A Deeper Shade of Black
Set sometime in the first series. When? Doesn't matter, really!
The last chapter! If the first half looks familiar, skip to the second half.
Disclaimer: Don't own, not making any money off of this.
Consciousness was a nebulous affair. It seemed her body woke up a piece at a time. Small aches made themselves known, not unpleasant, just mild indicators of muscles rarely used. She stretched against smooth sheets, feeling the bounce of a mattress under her rather than unyielding sensation of a futon against the floor. There was a mild crackle as she turned lazily onto her side, static electricity causing her hair to both cling to the pillow and pop with small shocks as she moved.
Misaki's eyes shot open. She promptly yelped and clenched them shut again, slapping a hand over her face as if to physically hold her eyelids closed.
Sandpaper. Opening her eyes felt like sandpaper was being dragged across them, only a dozen times worse than last time because her contacts were sticking to the insides of her eyelids.
Making sure her eyelids remained squeezed shut, Misaki cautiously moved her hand up her face towards the edge of her hairline. There was another crackle, more ominous than before. Misaki snatched her hand away with a wince.
Her hair was alive with static electricity.
BK-201 had used his power on her again. But why this time-?
Her suspicious police mind conjured up a million scenarios in an instant, most involving seduction as an intermediary step in kidnapping. She didn't feel kidnapped, though. She wasn't restrained in any way, and her surroundings were familiar and comfortable.
Misaki creaked one eye open the barest sliver, trying to get a sense of where she was.
Which was her own bedroom.
…Well, that was a surprise. Oh, not that she woke up alone (she rather expected that) but being in her own bed defied logic. Apparently BK-201 thought the gentlemanly thing to do was escort his date home. Unfortunately, the practical thing to do was knock her out so he could swing across town without risk of her waking up in mid-transport.
Misaki had a hard time deciding what bothered her the most: the sandpaper feeling when opening her eyes, made a magnitude worse because she'd been wearing contact lenses; knowing that he knew where she lived and apparently could enter the premises at will; or the fact she hadn't replenished her conditioner after the last time and couldn't effectively rid her hair of the residual static electricity.
She wondered what time it was. It was light out, she could tell that through her closed lids, but was she late for work? After painfully prying her eyes open, she cast about for her bedside clock, only to be confronted by her cell phone. It laid flipped open on the table, facing her pillow so that she couldn't miss the message screen. Grimacing, she reached out a hand to snag it, dragging it under the covers so she could see the display without burning out her retinas.
I like your underwear
Misaki grumbled in vexation. He had to see her naked in order to dress her, which was patently unfair as she hadn't been able to see him last night. Feel him, yes, but not –
Focus, she told herself sternly. She squinted at the numbers in the display's corner. 0700 hours. Time for a shower, thank goodness. Even if she really were out of conditioner, water would help tame her hair.
Wait. Her car was still at the park. Which meant, in order to get to work on time, she had to take public transport. Thoughts of a leisurely shower followed by a leisurely soak vanished, replaced by train timetables that told her she needed to hurry. Cringing, Misaki forced herself to swing her legs out of bed. Her wince became more pronounced. Some of those not unpleasant aches approached actual pain as soon as she stood up.
Kanami would just snort and tell her she needed to get laid more often.
Need new best friend was at the top of her list, Misaki reminded herself as she slowly walked (she was not limping, she insisted) into the bathroom. BK-201 had put her to bed fully dressed except for her much-abused strappy sandals. She peeled her clothes off, pausing when she reached the last layer to glance in the mirror at her bra-and-panty set. Kanami's right, she thought, the blue matches his eyes.
The mental shields slammed down before she could take that thought any further.
Twisting the knobs until the temperature was scalding, Misaki shed the last of her clothes, stepping into the blast of water without flinching. She methodically scrubbed her skin, checking for marks. A faint one over her hip, not quite a bruise; probably a thumbprint, he'd gripped her hard towards the end of their first time. Very pale marks over one breast; she squirmed when he'd kissed her there, and he spent some time worrying at the skin until she slapped him alongside the head and told him to stop teasing. No whisker burns. He was smooth shaven, although she couldn't tell much more about his features from their night together. All she could really figure out was that he had a straight nose and thin lips. It didn't help her mind to put together a composite sketch.
