Back Where I BelongFandom:
Detective Conan/Magic KaitouAuthor:
#20—never leave me againPairing:
Kuroba Kaito/Nakamori AokoRating:
All characters are the property of Gosho Aoyama. I do not own them. I merely borrow them, drop them in a blender, hit puree, and watch them dance. Yes, dance, my pretties…ahem.Summary:
It felt so different to come back, a stranger in a familiar land…
A female voice crackled over the loudspeaker in proclamation of a flight’s imminent boarding. It rang above the noise of the milling crowds, of baggage claims and clunking luggage and rushing footsteps and other general chaos.
The automatic doors opened before him, letting him step from the airport out into the darkness of the night. Instantly, he shivered; it was surprisingly chilly. Good thing he’d worn a coat.
Kuroba Kaito glanced around at the city he hadn’t been back to in years. It didn’t feel like much had changed, but then again, he also hadn’t seen much, having been back for mere minutes. And the city itself was of little consequence. There was something else that concerned him more…
He shook his head. No, he couldn’t let himself wonder about that. If he sought that special thing out, it would undoubtedly only end in more hurt. Instead, he headed out. In spite of the slight chill, it was a pleasant enough night—he would walk, he decided. Hopefully, the night air would clear his head and stop him thinking any further thoughts on that particular matter.
It was enough of a risk as it was, coming back here at all.
Best to not push his luck.
He did, however, take the long route towards his ultimate destination. It was so strange to wander the streets and places he had frequented as a teenager—the neighborhoods, the school…everywhere. He felt like a complete stranger, passing through a strange land that until, for the last several years, had only existed in memory.
He paused in front of one house in particular. The wave of memories associated with that place were enough to bring a sad smile to his lips. So much had happened behind those walls…he shook his head and turned away. Now was not the time to be woolgathering or let himself drown in what-if’s and maybe’s. He shouldn’t even be here—someone could see him.
He’d walked about half a block when it happened: the floor dropped out from under him.
He froze in his tracks, one foot poised to take the next step. His well-practiced Poker Face was the only thing keeping his jaw from dropping. Inside his pockets, his hands clenched into fists, and he steadied himself carefully before slowly turning around; the speaker was standing a couple of meters behind him, the glow of the streetlamp making it impossible to mistake her. She must have just come out of the house he’d been so entranced by.
The past several years had been kind. She had held onto her adorable qualities through high school, but that had all finally melted away into the bloom of adulthood. It was reflected even in the clothes she wore: black pants and a red sweater under a charcoal-colored jacket. No longer a teenager—a woman.
Her face was narrower than the face in the picture he carried in his wallet; he’d memorized that photo, looking at it far more often than he really should have. Her hair was longer, too. Only the eyes remained the same—exactly as they’d looked the last time he’d seen her. The same shade of cerulean blue, the same depth…the same confusion and hurt flickering across them.
He took all of this in and more in the space of a breath. One heartbeat was all it took for him to memorize her. The image of the girl in a high school uniform was replaced by this new face.
Kaito was so spellbound that he didn’t notice her coming towards him with surprisingly confident strides. It wasn’t until she was an arm’s reach away—and reaching out towards him—that he realized just how close they were.
But he didn’t dare jerk back, even in surprise, when her fingers touched his cheek. “It’s you…” she breathed. “It’s really you. Kaito, you’re real…” She withdrew her hand, her expression turning a bit sheepish. “I thought…maybe you were a ghost?”
Kaito offered a small smile. “Or a phantom, perhaps?”
Aoko looked down. “Kaito…”
“It’s okay. You don’t have to say anything,” he said, shaking his head. “I know—“
“No, you don’t—you don’t know!” Aoko cut him off sharply before averting her gaze. Her next words were very soft. “You just disappeared. I…I missed you.” Even in the soft light, the blush that slid across her face was painfully obvious.
“I missed you too, Aoko,” he said softly. “But it was for the best. It really was…”
Aoko gaped with blazing eyes and flushed cheeks…and exploded. “You IDIOT!”
Poker Face slipped enough that his jaw dropped a little and his eyes widened. “A-Aoko—“
“You idiot!” she repeated, stalking furiously towards him. Her rapid, angry words were barely coherent. “You—you insensitive moron! You jackass! IDIOT!” One fist swung at him in a wide, wild arc; it was doubtful that it was intended to harm him, or even make contact, but was most likely done in the sheer heat of the moment. “JACKASS!”
