Shinichi is twenty-five years old, and he’s not scared of his mother. Or, at least, he hasn’t been scared of her for at least two years. But he’s also managed to cling to some hints of self-preservation despite his (frequently maligned) addiction to adrenaline, so when he’s attacked coming through the front door and herded into the living room to be forced into pre-wedding slavery, he resigns himself to his fate.
“Why are you even having a vow renewal ceremony,” Shinichi blurts out. It’s been an hour of trying to tie tiny satin ribbons around little bags of personalized chocolates and heart-shaped bottle openers. The ribbons are fiddly and seem to have an aversion to being wrestled into bows, and while Shinichi has above average coordination for the most part, his fingers are starting to cramp. There’s a mutilated body waiting for him back at the morgue, he thinks morosely as the ribbon that he’s holding blatantly laughs at him and unties itself.
“Well,” his mother says, as she continues surveying the flower arrangements on the table in front of her, “ever since the thing in Milan—”
The thing where his mother accused his father of cheating on her with an Italian supermodel at Milan Fashion Week and turned herself into a trending Twitter hashtag in the resulting altercation at the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, Shinichi fills in.
“—your father and I have been trying to stabilize our marriage. I try to curb any—impulses, and your father has been making an effort to prove his absolute devotion to me.” Yukiko squints at the flowers. “The calla lilies are nice, don’t you think, Shin-chan? Or what about the peonies?”
Shinichi knows about two things about flowers, and one of them is that they photosynthesize. The other is that Kaito is unhealthily obsessed with roses and spends a significant amount of his disposable income on custom fertilizer.
“Yeah, I like both of them,” he says, vague. Yukiko hums, looking thoughtful, before she glances over at him and the fifteen bags he’s managed to tie shut.
“Very—nice job. Thanks, Shin-chan.” There’s a telling pause before she adds, casual, “So have you figured out who you’re bringing as your plus one?”
“Mom,” Shinichi groans, and throws down the bit of ribbon he’s holding. “I just—no.”
“I’m just going to remind you that we’re inviting a lot of our friends, who have very eligible children that they’ll no doubt try to set you up with,” his mother clucks. “I’m only reminding you for your own good.” She pauses. “You could always bring Mari-chan, you know.”
“I’m not bringing my ex to your wedding as my plus one,” Shinichi says, horrified. “She tried to drive her car into the house when we broke up.”
“Oh, that’s right.” Yukiko frowns. “What about Yuu-chan?”
“Are you forgetting that Yuusuke bombed the police station when I dumped him?” When Yukiko opens her mouth again, he adds, “And I’m not inviting Shougo or Hana, either.” Shougo had put snow in his exhaust pipes and he has a restraining order against Hana, which says everything, really. Shinichi shudders. Mari was one of his better exes, in retrospect. The damage to his garage door had been fixable, at least. He clears his throat. “Um, I think we should take anyone I’ve dated out of consideration.”
“Well,” Yukiko says, which is almost always her response to any mention of Shinichi’s exes. There’s a brief moment of silence, during which she prods at one of the flower arrangements, before she reaches over and pats him on the hand. “You still have time to figure it out, Shin-chan.”
Shinichi is in the middle of reading a case file and spooning cold oatmeal into his mouth (and missing; he’s hit his cheek more times than his mouth) when his vision abruptly goes dark. It takes him a second to conclude that there has not been a blackout or a blow to the back of his head, and that the reason for the sudden darkness is that someone has placed their hands over his eyes.
“Hi, Shinichi,” says Ran’s voice from behind him.
“Kaito,” Shinichi says.
“How do you always know? Even with the voices?” Kaito whines, pulling his hands off. Shinichi elects not to point out that a) nobody else comes into his office without knocking, because the concepts of “respect” and “boundaries” are familiar to most people, and b) he can smell Kaito’s peach-scented hand cream. Instead, he spins around in his chair to lift an eyebrow at him.
“What can I do for you today, Kaito?”
“Not ruin my fun,” Kaito says as he hops onto Shinichi’s desk and crinkles two confidential reports under his ass. He motions at his face in the universal gesture for “clean yourself up.” “Uh, you have a…” Shinichi wipes at his cheek and comes away with a raisin stuck to the back of his hand. He wrinkles his nose and rummages around for a napkin.
