Their discussion about which movie to watch was normal for about two whole minutes before it somehow evolved into a formal Lincoln-Douglas structured debate, complete with bullet-points, external evidence, and cross-examination segments. Even without timers, both of them naturally self-regulated to the correct length of each speech, so their exchange lasted nearly the full forty-five minutes of a real debate. When they concluded the discourse and belatedly realized that the lack of judges made it impossible to score a winner, they decided to rock-paper-scissors for it instead.

It took eleven tie-breaking rounds of rock-paper-scissors before Kaito won through a sleight-of-hand trick that finally got past the detective's sharp eyes. To drown out the accusations of cheating, Kaito celebrated his obvious victory by declaring that they would watch the movie that had sparked the debate in the first place, then promptly confiscated the remote from one very grumpy tiny detective.

That was when they discovered that the super lame hospital television didn't actually have access to any video streaming services, so they were stuck aimlessly channel-surfing anyway. Kaito stopped on some run-of-the-mill action film currently featuring a car flipping over in an overly-dramatic explosion, which Conan immediately dismissed as 'too ridiculous to be entertaining.'

Kaito took that as a personal challenge and began calculating the exact mixture of chemicals necessary to cause an explosion to behave like that. When Conan gave him a savage deadpan and asked why an ordinary civilian would be carrying such obscure, dangerous, and highly illegal substances in their car, Kaito spun up a quick story about how the extras in that background car must've been on their way to participate in an exotic firework competition.

Conan scoffed, gestured at the screen, and retorted, "In downtown New York? There's no way! That has to be at least three felonies!"

Kaito gasped, clasped a hand over his heart, and exclaimed, "Tantei-kun, I am shocked! How is it that someone as knowledgeable as yourself has never heard of the Black Market Fireworks Olympics?"

"Of course I haven't heard of it, since it's not real," Conan complained, his exasperated words severely undercut by the amusement evident in his body language.

"Oh~? Are you really so sure about that?" Kaito smirked in response, and the challenge in his tone caused Conan to instinctively perk up. Kaito then proceeded to describe the event in such refined detail that he could've passed as the official spokesperson for the event.

Perhaps it was wishful thinking, but Kaito liked to think Conan had a brief moment of considering whether to actually believe his tale. Then the detective burst into a fit of genuine and delighted laughter. And that laughter — oh, Kaito was sure he'd never heard a more beautiful sound in his life. He resolved to hear it as often as possible, so, when Conan pointed at the screen again to criticize the extremely unrealistic parkour that the protagonist was now performing, Kaito grinned like he was about to steal a gem and promptly launched into another story about the ancient ninja art of Forbidden Gymnastics.

Before long, Kaito had unintentionally started developing an entire AU, complete with its own rich history and lore. Conan kept doing his best to poke holes in it, just to goad Kaito into covering the inconsistencies with yet more absurdity. Kaito was, of course, more than happy to oblige, if it meant a chance to try to win another laugh or smile from his detective.

Neither of them had a single clue what the actual movie was about anymore, but it was quickly becoming one of Kaito's favorites.

The time flew by in a delightful blur until they were interrupted by their door swinging open.

Kaito, who had the better view of the door, felt his stomach plummet through the floor, and he slammed on his Poker Face, which caused Conan to abruptly stop laughing and stiffen as he also turned to see the newcomer.

"Why, Nakamori-keibu, fancy seeing you here~" Kaito greeted him lightly. "What brings you here this fine afternoon?"

"Don't be ridiculous, Kaito-kun," Nakamori answered gruffly. "You're in the hospital, of course I'd come visit you. You're my… my, uh… well, you're my neighbor, aren't you?" He frowned uncomfortably as he spoke, then abruptly shifted attention to the plastic bag in his hand. "Ah, here, I brought you some cake."

But not even desserts could get Kaito to lower his guard right now. He eyed the inspector cautiously, trying to gauge his mood. "Well… thank you," he said politely. It was safer to let the other lead the conversation to avoid giving anything away himself.

Nakamori didn't seem half as concerned about the confrontation as Kaito was, since he was now frowning at Conan. The detective had grabbed his pillow and was hugging it to his chest as a crude way of hiding the bruises on his neck.

"Conan-kun? What are you doing here? And what happened to your head?" Nakamori asked.

"Ahaha, it's nothing!" Conan chirped in that terrible impersonation of a child that he used around adults who didn't take him seriously. "I just slipped on some water and fell down, so Ran-nee-chan brought me to the doctor!"