He caught her wrist easily, near his shoulder; she wasn’t swinging hard enough to actually hurt him. But he was startled when instead of going on, her hand unclenched, and her fingers closed around the sleeve of his coat; instead of trying to pull away, she walked right into him, pressing her forehead against his shoulder and holding on for dear life.
Instinctively, Kaito’s hands moved to her upper arms. He’d never seen her like this before. Maybe other girls had breakdowns like this, but not Aoko. Aoko was strong, stubborn, tough, and…
Clinging to him with all the fierceness in her slender being.
“You idiot,” she said against his shoulder. “You jerk…”
“Aoko—“ he tried again, but she went on.
“You disappeared,” she whispered. “Overnight, you just…you just vanished. I didn’t know what happened to you. I didn’t know if you ran away, or someone took you away, or if you were even alive. And you didn’t let me know. You didn’t call or write or anything…I didn’t know if you were okay.”
Kaito sighed. Poker Face was rapidly losing its footing, and he didn’t care. “I ran. You knew, and I thought…you were so angry. I couldn’t get arrested before I finished what I needed to,” he finished lamely. It sounded like a pitiful excuse, even to his own ears. But at the time, when he’d had to make the choice, it had all seemed so crystal clear.
There was a crack as Kaito’s mask began to break. “W-what?”
“After you left, I talked to your mother,” Aoko explained, not letting go of him. “I begged her for the story, since you weren’t here to tell me.” She didn’t see him wince. “She finally told me everything in the hopes that I would understand. But she wouldn’t tell me where you went—did she even know?”
“Not at first,” he admitted. “I contacted her occasionally to let her know all was well.”
“She missed you.”
There was a pause.
Aoko let go of his sleeve and slowly slipped her arms under his to wrap around his torso in a tight hug. “…I missed you, too. A lot. I didn’t know if I’d ever see you again…” she trailed off.
Kaito was only vaguely aware that his own arms were moving in a mirror of hers, forming a snug loop around her shoulders to pull her closer. “I missed you, too. Aoko, I didn’t mean to—if I knew—“ He sighed; this wasn’t coming out right, so he changed the subject. “How’s your dad doing?”
“You should go visit,” Aoko suggested. “He keeps asking about you.”
“I don’t think that’s a good idea,” he shook his head. “He’d probably cuff me on sight…what?” He interrupted himself when she leaned back and looked up at him, shaking her head slowly.
“Kaito,” she said softly, eyes shining, “I didn’t tell my father.”
With an audible crunch, Poker Face shattered into slack-jawed amazement. “What?”
“I didn’t tell Dad.”
“But—but you—but—“ Kaito stammered. “You said—“
“I know what I said then,” she glanced down. “But…I didn’t. Dad doesn’t know.”
Kaito didn’t know how to respond to that. The reason he’d stayed away for so long was that he was certain she hated him and her father hated him and if they knew he was coming back, Nakamori-keibu would be sitting there, waiting to arrest him with an army of cops and enough handcuffs to trap forty thieves the minute he set foot back in Japan.
Aoko spoke again first—a sad sigh. “It’s late. I should probably get home.”
Fortunately, Kaito knew how to respond to that. “Now, I know for a fact that a gentleman doesn’t let a lady walk home by herself after dark like this. So…” He stepped to her side and offered her his arm in an exaggeratedly courtly gesture. “Lead the way, milady.”
She stared at him for a moment before giggling. “Oh, I suppose.” She bypassed his arm, though, and took his hand. “Come on—and thanks.” Pulling him along by his hand, she led up the sidewalk.
After getting over his initial shock at her forwardness—or was she just joking?—Kaito jogged to even his step with hers, and tightened his grip on her hand. They walked together, side-by-side, Aoko leading the way. Not much was said—it was pleasant enough to just be together after so long.
Far too soon, she turned and headed up the walkway to a tall brownstone building.. “Well,” she said softly. “This is where I live.” He followed her up to the front door. “Thanks for walking me home.”
“Not a problem,” he said. In truth, he’d sort of wanted to see where she lived. This looked like a good place, in a nice neighborhood. It meant that she was okay, and that put him at ease. “So…I guess this is goodnight?”
“I guess,” she replied.
“Well…goodnight,” he said, giving her fingers a squeeze and letting go before heading back down the sidewalk towards the street. It actually hurt to release his possessive hold on her hand, but he didn’t dare hang around. Too much could happen…
“…Kaito?” Aoko said hesitantly.
