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swing for the fences

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Kaito is not having the best day. The reasons why, in chronological order, are as follows:

  1. Last night his AC wasn’t working, and he was too hot to sleep, so he got maybe four hours before he had to go to work.
  2. The two leads of the play he’s stage-managing apparently decided a few days ago that two weeks from opening night would be a good time to arrange themselves in a love triangle with the director, who, upon receiving their love confessions, proceeded to sleep with each of their understudies and then announce it all at rehearsal today, because he hates humanity, peace, and Kaito specifically.
  3. When Kaito escaped the ensuing Battle Royale bloodbath and made it to the sanctuary of a nearby restaurant, a girl glued to her phone screen stumbled over nothing and launched her plate of curry at Kaito and Kaito’s notebook of the designs of his most recent tricks. Apparently, she tripped because she was playing Crossy Road while walking, which felt like some kind of cosmic irony.
  4. On the train home, Kaito ended up squashed between the window and a man he was about seventy-two percent sure was a drug dealer, judging from the trench coat he was wearing in the middle of August and the shifty way he kept glancing at his inside pockets.
  5. Kaito then got home and checked Instagram, only to find that Aoko has sold her soul—or at least some portion of her virtue—to the devil.

He wastes no time in throwing himself down on his bed and calling her. (Well, he wastes some time changing into clothes that aren’t covered in curry, but semantics.)

“Why am I finding out about your standards dive-bombing from an Instagram post? What’s this about you dating Hakuba?” is what comes out of his mouth when the call goes through. “Do you routinely eat garbage, too?”

“That’s rather rude,” says a horrible, irritating voice that does Not belong to Kaito’s best friend of fifteen years. A wave of horror crawls down Kaito’s spine. He scowls, trying not to think of the implications of Hakuba picking up Aoko’s phone, and puts his head in his hands.

“And you’re rather annoying,” he points out, one-handedly rubbing at his temples. A confrontation with the human embodiment of a hangnail is not what he needs right now. “Can you switch over to Aoko, please? I’d like to talk to an actual person and not a lizard in a human skin suit.” Hakuba makes a dry, resigned sound in the back of his throat, which is followed by him mumbling something in the background and the fumbly sounds of the phone being passed over.

“God, Kaito,” Aoko says when she gets the phone. “Why are you being such a dick about this?”

“I can’t believe you’ve done this,” Kaito replies. “How could you date him when you know he hates me?”

“Between the two of you,” Aoko says, dry, “I think you might be the one doing the hating.”

Kaito supposes that may be accurate, considering Kaito actively despises Hakuba while Hakuba is just generally dickish to him the way he is to anyone he isn’t interested in pulling. Kaito doesn’t aggressively hate a lot of people, aside from the guy who killed his dad and people who don’t cover their mouths when they cough. Oh, and Hakuba.

“I’m having a bad day,” he announces, feeling the back of his head pulse with the beginnings of a headache. He’s going to have to get his air conditioning repaired, and he’s going to have to clean up the mess with the director, Namikawa, and Morishita before opening night, and he’s going to have to get his sweater dry-cleaned, and he’s going to have to worry about the police knocking on his door to ask about the probable drug dealer. And now he’s going to have to think about how his best friend and his least favorite person are—are canoodling. And how his best friend is never going to be free of the parasite known as Hakuba Saguru.

“Saguru isn’t a newly discovered leech, Kaito,” Aoko cuts in, which is when Kaito realizes that he was saying all of that out loud. He’s very tired. He plunks his head down on the table and sighs so long he thinks he goes a little oxygen-deprived by the end.

“You really aren’t having a good day, huh?” Aoko comments after a moment. She sounds marginally more apologetic now. “So what’s this about the director and Namikawa-kun and Morishita-chan?” It’s an olive branch. Eyes pinched shut, Kaito details the situation, including the parts where Morishita threatened to poison Namikawa and everything, all to the background noise of Aoko humming agreement and shock and reaction in all the appropriate places. After that he goes on to the sweater thing. It’s very cathartic.

“Poor Kaito,” Aoko says, soft. There’s a lull for a moment before she adds, “You know I didn’t want you to find out about Saguru and me from Instagram, but how could I not post anything when he went out of his way to buy me roses and chocolate on a random Tuesday?” She pauses. Kaito rubs at a stained spot on his kitchen table. “I want to show him off, okay? Because I really care about him, and I really like him.”

“Hm,” says Kaito, noncommittal. Aoko sighs.

“Okay, I get it. You have a lot of weird hangups about him.” There’s a sound like she’s rubbing at the back of her head. “How about this? Saguru and I are going out tonight. You should come with us.”

Kaito pulls the phone away from his face for a second. Either that was a weird, subtle threesome proposal (which, ew, that would be like a threesome with his sister and the antichrist), or it was a pitying invitation to third-wheel on a night out. Neither is flattering, though the latter is at least slightly more appealing.

“Aoko,” he groans.

“Kaito,” Aoko mimics. “Come on. I think you and Saguru just need to spend more time together before you really… mesh. And even if you don’t want to try to make things right with him, I still want to hang out with you. We’ll have fun! I promise!”

“First of all, I would think that your recently established monogamy means that you wouldn’t want Hakuba to mesh with anyone else,” Kaito mutters, but he’s saying it more just for the sake of making noise than any other reason. Aoko knows it, too, because she doesn’t say anything, just makes a prompting mm noise and waits for Kaito’s capitulation, which comes embarrassingly quickly.

“Fine,” he says, pressing the tip of his thumb into the inner corner of his eye, trying to press away the percolating migraine gathering there. “I will try not to fly into a murderous rage when I see Hakuba. But I reserve the right to ignore him and-or throw one or more objects at him if he gets too annoying.”

“As long as they’re not pointy,” Aoko agrees, placid. “I’ll text you the details once I get everything sorted out. For now, I want you to take a shower and go to bed.”

“Thanks, Mom,” Kaito grumbles, but after he hangs up, he does just that.

The bar/restaurant/café place to which Aoko texts him the address later has Hakuba’s greasy fingerprints all over it; when Kaito googles it, two dollar signs pop up next to the name, the top Yelp reviews use phrases like “unique vibe” and “alternative artwork from local artists,” and Google Images informs him that the interior looks as though someone spent twenty minutes half-assedly decorating an abandoned warehouse armed with potted plants, spray paint, and apathy. Kaito sighs at everything, sends Aoko a sticker of a cringing bear, peels himself out from between his rumpled sheets, and stumbles into the bathroom to get ready.

He shows up at Bottlecap (because of course that’s what it’s called) twelve minutes late, because he wanted to leave Hakuba waiting (but also because he forgot his train pass and had to double back to get it).

At the wood-topped bar counter, Aoko looks resplendent underneath the bare lightbulbs swinging like a beautiful fire hazard overhead, her hair spilling over her shoulders in long, pretty waves, her smile bright and cheerful. Hakuba, on the other hand, looks hideous with his arm slung around her, although Kaito has to admit that his hair’s at least looking better than Kaito’s (that’s not hard to achieve, unfortunately; Kaito’s hair has made many a hairdresser burst into tears). The man knows his way around a pomade.

“Asshole,” Kaito greets—pretty amiably, he thinks, but Hakuba gets a pinched look on his face, as if someone stepped on his toe and/or insulted Sherlock Holmes in front of him.

“Kuroba-kun,” he replies from behind gritted teeth. “I see you still haven’t learned how a clock works. Did you know that when the big hand passes the—”

“Glad you finally showed up, Kaito,” Aoko cuts in, wearing the pained “please behave” expression of a person trying to keep their overprotective parent from murdering their boyfriend. The unflattering comparison is the only thing that keeps Kaito from snapping back. With a soul-rending effort, Kaito closes his mouth and sits down beside Aoko.

A heavy silence descends after a moment. It feels as though they’ve been submerged in a bucket of unadulterated awkwardness.

“So, did you see the last—sports—game,” Kaito says, eventually. Aoko injects an elbow in his ribs, which is wholly uncalled for, considering he’s at least trying. Hakuba is just sitting there with a twitchy look on his face. He’s probably rehearsing the periodic table in his head or something.

“The weather’s been pretty good recently. Lots of—temperatures,” Kaito tries next. He receives no response. Somewhere to their left, someone breaks into a hopefully unrelated coughing fit. Perhaps they’re allergic to awkwardness.

Hakuba, clearing his throat, flags down the bartender and orders two dry martinis and a cosmopolitan. Kaito rolls his eyes when the martinis end up in front of Hakuba and Aoko and the cosmopolitan ends up staring him guilelessly in the face. Joke’s on Hakuba; cosmopolitans are way better than pretentious wannabe James Bond drinks.

Kaito is halfway through his cosmopolitan, contemplating whether he should bring up the price of gas as he chews on the end of the little curl of lemon from his drink in a bid to be as obnoxious as possible, when the door to the bar bangs open and all three of them turn to look. Standing in the doorway is—well, a very fine piece of man, if Kaito’s being honest, but the piece of man’s gaze is firmly fixed on Hakuba, which is less fine and more saddening. Hakuba raises a hand in greeting.

“Good to see you, Kudou-kun,” he calls as the man makes a face and strides over.

“Hakuba, I seriously don’t know what’s going on or why you needed the Ashizaki case files this late on a Friday night, but I brought the files you asked for,” the man, Kudou, says the second he’s close enough for them to hear him, face pinched. Up close, he’s even more stunning; he has this really hot superspy vibe to him, which Kaito can definitely get behind. A loose lock of dark hair sweeps over his forehead when he looks down to dig a few manila folders out of the inside of his jacket.

“Thanks,” Hakuba says when Kudou hands over the files and steps back. Kudou’s got this aggravated little wrinkle between his eyebrows. It’s cute. Kaito, belatedly, spits the mauled bit of lemon out of his mouth. He doesn’t need to make himself look any stupider than he already does.

“I hope you have a good reason for telling me to bring confidential in-progress case reports to a bar in the middle of Haido,” Kudou says.

“Oh, yes, I thought of a lead. Don’t you think it’s possible that Ashizaki needed more than one courier, right? We already checked on Yamashita, and we thought that he was holding back information, but it’s also possible that Ashizaki’s business was larger than we expected. He could have been hiding the extent of his trading from even his own people. The man was paranoid, after all.” Hakuba smiles beatifically. Kudou looks dubious.

“Hm,” he hums. “I mean, that’s a theory, but we haven’t found any traces of any more undercover trading. Anything’s worth looking into, though.” He seems to realize that he’s interrupting something a second later, blinking as he glances around the room. His gaze lands first on Aoko, then on Kaito. “Uh, I guess I’ll be going now. Sorry to have interrupted your evening.” He ducks his head politely in Aoko and Kaito’s general direction, looking abashed. Kaito grins at him. Cute with good manners?

“Oh, Kudou-kun, don’t worry about that! I was thinking that maybe—” Aoko begins before Hakuba cuts in with an, “Actually, Kudou-kun, would you mind staying until I’ve finished with these reports? After all, I do want someone to take the files back to the station once I’m done looking at them. I’d prefer not to bring them home if possible.” God, Kaito thinks wonderingly, his long-held theory of Hakuba being an absolute dick is less of a theory and more of a law, at this point.

Kudou frowns.

“And you can’t take them back yourself because…?” His tone implies Hakuba he’s reconsidering his estimation of Hakuba’s intelligence. Kaito is liking him more and more.

“Ekoda is so far from headquarters,” Hakuba points out. His eyes sharpen. “And you were probably going to go back to work anyway, weren’t you?”

“I was planning on going back to headquarters after I brought you the files,” Kudou says after a second. He hesitates, looking conflicted. “If Nakamori-san and, uh, your friend don’t mind—”

“I’m sure Aoko-san wouldn’t mind another third wheel,” Hakuba assures him. He gestures over at Kaito with his chin, attention mostly focused on the case file. “That over there is Kuroba Kaito-kun. Kuroba-kun, this is my subordinate, Kudou Shinichi-kun.” He waves a hand regally, as if they’re now granted his permission to interact, which kind of makes Kaito want to stab him with an ornamental cocktail umbrella. When he looks over at Kudou—Shinichi—he finds that Shinichi just looks resigned, as if this isn’t the eighth or even twentieth time he’s been condescended to. Kaito feels a swell of sympathy.

