Fandom: Detective Conan
Disclaimer: I don't own Detective Conan. But I do have homemade hand-puppets for each character...that's normal, right?
“You know,” Kaito said delicately, “whenever I heard anyone mention limbo or any sort of space between life and death or whatever, I never imagined it would look like this.” He sipped from the bottle in his hand and looked around for the fourth time in as many minutes. “I guess I pictured something a little more, I dunno…serious? Definitely darker.”
Across the table, Kuroba Toichi smiled. “It used to be a lot less colorful here, but folks were getting all bent out of shape over having to wait for either their life or their afterlife in what was essentially a hospital waiting room. Many who came here had had quite enough of hospitals.”
There had been a tunnel, and a light. But Kaito had been nearly bowled over to come to the other end of that tunnel and into the light to find his father sitting there at a table, waiting for him in what appeared to be a high-class bar.
“So this is Limbo?” Kaito asked, sipping once again from the bottle. He could really think of worse ways to spend the time than sitting at a table with his father, enjoying a beer, of all things.
“Limbo is the most common name for it, yes,” Toichi said.
“Are there other areas?”
“There are. But I hope you’ll never have to see any of them,” Toichi’s expression turned grim. “Beyond here lies the Shadowland. The numbers of souls who have gone into the Shadowland and returned from it…well, I can count the ones I’m aware of on one hand.” He glanced down at his own bottle. “Past that is what most would call the Afterlife.”
“I don’t think I want to go to the Shadowland, Dad,” Kaito said honestly, then decided to change the subject. He didn’t want to think about what was in that place that would make that look appear on his father’s face. He held up his half-empty beer bottle. “So should I be drinking this? I’m underage.”
That earned a laugh. “You choose now to be concerned with rules?”
“Call it a last-minute crisis of conscience,” Kaito shot back.
“Speaking of which, would you like to know how things are progressing in the Living World?” Toichi asked. One long finger trailed moisture in small patterns across the tabletop. “You’ve caused quite a stir, as I’m sure you can imagine.”
Kaito blinked, surprised. “You know what’s going on?”
“I took a look while you were getting a second drink,” Toichi admitted. “I’m sure you’re not surprised, but your little secret is out. Ginzo-san knows who you are, and he’s not terribly happy about it. Your mother has been filling him in on the details, though, and that’s calmed him down for the moment.”
“No surprise there,” Kaito murmured.
“He did, however, manage to get our old buddy Snake into custody. Our favorite gunman is currently cooling his heels in jail. The charges will stick,” Toichi said. The question of whether or not Snake would survive that long behind bars, whether from internal or external forces, was left hanging in the air between them, unvoiced and unanswered.
“That’s good, at least,” Kaito said, genuinely relieved.
“You took a total of four bullets in the torso. Two hit internal organs. The only reason you haven’t gone past Limbo yet is because there was already an ambulance at the scene as a standard precaution for the heist. So you received medical treatment almost immediately,” Toichi said, rattling off everything in a conversational tone that seemed at odds with the subject matter. “That little snap of the fingers you pulled off did do you a favor, though. As of right now, only a handful of people know the truth.”
That took Kaito by surprise. “What? I thought it’d be all over the news by now.”
“They have not yet made a public announcement. They’re waiting,” Toichi went on.
“That doesn’t make sense.”
“There is one other thing that you should know, Kaito,” Toichi said.
Kaito froze at her name, the bottle poised halfway to his lips. Then he all but slammed it back down to the table and blurted out in a hurry, “What about Aoko? Is she okay?”
“She was not hurt, if that’s what you mean,” Toichi said. “But she knows, Kaito. She knows the truth.”
“…how’s she taking it?”
“Well…” Toichi hesitated. “…she hasn’t left your side since they let her in the room.”
Kaito’s eyes widened. “What?”
“She’s keeping vigil over you. If you wake up, there might still be a chance for the two of you.”
