Disclaimer: I don't own the DCMK characters.
Fragments of Yesterday
4: Clear Skies
"Oh my god," Ran breathed.
The street she had grown up on, a place she had known all her life, was now unrecognizable.
Everything had changed. What had once been a bright and relatively lively street full of shops situated beneath family apartments and small business offices was now a…well, she wasn't sure what it was, but it wasn't what it had been.
The buildings were all white and black. Like unfinished paintings from a storybook, each building was a swath of solid blackness with the occasional window to break the void. But those same black buildings had adjacent white walls that hummed and seemed to glow like fluorescent lights.
The street itself had twisted. Rather than running straight, it meandered wildly this way in that, curling in upon itself at some points and splitting at others to race away in completely different directions. Odd rock formations jutted up out of the mess of writhing streets like paper cutout mountains. Black spikes, some nearly tree height, speared skyward at odd and unpredictable places and angles. Worst of all, the entire mess seemed to be moving, undulating slowly as though the chaos of shapes and colors were breathing entities waiting to wake.
There were no people, they were all glad to see, for none of them could imagine what would happen to a person who tried to venture out into that oozing, twisting, and slowly metamorphosing world. But there were…creatures. Tall, white things that billowed out like ghosts as they flickered in and out of sight. Other creatures were darker. These were thin and straight, with long arms tipped in talons and faces that were all mouth and fangs. These too seemed to rise from the darker patches of this chaotic dreamscape only to vanish again just as their pale counterparts did.
"I think I'm going to be sick," Heiji muttered, turning away from the window.
Ran silently agreed. The vision beyond the window was nauseating in its instability and wrongness.
"Is it all real?" Hakuba asked. The quiet horror in his voice made Ran shiver and Heiji tense. Neither of them had thought yet of what all those changes outside would mean beyond this instant. But now it was impossible not to think about it and wonder.
"No," Shinichi said with such firmness that there was no room at all for contradiction.
"So…what do we do now?" asked Ran. "Do we wait?"
They all looked at Shinichi. The oracle looked again out the window before turning to face them, a slight frown on his face as his eyes gazed unfocused at something far away that none but he could see. Then he shook his head.
"I…would like to go back. I shouldn't have left."
"You realize you almost got a concussion," Hattori said like he thought Shinichi might have addled his brains when he'd hit his head. "It wasn't just paper flying around your house either. Our textbooks tried to brain us."
"I would have been fine. Kaito wouldn't hurt me," Shinichi said levelly. "I know you meant well, but you made it worse when you took me away. You made him angry. Can't you feel it?"
There was an awkward silence before Ran spoke, hesitant. "Shinichi, we have no idea what's happening. Do you think you could explain? From the beginning? We want to help, but we can't do that if we don't understand."
Shinichi fidgeted a moment, torn between the desperate desire to go home and the knowledge that these people, who had welcomed them and stood by them, deserved to understand. Eventually, he nodded and sat down gingerly on the very edge of the couch.
He opened his mouth then shut it again, not at all sure where to start. But then something Kaito's father had said came back to him.
"Magic draws its strength from emotion," he started. "Toichi-san—that's Kaito's father—always said that a magician has to be able to control his emotions if he wants to control his magic. Mastering the former lets him harness the latter."
"I'm not sure I get it," Heiji said.
Hakuba snorted. "You should understand better than any of us. Although I suppose it would explain a lot if you don't."
"What? What's that supposed to mean?" the other detective demanded. That comment had smelled of an insult, but he wasn't entirely sure in what way, so he decided to be offended on principal.
"Isn't it obvious? It's the same as lashing out when you're angry or refraining despite your anger because you know better. Mind over matter. It just so happens that people with…power have more to lash out with than a fist."
Heiji glowered at his blonde friend, but that explanation had actually made sense. "Okay, fine. Whatever. I still don't see why Kuroba being sick led to all that." He gestured at the window. "Last I checked, being sick wasn't the same as being angry. Though I guess it can be a pretty frustrating state to be in."
"Maybe he's having a nightmare," Ran suggested, looking to Shinichi. "Is that what's going on?"
The oracle looked worried—something that only added to Ran's own anxiety. "He may be. It's hard to say. My leaving wouldn't have helped."
"I suppose it is pointless asking you how he would know you are gone," Hakuba stated more than asked.