“Wow, working under Hakuba must suck,” he comments. Shinichi sighs and slides onto the stool beside Kaito. This close, he smells good, like faint traces of cologne and ink.

“Don’t tell anyone, but I’m applying for a transfer,” he says. Kaito goggles.


“Yeah. Not because of Hakuba, though. He’s not so bad I want to get back to the homicide division.” He pulls off his suit jacket, rolling his sleeves up (holy forearms, Batman), and sighs, almost nostalgically, as he drapes the jacket across his lap. “I just miss my dead bodies.”

Kaito snickers. Shinichi looks pleased.

“Usually when I make that joke, it doesn’t go over so well.” He’s looking at Kaito with this little half-smile, corners of his mouth pulling up crookedly.

“Well, I was operating under the assumption that you were joking. And, I mean, if you weren’t, I could always provide you with another corpse.” Kaito shrugs, tilting his head over at Hakuba. He realizes, with dawning horror, that one of Hakuba’s hands has migrated to Aoko’s thigh, to Aoko’s blushy rom-com heroine pleasure, and has to suppress a shudder. God, Aoko has weird taste.

“He’s really not that bad,” says Shinichi earnestly. It kind of resembles the way someone might say, “Cilantro doesn’t really taste like soap,” or “Catapulting puppies into traffic isn’t that terrible of a pastime.” Kaito laughs and arches an eyebrow, tracing the rim of his glass as he angles his head at Shinichi.

“Yeah, that was convincing. How bad does having Hakuba as a boss suck actually, though? Promise I won’t tell him or anything.”

“No, honestly, he’s not that bad,” Shinichi insists. His whole face manages to convey sincerity, somehow. It’s something in the set of his eyebrows and the curve of his mouth. He’s got an expressive face. Kaito really digs it. “He knows what he’s doing, really. Even if a lot of people accuse him of nepotism, you can’t deny that he produces results and he’s got good intuition and an eye for detail. Sometimes he’s a little bit—much—and he can be demanding, but he’s a good guy. Really.”

“Well, that’s less satisfying than I was hoping.” Kaito sighs as he lifts a hand to flag down the bartender. “I was hoping that we could bond over hating Hakuba, but it looks like you’re too nice for that.” Shinichi eyeballs him.

“Why do you hate Hakuba?”

“Uh, because he’s an asshole,” Kaito says, in tones of duh. One of Shinichi’s eyebrows quirks. “I can’t believe Aoko would actually agree to date him.” He glances over at where Aoko has evidently worked up enough courage to put her head on Hakuba’s shoulder, sighing heavily. “She’s way too good for him. It’s like—it’s like an angel dating someone from one of the less attractive circles of hell.”

“Oh.” Shinichi is a little wide-eyed, his gaze darting between Kaito and Aoko. “So, uh, you and Nakamori-san are—”

He’s interrupted by the bartender finally ambling over, most likely because she realized how hot Shinichi is, considering how she opens with, “Hi, gorgeous, what can I get for you tonight? Sex on the beach? A slippery nipple?” Kaito is thrilled to bear witness to the uncomfortable conversation that unfolds. For all the classy, untouchable vibes he gives off, Shinichi is remarkably bad at navigating being hit on. He keeps shooting Kaito these scrunched-up, pained looks. It’s like watching a week-old puppy trying to do an obstacle course—adorable and a little sad but also, and most importantly, hilarious.

“Thanks for all your help,” Shinichi hisses when the conversation ends the bartender’s number scrawled across Shinichi’s hand, which is clutching a glass of something called pink panties (Kaito hasn’t actually heard of that one; it’s a delightful discovery). His face is all red, up to his ears and hairline. “An assist sometime during that would have been nice.”

“And miss the opportunity to watch you suffer?” Kaito says, and then wonders if that’s going to far with someone he’s known for maybe half an hour. Shinichi doesn’t seem too offended, though; he just takes a sip of his drink and continues looking pleasantly ruffled. Kaito leans in, deciding to press his luck. “I was waiting for her to offer you a sloe comfortable screw against the wall, though.”

Shinichi chokes, loudly enough that Aoko peers over at them with concern. Kaito grins, victorious.

“That is not a real thing,” Shinichi wheezes once he’s expelled most of the liquid from his lungs. Kaito wiggles his eyebrows, sitting back in his chair.

“How can you be sure? You’ll have to Google it. Find some visual representations, maybe,” he says. Shinichi gives him a betrayed look and shakes his head.

“You’re a health risk,” he mutters. Kaito is flattered beyond words. He nudges Shinichi with an elbow.

“Tell me about your favorite dead bodies,” he says, as a peace offering. Shinichi grins, a hint of evilness in his eyes, and that’s how Kaito ends up listening to the stories of a girl who pretended to be her own grandmother for three years, a guy who killed two people over Sherlock Holmes fanfiction, and a jilted ex-girlfriend who beheaded her ex on a roller coaster.

“I’m calling bullshit,” he’s saying, probably a little too loudly, around an hour later. Shinichi is looking smug, nibbling on the edge of the lemon wedge that came with his (cough) pink panties. “No way would Tropical Land still be open—and still have the mystery coaster available to ride!—if someone had been beheaded on it. With piano wire, none the less.” He shudders.

“I mean, I’m pretty sure they got most of the blood off,” Shinichi says with a little too much relish before he adds, “You could probably still find records of it in the news, if you dig around.” He’s grinning a little, bright and pleased with himself. It’s strange how this kind of self-satisfaction is so hideous on Hakuba, yet so appealing on Shinichi. Maybe it’s because he can tell Shinichi is mostly joking. “It was, like, seven years ago, maybe, but there should still be articles about it.”

Kaito is shaking his head at Shinichi’s everything when he realizes that Aoko is standing next to him (and probably has been for a significant amount of time). He turns towards her, arching an eyebrow.

“Did you need something?” he asks, cautious. Aoko is wearing the same expression she wore that one time they volunteered at a no-kill animal shelter together: thoroughly amused and three seconds away from bursting into loud cooing. He has the strange suspicion that he and Shinichi are the fumbling puppies in this metaphor.

“Oh, no, no, don’t worry about it,” she says. “It’s so cute to see you making friends.” Then she winks at Shinichi (horrible) and puts down a manila folder in front of him. “I just wanted to let you two know that Saguru finished with the file, so…” Kaito stares at her, uncomprehending, looks over at Hakuba (who raises a dickish eyebrow at him), and then realizes what she’s implying. Oh. He hazards a glance over at Shinichi and finds him making a face that’s a little too advanced in Shinichi-ese for Kaito to decode.

“Well, thanks for having me,” Shinichi says as he gets to his feet, pulling out his wallet and leaving a few bills on the counter. The slightly bashful smile he gives Aoko must follow the golden ratio or something, because it’s so pretty Kaito is kind of confused by it. “Sorry for intruding on your date night, and with shop talk, nonetheless.”

“No worries!” chirps Aoko before she gives Kaito a Knowing Look that means she’s going to pry everything out of him at a later time. “I’ll leave you two to say your goodbyes.” She somehow manages to make the two steps it takes to get back to her seat look suggestive.

“I’m sorry about her,” Kaito mumbles, rubbing at the back of his neck. When he meets Shinichi’s eyes, he finds that Shinichi is already looking at him.

“It’s all right,” he says after a second. “Um, it was nice meeting you. Thanks for listening to me talk.” There’s a hint of nervousness in his tone. “I had a good time. Tonight.”

“Yeah?” Kaito feels himself brighten. His mother has always told him he loses every last ounce of cool he possesses when he likes someone, but he’s never truly realized just how obvious he is. If he were any more transparent he’d be a window, or maybe a ghost. “Hey, so, can I get your number or something? So we can maybe talk about your cases again, sometime?” Shinichi’s face does something—intriguing—before he nods.

“Uh, sure,” he agrees and reaches into his suit pocket for a pen. A minute later, Kaito has Shinichi’s number inked on his wrist. Shinichi’s hand hovers by Kaito’s arm for a second before he pulls back and ducks his head a little. “There you go.”

“I’ll text you later,” Kaito tells him. “So you’ll have my number, too.”

“Sounds good.” Shinichi’s bobbing his head a little, as though he’s not really sure what to say. “I guess I’ll see you around, then?”

“Of course.” Kaito is going to ensure that he’s around to be seen if it’s the last thing he does. “Safe trip back to the station. Watch out for dead bodies.”

“Wow, thanks for the advice.” With a last devastatingly sarcastic smile, Shinichi grabs the folder off the counter and strides out of the bar.

Kaito stares ravenously down at the neatly penned digits on his arm.

“Are you going to eat your own hand?” asks Hakuba, sounding disdainful. Kaito takes great joy in ignoring him.

Kaito has typed out four variations of the same text in the last ten minutes. He’s been staring down at hey this is kuroba from last night, here’s my number and wondering whether the comma splice makes it sound chill or if Shinichi would be disgusted by his sloppy grammar, for long enough that his neck cramps up and he has to straighten. His vertebra creak ominously.

“This is just painful to watch,” mutters someone from behind him. Kaito twists around in his chair—he’s in one of those tiny, rundown cafés that seem to gravitate towards the spaces between department stores and sushi restaurants—to make eye contact with the barista standing behind him. She flinches, deer-in-the-headlights caught out, and scrambles into the back room.

It kind of feels like the universe has spoken, though. Kaito takes one last look down at the text, closes his eyes, hits the send button, and then makes a good attempt at figuring out how the hell he’s going to make a smoke bomb that’s thick and fast-spreading enough to hide a flock of doves flooding into the rafters. The stage lights will definitely complicate things.

Fifty minutes later, he emerges from his frustrated sketching (the cannister’s going to have to be shaped differently; that’s about how much he’s got figured out) to find that he’s got a text waiting for him, from the number he’s saved as kudou shinichi <3<3<3. Shinichi apparently responded thirty minutes ago. Kaito opens it with the appetite of a circling vulture.

12:31 p.m.
Good afternoon, Kuroba-san. Thanks for last night.

“God, he’s adorable, look at that punctuation,” Kaito mutters, and then is a little disgusted by his own besotted-ness. Only a little, though. He thumbs back, so it was as good for you as it was for me? ;) and sits back to wait (and hate the laws of both chemistry and physics; God do gas laws suck). He’s gotten two responses, one after the other, when he gives up on calculating gas volume and checks his phone a few minutes later.

1:08 p.m.
Very funny. What are you up to?

1:10 p.m.
I’m just now realizing that I neglected to ask you what you did for a living while I talked on and on about myself. Sorry. I’m not usually that self-absorbed. Mostly.

Kaito smirks.

1:11 p.m.
yeah kudou how rude can u get!!!
i’m a magician (not just in bed
;) ;))

1:14 p.m.
Ha, ha.

1:15 p.m.
Are you serious?
As in with spells and human sacrifices?

1:16 p.m.
i mean……… the human sacrifices are just for fun

1:17 p.m.
May I remind you that I am an officer of the law.

1:18 p.m.
JOKES, detective serious
& anyway i'm not a sorcerer/occult/necromancy magician as u probably guessed
i do stage magic
shows and stuff like that
think really awesome card tricks and doves exploding everywhere

1:21 p.m.
I hope by “exploding doves,” you mean the doves explode out of something. And not that the doves explode.
Interesting. I have to say that I’m amazing at figuring out magic tricks.

1:22 p.m.
yeah but u haven’t seen any of my tricks before have u
i bet i can come up with a trick u can’t figure out

1:24 p.m.
I’ll take that as a challenge.
Let me know the next time you have a show, and I’ll see if I’m free.

1:25 p.m.
i better start planning something great then!!!
what do i get if u can’t figure it out?

1:27 p.m.
Are we actually making this a bet?

1:28 p.m.

1:32 p.m.
A favor (which you can decide on).
Within the bounds of reason, of course.
You can’t ask me to help you with your human sacrifices, is what I mean.
I reserve veto power if it’s something I’m uncomfortable with.

