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maybe I was going too fast

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Kaito hadn’t realised just how out of practice he’d become.

“Fucking university,” he hisses, as he frantically puts out the flames that had appeared two seconds too early, and spares a thought to be grateful to his past self for leaving Nigou in the kitchen instead of letting the furball into his work area.

As if on cue, the alarm on his phone rings and he hastily places the towels he’d used for the flames on a bench, before walking out of his workshop and straight into the kitchen, where Nigou’s lounging on the dining table, watching him balefully.

“Don’t look at me like that, I’m perfectly on time for lunch,” Kaito says pettily, shaking his head as he reaches for the cat food in one of the pantry cabinets, and when he turns to fill up Nigou’s bowl, the furball has already made its way there, tail swishing lazily behind.

“God, you’re so spoiled,” he mutters, huffing out a laugh, and proceeds to spoil the cat even more by feeding it with expensive cat food, because Kudou wouldn’t settle for less and now Kaito’s stuck having to feed it the cat equivalent of caviar, probably. But caviar’s as disgusting as cat food, so he wouldn’t know the difference.

The doorbell rings as he’s putting away the cat food, but before he could leave the kitchen, he hears the door opening and Aoko’s voice calling out, “Kaito? You home?”

“Kitchen!” He replies, and footsteps make their way towards him, and then Aoko appears in the doorway with a huge grocery bag and a frown. “I smell smoke, Kaito. Is your practice not going okay?”

“Minor error,” he says dismissively, and eyes the bag. “What’s that?”

Aoko lights up at that, and begins taking out Tupperware containers as she answers, “I figured you were probably just surviving on instant ramen, and I cooked extra, so I brought some over.”

Kaito tries not to let the odd mixture of guilt and gratitude wash over him, and only shakes his head. “We’re not in high school anymore, Aoko. I’ve been feeding myself just fine.” Eggs and rice were an adequate enough meal, he figures.

His friend only rolls her eyes, and Kaito can’t help but grin as she replies dryly, arranging the food on his dining table, “You eat omelet rice while Nigou eats gourmet, I hope you see how dumb that is.”

“Eh, greatness doesn’t wait for a good stew—but it could probably hold a second for chocolate milk,” he comments cheerfully, as she tosses a carton to him. “Thanks, Aoko.”

She laughs, opening a carton of melon milk for herself, and Kaito has a moment to feel grateful that as much as he’d loved being Kid once upon a time, at least he doesn’t have to hide anything from her anymore. He sits down to eat at her urging, and it’s almost like they’re back in high school, less than a year ago and he was losing sleep over Pandora’s whereabouts while trying to make sure Aoko and everyone else were none the wiser about the entire thing.

It’s as he’s reaching for the beef stew (a little bland, but he’s too hungry to complain) that Aoko bluntly asks, “How long have you liked Kudou, Kaito?”

He doesn’t upend the bowl, but it’s a near thing.

“I like teasing him,” he hedges, and takes another bite before he casually adds, “He’s got terribly wonderful reactions, unlike your boyfriend.”

Aoko leans back in her seat across him, arms crossed, shaking her head as she sighs. “Kaito, both of you are co-parenting a cat. I think it’s okay to say that you like him, like him.”

This time, he doesn’t even bother to finish chewing as he replies with his mouth full, “I didn’t realise we were back in fifth grade.”

“That’s disgusting! God, I wonder what Kudou sees in you.”

“A free catsitter?”

But Aoko doesn’t even acknowledge him, and there’s an odd smile on her face that Kaito doesn’t really recognize, something bittersweet and it makes him feel weirdly guilty for it. “But honestly, I’m glad to see you happy, Kaito,” she says softly, watching Nigou napping in the corner of the room. “I was… Worried. Especially when it didn’t seem like you were even interested in finishing high school back then.”

Kaito remembers those days, and holds back a deprecating laugh. Evidently he wasn’t hiding his anxiety enough, if Aoko had noticed.

“I’m in university now, aren’t I? And stuck with you and Hakuba, of all people,” he points out, trying to lighten the heavy atmosphere. “I’m fine, Aoko.”

She sighs, and her smile looks a little less sad this time when she says, “Yeah, I know. I’m really rooting for the two of you, you know. Kudou… He smiles a lot, when he’s with you. You two seem great for each other.”

And at this point, Kaito doesn’t have it in him to say anything to deflect that, because he—

He’d really like that to happen, as stupidly sappy as it sounds.

“… Thanks, Aoko.”

Aoko leaves not too long afterwards, promising to come by again with food sometime soon, and while Kaito carries the furball over to the living room for some much needed cuddle time, his phone pings with a text from Jii-chan. He lets himself settle on the couch, Nigou curling up on his chest before opening the message.

It’s the digital poster for his upcoming show, held at the nearby local theatre hall, and he can’t help but grin at the proof that he’s going to be back on a stage, performing miracles once again.

(Even if it’s a little smaller than he was used to as Kid.)

He chuckles at the photo of him in full magician costume; he’d disregarded the white of Kaitou Kid, considering how suspiciously similar they’d both look, but he’d kept the top hat with the cape, and replaced the monocle with a pair of glasses instead; thin frames and large enough to hide his gaze under the spotlight. His suit is royal blue, and he refuses to think of what the colour really reminds him of.

Kaito fires off a thank you text to Jii-chan, and uploads the photo on all two of his social media profiles, and captions it with, “Don’t miss the illusion.” He’s got a considerable following, nothing like Kid’s, but it’s enough to gain traction within the first fifteen minutes since he’s posted the photo.

Aoko comments first, says, “So excited! But make sure you’re not just eating eggs and rice until then!” while Hakuba tells him to “break a leg”, most likely in earnest. Akako spouts some ridiculous shit and says, “’Magic’ is debatable, but looking forward to the show” and Kudou—

“I won’t, so you’d better make this your best performance yet, magician.”

