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A Cold Case (The Secret Under Cagliostro)

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It was cold. It wasn’t that much of a surprise- castles always were. But even for a stupid pile of drafty stone, the dungeon grotto of Cagliostro was cold as the grave. The shadows there were like stagnant water; a still, forlorn gloom that hadn’t seen sunlight in hundreds of years. If ever. The air froze in your lungs, and left a damp clinging to your skin, like cooling sweat from a fever. Unpleasant, but survivable.

At least for him. At least for a while. But… he wasn’t so sure that was the case for Lupin the Third.

Zenigata shifted, crossing his legs underneath himself. He took a deep breath trying to straighten his posture up, hands settling on his legs as his shoulders squared. That way, he could focus.

He glanced to Lupin. He was curled up on his side, resting his head on his arm. If he was faking being asleep, then he was damn good at it- his expression had the relaxed feeling of genuine exhaustion. He looked almost peaceful.

Zenigata slumped forward slowly, and didn’t stop till his chin was touching the stone in front of him, forcing him to stare out into the darkness. He could only just make out the fluid motion of the water.. and the uneven silhouettes of untold deaths. A place where so many had died, and were just left to rot in piles like this… he couldn’t find any word more appropriate for something like this then evil. What a cheerful pit of vipers Lupin had strolled into… and for what? He’d been pretty clear he wasn’t after whatever treasure THESE poor lost souls had been aiming for. Usually he felt confident he could figure out just what Lupin was after, but this…? This made no sense at all.

Lupin shifted slightly against him, accompanied by the faintest little murmur, barely any louder then the ambient drips and echoes of the tunnels around them. He let his forehead hit the stone. He didn’t deserve this. He tried to be a good person. He rubbed his face and slowly sat up, trying to push his thoughts to.. something. Anything.

Lupin curled up tighter on the cold stone, and immediately Zenigata’s train of thought jumped the rails. Could he feel him shivering?When he’d shaken him earlier, had the jacket under his hands been damp…? God damnit.

His trench coat was still warm as he took it off, and plenty big enough to serve as a makeshift blanket.  He only hesitated a moment to pull his keys out, dropping them down the front of his shirt before he took his jacket by the shoulder, and turned towards him. Slowly he draped the very bottom edge over Lupin’s legs, stopping a second to grab the lapels and pull the jacket open all the way, settling it down around Lupin’s sides. Finally, he drew the very collar all the way up to his shoulders, pausing just before he was going to let go of the jacket.

This close, he could see make out a mark on Lupin’s cheek. Dirt? No. A scrape, practically still raw.

He slowly tugged the jacket just a few inches higher, only laying it down all the way once it was covering the back of Lupin’s neck.

“I guess it doesn’t matter how dangerous it is here, huh.” he muttered quietly, turning a hand to smooth the back of it over the cloth, trailing it a few inches down Lupin’s back.  

“I’d have followed you even if I’d known.” he pulled his hand back at last, settling back against the wall.

Maybe Zenigata had fallen harder on his way down then he’d thought. Maybe that could explain why his chest ached. Every beat of his heart stung. Maybe he’d bruised his ribs.That was probably it.

He could almost have believed it.

“That’s no good, Pops. You’re not going to follow me anywhere if you catch a cold.”

Maybe he WAS getting old, Zenigata considered. Two or three years ago, he was SURE he could have made it all the way into the water. As it was, Lupin’s hand had latched onto the back of his shirt and left him looking like a dog straining on a leash. He whined, the sound trailing into a growl as he gave up and gave up. He dropped back into his seat. When he glanced over, he could see Lupin just barely peeking up over the edge of his coat, with a twinkle in his eyes that he was half sure he hated. He looked away immediately with a sharp jerk of his head, furious at himse- HIM. Lupin. Obviously.

“…How long were you…?” he grumbled, choosing to pretend it was dark enough Lupin wouldn’t be able to see the heat he could feel in his own face.

“Not long-.“ Lupin assured him, yawning softly. He let go of Zenigata’s shirt, pulling his arm back in under the coat.

“Good.”

“…Just since you put the coat on me.”

Zenigata shut his eyes tightly- refusing to put up with getting a look at whatever Lupin’s facial expression was. He was just sure this was hilarious to the thief. Zenigata Koichi, his rival, acting the fool. Showing weakness even though Lupin had gotten the better of him so many-

There was the soft shifting sound of cloth dragging on stone, and a sudden, slight press against his arm. Slowly, he forced his eyes open…. staring down at Lupin. He had sat up and, and was leaned directly against his side, head tilted back to keep his eyes on him. Zenigata could feel his cheek pressing against him, and the mingled warmth where the coat was draped over his arm.

