Yeah, I know. I write a lot of these kinds of stories.
No idea why I keep doing it -_- At least it's short


Here and Forever After

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That daily the night falls; that over stresses and torments, cares and sorrows the blessing of sleep unfolds, stilling and quenching them [...] strengthened, renewed, rejuvenated, almost innocent once more, almost with pristine courage and zeal we may go forth again

- Thomas Mann
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There was quiet, gruff swearing coming from somewhere nearby, spoken in a voice ill-suited for such language. Then again, maybe there was no voice. Everything was dark and peaceful for a while after that. It could have been my imagination.

Fingers brushed gently through my hair. That, I knew, was real. At least, I hoped it was or I'd worry about my sanity. The light touch flickered briefly against my ear, folding a few strands behind it before reappearing at the top of my head as the hairs fell back into their messy array. I'd long since given up on any long term styling of any kind. My father had the same disheveled hair that I did, so I knew that it was a genetic thing. Even if I wanted to, I wouldn't change it. It was one of the many traits I shared with my dad that I treasured.

It didn't take long for me to realize that I was, in essence, being petted. But the finger tips were so gentle and the motion so soothing, that it didn't bother me. I let out a sigh, falling into the serenity that the touch provided.

And just like that, it was gone.

"You're awake?" The words was whisper quiet that I almost couldn't pick them up. Had I been closer to conscious, alarm bells would have been ringing in my head at the familiarity of the voice. Since I wasn't close to that level of awareness, my mind didn't warn me of the danger I was in.

I let out some noise to show that, while I was awake enough to know parts of what was going on, I wasn't close to conversation level. I'd been known to make the same type of noise when my mom tried to get me up early on Sunday's to go shopping.

"I'm sorry."

I made some other noise, to show I was confused. The room I was in was dark and all I wanted was the peace that those fingertips had brought. There was a tightness around my stomach that was coming into my knowledge and a part of me told me that I didn't want to know why.

Since I had no words to speak, I reached my hand up. I don't know why I couldn't talk, and it wasn't as if I tried, but some part of me knew that I wouldn't be able to. And, again, it didn't bother me. I could get my message across without words.

I must have been laying on my side because nothing stopped the movement. I brushed my own fingers over the strands that had been moved out of my face, trying to get across the message that I wanted it to continue. I noticed that I didn't feel my hair when I touched it. I must have been wearing gloves. That was no surprise. I wore gloves often enough.

"I didn't mean to wake you."

I didn't want the voice to keep talking. Besides the gloves, something was making it so that my whole body felt like there was slowly moving cotton under it- like a herd of sheep roaming around under my skin and keeping me from feeling- though parts of the sensation were disappearing. My side was really starting to hurt now and all I wanted was to go back to sleep. I vaguely got the impression of a child being rocked to sleep, but I didn't care. Selfishness felt really good right now and I growled, about the only vocalization I could currently make, and brushed my fingers through my hair again before letting my hand fall onto something that felt like carpet when it came into contact with my wrist. My energy vanished so quickly that, if this didn't do the trick, I wouldn't be able to clue in my hapless tormenter.

But they must have been smart enough to figure it out. I felt the fingers back, skin brushing against my own. They drew some of the hair I'd misplaced back to a more comfortable position out of my face. The fingers hesitated, to see how I would react. I sighed contently, showing that it was indeed what I wanted.

"I'm sorry."

So many apologies. I didn't know what they were saying sorry for, but if it was for stopping, I'd forgive them for now. Their touch was such a great anesthetic at the moment that I couldn't possibly be mad at them. I let myself float in this half-awake state for a while. I couldn't keep time the way I was. There was neither a change in temperature, or in light, when I came to enough to notice things again, so there was no way for me to tell.

What woke me was a muffled hiccup of breath that would have gone by unnoticed if the room weren't so quiet.

I listened closer, trying to figure out what the noise was. I knew it was coming from the person who was next to me, still blessedly parting my hair here and there. I was happy they'd understood me. It wasn't a sensation I could have explained. If I was forced too, maybe I would have compared it to a mother hugging her child. It was something humanly close and intimately comforting. I didn't think that anyone had ever petted me like some animal, but I almost wished they had. It was such a nice feeling.