Just as he’s trying not to hyperventilate over the fact that Kudou Shinichi’s going to be paying all of his genius attention on Kaito, his phone rings and it takes him a whole five seconds to school his expression when he sees who’s calling, even if there’s no one around besides Nigou, who looks at him in judgement, as if the furball knows just how flustered Kaito really feels.

“Missed me already?”

“On second thought, put me on video call so I can talk to Nigou instead.”

Kaito laughs, which makes Nigou shift on his chest, digging its claws in his shirt as if to tell him, “Stop being an idiot,”, so he strokes the cat’s back to placate it as he cheerfully answers, “The furball’s taking a nap on me right now, but I’ll send you a photo of him later.”

“And you say I spoil him,” Kudou replies, but Kaito can hear the smile in his voice. It disappears though when Kudou says hesitantly, “I… I actually called to ask if you’d be having plans after the show? I was wondering if there would be time for me to go back by train that night, or if I should find a hotel for the night instead.”

“Oh, I—” Honestly, he hadn’t really planned for anything, but—

“Yeah, we’ll probably go out to eat afterwards, I guess, so it’ll be too late to go back by train. You…” Kaito swallows, and continues. “You don’t have to pay for a hotel room, by the way. I’ve got a couple of spare rooms at my place since I live alone.”

The two seconds it takes Kudou to answer were enough to nearly send him into cardiac arrest, with how fast and hard his heart was beating.

“If you’re alright with it, sure,” Kudou answers at last. “Thank you for the offer, Kuroba,” he adds, and yeah, Kudou’s definitely smiling again, and Kaito scratches Nigou’s ears as he unsuccessfully wills away the flush in his face.

“Yeah, yeah. At least you’ll get to spend some quality time with the furball, too.”

They talk for a little longer, but predictably, Kudou gets called on for a case and they bid their goodbyes for the time being.

There’s that need to entertain and impress that’s always been present in Kaito, but Kudou brings it to levels he wasn’t even aware of, and it’s that thought that pushes him off the couch and dislodging Nigou from his chest, as he walks back into the workshop, ready to burn if it means Kudou would look at him the same way he’d looked at Kid, once upon a time.

***

Kaito’s long-awaited magic show ends with no injuries.

It ends, instead, with thunderous applause, and calls for more, as Kaito carefully walks down on invisible steps from twenty feet above the stage to take his final bow before the audience, sweat dripping down his neck and his chest heaving, grin hidden behind a trembling arm as he keeps his head low for a second longer.

The curtains fall, and it’s only when the stage becomes nearly pitch black that he lifts his head, and turns to the side, where Jii-chan’s watching him with a proud smile and two thumbs up.

(He’d wondered, what Jii-chan had felt, now that he’s served two Kids, and if he’d be less impressed now that Kaito isn’t pulling off daring heists and putting disguise upon disguise. But the old man had only said, “You’re a Kuroba, young master. You were made for miracles, no matter what name you take on.”)

Kaito’s legs wobble underneath him as he makes his way back to his dressing room, adrenaline slowly seeping out of him. But he barely gets a chance to shrug out of his suit jacket, unbutton a couple of buttons and take off his hat when the door of his dressing room blasts open.

“Pretty sure I locked the door—”

“You probably shouldn’t have taught Aoko how to pick locks,” Hakuba replies dryly, and Aoko runs up to him, smothering him in a hug and squealing, “Oh my god, Kaito, you actually looked cool for once!”

“Excuse me, I always look cool—Akako, I can hear you snickering, shut up.”

“Your appearance doesn’t matter, Kuroba,” Hakuba says, ignoring Kaito’s scoff and his ensuing yelp when Aoko hits his arm for it. “Your last trick with the doves and the flames—you used regular aerosol cans, didn’t you?”

And then Kudou comes forward, and Kaito’s breath catches in his throat at the sight of the detective smiling so unabashedly, confidence brimming to his edges as he shakes his head at Hakuba.

“Nail polish remover,” he declares, and Kaito can’t help but smirk.

It’s nice to know he’s still got a leg up on both of them, Kid or no Kid.

“Flour,” Kaito replies cheerfully, fiddling with his glasses as he winks, and places them in his breast pocket. “And a bit of linseed oil. Nice try, detectives.”

He doesn’t hold back his cackling at the twin looks of annoyance. They leave the theatre soon enough, and he blames it on the high of the success when he lets slip a, “No seafood,” when Aoko asks what he’d wanted to eat for his birthday and that’s how Kudou finds out about his (very much) legitimate fear of fish.

He braces himself for the inevitable teasing, but Kudou only grins and tells him, “I suppose going to the beach during this summer is out of the question?”

Shit, if it was for Kudou—

Nope, he still won’t go into the ocean. But… He’d acquiesce to just staying on the sand, perhaps.

“I’m not sure Nigou would be happy if we forced him to be outside in the heat for that long,” he answers instead, and Kudou’s eyes predictably sparkle at the mention of the furball. They end up having pizza at ten in the evening, and Kaito basks in their company, tucked right against Kudou. But they nearly get kicked out when Akako charms the cashier to give them a whole extra pizza for free, but hadn’t accounted for the manager of the restaurant to be a forty-six year-old woman who wields a knife like she’s goddamn Joan of Arc, and completely impervious to her charms.

Safe to say, they make a run for it before either Hakuba or Kudou caused a case for themselves.

They go their separate ways soon after, but not before Kudou invites them all to visit his place on Saturday, and Kaito tries not to think too much about the fact that Aoko leaves with Hakuba instead of going in the same direction as him to their houses.

Of course Kudou picks up on it.

“You really care for her, don’t you?” The detective says quietly, as they make their way back to Kaito’s house.