"But what are you doing in Kaito-kun's room?" he pressed.

Conan simply hummed and shrugged and smiled sweetly at the inspector, who sighed and shook his head.

"Fine. I'll tell the nurses to have you moved—"

"Don't do that!" Kaito interrupted. Both others turned to look at him, so he put on his most winsome expression and explained with a simple flourish, "I enjoy his company."

"But this is a secure room," Nakamori protested. "What if he hears something… confidential?"

"It's fine."

"But what if he finds out about…" Nakamori squinted his eyes at Conan in suspicion, then put up his hand to hide his face from the boy as he mouthed the word "KID."

Well, at least that answered Kaito's question about how much the inspector knew. His mouth suddenly felt painfully dry, but he forced another smile and repeated, "It's fine. He already knows."

"Oh," he replied, surprised and at a loss for words. He glanced at Conan again, hesitated a moment, then came over to set the cake on Kaito's bedside table and sit in the visitor's chair.

And then he proceeded to do absolutely nothing at all, except for shifting uncomfortably every once in a while and frowning vaguely at the wall over Kaito's shoulder. He looked as though he wanted to speak but couldn't find the words. The silence was maddening. A mixture of fear and immense guilt was rapidly building as a terrible pressure in his chest. He knew this was merely the natural conclusion of the insurmountable divide he'd created between himself and the Nakamori family the moment he'd taken up the mantle. Although he'd long ago accepted the consequences of his actions, it didn't make the moment of truth any less agonizing or the anticipation of it any less brutal.

Eventually, the suspense became too much to bear, so Kaito cleared his throat, steeled himself for the inevitable outburst, and decided to get it over with. "So," he stated as calmly as he could, "you're upset."

"'Upset'?" Now that the tension had been broken, Nakamori's previous discomfort immediately gave way to the furious bellow that KID was all too familiar with. "'Upset' is the understatement of the century! I'm furious!"

That got through the Poker Face, and Kaito winced, squeezing his eyes shut as if he'd been physically struck. He'd told himself he would accept whatever reaction he got from the inspector. He knew he deserved it. But it hurt more than he'd expected.

"This entire situation is absolutely unacceptable!" Nakamori fumed. "I cannot believe that they had you facing off against snipers! As if all the stunts they ordered you to pull at your heists weren't dangerous enough!"

…what? Kaito cracked open one eye to steal a cautious glance at Nakamori, who was waving his arms around in a fury that was somehow miraculously not directed at Kaito.

"And don't even get me started on that hair-brained operation they ordered last night!" he continued, oblivious to Kaito's reactions. "Sure, I read the report about your brilliant escape and maneuvering to hold all those guys off until the authorities arrived, but that's no excuse for coming up with such a reckless and insane plan! How could they send you into that situation by yourself in the first place?! Honesty, do they have no regard for endangering their employees? And what about child labor laws?! Those people think they can get away with anything! I'd like to give them a piece of my mind!"

Kaito watched on in wide-eyed shock, hardly daring to believe his ears, as Nakamori's lecture devolved into a rant about international politics and the poor labor conditions of special agents.

"In conclusion," the older man finished, jabbing a finger aggressively at Kaito, "you should've consulted me before accepting that contract, so I could've warned you to stay away from those people!"

"Yes sir!" Kaito replied immediately. "I promise I'll remember that for next time."

"Good," the inspector huffed, crossing his arms and nodding in satisfaction. Then his expression twisted into something that could have almost been a pout as he added in a grumble, "Stupid department, too incompetent to tell me about this sooner. Hmph, you'd think they'd at least give me a break for not being able to capture a trained special agent backed by an entire elite team of FBI agents!"

"Yeah, they totally messed that up! Bureaucracy is the worst, huh?" Kaito enthusiastically agreed, uncontainable joy slowly welling up inside him. Was this really happening? Could he actually have another chance? True, there were still a few lies remaining. But now the only secret he had to keep was the timing of his contract. Compared to hiding an entire identity despite knowing the pain it directly caused the Nakamori household, this was nothing. Kaito had never dared hope for this much reconciliation. A strange yet familiar sensation rushed through him, similar to the feeling of soaring through the empty night sky, free and weightless and alive.