There was a moment of silence between them before Kaito ventured another question. “Is she crying?”
“No. She isn’t.”
“…are you lying to me, Dad?”
Toichi didn’t answer.
Nakamori was pleased with himself. He managed not to quake like a leaf under the stern gazes of his superiors. What he was about to do could potentially cost him his job, but it was an idea that had been biting at him ever since the conversation he’d had with Kaitou Kid on the rooftop that night.
He recounted that story to the higher-ups, who listened carefully. He recalled another few incidents where Kid had handed the police gift-wrapped criminals, ranging from murderers to less scrupulous thieves. He told them what he now knew of the identity and motivations behind the legendary thief. All the cards he held were laid on the table as carefully as any poker dealer’s. When he finished, he looked at them expectantly.
In light of everything, an official statement had yet to be made regarding the capture of Kaitou Kid and the fate of the young man. A few of the less than scrupulous news programs on late-night television were already starting the rumor mill going, claiming that this was going to be some sort of cover up and that International Criminal 1412 was dead, possibly on the wrong end of a police officer’s gun…
It was sickening.
The question was broached, then: what were they to do? Wait until there was official word on Kid’s condition? Learn whether he would live or die before making a statement? Go ahead and announce his capture to the news media? No matter what they did, there was almost literally blood in the water, and the media sharks had gotten a whiff of it.
Time for Nakamori to essentially sign his own termination papers. “I had a thought, sir.”
Three pairs of eyes fixed on him with curious gazes, and he was prodded to continue.
“I’ve told you about times in the past when Kid has assisted the police force in the capture of criminals far more dangerous than himself,” he explained, keeping himself tightly under control. Respect, temperament, no emotions clouding his thinking. “And I got to thinking about how it is that he could come by the necessary information to help us.”
“Go on…” Encouragement. They were interested in what he was saying. That was a good sign.
“I tried a few lines of reasoning, and the strongest of those lines told me that perhaps he was able to get what he needed from other criminals. Those who would not share what they know with the police, but who might be willing to breathe a word here or there to others of their own kind,” Nakamori pressed on. Sound professional. It makes a person less likely to be outright branded a crackpot.
There was now real and growing interest behind their stony gazes.
“Sirs, we have the world’s greatest thief in a very unique situation. Should he survive, his fate lies in our hands. However, the question still stands as to whether or not he would consent to be held. He could very well escape, which would not make any of us look terribly efficient.”
“What are you proposing?”
The groundwork for his idea had been laid. “I highly doubt that he wants to go to prison or to have his family’s name dragged through the mud. And none of us want to deal with the backlash should he escape. And it has been established that he shares an interest with us in keeping the streets free of those more dangerous then himself. I will understand if you call me crazy for this, but why not find a way to use the situation to the advantage of everyone involved?”
“I take it you’ve thought of a way to do this?”
“I have.” Time to take the plunge and dive headfirst into the fire. “Offer him a deal.”
Silence for a moment. “What kind of a deal?”
As he laid out the rest of his idea, he was relieved that the feeling of wary interest generally did not seem to waver, although one of them did not seem totally convinced that this was a good idea at all, and actually outright questioned Nakamori’s sanity and motives, citing his personal connection to the boy (conveniently ignoring the fact that the young man in question had a name) as his reasoning.
Still, they listened intently to what he was saying as he laid out his thoughts on the matter. He was closest to the case; he knew more about Kaitou Kid than almost anyone else, and he truly had the most to gain by announcing Kid’s capture. So his words, he was pleasantly surprised to find, carried a bit more weight than he thought they would.
To his own mind, though, it was a matter of the best possible outcome for all of them, and the outcome that had the potential to accomplish the greatest amount of good for the general public. And as he even stated to his superiors during his impromptu presentation, was that not the ultimate goal of any member of law enforcement: to protect the people?
In the end, he suspected that was the statement that sold them on the idea.