“We’re best friends,” Kaito replies lightly, because it’s true, but it doesn’t mean he’s shaken off the annoying habit of worrying about her. “It’s not that I don’t trust Hakuba,” (at least, Kaito doesn’t completely distrust him), “I just think she could do better than blondie,” he finishes, smiling as he hears Kudou trying to stifle his laughter.

The walk isn’t too far from the pizza place to his house, but Kaito almost wishes it was a little longer, because being able to walk beside Kudou again for the first time in weeks has made him realise just how much he’s missed being able to just hear the man’s footsteps beside him.

“So it’s not because you have feelings for her?”

He’s not sure how he’s able to gracefully fly across buildings and somehow still stumble at a few words, but Kaito’s lived long enough to know that his luck is fickle at its finest.

He sighs as he looks at Kudou, who watches him pick himself up with blatant amusement.

“… I used to have a crush on her,” he admits, rubbing his neck. “Back in high school. But I outgrew it pretty quickly and now she’s more like the little sister I’d never asked for.”

“I see,” Kudou hums, and abruptly changes the subject, leaving Kaito feeling slightly whiplashed. “Why do you wear glasses when you perform magic?”

“What’s with the twenty questions?” Kaito shoots back, chuckling. To his surprise, Kudou’s eyes widen before he averts his gaze, and that—is that embarrassment?

“Sorry, I—I was just wondering, considering you have perfect vision. Why have the potential risks of impairing your eyesight?”

Kaito can’t tell him that it’s homage to his monocle as Kid, or even to a certain bespectacled detective, but Kudou looks back at him with naked curiosity, even when his cheeks are a little pink, barely visible in the light of the moon and the lamp posts lining his street. Nearly there, he thinks a little forlornly.

So he only says, “It’s a secret. But… Maybe I’ll let you in on it someday.” Before Kudou can reply, he comes to a stop, looking up at his home. “Oh, this is my place.”

Kaito’s not surprised that the first thing Kudou does when he enters his house is to head straight for the furball napping on the couch.

“Oh wow, have you been feeding him a little too much, Kuroba?”

He glances at them, and successfully holds back a groan at the stupidly adorable picture Kudou and Nigou make, the cat snuggled comfortably in Kudou’s arms like the detective had never left.

“I might have not played with him enough during the last few days when I was busy preparing for the show,” he says sheepishly. Kudou frowns at him, but he doesn’t expect the detective to walk up to him, one arm cuddling the cat close to his chest, and pulls Kaito’s arm with his other hand, and says teasingly, “You should probably show me where I’m supposed to be sleeping before you pass out in your shirt and pants, then.”

“I’m sure I can show you around and still sleep with my eyes open,” Kaito retorts, but he can feel the sluggishness settling in his bones, so he picks up Kudou’s bag as he leads the other man to his room (he might have gotten a cleaning service the day before, just in case) and shows him the bathroom as well.

“I’m gonna wash up, but just let me know if you need anything,” Kaito tells him, once he’s deposited Kudou, his bag and the furball in Kudou’s room for the night.

“Sure. I, ah, I’ll probably have to leave early tomorrow morning, since I’ve an errand to run, but you don’t have to see me off,” Kudou says, stifling a yawn.

But Kaito waves it aside, because as much as he’d love to sleep for the next sixteen hours, he’s kinda missed the way Kudou looks in the morning, fresh and ready to take on the world with his brains, wit and a terrifying amount of recklessness only Kaito can rival.

“It’s fine, I’ll at least see you off at the door,” he says nonchalantly. “Help yourself to some coffee if I’m not awake in time to make some.”

He leaves Kudou and Nigou, and the warm shower serves to release the tension he’s feeling with the fact that the guy he’s got a pathetic crush on is mere feet away, probably washing up as well and—that’s a thought best left aside in the deep, dark corners of his mind, the one that’s less Kaito and more Kid.

It’s as he’s drying his hair that Kudou knocks on his door, and when Kaito opens his door he’s not quite sure if he’s pulled on his poker face in time, because—

He’s never seen Kudou this dressed down; he’s only got a plain black t-shirt on, and a pair of boxers, wet hair sticking up even more than usual and the image is giving Kaito terribly graphic ideas on how to mess it up even further.

“What’s up?” Kaito’s voice doesn’t crack, but he’s finding it incredibly difficult to not follow the path of a stray droplet making its way slowly down Kudou’s collarbone, disappearing under his shirt.

“I just wanted to thank you again, for offering up your room,” Kudou tells him, and Kaito doesn’t think he’s imagining the faint spots of pink on the other man’s cheeks, but it’s probably because of the shower.

Kaito shakes his head, because Kudou’s stubborn politeness is charming, but it’s reminding him that he’s got his own ulterior motives for letting the detective sleep at his house.

(Namely, the way Kudou looks right about now.)

“It’s fine, Kudou, not like it was a burden or anything. Plus, I’m a magician, but I don’t know if I’d be able to sneak Nigou into a hotel room.” He’s totally lying, that would be a piece of cake, but maybe there’s a chance Kudou won’t pick up on it.

From the way the other man smiles, Kaito figures he’s busted, but he doesn’t have the heart to feel bad when Kudou says, “Well, since you let me stay with you, I suppose it’s only fair that I offer you a room as well when you visit this weekend.”

“Since you’re offering, it’d be totally rude of me to say no.”

Kudou laughs in reply, exasperation and fondness clear in his tone and Kaito finds himself wishing he could make the other man laugh like that all the damn time, but he gets distracted when Kudou tilts his head, so much like Nigou, sleepy blue eyes creased in a smile as he says softly, “Happy birthday, Kuroba.”

And Kaito hadn’t realised just how much he’d wanted to hear that from Kudou.

Nigou sleeps with Kudou that night, as expected, and Kaito has to push aside half-awake thoughts of wishing he could share the same bed as them, but his exhaustion eventually wins him over. But when morning dawns and his alarm rings, he plods downstairs to the sight of Kudou squatting down in the hallway and petting Nigou, the furball rubbing its face against Kudou’s shins, like he’s aware the detective’s about to leave him.

