by windtear raye_
DISCLAIMER: 'Magic Kaito' is copyright Aoyama Gosho and Shogakukan, not me.
Scenario I: Prodigal
The first time Aoko sees the Kaito Kid is on her first evening back in Tokyo.
She hasn't been here on any kind of permanent basis for over ten years - not since her mother died and she went to live with her aunt in Kyoto. There have been visits, of course, and letters and phonecalls. But most of the visits were spent with her friend Kuroba Kaito and his parents, while her father buried himself in work; and the phonecalls and letters from her father were brief, compared with the ones from Kaito, even when they were seven and half a page was a lot of writing.
She's fifteen now, and has won entry to a prestigious Tokyo high school. Her aunt was delighted, Kaito was suitably impressed and even her father seemed pleased. There are no dormatories on the school campus, though, so there's only one thing to do: ask her father if she can come back to live with him. She's a big girl now, she can handle that he always puts work first. But still... maybe...
These hopes for a reconciliation and renewal of parental care are dashed when the radio alert about the Kaitou Kid heist-in-progress comes over the police radio in the car her father's using to pick her up from the train station. Without a word to her, her father picks up the responder and tells the rest of the Kaitou Kid Taskforce that he's on his way, and then rips the steering wheel around, puts on the police lights and drives off to catch the thief, giving nary a thought to his daughter in the passenger seat.
As she tells Kaito and Kuroba-obaachan the next day, it was a very humbling moment.
She does *not* tell them what had happened next - how, as the car arrived and she and her father had gotten out, a smoke-bomb had gone off next to the vehicle. Standing there, coughing and eyes streaming, she had not registered at first the figure that had loomed up out of the artificial mist beside her. When she did, the man in the white tuxedo had smiled gently at her, bowed and presented her with a white rose and a sapphire ring, murmured "Welcome back, Aoko-chan," and then vanished. Her father had been furious that nobody had caught him, even though the ring proved to be the subject of the burglary and she had given it straight back.
The rose sits in a bud vase on her bedside table, soon joined by a twin, presented to her by Kaito.
That night, her second in Tokyo, she sits on her bed and stares at the two roses. She thinks about how tall and filled out Kaito has become, and how, if she didn't know his age and met him on the street, she might think him older than almost-sixteen. She thinks about how, when he greeted her that morning, he had said hello and how-are-you, but unlike everyone else, hadn't said 'welcome back'. She thinks about how, when Kuroba-obaachan had exclaimed in surprise and shock when she had told them about how her father had immediately gone back to work, Kaito had reacted much more slowly, as if it hadn't been a surprise to him at all.
And she wonders.
The days quickly fall into a rhythm that is as innoccuous as it is mundane. Aoko settles into her new school, making friends with several of the other 'ordinary' girls and, surprisingly, the queen of the school. Akako-san is beautiful, intelligent, popular and before long it becomes clear that she wants Kaito as more than a friend.
So perhaps it is not so surprising she becomes Aoko's friend when Kaito is such a constant presence in Aoko's life. Every time she turns around, it seems, Kaito is there; Aoko's new friend Keiko speculates that he has fallen in love with her, an idea Aoko can't help but find entirely fanciful. She is, after all, cute rather than beautiful; Kaito is the handsomest boy in class and being pursued by the school beauty. She and Kaito are not anything other than good friends.
(and Aoko will not think about a thief in a white suit with a flying white cape, smelling of roses, greeting her with affection and her name)
And then there's the routine that is *not* innoccuous or mundane: on the nights since her arrival that there's a full moon, the Kaitou Kid rides the skies and her father charges out in reckless pursuit, his face alive and his eyes bright with anticipation.
She has been forced to accept that this is what he loves, what he lives for: the pursuit, the challenge of an opponent that flings down the gauntlet and faces him down. Nothing else, neither a wife nor a daughter nor any other thing, can hope to match that level of committment from him. Though she knows he cares for her as much as he is able, what parental love he is able to give is not nearly as much as she wants. Fortunately for Aoko, Kuroba-obaachan is prepared to lend a shoulder when she first realises this. After the first storm of bitter tears, Aoko realises that her aunt, too, knew what her father was like, and that this was why she was brought up in Kyoto. Still, she can't help but be a little resentful of the opponent who has so absorbed her father's attention.