By the end of the meeting, a full five hours later, and after much debate on the issue, an agreement on the matter had been reached. As the sun was finally rising over the city, Nakamori was sent back to the hospital with a folder of paperwork under his arm. Now he just had to wake for Kaito to wake up.
“She hasn’t moved yet,” Meimi observed quietly. Beyond the room’s observation window, Aoko was still sitting beside Kaito’s bed. One of his limp hands was held carefully between both of her own, as best as she could probably manage with the number of machines and wires hooked up to him.
Jii sighed. He looked exhausted as she felt. “His father in heaven will never forgive me for this…” He glanced around. “Where is Nakamori-keibu? I would have thought he would be here.”
“He was called to the station for a meeting on the situation,” Meimi said. “I wonder what kind of meeting they would need to have on this. But they did catch Kaitou Kid. I imagine they’re probably writing the press release and congratulating each other…” Her tone grew bitter as she trailed off. Criminal or not, that was her son.
Kaito looked away, both unwilling and unable to see anymore. It hit too hard in a place he didn’t like to acknowledge more than was necessary because it hurt too bloody much. “That’s enough, I’ve seen enough. Let’s just go back to the table, okay?” It was weakness, and he hated showing it in front of anyone, especially his father, but he just could not stand seeing his mother like that.
She was holding herself together, just as she had when his father had died and just as she had whenever any crisis arose. That was her way. She was one of the strongest people in the world, as far as Kaito was concerned, and in some ways, it made her iron-willed self control almost more painful to watch.
Toichi said nothing about his outburst, nor did he comment on Kaito’s need to walk away from what was happening in the Living World at the moment. But before they could move towards the table, they heard a loud beep from the scene around his mother and Jii. The scream of a machine.
And then the world changed.
It was like a whip-pan from a movie, like the scenery around him was pulled aside, dragging a new, different set in around him. The warm, dim lighting of the bar gave way to a darker area illuminated only by an eerie silver-white glow, like a dark night brightened solely by the light of the moon. The room was empty; he mentally called it a room, although he could see no walls and no end to the floor. It seemed to go on forever around him, vanishing into the shadows.
“Dad?” Kaito said tentatively, suddenly afraid that he would receive no response from the man who had only a moment ago been standing directly behind him. The idea of being alone in this place was one that frightened him in a way he could not label or describe.
“I’m still here.”
Kaito nearly went to his knees in relief, but this time he regained control of himself and his Poker Face. “Dad, what is this awful place?” The more he looked around this empty, endless space, the more he felt like he was some character in a horror movie, trapped in the monster’s lair with the creature just around the corner, waiting for the opportunity to pounce on him.
His question then became one of the monster’s nature. Somehow, in this place between the worlds of the living and the dead, he was fairly sure he could guess exactly what the bad guy was.
Toichi’s voice was oddly strained. “This is the Shadowland, Kaito. You’ve taken a turn for the worst.”
One of Kaito’s hands unconsciously reached towards his heart. He was only mildly surprised to find no pulse beating beneath his ribcage. No heartbeat. No breath being drawn. This was a place where such things were superfluous and unnecessary to the beings who temporarily dwelled there.
Odd, though, how a heart that did not beat could still ache so much.
“…am I going to die?” Kaito asked. Now his voice cracked, and now he did not care.
“That is not for me to decide, son,” Toichi said. He had moved to stand beside Kaito, making no noise on the dark floor. “You know what I would choose if I had any say in the matter. But it’s the choice of a power far higher than either of us.”
Again, Kaito felt that sensation of being kicked in the stomach. If he had been breathing, he probably would have choked. Suddenly all he wanted was to hold onto someone, something, anyone or anything who didn’t mind his terror. Not at the idea of dying, though. He had never truly been afraid of death.
He had always feared the side effects of death. Namely, the ones he would leave behind.