“You’ll see each other this weekend,” Kaito says dryly through a couple of yawns.

Kudou laughs quietly, and it’s clear that he’s got some amount of caffeine in him, from how bright-eyed he looks, and Kaito spares a thought to be slightly embarrassed that he hadn’t even bothered to wash his face yet.

“I’m not very good with waiting,” Kudou replies, and gives Nigou’s back one last stroke before he stands up and makes his way to the front door. Kaito follows behind, and wonders how to tell him not to leave yet, without sounding like a complete idiot.

Instead, he unlocks the front door and opens it, watching as the dawn’s rays light up Kudou’s face, making him look impossibly more gorgeous than Kaito thought he could ever be; golden light casting an ethereal glow on his skin and it’s then that Kaito’s starting to realise that this is possibly more than just a stupid crush.

He freezes for a moment when Kudou’s hand clasps his arm, the touch firm and causing Kaito’s heart to rocket against his chest and his already scrambled, half-asleep thoughts to fire off in too many directions.

“I… I’m really looking forward to seeing you this weekend, Kuroba,” he says, all smiles and sincerity, and god, how is Kaito still breathing right now?

“Me too,” he replies, with a little more emotion than he’d wanted to let slip.

The smile on Kudou’s face widens for a second, and then he’s bidding Kaito goodbye with a, “I’ll see you then,” as he walks through the doorway, back upright and turning around once to nod at him, before he disappears around the corner.

Kaito spends a ridiculous amount of time just staring into the empty street, until he realises that Kudou had said ‘you’, as in, Kaito, without so much as mentioning the others that are going as well.

(If anyone asked, he’d deny it to his grave, but Nigou had been the only witness to his unintelligible sputtering for the next ten minutes after that realisation. The subsequent attempts of convincing himself that Kudou had obviously meant everyone else as well were met with derision and an unhealthy amount of parsing the Japanese language for the meaning of ‘you’.

The fact that he doesn’t even bother questioning himself if his crush had grown into something a little more serious was testament that Kudou Shinichi had somehow sneaked his way in, beyond the poker face and the too many jokes, and Kaito is loath to see him ever leave.)

***

Kudou doesn’t greet him and Nigou at the door of his home/house/goddamn mansion, after Jii-chan drops them off with a cheerful goodbye that was completely at odds with his horrible, somehow gravity-defying driving.

Instead, a young man, who clearly befits the entire description of ‘tall, dark and handsome’ opens the door instead, holding a can of beer in his hand, and Kaito has to swallow a snort, as he shifts Nigou’s weight against his chest (the furball had grown restless halfway through the journey and it’d only calmed down after Kaito took it out of the cage and let it walk all over him).

Do all young detectives in this country know each other?

Also, he hadn’t expected to meet Kudou’s friends, (his other friends), but he’s struck with the thought that Kudou must have had friends, even when he was busy solving cases and chasing after Kaito with his scary kicking prowess.

“Ah, you must be Kuroba, then, since you’ve got the cat,” Hattori Heiji says, stroking Nigou’s head with his free hand and grins as the furball sniffs at his fingers. “I’m Hattori; come on in.”

Kaito follows him, trying not to gawk as he takes in Kudou’s house; he’s never really asked why Kudou had gone to a university a couple of hours away from his hometown, but perhaps he’d gotten used to living with somebody while he was stuck in a child’s body. It’s not really an easy thing to explain, he muses, and Nigou wriggles in his arms before Kaito absently shifts him, so that the furball’s looking over Kaito’s shoulder, taking in the new surroundings.

“He really looks a lot like Shinichi,” Hattori comments as he glances at the cat, and Kaito finds himself having to violently tamp down the bout of jealousy at how familiar Hattori sounds when he says Kudou’s name.

“Less fussy than Kudou, though,” Kaito answers instead, and Hattori guffaws, literally holding his belly as he tosses his head back in laughter, the can of beer dangerously tilted.

“Shit, that’s probably true,” he replies, and takes a sip of his drink as they round the corner of the hallway, voices filtering through. He recognizes Aoko’s laugh and figures she’s probably got a drink with her as well. “Do you wanna put him down somewhere, or…?”

Kaito shrugs—honestly, Nigou feels like a warm, purring blanket and he’s kind of loath to let go of the furball just yet, but he strokes Nigou’s back and says lightly, “We’re good, right, furball?”

Nigou, predictably, doesn’t reply, but he starts to bat at Kaito’s hair, so he figures that’s a good enough answer.

“Too cute,” Hattori chuckles, and Kaito feels the lingering bouts of jealousy simmer down as he privately agrees. And then he feels instantly relieved and pretty dumb when they enter the living room and Hattori wraps an arm around a young woman and happily introduces her as, “Kazuha, this is Kuroba. Kuroba, this is my Kazuha.”

The woman doesn’t hesitate to punch him in the shoulder, her pretty face flushed as she whips her head around, her ponytail nearly hitting Kaito in the face.

“How many times have I told you not to introduce me like that to people?!”

“But it’s true!”

Kazuha sighs heavily, and finally turns her attention to Kaito, sticking out a hand. “Sorry about that—Kuroba, was it?”

“… Yeap.” He accepts her hand, and notes her firm grip. He’d never thought he’d find a woman as terrifying as Akako, but perhaps Japan isn’t that big after all.

Her gaze shifts towards Nigou, and it softens noticeably. “Cute cat,” is all she says, and then, “The blonde and his girlfriend’s talking with Sonoko, and Kudou’s probably with Ran.”

“Thanks,” Kaito says, remembering to paste a friendly smile before leaving swiftly, lest she starts beating up her boyfriend again. Nigou doesn’t need the bad influence, after all. Kaito tucks him into his bag carefully as he makes his way around the very large living room, only to find that it’s joined to yet another one.

