Chapter 1: Loveless.
The clock read 6:52. Kaito was supposed to be here twenty-two minutes ago. They were supposed to meet for dinner, spend just a little time together without worrying about Kid, or cases, or unexpected, unseen gunmen. Without frayed nerves making it too easy to let patience slip, without masks and barriers drawn.
Saguru had relieved his Baaya of her duties for the evening and his father was going to be out late with work as he so often was. He’d taken time to make them both a meal on his own. But it was 6:52 and change in the evening, and Kaito wasn’t here yet.
It wasn’t as if Kaito was never late.
It wasn’t even as if he’d never missed something they planned. But what he didn’t do—especially not since they’d begun to be more open with each other—was leave him wondering whether he’d be showing up. Not unless he was hurt. They had promised each other that if they were going to go into something dangerous, they’d at least let the other know. It’d been a hard-won agreement despite both parties fighting for the same thing. The fact of the matter was they tended to make a habit of worrying about the other more than their own well-being.
But it had been radio silence from Kaito—not a single warning. Not even a simple ‘Sorry, I won’t be making it.’
Saguru texted him:
[ If something came up, just let me know. ]
The food couldn’t be kept warm on the stove forever. Saguru served himself his meal. Checked his phone another seventeen minutes later. Nothing.
He gave up on waiting: he put the food away, he concealed himself in his study, and tried to dive into a case that he’d been offered the other day. He had an appointment with the client this weekend to gather more information—he hadn’t officially accepted it yet—but with homework not being strong enough of a distraction to occupy his mind right now, he figured it best to try to take advantage of the distraction.
At 7:39, he risked another look at his message history with his boyfriend.
Kaito had read it at this point, but still it remained: there was no reply.
Saguru’s stomach was in knots despite himself. Kaito had been pulling away lately, and all Saguru could think was that he was on his way to self-destruction. Things had been busy lately, and with Kaito’s ‘night job’ posing more and more danger to his well-being, Saguru was trying more and more to find solutions to this problem that didn’t include Kaito getting shot at a handful of times a month. Kaito didn’t seem to like the possibility that maybe being Kid wasn’t the only way to get back at his father’s murderers.
Kaito also didn’t seem to be a big fan of the way Saguru was prone to suggest he consider his plans for the future. Saguru, of course, didn’t appreciate Kaito’s lack of expectation that he’d even have one.
Which brought Saguru back to the concern at hand. Kaito, ignoring his text. Missing their night together. Pulling away from him. Whether he was just preparing for another heist or something else, Saguru couldn’t help but think Kaito was out there somewhere seeking trouble. Or otherwise having danger find him.
Saguru succumbed to his worry and threw on his coat, snagging cell phone, wallet, pocket knife and Taser. His father wasn’t home yet, but likely wouldn’t check to see if he was upon returning, so he wouldn’t worry about leaving a warning he might be gone.
Even if he couldn’t find Kaito—at least the air might clear his head.
The streets held no answers, and there were no Kuroba-Kaito-shaped silhouettes sitting atop any skyscrapers, nor dark hang gliders in the lit Tokyo sky.
His walk brought him through Kaito’s neighborhood. The windows were dark in Kaito’s house.
Saguru returned home, feeling stretched thin rather than reassured, but at least exhausted enough to sleep. Kaito still hadn’t texted him back. He wondered: would he see him in class tomorrow?
Kaito was in class the following day. Saguru felt relief, but something else too. A dull hurt somewhere in his chest. A tense frustration. Why had Kaito left him to worry like that?
The school day was the usual song and dance, though Saguru could tell Kaito was holding himself a metaphorical arm’s length away the entire time. Like it used to be, when things were newer, when they could barely call themselves friends. He thought they were past that at this point, but he was as cagey as ever, so apparently not.
During lunch, Kaito wasn’t able to avoid him—or Aoko, for that matter. Having her present during lunch was both blessing and curse. Kaito clearly didn’t want her to realize there was anything going on with him, so he couldn't get away with avoiding the both of them during the break altogether. However, no matter the fact that Aoko was well beyond aware of their relationship, Saguru didn’t want to involve her in his turmoil, so he couldn’t outright confront Kaito in front of her.
