A.N: This is technically a companion piece to "Shadow of a Smile". The sections are not all chronological.

Disclaimer: I don't own DCMK

Pairing: KaiShin [KaitoxShinichi]


Echo of a Laugh

Aoko had been the first to notice mainly because she'd seen it coming. In some ways she rather thought she'd noticed it before they had, but she couldn't be a hundred percent sure of that. What she did know was that she'd known Kaito for practically all her life and she'd never seen him so interested in one person before. Practically from day one of college most of what he talked about when he wasn't prattling about that damned Kaitou KID or some new magic trick was his new roommate, the formerly missing detective Kudo Shinichi.

Of course she hadn't been able to get a straight answer out of the magician regarding the matter, but she'd kept her eyes and ears open and she'd noticed when the growing friendship between the two had shifted to something more. It was really a fairly subtle shift—more a feeling than anything else. Well, that and the way Kaito's usual lack of respect for other people's personal space had suddenly increased tenfold when it came to his detective roommate. Shinichi, who had always struck Aoko as somewhat reserved and maybe even a bit clumsy when it came to social matters, spent a lot of time pink with embarrassment but she rather thought that the fact that he hadn't taken a swing at the magician yet meant something. Of course Kaito could always just be teasing to unsettle the rest of them, but she didn't think that was it. Maybe some of it, but definitely not all of it.

Whatever the conclusion the two had come to was though, she was happy for them. Kaito seemed calmer these days, though most people would probably call her crazy to make such a claim. It was a kind of contentment, she mused, sipping her milkshake as she watched Kaito make the book Shinichi was reading disappear and replace it with an ice cream sundae.

It was, she decided, a good thing all round.

She couldn't claim to know Shinichi well, but she was starting to know him better, and she could tell that he was a good person. Maybe a bit worn out and a little sad sometimes about something she'd probably never know, but honest and dedicated to the work he spent a little too much time doing. And there was that odd sense of knowing in his eyes, like someone who had seen a lot more of the world than someone like her had ever thought to think there was and come to understand more than most would ever believe. It was a look she sometimes thought she caught glimpses of in Kaito too in those moments when she turned around and thought she saw a stranger behind her old friend's gaze (though how, when, or why he would have that look she had to admit, reluctantly, she couldn't begin to guess).

It made her wonder if the two of them were hiding something sometimes. What was that knowing gleam in Kaito's eyes and in the quirk of his smile? It wasn't just the usual 'I know something you don't' or the similarly common amusement at the world and the games he played that only he understood. And what were they thinking in those moments when they shared those glances that were so obviously full of unspoken words?

Part of her, possibly inherited from her policeman father, really wanted to know, but the other part… Well, the other part knew it was none of her business. As long as they were content, there wasn't any reason for her to question it.

And she thought that Kaito's smile seemed more real these days. Funny how she'd never noticed there was a difference before.

X

When Hakuba first heard the rumor he didn't believe it. Of course he had noticed that the two had become close friends (you practically couldn't find one without the other anymore), but friendships could be deep without being romantic. The idea that Kuroba—the hyperactive lunatic who he knew was Kaitou KID, proof be damned—could be in a romantic relationship with Japan's most famous young detective was…well, it just couldn't be possible. There were several good, logical reasons for this.

First of all, even an actor of Kuroba's caliber couldn't possibly hide his night job forever from a detective of Kudo's skills if they were indeed in such an intimate relationship. Hakuba had begun to work with Shinichi a lot more since they'd started at the same university and he had seen first hand how sharp the other detective was. Hakuba had never been particularly prone to admiring anyone—it was, he supposed, one of the side effects of knowing you were intelligent—but Kudo had undoubtedly earned his respect.

Then there was Mouri Ran. He was sure he'd heard the Osakan detective say once a while back that she was Kudo's girlfriend. Then again…Hattori had a tendency to jump to conclusions, so it was probably just another mistake on his part. From his own observations of Kudo the times the Mouri girl had come up in conversation, he would say it seemed more like familial fondness than anything else.