He finds Aoko first, her face pink and linking arms with Hakuba, as they talk to… Shit, is that Suzuki Sonoko? Japan really isn’t big. At least Akako wasn’t able to make it tonight, he muses. He had a feeling the witch would somehow pry information on a jewel or two from the Suzuki heiress. He immediately steers clear away of them for the time being, but stops when he finally comes across the person he’d been anxiously waiting to see since his birthday a few days ago.

“Nice of you to show up, Kuroba,” Kudou says teasingly, his smile soft and expectant, and Kaito almost forgets to breathe. “I was beginning to wonder if you’d gotten lost.”

In your eyes? Hell yeah.

Fortunately, Kaito’s brain-to-mouth filter is working for once, and holds up his bag instead. “Rude, I’m amazing with directions. And to think I’d brought a present for you, too.” As if on cue, the furball sticks its head out through the opening, letting out one lone meow when it sets its sight on Kudou.

“Nigou!”

Kaito knows he’s grinning stupidly wide as Kudou carefully picks Nigou up, bringing the cat to cuddle against his chest like a doting father who hasn’t seen their kid after sending them off to boarding school, but it’s a sight that never fails to make him feel glad he’d let the detective and the furball into his dorm room back then, barely a couple of months ago.

Nigou no longer fits either of their palms, but he’s still tiny enough to curl into the hollow of Kudou’s neck, both of them absolutely twin-like in their looks of contentment.

The sight’s made even cuter when Kudou starts, and glances off to the side, as a woman comes forward, smirking at the detective.

“Sorry, I got carried away,” Kudou says sheepishly, and glances at Kaito. “Kuroba, this is Ran. She’s a close childhood friend of mine. Ran, this is Kuroba, a friend from university.”

Long hair, pale skin; the skirt is short enough to show strong, toned legs, and suddenly, Kaito’s starting to piece a few things together.

“Hey, nice to meet you,” Ran says, and before Kaito can reply, her smile turns mischievous enough to get Kaito guarded. “I’ve heard about you.”

“Uh, everything Kudou said about me was a lie, and I definitely didn’t destroy the espresso machine at the coffee shop nearest to our dorm.”

“… I had to walk for an extra fifteen minutes every day for that whole week to get good coffee, Kuroba.”

But Ran laughs, bright and cheery, and Kaito’s struck with the thought that once upon a time, Kudou clearly had feelings for her.

(This time, the jealousy isn’t as easy to pin down.)

“You’re as funny and as charming as Kudou says,” Ran grins, and Kaito glances at Kudou, who’s got his face conveniently buried in Nigou’s fur. “Hold on, lemme get you a drink, yeah?”

She disappears, and then Kaito takes a second to take in Kudou, like he’d wanted to from the moment he’d stepped into the detective’s house. He’s got a smart, button-up shirt on, likely having just come home from work, but his sleeves are pushed up and the collar unbuttoned, giving a glimpse of his chest, and instead of his usual dark slacks, he’s got a pair of black jeans that… Accentuates his figure very, very nicely.

“Didn’t know you lived in a literal castle, Kudou,” Kaito says, before he can ogle Kudou any further.

At that, Kudou looks up from rubbing his cheek against Nigou, frowning in such earnestness that Kaito’s resolve nearly breaks. “It’s not that much bigger than the average house around here.”

“Kudou, you have two living rooms, and I know you’ve probably got some study or library in here somewhere,” Kaito counters, smirking as Kudou rolls his eyes, but doesn’t deny it. Ran shows up again, this time with three cans of beer, and Kaito accepts one, while Kudou shifts Nigou around so he can hold on to his drink as well.

“Kanpai!” Ran calls out loudly, knocking her can against theirs, and Kaito lets himself get swept up in the bright atmosphere, as he hears Hattori yelling it out across the room, and then as the night carries on, conversation flows as much as the alcohol. He meets Ran’s girlfriend, Masumi Sera, who comes by later in the evening after finishing up her own case, and at this point, he’s not even surprised anymore that the only friends Kudou seems to keep are ones as crazy and intelligent and as brash as him, in all their different ways.

He is, however, bewildered at how bad Kudou is at handling his liquor. He’s pretty sure the detective had only had three, four cans at most, but his face is flushed and Nigou’s nowhere to be found, so there’s nothing to distract from the fact that the flush totally goes lower than his neck, judging from his open collar.

Kaito only feels mildly guilty, considering he’d spent a number of his teenage years travelling around Japan and the world stealing priceless gems, and is rather used to looking at pretty things.

It really doesn’t help that Kudou, who’d failed to keep Nigou secured to him, has decided it would be prudent of him to latch on to Kaito instead, his touches a lot more than Kaito’s used to, lingering on his arm, his shoulders, his back

And when Kaito looks at him, he’s reminded of how much Conan had to act like a child, but could never quite pull it off, and how Kudou looks more childlike now than he’d ever been, smile uninhibited and wit still so sharp, even when he’s leaning against the wall because he can’t walk straight. Kaito finds himself wondering if it’s really okay that Kudou doesn’t remember him, when he looks this defenceless and happy.

The rest of them leave around midnight, which means Kaito no longer has to deal with the questioning glances from everyone, but it also means he gets to deal with Kudou’s (adorable) drunken ass.

It’s a good thing he’d managed to get a short tour of the place earlier on, while all of them were barely tipsy, because Kudou’s absolutely useless on his feet at this point.

“I apologise, I’m… Not really used to alcohol,” Kudou says quietly, as Kaito brings the detective’s arm to drape around his shoulders, a hand on Kudou’s slim waist as he walks the both of them up the stairs.

“And yet you down those disgusting espresso shots like water,” Kaito snorts, and he feels Kudou’s body shake against him as he laughs as well.