Regardless, by the end of the school day he had at least secured plans with Kaito to study at his place directly after class. No waiting time, no splitting off first. Straight there—and, serendipitously, Aoko had plans with Koizumi, so he hadn’t needed to specify to her that he’d prefer to have the one on one time with Kaito (though he was sure she would understand).
He and Kaito would be able to speak frankly then, at least.
The trip back to Saguru’s place had been uneventful, but there had been a weightiness to it. A tension lingering in the air. Words, unspoken, waiting to be said. It wasn’t sitting right with Saguru, and Kaito seemed fidgety—which, admittedly, wasn’t exactly odd for him. He could never sit still. But even more than usual, Kaito seemed to be all nerves.
No matter how insistent that heavy silence had felt, Saguru held his tongue until they had arrived. Baaya was home and, upon discovering Saguru had brought home company, set about preparing a second serving of tea. Saguru thanked her and brought the service tray up to the study with them himself, rather than letting her handle it. It was a silent signal: please don’t disturb us. He didn’t want to worry about being interrupted, lest it cut the conversation short before Saguru could get to the root of this.
It was only after they’d settled down to work, textbooks opened and assignments spread out, that Saguru decided to broach the topic. Not lifting his gaze from the equation he was mindlessly working out in his notebook, he said, casually as he could, “You missed dinner last night.”
He took care not to look at Kaito too hard, and focused on what he could glean from his peripherals. A brief pause in Kaito’s own writing, the shifting of his shoulder as he adjusted how he sat. It was hard to say if Kaito was calculating a response, or if Saguru was reading too much into the pause.
“Yeah… Sorry about that. Crazy night,” Kaito said, dismissive.
Saguru stopped writing, making sure his own expression didn’t betray the irritation that whirled in his chest at Kaito’s tone. Kaito was not a forgetful person. He wasn’t oblivious, either. But here he was, pretending ignorance. He couldn’t turn these feelings on Kaito; he needed to get to the bottom of this, handle it with a level head. Saguru still wasn’t convinced Kaito hadn’t done something stupid and gotten himself hurt last night. Probably, Kaito was dismissing Saguru in an attempt to avoid admitting to that exact sort of thing.
“It would have been nice to know you couldn’t make it,” Saguru said. Then, quite genuine, tone softening around the edges: “You had me worried.” Upset with Kaito or not, that was really the root of it. Tiring of dancing around the matter, Saguru put down his pencil altogether, and rested his chin atop his hand as he leveled his gaze on Kaito. “What did happen, anyway? ‘Crazy night’ makes it sound like there was at least some excitement.” Despite being directly, he did what he could to maintain a tone that was mostly casual, curious. If he got too intense too soon, Kaito might shut down this conversation.
“Oh, nothing big,” Kaito said easily. His tone is cheerful and he flashes one of his easy grins, but he’s far away. “Nothing big. Life just got in the way. It happens.” Something about the delivery was so—off. Saguru tracked Kaito with his gaze as he leaned over to pull another book from his bag.
The world tilted, just a little.
Just beginning to show above the collar of Kaito’s school uniform: reddish and purplish skin, around the size and shape of a mouth. Saguru certainly hadn’t put that there. And it looked recent. His mind raced as he tried to understand what a hickey would be doing on Kaito’s neck and why.
Kaito appeared to catch that he’d leaned just a little too far and Saguru saw him smoothly correct himself. Saguru barely heard him when he said, “You don’t have to worry about me all the time.”
Saguru felt like he should know Kaito’s tells, and everything about Kaito’s expression suggested that he knew he’d made a mistake and was trying to hide it, in hopes he hadn’t already noticed. Why did it feel so staged, though?
Pretenses of ‘casual’ and ‘mildly curious’ far removed now, Saguru reached, hooking his finger along the collar of the uniform, pulling the fabric aside. “What is this, Kaito?”
