Shinichi glanced at the bookshelves, eyes not particularly focused on anything. He seemed lost in thought. The young man seemed relaxed at first glance, but even in an absentminded state, there was tension in his lean frame. The weight of duty clung to him, a force of habit. It was the duty of genius detectives to be on guard, to be ready to jump into danger and be the hero everyone needed them to be. But today, he had declared, was a day off. Today, he was on a mission for one person only.
And besides, the scent of old books surrounding him had always been something of a safe haven for a boy who more often than not looked safety in the eye and dashed the other way.
A slender hand reached up, brushed against the top shelf – DE… DI…DO. There. Shinichi chose this bookstore because he knew of the owner’s obsession with Holmes. The first time he had walked in, asking if there were any special editions of Conan Doyle’s legendary work, the owner had set off into an excited overview of her favorite copies. Delighted, he had responded in turn, drawn into a lengthy discussion about Moriarty’s effect on Holmes’ lonely life, and even sharing tales of their first reactions reading the books as children. Shinichi had never quite gotten a hang of the art of friendly socialization. His grins were sometimes too sharp, his diction a little too down to business. Ironically, even his arrogance, which had, over time, morphed from the recklessness of youth to a sincere playfulness, was interpreted as patronizing. There were times he felt his lack sharply. But when it came to his greatest idol, he could talk for hours, until he was breathless, a light flush rising over his normally controlled expression.
It was this passion that had first given him a connection to Hakuba Saguru, and it was for that fellow detective that Shinichi was here today, searching for a birthday present. The 29th of August was less than 12 hours away, and what kind of friend would he be if he showed up to Hakuba’s birthday party without a present? How could he pass up the chance to express what their friendship meant to Shinichi? But even worse, what if he showed up with a gift that Hakuba would not like? And so, he had been searching for gifts for nearly a week now, turning down options that didn’t seem worthy enough. The problem was, it seemed nothing was worthy enough.
Shinichi’s finger paused on a pleasantly smooth leather-bound book, nothing embossed on the spine. There was a faintly sophisticated air about it, and his hopes were raised. This book hadn’t been here when he came to browse last week. He tapped on it three times, anticipation rising, and with a careful but decisive move, pulled the book out and opened to the title page.
A Study in Scarlet, Hakuba’s favorite. In good condition, second edition, pages crinkling with loving wear. Perfect- except that Hakuba already had a copy, first edition, signed by Doyle himself.
Frustrated, Shinichi began to close the book but paused when he saw the corner of a slip of paper peeking out from the side, tucked between two of the middle pages. He flipped to the middle and opened on one of the illustrated pages. Holmes stood peering down at a cluttered table, his classic regalia – deerstalker hat and pipe – etched out in wonderful detail.
The note itself was simple. In flourishing letters: I see you’re still looking to pamper our favorite bocchama~ And at the bottom – of course – a familiar caricature.
Shinichi huffed a silent chuckle and pulled out the piece of paper. He shut the book, sliding it back into its place on the shelves. Without pausing to look around, he pulled out his phone and sent a quick message.
I still don’t understand why you leave notes like this when you can just text me.
Barely five seconds, and then a reply.
bc it’s fun!! ~~ ^_^ ~~ u love it too!
Shinichi rolled his eyes but didn’t try to suppress his small, affectionate grin.
A moment later, arms wrapped around his shoulders and a voice rang out from behind.
“Plus, I made a bet with myself that I could guess which book you would look at first, and look at that, I win!”
Shinichi leaned back into his boyfriend’s warmth in wordless greeting. He held up the paper. “You shouldn’t have left it between the pages,” he said lightly. “This is a good collection of books, it could have left stains.”
“Oh please,” Kaito said, “I made sure to use one of the special inks I made the other day. I wouldn’t make a rookie mistake like that. I know you’d never let me hear the end of it if I did, even if just to tease me.” Shinichi gave a hum of acknowledgment, amusement apparent even in that small sound.
Kaito nudged his way against the side of Shinichi’s head, his chin hooked onto Shinichi’s right shoulder. “And it is a good collection. But not what you’re looking for.”
