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maybe I was going too fast

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Less than a year after Conan disappears, Kaito finally finds and destroys Pandora.

(He nearly lost his toes thanks to frostbite, while freehandedly scaling up the side of a mountain in the alps in the dead of winter on New Year’s, his paragliding cape having malfunctioned and his boots not nearly thick enough for the horrific weather.

He also nearly lost Jii-chan, but that was a whole other matter altogether.)

It was almost upsetting when all it took to destroy the gem that had haunted him for so many years was a mere hammer from Jii-chan’s toolkit. Kaito had stared at the shattered remains, as Jii-chan carried them over to the furnace in their safe house, somewhere in the boonies of France, and wondered what he was supposed to do next, now that the thing that had consumed him for the last three years is now up in flames.

“You could always live a normal life. Study, get a degree, perhaps stop mooching off your parents’ fortunes,” Jii-chan had suggested casually. Kaito refrained from rolling his eyes, if only because the older gentleman had been nursing a sprained wrist and a broken leg, and was more than slightly delirious from the pain meds.

But when he’d returned home to Japan, and taken one step into the basement that had propelled him into the role of Kaitou Kid, he’d wondered if there wasn’t an ounce of truth in Jii-chan’s words (mean as they were, seriously, it’s just because he was so old that Kaito didn’t even bother whining, and it certainly wasn’t because he’d made one slight miscalculation which had cost the entire villain lair to blow up a few seconds before Jii-chan made it out, and he’d coughed so much and Kaito didn’t need to know how the other man’s blood had looked like coming out from his mouth, blackened with soot.)

The mission that had consumed him from the first time he’d put on the white suit has been completed, but there’s an itch in his chest for something that would drive him in the same way. Education might be a good start to search for anything that’ll calm his restless hands and sleepless nights, now that he can look at a jewelry store and not have to entertain the way his heart would beat too fast at the sight of any precious stones.

And that’s how he finds himself in front of the dorms of Tokio University about four months later, after having enrolled for his first semester.

The cherry blossoms have bloomed, and the path towards the main building is covered in pink petals, but Kaito doesn’t take much notice of it, nor the people around him, because there’s a familiar figure right on the doorsteps of the main dorm building, one he’s impersonated a number of times with too much ease and a glee that had constantly been tinged with guilt.

So he’s back? Kaito thinks amusedly, and abruptly stops in his tracks when the last conversation they’d had flashes through his mind.

(He remembers meeting the pint-sized detective for the last time; it’d been on the roof of the Suzuki company building, like fate somehow wanted in on the joke that this damn corporation had done in bringing them together, again and again.

But this time, Conan had been waiting on the roof for him, as opposed to actively chasing him. It’d taken him aback for a second, but Kaito had merely plastered on a smirk and tipped his hat in greeting.

Meitantei. You’re rather early. And to think I’d shaken you and the police force off already.”

Conan had watched him quietly, perched on the edge of the roof as Kaito came closer carefully, his glasses nowhere in sight. Kaito had frowned internally at that; it really wasn’t like the detective to appear that defenceless in front of him.

“Kid,” he’d said, hugging his knees to his chest. An irrational flash of fear courses through Kaito; it was an awfully tall building, and he’s not near enough to help if anything were to happen to Conan.

If Conan had shifted just a little further back—

“Is it the one you were looking for?” he added, glancing at Kaito’s breast pocket, where he’d kept the gem of the night.

It was a good thing that Kaito’s hat was pulled low over his face; his eyebrows lifted at Conan’s deduction, but he chuckled instead in reply.

“And if it was?”

Conan hummed.

Kaito started a mental countdown; he just needed about twelve seconds to deploy his paraglide cape and jump off the building, but Conan’s naked face had intrigued him enough that he considered pushing that risk.

“I would say congratulations,” the detective said at last, and then, “And if we were so inclined, I would have asked for your good luck, too.”

“Oh? I don’t really have the best of luck, myself. But I’m not sure you quite need it, Meitantei. Your kicks are lethal enough,” Kaito joked, glancing at him, ready to laugh, but the look on Conan’s face had stopped him.

It was enough to make him walk a little closer, until Conan has to crane his neck up to look at him.

“Meitantei?”

Conan blinked up at him, and in that moment Kaito saw the boy that he’d impersonated on a number of occasions, and the man Conan had been once upon a time. It was even more evident without his glasses, and Kaito had the strangest urge to look for it in Conan’s jacket, just so he wouldn’t have to meet the child’s gaze, because right then, he’d felt pinned down by the intensity in the detective’s eyes.

“If we ever see each other again,” Conan had suddenly said, looking away, into the cloudy night sky, an odd smile on his lips, “If… I am successful in my next venture, I hope to properly meet you as the person I actually am, instead of this tiny body, Kuroba.”

Kaito had had enough practice to keep his poker face intact when Hakuba or Akako would accuse him of the truth, but Conan, knowing his identity?

He hadn’t had the chance to answer then, because the door to the roof had flung open right at that moment, bringing with it over a dozen uniformed officers, as well as a belligerent Detective Nakamori.)

Conan hadn’t come to any of his heists after that, and after three months, Kaito had to concede to the thought that perhaps something had gone terribly amiss with the detective’s secret mission, after all. Perhaps he should have given him whatever luck Kaito didn’t possess.

Perhaps it was easier that way, considering the only people alive who knew of his identity were Jii-chan and his mother, and that was more than enough people he’d constantly put in danger without even counting in people like Aoko.

(Hakuba and Akako don’t count, because it’s not like he’d actually confirmed it to either of them.)

But evidently he’d been wrong, because Kudou Shinichi is standing mere feet away, looking healthy and whole, and Kaito wonders what would happen if he goes up right now and introduces himself to the other man.

And then Kudou turns his head and makes eye contact with Kaito.

In the next second as Kaito blinks, Kudou looks away, but—

There hadn’t been an ounce of recognition in his gaze just then.

What?

***

For a magician, Kaito has the absolute worst luck when it comes to the things that actually matter.

Case in point, the fact that Hakuba’s in front of him, right now.

Linking arms with Aoko, of all people.

“Didn’t get enough of me in high school, Hakuba?” Kaito sneers, as he pauses in his footsteps on his way to his first class, and dodges the punch he sees coming from Aoko.

“Kaito, could you stop being an asshole for five seconds, for once?”

Hakuba only smiles smugly when Kaito fails to sidestep away from his childhood friend’s merciless kick to his side, and yelps in pain, because Aoko’s taken to wearing incredibly pointy shoes (“For fashion, Kaito, not that you’d get it”) these days,  which hurt significantly more than her school shoes ever did.

“On the contrary, this school was my first choice, Kuroba. Plus, wouldn’t it make sense to attend the same university as my girlfriend if given the chance?”

And Aoko says Kaito’s the asshole.

Kaito can hear her cooing as he turns and walks ahead of them, gritting his teeth in annoyance.  To be honest, he doesn’t really give a shit, as long as Aoko’s safe and happy, but… God damn, Hakuba’s a hard pill to swallow. The fact that they’re in the same class as him, judging from how they’re walking right behind him only makes him wishes he’d bothered to take a look at what his other classmates had decided to choose for their universities.

