Disclaimer: I don't own DCMK
Sky Colored Eyes
51: With the Times
Sinking onto a park bench, Shinichi closed his eyes and let his head drop back against the wooden backrest. Like most park benches, it was hard and stiff, but, at the moment, he couldn't remember ever having encountered a more wonderful chair.
"I suppose I shouldn't have been surprised," a familiar voice said, and he cracked open an eye to find Haibara standing next to him. "You look like you're about to pass out. What have I told you about getting adequate rest?"
"I know," he sighed. He could have pointed out that she had invited him to the play in the first place, so it was partly her fault that he had had to spend half the day tracking down a murderer. Not that it had been a difficult case. The dead man had been a conman who had peddled fake medicine to a desperate mother when her child was ill. His medicine had cost the family everything they'd owned, but, in the end, it had done nothing for them. The child had died two days after she'd taken the 'miracle medicine', her end hastened by the conman's drugs. Her parents were now renting a single room in the slums, struggling both to deal with their grief and their ruined finances.
One of the members of the band who'd performed before the Tantei elementary school students had been a close friend to the devastated family. He had helped install the cabinet before the festival. Being the only solid piece of furniture needed for the set, it had been allowed to stay on stage for the entire day. Upon leaving to meet the rest of his band, he had run into the conman and recognized him. In a fit of rage and determined to rid the world of scum who would take advantage of other people's suffering and desperation, he had strangled the man. Since he didn't have much time to meet up with his band, however, he and stuffed the body into the cabinet, believing it to be just a prop. When the police arrested him, he had apologized for scaring the kids and ruining their show, but he made it clear that he was not sorry about killing the conman.
"How are the kids?" he asked.
The little scientist's eyes softened. "Disappointed, mostly."
"About the show being cancelled?"
"That too. But they're also disappointed that their deduction was incorrect."
A small, mildly exasperated smile made its way onto Shinichi's lips. "I suppose that's good."
Then again, he supposed that the Shounan Tantei had already experienced far too many murder investigations to let themselves be daunted for long by such things. Blue eyes darkened as the smile faded from his face. Children that age really shouldn't have had so many of those aforementioned experiences. Actually, no one of any age who didn't work in a related profession should be so accustomed to such things. Yet here they were.
He couldn't help but feel partially responsible. Yes, they found their fair share of trouble, but he doubted they would have become so enamored with hunting for mysteries if they had never met him.
"The class is discussing the possibility of filming the play instead," Haibara said, interrupting his thoughts. "I'll get you a copy if they do."
She eyed him critically. "Do you need a ride home?"
Sensing the concern behind her calm façade, he hastily shook his head. "I'll be fine."
"I'll hold you to that," she said dryly. "Well, I'll be going then. I need to pick up a few things."
Shinichi nodded and bid the girl farewell. He watched her retreating back until it disappeared into the milling crowds. Despite the crime scene tape roping off the park stage, the rest of the festival was still going strong. Most people outside the park area had no idea a crime had even been committed, though Shinichi was sure that that would change just as soon as the witnesses of the short investigation started talking.
Turning to his other side this time, Shinichi saw Hattori striding towards him from where he had just been conversing with the police. The Osakan dropped onto the bench beside him with a grunt.
"Glad that's over. So where's your evil twin?"
Shinichi looked blank for a moment before he realized who Hattori was referring to. "He went back to the Prime Pastries stand. We're bringing a box back for his mom. Since she likes to cook and some of their pastries were really unique, he thought she'd like to try them."
"Huh. That's thoughtful of him," Hattori mused, surprised.
The corners of Shinichi's lips twitched. "It does seem that way, doesn't it." He strongly suspected that the selection Kaito brought home would be heavy on the chocolate treats and Kaito's other favorites. The magician was nothing if not opportunistic.
Hattori raised an eyebrow at his comment. "What do you mean?"
Shinichi only shook his head. "It's nothing."
Hattori waited a moment longer for his friend to elaborate. When it became apparent that Shinichi wasn't about to do so, he sighed. "So…you been spending a lot of time with this Kuroba guy?"
"I have," Shinichi said, deciding to get this over with. "He's a good person—and a good friend."
"Oh." Hattori looked embarrassed then rueful before he laughed. "I'll take your word for it then. But I gotta say, he's kind of weird."
Shinichi snorted. "I won't argue with that."
Heiji waited a moment, hoping for more information, but Shinichi kept silent. Eventually, the Osakan acknowledged that he wouldn't get any more without asking and decided to change tact.
"So have you made any other weird friends at that new school of yours?"
Shinichi hid a smile. "I don't think so," he said after a suitably long pause to 'consider' the question. "But I did make a few normal friends, if that's what you meant."
Heiji laughed. "Gotcha. So who else have you been hanging out with these days then? Anyone I know?"
"Well, there's Hakuba-san," Shinichi offered, knowing exactly what Heiji's reaction was going to be. "He's in my class. Nakamori-keibu's daughter is too."
"Hakuba's in your class?" The Osakan grimaced. "That's gotta be a pain, having that puffed up, better than thou attitude sliming around every day."