1:33 p.m.
a favor i get to decide on……hm……
if u win u get the same deal ofc

1:27 p.m.
I’ll look forward to that.
May the best detective win. 

1:28 p.m.
a winky face from detective serious???? what is this!!!

1:29 p.m.
;) ;) ;)

This time when the barista looks over at the sound of Kaito’s inhuman squeal, judgmental expression already jammed in place, he’s too happy to do anything but beam back at her.

The next time Kaito sees Shinichi is not, however, at one of his shows. It’s at a “celebratory soiree” (Hakuba’s exact words) that Hakuba and Aoko are hosting at Bottlecap. Hakuba apparently got promoted from assistant inspector to full inspector, which smells strongly of nepotism and greatly reduces Kaito’s trust in government agencies. Kaito would skip it, but when he told Aoko that, she made a wounded sound over the phone, as if he planted a knife between her shoulder blades, and suddenly he agreed to show. Kaito is very easy.

He does show up twenty minutes late, because he does have some semblance of pride remaining. There are a lot of people in nice, this-plain-white-shirt-cost-a-trillion-dollars clothes clustered around in little islands, holding highball glasses and cocktails, which makes him wrinkle his nose. Hakuba is at the far side of the room, engrossed in conversation with a woman wearing Louboutins and two guys with expensive, bad haircuts. Aoko is nowhere in sight. Kaito sighs.

It takes him a second of scanning before he catches sight of Kudou Shinichi, parked at the bar with a far less attractive man at his side. His hair is sloppily pushed back, and his sleeves are folded up, so he looks, in a word, lickable. As Kaito watches, the man beside him pats him on the shoulder and departs. Kaito swoops in.

“What’s a good-looking guy like you doing all al—are you drinking pink panties?” Kaito stares, intent to flirt momentarily abandoned. Shinichi shrugs and takes another sip from his glass. Up close, there are shadows underneath his eyes, lines around his mouth. Signs of exhaustion. It doesn’t really make him any less hot, though. Kaito finds himself kind of into the “superspy after a car chase and an underwater scuba diving mission” aesthetic Shinichi has going on.

“It’s pretty good. I like lemonade.” Shinichi lifts one shoulder in a shrug.

“Can’t fault you for that, I guess.” It takes Kaito a second to order a cosmopolitan—partly to watch Shinichi’s mouth quirk and partly because they’re just that good—and refocus on Shinichi. “What’s new with you?”

“I’ve been up for twenty hours, working on a drug bust,” Shinichi says, frank, and yawns into his drink. Kaito goggles at him.

“What are you doing at Hakuba’s pretentious ego-petting get-together? Go home and sleep!” The back of Shinichi’s hair looks as though he’s run his hands through it a few dozen times; the cowlicks twitch when he shakes his head at Kaito.

“Well, I’m here now,” Shinichi mumbles, smiling a little at Kaito, which is devastating but doesn’t really answer any of his questions. “And anyway, I wanted to ask you about when your next show was. Our bet still stands, you know.” Kaito flinches.

“Oh, um. To be honest, I have shows nearly every other night,” he admits, to Shinichi’s eyebrowy surprise. He finds himself rubbing at the back of his head, trying not to look as embarrassed as he feels. “But I’ll let you know when I’m ready for you to come to a show. I’m still trying to think up a trick that’ll work against the Great Detective of the East.” Shinichi goes a very fetching shade of pink.

“You know about—that?”

“Seems like I do.” Or, well, he found out from a one a.m. Google stalking session a while few nights ago. Shinichi had been adorable as a teenager. Kaito half-wishes that there was a time machine he could use to go back and pinch baby Shinichi’s arrogant little cheeks with. “And knowing your illustrious past as a teenage super-sleuth, I think I need to put in my fair share of work. I have a lot riding on this bet, you know.” Riding. Heh. Maybe if all went well.

“Yeah, a favor from me is such a big thing,” Shinichi says, in tones of duh. Kaito lifts an eyebrow. He can feel how wide his smile is getting, and at this point, he’s just hoping he doesn’t look like a shark trying to decide how to best bite Shinichi’s arm off.

“I’m glad we can agree on something,” he answers, wiggling his eyebrows. The color of Shinichi’s face has surpassed the color of his drink in terms of pinkness, which Kaito notices when Shinichi, coughing, takes a steadying sip from his glass and clears his throat.

“Should I be worried about what you might ask for if you win?” he wonders. Kaito makes a considering noise.

“Only if you don’t like maid costumes,” he says, philosophical, and beams when Shinichi chokes and spends a minute hunched over, coughing into his elbow. To his credit, though, Shinichi recovers pretty quickly once he’s gotten the fluid out of his lungs.

“How did you know what I was going to have you do when I win the bet?” he asks, expression innocent even as his eyes twinkle over the rim of his glass. Kaito smirks.

“I had no idea that you had that kind of hobby, Detective Serious.”

“Hmm,” Shinichi says pensively. His gaze goes faraway, and he swishes his drink around in his glass one-handed. “If I had to be honest, I think I’m more of a sexy firefighter kind of guy. You know. No shirt. Some suspenders. A little soot.” He sighs, looking almost wistful. It’s Kaito’s turn to choke on his drink. Shinichi looks inordinately pleased with himself.

“Is that so?” Kaito wheezes once he’s caught his breath. “I’ll keep that in mind.” He has a feeling he’s going to think about it. Extensively. Probably tonight, after he gets home.

It’s at this inopportune moment that Hakuba chooses to drift over. He’s holding a gin and tonic and looking assholish as always, and he sidles up between them with a slight smile.

“I see you two are still on good terms,” he announces, glancing at Kaito. “I have to say I’m surprised, considering that this one’s involved.” Shinichi hides a smile in the rim of his glass, fairly unconvincingly. (Apparently Kaito likes them a little mean.) Kaito decides that from now on, every birthday cake wish he makes will be for laser vision with which he can incinerate Hakuba. For now he settles for a gritted-teeth smile.

“Did you want something, Hakuba, other than the pleasure of sucking the joy out of a perfectly good conversation?” he asks around a mouthful of creaking molars. Hakuba feigns thoughtfulness.

“Nothing, really. I just wanted to congratulate Kudou-kun on his help during the last case. It was one of the cases that was considered that contributed to my promotion, you see.” He pats Shinichi on the shoulder. “Honestly, though, I’m surprised that you came out here tonight. I would’ve expected you to hop right onto the Higuchi case. Didn’t you say you had some ideas about leads?”

“I mean, I do,” Shinichi says. His eyes dart towards Kaito for half a second before they return to Hakuba. If Kaito didn’t know better, he’d think Shinichi looks bashful, almost. “I just. I thought I could take a break.”

“You, our resident workaholic? Something must be quite enthralling to pull you away from your desk,” remarks Hakuba. He gives Kaito a knowing, patronizing smile, as though Kaito’s wearing a sign saying “KICK ME” on his back and he’s being gracious enough not to take it up on its offer. “Don’t you agree, Kuroba-kun?”

“I make it a general rule not to agree with you ever, so, no,” Kaito answers, feeling an eyebrow make a bid for freedom. He takes pity on Shinichi, who must be feeling massively uncomfortable, judging from the way he’s focusing on the hanging ficus behind Kaito instead of either of them. “What’ve you done with my princess, anyway?”

“Your who?” Hakuba and Shinichi ask simultaneously. Kaito rolls his eyes.

“Aoko? The person you conned into being your girlfriend? My sweet little baby princess who deserves so—ow!”

“That’s infantilizing, Kaito,” Aoko informs him from where she’s crept up behind him, one hand still clenched around the back of his neck. Her fingernails are going to leave marks. As violent as she is beautiful, Kaito thinks with parental fondness. “I’m a grown woman who can make her own choices. Even if some of them are questionable.” She gives him a look that implies he’s the questionable choice. Kaito subsides, wisely. He enjoys having his head attached to his shoulders, thanks.

“Kudou-kun!” Aoko says brightly in the ensuing silence. “Good to see you again. Kaito’s been telling me all about you.” She beams at him. Kaito plants an elbow in her ribs and feels her hand tighten around his neck in response, which makes him yelp unmanfully.

“Ow! Aoko, are you trying to claw through my carotid artery?” he demands, squirming. He can practically hear Aoko and Hakuba rolling their eyes.

“Wow, Kai-chan, you’re so smart! It’s as if you learned that from an anatomy class and not watching hospital dramas!” Aoko drawls. Kaito squawks, offended.

“Hey, I graduated with honors! And hospital dramas are good—”

“It’s good to see you too, Nakamori-san,” Shinichi interrupts. He’s watching the whole car crash of a conversation with a smile. Something about it doesn’t sit well with Kaito. There’s nothing wrong with it outwardly: there is the right number of teeth showing, and there is the right degree of curl to his mouth. Maybe it’s that there isn’t much smile in Shinichi’s eyes as he downs the rest of his drink, licks over his lips, and clambers to his feet. “I’m really sorry, but I think I might go back to the station now.”

“What? So soon?” Kaito can hear the plaintive note in his own voice; he sounds like the clingiest of spouses. Every love advice columnist in a hundred-mile radius is cringing. “Why don’t you stay for another drink?” The apologetic little smile that Shinichi gives him is more real, at least, when he looks over at Hakuba.

“Sorry, Kuroba. I just thought of a lead on the Higuchi case.” He nods at Hakuba, then Aoko. “Congratulations on your promotion. I’ll see you all later.”

The three of them end up watching as Shinichi leaves, his half-finished pink panties left behind like the proverbial glass slipper.

“That was all your fault, Kaito,” says Aoko, accusing.

“It was all fine until you showed up,” Kaito mutters, but he’s not sure she’s wrong. He hangs his head. The hand Aoko is still resting on the back of his neck goes gentle, comforting.

Hakuba, for his part, just makes a humming sound that sets Kaito’s teeth on edge.

Kaito, in a fit of—something—texts Shinichi a captionless picture of a very round chinchilla. He’s not sure why, but he’s just gotten back from a long day of crying backstage (the mess with the director and the leads and the understudies has yet to be resolved) and it’s a cute chinchilla and Shinichi is a cute guy, so maybe he’ll like it?

When he checks his phone in the morning, he’s gotten the following:

7:14 p.m.
Thank you for the picture. He looks very soft.

8:39 p.m.
Did you know that chinchillas can’t be washed with water because their fur is so thick that it can’t dry on its own and it gets moldy?
According to my parents, w hen I was a kid I wanted to be a chinchilla when I grew up so I wouldn’t have to take baths.

9:01 p.m.
Sorry. I realize now that was a weird thing to tell someone. You probably didn’t need to know that. I just couldn’t stop thinking about it after I saw the picture.

Kaito puts his head in his hands and mourns the fact that he’s basically in love with a guy way too dumb and cute and smart to ever like him back. He still texts back oh but i want to know everything abt u!!!!! ;) ;) ;) and sends a picture of a two-week-old lemming on a spoon, though.

The next time Kaito sees Shinichi comes about because thing with the director and the leads and the understudies has been resolved. Namely, by someone murdering and castrating the director and leaving his body in the green room for innocent, unsuspecting, longsuffering stage managers (Kaitos) to find.

Kaito, tasked with overseeing the corpse until the police arrive, sighs down at the director, who is lying prone and spread-eagled beside racks of costumes and other various props in a large collection of his own blood.

“I would feel bad for you, but you kind of brought it upon yourself,” he says to him, then feels bad for saying that. It’s maybe a little hard to unequivocally claim that involving yourself in a love dodecahedron on purpose qualifies you for castration. The director, in response, continues to lie motionless beside a plastic horse head.

“Are you talking to the body?” says a voice from the doorway, and Kaito jumps, nearly taking a dive into the lake of blood, before he looks over to see Shinichi eyebrowing at him.

“Kudou!” he cheers, and then feels sort of bad about sounding happy when he’s standing next to a castrated corpse. He clears his throat and lowers his voice. “Uh, I mean, Kudou. Hi. I didn’t know you’d be here.” The last time they’d talked, the conversation had been about the Tokyo Spirits’ season, not Shinichi’s transfer. The amount of sports knowledge Kaito possesses could fill maybe a teaspoon, but he had Googled “horrible soccer opinions” and then texted them to Shinichi to watch him get riled.

