Disclaimer: I do not own Detective Conan/Case Closed.
Pairing(s): Kaito x Shinichi
WARNINGS: Shounan ai (boy/boy pairing), you have been warned
House of Cards
By V. Shalyr
The bird on her windowsill looked up at her as she set the small vial down in front of him. Ai frowned a little. She looked tired but more or less pleased with herself. "You might need some help swallowing it all considered, but I made it a liquid to make it easier. I'm sure whoever's been taking care of you can feed it to you with an eyedropper or something."
Shinichi stared at the tiny vial of clear liquid before him. Could this really be it? Would this turn him back into Shinichi? Or would he still be stuck as Conan? Looking back up at the scientist, he was startled to find that she was smiling—a real smile if a small one, a little relieved and a little happy.
"That's it," she said in answer to his unspoken question. "Technically, the other antidote worked fine—except for the turning you into a bird part obviously. After this, you should be yourself again."
Be himself. Huh, that was kind of an odd way of putting it. Sure, he'd thought about the situation in those words himself hundreds of times when he'd first been shrunk. But honestly, he'd still been himself. Just changing a body couldn't change that.
/ What about you? / he asked, finally looking away from the vial of antidote and back to the scientist who had created it. He didn't have anything to spell out his question for her, but she seemed to understand anyway. The question had come up before back when she'd started making cures that actually seemed like they would last.
Rummaging through the boxes of miscellaneous supplies that always cluttered up Agasa's house, Ai located a roll of string and a tiny bag then brought it over to the window. "As for me, I've... decided that I won't be taking the antidote. The stuff I made for you will be the last batch."
It was still early. The street outside was peaceful, the quiet punctuated only occasionally by birdsong and the distant rumble of cars. Agasa was still asleep, and the only sound in the house was the hissing and bubbling of the coffeemaker.
"I don't really have anything I have to go back to," Ai continued quietly, tying the string tightly around the bag after stowing the vial inside it and then securing it to Shinichi's leg to form a neat little packet. "It's not like anyone's waiting for me. All the people I know now... Well, this is my life. I see no reason to change it."
She stood back and folded her arms across her chest, watching Shinichi test the tie to make sure it would hold. "The kids have decided to throw their own little Christmas party. They miss having Conan around, you know. You made some good friends. Maybe you should consider sending them a card once you can write again."
The dove considered her words for a moment then nodded. / I will. /
"I'll just pass along your well wishes then," Ai continued. "All right, you can go now. Just make sure you come back and see me in a day or two. You know how to reach me. Make an appointment."
Flapping his wings experimentally, Shinichi bobbed his head in acknowledgement then hopped over to the outer edge of the window sill. About to take flight, he paused and turned his head back around so he could look at her. / Thanks. /
Ai only shrugged. She never had been big on gratitude. "You're welcome. Now get going. I need to make breakfast."
Kaito had brought Shinichi back to the Beika area even earlier that morning. He hadn't hung around the manors though, but it didn't take too long for Shinichi to find him by air. He spotted the magician standing in front of a child who was looking up at him with wide-eyed awe. Shinichi could see dried tear tracks on the child's cheeks, and wondered why the girl had been crying. Circling above their heads once, Shinichi hesitated over where to land until Kaito made a gesture with his hands that he interpreted as an instruction to just fly down. As he did so, Kaito reached out and caught him with both hands, moving his fingers to conceal the packet tied to the dove's leg. In the same motion, he crouched down and held the dove out in front of the little girl.
"Say hello, Shin-chan."
Shinichi responded with a coo that made the girl giggle again. Whatever she had been crying about, there were no longer any signs of unhappiness in her shining eyes.
Satisfied, Kaito stood up and smiled at her. "So what do you say we go find your parents now, little princess?"
"Okay," she replied happily. "My mommy has black hair, and she's wearing a yellow dress like mine. Daddy's carrying a lot of bags. We were shopping today."
Kaito chuckled. "A regular family outing, huh? Do you remember the last shop you went to?"
The little girl nodded and set off purposefully down the street.
So that was it, Shinichi mused. The child had been lost, and it had upset her enough to make her cry. Kaito had come across her and taken it upon himself to cheer her up and coax a smile back onto her face. It sounded just like him, and he found it odd to think that he knew the magician well enough to say that.
If Shinichi had been his human self, he would have smiled. He'd always known that the thief had a good heart. It was one of the things that made him so easy to like, and one of the reasons he could almost understand all of KID's crazy fans.
