Ladies' Man

Disclaimer: I do not own DC/MK. (Did you hear that, Santa? *looks up the chimney expectantly*)

"Kuroba-kun, I need a favour."

The irk-haired young man looked up from his plate, one lamb chop carelessly impaled on his knife. Hakuba Saguru felt a vein twitch in his temple as the boy's lips, slowly, curved upwards in a dreaded Cheshire grin - pure evil bidding behind the innocuously white teeth. "Uh-huh," he leaned backwards into the chair, lazily; a cat who had just dined on an especially fat and succulent mouse. "And how may I be of service, dear Hakuba?"

The fair-haired detective cleared his throat. With two slender fingers he picked up his glass of wine, suddenly very interested in its generous curve. "I need some advice on, ah… how do I put this? Courting a lady, if you will."

"Dating advice."

He glared. "Don't rub it in."

Kaito was grinning from ear-to-ear. "Well, well, well," he practically purred. In an agile swerve he was back at the table, elbows resting on the tablecloth, smiling into the blonde's foreboding scowl. "I would have never guessed. Saguru Hakuba, the omnipotent saviour of Ekoda police coming to the uncouth, loudmouthed magician for help in love?" He chuckled. "Is there a special someone, Hakuba?"

Hakuba's face steeled, willing away the image of a certain long-haired, scarlet-eyed woman that instantly swam to mind.

"No."

"Uh-huh."

Kaito picked up his fork and started twirling his spaghetti.

Hakuba surveyed the boy before in silence. Simply the sight of the boy - no, man - annoyed him to no end. Hair still as disarrayed as the day as the first day of school at Ekoda High (Has the man never seen a comb or what?), the lines of his face focusing in sharper angles now they had long exited boyhood (whatever maturity scraped over the years instantly dissipating with one stupid grin) – it was a little hard to believe the thin band of gold that adorned his left hand was really there, glinting mockingly in the light. He tipped the wine to his lips, swallowing a sigh. He must be mad. Utterly, completely mad, to appease the jester for advice on wooing the queen.

"It's Koizumi Akako, isn't it?"

Hakuba choked on his wine. He snatched the napkin from the table just in time, coughing violent red drops into the cloth. Kaito was looking at him, eyes shining.

"It's okay, I don't need to know all the details." He waved a hand dismissively. "Now, if I know anything about women, it's that you can't do the roses-and-chocolate thing all the time. You have to tailor your moves depending on their personality. Koizumi Akako, as far as I've observed, is not one to fall for generic roses or sappy poems."

Too late now, Hakuba thought dully, remembering all too well the girl's face when he had shown up with that bouquet of white roses.

"But," Kaito lowered his voice, the grin instantly vanquished, replaced by a grave dimple between his brows. "There is one common factor. One. That would capture a lady's heart. It doesn't matter if they swoon over five-star treatment at luxurious hotels or simply a movie and pizza night at home. The way to heart is always first through the eyes. You've got to catch their attention first. Average Joes won't do. You've got to wow them."

Hakuba lifted one eyebrow, dubious. "What are you suggesting?"

Kaito's brows furrowed. He crossed his arms, leaned back into his chair, and creased up his face in a seemingly painful dilemma. After a moment or two of this, he sighed, long and sombre – as if the very act of exerting a breath brought great misery. "All right - Hakuba. I'll show you. But it's a Kuroba family secret. You mustn't pass it onto anyone else."

"I promise."

"Okay, now swear on this lamp chop," he picked up the knife, the meat dangling precariously off the tip. "Swear that if you told anyone about the secret, you'll bald prematurely. No hope of treatments. And not just a bit thinning here and there – I'm talking about great clumps of it falling out in, like, one year. The scalp's so shiny you would be able to use it as a mirror."

"Kuroba."

"Take it or leave it, Hakuba."

For a while the two men glared at each other, one with a vein throbbing in his temple and the other holding up the cold lamb chop, high, like a torch. Finally, the brown-eyed man gave in, ran a hand down his pale features, and sighed.

"I swear."

"On the lamp chop."

"This is ridiculous, Kuroba, we're both full grown men."

"'I swear on the lamb chop.'"

With a sigh that seemed to sap all energy from his body, Hakuba repeated, through gritted teeth. "I swear on the lamb chop - "

"That if I told -"

"Honestly, how does Nakamori-san put up with you?"

"That if I told - "

"ThatifItoldI'," Hakuba snapped. "There, happy now?"

Kaito grinned. "Very. Okay, now watch carefully."

Cautiously, he peeled one single noodle from the mound of spaghetti from his plate and lifted it into the air. Hakuba stared, transfixed. Kaito tilted his head up so that his nostrils were facing upward, then - slowly, he inserted the noodle into his nose. He opened his mouth and reached two free fingers in. Hakuba's look of awe soon soured into repulsed scowl as, with amazing elegance, Kaito plucked the other end of the pasta from his mouth with his left hand. He drew it out half-way from his nostril, each hand pinching at either ends.

"I call this one, 'Using your noodle' -"

"This conversation is over."

---

"I'll have the pecan-crusted salmon, please."

"And you, sir?"

"I'll have the same, thank you."

He handed the menu back to the waiter, who took it with a small bow and turned back to the kitchen. The candle light flickered between them, casting a warm, soft glow that softened the woman's pallid features. She was perusing the silverware with her hands, running her bloody talons over the grooves and ridges of her spoons and forks, feeling up the silk tablecloth. Boredom etched in every unmoving lines of her face and looking everywhere but him. Absently Hakuba tugged at his tie, which suddenly felt too tight and stiff – like a noose around his neck.

"So - Koizumi-san," he said, keeping his voice as poised as possible. "Tell me more about your trip to Egypt."

"It was hot. Sandy."

"The pyramids must have been breathtaking."

"Probably. I have no interest in breaking into others' tombs."

Hakuba chuckled nervously. "You have quite the sense of humour, Koizumi-san."

"I wasn't joking." Her eyes swerved to meet his – the sharpness of her gaze amplified by the crimson irises. "Would you like it for someone to break into your grave and capitalize on your rotten corpse, charging people ridiculous prices so they can gawk at your mummified carcass like they would do to a monkey in a zoo?"

Silence. Awkward, uncomfortable silence lapsed between them. Hakuba glanced at his cutlery, wondering if the fork teeth were strong enough to stab clean through his heart.

Suddenly, the waiter reappeared. "Here are your salmon, ma'am. Sir." He set down the plates before them with a soft clink. "Is there anything else I can get for you?"

"We're fine, thanks." He looked down at his fish - a pasty, peachy slab of meat gasping on its side. "Actually," he raised his head.

"On second thought, you don't happen to have spaghetti as a side, do you?"

A/n: "Using your noodle" - get it? Noodle, pasta? Gross-out nose trick? XD *gets hit with cookies* Okay, I'll shut up now. XD

Reviews are always appreciated ~ ^^