Disclaimer: DCMK are not mine.
Pairings: KaiShin (KaitoxShinichi)
Shadow of a Smile
He was a stranger everywhere he went. Two years spent as an elementary school student had shattered the already tenuous connection he'd once had to the rest of his generation. For a while he had tried to learn again, going places with Ran, Sonoko, Heiji, and Kazuha, but socializing had never been Shinichi's forte. He found that he could understand them with his head—the same way he could figure out the mindset of murderers—but he couldn't really understand, couldn't feel what they felt.
The gap became painfully obvious each of the few times he had gone out with Ran. They'd never had all that much in common to begin with. Now it was like they stood on opposite ends of the universe. When he looked at her he saw the sister who had looked after him, and while that feeling was warm and comfortable it made actually dating feel awkward. He could see she felt it too. There were moments where he could see her catching herself before saying something to him that she would have said to Conan. In those moments she would pause for an instant, confusion warring with frustration in her eyes, before giving up with a shake of her head and a slightly helpless laugh. Eventually they'd come to the agreement that things were just too different now. They would still be the best of friends, but friends that were family at heart instead of lovers.
Things had settled down a bit after that. He'd been too busy doing all the make-up course work for his two years of absence from high school on top of handling the cases that followed him everywhere he went to think about anything else. Despite the odds, he'd managed to graduate on time with the rest of his class and was accepted into Tokyo University.
That was when Ran announced that she was participating in a study abroad program and therefore would be in England for the next two years. Her father had protested, not liking the idea of his daughter off "who knows where doing who knows what with who knows who", but her mother had been all for the venture and since Ran had already made up her mind that was the end of the issue.
"You better take care of yourself," she'd told him at the airport in that big-sister-knows-best voice he'd come to know so well.
"I'm not seven anymore," he'd told her, rolling his eyes, but her gaze had only hardened.
"I'm being serious. I don't want to come back and find you've landed yourself in the hospital from overwork or something equally stupid. Understand?"
"Good." Then she'd smiled and hugged him goodbye and the plane was a rapidly disappearing speck of white in the blue, blue sky.
University was a welcome breath of change. A new beginning. New faces and classes and places with very little time left over to think about all those half baked questions he couldn't quite name.
It had been a shock when he'd first opened the door to his new dormitory room to be met by a face that could have belonged to his twin brother. His roommate too had done a double take but he'd taken it in stride and gone into a rather theatrical bow, introducing himself as Kuroba Kaito. Shinichi had nodded and given his own name, all the while his mind reeling back to present him with memories of a certain phantom thief he knew looked enough like him to impersonate him without a mask. Surely there couldn't be more than one person out there with a face so much like his. Could there? But what were the chances of his new roommate just happening to be Kaitou KID?
If Kaito had any inkling of his thoughts, he didn't show it. Instead he'd dragged Shinichi into the room and insisted on helping him bring in his things, talking all the while about himself and asking about Shinichi like any other enthusiastic new roommate might do. It turned out Kaito was from Ekoda and double majoring in theater and electrical engineering. His passion was for stage magic but it seemed he'd recently picked up game programming as a hobby. A new hobby. It seemed he had a whole host of other hobbies, most of them weird.
Shinichi listened to him talk in a slight daze, watching two live doves cooing at each other as they perched on the back of Kaito's desk chair. First he thought they looked familiar, then he thought he had to be going insane because all doves looked the same so really it didn't make any sense to feel like he'd seen these ones before.
"You don't mind birds do you?" Kaito had asked, apparently noticing what Shinichi had been looking at.
Shinichi shook his head quickly, ignoring the voice in the back of his head that was reminding him pets weren't allowed in the dorms. "No, I like birds."
"That's good." And now he could swear there was laughter in his roommate's eyes. "The other two dozen'll be here tomorrow. Don't worry, they're all very well behaved."
Shinichi laughed at that. It wasn't a long or a loud laugh. It was surprised and short but it was honest and it felt so strange because he couldn't remember the last time he'd laughed like that.
Kuroba Kaito, known to most of the world as the infamous Kaitou KID (not that they knew that), hadn't bothered to find out who his roommate would be before move-in day. He liked surprises after all.
And boy was he surprised!
It was a good thing he was a class A actor. To think, his roommate for the coming year was going to be none other than Kudo Shinichi himself. Half of him found the whole situation hilarious beyond words, but the other half wasn't sure if he should be thrilled or concerned. He was definitely going to have to watch his step—though judging from the look on the detective's face he'd probably already made a few connections. And wasn't that going to be interesting?
Kaito hadn't seen the detective since his spy-doves unearthed the news that Conan had "gone home" and Shinichi had returned to the world of the living. The news had brought a grin to his face and he'd been all prepared to give the detective an extra special surprise on his next heist as a welcome back. But Shinichi hadn't attended any heists since his return to adulthood. Kaito would be lying if he said he hadn't been disappointed, but he supposed it wasn't all that surprising. Shinichi had only ever attended the one heist before he'd been shrunk, preferring to train all his attention on murder cases. Now that he was himself again, he'd have his own cases again as well, and therefore it was probably back to the murders fulltime. Still, though Kaito agreed that solving murder cases was important, he'd still been a bit offended. So he didn't kill people, that didn't mean he could simply be ignored. He put a lot of effort into his work after all, and he'd been almost positive that Tantei-kun appreciated it too in his own way. It was the thing that had always really set Tantei-kun apart from his other competitors. He could appreciate both KID's sense of humor and brand of honor, even when the thief's tricks irritated him.
He'd toyed around with the idea of tracking the detective down, but it seemed he'd been saved the trouble.
Of course he hadn't exactly planned on introducing himself as, well, himself to begin with—but it opened possibilities he hadn't allowed himself to entertain before. He'd always wondered what it would be like to get to know Shinichi outside of their usual heist setting. It wasn't everyday he met a mind that could keep up with his own. He wasn't about to let that mind walk out of his life without a fight. After all, Hakuba was challenging on a good day, but Shinichi was fun—exhilarating really. If only he could figure out what was wrong with the detective.
And he was starting to see that there was definitely something wrong with Shinichi.
