Disclaimer: I don't own DCMK

Rating: T

Genre: Romance/Hurt/Comfort/Life

Pairing: KaiShin [Kuroba Kaito x Kudo Shinichi]

Summary: Having lost his parents to a plane crash, Shinichi inds himself at an orphanage run by a retired magician's assistant and the man's surrogate grandson, Kuroba Kaito. It is, he finds, a rather strange household he's moved into. But it's a good kind of strange.

With the Turning of Seasons

1. Tears

Later, neither of them would have very clear recollections of the day they met, though Kaito often claimed otherwise. It wasn't exactly a lie. He remembered a pair of large, blue eyes peering around old Jii's legs and the sun-drenched halls of the orphanage. Shinichi's memories of that day were even less clear. For him, everything from the moment that he had been told that his parents plane had crashed to when he woke up the morning after being brought to the orphanage was a blur. It wasn't until he had opened his eyes to look at that unfamiliar ceiling that everything had sunk in.

If there was anyone who did remember that first day, it was Jii, the old man who looked after the small orphanage and the children who lived there.

His first thought when the kindly police woman in charge of bringing the boy to the orphanage had introduced them was that the child was not crying. He had been expecting tears, knowing that the boy had only just been given the news that both his parents were gone. But the boy hadn't cried. In fact, he hadn't made any sound of any kind. His face had worn no expression at all, and that worried the old man more than any amount of tears could have. Grief bottled up could only lead to more pain, in his experience. He remembered well his own grief and the grief of his old master's son when the magician Kuroba Toichi and his wife had lost their lives in a terrible fire that had consumed the theater in which Toichi had given his last show. Young Kaito had been devastated, having loved his parents and admired his father ever since he could string two words together. Jii too had loved the magician and his wife. They had been his best friends—his family in everything but blood. The children he had never had. The two of them had cried together at the funeral before they had vowed over the graves of Kuroba Toichi and Chikage that this would not be the way things ended.

They had made a promise that such misfortunes would not bring them down but build them up for they would create a place that could be a home to shattered hearts and heal the wounded who had suffered loss.

They would create a place that took in the lost and taught them how to smile again.

But moving on took time, and Jii understood that. He brought the young child to the house's warmly lit common room and introduced him to the other children there.

Shinichi had greeted them with the same solemnity with which he had greeted Jii. His silence and apparent apathy had soon had the rest of the children drifting away to find more interesting ways to pass the time before lunch. Only one child had lingered.

The moment all the rest of the children had gone, Kaito had bounded right up to Shinichi and offered him a dove plush that appeared in a puff of smoke. Shinichi had started at the toy's sudden appearance, but all he did then was blink at the bird then at the boy holding it as though he wasn't sure what he was supposed to do now.

"It's for you," Kaito explained patiently, offering the other child his best smile. "It's a welcome gift."

Shinichi looked at the dove again. Eventually, however, he took the toy with a muttered "thank you".

Kaito puffed out his cheeks then, clearly not satisfied with the reaction he'd gotten, but then he'd grabbed the other boy's arm and started dragging him out of the common room. "Come on. I'll show you where everything is."

Jii watched them go with a smile, lost for a moment in nostalgia. It warmed his heart to see that his old friend's spirit lived on in his son. After having accepted his own grief, Kaito had made it a personal mission to make sure all the kids who came to them would feel welcome. Jii knew that the boy's parents would be proud of him, and that knowledge eased his own sorrows more than anything else could have.

It wasn't until nearly a month after Shinichi's arrival that Kaito first saw the other boy express any real emotion. Up until that day, Shinichi had worn the same solemn expression every moment of every day. It had been frankly bizarre.

"Maybe he's not human," Eisuke, who had recently started watching and reading a lot of science fiction, had suggested with wide eyes. "He could be an alien or a robot."

"Or maybe a doll created by a wizard," Aoko, who preferred fantasy, had countered. "Or he could be under a curse!"

"It's gotta be that," several of the others chimed in, thrilled by the prospect.

And together the kids spun wilder and wilder tales with gleeful abandon in the way children were wont to do. None of them really believed anything they were saying, but it was fun to pretend.

Shinichi, who preferred to spend his time reading on his bed in the room he shared with Kaito knew nothing about his housemates' speculations or the increasingly strange and tragic past they were creating for him day by day. In fact, he had yet to speak to any of them beyond giving his own name. That lack of communication only fueled the others' imaginations.

Kaito, however, was more interested in trying to cheer up the solemn child than in fabricating an interesting back story for him. That was why he was here now. He had been observing his roommate, and he had noticed that almost all the books that Shinichi had been reading were mysteries. With that in mind, he had pestered Jii into taking him to the local bookstore. Now, with the books he had picked up in hand, he was armed and ready!

He was going to make Shinichi start talking to him.

Pushing open the door to their room, he marched inside and straight across the room, where he promptly sat down on Shinichi's bed right next to him.

The smaller boy placed his finger on the page to mark where he'd left off before turning his solemn gaze to Kaito. He didn't say anything though. He simply waited.

Kaito smiled and held out the three books he had bought. "I got these for you," he explained proudly. "You like mysteries, right? And your dad was a writer. So I thought you'd like these."

Hesitant, Shinichi accepted the books. He looked at the first then the second then the third. His expression shifted as he did so, but it wasn't to a smile, as Kaito had hoped. Instead, a single tear rolled down his cheek, and his large, blue eyes glistened like sapphires in the rain.

"What's wrong?" Kaito demanded, panicking. He hadn't meant to make his new friend cry. "I'm sorry if I didn't pick good books. I'll get better ones next time. I just—"

"No! No, I…I like them," Shinichi stammered, swiping the tears away with the back of his hand. Kaito couldn't help but notice though that the boy was still sniffling.

