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Dashed To Pieces

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Let him lay his head on my chest and we will be
like sailors, swimming in the sound of it, dashed to pieces.

 


 

He saw the blood before he saw the white suit. Splattered and spreading. Staining white to red.

He saw the suit before he saw the boy. Fabric torn and stained. Cape and glider supports strewn along the ground, separated from the rest of him and torn to pieces.

And at the heart of the wreckage: Kuroba Kaito. Or rather, Kaitou KID, though it was not easy to pretend to see him as anything other than Kuroba, with the hat fallen away and the monocle shattered on the ground beside his head. None of his flimsy disguise was in place to obscure his identity, so in the great showman’s place was only a broken teenage boy, injured and desperately trying to hold himself together.

Saguru rushed forward, mind racing to take inventory. His focus narrowed to pinpoint details, blotting out things like emotion, things like his heart roaring in his ears, things like his hands shaking. Instead: blood focused in the area of Kuroba’s right shoulder, still spreading, indicating an open wound. Wear and tear on the fine material of his clothing indicating friction from the crash landing. Chest heaving with irregular breathing patterns—possibly winded, possibly damage to the lungs. It wasn’t impossible that, if he had been shot, it had broken something—and if not that, then the fall had. One of the dangers of a break in the ribs was the potential for lung punctures.

Even without the risk of lung puncture, a gunshot wound to the shoulder posed several potential options that could lead to fatality.

Saguru wasn’t sure when he’d come to be upon his knees at the prone boy’s side. Kuroba looked at him with desperation and alarm, started to scrabble for something, reaching—but Saguru caught him by the wrist.

“Stop.” A voice said. His own voice. “I’m going to help you.”

It seemed clear at this distance that Kuroba had undoubtedly been shot in the shoulder. Whether it was lodged in his shoulder—amongst tissue tendons blood bone messy fragile biology—or had gone clean through to leave him with a gaping hole was another question altogether. Saguru wasn’t certain yet, and either option had its unique dangers and downsides.

If the axillary artery had been damaged, they had anywhere from no time at all to fifty-four minutes, based on the level of contact with the vein and how long ago the most recent gunshot had gone off. If it was bone that had taken the brunt of it, they had more time, but infection was a slow and terrible killer. And the blood did seem quite profuse.

Saguru probed the wounded area, and Kuroba jolted away—less out of conscious attempt to avoid Saguru’s touch, and more out of an automatic response of self-preservation, pain avoidance. Saguru stilled his hands—or tried to. They still shook, and no matter how he tried to force his motor control to bend to his will, he couldn’t quite keep the trembling at bay. Distantly, Saguru realized he could barely hear the sound of Kuroba’s labored breathing over the dull roar of his own heart.

Gingerly, he reached forward once more, trying to tug ruined fabric away to get a better look at the wound. Kuroba flinched, but didn’t jerk away this time. It was difficult to maneuver—Kaito had discarded his white suit jacket, but his button-down was still on. After failing to pull the fabric away from the wound to get a better look that way, Saguru reached to start unbuttoning Kuroba’s shirt. Neither of them spoke.

A crackling voice over Saguru’s radio made them both flinch. One of the task force officers, reporting they still hadn’t found any sign of KID or any gunmen.

Kuroba’s gaze locked with Saguru’s, expression one of distant wariness. His eyes were glassy, and Saguru wondered just how hard it was for him to stay conscious right now.

“You need medical attention—” Saguru started, wondering belatedly if he should give away Kuroba’s location. It occurred to him then, that was probably why Kuroba was looking at him like that. It wasn’t that Saguru wanted him exposed or arrested, but it wasn’t as if Saguru was a medical professional. He wasn’t…equipped to handle this.

“—No,” Kuroba all but snarled, his tone harsh with pain and urgency as he spoke through gritted teeth. His hand came up and gripped at Saguru’s wrist, halting him in his maneuvering of Kuroba’s shirt. Somehow, it was difficult for Saguru to track whether Kuroba had decided he wanted Saguru to stop helping, or whether he was responding to what Saguru had said. He faltered a moment, and Kuroba continued, “You can’t call the police. Or an ambulance. No.”