“Oatmeal,” he explains, and Kaito gives him an incredulous look that Shinichi has received at least once from everyone in his life.
“It’s six-thirty. Why are you eating oatmeal?”
“Oatmeal is valid,” Shinichi says cagily, even as he pokes at the gluey remains of the oatmeal, pauses to think, and then drops the whole thing into the trashcan by his desk. “And I ask again, did you want something or are you just here to make fun of my meal choices?” Kaito gives him a knowing look.
“Was it really a choice, or was it because you brought oatmeal for breakfast, forgot to eat it, and then skipped lunch?”
“No,” says Shinichi, a beat too late for credibility. Kaito just shakes his head at him. Shinichi likes a lot of things about Kaito, but one of his favorites is the way Kaito’s eyes crinkle up at the corner when he smiles.
“To answer your question, I’m here because we had plans that you apparently forgot about,” Kaito says. “We were going to get dinner and go to karaoke after, if you recall?”
“I do not,” Shinichi informs him. “Also, your deliberate choice of karaoke is reprehensible.”
“My motives are pure! I think it’s adorable that you can’t sing,” Kaito says. He tucks his hands into his pockets. When Shinichi looks closer, he seems to be dressed nicer than usual: he’s wearing a slickly patterned button-down under his jacket, and his jeans have minimal holes in them. It’s all very chic street fashion. Shinichi looks down at his own faded slacks and sloppily unbuttoned shirt and despairs before he gets to his feet, grabbing his jacket off the back of his chair.
“So who else is coming on this ‘humiliate Shinichi and his lack of vocal talent’ adventure?” he asks as he slings it on. Kaito, halfway through hopping off the desk, fumbles the landing and trips a few steps.
“Uh,” he says, dragging out the sound. “I had, um, something I wanted to ask you, so I actually didn’t invite anyone else?" He clears his throat. "But, I mean, we could invite someone else if you wanted?”
Shinichi takes a moment to stare at him. When Kaito is standing up, it becomes even more evident that he’s wearing ankle boots, the realization of which is apparently Shinichi’s tipping point. No man should look good in ankle boots, and yet. And yet. There’s no way Shinichi is going to last a night alone with Kaito.
“You know, actually, Hattori’s in town right now to collaborate on a case,” he says, fumbling for his phone. “He can probably hang out with us. You know how I don’t get that much time to see him, so it’ll be nice if he can come.”
“Oh.” Kaito blinks once, then nods. “Yeah, uh, that sounds fine.”
Hattori, having just closed the case, is free and also predictably enthusiastic about the chance to make fun of Shinichi. Shinichi almost regrets inviting him, because he vacillates between moping about his latest fight with Kazuha and needling Shinichi about his crush on Kaito the entire night. He also makes fun of Shinichi’s singing way more than Kaito does.
Two days before the ceremony, Shinichi calls Hattori.
“Be my plus one at my parents’ wedding,” he demands. Begs.
“Uhhhhh,” Hattori says, drawing out the sound. From the background noise, he’s either at a well-populated zoo or his office in Osaka. “Why?”
“Because you’re my best friend and I need a plus one,” Shinichi explains, patient. “And I was going to ask one of the other assistant inspectors, Yamamoto, but then Sera told me that she saw that guy digging through my trashcan once, and I took a look in his office area and he had a desk drawer filled with my trash and, like, some pens I thought I’d lost and a cup of oatmeal that he vacuum-sealed to fight against mold. I had to report him for stalking.”
“Wow,” says Hattori after a second. He sounds strangled. “That’s really—something. Why does everyone who likes you turn out to be caressing the line of psychopathy?”
“You like me, right?” Shinichi can hear the desperation in his own voice.
“I mean, not like that,” Hattori points out. “As in, I wouldn’t collect your nail clippings or anything, but yeah, you’re not the worst person ever. Everyone knows that’s Hakuba.” It’s a start. Shinichi tries to curb his hopefulness, adopting his most pitiful tone.
