Gotta Spend Some Time, Love
Aoko made a note in the notebook she kept under her bed. Another one for the left column. Aoko smoothed a finger over the lines, spanning several pages now. Kaito is Kid. Kaito is not.
She started the list when her dad first suspected Kaito was Kid. One thing in each column that day—the left: Kaito replaced himself with a dummy (I can tell the difference from my best friend Kaito), the right: It isn’t possible to get from the amusement park to the heist site and back in the length of that movie. The left column had the added: Kaito makes the impossible a hobby. She’d added to it ever since then, bit by bit. Evidence for, evidence against. Hakuba Saguru’s accusation was in the left column, all the times Kaito got into a heist site because he was her friend, Kaito’s skills with sleight of hand and acrobatics. The other column held the time Hakuba handcuffed Kaito to him—that was the real Kaito that time, she was sure—and how he tried to help her dad by pointing out blind spots when he was asked, how Kaito was afraid of fish so he’d never have been part of those heists with the submarine or the boat.
If Aoko could pick her worst trait, it was that her emotions clouded her thoughts. She reacted, always reacted, first and thought second. It was a trait she shared with her father. It was a trait she’d had since she was a small child, jumping to conclusions without proof and her mother used to hold her hands and talk her through it, piecing together why her conclusion was or wasn’t right. It had almost been a game then, a puzzle, pretending to be a police officer sometimes like her dad.
When it came down to it, Aoko was and had always been a police officer’s daughter.
Aoko’s finger stopped on Kaito loves Kid which she’d written on both halves of the list. On the one hand, Kaito was a magic geek and Kid’s heists were the sort of spectacle that Kaito loved. On the other... Kaito was just enough of an egoist to join his own fan club.
He dad knocked on the door and Aoko flipped the notebook to old school notes in the back. He glanced at it as he poked his head in. “Just checking in. Working on homework?”
“Yeah.” Aoko smiled. “Almost done though. There’s some leftovers from dinner in the fridge if you haven’t eaten yet.”
He smiled back, so worn and tired. He didn’t sleep enough. He probably didn’t eat enough, or at least not healthy things. Kid had him running around at all hours and hardly ever home. “Thanks, Aoko. You’re a good kid. Don’t stay up too late.”
The door closed again. Aoko’s smile slid off her face. She wasn’t a good kid, though, was she? If she was, she wouldn’t be hiding this notebook.
She flipped back to her list. At the top of the most recent page she’d written Aoko loves Kaito in the reasons Kaito was Kid. Maybe it wasn’t a reason exactly, not the way the rest of the list was. But Aoko knew better than most that love could be blinding. It made you see what you wanted to see. For her dad, a perfect daughter. And years ago, it had been the same with her mother, not seeing the problems until it was too late.
The Kaito is Kid list was winning again. Every time Aoko added to it, she thought she’d just give him one more chance. One more chance to prove he wasn’t Kid. One more. One more.
Maybe it was time for the last once more.
When she started this list, it’d been from a place of anger. Now Aoko just felt heavy seeing all the damning evidence that had piled up while she stretched to fill things in for the other column. A year was more than enough time to work past her gut emotions and trace evidence. Any longer and Aoko wouldn’t be able to delude herself that she was still waiting for Kaito to prove this theory wrong.
“Kaito?” Aoko said, after the school day was over and cleaning was done and the aftermath of Kaito’s pranks and a mop chase were fixed up.
“Yeah?” He had his bag in one hand and a newspaper in the other. He didn’t used to read the paper much before Kid.
“There’s a magic act this weekend that sounded like fun. Would you like to go with me?” She pushed a stubborn, flyaway strand of hair behind her ear. “We could get dessert after.”
Kaito stared at her, probably waiting for the catch. There wasn’t one. No Kid heist that day. Something Kaito would enjoy. Not her nagging him to do something stereotypically romantic in hopes that he’d get a clue, or something she liked more than him that he’d pretend to drag his feet over.
Aoko waited. Kaito took a breath.
“Just us?” he asked.
“Yeah,” he said slowly, a smile spreading on his face. “That sounds pretty fun. It’s been a while since we just did something together, huh?”
Not without Kid involved or Aoko dragging him there. But Aoko wasn’t going to point that out. She smiled. “It’s a date then.”
She left Kaito sputtering, face going red. She was blushing too, heartbeat racing at saying that out loud. Anticipation and dread curled in her. Kaito, notably, didn’t call her back or protest that it was just a friends thing. Add that to the theory that he liked her back.