"If you like them, why are you crying?"

"I…These were…the first books my dad got for me." The words came out slow and broken. There was a rasp to the smaller boy's voice, though if it was from the strain of pent up emotions or from disuse was unclear. "They…they were Dad's favorite books."

"Oh." Kaito found himself momentarily at a loss for words—something he was most definitely not accustomed to. The problem was that he couldn't tell from either the tone of Shinichi's voice or the expression on his face what the best response would be. Should he apologize for accidentally getting Shinichi books he'd already read before? But Shinichi had said he liked the books, so that probably wasn't the right way to go. But was this reminder of his past a good thing in Shinichi's eyes or something painful?

Was it too soon for the boy to face his loss? Some people took longer than others, Kaito knew. But it was something they all had to do sooner or later, and that was why they were all here. So they could help each other.

Kaito frowned slightly. He had wanted to see Shinichi smile, but…

"You can cry, you know," he said softly, reaching out to place a hand briefly on Shinichi's bowed head. The cute little cowlick popped up the moment his fingers left it, making Kaito smile. "It's okay to be sad. It's normal. Just…remember that we're here for you. We know how it feels to lose someone, just like you do. But you have us now. So you're not alone."

Shinichi didn't speak, but he nodded slowly, taking deep breaths as he focused on willing away the tears. Kaito wasn't sure if that was a good sign exactly, but he decided that it was a step in the right direction.

"We can read one right now," he suggested, picking up the book titled "A Study in Scarlet". "How about it? We can read them together."

Hesitantly, Shinichi, to Kaito's delight, nodded. A small smile made its way onto the smaller boy's pale lips.

Shinichi's smile was the most beautiful thing Kaito had ever seen.

2. Bonds

Aoko's clearest memories of Shinichi from those early years all took place in the orphanage's kitchen. Looking back, she decided it wasn't surprising. The life of a family revolved around mealtimes. It was only when it was time to eat that everyone was guaranteed to be in the same place.

Hadn't the act of sharing food always brought people together?

Meals at Clover House were always lively affairs. Lunchtime in particular was always a party—or a riot, as Aoko was inclined to say, namely because Kaito believed that he was in charge. This place had, after all, been his home long before it had been any of theirs (was still his, though it would be years before he was considered old enough to manage it in the eyes of the law), and old Jii had worked for his father, which naturally meant he now worked for Kaito (which, in some ways, he did. Old habits were difficult to break, and old Jii never had been good at saying no to the boy he thought of as a grandson). That being said, Kuroba Kaito would not be Kuroba Kaito if he didn't manage to make a production out of even the mundane task of eating. Magicians were, he had once told Aoko, people who could make magic out of the ordinary.

And he had taken his own words to heart.

Dinners in particular were always productions, each more extravagant than the last as Kaito expanded his arsenal of tricks.

But that was a tale for another day.

It was not at the table but in the kitchen that Aoko had gotten to know the newest and youngest member of their growing family.

She had made it her business to always help old Jii in the kitchen whenever she could. It was the least she could do, she felt, and it was the right thing to do. The old man already did so much.

Her decision might have had a little to do with the memories she had of working with her mother in the kitchen back before the woman's illness had worsened to the point where she could no longer get out of bed. Then it had been her and her father until he had fallen in the line of duty. But she tried not to dwell on such things.

Aoko had not been expecting to walk into the kitchen that morning to see a boy she thought was Kaito standing on one of the stools and trying to reach a mixing bowl on an upper shelf. But then she realized her mistake. This boy's hair was far too tame to be Kaito's, and he was too short to reach the bowl. Kaito would have gotten the bowl easily. This child then had to be the newcomer. She did recall thinking the first time she laid eyes on him that he and Kaito could pass as brothers.

"What are you doing?" she asked, coming to stand next to his stool and placing her hands on her hips. She would admit to being somewhat suspicious. If it was Kaito here, she would know right away that the boy was up to no good. Kaito and kitchens were never a good combination. Even when he was honestly trying to help with the cooking—which was rarely, as his usual purpose in entering the kitchen was to set up some prank or other, he always managed to cause trouble. She still remembered those brownies that had come out of the oven as chocolate goop speckled with flour and odd little chunky bits because Kaito had believed that the way to make better brownies was to quadruple the amount of chocolate involved. And don't even get her started on his bad habit of juggling the ingredients and performing magic tricks with the tools. At least he had become more careful about the tricks he pulled near the stove after a handful of stray confetti had nearly set the house on fire.

Shinichi, who hadn't noticed Aoko's appearance in the kitchen, jumped when she spoke and nearly toppled off his stool. Aoko leapt forward on reflex to try and help him. They both ended up in a heap on the floor—at which point the bowl Shinichi had been trying to pull off the shelves slid over the edge of its perch. Shinichi reacted faster than Aoko as he saw the gleam of silver overhead. He pushed her aside and threw his arms up over his head. The mixing bowl bounced off his arms and hit the floor with a loud clang.

"Oh my god, are you okay?" Aoko exclaimed, scrambling back to her feet and hurrying to the boy's side.

He lowered his arms slowly and blinked at her as though seeing her for the first time. Then he nodded, not quite meeting her gaze.

"Are you all right?" he asked her in return, and she noted that his voice was much softer than Kaito's too. But it was a nice sort of voice, she decided. It was very genuine in its concern.

So she smiled and picked up the mixing bowl. "I'm fine. And I'm really sorry for startling you. I didn't mean to make you fall."