“Yeah, my transfer finally went through,” Shinichi agrees. “Why are you whispering?”

“Uh, I don’t know? Because there’s a corpse and I’m trying to be respectful even though I don’t know murder scene etiquette?” Kaito flails at the body for emphasis. Shinichi’s gaze slides over to it, and he does a slight double take, like oh, right, that’s why I came out here. He approaches the body slowly, taking in the room around him, before he kneels next to it.

“Did you know him?” he asks as he peers at the director’s face, pulling at his eyelids and checking his eyeballs. Kaito goggles for a moment before he remembers he’s been asked a question.

“I mean, sort of? This is show is the first time I’ve worked with him.”

“What was your relationship with him like?” Shinichi says. Now he’s doing something—involved with the mouth and surrounding area.

“Not really that great…?” Kaito squints at him. “Is this going to implicate me? Because under no circumstances did I ever want to see Kurosawa’s dick, even to cut it off.”

“What?” Shinichi’s nose crinkles before he glances down at the director’s crotch and winces. “Yeah, okay. That implies a very… intimate… connection between the murderer and the victim. Probably not you, unless you and he were actually…?” He eyes the director and then Kaito, expression verging on thoughtful as he starts examining the corpse. Kaito is horrified.

Kudou Shinichi,” he gasps. “Do you think I’m a raccoon? Have I grown a tail in the last ten seconds? Do I suddenly have a mask?”

Shinichi blinks at him, bewildered. He’s got one (gloved) hand inside the body’s mouth and another unbuttoning his shirt.

“No?” he tries. Kaito gives him a look.

“Then why would you suggest that I’m into trash?”

Shinichi is a beat too slow in smothering a laugh against his sleeve (the one not associated with the hand feeling up the director’s molars, that is). Kaito can feel himself grinning.

“And anyway,” he adds, injecting meaning into his careful tone, “I’m a one-person kind of guy. Once I have my sights set on someone, I don’t look at anyone else.” For some reason, that makes Shinichi deflate a little. Hopefully in relief, Kaito thinks to himself with a touch of hysterical worry, because it’s not as though Kaito hasn’t been subtle with his flirtations. He’s never had so many suggestive emojis in his most recently used section.

“I’ll keep that in mind,” Shinichi says before he goes back to focusing on the body. It’s also then that Kaito notices the two forensics officers who have been hovering behind him for the last few minutes, clearly trying to get at the corpse without interrupting their conversation. He steps back hastily.

It takes Shinichi about two minutes to decide on a rigor mortis-based estimated time of death, ten minutes to question everyone, five minutes to figure out that the killer and the castrater are two different people, fifteen minutes to determine that the killer is the male lead, and then another five minutes to conclude that the castrater is the female understudy. In total, the whole murder takes about an hour to clear up entirely. It’s almost disappointing, because that means Kaito only gets an hour to watch Shinichi be hot and smart. He didn’t even get to fully appreciate Shinichi’s ass as he crouched beside the body. Now all he can do is stare morosely down at the stain in the carpet.

“Water and ammonia will get it out,” Shinichi comments from behind him. Kaito turns to peer at him.

“I’m… not sure I want to now how you know that,” he says, slow.

“Google,” Shinichi answers innocently. He looks half a second from batting his eyelashes, Kaito thinks with a flash of oh my God he’s so cute. “And—personal experience.” Kaito gives him an assessing look.

“Nosebleeds or recreational human sacrifices?” he wonders. Shinichi does this eye-roll thing that somehow manages to be amused and unimpressed at the same time.

“You’re the one who’s into recreational human sacrifices, if I recall correctly,” he says dryly before he flexes his shoulders back and sighs. “Well, that’s the case done with. I think I’ll head back to the station, since we’re finished.” There’s the slightest hint of a question in his tone. Kaito latches onto it like a hungry, opportunistic lamprey.

“Or you could take a break, you workaholic.”

“Right.” Shinichi raises an eyebrow. “And you suggest I do what, on this break?”

“Join me in the nearest broom closet” is on the tip of Kaito’s tongue, but he manages to reign it in with some difficulty.

“There’s this thing called coffee that I think you might like. We could get some, maybe?” he says instead, tossing out his most charming smile. Shinichi smiles, almost like a reflex, before a little furrow curls up between his eyebrows. Kaito is bowled over by the desire to kiss it away.

“I don’t know,” Shinichi begins, sounding uneasy. “I mean, I’m still technically on the clock right now. I shouldn’t just take a break.”

“Are you trying to tell me that you don’t have any holiday hours left? You work overtime basically every day of the week.” Kaito points out, dubious. He’s pretty sure that Shinichi lives at the police station when there’s an investigation on, which is basically always. “Also, labor laws. I’m pretty sure you have to take a break at some point today. Why not make it now, when you have such dashing company to spend it with?” He clasps his hands in front of his chest and tries to look alluring.

For a moment, he thinks Shinichi is going to refuse, but then Shinichi cracks a smile and goes visibly softer, in both his face and the way he’s holding himself.

“When you put it like that, I guess maybe I won’t illegally work through the morning,” he agrees. “Where might we find this illustrious coffee you speak of?”

“There’s a pretty good café down the street. Even Hakuba agrees that the coffee’s pretty good, and he cares about brewing times and stuff like that,” says Kaito, almost alarmed at how well his morning is going. Well, other than the fact that this production most certainly screwed beyond recovery and he had to see a castrated body. Other than that.

“Sounds good,” Shinichi replies, allowing himself to be steered out of the green room. “We can talk about how far you are from finishing your bet-winning trick. Oh, and your extremely wrong opinions about the Tokyo Spirits. It’s insanity to suggest that they trade Hide to Big Osaka, especially for a player like Sanada. Sanada is half the power forward that Hide is, and if you compare them statistically, it’s practically blasphemy to even suggest that the Spirits wouldn’t be getting absolutely shafted in a trade

God, Shinichi is cute, Kaito thinks sappily as he surreptitiously Googles soccer positions on his phone.

It takes Kaito two more weeks of pretending to know things about soccer over text and experimenting with gases of questionable stability before Kaito finally completes the trick. The (with any luck) bet-winning trick, that is. Naturally, the first thing he does is call Aoko.

“Can you come here and look at this magic trick?” he asks the second she picks up. “I need to know if it’s, like, unbreakable.”

“Um,” she says, drawing out the vowel. “I mean, I guess I could? But it’s not like I’m an expert at explaining your tricks, you know.” Kaito considers this for a moment before he decides that her opinion probably couldn’t hurt anyway. And anyway, it’s not as though he’s ever needed an excuse to hang out with Aoko, Hakuba-tainted as she may be.

She shows up twenty minutes later with two six-packs of jelly sake, because she’s the best person in the world. Kaito graciously offers to relieve her of them, hangs up her coat, and offers her a pair of slippers before he fires up his trick. It’s a very complicated trick, which means that by the end of it his living room is trashed and Aoko’s eyebrows are trying their hardest to become one with her hairline.

“Wow.” Aoko blinks at him. “That was—something.”

“So?” Kaito may be bouncing on the balls of his feet. “Do you think it’s good enough to—is it hard to figure it out?”

“Kaito.” Aoko levels him with a flat look. “You literally set a dove on fire at one point.”

“Is that a yes?” Kaito says hopefully, petting Heart where she’s sitting on his shoulder (unsinged, of course).

Yes, Kaito, I have no idea how the hell you managed any of that. It was brilliant.” Aoko drops back against the couch, cracking open a sake as she shakes her head. She’s staring at him as he sits down beside her, eyebrows returned from her hairline in time to form a suspicious frown. “Why are you suddenly previewing a trick with me, anyway? You haven’t done that since high school. And why are you planning such a complicated trick in the first place?”

“Uh,” Kaito begins. To stall, he swipes her sake—she just grabs another one—and takes a sip, plucking at the tab to avoid looking at her. “I may have made a bet with Kudou. Shinichi. Kudou Shinichi, I mean. About whether he would be able to figure out how I did one of my tricks.”

“And what does this bet entail, exactly?” Aoko says. Kaito squirms.

“An unspecified favor?” he tries. Aoko looks alert, all of a sudden.

“Please don’t tell me you’re going to try to get him to kill Saguru.”


“Because if it was Kudou-kun, he could actually get away with it,” Aoko hisses. She’s scowling hard enough that Kaito’s a little worried she’s going to form premature wrinkles in the next ten minutes. “Do you know how many cases he’s solved, Kaito? He could one hundred percent get away with murder. He’d probably make an amazing serial killer.” She’s kind of waving her hands around, now. Kaito eyes the hand holding her can of sake and hopes she doesn’t get any on his couch.

“As—telling as it is that you think I’d waste an unspecified favor from Kudou Shinichi on killing your boyfriend,” he says, “I have better things to make him do.” Aoko blinks at him for a second before understanding dawns on her face.

“Ohhhhh. Maid costume?” she says, knowing. Kaito gives up keeping his couch sake-free and elbows her. A little sake never ruined upholstery, right?

“That’s a little too sexual harassment-y, even for me,” he informs her primly. (Frowning, Aoko mouths “even for me” and visibly despairs.) “No, I’m going to ask him out on a proper date. Obviously he’s allowed to veto anything I suggest that crosses a line, of course, but I’m pretty sure he’ll at least consider it since he’ll have lost the bet. Which ups my chances.”

“Awww,” Aoko coos, and goes to pat him on the head. He contorts squirmily in an attempt to get away from her and ends up halfway off the couch, cheek pressed into the carpet. “That’s so sweet and adorable. You know you could ask him out without resorting to winning a bet, right? I’m pretty sure Kudou-kun would go out with you in a heartbeat if you just asked.”

“What? No, he wouldn’t.” Kaito twists to blink at her.

“He totally would,” sing-songs Aoko, taking a sip from her can. Kaito tries to tell her how obviously wrong she is by looking dubious as he can manage while upside down, but she ignores him as she adds, “But I guess that’s kind of a moot point, because you were willing to obliterate your living room in an attempt to increase your chances of getting a date with him.” A touch of softness enters her gaze. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen you put this much effort into something, Kaito. You must really like him.”

“Yeah. I do,” Kaito mumbles into the carpet. “I just—he’s so…” What’s a word to describe Kudou Shinichi? To be honest, he’d probably need more than just one word to do it. Cute, obviously, and also hot like burning, but beyond that, he’s just so dumb, but also scarily smart, and of course he’s expressive and adorable and Kaito likes being around him a lot—

“Okay, I’m going to need more alcohol if I’m going to listen to this anymore,” announces Aoko, going for another can, which means that Kaito’s been saying that all aloud. He sighs and tries to drink his sake upside down (a mistake).

“Are you sure that he won’t be able to figure it out?” he asks a few minutes later. “The trick, I mean.” He’s got a lot riding on its un-figure-out-ability.

“I mean, I couldn’t figure it out, but that’s just me. I doubt I’m at Kudou-kun’s level.” A gleam of cruelty enter her gaze. “You know who is? Saguru. You could have him take a look at it, and if he can’t figure it out just by looking at it once, I don’t think Kudou-kun would be able to either.”

“No,” Kaito says immediately, jabbing a finger at her. “There is no way that I’m doing that. I have my pride and I will not invite the actual devil into my house.”

Four jelly sakes later, he ends up inviting the devil into his house; Aoko is making increasingly sloppy “Well, maybe I could figure the trick out if I tried hard enough,” sounds and his judgment is impaired. Hakuba brings his own drinks (overpriced plum wine) because he’s too good for jelly sake, shows up wearing his stupid inverness and deerstalker, and criticizes Kaito’s interior decorating skills for a solid five minutes before he settles down to watch the trick.

The things he would do to get a date with Kudou Shinichi, Kaito thinks despairingly.

The day of the fateful magic show comes sooner rather than later. Kaito is more nervous than the first time he set foot onstage, which says something. He’s mentally rehearsed the trick so many times he could probably pull it off concussed and half-dead, and Hakuba gave it his seal of approval (or declared the trick “horrific and unsolvable,” at least), so he’s basically ready for anything.