But that strange breathing was striking a cord in my heart that had me distracted. It was definitely someone crying.

Without thinking, I took my hand where it was still laying loose on the floor and reached to put it on top of my companion's. If they were helping me, the least I could do is show some sympathy back.

"K-Kuroba?"

I smiled, not liking they way they chocked on my name. I hated it when someone was upset, especially when I didn't know why. Angry and annoyed I was used to, worried and scared was something I liked to stay away from. I tightened my hold for a moment, having to remove my hand again as my energy left me as quickly as it had the first time.

"I'm so sorry..."

I swallowed hard, feeling something in the back of my throat want to come up. I turned my head, my mind slowing filling in some of the information that it had been neglecting before now. The most striking of that information was that it was Hakuba I was with at the moment. Kid or Kaito, he wasn't someone I wanted to be near when I was so vulnerable. And with my brain trying to work through the facts, the white of my cuff was hard to miss.

The second thing that I noticed, in as much time, was that I couldn't move. On instinct, I'd tried to back away from him and found my body wouldn't listen to me. That could have been because I was being weighed down by my clothes that, oddly enough, felt very wet, but there was nothing restraining me, so I couldn't understand how that could be the case.

"Don't- don't try to move." The detective's hand went from my head to my shoulder and held me in place. That only made me want to move more but I was too tired and the room was getting darker. This time the situation did worry me - a lot - I just didn't have the physical stamina to do anything about it.

I felt so cold all of a sudden, though I didn't even have enough strength to shiver. Something happened. Something must have happened. Things weren't making sense and when things didn't make sense, it made some deep rooted part of me afraid. Because I didn't know. If I didn't know, if I wasn't in control, bad things would happen.

"Please, try not to move again." The detective's hand, as I knew it was now, went back and started weaving in and out of my hair again. Like any pet, it relaxed me almost enough to where I was just as happy as I had been before I knew who it was that was comforting me.

And that, in itself, stopped me from lulling into the same trance-like state I'd been in before.

"What happened?" My words came out far quieter than the detective's. My throat was dry and, once I cleared the way, whatever was trying to come up entered my mouth and I tasted something sour. Speaking hurt, but I couldn't tell where the pain was coming from. The stabbing in my head and the white in my vision was as far in the way of information as I was going to get.

Hakuba's fingers moved to my hairline, drawing my bangs further back so that he could see my face. The light was too weak and I was too exhausted to try and look back at him so I let my eyelids fall.

"Please... don't talk. You- you don't remember much, do you? Tap your finger once for yes and two for no."

I tapped my finger twice.

I heard the detective sigh, a catch sucking the air back in at the end of it. "You were after a diamond. I don't know where it is. They probably have it. I don't really know what happened. It all went by so fast."

I let the detective have a break since speaking seemed to be just as hard for him as it was for me. When he breathed in the same chocking way he had before, I almost wanted him to stop so that neither of us had to be in pain. The old saying 'ignorance is bliss' never seemed so true to me before now.

"I was with the Inspector. He was guarding the display case and I was in one of the adjacent rooms, waiting for you to show up. As of late, I haven't been very interested in catching you. I mean, there's been a lot going on since Nightmare and... and I've had other things to occupy my time. I was just here because they asked me to come...

Then- you showed up. I mean... there was this flash of light and I know I saw someone, so it must have been you. At the same time, someone threw open the doors. I wasn't really looking at you anymore. I mean, perhaps I should have been, but I didn't understand what was going on. There were these men, and they were armed. I thought it was some crazy new tactic the police force was using, but then... they let off a few shots. They were aiming for you from the beginning. I didn't see you when you vanished, but I saw the droplets of blood on the glass. There was chaos then, police officers running everywhere and all I thought about was getting out of there. I didn't-"

Hakuba took in a breath. "I didn't even worry about what happened to you."