"It's okay."

"So what were you trying to do?" she pressed when Shinichi didn't offer any more information.

Rather than speaking, Shinichi opened one of the lower cupboard doors and pulled out a box of pancake mix.

"I found this," he said by way of explanation.

"So you like pancakes?" she asked, trying to get to know this odd, quiet new child that was nothing like the hyper friend he so resembled.

"They're okay."

"We have other food if you'd prefer something else."

"Pancakes are fine," he insisted without much ardor. "I was just a little hungry."

"Oh. Well, in that case, I think we might have some frozen pancakes. You know, the kind you can stick in the microwave. I can find them for you."

"No, no," Shinichi said hastily, though he offered her another smile for her efforts. "I saw those. There were only four left. So I thought I'd use the mix. We should be able to make enough for everyone with the mix we have."

And that had been that.

Shinichi turned out to be a decent cook because he was good at following directions, and Aoko found herself spending many hours in the kitchen with him, putting together simple meals for their extended 'family'. Like her, Shinichi seemed to find a certain sense of satisfaction from being able to do something productive.

And gradually, he began to open up, first to her then to the other children at the orphanage. Although none of them ever managed to breech the walls around Shinichi the way Kaito did.

3. Independence

Shinichi had always been an independent child. His parents had not been what any normal person would consider responsible people. And so he had, from a very young age, learned to do things for himself and to expect little to no help from anyone else.

That didn't mean he didn't miss his parents. Responsible or not, they had loved him and he them, and the knowledge that he would never see them again was such a deep, cold kind of knowledge that it sometimes left him paralyzed in the middle of the night. His mother would never drag him out shopping or insist on dressing him up in weird clothes. She would never again take him racing down the highway at speeds that made him imagine that the car was about to take flight. Nor would she ever again cajole her friends and fans into letting her and her son watch movies that had yet to be released.

And his father would never write another book. That was the part that had first made the information sink in, though he wasn't sure if that was sad. But it was as he thought through the books his father had written and came to the end of the list and knew—really knew—that no more would be added… That moment was when it all became real.

Still, real or not, Shinichi had forged onward as he always had. Or at least he tried to. Such things were always easier said than done. But then Kuroba Kaito came bounding into his life with gifts and a promise that everything would be okay.

It was like the sun had risen, and the deep, dark cold, though still present, was forced to retreat far into the depths of his mind where Shinichi wouldn't have to dwell on them anymore.

Kaito stood for the future. Perhaps it wasn't the future Shinichi had imagined before, but Shinichi was beginning to believe that that was all right.

4. Place

Kaito was ten and Shinichi nine when disaster struck. Though later, Shinichi would tell him that he had taken the entire thing far too seriously. But to Kaito, the elderly man who had come to the orphanage door asking to see Shinichi had been the harbinger of the apocalypse.

The old man's name was Agasa, and he was apparently an old friend of the Kudos. He was an inventor, he'd told Jii as the two sat in the orphanage's sitting room as Aoko poured them cups of tea.

"When I heard that their plane had crashed, I didn't know that little Shinichi-kun wasn't onboard," he explained. "When I learned that he was here, I just had to come and see him."

Jii nodded. "I understand." He turned to Aoko, who had finished with the tea but was hovering by the table because she wanted to hear more. "Aoko, would you please run upstairs and get Shinichi?"

"Oh, um, of course." She set the teapot on the clover-print cozy on the table and trotted off, determined to be back as soon as possible so as not to miss anything.

Agasa watched the little girl go then turned back to Jii with a serious expression. "Tell me honestly, how is he?"

Jii smiled. "It was tough for him. I won't lie about that. But he is doing much better now. In fact, he's become something of a problem solver for the other kids. They trust his judgment and seek him out when they have disputes."

The inventor laughed, relief evident in the sound. "I'm glad to hear that. Shinichi-kun's never had an easy time making friends. With his parents gone, I was really worried that he would withdraw completely."

As the two men continued to talk, Aoko was rushing upstairs. She burst into the room Kaito and Shinichi shared and skidded to a stop. About to order Shinichi to come downstairs with her, she was momentarily distracted by the sight of Kaito doing a handstand in the middle of the room while Shinichi sat on his bed holding a stopwatch.

"Oh hey Aoko," Kaito greeted her with an upside down grin. He shifted his weight momentarily to one hand to wave at her. She almost jumped backward, half expecting him to fall, but he didn't. Honestly, sometimes she wondered if he was even human.

"What are you doing?" she asked bluntly.

"Kaito wanted to see how long he could stand on his hands," Shinichi explained.

"And how long has it been?" she asked, curious despite herself.

Shinichi showed her the stopwatch. It read an hour and forty two minutes. She gawked at the time before remembering what she had originally come upstairs to do.

"Shinichi, there's an old man here to see you," she blurted. His name's Agasa. He said he knew your parents. Come on. He's waiting in the living room." Not waiting for an answer, she grabbed Shinichi's arm and dragged him bodily out of the room. The stopwatch bounced across the floor as Shinichi flailed in surprised protest at the manhandling, but there was no stopping Aoko when she was in this kind of mood. In the blink of an eye, they were gone.

Kaito stared after them, mind whirling. Someone from Shinichi's old life was here to see him? His thoughts immediately leapt to the most natural conclusion—that this old man was here to take Shinichi away.

Indigo eyes narrowed. This was unacceptable.

Despite the rocky start, Shinichi had become an important presence in all their lives. He was the one Aoko cooked with and the one Eisuke went to for advice. He was the one everyone sought out when they needed someone to mediate a dispute and the one they went to when they had trouble with their lessons. He was even the only person that Hakuba, their newest resident, would get off his high horse to hold civil conversations with.