Kaito is sympathetic when she explains why she really doesn't want to hear him talk about the Phantom Thief he admires. Not that she blames him for admiring - the Kaitou Kid's feats of derring-do are legendary - but she really doesn't want to even think about the Thief who steals her father's attention along with his prizes. It's bad enough that she has already lost her father. She really doesn't want to give him any more victories, even if she's the only one who knows he's won.
(it *is* admiration, isn't it? Kaito must be a fan, because the other possibility is nothing short of rankest cruelty and Aoko doesn't want to believe the universe could be that cruel)
The next heist night, she chooses to stay home and study - she's not doing as well in Biology as she would like, and the one place everyone would be is the one place that right now she *doesn't* want to be. It is therefore somewhat of a shock to look up from her notes and textbook after a couple of hours to see, on the table in front of her, a posy of white rosebuds, a mug of hot tea (fixed just the way she likes it) and an emerald pendant. And a note, telling her to lock up the house, anyone could walk in.
The gentle scold is not mitigated by the cartoon face the Kaitou Kid has scribbled in lieu of signature.
When her father gets home and she wordlessly hands him the note and the jewel (the posy is sitting up on her bedside table in the same bud vase that held the Kid's previous rose and the mug of tea is long since drunk and washed out in the kitchen sink) the explosion is all she anticipated and more.
The next heist night finds her sitting in her father's patrol car, studiously ignoring everything going on outside and concentrating on her English homework. Her father may insist that she accompany him to the heist, but she is *not* going to join the Kid's legion of screaming fangirls out there.
Finishing one exercise, she puts the pen down and recites aloud in English, [Would you like a drink of cold water, sir?]
[Thank you, that would be very kind of you,] a familiar voice replies in the same language, and Aoko can only stare in shock through the now-open window as the Kaitou Kid leans against the side of the patrol car, sipping from *her* water-bottle.
(how can his voice be familiar? She has heard it only once before)
"What -? That's *my* water-bottle!" she finally collects herself enough to object.
"Yes, and thank you for offering it," the Kid replies smoothly. "Heists are thirsty work."
"That was for my homework!" she tries again.
"Offering hardworking entertainers cool drinks is homework? Your school is to be commended," he banters back, and this time she can see the smile curving his lips. Somehow, it seems less cold and more genuine than the smile he wears in the photographs and videos of his heists, and for the first time she can see why he has such a following - this easy charm invites a smile back and a joke in return.
(so like another charming boy she knows - but that can't be... can it? No, it must not be, for if it were - if it were...)
"Thank you for the drink, miss," the Kaitou Kid says with a bow, "but now I must be on my way -" and another puff of smoke erupts around the car as the now-empty water bottle rattles down inside the door and the electric window rackets back up again. Aoko follows its path with her eyes, and is distracted again by the discovery that there is a sparkling white diamond lying in her lap, beside a pure white rose.
But opening the door lets in the sleeping gas, and when the members of the Taskforce get to the patrol car, it is to find her slumped on the back seat, with the stone and the rose held loosely in her hand, as if tucked there by gloved fingers.
This is the third time in five heists that the Kaitou Kid has presented the ill-gotten fruits of his labours to Aoko, so it's not surprising that she finds herself being questioned by the Kaitou Kid Taskforce.
It's probably not even surprising that her father is the lead questioner.
What *is* surprising is how hostile the questioning is.
As she reiterates for the umpteenth time that *no*, she doesn't know who the Kaitou Kid is, *no*, she doesn't know where he is, and *no*, she has no idea why he keeps giving her the jewels to give back, she looks over the group of her father's coworkers, led by her father. The blank, hostile faces are scary, but the harsh light burning in her father's eyes, that burns higher as her answers don't change, is truly frightening.
Eventually the Taskforce accepts that she really doesn't know anything, and her father escorts her out to the car that will take them back to her father's house.
(when did it stop being 'home'? She doesn't know but she thinks it was somewhere around the fifth demand from her father to stop lying and hand the Kid over. Not that she could without proof, whatever she suspected)
"You can tell me, you know," her father says, as the car pulls into the driveway. "He's just a criminal and you don't have to shield him..."