For one, the detective was always working. If he wasn't in class or doing homework he would be out at a case or looking over folders and notebooks full of evidence and notes. There had even been a few instances when Kaito, always a light sleeper, had woken up in the middle of the night to find Shinichi at his desk with his desk lamp turned on low and papers strewn all over the table before him. More often than not Kaito would find him asleep on those very same papers the next morning, the bed clearly untouched. About the only time he ever saw the detective without some kind of work in hand was when he ate, and not always even then since Shinichi was one of those people who apparently thought coffee was a food substance worthy of meal-hood.
He never invited anyone over or did anything as mundane as hanging out with classmates either. Other than Kaito, whom he had to associate with by necessity, Shinichi didn't really spend much time with anyone (cases did not count, at least not in Kaito's books. Half those people were dead anyway and could hardly be expected to be good company). Well, now that he thought about it, he couldn't remember seeing Tantei-kun spend much time with more than a handful of people even before. There was the Mouri girl and her father, but from what he'd heard Mouri Ran was in London and Kogoro had never struck him as good company for anyone anyway (unless you had an alcohol addiction, then he was the perfect companion). There was also that pack of grade school students who used to follow the boy around, but it was pretty obvious why that wasn't happening anymore. The crazy inventor was, well, crazy and tended to be caught up in his own world of new and dysfunctional experiments. And of course Tantei-han and his girlfriend lived in Osaka. And thus ended the rather short list of Shinichi's regular, non-police acquaintances.
The detective looked up from an open folder to find his roommate sitting cross-legged on his bed while juggling. "What is it, Kuroba-san?" he asked, pointedly emphasizing the other's family name. Not that it ever seemed to help. Kaito was the kind of person who apparently excelled at not hearing something if it suited him.
"I'm having dinner with some friends of mine today," the magician continued. "Why don't you come with us?"
"But you'll have to eat eventually anyway so you might as well come with. Besides," he added, indigo eyes gleaming with mischief, "one of them's a detective too. You might even have met him before."
In the end Kaito dislodged the reluctant detective from their room and dragged him to the small café just off of campus where he was introduced to Nakamori Aoko and Hakuba Saguru—the latter of whom he had indeed already met a few times. Both of them were also studying at the university and Shinichi thought that he might even have seen Hakuba in some of his classes. The blonde confirmed this by inquiring as to his thoughts on the day's lecture. From then on Kaito made a point of hauling Shinichi out as often as he could. For his part Shinichi wasn't entirely sure what to think about that. On the one hand he was grateful for the company. He hadn't really noticed before that how long it had been since he'd just hung out with other people his age. But at the same time he felt awkward and out of place. The other three had known each other for a long time and it showed. There was an ease to the way they talked and interacted (even if Kaito and Hakuba tended to end up butting heads) that Shinichi couldn't recall ever having had with anyone and he felt like an intruder in a place where he didn't belong. Still, he continued to allow Kaito to drag him to the outings because it was a sort of comfort to simply be there, to see people really living—to be reminded that there was more to life than the sinister shadows he dealt with on a daily basis. All he could do was watch, but it was more than he had expected to be granted and it was enough.
Hiding out for so long under a false identity had ingrained in him the urge to keep as much as he could to himself and stay as much out of sight as possible. He didn't think he'd been like that before, but it was hard to remember Before. That had been a different Shinichi, one who had been full of aspirations and oh so very naïve. That Shinichi had reveled in the attention and the acknowledgment. Now just seeing his picture in the paper in the morning was enough to have him looking over his shoulder and jumping at shadows for the rest of the day. It earned him many a strange look but he couldn't explain it to anyone—couldn't tell them that he had spent so much time feeling hunted that the feel of a stranger's gaze made him turn to put a wall behind his back.
There were times when he wondered if he should never have taken the antidote. There had been a certain kind of security in being little—in being someone else. He knew then that most people would overlook him and adults had a tendency to trust and protect children. And Conan had had the Shounan Tantei and a home with Ran and Kogoro. He'd been known and liked by the police and he hadn't had any real problems to deal with other than the ones he'd imposed upon himself because they weren't expected of him. It had been a front, but a front that he'd hidden behind so long it had gained a certain value of reality. Yes, it would have been easier to have stayed, to perhaps step fully into the act and let Shinichi fade into a memory to be hidden deep down where no one would ever find him again.
He'd let the thought slip to Ai once by accident and she had looked at him for a long moment with an expression he couldn't put a name to.
"If that's really what you want, I can still make the Apotoxin."
When he hadn't immediately said anything, he could see her eyes darken.
"But this time there won't be any going back," she had warned, and he could hear the unhappiness in her voice. And that told him a lot more about how she felt about the idea than any words could have. "Your body wouldn't be able to handle more changes. I'm surprised your immune system has held up as well as it has."
"No. If I did that, I'd just be facing the same issues from the other side. I'd rather face them as me." Never mind that he wasn't sure who 'me' was anymore.
There were days when he looked into the mirror and didn't recognize the person looking back.
It was like he was trapped in limbo really. Part of him, loathe as he was to admit it, was still running in 'little kid' mode. He'd been one for two years after all and the routine had stuck. He had thought once that it would fall away once he was his rightful age again—oh how stupid he'd been to think that. To think that anyone could escape such an event unmarked. But he'd tried, he really had. The problem was that the other part of him felt like it was still sixteen. He was in college with a two year chunk missing from his life and somehow so many things just didn't make sense anymore. Sometimes he wished there was someone he could talk to who could answer all his questions, maybe tell him what he was supposed to do to get his life back on track, but there was no such person—couldn't be because his questions had no answers.
His response had relieved Haibara though, so that was one good thing. She'd had enough pain in her life. He didn't need to add to it.
So the days blurred into weeks and he stopped counting the days. He woke, went to class, worked on cases, did his homework, and started the whole cycle over again. He ate when he remembered and slept when he couldn't put it off anymore because his dreams were almost always dark. They showed him all the horrors that had or could have been and taunted him with faceless enemies he couldn't fight and the whispers of those who couldn't be saved. It was almost as though the need to take down the Organization had shielded him from the fears, the 'what if's, and now that that goal was gone all the nightmares he'd put off were rushing to exact their revenge.
But the worst were the ones where he could neither see nor hear nor speak. In those dreams there was nothing but the darkness and he would feel like he was falling—falling into the darkness that was going to swallow him whole.