Most importantly of all, however, Shinichi was Kaito's best friend. Before Shinichi had come into his life, Kaito had never known what it was like to have a friend his own age who could actually keep up with his intellect. Their debates about everything from literature and special effects to logic and philosophy had become legendary in the orphanage, and some of the kids even set up chairs when the two got started to listen and score them on their best points.

Shinichi couldn't leave now. It would ruin everything. Kaito wouldn't allow it!

Timed handstand trial forgotten, Kaito executed a flawless flip back to his feet and charged out of the room. He darted back in a moment later to collect some extra supplies then left again.

Down in the living room, Shinichi was suffering from a confusion of fragmented thoughts and emotions that he was having trouble sorting through.

He knew this old man. Professor Agasa had been like a grandfather to him back when his parents had still been alive. His house, always full of half completed inventions and faulty prototypes, had been both an exciting and harrowing place where Shinichi had learned quite a lot—though mostly about what not to do and how fast to duck. But those memories felt so distant now. Like they belonged to someone else. He really didn't know how he felt about seeing the man now. And that made him feel guilty. He should be happy to see someone he had once considered family again, and he sort of was, but at the same time this was a stark reminder of everything that once had been and which would not be again. Except that he was being offered the chance to get a piece of it back.

"It's entirely up to you," Agasa said gently, resting a hand on the small boy's shoulder. "It's okay if you want to stay here, but I felt I should let you know that you have a home with me if you want it."

Shinichi opened his mouth then shut it again, unable to speak around the sudden lump in his throat even had he had any idea what to say. Instead, he nodded and hoped his gratitude was visible in his face.

"Why don't you join us for dinner?" Jii offered. The inventor readily agreed.

Shinichi excused himself to go help Aoko make dinner, relieved at the excuse to get away and think. It never crossed his mind to actually consider going with the professor though. He was happy where he was. But he didn't feel right just saying no to Agasa. He felt like he needed to explain. And, well, now that he had seen the old professor again, he found that he didn't want to just say goodbye and never see him again.

On the other hand, he wondered if he was making a mistake. He might still be young, but he knew that orphanages weren't places you were supposed to stay forever. Wasn't he supposed to want someone to offer him a normal home and family again?

"Careful, it's going to burn," Aoko warned.

Coming out of his thoughts, Shinichi blushed and hastily turned off the stove. "Sorry."

She gave him a knowing look and said no more about his distraction.

"Something smells good," Kaito commented as he walked into the kitchen.

Aoko immediately interposed herself between him and the kitchen proper. "Oh no you don't. We have a guest today. So no tricks!"

Kaito gave her a wounded look that she didn't buy for a moment. "I just thought I'd come help."

Aoko's eyes narrowed. "You only offer to help when you're up to no good."

"That's not true," he argued indignantly. "I helped you with those brownies last week."

Aoko looked supremely unimpressed. "You only did that so you could trim off the edges for yourself. Don't think I didn't notice you chewing while you 'helped' divide them up."

Far from being offended, Kaito laughed. "It was a fair compensation for my time. Anyway, if you don't want my help, I'll just go set the table."

After he'd gone, Aoko turned to Shinichi with a worried frown. "I think he's planning something."

"He's always planning something," Shinichi replied absently as he added a sprinkle of salt. Still, when he thought about it, he agreed that Kaito had seemed…different, though he couldn't put his finger on why. Worried, he'd asked Aoko to excuse him since they were already almost done with dinner and went in search of the young magician.

He found Kaito underneath the kitchen table. He stared.

"What are you doing?"

Kaito flashed him a grin. "I dropped one of my handkerchiefs when I was using it to wipe off some dust."

The explanation was delivered with such honesty that Shinichi almost believed it. He might have believed it too except that he noticed that the chair Kaito had been next to was the one typically used by visitors, and that chair seemed…different. Was it just him or was it slightly tilted to one side? Suddenly suspicious, he marched around the table. Kaito scrambled out from under said piece of furniture and made a lunge to grab him, but Shinichi had already reached his target and pressed a hand down on the seat. He'd meant to check if the chair was indeed off kilter, so he was completely unprepared when the entire structure simply collapsed. He leapt back, tripped, and landed rather painfully on his rear. Slowly, he turned his gaze from the pile of chair pieces to Kaito.

The magician managed to look sheepish. "Oops?"

Shinichi crossed his arms. "That kind of trick can really hurt people, you know," he said sternly. "Especially when the person is old. You should know that."

The disappointment in Shinichi's voice sent an unfamiliar pang of guilt through Kaito. He sighed and plopped down onto the floor next to Shinichi. He grabbed the smaller boy's hand without really thinking about it and began playing with Shinichi's fingers.

"I'm sorry," he said finally.

Shinichi accepted the apology with a nod but he continued to wait. He could sense that there was more his friend wanted to say.

"You're not leaving," Kaito declared more than asked

"I'm not," Shinichi agreed. "At least not for now."

Kaito scowled, his grip on Shinichi's hand tightening. "You belong here."

Shinichi felt a happy flutter in his chest at the certainty in Kaito's voice. "I…" he started then stopped to swallow. "I want to stay. I like it here. But, well, I mean, I can't exactly stay here forever."

"Why not?"

Shinichi shrugged uncomfortably. "Well, it wouldn't be fair."

Kaito rounded on him with an incredulous stare. "Not fair? You're making no sense."