Or almost anything. There’s a knock on the door of his dressing room ten minutes before curtains up. Kaito twists around to see Shinichi leaning against the doorframe and is forced to recognize that he is Not ready for the sight of Kudou Shinichi in a tux. Something about the dark of the suit sets off the light of his skin, and the deep red bowtie he’s wearing keeps drawing Kaito’s eyes to his throat, and his hair is meticulously styled for once, fringe slicked back and cowlicks smoothed. Kaito would like to chew on him, in a very thirsty kind of way.

“Hi,” he says, the picture of eloquence, after a revealing pause, during which Shinichi stands there looking confused and hot. He shakes himself. “So nice of you to finally show up.”

“The show doesn’t start for another ten minutes, Kuroba,” Shinichi points out, laughing a little. He’s got the slightest hint of dimples, Kaito realizes all of a sudden, and feels a little faint. “Anyway, I just thought I’d stop in and wish you luck.” He pauses, eyes twinkling as he smirks. It’s as though he’s got nebula trapped in his eyes, as physics-defying and painful as it sounds. “Even though you’re going to lose and all.”

“Bold words from a man I’m going to see in a maid costume soon,” Kaito hums, and grins when Shinichi goes a delicate shade of pink. “All jokes aside, though, I do have an idea of what I’m going to do with you when I win this bet.” Shinichi’s face scrunches up. “Oh, and pay extra attention to the trick that comes after the levitation. That’s the one I came up with, just for you.” He bats his eyelashes. Shinichi ignores that.

“Oh yeah? That’s the trick that’s been holding everything up?”

Holding everything up?” Kaito splutters. He doesn’t have to try hard to fake affront. “As if you haven’t been enjoying our conversations in the meantime.”

“You are a pretty good source of cute animal pictures, even if the pictures come with a two-year-old’s comprehension of soccer,” agrees Shinichi before he breaks off to yawn widely into the back of his hand, looking like a python cranking open its jaw to swallow an antelope. Kaito makes a tsking sound that reminds him of his mother seeing the prices on an expensive restaurant’s menu, or Aoko seeing him on any given day.

“You really work too much. You’re going to die of sleep deprivation before you hit thirty, and when I give your eulogy, all I’ll say is ‘I told him so,’” he sighs, putting his hands on his hips. Shinichi glares at him around his sleeve. His eyes are all watery from yawning.

“I’ll have you know that there’s a case going on right now,” he sniffs. “And no one’s ever died of sleep deprivation.”

“You can be the first,” Kaito suggests. “They can add that to your Wikipedia page, underneath all the cases you’ve solved. Early life, career, science-defying death by sleep deprivation.” Shinichi’s expression implies that if he were a little less mature, he would be sticking his tongue out at Kaito.

“We can add ‘irrational mother hen’ to the end of yours,” he mutters before he glances at his watch and straightens. “I should probably be getting to my seat now, actually.”

“Need help find it?” Kaito offers. Shinichi waves him off.

“I’m not that sleep deprived,” he informs him tartly before he breaks out a devastating smirk. “Good luck again, Kuroba. May the best detective win.” He winks before he steps out of the room, door closing softly behind him.

“You little shit,” Kaito mutters, shaking his head even as his heart, traitorous organ that it is, does an enthusiastic floor routine in the space enclosed by his ribcage. God, he hopes Hakuba was right when he said the trick was good enough. If it’s not, Kaito may actually murder him, and then Shinichi will be assigned to the case and have to arrest him in a flood of betrayed anguish and it’ll be like a poorly adapted Agatha Christie special.

There’s a respectful knock at the door a few minutes later, interrupting Kaito’s attempts to picture what that would look like (maybe there would be some manful tears as Kaito was clapped in irons?). One of the stagehands sticks his head in.

“Kuroba-san, it’s time,” he says, smiling encouragingly, and Kaito takes a deep breath, nods, and follows him to the wings.

The show itself passes in a blur. Being on stage is a rush of nerves and staccato heartbeats—always is, always has been—but the knowledge that Kudou Shinichi is somewhere in the audience, trying to parse his every movement, introduces its own cocktail of catecholamines. Kaito finds him, actually, right before he departs from his usual schedule to start The Trick: Shinichi is sitting a few rows from the front, five or so seats off center, brow creased in concentration. When their eyes meet, Shinichi grins and mouths something that looks a little like what are you waiting for? and Kaito hurtles a little farther into love with him.

Afterwards, Kaito finishes his encore and ends up being led back to his green room by a gushing stagehand, checking his phone along the way. He’s got a few notifications (oh look, Animal Crossing has something to say to him) but the one that snatches his attention is from kudou shinichi <3<3<3.

“Thanks, Izumi-chan, I’m really glad you enjoyed the show, you were really helpful tonight, I’ll see you later,” he tells the stagehand, who blushes and beams and makes embarrassed noises. Once she’s left him by himself to go help clean up the stage, he opens the message with maybe a little too much excitement. He’s received a sticker of a cheering, congratulatory hamster and the following texts:

7:02 p.m.
Great job tonight.
Let’s meet at Bottlecap to talk?

Kaito is too thrilled to even be mad about having to go to Bottlecap again.

Shinichi is about a fifth of the way through his pink panties (a truly intriguing thought) when Kaito comes through the front doors of Bottlecap and zeroes in on him. He’s loosened his bowtie, and his jacket is tidily folded across his lap. He looks up when he hears the door open, and Kaito is gratified to see him break into a little smile when he spots Kaito coming towards him.

“That was some show, Kuroba. Probably the best stage magic I’ve ever seen,” he says, sounding admiring, when Kaito slides into the spot next to him, and steers a glass towards him. It’s a cosmopolitan. Kaito is so busy fawning over the fact that Shinichi remembers his drink order that he almost misses Shinichi tacking on, “It was so good that I almost didn’t figure everything out.”

“Oh yeah?” Kaito smirks, even as his stomach sinks. He takes a bracing sip of his cosmopolitan. “So does that mean you did get everything, Detective Serious? Is every last one of my beloved tricks going to be dismantled?”

“Well, yeah,” Shinichi answers with only the slightest trace of arrogance. He quirks a brow. “Are you ready to be decimated?”

“By you, sweetheart? Anytime,” Kaito drawls and leans forward, propping his chin up in one hand as he gives Shinichi an expectant look. Shinichi’s ears are pink, but he bends towards Kaito as well, as if they’re sharing a conspiracy.

By the time Shinichi has finished his detailed explanation of every single trick in Kaito’s show and sat back in his chair, eyebrows raised, Kaito is—feeling a lot of things. Impressed, mostly. Possibly—a little too impressed. He rearranges himself in his seat and clears his throat.

“I would like to congratulate you,” he says, trying not to sound obviously turned on. (It’s not every day someone breaks down his routine like that, okay. Especially not looking as good as Shinichi did doing it.) Shinichi looks smug as he sketches a bow and takes a sip of his pink panties.

“However,” Kaito continues, which makes Shinichi pause, “for the trick that I specifically designed for our bet, your explanation was wrong in one place. I didn’t use alcohol for the part with the firebreathing; I used cornstarch. So.” He shrugs, feeling his face going Hakuba levels of self-satisfied, but he can’t bring himself to be annoyed at his own smugness. “Which means that technically, you didn’t figure out the trick. Which means that technically, I won the bet.”

With dawning realization, Shinichi scowls at him and drains his glass in one swallow. Kaito is smiling so wide his face is starting to cramp.

“Wow,” Shinichi mutters when he sets his glass back down with a bit more force than necessary, judging from the alarmed glance the bartender sends their way. He shakes his head at Kaito, mouth tugged down into a wildly adorable pout, before he drops his face into his hands and groans. “Cornstarch? Really? Why?”

“It’s less flammable and I’m better at controlling it,” answers Kaito sweetly. Something in his tone must be disturbing, because Shinichi peels his hands away from his eyes, takes one look at his expression, and jabs a finger at him hard enough that Kaito reflexively dodges.

“I veto maid costumes,” he says. When Kaito opens his mouth, he adds, “Or any kind of costume at all. No costumes.”

“There goes my idea of making you dress up as Rilakkuma,” Kaito sighs, which makes Shinichi’s face crease up in incredulity. “What? It would’ve been funny.” And it would’ve made such a cute phone wallpaper.

“Uh huh,” Shinichi says, still eyeing him dubiously. Kaito detects a hint of sulkiness in his face. “You said you had an idea of what you wanted before, right? So what are you thinking?”

“Well, initially I wanted help with my human sacrifices,” Kaito says, lightbulb-bright, and delights in the ungentlemanly snort that Shinichi hides in his hand, “and then I would’ve liked the maid costume, too, especially if I could get pictures, but…” He swallows hard. All of a sudden he realizes what he’s about to do, the cliff he’s been approaching, and his throat goes dry and his heart starts pounding. His palms have begun imitating clams in moisture levels and temperature. The anxiety only intensifies the longer Shinichi blinks at him, waiting for him to continue. Somewhere across the room, ice clinks in a glass.

“So I was thinking,” Kaito starts, voice smaller than he means for it to be, “maybe you could go on a date with me? As your favor?”

It’s like everything stops. Kaito has this weird prickling feeling along the top of his spine, as if everyone’s stopped to look at them. Shinichi’s face has gone slack, relaxed to the point of blankness, his mouth partway open, his eyes wide with surprise. Kaito thinks he might see a tinge of red crawling over his cheeks; he follows its path with his eyes until Shinichi closes his mouth with a click and swallows, the tick of his throat loud enough that Kaito can hear it. It’s poeticism, but Kaito swears he can feel his heart drop to the floor, crashing through his skeleton and his skin. He half-expects to look down and see it lying beneath his feet.

“Are you making fun of me?” Shinichi says eventually, when the silence has run to awkwardness. He looks uncomfortable, Kaito thinks. Uncomfortable and sad. Or maybe Kaito’s projecting. That also seems likely. “Because it’s not funny.”

“What?” Kaito stammers. He feels like he’s just been launched into several thousand feet of arctic water. This was not what he was picturing at all. Even when he thought about Shinichi turning him down, he’d imagined uncomfortable laughter and apologetic smiling and “sorry, Kuroba, I’m not interested” or something to that effect. Not whatever this painful, roundabout conversation has become. “I’m not—what do you mean? I’d never make fun of you.”

Shinichi doesn’t look convinced. He looks down into his lap, takes a deep breath, and digs around in the inside of his jacket for a few bills, which he drops onto the bar beside his empty glass. Then he stands and slings his jacket on. Kaito watches him with a chill of confusion.

“Kudou?” he asks, hesitating. Shinichi gives him a faint smile.

“I don’t think I can do that favor for you, Kuroba. Even if—I just can’t do that, knowing about you and Nakamori-san,” he says softly, and pats Kaito on the shoulder. It’s a light touch, impersonal and gentle, over before it really ever begins, and anyway, Kaito is too engrossed in trying to figure out why Shinichi is bringing up Aoko, of all people, places, and things, to enjoy it. “Let me know if you come up with something else, all right? I’ll see you around.” And then he’s gone, walking so quickly towards the door that he almost runs into a table.

Kaito sits back. Well. That had not gone to plan. He stares at his cosmopolitan, the pink abruptly mocking as it brings to mind Shinichi’s embarrassed flush, and then flags down the bartender. He’s going to need something stronger. Sixteen shots will probably do the trick.

Somehow, Kaito wakes up sprawled across his couch with a headache that feels like several meat cleavers being repeatedly planted in his various neural lobes. Even the dim living room feels too bright. His eyeballs feel dry and a little gritty, as though he plucked them out, rolled them in breadcrumbs, and then plopped them back into his skull. His back is informing him that it does not like the couch cushions as a mattress substitute. Overall, he’s not feeling great.

Everything after the sixth shot is pretty blurry, which means he has no idea how he got home last night. He looks down at himself and finds that he’s wearing the same pants he was wearing yesterday, at least, which is encouraging. He’s considering how much energy it would take to get up and locate something to drink (a superhuman amount, it feels like) when there’s the sound of the living room door squeaking open with a sound like a banshee screaming.