"I'd still like to know," said Heiji. "It might help us figure out what to do about that." He gestured towards the window for emphasis. "Beats just sitting around and waiting for it to die down."
"He's right." Ran turned to Shinichi. "I'm sorry if we made things worse. We didn't mean to, and I'd hate for anyone to get hurt because of it. Do you know how we can stop it?"
The oracle bowed his head. "I'm sorry. I…don't really know. It might help to go back, but it won't be easy making our way through." He grimaced as the words left his lips. Though he had had a premonition about Kaito's cold, he had had no idea at all that the situation would degenerate into this mess, and he wondered, not for the first time and likely not for the last, why it was that his powers always seemed to lead him and the people he loved into danger rather than out of it. Even from here, he could sense the tension in the atmosphere of the city. The energy crackling like restless lightning preparing to strike. He could sense Kaito's presence in that power—his presence but not his consciousness. This was magic at its most dangerous, he realized. Raw, powerful, and driven only by instinct and unbridled emotions.
How had it gotten to this point? The one time Kaito had been sick back while they were still prisoners, his power outburst had been limited to the area within their rooms. Then again, Kaito had been much younger then. His magic had only grown more powerful over the years. But was that all?
His gaze wandered to the window again. Such wild displays were nothing at all like what he remembered from those three days way back then. This was more…active.
Maybe Ran was right and Kaito really was having a nightmare.
He sighed, shifting his gaze from the surreal scene outside to the papers still flapping around and around the ceiling.
The others had started arguing. Apparently, Heiji wanted to take a risk and go back to the house. Hakuba was of the opinion that they should stay put and let it pass. After all, what could they do even if they got back? Ran was torn between her own desire to head back to try and help out and the desire to support the blond detective who she had rather fond feelings for. But though none of them mentioned it, Shinichi could hear the hint of fear and uncertainty beneath their heated words. It sent a pang through his chest.
These people had accepted him and Kaito up until now despite their powers and their past. But the incident on the old Wraith island had shaken them. Frankly, seeing Kaito like that had shaken Shinichi too, but they had gotten over it because they were good people, and they had called them their friends. Shinichi was more grateful to them for that simple fact than they would ever know. But now, seeing their very home warping around them not for self defense or even some fit of temper but just because Kaito had caught an ordinary cold… It was little wonder that they were afraid.
What would they think of Kaito after this?
The papers whirled faster.
"Magic draws power from emotion," Shinichi murmured, watching the papers whirl and whirl. Then, on a whim, he stood and reached out a hand towards one of the smaller flocks—one comprised of post-it-notes. The flapping yellow notes fluttered to him, spinning around and around his head, making him look like a cartoon character who had just been knocked silly by a blow to the head. But then, slowly, their flittering calmed and, one by one, they landed. Some perched on his shoulders, others nestled in his hair. The rest slid into pockets or simply fell to the floor like autumn leaves.
Heiji whistled. "Did you make that happen?"
"No—yes. I mean, sort of."
"Well that narrows things down, doesn't it?"
"Sarcasm isn't going to help," Ran chided. "Shinichi?"
"I guess you can think about this as an immune system reaction," he said, trying to sound more sure than he really was. In all honesty, he was only guessing. But saying so would likely only make the others worry more. It would served no constructive purpose. "A defense mechanism triggered by a magician being sick. The magic kind of spreads out and…well, deals with potential threats, I suppose."
"That does not explain the papers—or why we were attacked at your house," Hakuba pointed out.
Shinichi bit back the urge to sigh. "It's not as straight forward as that. Magic is just magic. It's not like it thinks. It doesn't operate on logic and reason. Like I said, it reacts to emotion—Kaito's emotions, mainly, but I think ours influences it too." He pulled a sticky note out of his hair and held it up for emphasis. "Just now, I focused on calming myself, and the papers responded."
"So you're saying we can make all this stop just by being calm?" Heiji didn't bother trying to hide how dubious the concept sounded to him.
"No," Shinichi said bluntly. "But I think we might be able to ameliorate the situation in the areas immediately around us that way. At least while we're so far away from Kaito. It's like how being around calm people makes it easier to be calm yourself. But it will likely be different when we're closer."
"Well that makes sense to me," Ran decided. The detectives in the room were less convinced, but as neither of them had the knowledge with which to even make a hypothesis, they chose not to argue.
