Disclaimer: The characters, universe, etc. are not mine and never will be. If they were, I would be rich and famous and an excellent artist. I am none of these things.
A thousand thanks to NinthFeather, the most patient beta reader and friend a person could ever have.
Front Row Seat
Aoko had suspected Kaito right from the start. There's only so much a person can hide from their best friend (only friend), after all. It was no different with Kaito, no matter how much he worked on that horrible crutch of his he called Poker Face—Aoko could read him like a book.
No, Nakamori Aoko was no idiot, no matter what a certain bratty magician seemed to think.
She'd known for years now. It wasn't exactly the most difficult thing to find out, either. Kaito seemed to think she hadn't a clue about his night life—what a joke. If Kaito still thought she was the naïve, unobservant little kid she'd been, he had another think coming!
There was a reason she'd dragged him into going on a date with her over top of that KID heist, so long ago—and it certainly wasn't because he was being pleasant company that day. Heavens, if she hadn't suspected him so strongly then, she'd have pushed him off the rollercoaster herself rather than put up with his awful surliness that entire day. He'd been horrible to her.
And when he'd done that disappearing trick in the theater—oh, she'd wanted to strangle him then and there. But she'd let him go, knowing full well that she couldn't have stopped him even if she'd tried, and sat in the theater by herself, still handcuffed to the dummy because she couldn't bear the thought of showing Kaito how much she knew, not wanting to know how he'd react to her knowing.
She'd cried while the audience laughed.
And when Kaito'd come back after the heist, just barely in time for the last seconds of the film before the lights came back up, she hid her own anguish and smiled brilliantly, gushing about how wonderful the film was.
Kaito was hardly the only one who could act, after all.
And time marched on. KID continued, and Aoko continued to watch Kaito become increasingly excited before heists and completely exhausted after them, without saying a word.
She wasn't sure what she could do, in those days. She knew he was KID—but knowing it and accepting it were two very different things.
Because this was Kaito. Kaito, the kid she'd grown up with. They'd chased each other all over Ekoda, gotten in more fights than she could count, played together, gone to school together. She was over at Kaito's so often that Kuroba-san had started insisting that Aoko call her 'Chikage' instead. Kaito, the idiot who kept flipping her skirt every morning just because he knew it annoyed her, the magician that would be just like his dad when he grew up, the fool who kept saying things to embarrass her because he thought her blush was cute. Kaito, the one person she could share anything with, who knew her inside and out and didn't care that she couldn't cook and still cheered her up and ate whatever she made no matter how inedible it actually was.
Kaito, who had suddenly gone from someone she knew to a stranger wearing her friend's face. Because how could Kaito do this? It went against everything they'd been taught, to be a thief—to taunt the police, to be on the wrong side of the law, and not care? That wasn't like Kaito at all.
So she kept quiet about it, while she wrestled with her thoughts. Months passed this way, with nothing changing. Kaito still went out on heists, and Aoko still let him go without saying a word, wondering why and worrying that one day he'd be caught—and then what would she do?
That thought she buried deep inside of herself, not wanting to even think about it.
And then Nightmare had died at KID's heist.
Kaito was never quite the same after that. Aoko'd done her best to cheer him up, give him something solid and familiar to be around, but she could tell that something had changed, even if Kaito wouldn't tell her what.
But she kept after him, despite Kaito's attempts to push her away, and he eventually got better, and the KID heists started up again. She watched him more closely after that, and tried to keep him from sinking into despair whenever someone got hurt during a heist. Sometimes even Hakuba-kun would help her on Kaito's particularly bad days, nearly as worried about Kaito as she was.
It wasn't until her dad had told her somebody'd shot at the KID that she decided she couldn't sit there and wait anymore. KID—Kaito—had been stealing for nearly a year then, and while there had been rumors about shooters at KID heists, there'd never been proof. Now that the police had proof—
She called Chikage-san that very night, told her all about her suspicions and worries and everything that had been going on while Chikage had been abroad. And when she'd finally run out of words and tears, Chikage told her the truth about what Kaito was doing, and why.
And suddenly she could see why Kaito had done it—why he'd become a criminal. She couldn't forgive him for it—not yet, the knowledge was too fresh and painful for that yet—but she understood.
So when Chikage asked her what she was going to do, she merely said, "Exactly what I have been, Chikage-san. Support him, and wait for him to tell me himself." Because even if it took him a thousand years, Aoko would never give up on him.
