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Honestly, Shinichi probably should’ve suspected something after the fourth time his mother commented on his plethora of cats (“I have one cat, Mom, that goes against the literal definition of a plethora, and she’s not even really mine!”) and started dropping subtle hints about the dating profile she’d set up for him. Or maybe the “Shin-chan, go run a vague and unspecified errand at this address (that a Google search reveals to be a four-star restaurant) at this very specific time wearing this very specific suit, and oh, take this large sum of money with you” ploy she’s tried a few times: that should have tipped him off that drastic action was looming in his future.

He’s a detective. He should detect things. However, he’s failed in his duty, because he failed to detect—this, and now he’s going to have to change his name and flee the country to escape her. He’s going to have to turn in his not-so-proverbial gun and badge—

“Shin-chan? Shin-chan, are you listening? Don’t you think it would be a great idea?”

Shinichi closes his eyes.

“No, Mother,” he says pleasantly. “I don’t think it would be a good idea to host a dinner party to find me a wife.”

“Not a dinner party,” Yukiko says, looking theatrically offended from where she’s sitting across from him at the kitchen table. She stirs another sugar cube into her coffee. Shinichi feels his shoulders stop trying to eat his ears as he relaxes, which turns out to be a mistake, because a moment later she continues, “A series of dinner parties. You have to get a chance to meet everyone before you can really decide, after all. Just one night would be hardly enough.”

“Okay,” Shinichi says. His breathing, upon inspection, seems shallow. Somehow, against all reasoning, he can feel his cortisol levels spiking. “Dad, please help me.”

“What?” Yuusaku looks up from his phone, blinking blue light out of his eyes and wearing the expression of a deer who’s found themselves being borne down upon by a speeding semi. One look at him tells Shinichi two things: one, he’s trying to think of how to escape an oncoming deadline (and its subsequent army of incensed editors), and two, he’s going to be absolutely no help, because he’s whipped. Shinichi spends a moment feeling bitterly vindicated that his deductive reasoning skills still work.

“Yuusaku,” cajoles Yukiko. There is an undercurrent of danger to her sweet smile when she takes a sip of her coffee. Shinichi wonders how a woman in a silk bathrobe with her hair in foam rollers can so effectively jumpstart his sympathetic nervous system. His fight-or-flight instinct is telling him to leap up and run to Antarctica, oceans be damned.

“Yes, sweetheart?” Yuusaku—perhaps used to such terrifying displays of power after twenty-odd years of enduring the soap opera that masquerades as their marriage—smiles pleasantly at her. Yukiko blushes, delicate.

“Don’t you think we, as Shin-chan’s parents, have a duty to search for his future happiness? Don’t we have a duty to look for someone for him to love?” she says, before she slants an accusing look in Shinichi’s direction. “Especially since he’s so busy with work and won’t go on the omiai I keep arranging for him?”

“I’m sorry, has ‘omiai’ somehow come to mean ‘trying to trick me into blind dates without my knowledge or consent’?” interjects Shinichi, feeling more than a little helpless. Yukiko reaches across the table to pat him on the hand, in a gesture that could almost be construed as apologetic if not for the fact that she made sure to pat him hard enough that his knuckles sting afterward. He eyes her inch-long acrylics with some wariness. While they have 3D hearts on them, he still suspects they could still do some damage.

“You definitely wouldn’t have gone if I had just told you they were dates, Shin-chan. At least by not telling you, I increased my chances of success,” Yukiko says. Shinichi has to concede she has a point. He sinks down in his chair, defeated, as she turns back to his father, who’s begun to inch his chair towards the door with the slightly crazed look of someone bleeding in shark-infested waters. His phone has started emitting ominous chirps. The editors must be closing in. “So, Yuusaku, wouldn’t you agree that hosting a dinner or party or something here would be a good way to help Shin-chan meet someone?”

“I don’t need help meeting anyone. I do fine on my own,” Shinichi feels the need to input, partly for his pride and partly out of horrified indignation at being treated like some kind of spinster shut-in. Both Yukiko and Yuusaku turn to give him matching looks of judgment.

“Shin-chan, I love you, but you haven’t had a girlfriend since you were sixteen—which was nearly ten years ago, may I remind you—and she turned out not to even like men,” Yukiko says, her carefully drawn eyebrows lifted halfway up her forehead. Shinichi splutters.

“Ran likes men! She just likes Sera more!”

“Mmhm,” Yuusaku hums, unconvinced (even as his phone vibrates so hard it slides off the table and sweat breaks out across his forehead). Shinichi suddenly understands what it feels like to be utterly betrayed.

“The two of you don’t need to get involved in my love life,” he mutters, slouching even further in his seat. “Shouldn’t any of this be my choice, considering this is about my life and my future? Maybe I don’t want to be with anyone right now. Maybe I’m not at the stage of my life where I want to settle down just yet. Maybe I’m not emotionally ready for that kind of commitment. Maybe I have my own reasons.” He takes a deep breath. “And—and did you ever stop to think that there might be someone, you know, I’m actually interested in?”

“Aw, Shin-chan,” coos Yukiko, patting him on the hand (this time more gently). Shinichi is almost relieved until she continues, “It’s cute that you think you can lie to me. We all know you’re lonely and have nobody.” Shinichi looks at the ceiling and prays for a quick death.

“Going back to the dinner party idea,” Yuusaku cuts in, “it does seem like the most expedient solution to the problem. Great idea. So I’ll leave everything to you, sweetheart.” His face is very pale. Shinichi keeps seeing his eyes twitch towards the doors, as though he’s calculating the time it takes to reach each possible exit. If Shinichi strains to see out the front window, he can see a red-faced editor coming up their front walk.

Oblivious, Yukiko squeals. The sheer shrillness of the sound makes Shinichi check his ears for signs of deafness.

“Thank you, Yuusaku! This is going to be perfect,” she declares, which sounds entirely unlikely to Shinichi’s (miraculously unharmed) eardrums. “I’ll start inviting people! I think Aya-chan and Terumi-chan should be in Japan at that time, so they’ll definitely have to come…” She mutters a series of increasingly unfamiliar names to herself for a few moments—during which Shinichi feels dread crawling up his spine like some kind of alien parasite—before she sighs, contented, and sits back in her seat. “Maybe I’ll put out an ad in the newspaper.”

“Do people even read newspapers anymore?” wonders Shinichi, which isn’t quite what he wants or means to say (but endless screaming probably wouldn’t be welcome, so). Yukiko frowns, looking thoughtful, but it’s at that moment that their doorbell rings, accompanied by a heavy round of knocking and “Kudou-san? Kudou-san, I know you’re in there! Your car is in the driveway! I need that manuscript now, please!” and Yusaku launches himself across the room to clamber through the far window. He knocks over his chair as he goes. There’s a shout and the sound of a scuffle. A few minutes later there’s a loud thump.

Yukiko sips her tea. Shinichi glares.

“Is this all because you miss holding babies,” he says, sulky, and shoves both of his hands into his hair to get properly annoyed. Yukiko laughs. It’s an altogether unpleasant sound, airy and cheerful and musical.

“No, Shin-chan, this is all because I watched a reality TV show about brides and now I want to plan a wedding,” she informs him, evilly. “Although grandchildren wouldn’t be too bad, if you’re offering.”

Shinichi plunks his head down on the table.


In general, Shinichi’s friends are assholes. Exhibit A: When Shinichi tells Ran about the whole wife-finding expedition his mother has launched for him, it takes her a whole two minutes of sympathetic placation and “Shinichi, have you told her you just aren’t ready?” and apologetic noises before she cracks and starts laughing. Exhibit B: Hattori doesn’t even bother with the pleasantries and dissolves into goose-like honking the second Shinichi gets the words out. Shinichi hangs up on the sounds of him choking on his own delighted giggles.

Surprisingly, Kaito, of all people, doesn’t have that reaction. Maybe Shinichi should’ve expected that, since Kaito has always been a bit of an enigma to him, from day one. Not many retired phantom thieves are willing to chase around a detective who actively tried to put them in prison, yet alone insist on best friendship despite threats of incarceration and/or bodily harm, after all.

Shinichi brings it up when Kaito is over visiting the cat they co-own—honestly, he doesn’t really have a choice; his mother breezes in, disregarding the fact that Kaito is there, to inform Shinichi that “the Crown Princess of the Newria Islands can make it, Shin-chan, isn’t that exciting?” which raises some eyebrows and some questions. Shinichi is fully expecting Kaito to singlehandedly recreate a laugh track, but to his confusion, Kaito just sits there with the cat in his lap, blank-faced.

“Kaito?” Shinichi tries after a second. When Kaito doesn’t respond, he offers his fingers tentatively to the cat.

The cat is named Miki, and she’s the prettiest cat Shinichi has ever seen, gray-furred and huge-eyed and gracefully proportioned. She looks like a cat designed for a cartoon. She’s intelligent and clever. She’s spoiled beyond salvation, with her own room in the mansion and more toys than some children have. She also violently hates everyone except for Kaito, whom she loves beyond human comprehension, and Shinichi, whom she tolerates. Once she clawed Hattori so badly that they had to go to the emergency room (although Kaito maintains to this day that Hattori had been exaggerating. Shinichi is less sure of that, considering how much blood he’d had to scrub out of the grooves between the floorboards)

Miki is sniffing at Shinichi’s fingers, looking disdainful and a bit as though she’s considering whether she should launch herself at his face like a facehugger from one of the Alien movies (she’s done that to Ran before), when Kaito finally reanimates.

“I’m sorry, I thought you just said that your mom was going to host a bunch of parties to find you a wife,” he says. Shinichi eyeballs him.

“That’s exactly what I said.”

