Disclaimer: I do not own Detective Conan/Case Closed.
Pairings: Kaito x Shinichi
WARNINGS: shounan ai (boy/boy pairing), you have been warned
Dark Side Chances
By V. Shalyr
"You missed your checkup this morning."
Ai's flat statement sounded even flatter across the phone.
"I know, and I'm really sorry," Shinichi said with a sigh. "I ran into a case on my way out, and then I had to come back and change."
So he didn't end up running around the city with bloodstains on his jacket. Normally, this thought would have been sobering, but today, he was just relieved that he'd been able to stop the victim from bleeding to death before the paramedics arrived.
"I suppose we can reschedule," Ai conceded. "Not today though. We're going to a baseball game."
"With Mitsuhiko and the others?"
Shinichi thought of the invitations still piled up on his desk and asked, "Christmas is coming up, and Kaito and I were thinking about inviting some people over."
"Including us," Ai said.
"If you and the kids are interested."
She made a sound of acknowledgement in her throat. "So you're finally ready to bring us all together, are you? I suppose it was about time. I'll ask them. About your checkup, how about tomorrow at three?"
Before Shinichi could reply, a new voice interrupted him.
"Hold on a second," he told Ai, then lowered the phone and raised his voice. "Kaito?"
There was no reply. Come to think of it, hadn't the magician said he had an interview this morning? And the detective hadn't heard him come home... Although that wasn't terribly unusual.
"Kaito?" he called out again.
Still no answer.
Frown deepening, he lifted the phone again. "That was strange."
"So he came back?"
"I don't—" Shinichi started, then stopped again. There it was again.
"Tantei-kun? Hello? Are you there?"
The voice sounded close. Brow furrowed, Shinichi shifted the home phone to his left hand and began to search the room. When he finally found the source of the sound, he let out an exasperated sigh.
"So?" Ai asked.
Shinichi held up his vibrating cell phone and scowled at it. "He changed my ring tone."
Shinichi cradled his coffee cup in his hands, grateful for the warmth that emanated from it. Beside him, Yuuta rubbed at his freezing fingers and bounced on the balls of his feet, both too nervous and too cold to stay still.
"I suppose this isn't really new for you, huh?" the other trainee asked.
They were waiting before a coffee shop not far from the police station for the officers they were supposed to be shadowing for the day to pick them up. It wasn't the academy trainees' first taste of real field work, but it was the first time any of them had been assigned to a homicide case.
In the gray sunlight that filtered down from the overcast sky, Shinichi thought the other man's face seemed rather pale. Honestly, he couldn't even remember the first time he'd been at a real crime scene where someone had been murdered, let alone how exactly he had felt about it. These days though, he mostly felt determined and resigned.
"There's really nothing for you to worry about," he said finally, attempting to be comforting. "We're mostly going along to observe."
"I know, but..." Yuuta shook his head and sighed. "I don't know if I'm cut out to be a homicide detective. But I suppose it's still a bit early to decide."
"I'm not sure what it means to be cut out for it," Shinichi said. "But it's important work. Someone has to be there to make sure that criminals like that don't get away."
Yuuta nodded slowly and straightened his uniform jacket.
He eyed the young detective out of the corner of his eye, then said thoughtfully, "You know, you seem kind of different—from when we started classes, I mean."
Shinichi blinked and looked up. "You think so?"
"It's just that you seem," Yuuta paused, searching for the words, "more comfortable with yourself. Oh, I don't know. It's hard to describe. Forget I said anything."
Shinichi took a sip of his coffee to hide his surprise. He hadn't noticed it until Yuuta brought it up, but the other man was right. Somehow, he felt more comfortable in his own skin than he had in... well, in years to be honest. Like the chaotic flow of his own life had finally settled in with the lives of the people around him.
"I think," he said aloud, "that I might know what you mean."
The burglary case had come in the evening before and been assigned to a group of trainees as "good practice" for their future careers. Shinichi, Yuuta, and two of their classmates were supposed to be investigating the scene of the crime today and conducting interviews. Of course, since Shinichi was already an extremely experienced detective, he and their instructor had decided that, although he'd tag along, he would leave the actual investigating to the others and simply act as their advisor.
It had been a good plan, he thought. Until Kaito, pretending to be Shinichi, called in sick for him and then spirited him off to a classical concert two districts away.
"But I'm supposed to be helping them," he protested as they made their way to their seats.
The magician was unperturbed. "No you're not. You're supposed to be evaluating them and helping them improve. I'm recording everything, so you'll still be able to do that. And anyway, if you have them explain everything to you, they'll learn even more."
"But I'm supposed to be in training. I can't just skip class time like this."