When he finally finds the lecture theatre and steps inside, he immediately wishes it again, only ten times harder.

“Akako-chan, you’re here too?” Aoko squeals in delight as she skips over to their former classmate, who’s surrounded by… Wow, fifteen men, all of them supposedly smart enough to have gotten into university but gullible enough to fall for Akako’s brand of mischief. Akako stands up and deigns to accept Aoko’s exuberant hug, much to the mixed wonder and envy of everyone else around them.

Kaito snorts. “Oi, Hakuba. You should probably rescue your girlfriend.”

“Mmm, I’ve found that she’s more than capable of taking care of herself,” Hakuba answers lightly, as Aoko pulls back from the other woman, all bright smiles and chatter. Kaito shakes his head, fondness snaking its way around his chest, and moves to find a seat that’s not occupied by any lovelorn idiots.

It’s as he’s settled down towards the back of the theatre, at the end of a row of chairs and away from anyone he remotely knows that someone taps him on the shoulder, and asks apologetically, “Sorry, every row’s full except yours. Could I just, ah, slip through?”

He’s definitely mimicked that voice on more than one occasion.

“Yeah, no worries,” Kaito says, grinning as he looks up, and Kudou Shinichi answers him with a quick, “Thanks,” and a small, grateful smile, before he squeezes between Kaito and the chairs in front of him to sit two chairs away.

Kaito takes one glance at him, and exhales quietly. If this doesn’t work, then somehow, something must have happened between the time they’d last met as Kid and Conan, and now, when they’re merely first-year university students, getting ready to study about… Statistics? God, why did he choose to go for further studies in the first place, again?

Jii-chan’s voice comes to mind, and he immediately suppresses it. Right, now or never then. He clears his throat, catching Kudou’s attention.

“By the way, I’m Kuroba. Kuroba Kaito,” Kaito says, extending a hand towards Kudou, who’d looked up at the sound.

“Oh, I’ve heard of you.” Kaito’s heart does a weird somersault and drops in the next instant as Kudou adds, “The magician, right? Kudou Shinichi,” Kudou replies, smiling curiously as he accepts Kaito’s hand in a firm handshake. “Nice to meet you, Kuroba.” And then he turns back to face the instructor who’d just come in through the door in a hurry, and knocking right into the edge of the table with an extremely loud and painful whimper.

But even as the rest of the theatre explodes into titters, with some concerned calls of “Are you okay?”, all Kaito can think of is the fact that somehow, Conan really did manage to keep his word, even if he doesn’t seem to remember it at all. Kudou doesn’t take another look at him throughout the rest of the class, his gaze focused on the lesson, but Kaito’s mind is reeling as he thinks back to every conversation he’s had with the detective.

Fuck, he’s definitely going to have to borrow Aoko’s notes after this.

Wait, how did he know Kaito does magic?

***

“A friend of mine invited me to one of your shows last year,” Kudou explains after class, after he and Hakuba greet each other with an eerie, twin-like “Detective”, “Detective” and a handshake as well for Aoko. (Akako had merely looked at Kudou, found no hint of interest in his demeanour towards her and sort of, disappeared into the shadows.) And then Kudou adds frankly, “I’m not usually entertained by tricks, considering I can see through most of them, but you exceeded my expectations.”

“Perhaps it was just luck,” Hakuba offers and Kaito rolls his eyes, even as he’s trying to tamp down the pride that he’d managed impressed Kudou on some level, just like he had with Conan once.

“You’re just sore that you never got to figure out the finales for any of my shows,” Kaito snaps in annoyance, and Aoko only groans a, “Kaito, normal people don’t actually gloat about their dorky hobbies.”

But Kudou chuckles, and when Kaito glances at him, he’s surprised to see there are differences in the way Conan and Kudou looks, when caught smiling. For one, there are slight wrinkles at the edges of Kudou’s bright blue eyes, his nose slightly scrunched, and while Conan’s smiles (incredibly rare as they were) had been filled with unabashed awe and glee, Kudou’s grin is wide and crooked, like he has a secret to tell.

He kinda wishes he’d be let in on the secret, especially if it concerns why exactly Kudou had forgotten all about him.

Somehow, someone suggests having a meal together sometime soon (Hakuba did, probably to prod at all of Kudou’s well-documented cases in some form of nerdy alpha male showdown); all of them exchange Line accounts and again, even as Kaito calls out a, “See you around, Kudou,” the other man merely smiles and replies, “Likewise, Kuroba,” like that name really didn’t mean anything to him beyond a new acquaintance and a potentially flunking coursemate.

***

Three weeks into the semester and here are the things Kaito’s found out about Kudou:

  1. Kudou Shinichi is charming as fuck. Where Hakuba comes off as smarmy and arrogant, Kudou’s brand of charm straddles the lines of capable confidence and an earnestness that almost veers into the area of noble idiocy.
  2. He can’t function without coffee. They had a makeup lesson for their stats course, the only class they share together and Kudou had turned up looking like one of the corpses he usually encounters on a regular basis. Apparently, he’d just closed the case half an hour before the class, and only had time to shower and go straight to the lesson, which was on a Wednesday at eight in the morning. Somehow, he’d stayed awake throughout everything, but it was a near thing considering how he’d almost walked into three tables on the way out of the theatre.
  3. The man likes lemon pie. Kaito’s more of a chocolate cake guy, but no one’s perfect.
  4. Sometimes, Kudou looks at him and Aoko with an odd expression that’s reminiscent of nostalgia and longing, but it never lasts for more than a split second, so Kaito’s always left wondering if he’d imagined it in the first place.
  5. He doesn’t seem to be interested in anything else beyond classes, his cases, and the meals the four of them share twice, thrice a week, but then again, Kaito’s never seen him anywhere else that wasn’t on campus.

Which is why he’d been startled by a knock on his door, while he’d been lounging in bed and mindlessly flitting through the month’s top international magic acts (“Everyone’s done the walking on water bit, but if you’re going to steal something from Jesus you could have gone the ‘water to wine’ route”), and had opened it to see Kudou Shinichi in a slightly torn suit, the right side slightly bulged out and looking extremely sheepish.

“Did I wake you up?”

“… No. Wait, how did you know where my room was?”

Somehow, Kudou manages to look even more sheepish. “I saw you when we had to register for our dorm rooms that first day, and I asked Aoko as well. I—perhaps this isn’t a good time, I can come back later if you’re not busy—”

“Kudou, it’s past eleven on a Saturday night and I’m in my dorm room. I’m obviously, incredibly busy right now,” Kaito says sarcastically and inwardly grins when Kudou’s eyes narrow at him. Kudou’s leagues better than Hakuba, but that doesn’t mean Kaito’ll ever give up on annoying every single detective in his immediate vicinity.

Before Kudou can say anything, though, the bulge in his clothes shifted, and Kaito takes an involuntary step back, because if Kudou’s harbouring illegal shit due to his work as a detective, he’s not about to have any part of it.

But then Kudou cups the edge of the lump, a quiet, “Hush,” falling from his lips and then a tiny, black, furry face pops out, slow, blinking eyes almost as blue as Kudou’s and nose twitching adorably.