At that, Shinichi sighed and turned around. Kaito’s arms dropped, and Shinichi reached out to hold his hand lightly, pulling it close, a casual movement that spoke of ease and longtime familiarity.
“I just… I can’t find anything suitable. There’s first edition Holmes books, of course, but Hakuba likely has many of them already, I know for sure he has A Study in Scarlet. And I thought about buying one of the original manuscripts, but I have a feeling he would want those to remain in museums for other fans to see. I could just buy a nice tie or something, but we first started to get close by bonding over Doyle’s books so it seems fitting to give him a gift that is Holmes related, and… and I want it to be enjoyable for him. Special.”
Kaito smirked, bright but with no edges. “You mean you want to be special.”
Shinichi’s hand jerked tight around Kaito’s, averted his gaze and tried to ignore the heat in his face.
Kaito laughed, his smile softening. “You know, Hakuba would probably appreciate any gift you gave him. ‘It’s the thought that counts.’ Usually, I’d say the idiom leaves a lot to be desired, but in this case, it applies just fine.” Kaito paused and began gently stroking his thumb along the top of Shinichi’s fingertips, still clenched in a tight hold. “You’re already special to him. Promise.”
Shinichi didn’t know what kind of bond was forming between him and Hakuba. But certainly, the magician had hit the nail on the head. Whatever their relationship was, Shinichi wanted it to mean as much to Hakuba as it did to him.
Shinichi let out a shaky breath and deliberately relaxed his hands. He looked up at Kaito, and one side of his lips quirked up in a rueful smile.
“But if you still want to find a nice gift for Tantei-kun, I’m ready to help!” Kaito has his gleaming grin back on.
Shinichi scoffed. “Ready,” for Kaito, meant he already had a fully formed plan, a press of a button away from completion. In fact, the button was probably tucked in with all the silk scarves he had hidden away who knew where.
“Aren’t you busy preparing for the party?” Hakuba certainly wasn’t the one who had suggested the party. In fact, he didn’t even know it was happening.
“Nah, pretty much everything’s done. Aoko said she’s okay doing the last minute stuff.”
“Alright then, I’ll bite. What kind of gift do you suggest?”
Kaito twirls his free arm out and in against his chest in an exaggerated half bow. “At your service.”
Shinichi smiled, rolled his eyes again. Ridiculous, but he could only think it fondly.
“You said Tantei-san wouldn’t want to take precious museum displays of Sherlock Holmes’ history away from avid fans around the world, which seems fair. But what if we just… borrowed one. Two. Maybe a few. ”
“…borrowed.” Shinichi pulled his hand away and crossed his arms. A look of picture-perfect skepticism framed his features. “And would we be doing this legally?”
Kaito tilted his head, eyebrows raised.
There was only the rustling of pages a few rows away and a couple of quiet coughs in the next few moments. Not necessarily tension, just silent communication.
Shinichi closed his eyes and sighed. His lips quirked up. “Alright, so if we put that matter aside- hypothetically- what would we be borrowing, and from where?”
“An old manuscript from the third level of the London Museum archives.”
Now it was Shinichi’s turn to raise his eyebrows. “That’s a highly specific location. There are Holmes manuscripts all over the world. Why there?”
Kaito raised his arms to clasp his hands behind his head and looked to a point on the shelf behind Shinichi, eyes distant.
“Hakuba was really looking forward to the 2014 Holmes exhibition in the London Museum, but he was chasing down a serial killer in Japan at the time. He managed to solve the case just in time and bought a plane ticket to see the exhibition on the last day. But the day before the flight, I had a rather abrupt heist. Turns out he was exhausted from catching the serial killer and all that, and then my heist was a bit rowdier than usual so… ah, well, he completely passed out when he got home and overslept, missed his flight. Missed the exhibition.” Kaito scratched his head sheepishly.