"You're on sick leave."
Shinichi frowned. "That's just taking advantage of the system, and you know it."
Kaito sighed dramatically and turned to face the detective, ignoring the people searching for seats all around them.
"Shinichi," he said, making the detective start at the use of his name, "I know for a fact that you have never taken a break from your work in your life. That includes when you really are sick. You don't even get weekends off, because weekends just give criminals more time to think about committing crimes. Since I can't, in good conscience, steal you away from a homicide investigation, that really only leaves your class time. I know your job is important, but it's been three weeks since we spent any real time together, and I refuse to share that much of your time with a bunch of criminals and policemen."
Said the not-entirely-former criminal, Shinichi thought.
Wait, three weeks? Shinichi blinked and thought back over the last month. Had it really been that long? He realized with a twinge of guilt that yes, it had.
"But you're just as busy as I am," he pointed out.
That was true too. Planning and preparing for performances was a full-time occupation, and Kaito still found time to volunteer at his old university's drama department.
"Which is why I'm also taking today off," the magician said, and then the seriousness fell away from his expression and he added, "Besides, I'm a thief. I'm allowed to be selfish now and then."
Later after Kaito had brought him home after a spectacular dinner, Shinichi found a manila folder on his pillow. It was full of careful notes, plus the names and photographs of the burglars. He shouldn't have been surprised. Thieves and theft were Kaito's specialty.
Shinichi smiled and sat down on his bed to read through everything.
Not so selfish after all.
Ran looked at the bags, bowls, jars, and boxes arranged upon the kitchen counter. There was cocoa powder, chocolate chips, chocolate bars, dark chocolate fudge, and even some white chocolate sprinkles shaped like little birds and stars.
"I assume this means that Kuroba-kun really likes chocolate."
"It's a popular flavor," her friend said evasively. "And we're going to have a lot of guests."
The young woman just smiled, set her bag on the floor by the door, and grabbed the spare apron from where it hung beside the stove. "You should have invited the kids to help too. I bet they'd love a chance to bake cake and cookies."
Shinichi blinked, a box of flour in his hands. "I suppose I could have, couldn't I?"
It was still an unfamiliar freedom, being able to invite people over to where he lived. The habit of keeping secrets was a hard one to break indeed.
Ran raised an eyebrow at the surprise on his face, but chose not to comment, saying instead, "It's not too late. Why don't you give them a call? We could use the extra hands."
An hour later, Genta, Mitsuhiko, and Ayumi piled into the modest, apartment kitchen, chattering with excitement. Ai followed more sedately and paused to carefully drape her knitted jacket over a chair.
"I thought Shinichi nii-chan's house was that big one next to Professor Agasa's," Ayumi said, peering around the living room and then the kitchen with interest.
"It is," Ai told her. "This is Kuroba-kun's apartment."
This prompted a burst of excited chatter.
"You mean the magician from that show he gave us tickets to?"
"He's actually living with a magician? That's so cool! So does this place have any secret rooms."
"Let's go see!"
Ai shot the detective an amused look before stopping them. "I thought you wanted to help bake. You do want to eat freshly baked cookies and cake, don't you?"
There was a brief but intense discussion, after which it was decided that yes, the lure of fresh cookies was more powerful than that of potential secret rooms and hidden gadgets. After all, if there was a secret room, it wasn't going to sprout legs and run away. Probably. So they had time to focus on the baking first.
Shinichi set the recipe book down where everyone could see it. That done, he excused himself to use the bathroom and went to flip all the switches that Kaito had told him to in order to make all the hidden compartments and other odd contraptions about the apartment not work. Then he went to the bathroom and flushed the toilet to hold up his lie.
"This is Kuroba, right?"
"Well, this is his cell phone," Kaito said, bemused.
He supposed the Osaka detective had gotten his number from Shinichi.
"Very funny," Hattori said dryly, hesitated, then continued. "Listen, I was hoping that... you could give me some advice..."
He trailed off into a mumble, and Kaito raised his eyebrows.
The magician was alone in the green room of his old university's theatre, so he put the call on speakerphone and set the phone on the table next to him. He was supposed to be verifying the usability of this new trick guitar that an underclassman had invented and wanted to use in their end-of-the-year show. It was supposed to be for a comedy routine, and judging from what Kaito had seen of the instrument so far, he was fairly sure he knew why.
"What kind of advice?" he asked, wondering what sort of advice one of Shinichi's detective friends could possibly want from him.
There was a long silence.
Kaito plucked a string. There was a loud twang, and the string snapped, whipping back over the bridge of the guitar. Kaito had already moved his fingers away, and he frowned at the silvery curl of broken string. That worked well enough, but the routine would go more smoothly if the actor could get at least a few notes out before each string broke. Of course, if they varied the strength they used to pluck each string... Or had the designer thought of that already?
