply at her. She was frowning at the other boy, but seemed to decide whatever the message was, this time, she would be quiet. Shinichi hadn't realized until now that his decision had been made for him long before now, long before he'd even confronted Kuroba in the vampire's room.

His decision had been made when he decided to ignore all sense after the first night and stay here.

"You two should leave."

Hattori nodded once, just a sharp downward jab of his chin, and asked, "What should I tell'em?"

Shrugging, and feeling for the first time in ages that old, arrogant, on top of the world grin sliding onto his face Shinichi said, "Tell them I'm dead."

For a long moment the two of them stared each other, and Shinichi thought that, maybe, Hattori understood. "Kazuha, let's go."

The girl looked confused, but that was probably for the best. Still she slid into the passenger seat of the car, even as Heiji ducked into the driver's side and started the engine. As it turned and rolled down the driveway, Shinichi tucked his hands in his pockets, posture loose and cool. With a feeling of detached emotion he watched the car until it reached the gates, the taillights a distant glow in the shadows of the night, and turned, perhaps, faster than it ought to be driving on these roads.

Once the glow of the car was lost to sight, Shinichi turned and looked back up at the looming front of the manor house. For all he knew he could be dead soon, he had no idea what the vampire's reaction would be, but Shinichi found that he wasn't scared. Life had been getting dull anyway, and, at least with this, he knew he'd chosen the path that had the highest possibility of giving him some satisfaction and contentment, if not making him happy.

He'd never liked the beach much anyway.


Epilogue


The car bumped and rattled down the road. Heiji was pushing it as fast as he could without making things insanely dangerous. Kazuha had curled into the front seat, her knees pulled up, and one of Heiji's jackets that she'd dug out from the back seat draped over her shoulders. She looked tired, and wan, her face buried against her arms and legs. Heiji didn't blame her, after what had just happened he kind of wanted to curl up too.

'Neechan was who knew where with that weird Hakuba guy, Kudou.... Kudou, well, he was gone. It was the guy's choice, and Heiji couldn't really understand it all together, but he could see enough to know that there was no turning back for his friend. He just hoped that Kudou would be alright. If he'd thought anything good would come of forcing Kudou to come with them he would have done it.

Tightening his grip on the steering wheel, the material creaked beneath his white knuckled fingers. Kudou had changed ever since he'd screwed up that chase, lost his drive, and that look on his face the last couple of days...

If an undead monster could bring Kudou back to life, then so be it. He just hoped 'Neechan could forgive him. Besides, Heiji was sure they'd all seen the signs...

Kudou was–

The thought abruptly terminated as Heiji slammed down the break pedal, staring in surprise at the two figures waiting placidly on the verge of the road, illuminated by the twin beams of headlights.

"Kazuha!" His friend looked up, blinking tiredly at him, and frowned when she noticed that they weren't moving. Before she could ask, though, Heiji asked his own question, "Am I seein' things... or?"

Kazuha turned her head, then squealed in surprised delight even as the two people hobbled toward them. The back door clicked open, and Hakuba helped Ran into the back seat even as he dryly commented, "Do you mind if I hitch a ride?" Heiji nodded in numb surprise, and Hakuba muttered sardonically, "Could you open the boot?" It was only then that Heiji noticed the blond had a large camping backpack with him, as well as a couple other things. He couldn't help but wonder how they'd carried all that when 'Neechan was obviously injured.

"Where's Shinichi?" Ran's soft voice broke through, immediately plummeting the atmosphere back into a cold grave. Kazuha looked away, and Heiji stared at the road.

Hands making the steering wheel creak again, Heiji said, flatly, "He's dead."

He almost didn't want to look at her, didn't know what his saying that would do, and noticed the rebellious look that was starting to fire up in Kazuha's eyes. He hoped that, for once, she would just keep her mouth shut. In the rear view mirror he could see Ran's face close off, then she simply leaned against the car door as Hakuba settled into the seat beside her. They both looked worse for wear than he and Kazuha.

Finally, Ran murmured, "Okay."

Heiji thought that, maybe, she understood better than even he did.


Carpe Noctem: Complete


POST FIC NOTE: I can hear it now. "What kind of ending is that?!" Well, it's the ending I planned since I started writing this, and I like it. And, yes, I realize I didn't directly answer, like, any questions besides the fact that yes, Hakuba's dad is dead, and, no, Kaito didn't kill him.

But, I did give enough clues through out the story that I think you can form a vague notion of what happened to Kaito, his parent's, and Aoko, and that's all I'm going to give on that for the moment. The truth behind it might be revealed at a later point, or it might not. It's just a matter of if I ever feel like it.

There is going to be more ficlets in this universe, in fact, there already are, though I haven't written any of them. I do have plans to write one someday when I have the time. However, if you want more Carpeverse stuff I suggest you watch my Livejournal as I probably won't be posting them on this site.

For more Carpe, and my Livejournal copy this link into your URLs: whm-koorii(dot)livejournal(dot)com(slash)45488(dot)html