"... I ran away. When I got outside, I let myself think on it. I couldn't know what had happened, but I fully realized that you were their target, whoever they were. Then I wondered if you'd gotten away from them. It looked like you did, but the blood... so I looked around outside, because I didn't want to be inside. It was still chaos, though there were enough of those men fleeing the scene that I didn't think it would be long before the situation was back under control. I saw you near a few scattered trees along the edge of the property, though I can't say I was looking very hard. It must have been dumb luck on my part. Then you spotted me and took off. It was so easy to follow you..."

"Then you came here." Hakuba looked around but I hardly had any idea where it was we were. His story made sense so far. So Snake had taken another shot at me, not that unusual. It wasn't the first time he shot me. The way I couldn't move though...

"It's bad..." I let the words slide out without fully trying to pronounce them this time. It didn't make it any easier and I felt what I now knew was more blood in my mouth. This time it slipped past my lips and I felt it run down the side of my cheek. I didn't need an answer. I knew. And Hakuba knew. He remained quiet after that, though he'd never stopped running his hand through my hair.

I smiled. Great. Snake got me after all. It wasn't the way I wanted to go and, in all honesty, I didn't think it would happen. I was always so careful.

Akako had told me before though, how stupid I could be. She was right. You could never really call your actions being careful when you were running from bullets. There was no careful when guns were involved, only prevention- and it seemed like I hadn't prevented them from doing anything.

The next worse thing to realizing that Snake was going to have both my father's as well as my blood on his hands was the fact that he'd had to do it in front of the stupid detective. I hated dying by his hands, but I hated dying in front of the detective just as much. Nakamori... that would have been worse, way worse, but Hakuba was still bad. He was like me. We were both young and had our goals at the forefront of your minds, as different as they were, and neither of us liked to see death. Let alone the death of someone close. And, like it or not, Hakuba was close, whether because of fate or the paths we took- becoming classmates with him, mocking him as much as he mocked me... it marked us to one another. It was another thing I couldn't fully describe, though I was sure I wasn't the first to have someone like that in my life, though I knew my situation was unique. Hey, maybe I was.

"Get out." I took my hand, removing his and pushing his as far back as I could, feeling a spike of pain that almost made me black out.

It was silent for a while, though I didn't hear his footsteps, so I knew he hadn't followed my orders. All I knew for a while was pain and the blackness behind my eyelids.

"No."

I bared my teeth, but I didn't have the air back yet to put any threat into it- though, even if I did, it wouldn't have been very threatening with the way I was and unable to move. Everything was beckoning me back towards sleep, but the detective didn't have to be here. I couldn't remember it, but I'd run from him earlier that night. I'd do it again if I could have found a way to switch off gravity.

His hand found my hair again and I shoved him away, managing that growl that I couldn't get out before. "Leave" It came out with the commanding tone I wanted, if not the volume.

"I'm not going to let you die alone. There's nothing I can do! At least- at least let me do this."

Then his hand was back and my strength was gone. I wanted to fight on so very badly. But I just couldn't. I couldn't fight him. I'd never really wanted to fight him. He wasn't the one who I was supposed to be fighting. I wished again for my strength and for one more chance at that murderer. I should have done something more. Anything. Snake shouldn't be the free man that he is. It wasn't fair.

"You know, my mother used to do this with me all the time. When I was a child, and I'd had a bad dream, she'd call me to her bed and rub back back, playing with my hair for almost a hour until I was able to fall asleep again."

I nodded, unable to do more than that. I didn't know what brought up this new line of conversation, but I didn't really care. I didn't care that I couldn't fight anymore. Didn't care that I was dying. I was numb to it all, lost in a strange sense of fulfillment I had no reason to be feeling. Who cared if Hakuba was there? Who cared what was happening or what had happened? All that mattered was the here and now and, here and now, I was happy.

Kaito...

I looked over my shoulder, something that had become incredibly easier to do that it had just seconds ago. I smiled, seeing a face I hadn't seen in so many years. Time had taken away details that I only now took notice of. His eyes were darker than mine, and his hair was darker. My smile grew more when I realized that I didn't care if we didn't resemble each other as closely as I thought we did. He was here.