Kaito’s expression grew several shades more distant than it had been before, mask snapping into place. Saguru could practically see him thinking, the way his gaze flickered away, as if searching for the right answer. Kaito’s mouth opened to speak, but then he shut it again.
He wouldn’t meet Saguru’s eyes.
Saguru felt like he might be ill. Kaito sat before him, caught. His own lungs felt airless, like the world had gone out from under him and he was in freefall. He still didn’t—couldn’t—understand. It was difficult to wrap his mind around the possibility of Kaito having ignored him last night because he had been spending the evening with someone else. This felt so wrong. The fact of the bruise, Kaito’s behavior, the boy’s loss for words now.
Something about this felt manufactured.
Kaito still hadn’t pulled away, seeming to be frozen in place. Saguru ran his thumb firmly over the bruise, testing.
“Makeup,” he heard himself observe. If he felt sick before, he didn’t know what to call whatever he was feeling now. There was a dull noise in his ears, not unlike static. He saw himself withdraw his hand. “It’s makeup.”
It had been put there deliberately. Kaito had exhibited suspicious behavior intentionally, and then calculatedly revealed this pretend mark, because he wanted Saguru to see it. Kaito wanted Saguru to think something happened that would hurt him.
Well, consider Saguru sufficiently hurt.
For a beat longer, Kaito stared on remotely. Then, tone light and expression something like amused, Kaito said, “It’s makeup.” His tone was practically mischievous, lighthearted, like this was funny. Like it was a game.
Saguru wasn’t keen on playing along.
He felt himself turn cold on the exterior as he drew within himself, trying to manage his feelings, keep them organized—or at least shove the messy parts into storage for later sorting.
Kaito had been pulling away over the past week. Saguru could easily pick out moments where Kaito had drawn himself further away, chosen a less-than-playful point for banter, avoided attempts at comfort or tenderness. He’d taken it for a need for space and chosen to persist through it as respectfully as possible. But it would turn out, Kaito had been working towards this.
The entire situation had been calculated.
It was clear that Kaito was trying to incite something here, trying to press some self-destruct button on this relationship, but he wanted Saguru to pull the trigger.
“Are you having fun?” Saguru drew the question out, speaking slowly, icy. “Are you enjoying this game that you’re playing? Because I’m not interested in participating, personally.” Saguru kept his expression one of cold, balanced distance. He didn’t want to give Kaito anything to work off of. He was going to call his bluff. “If you want this to end, you’re going to need to tell me that you want it to end.”
Kaito smiled emptily and Saguru’s stomach tied itself into knots. “Too stubborn to do it yourself?” Like a slap in the face. “You are playing along, then.”
He would have liked to retreat. He wanted to bury his face in his hands, or go silent and simply stop having the conversation. He wanted to take Kaito by the shoulders and tell him to stop. But the idea of Kaito carrying on even if Saguru pleaded with him to give this up hurt too deeply for him to risk it.
The hurt was filling his lungs, and he was simply going to have to choose not to drown in it.
Concealing any reaction he might have had to what Kaito said, Saguru steepled his hands together and leaned forward. “Tell me a story, then. Say that you’re bored of me. Tell me you just wanted to see what it was like to tempt fate running around with a detective.”
It would be a lie. Because this thing Kaito was trying to do here, it was one big ploy to implode, to ruin himself, and make Saguru complicit in it.
But what if? What if Kaito really was bored, and finding a way to lend some intrigue to the relationship? What if he really was just playing a game for the sake of playing a game?
Kaito wasn’t that cruel.
Or you were so lost in your wanting that while you laid yourself bare, Kaito was inventing a game, enjoying a new toy.
Saguru couldn’t afford to entertain such a thought. He couldn’t let himself fall prey to that paranoia.
“Make something up,” Saguru continued, careful not to let his voice bely his turmoil. “That’s all you’re doing right now, after all. Or, be honest and tell me what’s possessed you to try to force my hand.”