"I just mean that Jii-san has a lot of kids to look after. And there will probably be more in the future. It wouldn't be fair to expect him to take care of me forever, especially not if there's somewhere else I can go. It's like how Eisuke will be leaving once his sister can legally take custody of him. We're supposed to move on and find families of our own one day. That's just how this works."

Kaito brightened. "That's not a problem then. You'll just have to become part of my family. This place is mine anyway. That means you'll never have to leave. And we can work together to make this place even better!"

Pleased that he had solved the problem, Kaito bounced back to his feet. "I guess I should go dismantle the others." That said, he ran off, not noticing the bright blush that had taken over Shinichi's face. It was a few years before it occurred to Kaito that he had basically proposed to his best friend. Although, when he remembered, he was more than happy to point to the incident as proof that Shinichi had agreed to spend his life with him. While Shinichi knew for a fact that he had said no such thing, he never really felt the urge to correct the magician on the matter.

5. Change

It was, Shinichi knew, an inevitability that things change.

The residents at the orphanage came and went. Eisuke moved out to live with his sister, but they were living in an apartment only five blocks away, so he still visited more often than he didn't. Hakuba had moved out too as his father had recovered from the three-year coma that everyone had assumed he would never wake from. He still visited too (he had a standing appointment with Shinichi every Wednesday afternoon to discuss the latest mystery novels), much to Kaito's disappointment. Other children left with new families or formerly estranged relatives. Of the people who had been at the orphanage when Shinichi had first arrived (Jii and Kaito excluded), only Aoko still actually lived there. The four of them had truly become a family in everything but name over the years. Now in middle school, they had all grown, both upward and in maturity. Though in truth, Shinichi hasn't felt young since even before his parents' plane had crashed.

Yet, for all the things that had changed, many things had remained the same. Aoko was still as fiery as ever, and not even Kaito would defy her when she was in a temper (he often swore that her temper had gotten worse as she grew older, but Shinichi was of the opinion that Kaito only felt that way because his pranks had gotten wilder with the passage of time, and, therefore, Aoko's spates of outrage at the magician had similarly increased). Jii was still doting, though he occasionally took a weekend off to visit Professor Agasa, leaving Kaito in charge. The two older men had developed a steady friendship after the inventor's first visit, and though the professor lived too far away for them to meet very frequently, the two made a point of not being strangers. That, and Agasa still liked to check in on Shinichi whenever he had the chance.

As for Kaito, well, he was every bit the mischievous, energetic magician he had been the day that he and Shinichi had first met. His tricks had gotten significantly more sophisticated, and his sense of humor had developed into something rather more wicked and twisty than some people (Aoko and Hakuba, just to name a few) felt was healthy. But he was still brilliant and caring and arrogant and crazy and, well, everything that made him the person who had pulled Shinichi back to his feet and taught him how to walk again.

"Bakaito! Get back here!"

Shinichi leapt to the side as Kaito ran past him, howling with laughter. Aoko came charging right after him, wielding her book bag like a lethal weapon. In her hands and aimed at anyone else, it would have been. But since it was Kaito she was swinging at, Shinichi knew no harm would be done. Kaito was the most athletic person Shinichi had ever met, and he'd spent the better part of his thirteen years honing his various escape artist skills, which, because he insisted on messing with Aoko, included dodging, weaving, scaling impossibly sheer surfaces, vaulting high walls, and various other strange skills that bordered on superhuman (self preservation was powerful motivation). However, though Shinichi knew that the spectacle barreling up the street towards their local middle school was nothing to worry about, the same could not be said for the many scandalized passersby who witnessed the insanity.

Shinichi picked up his pace.

"We're really sorry!" he apologized to each flabbergasted man or woman, pausing to bow to those his friends nearly ran over. Unsurprisingly, he arrived at the school gates considerably later than his friends, but Kaito was waiting there for him as he always was. Normally, Aoko would be waiting too, but she must have been too angry today to spend a second longer in Kaito's company because she was nowhere in sight. This thought made Shinichi frown. That had been happening more and more lately.

"What did you do to Aoko?" he asked.

"Nothing," Kaito said at once. Seeing Shinichi's disbelieving look, he clarified. "I just gave her a compliment. How was I supposed to know she'd take it so badly?"

Shinichi turned over this bit of news. Kaito rarely lied to him (why bother when he was the master of contorting the truth to suit his whims?). His frown deepened. "Did this compliment involve a very personal article of her clothing? Of the kind most people would consider private?"

The innocent way Kaito blinked at him was all the confirmation Shinichi needed.

He sighed. "You have to stop doing that. It's inappropriate. And rude."

Kaito waved him away. "Aoko doesn't really mind."

Shinichi was pretty sure she did, but he knew by now that he would never win this argument. It worried him sometimes that his friend might be growing up into a pervert, but he'd heard people became more reasonable with age, so he had high hopes that this was just a passing phase. He just hoped Aoko didn't kill Kaito for flipping her skirt and otherwise invading her privacy before he could grow out of it.

6. Peril

Trouble arrived in late autumn along with a small, blond girl named Haibara Ai. At nine years old, she behaved more like someone twice her age. None of them knew much about her because she refused to talk about her past, but she had been brought to the orphanage by a social worker who explained that she had survived a car crash that had killed the rest of her family. Such stories, tragic as they were, were not new to Jii or any of his charges, so they had welcomed the girl and done what they could to ease the transition for her.

Everything had been so normal that they were all caught by surprise when the lawyers showed up on the front step.