He wondered if Lupin’s pulse ever ran this fast.

“W-what are you doing?” he demanded. But Lupin had turned his face a little, burying it against Zenigata’s shoulder. He felt… not cold. But colder then Zenigata was, even with his jacket off.  

“Pops…? You really should rest, you know.” Lupins voice was muffled against his shoulder. It felt warm- warmer than the rest of Lupin was. Was he… hiding his face? That couldn’t be right. Lupin the Third didn’t need to do things like that. He tried to shake the thought off.

“…one of us should stay awake.” he growled, shifting just slightly in place, turning towards Lupin.

“Uwaah~ So gallant. But I don’t think it’s nessisary. They’ll wait till sunrise to come looking for us, at least. No reason to get up early for people who can’t escape, right?” Lupin countered.

“…hmph. So much for no rest for the wicked.” he remarked. That drew a little mock-offended gasp from Lupin, and he leaned back to dramatically press his hand against his own chest.

“Excuse me, I’ll have you know I work very hard to be wicked!” Lupin protested, giving him a pouty look.

“Is that so.” he said, flatly- doing a pretty bad job of keeping down a slight smile.

“Of course! Especially with a guy like you after me. Oh the long, sleepless nights I have to keep… it almost makes a guy think about an honest living.” Lupin dramatically sighed, before the sound crumbled into an infectious laughter. And despite himself, Zenigata found himself snickering. It wasn’t even that funny. But before long they were both laughing like fools. And when it finally eased… he found himself resting his head against Lupin’s, leaning back against him.

And for a second, he knew he could have just pulled away. He could have just stayed right where he was. It could just stay a moment. A warm memory. Lupin never needed to know just how stupid the man chasing him was. It’d almost have been easy.

The motion wrapping his arms around Lupin only shocked him at how difficult it wasn’t.

It was the next few seconds that were hard as well. It felt like a forge had been made under his ribs. Regret and heartbroken pride waited breathlessly to fight it out across the coals, taking up so much room he felt like he could barely breathe. But it would have been worth it (he was a fool) it could have been worth it no matter what (would Lupin’s smile be tinged with pity?) just to find out how perfect (or would he laugh) how much (‘haha, sorry pops’) it felt like Lupin belonged in his arms.

He could feel Lupin’s heartbeat. He coulda mistaken it for an earthquake.

Lupin turned slowly towards him, and let out a breath as soft as the smoke rising from a struck match. He moved slowly He pressed into his arms slowly, but without any trace of hesitation. Just a slow, warm little press. And when Zenigata slowly twisted to let his back press against the wall again, Lupin came with him. Curling up in his lap like an oversized cat, with his cheek pressed just against Zenigata’s collar.

Slowly, impossibly, he relaxed. Despite everything. Despite the cold dark castle weighing down on them… at least like this, he could do something. Lupin was safe. And they’d find a way out of here, and whatever this was would. Be something. Anything. More then just a moment

Maybe that was wishful thinking. But… maybe he was allowed to wish. Just this once.

“Pops…?”

“Mmm?”

“Do you… usually keep your keys down your shirt?”

“…goodnight, Lupan.”

“Or did Fujiko-”

Goodnight.

It was quiet, for a few moments. Long enough for him to almost think about resting. But he was interrupted by an insistent little tug at his tie that made him screw his eyes tightly shut and exhale through his nose. It wasn’t as if he didn’t know who he was dealing with. You couldn’t l- appreciate the genius thief without the prattling soft voiced little annoyance he was all at the same time.

“…what is it, Lupin.” he asked, glancing down at him.

“I…” Lupin started, and then stopped. It was like someone had tried to start a car, but the engine wouldn’t roll over. He watched as Lupin frowned, brow furrowing. The thief's eyes were fixed on Zenigata’s tie, which he was still fidgeting with.

“If I. Try to… steal something. And I can’t…” Lupin spoke slowly. Deliberately; as if he was trying to fix every word carefully in his mind before he said it. His head lowered slightly as he trailed off, low enough Zenigata couldn’t make out his expression.

“Lupin…?” he asked quietly, staring down at Lupin’s short, fluffy black hair. He slowly reached a hand up, but was interrupted by Lupin popping up like a jack in the box.

“…I mean. Sorry!” Lupin suddenly chirped. He twiddled his fingers around each other as he sheepishly grinned at him. Zenigata blinked, stunned more by the sudden about-face then he was by the actual words. It was the kind of ‘apology’ he’d gotten out of him before, usually when he was handed his own steering wheel, or about to get knocked over the head by somebody in a policeman’s uniform.

“It’s my fault you’re down here, huh pops?.” Lupin giggled as he scratched the back of his head but.