Saguru gathered his resolve and swallowed down what he realized was rising panic. He couldn’t dissolve now. He’d save that for later, when a life wasn’t on the line. “Fine. Let me see—” He hadn’t processed, really, what Kuroba had said yet, but he did ignore any other voices that rattled off on his radio. Saguru wasn’t even supposed to be out here, so it wasn’t as if anybody would be calling for him.

Shirt unbuttoned, he pushed it out of the way, trying to think past the sound of Kuroba’s pained hiss. Mutilated tissue, blood coating everything, Saguru still couldn’t figure out where specifically the injury was. Couldn’t be positive about the rate of blood loss or damage to the bone. It seemed like there wasn’t a bullet there, anymore. It seemed less like a clear hole—or at least, he couldn’t locate one in his cursory study—and more like there was something missing. Maybe it was a nasty graze. Considering the danger of striking the shoulder, it didn’t make Saguru feel much better.

He couldn't waste anymore time analyzing it, though. He had to take action. Wadding up the discarded suit jacket, he applied it with force against the wound. He tried not to watch Kuroba’s face as it contorted with the pain of it. Kuroba so rarely let anybody witness anything beyond his masks, but right now he had little choice in the matter, and Saguru would at least try to grant him what privacy he could.

He backtracked in his mind. His mental clock told him it was approximately 2:34 AM. Stepping back through the seconds that passed leading up to this point, he counted approximately one hundred—so a little under two minutes had passed. He tracked through the details. The blood—it was impossible to estimate exactly how much was lost. Even he struggled to quantify that—but it seemed like a lot. It felt like a lot, the way his hands were slick and sticky with it. Kuroba was still breathing. Still conscious. The words he’d said in the past nearly-two-minutes: ‘No,’ and the denial of police or medical personnel.

“Why,” Saguru began, and his voice still had that blasted faraway quality to his own ears, “shouldn’t I call an ambulance? You need professional medical attention.” He echoed his earlier sentiment for good measure. “And caught is better than dead, isn’t it?”

“—I’m as good as dead if I wind up in a hospital,” Kuroba ground out, with obvious effort.

“Because you’d be in custody—”

“Because they would know who I was as soon as hospital staff identified me and then whoever shot me would come finish the job,” Kuroba snapped. His words flowed out fast (like the blood seeping between Saguru’s fingers).

“Then. Well—then,” Saguru heard himself stammer, mind racing. Right. People wanted KID dead. That was why they were in this situation in the first place. The task force hadn’t located the gunman (men? There had been multiple gunshots, there could be multiple shooters). There was still a very real danger, running free as they spoke. Kuroba going to the hospital would mean exposing his identity. And of course, it was reasonable to assume that whoever shot him in the first place would have the resources to put things together from there.

Then, they should just ensure the captured KID had an armed police unit guarding him—but that wouldn’t work either, because who was to say if one of the task force members, or some other police officer, wasn’t dirty? Or what if someone infiltrated the nursing and medical staff? And even barring these more paranoid ideas—there wasn’t necessarily anything stopping KID’s assailants from targeting those close to him, once his identity was exposed.

Saguru understood, then. A hospital was not an option.

What, then? Saguru wasn’t going to stand by and let him bleed out. Not without—trying, at least. “I’m calling my driver,” Saguru blurted, the hand not applying pressure to Kuroba’s wound fumbling for his phone.

He had blood on both his hands, from when he wrestled with the buttons of Kuroba’s shirt. He was getting blood on his phone—he noticed it as he looked at the screen while dialing Baaya’s number.

“Who’re you—” Kaito started, and his speech slurred a little more than it had been before.

“—My driver,” Saguru repeated, haltingly. “My baaya, she can—” but then she answered the phone, and he stopped talking to the boy beneath him. “Baaya. There’s an alleyway. Block twenty-two. About a ten minute drive from the heist location. I need—”

“Are you hurt, Bocchama?”

“No—I’m not, but somebody is. I need your help. Please come to block twenty—”

“Twenty-two. Ten minutes from the heist site, you said. On the north side?”

“West,” Saguru corrected. “West side. Please, hurry.”

“I’ll be there in eight.” The beep signalling the end of the phone call. Saguru’s phone clattered back to the asphalt without further thought.

“I can’t go to a hospital,” Kaito stressed.