"Well, it's... about Kazuha," Hattori started then stopped.
Kaito plucked at another string. One note, two, and then—
"Uh, is everything all right over there?"
"Just testing a new stage prop for someone," Kaito told him. "Miss Kazuha, she would be your girlfriend, right?"
"Yeah, well," Hattori cleared his throat, not answering the question directly, "it's just that she's not talking to me, and I don't know why. But we're coming over to your place for the party tomorrow, and it'll be awkward if she's still mad. You seem good with this sort of thing. I mean, practically all the women who came to your magic show were in love with you."
Kaito glanced towards the screen of his phone, amused despite himself. So Hattori Heiji was calling him for relationship advice? Well, the detective was right. He was very good at dealing with people, and... well, there was no reason why he couldn't help—seeing as Hattori had had the good sense to ask.
"Why don't you tell me about the last few times you've seen her?"
After he'd hung up the call, Kaito looked back at the guitar in his hands. It had only two of six strings now, and he had a good idea of how the designer ought to modify it to make it work. With a few minor changes though, it promised to be quite an entertaining performance.
Hattori Heiji had called him for advice, and Kaito hadn't had to lie about anything. Shinichi's friends didn't know or care that he might have connections to KID. As far as they knew, he was Shinichi's eccentric, magician boyfriend who the detective had met on a case and begun spending a lot of time with.
It had been such a long time since Kaito had attempted to build any real friendships with other people that it felt almost surreal. But... there was no reason why Shinichi's friends couldn't be Kaito's friends too.
When he brought this up to Shinichi later that night, the detective looked at him like he thought he was crazy not to have realized this sooner.
"Of course they're your friends too," he said. "You're probably the only one who didn't think so. So just... be yourself, okay? I'm sure they'll like you."
"I never doubted that they'd like me," Kaito protested. "I'm good at being personable."
Shinichi just frowned. "You know that's not what I mean."
Kaito picked up a chocolate cookie where he sat at the dining table and looked at it thoughtfully, not really seeing it. His detective was saying that he didn't need to go out of his way to make it happen.
Be himself, huh? The magician had so many versions of "himself" that sometimes, he wasn't sure what that meant. Then again, nothing wrong with being complicated and confusing.
He grinned and ate the cookie. "Did I tell you how great these are?"
He really should have hidden the cookies, possibly over at the Mouri Detective Agency.
Kaito had been extremely pleased to return home to the smell of fresh baking, not to mention the sweet aroma of warm chocolate. He'd wasted no time informing Shinichi that the cookies were some of the best he'd ever had. Shinichi was sure that was an exaggeration, but that didn't mean he wasn't happy to hear it.
With everyone's help, Shinichi had baked more than twelve dozen chocolate cookies, three batches of brownies, and a chocolate cake with chocolate frosting. The cake went into the fridge and all the brownies were wrapped individually with saran wrap in a basket on the counter, neatly lined up so that the detective would know immediately if one of them went missing. The problem was the cookies, which Shinichi had placed in four giant, glass jars upon the dining table.
The first time Shinichi saw Kaito eating a chocolate cookie the next morning, he was just amused and glad that his partner really did like them as much as he'd said.
The second time Shinichi saw him eating a cookie on their way out to a nearby coffee shop, Shinichi had shaken his head and told him that he really ought to save room for lunch.
The third time, which was while they were cleaning up the apartment in preparation for their guests, Shinichi had frowned a little and reminded him that they had to leave enough cookies for the party that evening.
The detective didn't see his partner eat any more cookies after that, but when he went into the kitchen to brew a fresh cup of coffee for himself that afternoon, something about the cookie jars seemed... different. While the coffeemaker bubbled away, Shinichi went over to the table for a closer look. All four jars were still exactly the same, just... not quite as full of cookies as they had been.
"Kaito, you didn't really think I wouldn't realize just because you made sure to take the same number from every jar, did you?"
The magician sounded far too cheerful when he replied, "Of course not. But it did take you a lot longer to notice."
"Kaito, why are there so many gift boxes?"
Shinichi stood in the living room, turning in a slow circle and taking in all the colorful boxes arranged about the furniture and even balanced amidst the branches of the evergreen tree. There were small, glossy boxes covered in snowflakes, slightly larger boxes touched with felt patterns and topped with fancy ribbon, and at least one oblong box with a design of snowmen dancing across its vivid blue surface.
"How many guests are we expecting?"