The image that did jump into her head regarded her with a familiar wry half-smile. She ruthlessly repressed it.
Misaki really needed to talk to BK-201 about his nasty habit of using his powers on her. Her hair wasn't going to survive another jolt. Without a bottle of conditioner to smooth it down it wouldn't stay tamed in the usual ponytail. Instead it flared out at the ends, sticking to the back of her jacket. On the train, it would probably attach itself to any salary man who happened to be near, which couldn't help but be awkward. For the second time in as many days Misaki found herself on her knees under her sink, digging through rarely used female accoutrements as she searched for something, anything that would keep her hair in check.
The last thing she'd pulled out from the cabinet had proved very useful. Going by the previous night, she didn't have to worry about the expiration date of the condoms for much longer. Although she found her purse by her bedside, guns and GPS devices safely tucked inside, and her sandals were placed inside the front door, the box of condoms was conspicuous by its absence.
Stop that, Misaki told herself sternly. Him keeping the condoms doesn't mean anything. One night stand. You're an adult; get over it!
It hadn't felt like a one-night stand.
He didn't act like it was a one-night stand…
"I love your skin," he ground out against her throat, hands clenched into her hair. "I love how tightly it wraps around me." Fingers skated down the side of her face, pressed over her heart. He kissed her deeply, slowly, like he had before when they were fully dressed and standing up. "Do you like that?" he asked against her mouth. "You have to tell me what you like. I won't let you go until you do…"
He was true to his word. She had never been talkative during sex, but before it was because she didn't think anything happening was worth commenting on. This time, it was because she spent most of her time desperately sucking in air and couldn't speak.
Misaki realized she was still kneeling on the floor of her bathroom, staring blankly in front of her at nothing in particular. Scowling, she resumed her search, eventually coming up with a handful of pins and a hair ornament that was, bizarrely, in the shape of a butterfly. She had no idea where it came from or how long it had been hiding under her sink. Standing, she wrapped her long hair around one hand, trying not to recoil as small shocks danced along her fingers. She went for a variation of the hairstyle she wore during Alice's party, one bun set at the back of her head instead of the two on either side, and blindly stuck the butterfly haphazardly in the mass, hoping it concealed some of the pins. Surveying her reflection, Misaki grimaced slightly. She looked even more severe than usual, she thought, not realizing that the style focused attention favorably on her high cheekbones and full mouth.
Walking into her bedroom, Misaki glanced at the clock, checked the time against her mental train timetables again, and sighed. She picked up her cell phone and flipped it open, pushing one of the keys on her speed dial. "Saito? I'm having car trouble; I won't be able to make it in this morning. Is there anything new on the docket I need to worry about?"
"Nothing of note," reported Saito after a pause. "We have reports of mild activity from NG-224 and BK-201. No incidents related to either, and not enough to pin-point their locations."
Misaki involuntarily raised a hand to her hair, wincing at another small shock. 'Mild' activity? That's not what it felt like from here! She blushed, realizing her thoughts could be taken another way entirely, and was glad she hadn't activated the phone's camera while talking to Saito.
Misaki meant to retrieve her car and go straight to work. Really. She did. When she stepped off her train at Shiodome station, however, it was already 0900 hours, which coincided with the opening of Hama Rikyu Park. Before she knew it, instead of getting in her car and driving back to the station, Misaki was handing the entrance fee to a smiling yukata-clad clerk. She made a mental promise to drop the equivalent of the entrance fee into any offering box she stumbled across on the grounds to compensate for her illegal entry the night before.
Once inside, Misaki was at a loss. If her goal was to revisit the scene of the crime, she had a basic problem. As it had been dark last night, she had no idea where the scene of the crime was. She wandered towards the teahouse by the small lake, listening absently to the sound of her feet against the smooth pathway. That wasn't right, she realized; last night her sandals had skidded against less secure footing. Pivoting away from the more traveled paths, Misaki strode deeper into the park, eyes down as she studied the substrate. She paused as the path branched, eyeing one possibility as it wound up a small hill before rejecting it. Her journey the night before was along ground that was rough but level. She continued following the straight path, into an area where the well-manicured trees were a little larger and the path a touch narrower. Rounding a bend, she halted.