“No hospitals,” Saguru confirmed. The call with Baaya had steadied him, but he could feel the stability slipping again as he registered once more how the blood stained the white coat Saguru was using to help apply pressure, the way Kaito’s words bled together. “But my home has first aid materials, and Baaya knows a thing or two about stitching people up.”

Kaito didn’t immediately answer.

“Are you with me?” Saguru asked, his voice coming out more strained than he’d intended.

“…Yeah,” Kaito said. “Just. Hurts.”

“That’s good. If you’re still feeling it—that’s good.” At least, he could hope. Pain, hell though it was, could act as an anchor against the numbed lethargy that swept away the dying.

They lapsed back into silence, and that wasn’t good. Saguru needed to keep him here, keep him talking. He couldn’t afford to retreat into his own head while Kaito drifted off. Saguru floundered for some way to keep Kaito’s attention.

“Have you been shot before?” Saguru questioned. It was a weak line of conversation, but it was better than quiet.

Except, Kaito didn’t answer.

Kaito—” His voice shook, though he hadn’t intended it. Kaito’s eyes were glassy. Something about hearing his given name brought his focus forward again, though. Vivid blue locked on amber, and they both looked at each other.

Saguru felt a little like his heart was trying to claw its way out of his chest and up his throat. Kaito forced a smile. “—Hey. I’m here.” He didn’t even try to insist that he was KID, not Kaito.

Stay here. Stay with me. I just need you to hold on until help gets here.”

“What if…I can’t?”

Kaito’s voice was so small, Saguru could barely believe it. There was something like fear, there. He seemed a little more lucid, with the emotion showing in his voice like that, but Saguru worried it was quite the opposite. If Kaito were lucid, he’d be exerting any effort he could afford to spend on masking his feelings. But there was fear there, plain as anything. “I’m trying, but—what if. I don’t want Nakamori to—to find out. Not ever, but, especially not like this. And Aoko—” He cut off there, not like he was forced to stop, but like the line of thinking was something he couldn’t bear to pursue.

“You’re going to— You’ll make it through this. Baaya will be here in just seven more minutes, and then we will get you to my house, and we’ll take care of this—”

Your house—?” and the relief Saguru felt at hearing Kaito respond with incredulity was tangible. “This is just some ploy, isn’t it, you’re gonna—” Kaito took a shuddering, gasping breath, pain rattling him as he tried and failed to pull out from under the weight Saguru was applying to his shoulder.

“—Kaito, stop it—”

“You’re going to try to arrest me,” Kaito slurred, but had the good sense to stop trying to pull away.

“You’ve already made it clear that arresting you is as good as killing you,” Saguru reminded him. “And anyway, I have no interest in seeing you behind bars. I—haven’t had any such interest for a long time.”

“Sure,” Kaito muttered.

This was a line of discussion that Kaito seemed capable of focusing on, at least. Wait—when had he started thinking of him by his given name?

Well, Kaito didn’t seem to mind, yet. And considering the circumstances…he could resume propriety at a later date. This situation was a dire one, and a lapse in his manners was hardly unforgivable.

“I mean it,” Saguru muttered. In the back of his head, he continued to keep count of seconds as well as he could. Hopefully Baaya would be able to make good on her promise and make it here as quickly as she thought she would. “Arresting you, getting you imprisoned—I want no part in that. And anyway, I’m not an officer. I lack the authority.”

“You’re—you’re literally on the task force in charge of catching me—him.”

“But my job isn’t catching KID. My job is anticipating KID. And trying to understand him and his motivations. I’m a detective, not an officer. Even if it was my job to arrest y—KID—I wouldn’t have interest in doing it.”

“…Why not?” Kaito asked. There was a delay there, as he processed what Saguru said. Saguru wondered how much of that was blood loss versus simple shock that Saguru wouldn’t want to arrest him.

“What damage is KID doing, really? Other than the pride of those who chase him, I fail to see who or what he’s hurting when I examine his typical modus operandi. KID doesn’t even properly steal, everything gets returned.”

“Property damage?” Kaito tried.

“Alright, so perhaps KID will have to be fined for property damage. I have a hard time seeing that as an offense worth jailing over. Especially knowing that landing you behind bars would put you in harm’s way. But even without that threat…putting KID behind bars Is so far outside my interests it isn’t even on the radar.”