A hand touched his shoulder. Before he knew what was happening, Kaito spun and grabbed onto the owner of that hand: his own father. He was clinging and babbling, and he knew it, and he didn’t care. “Dad, I can’t leave Mom behind. And Aoko…dammit, I can’t die, not now.”
Blessedly strong arms were around his shoulders. Toichi did not seem to mind the panic at all. “If you keep thinking that and fighting, then they’ll have a harder time taking you away. Fight for your life, Kaito. There are those who beat the odds. You just can’t let go.”
And just as suddenly as the world around them had changed, it changed back. They were back in the warm lights of the bar. They were out of the Shadowland and back in Limbo.
Kaito looked around. “What just happened?”
“They must have gotten you stabilized again,” Toichi said, relieved. His tone quickly grew somber. “The doctor said that if you make it through the night, you’ll have a better chance of pulling through. But you’re not out of the woods yet, though. To truly get out of here and survive, you need to wake up.”
“I don’t even know how to get back to my own body,” Kaito said.
“There’s a way, Kaito,” Toichi assured him. “We just have to wait for it.”
Meimi stared at Ginzo in shock. “What did you just say?”
“I said that they’re not going to announce Kaitou Kid’s capture yet,” Nakamori told her in a hushed voice. “My superiors are waiting on something before they make a statement to the media.”
“What are they waiting for?” she gaped.
“First he needs to wake up. How is he?” the inspector asked.
Meimi looked down. “Something happened a few minutes ago. They said he’s stable now, but…” Her eyes looked odd now, and there was an unmistakable wetness on her eyelashes.
Ginzo was about to say something, to try and offer some words of comfort, but she lifted her head and spoke before he could get a word out. “He might have done some things that others would not have considered to be good. He might not always have necessarily been a good boy. But he was a wonderful son, and no one will ever be able to tell me otherwise.”
He nodded. “I know, Meimi-san. I know.”
Another glance through the window proved that Aoko’s head had slumped forward to rest on the edge of the hospital bed. The two adults exchanged looks and quietly entered the room. They had been keeping their own council outside so as to leave her to her vigil. Neither was surprised to find that she had fallen asleep with her head against the bed.
“Poor dear…” Meimi murmured, carefully touching the girl’s hair. Nakamori already had his jacket off and was draping it carefully over her shoulders. “Ginzo, what do you think will happen between these two if…when Kaito wakes up?” She quickly corrected herself. Her son would wake up. There was no room for any other alternative.
Ginzo looked down at his daughter again. She had been there all night, sitting in that chair, speaking softly to someone who could not hear her words. He had seen her mouth moving, but had not been able to hear the actual words. Aoko did not want Kaito to die, and she cared enough to sacrifice her own well-being to keep watch over him. That had to mean something. “We’ll know when he wakes up, and not a moment before. After that, it’s entirely up to them.”
Kaito was afraid.
There had been two more flickers, two more moments when he had been whipped into that dark place his father called the Shadowland. And each stay in that room had been a bit longer than the one before it. He hated that place, cast in darkness and moonlit shadows, where hope seemed to drain away with the light. Each time he passed back to Limbo, he felt shakier than he had before.
He could guess what that meant. “Dad, I’m dying…” he finally said as he slumped back into his chair at the table where they had been enjoying a beer not too long before. How much time had passed, though? He had no sense of the passage of time, no sense of hours or minutes, days or nights. He could have been sitting there for a week, for all he knew.
“You are not going to die, Kaito,” Toichi said. “I absolutely forbid you to give up. You need to fight until you either wake up or they personally come to take you away.” It was the harshest tone Kaito had ever heard from his father, in life or in death.
“I don’t know how to fight this, Dad!” Kaito burst out. “I’m getting yanked between two different places with zero control over anything. That Shadowland place is the single freakiest place I have ever been and the thought of getting dragged back in there again without any warning or way of getting out scares the crap out of me, and I really don’t care who knows it! How am I supposed to fight for my life like this?” He stopped there, panting, and belatedly realizing that his hands had clenched themselves into fists.