There was a bench.
Even though it probably wasn't the bench, Misaki scanned the immediate area for any clues (scuff marks, cloth snagged on a branch, a discarded sandal) that this was the place because she was a police officer and couldn't help herself. There weren't any distinguishing features. Shading her eyes, Misaki looked up, searching for a point where BK-201 might have attached his cable when he swung off with her. None of the surrounding trees appeared sturdy enough to support the weight of a full-grown man, let alone one hauling another person with him. It was more likely that the bench was on the other side of the park, near the skyscrapers that dominated the park's skyline. Dropping her hand, Misaki blew out a breath that was not (she insisted to herself) a discouraged sigh.
Last night's dark had proved both liberating and limiting; she did things she never imagined before, yet her vision had been restricted. It was light out now. The shadows cast by the trees weren't enough to hide in. Not that Misaki could hide from the truth any longer. Her half-formulated plan the previous night was to take the new information, Hei, and cross-reference the name with every unsolved criminal act, every informant rumor, that had been entered in the police database in the past year. It wasn't necessary. Unencumbered by the safeguards her waking psyche insisted upon, Misaki's unconscious mind had neatly put all the pieces of the puzzle together. As soon as she awoke the truth was there, piercing her brain like the sharpest of scalpels.
Sitting down on the bench, Misaki considered her past few meetings with all of the guises worn by BK-201.
Since her initial confrontation with BK-201 when his body language sparked a glimmer of recognition, Misaki had isolated the truth, preventing it from breaking away from her control. Even this morning, she used her irritation at being knocked out and the need to retrieve her car as distracters. Here, on one of the scenic paths she couldn't see last night, the rustling of the nearby trees comforting rather than eerie and foreign, the truth could no longer be locked away.
What she was going to do about it … that Misaki hadn't decided yet.
Her brows folded together as she tried to consider her options. Grumbling under her breath, Misaki leaned her head back, eyes closed.
"You shouldn't frown so hard," commented a voice nearby.
Feeling absolutely no trace of surprise, Misaki opened her eyes, drew a calming breath in through her nose, and lowered her chin.
A little way down the path, just at the bend, stood Li-kun, hands stuffed in his pants pocket, watching her. His expression was somber, devoid of the usual self-depreciating half-smile. While she sat comfortably in the shade, the morning sun shone harshly into his face. Knowing he was a university student, Misaki was used to thinking of him as much younger than she was. The unforgiving light abruptly made Misaki aware that he was older than she originally thought, probably her own age.
"Li-kun," she acknowledged after a moment. There was the faintest raising lilt in the name, almost a question.
He ducked his head in a nod, but didn't approach.
For the first time, Misaki gazed at him with the assessing eyes of a police detective. Li-kun wasn't especially good-looking. If anything, everything about him was relentlessly run-of-the-mill, from his clothing to his looks to the way he stood. He carefully cultivated the aura of average, thought Misaki clinically, as detached from her analysis as any contractor. Lowering his eyes so that the distinctive blue color wasn't obvious, hunching his shoulders to disguise the breadth of them, inhabiting a personality so normal it would take wearing a mask to make him stand out in a crowd…
"Come here often?" she asked rhetorically.
Although her tone wasn't especially harsh, Li-kun fractionally flinched. "Do you?" he countered sharply before recollecting himself. Sharply was not the way Li-kun spoke.
Giving him a steady stare, Misaki wondered if it was a slip or if he had simply not yet settled on today's mask. "No. I wanted to look at the park, that's all. Last time I was here, it was too dark to see anything." Li-kun lifted his brows in enquiry. "It was a case," she explained, although her tone was tinged with irony. "Why are you here?"