“What’s the point of—” He hitched, stumbling over his words and trailing into a stifled, whimpered noise. Labored breathing, and then he resumed. “—trying to figure everything out if you don’t even want to use it, then?” His words, strained, slurred, but deliberate and colored with disbelief.

“There’s more to all of this than just…KID and his heists, though, isn’t there? I mean. You’ve been shot, Kaito. You’ve been shot, because somebody wants you dead. Wants KID dead.” And the fact Kaito wasn’t cutting in, still wasn’t working very hard to keep the line drawn, terrified Saguru. Just as much as the way Kaito’s breath shuddered, the way his body shook, the pallor of his skin. He wasn’t fighting to keep the distinction in place, and it made Saguru wonder if Kaito really thought this was the end. “Whatever KID’s goals, there is something out there much worse than a thief who returns what he steals, and KID seems to directly oppose whatever or whoever that is. I’m more interested in understanding that,” Saguru finished.

Kaito was quiet. Saguru hoped he was mulling over what he was saying, rather than drifting off.

Five more minutes until Baaya arrived. Saguru hoped.

“You don’t make any sense, Hakuba,” Kaito rasped. His eyes slid closed and Saguru’s chest spasmed with panic.

“Kaito, Kaito, please, don’t—” He was stumbling over his own pleas.

With visible effort, Kaito’s eyes pushed back open. Saguru could imagine easily the way Kaito’s vision blurred as he strained against the heavy exhaustion that accompanied blood loss.

“Relax,” Kaito muttered, as if he himself wasn’t terrified. As if he wasn’t bleeding out on the ground in the small hours of the morning after getting shot by some unknown gunman who wanted him dead. Kaito’s left hand—his uninjured side—scrubbed over his face. “Why are you so—why are you helping me like this, anyway?”

Saguru had no idea how to field that question. Why wouldn’t he? Kaito was someone in need of help. He was hurt. Even if Saguru didn’t harbor any positive feelings for him, he was still deserving of help, especially in a situation as dire as this.

What if this was the last conversation they were ever going to have?

The thought left Saguru cold.

“Hello? Earth to Hakuba. I’m… the one bleeding here, wh—what’s your excuse?” Saguru tried not to dwell on how unfocused, distant, labored Kaito sounded when he spoke. He did not succeed in the endeavor.

Four more minutes.

“—Because I care about you, Kaito. I care about you. You’re my—friend—and even beyond that, I care for you. You matter to me.” Hell, he loved him. Or—something like it. Saguru had resigned himself to keeping the feelings to himself indefinitely, because nothing between them would ever have the opportunity to go anywhere even if Kaito could return his feelings. It was too messy, too impossible, and Kaito was unreachable. Saguru had known there was never a way he would be able to reach him and be able to expect Kaito to come anywhere close to reciprocating.

Kaito looked past him, and Saguru watched his expression flicker briefly into a perplexed frown. “I…” Then, his eyelids fluttered. Saguru’s breath caught in his throat and he applied pressure more heavily in a feeble attempt to anchor him to consciousness. Kaito flinched at the pain, his brow furrowing as he dragged himself back. He was fading.

Gods, he was fading.

“I need you to be alright, Kaito, because I don’t—I don’t know what I’ll do, if you aren’t. When I moved back—” Saguru hated the way his voice was shaking, the way emotion seeped in unbidden. He desperately tried to hold eye contact with Kaito. The other boy was gripped with a bone-deep weariness, he could see it in the glassy sheen of his blue eyes. “When I moved back, I had no idea things would go the way they have. I never knew someone could challenge me the way you do. These months in Japan, chasing KID, have been some of the best, even if also the most exhausting.”

“Huh…” Kaito murmured, and then trailed off.

They were nearing two more minutes until Baaya’s estimated arrival time, now.

Kaito’s eyes fluttered closed.

“Kaito—” Saguru started, but there was no response. Kaito’s breathing was shallow and weak. Saguru’s own breath felt like it came a little shorter in response. With his free hand, Saguru scrambled for Kaito’s pulse, pressing his index finger to the inside of Kaito’s wrist.

It was still there, but it was so faint.