He held out his hand to me and I was more than happy to take it. I didn't get off the floor but I reached out to him like the child I had been before he was taken from me.

Then I was facing him and memories of long ago started to fade back to where they belonged. I could see my dad, but that meant that I had a great view of Hakuba as well. I could see the detective with all the clarity I needed- and more than I wanted. His eyes were dark as if he'd been in a fight, a result of too many late nights. I'd seen those marks of stress on my own face too many times to mistake them. His eyes were red and his skin under them raw where he must have wiped at them a few too many times.

My father turned his head to the side, watching me. It was like he didn't even see the detective, didn't care what had happened to me before now. Come on, Kaito...

My hand was still outstretched towards him. I wanted to be with him. It was a deep down wish that I'd been craving since I was little, and knew the pain of his loss. I wasn't fully aware and, though I could move, my mind was still in a fog - relying more on feeling then anything else. And he was my father and I'd follow him anywhere. Hakuba was just a friend, and I used that term leniently. I barely knew the guy.

But I couldn't move.

After a few moments I shook my head. I didn't know what to do. Staying in the twisted position was beginning to hurt. The hole in my side made sure of that. I searched my father's face, trying to find the answer to why I was rendered as motionless as I had been before. I wanted to go to him, but...

You can't stay here. Come on. He eyes became a few shades darker and I watched as he reached out to me as well, though he didn't take another step.

I looked at Hakuba again. The detective looked miserable. Besides the marks around his eyes, his hands were shaking and I saw blood stains on this clothes, mostly around the cuffs of his sleeves.

I lowered my hand and rested it gently on his leg, watching a shudder ran through his body. He closed his eyes in something that may have been a wince, though the darkness hadn't completely been removed from my vision.

Turning back to my father, I let my eyes fall to the floor. It wasn't just the stupid detective, it was Aoko too. And Nakamori. Of the lot of them, it wasn't hard to choose my father. I would always choose my dad. But because of the very person I admired, I'd developed an annoyingly strong conscience. I'd always done things my way, but this was something too big to be selfish about. "I can't go. Not yet."

We don't get to decide that, Kaito. I know how hard it is, but you need to let it go, if you don't...

The danger in his words was clear, but I didn't change my mind. There was a stinging in my vision, though no tears, when I forced myself to look away.

"I'm sorry, Dad. I want to go, but I can't."

Are you sure? I couldn't be positive, but it looked like my dad was grinning at me. It only made the pain in my eyes worse, though I was determined to face him. He was dressed in the soft pastel-blue clothes I'd often seen him in, though he'd died wearing his black stage outfit. The blue shimmer slightly more towards white than any memories I had of it, but then again, maybe I was wrong. My eyes hurt to keep open, fighting back tears that wouldn't come but hurt all the same.

"Yes, I'm sure."

I'm sure you're not the first to hear of those little miracles that happen every day. I don't know if you'll make it - it was too late for me - but, I heard the noise of sirens. There must have been a window nearby, because the room was suddenly flooded with flashes of red, at least this way you'll have a chance.

"Thank you."

Now I was sure he was grinning at me. Here's hoping I don't see you anytime soon. But we will see each other again, in the end. He saluted me, fading quickly into the background.

And I was on my side again, hand resting on the carpet as if I'd never moved.

"How did they know? I didn't call..." Hakuba was looking bleakly at the lights. "It's far too late."

"... never too late." I tried to smile, but I knew I'd need my strength and, right now, smiling didn't seem as important as it used to.

"But you've lost so much-"

"Rationality... never meant... at thing... to me." I chuckled to myself, so quiet, it may have come out more like a cough.

It was silent for a while and I was thankful for his touch. He'd never stopped. It changed from being the childish comfort to one that let me know that I could feel his finger tips. That I was still here.

Then there was a lot of noise and I must have blacked out because everything stopped being calm, stopped being painful. Just- stopped being anything. There was a strange euphoria in this nothingness. There was no fear of the darkness that ate at me, because fear did not exist here. Want did not exist. I would like to say I was happy, but that would have been a feeling, and feelings didn't exist. At least, I didn't think they did. I didn't feel sad, but... I didn't feel the way I had with Hakuba speaking quietly at my side. While I was able to think back on it, I couldn't recall what that feeling had been, exactly. I just knew it wasn't was I was feeling now, if I was feeling anything.

