AN: What? Another fic in the series? Shocking! Yup, this belongs in the same universe as A Perfect Act and No Little Plans. Just a one-shot this time, though. More to come eventually, I haven't forgotten this universe of mine. Hope you enjoy!
Forgiveness and Reunion
It takes one person to forgive. It takes two people to be reunited.
- Lewis B. Smedes
Heist Nights always made Aoko nervous.
Op Nights - the nights when Kaito was assisting the police in apprehending criminals far more dangerous and cold-blooded than himself - made her even moreso.
Tonight was an Op Night, and she was certain she would not sleep until she heard from either Kaito or her father. She had promises from both of them that they would contact her as soon as possible, let her know the outcome and they were both all right. That usually came in the form of a phone call or text message, which is why Aoko was startled when there was a knock at the door, and Kaito was on the other side of it.
One look at his face told her that something had gone terribly wrong.
"Kaito, what happened?" Aoko gasped. She instinctively reached out and touched his cheek with one hand. Usually when she did that, his eyes would light up; he never got tired of those little touches. This time, there was no light in his eyes, no joy at the brush of her fingers on his skin. Just that same horrible dead expression.
She grabbed his arm and dragged him into the house, closing the door behind him; she waited a moment as he automatically took his shoes off, then again took hold of his arm and pulled him along. "You look horrible," she said, suddenly desperate to fill the silence with words. "Get in here. Sit down." He obediently sat down on the couch. "You're white as a sheet, you idiot. What happened? Did you get hurt? I knew this whole thing was dangerous." As she babbled, she ran around, draping a blanket over his shoulders and feeling his forehead to check for a fever, scanning him for any sign of blood or injuries.
Her name, in a voice that sounded like it was being dragged over broken glass. It sounded nothing like the Kaito she knew, had grown up with, had fallen in love with. She stopped and just looked at him. He looked tired. Broken.
At a loss, she sank to her knees in front of him. Again she reached out to touch him. "Please, Kaito, tell me what happened."
He slumped even more, if it was possible, and refused to meet her eyes. "Your dad asked me to help out with a case. A drug ring - they're circulating some new street drug that's doing a lot of harm. There've been too many deaths. So I did some poking around, and got some solid intel. They set up a sting based on what I found out."
"Okay, that sounds like all the other operations you've helped with," Aoko said, uncertain of where this was going.
Kaito fell silent for a moment. Just when Aoko was about to speak again, ask him further, he finally told her.
She went cold.
"…an officer, I mean. Everything was going well, but then one of the dealers came out of nowhere and he had a gun, and…then it was too late," he said. He fell silent.
"Oh, Kaito…" she immediately slid her arms around his neck. "It's not your fault."
He made no move to hug her back. "How is it not my fault? I'm the reason they were there in the first place. I gave them the information."
"You had no way of knowing."
"I should have suspected! Or at least planned for it!" Kaito said desperately. His hands tugged at his hair. "And now his family…" That was the crux of it, in many ways. He knew how it felt to have a uniformed officer appear at the front door with word that a loved one was never coming home again, and he felt he had forced that fate on another family.
"Kaito…" Aoko cupped his face in both her hands and drew him closer until their foreheads were touching. She shifted slightly, and her nose brushed his. "Every cop joins the force knowing that there are risks. They all went there tonight knowing that it was a dangerous operation and that any number of things could happen or go wrong."
"And how many lives do you think have been saved because you were able to get the police there to stop those bastards?" she pressed on, not daring to let him have a moment to protest and backslide into a dark place. "No one wants to die, Kaito, but think about all the people they've already killed with their stupid drugs, and how many people would have died if they hadn't been stopped? One life against potentially so many…" She took a breath. "It is sad. It's tragic. But he died doing his job - protecting others. He'll be buried with honors and remembered as a hero."
He looked at her with those same bleak eyes.
"You didn't kill anyone. You saved lives tonight, Kaito. Don't believe anything else."
Now his eyes slid shut. He took a deep, shuddering breath, and his shoulders slumped forward enough that Aoko was more or less supporting his weight. It was a burden she shouldered willingly with warm arms and quiet words. "I've got you, Kaito. I've got you. Lean on me, and we'll get through this."
His arms finally slid around her waist, pulling her close. Aoko took it as a small victory - at least he was letting himself accept some form of comfort from her now, as opposed to the beginning where he was refusing it, probably believing he did not deserve any such consolation.
They sat there like that for a long time. He let himself be held, and she rocked him gently, whispering soft words of comfort against the warm skin of his temple. It was quiet, comfortable, and would have peaceful if not for the black cloud hanging over Kaito's head over the events of the evening. He would carry this death, she knew, as he carried everything that went wrong on heists or operations. His shoulders were strong, but even the strongest sometimes needed someone to prop them up.