“I really need a date, Hattori. I have to do something to ward off people trying to set me up. My mom told me that one of her friends specifically mentioned that she has a very eligible daughter around my age who’s also into murders.”
“What does that mean, ‘into murders’?” Hattori asks, morbidly curious. “Like, is she a mystery writer or something? Or into true crime podcasts? Does she like Detective Samonji?” Shinichi winces.
“None of those, apparently. On a completely unrelated note, she’s a pharmacist.”
“Okay, that’s officially alarming,” Hattori agrees. “Although a murderous pharmacist? Very up your alley, all things considered. And by things, I mean your exes.”
“Yes, I know, I always end up dating sociopaths, we get it.” He’s been the butt of many a joke within their friend circle and society at large. It sucks being marginally famous. Shinichi rubs at his eyes, feeling a migraine brewing. “Please, Hattori. There’s nobody else I can ask.”
“I mean, I don’t know if that’s true. There are other people you can ask,” Hattori points out. “You could ask Mouri-san, for one.”
“Ran wouldn’t do it. She refuses to acknowledge me in a romance-adjacent way ever since the whole Conan thing.” The immediate post-Conan era had been a dark time in their friendship. It had taken a lot of groveling and apologetic offerings of desserts and jewelry to land him back within striking zone of a platonic relationship. To this day, Ran still brings up “the time you turned into a six-year-old and lived with me for a year, all the while lying to my face” card when she and Shinichi argue. Shinichi doesn’t like being guilted about things his asshole sixteen-year-old self did when they have conflicting opinions on rom-coms and takeout options, but he supposes she has the right.
“What about Sera? Or Hakuba?”
“Sera is extremely not into men, so it might be hard to sell. And Hakuba has a girlfriend.”
“Hey, I have a… well. I guess I don’t.” Hattori sighs. Shinichi winces. He hadn’t meant to remind Hattori of his latest breakup with Kazuha. They’re on their fifth, and it never seems to get any easier. Though at least this time around there’s less property damage and no one got arrested.
“So yeah. My options are pretty slim, here.”
“Yeah. Well, I was going to suggest Kuroba, but…” Hattori trails off. Shinichi interprets that as “asking the guy you’ve been hopelessly pining after for the past two years to be your date will probably be awkward, especially when as far as you and I, both deductive geniuses, are aware, he’s not interested in you.”
“Exactly.” Shinichi peels his face off of his desk. “So are you in?”
Hattori sighs long enough that Shinichi wonders about his lung capacity. As far as he’s aware, Hattori has never been a swimmer, but maybe he should think about it.
“Yeah, I guess so,” he says with so little enthusiasm that Shinichi is momentarily hurt. “I’ll be your arm candy for the ceremony. But don’t ever say that I’m not your best friend. This gets me best friend rights for at least a year.”
Shinichi thinks Hattori might still remember about the time a few years back when he’d referred to Kaito as his best friend while in Hattori’s presence; it had almost resulted in a bloodbath. Kaito had been nice about it, at least, after he’d gotten the stitches he needed.
“Thanks, Hattori,” he says. “You’re my best friend.”
“I want that in skywriting and on as many billboards as you can afford,” Hattori says before he hangs up. Shinichi shakes his head at his phone, probably fonder than he should be. At least everyone already thinks he has shitty taste.
Hattori shows up an hour before the ceremony in a pinstriped suit and a snapback. Shinichi despairs.
“First of all, we’re at my parents’ wedding, not a baseball game,” he says, yanking Hattori’s hat off and unlocking his car doors so he can throw it into the backseat. He takes great enjoyment in the sad cow-eyed stare that’s sent his way. “Second of all, I thought I told you that we were doing all-black suits with matching ties.” He points at the two patterned ties sitting on his passenger seat. Hattori looks down at his suit, frowning.
“Isn’t this all-black?”
“Hattori, I know you’ve failed every art class you’ve ever taken, but that has gray stripes on it,” Shinichi tells him, feeling bad for both Kazuha and Hattori himself. It must be hard being in love with someone who has a grand total of four neurons, and it must be hard being someone who has a grand total of four neurons. “Well, it doesn’t matter. We’ll leave the ties off.” He squares his shoulders and turns towards the waiting chapel. “Ready to go socialize before it starts?”