“Oh.” Kaito seems to be at a loss for words. “And you’re… okay with this?”

“Not really,” admits Shinichi, rubbing a few fingers across the top of Miki’s head, right between her perfectly triangular ears. She allows it for several grudging seconds before she ducks out of reach and buries her face in Kaito’s shirt, kneading at his thigh with her paws. Kaito doesn’t seem to notice, as focused on staring at Shinichi’s face as he is. Shinichi clears his throat. “I told her I didn’t want to do it, but she’s not listening to me.”

There’s a crease between Kaito’s eyebrows. His mouth is flexed into a flat line.

“You’re twenty-five years old,” he says, incredulous. Shinichi gives him the blankest look he can manage. Tabula rasa, that’s him.

“Oh, really? I didn’t know that.” Kaito ignores that in favor of giving him a significant look. He’s got one hand buried in the fur along the back of Miki’s neck, and she’s doing her best to become a motor with how hard she’s purring.

“I just—you’re not going to protest? Or anything?” His tone expresses that not protesting would be akin to tying cinderblocks to his own legs and allowing himself to be cannon-blasted off a cliff.

“Of course I am,” Shinichi says, frowning. “I’d like to see anyone convince my mom to change her mind once it’s made up, though. At this point, I’m kind of just thinking that there’s no way out but through.” Kaito makes a considering sound, his face going pinched and almost anxious. Shinichi is starting to get concerned. He’s never seen Kaito this serious before, and he was around when Kaito faced off with the last few members of the criminal organization that killed his dad.

“Did you tell her that you weren’t, uh, ready to settle down?” Kaito says eventually. It makes Shinichi jump; he’d been so focused on trying to figure out Kaito’s face that he’d gotten distracted.

“Yeah, of course.” Several times, in fact. Not that it had mattered. Yukiko has a remarkable case of selective hearing. “But, I mean. In reality, I guess I might be ready to settle down? Maybe not immediate marriage the way she’s thinking, but it could be nice to have, you know. Someone.” Kaito’s left eyebrow ticks up in question. Shinichi sighs. “I know it’s hard for you to understand, Mr. I Flirt with Anything that Can Pass a Captcha Test, but I do, you know, kind of like the idea of finding someone to settle down with. It could be nice.” Over the years, living alone in a three-story house has gotten lonelier and lonelier. Though at least these days he has the cat to keep him company, homicidal as she may be.

“Okay,” says Kaito after a long second, filled only by Miki’s rumbling. The fact that he doesn’t debate the captcha comment means that something is very wrong here, because usually he takes loud and theatrical offense to those kinds of comments. Shinichi squints at him, assessing the likelihood that he’s been drugged or cloned, as Kaito adds, slow, “But… why not settle down with someone you know already?”

“Yeah? Like who?” Shinichi asks, genuinely curious. Kaito opens his mouth, pauses, and then snaps his mouth shut with mousetrap speed. He’s probably realized that Shinichi isn’t interested in anyone from work, and all of their friend group is paired off and therefore unavailable. Well, except for Kaito himself, but Shinichi’s not dumb enough to put himself in the same league as Kuroba Kaito, heartbreaker extraordinaire.

“So who are you expecting to be invited to the party?” is what Kaito ends up saying next, which is enough of a non sequitur that Shinichi narrows his eyes at him, suspicious. Kaito looks perfectly innocent, which is an instant sign that he has some kind of greasy ulterior motive lurking behind the façade.

“I don’t know how happy my mom will be if you show up and start picking up out of the pool of people that I’m supposed to choose a wife from.”

“It’s astounding how little faith you have in me,” Kaito sniffs. As if sensing Kaito’s mock indignation, Miki turns to give Shinichi a scathing look. She’s a pretty terrifying cat, all things considered. “No, I was just curious to see what kind of person the great Fujimine Yukiko would pick for her precious spawn.”

“Please never refer to me as that ever again,” Shinichi says, pained. “And I’m not really sure? As far as I know, she’s been picking a lot of younger actresses that she knows from keeping in touch with a few of her industry friends.” He thinks back to the interruption that started this whole debacle of a conversation and bites back a wince.  “Well, and if she was serious earlier, apparently some minor royalty too, I guess. Beyond that, it’ll probably just be daughters of her and my dad’s friends.”

“Hm,” Kaito hums before his face smooths out and that’s apparently the end of everything. He goes back to petting Miki. “So did you see Hakuba’s last Instagram post? The one in front of Tokyo Tower? I swear to God I forget how punchable his face is until he posts another dumb couple’s selfie looking all smug about the fact that he tricked Aoko into marrying him. God, he’s the worst.” Shinichi side-eyes him.

“He’s the father of your godchild.”

“That doesn’t change the fact that his face begs to be punched, my dear Shinichi.”

Shinichi sits back against Miki’s luxe five-level cat tree, bemused but mostly relieved. For whatever reason, it seems that Kaito is going to drop the subject.

“I mean, I hate to say it, but your godchild has half of his DNA. What if she grows up to have a punchable face?” he points out. Kaito looks appropriately offended.

“Kaede would never,” he hisses. Miki turns frighteningly judgmental eyes on Shinichi, ones that promise he’s going to wake up with her smothering him as best she can with her furry little body. All is well. Crisis—as unexpected as it was—averted.


Shinichi is not proud to admit that he may sort of forget about the whole dinner thing until it’s actually upon him. In his defense, the reason he sort of forgets about it is because a series of locked room murders break out across the country, and he spends nearly two weeks hopping around from prefecture to prefecture, trying to track down the killer. It turns out to be the work of a cult started by an ex-police officer whom Shinichi apparently put out of a job when Shinichi exposed him as a bribe-taking, corrupt, not all that great guy; one of the Gunma detectives gets kidnapped; there’s a whole showdown between them at an abandoned pharmaceutical factory complete with rickety catwalks and a ticking time bomb; Shinichi gets shot in the bicep but manages to disarm the bomb one-armed; etc., etc. The salient point is that things are chaotic enough that Shinichi manages to forget all about the fact that his mother is likely at home giddily hanging streamers and yelling at the caterers.

Needless to say, Shinichi is tired and generally not in the greatest of moods when he finally gets home around four in the afternoon. (Megure had kindly given him the rest of the day off after Shinichi made it back from Gunma.)

The first thing he sees when he opens the front door is carpet. Red carpet, specifically, all over the floor of the foyer. Shinichi blinks and looks up. There’s an elaborate crystal chandelier suspended from the ceiling, throwing shards of light all over the freshly painted walls. The balustrade has either always been ornately carved burnished gold (and Shinichi is incredibly unobservant) or someone has had it replaced in the interim. Beside the staircase, a vase of unidentifiable white flowers sits on a heavy side table that looks like the personification of Victorian era décor. Shinichi feels as though he’s stepped into the inside of a palace. He has half a mind to walk back out and check that he’s in the right house.

“Mom?” he calls, hesitant. In the distance, there’s the sound of footsteps. A moment later, Yukiko appears from the kitchen. She’s wearing a richly red dress with a scandalous neckline and matching hem—both of which make Shinichi do an alarmed double take—and her makeup appears to be a work in progress, judging from the state of her eyebrows. One of them seems to be missing.

Mom?”

“Shin-chan, you’re back just in time! How was the case? How was Gunma?” Yukiko asks. “Your dad wants to hear all about it when you have time.” She lowers her voice, conspiringly. “He’s having a little trouble right now with his next manuscript. Maybe a little inspiration might help.”

“Uh, yeah. The case was fine. Only four murders, some typical tricks with a lot of fishing line and tape. Some dry ice. Pretty normal,” Shinichi answers. He manages a weak gesture at the general state of the room. “Uh—”

“Do you like it?” Shinichi hasn’t seen his mother display this much passion for anything other than irritating his father and/or being asked for her autograph in the checkout line at the grocery store. She does a spin that makes the hem of her dress flare distressingly high. Shinichi debates the merits of taking an inconspicuous step back. “Your father thought it might be overkill, but I think it really sets the mood, don’t you think?”

“Yeah,” says Shinichi slowly. “It looks—great, Mom. But—”

“Really? I’m so glad you like it!” Yukiko lets out an exaggerated sigh of relief and goes to hug him, but pulls back at the last second when she sees how he instinctively tries to turn his injured arm away. Her face falls into a worried pout, which is surreal to see when she has one eyebrow and white powder all over her face. “Oh, I almost forget about that. Is your arm all right for tonight?” Shinichi blinks at her.

“For tonight?” he parrots. He was planning on a quiet night rewatching a mindless procedural drama and eating curry, and then maybe facetiming Kaito and watching Miki go insane trying to figure out where Kaito’s voice is coming from. Yukiko rolls her eyes, impatient.

“For tonight,” she reiterates. “For the party? The one that’s going to start in less than an hour?” She checks her watch, which is a diamonded series of gold links that makes Shinichi’s eyes bug out. He has no idea when she got it. “Although Princess Adalya called ahead to say she would be a little late. Everyone else should be on time, though. Unless they want to make a bad impression, I guess.”

“Oh,” Shinichi says blankly for a second, wading through the sea of words before her meaning sinks in. He feels his stomach do an unpleasant barrel roll. “Oh. That’s tonight?”

“Of course,” Yukiko answers, emphatic. Her eyes narrow at him, searching his face, and her expression falls a little. Shinichi is hit by a wave of sheer panic. Yeah, okay, he’s a grown-ass man who’s still scared of disappointing his parents, even when his parents include dramatic ex-actresses who routinely treat him like a six-year-old. “Shin-chan, did you forget—”

“No I definitely didn’t forget about the party what do you mean,” Shinichi says in a hasty and ill-advised rush, which makes Yukiko squint at him with suspicion. He coughs in an attempt at distraction. “Where’s Dad?”