“Kudou, please explain to me why the hell you’ve got a cat in your suit.”

The man sighs, and answers, “I found him at the crime scene earlier, seems like he was either lost or abandoned and I… I couldn’t just leave him there.”

Kaito raises an eyebrow, unwillingly interested in the whole situation at this point. “And you decided to bring the cat to our dorm, which I’m sure you know, doesn’t take kindly to us having pets here.”

Kudou shrugs, and the movement causes the kitten to shift and climb out a bit more, snuffling at his collarbone and Kaito’s loath to admit it, but it’s a terribly adorable sight. “The RA isn’t very big on spot checks, and he’s not very noisy. Hasn’t meowed once the entire way here, which is slightly concerning, but I’ll take him for a check-up in the morning. It’s just that…” This time, Kudou awkwardly rubs at the back of his neck. “I was obviously not prepared for this situation, and I need to get some appropriate cat food, since I forgot to get some on the way back just now.”

Kaito stares at him.

“Kudou, are you asking me to babysit your pet?”

“I—no, I just need you to watch him for fifteen minutes, okay?” Kudou sputters, looking less put together than Kaito’s ever seen him. “I’ve been trying to keep him warm ‘cause I found him in a puddle of all places, but he was shivering pretty badly. I think it’s mostly gone, though,” he muses, and then gently pulls the furball away, cradling it in his palms and pushing it forward to Kaito.

For lack of a better thing to do, Kaito unconsciously accepts the kitten, frowning at how light it feels in his hands. Its fur is slightly matted, but clean enough, and when Kaito brings it close to his chest the thing lets out a small huff and nestles itself between Kaito’s hand and neck.

It shakes a little in his hold, but it’s not shivering, like Kudou said it had, and Kaito looks up to see Kudou smiling slightly at the kitten. He looks besotted by the animal, and Kaito nearly makes fun of him but it’s late, and he’s apparently got a cat to babysit, so he only says, “The nearest combini closes at midnight, you might want to hurry up.”

Kudou blinks at him, and then nods. “Right, I, I’ll be back soon. Just try to keep him warm.”

“I’m pretty sure I’m capable of looking after a furball for at least fifteen minutes,” Kaito teases, and Kudou only snorts before he leaves down the hallway.

Kaito doesn’t really know the first thing about taking care of an animal, but he figures it wouldn’t hurt to swaddle the cat in a towel or something. Except its claws kept getting caught in the fabric and it was restlessly trying to get free of it every other second, so Kaito resorts to lying down on his bed with the kitten tucked against his chest, his covers over the both of them as Kaito opens a new browser and clicks the first interesting show he sees on Netflix. It’s how Kudou finds them when he announces his presence on the other side of the door and Kaito had beckoned him to come in with a, “Door’s open.”

“You two look cozy,” Kudou comments as he closes the door behind him, a small plastic bag in hand.

“Furball fell asleep three seconds after I laid down,” Kaito answers, and carefully moves to sit up, trying not to dislodge it. The cat wakes up anyway, sniffing his neck as it stretches its (tiny, so tiny) body against Kaito, and opens bleary eyes to survey its surroundings.

It starts moving a bit more when Kudou painstakingly pours out some milk for the cat in a plastic bowl he’d gotten, and the cat finishes every last drop of it, before mewing once and falling asleep in Kudou’s lap.

And that’s how Kaito learns yet another thing about Kudou Shinichi that night:

  1. There’s not a single living thing that he doesn’t care about to an extent that borders on too much.

***

Kaito doesn’t really understand how he’d gotten roped into parenting a kitten that looks too much like Kudou Shinichi, but the man starts coming around more often, furball securely wrapped in one of his many cardigans. By the time April ends, Kaito’s got a bowl in the corner of his room as well as an inconspicuous litter box in his bathroom for Nigou when he comes over with Kudou.

(Kaito had named him that, on account of the fact that both the furball and its owner have a scarily striking resemblance. Kudou only rolled his eyes, but he hadn’t refuted.)

On nights when Kudou would study together with him, Nigou curled up in either of their laps, Kaito would think about how unlikely this scenario would have been a few years ago, and it takes everything in him to not ask about his experiences as Conan, and how had he really viewed Kid back then.

Turns out, he didn’t even need to try, because their whole group, including Akako, who’d started joining them recently because, “If Aoko-chan insists,” overhears someone say, “Hey, don’t you think Kaitou Kid’s disappeared for too long this time?” while they’re having lunch in one of the cafeterias on campus one day.

“That’s a name I haven’t heard in a while,” Hakuba comments, looking at him directly.

Aoko sniffs, and says haughtily, “Well, good riddance to him, then, wherever he is right now,” and Kaito has to suppress the urge to laugh right in her face.

But Akako sighs, shaking her head despondently. “It’s a shame. Even if he couldn’t do real magic, his silly tricks were usually a spectacle to watch.”

Silly? Not real magic? “Psh, I could have done way better than that old has-been,” Kaito grins, but it gets wiped away when Aoko sneers at him.

“You keep saying that, but you’ve never even come close to catching him once, Kaito.”

“As if your boyfriend was ever successful!”

Hakuba bristles, but the satisfaction that Kaito gets is short-lived when the blond exhales, and admits, “He was a formidable opponent, and it’s unfortunate that he’s seemed to have disappeared before I could capture him. Kudou, you’ve met him, haven’t you?”

When Kaito turns to the other man, hiding his curiosity because he doesn’t remember ever meeting Kudou Shinichi face to face, Kudou only tilts his head, smiling. “Once, but I was on a helicopter, and didn’t really get a good look at him. I have to admit, though, the canvas with the clock face was a pretty brilliant deception.”

Wait, that was him? Kaito remembers the terror and the thrill colliding with each other as he had to frantically devise a way to get the fuck out before he was captured, and that feeling had sat with him long after the night ended.

(Of course it would be Kudou Shinichi. It didn’t matter what form he took, the man’s intelligence and intuition definitely rivalled Kaito’s own and keep him on his toes every time they clashed.)

“But, ah, my cousin was the bigger fan. He went to a few of his heists, I believe,” Kudou adds, and Kaito’s eyebrows raise at that.

“Conan, right? I believe we met once, he was definitely a highly perceptive child,” Hakuba offers, and Kudou nods, though his nose wrinkles a little. Kaito wonders if it’s because of the way Hakuba had inadvertently referred to him as a kid, and stifles a chuckle at the thought.

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen him as exhilarated and as dejected as he’d ever been after every heist, considering how close he was to catching the Phantom Thief on a few of those occasions,” he continues, and there’s a feeling that’s too close to pride welling up in him when he realises just how much he’s affected the detective, way before they’d even met, formally.

If that’s so, why can’t he remember me then?

“He sounds… Interesting,” Aoko says questioningly, staring at Kudou in confusion.

Kaito laughs at that, and smirks at Kudou. “He’s got pretty good taste. But again, I’d probably be able to sweep the man under a rug with any one of my shows.” He leans a little closer. “How about inviting your cousin to one?”