The seconds slipped and slid around him, after that, because instead of counting seconds he was counting heartbeats, and panic made it a challenge to keep a consistent grip on the moments as they passed. Couldn’t focus beyond pressure and heartbeat and please, please stay—

Footsteps sounded behind him. Saguru felt every one of his muscles tense, mentally rifling through all he had ever learned of self defense, of disarming an enemy at close range, at mitigating the damage done to himself should he not act quickly enough to avoid it entirely. He angled his gaze over his shoulder.

Baaya.

“Bocchama,” she started, and Saguru felt his body sag with relief, felt the urge to collapse grip him. He just barely fought through it. It was too early for relief—Kaito was still steadily dying, and he couldn’t yet be sure it wasn’t already too late to pull him back from the brink. He released Kaito’s wrist, but maintained the pressure on his shoulder.

“I’m going to put him in the back seat. I need you to drive us to the Nerima house.”

If Saguru tried to think on the moments transpiring between the alleyway and now, suspended, waiting, everything came to him in a blur. It wasn’t that he couldn’t remember.

Hands slicked with blood. The bathroom. A ruined old futon on the tiled floor. The drive. The transfer. Kaito coming awake at some point, but not in any lucid way. Just awake enough that his eyes had opened, making sounds of pain, before lapsing back to a dead sort of quiet. Shaking hands working at the wound.

No, he could remember just fine. It was the chronology that was a mess. Every detail, every fractured moment, all at once. Calling back to any one instant brought the entire onslaught back to flood him, but he couldn’t stop thinking back.

Saguru couldn’t help but wonder if he’d made the right choice. Taking the matter of Kaito’s life into his own hands, agreeing not to bring him to a medical professional. In this tortuous, stretching quiet, it was impossible not to extrapolate on every choice he made, and compare it against the ‘could haves,’ the ‘should haves’.

What if he had notified authorities? Couldn’t he have brought Inspector Nakamori into the matter and made him understand? They could have arranged for a protective unit to keep Kaito safe. An idealistic notion, perhaps, and less than ideal for preserving Kaito’s identity. Fine, then Saguru could have at least thought to ask Kaito what contacts he had. He knew KID had an accomplice. It should have occurred to him to see if they might have been able to get ahold of that accomplice, or some other contact. Someone with more experience than Saguru.

Baaya had walked him through some of the process, this being yet another of the plethora of things she seemed to know a thing or two about, but coaching only accomplished so much, and at this point his hands were nimbler than hers once were.

Now, she was resting, because there was little else she could do for him and she’d already been up late waiting for him to finish up with the heist. She wouldn’t have left him alone with his thoughts like this, but he urged her to rest, and promised to get her if he needed anything else. So now it was just him, on the floor and leaning against the edge of the bath, hovering over Kaito’s still body, waiting for him to awaken.

They didn’t have the materials for a transfusion, and Saguru couldn’t help but wonder if they should have made arrangements to stop by the labs. Technically speaking, although it would raise questions, Saguru did have the means to obtain blood and the necessary tools, but getting Kaito medical attention had been so time sensitive, and Saguru didn’t want to cart Kaito into Hakuba labs when it could endanger him.

The possibilities were endless and it was agonizing to cycle through all the things he could have done differently. He studied the unconscious Kaito on the floor, and tried to steer his thoughts away from the things that could have happened differently. The futon he was on was ruined. They’d have to dispose of it. Get it burned. Saguru hoped against a terrible dread that it was the only thing he would have to worry about disposing of by the time tonight was over.

Saguru wished Kaito would just wake up, come back to lucidity. He wished he wasn’t in the middle of this nightmare. He checked his watch. There was blood caked underneath his fingernails he hadn’t yet succeeded at scrubbing away.

It was 3:19 AM. Forty-six minutes since he made the call. Saguru began to attempt to piece together the night’s fragments.

Sometime between 2:40 and 2:42, Kaito had lost consciousness for the first time. He had been in and out once they were in transport, incoherent with pain, shock, delirium. Saguru couldn’t recall with any certainty if Kaito was awake when he was first moved to the bathroom. He did remember vividly the pained keening when he got at the injury in earnest.

He couldn’t seem to assign a timestamp to that stretching agony.