“He’s in the middle of changing and getting ready.” Yukiko’s eyes are boring into him. Her tone implies as you should be. Shinichi nods once, opens his mouth, finds that words are out of reach, and flees up the stairs. He finds one of the suits his mother forced him to be fitted for laid out across his bed, a mass of flatly ironed royal blue, and allows himself the dignity of a single groan. His arm aches. His soul is yearning for a quiet night of little to no socializing and even less thinking. Alas.

It takes him the better part of an hour to shower, get his hair under control with relentless application of pomade, and put the suit on. By then, he can hear the sounds of people downstairs, which does nothing to soothe his nerves. He spends another minute staring at himself in the mirror and trying to figure out if he’s presentable. There’s a cowlick that’s already broken free of the pomade and is proudly standing up on the back of his head.

On the way out of his room, he hears a faint jingle and a meow and turns just in time to see Miki trot over to him. She has a soft satin ribbon adorned with a bell tired in a bow around her neck. Shinichi wonders how much blood his mother lost getting it on her.

“Hi, Miki,” he says, cautious. Miki mews at him. If cats could scowl, she would be full-on glaring. Shinichi sighs.

“I don’t want to do this either, you know,” he reminds her. Maybe he should have Kaito take care of her on the nights of the parties. He gets the feeling that Miki a) doesn’t like having strangers in her space, even if her space is technically a floor away from the strangers, and b) would not hesitate to use every means at her disposal to announce this dislike. Miki looks unimpressed, but she follows alongside him as he starts for the stairs.

The second he sets foot at the first step, there’s an audible hush. Many pairs of mascaraed eyes turn to look at him, all assessing and all varying degrees of uncomfortably suggestive. A whisper starts up at one side of the room and sweeps through the entry like a devastating plague. Shinichi swallows. Miki brushes against his ankle in an uncharacteristic display of support before disappearing back towards her room.

“And there’s the man of the hour!” Yukiko yells from somewhere, over the background music of his dad laughing sadistically. Shinichi grits his teeth in an expression that hopefully approaches a smile and begins his descent down the stairs.

It’s—something. There are a lot of girls there, for one—possibly pushing twenty—which means Shinichi has the same conversation about twenty times. Generally, it seems to go as follows:

“Hi, I’m Kudou Shinichi,” Shinichi will say. The girl will giggle a little as she gives him a thorough once-over that tends to linger around his neck, shoulders, waist, and/or legs. One girl had blatantly asked him to turn around. (Shinichi had declined.)

“Hi, I’m (name),” the girl will reply, maybe looking at him through her lashes, maybe with a very specific brand of encouraging smile. It’s then Shinichi’s turn to look at her, although he tries not to be too overt about it. So far, he’s managed that pretty well, except for the one girl wearing a dress made of what looked like skinned squirrels. It had been pretty hard not to stare at that. Most of the other girls are wearing relatively normal dress choices—a lot of neutrals, for whatever reason—and numerous iterations of the same eyeliner-heavy makeup styles.

“It’s nice to meet you, (name),” is Shinichi’s next line, followed by, “So what do you do for a living?” The answers of this tend to range from the mundane (“I’m a florist!”) to the slightly more interesting (“I’m an actress on this obscure TV show that won an equally obscure award in 2004!”) to the alarming (“I live with this really rich guy who buys me things and flies me to Italy once a month but don’t worry, we’re totally open to adding a third!”).

“I’m an assistant inspector with the Tokyo police,” Shinichi will say in response, unless his response is to start backing away as subtly as possible. He usually gets some form of flattery at this point in the conversation, followed by questions about whether he likes his job, the most interesting case he’s ever had, and/or how much he makes in a year. (The last one had been from the girl with the sugar daddy, perhaps unsurprisingly.)

Then Yukiko swoops in to whisk him away to the next girl, after a brief, exchange of “I’ve really enjoyed talking to you, (name),” and “I’ll catch you later, then, Shinichi-kun/Kudou-san/Kudou-kun?” Rinse and repeat.

Shinichi is. Exhausted.

The actual dinner is pretty good, at least. His mom splashed out on a French caterer, which means Shinichi ends up with a plate of boeuf bourguignonne while he’s sandwiched between two of the less dubious girls (the florist and a grad student studying ancient Japanese literature), which is nice. He has a pleasant conversation with Chika and Ami about the last episode of Detective Samonji, at least until his mother starts making sounds about socializing more and Shinichi finds himself stuck talking to Eiko, the squirrel dress girl, for over twenty minutes. He has an even harder time not staring at her dress this time. It’s awkward all around.

Then there’s the uncomfortable exchange he has with an Instagram model named Haruka during which she brings up prenups on three separate occasions, in increasingly unsubtle ways. A part of him is impressed by her relentlessness, but most of him wants to get away from her. He escapes to a much calmer conversation with Sara the English teacher, during which they bond over their shared interest in the Tokyo Spirits, until he’s snagged by Rumiko, the daughter of an important CEO who is nice enough but smells strongly of a perfume that evokes the feeling of being locked in a Lush store, in an unpleasant way. Eiko then catches him for another ten minutes before he manages to make some kind of excuse and slip away.

By seven, Shinichi is on the verge of a breakdown. He excuses himself from his conversation with Jenifer the American Actress Who’s Mostly Been In Commercials But, Like, She’s Really On The Verge of Something, Y’Know? and barricades himself in the upstairs bathroom. His reflection stares bleakly back at him when he washes his face. There are grayish bags under his eyes that he squints at. His arm is starting up a now familiar throbbing.

He’s just about done drying his hands, getting ready to open the door, when there’s a faint knock. Shinichi almost jumps. With some hesitance, he opens the door.

Standing there is a woman he doesn’t remember meeting and/or talking to. She’s very blond and very pretty, in a hand-painted bisque doll sort of way that manages to be flattering instead of creepy, and she’s wearing a bright blue dress that draws out the seawater color of her eyes, which Shinichi notices because they’re the same height. Her hair is done up in a complicated mass of knots and curls and elaborate braiding that gives Shinichi motion sickness just from looking. He feels his eyebrows jump up his forehead. He’s pretty sure he would remember meeting her.

“I’m sorry, how can I help you?” he says after an awkward second of staring and trying to calculate whether he’s met her and how rude he must be coming off if he has.

The woman blinks at him, skillfully painted lips parted, before she chirps, “Oh! I’m so sorry. You’re Kudou Shinichi, correct?” There’s a faint lilt to her words, accented in a way Shinichi can’t quite place. “I’m sorry for my late arrival. I had some business to which I needed to attend. I’m Adalya Clémence Hermann III, the crown princess of the Newria Islands.”

“Ah,” says Shinichi.

“I was just looking for the bathroom,” says Adalya.

Ah,” Shinichi repeats, feeling like an amoeba that’s been slapped on a microscope slide and put over a hot light. “Uh, congratulations. You found it.” He waves a hand behind him at the bathroom, realizing how stupid he sounds half a second too late. Adalya smiles at him with undeserved kindness.

“Thank you, Shinichi.” She says his name with a strange, incorrect undulation, Shi-ni-chi. It unsettles him. After a long moment, he realizes Adalya is waiting for him to stop blinking at her and step out of the way so she can make her way in, which he does in a hurry. She doesn’t close the door, though, when she slides past him.

Shinichi is trying to decide if he should just leave now or if he’s supposed to stay and—watch her fix her lipstick, apparently, when she speaks again. “I know I showed up late, but what did I miss? I would love to hear a recap of the night’s festivities.” She catches his eye in the mirror and smirks.

“Other than some pretty good canapes, nothing much,” Shinichi mutters under his breath, possibly a little too emboldened by the knowing look in her eyes. Adalya seems to hear that, because he sees one side of her mouth curl up even as she continues to swipe at her bottom lip with the little applicator thing of her lipstick. He coughs. “Well, I was able to meet a lot of interesting people. Have you heard of Hoshimura Yuriko?” Adalya’s neatly plucked eyebrows draw together.

“No?”

“Neither have I, but apparently, she’s on a wildly popular medical drama that airs at three a.m. on channel seven every Tuesday,” Shinichi says. Adalya blinks.

“Wildly popular,” she repeats. Shinichi nods. She gives a laugh—a surprisingly full sound, nothing held back, deep and genuine—and closes her tube of lipstick, turning to lean against the counter. Somehow she manages to make it graceful, even in the small space, even in her full-skirted dress that nearly brushes two walls when she’s standing still. “I sense you’re quite enjoying meeting all the candidates? Plenty of lovely young ladies down there, yes?”

“Uh,” says Shinichi, dragging out the sound pointedly, and she laughs again.

“Overwhelming?”

“To say the least.” Shinichi smiles. “There are some that I like talking to, at least. Others… maybe not so much.”

“Oh?” Adalya’s eyebrows lift slightly above her delicate browbones. “What do you mean?” When Shinichi hesitates, she grins. “Oh, don’t give me that face, Shinichi. I won’t sell your secrets to the tabloids. Well, not more than one, at least.” Shinichi squints at her.

“Aren’t you a princess? Of a wealthy country? Why would you need to sell anything to the tabloids?”

“Welll, you know,” Adalya says, waving a hand at the diamonds sitting at her collarbones and dangling from her earlobes. They look like the kind of thing that would sit next to a number containing seven digits in a jewelry catalogue. “Diamond mines only pay so much, you know.”

“Right.” Shinichi lets the doubt show in his voice. Adalya giggles, covering her mouth with one hand. Shinichi finds himself watching her shoulders as they flex beneath the sleeves of her dress. Huh. “I mean, if you really must know, I’m currently hiding from a girl who tried to convince me that prenups are irrelevant and unnecessary, unprompted, on three separation occasions.” He pauses. “Over the course of five minutes.”