Kudou looks flustered, but he recovers quickly enough, as expected. “Oh, he’s, um, he moved back to the States, unfortunately. But if he’s ever in town, I’ll let him know.”

Akako turns around at that, and fixes her gaze on Kaito. It’s taken him years to train his body not to flinch every time they make prolonged eye contact, but he’s still uncomfortable under the scrutiny, considering she has tried to kill him before. “When are you going to hold a show again, Kaito? Your last one was a year ago, after all.”

“Summer break, probably. I’ll need time and space, and the dorms aren’t really great for that,” he shrugs, and ducks from the piece of carrot stick that Aoko throws at him. “What the—Aoko!”

“You also need to do well in your classes, Kaito, you’ve been slacking, haven’t you,” his childhood friend admonishes him, and alright, perhaps he’d skipped a couple, but he turns his assignments on time (five minutes to the deadline is still punctual) and his grades are decent.

(He’d only gotten a B- once, but that was because Nigou had puked on his assignment due to an upset tummy, and the only digital copy had mysteriously disappeared on his laptop and he didn’t have time to write everything up from scratch, thanks to asshole professors who insisted they handed in a physical copy of their work at seven in the morning on Saturday.

Kudou had felt bad about that, but it was honestly Kaito’s fault for not being able to say no to the furball’s silent huffs for treats, and Nigou’s fault for being greedy.)

And then Kudou of all people comes to his defence, which stops Kaito right in his tracks of bringing up Aoko’s C+ from her assignment just the other day, still something of a sore spot for her.

“We’ve been studying together regularly, so Kuroba hasn’t actually been slacking very much,” Kudou says calmly, like the others had known about their study-sessions-slash-babysitting-Nigou together all this while.

“I—wait, you have study sessions together?” Aoko asks curiously, frowning.

This time, Kaito takes over and waggles his eyebrows, wrapping an arm around Kudou’s shoulders as he winks at her. “Aww, feeling left out, Aoko?”

His friend flushes, and she turns her nose up at him as she crosses her arms. “We’ve studied in high school together more than enough, I definitely don’t want to relive those days again.”

Kaito sneers, but he pulls away from Kudou, belatedly realizing that they’d never really been in such close proximity to each other, despite having spent a lot of time together, recently.

The matter gets dropped as soon as Akako flips her hair and stands up, drawing the attention of the usual trail of boys around her. “Well, I hate to run, but I’ve got somewhere to be, unfortunately. I’ll see you around, and I’m holding you to that summer show, Kaito,” she smirks, and walks away in a cloud of sweet perfume and a huddle of star-struck expressions following her every step.

Hakuba and Aoko leave soon after, and then it’s just Kaito and Kudou, who looks at him pensively.

It sends a flurry of self-consciousness down Kaito’s neck, but he suppresses it, and tilts his head at Kudou. “Something on your mind?”

The man hums, a barely-there smile on his lips as he asks, “Will you really do that show?”

Kaito blinks, and feels himself breaking into a wide grin. “Wow, did I really wow you that much, detective?”

(He nearly slips, his moniker for Conan at the edge of his tongue, but he’d rather not let Kudou know about their intertwined pasts. Not in this manner, at least, when they’ve just established some sort of rapport as fellow university students and co-parents of a stray furball.)

Kudou’s reaction doesn’t disappoint, as he rolls his eyes in mild annoyance (and is that fondness as well? Kudou’s expressions are layered, fleeting, and Kaito’s observation skills are always put to the test when it comes to parsing the detective’s emotions) and purses his lips. “It was probably a fluke, a regrettable mistake on my part,” he replies calmly, and shit, it’s been a long, long while since those blue eyes have held such fire, directed at him. “I’ll be sure to not slip up again.”

Kaito feels his smile getting bigger as he leans back, rubbing at his chin just for the hell of it. “Ah, can’t disappoint my favourite detective now, can I?”

Kudou’s eyes widen a fraction. “I’m your favourite?”

And oops, he’s said that to Conan once, hasn’t he? He recalls saying something to that extent, at least. And it’s as true now as it was then. But Kaito only flaps a hand, and says dismissively, “Well, the only other ones I know are Hakuba and Aoko’s father, and they’re definitely not any favourite of mine.”

The odd tension breaks as suddenly as it had appeared, and Kudou laughs, all crinkles and soft huffs. “That’s mean, Kuroba.”

“Yes, doesn’t mean I’m not right, Kudou. Now come on, we’ve both got an hour until our next classes and I reserved a catnap with the furball.”

“You spoil Nigou too much.”

“Says the man that’s got an entire drawer filled with cat toys hidden under his criminology textbooks.”

***

Kaito starts taking Nigou out for walks at night, right when May begins, out in the compound of the dorms, when he’s no longer stumbling about on the floor of their rooms and he figures the open air would do the cat some good, instead of being cooped up all the time. They stay away from the brightly lit areas, because as lacking in discipline their RA is, they’d rather not risk anyone else in the dorms finding out about Nigou.

Kudou hasn’t joined yet, but that’s because he’s always got a case or three piled up, and Kaito doesn’t really mind the excuse to escape his books.

It’s as he’s trying to get some weird-looking twig out of Nigou’s mouth (“Come on, furball, I really don’t want to deal with your vomit again”) that Kudou actually shows up on the fourth night that Kaito brings Nigou out, fresh from a case and watching the both of them with raised eyebrows and—

“Holy shit, Kudou, that’s some shiner,” Kuroba gasps incredulously, as the moonlight illuminates the detective’s face enough to show a purple eye and a scratched up cheek, and the first thing he does is laugh hysterically, because what the hell. It has the added benefit of startling Nigou enough that he final lets go of the twig, and Kaito straightens up, bringing the squirming furball in his arms.

“I’m glad me being unable to see out of my left eye amuses you, Kuroba,” Kudou says dryly, but his lips are twitching anyway as he reaches out to stroke Nigou’s head.

“Come on, you’ve probably got a first aid kit in your room, right?”

“Sound deduction, have you been learning from someone?”

“And I wonder why you’d get beaten up.”

They sneak Nigou in, past a few vaguely familiar students in the common room, and head up towards Kudou’s room on the second floor, and Kuroba can’t help but give the other man side glances at the way he walks a little stiffly, favouring his left leg. There’s obviously some other shit besides Kudou’s eye that’s already started to swell, but Kuroba keeps it to himself.

If Kudou doesn’t tell him, he’s not going to push.

Five minutes later, he’s thinking of retracting that idea, because he’s sat in front of the detective in his study chair, with Nigou kneading his claws in Kaito’s jeans, the both of them watching Kudou gingerly poke at the still-bleeding, albeit tiny gashes beneath his eye with a cotton swab, one hand holding up a cold compress to his eye and nearly blinding himself while obviously trying not to agitate all the injured parts of his body.

It pains Kaito enough that he sighs, and moves with Nigou to sit on the bed beside Kudou, placing the furball in his lap instead before grabbing the cotton swab from him.

“Kuroba, I can do this myself—”

“Nope,” Kaito interrupts firmly, shaking his head. “I’d rather not see you try to poke your own eye out when I’m perfectly capable enough to clean up those scratches.”