He wasn’t buying it. It was nearly a perfect forgery of a smile. It was very nearly the way Lupin always laughed. He could even have mistaken the shine in his eyes for a twinkle.

To absolute god damn fucking hell with THAT.

Zenigata reached up and took Lupin’s hand in his, halting his fidgeting. His hand was… surprisingly tough, with little faint scars here. But he could make out red marks on the skin. Fresh. Rough and scraped at the fingertips like he’d been clawing his way up stone, and thin bands of painful looking friction burns on his palm.

“I-I mean..” Lupin blinked, staring at Zenigata’s hand. His smile wobbled, like a piece of fine crystal on the edge of a table.

“You could have gotten hurt-“ Lupin started, his gaze dropping like an elevator with a cut cord.

“-just because I needed inside! Just… But I was still so happy to see you! Isn’t that… awful?” He leaned forward as he spoke, curling around their connected hands as if he was trying to cling to a lifeline. Like the whole dark gloomy weight of the castle had settled on Lupin’s shoulders.

So he did the only thing he could do. He pulled Lupin in closer, and wrapped his arms around him. It felt like trying to cup his hands around a candle’s flame.

“A-ara…?” Somehow, even in a situation like this, there was a little satisfaction in managing to get Lupin to shut the hell up for once.

“Isn’t it a thief’s job to get inside places you’re not supposed to?” he drawled. It wasn’t really a question, and he didn’t wait for a reply.

“And are you or are you not Lupin the Third, the greatest thief in the world, and the man I-“

Fell in love with.

“-decided to chase! And as if some little piddling thing like a damn fall would have kept me from DOING that!” he pushed the thought back and kept going, settling back and ignoring just how hard his own pulse was pounding in his ears again.

“I don’t NEED you to apologize- I’m a big god damn boy, Lupin. You’ve never pulled your punches on me, because I can god damn take it, just as much as YOU can handle whatever I dish out!” he growled, loud enough the sound was picked up and echoed through the tunnels around them. He took a deep breath, feeling his face heat up.

“I came here after you. Whatever that takes And whatever you came here for…” he shifted his grip on Lupins hands, thoughtfully smoothing his thumb over the base of Lupin’s wrist, at the end of one of those rope burn marks.

“It has to be important for you to run yourself this god damned ragged. So. I’ll tell you what I keep having to tell everyone else” he reached up, and this time his hand made contact with Lupins hair, gently ruffling through it a second before he reached down to pull the coat up over the man’s shoulders again..

“The word Impossible doesn’t mean anything to Lupin the Third. If he says he’s going to do something… he will. And theres not a force on earth that could stop him- EXCEPT me.” Zenigata finished. Only then did he let himself glance down at him, noticing the tight grip on his hand had eased up. There was no sad forged grin now. There was just Lupin, staring up at him with a half a small smile, and a look Zenigata could almost let himself hope was warmth.

“S-so… obviously, you’ll get us out of here fine!” Zenigata added, suddenly… a little nervous. Especially since Lupin wasn’t saying anything back; he just gently pulled Zenigata’s hand up a little more and…

And then Lupin pressed his lips to Zenigata’s knuckles, and he was pretty sure he’d stopped breathing. The motion felt like it was happening in slow motion; Lupins eyes were still on him as he’d pulled Zenigata’s hands up, lips resting just over an old scar at the base of his index finger. A part of him wasn’t sure he hadn’t… wasn’t… somehow imagining it. It wasn’t fair. He’d been… how long had he been prepared for this to be an impossible, stupid, one sided…?

And Lupin was still looking up at him. Was he actually a bit closer then he’d been a second ago?

Lupin’s hand was still on his, but he had slowly straightened up so their faces were roughly on the same level; his head was ducked his head down a little, so he was looking up at Zenigata from below a little. Through his eyelashes, with a cat like, lopsided smile.

“L-Lupin?” he asked, with no idea what he was exactly asking. He was very sure THIS expression wasn’t new. It was a familiar expression. But he wasn’t supposed to look like that for him. That wasn’t how this went.

Lupin leaned up a little closer, and his lips felt the way gold looked. It was a gentle pressure, shifting a little as Lupin pressed him back against the wall, tilting his face and reaching up to cup Zenigata’s jaw as he kissed him. The pressure only increased when Zenigata slowly relaxed, a warm little rolling push of a motion that left him seeing stars.

By the time the kiss broke, Zenigata was pretty sure he couldn’t have stood up if his life depended on it. He had to lean his head back and try to catch his breath, closing his eyes a moment. Lupin hummed and nuzzled down the side of his neck, cheekily pressing in a soft kiss here and there, and let out that dumb little gyuhuhu~ of a laugh of his.