Kaito just kept smiling at him. He sighed, and Saguru wanted to hear a tremor in it, but he couldn’t tell if he he really did hear it, or if it was wishful thinking. “Have I ever really been honest with you?” Kaito seemed to wonder it aloud, nonchalant as ever. Saguru felt as if something inside of him, something integral, had snapped out of place. His own breath hitched. Kaito continued, “If you need me to say it, fine. I want you out of my life.”
This was someone who could make Saguru feel more strongly than anyone else he’d ever met. This was someone who could singlehandedly consume his mind and keep him occupied without even trying. Kaito--
His mind, his chest, his lungs, his heart—something inside of him was breaking, hemorrhaging. Have I ever really been honest with you? Static in his ears. Vision blurring. He can’t see you like this.
He wasn’t supposed to feel the need to hide away his weakness around Kaito. He wasn’t supposed to want to hide his hurt or crumple in on himself because of him. “I see how it is, then.” No, he didn’t. He couldn’t see a damn thing. He could feel himself losing this fight with himself, and he could hear the tremor he was so desperate to hide and he could tell Kaito wasn’t quite right—could tell that this was Kaito on the edge of a dangerous precipice—but trying to reach him wasn’t working and there was so much hurt and he could hardly breathe through it, let alone keep Kaito here, keep him grounded, make him see reason. Saguru couldn’t even manage that for himself right now. “Go, then. Get out.”
Saguru watched him stand, gaze vacant, and Kaito left.
When the sweet words and fevers all leave us right here in the cold,
Alone with the hard feelings of love
God, I wish I believed you when you told me this was my home
Chapter 2: Guess this is the Winter.
It wasn’t like Kaito to make a plan and then fall to pieces because of it.
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
Bet you wanna rip my heart out
Bet you wanna skip my calls now
Well, guess what? I like that
'Cause I'm gonna mess your life up
It wasn’t like Kaito to make a plan and then fall to pieces because of it. He let the air blow past and around him as he walked along the edge of the Mura Corporation Headquarters’ rooftop, a completely standard skyscraper lost among far more impressive ones in the Tokyo skyline. He didn’t care, he just needed the height. His glider mechanism—a black one he’d built himself, not the white one that would get him mistaken for Kaitou KID when he was just trying to be anonymous—was at the ready if he did take a wrong step, but he was never terribly worried about the odds when it came to tempting physics.
It was dark out—as dark as Tokyo ever really got, anyway. The sun had set and the neon lights illuminated the night-time. It would be hard for anybody to see him—a tiny spot of inconsistent darkness some hundred-odd meters up.
The busy city below and wind tugging at his clothes didn’t do nearly as much to distract him as he’d hoped they would. He continued his balancing act, one foot in front of the other. Saguru was probably at home and still licking his wounds, or maybe he’d gone out for a run to try and get out of his head. Kaito could imagine him with more clarity than he would have liked to admit: weighing the consequences of allowing himself maybe just a finger or two of whiskey, something to dull the edge of his mind and the aching Kaito had doubtlessly left him to handle on his own; giving in—or maybe not, and instead sending himself careening into some sort of task that would distract him. Something that’d ravage its way through his brain worse than Kaito had done himself.
Kaito needed to get him out of his head.
He leaned back onto a single heel, pivoted, relishing an airless moment where he almost lost enough ground to fall, but regained it by propelling himself upward and forward, landing and re-balancing on his other foot. Saguru would have hated the sight.
It was so hard not to think about him. Out of all of the ways he’d pushed the people who loved him away, this afternoon really took the cake. This was one of the worst cases of collateral damage he’d ever inflicted. He’d never heard Saguru quite that cold before. And that was saying something, because the guy had a remarkable poker face and he’d been beyond reserved through just about any trick Kaito had ever tried on him.
He’d also never seen the defenses slam down quite so abruptly. Like he’d tripped a silent alarm and Saguru had done everything in his power to ward out any subsequent intrusion or disturbance while he attended to the crisis at hand somewhere internal.