And of course there was the fact that both Kuroba and Kudo were extremely dedicated to their work. They were both the kind of people who gave their all to their chosen professions. Kuroba might be something of a flirt, but his only real passion had always been for those tricks he called magic. As for Kudo… Hakuba hadn't known him for very long, but even so he could sense the devotion the other had to detective work. He operated not like someone performing a duty or doing something because he was good at it but like someone who cared—who desperately wanted the world to change—whether or not he realized it (Hakuba had the feeling he didn't). That kind of devotion to anything in a person's life left little room for other things. Or at least Hakuba thought so. He liked his job too of course, but he'd never thrown himself into it the way he'd seen the other two do (he'd always worked under the belief that distance allowed for clearer sight). They lived and breathed it like it wasn't so much what they were as who they were.

But in the end, what it really came down to was that this was Kuroba Kaito they were talking about. Quite aside from the fact that he was sure no one could ever understand the man, Hakuba couldn't begin to fathom how anyone could want to put up with him for the rest of their lives (or any time at all if they didn't have to really). To him, it sounded like Hell incarnate. End of story. Although he was careful never to tell Aoko this (because though he may grudgingly admit that they were friends of a sort, Kuroba was the kind of friend that made him wish on occasion for the company of his enemies—they were easier to deal with and didn't enjoy humiliating him at every opportunity).

So he dismissed the rumors and put the matter out of his mind.

Or at least he did until he arrived at the study room in the library where he was supposed to work on a project with Kudo for one of their classes just in time to see Kuroba lean in and kiss the Detective of the East. Very soundly.

For a moment he was sure that Kuroba was doing this on purpose just to shock and throw him (and maybe Kudo too) off. It was a bit drastic but it was certainly working. For a split second there he was sure his brain had short-circuited or that he'd been working too much and started hallucinating. It was most definitely not what he'd been expecting to see that afternoon and now he couldn't remember any of the twenty three bullet points he'd wanted to mention to Kudo regarding their project. And what the hell was Kuroba doing there anyway? This wasn't his project!

"Practicing how to catch flies?"

Snapping out of his stunned stupor, the blonde snapped his mouth shut and glared at the grinning magician. He noted that Kudo had turned bright red, slid off the edge of the table where he'd been sitting and into a chair, and was now trying to hide behind his open textbook. "What were you doing?" He couldn't quite keep his voice from rising as he struggled to rein in his confusion.

The damned magician had the audacity to smirk at him as he picked up four of the reference books stacked on the table and began to juggle. "I do believe people call it a kiss. Didn't you know?"

He shot Kudo another look, wondering why the other detective hadn't said anything. He wasn't sure what he was expecting the other to say—protest maybe—but he was definitely expecting something.

"Kaito…" Shinichi said finally, sounding caught somewhere between embarrassment and exasperation. "You're not helping…"

The magician shrugged. "He asked."

"You—you're… But you…"

"My isn't he eloquent today," Kaito remarked, turning back to Shinichi. "Is he always like this when you're working on school projects? I can't imagine he'd be much help."

At that point Hakuba just wished he could step out of the room and redo the last ten minutes wherein he would knock on the door before walking through it. Well, too late for that.

Later he would wonder if Kuroba had known he would walk through that door when he had. Probably, damn him.

So it turned out the rumors had some truth to them.

He wasn't sure if that altered his view of Kudo or Kuroba more. The latter had just become ten times more incomprehensible. Why would someone as meticulously careful as Kuroba endanger himself unnecessarily by pursuing an intimate relationship with a detective? Unless he thought it wouldn't be a problem if Kudo found his secret. Or maybe Kudo already knew? But he was a very dedicated detective. If he had proof, wouldn't he have turned the thief in? Or at least be bothered by the fact? Kudo was no actor, but he hadn't shown any signs of either thought pattern. Of course, it was also possible that he did know and didn't care. If that was the case, Hakuba had no idea what he should think. Before he'd gotten to know Kudo, he would probably have assumed that the boy's reputation wasn't what it was cracked up to be if he let personal matters sidetrack him from his duties so easily, but now that he'd gotten to know the other detective he couldn't quite bring himself to believe that.