"He's not that bad. He just…values procedure."
Heiji let out a loud snort. "Whatever. He's still a prick. His egos just as inflated as Kaitou KID's."
Shinichi had to laugh at that. "Don't say that in front of Kaito. He's a huge KID fan. He'd take that comparison as an unforgiveable insult."
Heiji snorted again, this time with more emphasis, before his expression grew thoughtful. "So you're actually hanging out with a KID fan, the daughter of the guy in charge of the KID Task Force, and that stuck-up prick all at the same time? Things must be pretty crazy come heist time."
"You have no idea," Shinichi sighed then chuckled. "They can be a little much sometimes, but they're all good people. They've been a great help."
"I can see that," the Osakan murmured, eyeing his friend critically. "I gotta say, I didn't believe you when you said you were fine. But I guess I was over thinking things, yeah?"
Not sure how to answer, Shinichi merely shrugged. It seemed to be enough because Hattori nodded and relaxed, throwing his arms over the back of the park bench and turning his gaze skyward.
"Then again, Haibara did say ya started ghost hunting. So things really must have been quiet."
Shinichi was glad that Hattori was facing away from him because, if the other detective had been looking at him, he would likely have realized right away that hunting for ghosts had nothing at all to do with a lack of important cases. He didn't want to get Hattori dragged into another long-term investigation right now, especially since it was glaringly obvious that the Osakan was suspicious of Kaito. Add that to Hattori's strong dislike for Hakuba, and he could easily imagine the situation becoming all kinds of unnecessarily complicated down that road. Shinichi had no desire to be caught in the middle of a three way war of the ideals.
"Haibara told me something else too," Hattori continued in a much lower voice. He still wasn't looking at Shinichi, but the blue-eyed detective could sense that his friend's attention was focused in his direction. "She said that that cure she gave you had side effects."
"Oh." This was not a conversation Shinichi wanted to have. He shifted uneasily on the bench. He wondered how much the little scientist had shared.
"Oh?" Hattori echoed incredulously. "Is that all you have ta say?"
Shinichi opened his mouth then shut it again. "I don't know what you want me to say."
Now, finally, Hattori turned to face him again, face set into a scowl. "It's not about what I want you ta say. It's about telling your friends the truth when they're worried about ya. I'm wonderin' why I had to hear about this from the little she-devil instead of from my friend."
Shinichi sighed. "I'm sorry. I wasn't trying to hide anything from you. It's just how things are now. I… I've accepted it." Well, resigned himself to it would probably be more accurate, but it sort of amounted to the same thing. "I won't say it hasn't got its inconveniences, but…well, people are pretty adaptable. We work with what we have."
"But…I mean, she said seizures and… I don't know, it sounded pretty bad. Are you sure you're holding up?"
Shinichi snorted. "It sounds worse than it is."
"…Right. Well, if you say so…"
They fell into another long silence. Shinichi knew that his friend wasn't satisfied with his answer, but he really didn't have anything else to say about it. On the other hand, Heiji was a good detective. He'd figure out for himself sooner or later that Shinichi meant what he'd said and that he wasn't hiding any big secrets about how he was doing (well, no secrets that Hattori need concern himself with anyway. Shinichi had to suppress a wry smile at the thought of what Hattori might say if he knew that Shinichi had started investigating cases with the Kaitou KID for backup. It was a tossup whether the Osakan would laugh his head off or call him crazy).
"What about you?" Shinichi asked eventually. "Anything interesting happen lately?"
"Nah. It's been pretty quiet. Kind of boring, actually, but I guess that's for the best. Our teachers have been piling up the work like they keep forgetting they've already assigned stuff."
They chatted for a while about random things that any other normal high school students might have discussed. The normalcy of it was in and of itself a sign of just how much things had changed. And Shinichi allowed himself a moment to really appreciate that for what it meant: that the chapter of his life that had begun the day he had chased after a pair of suspicious strangers at Tropical Land had well and truly closed. He had left Beika in search of a new beginning, but he supposed that some part of him had still been stuck here—trapped in the past precisely because he had wanted to leave it all behind. It wasn't until he had come back and touched bases not only with the people from his past but also with their everyday lives that he had truly accepted that part of his life and everything it meant to the person he had become and the future that now lay before him.
The epiphany lifted a weight off his chest that he hadn't even realized was there until it was gone. It left behind it a sense of relief touched with melancholy.
Shinichi jumped and nearly fell into Hattori's lap at the sudden and very loud voice singing out from his other side.
"Whoops." A strong hand caught his arm and steadied him. "Sorry about that. Didn't mean to startle you."
"Why don't I believe you?" Shinichi grumbled, straightening and turning to give Kaito a reproachful look. "One of these days, you're going to give me a heart attack."
"I wouldn't do that," the magician replied cheerfully before leaning in to whisper into Shinichi's ear. "I'd miss you too much."
Blushing, Shinichi leaned away from him. That was when he noticed the two rather large boxes sitting on the magician's knees. "You bought two boxes? Don't you think that's a bit much?"
"Nah. This one's for Mom." He tapped the top box. "The other one's for you."