“Oh! I know the one you’re talking about!” Shinichi raised his hand and started gesturing wildly. “That exhibition, it had the original manuscript of A Study in Scarlet, and not only that, but Doyle’s original notes, the so-called ‘Sherlock Holmes birth certificate.’ Oh, and the original manuscript for The Murder’s in the Rouge Morgue, I bet Hakuba would love comparing his notes on Poe’s Dupin to Doyle’s handwritten ones. That’s perfect.” Shinichi eyes were bright, excitement ringing out to anyone trained to translate his mannerisms. How nice that there was an expert standing right next to him.
But then, a frown dropped back onto his face. “I think they’re still being stored in London, though, and it’ll take quite a while to get there even if I bribe my mom into letting me use her private jet. I mean, we could do it… but we’d need a little time to prepare… yes, Kaito, don't look at me like that, I did say ‘we.’ I’m trying to put aside my misgivings about the potential immorality of this idea because I’ve been hunting for a gift for weeks now and am getting no better at it, and also because you’re being awfully nice to Hakuba right now, I don’t know if you can tell.”
A slight blush crept up Kaito’s cheeks, even though he tried to hide it with a bright, mischievous smile. “I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
Shinichi smirked, pleased to have gotten revenge for Kaito’s earlier teasing. “Sure you don’t.” The smirk faded away as he got back to planning, and his brows furrowed. “Even if we factor in the increased speed of the jet, and your quick reconnaissance skills, even then… ugh, no, we still won’t get back in time for the party, and we can’t move it to later because you know how poorly Hakuba has been sleeping lately… aghhhh.” Shinichi crossed his arms, as close to a pout as he would ever allow in public.
“Actually, you’ll never believe it!”
Shin-chan blinked twice and raised his eyes slowly. “Kaito…” His voice was ominously soft, a hint of warning threaded in.
“Ahaha, yeah, they’re in your room. Already gift wrapped.”
A weighty silence. And then- “KAITO. Those manuscripts are delicate, you didn’t even discuss it with me, you stole them, and not for a good reason, okay nevermind maybe a good reason. Okay yes, I did already agree to it, but Kaito-“
Shinichi ranted for a bit to his heart’s content. After a few minutes, Shinichi’s hushed spiel started winding down. But he paused as another realization dawned on him. With it came a wash of embarrassment and shame. Why was he being so childish?
Kaito, of course, didn’t miss a thing.
“What’s wrong, Shin-chan? Tell me.”
Shinichi cleared his throat roughly, tried to infuse dignity into his voice. “I am just a little… disappointed that I won’t be the one choosing the gift for Hakuba.” Meaning that there was a deep ache in his chest that he wasn’t the one who’d found the perfect gift, and he didn’t really understand why this meant so much to him.
Kaito shook his head vigorously, all smiles. “No, no, Shinichi, you’ll still be the one to choose the gift. I was just helping you acquire it, that’s all. I don’t know Hakuba’s preferences in this as much as you do.”
Shinichi frowns. “But I didn’t choose until just now, how- oh. Please tell me you didn’t.”
Kaito’s sly grin and averted eyes said it all.
Shinichi couldn’t help but laugh at that, incredulity and affection bubbled into his chest. Of course Kaito would steal the entire collection just so Shinichi would get to be the one to choose. And of course Kaito would know that was important to Shinichi, probably even knew why, when Shinichi himself had no clue. He would be angry about it, except that, again:
“Kaito, you’re being very sweet about all of this.”
The thief’s reaction was a bit different this time. He quickly leaned in close and nuzzled against Shinichi’s hair, arms cradling his head and playing with his cowlick.
“My Shin-chan, only the best for you~~~” The sing-songy timbre of Kaito’s voice echoed through the bookstore drawing many eyes toward them.
“Kaito, people are looking, Kaito-“ Shinichi was pushing Kaito away half-heartedly, but truly only half-heartedly. He wasn’t used to Kaito’s brazen displays of affection in public, didn’t know if he’d ever get used to it. But a part of him was enormously pleased that Kaito would want to shower him with warmth and care.
Shinichi paused, tilted his head. Some bright, undefined emotion in him resonated at that thought.
Hm… showering with care…
Wasn’t that exactly what he wanted to do for Hakuba?