In the end he decided that there was probably more to it and he couldn't make an accurate evaluation of the situation with his limited knowledge. He just hoped Kudo wouldn't get infected by Kuroba's sense of humor.

X

Hattori Heiji had not enjoyed his introduction to his best friend's new boyfriend. If asked however, Kaito was inclined to blame the detective for that. It wasn't his fault after all that they had met under…difficult circumstances. It was Hattori who had come up to Tokyo unannounced just to try the new restaurant everyone was raving about and it had been Hattori's bright idea to drag Shinichi there with him so they could catch up on the first day that month that Kaito and Shinichi had both been free for lunch. Later Hattori would vehemently proclaim the injustice of putting all the blame in his corner all considered he couldn't have known the magician had had plans (especially seeing as even Shinichi hadn't known, so how the hell could the guy who'd come up from Osaka and didn't yet know Kaito existed be expected to?). That, Kaito had declared, was no excuse. Usually by this point in the discussion Shinichi would have to intervene lest something horrible happen to Hattori (Kaito always got extra creative when he was annoyed, something only Shinichi seemed to have realized since he was the only person who could tell when the magician was irate when Kaito wasn't purposefully broadcasting it).

As it was Hattori's first sight of Kaito had been a brightly grinning face which, despite being upside down at the time, had somehow managed to send chills up his spine.

"Good afternoon," the creepily smiling man had said. "I don't believe we've been introduced."

Suspended six feet off the ground, upside down, Hattori hadn't felt much like being introduced to anyone, but the weird, sticky white stuff plastered over his face and all of his clothes prevented him from saying so.

That was when Shinichi, having started to wonder where the Osakan had disappeared to, rounded the corner of the street and paused. He didn't look half as surprised as Heiji thought he should though to be fair he did look horrified.

"Kaito!" he'd exclaimed, giving Heiji a name for the lunatic. "What are you doing?"

"I thought I should say hello," the lunatic had replied, making no move to free his victim though the smile became less creepy when it was turned in Shinichi's direction.

Heiji let out a vehement if muffled protest at the woefully inaccurate description of the situation. And what kinds of friends was Kudo making these days? He'd always known his eastern counterpart attracted the weird ones—when it came to criminals—but this was just a bit ridiculous. And why hadn't anyone let him down yet? He was starting to get dizzy from the rush of blood to his head. Kudo and the lunatic seemed to be arguing about something, though it was more of an exasperated argument than an angry one (something about plans and forewarning?). Though really at this point all Heiji wanted was for someone to get him down and maybe lend him a spare set of clothes.

Eventually the lunatic consented to releasing him and he made a quick trip inside a clothing store to buy himself a change of clothes. The shop assistants gave him strange looks as he trekked through their doors and one pointedly placed shoe coverings before him so that he wouldn't leave sticky white footprints in his wake. It was the most embarrassing shopping experience of his life and he was not pleased to see that the man responsible was still there when he emerged wearing the new clothes with the white mess that was his old clothes stuffed inside a shopping bag.

"It washes out," Shinichi said a bit apologetically when he caught sight of the bag and the white flecks that had aged his friend's hair by about thirty years.

Heiji grunted, noting absently that Kudo had a red rose in the breast pocket of his jacket which he didn't remember seeing earlier. Dismissing the observation as irrelevant for the time being, he glared at the lunatic who had the audacity to produce a camera from nowhere.

"Smile~!"

And as the Osakan spluttered he took a picture.

"Who is this guy?" he finally exploded, jabbing a finger at that smugly grinning face as he rounded on Shinichi.

The Detective of the East winced at the outraged demand. "This is Kaito. He's my—"

"Boyfriend," the lunatic cut in, wrapping his arms around Shinichi's waist from behind and giving Heiji a look that made the Osakan detective feel like he should be running away (even though he knew he hadn't done anything wrong. How could he? He'd only just met the guy! And where the hell had Kudo dug up someone who could smile like the Devil come to claim your soul?). Then Heiji's brain caught up with his ears and his eyes shot to Kudo's face—which had turned pink but wasn't denying it. Well, that was as good as a confirmation in Heiji's book. Still…

"Why couldn't you have found someone normal?"