Kaito couldn't help but look over at the source of this unbelievable gift, who blushed and buried his face in the pillow he was still hiding behind. Freaking adorable. His heart overflowed with affection and fondness at the sight. Kaito would protect that little detective with his life.

"So," Kaito said, redirecting his attention to Nakamori and trying to ground himself in the moment to avoid getting swept away in emotion. "What does Aoko know about all this?"

"Ah, right. The official cover story is that you were injured in a mugging," he answered, rubbing his mustache thoughtfully. "She made quite a fuss when I told her you couldn't receive visitors yet, so she'll be relieved to see you later. As for what to tell her, technically, as a civilian, she's not supposed to know. But since you two are close friends, I thought I'd leave it up to you."

"Hmm…" Kaito paused to consider it carefully. If this had happened a few months ago, he wouldn't have hesitated to tell her. His friendship with her had always been a top priority; if he'd thought it was even possible to tell her about this other half of his life, he might not have kept it a secret in the first place. On the other hand, he was reluctant to change anything now that Aoko had mysteriously become pro-KID all on her own. In fact, their friendship was already at an all-time high, and—

He realized with a jolt that he absolutely could not tell her about his secret identity. She already knew that he was in love with a detective that he'd met at a KID heist. If he'd just been a spectator in the crowd, as she believed, he could've met anybody. But if she ever found out what he actually did at heists, she would surely notice that the only unmarried male detectives whom he regularly interacted with as KID were Nakamori-keibu, Hakuba, and Conan. That is, her dad, her boyfriend, or a six-year-old child. Nope. Nope nope nope nope nope. Aoko must never know.

"Maybe someday, but for now it's better if she doesn't get involved in anything dangerous," Kaito quickly lied with a smile that was just a touch too big.

"Mm, good thinking!" Nakamori nodded.

Out of the corner of his eye, Kaito thought he might've seen Conan suddenly relax, which was odd since he hadn't noticed him tense in the first place. But it was probably fine if he was relaxed now. Kaito decided not to ask about it. There were more important matters at hand right now.

"So, about that cake…"

Conan had to refuse three times before Kaito finally relented in trying to force some cake on him. Apparently, the very truthful reason of simply not liking sweets was 'not even remotely possible.' But they dropped the topic before it could become another professional debate when Chikage returned, bringing her fun-killing aura with her.

She was smiling pleasantly enough, but Conan noticed her transition to her own Poker Face at the sight of the inspector.

"Oh, Ginzo-kun!" she said amicably. "So good to see you."

"Chikage-chan, I didn't realize you were back in town! How was, uh… Prague?"

"Prague? Hmm, yes, Prague is nice too, I suppose."

"That's good."

Neither seemed to know where to go from there, so a heavy awkwardness filled the room, until Kaito shattered it with a cheerful, good-humored laugh.

"Relax, it's ok, you both know everything! Nakamori-keibu just learned about my super cool secret agent job I've been doing with Interpol."

The tension evaporated then, and Chikage pulled up an extra chair, which she angled to face Nakamori and Kaito while purposely excluding Conan.

"So are you in town for long, Chikage-chan? I'm sure Aoko would love for you to join us for dinner sometime."

"Oh, after this incident, which I was not informed of until after it happened," she patted Kaito's injured leg lightly, though not lightly enough to stop him from wincing, "I will not be leaving him unsupervised again for a while. A long while. And certainly not before his contract is over."

"Good! Glad to hear it! This kid needs all the adult supervision he can get! Make sure you don't go easy on him, Chikage-chan!"

"That will not be an issue," she said with a pointed look toward Kaito that made him pout.

"We'll look forward to having you over often in that case!"

They exchanged a few more pleasantries before Nakamori cleared his throat and announced that he had to return to the office.

Once he was gone, Chikage cast Conan a quick look just to remind him that she still very much did not trust or like him, then she helped herself to some cake.

To distract himself from the cold chills induced by Chikage's glare, Conan turned his attention back to the movie that was still playing in the background. It took him all of forty seconds to realize the entire production was a complete piece of trash with zero entertainment value whatsoever. Was this seriously the same film he'd been enjoying so much earlier? He shook his head and grabbed his phone from his bedside table to scroll through the news and maybe solve a murder or two instead.

Jii arrived mid-afternoon, and Conan was relieved to see him looking significantly less likely to faint than he had the previous day.