“She may be a good choice if you admire tenacity,” Adalya reflects. Shinichi rolls his eyes at her. They’re both laughing.

“That aside, there are some really great people out there, too,” he adds. “I enjoyed talking to most of them. Some of them—I don’t know, maybe I could be convinced to see them in a, a romantic way.” He’s proud of himself for not stumbling more.

Adalya’s expression changes then, going the slightest bit more closed. She’s still smiling at him, but it’s suddenly more put-on, mouth a little tighter and eyes a little less bright. Shinichi can’t tell if he’s just good at reading her in particular or if the Interrogation 101 seminar he went to last month actually helped him learn to interpret microexpressions.

“In that case, don’t let me keep you here. You have so many charming girls with whom you need to socialize, yes?” Adalya winks at him—Shinichi gapes—before she gently closes the door. Right before it clicks shut, though, she adds, “And don’t forget your poker face, Prince Charming!”

Shinichi stands there for another second before he runs a hand over the back of his head and starts back down the stairs. Something about her kind of reminds him of—no. That’s just wishful thinking.

The descent back to the party doesn’t feel great. Neither does the conversations he has with Miyuki the magazine editor or Sayaka the hotel-chain heiress or Naomi the fledgling model/actress/idol/"well, okay, I'm still trying to find my place in the industry, but I promise I'll be famous in under three years". But at least now he has someone whose eye he can catch to share a look of commiseration. That’s a little better than before.

It’s even better when everyone finally leaves and he gets to sit in bed—laptop open beside him on an ancient episode of Detective Samonji from before they recasted Samonji (Kenzaki Osamu > Suzuhara Akio), Miki seated primly in his lap, cup of tea at his elbow—and send texts at Kaito. Kaito’s not responding, for whatever reason, so Shinichi bombards him with cute pictures of Miki until he falls asleep with one hand still wrapped around his phone. When he wakes up, Miki lying across his face, Kaito has responded with a series of brightly-colored heart emojis, punctuated by a promise to come visit his adorable baby princess daughter (Miki). Shinichi smiles around the eyeful of hair threatening the safety of his corneas.

Kaito does come visit his adorable baby princess daughter, later that day. He brings an amount of catnip that is probably inadvisable and stuffs it into the pocket of one of her lesser-loved mice plushies. They watch her claw it to shreds in a violent frenzy of meowing. Bits of cotton stuffing go everywhere.

“My sweet murder baby,” Kaito says, pressing a hand to his chest. His eyes look suspiciously wet. Shinichi snorts so hard he chokes.

They leave Miki to her catnip-fueled murder fantasies and get lunch at Poirot. Shinichi is relentlessly mocked for his choice of omurice, especially when it comes out with a smiley face drawn on in ketchup. Many Conan jokes are bandied about. Shinichi points out that Kaito is drinking chocolate milk with his yakisoba. There is an argument about the adultness of chocolate milk that ends with Azusa coming over to tell them that she loves how passionate they are, really, but there are other customers, boys, and someone is filming this with their phone, so if you don’t want to find yourself trending on Twitter, maybe stop? They come to a grudging truce.

After that, they catch a movie, some kind of mystery/drama/thriller combination that Shinichi can’t help but narrate the flaws of as it unfolds. He can’t help it; the screenplay is so shoddy it’s practically moth-eaten. Kaito replies back with increasingly ridiculous explanations for the plot holes that Shinichi finds.

(“I dunno, Shinichi, maybe the sister didn’t call the police because she’s secretly a yakuza boss who doesn’t want to involve the police in case they investigate around and discover she’s laundering money through her business?”

“Kaito, she’s a dogwalker.”

“Yeah. A money-laundering dogwalker.”)

Objectively, it’s a horrible experience. The theater is old and decrepit, smashed popcorn all over the floor and something sticky clinging to Shinichi’s hand from when he made the mistake of touching the armrest. Everyone around them definitely hates them, considering how often Kaito gets the back of his chair kicked. Kaito’s solution is to moan loudly every time it happens, which makes Shinichi flush and bury his face in his (sticky) hands. They get asked to leave ten minutes before the climactic big reveal (although Shinichi figured out the plot in the first five minutes—the plot seems to have been written by an actual six-year-old). It’s raining when they leave the theater, which means Kaito has the bright idea of having a puddle-jumping contest that ends with Shinichi soaked in dirty rainwater. His pants are, beyond a doubt, ruined.

The whole time, Shinichi can’t stop smiling. It’s pretty gross.

There’s a weird moment later that sticks with Shinichi, when he’s thinking the day over later. When they’re finally back at Shinichi’s house, stripping off their soaked clothes to change into something dry as Shinichi finishes explaining (and complaining about) how the movie would’ve ended, he pauses to take a breath and looks over to find that Kaito is looking at him with a weird look on his face, mouth partially open as he clutches his wet sweater to his chest. Shinichi feels his smile turn quizzical.

“You okay?” he asks, folding his shirt up into a messy ball to hurl it at the edge of the laundry hamper.

“What?” There’s a few beats before Kaito swallows, blinks, and nods. “Yeah. Yeah, I’m good.”

“Uh, okay,” Shinichi says, and goes back to talking about the resolution of the movie. The fact that the dogwalking sister was an actual important plot point cannot be ragged on enough.


Shinichi is moderately more prepared for the second party, at least. He has his suit (this time a charcoal gray paired with a deep red tie) on a good thirty minutes beforehand, and he’s already popped two preemptive painkillers for his pending headache, which his father raises a judgmental eyebrow at when he walks in on Shinichi and Shinichi’s bottle of Advil huddled up beside the stove. Yusaku declines to voice whatever he’s thinking, though, when faced with the business end of Shinichi’s stare.

“Good luck, sport,” he says. Shinichi sighs. His dad, though brilliant, is frequently useless.

Things start out reasonably enough. In addition to more catering, Yukiko got two fondue towers, so tall and bulky that they look as though they may require building permits, which means Shinichi is treated to the sight of twenty-odd women trying to eat fondue without looking ridiculous and/or getting gruyere on their probably expensive clothing. Some of them make an attempt at seduction, which is brave, considering how unsexy melted cheese and cubes of ham are, by nature.

After that spectacle, Shinichi starts to make his rounds, which, similarly, start off fine. He talks to Chika for twenty minutes about how Kenzaki Osamu’s Detective Samonji is far superior to Suzuhara Akio’s, and then he gets into a thinly veiled argument with Yuriko about the movie he saw with Kaito the other day. Apparently, the word on the street is that it’s in the running for the Academy Awards’ Screenplay of the Year, which Shinichi finds absolutely ridiculous, considering the sheer number of plot holes the whole thing is riddled with. Yuriko definitely disagrees; watching her try to struggle to find a polite way of saying, “Okay, sure, that’s your opinion, but you’re absolutely wrong about everything you just said” is both amusing and sad.

He moves on to less enjoyable prospects, after that. Eiko isn’t wearing an entire forest’s population of squirrels this time; she’s wearing a khaki dress topped with a pale fur shawl, which she informs Shinichi is the pelt of a white Bengal tiger. Shinichi is horrified, especially when a surreptitious Google search confirms his suspicion that they’re endangered. The first words out of Haruka’s mouth when she catches his attention are, “Did you know that it’s scientifically proven that prenuptial agreements lead to mental health issues and sustained high cortisol levels? And heart disease and asthma? And—scoliosis?” Jenifer makes a point to stare directly into his eyes as she shoves a mini sausage covered in cheese into her mouth. It’s incredibly awkward.

By the time Shinichi makes it to the corner of the living room, where Adalya is curled up on an armchair, the flared skirt of her dress arranged around her bent knees, he can feel his two Advil wearing off. He’d go pop another, but he thinks his father might have sold him out to his mother, because she’s lurking in the doorway with a threatening glint in her eyes and the bottle in one hand. His dad is truly useless.

“Good evening, Princess,” Shinichi greets, clearing his throat when it rasps. He rubs at his jaw with one thumb before he sits down on the chair opposite her. Adalya looks him over, unsubtle, before she smirks at him.

“You, my friend, look exhausted,” she tells him, and offers him whatever’s left in the wineglass she’s got balanced between her slender fingers. Her nails are painted a glossy ruby red, matching her dress and the jeweled clips clasped around the circumference her bun. Shinichi takes the glass and downs the contents. He makes a face. Ugh. Pinot noir.

“Have you been here since the party started?” he asks. Adalya nods, tucking a stray lock of hair behind her ears. “So you’ve had plenty of time to socialize, then. What do you think of my prospects?”

“Well,” says Adalya, dragging out the word until it’s distorted, as though she’s been put on 0.25 speed, “there are some very lovely girls here, as you said, yes. However,” she motions at a woman in a beige dress that makes her look naked at first glance, “that woman has told me to go back to my country three different times over the course of the evening, and that woman,” she gestures at a girl wearing earlobe-distending hoops, “tried to steal my necklace when she thought I was distracted getting my soupe à l’oignon.” She tuts. “Very clumsy fingers on her, that girl. No subtlety at all. At first I thought she was trying to garotte me from behind.”

Shinichi winces.

“I’m sorry.”

“Not your fault,” Adalya brushes him off, breezy. “Unless you paid them off to do it, in which case it is your fault and I expect compensation for my bereavement, Shinichi.” She angles a severe glance at him, brows slanted down something fierce. “How will you pay me off? I’m very traumatized, Shinichi.”