She started attending heists again, this time without the giant "KID go home" sign, and told herself that she was supporting both her father and her friend this way. She ignored the tiny voice in the back of her head that said it was because she wanted to be there in case anything went wrong, because it was Kaito and he was too good for anything to go wrong.
It was nerve-wracking, watching Kaito dance with death the way he did at each and every heist. There were times when Aoko wanted nothing more than to scream at him to stop taunting the assassin and get out of there, you moron! But of course Kaito wouldn't be able to hear her even if she had, and tipping off the crowd of KID fans that there were snipers waiting for their idol would be anything but a good idea since they'd probably panic and trample people underfoot.
There were nights, when shots had been fired, that KID simply disappeared after the heist without acknowledging his audience far below, that Aoko went home and watched desperately for the light in Kaito's bedroom to come on and tell her he was still alive and okay and not lying dead in an alley somewhere with bullet holes through him. Some nights, the light would turn on quickly, and others it never turned on at all, and she would sit there watching anxiously until morning, when she could check on him in person without having to explain why she was bothering him at a horrible hour.
But somehow Kaito was always there to meet her in the morning, sometimes bright-eyed and perky, sometimes exhausted or struggling to hide an injury, and she worried all the more about him while keeping her own smile bright. It would never do to show him that she knew anything, after all. Kaito'd only worry about her, that way—and he had more than enough to worry about as it was.
So they continued to dance around each other, neither telling the full truth to the other, for another three years, until KID found Pandora.
That night had been one of the rare times Aoko hadn't attended a heist—it was mid-term at her college and she'd been working on a portfolio for her poetry class, and hadn't actually realized how late it had gotten until her roommate had walked in, talking about how the heist had become a disaster and KID and a few civilians had been shot.
Aoko couldn't really remember how she'd gotten to the hospital after that. What she did remember was Kaito lying on cold, crisp white sheets, pristine white bandages around his right eye and left hand, and the knowledge that there had to be more injuries than she could see because the hospital staff had given him something that knocked him out for hours after she got there. She remembered being frantic about his injured eye, because it was the same one the glass monocle always covered, and if he'd gotten glass in it he might never be able to see out of it again; she remembered begging the hospital staff to tell her what was wrong, what had happened, because no one seemed to want to tell her anything; she remembered holding Kaito's unbandaged hand tightly and quietly sobbing, begging him to wake up and tell her he was okay; she remembered her father's hands on her shoulders, and quiet words that Kaito was in the best of hands.
But in the moment that Kaito opened his uncovered eye and grinned up at her, she forgot everything except the overwhelming relief that he was alive.
So she smiled through her tears, and called him all kinds of idiot for landing himself in the hospital, and laughed at his protests.
The month he spent in the hospital was one of the worst for her, splitting her time between hospital visits and school and a part-time job. Kaito scared her every time she went in, looking so defeated until he noticed her and put on that awful fake smile and tried to be cheerful when he was obviously miserable. Even the hospital staff had noticed-and when they told Aoko, it worried her even more, because if complete strangers could tell something was wrong with Kaito, something was really wrong.
Soon, and yet not soon enough, Kaito was back home, and Aoko could almost see his mood improve, every day, until he was actually smiling again. Four months flew by, and it wasn't until she saw a headline in the newspaper wondering what had happened to KID that she realized Kaito hadn't put out any notices. He'd been healed for a few months, but KID still hadn't reappeared. Had Kaito finally accomplished his goal?
She didn't know, but she certainly hoped so.
With the absence of KID heists to absorb his attention, Kaito was spending a lot more time with Aoko, and she couldn't say that she minded. It was nice, having Kaito around again like he had been before he'd picked up KID's mantle.
So when he handed her a red rose a few months later, instead of the typical pink or blue or white one, and asked her if she'd go on a "real" date with him, she didn't hesitate to say yes. KID hadn't reappeared in over a year, after all, so it wasn't like she'd be dating a criminal.
It took him two years of dates-some rather sweet, others the kind that only Kaito would ever think was romantic-to finally come to her with a serious expression on his face and say that he had something to tell her.
Oh, the look on his face when she told him she'd known the whole time—that was priceless. Kaito's sputtering protests only made the moment that much more memorable.
Stupid Kaito. Didn't he know by now that he couldn't keep anything from her?