“Kaito,” shrills Aoko at a pitch Kaito half-expects to get the neighbors’ dogs barking, “you have a lot of explaining to do.” She’s making no effort to keep her voice down, which is to be expected. Kaito groans and shuts his eyes. Maybe if he can’t see her, she can’t see him.

There’s some shuffling before Aoko’s voice is directly beside his ear.


“Okay, okay, okay,” Kaito moans and forces his eyes open to look at her. She’s kind of glaring at him, and he glares back at her for a second before she gives him a dangerous look and he subsides meekly. “What’s going on? Why are you here?”

“I’m here because the bartender at Bottlecap called me last night at one o’clock to tell me that my best friend was on his ninth shot and crying about the hot guy who’d turned him down. You were scaring people.” Kaito is about to open his mouth when Aoko angles him with a look and says, “Apparently the bartender cut you off after your seventh shot, but somehow you managed to somehow get the shots yourself. Probably using your magician powers for evil.”

“Yeah, my useless magician powers that couldn’t even get me a date,” Kaito mutters, feeling disgusted with himself the second the words leave his mouth. He buries his face in his hands and tries to decide if Aoko will judge him for crying this early in the morning.

“What?” Aoko is staring at him when he uncovers his face. “What do you mean, they couldn’t get you a date?” Her eyes widen. “Wait, did Kudou-kun figure out the trick? Damn, he’s good.”

“He got most of it, if I’m being honest.” Kaito rubs a hand over his face. The skin around his eyes feels sore and tight. He squints over at her from between his fingers. “But no, I actually won the bet. For that one firebreathing part, he thought I used alcohol when I really used cornstarch.” Aoko opens his mouth, the closes it when Kaito makes a pitiful sound. “So I asked him out, and he said no.”

“He said no?” Aoko actually pulls back as though he’s hit her. “Wait, what? Kudou-kun turned you down?” There’s a lump in Kaito’s throat.

“Yeah, he turned me down. You can stop rubbing salt in the wound whenever you feel like it,” he grumbles, looking away. His head is doing this pre-migraine pulsating thing that’s fairly unpleasant, and he presses his thumbs to the inner corners of his eyes in an attempt to stave it off. “Can I get some aspirin and water before we finish this conversation? My head is killing me.”

“Oh, sure, go ahead.” Aoko waves a hand at him, distracted, as he stumbles to his feet and hobbles towards the kitchen. Her eyes are still big, as if she’s still trying to sort out a flowchart of events in her head. “What did he say?”

“When he rejected me?” Kaito gets the feeling that Aoko must hate him. Or maybe she’s a sadist, and her dating Hakuba suddenly brings a number of things into question. Not that Kaito needs to think about Hakuba Saguru’s bedroom preferences. “He asked if I was making fun of him.” Aoko makes a noise of confusion.

“Why would he ask that?”

“I don’t know,” answers Kaito morosely, shaking a few Advil out onto his palm. The daily limit is four, right? Three should be okay, probably. “I mean, I don’t know. Maybe he thought that I was being arrogant, thinking that he would ever go out with me.”

Kaito,” Aoko says, chiding. “He’d never think that. Kudou-kun is a good guy.”

“Yeah?” Kaito wouldn’t have thought so, either. He’s in the middle of filling a cup with water when he pauses. “He actually said something kind of weird. He said that he couldn’t go out with me knowing about me and you.”

“What? Me?”

“Mmhm. He said something like ‘I can’t go on a date with you knowing what I know about you and Nakamori-san.’ It was really weird. Can you butt out of my love life, Aoko?” Kaito chokes down the Advil and heaves a breath, bracing his hands against the kitchen counter. Thank God he’s off today. A Ghibli marathon and endless cups of hot chocolate sounds pretty good. Additionally, if Grave of the Fireflies is on, he’ll have a bulletproof, unmockable excuse for crying. Actually, in that case, maybe he should just watch Grave of the Fireflies on loop.

“Wait. Kaito.” The only reason Kaito bothers to stop wondering where his Ghibli boxset is and look at Aoko is because her voice sounds kind of strangled. She’s gone bug-eyed again. Her face is pale when she says, slow and uneasy, “Do you think it’s possible that he thinks you’re, like, in love with me?”

Kaito stares.

“Ew, what? No,” he finally says. “We never even practiced kissing on each other.”

“I know,” Aoko agrees, though she gives him a weird look at the second part. “But you have to admit that you’re a pretty affectionate guy, Kaito.”

“Am I?” Kaito frowns, but that just makes his headache worse.

“With me, at least,” says Aoko. “And especially since you keep hating on Saguru.” She presses her lips together. “I’m guessing you said a lot of things about how I’m too good for him and how much you hate him, et cetera?”

“Uhhhh,” Kaito says, which is probably pretty telling. Aoko groans and wipes a hand down her face, looking very tired.

“No wonder he thought you were in soul-wrenching unrequited love with me and didn’t want to get in the middle of that.”

“There could be other explanations for what I said!” Kaito tries, waving his hands crazily. He’s trying not to listen to her—he can only take so much heartbreak, and buying into her theory seems bound to end with him feeling even worse—but there’s a tiny seed of hope sprouting at the back of his mind. “You know, like the fact that Hakuba sucks, objectively speaking, and you’re my best friend? Aka the actual explanation?”

“He’s a detective, Kaito,” Aoko says, which is so inane that Kaito’s face muscles are moving to glare before she continues. “His literal job is to gather clues and come up with an explanation that matches them. Clearly, from what he observed, you being in love with me seemed more likely than anything else.”

“Sounds fake, but okay,” Kaito mumbles. When he hazards a glance over at Aoko, she’s wearing an expression of extreme dissatisfaction. It’s the look of a disappointed parent but, like, eighteen times worse. Kaito shrinks, half expecting her to go off on him, but then she just sighs, shoulders drooping as she looks at him.

“Okay, Kaito.” There’s resignation drawn all over her as she crosses her arms. She somehow manages to cross them at him, which is a new and altogether unpleasant experience. “If you’re sure you want to be a dumbass about this.”

“I do,” Kaito answers, a little wary. Aoko has never backed down from a fight before, so this is a first. Maybe she’s just taking pity on him? He must look like absolute shit if she’s letting him off that easy. He resolves to find a mirror as soon as possible.

Kaito is still under the impression that he’s been given a reprieve when he gets a text from her later that afternoon (during Howl’s Moving Castle—the original plan was scrapped due to the fact that he can’t watch Grave of the Fireflies without wanting to die a little bit inside, as he discovered). The text informs him that he is to show up at Bottlecap that night at eight for drinks and moral support.

u do realize that i got rejected at bottlecap literally less than twenty-four hours ago, he types back.

You do realize that I don’t care, Aoko replies. So much for moral support and the iron bonds of friendship. Kaito considers not showing up at all, just to spite her. Would the potential loss of teeth be worth the satisfaction?

In the end he goes, after showering off the smell of old alcohol and crying, letting his hair dry into the shape of several pinecones glued to his scalp, and changing into a pair of threadbare jeans and a sweatshirt. He looks terrible, but if it’s just Aoko, he doesn’t care. She had to know what she was asking for. She saw him that morning.

When he shows up an on-brand ten minutes late, it’s to find that the same bartender as yesterday is on shift. He definitely recognizes Kaito, because he gives Kaito a suspicious look and motions a waitress over so they can whisper at each other behind their hands while staring at him. It’s all very unsubtle. Kaito rubs at his eyes and fights back the urge to sigh.

The first person he sees sitting at their usual spot along the bar is Hakuba, which was not disclosed to Kaito beforehand (intentionally, no doubt, knowing that he wouldn’t show up if he’d known). Kaito feels one of his eyes begin to twitch at the sight of him. Maybe he’s allergic to irritating people. Then he sees Aoko sitting on Hakuba’s far side. She’s put on a nicer top since he last saw her, but otherwise looks unchanged and intact. He’s about to start trudging over when she leans forward to say something to Hakuba and he realizes, with a sharp thorny jolt of surprise, that Shinichi is sitting on her other side.

Instinctively, he turns to leave, but Aoko must have somehow spotted him, because by the time he’s got one foot out the door, she has one hand around his wrist. When did she learn to teleport, Kaito wonders with a surge of unadulterated panic.

“You traitor,” he hisses, struggling against her hold. God, she must not skip arm day, because all his flailing does nothing to dissuade her.

“Good of you to finally show up,” Aoko says brightly as she begins to drag him towards the bar. Kaito’s heart is racing. He accidentally looks over the top of Aoko’s head and locks eyes with Shinichi, who’s wide-eyed at the scene in front of him. Fair enough. The man he had to reject yesterday is being yanked towards him by a woman in a cold-shoulder top. It has to be surreal.

Kaito manages to gather up the dregs of his dignity once they’re only a few feet away from the bar, shaking his arm free of Aoko and walking the last few steps until they’re in front of Hakuba and Shinichi. Aoko pulls up behind him, though, as a silent threat. Not that Kaito needs one. He would like not to look even more idiotic in front of Shinichi.

When Kaito recounts this moment later, he will try to insist that he says something brilliant and charming that makes everyone relax. (Shinichi will disagree, vehemently.) In reality, he clears his throat, takes a deep breath, and stammers out a weak, “Hey.” His voice manages to break, even on the single syllable. He clamps his mouth shut. That was depressing.

“Hi,” Shinichi answers. He seems—cautious. His gaze keeps darting between Aoko and Kaito, confused, and for once Kaito gets the feeling that he may actually know why. He opens his mouth, preparing to say a series of words that will hopefully convey a meaning, when Hakuba does what he does best and ruins the moment.

“Good evening, Kuroba-kun,” he says. “I’m glad we’ve all managed to show up within the hour, at least.” He leans forward, nudging his highball glass out of the way, and steeples his fingers as though he thinks he’s Sherlock Holmes (which… he probably does, to some degree). “And since we’re all here, I thought we might clear up something. Kuroba-kun, did you know that Kudou-kun thought you were in love with my girlfriend?”

Shinichi’s whole face flexes in on itself. But he’s not denying it.

“Oh my God,” Kaito mutters in awe, then a little stronger, “oh my God.”

“Yes, it’s quite unfortunate,” Hakuba agrees. “But, Kuroba-kun, I want you to know that there is little doubt that Kudou-kun is deeply enamored of you. If you need proof, there’s the fact that he showed up to my promotional celebration even though it was far earlier than he would’ve left work. Oh, and there’s also currently a high-profile investigation of serial killings that he abandoned just to go to your show yesterday. Nothing has ever gotten between Kudou-kun and work before, and I can say that with confidence, having been his supervisor.”

“I’m not that bad,” Shinichi mumbles. His face is bright red, and he looks immensely uncomfortable, but the fact remains: that wasn’t disagreement. Hakuba rounds on him.

“And Kudou-kun,” he begins “did you know that Kuroba-kun has no interest in Aoko-san? They’ve known each other since childhood. I’m confident that Kuroba-kun views her as a sister, which accounts for all the otherwise inappropriate pet names. In reality, he’s been smitten with you since you first met. He’s been losing sleep over that trick that won your little bet. He actually swallowed his pride enough to have me preview it, just to see if I thought it was good enough to win a date with you. That should be proof enough that Kuroba-kun is quite in love with you.” Shinichi looks at Kaito, as if for confirmation. Kaito coughs.

“Yeah,” he says. Sweat prickles across the back of his neck.

“Oh.” Shinichi’s face has bypassed pink and gone straight to red when he meets Kaito’s eyes. Softly, he adds, “No, I didn’t know that. That’s—that’s good for him.” His eyes are sparkling as his mouth curls in a shy smile. Kaito has never seen anything prettier in his entire life, and he’s been to Mount Fuji and waterfalls and places.

Aoko is cooing like a pigeon behind him and Hakuba is radiating satisfaction, but Kaito can’t be bothered to pay any attention to them. He feels as though his heart’s been replaced by molten lava. Shinichi is full-on beaming, now, his cheeks pushed up to his eyes and his whole face lit up. Kaito wants to bite him all over.