Both Kaito and Shinichi remembered the exact moment the doorbell rang because Kaito had been in the middle of dressing Shinichi up for an evening of trick-or-treating. Shinichi had spent the earlier part of the day trying to wiggle out of having to dress up, but Kaito had cornered him. Now he was standing in their bedroom (though they were older, they still shared a room because neither of them cared to move—Shinichi because he felt the extra rooms were better left for others who needed the space and Kaito because he'd happily strangle anyone who tried to remove him from the one place where he could watch Shinichi sleep every day without raising anyone's suspicions) wearing flowing, white robes and a pair of white wings that were making him feel off balance.

"Stop fidgeting," Kaito admonished as he adjusted Shinichi's halo. "I'm making sure the wires don't show."

Shinichi sighed but did as he was told. "These wings are heavy."

"You'll get used to them." Kaito stepped back and eyed his work. Perfect. He grinned, showing off his costume fangs. Shinichi shuddered and had to suppress the urge to back away. Kaito made a very convincing demon, he thought ruefully, and not just because of the costume.

"I'll get Jii to take a picture for us," Kaito declared. Hooking an arm through Shinichi's, he tugged his angel towards the door.

They ran into Aoko in the hallway. She had just stepped out of her room in her police officer costume. She took one look at them and snorted.

"That's certainly fitting," she remarked.

Kaito laughed. "Come on. We'll take some pictures and get going."

Halfway down the stairs, they saw Jii at the front door and remembered the doorbell they'd ignored earlier. Expecting to see kids in costumes, they were all surprised when they drew close enough to see that the two men Jii was talking to were dressed in suits and ties. They exchanged curious looks and moved up behind the old man to listen, but by then Jii had already shut the door. His expression when he turned around was grave.

"What's wrong?" Shinichi asked at once. "Who were those men?"

Jii forced a smile. "It was nothing. I see you three are ready. Shall we go see if the little ones have finished their dressing up?"

Kaito frowned. He knew Jii too well to believe that nothing was amiss, but he also knew that keeping the younger children reassured was important. So he put on a cheerful face and dragged Shinichi to each of the other children's rooms to collect them. Then he got them all outside and on their way. But after they got home and sent the younger kids to bed, he went to Jii in his study to demand answers accompanied by both Shinichi and Aoko.

Jii had been a little reluctant to share the information with them, but he'd never been able to say no to Kaito, so, in the end, he gave in.

Apparently, Haibara Ai was not, in fact, their new resident's real name. Her name was Miyano Shiho, and she had run away from home. Her parents were deceased, but that had been some time ago. Her guardians were her aunt and her aunt's husband, and they were threatening to charge the orphanage with kidnapping if they didn't pay an exorbitant sum of money.

Through discussions with the girl herself, they learned that her guardians had been harsh. They hadn't hit her or anything, but they had treated her like a servant. They had only taken her in when her parents passed away because of her inheritance, which they had somehow managed to take control of with the help of a corrupt lawyer. The people who had died in the car crash that had brought her to them had, in fact, been the two servants who had 'guarded' her for her aunt.

"It's not that we can't afford to pay what they asked for," Jii had confided. "But it would set us back quite a bit, and these sorts of people rarely stop at one threat if they get what they want."

"I'll leave," Shiho had said, face emotionless. "This is my problem."

"But you can't run from them for the rest of your life," Shinichi pointed out. "And they shouldn't be allowed to get away with what they've done."

"But what can we do?" Aoko wondered.

"Well, blackmailing is a crime," said Shinichi. "We can tell the police they threatened us."

"We don't have any proof though," the girl argued. "But they can prove that they're Shiho's guardians and charge us with kidnapping. Even if we prove after that that they're the ones who don't deserve to be parents, a lawsuit would go on our records, right? And that would be bad."

Kaito's eyes gleamed. "Then we just have to make sure we have proof of their wrongdoings before we take the matter to the police." Seeing that he had everyone's attention, he launched into his plan.

That plan involved recruiting Agasa and many trips to the library in search of research materials for everything from law to hacking. In the meantime, they would stall by pretending they were going to fundraise to pay the blackmail in installments. In order to do that, Kaito had declared, they would hold magic shows. At fifteen, he had already gained quite a reputation among their classmates and in their neighborhood for his tricks, so it really wasn't farfetched at all to think that they could fill an audience or three.

Plans made, everyone at the orphanage set to work.

7. Stage

"But why do I have to wear this dress?" Shinichi tugged uncomfortably at the hem of his costume. It wasn't exactly short, but it wasn't long enough for his comfort either.

Kaito laughed, batting Shinichi's hand away from where it was fidgeting and tugging the smaller boy's costume back into order. "Because you're my assistant, and magician's assistants wear sparkly dresses."

Shinichi wrinkled his nose. In his opinion, that reason didn't make a whole lot of sense, but he didn't have any time to formulate a good argument to make his point because Aoko chose that moment to emerge from her dressing stall.

"At least we're both wearing them," she said brightly. "It's not as embarrassing because I'm not the only one."

"Good for you," Shinichi grumbled.

She laughed at him. "I'm going to go see if everyone else is ready."

Once she'd left, Kaito turned back to Shinichi with a grin. "If you're worried about how you look, don't be. You're very pretty in that dress."

Shinichi blushed. "Don't mock me," he muttered. "Anyway, let's just get this over with."

Kaito's grin softened into a fond smile as he followed Shinichi out of the room. Shinichi was adorable when he was embarrassed. Not that he wasn't always cute, Kaito mused, but he was always extra adorable when he was blushing. He would be lying if he claimed that he'd hatched this plan solely to help their new housemate. He'd also wanted the opportunity to coerce Shinichi into assisting him on stage. But hey, opportunity favored those who acted.