Hakuba heaved a sigh that was two parts exasperation and one part resignation. "I assume we will be going back then. But I ask again, will it really make a difference if we go?"
"I have to go," Shinichi insisted. "I have to let him know that I'm all right or things will only get worse."
"We better hurry up then," Heiji cut in. "But I do have one more question before we go. That thing that happened with the soup bowl and the tray. When it just got vaporized. That…doesn't happen to people, does it?"
Shinichi looked down. "Only if you get too close," he said, wishing he could say otherwise but unwilling to fudge the truth. "I should be able to warn you if it is about to become dangerous to move closer. If you still want to go, I mean. Otherwise, you should be fine as long as you have no ill intentions."
Feeling he should give them some time to think things over without his presence, Shinichi asked Ran to direct him to the restroom. He retreated into it and busied himself with examining the bump he'd gotten to the head. The bruising was painful, but it was nothing serious.
Upon returning to the living room, he was surprised to find the others all rummaging about the apartment's kitchen. As he arrived, Hattori rose from an open drawer with a whoop of triumph.
"This one's nice and long." He turned to Ran, holding up the oversized ladle he had unearthed. "Would you mind losing it?"
The girl glanced the appliance over then shrugged. "I've never used it, so it should be fine. I think I'll take the broom. We should be getting a new one soon anyway. The bristles have started falling out."
"May I borrow this?" Hakuba presented the girl with a large spatula. "I will replace it if it is lost."
"What are you doing?" Shinichi asked, looking from one household appliance to the next in confusion.
Hattori flashed him a broad grin. "It's just a precaution. We figure if we hold something out in front of us, it'll get vaporized before we do if we get too close to a danger zone. I know you said you'd know, but a backup plan doesn't hurt."
"Oh." Shinichi blinked, wondering if it would be inappropriate to laugh. "I guess that makes sense. You should also look out for sparks and air that seems to be shimmering or crackling like there is electricity running through it. Avoid those no matter what."
"Got it. What about you? I saw a couple other ladles in there, just none as big as this one."
"Er, no, but thank you."
"Suit yourself. So, is everyone ready?" Laying his giant ladle over his shoulder, the dark-skinned detective surveyed his 'troops'. Seeing that everyone but Shinichi was armed, he strode over to the door and slipped on his shoes. "We'll head out then. I'll walk in the lead with Shinichi. Ran, you should walk behind us. That way, you can give us directions if we need 'em. Hakuba can take the rear. Agreed?"
"Considering calmness is going to be a key factor in this expedition, I would recommend that you and I switch places," Hakuba replied, tone dry. "Your volatile temper should stay at the back."
Hattori scowled. "Fine. Whatever."
Hakuba opened his mouth then shut it again. He hadn't expected Hattori to agree with him, let alone go along with his plans without an argument. Pulling himself back together with an effort, he stepped past Hattori to open the door.
The stairwell outside was so ordinary that all four of them halted in their tracks to stare. But soon they were venturing out and down the familiar steps and out into the totally unfamiliar street.
When they asked each other later, none of them could describe with any certainty what the texture of the ground beneath their feet had been. The street itself seesawed between the warped landscape they had glimpsed through the Mouris' window and the mundane city street it was supposed to be.
Despite the eerie atmosphere and the stifling silence, which none of them had expected, the walk through the city back to the Kuroba household wasn't as harrowing an experience as they had all anticipated. It felt almost like walking through a funhouse or a haunted house without any sound.
Large, white and black shapes billowed up and drifted by only to flutter and melt away again at random moments. The streets felt wrong underfoot, but they didn't warp people into other places or suddenly decide to become walls.
They were halfway to their destination when they saw the first humans they had laid eyes on since leaving Ran's apartment. There were a group of them, mostly teenagers, screaming and hitting things that looked an awful lot like coffee tables and café chairs. The furniture was crawling at the teens, for what purpose, the teens clearly were not going to wait to find out as they kicked and kicked and, in one young man's case, bashed at the furniture with a baseball bat. Shinichi and the others paused for a moment to stare at the bizarre battle. But as the people involved were only scared, not hurt, they moved on.
Another block down the street, however, a man stepped out of a jewelry shop which had been left open when its occupants fled in search of sanity. He had a smug grin on his face and necklaces and other trinkets spilling out of his pockets.