“I’m sure you know, but alcohol, water or caffeine don’t actually have the same chemical compositions,” Kudou informs him nonchalantly, and adds, “The, ah, door to your right,” as they reach the top of the stairs.

“The fact that you can say all of that and not slur is probably the most insane thing I’ve ever seen from you,” Kaito mutters, and follows Kudou’s directions, opening the door to his bedroom and gently settling him on the bed. Kaito notes the amount of books in the room, and has to stop himself from smiling when he realises Conan probably wouldn’t have been able to reach most of them.

“You know, sometimes…”

Kaito looks back at Kudou, who watches him with none of the cheeriness from two minutes ago. “Sometimes when you look at me, it feels like you’re looking for someone else, Kuroba.”

What?

“But, sometimes, when I look at you, there are these… Weird flashes of white, and then there are things you’ve said,” Kudou looks down, and he’s gripping the sheets beneath him, long legs curled up right against his chest. “I feel like I should be remembering something, but I can’t and it frustrates me, especially—especially when you avert the situation.”

“… I’m sorry I made you feel that way, Kudou,” Kaito says, trying to sound confused, even as his heart is racing, because he doesn’t understand, but somehow it only agitates Kudou further, who shakes his head, lifting his head up again to meet Kaito’s eyes, his own gaze slightly unfocused.

“No, don’t—you’re not supposed to apologize, damn it. You didn’t—you did nothing wrong. I mean, it’s not like it was your memories that had gotten wiped out.”

Kudou had his memories wiped out? What the fuck?

“Kudou, what—what are you talking about?” Kaito asks urgently, stepping forward, until he’s kneeling in front of Kudou, his hands desperately itching to calm down the detective, who’s trembling slightly.

His voice, however, remains calm and monotonous, like he’d had this repeated to him too many times, and Kaito hides his wince at the thought. “There’s this hole in my mind when I think about those two months, before… Before life started again for me.” His voice trails off, and Kaito struggles to hear him, but his heart stops when Kudou’s words register in his mind.

“It’s bad enough that I couldn’t catch him after all, in the end.”

“Catch who, Kudou?” Kaito doesn’t think he’s imagining the way his voice has become hoarse, because this, this is clarification he sorely needs, even if all of this only brings up more questions.

Kudou’s lips quirk up, but his expression is tight and filled with obvious regret. “Someone I promised I’d chase, and keep chasing until I could have him in my grip for once and not the other way round, back then.”

A few seconds pass, as Kaito processes his words, but then Kudou shifts, taking Kaito’s hand in his own as he softly says, “I don’t really feel like talking about that time, please.”

And Kaito really doesn’t want to let this go, not when he’s so close to the answer, but he nods in agreement, preparing to stand up.

But he feels his knees buckling before he can even straighten up, when Kudou rewards him with the sweetest smile, all bunched up pink cheeks, and his blue eyes soft and grateful as he squeezes Kaito’s hand. “Thanks, Kuroba. You’re—I don’t know how you do it, but it hurts a little less,” and Kudou brings their joined hands together to press against his chest, as he continues, “When I think about you, instead of what I had to go through, before I met you.”

Kaito really has no words for what’s happening right now, so he simply stares, until he croaks out, “… Kudou?”

And then—

“I really do like you, Kaito,” Kudou says firmly, pressing the faintest kiss on his knuckles. Kaito only has enough time to widen his eyes before Kudou’s eyes completely lose their focus and he slumps forward, and Kaito instinctively catches him in his arms, his breathing slow and tickling Kaito’s neck.

“… What the fuck.”

***

Somehow, he manages to at least get Kudou to lay down in his bed, and wonders if he should undress him, and immediately disregards that thought. Instead, he goes back downstairs to get a glass of water and some aspirin, and feeds Nigou as well (Kudou had a small bag of the furball’s preferred brand of cat food, so damn whipped) before bringing all three back to Kudou’s room. He leaves the water and medicine on Kudou’s bedside table, and Nigou to sleep on top of Kudou’s pillow, and takes a few moments to watch the detective, his words engraved on Kaito’s mind.

It takes everything in him to resist from kissing that tempting, flushed expression on the detective’s face, but he gives in to brushing a hand through Kudou’s hair, and strokes Nigou once, before he exits the room and spends the night in his own bedroom for the night, tossing and turning with no hope of sleep, wondering what the hell the morning would have in store for both of them.

Kaito needn’t have worried, though.

Kudou remembers nothing, and Kaito watches him nearly burn his hand while making coffee before he takes over, poker face in place and teases the detective about his bedhead and Nigou perched on his shoulder like a goddamn parrot. He makes breakfast for the both of them, while Kudou carefully prepares Nigou’s, and all the while, Kaito keeps Kudou’s words from the night before close to his chest.

Kaito leaves with Nigou late that morning. He’d offered to let Kudou have Nigou for the rest of summer break, but Kudou had disagreed and told him, “I’m always caught up with cases, and I don’t want to neglect him. Plus, you take better care of Nigou, anyway.”

Kaito successfully stops himself from telling Kudou about his own prowess in taking care of humans, too.

Instead, he goes back home, and spends the day coming to terms with the fact that at this point, it’s safe to say that he’s gone past a stupid crush.

He’s fallen in love with Kudou Shinichi, and the thought doesn’t terrify him as much, anymore, not when he’s aware of Kudou’s own feelings for him. Remembering the way Kudou had said his name sends a warm sensation down his spine, and he spends ten minutes blushing like an idiot when he tries out Kudou’s first name on his lips.

But there’s the whole situation with Kudou’s missing memories, and the fact that he doesn’t even know the Kid he’d chased for so long has been in front of him the whole time.

“I really do like you, Kaito.”

Kaito sighs, and takes a video of Nigou trying to drink the water from the kitchen sink instead of dwelling on how pretty Kudou had looked when he was drunk and unguarded, and sends the video to the detective himself. He gets a “I regret sending him back with you now” and a crying emoji of all things, and laughs at the absurdity of this man he’s completely head over heels for.