Ran emailed him once every week. She wrote to him about all the amazing sights she'd seen in England. She told him about the people she'd met, the places she'd been, her classes, and even the weather. But at the end of every email, no matter what the topic of the week had been, she never failed to ask how he was doing.
He wrote back to her about classes and cases. When she asked if he'd met anyone new, he told her about Kaito's antics and just how much Aoko reminded him of her. And at the end of every email he sent he told her that he was fine and did his best to convince himself that he wasn't lying.
For most of his life Kaito had been a master of masks. It hadn't always been that way—even the most talented had to start somewhere—but he was a born actor and the ability to pull on and remove faces at will had become as natural to him as breathing. Yet even those who knew of his skills in acting often failed to realize that in order to put on the masks he had had to learn how to recognize them. All those little details that spoke of the myriads of personalities out there had had to be noticed, catalogued, and committed to memory. It was only natural therefore that he could read people just as well if not better than he could impersonate them.
He'd learned that everyone wore masks. They wore them differently and some were more elaborate or multilayered than others, but there wasn't a single person he had ever met who didn't have at least one. He himself had several that belonged to him and him alone without any impersonation involved.
There had been a time when he focused so much on each mask—when he put them on or took them off and who to show them to—that he began to wonder which face was real. There were always so many lies to be told no matter which face he looked out from behind. So then where did the acts end and the real life begin? Was there even a difference? He'd spent an entire night staring at his father's portrait and turning the questions over in his mind. In the end he'd come to the conclusion that there was a degree of realness in every mask he wore, but the feelings that lay beneath them all—that stayed no matter what persona he was presenting—those were real and they were who he was. They were the memories of his family and friends which he would cherish forever. They were the love of the show and the thrill of the game. They were the need to protect the things he loved and the hope that everything would turn out right in the end. And, though it pained him sometimes to admit it, they were also the desire for revenge against those who'd harmed the people he cherished and the sorrow for all the things he'd had to do, would do again, that might have caused those same people pain.
As long as he had these things and knew what they meant to him then he would always know who he was.
Shinichi wasn't an actor. Oh he did all right if he was given time to plan, but even then he was prone to slipping when he got caught up in thought—something which happened fairly often. But, like everyone else in the world Kaito had ever met, Shinichi still had masks. Several of them, in fact. It was really only to be expected, all considered anyone who dealt with murder on a daily basis had to have some way to put a little distance between himself and the crimes in order to properly analyze the situation—and probably also to avoid going insane. He'd also spent a considerable amount of time hiding out as a child, not to mention that anyone who dealt with the media regularly had to have a face for that too. But unlike Kaito's masks, which he had carefully crafted and tweaked for his own purposes, Shinichi's masks were the kind that people didn't always realize they were wearing. Due to his unique position in having seen those assorted masks from more angles than most had the chance to, Kaito found himself wondering what lay underneath.
He'd discovered that Shinichi did, in fact, have a sense of humor and a sharp one at that, though the detective usually chose not to voice his thoughts. Most times it was only the glimmer of amusement in his eyes that hinted at those thoughts, but Kaito found it entertaining to try and pry the thoughts themselves from their prison of silence. It was a kind of challenge not unlike a heist really, only the playing field was built with words and the prize an honest thought.
But there were other things he'd seen too. Glimmers of darkness and the phantom trace of fears too long held close. Sometimes, when Shinichi thought no one was looking or when he was too deep in his own world to pretend, there would be the look of someone lost. Though if what had been lost was way or goal or something else entirely even the magician couldn't tell.
It worried him.
Kaito had never liked seeing others in pain. So he'd made it his business to make others laugh and smile. Sometimes he made them scream in rage too, but it was never the kind of rage that really hurt—or at least never intentionally. He created diversions and entertained the masses no matter what guise he was in because he knew that even the briefest of laughs could do a world of good for the world weary soul. There was no medicine more powerful than joy—and no reward for a showman greater than the smiles of his audience. To know that he had made their lives brighter for even a moment was satisfying and invigorating all at once.
His roommate however was turning out to be a much more challenging audience than he had first anticipated. He'd never met anyone who was so bad at relaxing. It was almost as though the detective didn't know what to do with himself when he didn't have work to do.
The natural solution therefore had been to make him go out more, hence the outings with Aoko and Hakuba. The problem was that whenever the four of them were out somewhere Shinichi would inevitably end up discussing cases with Hakuba. It didn't help that Aoko, set as she was on the idea of joining the police after graduation, was always asking about this and that and listening to the detectives discuss their work with rapt attention. Finally Kaito had pulled Hakuba aside one day out of sheer exasperation.
"Can't you talk about anything other than cases?" he'd demanded, letting a hint of his irritation show.
The blonde had raised his eyebrows at that. "I am a detective. Kudo-san is a detective. These cases are as much a part of us as stories are to a writer. What else do you expect us to discuss?"
Which, really, said a lot about Hakuba, Kaito thought a bit uncharitably, but didn't help in the slightest. There was so much more to life than the crimes that had been, were being, and could be committed. There was so much in fact that he couldn't even begin listing them. It would be like trying to describe to someone what life was.
This was going to be a lot harder than he'd thought.
Shinichi had been in the university library searching for a reference book when he spotted Hakuba planted at a reading table, staring intently at an open notebook. He'd happened to take a look over Hakuba's shoulder as he passed, curious what the other detective was staring so hard at, to find the latest KID heist notice copied out in the blonde's neat handwriting. The British detective had half the note solved, but he hadn't written anything new for several minutes and the frown etched into his face was growing more pronounced by the second. On an impulse, Shinichi reached over and jotted down three lines beneath Hakuba's own notes.
The blonde started in surprise and turned in his seat. "Kudo-san?"
"Sorry," Shinichi apologized quickly, realizing belatedly that his action might be conceived as offensive. "I didn't mean to interfere."
"No, I don't mind," the other detective replied, his lips twitching into a wry smile. "I should really thank you. I was not making much headway on my own. Do you like riddles, Kudo-san?"
"All kinds of puzzles really," he replied with a shrug. "They're like cases only nobody's life is in danger."
"I recently purchased a collection of riddles. If you would like, I could lend it to you."