"Good afternoon, Meitantei," Jii acknowledged him with a nod and a kind smile, and Conan nodded in return. He really hoped Jii wasn't about to question him about the events of the previous evening, but fortunately, Jii's attention was focused entirely on Chikage. He seemed wary of her, which Conan supposed made sense, since Chikage was pretty terrifying in general, and also because the old man seemed to feel a lot of guilt whenever anything bad happened to Kaito.

Whatever Jii was worried about was apparently unfounded, as Chikage met him with a warm smile and a quick hug. She gestured to the second chair, and he gratefully joined her beside Kaito's bed.

"How are you, Young Master?" Jii asked anxiously.

"Completely awesome, as always~! No need to worry about me, Jii-chan," Kaito assured him with a sunny smile. "How about you?"

"I'm perfectly alright now, thank you."

"Hey Jii-chan," Kaito continued immediately, "Not that I'm not happy to see you, but the suspense has been killing me! I'm dying to know what you did with Pandora?"

"Pa— what?" Jii sputtered, horrified. "I thought you had it?!"

"I slipped it into your pocket back at the theater. I didn't want it on me in case something happened."

"Huh? But— in the video, you held it up to the moon, and it glowed!"

"Just a trick," Kaito explained with a dismissive hand wave. "The real Pandora is in your jacket pocket. Or at least it was yesterday," he trailed off, a hint of a question in his voice, then smiled confidently and added in a jovial tone, "But as long as you didn't donate your jacket to any evil criminal organizations since last night, it should be fine, right?"

"I— um, I did my laundry this morning," Jii stammered, already standing to leave again.

"You… put Pandora through the wash?" Kaito asked in a strained voice, as if fighting to hold back his amusement or possibly mild panic.

"I'll, uh, I'll come back later," Jii said in a hollow voice. He really had been through far too much stress in the last few days, Conan thought sympathetically as he watched the man nearly stumble in his hurry to leave.

"Text me when you find it!" Kaito called after him cheerily. Jii only had time for a quick wave of acknowledgement before the door closed after him again.

There was a brief pause. Then, "Hey Tantei-kun, do you happen to know if detergent has any anti-magic properties that might damage a mythical immortality-granting gem?"

Conan had to bite back a snort of laughter as he forced a solemn expression for his response. "I think it's probably fine."

"Ok, cool."

After another round of routine check-ups in the evening, the nurse looked up from her tablet and announced that Conan was cleared to be discharged, and that his guardian was waiting for him in the lobby.

Conan's first reaction was a simple "Oh," that sounded a little more disappointed than he was probably supposed to feel, so he quickly followed it up with a much more enthusiastic, "Finally!"

The nurse lowered the rails for him, and he hopped out of bed and started toward the door.

"Hey, what about my goodbye hug?" Kaito piped up, causing Conan to freeze mid-step and thus nearly miss his footing.

Conan spun around on his heel, mouth already open for a witty retort, but stopped short at the open, honest, and almost hopeful expression on the magician's face. It caught him off guard for a moment, until he remembered that it was all an act for the others in the room. In particular, the presence of the nurse standing right there would force both to pretend that Conan was a real child. This was probably just Kaito's best attempt to embarrass him without getting put on any lists for blatantly hitting on an apparent child.

Well, two could play at that game.

Intentionally donning his least convincing 'cute innocent child' mask, Conan answered sweetly, "Of course, Kaito-nii-chan, how could I forget?" Then he hurried over to climb up to Kaito's bed before his own nerves could interfere with his attempt to embarrass Kaito.

Conan held his arm up for a hug, then stopped at the last minute when he recalled that they both had injured ribs. He was trying to decide how to avoid hurting him when, without warning, he found himself pulled into a tight embrace that definitely wasn't the safest way to deal with their injuries but somehow managed to feel surprisingly nice anyway.

The hug lasted much longer than he expected it to, and he began to wonder if this was some sort of game of chicken to see who would back down first, when Kaito finally released him. They met each other's eyes and for half a second Conan thought he saw something… something different. Something real and genuine behind the Poker Face. Then it was gone again, buried behind another unreadable cheerful smile.

"See you later, Tantei-kun," Kaito said happily.

"Y-yeah…" Conan replied, trying to refocus on the present instead of that expression he wished he'd understood. He slid off the bed and hastily rejoined the nurse to allow her to lead him away. His face felt quite hot, and he was having some difficulty focusing on his surroundings. So his attempt to embarrass Kaito had maybe backfired a little. No matter. He'd surely win next time.