“Ok, but that was actually a really hard trick to do,” Kaito said, gesticulating with his ice cream cone. “It looks easy but if you don’t time it exactly right, the whole thing ends up falling apart and looking really fake, so the fact that this guy not only got the timing right, but made it more complicated was really cool.” He grinned, a bounce in his step. He hadn’t sat still since the performance. “Actually it gives me a lot of ideas.”
“Of course it does,” Aoko said with a theatrical sigh. “I’m going to have to chase you with a mop for disrupting class more often in the future aren’t I?”
Kaito gave her an innocent look and Aoko had to laugh. They were walking in the park, now, eating ice cream and letting their free hands dangle a bit too close. She hadn’t tried to take his hand and Kaito hadn’t reached for hers, but it felt like a date. He kept his pace at her side instead of a bit ahead and stayed closer than normal. It was nice.
Aoko crunched through the cone of her ice cream, barely tasting its sweetness. Pity it wouldn’t last.
“Hey, Kaito?” Aoko said, pulling Kaito out of his magician daydreams.
“Has it been worth it, being Kaitou Kid?”
She caught him off guard, his eyes going wide and his feet tripping on nothing before he pulled himself together. Normally she liked catching him off guard. Now, it only hammered in the truth. Kaito blinked rapidly before laughing. “Pff! Sure, you got me, Aoko. It is I, the great, uncatchable Kaitou Kid!” He gave her an exaggerated bow, almost dripping the dregs of his ice cream down his own wrist. “C’mon, Aoko, what kind of a joke question is that?”
“Is it worth it?” Aoko repeated, refusing to react.
His masks were up now and he pushed forward irritation and hurt on his face. “It’s bad enough with Hakuba going on and on with accusations, don’t tell me you’re going to start too. I keep saying it, I’m not Kid. Don’t tell me you’re going to believe Hakuba over your best friend?”
Aoko’s hands clenched into fists. She forced them back open. Breathe. He was trying to guilt her into backing off. But that wasn’t going to work this time. Aoko looked Kaito in the eye and waited.
The irritation on Kaito’s face wavered. He probably didn’t know what to do with this. Aoko always reacted. She responded. But she wasn’t this time. “Seriously? I know your dad’s a bit of a washed up inspector, but you’re confident enough to say you know who Kid is when he doesn’t?”
There, an attempt to get her angry—and Aoko wanted to get angry, words were at the tip of her tongue waiting to burst out in defense of her father—but Aoko wasn’t going to.
He took a step back. For a second he almost looked scared. “Did your dad put you up to this? Hakuba? You asked me out last time because of your dad.”
“I asked you out because I wanted to ask you out,” Aoko said, patience slipping. “Answer the damn question because I know you’re Kid, Kaito.”
“And what makes you so sure?” he shot back.
“I have a list. It’s four pages long.”
Kaito went pale.
“I didn’t need someone to ‘put me up to’ this.” Aoko crossed her arms. “I’m confronting you because I’ve been compiling evidence for months. I know I’m not a genius like you or Hakuba, and I don’t have Tou-san’s training, but I’m not stupid, Kaito. Even I can see what’s right in front of me when I think to look for it.”
“I... I don’t think you’re stupid,” he said. The remains of his ice cream cone were a sad dripping mess clenched in one hand, but he didn’t seem to notice.
“No?” Aoko asked. “The number of dummies you’ve left me with, the number of times you used your friendship with me to get into a heist, the times you used my face say otherwise.”
And Kaito flinched. Maybe it was because she usually used mops and shouted insults instead of pointed words, but they’d hit harder than she expected them to. “...Why haven’t you tried to hit me yet?” he asked finally.
“If I get mad right now you’ll just use it to run away,” Aoko said. “So, was it worth it?”
Aoko didn’t know who he’d been confiding in the last year, who he’d shared his burdens with like he used to share ideas for tricks when he was little with her. He hadn’t confided in her about anything in a long time, longer than Kid had been around, but from the way something in Kaito’s eyes folded like a surrender, she guessed that whatever support he had wasn’t enough all this time. Kaito was good at faking. Good at pretending so hard he fooled himself. Aoko doubted he’d let himself look at what was underneath all those masks he wore in a while, easier to compartmentalize eternally than deal with his problems.
“Am I going to end up in handcuffs if I answer?” he asked.