If she expected him to react to being reduced to a case, she was disappointed. Instead his mouth quirked into the expected self-depreciating half-smile before he spoke. He was working hard to settle into harmless student mode. "I was on my way to school, but somehow I ended up here. It's not on the way."
Misaki regarded him critically. It would be hard to maintain the façade of a university student unless he really did go to classes once in a while. BK-201's presence at and escape from Alice's birthday party meant everyone attending had been screened for alibis. Li-kun's was impeccable, he had been with her and Saito for most of the night, yet red flags would have gone up unless he really was enrolled in school. "I don't think I know which university you attend."
That made sense. Exchange students from all over the world were commonplace on Tokyo's University of Foreign Studies campus. It also had strong ties with several institutions on China's mainland and Li-kun was, ostensibly, Chinese. It would be easy for him to blend into the general student population. "What are you studying?"
"Isn't that a graduate degree?"
He looked a little abashed. "Well, yes. My undergraduate degree was in international economics."
Assuming the undergraduate degree was real (Misaki admittedly had her doubts), he had to be in his mid-to late-twenties. "I suppose international studies makes sense when you travel a lot."
Li-kun blinked at her. He had entered into full harmless-student mode, which was absurd. By now he had to know that she knew. Perhaps she wasn't the only one in denial. Misaki looked away from him, turning her gaze up towards the sheltering trees. She scooted over on the bench, freeing up a sizable part of it. After a marked pause, she heard gravel crunched under his feet as he approached. He sat down, perched on the bench's edge. She glanced over at him. His pose was commonplace and casual; elbows braced on his thighs, hands dangling between his spread knees, hunched over slightly as he stared straight ahead. There wasn't any hint of nerves in his posture or in his expression.
Perhaps that was understandable. Just as he was in harmless-student mode, she was in police-interrogator mode. Nerves were not part of either persona.
"Y'know," Misaki said conversationally, "I've been trying to decide whether or not I have a boyfriend."
The non-committal hum he made in his throat to acknowledge her comment was painfully familiar to her. His eyes slid sideways at the same time he ducked his head, bangs covering the top half of his face to disguise the fact he was looking at her. For a moment Misaki flashed back to that first night again, BK-201 leaning his forehead against the wall after being shot, dark hair spilling over the top of his mask.
Her team made fun of Kouno all the time, but if anyone needed to have his or her detective license revoked, it was Misaki herself.
After waiting a moment to see if he wanted to say anything, "Boyfriend may be too strong, though," Misaki continued, still without much inflection. "Possibly it was just a one-night stand. What do you think?"
"I think," said Li-kun, his tone just as neutral, "a man would be crazy to let you go."
She smiled a little at that, although it was self-directed irony rather than genuine amusement. "I haven't discarded crazy as a possibility."
"You sell yourself short, Misaki-san."
It was what Li-kun called her, but it wasn't Li-kun's voice. It hadn't been since he sat down. "If it wasn't just for the one night, then lover is the proper description."
Unexpectedly he demurred. "'Lover' implies something clandestine. Boyfriend is better. A boyfriend can take you out in public." His head drooped further forward until his chin nearly touched his chest. "You deserve more than a hidden affair," he muttered, almost to himself.
"I suppose I do," Misaki agreed. "If I asked you to kiss me, Li-kun, what would you do?"
He raised his head to look straight at her, eyes flat and completely blank, face expressionless as any mask. "This is a public place, Section-Chief Kirihara," he said. "I'd rather do that where we don't risk a citation for public indecency."
"Kiss me anyway," she said.
He turned his head away, gaze again doing down. When he spoke, it was as if he was addressing his own feet. "Are you sure? There's no going back from this."
"It's already too late to go back, Li-kun."
"True," he agreed, the ironic tone that was so not 'Li-kun.'
Standing up, he held a hand out to her. Although she put her fingers into his, he didn't pull her up. She had to stand on her own. He looked down at their hands folded together, then into her face. Relinquishing her fingers, he curved his hand around her neck and stroked his thumb under her jaw, the way he had the night before. This time, she could see; she kept her eyes open as he dipped in.