By the time Kaito had set Shinichi onto his shoulder and started scouting around for the child's parents with the little girl scurrying ahead of him, he'd discreetly removed the packet from Shinichi's leg and pocketed it.
Locating the child's parents was easy. They had also been searching frantically for her, and the moment they saw her, the mother burst into relieved tears and hugged her daughter to her while the father thanked Kaito for his help. The magician assured them that it was no problem, and eventually made some excuses so he could slip away.
"I already picked up some clothes for you from your house," Kaito informed him as he made his way back towards the train station. "It seems more expedient than staying the night at your place." Suddenly, Kaito grinned, a slightly evil expression that had several people on the street casting him nervous looks. "You have some pretty interesting clothes in your closet. I assume you weren't the one who picked them out."
Shinichi cringed, trying to remember what clothes he was likely referring to. "Interesting" wasn't really the kind of word he liked to apply to his wardrobe. / Probably my mother. /
Sometimes, having an overdramatic, actress mother really sucked.
The magician laughed, ignoring the weird looks people were giving him. He probably looked a bit insane, laughing at seemingly nothing and talking to what was obviously a bird.
"Your parents must be some interesting people. Which reminds me, Mom said she'll be back the day after next. I'll introduce you. I think she'll like you." He paused, a thought suddenly occurring to him. "Hey, do you think your parents would like me?"
Shinichi shrugged his wings. He really had no idea. As a rule, he didn't spend too much time trying to second guess his parents. It wasn't the kind of thing you did if you wanted to live a peaceful, healthy life.
And anyway, did it really matter? Shinichi frowned in his head, tuning out the hissing rumble of the train and the chatter of its passengers as they stepped aboard. What were they exactly? KID and he used to be rivals of sorts, but now, it didn't seem so suitable. Friends? Would Kaito consider him a friend? Shinichi found that he'd like to think so. He didn't have many close acquaintances, and even fewer who knew him so well, and he tried his best to hold on to the few he had.
Damn, he supposed he owed Ran an explanation then, didn't he? Especially after all this time. He just hoped she didn't kill him for telling her so many lies. It would be easier just to keep on lying, quite honestly, but Shinichi had had more than enough of pretending. The truth had always been so important to him, and in the end, he doubted he and Ran could ever have the same kind of friendship they had had before if he didn't tell her the truth.
Shutting and locking the front door behind him, Kaito glanced thoughtfully about his living room. "I think it'll be better if we do this in my room. You ready?"
The dove on his shoulder shifted a little nervously at the question but nodded.
Collecting a clean eyedropper from the medicine cabinet, Kaito entered his room and moved to draw the curtains shut all the way—just in case. Who knew what people would think of they chanced to see any of what was likely about to happen. Well actually, most people probably wouldn't believe their eyes, but he didn't need anyone knocking at the door to make sure. Retrieving the vial of antidote from his pocket, the magician carefully opened it then looked at Shinichi.
"You're sure you want to try this now? Okay then, here we go."
If it had been any of his other doves, Kaito would have used his free hand to prop its beak open. But seeing as Shinichi was smart enough and disciplined enough not to need him to do this, he carefully filled the eyedropper and waited for the bird to open his beak before even more carefully dribbling the antidote down said bird's throat.
The burning sensation started almost immediately and Shinichi shuddered. He always hated this part, the moment when the transformation started. It didn't matter if he was changing or changing back. It always felt so much like he was dying, or at the least running an impossibly high fever and having a terrible time trying to breathe. He was dimly aware of Kaito clearing a nice, big space on the floor and spreading a blanket over it, which he placed Shinichi on before throwing another, lighter blanket over him as well. Which was thoughtful of him, Shinichi reflected fuzzily, before the pain washed any coherent thoughts away.
When Shinichi finally came to, it was to the sight of a row of shocked doves lined up on the windowsill, all of them staring at him. He blamed it on his time as one of them that he could now sort of read their "expressions". He could just imagine what they would be saying if he could still understand them. Probably something along the lines of, "What happened?" Or, being the inquisitive creatures that they were, "I didn't know humans could turn into doves."
"They can't," Shinichi said aloud, just in case this had been one of their questions. "I was a... special case."
None of them moved and Shinichi found himself shifting a little uncomfortably under the blanket Kaito had thrown over him before leaving the room. His cheeks turned red when he remembered that he wasn't wearing any clothes, and he adjusted the blanket around himself. Where had Kaito put—oh, there it was.