His thoughts are interrupted by the sounds of Hakuba getting to his feet, pushing his chair back loud enough to startle him. Kaito looks over just in time to see Hakuba place a hand on his shoulder and lean in uncomfortably close to his ear.

“I set you up with Kudou-kun,” he says lowly. “And I got you two together. So let’s consider the bad blood done away with, shall we?” While Kaito’s still goggling at him, Hakuba offers his arm to Aoko, who takes it, giggling, and then both of them do this irritating coordinated wave thing at him before they prance out of Bottlecap like a pair of synchronized dancing reindeer. Kaito is left staring after them. He’s feeling a number of emotions that he can’t quite describe.

He jumps at the sound of Shinichi’s voice.

“What did he say?” Kaito turns to find Shinichi watching him with blatant fondness pulling his face into a secretive smile. He feels hot all the way to his toes as he steps a closer, until Shinichi’s knees are brushing up against him. Shinichi’s gaze dip to his mouth for a distracting second.

“Oh, it was nothing. Apparently I’m indebted to him, though, since he was the one who set us up.” Kaito loses track of whatever comment he was going to add when he finds himself looking directly into Shinichi’s eyes, which are so full of—of feeling that Kaito doesn’t know what to experience other than happy. Well, he’s feeling charitable towards Hakuba, though, so it’s just as well.

“Is that so? I guess I should thank him. Maybe a fruit basket will do it.” Shinichi bites at his bottom lip. Kaito would like to do that for him. Half a second later, he realizes that he can, because Shinichi is in love with him, and Shinichi wants to kiss him.

So he does. It’s a little tricky, because Shinichi is still sitting on a barstool, but Kaito is just tall enough to crush their mouths together if he goes up on his tiptoes the slightest bit. Shinichi is soft against him, and he tastes like lemonade when Kaito manages to work his way in. He jumps when he feels Shinichi’s hands drag through his hair; he was so focused on Shinichi’s mouth that everything else fell away.

They break apart when there’s a wolf whistle. Kaito is trying not to pant, and he’s more than a little turned on, if he’s being honest. He looks around for the source of the whistle to find the bartender giving him a thumbs up, nodding with approval.

“Is this the hot guy you were crying about last night? The one who rejected you?” he asks, scanning Shinichi up and down with interest. Kaito grins and gathers Shinichi against himself. Shinichi lets out a breathless laugh when Kaito’s fingers dig into his sides. He’s ticklish. Kaito files that away for later.

“This is him,” he tells the bartender, and then goes back to looking at Shinichi with stupid adoration. Shinichi’s looking back at him the same way, so it’s fine. “Isn’t he lovely?”

“Yeah, he’s pretty nice-looking,” the guy says, appreciative. “Nice ass, just like you said.”

Kuroba!” squawks Shinichi, looking scandalized and also as if he’s trying to find a way to hide his ass. Kaito sneaks in a grope.

“I’m always right,” he says banally. Shinichi’s gaze softens, and he presses a hand to the side of Kaito’s face before he drops a kiss on Kaito’s forehead. It’s so sweet Kaito can feel cavities forming.

“You two are so cute,” the bartender says. He’s smiling at them with enough sap to put trees out of business. Kaito is nosing at Shinichi’s neck when he adds, “Unfortunately, you should probably go. The manager around here is pretty clear on enforcing the no PDA rule, so if you wanna do anything…” He eyebrows significantly, then throws in a wink for good measure, in case his meaning was somehow unclear. Shinichi rolls his eyes.

“What do you say? You want to get out of here?” he asks, though, which more than makes up for it. Kaito nods so fast he worries about the safety of his neck for a moment.

As he reaches for his wallet, intent on throwing down as much cash as he needs to in order to get Shinichi out of there, he catches sight of Shinichi’s mostly-full drink and feels his face going soft. That explains why Shinichi tastes like lemonade.

“Pink panties again, huh?” he remarks as he drops a crumpled bill down beside Hakuba and Aoko’s glasses. Shinichi shrugs, sliding off the barstool as he straightens out his collar and generally puts himself back to rights as much as he can.

“Like I said, I like lemonade.” Kaito gives him a thoughtful look as they start for the door, clutching at each other.

“I think pink panties might be a good idea for the bet, then,” he says, pensive. “And I don’t mean the drink.” Shinichi elbows him in the ribs, but he’s laughing. Good. Shinichi should always be laughing.

There’s a moment where they’re trying to decide which of their places to go to. Shinichi offers his place, and Kaito offers his, and then they stand there in the middle of the sidewalk eyeing each other before Kaito points out, “My place is closer.” After that, it’s a pretty easy decision.

They take the train to Ekoda, stumbling through the turnstiles and tripping to the platform. Kaito spends the whole ride trying to play it cool by not looking at Shinichi, and then giving in and glancing over only to find that Shinichi is already looking at him with dark, hungry eyes and lips wet from being chewed on. It’s only to protect the eyes of the innocents that Kaito doesn’t park himself in Shinichi’s lap and begin his quest to see how red he can get Shinichi to go. Public transit is the worst thing ever.

By the time they make it to Kaito’s house, Kaito is close to shaking out of his skin. His driveway has never felt so long before. It takes him about four tries to finally unlock his front door.

“Eager,” Shinichi comments, as if he hasn’t been walking a few steps behind so he can stare at Kaito’s ass.

“You know it,” Kaito says before he holds the door open for Shinichi, sweeping an arm forward. “After you, Kudou-sama.” Shinichi goes.

The second the door clicks shut behind them and both of them had pulled off their shoes (Shinichi lining his up like a nerd), Kaito jams Shinichi up against the nearest wall and goes to town on him, pressing their mouths together as hard as he can and giving in to the urge to grab greedily at every bit of Shinichi that he’s been dreaming about. If Shinichi has any complaints, he doesn’t voice them; instead, he reaches for Kaito just as willingly, hands clumsily shoving up underneath Kaito’s jacket in search of skin. His hands are hot against Kaito’s stomach, hot enough that Kaito breaks away with a gasp. Shinichi is flushed, and he looks confused as to why the kissing is no longer happening. Kaito grins.

“Talk about eager,” he whispers before he dives back in, only catching a flash of the incredulous look that Shinichi’s face drops into before he’s burying his face against Shinichi’s neck, at the spot underneath his ear that he was working on earlier at the bar. Shinichi makes a sound, breathy, halfway to a moan, before his hands go to the front of Kaito’s pants and start undoing them.

“Wait, wait,” Kaito says—he interrupts himself with a groan when Shinichi slides a hand in between his jeans and his underwear and presses against the bulge of his dick, which has been mostly hard for maybe thirty minutes now, if he’s being honest—and pulls back. “I want to suck your dick.” Shinichi looks at him as though he’s been hit with something heavy.

“Uh,” he stammers, then goes, “um,” when Kaito gets his pants open one-handed in under ten seconds, clambering to his knees as he goes. Magician’s hands are no joke, Kaito thinks smugly to himself before he pauses, his knuckles pressed against the firm, smooth line of Shinichi’s cock over the thinness of his underwear. God, Shinichi is such a good size, thick and long, more than a handful, on the right side of intimidating. Kaito’s mouth starts watering, and his licks his lips, staring at the shape of Shinichi through his underwear, before he forces himself to look up and meet Shinichi’s eyes.

“Sorry, I should’ve asked. It’s just that I’ve wanted to get your dick in my mouth since I first saw you. Can I suck you off?” he asks. Shinichi blinks at him for a moment, color high in his cheeks, hair mussed, eyes glossy—before he shakes his head, as if to clear it, and gives him a dubious look.

“Has anyone ever said no to that before?” he says. Kaito shrugs.

“You could be the first?” he offers, cheekily, and rubs his cheek against Shinichi, making sure that his lips catch on the fabric of his underwear. He’s gratified to hear Shinichi choke. Beneath Kaito’s hands, his hips twitch.

“I think I’ll leave that to someone else,” Shinichi decides.

“And I think I’ll take that as a yes,” Kaito replies before he fishes Shinichi out. Dicks in general aren’t, like, the most photogenic thing (ironic, considering the popularity of dick pics) but Shinichi’s dick is objectively pretty, a soft shade of pink that gradates into a deeper red at the head. Kaito just looks at it for a long time before Shinichi clears his throat.

“Do you need me to introduce you two?”

“No, I think I can do my own self-introduction,” answers Kaito, kind of nonsensically, before he wraps a steadying hand around the shaft, ducks forward, and gets his mouth tight around the head. Shinichi must not have been expecting it, before he makes a sound like he’s been punched in the stomach and curls over Kaito’s head.

It shouldn’t be fair that Shinichi tastes as good as he does, honestly. Kaito spends a lot of time mouthing along the underside, tugging the foreskin between his lips to hear Shinichi choke in a deep breath and then returning to the head to lick around the crown. Every time a bead of precome starts to bloom at the slit, Kaito laps it off, and then sucks a kiss against the shaft. He’s aware that he’s being a tease, more than anything, but the way Shinichi shivers and gasps is too hot to turn up. With his free hand, he presses against his own dick, which is still trapped in his pants and getting pretty uncomfortable.

When Shinichi is starting to vibrate with pent-up energy, breath coming shaky and uneven, Kaito decides to take pity on him. He pulls away completely—Shinichi looks hazily down at him, sweat making his skin shimmer in the lowlight—to open his pants and free his cock before he swoops in to full-on suck Shinichi.

This time he doesn’t play around: he goes straight down, cramming as much of Shinichi into his mouth as he can until his gag reflex threatens to rebel. Shinichi moans this time, his back curving as his head thunks against the wall. Kaito almost pulls off in concern, but Shinichi catches his eye and glares.

“Don’t you dare stop,” he demands, and then breaks off into a gasp when Kaito sucks harder in retaliation. His fingers find their way into Kaito’s hair, tangling in around his ears and temple, and while Kaito isn’t averse to a little hair-pulling, he likes the way Shinichi holds onto him with gentle hands, rubbing in against the top of his jaw to soothe the gathering ache even as his whole body shakes with the effort of not moving. God that’s so hot. Kaito really wishes he had enough coordination to jerk off while he was doing this. Unfortunately, he’s too focused on the feeling of Shinichi sliding over his tongue.

It’s a respectable amount of time later—Kaito actually has no idea how long it’s been, but it’s long enough that the twinge in his jaw has grown into actual discomfort—when Shinichi finally starts tugging on his hair. Still not roughly, but insistent all the same.

“Kuroba, I can’t—” he groans. Kaito has just enough presence of mind to drag himself off entirely, making Shinichi look down at him with the betrayal of a man denied orgasm. “Kuroba?”

“First of all, I’ve had your dick in my mouth, you should call me Kaito,” Kaito announces. His voice is a mess, which makes Shinichi flame bright red. “And second of all, I can’t have you coming now when I have to get this”—he plucks at Shinichi’s dick, which springs back up and slaps against his stomach with a wet, sloppy sound—“inside me as soon as possible.”

Shinichi gapes. Kaito is proud of himself for striking him speechless twice within the span of an hour. He doubts many people can say that they’ve done that to Kudou Shinichi.

“I can live with that,” Shinichi says after a long moment, before he drags Kaito back up to his feet and presses their mouths together. He’s not too aggressive, thankfully, because Kaito’s mouth is kind of sensitive, but he does crush their dicks together between them, which feels so good it makes Kaito whimper loud enough that he’s embarrassed by himself. Shinichi doesn’t seem to mind, though, because he just pulls away to bite down the side of Kaito’s neck, a move that establishes that Kaito is going to be making a lot of embarrassing noises tonight.

“You got a bed around here, Kaito?” Shinichi asks once he’s removed his teeth from Kaito’s collarbone and Kaito’s jacket from his torso. He takes half a step back to get to work yanking off his own shirt.

“Um—uh—I think I might,” Kaito manages before he forces himself to stumble towards his bedroom, Shinichi following him closely enough that Kaito can feel the heat radiating off of him.