The lunatic erupted into laughter at that and Shinichi turned away in a manner that made Hattori suspect that he was laughing too and just trying to be more discreet about it. What they found so funny he had no idea.

In retrospect, he supposed he couldn't really be surprised. With the kind of life Kudo led, he didn't meet many normal people. And usually the ones who seemed most normal wound up being the ones you needed to put behind bars. And, well, it was good to see his friend looking so alive. Kudo had gotten quieter and more withdrawn over the years and truth be told Heiji had been starting to get a little concerned. So technically he should be happy that the other detective had met this…Kuroba Kaito. He had to remind himself of this every time he was forced to buy a new set of clothes on the spur of the moment because the ones he was wearing were incapacitated. How Kudo could put up with someone who seemed to have made it his life's work to drive everyone around him insane he had no idea, but each to their own.

And, well, Heiji did like watching the magician pull pranks on Hakuba. Anyone who could show up that stuck-up, blond bastard was okay in his books.

X

Kuroba Chikage was probably one of the least surprised. Of course, she was also the only person Kaito bothered to inform in the normal way of things. As it was she'd had a whole week to get used to the idea of Shinichi's existence before her son brought him home to introduce to her.

Shinichi had been a bit nervous about meeting Kaito's mother and he had to try very hard not to squirm as she greeted him. Despite her warm smile he could feel that she was looking him over very intently. It made him wonder a bit disconsolately if he was really supposed to be there. The feeling didn't last long though as he was ushered inside, sat down, and offered tea.

"You two are just in time. I've been baking cookies for the Ekoda Electuary School's upcoming fundraiser," she announced as she swept off into the kitchen and back again with a large tray of assorted cookies of various shapes and colors. "You two can taste test for me."

"How many do we get?" Kaito asked, eyeing the tray with great interest. Shinichi could just see him zeroing in on the ones with the chocolate chips.

"Eat whatever you like as long as you can still eat lunch, which should be done in fifteen minutes."

She had gone back into the kitchen to finish preparing the aforementioned lunch but she kept an eye on the two as best she could while she worked. They had fallen to talking in quiet voices she couldn't make out. But she didn't have to hear what they were saying. Being one of the only people in existence who could claim the honor of actually being able to read Kaito (or as much as such a claim could be made with any accuracy), she felt she could confidently say that she would be seeing a lot more of this particular guest in the future. Which was good, because her motherly instincts had been nagging at her since she'd laid eyes on him. He seemed a little thin to her, and he had barely touched his first cookie. Maybe he didn't like sweets? Hmm… Well, she had a lot more up her sleeves than cookies!

It was a bit bemusing that this guest was a detective though, considering her son usually treated law enforcement with a sort of careless disregard bordering on disdain in some cases. What did he call them again? Critics? She wondered when he had changed his mind. He'd always been hard to move once he set his mind on or to something.

Well, he would tell her when he wanted to.

It was nice having someone else in the house again. To be able to hear warm voices in the background as she went about her own daily routine. For years it had just been her and Kaito, but while her son was loud by nature it wasn't the same—one person making a lot of noise and several people not so much making noise as being noisy just because they were there and they were living. She liked this feeling. It was almost like there was a whole family in the house again. And while it reminded her that Toichi was no longer around, it didn't hurt quite as much anymore because she knew that the one person most precious to them both was really beginning to step out there now and make his own dreams come true. And really, wasn't that all any parent could ask for?

It only took a handful of visits for Shinichi to grow comfortable with the Kuroba house. Kaito's mother was surprisingly easy to talk to even when he didn't know her well yet. It seemed she was one of those rare people in the world who knew how to really listen. And she had the odd knack of always knowing what to say. Though he did wonder why she seemed to have this urge to feed him every time he and Kaito came around.

