Even before he was forced to participate in the killing game, Kiibo could see it all around him.
People touching each other. He saw it everywhere he went, mildly understanding the intentions. Or at least, he thought he did. Polite handshakes, for acquaintances. Hugs, for only the closest of family and friends. Kisses, passionate and private, for lovers. The intentions of every touch seemed so complicated for such a simple thing to give.
So he can’t help but start analyzing the people around him in the school for gifted juveniles.
He used to watch TV at home, sometimes not even caring what trashy show was playing except for the need of loud static noise to distract him from everything else.
Movies where the main character and the heroine kissed is what most caught his interest and equal perplexity. Kiibo watched them melt into each other, wondering what is so significant about it that even humans would wish for the fire of another's touch. He licks his lips, annoyed by the strange buzzing on his synthetic skin. His diagnostic systems can’t find anything wrong, and yet he feels it. Some unnatural, untapped urge inside. His inner pressure is slightly raised, like his body is stressing out, so he turns the TV off—it was nothing good anyways—hoping that the buzz will go away.
But it doesn't.
It was the second murder case among them. Ryoma Hoshi, the Ultimate Tennis Player, was found dead in a large tank of piranhas. It was unexpected to the students, and so soon after Kaede's execution and Rantaro's murder. Were the people around him really that desperate to leave? If so, what did that make him—?
When all he could focus on beforehand was the perfect presence of a certain detective.
Kiibo wanted to concentrate on Himiko's story, seeing as the death happened during her magic show and she may know something useful. However, he instead ended up focusing on Tenko, who was gently brushing Himiko's dull red hair with her fingertips. The gesture is insignificant to any outsiders, and yet he visually sees the magician's stress levels drop, as her breathing steadies and her shoulders quit trembling. The same effect goes for Tenko, although no words were exchanged between them.
Feeling like he'd witnessed something intimate, he turned away from the pair. Surely someone else can interrogate them, because Kiibo didn't think he had the heart or knowledge to.
Later in the boys bathrooms, Kiibo suddenly went up to a mirror, pressed his face close, and played with his hair. His hand was buried in the fake fluffy strands a little bit longer than usual, a curious feeling rose. Was this what Himiko was feeling? The buzzing was there again, this time in his own fingertips and scalp. However, he doesn’t find the gesture calming like the magician did, so he washes his hands three times, knowing very well that his skin cannot be dirty with plates of armor covering it. Still, he always self-cleans like a human would.
It feels weird nonetheless.
He doesn't understand how he should be feeling about.. this. Obviously, as an advanced and self-growing ai, it was apparent that he eventually had to become accustomed to and learn about the intentions behind different touches. But he didn't know it would be so.. overwhelming. Tiring, to learn.
A hand gently shakes his shoulders, and it's enough to bring him back to reality when he sees Shuichi’s face in front of him, light hazel eyes worried and panicked.
Kiibo wants to kick himself for causing that, his side vision notices how off the charts Shuichi’s stress levels are and, he thinks for a quick moment, what kind of touch would Shuichi need to calm down? Surely not the type that Kokichi had given Kiibo earlier that day.
"Kiibo! Kiibo are you alright? You sort of started vibrating intensely and looked like you were about to collapse." Shuichi kneels down next to him.
Kiibo thinks about lying, even though it's not in his nature to. He thinks about getting up from the smooth tile floor and leaving as if nothing happened. Still, he wonders if Shuichi's detective instincts would make him pressure Kiibo on the issue further. Now that would be troublesome. So instead he gives in, shaking his head slightly. "No, I'm alright." allowing his forehead to rest on Shuichi’s shoulder. It is still a touch if he’s doing it through the clothes, isn’t it? At least, that's what he's seen others do.
Yet he almost jumps back when Shuichi's hand suddenly starts petting his back. The wires in his brain goes nuts! Kiibo thinks he can hear himself whimpering quietly, or maybe it’s his imagination. Hopefully it's the latter..
Either way, Shuichi’s hand never stops. It's.. Comforting. Slowly, deliberately, Kiibo leans into the touch. And they stay there together for a while. Nothing in the world but the two of them.