By the time they get to Kaito’s room, they’ve both abandoned their clothes on their jaunt around Kaito’s house. Kaito takes a moment to enjoy the sight of a naked Kudou Shinichi standing beside his bed before Shinichi pushes him down on it, eyes sparkling in the moonlight coming through the window Kaito forgot to draw the blinds on. What a gorgeous man, all smooth, lean muscle and well-proportioned limbs. He enjoys a few minutes kissing that gorgeous man and getting his hands all over that muscle, long enough that he’s turned on to the point of disorientation when they finally break apart.

“Do you have stuff?” asks Shinichi. His right hand is crawling up the inside of Kaito’s thigh.

“I—yeah, yeah, it’s in the nightstand,” Kaito answers, and Shinichi kisses him again before he pulls away to dig around for lube and condoms. He emerges a few minutes later, half-full bottle of lube clutched in one hand and a string of condoms in the other.

“Interesting, Kaito,” he remarks, wiggling the bottle. “Have a lot of lonely nights?” It’s meant to be a joke, but Kaito can’t help but smile stupidly at him.

“Yeah,” he agrees. “Ever since I met you.”

That makes Shinichi’s face go soft and earns Kaito another minute of impassioned making out. Kaito has the best boyfriend/unspecified lover.

Shinichi pulls back to look down at Kaito, for an almost unsettling amount of time, before he leans back in and runs his fingers over Kaito’s neck, then his chest, then his stomach, going agonizingly slow. Kaito squirms. His dick is so hard it’s getting precome all over him. By the time Shinichi gets to Kaito’s upper thighs, Kaito is trying not to start begging. By the time he starts tracing the crease of Kaito’s hip and leg with his thumbs, Kaito is opening his mouth to get right to it, pride be damned, but then he realizes Shinichi is smirking to himself and is forced to knee him in the side.

“Rude,” Shinichi gasps once he’s finished rubbing at his ribs and glaring. “I was just doing what you did to me.” He raises his eyebrows. “And you were doing it to my dick.”

“Okay, okay,” Kaito groans. “I get it, I was wrong to tease you, but may I remind you that I did get on with—” He breaks off into a sharp exhale when Shinichi fits a hand around Kaito’s cock, hitches one of Kaito’s legs up over his shoulder, and rubs slick fingers over Kaito’s hole, all in one smooth motion. Kaito has no idea when he even managed to get the lube on his fingers, but it’s enough that Shinichi can slide a finger into him easy, no problem. Shinichi’s finger is long and thick enough that Kaito can really feel it inside him, twisting to glance against his prostate with ridiculous, detective-y precision. “Goddamn.”

He can hear Shinichi’s smugness loud and clear, and he’s about to inform Shinichi that it’s most certainly not the time for that, but then Shinichi’s other hand tightens around the head of his dick, rubbing through the slick gathered around his slit, and he’s lost to a moan.

“Good?” Shinichi, the asshat, asks, moving to fit another finger into him. Kaito wants to glare at him, but he’s too busy rocking his hips between Shinichi’s hands. He’s satisfied by Shinichi’s caught inhale when he gets the second finger in. “You’re so hot inside. And tight.” He works his fingers around in Kaito, tapping them against his prostate, then pulling them back and fanning them out, stretching his rim out enough that Kaito is having a hard time stringing together a coherent thought.

“Why thank you,” he finally answers. Shinichi huffs and works in another finger. Three is an especially tight fit; Kaito gasps at the satisfying stretch, and Shinichi makes apologetic sounds and drizzles more lube onto his fingers. He also speeds up the hand he’s got on Kaito’s dick, which is a nice but unnecessary bonus.

“Are you okay?” he asks, concerned. Kaito rolls his eyes, trying not to moan too loudly when Shinichi gets him just right.

“Are you serious, or are you just trying to get me to stroke your ego? I’d much rather stroke something else,” he mumbles. When Shinichi’s expression doesn’t change, he sighs and admits, “You feel amazing.”

“Oh. In that case,” Shinichi says, and goes back to fingering him hard enough that it feels as though he’s trying to make Kaito come. A few minutes later, Kaito is depressingly close to giving him what he wants.

“Okay, okay, that’s good,” he says, choking when Shinichi hooks his fingers in and then pulls them out, leaving him empty. His dick is so sensitive it hurts. “Put it in now.”

“Really?” Shinichi is eyeing his hole, speculative. “Are you sure this is good en—”

“Shinichi, I love you, but if you don’t put your dick in me in the next ten seconds, I swear to God I will leave you before we even start dating,” snaps Kaito. It’s only when Shinichi goes beet red and fumbles around for a condom that he realizes what he said.

“Hey,” he interrupts, putting a hand over Shinichi’s to still it. “I really like you. I—may even be convinced to admit that I love you.” It makes something like fear thrill through him, because for all that it’s true, he’s really only known Shinichi for a few months. He could be coming on way too strong. They haven’t even had an actual date. Anyone would be right to run screaming at this kind of declaration.

But Shinichi just smiles back at him, expression so open and happy that Kaito can’t regret it.

“I love you too,” he says. Kaito feels himself grinning. He strains up and kisses Shinichi hard enough that it hurts.

“My threat still stands, darling,” he murmurs against Shinichi’s lips, and Shinichi blinks before he scrambles to put the condom on, slick his dick up, and get into position. Kaito very helpfully holds his legs open. For a second, Shinichi kneels there, staring at Kaito, before he seems to get with the program and presses in. It takes him a good minute to ease it all in—he goes at a steady pace, breath coming short as he struggles not to push in too fast. The slight burn of the stretch feels incredible, opening up Kaito in a way that Shinichi’s fingers hadn’t.

When Shinichi is all the way inside, Kaito lets his head roll back as he lets out a sigh of satisfaction. As dumb as it sounds, Shinichi fits inside him so well, his cock putting a perfect pressure against Kaito’s prostate, just wide enough that Kaito really feels it without getting overwhelmed.

“You have the best dick ever,” he tells Shinichi, who laughs, sounding strangled.

“Thanks.” Kaito opens one eye to peer at him.

“You can use it, you know. As hard as you like,” he adds, and rolls his hips down for emphasis. Both of them moan at that.

“I think I will,” Shinichi says, breathless, before he thrusts in, forceful enough that the bed shakes and Kaito chokes, back arching, and drops his legs to scrabble for something to hold onto. Shinichi offers him his hands, which is horrifically sappy and also perfect, and presses them down against the mattress on either side of his shoulders.

Every time Shinichi pushes in, Kaito has to fight not to moan out loud at the feeling of his cock jamming up against Kaito’s prostate. His own dick is so wet it’s leaving trails across his stomach; especially hard thrusts make it slap against his skin loud enough that Kaito’s face flames with embarrassment. He lets go of one of Shinichi’s hands to grab his cock around the base, giving himself a single long pull before he forces his hand to still and hold himself steady.

“Oh, God,” Shinichi moans before he leans in to kiss Kaito on the mouth, dirty and sweet at the same time. Kaito’s hamstrings are not pleased with him, but Kaito mentally tells them to shut up.

Shinichi pulls back after a moment, a frown of concentration settling in on his face. Kaito can’t stop staring at his face, eyes furrowed shut, cheeks covered in a gloss of sweat, flushed halfway down his chest. When his hair gets in his face, he makes a sound of annoyance and shoves it back onehanded before he pounds into Kaito even harder, mouth dropping open as he regulates his breathing. Kaito’s cock twitches in his hand at the sight of him, and he gives himself a stroke before he can stop himself. Shit. He doesn’t want to come that soon, but Shinichi is making it really hard. (Heh. Literally.)

It’s not long before Shinichi shudders, takes a deep breath, and draws back a little. Kaito thinks he’s going to pull out, maybe change positions, but instead he twists his hips and unleashes a series of shallow, hard thrusts that seem to be targeting Kaito’s prostate specifically, because Kaito finds that he can’t shut up, gasping and squirming with sensitivity. Every stroke in ends with the head of Shinichi’s dick snugged up against his prostate, and he just. Can’t.

“Shinichi,” he gets out before his hand takes over and he gets in about three pulls of his cock before he comes so hard it hurts, hot pleasure rushing through him in an inescapable wave that leaves him feeling almost dizzy. He can feel his hole clamping down on Shinichi’s dick, tight enough that Shinichi chokes and shoves forward, rhythmless and deep, before he manages to still himself.

When it’s over, Kaito can barely keep his eyes open, so worn out he’s not sure he’ll ever move again. There are thick stripes of come shining across his skin, reaching all the way up to his collarbones. Between his legs, Shinichi is panting, clearly trying not to move out of preference for him, and Kaito lets his head loll back.

“Go ahead,” he mumbles, smiling when Shinichi’s gaze snaps up to him. “You can finish. Go as hard as you want.” He’s still at the part of orgasm that makes him feel floaty, not yet oversensitive. Shinichi’s brow creases, even as his hips stutter.

“Are you su—”

“Shinichi,” Kaito says, and Shinichi shuts his mouth and goes. He’s breathing hard, interspersed with tiny, adorable grunts, as he plasters himself up against Kaito’s front and shoves in, no longer the shallow thrusts from before but deeper, faster strokes that make Kaito bite back a string of whines. He’s barely starting to get sensitive when Shinichi lets out a harsh sound (it’s so sexy Kaito’s tired cock twitches) and then comes, shaking and clinging to Kaito as he goes. Kaito swears he can feel Shinichi’s dick swell a little inside him.

Shinichi stays there for a long enough time that Kaito is on the verge of falling asleep, but eventually he (very carefully) works himself free, fumbles off the condom, and lies down beside Kaito, breathing still unsteady. He’s got Kaito’s come all over his torso from being pressed against him, and his hair is a godawful mess, but when Kaito turns to look at him, he smiles, blissed-out, and inches over to kiss him—gentle, now, and sleepy. Kaito is so in love with him.

“You have to do the clean up,” he tells Shinichi dopily. Shinichi pulls back, frowning.

“Excuse me, I did all the hard work here. You got to lie back.” Kaito rolls his eyes.

“Yeah, and get pounded into the next dimension by your monster dick,” he says. Shinichi actually looks offended, God bless him, as if Kaito meant it as an insult.

“First of all, I do not have a—”

“And anyway, who gave you that amazing blowjob earlier?” Kaito interrupts, lifting his eyebrows pointedly. Shinichi rears back.

“I was more than willing to give you a blowjob.”

“But who was the one on their knees, darling? Who was it?”

In the end, they both end up doing the cleanup by exchanging sleepy, falling-over handjobs in the shower. It works out well for everyone.

Kaito is having the best day. The reasons why, in chronological order, are as follows:

  1. He woke up this morning with Kudou Shinichi plastered against him. This speaks for itself.
  2. He had the honor of learning that Kudou Shinichi, while always adorable, is even more adorable first thing in the morning. A pre-caffeinated Kudou Shinichi is a lovely thing to observe. Kaito watches him walk into two doors and the kitchen table before he offers his assistance.
  3. He discovers that a post-caffeinated Kudou Shinichi is almost lovelier, because a post-caffeinated Kudou Shinichi will pin him against his refrigerator while he’s in the middle of making scrambled eggs, glare at him, say, “Who’s on their knees now, Kaito?” and blow him until he cries.
  4. Scrambled eggs taste fine burnt, if you add enough butter to disguise the taste.
  5. Over breakfast, Shinichi accepted Kaito’s proposal of boyfriendship, with a wrinkle between his eyebrows and the words, “Did you think I was going to sleep with you, tell you I love you, and then not date you?” Kaito found that more than sufficient, as a confirmation.
  6. Before leaving, Shinichi grudgingly agreed to wear Kaito’s clothes to work, since his clothes were wrinkled from having been left around Kaito’s house. Kaito fully comprehends and languishes in the unique satisfaction of having your significant other wear your ill-fitting clothes.
  7. When he left, Shinichi made out with Kaito for a full minute, said, “Have a good day, Kaito,” and then kissed him on the cheek. It was so domestic and perfect it made Kaito’s heart splutter in blushing indignation.
  8. Kaito realized that in the future, he may actually attend his best friend’s wedding, because maybe the devil has his redeeming qualities after all.