X

Shinichi's own parents were probably among the last to be informed. They hadn't come back to Japan since Shinichi had started university and while they did call on a semi regular basis it was usually Yukiko calling to complain about her husband to their son, which resulted in conversations that Shinichi himself was generally in a hurry to finish. Honestly, his parents could be so immature it was frightening. He knew Kaito thought it was strange and rather irresponsible of them never to visit, but he was used to his parents being away and at times like those wailing phone calls he was immensely grateful they weren't in Japan because getting away from his mother would be ten times harder if she happened to be occupying the same physical space as he was. Frankly it was safer to have his parents far, far away.

It was some time near the end of summer that Yukiko decided she and Yuusaku should pay their son a surprise visit. According to her calculations, he should still be at home for another week or so before classes started again. So the two of them had packed up and taken the next flight to Japan.

The sound of the TV led them straight to the living room when they got to the house but it would have been difficult to say who was more surprised to see who when they got there.

The first thing Yukiko noticed was that there were two people in the living room rather than the one she had expected. There was Shinichi, who had been reading, and a boy who looked astonishingly like her son who had apparently been watching some kind of magic show on the television. What really surprised her however was the fact that Shin-chan was sitting in the stranger's lap. Well…she had been thinking it was about time he started seeing someone.

She smiled. "Oh Shin-chan, why don't you introduce me to your friend?"

Really, he had a lot of explaining to do! Why hadn't her little Shin-chan said something sooner? You were supposed to tell your mother things like this! And who would have thought that this was the son of her old teacher sitting here. But, well, maybe that just went to show that there really was such a thing as fate.

And oh it was so cute how her little Shin-chan couldn't seem to stop blushing!

Her husband was probably more shocked than she was, though she knew he'd never admit it. Knowing him, she thought, he'd probably reserve any kind of judgment for when they finished dragging what they could of the story out of their son.

In a way though, the whole situation also made her feel a little sad. It wasn't until that moment that it had really struck her how much Shinichi had grown—how much she and Yuusaku hadn't seen or been a part of. She supposed part of her had always thought none of them would ever change, but it seemed time was passing after all and had never stopped to begin with. Her little boy wasn't little anymore but she couldn't seem to remember where all the time in between had gone.

X

The Shounan Tantei were of mixed opinions about their Shinichi-niichan's almost but not quite twin. Well, actually, they couldn't help but like him (it was hard not to like someone who could make candy appear out of nowhere)—the process was simply slowed by a few unfortunate misunderstandings. It had been a few weeks into the summer after Shinichi's freshman year of university. The Shounan Tantei had taken to tagging along on his cases whenever they could and lately he'd started actively teaching them more about the workings of law enforcement. Ayumi, Mitsuhiko, and Genta had decided that day to trek over and check to see if Shinichi was at home and hopefully get him to play with them since they knew it was one of his vacation days. He was working for the police part time that summer but there were certain days where the station had been informed not to call him unless it was a dire emergency (it was a bit of a mystery at the station how Shinichi had managed to get from the crime scene he'd been at all the way across the city to the station to set up those schedules in only two minutes, but as yet no one had been able to figure it out).

As it was, the kids had arrived at the Kudo Manor that morning to find the front gate and door both unlocked. With it being daytime, the gate being unlocked wasn't all that strange. Shinichi still handled private cases after all and people wishing to ask him for help often came to his door. The front door however was a different story.

Curious as ever, the three had immediately ventured into the house to see if anything was amiss. Upon entering, they had found that Shinichi-niichan wasn't alone. In fact, there was a total stranger there with him who wasn't acting like a client at all. Clients were usually polite about keeping their distance.

Having come up from behind Kaito, none of the kids had had a very good view of what was happening (which Shinichi later thanked the heavens for), but they had known a few important facts. One, the door to the house had been left wide open—something Shinichi almost never did. Two, they could remember seeing this strange man hanging around a few times (obviously, they thought, he'd been spying). And three, he was far too close to Shinichi-niichan than a stranger should ever be. And that was really all they needed to know for everything to make perfect sense (to them).

Kaito had never been an easy person to surprise, but even he was shocked almost to the point of speechlessness when he was attacked by three elementary school kids.