"Um, could you all please just—go away or something while I get dressed?" As the request left him, he got gingerly to his feet, taking the blanket with him as he moved to open the door halfway.
The doves looked at one another then, to his relief, took off, vanishing out into the corridor and down the stairs in a flurry of white feathers. In the past, it wouldn't have mattered if there were birds watching him change, but it just felt weird after—well, after everything. Besides, he knew firsthand that these weren't ordinary doves. Shutting the door again behind them, he hurried over to the bag Kaito had left for him at the foot of his bed. It almost felt weird to be wearing clothes again. Animals had it lucky with their fur and feathers, he reflected.
A knock at the door interrupted his thoughts.
Right, this was Kaito's house. Suddenly feeling inexplicably nervous, Shinichi took a deep breath then opened the door. Indigo eyes met his blue ones for a moment then traveled down to his feet before returning to his face.
"Well," Kaito said pleasantly, "you appear to be one hundred percent human again."
"Yeah, at least I think so."
Silence descended between them again, a little awkward on Shinichi's part. He wondered just what the magician was thinking behind that unreadable mask. What was he supposed to say now? What could he say to someone who had been looking after him for the past several days—while he was a bird?
Before the detective could make up his mind, his stomach decided for him by growling loudly. He flushed under the magician's suddenly amused gaze.
"Sorry," he mumbled, embarrassed. "I don't suppose you have anything to eat?"
The corner of Kaito's mouth quirked upward. "I just made lunch—well, ordered lunch anyway. I'm not much good at cooking."
"Is that why I've never seen you cook?"
"That's a definite possibility, yes. I hope you like Chinese."
It felt weird to see the house through human eyes. Furniture and objects that he had become familiar with now looked foreign again, a difference affected by a change in perspectives. They ended up seated on opposite sides of the kitchen table, and Shinichi tried not to seem too uncomfortable under his companion's constant scrutiny. Still, he was too hungry to let it get in the way of eating lunch. He hadn't realized until that moment how much he'd missed regular, human food. Food had a whole new dimension and quality to it when you could chew it and really savor the flavor.
They ate in silence, which Shinichi would have found more unnerving if he hadn't been living with the magician for the past several days. Loud and energetic though he was at school, the magician could be almost eerily quiet when he was at home by himself, moving with the practiced stealth one might expect of such a renowned thief.
When they were both done, Shinichi helped clean up the dishes and silverware before returning to the table with a cup of coffee. It was hard to believe that he hadn't had any coffee in days, and it helped him feel just a bit more relaxed. Relaxed enough to ask, "So what are we now?"
Reclaiming his seat with his own cup of coffee, which was really half coffee and half hot chocolate, Kaito put on a look of mock contemplation. "For now, I suppose we're friends."
For now... Shinichi wasn't sure he liked the "for now", but he supposed all he could do was wait and see just what the magician meant by that. He knew better than anyone that KID never said or did anything without a reason, and trying to guess those reasons was a sure way to earn yourself white hairs. You only had to look at Hakuba to realize the futility of that. And the "friends" part was good, because he'd been hoping that they wouldn't just go their separate ways again after this. True friendships were too rare and too valuable.
Which reminded him, "Do you think... Do you think you could come with me to the Mouris? I mean, you don't have to go in with me or anything. You could just wait outside. But I... need to tell Ran about Conan."
When the knock came at the door, the last thing Ran had expected was her longtime—and seemingly long lost—friend. She hadn't heard from Shinichi in months, which, sadly, wasn't all that unusual anymore. It had been the same way for the past few years and she'd stopped expecting things to be any different. Hell, she'd sort of stopped really expecting to see him again at all, except that his house was still there and his parents still came around every now and then. Yet when she answered the door, there he was, standing on the doorstep of the Mouri Detective Agency and looking extremely uncomfortable.
"Shinichi?" she asked, still not quite able to believe her eyes.
Two years ago, or maybe even one year ago, she would have burst into tears and hugged him. But as it were, she dithered in the doorway, not sure what to do.
The longer the silence stretched on, the more uneasy Shinichi looked. His gaze dropped to his feet and he said hesitantly, "Can I come in? I have some things that I have to tell you."
"A lot of explanations, I hope," she said at last, moving out of the way and closing the door behind him.
"Um, yeah, you could say that."
Her eyebrows shot up at that. He hadn't tried to avoid her, which was definitely out of the norm for the past couple years.