Then there was a light and pain and, as quickly as it had come, it was gone again. I craved the nothingness after that because the nothingness wouldn't allow me to be hurt. I didn't want to be hurt again. I quickly forgot the sensation of pain, but the knowledge that it was something I didn't want, kept with me. Though I could feel nothing, fear would attack me whenever that pain and light tried to draw in again, making me cower further away from it.

The nothingness made me content, that terror being the only thing to draw me away from it occasionally. And I had no reason to doubt that fear. Fear was instinctual and I knew nothing of bravery. There was no bravery here. The darkness was something too raw for anything to exist in for more than it's small slot of time.

Slowly, like the whisper of a summer wind, something broke through. It wasn't pain. I withdrew from the new sensation quickly, before deciding that I was curious about it. When I let it back in, I didn't want to let it go a second time.

It felt so nice.

I shied away from the soft fluttering of pleasure when the harshness of light came with it. As I withdrew, I stayed close enough that, while it was harder to feel the warmth, it was still there, and the light wasn't so blinding. Little by little, as I adjusted, I came closer to feeling.

I opened my eyes, wishing the sunshine weren't so bright.

Closing them again before I could really think was what happening, I rested. Those soft fingertips were back, washing away any apprehension of this new light and these new sensations. They failed to wash away the memories, slowly coming back to me as sleep and recognition fought with one another.

I opened my eyes again, finding Hakuba there. He had one arm on the pillow under me, the other wrapped around his head as he rested on the bed I was laying on. Beside him was Aoko, looking much more awake, though her eyelids kept falling shut ever few seconds.

I watched her, her own eyes almost as glazed over as I knew mine were. We blinked in unison once, before hers stretched open so much I was surprised her eyeballs didn't fall out.

"KAITO!"

I winched, wishing she hadn't yelled. Moving hurt and my arm automatically went down to somewhere on my side. The pain wasn't as bad anymore- the initial movement must have shifted me in a way my body didn't like. When I opened my eyes again, once the pain had faded, two very surprised pairs of eyes were on me.

"Yeah?" I mumbled, my throat hurting when I spoke, though there was no blood this time. Aoko didn't need anything more from me anyway. She ran to the other side of the bed and slowly put her arms around me, my own trapped under hers. Her forehead rested on my shoulder and I knew she was crying.

Some part of me was aware that she'd take all of this hard, but not by crying on me. I'd imagined a lot of yelling and a pitiful defense on my part. I couldn't defend against my actions as Kid. I knew my rational would do nothing but hurt her, so I wasn't going to say anything. Bad enough to be mad at me, but I wasn't going to reap doubt into her life more so by telling her about my dad.

She backed away but she never took her hands off of me, one moving to rest on my chest as she sat down in a chair that I hadn't seen on the other side of the bed.

"Kaito, you're so stupid! See what happens when you don't listen to me?"

Eh? I stared, openly confused at her. What had she told me? Especially about being Kid. She hated him - well, me - but she'd never told me to do anything or not to do anything, so how did I not listen to her?

"That was stupid." Hakuba stood up. If I thought he looked bad before, the marks under his eyes looked downright painful now. The corner of his lip twitched in something that wanted to be a smile but he couldn't go through with it. "Kid's dangerous and civilians shouldn't be around one of his heists. Had I known that such an avid fan would worm their way in, I would been on the look out. I can't blame you for your curiosity, but I can certainly blame you for not running away faster when those armed men decided to play out Scarface." Hakuba sighed, looking down for moment before letting his eyes wander slowly back up with a smile on his face. "If Kid could get away, why couldn't you?"

What?

"Kaito, I'm going to go find my dad. He was supposed to be back a little while ago. Don't do anything stupid while I'm gone." Aoko ran out of the room, popping her head back in once she passed the threshold, making sure I hadn't moved in the seconds it took her to get to the door. "Nothing. Don't even breath."