It's been a few moments when Kiibo says quite warily, "Saihara, shouldn't we keep looking for clues? The trial will start at any minute now, and we need to be prepared. Especially you."
Shuichi's hand comes to a halt, and he stands up. He seems a bit flustered, cheeks slightly bright, but nothing too out of the ordinary for his usual flushed personality. "You're right, I just— wanted to make sure you were okay. Come on Kiibo, we should keep going." He reaches a hand down to the robot, and he takes it without question.
Once they start investigating again, Kiibo realizes that buzz has started to fade. And wouldn't you know it, he's happy it does. For a couple of days at least.
Kiibo can see Shuichi's sidelong glances. He can feel them, his brain supplies, obviously laughing at itself. Shuichi watches him with a certain fondness in his eyes when they spend time together, The chatter of the other students talking carelessly in the background. Kiibo knows that he’s gone a bit quiet after that event in the bathroom.. but well, he doesn’t have the right answers to Shuichi’s unasked questions yet. He can hardly understand what’s going on within himself.
So he’s glad when Shuichi doesn’t push on the topic, instead changing the subject to something Kaito said earlier that he thought was funny and wanted to share.
But he couldn't hide from him for much longer than what was already delayed.
"Okay, what's been occupying that plastic head of yours lately?" The dark-haired boy questioned humorously, standing near his robot partner's chair in the dining room— covering all possible exit routes. Kiibo studies his heaving chest for a moment, listening to the heartbeat. It's alive, and to be so close to it's proximity, makes Kiibo feel alive as well.
He smiles politely. "It’s nothing of importance. I just haven't been myself lately. I'm sure you understand.”
"It’s something of importance if it makes you forget to contradict Ouma’s jokes and sarcastic remarks." His tone was light-hearted, but Kiibo could see the worried expression in his eyes. Shuichi’s hand lays on the table, far too close to his own, which makes Kiibo think about the light warmth radiating from it. He allows his sensors to work, taking it all in. His brain still only categorizes it into the ‘unthreatening’ folder, concluding that whatever he was feeling must be an error. Kiibo moves the hand away, turning back to leave.
"It’s really nothing, Saihara."
Shuichi sighs, just like he used to when Kiibo didn't understand a very obviously sarcastic remark. His friendly pat on the shoulder makes Kiibo shiver again. This.. this couldn't possibly be an error. Could it?
After so much time spent together, Kiibo starts thinking of the ways Shuichi touches him, his thoughts getting loud enough for him to earn a completely impossible, unrealistic headache. There’s so much information coming in so little time!
He starts to count the times Shuichi squeezes his shoulder or his knee in comfort. He loses actual numbers after thirty in a few days. But they’re still filed in his memory for later examination.
Shuichi keeps standing too closely, touching him casually. He knocks they’re knees and ankles together when they’re at the dining table chatting about nothing in particular. He gives him a hand to help stand up, he sometimes pats Kiibo's head without a second thought but with an endearing smile on his face. He elbows, pushes, pokes, and one time just straight up grabs his hand and holds it, interlocking both of their fingers together. And hugs! Those existed far too commonly than they should when Shuichi was around.
But what Kiibo mostly felt were the burning quizzical stares, usually followed by a sigh, too quiet for deciphering. He doesn’t get them, so of course his brain classifies them as ‘unsolved’. Kiibo thinks it’s reassuring, to allow the possibility of finding answers. But sometimes he could be found looking at Shuichi with that quizzical stare too.
And when Kaito often sees the two boys alone, Kiibo can see him nodding at them, as if encouraging. Encouraging to what exactly, remains a mystery.
Though not to Shuichi apparently. Not when his smile crooks awkwardly, charmingly, clearly embarrassed by his best friend’s remarks meant to be hidden from Kiibo.
They were sitting on the couch one uneventful afternoon, the heavy loom of Gonta's execution present. They stared at the film on the screen, but didn't really watch it. His thoughts over Miu's death shook up him a little bit, but thankfully Shuichi seemed too preoccupied to notice; even if he comforted him with an everlasting hug and shoulder to lean on only a day ago.