"Shh…" she whispered, tilting her head to press a quick kiss to his lips. "Tell me what you need."
"…I need to not think for a while," he said after a moment of hesitation.
"How can I help?" she asked. "Do you want to…?" She let the sentence trail off. They had been together for almost eight months, ever since that night after Kaito's release from the hospital, when he had taken her flying and pushed her on a swing at the park. They hadn't gone further than kisses and a few touches, but they had talked about it, and if it was something that would help Kaito, then…well...
He stared at her. A second later he understood, and then he shook his head. "No. I'm not going to…" He stood up suddenly. "No, Aoko, no. I don't…" One shaky hand slid through his hair, and he shook his head at her. "Aoko, I want our first time to be special, not because I needed distraction." It was the steadiest his voice had been since this conversation had started, and there was no doubting his conviction.
Aoko stood, ignoring that her knees hurt from kneeling so long. In spite of everything, she smiled. "I'm sort of happy about that, actually. Not because I don't want to…with you. But…you're right. I do want it to be just about us." She sighed and reached out to take one of his hands in both of her own. "But I do want you to stay here tonight, with me. Let me take care of you, just this once."
He was still a moment, then nodded once.
Relief swept over her, and she tugged gently on his hand. "Come on. We'll face this again in the morning after we've both gotten some rest." He did not resist as she pulled him towards the stairs that led to the bedrooms upstairs. It didn't take long to get him upstairs to her room. The curtains were open, letting in plenty of light from the full moon, so she didn't bother turning on the light.
A full moon. It struck her as fitting, somehow.
When she stepped into the room, she let go of Kaito's hand. He immediately stopped in the doorway and watched as she puttered around for a moment, turning back the bedding and fussing with this and that. She eventually slipped her sweater over her head, leaving herself in her jeans and a camisole, before she turned and looked at him quizzically. "What's wrong?"
He shifted. "I'll sleep on the floor."
"No you won't," she said firmly, crossing the room and encouraging him to take off his jacket and sweatshirt. It was like undressing a sleepy child, all yielding limbs and wide eyes watching her move. Rarely did he let himself be manhandled this way, but right now he seemed content to just let her take care of things. Eventually she had him stripped down to jeans and a T-shirt - perhaps not the most comfortable sleepwear, but it would suffice.
The next challenge was getting him to lay down. He was still attempting to insist that he would sleep on the floor, and she more or less had to physically grab him and bodily move him to the bed. Finally, though, she had him tucked in. He was on the side closest to the door; if nightmares came, as she knew they occasionally did, then he would not need to feel trapped.
Once he was settled and lying calm in bed, she sat down on the edge of the mattress, running the fingers of one hand through his messy hair. "How do you feel?"
"…I'm exhausted, really," Kaito said quietly.
"I'm going to go text my dad. Stay put, I'll be back in just a moment," she said before slipping back downstairs to locate her phone. A quick text later (Kaito is here. He's staying the night, so don't panic. Be safe. I love you.), and she was back up the stairs. Kaito was still awake, watching the door; she could actually see some of his tension bleed away when she came back into the room. "What's up, champ?"
His eyes were dark, almost black, in the dim light. "I know you said you would come back, but…"
It was unusual for Kaito to be so vulnerable. But he let her see it, as he let no one else. It was possible that not even his mother had seen him like this, and the thought both warmed and saddened her. He was so good at hiding his hurts and pain, presenting that big smile and cheeky one-liner to the world at large. He picked so many people up when they were down, including her. That it fell to her to do the same for him was an awesome responsibility, and one she welcomed.
She slid into the bed next to him; surprisingly, it didn't feel even the least bit odd or uncomfortable. It felt right to be curled up like this in the soft darkness. A secret shared by two. She reached out across the pillow and took his hand. "Are you all right?"
"And you don't have to be. Sleep now, Kaito. Maybe things will look better in the morning."
The morning. The morning would bring the news and investigations and plans for the funeral of a hero and more guilt. But it would also bring the sunlight and the promise of a new day and a new chance to help fix things in the world. This one had gone badly, but he had done so much to help people, and he needed to remember that as he tried to forgive himself for what had happened.
When she told him that, he actually smiled - it was the closest to his true smile that she had seen since he had arrived on her doorstep. "I haven't forgotten, Aoko."
"You'd better not. Goodnight, Kaito."
He slipped away into sleep quickly, an immediate testament to how exhausted he really was. He did not let go of her hand.
Later in the night (or rather, very early in the morning) the nightmares came, and he woke in a cold sweat, panicked and flailing. Aoko was ready. She held him, calmed him, and soothed him back to sleep as his subconscious tormented him with his perceived failure. Eventually, as it always does, the sun rose and found them asleep again. He was pressed to her, his face seeking comfort in the crook of her neck, and she held him close.
Things didn't really look all that much better that first morning.
But they would eventually.