Hakuba made a mental note of the young man's physical characteristics and was about to confront him when one of those half substantial white ghost like figures rose up behind the thief. Then it leaned forward, enfolding him in the billows of its white body. Everything happened in complete silence and so fast that none of them would have seen anything if they hadn't been watching. But when the white shadow unfolded and faded away, the thief was gone. Not a trace of him was left. Well, except for the trinkets he had stolen. Those now lay in a glittering pile on the featureless, white street.
Ran's breath caught in her throat as she took an involuntary step back. Four, black spikes shot up out of the ground all around her, and suddenly Ran's shock turned to fear.
"What happened to that guy?" she demanded, voice sounding weak even to her own ears.
"You need to calm down," Shinichi said urgently.
"B—but he just—that thing…"
"It reacted to his greed. There's nothing we can do for him," he insisted. "You have to calm down."
"O—oh. I—I'm sorry."
Closing her eyes, Ran drew in a deep breath. Slowly, the odd, black spires circling her like the dorsal fins of waiting sharks sank back into the earth and vanished.
It was a grim procession that continued onward, now wary of looking too hard at any of the floating, black and white phantoms as their imaginations conjured terrors with which to fill them. By the time they reached the Kuroba residence, they were all about ready to snap. The sight of the building didn't help.
Where before, the odd, golden light that had suffused the air in Kaito's room had been limited to that room, it now wrapped all the way around the house like an energy field. Crackles of electricity swept at random across its surface, threatening to lash out at anyone or anything that drew too close. The very air itself was heavy and humming with power.
Ran, being the one with the longest weapon, hefted her broom and extended it towards the light. The instant the bristles touched the golden glow, they dissolved, falling away in wisps of white ash that were caught and whipped away by the breeze. She drew back the broom-turned-pole and tried to smile. "I guess this is where we have to stop?"
"I'll go alone from here," said Shinichi. "When the haze dissipates, you guys can come in."
"Are you sure?" asked Heiji.
Shinichi smiled. "I'm sure. Kaito won't hurt me. I just need to let him know that I'm here and that I'm safe."
"Sounds too easy. But if you say so then I guess that's what we have to do. Just…if something goes wrong, scream, and we'll come try and rescue ya."
"Or get vaporized trying?" Hakuba asked dryly.
Shinichi didn't answer. He had no intention of calling for help even if something went wrong because, where he knew Kaito wouldn't hurt him, he also knew that the same could not be said for the others. In this state of mind, Kaito could very easily decide that the others were a threat and deal with them accordingly.
Bracing himself, Shinichi opened the door and stepped into the front hall.
Instantly, that overwhelming power washed over him again, filling him, trapping him—probing his very soul, it seemed. He didn't even hear the door shut behind him. He took deep breaths and waited, focusing on a single memory. A memory of a night an eternity ago. Of two boys in a locked room, looking at a night sky full of stars that were all their own.
That memory, one of the most precious memories he had from a time in their lives when precious things were rare and precious memories even more so, filled him with a sense of wonder and peace even now. But more than that, it was a reminder that they would always be themselves as long as they had each other to remind them when they were lost.
When Shinichi opened his eyes again, the crackling, golden haze that had filled the house earlier was now a soft blue glow filled with phantom stars. They hung, serene and beautiful—peace made visible.
Smiling, he gave himself a moment to just relax and take in the sudden sensation of deep, calm eternity before he opened the door again.
He was met by three determined faces. They had all tensed when the door swung in, assorted household appliances rising to ready position as they prepared to invade the house. Not a single one of them made a move to back away. That fact, tiny as it was, brought a lump to Shinichi's throat which he quickly.
"It's safe to come in now," he said softly. "Just remember to stay calm."
The three traded glances before Hattori stepped forward. As nothing happened, he proceeded into the house, followed shortly by the others. A few minutes later, all three were seated in the living room, gazing in awe at the starry night glittering all around them. Warmed by their wonder, Shinichi left to collect a glass of warm water from the kitchen. He paused only a moment at the sight of Hakuba's textbooks stacked neatly in the open cupboards, the tableware spread across the table in their stead, and the pot of chicken soup, now full again, perched on top of the refrigerator.
Walking up the stairs was like ascending into the night sky. The translucent, blue glow softened the edges of the world as though reality itself was wearing thin. Only the stars were clear, bright and sharp yet warm with promise.