Kiibo feels the warmth of the other human being sitting beside him. Hell, he can feel it around him, with the comfort of the many pillows on the couch. Everything around him is so warm and perfectly lazy, he thinks his mind is dozing off when he says the next few words.
"I.. I don’t know how to touch properly."
Shuichi turns to him, silent for a moment, searching his face. In the dark of the room Kiibo can see only half of his face lit up by the screen, but he doesn’t know what he expects to hear in response.
"What do you mean Kiibo?" A soft, hushed response. Nothing more in it other than curiosity and a bit of confusion.
Just hearing him say his name with such love and wonder, Kiibo responds warily. "I don’t… I can’t seem to find a way to interpret a touch. Caring, loving, friendly, aggressive, I feel them all the same." Kiibo sees when Shuichi’s face falls, and he starts talking faster out of desperation. "Or I don’t feel them at all, just the pressure, and my skin keeps buzzing. I don’t think I can truly understand what this all is."
Taking it all in, Shuichi tries opening his mouth, before closing it with that trademark sigh of his. He looks troubled, and a little uneasy. So when he turns away, Kiibo thinks they're finished discussing the topic, but he’s not prepared for Shuichi’s next sentence.
"Do you want to try touching one more time?"
Kiibo's brain short-cuts.
Shuichi's looking straight at him, his hand on Kiibo’s knee, and he leans in, a small bit. They’re on the opposite sides of the couch, Kiibo more lying than sitting, his feet now burning at Shuichi’s side. His brain signals for him to back off the danger zone, to stop while everyone is safe and friendships aren't in danger.
But he only nods in response instead.
Shuichi starts moving, his hand clenching on his knee, the other one holding Kiibo’s ankle gently. He pulls Kiibo towards him, making him lie down even further. Kiibo exhales loudly when the air in the room registers as cold to his sensors, but how could that be true when Shuichi is so close? Mere inches between them? He thinks about turning them off, but then he starts feeling Shuichi’s warm fingers climbing up his legs, and abandons the thought.
The detective’s eyes are dark in the screen lit room, but Kiibo sees the soft features of his face, the way there’s barely a ghostly smile. His brain tries to classify the sight as desire, the markers are all present, and yet he knows it’s not only that. There’s something deeper, raw and human, filled with emotion, and yet completely incomprehensible for him to understand.
He tries to focus on the way Shuichi's body is covering his legs, feeling the warmth and pressure, but nothing else registers. He makes a frustrated sound in his throat, which stops Shuichi's progression.
God, he hates how his brain starts listing the notes about the whisper. Worry, fright, misunderstanding confusion worry worry worry- It makes hundreds of small labels and then classifies all of them, suggesting possibilities and preferable actions, destroying the whole intention if it. Kiibo clenches his teeth.
"Can you- Can you touch my skin?"
Shuichi nods weakly, watching his eyes when he places his fingers on Kiibo's cheek, a smooth and caressing motion. It’s a brief feeling, and yet Kiibo trembles at the temperature difference. He wonders how his own skin feels under Shuichi’s fingers, if it’s warm enough to feel like anything more than just plastic. He tries to make his sensors work on max, the sudden change making him gulp.
Kiibo sees Shuichi’s gaze focus on the way his throat contracts. It’s another sign, his coding system oh so helpfully suggests, making Kiibo close his eyes in defeat. He throws his head back, watching the ceiling- there’s a bunch of cracks there, spiraling like spider webs, and-
He tries to breath evenly when warm fingers touch his neck. It’s so light that he thinks for a second that it’s his imagination, before the caressing continues, making him choke. He’s suddenly looking into Shuichi's eyes that appear right in front of him. Shuichi’s face is close enough for Kiibo to register the hot breath on his cheek. The fingers on his neck still, pressing in slightly, making Kiibo’s skin prickle with tension.