“If I was going to get you arrested, would I have asked you on a date?” Aoko asked, irritation bleeding into her voice. “Bakaito, if I wanted you arrested, I’d give Hakuba your hair to match with Kid’s and give my list to my dad, not invite you to get ice cream.”
“Oh.” Kaito’s shoulders slumped. “I don’t know. If it’s worth it.” He stared at the mess of ice cream in his hand without seeing it. “I want to think it is. It’s just... It’s something I had to do.”
“Had to,” Aoko repeated, voice flat. She’d told herself she wouldn’t get angry. Don’t get angry.
“Had to,” Kaito said standing straighter. “Oyaji was the first Kid. His death, it wasn’t an accident, Aoko. I’m the search light revealing the rot hidden in the shadows—Nakamori-keibu already has arrested some of them, but I need to get all of them.”
Screw not getting angry. “At the expense of dying?” Aoko growled. She always tried really hard not to think about the gunmen that had appeared at heists because whenever she did, she felt so scared for her dad and Kid—Kaito. “How many times have you nearly died, Kaito?”
He glowered back at her, a stubborn set to his jaw that was more at home on her face than it was his. “You don’t understand, Aoko, they killed my dad. You wouldn’t get—”
“Don’t try and tell me what I wouldn’t get,” Aoko hissed, grabbing his arm. “Because I understand missing a parent just fine.”
Kaito looked away first. “Sorry. But no one else is doing anything. They’re committing crimes and killing people and no one is stopping them from doing it again, and if I can, then why shouldn’t I? Isn’t it the morally right thing to do?”
“Only you would make a moral argument about breaking the law to stop other people from breaking the law,” Aoko said. Why was she in love with this brilliant, stupid boy? She probably would be happier in the long term if she could choose to love someone simpler. Pity the heart really didn’t care about that sort of thing.
“Well,” Kaito said, a cautiously optimistic note of teasing entering his voice. “There’s degrees of evil, and really, as far as that goes, stealing and returning what I take is a lot lower than murder.”
“You’re also a public nuisance, cost the police too much money, and are giving my dad high blood pressure.”
“Pretty sure he gives himself high blood pressure. It’s not my fault he gets angry easily.”
Aoko smacked the back of Kaito’s head lightly and he didn’t even try to dodge. “That’s for being an idiot and lying to me. You owe me so many apologies.” She felt him flinch minutely in her grip. Aoko pulled him into a hug, messy, melted ice cream hand and all. “And this is for finally telling me the truth. I’m still really angry at you and I’m probably going to try and smack you later just. For now.”
Kaito was stiff as one of his wooden dummies for a few seconds before he grabbed her back like he was afraid she was going to change her mind. When was the last time she’d hugged him properly? Probably not since puberty hit them and emotions made things awkward. “Do you hate me?”
“Idiot.” Aoko squeezed him tighter. “I’m angry, that doesn’t mean I don’t love you. I don’t forgive you yet though,” she added because there was no way Kaito was getting out of this that easily.
“Fair enough,” Kaito said, laughing into her hair. “Wait, did you just say you love me?”
“Don’t make me regret saying that,” Aoko grumbled, feeling her face heat up.
Kaito pulled back, grinning so wide he was more smile than face. “Does that mean you actually want to date me, not just going on a date to corner me?”
Why was it so hard to keep composure now? Aoko hid her face in her hands. “Yes, yes, that is what it means.”
“You know I thought I’d be the one to ask you out, but you beat me to it.” Kaito sighed, still grinning too big for any of his dramatics to mean much. “Not fair, Aoko.”
Aoko glared at him between her fingers. “I’ve asked you out half a dozen times, dummy! It’s not my fault you keep acting like it’s a burden to be around me!”
“It’s not. A burden,” he said. “I just...” He scratched at his face, sheepishly. “You hate Kid. It’s been easier to keep my distance.”
“I still hate Kid.” She wasn’t going to let him think otherwise. “But I don’t hate Kaito, so I guess we’ll have to come to some kind of an agreement.”
“Are we dating now?”
“Do you want to be?”
Kaito caught her hands, pulling them away from her face. Aoko blushed harder and his grin lost some of its manic edges. “Yes.” And then he didn’t kiss her. What was he waiting for, an invitation?
Aoko growled and grabbed him by the shirt to haul him the last little bit forward. It was a terrible terrible kiss. The second one was much better.