Toichi stared at his son for a moment before speaking again. “Do you want to live?”
The question caught Kaito off-guard. “What?”
“Consider all the facts. If you live, you could potentially be in a great deal of trouble. You’ll probably go to jail. Some bridges might be burned. But if you die, your mother will be alone. Aoko-chan will be alone. A lot of questions will never be answered. Think about everything, the whole sum of your life. And then answer the question,” Toichi said. His tone was conversational, like he was speaking about something as mundane as the price of bread. “Do you want to live?”
Kaito looked down at the floor as he tried to process everything. His entire life, his friendships, his mother, his mission to avenge his father…he knew he should have been able to say yes without any hesitation at all. He didn’t want to leave his mother behind, and he did not fear going to prison; that had long since been accepted as a potential risk. So what was stopping him?
…but he really didn’t have to ask himself that question. He already knew the answer.
But he realized that putting her at the top of the equation sealed his decision with ease. Her finding out that he was Kaitou Kid had to have broken her heart. Yet she was sitting there beside him, watching over him and waiting to find out if he would live or die. So she still cared.
If he died, he would just break her heart again.
He glanced back up. There was no judgment in his father’s face. Just understanding, like he knew what the hurdles slowing him down were and was just waiting for Kaito to jump over them and reach the choice at the finish line.
“I want to live.”
Toichi nodded. “That’s the right choice. And Kaito?”
It took a moment for the implications to hit Kaito. If he made it through the night, the doctors thought he could survive. If dawn had come to the world of the living, then maybe, just maybe…
He felt himself smile. That was really all there was to it, wasn’t it? A willingness to go on in the face of what could be. Deciding the joys of living were stronger than the pain of life, and that the pain would be more bearable than the pain caused by death. Whatever his own troubles, they were less important to him than his mother and Aoko and the pain he had caused them, continued to cause them.
“…will I remember any of this, Dad?” he asked quietly. The room around him was starting to blur. The barstools, the tables, and the glasses were melting into each other in oddly shaped lumps of brown, black, and silver. But it wasn’t getting any darker. Quite the opposite, really. The dim, warm light was growing stronger. He was leaving Limbo, and not for the Shadowland this time.
Kaito was disappointed when Toichi shook his head, but only half-surprised. “I’m afraid not. Not clearly, at least. You might recall some parts, vaguely, and I’m sure you’ll have something to say about a tunnel with the beckoning forms of loved ones long since dead, but that’s it.” Was it Kaito’s imagination, or did his father look a little bit sad at that?
“I don’t want to forget this,” Kaito said.
“That’s just how it is. The rules were made by those more powerful than either of us. No sense in dwelling on it. Besides, Kaito,” Toichi smiled, “it’s not like you’ve forgotten me, have you?”
“Of course I haven’t!” Kaito half-shouted, indignant at the very thought.
The room continued to run together into lines and shapes like blurring watercolors, running into one another and blending into a shade of brown that grew lighter and bleached towards white as the light continued to brighten.
“Then there’s nothing to worry about,” Toichi said.
Kaito bit his lip, then took two steps forward to hug his father, who seemed to have been waiting for it and promptly held onto him in return. He had been wanting to do that since he had first wandered into Limbo and found Dad waiting for him, but it wasn’t until now, when he was sure he was about to leave, that he actually had the nerve to do it.
Poker Face be damned.
“Time’s up, Kaito,” Toichi said.
Before Kaito could respond, the solid form he was holding onto seemed to evaporate in his arms, fading to nothingness. Kaito was thrown off balance and pitched forward. But instead of hitting the ground (wait, where had the floor gone?), he seemed to hover, suspended. There was the sensation that he was moving, but there were no physical signs that he was in motion.