“I think we’ve now crept into the realm of extortion, and I think I may need to remind you that I’m an officer of the law,” Shinichi points out, trying to look stern, although the fact that he’s smiling probably doesn’t help his case. Adalya laughs, another one of her full-bellied laughs, before she leans in.

“All jokes aside, Shinichi, I will be direct. Who is my competition?” she asks. Shinichi blinks at her.

“Your competition?” he parrots. “No offense, Your Highness, but that sort of sounds like you’re planning to go kneecap them to take them out of the race, or something.”

“How vile,” Adalya gasps, one hand literally grasping at her pearls. “I would only ever go for the ankles.” Shinichi snorts.

“Is that what the future leader of a country should be saying?”

“Oh, it’s of no concern, my friend. Love has made many a ruler crazy,” Adalya says, patting him on the hand. Shinichi stares.

“Careful, Princess, you’re starting to make me think that you like me.”

“Maybe I do,” Adalya chirps, her smile sharpening just enough that Shinichi rolls his eyes and is about to change the subject, but Adalya rests one hand on his arm, giving him pause. When he looks at her, a question in his eyes, she’s looking straight back at him, brows low over her eyes. “You know, I really would like an answer to my question, Shinichi.”

“About who your competition is?” Shinichi feels his entire face furrow. “If by competition you mean girls I’m interested in, I don’t really know what to say. Uh, I guess out of everyone, I liked talking to Chika-san and Sara-san… Maybe Rumiko-san? Ami-san? I guess Yuriko-san isn’t too bad either.” When the intensity in Adalya’s eyes doesn’t fade, he gives a faint laugh. “But, well, your real competition isn’t even here.”

“What?” Adalya’s eyes narrow.

“Nothing,” Shinichi says hastily. “Uh, fondue?”


“So how goes the bride shopping?” Ran asks. Shinichi feels his entire body spasm in disgust, hard enough that he almost drops his coffee, which, weak as it is, is the only hope he has of surviving the rest of the work day (the police department really needs to invest in functioning coffee machines; Shinichi made a model that predicts a 42% increase in resolved cases if they splash out on an espresso machine by the end of the year).

“Please don’t call it that,” he begs. Ran huffs, a burst of staticky air over the line. Shinichi can sense that she’s shaking her head.

“Is that not what it is?”

“I try to think of it more as my mom abusing her control over my life,” he says, a touch gloomy. “I should move out.” Ran laughs.

“I don’t know if that would solve the problem, considering your mom is barely around most of the time usually.”

“Yeah, I guess.” Shinichi lets himself sigh as he stares down at the case files papering his desk. He feels as though he’s looking down into a physical representation of stress. “But maybe it would make her less worried about me if I wasn’t still living there. If I had my own place or something.” There’s a pause that feels delicately placed.

“You know, it’s not too late. You could still tell your mom about—the situation,” says Ran eventually. If Shinichi holds his breath and listens carefully, he can hear the sound of a door opening and a distant voice yelling something about homework and blood. He’s not sure if it’s Sera or their daughter—the homework implies their daughter; the blood implies Sera—but either way it makes him a little sad. Well, maybe not sad. Wistful.

“I could, I guess,” he agrees. He takes a sip of coffee, which has gone cold enough to be doubly unpleasant. “But you know how it is. She’d never leave me alone if she knew. Instead of a bride market, it would just be straight-up matchmaking, and somehow that’s worse. At least right now I have the option of pretending that nobody in the pool is someone I can see myself, you know, starting a family with or whatever, and then she’ll leave me alone as a lost cause.”

“That’s pretty tragic,” Ran informs him, which is blunt but accurate. Shinichi rubs at his sinuses. “So you’re not really into any of the girls?” Shinichi pauses and feels the silences stretch on for too long. One of the files in front of him details the suspicious murder-suicide of a couple who were discovered to have over a hundred kilograms of gold buried under their house. He wishes he was working on it instead of having to deal with composing a reply to that question.

“Well…” he hedges. Ran immediately jumps on it, a great white honing in on a drop of blood.

“Well?” she echoes. “Did some actress catch your eye? I bet your mom knows a lot of models.” She sounds almost—wistful. Shinichi makes the decision to ignore that. He hopes she’s not having problems with Sera. Their kid is too awesome to get caught up in marital (and possibly martial, knowing the two of them) quarrels.

“No, no, it’s just…” Shinichi thinks back to last night. He feels strangely unmoored. “No, I don’t think anything’s going to change on my end.”

“Cryptic,” Ran remarks before there’s a crash and the sound of a shriek so high-pitched Shinichi expects to hear dogs start barking en masse. He winces.

“Was that Shizu-chan?”

“No, I think it was Masumi,” Ran answers, sounding harried. Shinichi can understand. As functional as Ran is, it’s hard being responsible for a child with occasionally absent impulse control and far too much curiosity. And Shizuka on top of that, too. “Uh, Shinichi, I hate to do this, but can we—”

“Yeah, yeah, go take care of your wife,” he waves her off. Ran bids him a hasty goodbye—there’s another scream, this one less piercing and much shorter, cutting off abruptly after a few seconds—before the line clicks dead. Shinichi sighs (with relief or with worry; he’s not really sure which) and gets back to the murder-suicide case.

A lot of digging later, he’s on the verge of ringing one of his junior officers (Endou, maybe? He’s a fresh transfer from criminal affairs who could use a little fieldwork experience) to go interrogate the sketchy neighbor who had found the bodies when there’s a knock on the door. When Shinichi looks up, his neck creaks loudly enough that he scares himself, which is a new and depressing installment in the series of unfortunate events that comprise his life.

Kaito is standing in the doorway, a tied-up bento in one hand and a bewildered expression on his face that can’t seem to decide if it wants to be amused or concerned.

“Was that your neck,” he says. At Shinichi’s nod, his face finally settles on amused. “Have your vertebrae been replaced by rusty hinges? You might want to get some oil in there.”

“That’s definitely sound medical advice that I will certainly follow,” Shinichi answers. He eyes Kaito with contemplation. Kaito—for all his posturing about how he’s not Kid anymore, so it’s not a big deal anyway, and even if he was still Kid, he wouldn’t care, because he’s a professional, and nobody would suspect him because he’s that Good—is still the slightest bit uncomfortable with hanging around a police station. Not to the point that he’s never hung out with Shinichi there, but enough that it’s not exactly like him to drop in unannounced. “Did you need something, other than to make fun of my intervertebral disks?”

Kaito spends a second mouthing intervertebral disks to himself, perplexed, before he grins and holds up the bento.

“Because I am an excellent co-cat dad, I brought you dinner.” He looks proud of himself. Shinichi feels himself smiling before he can help himself.

“Is this your way of trying to bribe me into giving you full custody? Because I won’t hand Miki for anything less than three-day curry,” he says. Kaito laughs, big and unrestrained, before he steps closer to place the bento down on Shinichi’s table. It’s wrapped in a handkerchief printed with tiny top-hatted, monocled doves that is quite possibly Kid fan merch.

“Oh no, I forgot the three-day curry. I’ll guess I’ll see you in court.” Kaito sighs as Shinichi unwraps the box. He’s suddenly aware that he’s ravenous—he hasn’t eaten anything in a while, except for the cold coffee. He pulls the lid off of the box and is surprised to see a rice ball in the shape of an intricate cat (adorable) and golden-brown karaage, alongside a variety of little side dishes in tiny patterned liners. It’s a surprising amount of effort Kaito’s put into it. Kaito’s made him bento before, especially back when he was still trying to convince Shinichi to be hist friend, and they’ve always been pretty, but never this level of elaborate.

“Did you make all of this?” he asks, probably more touched than he should be. Kaito shuffles, smiling down at something on the ground. Shinichi follows his gaze. The carpet is as bland and gray as it’s always been. Huh.

“Like I said, I just wanted to show my eligibi—my talents as a co-parent,” Kaito says, almost lofty as he finally meets Shinichi’s eyes again. Shinichi grins, looking down at the cat-shaped rice. It’s wearing a little red bowtie cut out of red ginger and round glasses made out of seaweed.

“I changed my mind. I’m okay with full custody. Miki clawed up my favorite sweater the other day, anyway.” He fumbles around for a pair of chopsticks (there are a few splintery pairs of disposables that he keeps in his desk, for cases like this) before he digs in. It’s good, of course: Kaito is a shockingly good cook, maybe even better than Ran, but he doesn’t really cook that often, for whatever reason.

“If it was that blue one, it deserved to be clawed up,” Kaito tells him, sitting down in the visitor’s chair across from Shinichi and inspecting his nails with an air of nonchalance. Shinichi wrinkles his nose as he watches. He must need new lightbulbs, because from this angle Kaito’s nails seem to have a reddish tint.

“My wardrobe is fine, and you’re just bigoted,” he says, shoving a piece of karaage into his mouth.

“Bigoted against crimes against fashion, maybe,” Kaito replies. “I think you’re the only human alive who thinks that red bowties with a blue blazer are the pinnacle of fashion, my friend.”

“Coming from the man who used to prance around in an all-white suit with a cape and a top hat, I’m having a hard time swallowing that,” Shinichi points out, jabbing his chopsticks at him in a blatant violation of politeness. Kaito just smirks.

“It’s vintage,” he tells Shinichi with an air of superiority.

“And mine was functional!”

“As if Professor Agasa couldn’t have come up with a less unfashionable shape for the voice-changer.”

“Well, you seemed to think it’s cute enough,” grumbles Shinichi, motioning at the bowtie the riceball cat is wearing. He hasn’t been able to bring himself to eat any of the rice yet—it’s super cute, and it’s also staring him in the face with its beady black seaweed eyes, as though it's daring him.                 