“I guess,” Hattori sighs before he perks up. “Wait, did you hear about the beheadings in Kyoto?”
“No? Unless it’s the one with the fake samurai ghost.”
“I think that’s a different case? I’m talking about the one with the guy who kept calling himself ‘The Guillotine.’”
They’re in the middle of a discussion about the validity of giving serial killers names, halfway into the chapel, when Shinichi freezes mid-sentence. Hattori goes another few steps before he seems to realize he’s alone.
“Hattori,” hisses Shinichi. His heart rate has jumped from “resting” to “vigorous exercise” levels. “Kaito is here.”
“What?” Hattori immediately begins looking around, because he was absent the day in elementary school that they taught everyone subtlety. Shinichi nearly strangles him in his efforts to make him stop moving his head around like an enthusiastic bobblehead. “Ow!”
“Stop looking around! You’re drawing attention to yourself, idiot! He’s up by the altar in the front,” Shinichi says into his ear. A man gives them a strange look as he passes by, suspicion evident on his face, and Shinichi tries to make his chokehold on Hattori’s neck look more loving and less threatening. “Next to the woman in the lampshade dress.”
“What do you mean by lampsh—oh.” Shinichi can’t see Hattori’s face, but he can picture what it probably looks like. “Dude, you’re totally right. That woman’s dress definitely looks like a lampshade.” Shinichi waits for something else—maybe a plan for what they’re going to do now—but apparently that’s all Hattori has to say, because then he goes, “Yeah, that’s Kuroba. Wonder why he’s here. You want to go talk to him?”
“You are the least helpful person I know,” Shinichi says, aghast. Hattori squawks in outrage.
“Hey! I was nice enough to be your fake date! I’m super helpful!”
“No, you’re just a dumbass who doesn’t know what stripes are.”
They’re still bickering when Shinichi gets the uncomfortable sinking feeling of being stared at. Snapping his mouth shut, he rotates to find Kaito standing behind them. Shinichi isn’t sure when he noticed them and came over, but knowing Shinichi’s luck, he’s probably been there long enough to overhear them exchanging insults about their respective personality flaws, deduction mistakes, and romantic failings. He just hopes Kaito didn’t hear what Hattori was saying about that time Shinichi fell asleep on a stakeout and almost let a kidnapper escape. (It had not been one of his proudest moments, and probably is one of the reasons why he’s still only assistant inspector.)
“Hi, Kaito,” Shinichi says, trying not to stare. Kaito’s suit fits him—very nicely, and it’s also not pinstriped because Kaito isn’t bad at life. Belatedly, he realizes that he still has an arm hooked around Hattori’s neck and suppresses the urge to wince.
“Hi, Shinichi,” Kaito returns, a crooked smile on his face, before his gaze slides over to Hattori and goes markedly less soft. “Hey, Hattori.”
“Kuroba,” Hattori answers.
The three of them stare at each other for a long moment before Shinichi, semi-desperate, blurts out, “So what are you doing here, Kaito? I wasn’t expecting to see you.” His voice is half an octave higher than usual. Hattori elbows him, which just proves Shinichi’s point about his unhelpfulness.
“My dad was your mom’s acting coach back in the day, so your mom invited my mom and me. Also, sometimes I get brunch with your mom and she gets drunk on mimosas and rants about her marriage, so I guess she figured I deserved to be at her vow renewal ceremony,” explains Kaito, both parts of which Shinichi knew but somehow forgot. Even as Shinichi nods at him, his eyes keep darting towards Hattori and the places they’re touching. “Uh, why are you here, Hattori?”
Shinichi is about to spout something about their dads being friends (they’ve met once? Maybe?) when Hattori clutches Shinichi to his side hard enough that Shinichi almost falls over.
“I’m Kudou’s date. His romantic date. Of romance. And nonplatonic intent,” he announces. Shinichi closes his eyes and prays for any available gods to strike someone down. Preferably Hattori, but he would also not mind being the one to go.