Shinichi paused, surprised by the offer, then smiled. "I'd appreciate that, though I'm not sure how much time I'll have."
"I'll bring it to the lecture tomorrow morning then," the blonde said before glancing back at the heist notice. "Speaking of riddles, I heard you came close to capturing Kaitou KID a few years ago when he targeted the Ekoda clock tower."
Not entirely sure what to say to that, Shinichi made a noncommittal sound in the back of his throat and waited for Hakuba to elaborate. The detective was interrupted however by a blinding flash of light and Kaito's sudden appearance.
"So what are you two talking about over here?" the magician inquired, casually shuffling a deck of cards that kept appearing and disappearing as he arched them from one hand to the other and back.
Hakuba shot him a baleful look as he blinked his eyes to clear them of the ultraviolet sparks left by the magician's flashy entrance. "I was in the process of asking Kudo-san if he would like to attend the next KID heist."
"Oh?" Kaito's eyebrows rose, interest piqued. "And?"
"I—I don't know. I…guess I'll think about it," the dark haired detective stammered, looking away. "Um, I still have a reference I need to find for my report. I'll see you guys later."
That said he turned and walked back towards the stacks. He could feel their eyes on his back until the shelves hid him from sight.
He hadn't gone to any of KID's heists since he'd regained his proper age because part of him wasn't sure if it was really his place to do so anymore. He'd only ever been to the one heist as himself. And at the time he hadn't even known it was a KID heist. Chasing KID was something Conan had done—one of the only things Conan did people knew about. Shinichi was a homicide detective—and there was always so much to do, so many cases that needed to be solved, it wouldn't be right to ignore them to chase a thief who annoyed people but never hurt anyone. Lost lives were, after all, more important than lost dignity or simple thrills.
Besides, there was a weird but definite culture around KID's heists. The KID Taskforce and its vehemently determined leader chased the thief because that was what they did (and apparently Hakuba might as well be one of them at this point, or so Shinichi'd heard). They railed and they raged about the thief and his mocking, frustrating, and illogical ways, but they followed KID's rules and danced to his tune, whether they liked it or not. It was a game played for so long that it had become almost ritualistic and any interference was generally stamped upon with great vigor. It was, in effect, another circle of acquaintances (the star and his supporting actors) who, while certainly not friendly and often jumping down each other's throats, had come to know and understand each other as much as it was possible in their situation.
As Conan he'd slipped past it all, too small to be conspicuous and too young to be considered a threat to the long standing traditions of the game. But now…well, things were different now.
Kaito watched the detective go, feeling rather more disappointed than he cared to admit. "I don't understand why he doesn't want to go."
Hakuba gave him a look with raised eyebrows. "What, have you changed your mind about not wanting your idol to be caught?"
Kaito snorted. "No one's ever going to catch KID. Though I'm surprised at you Hakuba. Does that mean you think Shinichi would have a better chance than you?"
The blonde scowled at him. "As I have never seen Kudo-san at a heist I can hardly have an opinion on the matter. What are you doing here anyway?"
"It's a library. Can't I be here to borrow a book?"
"Are you here to borrow a book?"
"Nope," the magician replied cheerfully, earning himself a longsuffering sigh from the blond detective. "I ran into Aoko who wanted me to tell you that she'd be half an hour late. Where are you two going anyway?"
"To dinner, not that it's any of your business. Now, if you don't mind, I too have work to do."
"Yeah, yeah. Sheesh, I don't get what Aoko sees in you."
"Thank you for that tidbit of information."
"You're very welcome."
Another night. Another successful heist. Another morning of finding Shinichi asleep at his desk. And it was a Sunday morning too. He'd considered moving the detective onto his untouched bed but Shinichi had woken up with a jerk when he'd felt Kaito's hand on his shoulder, bid the magician a distracted good morning, and gone off in search of coffee with his case notebook in hand.
Letting out a breath that wasn't quite a sigh, Kaito glanced around the ice cream parlor, a hot-fudge sundae already in hand. It was mostly deserted, all considered the weather outside was a bit chilly for ice cream by most people's standards, but hey, he'd never been and never wanted to be most people. He spotted Aoko just as she saw him and waved.
"Kaito! Over here!"
Face splitting into a genuine smile at the sight of his best friend's happy face, he sauntered over and slid into a chair across from her. "So where's Hakuba? I thought he was coming with you."
"He got a call earlier this morning," Aoko explained. "He said he'd be here by ten though. Then we can all go take a look around that new shopping center that just opened before we go get lunch. But what about Kudo-kun? Is he coming?"
"He's working on some cases," the magician replied with a faint grimace.
Across the table, Aoko frowned. "Again? But it's Sunday! I would have thought he should be getting some sleep. I mean, he looked kind of tired last time I saw him."
Kaito made a face at that. "I've told him that but he won't listen. It's just cases, cases, and more cases. He sleeps at his desk more than he does in his bed."
"That doesn't sound very healthy," she mused. "Does he really run into that many crimes? I mean, I heard he finds a lot of murders and all, but I always assumed that was just the rumor mill turning again."
The magician laughed. "Oh, he definitely runs across more crime scenes than should be natural. I'm afraid the rumors there have quite a lot of basis in fact."
Aoko mulled this over for a moment then brightened. "Maybe we should take him to see Akako-chan. See if it really is some kind of curse like they're saying. If it is, I'm sure she could help."
He choked on a spoonful of ice cream. "Aoko!"
"What? It's just a suggestion…"
"The last thing Shinichi needs is to go see that witch. Seriously, he might be a bit unlucky, but it doesn't mean he's cursed." Though he might be if the witch ever got involved, he added to himself. One never could tell what Koizumi Akako might or might not do, and he'd certainly had enough unpleasant experiences of his own at her hands to want to keep Shinichi far, far away from her. The poor detective didn't' need more problems, especially not when Kaito was having a hard enough time sorting out the ones he already had.
"All right, we won't go see her," Aoko relented, digging into her own mint ice cream. She sat in silence for a moment, her expression thoughtful. "You know, you've been spending a lot of time with Kudo-kun lately…"
Her friend laughed at that. "That's kind of what happens when you have a roommate Aoko."
"I know that," she snapped. "It's just…"
The magician's eyebrows rose in curiosity. Aoko was rarely ever hesitant about anything. "Yeah?"