And Kudou honest to God pouts, but it makes for a ridiculous sight with the cold compress and the way half of his face looks like it got ran over by a damn truck, so Kaito only rolls his eyes and gets to work, swiping a clean cotton bud from the pile and applying a bit of alcohol on it.

Frankly, Kaito muses, as Kudou bites down on his lip, soft hisses escaping him as he jerks, every time Kaito presses a little more firmly, the man’s taking it remarkably well.

It doesn’t mean he still can’t tease him, though.

“Stop whining and stay still; you’re setting a bad example for Nigou.”

He looks down at the cat, who’s contentedly licking its fur, paying no attention to either of them. Kaito wishes he has the same amount of ‘who gives a fuck’ air, but that would mean having to watch Kudou try to treat his injuries without intervening, and that ship’s long sailed by now.

The detective sighs, but makes an attempt to reduce his aborted, jerky motions, and Kaito hums, gentling his actions in return. Soon enough, he manages to swipe on some antibiotic ointment, before applying a bandage over the scrapes.

“Good as new,” Kaito declares at last, stepping back and glancing at the cold compress on Kudou’s eye. “Well, not really. You took a pretty bad hit, there. I wouldn’t have pegged you for being someone who’d get involved in a fight.”

“It was less of a fair fight and more of a disgruntled victim,” Kudou shrugs, and Kaito’s eyes narrow.

“The victim did this to you?”

Kudou chuckles, but there’s no hint of humour in his tone. “It was either that, or accept that her fiancé had fucked halfway through her women’s minor baseball team and murdered two of them.” He traces the edge of the bandage on his cheek, and adds lightly, “He was definitely well off, though. That diamond ring hurt.”

Kaito watches him, as he lets Nigou sniff at his fingers for attention, the furball burrowing its face into Kudou’s stomach and hearing the detective mutter a, “Oi, that tickles, silly,” and lets the cat have its way anyway.

“Do you get hurt like this, often?” Kaito doesn’t know why the words slip out of his mouth, because the obvious answer is yes, of course, Kudou is a fucking genius when it comes to just about everything, but it doesn’t make him any less human, any less vulnerable and anything could happen to him, knowing just how reckless the other man can be.

(Something must have happened to him, between the last time Kaito had met him and the day Kudou Shinichi met Kaito for the first time.)

This time when Kudou laughs, there’s less of that weird, dryness that seems to scrape at his throat, and he fixes his gaze somewhere on his table, his smile a little more genuine.

“I’m not a masochist, Kuroba.”

Kaito smirks, because Kudou’s always so, so open to attacks when it comes to shit like this. “I mean, I’m not trying to kink shame you, detective—”

“Fuck off,” Kudou interrupts cheerfully, and Kaito giggles. God, Kudou never disappoints. “I was… A little tired, and said some things that could have been worded a lot differently,” he continues, shifting the compress and wincing. “I… There was someone before, that would tell me if I was being too insensitive, but we had a sort of falling out.”

Kaito hums, and coaxes Nigou to come over to his side as he asks innocently, “Let me guess, you were being insensitive to them?”

It startles a bark of laughter from Kudou and causes Nigou to jerk, before burrowing itself in the folds of Kaito’s shirt.

“Probably in their opinion, yeah. I kept something really important from them, and when they found out about the secret, they, well. It wasn’t—I mean, we’re, ah, still friends, fortunately. But I don’t think they can trust me anymore, not that I blame them, really.”

Kudou quiets after that, both eyes closed as he switches hands to hold up the cold compress, fingers shivering slightly.

There are a lot of things that Kaito wants to tell the detective, how he’s pretty sure what his secret is, and how it does nothing to deter him from annoying the absolute shit out of Kudou on a regular basis, that Kudou doesn’t understand social tact sometimes but it doesn’t matter when he overworks himself constantly for the sake of the cases, the police force, for the victims’ closure. That Kaito’ll listen to his maudlin musings and actually make an effort to only tease the man half of the time.

Instead, he goes with, “I think we’re both out of kitty litter.”

“… Damn it, Kuroba. You could have told me earlier while I was out.”

“Nigou could probably hold it until the morning, he went behind the bushes near the back of the building earlier. But you still get him tonight, though. I’ve got a paper that’s, uh…” Kaito winces as he checks his phone. “Due in like, eight hours, fuck.”

Kudou kicks him out soon after that, but before he closes the door, the detective stares at him, long enough for Kaito to have to draw out his poker face at the odd scrutiny, just so Kudou wouldn’t see just how uncomfortable he’s feeling at the other man’s undivided attention right then.

Finally, he blinks, smiling and says, “Thank you for the help, Kuroba. And for, ah, listening as well. Ignoring the obvious pain in my face, this was a pretty okay night.”

It’s a smile that Kaito’s not familiar with, soft and small. He’s not quite sure why, but his throat goes dry at the sight, and it takes him a second to realise that Kudou’s probably waiting for a response.

“Uh, no problem, I guess. Night, Kudou. Hope your eye gets better soon.”

“Mm, not for a few days, probably, but thanks anyway. Good night, Kuroba.”

And then the door closes, and Kaito’s left wondering if he should have said something more. It’s not until he heads to his room and goes online that he realises what the date actually is, and groans in frustration as he reads the congratulatory wishes on Kudou’s profile.

On a whim, he texts Kudou.

Oh my god, why didn’t you tell me, asshole?

12.34am

You’ll have to specify what you mean, Kuroba.

12.35am

12.37am

Kudou.

12.37am

I hope it was a good birthday, despite the shiner.

12.38am

It was, thank you.

12.40am

Now do your paper, or would you also like a lecture on how you’re setting a bad example for Nigou?

12.40am

Shut up, it’s not your birthday anymore, go to sleep

12.41am

I’ll get the kitty litter tomorrow

12.44am

Kudou grins at him when he meets the rest of them for lunch the next day, the lemon pie Kaito had left in the detective’s room now in his hand, and Kaito finds himself wondering about all the different ways Kudou smiles, and how many of those he’s still keeping hidden from him.

***

Aoko finds out about Nigou first.

Or rather, Hakuba had apparently deduced the existence of the furball weeks ago, but he’d only told Aoko recently and she’d come by to confirm it by crashing one of their study sessions together.

And then, as she’s busy cooing over Nigou on the floor of Kudou’s room, the cat seemingly ambivalent at the attention but acquiescing to the petting, she freezes, and frowns at Kaito, unaware of Nigou butting his head against her hands.

“Wait, so when you blew me off last week to take care of ‘Kudou Jr’, this was what you’d meant?”

Kaito breaks into hysterical laughter, as Kudou sighs heavily, as if the entire earth’s weight was upon his shoulders. “What the hell, Kuroba.”

“Am I wrong, though?” Kaito insists, and shit, okay, he’s got to stop laughing, his abs are fucking hurting, but he can’t resist adding in, “You look just like Nigou!”

“… I’m pretty sure that’s supposed to be the other way round.”