Years of dealing with Nakamori and his men helped him escape Genta's attempt to flatten him via sitting on his back and a hand spring landed him outside of the flailing pack. The kids however were not known for giving up easily and soon they were chasing him down the hall and around the Kudo living room.

Shinichi stared for a moment—it was frankly a bizarre sight. The Kaitou KID running away from three elementary school kids… And when had the kids arrived? More importantly, why couldn't Kaito have shut the door? True, they hadn't seen each other for a few days since Kaito had been invited to a city on the other end of Japan for a show and Shinichi hadn't been able to go with him due to work, but really, that didn't mean he had to get so carried away with his greeting and forget such a simple thing (not that it hadn't been…kind of nice to know that Kaito had missed him too even though he'd been having fun, but he was fairly sure that that oversight was why Kaito was being chased around his living room). But what exactly did the kids think they were doing?

It took him a couple moments longer than usual to sort through their vehement cries and understand that they apparently thought Kaito had been trying to hurt him. It seemed their eagerness to see crime around every corner still hadn't entirely worn away…they should probably work on that…

He hurried forward and inserted himself between the kids and Kaito with both hands raised in a stopping gesture. "Wait! Hold on. There's been a mistake!"

"I'll say," Kaito agreed, peering over Shinichi's shoulder at his elementary school assailants.

"Why are you protecting him?" Mitsuhiko asked, pointing a finger up at the magician. "Wasn't he attacking you?"

"Yeah, we saw him!" Ayumi agreed, her hands planted on her hips.

"What?" Kaito squawked in indignation. "I would never do anything of the sort!"

"Then what were you doing?" Genta demanded.

"I was just saying hello," the magician replied, looping a casual arm over Shinichi's shoulders and grinning down at the kids. "Is that a crime now?"

"Then why were you standing so close:?" Mitsuhiko pointed out, sounding triumphant, like he'd spotted the fatal flaw in the story.

Shinichi coughed and shot the magician a look but Kaito was taking it all in stride. "I was giving him a hug. Don't you hug your friends?"

This gave the kids a moment's pause.

"You see?" Kaito's grin took on a distinctly smug edge.

They looked at each other before coming to a silent consensus that okay, they probably had misjudged the situation. After all, Shinichi-niichan obviously knew this person. Still, they couldn't really be blamed all considered. No, of course not. Sensing that the tension had been defused, Shinichi decided it was time to properly introduce them all to each other. Eventually the kids left, having decided to retreat to the park and discuss matters further amongst themselves there.

Kaito shook his head in amazement as he and Shinichi watched the kids run off. "Man those kids of yours sure can be vicious!"

Shinichi blushed and frowned at him. "They're not mine. And they were just doing what they thought was right."

"Might as well be—and since when was assault an acceptable answer to a situation?"

"They would probably call it preventative measures…"

The Shounan Tantei had gone on to inform the one member of their little group who hadn't been on scene for the encounter. And that was how Haibara Ai came to hear about the antics of that day (she'd been wondering when the kids would run into Shinichi's almost permanent houseguest). She had had a good long laugh at Shinichi's expense over the whole issue—having understood a great deal more about what exactly it was had happened than the rest of the grade school troupe. For her own part she had met Kaito already. Ai had been one of the first people Shinichi had introduced Kaito to (something the magician himself found interesting). She had spent some time observing him (and, she suspected, being observed in return). She had decided that, while he couldn't be called harmless, he wasn't actually dangerous in the way that would require that she worry. And it was nice, she mused, to have someone else around who talked to her like an equal rather than a child. After all, she might have decided to grow up again the natural way, but it didn't mean she didn't still get tired of having to keep up the pretense that she wasn't the genius that she was. That was definitely a point in his favor, even if he could be annoying as anything.