"Kaito," she said a bit tentatively. "Do you…like Kudo-kun?"
The magician's eyebrows actually met his hairline at that. "Of course I do. Don't you?"
She scowled, all signs of nervousness evaporating. "That's not what I meant and you know it! So do you or don't you?" She proceeded to glare fiercely at her friend as she waited for an answer. Said friend however was wearing an expression she had never seen on his face before—and considering just how long they'd known each other that in itself was no easy feat.
For his part, Kaito wasn't sure exactly how to answer—which was admittedly something of a rarity for him. But truth be told he hadn't given the idea all that much thought if any. He'd been focusing most of his attention recently on the puzzle that was his roommate. And that, of course, was the point, wasn't it? He wanted to make the detective smile, but making people smile was what he did. Always had been, always would be. Was this any different? He also didn't like watching Shinichi slowly but surely run himself into the ground, but no decent person would. On the flip side he was spending so much time with the detective because he enjoyed it. He'd liked competing with him at heists, but lately he'd found he also liked how they could just talk (even if it occasionally felt like cracking safes to get the conversations started). It was interesting watching the way Shinichi was in everyday life. It was amusing and somehow warming too how the detective could be so calm and collected most of the time yet degenerate into a starry eyed fan at the mere mention of certain books and authors or sulk like a five-year-old when his favorite soccer team lost a game. It was those little outbursts that always felt the most real and the magician collected them, partly for reference but mostly because they made him want to really smile himself.
Well, that was definitely the beginnings of an answer, he mused, but it could also be the beginning of a lot of problems.
He had resigned himself a long time ago to the fact that there would always be a line between him and everyone else that could never be crossed. People who knew him as Kuroba Kaito couldn't be allowed to know that he was also Kaitou KID. There was too much room for danger in that both for him and them. Maybe one day, he had thought, when he could make himself hang up the hat and cape, he could erase that line and pretend that the secrets never existed. But who was he kidding? He loved being KID despite the danger, and though he would probably have to retire one day that day would be a long time coming. The fact that Snake had already been caught and put away and yet he was still out flying under the moonlight was proof enough of that. And even then, putting away the costume wouldn't change who he was inside. KID was just a part of who he was with or without the outfit. It was the freedom and the thrill and the belief that he could do anything and everything with the world as his audience and stage.
So Kuroba Kaito and Kaitou KID were two faces for the same person and he wasn't sure if anyone else would ever be able to really understand how important that fact was to him. Hell, he still didn't dare tell Aoko because though he would like to think she'd understand he wasn't sure if she could forgive him if she knew that he had continued with the job all these years even when it wasn't strictly necessary despite knowing how it affected her family life. And he wouldn't be able to apologize, not the way she'd want him to, because he couldn't be sorry for being who he was even if he did regret the hurt it had caused her. Given the chance, he'd make the same choices without a second thought, and that was something he knew she would never want to know. So he hadn't and wouldn't tell her.
Secrets were terrible and powerful things for all that they could be a thrill to have.
And now there was Shinichi, whom he'd found himself spending more time observing than was probably normal and who also happened to be a detective. Shinichi, who saw the world in a way no one else he'd ever met did. The one constant about the detective had always been that he could surprise Kaito where no one else ever could. It was a trait the magician found both frustrating and fascinating. He had also walked a path almost parallel to Kaito's own—seen the grays and knew that not all shadows could be chased away by sunlight.
Now there was a thought. There really were a lot of parallels between their lives. It was almost uncanny, but it was also interesting. It opened doors he hadn't even realized existed. He must be getting careless to not have noticed them before.
Pulling himself back to the present, he raised his eyebrows at Aoko's impatient face. "Tone it down a little will you? I'm not deaf."
"But you still haven't answered my question! So?"
"Maybe," he said vaguely, waving away her exasperation. Why was she so determined to wring an answer out of him about this anyway? "Oh look, Hakuba's here."
Aoko shot him a dark look but relented. "This isn't over," she said pointedly.
Kaito only chuckled. Oh no, it certainly wasn't over.
He had a lot to think about.
His roommate had been acting odd lately. Or odder than usual, Shinichi amended, which he wouldn't have thought was possible except that it was happening now.
It was a subtle shift that had taken him a few weeks to pick up on. The first thing he'd noticed was the strange moments of silence. Kaito was generally a very active person, so when he'd started spending long minutes—sometimes even hours—just perched somewhere with a contemplative expression while his hands practiced simple tricks on autopilot Shinichi wondered if he was sick.
"Sick?" the magician repeated in surprise before laughing so hard he fell off the back of the chair he'd been balancing on. He didn't explain what was so funny and Shinichi wondered why he'd bothered. He wouldn't be surprised if Kaito had started the whole thing just to see how he'd react.
That was about when the creepy silent spates ended and Shinichi put the matter out of his mind.
It was also about that time that the magician started dragging him out of their dorm room more and more often with Aoko and Hakuba nowhere in sight. Then again, he supposed Kaito was probably giving the two their space for once. Aoko wasn't complaining half as much these days about Kaito constantly poking his nose into her personal life (especially since she seemed to think he did it more to annoy Hakuba than out of any real concern for her—something he vehemently denied and she just as vehemently believed since "You know damned well I can take care of myself!").
"Maybe you should say something," Aoko remarked over coffee some weeks into Kaito's newest operation. "I don't think he gets it." And she really wanted to know why he was taking his time when all the years she'd known him he'd always been rather straight forward when he wanted something. And she was fairly sure by now that she was reading his intentions correctly.
The magician only laughed. Frankly he was having too much fun watching Shinichi 'not get it', as Aoko so eloquently put it. The slightly confused looks the detective kept sending his way were cute and rather amusing. Not that he was going to tell Aoko that.
Not that he was planning on letting it go on forever. Funny as current circumstances were, he'd already made up his mind and he didn't intend on letting anyone get to his detective before he did. But there was also the matter of KID to deal with. He was fairly certain that Shinichi must have guessed by now (it wasn't like he'd put any effort into hiding the fact that their faces were similar and the detective had seen him without a mask on several occasions), but the other had never brought up the matter. Obviously he didn't feel any need to try and arrest Kaito, but the magician wasn't sure if that was because A, he didn't want to (best case scenario), B, he didn't want to make assumptions, or C, he just didn't care. If it was B, he might have to do some more footwork, but somehow he thought the other two options were much more likely. Well, he'd find out eventually. It was all a matter of time—time and timing.