“…and what’r you laughing about, thief?” Zenigata realized, somewhat belatedly, that he himself was smiling.

“Whaaat, am I going to get arrested for having fun~?”

“Tch! Maybe. Try me.” he growled- though admittedly it came out more as a purr.

“Why, Pops! You flirt.” he was pretty sure he could somehow HEAR him wagging his eyebrows at him.

“Threat, Lupin. That was a threat.” He growled, rolling his eyes as lupin snickered. They were still holding hands. They still softly clung to one another, in the little hidden pocket of warmth between them.

“HmmmmMmmm…. Is there really a difference~?” Lupin asked, pressing a kiss to his jaw.

Zenigata sighed faintly, and leaned down- covering for the fact that he didn’t have an answer for that by capturing the third in a firm press of a kiss. Slow. He wanted to remember this. The sting still only just easing in his chest, the cold wall against his back,.

And more then anything he wanted to remember the dazed look in Lupin’s eyes when he pulled away.  He wanted to remember the warmth. They settled in, and for a bit it was just… quiet. Quiet, and still impossibly really happening. Maybe it wouldn’t last. Not past them getting out of here… but.

He’d take it.

“Pops…?”

“…m.M-hm?” was the best Zenigata could manage.

“Could you… move your hands down a little?” Lupin asked. Zenigata blinked in the darkness, and slowly moved his hands down, feeling out the shape of Lupin’s shoulder blades and settling his hands just below.

“Little more?” Lupin asked again. Zenigata swallowed softly, letting his hands drift down until they were settled at the small of Lupin’s back.

“…Liiiiiiiitttle more~?” He should have recognized the lilt. If his brain hadn’t suddenly devoted most of its resources to paying entirely too much attention to things like Lupins legs shifting against his, he was certain he could have caught on. But the moment was still soft; his defenses were still down. So instead he didn’t so much blink as he shifted his hands softly down Lupin’s body a few more inches.

There was a beat, punctuation by a static shock jolt running through Zenigata from about the feet up, and an awful, familiar little GRIN in the darkness. And then he raised his hands back UP in a stiff, deliberate moment.

“You ass.” he hissed, immediately almost as angry at himself for still letting his arms settle around Lupin again.

“Gyuhuhu! That’s the idea~” Lupin had no such misgivings, pressing firmly up against Zenigata with a bold little nuzzle to the base of his neck that hit him with an encore of that little shocked, warm shiver. He was lucky his god damned hat had stayed on…

“Bastard. Criminal. Villain. Thief. God damn smarmy little fuck.” If he’d been wearing his coat, he’d have sunk half into it by now. Instead, trying to sink down just brought him more in contact with the awful gremlin draped over him.

“Awwww. Pops… you get me.” Lupin practically purred, nestling his cheek against Zenigata’s collarbone. And for a moment, that was all. They just… sat together, and despite how annoyed he was, it was… comfortable. The anger, Lupins awful little snickering, them… like this.

So much so that he drifted off at some point, still holding Lupin close. He only woke up when he felt a gentle tug on his collar.

“Oyy, Pops! Popsss. Coochie coochie coo~” there was a skittering trail of fingrs against his ribs, and Zenigata was rocketed into consciousness- sitting up and grabbing Lupin by the front of his coat.

“WHAT?!” he demanded. Lupin grinned at him, and leaned up to bump his forehead against his.

“Morning, Pops~! Take your clothes off.”

There was a brief silence.

“WHAT?! I- are you MAD? We’re in the middle of a mass grave.They’re going to send someone to kill us by dawn! THIS IS THE WRONG ZINE FOR THAT. Even YOUR depravity has to have LIMITS, Lupin!”

“No no noooo nono!” Lupin patted Zenigata’s cheek soothingly, still smiling at him and hanging from his grip.

“Not what I meant! You have a real nasty imagination, Inspector. I like that in a man.”

“E-eh?”

“You were right~” Lupin saying THAT took the wind out of him about as much as the kiss had.

“…I… was?” he repeated, blinking slowly…

“Getting us out of here is going to be easy~ I just need… ohhh, our clothes, and- oh you have rope on you, right? Lemme see-“ Lupin suddenly slipped out of Zenigata’s hands, leaving him holding a green jacked as Lupin turned around, settled firmly into Zenigata’s lap, and started hunting through his trench coat.

Slowly, grumbling, Zenigata settled back against the wall, and dropped Lupin’s coat on the man. The cloth under his hands was bone dry, now… at least for a while.

“Alright, alright… how about you take a second and explain. I can’t read your mind like Jigen.”

“Thank goodness for that!”

Zenigata tilted his hat down a little as Lupins stupid laugh echoed down the tunnels, smiling to himself where the other man couldn't see.