I miss you, Dad, he said, though his words seemed to die on his lips. He just hoped that his father heard them somehow. Smiling sadly to himself, Kaito closed his eyes and let his head lull forward as he waited for whatever was going to happen to just happen.
She thought she saw his face move, could have sworn she heard him make a sound. The cool fingers she held so carefully in her own twitched. The heart monitor began beeping faster.
Leaning forward over him, she waited. He made another noise, one that definitely could not be written off as an oddity of breath or an unusual whirr of a machine. Again, he moved. She drew back quickly for fear he might see her, releasing his hand for fear he might hold onto her.
For all that she had kept watch over him while he was unconscious and all her worrying, she did not want to be there when he awoke. She did not want to see him, and she did not want him to see her.
As he moved again, she turned and fled the room, heading straight for the nurse station nearby. Best to alert them and let them take care of him as he fought his way back to consciousness. For her part, Aoko swore she wouldn’t go back into the room until he was asleep again.
It was safer that way.
One of the doctors still wasn’t quite sure how the young man had managed it, but Kaito was pulling through. His injuries were severe, and he would be hospitalized for quite some time. But the fact remained that he was alive and at the moment it seemed he was going to stay that way. Though the road to total recovery would be very, very long, he was making rapid improvement. Almost too rapid, a few of the nurses whispered.
Still, it was a full week before Nakamori was permitted to enter the room on business. Kaito was sitting up, though he leaned back heavily against the pillows. He still wore a breathing tube, and he still had some difficulty in speaking loudly, but he was conscious and coherent; he watched the inspector enter with a gaze that managed to dance between welcoming and wary.
“To what do I owe the pleasure?” he asked quietly.
“This is actually a business visit, Kaito-kun,” Nakamori said. He handed the folder to Kaito, who took it with a startled look. “I’m here to discuss this with you, and I think it’s in your best interest to listen very carefully to what I have to say.”
Kaito opened the folder. “What is it?”
Nakamori took a seat in the vacant chair beside the bed. “I don’t think I need to tell you what your situation is. You’re in a bad place right now. We have every reason and opportunity to put you in jail for a very long time, and the only reason we haven’t had the entire police force standing guard outside your room is because right now if you tried to escape you’d probably start hemorrhaging and collapse in the hallway. That’s straight from your doctor, by the way.”
“Which brings me to the reason I’m here,” Nakamori leaned forward to look at Kaito intently. “I am here to offer you a choice. A deal, one that could benefit all parties involved.”
Now Kaito looked outright suspicious. “What kind of deal?”
“Everything you need to know about it is in that folder, and I suggest you read it very, very carefully before you make a decision, but here’s the general idea,” Nakamori said. “Your choices are as follows. Option one: we go public with your identity. You go to trial, and more than likely go to jail. Your and your father are exposed, and both your names get dragged through the mud. You lose your freedom, and your mother loses her son. We’re all happy. You’re not.”
“Option two: you are a young man who was very tragically in the wrong place at the wrong time,” Nakamori watched Kaito’s face intently as he laid the second choice out on the table. “We waited to release your name out of respect for your family’s wishes. When the doctor releases you, you get to go home. You graduate from high school, and you stay relatively free.”
“…relatively free,” Kaito repeated. “What’s the catch?”
“You work for us.”
“What?” Kaito was not in the best of health, and so his masks were shaky; his eyes widened and his jaw dropped; the sharp intake of breath must have been a bad idea because he immediately started coughing and wheezing. Were the situation less precarious, Nakamori might have actually taken some amusement at the fact that he had managed to flap the unflappable.
“The fact is, Kaito-kun, that Kaitou Kid can go places we can’t and can obtain things and information that the police would never be able to get to,” the inspector explained. “Furthermore, Kid’s rather unique skills are ones that could prove useful to law enforcement if properly directed.”
Kaito stared. “So what you’re saying is that my choices are either go to jail…or become a secret agent?”
“…in a nutshell.”