Shinichi had excused himself Friday afternoon with a vague declaration regarding the police and a delicate case. He'd said he could be gone for a while so Kaito hadn't thought too much about it when he didn't come back to the dorm that night or the following. When he was still gone Sunday night and then missed all his Monday classes however the magician began to have second thoughts. A quick search revealed a distinct lack of Shinichi's presence anywhere on campus and no one he talked to could recall seeing the detective since his own last sighting.
Eventually he'd hunted down Hakuba as the blonde was on his way to the police station. "Have you seen Shinichi?"
The blonde had given him a puzzled look. "Isn't he still at the hospital?"
"The hospital?" the magician repeated, feeling a sudden chill. On the flip side Hakuba seemed fairly calm and unconcerned, so there probably wasn't anything to worry about. "Why would he be at the hospital?"
Realization dawned on Hakuba's face. "I guess you haven't heard then."
"Heard what?" Kaito demanded. He'd never liked feeling like he'd been left out of the loop. If anyone was supposed to be doing the leaving, it ought to be him (he was the magician after all).
Hakuba had given him an odd look somewhere between hesitant, concerned, and guilty which Kaito didn't like at all and gestured for the magician to walk with him to the station as he explained. Kaito listened to the explanation in silence until the blonde had finished.
"Let me get this straight," he said slowly once Hakuba had stopped talking, his expression a perfect blank. "He volunteered to play bait with a serial killer."
Hakuba winced. "That was not how it was intended. He was helping to rescue the hostages. The operation went a little…off. No one was supposed to get hurt."
"Naturally," the magician agreed in a brightly cheerful voice that sent chills down the blond detective's spine. The two parted ways in front of the police station.
When Shinichi opened his eyes to a white hospital ceiling his first thought was that Ran was going to kill him for fulfilling her predictions, but then he remembered the serial killer who'd gone ballistic when he realized that he'd played right into the police's hands and led them to his hideout and, incidentally, his hostages. Sheer dumb luck had led to the tracking device he'd been carrying getting crushed and he'd had to fend the crazed man off a little longer than planned while the police scrambled to catch up. On the bright side, he'd managed to keep the man from killing off his hostages, on the down side he'd slipped and twisted his ankle just before he could nail the man with a ball to the head.
He couldn't remember the police arriving, but he supposed they must have since he was apparently still alive even if he was aching all over. What he really wanted to know was if the man had been caught, but none of the trickle of nurses and doctors that drifted in and out of his room knew anything. The one doctor he'd managed to get to really talk to him had only told him that he shouldn't be stressing out about such things when he was supposed to be resting—which really just wasn't helpful at all. So he'd resigned himself to endless hours of nothing but the steady beep of the machines and the mind-numbing whiteness of the room.
In the end he gave in and took the painkillers and let the blessed peace of sleep pull him into its gentle arms.
The monotony was broken when he woke from yet another restless nap to the familiar, hair-raising feeling of being watched. Tensing reflexively, he'd turned to see who had invaded his room while he slept. He wasn't sure who he'd been expecting, but he was surprised to find Kaito sitting in one of the plastic chairs by the door. The magician was idly juggling an odd assortment of balls and other objects he couldn't distinguish through the blur of motion. Their eyes met and Shinichi noted that the magician's expression was totally neutral. The usual smile was nowhere to be seen and his indigo eyes seemed a shade darker than usual, but other than that his face was a complete blank.
"How are you feeling?"
"Still sore and bored out of my mind," Shinichi admitted, voice coming out a little hoarse. "Shouldn't you be in class?"
"Ditched," came the casual reply. "Nothing interesting scheduled for today anyway."
Shinichi paused, trying to decide what it was about the magician's tone that was setting his nerves on edge. It seemed…almost too calm. There was a hint of cheeriness there, but it didn't feel happy at all. He would have pegged it as manic if it hadn't simultaneously sounded so flat and controlled. Pushing the uneasiness aside for the time being, he asked the question he'd been fretting over, figuring that the magician must have heard what had happened if he'd found his way to the hospital.
"They caught the man right?"
The juggling slowed for a moment before speeding up again. "Yes, they did."
"Good." He relaxed, letting his eyes slide closed as that weight was finally lifted from his chest. "So everything's all right then."
He didn't hear Kaito move but an instant later a hand was fisted in the front of his hospital shirt and his eyes flew open to meet fierce, indigo orbs. He froze. He'd never seen the magician angry before. He hadn't realized how terrifying the other could be.
"That is not all right," the magician snapped, his voice tightly controlled and full of sharp edges. "Does it not register in your mind that you almost got killed?"
"I—It was—I mean…" Shinichi stammered for a moment, shocked and a little bit scared of the expression on the face he was used to seeing display nothing but good cheer. "What do you—"
"Tell me," the magician drawled, voice deceptively lazy, "what exactly is so all right about that."
Swallowing to give himself a moment to grapple with the situation and moisten his unhelpfully dry throat, Shinichi struggled to find something to say that wouldn't aggravate the other. But Kaito got upset so rarely he wasn't sure where to begin.
"I'm a detective," he said finally, settling for the only coherent response he could lay his hands on that he had a chance at actually explaining. "These things happen sometimes… But everyone's all right, right? So—"
"Most detectives don't land themselves in the kind of trouble you do," Kaito cut in dryly. "I've known several, and you are the only one who seems to be on a permanent crash course with disaster. Tell me, do you really enjoy that or are you really that eager to get yourself killed?"
"I like what I do," Shinichi said a bit defensively, choosing for the moment to ignore the second half of the accusation (which was ridiculous anyway. If he'd wanted to die he would have been dead a long time ago).
Kaito snorted. "Of course you do. No one who didn't could spend as much time as you do working. Now answer the question."