Kaito had employed his own defenses countless times, switching between masks easily as other people changed shirts. Feigned vapidity, irritable asshole, or enigmatic gentleman were his personal favorites, depending on what the situation called for, and he’d put them both up plenty of times when he couldn’t quite bring himself to deal openly—with Saguru or anybody else. The amount of times he’d retreated underneath a mask and locked all others out was uncountable. And this afternoon, he’d tried another mask on Saguru he’d never shown him—conniving deceit.
It had hurt, exactly like it was supposed to.
And he’d understood for the first time what it was like to see somebody vanish behind a mask. Bearing witness as Saguru retreated, rescinding any ounce of emotionality or tenderness he’d taken the time to lay out for Kaito to see, to know, only to be replaced by cold logic and apathy, the same way Kaito would turn to flippancy or vapid distraction when something hit too close to home—it made him realize just how isolating it could feel to be the one left out in the cold.
But this is what he’d wanted, right? He wanted Saguru to be the one to rip the bandage off. It would be easier, he had decided, to make Saguru want to call it quits, because otherwise Kaito would never be able to convince him that this was the way things had to go. If he’d just broken things off and done all the work himself, Saguru would see right through him, like he always did. But if Kaito made it hurt badly enough, Saguru would have plenty of reason to want to end the relationship himself, for his own good. It was better this way.
It was better. Kaito could focus on KID, on finding Pandora, on Snake and his lackeys like he was supposed to be doing this entire time. Saguru was someone who distracted from that. As much as Saguru might want to help him, letting him this close to everything was only giving Kaito more to worry about. Saguru was a liability—if he got hurt helping him at KID heists, Kaito could never forgive himself, never mind if worse happened. And even outside of the dangers of the gunmen on his tail, there was the complication of Saguru aiding and abetting a criminal while also working alongside law enforcement. At some point, that balance had to break, right? At some point, Saguru was going to have to drop this little endeavor or risk losing face at best, or at worst have his reputation completely ruined. And there was a lot of reputation there to destroy, that Kaito wasn’t sure Saguru could ever really socially recover from, not when he belonged to two prominent families. Would he be disowned? Would he just become the family source of shame? Would all his achievements seem to vanish into thin air? Would he ever be seen as credible again?
For being so future-minded, Saguru sure seemed to be keen on putting it all on the line, just for him, and Kaito couldn’t let him do that.
Even beside all that, Kaito couldn’t predict where this path would lead him. And if it was to some oblivion—though gods forbid he fail to achieve his goals before he breathed his last breath—he didn’t want Saguru to be around to see it happen. Kaito couldn’t bear to inflict that kind of loss on him. He never wanted to hurt someone the way his dad had hurt him and his mom, going out the way he had. If he pushed Saguru away now, then it wouldn’t hurt so much later. He hoped.
The wind picked up and Kaito neatly stepped off of the ledge of the skyscraper, giving way to the feeling of free-fall. He suspended himself in the sensation for a second before he triggered his glider.
Falling and then activating the glider was not the safest way to do things, but the plummeting pull of gravity gave him just the surge of adrenaline he had been hoping for. Something to drag him out of this pit. He grinned manically as the surge of air caught in his wings and brought him sharply upward.
The air, the night sky, the city lights—stark and cold and not nearly as comforting as they used to be. What would be comforting was coming home to find a certain detective had let himself in and was awaiting him, ready to welcome him home when he announced himself to what was normally empty air.
Kaito’s vision blurred.
He couldn’t think about what there was to miss. This was a long game he was playing as KID. He couldn’t let his dad down by getting distracted from the cause he had died for. He couldn’t forget he was trying to bring evil to justice, and keep dangerous power out of the wrong hands in the meantime. And Saguru wanted him to plan for a future where he finally wasn’t KID anymore. How was he supposed to even consider that when there wasn’t an end in sight? Sure, once upon a time he thought he’d have this whole thing sorted out before the end of high school and he could go about his life, become a stage magician, travel the world. But he couldn’t afford to be that carefree now. He was two years into this thing without gaining much ground at all. Graduation was just around the corner.