The next time Aoko comes by, the drawer of cat toys in Kudou’s room becomes an entire box of miscellaneous pet contraptions, but Nigou’s favourite thing is still one of Kudou’s shoelaces that he’d chewed up to hell and back. Neither of them lament about the waste of toys, because by this point Kaito will readily admit that Nigou is without a doubt, the best cat to have ever existed, even if he’s scratched up both of their sheets to hell and refuses to eat anything that isn’t chicken and tuna flavoured.

The furball still rarely meows, but that’s a good thing in their opinion, because it’s getting bigger now, and it’s more difficult to hide and sneak it out at nights, especially as May ends and the weather starts turning a little balmy, disregarding any use for jackets or cardigans. Kudou starts carrying a bag for the sole purpose of carrying Nigou out, and Kaito can’t help but compare him to the ladies uptown with their poodles and Pomeranians in their handbags, both dog and owner groomed to the nines.

He’s starting to realise that for all that he knows about Conan, which is admittedly, still very little, he’s never actually felt as real as Kudou does right now, sat beside him and teasing Nigou with a leaf he’d found as the cat rolls around between his legs, that fond smile he reserves for the furball clear as day on his face. This is the most relaxed he’s seen Kudou, shoulders slumped and his mind racing lesser than usual.

It makes Kaito finally ask:

“You were gone for a while from the whole detective scene, weren’t you? Did you do, like, a study abroad thing?”

He’s loathe to see those shoulders tense, and he knows he’s treading dangerous territory, but Kaito is nothing if not daringly reckless to a fault, and curiosity eats at him as he watches Kudou freeze, figuring out what he’s able to say to Kaito without giving away too much.

“… Something like that,” Kudou finally answers, letting go of the leaf and allowing Nigou to nibble at his fingers. “I… I got mixed up in a bit of trouble with some rather unsavoury people, and there were complications from that, so I thought it was best to lay low. It’s all over now, of course.”

Laying low isn’t the first thing I’d think of when it comes to Conan, Kaito thinks, but he nods, his lips quirked up as Nigou finally tires of headbutting Kudou’s knees and ambles over towards him, sniffing at his pockets for treats, no doubt.

He really is like Kudou, he muses, as he takes out some sort of chewable and lets Nigou have it, resigned to the fact that the furball is the best cat in the world, but it’s also undoubtedly one of the most spoiled ones as well.

He can feel Kudou watching him, but Kaito can’t say anything, because Kudou’s explanation is acceptable enough, but it’s far from what the man must have gone through as Conan, except he can’t know that, because he doesn’t know the Kuroba that had donned a white suit and a hang glider cape, who’d look for ways to stun and amaze the young boy Conan pretended to be.

Finally, he merely says, “Some study trip. You probably terrorized the foreign police force there whenever you could.”

Kudou bursts into laughter, the sound brighter than anything else.

“What about you?” The detective asks, once he’s calmed down slightly. “What made you decide to do magic?”

And that’s how they end up staying out until past two in the morning, debating the merits of Robbins and Holmes (“He was a cocaine addict, Kudou,” and refuted with “No one’s perfect, least of all that mere pickpocket of yours”). They only stop because Kudou starts yawning through every other sentence, and Nigou’s long past making himself comfortable on Kudou’s lap, purring loudly in contentment.

Kaito tells himself that he’s only walking Kudou to his room to make sure the man doesn’t trip over anything in his sleepiness and squash the furball in the process, plus, his room is on the floor above anyway, but it’s hollow reasoning, and it’s a miracle that Kudou doesn’t catch it, as sleep-deprived as the man probably is.

It’s when Kudou calls out a sleepy, hushed “Good night, Kuroba,”, his eyes drooping and his smile wide and relaxed and unfamiliar yet again, as he shuts the door between them, that Kaito’s suddenly struck with the stupidly absurd thought that all he wants right now, is to be on the other side of that closed door.

***

So, he’s got a crush on Kudou Shinichi.

He’s not quite certain when that happened, but there’s no mistaking the flip in his chest every time Kudou grins at him these days, when he’s bested Kaito in a quiz, or when he catches the detective rubbing his face in Nigou’s fur and all Kudou does is smile sheepishly, and it takes everything in Kaito not to smile back helplessly, now that he’s made fully aware of his less than platonic feelings for the other man.

Kaito’s also at a loss as to what to do.

The detective has never actively shown any interest in anyone (despite both Aoko and Hakuba’s attempts). Plus, any non-platonic feelings he’s ever had for Aoko were well buried under a mountain of ‘just keep her safe’ throughout his time as Kid, before it eventually fizzled, so it’s not as if he knows the protocol for figuring out just how he’d actually gone and fallen for someone else, much less his former rival.

(His former rival; that has a rather lovely ring to it.)

But this means that he constantly has to pull on a poker face every time Kudou gets too close, whether it’s during their lunches with the others, sat side by side and elbows occasionally bumping into each other; or while they’re studying together, him sprawled on the floor and Kudou sat on his bed and leaning over Kaito’s shoulders to look at his notes, with Nigou walking over their papers and books and thinking their laptops were his personal heat pads.

It’s worse now, because he’s starting to notice all these little, stupid details about Kudou that should be inconsequential, but his mind’s decided that they deserve a prime spot in the forefront of his mind, at all hours of the day.

Like how Kudou rubs at his chin like he’s actually Sherlock fucking Holmes when he’s thinking deeply about something, and it should look stupid and idiotic, but it only amps up his adorable nerd factor somehow.

Or how he’s got this odd habit of fiddling with the ends of his bangs, and Kaito assumes it’s because he’s used to his glasses as Conan, and it’s disgusting how that endears him even more.

And sometimes, when Kudou comes back from his cases late at night and Kaito’s out in the dorm compound with the furball, he brings back a cold carton of chocolate milk, because, “I had to get some coffee anyway.”

And all Kaito can reply to that is, “You’re an addict, Kudou,” because he’s almost twenty and very much still in the ‘pull their pigtails’ phase.

Just as he starts to think that perhaps nobody would ever find out about this weird pining he’s started to develop for the detective, that thought gets instantly derailed by Akako literally materializing from the shadows and scaring the shit out of him, while he’s trying to get Nigou to not shit on the flowerbeds.

“What the—God damn it, Akako, you can’t just do that!”

The woman smirks, and Kaito actively tries to ignore the fact that she’s kind of… Floating. Witchcraft, no matter how he looks at it, just isn’t the same as magic, and never fails to give him the creeps.

“Waiting for the detective, Kaito?”

Kaito frowns. He is, in a way, but Akako really doesn’t need to know that. “I’ve mentioned that I let the furball out pretty much every night, right? Doesn’t really matter if Kudou’s here or not.”

Akako hums, slowly crouching down. Nigou turns at the sound of her voice, and lazily walks up to her, letting her hands scratch its ears and purrs like a rumbling engine, obviously contented.

Kaito can only stare at the traitor, and resolves to not give the furball snacks for the next three days.

“Why are you here anyway?” He asks after a while, as Akako allows Nigou to nose at her fingers.

“Cats have the keenest senses when it comes to real magic,” she replies lightly, sidestepping the question. Kaito makes sure she can see him rolling his eyes in her peripheral vision.

“And… I wanted to let you know, that you look at Kudou the way Aoko-chan used to look at you, you know,” she adds, smiling widely. “I’m just wondering how that feels like, for you.”