"It's…just what I do," Shinichi said finally after a long moment of silence, the words coming out a little more uncertain than he would've liked. He still didn't get where this all was coming from or where it was going or even why he felt obliged to answer someone he'd known for less than a year (though he supposed if his suspicions were right then he'd sort of known him longer, not that it mattered at this point). And really, what was there to say? The detective was the only part of himself he knew for sure was him and which he knew mattered in the grand scheme of things. It was the aspect that had never changed and would never change and he couldn't help but cling to it.
He wondered if anyone would understand that.
"I don't have to look for trouble," he added as an afterthought. "It generally finds me." It probably would even if he wasn't a detective too. That was just the way his life worked. Always had. Probably always would.
Dark indigo eyes were scrutinizing him intently and he found he couldn't meet their piercing gaze. Finally Kaito sat back with a sigh.
"What happened to you, Tantei-kun?"
Shinichi started at the nickname, eyes widening and its unexpected appearance (Kaito had never called him anything but Shinichi). True, he'd suspected that Kaito might be KID from the beginning, but he would never in a million years have expected the magician to deliberately reveal it himself. And it had to be deliberate because Kaito wasn't the kind of person who made that kind of slip (or he supposed it could be KID in disguise, but his instincts were telling him that wasn't it).
"You—you just… Why did you—"
"Let's trade," the magician cut in, speaking like there was nothing at all odd about the situation. Like he hadn't just told Shinichi who he was, albeit not in so many words. "You tell me your story, and I'll tell you mine. How about it?"
"My…story?" Shinichi repeated, slightly befuddled by the odd request.
Kaito waved a hand airily. "You know, why you took another round of elementary school, how you got back—why you aren't thrilled to be back all considered because honestly I've been looking at this back to front and sideways for months now and I still can't figure out why."
Well, that certainly killed any possible doubts he might still have had about Kaito being the Kaitou KID.
When he didn't answer for several moments the magician stood up and produced a white card with a flick of his wrist. He placed the card on the table by the bed.
"Think about it," he said quietly, holding Shinichi's gaze for a long moment before turning and vanishing in a puff of white smoke. The detective stared at the spot where he had been for nearly a minute before moving to pick up the card.
He knew long before he'd finally, officially, made up his mind that he would be going. But it had taken him the last few days in the hospital to figure out why. There were so many whys to wonder about. Yet the picture was there, even if he couldn't see the whole thing yet. Perhaps talking to someone could help make it more clear.
It was colder on the hotel roof than he had expected it to be. Far below him the city spread out in a sea of lights. This far above the streets the sounds of traffic were muted so that it really was possible to believe you were standing above the world.
He glanced away from the city below to meet sharp, indigo eyes that even the shadow of their owner's white top hat couldn't obscure. It was strange, but even knowing who it was couldn't seem to dispel the cloak of mystery that the magician wore more securely than his cape. "Why are you doing this?"
The magician walked over to lean against the railing beside him. "Why are you here?"
"Secrets are heavy sometimes, no?"
Shinichi looked away, not quite able to meet the intensity in the other's gaze. "You should know as well as I do."
"I do." The teasing note had left Kaito's voice as hands closed on his shoulders and turned him gently but firmly to face the magician. "And that's why we're here. What are friends for if not to share your troubles with?"
"Should you really be taking risks like this?" Right after a heist no less.
His question was met with a brilliant grin. "What's life without a few risks? Besides, you've had several days now and I don't see anyone else up here. I think that means I've rolled a six. Besides, I can't exactly expect you to trust me if I don't trust you now can I?"
Trust. Such a little word but hearing it sent a warm tingle through Shinichi that he couldn't quite identify. And it was unsettling but, though he'd never considered it before, if he really thought about it now he knew that he did trust the magician. From dealing with KID as a detective he'd come to know that the thief had his own sense of integrity and upheld values not all that different from his own (where it really mattered anyway), and in the time he'd spent living with Kaito he'd come to see the magician as a real friend.
Kaito smiled, the expression unusually soft. "So how about that story?"
Shinichi frowned slightly before letting out a quiet sigh as he rested his elbows on the railing. "It's a long story."
"We have time."
A faint, rueful smile made its way onto the detective's lips. Kaito sure was persistent. But he knew that already. And, well, it couldn't hurt to talk about it. Hadn't he been wishing there was someone he could talk to?
It was, perhaps, one of the strangest nights of his already strange life. Trading life stories with Kaitou KID on a hotel roof with only the moon for a witness. To think that this was the same place they had first traded words. Things sure had changed a lot since then… It was also one of the most relaxing moments he'd had since longer than he could remember. To be able to tell someone everything that had happened… It didn't change anything, but at the same time it felt like a weight being lifted off his chest. In return he became the first detective ever to hear the story behind Kaitou KID. And he thought that maybe the magician was just as glad to have someone to share his tale with as he himself had felt.
Afterward they fell into a comfortable silence that reminded Shinichi of the more peaceful moments back at the dorms. Funny that. Had this feeling been there all along?
"Did you ever find it? The jewel, I mean."
Kaito shrugged, indigo eyes flickering briefly to the full moon overhead. "No."
"Is that why you're still…" Trailing off, Shinichi waved a hand at the white KID outfit.
The magician laughed. "I suppose I could say that, but it would be an excuse. I suppose it's a goal of sorts, but it's not about that really." He stopped abruptly, watching the detective closely. Shinichi was nodding slowly, his own gaze thoughtful before he broke out into a smile—one of the most real smiles Kaito could remember ever seeing him wear. And knowing that he had put it there filled him with a kind of warmth he couldn't remember ever having felt before.
"I guess there's no bigger stage than the world itself."
Kaito blinked then laughed, his own face breaking out into a broad grin. "And no better audience either!"
And oh but it was like a taste of freedom to be able to laugh. Somewhere in the back of his mind, Shinichi knew it couldn't last. They would have to go back to the real world eventually. Leave this strange, surreal place of moonlight and dreams. But for now, for this moment, maybe it didn't matter.
"You're being pessimistic again," Kaito observed, his tone a mixture of exasperation and amusement. "I'll bet you never once thought about celebrating even after you brought down that organization of yours."
"Celebrating?" Shinichi rolled the word over his tongue, tasting its unfamiliar edges before he shook his head. "What would the point be? It's not like it was an end to murders or anything. Besides, it wouldn't seem right to celebrate when so many people suffered so much. It would be like dancing on their graves."