By the time the wound was clean, the bleeding stopped and the residual carnage cleared away, Kaito was silent and asleep once more. How long it took to get to that point wasn’t clear—Saguru didn’t know how long he’d been sitting in this stillness. How long he’d spent trying to shed the bloody remnants off of his person. He remembered with a stark sort of clarity that he had caught his own reflection and seen blood on his cheek, on his shirt, on the ends of his sleeves, against his pant leg. That shirt was in the corner of the room now, along with KID’s bloodstained clothes, leaving Saguru in just his trousers and his undershirt, and Kaito completely bare-chested, save for the fresh bandaging.

 The seconds kept ticking by, and the silence stretched.

Impossibly, Saguru found himself waking up. At some point, the exhaustion must have pulled him under. The entire length of his spine ached from the uncomfortable position. He squeezed his eyes shut against the artificial light of the bathroom’s ceiling fixture. A sound Saguru couldn’t make sense of dragged him to alertness. Saguru straightened, and remembered Kaito’s presence. His chest tightened at the memory of uncertainty, and he struggled for breath as he cursed himself for drifting off when he’d meant to keep an eye on the other boy.

Turning his attention to Kaito, Saguru realized the noise he heard was the sound of Kaito gripping the countertop and trying to heave himself to his feet—and failing.

Shit,” Kaito muttered under his breath, seeming to give up the endeavor in favor of gripping at his shoulder.

“Hey,” Saguru spoke with urgency, moving to stand. “Don’t leave, you’re still hurt—”

“‘M not. Okay? I’ll stay.” He held himself rigidly, leaned against the cabinets for support.

Saguru paused in his movement, having shifted into a crouch, faltered, and sat back down. He wasn’t sure whether to be relieved or concerned by how little fight Kaito gave against that demand. “—Thank you,” Saguru said, brow furrowing in worry after a moment.

They were suspended in tense silence. It was as if they were right at the precipice of something greater, the events of the night looming over their heads.

There wasn’t really any coming back from this. Saguru had found Kaito as KID in the aftermath of the heist, brought him back, and patched him up. There was no disguise to hide behind at this point, no alibi that could clear the air.

Never mind the fact that Saguru had essentially spilled the contents of his heart last night without a single thought toward the consequences.

Everything was in the open. Neither of them knew how to face it. They lapsed to quiet, not quite looking at each other. Saguru checked his watch: 4:59 AM.

When Kaito broke the silence, Saguru nearly jumped. “—Did you really mean it?”

Saguru hesitated. “Which part do you mean?” he asked, as if every breath of what he’d said hadn’t been the purest version of the truth.

“You aren’t going to turn me in?” Kaito asked, testingly. Saguru cast his gaze Kaito’s way, and realized Kaito was studying him out of the corner of his eye. They both looked away.

“I meant what I said,” Saguru affirmed. “I wouldn’t lie about something like that, Ka—Kuroba-kun. I have no intention of seeing you arrested.”

Kaito seemed to mull that over, and Saguru’s insides were churning. He still feared that a wrong move would result in Kaito leaving, even though he was in no position to go anywhere right now. If Saguru tipped the balance too far, Kaito would surely flee, even if it meant worsening his injury in the process.

In that case, inaction was better than a misstep, so Saguru let the conversation fall by the wayside again. He closed his eyes, but behind the backs of his eyelids saw blood, Kaito’s injured shoulder, spreading red. His hands felt sticky. He opened his eyes to look at them: clean, save for his fingernail beds. He’d need to revisit those. He needed a shower. Needed to clean away the remnants of that horrible scene.

At least Kaito was alive and breathing and functional again. Horrible and terrifying as last night was, Saguru at least knew that Kaito was in the clear, now.

“Hey, Hakuba,” Kaito said, interrupting his train of thought. Saguru’s attention snapped back up to him. “Thanks.” He spoke haltingly, like he wasn’t sure how to approach this sort of thing. “For helping me. And for listening, when I told you not to call an ambulance. It must have been hard for you, last night. So. Thank you.”

“Of course,” Saguru said effortlessly. “I’m just glad you’re breathing and in one piece.”

“…Yeah,” Kaito said, and he sounded far away, reflective.

Saguru wondered what was on his mind. After a moment’s pause, he decided to ask just that. “What is it?”

For a heartbeat, Kaito looked caught. He seemed uncertain of how to answer, even though the question was open-ended and easily deflected. Kaito seemed to discern a plan of action, because the open expression was replaced with a smirk, and Saguru was certain then that Kaito was closing off. All the better, probably. Their status quo had been thrown off long enough—it was for the best they did what they could to restore it.