Kaito opened his mouth to say something but Nakamori held up a hand for him to be silent and listen. “Read the papers carefully. Look through them. Think it over. Because you’re under our thumb right now, and you know it. The question is whether or not you can tolerate staying there.” He stood. “I know that even if we put you in jail, you would only stay there as long as you wanted to. And my superiors are very interested in some of your more unique talents.”
“…I’ll read the papers, and I’ll think about it,” Kaito said after a moment.
“Then I’ll be back in a few days for an answer,” Nakamori said. “On a more personal note, how are you feeling?” Privately, the inspector thought the young man still looked like hell.
Kaito’s answer was an unintentional echo of Nakamori’s thoughts. “I feel like hell.”
“The doctors say you’re getting better.”
“I’ll probably make a full recovery. It’s just going to take forever,” Kaito said as cheerfully as one who has been confined to a hospital really can. “I hate being stuck in bed. Ask Mom, she’ll tell you how big of a pain I am when I have to stay indoors and sit still.”
“She’s mentioned that.”
“How’s she holding up? She always tries not to let me see when she’s hurting.”
“She’s doing just fine,” Nakamori said. “I mean that sincerely.”
“Hmm…it’s sort of weird, but you know how people talk about seeing a light at the end of the tunnel and shades of loved ones long since gone and all that stuff?” Kaito managed a chuckle that quickly descended into another coughing fit. “Well, I actually saw that.”
“Did you see anything else?”
“I feel like I did, but I can’t remember…” he said, his expression thoughtful. “And the weirdest part is that I have a craving for a beer. I don’t even drink. Why would I want a beer?” The words were lighthearted, but the emotion behind them was definitely not.
“Having never had a near-death experience, I really can’t say.”
“You’re a real help, Keibu.”
“Just doing my job.”
There was a subject being very carefully danced around throughout the conversation. Both men knew it, and both men were very much aware of it, but neither dared voice it to the other just yet. It just was not the appropriate time for it now.
When Nakamori came next, it was a few days later, just as he had promised. He was surprised and somewhat pleased to see that the folder was open in Kaito’s hand; the young man was reading it. Given the length of time that had passed, Nakamori was fairly certain that this was not the first reading the papers had gone through. Kaitou Kid had always been meticulous, so it stood to reason that Kuroba Kaito shared that trait.
Especially where his freedom was concerned.
Kaito glanced over as the inspector entered the room. “Welcome back.”
“I take it you’ve read everything?” Nakamori said. He phrased it as a question, though it really wasn’t.
“I have. Several times, in fact. It’s quality reading material, let me tell you,” Kaito managed a thin smile. “A few edits and you could market it as an insomnia cure. But you’re not here for me to make jokes, you want to know what I think of this whole business.”
“That’s why they sent me, yes.”
“There are a couple of problems with this arrangement.”
That took Nakamori by surprise. “Problems?”
“I’m assuming that the idea here is to make things look like Kaitou Kid hasn’t been captured and everything is normal, correct? Because if he’s working for the police, some of his contacts might start clamming up, and he could very well be out of luck,” Kaito reasoned.
“That was the idea.”
“Then you need to let me do a heist now and then.”
Kaito could have said many things, but Nakamori couldn’t think of anything else that would have knocked the floor out from under him like that one did. He had to remind himself not to yell, and instead settled on hissing, “A heist? Are you crazy?”
“That’s up for debate, but I do have a reason,” Kaito went on. “If I announce my retirement, then that could limit what I could do for the police. But if I just drop out of sight, then tongues will start wagging, and there’s already enough gossip going around regarding the last heist. I can do work for you, no problem, but I need to be able to do things my way. If you want appearances to stay normal, then I’m going to need to pull a heist once in a while to keep the public happy.”
The worst part of this, Nakamori realized, was that he could not think of a logical way to refute what Kaito was saying. It made perfect sense, and fit squarely into the overall scheme, which was to keep Kid’s activities for the police as secret as possible. “What else?” he asked weakly.