Kaito’s not often speechless.

“I’ve got no idea what you’re on about,” he finally exhales, but the damage is done, because Akako titters, like it’s the most hilarious thing she’s ever heard.

She straightens up, still giggling, and when Kaito looks down Nigou’s chewing on a treat, eyes closed and heedless of everything else around it. “Damn it, Akako, he just had dinner,” he mutters as he goes over to the furball, and fails to coax it to give up the snack.

He doesn’t get a reply though.

When he looks up again, there’s no one around, and Kaito sighs. Fucking witchcraft.

He brings Nigou back to his room after a few more minutes, figuring that Kudou would be stuck at his case later than he’d thought, but when the time on his phone indicates that it’s closer to early morning than it is midnight, there’s a quiet knock on his door. Kaito takes a second to make sure Nigou’s out of sight, but he needn’t have bothered.

“I wasn’t expecting a booty call,” Kaito greets the detective jokingly when he opens the door.

But Kudou doesn’t reply him, heading straight for the furball, who’s under the covers of Kaito’s bed, and Kaito swallows as he watches Kudou toe off his shoes and climbs under the sheets, curled up with Nigou cradled against his chest, his breathing shaky and his face hidden in the cat’s fur.

“… Kudou?”

The man looks up, and Kaito’s breath hitches at the cracks in the calm expression Kudou’s desperately hanging on to, his eyes dull and his lips pulled tight, like if he says anything, everything will break loose.

“Sorry,” Kudou rasps at last, and clears his throat. “I didn’t mean to hijack your bed. Or Nigou, for that matter.”

Kaito shakes his head, because it doesn’t matter what Kudou does, as long as it’ll wipe away that godawful look on his face. He takes a step forward, and when Kudou doesn’t say anything, he plants himself at the other end of the bed, watching the other man closely as he continues to cuddle the furball, who’s started purring at this point.

“Bad case?” He asks quietly.

Kudou looks away, and absently strokes Nigou as he sighs, the sound like shutters against a tempest, rattled and heavy. “She died the day before she turned 10,” he starts, and Kaito flinches at the blunt words. “She… She looked a lot like someone I know. Long black hair, pale skin. Apparently she was a judo prodigy,” he adds, letting out a hollow chuckle, pulling his head back slightly when the furball starts squirming.

“It’s not the first time I’ve encountered a child’s death, not by a long shot, but a suicide? At such a young age?” Kudou shakes his head, and places Nigou on his lap as he grips at the bedsheets. “It’s rare—but not rare enough.”

Kaito frowns, and welcomes the furball into his arms as it wanders over towards him. “I thought you mostly just worked on murder cases?”

“I do,” Kudou says, nodding. “She was… She was supposed to be a witness, but she’d gone missing and I—I was too late.”

The silence that follows his words is enough to choke.

Kaito understands near misses, mistakes that couldn’t be avoided, no matter how much luck or how much effort one had put in; success was a fickle fortune granted by an equally fickle force, and right now, there’s nothing he can say that would make Kudou understand that he’d still done his best, because tonight, his best wasn’t good enough.

It takes everything in him to not crawl closer, just to wipe the sorrow off of Kudou’s face, but he settles with a squeeze of the man’s arm, and only says, “I’m sorry you had to deal with that, Kudou.”

“If it wasn’t me, it would have been someone else. And I wouldn’t wish this on anyone.” Kudou shrugs, and Kaito knows the man really does mean his words. It only makes Kaito more determined that he would wish it, no matter how abhorrent and terrible the thought, because he’s starting to realise that he’d do anything to see Kudou healthy, and sane, and not emotionally traumatized for once.

It’s bad enough that he can’t say the same for himself.

(They make a right broken pair, he thinks, and stifles a hysterical snort at the image.)

Kaito’s loathe to let Kudou leave, but his bed is tiny, and there’s no spare futon, so he exhales heavily, standing up and clasping the detective’s shoulder.

“You should probably get some rest, detective,” he says, tilting his head to the side as he takes in the dark shadows under Kudou’s bright, blue eyes. “Do some of that self-care shit that Aoko’s always on about. Warm shower, fresh clothes, hmm?”

Kudou blinks up at him, and Kaito suppresses the insane urge to stroke his cheek and put him to bed himself, right the fuck now.

“… Perhaps you’re right,” Kudou says at last, and finally breaks into the first smile Kaito’s seen on him all day. It’s still not right, cracked and trembling, but it’s enough to make Kaito see the strength that pushes Kudou to keep running to his cases, no matter what horrors he encounters. “I—could I take Nigou with me, tonight?” He asks, and Kaito knows the only way the man’s ever going to get any semblance of sleep is with the furball in his bed, so he doesn’t even bother arguing.

“Akako dropped by earlier and gave him a treat, so he’s not allowed another one until after his lunch tomorrow,” Kaito replies, and Kudou’s eyebrows rise. “Don’t ask me why.”

Fortunately, Kudou leaves it at that, and he leaves the room with Nigou, but not before pausing in the doorway, the hallway barely lit and his expression slightly hidden in the dim light as he says, “Someday, I’d like to tell you about that study abroad thing I did.”

Kaito hopes the detective doesn’t catch the trepidation his words bring, as he replies, “Looking forward to it. Night, detective, furball.”

“Good night, Kuroba,” Kudou replies, waving Nigou’s paw at him and walks away, and Kaito’s room has never felt emptier.

***

Kudou doesn’t lapse into another emotional breakdown after that, but that’s because summer break’s around the corner, which should be a good thing, except—

Exams, he’s beginning to rediscover, are a bitch.

June kicks off with assignment deadlines, projects, and the start of mid-terms, and Kaito’s really starting to regret enrolling in university in the first place.

(Except, he’s not. Because of one single reason that constantly keeps him on his toes when it comes to their grades, their banter, and how he pouts at Kaito when he successfully lures Nigou away from him.)

It’s not that studying isn’t easy; it’s easy enough that it’s tedious, and annoying, and he only cracks his books in front of Aoko to dodge her punches.

On the other hand, Kudou doesn’t even seem to understand the concept of breaks, because the only time he’s seen the guy sleep these days is during his catnaps with Nigou, and somehow Kaito’s been tasked with making sure he keeps Kudou alive, by Hakuba, of all people.

(“I’m certain that’s his third coffee for the day, and it’s barely past ten in the morning, Kuroba.”

“Kudou’s not a child, he’s perfectly capable of taking care of himself.”

“Then please explain to me why he’s just downed an entire cup of iced espresso, and is heading over to the counter to get presumably another one of those concoctions.”

“What—Kudou, oh my god.”)

Not that Kaito had needed much convincing, in the first place.

The detective, as apparent as it is to everyone, is a fucking genius in everything, except when it came to a passable study-work-life balance. It gets bad enough that Kaito resorts to banning him from going to cases during their mid-terms week, and Kudou looks about five seconds from losing it, brows furrowed and his face carefully blank.

“You understand what you’re asking of me, right?” He says harshly, and Kaito rolls his eyes, because he’s forgotten just how dramatic Kudou gets when he’s sleep deprived and running on fumes.

