Fandom: Detective Conan/Magic Kaitou
Theme: #5—release my darkness; bring me warmth
Pairing: Kuroba Kaito/Nakamori Aoko
Disclaimer: 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: He asked her if he could have the final dance of the evening…
Nakamori Aoko normally wasn’t one for hanging around in bars or dance clubs.
Tonight, though, she just had to get away from her home, away from her father’s increasingly-common questions about her future and when she was going to settle down, away from her memories…away from that constant cloud of loneliness that seemed to follow her around as of late.
It was because of that, and other reasons, that she found herself perched on the last barstool, the one nestled right against the wall, absently swirling a half-empty drink (the latest of…several) around her hand and watching everyone else enjoying themselves.
The DJ was working his magic, and the night was in full swing. The dance floor was relatively crowded. People—most of whom appeared to be in their early twenties—were swaying and moving out there in ways that ranged from ridiculous to smooth to outright provocative. But one thing was painfully clear: every single one of them seemed to have a partner.
Aoko sighed; she was sick of watching them. Her gaze dropped back down into her glass. The liquid that stared back at her was the color of dying embers, and tasted as bitter as she felt. This was torture. She didn’t to stay at home alone to just wallow like that, but being here was like rubbing a mountain of salt all over a freshly-cut wound.
Wincing at the expected taste, she gripped the glass in white-knuckled fingers and brought it to her lips, tossing her head back to finish the last few swallows off all at once. It burned her throat painfully, and with a gasp she slammed the glass back down on the bar a bit harder than she’d intended. She took a few quick breaths, trying to force air down into lungs that suddenly didn’t want to cooperate.
What was she doing here? Why was she doing this to herself?
At home or out in public, she was still alone. It had been this way since…
Without warning, the DJ’s voice echoed loudly over the milling crowd and the cheers of the dancers. “LAST DANCE!” the DJ announced cheerfully to a chorus of disappointed groans from his audience. “Grab your favorite partner!”
Aoko jumped in surprise; it was fortunate that the glass in her hand was now empty, else she probably would have sloshed it all over the polished surface of the bar. A slow melody began to play over the speakers, prompting everyone to rush and pair up, most likely with their significant others, and start swaying back and forth to the easy rhythm of the slow song—a love song.
Still sitting solo at the bar, Aoko bit her lip to try and keep from crying, but it was a foregone conclusion. She put her hands down on the bar and lowered her forehead to rest on her fingers. This had to be what it felt like to hit rock bottom. It wasn’t fair, it wasn’t fair…
A hand touched her shoulder, and she started. The only person she’d spoken to all night was the bartender—a slightly older man, friendly enough but too busy to stop and chat. No one else in the bar had approached her. So who…?
She didn’t even have to look up to learn the answer to that question. A face was suddenly near hers, close enough for an all-too-familiar voice to whisper into her ear, “May I have this dance?” Now wide awake, she turned her head, and was immediately drowning in the dark blue depths of eyes she’d missed terribly for a very long time.
Slender fingers took her hand and pulled her from her barstool and let her towards the dance floor. “Come on,” Kaito said softly; he was smiling, and she couldn’t decide if it was making her heart ache, or making that strange warm feeling flutter inside her—a warm feeling that wasn’t from the alcohol. Either way, she realized that she was smiling herself, a foreign expression to her face in recent times.
Still leading her by the hand, he wove around the other couples moving and rocking on the dance floor until he found an empty space, nestled right in the middle of the crowd. He turned back to face her and pulled her close; instinctively, she lifted her arms to slide around his neck, feeling his hands at her waist. By an unspoken accord, they fell into a simple swaying motion.
Aoko didn’t even hear the music anymore, except as a faint sound in the background. The simple movement was natural; it felt like something indefinable, just flowing between them. With her chin resting against his shoulder, she could feel his heartbeat, and that was the rhythm of their dance.
Kaito’s cheek brushed against hers in a gentle caress. “So…I take it you missed me.”
“Idiot,” she replied automatically, a mere shadow of the friendly banter that had once been so commonplace to a relationship that had never really been normal. But she felt herself blush as she tightened her arms around him and quietly added, “…of course I did.”
He chuckled. “I missed you too.”
Aoko felt her breath catch. She hadn’t expected that, and it warmed her from head to toe.
The conversation that followed was muted and whispered to remain just between them. It wasn’t anything special or spectacular. It was like going back in time to all those years they’d been friends—particularly their high school days—when they could scream and argue and have a merry mop-chase one moment, and sit and have a serious personal discussion the next.
Before she knew it, minutes had passed; the song was almost over.