“You are?” There’s a note of surprise in Kaito’s voice. When Shinichi peers at him, he’s looking between the two of them with his mouth partway open. Shinichi—doesn’t know how to interpret that look. “Uh, really?”
“Yeah,” Shinichi says in a small voice. He’s still not sure what Kaito’s expression means, only that it’s gone still, bewildered, and a little hurt. Shinichi half expects to see an error message pop up in front of his face.
“Oh,” Kaito says finally, blinking, before he clears his throat. “How—how long has this been going on?”
“A while,” Hattori informs him before he pulls out a smile that bodes ill for Shinichi. “Anyway, we’re off to make out in a closet! Bye, Kuroba!”
“What the hell,” Shinichi hisses as he’s herded away. Goddamn, kendo must do something for the arms, because Shinichi is having a hard time breaking out of Hattori’s grip. He should’ve done baseball instead of soccer. He twists to look over at Kaito, who’s staring after them with a weird expression on his face. “What was that for?”
“For bringing up the time I forgot Kazuha’s birthday and left her waiting at that restaurant in Tokyo for five hours,” Hattori tells him, sounding betrayed. His hold on Shinichi’s waist is getting manacle-like. “You said we’d forget about that!” When Shinichi continues to give him a withering look, he scrambles to add, “And anyway, don’t you want to try to, like, make him jealous or something? This could totally work and I was definitely thinking I was helping you out when I said that I was your romantic soulmate.”
“You are absolutely useless,” Shinichi groans, and then refuses to talk to him until an opportunistic friend of his father’s approaches to ask if Shinichi might be interested in his son, who’s a tax lawyer and has definitely, absolutely never made a shrine to Shinichi that sits on his bedside table, really, he’s a very sweet boy, would you like to see a picture?
“Hey,” Hattori whispers, poking Shinichi in the side. Shinichi suppresses a flinch.
“Hattori, they’re in the middle of the vows and we’re sitting in the front row. Is it really the time?” he demands in an undertone, and then has to repeat himself twice when Hattori can’t hear. The pseudo-officiant glances over at them with murder in her eyes. So much for being stealthy.
Hattori blinks at him, slow and stupid. Shinichi would be wondering how he made inspector before Shinichi if there wasn’t the obvious answer of nepotism.
“Well, I mean, I dunno if it’s the time, but I just wanted to tell you that Kuroba has been staring at us for the past hour,” Hattori says.
“What?” Shinichi restrains himself from turning to gawk and manages to very slowly and casually turn and look over at where Kaito is seated several rows away. They do the classic half-second of missed eye contact that indicates Kaito was looking at him but managed to turn away in time. Shinichi whirls back around. “Oh my God, you’re right.”
“Aren’t I always,” says Hattori, affronted.
“No, don’t you remember that time you messed up that deduction and I got it right when we first met. Relatedly, also that time you gave me alcohol when you thought I was six,” Shinichi says baldly before he shoves his head closer to Hattori’s. The guests around them are starting to take notice of their whispered conversation, so he tries to look as though he’s getting emotional over his parents going gooey-eyed at each other and needs some boyfriendly comfort. “What do I do? Why do you think he’s staring?”
“Well, apparently I’m never right, so why are you even bothering to ask me?” Hattori huffs and turns away. Shinichi groans and pushes closer. He’s edging into Hattori’s lap at this point.
“Would it kill you to be a little more helpful?” he demands into Hattori’s ear. Hattori flinches.
“Kudou, I know you hate it when I tell you this, but you really need to chill out.”
Shinichi stares at him, expression blank.
“You’re right, for once,” he says. “I hate it when you tell me that.”
“At any rate,” replies Hattori, wrapping an arm around Shinichi, “whatever weird regrets Kuroba’s having, it’s his loss. I mean, he didn’t ask you to come as his plus one, for one.”
“Yeah, well,” Shinichi says, deflating, and allows himself to snuggle closer. Not too much closer, though. This close, Hattori smells as though he walked through a department store and surrendered himself to the whims of overenthusiastic perfume salespeople. Shinichi feels an itch developing at the back of his throat and resists the urge to sigh.