"Only the ones you already know about," the magician said, poking his head through the kitchen doorway and giving Shinichi a mischievous grin. "I just want to have a little fun with them."
A little fun...
Shinichi looked back at the gift boxes just in time to see the lids on a few of them rise up a fraction. Bright, black eyes peered out from the shadowy depths, and there was a soft chorus of inquiring coos.
"Not yet!" Kaito called back, disappearing back into the kitchen.
Slowly, the gift boxes resettled.
Now that he knew what to look for, Shinichi could just make out the suggestion of air holes that told him the contents of almost every box were very much alive.
The detective shook his head, a small smile making its way onto his own face. It promised to be a memorable first Christmas back.
"Are you sure you don't want to invite anyone?"
Kaito shrugged. "I'm sure. Jii and Kaa-san are spending Christmas in France. Something about meeting up with some old friends."
"And you didn't want to go with them?"
The magician raised an eyebrow. "It's a bit late for that, don't you think? Everyone should start arriving in a few minutes. Why all the questions?"
Shinichi crouched to peer through the oven window and check on the ham they were roasting then straightened and turned back to his partner. "I just want to make sure that you don't have any regrets."
Kaito was busy mixing multicolored drinks on the opposite kitchen counter, but he paused to consider the detective's words.
"If you're thinking about Aoko and Hakuba," he said at last, "don't. I was the one who decided to walk away. Besides, they're in England visiting Hakuba's relatives."
He set down a pitcher of bright purple punch and turned to Shinichi. "Don't worry, Tantei-kun. I have no regrets."
Kaito's dove-packed surprise was a huge success, startling all of their guests and making the children laugh in delight. Everyone had brought their own dishes to add to the potluck, and all the counter and table space in the kitchen was covered in large bowls and platters of food. Shinichi had taken the roast ham out of the oven, and everyone had taken several slices before moving on to the night's other offerings. Everything was delicious, although Genta's special eel rice balls weren't quite the success that he'd proudly predicted they would be. Shinichi privately thought that this was because the boy had yet to grasp the importance of proper proportions in good cooking. More did not always equal better.
Well, then there were the gingerbread men.
Shinichi should have known something was up the moment he spotted the innocuous tray of gingerbread cookies amidst the eclectic collection of desserts. But several people had brought sweets, so he couldn't really be blamed for allowing the common Christmas treats to slip under his radar, slyly winking, icing faces or not.
At least until half past nine when Hattori took a bite of a gingerbread man, and it screamed.
Ran and Kazuha screamed too, and Hattori dropped the cookie as though he'd been burned, swearing.
Lingering in the kitchen doorway, Kaito kept a perfectly straight face until Shinichi looked at him, at which point he broke into cackles of laughter.
Nobody aside from Kaito himself ate any more gingerbread men, despite the magician's assurances that the scream would not happen again.
Honestly, whose idea had it been to make cookies into the shape of people in the first place?
"You know, this is a pretty interesting crowd."
"You think so?" Shinichi asked, handing his fellow trainee one of the plates of red velvet cake he was helping Ran pass out.
Yuuta thanked him, but simply rested his fork on top of the ivory-white cream while he looked around at the bustling apartment. His expression is wry and a little sheepish, and Shinichi was a bit surprised to remember that the man was, in fact, somewhat older than him. Yuuta looked so young right now, his face bright with a combination of excitement and respect. The detective himself hadn't felt truly young since becoming Conan, and that was just all kinds of ironic.
"You're all..." Yuuta hesitated, waving vaguely with his fork. "It's like we grew up hearing about you all. You, Hattori-san, Mouri-san and her parents... Anyone who wants to make an impact in law enforcement would leap at the chance to talk to you people."
Shinichi wondered what the other trainee would say if he knew Kaitou KID was at this gathering too. That the master thief was, in fact, one of the two people hosting it.
Well, in his own way, KID was definitely an influential figure in law enforcement too.
Yuuta cleared his throat, and Shinichi blinked as the man freed a hand to pick something up from the floor beside him and hold it out to the young detective. Hundreds of tiny, dancing snowmen grinned up at him from the glossy surfaces of the bag, and the bit of tissue paper peeking out from within was spangled with silver snowflakes.
"It's from all of us," Yuuta said. "Merry Christmas, Kudou-kun. We're glad to have you in our class."
After the noise of the party, the apartment seemed almost eerily quiet. They'd distributed some of the leftovers amongst their guests, but they still had so much food left that they'd be working their way through it for the next week at least. They still had some cleaning up to do as well, but that was a job for another time.
The glass doors of the balcony stood open, and Kaito handed Shinichi a glass of apple cider as he joined the detective outside. The winter air is cold, but not unbearably so—more refreshing than anything after having almost two dozen people crowded into their modestly spacious home.