“You’ve been gone so long…” she whispered; she closed her eyes and took a deep breath to inhale and memorize his scent. “…how did you know I needed you?”
“I know everything,” he said softly. “Especially when it comes to you.”
As the final strains of music began to die away into the reemerging sounds of the crowd around them, Kaito pulled back. Aoko felt the brush of a kiss on her forehead…and then the circle of her arms was completely empty. Where there had once been the feel of his warmth beneath her hands, his shoulders shifting under her arms…there was now nothing.
Her arms closed in suddenly to wrap around herself, cutting through the empty air where her dance partner—where Kaito should have been. Where he was a mere moment ago. It was as if he’d simply faded away with the music as the last dance of the night ended.
Everyone else was heading for the door with their friends and partners. They were all talking and chatting animatedly. Some were discussing heading to other venues, while others yawned loudly and expressed more of an interest in seeking their beds than seeking further entertainment. No one seemed to notice the bewildered young woman standing alone in the middle of the floor, staring at the vacant space in front of her with disbelieving eyes.
It wasn’t until the floor was empty that the bartender approached the frozen girl and put a tentative hand on her shoulder. Truth be told, he’d been watching the young lady for most of the evening. He felt sorry for her—she seemed so lonely, sitting at the bar by herself all night. “Miss? Are you all right?”
She jumped a mile and turned to him with wide eyes. “What? Wh—where is he?”
The bartender raised an eyebrow. “Where’s who?”
“Kaito—the guy I was dancing with,” she said urgently. “Where did he go?” The first thread of panic was working its way through her. Something had to have happened to Kaito…
“Miss…you were alone.”
Aoko could have sworn she felt the floor drop right out from under her. “…what?”
“You suddenly got this dreamy look on your face, and just walked out onto the dance floor, all by yourself,” he explained, suddenly concerned. He didn’t think she’d had that much to drink, but maybe he’d overestimated her tolerance. Or perhaps the poor girl was sick… “I lost you in the crowd, but walking out there was the happiest you looked all night.”
There was a crunch as Aoko’s heart shattered, and she put one hand to her forehead to try and steady herself before she toppled over. The room suddenly seemed to spin, and she felt like someone had just punched her in the gut.
“Miss?” the bartender was still speaking to her in a worried tone. “Can I call someone for you?”
She took a step back and waved a hand in the air. “No…no, I’m fine. I mean, I think I had one too many, it just hit me…I’ll be fine, thank you.” She moved stiffly over to the barstool she’d been perched on for the entire night and gathered her purse and coat. “I’ll walk home—I’ll be fine. It’s not far. I’m sorry. Thank you—thank you for your help.” She stumbled to the door and was out on the sidewalk before the poor man could protest. She felt bad, and she felt incredibly stupid, but it wasn’t her real focus.
Her head was still spinning. The cool night air helped a little, but between the late hour, the alcohol, and the bartender’s words, she just wanted to crawl into bed, curl up under the safety and warmth of her blankets, and cry for the rest of the night, trying to process what had happened.
“Miss…you were alone.”
No, she wasn’t alone. She wasn’t alone at all! That was the least alone she’d felt in so long…
She spotted a vacant bench, and dropped onto it, hands stuffed into the warm pockets of her jacket. She stared at the sidewalk in front of her, studied the way it sloped downwards at the curb to meet the street. It was the most ridiculous thought she’d ever entertained, but somehow, she felt her breathing and heart slow to their normal rates.
The first drop fell onto the pavement, leaving a tiny damp circle to mark its landing. Several more followed in short order. The flow was unhindered and unnoticed. It was strange—the numerous tears fell, yet Aoko didn’t feel that she was crying.
She sat there for far longer than she probably should have, in the cold darkness. It was late, probably well into the wee hours of the morning. The chill was worming its way through the protection of her coat. With a sigh, she decided to go home, resigning her heart to what her mind already knew.
He wasn’t going to appear again.
Standing up again took a bit of work. Her arms and legs were as heavy as boulders; her entire body felt as limber and mobile as concrete. The cold wasn’t helping, leaving her joints stiff and slightly numb. But she managed to rise and begin walking; the feeling slid back into her body with movement, though she still felt like she was made of stone.
It took far too long to reach her apartment complex, and yet time sped by. She unlocked the main door and stumbled inside. It was silent, naturally; everyone else in the building—all the sane people—were sound asleep, warm and safe in their own beds. Aoko climbed the stairs and after briefly fumbling with her keys let herself into her own apartment, closing the door behind her.
She barely paused at the doorway to remove her shoes and coat (leaving them in a careless pile on the floor) before staggering into her bedroom. Without a second thought, she flung herself backwards onto the bed. She curled up into a ball, halfheartedly pulling the blankets around her in a futile attempt to stave off an icy cold that was solely internal.