“Completely. You look like one of your corpses, Kudou, and I’m not about to let you actually become one of them, no matter how much you seem to love them,” Kaito replies dryly. When Kudou doesn’t look like he’s going to budge, Kaito sighs, and resorts to the big guns.

“You’re only with Nigou when you need to sleep, and that’s barely half an hour each time. The furball’s starting to claw at my table because it’s fucking bored out of its mind and I won’t bring up the cat toys to my room, because there are principles, Kudou,” he hisses, as Nigou bats at his shoelaces.

At that, Kudou looks slightly mollified.

And then Kaito adds exasperatedly, “It’s just four days, Kudou. I know you’re gonna wipe the exams with your brains, but only if you stay awake long enough that.”

Kudou finally sighs, shaking his head. “Coffee’s a miracle worker, Kuroba, I’ll be fine.”

“Kudou, I had to tell you that your shirt was inside out this morning.”

“But that was a lie!”

“Still made you check, though.” And Kaito can’t help but smile smugly when Kudou doesn’t even bother refuting the fact.

To be honest, he’s surprised the detective had caved in somewhat easily—he’d been prepared to withhold parenting rights over Nigou, since “a responsible dad doesn’t collapse in his blood-covered suit at four in the morning, Kudou.”

Kaito also feels a little guilty, because—

He’s taken to fiddling with his cards again, after months of debating whether it was finally safe enough to truly embrace his persona as Kid, and make him bend to Kaito’s own will and vision for his magic.

It’s not as if he’s neglecting his studies, but he’s prepared to admit that he looks through the password-encrypted hidden folder on his laptop a little too often, filled with all sorts of reference materials for the magic show he’d promised his friends, and he’s absolutely itching to go back and practice his craft again.

But the mid-terms arrive, and he gets through them with only some minor difficulties (seriously, statistics is not his best subject), and when they gather for their last lunch before summer break, Kaito tells them to keep June 21 free.

Aoko teases him good-naturedly, tells him, “You’re dumb, Kaito, but even you would know that birthdays are for you to receive gifts, not give them.”

“Your applause and Hakuba’s dumbstruck face will be more than enough of a present for me, Aoko.”

“… I accept your challenge, Kuroba. Kudou?”

When Kaito turns to look at him, heart pounding and trying not to look too eager, he’s greeted with that familiar fire that burns Kaito up, the way Kudou looks at him like he can’t wait to take him apart and solve him to his heart’s content, his smile ambitious and looking entirely too pretty for Kaito to deal with right now.

“I look forward to dismantling your tricks, Kuroba.”

And that same fire lights that dark recklessness in Kuroba, the need to impress and entertain, and he’s never felt it this strongly, but leave it to Kudou to defy all expectations.

They part ways that weekend, the summer heat beating down on them as they walk Kudou to the train station, Nigou safely tucked in Kaito’s bag because Kudou can’t bring him back on the train (“You needn’t bother—”, “But we’ll only see one another at Kaito’s show during the whole break!”), and to everyone’s surprise, Kudou winds up inviting all of them to his home, about three hours away by train, and “Only if you’re up for it, though, I understand it’s a little far from the rest of you.”

Before anyone else can answer, Kaito grins cheekily, slinging an arm around Kudou’s shoulders as he gasps dramatically. “The Detective of the East? Inviting us to his private home? You should let us know beforehand what you’re hiding, so we can be prepared. It’s a secret sex dungeon, isn’t it? Or, actually—”

He blinks in surprise as his voice gets muffled by Kudou’s warm palm.

“For the love of god, please stop talking.”

It takes him half a second to react appropriately and laughs, throwing his head back, the feeling of Kudou’s hand still tingling on his lips long after the other man has placed his hand back by his side. Hakuba and Aoko leave first, their hands linked and Kaito wondering when his disgust at the sight had turned into some sort of misplaced envy on missing out on that particular experience with a certain somebody.

Nigou chooses that point to stick its head out of the bag, blinking lazily and looking at both of them expectantly.

Kaito can’t even bring himself to tease Kudou when the man automatically reaches out to scratch the furball’s chin.

“I’ll miss you,” Kudou says to the furball, and Kaito has a split second to internally yell at himself for being jealous over a cat. And then Kudou looks up, grinning. “You as well, but a little less, I’d say.”

It’s a testament to Kaito’s impeccable poker face that he merely smirks, glad that his hair’s messy and overgrown enough to hide the undeniable flush of his ears.

“Mean, Kudou. And here I was going to offer to bring him over when we visit you.”

If Kaito had known his words would prompt that disgustingly adorable smile on Kudou’s face, cheeks pink and his eyes sparkling, he would have said it a lot earlier. As it is, Kudou strokes the furball’s head and quietly, happily replies, “Oh. I… I’d like that.”

Kaito grins back. “I’ll try to keep him alive until then. Your train’s arriving any minute, so we’ll see you at the show?”

The detective nods, stroking Nigou’s fur once more before he straightens up and takes a step back. “Looking forward to it. Good luck preparing for the show, Kuroba.”

Kaito waves a hand dismissively, shaking his head ruefully. “I don’t really have the best of luck, but thank you.”

But Kudou stares at him for a beat longer than normal, and slowly says, “I feel like you’ve said that before, but I can’t remember when.”

He frowns, and then—

“I don’t really have the best of luck, myself. But I don’t think you quite need it, Meitantei.”

Kaito hides his shock under a placating hum and shrugs, his mind reeling when he realises when exactly he’d said that before.

“Before an exam, maybe?”

Thankfully, the detective nods, but he still looks unsure. The weird moment gets broken up by the announcement of Kudou’s train arriving, and Kaito bids him goodbye as he wills himself to not run the fuck out of there, lest Kudou’s memories somehow rematerialize themselves. He places a trembling hand on Nigou’s fur, forces his body to remain relaxed in case Kudou looks back, and it’s only when he’s back above ground and out of the detective’s sight that Kaito lets himself release a huge sigh.

“Fuck, that was close,” he mutters, and Nigou sneezes.

He glances around at the busy street, and grins as he catches the sight of a dark blue car at the end of the block, and hurries his steps, careful not to jostle the furball. He doesn’t bother announcing his arrival to the driver, opening the car door and cheerfully slides into the backseat, stroking Nigou’s fur to calm the furball down as he takes it out of the bag and places it on his lap.

“I wasn’t aware you’d be bringing a guest with you, young master,” the driver greets him, and Kaito smirks.

“Eh, the furball’s a special case.” As if on cue, Nigou huffs, and nibbles at his fingers, but Kaito doesn’t pay it any mind. Instead, he leans forward, clasping a hand on the driver’s shoulder as he says, “It’s been a while, old man. You ready for the show?”

And Jii-chan turns around, eyes twinkling as he smiles widely, excitement visible on his expression, and it takes everything in Kaito to not tell him to speed home, to the basement of his house and the workshop that’s left abandoned for too many months, the very essence of everything that makes him feel alive waiting for his touch again.

He doesn’t bother holding back his own grin, wide and ludicrous, as Jii-chan replies firmly, “Always, young master.”

Chapter Text

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.”)