X

Mouri Ran had to admit that she had had her misgivings about what might happen to her childhood friend while she was studying abroad. It wasn't that he couldn't take care of himself because she knew he could, but he'd been a bit…strange ever since he'd come home. Some of that strangeness had been explained to her when she'd finally dragged a confession of where he'd actually been out of him (a confession which hadn't really surprised her), but there were other secrets and shadows she could sense behind his gaze that she couldn't even reach, let alone understand. As someone who'd come to see herself as his (big?) sister and therefore partially responsible for looking after him, it annoyed her that he wouldn't tell her what was wrong, but she couldn't force him to if he really didn't want to talk and…well, she wasn't sure if he knew either so that was a moot point. And maybe there wasn't anything wrong and it was all just in her imagination. There had always been things about him she didn't get. This could very well be just another one of those. As it was she'd left for London determined to make the best of this opportunity.

It was fun and in the whirl of new people and places she couldn't help but feel excited. Life was, she realized, only just beginning, and there were so many things out there that she had never dreamed of just waiting for her. Still, that didn't mean she didn't miss her family and old friends. This was, after all, her first time being away from them for so long. So when summer vacation rolled around she scheduled a two week trip back to Tokyo. Three weeks before the trip she sent emails to both her parents and all her old friends to inform them of her return. It didn't take long for her entire two week visit to be filled with lunch and dinner get togethers and even a three day stint to the hot springs with Sonoko.

She would be seeing her parents first of course (maybe even at the same time if she could manage it), but Shinichi was practically family to her and she made sure to make it clear to him that being late to or, heaven forbid, missing their lunch together would result in very painful consequences once she hunted him down. Being abroad hadn't dulled her skills at all and she'd sent him a photo of her win at one of the local karate tournaments so he knew it too. That way she knew that even if he ran into a case he'd do his utmost best to finish it quickly.

As she'd anticipated, he'd promised quickly enough to be there on time. What surprised her was that he'd asked if she would mind if he brought someone with him. The request was rather unusual coming from him and she'd agreed, all the while itching to know who it was. She had a few guesses from the emails they'd exchanged the past few months.

She arrived at the restaurant she had appointed to be pleasantly surprised by the fact that Shinichi had actually gotten there before she had. Considering he never used to be early, this was a nice improvement. What was even more of a shock however was his companion. She knew it was rude but she couldn't help but stare.

"You—you're that guy I saw that night before the KID heist!" she exclaimed, making both of them blink in surprise. "I thought you were Shinichi!" Although now that she saw the two of them side by side she wasn't sure how she'd made the mistake. It wasn't that they didn't look similar, because they did, but this person carried about him an air that was nothing like her old friend. Besides, Shinichi's hair never got that messy even on bad days.

"Some people do make that mistake—you can't imagine the fun I've had with that," the stranger agreed with a grin before sweeping into a bow and producing a yellow rose out of nowhere. "My name is Kuroba Kaito. I've heard a lot about you. It is a pleasure to finally meet you."

"Oh, so you're the roommate." She smiled and took the rose. "I've heard a lot about you too. You were a magician right?"

"Am," he corrected. "And the best you'll ever see."

Ran raised an eyebrow at that. Talk about self confidence. There was literally not a trace of doubt in his claim. She could see Shinichi rolling his eyes but he was obviously well used to this kind of behavior from his friend.

"We should probably go inside," the detective said, glancing past Ran at the bustling streets and the several impatient people glaring at them. "We're holding up the door."

Ran nodded and the three of them made their way inside. She had made reservations earlier so they were seated in moments She sat across from the two boys, watching curiously as Kaito pulled out Shinichi's chair for him. The detective shot him a look but got only raised eyebrows in return, at which point he rolled his eyes and sat down.

"You're looking well," she remarked to Shinichi as their waiter passed them their menus. "I thought for sure I'd have to remind you that coffee isn't food."

Kaito let out a snort of laughter. "You see? She agrees with me."

"I never said it was," the detective defended himself.

"Oh really? What was it you said again the other day when I asked you what I should buy us for breakfast? Oh yeah, I do believe it was 'I'll just have some coffee'." The last part was delivered in a perfect imitation of the detective's own voice.

"Shut up," Shinichi huffed, glaring at him before turning a longsuffering look to Ran. "Do you see what I have to deal with everyday?"