8. Purpose

None of them had expected the enormous mountain of illegal dealings that they unearthed when they began really digging into Shiho's aunt. There was so much information that Shinichi spent three weeks organizing it all into a detailed and well-structured report with nearly a thousand pages (to no one's surprise, they discovered that Shinichi was very good at organizing evidence and outlining their significance in an easy to understand way that it was difficult to argue with. They also discovered that Kaito had a talent for hacking, though this was one discovery some of them would have been happier not making. But he promised Shinichi that he would not use his newfound skills for evil purposes). They dropped a lot of jaws when they presented their report to the authorities. By the time Shinichi's fifteenth birthday rolled around, Shiho's ex-guardians were serving prison time, and she had gotten her inheritance back.

As a bonus, the orphanage had made a tidy profit from Kaito's shows, and the young magician was well on his way to becoming the famous magician he'd always said he would be one day. He was already beginning to receive requests to perform at various venues around the city.

"You'll continue to assist me, won't you?" he asked Shinichi as they sat together at the park. They were waiting for Jii and Shiho to finish up some business at the courthouse. Shinichi had the new mystery novel that Kaito had given him for his birthday open in his lap. Kaito had one arm flung over the park bench's backrest behind Shinichi's shoulders and a cup of hot chocolate in the other.

"If you really need me to," Shinichi replied. "But I'm sure you'll have people lining up to be your assistant soon. You can find someone who actually wants to wear a sparkly dress," he added dryly.

Kaito laughed. "Aww, come on. Everyone thought you were cute."

"They thought I was your sister."

"So? That doesn't change the fact that they liked seeing you on stage."

Shinichi made a face. "I've decided I'm going to study law."

Kaito blinked. "What?"

"I want to make sure we're ready if anyone ever tries to do something like this to us again. And I want to be able to help people like Shiho when people try to use the law to take advantage of them. That isn't right. Someone has to stop them."

Kaito blinked again then smiled. "Sounds good." Especially, he added to himself, the bit where Shinichi had let slip that he thought their future would be one they shared. "But remember, you promised to be my assistant whenever I need you."

"Until you find someone better," Shinichi agreed.

Tossing his empty cup into the trash can almost fifteen feet away (to the awe of several passing kids), Kaito pulled a rose out of thin air and offered it to Shinichi. "I could never find anyone better than you."

Shinichi rolled his eyes, but he was blushing. And he took the rose. "I'm sure you'll change your mind one day."

9. Prize

By the time they started their junior year of high school, Kaito was beginning to wonder if he had shot himself in the foot—figuratively speaking—by having teased Shinichi so much growing up. All that teasing and the reputation he'd built as a prankster had to be the reason Shinichi always assumed that Kaito was only joking whenever he tried to ask Shinichi out officially.

This would have been quite frustrating if it weren't for the fact that, despite dismissing Kaito's advances as mere jest, Shinichi would happily go along with whatever Kaito had planned anyway. Since Kaito carefully monitored anyone and everyone who got close to his Shin-chan, he knew that Shinichi hadn't shown any interest in anyone else either. That wasn't to say that none of their classmates had expressed their own interests. But Kaito had quickly convinced them to look elsewhere (though he did so quietly where his Shin-chan couldn't see because he knew Shinichi didn't like it when he menaced people for what Shinichi would consider no reason).

Sometimes, Kaito wondered if he should just kiss Shinichi. Surely even someone as clueless about romantic advances as Shinichi was turning out to be wouldn't be able to misinterpret a kiss. But if he was going to take that route, he needed to build the perfect moment. After all, first kisses were special. It had to be memorable.

Kaito had made his first attempt on Christmas Eve. He'd coaxed Shinichi onto the roof with him after the orphanage's small holiday party. From there, they had had a perfect view of the fireworks blooming above the city. The chilly weather had had them sitting close together. With his arm wrapped around Shinichi's waist and the smaller boy leaning comfortably against Kaito's shoulder, the atmosphere had been perfect.

"Hey Shin-chan," he'd whispered when the last of the fireworks had faded away to leave the sky aglitter with stars and a moon that was almost full.

"Hmm?" Shinichi had turned to look up at him, and the way his large blue eyes caught and reflected the night sky had made Kaito's breath catch in his throat. Kaito had been leaning down before he'd consciously made the decision to do so—

"Wow, the view up here is amazing!"

When the moment had been absolutely ruined by the arrival of the orphanage's three newcomers: Ayumi, Genta, and Mitsuhiko.

Kaito had made his next attempt on New Year's Eve. He'd taken Shinichi outside just before the countdown where they could be alone—or at least that had been the plan. The problem was that one of the others spotted them going and thought that having everyone outside for the countdown and following fireworks would be oh so very grand.

End of story.

He would have tried again on Valentine's, but he had to spend the whole day dodging admirers while simultaneously scaring off anyone who so much as looked twice at his Shinichi. The blue-eyed boy himself didn't notice a thing since he spent the entire day with his nose buried in a new book. Kaito wasn't sure if he should laugh or bang his head against a wall.

Kaito took Shinichi to the movies.

They bumped into Aoko and her friend Keiko just as they were sitting down.

They went to a classical concert—

And met Hakuba and his father.

It didn't seem to matter where Kaito decided to lay his plans, they would inevitably be interrupted.

He tried a variety of restaurants, a school dance, and a cherry blossom festival.

Then, a few weeks ago on Shinichi's sixteenth birthday, Kaito had spirited him away from their friends so that they could spend a day alone at the amusement park. He made sure they got on the Ferris Wheel just as the sun was beginning to set. There was no way anyone could walk in on them this time.

It would have been perfect if some nutcase hadn't set off a bomb in the park. Thankfully, no one died, but Kaito was glad that he never saw the culprit before the police took him away. He didn't think he could have stopped himself from doing something illegal if he had. It was like the world was working against him.