It felt like a first kiss, a little tentative and careful, lacking the desperate passion of the previous night. Yet Misaki melted into him again, following the arc of his body and trusting him to hold her up when her knees threatened to buckle. Her body knew him, all right. And it trusted him, in spite of his habit of shocking her into unconsciousness for his own convenience.
She was really going to have to discuss that with him
"I like your hair like this," he murmured against her mouth. "It makes me want to take it down." His hand slid up from her neck to smooth over her hair. Much to her irritation, even though she still felt the tiny crackles of static electricity when he touched her, it didn't affect him.
"So obvious," she grumbled, vexed with herself.
He chuckled, leaning his forehead against hers. "Riddles always are, once you solve them." His next comment was more serious. "Being with me is dangerous. There are people who know who I am, everyone that I am. I won't always be able to protect you."
Misaki stepped away enough to look up into his face, realized her glasses were askew, and used two fingers to push them back into place. He refused to let her go completely, hands falling to her waist in a loose hold. "I can protect myself," she pointed out. "I can't let you know anything about investigations, though. Don't expect any tip-offs."
He shook his head, wry smile pressing against his mouth. "As expected from the incorruptible Section-Chief Kirihara. I will only wear a mask around you when I have to."
Her brows folded together as she gazed at him. "Are we setting parameters for continuing this-?" Pausing, Misaki realized she didn't know what to call this.
"'Relationship,'" he supplied, the wry smile morphing into something warm and affectionate. Misaki just stopped herself from gaping at the change in his expression; she never thought anyone would look at her with like that, especially not a contractor. "If I'm your boyfriend, then this is a relationship. If 'parameters' are what it will take for me to date you openly, yes."
"What do I call you?" Misaki asked, as she had the previous night. He kissed her again instead of responding verbally. "Li-kun," she murmured.
"That works," he agreed. "It will make it less awkward when I pick you up for dates after work. Saito-san will have questions if you start calling me something else, especially if it's a Messier number."
"Is it your name?" she asked, although she was pretty sure it wasn't. "Your real name?"
His smile shifted back into wry. He didn't answer.
"Li-kun," Misaki said again with a sigh of acceptance. "Are we done negotiating?"
"I've heard being in a relationship means constant negotiations, but I have nothing to add for now."
"Well, then. I have to pick up my car. Shall I drive you back to your place?"
He raised a hand from her waist to her face, running a finger gently along her cheek. "I'd rather go back to yours."
"I – I didn't mean … " Misaki gathered her wits together. "I have to go to work."
"What are you doing after?"
"We're dating, remember? I'm asking you out, Misaki."
Usually she worked ridiculously late regardless of how many hours she put in that day, dragged herself home, microwaved something that tasted like cardboard, stumbled to bed and got up five hours later to repeat the process. Misaki opened her mouth to say as much. "1800 hours okay?" she heard herself ask instead.
"I'll be there," Li-kun said. He dipped his head. Misaki thought he was going to kiss her again. Instead he spoke in the quiet deep rasp she associated with BK-201. "Wear the sandals, hmmm?"
After a blink, Misaki half-lowered her eyelids and gazed at him through her lashes. "Only if you bring the mask," she purred, or tried to. Although she had observed Kanami flirt many, many times, Misaki's own attempt came out more shaky than sultry.
His eyes widened, and to her surprise a blush ran across his cheekbones. She only caught a glimpse before he closed the distance, kissing her as passionately as he had the night before. He likes the idea of the mask. Or the sandals? Or just going out with me? She liked the idea of going out with him, Misaki realized somewhere between kisses. Eventually she remembered they were in a public park, and however little-used the trail someone was bound to walk down it sooner or later. She pushed at his shoulders.
Li-kun pulled back, his gaze hazy at first before an awareness of their surroundings seem to return to him. "I'll walk you to your car," he said. He looked at her with a fond smile. "I look forward to tonight."
"So do I," said Misaki, and meant it.
This thing didn't have a plot so it was hard to dig a conclusion out of it. :P
Thanks for the reviews, the emails, and the Livejournal comments. It was fun, and it's done. /Waves bye-bye to fanfiction/