I grinned, giving her the thumbs up.

Once we were alone, both Hakuba and I quickly lost our smiles.

"Why didn't you tell them?" I didn't care if my voice wasn't currently at it's best. There wasn't anything I could do about that and I wanted answers. There were a few other things I wanted answered too, but this one couldn't wait.

Hakuba sat back down.

"Back then... I thought- I'd thought you'd stopped breathing. I must admit, I was worried. Then-" Hakuba shook his head. "This is going to sound crazy, but I heard this voice. I don't know where it came from, or even if they were talking to me or not. They said 'this way you've got a chance'. And- then you started breathing again." Hakuba sighed, a hysterical laugh came out that he bit back on it. "I know. Crazy. But I had the chance to give you my coat an take your's off before they came. I took it."

"Thank you."

Hakuba laughed, looking down on me. "I don't want your thanks. There are many others who would have done the same. What I want is answers."

"Of course you do. You're a detective."

"I'm a detective and failing miserably at it. I've been bested by the worst of them. Please-" Hakuba put a hand down hard enough on the bed to shift my weight. "let me be something more, if I can. Though it's taken me a while, I'd have to be a fool not put together enough of your less-than-obvious hints to see that there is something wrong. I don't know whether you're making it worse or trying to fix it, but there's something big going on, and I'm missing it. Let me at least know what's happening right in front of me. Things were always dangerous, but not this bad. No one's come up before, motive to kill you on sight. I'm sure you've made you're fair share of enemies, but that's a bed I'm lying in as well. If you're in danger, I'm in danger- Because I'm not leaving, and, even if you don't give me the answers, I'm not giving up."

"And then we're still both in danger." I smiled at him. "Don't worry, I'll trust you."

It wasn't anything new to see Hakuba surprised. As much as I liked to mess with the detective, now that I knew I had another potential ally in this fight, I was going to take it. An insider with the police would make this so much easier and my cause wasn't one that would bother him. At least, not the over-all cause. I'd have to see about the thieving part.

I wasn't keeping everyone at arms length because I was trying to be some type of noble hero, I was doing it because there was no body to help- to trust.

I'd only had to know that he'd be okay with who I was. Considering he just saved my bacon, I had to think he wasn't going to go spewing my identity to the whole world. Now if only I knew Nakamori wouldn't flambé me the minute my face and any Kid paraphernalia were connectable. I'd seen once what would happen if he knew, and I didn't like the results.

Hakuba was safe and I wasn't one to turn him away. As long as he knew the danger involved, I'd let him do what he wanted. After all, those were the rules I lived by. I'd be a real jerk not to let him do what he wanted, the same why I was.

And hey, maybe this time I wouldn't have to be near death to figure that out.

"Kuroba-kun."

I looked up at the detective. His shock had given way to a new calm. "When I heard the voice, I got this distinct impression that there was someone laughing at us. Not mocking, but... It seemed strange to mention before, but I can't get it out of my head."

"Show off," I muttered, aiming the words towards my father- wherever he was. I'd never believed in ghosts. If he cared enough and there really were sprints out there, he would have come before now. I got the feeling that he was more of a guild than a guardian angel. He did seem to be looking me over as much as I was him. Maybe we both had to make a choice that night.

I didn't know I was sweating before I felt the detective push away my bangs and some of the perspiration. Even knowing that we weren't in a desperate situation anymore, and me being fully aware of what he was doing, Hakuba brushed his fingers through my hair. I didn't mean to close my eyes. I was still so tired though.

"You've been unconscious for almost a week now." That spurred my interest, but I was too out of it to do more then have the information linger for more than a few seconds. "When you're out for that long, I've heard it's not uncommon for someone to fall back to sleep. If you're tired still, you should rest. The doctors were even surprised that you pulled through."

"I'm a thief," I chuckled, letting the blackness take over. Because this time, there wouldn't be nothingness there to fill my days. There be hurt and happiness and all those other wonderful emotions that let me know that, right now, I was alive. "I can even steal from death."