“I accept the idea of working jobs assigned to me,” Kaito said. “I think it’s counterproductive to expect me to work only those jobs, though, don’t you agree? And also, I reserve the right to go about those jobs my own way. If your superiors want my help, then they’ll have to accept that I have my methods. They’ll get their results, just not necessarily by their rules.”
Nakamori raised an eyebrow. “I don’t think they’ll like that.”
“You can put an eagle in a cage, Keibu, but you’ll never get it to eat from your hand. It’ll just resent you for trying,” Kaito said. “Let it fly free while you train it, and you’ll both be much happier for it.”
After a moment, Nakamori sighed and pulled out his phone. “Let me make a call.”
It took a solid twenty minutes of fast talking, and at one point Kaito himself actually took the phone and addressed the angry higher-up on the other end of the line to inform him that he really did do his best work when he could plan things out for himself. Finally, Nakamori hung up and nodded. He looked exhausted. “I have no idea how you did it, Kaito-kun, but…you’ve got your conditions.”
“They’re not really conditions so much as ways of making this deal better for all those involved,” Kaito said wisely. He picked up a pen and made a few edits to the contract before signing his name at the bottom. Nakamori signed as a witness, and took the folder. “I know it’ll take some time before they trust me, but hey, what am I going to do? Run away? My name would be all over the news before I even got on the flight out of town.”
“You made the right choice,” the inspector said as he gathered his things and prepared to leave.
“I certainly hope so,” Kaito said. He hesitated, then spoke again. “How’s Aoko doing?”
That was the topic that neither had wanted to touch during their last conversation. She was the tentative bridge between them, the link in the chain, and her well-being was one of their primary mutual concerns. There was no faking the worry in Kaito’s eyes as he asked about her.
“She’s upset. I know because she hasn’t yelled since you were shot,” Nakamori said. Humorous words in a humorless voice. “She hasn’t come to see you yet, has she?” When Kaito shook his head, the inspector sighed and decided to tell him the truth. “She stayed in here with you the entire time you were unconscious. She comes in while you’re asleep, and leaves when you start to wake up.”
“She doesn’t want to see me.”
“But she’s worried about you.”
Kaito said nothing. His expression grew drawn, and Nakamori interpreted that as an end to the interview. Thanking the young man again for his cooperation, he left Kaito to sit and think.
His eyes were closed, his breathing was even, and he was not moving.
All fairly solid signs that Kaito was asleep.
Good. That was what Aoko wanted.
It was easier to see him like this and not have to speak to him. Oh, she knew she would have to actually speak to him at some point and straighten things out between the two of them. The problem was that she just wasn’t sure what exactly was entailed in straightening it out. And she suspected she wouldn’t know until the moment actually came.
So for now she was content to sit in the semi-darkness and watch him sleep, keeping vigil over his slumber. He looked as innocent as a newborn. How deceiving looks could truly be, she thought.
She jumped when he shifted and turned his head away from her, and then let out a nervous breath at her own silliness. He wasn’t waking up, even though he was traditionally a very light sleeper, alert at the slightest sound. He was still on medication for pain, and he was recovering from serious injury, so he would sleep more soundly than usual. She was safe.
Sitting where she was in the darkness, with his face turned away from her, she did not see his eyes open in the darkness for a moment and then close again, content in the simple knowledge that she was there and for the moment, at least, she was close.
Part III: Encore
PS. Wow, so this is what it looks like to update something within a month :O Okay, enough with the sarcasm. As promised, the next part is here and ready to go. The stuff that happens in the latter half of this chapter is really what prompted the entire fic. I'm not really shooting for realism here...as you could probably tell.
There will be two more parts to this fic, and part three is looking like it might be a doozy, in more ways than one. So it might take a little longer to get it written and post. I hope you enjoyed the chapter. Thanks for reading, all! Much love!