“Somehow I find the strangest things adorable when they come from you,” Kaito agrees with a put-upon sigh. Before Shinichi can fully parse that thought, he launches into a dissection of the last Detective Samonji episode, which he has very bad and wrong opinions about. Shinichi gets to work on fixing him, or at least trying to. He’s pretty sure he’ll never fix Kaito, but he’s made his peace with that.

They lapse into silence after a while, Kaito humming something lilting and soft while Shinichi finishes the bento. He’s just finished the rice (he’s sad to see the cat go) when Kaito clears his throat, a touch too casual to be natural.

“Hey, Shinichi?” There’s a weird catch between the syllables. Shinichi looks up, swallowing the last of the cat’s ear.

“Yeah?”

“You would tell me if you liked someone, wouldn’t you?” Kaito says, completely out of the blue. Shinichi pauses, the last piece of chicken halfway to his mouth.

“That was random,” he eventually manages.

“I know.” Kaito hesitates, which is unlike him. Shinichi hasn’t known him to be anything other than self-assured, most of the time. “I—you know what, it’s not important. Never mind.”

“Uh,” says Shinichi, trying to find words. “I guess…” This is a conundrum. He goes for the truth. “I guess if it was—the right time, I would?” Wait. Shit. That’s pretty telling. He jams the piece of chicken into his mouth and prays.

Kaito doesn’t seem to figure it out, though. He just makes a low, unreadable sound and spends a second staring at the carpet—nothing about it’s changed; it’s still boring and flat when Shinichi sneaks a look down at it—before he looks back up and brings up the new Sherlock Holmes adaptation that’s coming out in May, just to get a rise out of Shinichi. Everyone knows The Sign of Four went nothing like that, and adaptations that aren’t at least somewhat faithful to the source material generally suck. That’s just facts.


The next party is thankfully void of Eiko and Haruka and a few other names that Shinichi had put on a “please… I’m begging you… no” list and given to his mother. Sara and Rumiko have also bowed out: apparently they had bumped into each other at the fondue fountain, got into a shouting match over the validity of being a Noir Tokyo fan, and decided they were more interested in pursuing each other than pursuing Shinichi. Shinichi is both grateful and unsurprised.

It’s also after Shinichi closes another case—this one based around the Yamata no Orochi myth and involving a lot of disemboweling with a giant sword meant to stand in for the Kusanagi no Tsurugi—although this time, he’s at least a little less injured.

The thinned-out crowd is nice, at the very least. Shinichi delights in not having to spend too much time hiding from girls in squirrel dresses.

Ami, the Ancient Japanese literature student, turns out is a very good conversationalist. She’s obviously very knowledgeable about the Kojiki and by extension the Yamata no Orochi myth, which means she’s interested in hearing about the case in great detail, whereas most of the other girls he mentioned the case to were less welcoming (for understandable reasons). She’s also stunning and elegant, in a way that reminds Shinichi of Ran in a worryingly Freudian way.

“So the third victim was the killer’s twin sister?” Ami says. Her dessert plate, filled with mini cream puffs (Yukiko had kept the same caterer, it seems), is lying forgotten on a side table. When Shinichi nods, she makes a considering noise. “You know, that’s a very interesting turn of events, since the killer felt he was the spiritual reincarnation of Susanoo, correct? So this would be tantamount to killing Ameterasu, which is the opposite of what’s recounted in the Kojiki. You know, Susanoo actually presented the Kusanagi no Tsurugi to Ameterasu, as a form of reconciliation, and it became one of the three imperial—”

“Shinichi, may I—oh, I’m so sorry! Am I interrupting?” Shinichi is startled out of the conversation by the sound of a familiar voice overhead, tinged with amusement. Both he and Ami turn to see Adalya standing a few feet away. Today she’s wearing a dress in a deep berry color that matches her lipstick. Shinichi finds it hard to believe that she didn’t realize she would be interrupting. He squints at her, to which he receives a beatific smile in response.

“Oh, not at all!” Ami answers. She’s unfailingly polite. “Kudou-kun was just telling me about his last case. Have you seen it in the news?”

“The news?” Adalya, Shinichi notes, looks as doe-eyed as possible. Her accent is suddenly much stronger than Shinichi’s ever heard it. “What do you mean, the news? I have not heard of this.”

“Like websites and things that tell you about what’s happening in the world,” says Ami, God bless her. She doesn’t look the slightest bit cowed. “Kudou-kun’s case was pretty big when it was closed.”

“I see.” Adalya nods, eyes guileless and serious, which doesn’t seem to bode well for Shinichi. “I am very glad that Shinichi has a big.” She allows a telling pause. Shinichi uses it to pray for himself and his continued mental stability. “Case.” Ami stares at her. Her lips are twitching, either in amusement or horror.

“Now that I’m thinking about it, I don’t think we’ve met. I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to be rude,” she says. “I’m Fujisaki Ami, a grad student at Touto University.”

“I am Adalya Clémence Hermann III, the Crown Princess of the Newria Islands. We are famous for our diamond mines and excellent croissants,” Adalya replies, head tipped back just enough that her nose is in the air. She leaves it at that, which saturates the atmosphere with an awkward tinge. Ami giggles into one hand. Shinichi pinches at the bridge of his nose.

“All of a sudden I’m very hungry,” Ami remarks. She draws out the syllables, too, to make everything all the more embarrassing. “I have to go get something from the kitchen. Why don’t you keep Kudou-kun company for me, Your Highness?” She winks at Shinichi. “We can finish talking about the case later, okay, Kudou-kun?”

“Sorry,” Shinichi feels compelled to add, but Ami just gives him an indulgent smile, as though he’s a very clumsy puppy that’s tripped into her lap. Seeing it makes Shinichi realize that he’s gotten that smile from nearly every woman he’s ever met.

“Don’t worry about it,” she grins before she’s off, probably to gossip about the rude princess with the other girls clustered in the dining room.

Shinichi turns to look at Adalya, who is wearing an intensely innocent expression as she plucks one of Ami’s forgotten quiches off the sidetable and takes a bite. Somehow, her lipstick doesn’t smudge when she does it. Miracles of modern makeup, maybe. Shinichi watches her for a minute, feeling his brow furrow.

“Fujisaki-san was nice,” he points out, testing the waters. Adalya shrugs, unrepentant, and finishes off the quiche.

Nice is such a boring word, Shinichi. If that’s the best you can describe her as…”

“She was also intelligent and a good conversationalist. We were having an interesting discussion about my last case. I liked talking to her,” Shinichi says, bemused. “And just so we’re clear, the only words I can come up with to describe you with are jealous and rude, at the moment, so I’m not sure what that says.” He realizes, half a second too late, how harsh that sounds, but Adalya seems not to mind, because she just presses a hand to her chest.

“Me? Rude? I am a princess,” she gasps, mock affronted. Shinichi can tell from the way her mouth is pulling up on one side. He side-eyes her.

“A rude princess of a country known for its diamond mines and excellent croissants, apparently,” he revises. “And don’t think I don’t notice you not denying the jealous part.”

“Double negatives in Japanese are so confusing,” Adalya says, airy. Shinichi feels his face squinch up. The smile she turns on him is flashbulb in its luminosity, her whole face brightened by it. “Is this some kind of roundabout way of you trying to tell me you don’t want to talk to me, Shinichi?” Shinichi stares at her.

“Interesting how that’s what you came away from this conversation with,” he says, and when her expression remains unchanging, he sighs. “No, Princess, I don’t mind talking to you.” Adalya beams at him. Something goes bump behind Shinichi’s ribcage. It feels suspiciously like his heart skipping a beat.

“Don’t let it get to your head,” he adds, a second too late to be convincing as he rolls his eyes, pointedly twisting around and ignoring her. Adalya just hums at him, melodic, before she leans in, enough that Shinichi is momentarily startled when he turns back to find her much closer than he was expecting. They’re close enough that he can almost hear the way her lips part with a soft sound. This close, her eyes are such a bright color that they look artificial.

“Don’t worry, Shinichi,” she whispers, low enough that it sounds—seductive, almost? “I won’t tell anyone I’m your favorite.”

She’s not, really. The position of Shinichi’s favorite has been filled for a good long while. But Shinichi doesn’t bother trying to correct her.

“You do that,” he says, instead, to a smile that makes him look away.


“So do you have anyone that you’re particularly interested in, out of the girls you’ve met so far?” Yukiko asks him over the rims of her (“they’re not reading glasses, Shin-chan, I’m not that old!”) magnifying—ocular—devices. She has her fingers poised over the keyboard of her laptop, ready to start taking down any word out of his mouth. This week her nails have little stars stuck on them.

It’s six thirty-two in the morning on a Tuesday. Outside, there’s a storm percolating, frothy dark clouds swirling to a single convergence point, daylight stained dishwater gray where it struggles in through the windows. Shinichi is in a state of precaffeination and unprepared for thinking that extends past his hindbrain; he’d come into the kitchen to mainline espresso and cram some form of carbs into his mouth before he had to get to work. He blinks at her, one hand clutching at the bag of coffee beans by the fridge. Yukiko looks back at him, unperturbed.

“What?” he says eventually.

“Any girls that you think have potential?” Yukiko rephrases, patient. Shinichi is bemused for a long moment. Potential energy? Academic potential? Potentiality? Potent? Potions? Evidently interpreting his tumble into the pit of nonsensicality from whatever series of twitches his face must be doing, Yukiko generously clarifies, “Wife potential.”

“Oh.” Shinichi stalls. “Uh, not really? I like all of them about the same.” All the girls are nice. He doesn’t really know what else to say. Yukiko’s expression is unimpressed.