The next few days pass that way, with Kaito sending stupid photos and videos of Nigou being… Nigou. There’s a particularly memorable one of him doing a card trick for the fun of it and Nigou’s eyes were nearly swallowed by the black of its pupils; the furball had been incredibly, hilariously mystified by the entire thing and that had gotten Kaito a ten-minute phone call with Kudou berating him for tormenting the cat.

So of course he does more of that.

It turns into one-hour phone calls at one, two in the morning, and Kaito has the hardest time trying to stop himself from calling Kudou ‘Shinichi’ now, and telling him to come back to his place instead of running himself ragged on cases again.

He doesn’t, of course.

Because he knows the feeling of being untethered without an all-consuming purpose to hold one down, the way his white suit and precious gems had done for him, the way Kudou must have obsessively thought about returning to his normal self, and Kudou genuinely sounds happy with solving all those cases, even if Kaito teases him about not getting his beauty sleep, always wondering if Kudou could hear the concern in his words.

But two weeks after Kaito had come back from the get-together at Kudou’s, the detective stops replying him.

Kaito wouldn’t have been concerned, except the silence stretches for three, four days, with no single acknowledgement of Nigou’s dumb antics. On the fifth day, he stoops to the lowest level of crime he could think of, and tries his best to sound civil.

“Oi, Hakuba, have you heard from Kudou?”

Well, he did say he’d try, at least.

“Kuroba, I’m sure this must have crossed your mind, but if you’re looking for Kudou, why don’t you, hmm, call him instead of me?”

Murder is a crime, he was a criminal once but he’d left that life behind and Kudou probably wouldn’t like it if he became a criminal again—or maybe he will, Kaito’s willing to bet Kudou’s kinky like that. He’d have to remember to tease him about it, when the man actually returns his texts.

And the five (fifteen) calls he’d left on the detective’s phone.

“Do you think I’d have resorted to contacting you if I couldn’t reach Kudou on my own? Look, I’m—”

“Is it urgent?” Hakuba interrupts, and Kaito manages to wince and roll his eyes simultaneously.

“Not really, but—”

“—then why the hell are you calling me?”

Kaito takes a deep breath, swallows all the goddamn vitriol he has for this arrogant asshole for the sake of his friendship with Aoko, and says through his teeth, “He hasn’t replied my texts and calls for nearly a week. I sent him a photo of Nigou in a banana suit and he said nothing. So excuse me if I’m a little worried right now.”

Hakuba is miraculously quiet for a moment, before he replies calmly, “Right. That’s… Quite disconcerting. But to answer your question, no, I didn’t hear from him since we visited his home.”

Damn it. “Okay. Uh, thanks for that, Hakuba. Sorry to bother you—”

“Kuroba. I… I’m sure Kudou has a reason as to why he can’t be reached at the moment. I heard there was a pretty big case down in his section recently, so perhaps he’s involved in that.”

Kaito blinks, and pulls away to raise an eyebrow at his phone. Hakuba, reassuring him?

God, he must really sound pretty distraught.

“Sure, yeah. Thanks for letting me know.”

“No worries. I’ll tell Aoko you said hi,” and Kaito groans, even as Hakuba ends the call. What Aoko sees in him, he’ll never know.

But at least he has some idea as to what Kudou might be up to, and with that, he locates Nigou, who’d somehow sneaked into his bedroom and was swaddled up in Kaito’s laundry, of all things, before taking a quick photo of both of them together, the furball looking visibly annoyed at having been taken away from his napping spot for the day.

He sends the photo to Kudou, along with the text, “The furball misses you. I do too, but significantly less, seeing as you said nothing about Banana Nigou. Hope you’re taking care of yourself, Kudou.”

Predictably, there’s no reply.

However, late that night, late enough that Nigou’s already asleep, there’s a frantic knock on his front door. Kaito watches the door warily, and then his eyes widen when he hears the knocking again, and a familiar voice calling his name from the other side. It doesn’t take him long to cross the distance from the living room to the door, and when he opens it, Kudou Shinichi’s standing right in front of him, red-faced and panting hard, cowlicks sticking up more than ever and somehow still looking drop dead gorgeous.

“Kudou, what—right, get inside, I don’t really—what, what happened? What’re you doing here?” Kaito’s mouth and brain clearly aren’t functioning, but he manages to herd the detective inside so he can shut the door behind them, at least.

And then Kudou grabs his shoulders, and he’s all up in Kaito’s space and this, this really isn’t good for his heart condition right now, and he prays Kudou can’t hear the way it drums against his chest, at the sight of Kudou staring at him, blue eyes ablaze.

“I made a promise.”

Kaito swallows, but he chuckles, and moves to take Kudou’s hands off of him, because seriously, the proximity isn’t helping. “I mean, I wasn’t really that upset about Banana Nigou—”

Kudou’s grip tightens and he sighs, and then:

“I’m sorry, Kid.”

Kaito’s hands fall limply to his sides, as he watches Kudou catch his breath. He watches, as the recognition he’d sought for so long and pretty much gave up on finally, finally returns and Kaito isn’t—he’s not sure what exactly he’s feeling right now, but Kudou seems to be in the same boat, judging from the way his hands are shaking.

“But you… You knew all this time, about the other me. You were him, and I—I chased you for so fucking long, Kaitou Kid, and you were right in front of me the whole goddamn time.”

Kudou spits the words out like they’re physically burning him inside, agonized and wretched, but Kaito’s throat is dry, and all he can say is, “Kudou—how?”

“The white flashes,” the detective begins, and Kaito freezes, remembering Kudou’s drunken words. “They got stronger, in the past month, and the fact that you’re both magicians, and that trick you pulled with the levitation during your show—”

The one where he’d walked down on air, right before the bow, Kaito realizes—

“—you’ve done that before, and you use glasses when you don’t even need to, that—it must have been a reference to your monocle, seeing as you still had the top hat and the cape, and things I remember you saying but I just couldn’t place and there’s your name, Kuroba.”