By some stroke of fate (or perhaps his mother knowing they’re friends), Shinichi, Hattori, and Kaito all end up at the same table. Shinichi has the dubious honor of being sandwiched between the two of them. It feels not similar to being caught in the crossfire of two enemy camps with really terrible archers who don’t know how to aim.
“So, Hattori-kun, how did you and Shinichi end up together? Last I checked, you were still breaking Kazuha-chan’s heart with your emotional immaturity,” Kaito remarks, casual, as he cuts into his steak with vicious satisfaction. On Shinichi’s other side, Hattori, always ready to rise to an insult (perceived or otherwise), gives him a saccharine smile that promises little to no peace for the duration of the reception. Shinichi prods at his salmon filet with his fork and feels his appetite drain away.
“Oh, yeah, we’re on our fifth breakup, actually. But it’s because Kazuha accused me of being in love with Kudou. He’s been the reason for all our breakups, which just proves my commitment to him because he’s that great,” Hattori says, as if that’s not an extremely horrible and terrifying thing to say. Shinichi gapes, salmon forgotten.
“Wait, are you serious?”
“Apparently I was talking about Kudou too much,” Hattori announces, ignoring Shinichi, which is hopefully a sign that he’s lying and Shinichi isn’t the other woman in his relationship. “She’s always thought we had something going on in the romance department, ever since I first met Kudou. And she was right, but I didn’t want to admit it until now, when I stopped denying my feelings and wooed him.” He slings an arm around Shinichi, squeezing tightly enough that Shinichi worries for the integrity of his ribcage.
“This is the worst day of my life,” Shinichi mutters.
“Mine too,” agrees the woman sitting across from them. She’s been eyeing the proceedings with the morbid interest of someone watching tsunami footage. Shinichi squints at her. He thinks she might be a famous actress of some kind; he has a vague recollection of seeing her in last year’s summer blockbuster.
“I’m so sorry,” he tells her. She shrugs at him and turns her attention back to Hattori and Kaito.
“I think the fact that you broke up with your ex-girlfriend multiple times over Shinichi but still weren’t willing to commit to him says a lot about your ability to be a good boyfriend,” Kaito is saying when Shinichi tunes back in. He’s tapping the tip of his steak knife against the edge of his plate with metronome accuracy. There’s something—uncharacteristic in his face. “You know, I don’t think you deserve Shinichi.”
“Uh, I’m his best friend, and I’ve been there since he was still Conan. Whereas you were off gallivanting through the night and taunting him,” Hattori points out. Shinichi makes a noise that draws their attention.
“I mean, I didn’t mind the—gallivanting. And I taunted him back, anyway.” He regrets getting involved when Kaito looks smug and Hattori looks betrayed. “You know what, I’m removing myself from this conversation. Despite that it’s about me. I am one hundred percent not involved in this—whatever this is.”
“Good call, sugarplum,” Hattori agrees and smacks a kiss that’s more noise than contact on Shinichi’s cheek. Shinichi twitches. Kaito is now eyeing Hattori the same way he was eyeing his steak: as though he can’t wait to get a knife into him.
“Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t think Shinichi is comfortable with that level of public affection,” Kaito announces to the table at large, though everyone but Hattori and the actress is studiously ignoring him. “Maybe his boyfriend, if he’s really so devoted to him, should notice something that obvious and not do things that cross the line.”
“Oh, but maybe Kudou’s boyfriend knows him better than some random, and Kudou’s boyfriend knows that Kudou is okay with it because they’re in love,” Hattori says, patting the back of Shinichi’s head the way someone would pet a crocodile at a petting zoo. Shinichi can feel his hair getting messed up. He chokes down a bite of salmon.
“Interestingly enough, I’ve never sensed any love between the two of you before,” Kaito remarks. His eyes are narrowed. “Maybe because I assumed Shinichi would have better taste than… you.”
“That’s cute, considering his last four exes were literal criminals,” Hattori says. The “just like you” remains unsaid in an uncomfortably tangible way. “Well, as it turns out, he was dating the most interesting people he could find in order to get over me. Or try to get over me, at least. Because he’s been in love with me.”