“I hear you’ve picked out a favorite, Shin-chan,” she hums. There’s a gleam of—not necessarily malice, maybe, but something malice-adjacent in her eyes. Mischief, maybe? Shinichi swallows against a suddenly dry pharynx. The hamster running on the wheel that currently makes up the entirety of his neural capabilities panics and kicks it up a notch.

“Uh, who are you thinking of?” he asks.

“Princess Adalya, maybe?” Yukiko drawls. Shinichi frowns.

“Who told you that?”

“Fujisaki-san,” his mother answers, smug, and Shinichi bites back a groan. Emi, the traitor.

“I like her,” he admits. “But not really more than anyone else? She’s just really assertive, so maybe some of the other women thought that I liked her best because she kept holding onto my attention.”

“Hmmmm,” is all Yukiko says in response. She clicks away at her keyboard (what she’s typing, Shinichi can’t quite discern). After a moment, during which Shinichi tries to slink closer to the coffeemaker, she announces, “I think I have a solution to our problem, Shin-chan.” Shinichi blinks, pausing with the bag of coffee beans poised to tip into the machine. One the one hand, he’s almost certain he doesn’t want to know what she’s thinking, because it’s probably just something that’s going to drive his cortisol levels up, but on the other, he’s also pretty sure that he wants some kind of clue about whatever she’s planning, as he will indubitably need to fortify himself for whatever she’s planning. He weighs his options as he starts making the coffee.

“You do?” he tries, finally, once the coffeemaker is puffing away, beans inputted and flavor settings adjusted to “extra strong.”

“I do,” Yukiko hums amid a storm of nail clacking, and that’s all she has to say on the topic, it seems, because she snaps her laptop shut and pushes her glasses up her nose, pleased with herself. “You’ll see.”

That doesn’t bode well. Unfortunately, Shinichi has a seven o’clock shift starting perilously soon, and he still needs to find his sources of carbs, so he shelves the sinking feeling that blossoms in his stomach and decides to worry about it later.


Yukiko’s plan comes to fruition at the next party. Shinichi finds himself staring down the staircase, foot frozen halfway to the first step. Ami, Chika, Yuriko, and Adalya are waiting for him in the foyer. Along with over twenty guys he’s never seen before, all advert-attractive in pressed suits and smiling at him.

Shinichi will later deny, vehemently, that the sound he emits upon seeing the legion of genetically perfect men is a squeak, but in his heart of hearts, he knows, and he despairs of the knowledge. He definitely squeaks. Maybe even squawks.

“What do you think, Shin-chan?” Yukiko calls, resplendent and evil in burnt orange velvet (that she somehow manages to pull off). Beside her, his father is watching him with a steady eye and an encouraging half-smile. Shinichi swallows.

“It’s fine, Mom,” he says around the heartbeat that’s gathered in his throat, and makes it down the stairs without tripping.

The first guy he talks to is a stockbroker named Sousuke who is possibly the dullest human to exist, behind his smoldering model stare and chiseled jaw. He seems under the impression that the weather, gas rates, and an obscure indie film that’s been showed in five theaters worldwide are legitimate topics of discourse. Shinichi lasts about fifteen minutes before he excuses himself to find Yuriko, who had watched the whole thing with a cocktail glass in hand and a fascinated look on her face.

“That was awful,” he says, too horrified to censor himself when he stops next to her. “He wouldn’t stop talking about this one movie that I definitely have never heard of.” Yuriko looks sympathetic.

“He’s really hot, though,” she points out with a sigh. Shinichi stares. He can almost feel several neurons firing in rapid succession between his ears.

“You wouldn’t happen to have seen an indie film called La Douleur Exquise, have you?” he asks, testing. Yuriko’s entire face lights up. It’s the happiest Shinichi has ever seen her.

La Douleur Exquise? Everyone’s saying that’s going to be up for an Oscar!” she says, and turns to look at Sousuke with renewed interest. He gives her a quizzical but not unwelcoming smile in response. Shinichi leaves them to it.

Daigo (a pop singer Shinichi has never heard of but who immediately catches the attention of both Chika and Ami), Rintarou (the son of a pharmaceutical company’s CEO who has the squeakiest voice Shinichi has ever heard), Hinata (a personal trainer with bleached hair and four piercings in each ear), and several less remarkable others pass in a similar fashion of introductions and posturing. It’s over an hour later that Shinichi pauses, looks around, and realizes he hasn’t talked to Adalya yet. He thinks he saw her hanging around the living room when dinner was first served, but she’s nowhere in sight now. A suspicion blossoms in the back of Shinichi’s mind.

He excuses himself from his conversation with Isak (an exchange student from Sweden whose streaky blond hair has eerily not moved the entire time they’ve been talking) and makes his way to the stairs. His mother catches him right as he’s about to head up, though.

“So what do you think of the party, Shin-chan?” she asks, one hand floating up to rest on his elbow. Shinichi looks at her, studying her expression, and is surprised to find trace amounts of concern lingering in the creases by her eyes and the draw of her mouth. For all her bravado, she wasn’t sure about inviting men. Shinichi fights back a fond smile.

“You did a good job, Mom,” he says, as earnestly as he can manage. Yukiko’s eyes flick across his face, hunting for any hint of deception, before she stands back and beams at him.

“Of course I did, Shin-chan,” she announces, puffing up as she puts her hands on her waist. “What’s that saying? ‘Mother knows best’?”

“Sure,” Shinichi agrees easily, extricating himself from her grasp. He makes it halfway up the stairs before he sums up the courage to add, “But not this time.” He takes the last half of the stairs two at a time to escape her confused “Shin-chan?”.

The door to Miki’s room is barely ajar, light spilling into the dimness of the hallway. Shinichi hesitates for a moment before he pushes it open a little further on silent hinges, peering in. Adalya is sitting on the floor, her back to the door, legs splayed out in front of her in parallel lines. The shape of her spine under the gold silk of her dress is a single gleaming curve. Her hair is down, this time, spilling in curls across her shoulders. Miki is in her lap, purring motor-like and satisfied.

“I see you’ve met Miki,” Shinichi says. Adalya tenses, almost imperceptibly, before she turns to look at him. There’s a soft smile on her face, her lipstick a bright red slash against the paleness of her skin.

“Oh, yes,” she answers, and gives one her hands to Miki to be lovingly mauled. Shinichi loosens his tie as he drops down onto the floor beside her. She flashes him a quick, barely-there look before she focuses back on Miki. “She’s a very beautiful cat.”

“She is, isn’t she?” Shinichi looks at Miki, who catches his eye just to give him a flat stare before she goes back to cuddling up against Adalya’s stomach. “She’s actually not just my cat. I co-own her with a friend.”

“Co-own?”

“Yeah.” Shinichi offers Miki a finger, which she blinks at, disdainful, before batting at it with a longsuffering half-heartedness. “There’s actually a pretty interesting story behind that. What happened was that my friend found her in a box outside on the way to my house, once. She was just a kitten. My friend couldn’t keep her because his apartment doesn’t allow pets, so he asked me to keep her here.”

“Is that so?” Adalya says.

“That’s right.” Shinichi strokes across Miki’s spine. His voice is impressively even. “The thing is, Miki—that’s her name—was pretty much feral when he first found her. We still don’t know what kind of situation she had been in before she was abandoned, but we’re guessing it probably wasn’t the healthiest pet-owner relationship, if you know what I mean. My friend had to take her to the vet and feed her and wash her and all of that, since he wanted to keep her, but Miki kept biting him. Well, and clawing and scratching and all of that, too. She was antisocial. The vet kept saying that she would be better off at a shelter or a rehab center or something like that. But my friend insisted that he wanted to take care of her.”

“Really.” Adalya looks down at Miki, who’s still pawing at her through her dress. “And what happened after that?”

“Miki eventually figured out that my friend was determined to love her, no matter how much she pushed back at him,” Shinichi says. “And then she fell in love with him right back.”

There’s a silence, then, filled only by the sound of Miki purring. Adalya is still staring down at her. Her hair is falling around her face, obscuring her expression from Shinichi. Shinichi clears his throat softly.

“While Miki’s gotten a lot better in terms of the clawing and murder attempts, I’ve never seen her actually like anyone,” he says. Adalya goes preternaturally still. Her face is tilted away from Shinichi. All he can see of her is the slight parting of her lips as she takes a breath. “Except for Kaito, I mean.”

Neither of them moves for a long moment.

“But you knew that,” Shinichi says. “Didn’t you, Kaito?”

There’s a brief flinch that travels the width of Adalya’s shoulders before they slump. Shinichi waits, patiently, for her to turn and face Shinichi, picking Miki up off her lap and setting her aside. Displeased, Miki winds around them for a second, meowing insistently, before she loses interest and pads off to sulk in her cat tree.

Adalya doesn’t seem to notice. Her eyes are fixed on his face—Shinichi’s not sure what she sees when she looks at him—darting over his expression before her whole face goes slack and Shinichi knows that he’s looking at Kaito, now, not whoever Adalya was meant to be.

“How did you know it was me, Shinichi?” Kaito asks, in his real voice, deeper and familiar and unaccented, the strange intonation lifted from Shinichi’s name. It’s disconcerting hearing it come from the doll-like face he’s wearing. Thankfully (?), Kaito reaches for the bottom edge of the mask, and Shinichi gets to watch the brain-boggling display of him peeling off Adalya’s face to reveal his own underneath, pale and gleaming with a faint sheen of sweat. It’s surreal, seeing Kaito with his hair ruffled and sticking up, in a gold dress that clings to curves that Shinichi’s mind is having a hard time superimposing on his mental representation of Kaito.