The city is a glittering landscape of lights beyond the railing, and really, the location of this apartment is so essentially Kaito. The magician thief loved high places, and Shinichi can appreciate why. There's a strange sense of freedom that came with being this high up.
"So what did they get you?"
Shinichi nodded towards the box he'd set on the balcony table., a slight flush dusting his cheeks pink. "See for yourself."
Kaito glanced into the box, and a slow, amused smile spread across his face. The box was filled with white puzzle pieces covered in fragmented sentences and words. He'd seen those puzzles in arts and crafts stores before, blank ones meant for artists to work their own kind of magic. The scrawled messages are incomplete, but he doesn't have to fit all the pieces of the puzzle together to pick out the general trend of well wishes, personal stories, thank yous, and merry accounts of how Shinichi's work both before and after joining their class had inspired them.
"Creative," was Kaito's only comment.
His detective nodded, glanced down at the bubbles in the golden depths of his drink, then dug a white envelope from his pocket and held it out. "They, um, kind of got something for you too. After talking it over with me. So I guess you could say that it's from all of us."
At this, Kaito raised his eyebrows.
"I thought you didn't want to do gifts this year," he said. After all, they already had almost everything they wanted. What remained were all things that couldn't be given.
"This is different," Shinichi said.
Now more than a little curious, the magician accepted the envelope and flicked it open. There were several slips of paper inside, each one harboring a scribbled note, which Kaito read with mild incredulity.
"So, if I'm understanding this correctly, you and your esteemed classmates are giving me your vacation hours?"
"Well, like you said, it's not like I ever really decide to use them myself."
Even when he was sick and ought to stay in bed.
Kaito chuckled, making the papers disappear with a flourish. "In that case, thank you. I'll make sure the both of us make excellent use of them."
Shinichi took a sip of his cider, returning his gaze to the city and smiling into his drink when the magician wrapped his arms around him from behind. A shiver ran down his spine when Kaito leaned in to murmur into his ear.
"I have to confess that I have a present for you too."
Shinichi started to turn—to look at him—but Kaito tightened his arms around him to stop him. A moment later, the detective discovered why as, for a second, all the streetlights and holiday decorations in a good portion of the city below them winked out. Before people could start panicking, other lights winked into life, the glow flitting from point to point through the darkness as though someone was running through the streets and scattering stars in his wake. The lights danced in waves across the buildings and trees, forming showers of snowflakes and flowers before dissolving once more into ribbons of Christmas cheer. Shinichi could hear some of their neighbors opening their windows and balcony doors, murmuring in delight at the shifting display. The detective, too, found himself holding his breath in wonder, and he swore he could feel Kaito's pleased smirk despite not being able to see it.
He could have commented on how Kaito had probably appropriated everyone's Christmas lights without their consent. He could have said something about how dangerous it was to fiddle with streetlights at night—although he could tell even from here that Kaito had already seen to ensuring that no cars strayed into the danger zone during his light show.
Instead, he just shook his head at all the energy Kaito must have put into this, all simply to inspire a moment of awe.
"I have no idea how you find the time for things like this," Shinichi said, thinking out loud.
Behind him, Kaito just laughed.
In a rental apartment two buildings away, Kudou Yukiko let out a dreamy sigh and propped her elbows on the balcony railing.
"How romantic. Why don't you ever do things like this for me?"
Her husband joined her with two glasses of red wine and passed one to her before answering. "I'm a writer, not a magician thief."
Another two glasses waited on the kitchen table.
"They're a little late, aren't they?" Yukiko murmured, not taking her eyes from the performance being carried out by thousands of Christmas lights. "I didn't hear anything about their flight back from France being delayed."
"It wasn't." Yuusaku shrugged. "My guess is that they stepped up onto a roof somewhere to enjoy the show. Give them another half hour at least."
A long minute passed in thoughtful silence, then Yukiko murmured, "Chikage was starting to get really worried about her son before. Something about how he never really spends time with any of his old friends anymore. But it looks like everything's going to be fine."
"She really needn't have worried," the novelist replied. "Kaito-kun's exactly like his father."
The wavy-haired woman hummed in agreement. Sometimes, the resemblance really was uncanny. And if there was one thing that Kuroba Toichi had known how to do, despite all the chaos and the danger that seemed to surround all their lives, it was how to live.
She took a sip of her wine and sighed. "I was so looking forward to surprising them, but I suppose we can give them a few more days, hmmm?"
The corners of her husband's mouth quirk upwards, and he lifted his glass in a toast. "It'll be our Christmas gift to them."
AN: Happy holidays:)