But Ran was laughing. She couldn't help it. It had been ages since she'd seen Shinichi being so…open? Normal? She wasn't sure what the word should be, but it sent a wave of relief through her, washing away the last vestiges of worry that her friend might never recover from whatever it was that had been weighing him down.

"It looks to me like you're in good hands," she said finally once she'd gotten her laughter under control.

Kaito beamed at her as he reached over and began vigorously ruffling Shinichi's hair, ignoring the detective's yelp of protest. "Yep, I'm taking good care of little Shin-chan here so you don't have to worry."

"Hey, stop that!" Shinichi swatted at the magician's hand in a vain attempt to save his neatly groomed locks. While he was distracted, a puff of smoke covered the table and Ran found herself with a small camera before her. Well, who was she to refuse? She picked it up and took a picture of the two across from her. As the picture on the screen froze she noticed that the image she had caught had Kaito leaning in just that fraction closer and placing a chaste kiss on Shinichi's cheek. She stared at the picture for a moment before the camera went back to photographing mode. By the time she looked up the two were back in their respective seats and beginning to eat the food that had arrived in her moment of distraction (or at least Kaito had started eating. Shinichi was busy trying to fix his hair). Shinichi was muttering something about crazy magicians and their bizarre whims and didn't notice her look at him. Kaito on the other hand was watching her.

She met his gaze, surprised by the intensity of those eyes, then smiled slightly and offered him the camera. "Here, you can have this back now."

"Thanks," the magician replied. He didn't move a hand towards the camera but it vanished in a shower of white confetti that disappeared before they touched the table.

She couldn't say she wasn't surprised, but she liked this vividly cheerful young man with that odd, know-it-all grin. She didn't know him well enough to make any more of a judgment than that. Shinichi on the other hand she did know and it was clear that he was much happier now than he had been before she'd left. If this was the person responsible for that, then he had her heartfelt gratitude as well as her blessing.

They took a walk through the park after lunch. Their walk however evolved into something more closely resembling a traveling magic show. It was, Ran reflected, one of the most interesting experiences she'd ever had in that park. Several of the other people present that day probably left with the same opinion. And she thought with no small sense of wonder that she hadn't heard Shinichi laugh like that in a long time—like the world was the bright and beautiful place it should be and not a shadow ridden place with darkness lurking in every corner where every moment of light had to be clung onto lest they be the last ones you would ever have.

Both boys came to see her off at the airport as she prepared to return to London. They were accompanied by a girl who looked an awful lot like herself and the girl's blond boyfriend whom she recognized as the detective Hakuba Saguru. The girl introduced herself as Aoko and in no time at all they had already traded emails and phone numbers. Then Hakuba's hair turned purple and Aoko was chasing after a laughing Kaito as the once-blond went in search of a bathroom or a hat, leaving Ran with Shinichi who was looking mildly exasperated if in a calm, happy kind of way.

"So will you be coming back for winter vacation?"

Ran pulled her gaze away from where Kaito was doing handsprings over airport seats to avoid Aoko's swinging bag and back to Shinichi. "I don't know yet. I was thinking I might be able to get Mom and Dad to come to England, but we'll have to see what happens."

He nodded. "I'll see you when you get back then."

"It was good to see you again. Though you know, I would have appreciated a heads up about you having a boyfriend. Sonoko's going to have a lot to say to you next time you see her." She laughed as he abruptly paled several shades in horror.

"You—you told—"

"It just kind of came out when we were talking," she elaborated and might have felt more sympathetic for his encroaching plight if she didn't find the idea of that encounter so amusing. "I should probably get going. My flight will be boarding soon. And I think you should probably do something before security throws Kaito-kun and Aoko out. Take care."

And this time as she looked out the plane window for one last look at her home city before it disappeared beneath the clouds, she felt that she could really let go and turn her eyes forward because she didn't have to be afraid that anyone was being left behind.

Owari


A.N: It didn't turn out as well as Smile, but I did want to get a bit on what other people thought. That's also why I tried to avoid having anything from Kaito or Shinichi's point of view, but there are a few exceptions I couldn't avoid. Anyhow, hope you enjoyed and thanks for reading.