He stopped by the bathroom for a small towel, which he soaked then wrung out. He found Kaito fast asleep like he had been before everything had gone ballistic. Setting the water down on the corner of the desk next to the empty glass already there, Shinichi used the damp towel to gently wipe the sweat from Kaito's face and neck. The magician stirred but didn't wake. Despite that, Shinichi could feel the air growing lighter, and he knew that Kaito knew he was there.
The tight knot of tension in Shinichi's stomach relaxed to be replaced by a sense of peace. He knew he should be going back downstairs to see to their guests, but, instead, he found himself picking up the book he had left on the table last night before this had all begun and sitting down on the bed next to Kaito. It was just for a little while, he told himself. The others would understand. That thought gave him a moment's pause because it was true, and that fact was every bit as wondrous as the magical stars sparkling all around them. Leaning back against his own fluffed up pillows, he opened the book and let the sound of Kaito's even breathing lull him into a peaceful haze of literature and the warmth of homes that could never be lost because they were built of the bonds between hearts rather than any material that could be molded by human hands.
To say Kaito was puzzled when he opened his eyes to see Ran peering through the open door of his and Shinichi's bedroom would have been putting it lightly. What was she doing here? And how had she gotten into the house? Where was Shinichi?
That last question eclipsed all the others, but only for a split second as he sensed the soft, warm presence beside him. He looked down to see Shinichi curled up around a book on the bed beside him. Relaxing, he traced a finger over the curve of the sleeping oracle's cheek before looking back up at Ran.
"Your mom and I made dinner," she said softly, a wary but hopeful smile on her face. "Would you two like to come eat?"
Kaito stared at her. There was nothing unusual about her question, except he had never expected to hear such questions from anyone other than Shinichi and his mother. Hearing it from this girl they had known for less than a year now was surreal.
As the silence dragged on, Ran's smile faltered then faded. "If you don't feel like it…"
"We'll be down in a minute," Kaito cut in before she could figure out how to finish her statement. He was surprised at his own satisfaction when her smile returned. She nodded and excused herself, shutting the door behind her.
Kaito blinked, gaze growing thoughtful.
The sun rose on the following morning to a world that was splendid in its normalcy. Relieved and ready to put the whole previous day behind him, Shinichi bid Chikage goodbye as she left for work then cleaned up the breakfast dishes. Then he heated some milk in a pot and made two large mugs of hot chocolate. Steaming beverages in hand, he made his way carefully up the stairs and into their room.
"I was thinking about leaving."
Shinichi nearly dropped both mugs at Kaito's sudden declaration. "Leaving?"
"Don't worry. I know you wouldn't want to go. You like it here. I guess I wouldn't want to leave either," the magician added as an afterthought. "We've been happy here."
"You say that like you expect things to change." Sitting down on the edge of the bed next to Kaito, Shinichi handed him a hot chocolate.
Kaito took a long swig before replying. "It will, if things continue as they are."
Shinichi bit his lip. Anxiety curled in his stomach. "What do you mean?"
"Think about it. It should be obvious. The whole city had its face rubbed in a boatload of magic yesterday. It's only a matter of time before someone starts looking for the cause. It would only take one person putting two and two together to get the ball rolling, and if they find me, they'll find you." Levitating both their mugs to his desk, Kaito caught one of Shinichi's hands and twined their fingers together. "We both know what happens when people discover power."
"But that was a different life," Shinichi murmured, though he wasn't sure which one of them he was trying to convince. Kaito's words had struck home.
"It was. But human nature has not changed." Indigo eyes caught Shinichi's, and they were deadly serious. "I will admit that there are people who care. We have seen that. But there will always be those who act only for themselves—those who let greed and the hunger for power drive them. Not to mention those who are controlled by fear. That sort can be even worse."
Shinichi closed his eyes, leaning his head against Kaito's shoulder. He wished he could say that the magician's concerns were exaggerated, but he couldn't. Deep down, he truly believed that there were more good souls out there than rotten ones, but that didn't change the fact that there were villains out there. It would take only one to ruin everything they had built for themselves here. They were only two people in a vast and thriving city. They wouldn't be easy to find. But it had been done before. It would make sense to leave after such a public display. But Kaito had said he didn't plan to. Not yet anyway. That meant he had to have a plan.
He sat up so he could see Kaito's face. "What are you planning to do?"
Kaito smirked. "I'm going to make sure no one remembers what happened today as anything more than a strange dream or mass hallucination."