Shuichi licks his lips. It distracts Kiibo’s thought process, which annoys the hell out of the system. Kiibo exhales deeply, closing his eyes. He tries to speak up, giving the consent to the kiss that took him an eternity to realize he wanted, but what comes out is a shaky breath.
Shuichi only gives him that kind smile that he oh so adores, and kisses him.
Kiibo’s brain is silent, so is every other system. It allows Kiibo to concentrate on the soft lips brushing against his. He feels the small lick of the other’s tongue. He lets it in, a little bit overwhelmed by how hot humans are. His own tongue is suddenly registering every single movement and taste, Kiibo makes a satisfied sound. Which, apparently, allows Shuichi to get even bolder.
The hand on his neck starts moving again, going behind his jaw and into the hair. Kiibo stills for a split second, expecting the uncomfortable feeling, instead he senses a slight pull that makes his skin tingle. His brain keeps classifying everything into the unsolved folder.
There’s a small bite on his lower lip followed by a lick, which makes him open his eyes. This.. isn't unpleasant. Shuichi’s breathing is heavy and fast, as well as his heartbeat. Kiibo’s scanning shows stress levels. What he finds makes him frown a bit; it’s even higher than when Shuichi is investigating a case! An unknown warmth starts growing in his chest, making his own breathing shallow.
"How.. How are you?" Shuichi asked, uncertain.
Kiibo thinks. He raises his hand to touch his lips, feeling them a bit moist. He doesn’t know. He feels the warmth, feels the pressure of Shuichi’s legs between his own thighs, the push of the trapped elbow in his abdomen. But besides that, he feels..
And.. he thinks he’s going to cry.
"Shuichi.. I- I can- Thank you. "
Shuichi sighs in relief, lowering his head beside Kiibo’s. There’s a heartbeat, before his quiet yet affectionate voice comes out, stifled by the pillows.
"You know, it doesn’t have to feel human to be nice and alive."
Kiibo blinks at the ceiling. Shuichi’s breathing is tired beside him, but he still feels like he doesn’t understand anything. His brain is overly crowded with too many emotions at once, testing Shuichi's words, 'is that true?’ running through his head one thousand symbols a minute.
His eyes are wet, which Shuichi somehow notices, even lying with his face in the pillows. "You know Kiibo, you're the first person to cry after kissing me. Congrats, I'm usually the one to start.” He chuckles.
Kiibo answers by turning on his side and hugging Shuichi with his full force, tangling their feet together and burying his head under Shuichi's chin. They both start laughing, laughing with such incredible joy and warmth in their hearts. Kiibo can feel the low heartbeat close, the warmth almost overwhelming for his sensors. But there was nothing wrong with him, there never was. All he needed was Shuichi to help him open his eyes.
The detective whispers something into his lips during their second unexpected kiss.. softer. Like he was almost precious to him. “I love you.”
Suddenly he can feel the world around him stabilizing a little bit.
Days after, Kiibo wonders about the annoying buzzing inside him being gone. It's both alarming and relieving, so he self-diagnoses again. Colors and numbers and codes, all to help him live and grow. Afterwards, he notices how empty the unsolved folder is in his memory, he couldn't help but feel a little scared that his system might have deleted every moment after it all calmed down.
He finds a new folder though, heavy with information. Affection it says. Kiibo is not surprised at all when he sees that the only thing filling it is Shuichi.
Perfect, stable, Shuichi.
An arm slips around his waist, and he doesn't wait a second to turn around and kiss him full on the lips. They're inexperienced, sure, and for different reasons each. But they're still kids in a murderous environment trying to find love in someone special.
Finally, his system is doing something right.
Shuichi's face turns a pretty shade of red when Kiibo quickly mutters incoherently into his lips.
“I.. I love you too.” And for once, it didn't feel wrong to think it. To say it.
"Oh really?" Though Shuichi's tone was sarcastic, his voice wavered— as he held Kiibo dearly. The robot couldn't help but analyze the returned gesture.
Warmth. Home. Safety. Refuge.
Love, love, love and so much more-
Because for him, Shuichi was the undeniable definition of everything good in the world.