Distractions would only slow him down and put him and everybody danger.
Gods, it would be nice to just stop having to think about the danger, though. Stop thinking about anything that made him happy as possible collateral. But he’d already had Jii used against him, once, and he was lucky that had so far only happened the one time. He couldn’t afford to drop his caution just because he was tired. Just because Saguru made him happy, and his friendship with Aoko made him happy. He was comfortable and it was dangerous. But he was so tired of worrying about risks and thinking about how much genuine expression he could allow any one person to see before it was too much, too close.
Sometimes, he hated this quest more than anything. Things had been simple, once. The grief over losing his dad to a tragic accident was manageable. A total lie, but manageable. He’d been bored of school and of the prospects it offered him, but he hadn’t been scared out of his mind or losing himself in lie after lie after lie.
Saguru had given him a little bit of reprieve because he’d leveraged every crack in the mask that he could, strong-armed his way past every single lie or simply pretended they hadn’t existed. He’d pierced right into the truth of it, and Kaito had finally given in and let him stay.
But that had been a mistake. When Kaito was happy, he was distracted. He was too relaxed. And he couldn’t get anywhere when he was relaxed or comfortable. Of course he had to do something to put a stop to it.
But maybe he’d been too hurtful. Have I ever really been honest with you? That had been low. Maybe lower than the situation called for. Well—definitely more than the situation called for. Saguru hadn’t deserved to feel all that hurt. But the end justified the means. At the end of that conversation, Saguru wanted him gone.
It was for the best. Now, Kaito could focus. And Saguru would surely move on to bigger, better things without Kaito to weigh him down. Probably, high school will end and Saguru will leave the country again.
It was for the best.
Kaito angled his glider toward home.
It was time to plunge himself into planning the next heist and forget everything else.
Home was quiet and dim and empty. He pushed the door open and padded inside, gracelessly abandoning his shoes in the genkan and picking his way to the den, turning on the light as he entered.
“Hey, Oyaji, I’m home—” he greeted the portrait of his father on automatic at the same time he realized the kitchen light was on. In a single motion he dropped his collapsed glider and withdrew his cardgun.
“Welcome home,” called a familiar voice from the kitchen, sending his heart lurching into his throat. Footsteps approached and Kaito’s gaze flicked to a strategically placed family portrait, allowing him to effectively see around the corner of the wall separating the rooms. He could see Saguru’s reflection on the surface of the glass.
Saguru leaned out of the doorway to regard Kaito with an unreadable expression. Kaito kept the cardgun levelled his direction. What if this was an imposter? Saguru wouldn’t really be here, not after the conversation they had. His heartbeat surged in his ears and he kept his arm steady.
Whoever it was, he had the gall to roll his eyes. Kaito watched as he pinched the bridge of his nose, and then at the flesh of his cheek. And then, just in case that wasn’t enough to convince him: “I see that the makeup’s gone,” as his gaze went briefly to Kaito's neck.
So, it was Saguru.
Kaito wanted to scream in frustration. He couldn’t keep this up. He was raw, and tired, and his chest ached, and he couldn’t imagine trying to drive home the same act he’d been putting on earlier. He couldn’t bear the thought of trying again to lash out at Saguru. He’d put him through enough. What was Saguru’s deal with just walking right back into the thing giving him grief and causing him pain and needing to look it in the eye and understand it?
He put away his cardgun.
Kaito watched Saguru watching him and tried to school his expression into something more removed than the stress that was trying to claw its way to the surface.
Saguru smiled at him, but the expression was a reserved one, faraway and chilled. Then he turned on his heel and vanished back into the kitchen. Kaito heard the sound of water being poured out of the kettle and into cups.
When Saguru spoke next, his tone brooked no argument. “I hope you are ready to speak with me civilly.”
This is a bumpy spot for them. Things aren't quite okay yet. They're on their way, though...