There were a few more minutes of silent weeping before she realized just how worn she truly was. Not even bothering to get up and change into her pajamas—that would take too much effort and too much energy—she let out a sigh, and with it released her hold on wakefulness. She was sound asleep in seconds.
Lost to the innocence of slumber, Aoko didn’t hear the soft click and creak of her bedroom window opening, nor did she notice the shadow sliding across her floor, moving slowly towards her bed…
A hand reached out to pull the bedclothes around her a bit more snugly. Careful, clever fingers brushed a few stray strands of messy hair away from her face. She sighed and shifted the tiniest bit, but did not wake at the gentle touches.
The shadow remained at her side for a moment, one hand still lingering at her forehead. Then it started to withdraw and pull back into the darkness of the night…and Aoko moved. Both hands reached out and grappled at the form. “Kaito…” she whimpered the name.
When she caught one of its wrists, it was no longer shadow, but seemingly flesh and blood. Hands wrapped around hers and held on. “Shh…” a familiar male voice whispered through the darkness. “Let go.”
“But—“ she murmured the protest in her sleep.
“Let it go. I can’t stay any longer, so please. Let it go, Aoko. Let me go.”
A careful kiss was pressed to her temple, the touch like warm ice on her skin, and he was gone, his last words to her drifting gently through the calm of the night. Please let it go. Please let me go.
The sunlight hurt.
It was nearly blinding, and Aoko winced at its intrusion and rolled over to try and postpone the inevitable. But it was a lost cause, and she begrudgingly accepted it as such. She sat up in bed and stared groggily around the room, trying to get a handle on her thoughts. She was still wearing her clothes from the evening before. Her body was a bit stiff from sleeping in the fetal position, her head felt like it was full of sand, and her mouth felt like she’d been spewing up hairballs all night.
And then the events of the previous night came flying back to her. The bar, the music, the dance with Kaito, and his disappearance. The claim of a bystander that Kaito had never been there at all. Coming home alone and afraid.
And there had been a dream. A strange, awful, wonderful dream.
It wasn’t that she had never dreamt of Kaito, but usually those dreams involved her chasing him and never catching him, or he would disappear and she was unable to catch him. This one had been so very different. Kaito was there, smiling at her. He wasn’t running, and he wasn’t vanishing before her eyes.
He had smiled and spoken to her, telling her to let it go. He couldn’t explain everything that had happened, but he needed to know that she would make it. He’d said some other things as well, but they weren’t quite as clear, though she knew that they were important, and their intent was emblazoned into her mind and heart. She wouldn’t forget that. Then he had left her. He had kissed her forehead, filling her with that same warmth, and faded away, leaving only words and a memory behind. This time, though, she hadn’t screamed or cried at his disappearance.
She swung her feet over the edge of the bed and sat there for a moment, trying to recollect and reorder her thoughts. Inevitably, her eyes drifted to a framed picture on her nightstand, and she picked it up for closer examination. It was an older photo of the two of them, her and Kaito, not too long after their high school graduation. They were smiling and happy.
Her body was being a bit more cooperative today, and she rose to her feet with surprising ease, in spite of the usual morning aches and stiffness. Aoko started towards the door, but paused by the window and looked up at the blue sky and bright day. She closed her eyes and felt the sun rays against her skin. The morning light simply confirmed what she had realized the moment she had woken up that morning, the change that her dream had brought.
The darkness was gone.
Her gaze dropped back to the picture in her hands. She couldn’t let go of Kaito. She could never let go of Kaito—that would be throwing away a piece of her heart. But…she could let go of what might have been, and what would never be.
Somehow, though, she didn’t feel quite so alone anymore.
She slowly traced over Kaito’s face with her thumb. “I do miss you,” she whispered to the grinning face in the photograph. She almost said she was sorry, but she stopped herself, uncertain as to what exactly she was sorry for. One last tear slipped free to accompany her sad smile of acceptance…and she could have sworn that she felt something cool brush carefully against her cheek to wipe it away.
But she decided that it was just her imagination.
PS. My muses decreed that there be fluff, and lo, there was fluff. Sort of. Kind of. Maybe. A little angsty, too.I started this story three different ways before finally finding what felt like the right path to take it—it took a while, but overall, I’m relatively happy with the way it came out. Draw your own conclusions, form your own interpretations of what happened and what this all means.
Hope y’all enjoyed it as well.We're forty percent of the way through. Two-fifths, for youfraction people out there :)Thanks for reading—much love, everyone!
Cross-posted to candy__chan and 40 Nights: Kaito and Aoko.