“Huh?”

“I attended a magic show with a magician of the same name when I was a child; your father, Kuroba Toichi was a good friend of my father’s, and I dug some information from him. You two have the same smile—similar idiosyncrasies when you perform, just. It was all so damn obvious once I could piece it together,” Kudou says irritatedly, shaking his head.

Kaito stares at the other man, not bothering to hide his amazement because Kudou had just stripped both of them bare before each other with his words alone.

There’s no way his best poker face would hold up in a fight between them right now.

“That’s… Amazing guesswork, Kudou.”

But Kudou sighs, and his grip on Kaito grows lax, before he steps back, and stares at Kaito, his lips quirked up in yet another smile that’s unfamiliar to Kaito and he hates it, that Kudou keeps having all these secret expressions when Kaito has no way of hiding his own anymore.

“I kept wondering why you felt so familiar, so… Safe, and it made no fucking sense, Kuroba. We’d only known each other for a couple of months, and it wasn’t until I remembered everything, including… That night, at my place.”

Even if Kaito miserably fails at holding up his poker face, no one can say he didn’t try.

“What do you mean?”

Kudou snorts, and places his hands in his pockets as he steps back, leaning against the wall, and this is the Kudou Kaito’s seen so often; relaxed and confident in his skin.

“I’m not great with alcohol, but I’m blessed with perfect recall. Ironically. You were gonna get me to talk about Kid, weren’t you?”

At that, Kaito breaks into a chuckle, because of course Kudou would have kept this with him until he could whip it out like some damning evidence for a case.

“Could you blame me?” He shrugs, and Kudou grins.

“No, but I’m glad you didn’t push,” he replies, and looks away. “The memories… They weren’t supposed to come back, some sort of side effect of the antidote, but figuring you out as Kaitou Kid sort of triggered everything else, and I had to deal with the aftermath of that this past week and I—” Kudou takes a deep breath, and fixes his gaze on Kaito, open and apologetic, even as his hands are balled into fists by his sides.

“I’m so sorry, Kaito. I—I really didn’t mean to forget you.”

Kaito steps forward before this ridiculous man can apologize any further, and this time, he takes Kudou’s hand in his own, coaxes him to relax, until the warmth of Kudou’s palm settles against his own.

“You really remember everything from that night? Do you remember what you said to me, right before you passed out?”

And Kaito has the pleasure of seeing Kudou’s cheeks redden, but the man nods firmly, watching him carefully.

“You… Didn’t bring it up, so I assumed you didn’t feel the same, but. Was I wrong, though?”

Somehow, he finds the courage to bring Kudou’s hand to rest against his cheek, tightening his hold as he eventually finds the words he’d been meaning to say all along, ever since he could find a name to the way Kudou makes him feel like he’s soaring without the help of magic.

“You were the highlight of every heist I had the pleasure of entertaining you, Kudou, but getting to know you these past couple of months just cemented you as this permanent presence in my head, and I—I thought, I didn’t know what had happened, and I didn’t want to say anything, partly because I wasn’t sure if you’d even remembered, and also… I enjoyed the way you saw me as Kuroba Kaito, instead of this white figure you were constantly chasing, Meitantei.”

Kaito lets the silence linger for a while more, as Kudou watches him, his blue eyes widening as Kaito lets slip his moniker for the detective. He lets go of Kudou’s hand, and smiles.

“You were safe and healthy. If Conan and Kid had only existed in my mind, it was a prize I’d gladly pay to have been able to meet you, Shinichi.”

“… You asshole,” Kudou whispers, his grin wide and crooked, as he moves close, and reaches back up to cup Kaito’s jaw tenderly, his fingers wiping a lone tear Kaito hadn’t noticed had fallen. “Couldn’t you have just answered the question like a normal person?”

“If I was normal, you would have never fallen for me,” Kaito points out, and Kudou throws his head back in laughter, and then Kaito’s holding them both up as Kudou wraps his arms around him, tight enough to make Kaito wonder if he’d ever let go, and Kaito finds that he’s so, so okay if he never does.

When Kudou pulls back, he moves just far enough to playfully brush his nose against Kaito’s and fuck, that’s so adorable, how is he this so freaking cute, damn it.

Kaito’s eyes flicker between Kudou’s eyes and his lips, but then the corners of Kudou’s mouth quirks upward in a challenging smirk and Kaito takes the chance to press their lips together. He watches as Kudou’s eyes flutter close, and they spend a few moments just learning how to fit against each other, and Kaito discovers that the taste of coffee isn’t so bad if it’s on Kudou’s, Shinichi’s lips.

They separate, only enough for Kaito to place a few more kisses against the edge of Shinichi’s jaw, just to hear the way his breath hitches and feel his hands clenching around Kaito’s waist.

“Kuroba—”

He laughs giddily, and shakes his head as he cups Shinichi’s cheek, like he’d always meant to touch him. “Nuh uh, you don’t get to call me that anymore, Shi-ni-chi.”

His words have the amazing effect of deepening the detective’s flush, and Kaito’s poker face is long shattered by now as the other man rolls his eyes, grinning as he replies exasperatedly, “You’re insufferable, Kaito. It’s a wonder how I like you.”

Kaito smiles, his heartbeat erratic and way too loud, as he quietly admits, “I’m pretty sure I’m falling in love with you already, Shinichi.”

His smile grows bigger, and he buries his face in Shinichi’s neck at his ensuing words as the detective lets out a laugh, the both of them wrapped around each other, and Kaito’s never really known happiness like this, but leave it to Kudou Shinichi to blast all of his expectations beyond measure.

(“Well, you better catch up after me, because I’m quite certain I’m right there already.”)