Professor Agasa was waiting for him in the lobby, with all the good-natured friendliness that was just as much a permanent part of his appearance as his distinctive mustache and glasses.

The professor greeted him, signed a few papers at the desk, and then they walked out to his car together.

"So did you have fun hanging out with Kaito-kun today?" Agasa asked him cheerfully as they began the drive back.

Snippets of their banter flashed through his mind, and a smile tugged his lips. Then he remembered certain other conversations with gratuitous amounts of horrible flirting, and he scowled to hopefully obscure his blush. "Fun?" he retorted dryly. "What part of being stuck in close quarters with a lunatic who likes to embarrass people is supposed to be fun?"

"Yeah, your dad thought you might like it!" Agasa agreed with a smile, as if Conan had just admitted to having the time of his life. "You should thank him next time you see him. He's the one who asked for you two to be put in the same room, you know!"

"Figures…" Conan grumbled. So apparently even his dad was scheming against him now. Perfect, just what he needed.

"Hey, are you sure it's ok to do that?" the professor asked with some worry as Conan tugged the sling off his arm in favor of hiding all his injuries under a slightly out-of-season turtleneck.

"It's fine," he replied dismissively. "I'll just be careful for a few days, no big deal."

Agasa frowned in concern and opened his mouth as if to argue, so Conan hastily added on, "Come on, we don't need Ran filing a police report against Conan's imaginary parents if I come back from their 'visit' looking like I've been in a bar fight."

"Well, that's true…" he hedged, still unconvinced.

If Agasa had anything more to say about the matter, he stopped himself at the text tone from Conan's phone.

Frowning, Conan reached for his phone. The wrong phone. Nobody texted his Shinichi phone except occasionally Ran. But his expression subconsciously softened when he saw who the message was from.

Kaito: Miss me yet?

Shinichi: Why is your contact info in my phone? Is that why you wanted a hug, so that you could pickpocket me?

Kaito: you wound me, dearest Tantei-kun. I stole your phone ages ago. I swear I only wanted to hug you because you're so cute

Shinichi: I highly doubt that. How else could you have stolen my phone without my noticing?

Kaito: magic :)

Shinichi: And how did you even access it? It's password protected!

Kaito: hehe yeah "protected" lol

Shinichi: That's a crime.

Kaito: oh no a tragedy

Kaito: so anyway the doctors are letting me go home soon so come to my house at 8am tomorrow for movies cuz we both need to recover still and I know you'll be reckless and reinjure yourself if someone isn't watching you

Kaito: and by someone I mean me

Shinichi: You're calling me reckless? That's pretty hypocritical, don't you think? Honestly, I should be the one making sure you stay out of trouble.

Kaito: did I say reckless lol whoops typo I meant amazing and brilliant

Kaito: see you tomorrow?

Shinichi: You're unbelievable. Fine, maybe I'll come by for a bit.

Kaito: ok you agreed so now you gotta be there it's a date no take-backs! See you then love!

Shaking his head in fond exasperation, Conan pocketed his phone again. How was it possible for someone to be so wildly unpredictable, even despite Conan's expert deductive skills? And how was it possible for him to enjoy the unpredictability so much? He'd truly never met anyone else like Kaito.

Well, that aside, Kaito was definitely reckless enough that he may very well do something stupid if left unsupervised, and that wouldn't do at all. It would be problematic for their mission of fighting the BO, after all. So Conan might as well watch him a bit, for safety. Plus, he had a few days off school, so it really wasn't a big deal anyway.

Conan looked out the window and did a double-take when he noticed that they'd already nearly arrived at the detective agency. Had Agasa been driving like a lunatic? Maybe he should talk to him about that.

The beetle pulled up in front of the agency, and Conan thanked the professor, then hopped out and went up the stairs.

"I'm home!" he called as he entered.

"Welcome back, Conan-kun!" Ran answered from the kitchen as she came to greet him. "Did something good happen? You look really happy!"

Author's Notes:

I decided to try to use an app to automatically check for grammar and spelling mistakes in my writing, and it tried to correct me for my "excessive" use of exclamation marks! Can you believe it?! I mean, rude! And unfair! And blatantly untrue! Slander and lies, all of it! 😱😠😤😭💀

Next Up: Kaito and Conan spend a few days recovering and enjoying each other's company. Expect lots of silliness, fluff, and a car chase for some reason.