Shinichi looked dubious. "Can you do that?"
"Won't know until I try. But if this doesn't work, I'm taking you and Mom and getting out of here. I won't let anyone hurt any of us again."
The steel in Kaito's voice sent a shiver up Shinichi's spine. He watched with mild trepidation as Kaito rose and walked over to the desk, but all the magician did was hand him his hot chocolate and begin drinking his own. It wasn't until they had both finished their chocolates that Kaito spoke again.
"I'm going to need your help."
Shinichi nodded. "Just tell me what to do."
"Have you guys seen the news?" Ran asked as she joined Hakuba and Hattori in their classroom ten minutes before the start of first period.
"Ya mean the stuff about that secret lab that accidentally released a load of hallucinogenic gas into the city?" the dark-skinned detective asked. Ran nodded, and he shrugged. "It's on every news channel on and offline right now. Not sure what it's going on about though. I mean, all that stuff yesterday was, well, you know."
"I suppose people are trying to explain what happened," Hakuba theorized. "An unknown chemical accident does sound more believable than magic. Although considering how many people were taking photographs and recording videos yesterday, I doubt the story will hold up."
"That's the thing," Ran said. Digging her own phone out of her pocket, she pulled up a video and held it out towards the two detectives. Both gave her puzzled looks before leaning in to watch the images on the screen. Slowly, their expressions morphed from baffled to shocked to incredulous.
"But that can't be right!" Hattori burst out the moment the video ended. Next to him, Hakuba reached over and tapped the repeat button. The video started again. On the screen, a woman flung her handbag away from her. It landed in the middle of the street as cars swerved and people shouted and screamed. Then people were running. A moment later, the camera panned upward to focus on what appeared to be empty sky. Despite the lack of a subject, the screen swept from side to side as though following a moving target. Then the video ended again.
The entire seen was familiar to all three teens. It had been that moment on their journey from the Kuroba house to Ran's apartment when flames had erupted from a woman's purse to do battle with a watery beast from a hydrant. Except, in the video, there was neither fire nor water, just a street of panicking civilians fleeing from a perfectly innocuous handbag.
"That's not the only one either," Ran told them. "All the videos and photos I checked were just like that one."
"What, does magic not show up on film?" Hattori wondered out loud.
"But there's no damage," Hakuba murmured, taking Ran's phone and running a quick search for photos. "Even if the magic did not appear on film, the damage it dealt to the surroundings would."
"But it couldn't have been in our heads," the other detective argued. "It just—couldn't."
"It doesn't have to have been," Ran replied. "I mean, remember how all the school windows repaired themselves yesterday?"
"Are you suggesting that Kuroba put everything back to the way it was?" asked Hakuba. "Throughout the entire city?"
"It's the only explanation that makes sense, isn't it?"
The three looked at each other. It was Hattori who eventually broke the pensive silence.
"Man, that's insane," he said, shaking his head. "How would he even know what to fix?"
"Well, he does live with someone who can see the future," Hakuba said dryly. "We know from experience that he can also see the present. It is not much of a stretch to imagine that the past too is available."
"We could always just ask them." Taking her phone back, Ran turned it off. On cue, the teacher walked in, and the murmuring all around the classroom died down.
They headed straight for the Kurobas' house after school. They did a collective double take when it was Kaito who answered the door and not Shinichi. The magician, on the other hand, didn't seem surprised to see them. Though he did give them an intent once over before opening the door wider and stepping aside to let them in.
"Guess that explains the two dozen sandwiches."
Ran wondered what he meant until Shinichi walked into the room carrying a large platter stacked high with neat, triangular sandwiches. He looked tired, but he smiled when he saw them and offered them the sandwiches. Once everyone was seated in the living room, the oracle disappeared back into the kitchen only to return with drinks. Though he hadn't asked them for their preferences, he managed to give them each exactly the drink they would have chosen.
"You have questions," he said when he sat down next to Kaito. The magician took the cup Shinichi handed him with one hand as his other arm settled around the oracle's waist.
Hattori grimaced. "Seriously, it's weird when you just say things like that instead of asking. Kinda kills the conversation."
Shinichi blinked at him. "…I'm sorry?"
"Nah. Just—try to ask next time."
"Good. So were we right then?"
Shinichi opened his mouth then shut it again. It was Kaito who spoke.