"Oh, uh…thank you." Shinichi stuttered, taken aback. "You really didn't have to."
Kaito waved him away with a laugh. "Consider it a thank you for all the times you've cooked me dinner."
"That's not really—"
"Hush." Kaito pressed a finger to Shinichi's lips, grin softening into a smile. "Just accept it. Besides, I'm at your place most mornings anyway. I'm just making sure we have breakfast."
Seated on Shinichi's other side, Hattori watched the exchange with raised eyebrows. Once again, he was struck by the easy familiarity between the two. His puzzlement only grew as he listened to them talk. Eventually, he couldn't stand it anymore and cut in with a question of his own.
"You've been cooking this guy dinner?"
Shinichi turned around at the sound of Heiji's incredulous question, having almost forgotten that the Osakan was even there. Then the actual contents of the question sunk in, and he felt himself beginning to turn pink. He opened his mouth then shut it again because he wasn't entirely sure what he wanted to say. Hattori's tone made him feel vaguely like he should be explaining himself, except he wasn't entirely sure what he had to explain or why Hattori was looking at him so strangely.
Seeing that Shinichi was at a loss for words, Hattori turned his gaze to Kaito. "And what do you mean you're at his place most mornings?"
Kaito affected an air of confusion. "What do you mean what did I mean? It's not really an ambiguous turn of phrase."
Hattori's eyes narrowed. He noticed abruptly that the magician had slid an arm around Shinichi's waist sometime when he hadn't been looking. His gaze flickered from said arm up to the magician's indigo orbs. Gone was any trace of mirth or mischief. Instead, Hattori was met with a steely challenge that sent a chill down his spine.
This man was dangerous.
The thought rose unbidden, making Hattori tense. And yet… He looked again at Shinichi's relaxed posture and reminded himself not to jump to conclusions. Whatever else he might be (because Heiji was a hundred and ten percent sure that this Kuroba was not just the carefree magician he presented himself as), Kuroba did not appear to mean Shinichi any harm. And if Shinichi was so comfortable with him then it was also unlikely that what the guy was hiding was psycho serial killer tendencies.
That didn't mean Hattori had to be comfortable with the way the magician kept touching Shinichi.
Hattori froze and played that thought through his head again. Hadn't he mentioned to Ran that he thought the two were awfully close? And what had she said again? That she was okay with it? He'd been confused by her response at the time, but now… Now he knew exactly what she'd meant, and he wasn't sure what he was supposed to think about it, especially since he didn't entirely trust this Kuroba fellow no matter what Shinichi said. On the other hand, Shinichi was definitely happier now than Heiji had seen him in a long time. In the end, wasn't that what mattered? As a friend, Hattori should give the person apparently responsible for the change the benefit of the doubt until and unless the guy did something to prove himself untrustworthy.
At the sound of his name, the Osakan jerked out of his thoughts, realizing belatedly that he hadn't heard a word either Shinichi or Kaito had said for the last several minutes. The two Ekoda High students traded puzzled looks. Hattori couldn't help but notice that the magician's arm was still around Shinichi's waist, and the two were sitting even closer together now than they had been just a moment ago.
"We're going to be heading back now," Shinichi explained. "It's a pretty long trip back to Ekoda."
"Oh. Uh, right. Wait! Give me your address."
Shinichi blinked but rattled off his Ekoda address as Hattori typed it into his phone.
Shinichi stood up. "Well, I guess we'll go say goodbye to Ran and the others then head back."
"I should go too. Kazuha and I have a lot farther to go than you guys do."
They found the girls at a stall selling miniature wind chimes. As Shinichi made his way up to Ran, Heiji tapped Kaito on the shoulder. The magician turned around and quirked an eyebrow at him.
"What is it?"
"I need ta talk to you for a minute. About you and Kudo."
Kaito cast a quick glance at Shinichi's back then gestured for Hattori to follow him a few steps away to where they wouldn't easily be overheard.
"All right, so what did you want to ask?"
Hattori took a moment to collect his thoughts before speaking. "You and Kudo… Are you two dating?"
Kaito wasn't particularly surprised by the question. He'd been fully aware of the suspicious looks that the Osakan detective had been giving him all day, and he may have gone out of his way to make his intentions known (he told himself he was laying the groundwork for integrating himself more fully into Shinichi's life, but part of him knew it was also because these people had been close to Shinichi much longer than he had and it ever so slightly annoyed him). As it was, he was a little tempted to lie and just say yes, but he thought better of it.
"Not officially," he said finally. "But I won't lie and say I don't have plans of that nature. Is that a problem?" He leveled Hattori with a challenging stare.
The Osakan rocked back on his heels, not having expected such a blunt admission. "It's not… I mean, I don't really have a problem with it."
"I'm hearing a 'but' somewhere in there," Kaito quipped.
Hattori scowled. "I just wanna know if you're serious. Kudo's been through a lot. If you hurt him—"
"I won't," Kaito cut him off before he could finish. His vehemence gave Heiji a moment's pause.
"I guess that's all right then," he said finally. "I just wanted ta be sure."