Shinichi sees Kaito’s mouth start to open, and he’s abruptly had enough. He stands up quickly enough that he almost knocks over his chair.
“Hattori, Kaito, can I see you outside for a second?” he asks, injecting an undertone of “say no and die” into his voice. It seems to work on Kaito, who goes a little pale, although Hattori just turns an innocent expression on him. Shinichi kicks it up into a glare, and Hattori hastily straightens his expression out before he gets up to follow Shinichi.
Shinichi takes half a second to admire the botanical garden that he leads them to—there are fairy lights strung up, enough to illuminate the groomed shapes of bushes and the snaking flagstone path—before he whirls on the two of them. Hattori has the gall to look confused.
“What is going on with the two of you,” Shinichi demands. He scrubs a hand down his face, inhaling. “Hattori, you are legitimately the most embarrassing person I’ve ever met.”
“Whoa, hold on,” Hattori says. "Hakuba wears deerstalkers in public."
Shinichi ignores him.
“And Kaito, you antagonizing him isn’t helping anything.”
“It’s helping me,” Kaito mutters, shuffling his feet around. Shinichi squints at him.
“Actually, I take back what I said. You’re right. It’s helping me, too. Helping me want to never be seen with either one of you in public,” he agrees. He’s looking at Kaito as he says it, and that’s the only reason he notices the pained shifting behind Kaito’s expression. There’s genuine hurt, there, and Shinichi instantly feels as though he’s been flattened by a metric ton of solidified guilt. He clears his throat and tries to sound less impatient. “Okay, maybe I don’t mean that. For you, at least.”
“You’re killing me, Kudou,” says Hattori. Without looking away from Kaito, Shinichi flails an arm around until he manages to get a hand over Hattori’s face.
“Kaito, seriously, what’s going on here?” he asks over the sound of Hattori sputtering and threatening to lick his palm. Kaito’s mouth twists, and he looks away for a telling second.
“Can we go back to ignoring my motives and making fun of Hattori?” he tries. Shinichi raises his eyebrows at him, ignoring the fact that Hattori has started gnawing on his fingers (which just supports Shinichi’s theory that he’s part feral dog).
“I think I deserve an explanation for why you were acting like a”—jealous asshole, the hopeful part of Shinichi’s brain thinks before he squashes it quiet—“protective father.” They spend a solid two minutes staring at each other. Shinichi tries to inject as much determination into his gaze as he can.
Eventually, Kaito cracks. He blows out a long breath, rubbing at the back of his neck with one hand as he ducks his head.
“I mean, I don’t want to sound like one of those self-entitled guys, but I’m—kind of hurt that you would pick human disaster Hattori over me?” Shinichi feels his face go slack, and Kaito must interpret his expression incorrectly, because he hurries to add, “No, no, I don’t mean—I didn’t mean to boyfriend-zone you or anything, but I just… I don’t think Hattori is, like, dateable? While I am? And I really like you? And he’s bad at everything? And I’m only bad at most things?” When Shinichi’s expression doesn’t change, Kaito winces. “Okay, I’m going to shut up now before I nice-guy myself even further.”
“Hattori’s not my boyfriend,” Shinichi says blankly. “Hattori, stop mauling me for a second. I’m trying to think.” Hattori concedes, though it might just be because he’s gone openmouthed with surprise. Kaito is looking between the two of them, the beginnings of a frown starting to form.
“I invited Hattori to be my fake date for the wedding so that nobody would proposition me with their questionable children,” says Shinichi. He can almost physically feel his neurons start to fire as he scrambles to rearrange his worldview. “We’re not actually together.”
“Oh.” Kaito blinks at them, then coughs. “Why—why didn’t you ask me?”
“Because he thought it would be a bad idea to bring his crush as his fake date,” Hattori chimes in, because of course he has to be a part of this conversation. Shinichi feels himself flush when Kaito’s eyebrows jerk up and his gaze snaps to Shinichi’s face as though it’s been magnetized. At least he looks happy. His face will probably start hurting if he doesn’t tone down the smile.