“You weren’t doing a great job of hiding it,” Shinichi tells him, honestly. “Your accent slipped a few times, and your Japanese was too perfect. Your nails were stained red the day after one of the parties, when ‘the princess’ had been wearing red nail polish. The Newria Islands are famous for the diamonds and their palmiers, not their croissants. I’ve seen Princess Adalya’s interviews before, and she’s not nearly as much of an asshole as you were. Miki likes you and isn’t trying to eat your entire leg.” When Kaito frowns at him, he adds, “You told me ‘not to forget my poker face’ the first time we met.”

“Fair enough.” Kaito sits back, stretching his legs out in front of him and leaning back onto his palms. “I had to convince the princess to let me disguise as her, you know. There was a lot of begging involved. I’m pretty sure I’ll never be allowed to set foot on the Newria Islands now. They probably think I’m some guy who’s really into princess roleplay.” He’s not so much avoiding Shinichi’s gaze as pretending it doesn’t exist, staring straight ahead when Shinichi tries to catch his eye.

“Which you’re not,” confirms Shinichi, one eyebrow ticking up. “So there’s probably a different reason why you disguised yourself as a princess and infiltrated my mother’s ill-advised attempts to marry me off. I would love to hear that reason.”

“Actually, can we just go with the princess roleplaying thing instead?” asks Kaito.

“Is that really it?” Shinichi returns.

“Yeah. Something about the costume jewelry and fake tiara, you know. Really revs my engine.”

“First of all, don’t say ‘revs my engine’ in front of me ever again. Second of all, you’re talking to the man whose defense mechanisms are all sarcasm related, so deflection is not going to work here.”

“Wow, Shinichi, you understand yourself so well. I’m impressed.” There’s an edge of something nervous to Kaito’s voice, composed as it is. Shinichi has been staring at him so hard that his eyes are starting to ache from the force of it. He blinks, trying to clear away the discomfort.

“If you’re not going to tell me, I’m going to start guessing,” he informs Kaito, watching a muscle twitch in Kaito’s jaw. “You were sent by our friend group so you could laugh at me trying to find a girlfriend and tell them all about it. You wanted to try to stop me from finding someone so that you wouldn’t end up being the only single left. You were worried that I was going to embarrass myself. You wanted to seduce the other people who were invited and thought that posing as a fellow candidate would be the easiest way to do that. You just wanted to mess with me.” None of these have made Kaito do anything but raise his eyebrows. Shinichi takes a deep breath. “Or you wanted to seduce me before anyone else did.”

That makes Kaito’s shoulders cave in as he hunches over. It’s enough, as far as confirmation goes.

“Kaito, how would that have even worked?” Shinichi demands, incredulous. “You would seduce me as the princess of a random European country, and then what? I would’ve figured it out if I actually tried to start dating ‘Adalya.’ Or if I tried to marry her. What was your plan here?”

“You’re giving me a lot of credit,” Kaito says. For the first time in a long time, he lifts his face enough to meet Shinichi’s gaze head-on. There’s a lot there, in his eyes, even with the eeriness of the blue contacts he’s still wearing. “I know when I was Kid, I planned every step of every heist, but that was because I had time and a reasonable end goal I wanted to accomplish. Here, I just—I didn’t know what I wanted to do. At first I told myself I was doing it because I wanted to laugh at you being awkward around girls, have a little harmless fun, but it’s—when I saw you meeting everyone, you weren’t awkward. You seemed like you were legitimately interested in getting to know all of them. I could tell that you really, genuinely liked some of them. And that made me…” His mouth twists. “I just... didn’t want you to find someone.” Shinichi takes a deep breath.

“Why didn’t you want me to find someone, Kaito?”

Kaito hazards a glance at him before he sighs, long and low, and slumps, as though he’s giving in to some unstoppable force. Immovable object, moved. It’s hard to look at him when he’s so obviously defeated.

“I didn’t figure it out until a little while ago, but. I’m. I’m really into you, Shinichi. I think I have been for a long time and I just... didn't realize, until there was an actual risk of you finding someone.” He sighs again. This time it’s a different breed, more frustrated, a harsher rush of sound. “After I figured it out, I thought I didn’t have a chance, since as far as I knew, you didn’t like guys, anyway, but I still hung around anyway. It’s not like I’m known for giving up.” He laughs, shallow. “Well, I guess tonight proved me wrong. Maybe you’ll actually meet someone. Hey, one of the guys down there is that actor from Detective Samonji. I talked to him a little bit while you were with one of the girls. He seems pretty cool. You’ll probably hit it off.” Shinichi feels his face wrinkle up in reflexive repulsion.

“Suzuhara Akio? He’s the worst Samonji they’ve ever casted. Which you would know, if you ever bothered to listen to me when we watch the show.” Kaito angles a stare at him.

“Shinichi, I may be grossly into you, but nobody wants to listen to your commentary on forensic science and crime scene procedure when we’re trying to enjoy our weekly dose of mindless procedural crime drama. We all just tune you out whenever you start talking,” he says. Shinichi ignores the little flutter he can feel building in his chest.

“What about my multiple Twitter rants?” he says. “Or my very vocal discussions with Hakuba about how bad Suzuhara is?” When Kaito just frowns at him, he continues, “For someone who’s apparently in love with me, that’s just embarrassing. I’d never consider Suzuhara. I wouldn’t settle for anything less than Kenzaki Osamu.” He takes a deep breath. “But, if he’s not an option, I’d be fine with Kuroba Kaito.”

There’s a little crease between Kaito’s eyebrows, as if he’s still trying to process the turn of events, before Shinichi scooches across the hardwood and kisses him on the mouth. It’s nothing scandalous, just a soft brush of lips, but when Shinichi pulls back, Kaito is blinking rapidly, a flush working up his chest. He seems to be vacillating between bewilderment and hope.

“I guess my average human intellect just can’t follow the thought process of Kudou Shinichi, so I'll have to ask,” he says, hands hovering beside Shinichi’s hips as though he’s not sure if he’s allowed to touch. “Are you saying…?”

“I’m saying that I’ve been into you too for a long time,” Shinichi informs him, matter-of-fact. He can feel his cheeks burning, but he makes a point to maintain eye contact. Kaito’s face is blooming with something warm and bright the longer they look at each other. It's beautiful to watch. “I’m pretty sure we’ll both be embarrassed about not realizing we liked each other later, and we’ll complain about how much time we’ve wasted and our friends will all talk about how they’ve had a betting pool on when we were getting together.”

Kaito blinks. His hands have settled on Shinichi’s waist, which is where they belong, in Shinichi’s opinion.

“They have a betting pool on when we were going to get together?”

“They have a betting pool about the next time Hakuba will wear his deerstalker in public. I’m hoping we rate above that.” Shinichi finds himself sitting in Kaito’s lap, which is just weird with the layers of silk and the fake chest pressing up against him. He clears his throat. “But that’s not important right now.” Kaito’s eyes are focused on Shinichi’s mouth. He nods.

“You’re right,” he agrees, sounding a little dizzy. “That’s not important at all.”

He pushes in for a kiss, this one much less PG—not a Disney true love’s kiss, but something hotter that makes Shinichi’s back arch and his hands tighten where they’re shoved into the mess of Kaito’s hair, makes Shinichi push up against Kaito until there’s not the slightest bit of space between them. He has to pull back a few minutes later, though.

“God, that’s weird,” he mumbles. Kaito’s face creases in slow, dumb hurt, obviously taking it the wrong way, before Shinichi smacks him on the shoulder. “No, Kaito, it’s not that, it’s the fact that I can feel your—chest pressing into me.”

“Oh.” Kaito’s expression clears for a second before it goes dark and intent. His mouth is wet and red, and there’s a flush sweeping across his cheekbones. “Is this your way of trying to get me out of my dress, Shinichi-kun?” He says it the way that “Adalya” used to, with the wrong emphasis. Shinichi makes a face and climbs onto his knees, so he’s no longer rubbing up against Kaito.

“Maybe, but we should probably do it someplace other than our kid’s bedroom,” he points out, nodding at where Miki has been watching the proceedings with an emotionless stare. Shinichi is convinced, somewhere in the part of his brain that is still clinging to higher processing capabilities, that she may murder him for stealing her favorite person. Kaito looks over and laughs.

“Yeah, okay. Fair enough.” He fumbles to his feet, Shinichi following, and straightens out his dress. “Are you sure you don’t want me to keep the dress on, though?” Shinichi squints.

“Not really. It just reminds me of you trying to seduce me as a princess.”

“So you want it off?”

“Yeah, I guess? Mostly I just feel like the chest thing is weird. It kind of feels like you have a raw chicken shoved down the front of your dress.”

“Wow, your dirty talk really revs my engine.”

Kaito.”


“So what I’m hearing is that my dinner party scheme—I mean, my dinner party plan—actually worked, and you ended up getting a boyfriend out of it?” Yukiko says, glancing between Shinichi and Kaito with a scarily smug smile. Shinichi winces, mentally flails for a response, and looks to Kaito for help. Predictably, Kaito is useless, shrugging back at Shinichi and taking a long sip of his coffee, beatific smile in place. Honestly, it’s probably Shinichi’s fault; he was the one who insisted on morning sex, following by a communal shower. He’s pretty sure Kaito is still trying to stumble his way out of the afterglow of three orgasms.

“Yes?” he tries. Yukiko squeals.

“I have the best ideas,” she sighs, hands clasped in front of her as she relaxes back into her seat with a satisfied hum. Shinichi is just about to breathe a sigh of relief when she perks back up. “Wait! I should start planning the wedding!”

Shinichi feels a shiver of pure terror scurry down his spine. When he looks at Kaito, Kaito seems disproportionately unconcerned with that ominous declaration. He turns a pleading stare on his father.

“Good luck, sport,” Yusaku says.