"I *don't know*," she replies wearily. "I really don't."
That light that burns in his eyes, that burnt during the interrogation, frightens her still, because she can see it has burnt away any consideration he might have held for her. In Inspector Nakamori's eyes now she is an accessory, either before or after the fact, witholding vital information from the police. She has convinced the rest of the Taskforce of her innocence, but she can tell that he doesn't believe. He's so enthralled with the idea that he's finally found a lead that the thought that it's a false trail simply won't cross his mind.
"Don't be silly, dear," her father replies. "I can promise you that he'll get a fair trial."
"I'd hand him over to you in a heartbeat if I knew who he was!" she shouts, worn down beyond any kind of respect or politeness. "But I *don't*!"
Her father nods. "Go up and get some sleep," he tells her. "We can talk about this in the morning."
"No!" she insists, sitting down on the living room couch. "You need to understand, Dad, that *I* *don't* *know*! Anything! I really don't!"
Her father frowns and stares at her, and the light is brighter than ever. "When you change your mind, I'll be listening."
She heaves a sigh. "Dad, I can't change my mind about something I *DON'T* *KNOW*!"
"Don't be silly, dear," he tells her patronisingly.
She stares at him, worn out in heart and soul, with eyes gritty and sore from lack of sleep and realises: he doesn't know her. Maybe it's the years apart, or maybe he never would have. But he doesn't, and he doesn't want to, either. All he wants is the Kaitou Kid.
In that moment, she realises that she doesn't hate the Kid at all. She doesn't even hate this man standing in front of her. What she hates is that this man, her father, is too busy being a policeman to be a father.
"I'm going to bed," she tells him.
"Wake me before you go to school in the morning," the stranger with her father's face orders, yawning himself.
She doesn't reply. If he's foolish enough to take that as consent, well, she's not going to correct him.
Kaito, Keiko and Akako are appropriately sympathetic when she pours the whole story out to them at Recess. It doesn't make the bitter taste of the tale as it leaves her mouth any sweeter.
Keiko exclaims in shock and outrage enough for all three of them and Akako expresses her surprise that Aoko of all people would be suspected of being the Kaitou Kid's accomplice, in her usual backhanded fashion that might well be either compliment or insult (Aoko is privately convinced that the reason why she and Keiko are friends with Akako is because they both choose to hear her words as compliments). Kaito, for his part, is silent beyond his initial reaction.
Aoko can't help dwelling on that all the rest of the day.
"I never intended for you to be suspected."
"What?" Aoko looks up from her homework to see a figure in a white tuxedo, face shadowed but with monocle shining, lounging on her bedroom windowsill. "You!"
"I'm sorry. I only intended to make your father notice you more."
"YOU!" comes a shout from her bedroom door, and her father rushes into the room, hands flying forward in a vain attempt to grab the thief's cloak as Kid leaps from the window onto the streetlamp outside the Nakamori house, and then vanishes into the dark outside as her father begins to swear.
"Notice you more? I notice you *plenty*!" her father rants as he slams the window shut. "Bastard!" He turns and sees Aoko sitting, as if paralysed, staring at the windowsill. "Are you all right? He didn't try anything, did he?"
"No. Well... no, Dad, he didn't get time to do anything."
"Good, good," he says, and then asks, almost shyly, "What are you working on?"
"Biology homework. I'm reviewing enzyme reactions. I've read my class notes and the textbook three times and they *still* make no sense."
"I never could get the hang of them myself..."
As the two of them make awkward small talk, before her father excuses himself, Aoko can't help glancing at the flash of white she can see poking out from between the window sash and sill, and when he goes, she immediately opens the window.
It's a now sadly squashed white rose. Of course. In its sudden death, it has perfumed the window track. The heady scent she has come to associate with an inscrutable thief in white billows into the room, and she can't help but smile.
Nothing has been solved. She and her father are still barely more than strangers to each other, the Kaitou Kid is still running around stealing gems, and she still harbours grave suspicions about a certain old friend's possible nocturnal activities.
But she and her father have had a conversation, there are bound to be other clues to what Kaitou Kid is really after, and she'll find *some* way to clear up her suspicions about Kaito.
For the first time she thinks, without any doubts or qualifications, that coming back to Tokyo really was a good thing to do.