He whirled around a lot faster than he probably should have and took two steps back towards her. She was still standing at the door, half in and half out, watching him. “Yes?” he said, far too eagerly. But…
She seemed to mull her decision over one final time before softly asking, “Would you…I mean, you don’t have to, I won’t force you to, but…do you want to come up for a while?” She looked wary, even scared…but hopeful.
Kaito swallowed hard as every possible implication or meaning of that particular statement went dashing through his mind—even though he knew there was no way she was suggesting anything of that nature. But he simply smiled back—since when was he so shy?—and nodded. “Yes. I mean, I’d like that.” He headed back up the sidewalk and followed her into the apartment complex.
The instant they were back inside, their hands found each other once again and didn’t let go. Neither commented on it; instead, Kaito took a look around. “This is a nice building,” he commented as she led him up the stairs to the second floor.
“It’s not much, but it’s home,” she replied easily. Finally, she stopped at a door. The number 214 was in black numbers on the door. “Here we are. Welcome to my humble abode. Make yourself comfortable, but do your own dishes.”
Kaito laughed and waited patiently while she fumbled with her keys and unlocked the door. When it swung open, she stepped aside and gestured him in ahead of her; he took a good look around at what was immediately within view. It was a nice little place. He smiled to himself at the small piles of clutter lying here and there—some things never did change; everything in it (that he could see right away, anyway) looked comfortable, friendly.
The apartment absolutely screamed Aoko.
Behind him, the door closed; he heard her keys jangle as she nervously turned them over in her hands. “God, what was I thinking? The place is an absolute pigsty…” She started to move past him, most likely with intent to eradicate the imaginary mess, but he caught her arm to stop her.
“It’s fine,” he shook his head and laughed. “Aoko—it’s just me.”
She still looked a bit embarrassed, but obligingly relented in her quest to tidy up her home for her unexpected guest. “Can I at least get you a drink, or something?” Her tone was actually a bit pleading.
Kaito chuckled. She was obviously nervous—though why she was so nervous around him was still a mystery—but she was still trying to be a good hostess. He dare not refuse, and quite honestly, he was thirsty. “I would love something. Lead the way.” He followed her through the nearest doorway into the small kitchen. Again, it wasn’t large or fancy, but it just seemed to fit her.
Aoko was skittish as a scared rabbit, and Kaito would have found it amusing if he wasn’t so concerned. She shouldn’t be this antsy around him—she’d never
been this antsy around him. Finally, he reached over and put a hand on her shoulder to try and steady her; it seemed to have the adverse affect, as she jumped a mile and whipped around to face him with wide eyes, soda can clutched tightly in both hands.
“Aoko,” he said firmly, reaching up to hold her other shoulder. “Calm. Down.”
“Calm. Right,” she echoed. Seemingly at a loss for what else to do, she held the can out to him. “Here. Do you want ice, or—“ She stopped when he shook his head and released her with one hand to take the offered beverage. Then she made the mistake of meeting his eyes head-on, and…
It wasn’t like they’d ever been strangers to physical contact, and this wasn’t even excessive. His hand was resting on her shoulder; both of them had a hand wrapped around a soda can, their fingers just brushing. They were barely touching, but they were so close…and unable to look away. The air between them was actually crackling.
Aoko took a shaky breath…and broke the contact first, letting go of the can and stepping back to press her back against the refrigerator door. “I…” she managed the single syllable before her voice faltered.
It was better than Kaito was doing; he was lucky to be forming coherent thoughts.
She swallowed hard. “Would…I mean, do you have to be somewhere?”
Kaito shook his head. “No. Mom’s not expecting me until tomorrow morning. I got bumped up to an earlier flight. I thought I’d surprise her by getting here early, but then I ran into you, and—“ He kept going. It marked one of the few times in his life he’d ever really babbled, but he couldn’t have stopped the torrent to save his soul.
“Do you want to stay?”
That stopped him; the words froze and died in his throat. “W-what?”
“You could stay here for the night,” she fidgeted nervously. “I mean, it’s really been a long time, and…ya know, I was hoping maybe we could just…talk for a while. Catch up. It was just a thought…I’m being stupid, forget it—“
“I’d like that,” he interrupted. “I mean, if you don’t mind me passing out on the couch…”
“Not at all…” Aoko smiled. She sidestepped him and walked out of the kitchen, gesturing for him to follow. There was only a tiny tremor in her smile to betray her nerves. She led him into the living room and dropped down onto the couch. “So—where exactly have you been for the last four years?”-o-
Kaito couldn’t sleep.