A boatload of homework and final exams kept Kaito from hatching any more plans before summer rolled in. And now Kaito was turning seventeen, and he was pretty sure that everyone in the world knew by now that he wanted Shinichi—except, of course, Shinichi himself. The others at the orphanage kept trying to give him tips. Even their schoolmates went out of their way to provide him with opportunities to get Shinichi alone. Yet somehow, there was still always some form of interruption whenever he thought he was getting close to his goal.

"Maybe it's because you've pulled too many pranks on people," Aoko had suggested most unhelpfully. "It could be karmic retribution."

"Gee, thanks," he said sarcastically. "Remind me never to ask you for advice again."

She stuck her tongue out at him.

Despite her words, Aoko had given him a pair of tickets to a mystery and magic convention.

"It's for your birthday, but I'm giving them to you early so you can use them. It looks like the kind of thing you'd both enjoy."

And so here he was.

The convention had been fun. There had been a magic show, book sales, lots of games that required quick thinking and puzzle solving skills, a treasure hunt, and a book signing by an author Shinichi knew that had had the boy bright-eyed and gushing with enthusiasm in a way that Kaito would have found adorable if he hadn't been busy feeling jealous. But for all that they had both enjoyed themselves, the convention was simply too noisy and hectic a place for making romantic gestures.

Kaito had suspected it would be though. That was why he had planned ahead and located a restaurant near the convention center that would suit his purposes and made a reservation.

He was steering Shinichi towards the exit when the smaller boy stopped abruptly in his tracks. Confused, Kaito turned to see that there was a small crowd of people gathering for a three-legged race. His eyebrows rose. Then he followed Shinichi's gaze to the table where the prizes were. The prize for first place was a freshly baked lemon pie. He almost laughed.

"Let's enter," he said.

"Are you sure?" Shinichi asked. "I mean, you said there was one more place you wanted to go, didn't you?"

"We have time for one little footrace." Since they were nearly the same height, and they were both good runners, he felt confident that they would have no problems winning quickly.

Unfortunately, though they got off to a splendid start, the pair of competitors running next to them had not. The two tripped near the finish line and knocked into Kaito and Shinichi, causing all four of them to fall in a tangle of flailing limbs. They ended up winning third place—which was pretty good, all considered, even if it wasn't what they'd wanted.

"Sorry we didn't get the pie," Kaito said ruefully. He held their prize, a large plush elephant wearing a magician's top hat, out to Shinichi. "Forgive me?"

"Don't be ridiculous. You have nothing to apologize for." Shinichi took the plush. It was soft and fluffy and actually rather cute. "Shouldn't you keep it? It's your birthday."

"That's true, and I want you to have it." He was gratified to see Shinichi smile.

They were about to leave when one of the two girls who had won the three-legged race came up to them with two slices of pie on a pair of paper plates.

"We decided to go ahead and cut the pie so everyone can share," she explained with a friendly grin. "Do you two want some?"

The boys traded looks then laughed.

"Definitely," Kaito told her. "You have our most humble thanks."

Ten minutes later, the pair of them were sitting on a bench on the outskirts of the sprawling park outside the convention center. By now, Kaito knew they were going to be late for their reservation, but the contented expression on Shinichi's face as he finished his pie was, he decided, worth the lost time.

"You have a bit of pie filling on your lip."

"Where?" Shinichi asked, sliding his tongue out to check the right corner of his mouth. Unable to stand it anymore, Kaito leaned forward and very carefully but firmly pressed his lips over Shinichi's in a lemon flavored kiss.

When he drew back, he found Shinichi blushing but, he was pleased to note, not at all upset.

"You have no idea how long I've wanted to do that," he said frankly and chuckled when Shinichi's blush darkened. Snapping his fingers, he made their empty plates disappear and produced a red rose. He held it out to Shinichi with his most sincere smile. "I love you."

Shinichi accepted the proffered flower with a hand that they both pretended wasn't trembling. He started to speak, swallowed, tried again, then gave up and leaned up to place a shy kiss on Kaito's cheek.

Kaito promptly pulled Shinichi onto his lap with a laugh that was half delight and half relief, ignoring Shinichi's squawk of protest. Said squawk became a moan when Kaito caught his chin and pulled him into a second, much deeper kiss.

The stuffed elephant sat on the bench next to them, a smile reflecting in its beady, plastic eyes.

10. Plans

One unintended consequence of the two of them officially getting together was that Jii insisted on moving them each into their own bedrooms.

"I don't want you two doing anything you shouldn't be doing before you're of age," he'd said by way of explanation. "Both of you," he added sternly, giving Kaito a warning look.

Shinichi looked in confusion from one to the other of them before Jii's meaning sunk in. He immediately blushed bright red as his hand flew up to cover the rather prominent mark Kaito had left on his neck. He was extremely grateful when the old man chose to pretend he didn't notice the gesture. Instead, Jii went on to lay down some ground rules for their immediate future which somehow led to them haggling over a list of details and exceptions that evolved into an intimacy timetable.

By that point, Shinichi very much wanted to just die of embarrassment.

Kaito, on the other hand, though slightly miffed by the new living arrangements and restrictions, decided that he was happy with the way the day had gone. After all, he'd confirmed that Shinichi returned his affections. Knowing that, he could be patient. In the meantime, he had big plans to make for Shinichi's eighteenth birthday.


A.N: I'm trying to finish some of the shorter fics that I have lying around. I hope you're all doing well in these difficult times and that you enjoyed the story. Thanks for reading and take care!