"If you're wondering about yesterday, we fixed what we could. And we expect you to keep mum about what really happened."
Shinichi elbowed him. "He means we would appreciate it if you supported the story."
"We understand," Ran assured them. "We were just curious."
"Yeah. I mean, how'd you manage it?" Hattori asked.
"Shin-chan told me what happened when and where. I fixed the damage then wiped it out of the relevant videos and photos using a resonance spell that you really wouldn't understand." The detectives both twitched at that, but Kaito ignored them. "Then we called the news people as different concerned citizens and told them about this mysterious man's secret lab we'd heard rumors about and how it had been getting unstable, yada yada yada. Then we just fanned the flames a bit."
Hakuba frowned. "I cannot approve of spreading such rumors. There may be repercussions. But I suppose there isn't much else we can do."
Kaito shot the blond a nasty glare, but Shinichi elbowed him again before he could say anything.
The conversation shifted to more mundane topics after that. Shinichi was relieved to see Ran and the others begin to relax. By the time the three got up to leave, the atmosphere between them had become almost normal again.
"We should be back in school by tomorrow," he told them when he saw them to the door.
"That's great," Ran said. "If you need anything though, just call us."
"We will. Thank you."
Shinichi watched the girl's retreating back for a long moment before turning to the two detectives who had lingered at the door. He had a strong suspicion that he knew what they wanted, but he decided to wait and let them speak.
The two traded uneasy glances before Hakuba cleared his throat.
"There was one more thing we need to know," he said.
Shinichi tilted his head slightly to one side in silent inquiry, taking note of the blonde's choice of words.
Hakuba waited a few seconds for him to respond before he cleared his throat again and continued. "That thief we saw vanish outside the jewelry store. What happened to him?"
"He was arrested this morning," the oracle replied. "The jewelry store's security cameras caught his face on tape, and he was found asleep in the park by the police with some of the stolen jewels in his pockets."
The detectives looked at each other again, and Shinichi wondered what they were thinking. He could tell that his answer had taken them by surprise. Perhaps they had expected him to say that the man had died. In truth, Shinichi had been afraid that he had. It was only dumb luck that had spared the man. Kaito had retrieved him from an in-between place where, the magician had explained, things went when being moved great distances by magic. Kaito had also said that, if the man had been left where he'd been for much longer, what they'd retrieved would have been a corpse. Nor had that man been the only one who had had to be rescued. But Shinichi said none of this because it was over. Providing the detectives with those particular details would serve no purpose except to make them even more wary than they already were.
"Guess all's well that ends well," Hattori remarked with a slightly forced laugh. "Anyway, see you guys tomorrow."
Shinichi nodded and bid them farewell again. He stood for a minute after they had gone, gaze fixed on the front door he had just closed as though he could see right through it. He didn't hear Kaito walking up behind him, but he did sense the magician's familiar presence, so it didn't surprise him to feel a pair of strong arms wrap around him from behind.
"I still don't understand why you insist on answering all their questions," Kaito said, warm breaths ghosting past Shinichi's ear. "We don't owe them anything."
Shinichi sighed, closing his eyes and leaning his head back against Kaito's shoulder. "It's not about owing anyone anything. I just…don't want them to be afraid. People fear what they don't understand. But they're trying to understand. It's more than anyone else has ever done for us. The least we can do is answer their questions."
Kaito snorted. "The Wraith wanted to understand too. They would have given their collective right arms to know how you see what you see."
"That's different, and you know it."
It was Kaito's turn to sigh. He knew Shinichi was right—Shinichi usually was. But part of him would always be searching for that snake in the grass. Nothing would change that. He had come too close to losing everything that mattered to allow himself to forget the value of vigilance.
He leaned down to brush a chaste kiss across Shinichi's cheek before releasing him and stepping back. His right hand caught Shinichi's left, twining their fingers together and tugging the oracle towards the kitchen.
"Let's just be glad this is over. We both need to get some sleep."
"I promised Chikage-san that I'd make dinner," Shinichi protested.
"It's not even four yet. We're taking a nap. You can start dinner at five thirty. I'll help."
"It'll take longer if you help," Shinichi said dryly, but he let himself be guided upstairs.
A.N: Sorry this took a while. This fic really wasn't supposed to be this long or this, er, grim. But anyhow, I hope all of you are well. Take care!