“Really?” Kaito beams. “I’m your crush? You have a crush on me? You like me? In a romantic, non-platonic way?”
“Yeah, something like that,” Shinichi sighs, wiping his hands against his pants. His face is about to catch on fire. “For a while now.”
For the first time, Kaito’s smile dims as his brow furrows.
“Wait. I didn’t say anything because you kept dating other people, so I assumed you weren’t interested. But then why didn’t you say anything before, if you’ve liked me for a while now?”
“Because I didn’t think you liked me back?” Shinichi ventures. “When I told Hattori that I liked you, he got me a condolence card? We were both pretty sure that you weren’t into me that way.” In his periphery, Hattori nods. Kaito’s face does something difficult to parse.
“Why didn’t you ask someone else? Like Mouri-san or Hakuba or Aoko or—or literally anyone else?”
“Uh, because Ran made a ‘no talking about our romantic entanglements’ rule after that time I caught her and Sera necking at a holiday party,” Shinichi says. “And I didn’t want to talk to your friends about it, since that would be kind of… awkward, since they're closer to you and... not... me? Um, why are you making that face?”
“Maybe because you listened to Hattori about whether I liked you or not without getting a second opinion?” Kaito explodes. He's gone red in the cheeks, in more of an uncontrolled rage way than a blushy cute way. “The man who’s gone through five breakups with the same woman? Who has the emotional maturity of a twelve-year-old boy? Who once tried to murder me when he thought I took his place as your best friend? You consulted with him about liking me and whether I liked you back?”
“Hey,” says Hattori, wounded, at the same time Shinichi says, weakly, “Sometimes he's okay?”
Kaito has reached the emphatic hand gestures stage of getting worked up.
“If you had asked literally anyone else, they would’ve pointed out that I’ve been pining so hard I’m basically part forest now! I keep thinking I'm going to start photosynthesizing and sprouting needles! Every morning I wake up expecting to have tree trunks for legs!”
“How much did you have to drink?” Hattori wonders. Kaito, to the surprise of nobody, ignores him, in favor of jabbing a finger in Shinichi’s direction.
“This whole time I’ve been watching you date assholes, thinking you weren’t into me, and it was all because you were trying to move on? Because you thought I didn’t like you? Thanks to Hattori’s brilliant emotional intelligence?” Kaito holds out his arms. He’s flailing a little, brows drawn, and he looks pretty pissed. Shinichi stares at him, mouth open, before he drops his face into his hands.
“I could’ve saved myself so many restraining orders,” he groans before he stands up straight, horrified. “The police force wouldn’t have almost gotten bombed that one time.”
“Damn right,” Kaito growls, before he grabs Shinichi by the lapels and jams their mouths together. Shinichi kisses back, frantic, and fumbles around until he has Kaito’s jaw gripped between his hands, drawing him even closer. There’s a moment of struggling before Kaito manages to get Shinichi’s jacket off, nearly ripping his shirt.
“Oh,” Hattori says. “Uh, I’m just going to—go.” There’s no response from the two of them, not that he was expecting to get one. He sighs and decides to go back to the reception. The cake’s probably been served by now. He should probably text Kazuha to see about meeting with their relationship counselor again. And also find a way to keep everyone out of the garden for the next few hours. Maybe he’ll tell them there’s a pair of rabid possums out there. It’s not too far from the truth, anyway.
Shinichi is picking a leaf out of the mess of tangles that’s pretending to be Kaito’s hair when Hattori finds them again, long after the reception has finished. He can feel Kaito tense; Shinichi presses a hand to the back of his neck in an attempt at soothing him. Kaito doesn’t quite relax, but at least he tips his head back in acknowledgement and lets his shoulders drop somewhat.
Hattori looks over the two of them with a detective’s eye, which means that Shinichi can be certain he knows what they’ve been up to. Shinichi exerts a lot of effort trying not to blush the way he desperately wants. Hattori’s expression is neutral, though it flickers when his eyes reach the visibly scuffed knees of his pants. After a long moment, during which a muscle jumps in his jaw, he clears his throat.
“Let’s never talk about this again,” he says. Shinichi exchanges a look with Kaito before they both nod, solemn.