Shinichi looked around the quiet apartment. "Is your father home?"
He was relieved when the answer was negative. This would be easier without Kogoro to deal with too. Taking a deep breath, he turned to face her and got straight to the point before he could change his mind. "I need to explain about Conan. You see, he... I... He was me..."
And once he'd started, the story came spilling out in a rush—that day at the amusement park, following the men in black and almost getting himself killed. Then deciding on the spur of the moment with a push from Agasa to stay with her under an alias so he wouldn't put the people around him in danger, fighting the Black Organization while he waited for Haibara to create a cure, and those long, long years as Edogawa Conan until just a few days ago when he'd returned to being Kudou Shinichi. He left out the part about turning into a bird and meeting Kaito, but even without that, it was a long enough story, and probably not an easy one to swallow.
After he'd finished, the two of them sat on the couch and Ran fiddled with the folds of her skirt, replaying the story over in her mind and matching it up with her own memories. It made sense, as unbelievable as it sounded. It all fit.
"Sorry I didn't tell you sooner," he apologized again, looking away.
Finally, Ran sighed. "I'm not mad at you. Not anymore, anyway. It's just going to—take some getting used to."
Odd really. She would have thought she'd be more upset. But after all this time of waiting and hoping and just living everyday life, she just felt tired and ready to move on from the entire business.
For a long time after Shinichi had left, Ran sat in the living room of the apartment she shared with her father, staring at nothing in particular. It had been such a long few years since she'd watched her childhood friend run off that day only to disappear, and it felt strange for everything to finally be over, to finally have a sense of closure. She almost wished he hadn't told her the truth. It would have been easier not to know that he'd been lying to her for so long, whatever his reasons had been. But it was probably better that he had told her, because now, she could finally move on without having to constantly look back and wonder. Her relationship with Shinichi would never be the same again, she understood that. But then, maybe it had never been what she had thought and wanted it to be, and really, she found that now—when all was said and done, she was okay with that.
A fresh start. That's what she needed. A fresh start and some time to get her life moving again.
Retrieving her cell phone, she dialed a familiar number and held the device up to her ear. "Hello? Sonoko? About that party that's coming up..."
Shinichi had made it halfway down the street when a shadow detached itself from an alleyway and fell into step beside him. Kaito had his hands in his jacket pockets and a calculating expression on his face.
"That seemed to go pretty well."
"I guess so." Breathing in the cool, night air, Shinichi let it out again in a long, slow sigh. "Thanks for coming with me."
"Am I the only one who feels at all awkward here?"
The magician cocked an eyebrow at him. "Whatever do you mean?"
Shinichi shrugged helplessly, trying to find the right words to express the feeling that had been plaguing him since becoming human again. "It's like... we've never even officially met."
"Is that what's been bothering you?" Kaito chuckled, and suddenly, Shinichi found himself being spun around to face him. He stared in confusion as the magician stepped back and then swept him a bow. "Hi, my name's Kuroba Kaito, and I'm going to be the best magician the world has ever seen. It's a pleasure to meet you."
He held out his hand and, after a moment of hesitation, Shinichi shook it. "Kudou Shinichi, and I'm a detective. It's a pleasure to meet you too, Kuroba-san."
"Call me Kaito," the magician replied, letting go of his hand and slinging his arm over Shinichi's slim shoulders. "Feel better?"
"Not really," the detective said dryly, though he didn't try to move away. He wondered if it was all that time as a dove spent in such close proximity with the magician that made him feel so comfortable around him even now.
The magician snorted then smirked. "In that case, now that we've formally introduced ourselves, I say we find somewhere to eat dinner and celebrate your newfound humanity. We can have our first proper conversation, pretend we're strangers and tell each other all those things that we already know about each other. And then we'll head back to my house and call it a night, so we can get a bright and early start tomorrow morning."
Shinichi blinked, the last part of his speech catching in his mind. "What are we doing tomorrow morning?"
Kaito waved his free hand dismissively. "I don't know yet, but I'll think of something. Now that I have you all to myself for a few days until Mom gets back..."
And it occurred to Shinichi as Kaito ushered him into the restaurant he had singled out that being human again really hadn't changed all that much between them. With how many changes had been happening in his life as of late, the realization was oddly comforting. A smile found its way onto his face, and he turned to look out the restaurant window beside them as Kaito placed their orders—just in time to see the snowflakes begin to fall.