"You can't give up on the good things in life just because you can't make all the evil in the world disappear just like that. That would be the same as letting the bad guys win!"
Shinichi blinked, slightly taken aback by the magician's vehemence. "I'm not. I'm a detective remember? It's my job to make sure innocent people can go on living normally."
"You know," Kaito said carefully, "I'm sure you know this, but it occurs to me that perhaps you need a reminder. No matter what you do, you can't undo what's already been done and you can't bring back the lives that have already been lost. And it's not part of your job to pay for the ones you couldn't help."
"I know that," the detective replied, sounding suddenly very tired. "I guess…sometimes it just feels like I should be doing more."
"More?" the magician echoed in disbelief. "I think you've redefined what it means to work around the clock, and you think you need to do more? How?"
"I—I don't know." A long sigh escaped his lips and he raised a hand, absently tracing the shape of the moon in the sky. What did it think of them all, he wondered. "I guess…maybe… You know, I used to have everything all mapped out. I was going to be the best detective the world had ever seen. It was all that mattered. Then everything was about the organization—about getting back to normal. But now… What am I supposed to do now? I just…"
A gloved hand closed over his, lowering it, and he found himself looking into warm, indigo eyes. "Now you live—and in case you're wondering, surviving isn't the same as living," he added, wagging a finger under Shinichi's nose as the mischievous grin returned to his face.
"And how exactly are they different?" he asked, torn between curiosity and skepticism. The last thing he expected was for the magician to lean forward and kiss him.
He froze. Shock raced through him, but there was something else there too he couldn't quite put his finger on—something unfamiliar and warm that tingled. Kaito pulled away before he could figure out what it was.
"I'll show you, if you let me." There was nothing but sincerity in the magician's voice and eyes. Something broke then, or maybe it was something finally becoming whole, Shinichi wasn't sure. What he did know was that he didn't want to pull away when Kaito pulled him closer and kissed him again. When he relaxed instead of trying to push the magician away the arms around him tightened and he found his own arms moving instinctively to slide around Kaito's neck.
And for the first time in a long time he found that he felt at peace.
It was an end and a beginning. He had no idea how this was going to end—he'd never even imagined his life taking a turn like this—but maybe…maybe it didn't matter that he didn't know.
Winter vacation had arrived faster than Shinichi would have thought possible. It was strange sometimes how time really did seem to fly. After living in the dorms for a semester his own house felt even bigger than it had before—bigger and emptier. Kaito had invited himself over for the duration of the break, but his debut as a professional magician was approaching quickly and so he spent most of his time making preparations. Conversely Shinichi found himself with a lot more time on his hands with no classes to attend and study for and no Kaito with his endless list of things to do. He had to admit he missed the magician's company.
He was shocked one morning when he answered the doorbell to find himself looking down at four very familiar faces he hadn't seen in what felt like forever. He blinked but they were still there, shuffling a little nervously but with that familiar glint of determination in their eyes.
"We just wanted you to know that we, um, well, we were wondering if you still wanted to play with us," Ayumi explained, her hands clasped behind her back and her expression torn between worry, embarrassment, and hope. "I mean, we don't mind if you grew up or anything…"
He stared at her for a moment as his mind screeched to a halt. Were his ears deceiving him? She couldn't have said what he thought she'd just said. It was just—not possible. As his thoughts chased themselves around inside his head he turned his incredulous gaze to Ai. She looked back at him with her usual steady, slightly bored look, but there was laughter in there too (that all too familiar 'I know something you don't' gleam).
"They made me tell them," she said as though it was the simplest thing in the world despite the fact that he was sure she knew that he knew no one could get her to say anything unless she wanted to.
This had to be some kind of weird dream because this couldn't possibly be happening. What in the world could possibly induce her to tell them about—about, well, him? And why in the world had they believed her? And yet… Well, they believed in ghosts and monsters. They were children after all, and children believed in things much more easily than adults did.
The kids were getting nervous waiting for him, he realized with a start. Looking at them he found a sudden lump in his throat. Fighting to keep his hands steady, he stepped back and opened the door wider.
"Do—do you want to come inside?" he asked, sounding more tentative than he'd like to admit.
The broad grins that broke out across their faces lifted a weight from his chest he hadn't realized had been there all along. He really had missed them.
Though now, knowing them, he'd probably have to tell them the whole story—or the safe parts anyway. He'd have to ask Haibara what she'd said first.
If this was a dream, he might as well enjoy it while it lasted.
The first time Kaito saw the Shounan Tantei running around a crime scene under Shinichi's directions he had to grin. The detective looked more alive than he had in a long time and the kids were obviously having the time of their lives while the police looked on in baffled anxiety. It was a heartwarming sight really. The first time he heard Megure-keibu muttering under his breath about "Kudo's Kids" he laughed so hard he gave himself cramps.
Life was good, he thought with a grin. He'd claimed and secured his detective (who was looking much better these days) and a spot on the world stage as his professional debut had gone off with flying colors. He had everything he'd ever wanted and a world of possibilities open at his feet.
Things weren't perfect, Shinichi reflected, but they were getting better. He still had nightmares and the paranoia would probably never wear off, but at the same time he found that he no longer felt like a ghost when he walked through a crowded street. He was also still buried most of the time in cases and school work, but he wasn't spending all hours on it anymore (Kaito was particularly insistent about this, going so far as to steal and hide Shinichi's work when he felt it necessary—something the detective didn't particularly appreciate, but Kaito usually had other places to go and things to do lined up so that he had neither the time nor energy to complain). In a way, it was almost like the world had begun to turn again. He might not know exactly where he was going, but he was starting to understand that maybe he didn't have to know just yet.
And he knew he owed it all to Kaito and the magician's persistence. There were times when he wished he knew how to thank him for everything—for being there and for caring even though he didn't have to. But the few times he tried in vain to find words for it he would inevitably fail. And Kaito would laugh and kiss him with a look in his eyes that was warm and understanding and contented all at once.
"Just smile, Shin-chan. We've got our whole lives ahead of us."
A.N: I wrote most of this last year but recently dug it up and thought I'd finish it and post it since I couldn't finish Travelers' next chapter before March ended. Hope people enjoyed it ^_^ I know it was kind of long, but it was written as a one-shot so I decided not to cut it.