All he could think about was what had happened over the past few hours.
Seeing Aoko again…oh God, that alone was worth the trip. To know she was all right put him at ease far more than he’d thought it would. But talking to her again, knowing that all was forgiven, being able to sit and talk to her for a few hours without a care in the world, just like old times…
He rolled over on the couch. The piece of furniture looked worn, but looks proved deceiving in this case. It was incredibly comfortable; he should have been out like a light. But instead, he found himself wide awake, staring at the darkened room around him and thinking about Aoko.
She was so close now. Before, there had been oceans, entire continents between them.
Now, the only thing keeping them apart was a door. An unlocked door, no less—unless his ears were playing tricks on him. When she’d gone in there and closed the door, he hadn’t heard the click that meant she’d sealed herself in. She’d all but given him a written invitation!
Still, he didn’t dare go near that door. If this was some kind of test…better not to risk it. Things were too fragile. Sighing, he flopped over again and stared at that damned barrier.I should have kissed her,
he thought, not for the first time since he’d taken up his position on the couch. He couldn't stop that single thought from chasing itself through his head over and over again, even though he knew that if he'd actually done it, it would have just complicated things. But it had been so close, and she hadn’t looked like she would have protested if he’d done so. All it would’ve taken was a gentle pull on her shoulder to draw her to him and…and…
…and was the doorknob turning?
Kaito stared at the door, not even daring to breathe. No way…
The door opened, only a crack. Enough for him to see the glimmer of the minimal light reflecting off a wide eye, peering through the small opening. “Kaito?” Aoko’s voice whispered. “Are you awake?”
He sat up and swung his feet over the side of the couch. “Yeah. Can’t sleep.”
“Me neither…” she said.
Silence. The heavy, awkward kind.
“So what are you going to do?” Aoko asked.
“I’m going to see my mother for a few days,” he replied, reclining against the back of the couch. “And then…I don’t know. I’ll probably head off somewhere again. I might go back to America—or maybe I’ll give Europe a try for a while.” In truth, he’d been all over, to so many different places…and yet there was no sense of belonging. None felt right, none felt like home. But to admit it was to admit…no.
To his surprise, Aoko’s response was actually frantic. “No, you can’t leave!”
Kaito was taken aback, but went on. “Aoko, I don’t know if I can stay here—“
“No! I don’t want you to go—not now, not ever! I never want you to leave me again! This is where you belong, Kaito!” Aoko said suddenly, the words erupting from her seemingly without her permission and without knowledge of how closely her hurried words echoed his own thoughts; she threw the door the rest of the way opened and stepped just beyond it, allowing him a perfect view of her face—she looked frightened. “You belong right here, with me! Goddamit, Kaito, I love you! Why don’t you understand that? I’ve always loved you, you idiot!” One of her hands clapped down over her mouth, like she was punishing her lips for being bad. “Oh God…”
Maybe it was seeing her again like this, after so long, and seeing how much had really changed between them…or how much had stayed the same. Maybe it was realizing that she didn’t hate him, even after everything that had happened. Maybe it was the setting—two adults who didn’t have to answer to anyone, alone together in a darkened apartment in the still of the night, with the appropriate accommodations so very close at hand…
Whatever it was, Aoko’s startling confession was the final straw.
Kaito’s self-control snapped.
He was on his feet, across the room, and bursting through the door in the space of a heartbeat. Aoko had time to take one step back, and that was it. His arms were around her waist and pulling her to him and kissing her; there was no room left for doubt as to his feelings at that moment…or his intentions. Aoko’s hands grasped at the back of his head and held on for dear life.
Finally, he was right where he belonged. Home was right there—in Aoko’s arms.
Kaito actually hoisted her clean off her feet; her bare toes skimmed over the carpet as he bodily dragged her back into her bedroom. He kicked one foot out, never once ceasing in his relentless assault on her lips, and hooked it around the door and kicked it shut.
They did not emerge for the rest of the night.PS. Hmmm…fluff. Suggestive fluff, no less. I hereby dedicate this to the lovely miss ammchan. Just because she’s awesome, and I can. Hope y’all enjoyed. As always, thanks for reading and reviewing! Much love!
For anyone who hadn't heard, I'm skipping off to Europe for a week. I'll respond to any comments when I get back. Luvs!
Cross-posted to candy__chan
and 40 Nights: Kaito and Aoko.