“So, you ‘care about me,’ huh?”

It felt as if the floor had gone out from under him.

“I—” How was he supposed to answer that? What was Kaito looking for?

Was this Kaito’s way of trying to get Saguru to back out? To say he hadn’t meant everything that he said? Was this antagonistic needling, or was it a subtle nod toward an exit strategy? Kaito waited for his response expectantly.

Saguru thought he might have surprised them both when he said, “I do. I care about you perhaps more than is strictly appropriate.”

Kaito wasn’t the only one who had something thrust out into the open that he would have preferred to keep to himself for as long as he could. Saguru’s was worlds easier to take back, and Kaito had even granted him the opening to do so—assuming Saguru had interpreted him correctly—but to take that opening would be unfair, no matter how much easier it would be.

Kaito was dumbstruck. Saguru didn’t look at him for long, instead turning his gaze toward the bathroom door.

“It doesn’t need to matter. But I will not rescind what I said. I do care about you, Kuroba-kun. I—and many others—would be devastated to lose you, to KID’s antics or otherwise.”

“—Oh. Uh. Well—”

Saguru cut him off, “Like I said. It doesn’t have to matter. It doesn’t change anything. I—selfishly—wanted to speak openly, in case you…well. We don’t need to discuss it further—”

“I was going to say, if you’re going to be that forward with me, you might as well call me by my first name, Saguru.”

Saguru’s mind stuttered to a halt. Not even an honorific. Just Saguru.

Suddenly, he wasn’t so sure where they stood. The balance was off, and Kaito let things shift even further off kilter, like he wanted to see how things fell, rather than backpedal out of the discussion altogether.

A tension hung around them. Kaito cut right through it. “Anyway, what time is it?”

“Oh.” Saguru let himself gain ground, and picked up his pocket watch. He had dropped it, the last time he looked at it, rather than put it away. “Five o’ six.”

“Huh. School’s soon.” Kaito adjusted how he was sitting, like he was thinking about getting to his feet but hadn’t yet decided whether he wanted to try again. Saguru imagined the task seemed Herculean, even if it was his shoulder that was hurt, rather than his legs.

“In three hours and twenty-four minutes, yes,” Saguru agreed. “But there is no way you’re attending. You need rest, Kaito-kun.” Saguru met Kaito’s incredulous gaze, arched a brow at him. “You think you’ll be able to keep up with Aoko-san when you’re like this? Anyway, I’m exhausted, and somebody needs to keep track of you, so I’ll be skipping too.”

Kaito spluttered, but he seemed to resign himself to his fate, or else he would dig up some rebuttal—or just leave, regardless of what Saguru had to say in the matter. Saguru rose to his feet, and offered a hand to Kaito, so that Saguru could do most of the work in easing him back up. Kaito planted his feet, and took Saguru’s hand with his good one, and Saguru pulled him up.

He lingered in Kaito’s space until he was sure Kaito was steady, just in case. Blood loss was a hell of a way to find oneself unbalanced and woozy. Regardless of the time that had passed, Saguru was sure the other was still recovering from the effects.

After a moment, Kaito surprised Saguru by taking advantage of his nearness. Although he hadn’t swayed upon standing, he took hold of Saguru’s arm (ungloved hand touching bare skin—this was perhaps the closest touch they had ever shared, and Saguru knew it was nothing but his head spun anyway). Saguru didn’t comment on the proximity, and simply took appreciation in Kaito deeming him someone trusted enough to rely upon.

“I’ll show you to a guest room,” Saguru offered, certain Kaito still wanted to rest. “And we’ll find you something more comfortable than…” and he gestured, mostly at the white slacks Kaito still wore.

“…That sounds good,” Kaito said, after a moment. He seemed a little like he was deep in thought. Saguru wondered again what was going through Kaito’s mind, but he didn’t inquire this time. There had been enough questions asked, tonight.

“Hey,” Kaito said.

“Hm?”

“Thanks again, Saguru.”

There was a lot Saguru would have to take care of. He needed to clean himself off, needed to check on Kaito’s wounds, needed to ask Baaya to help him call in sick for class. He’d have to touch base with Inspector Nakamori and apologize for his disappearance from the heist during the search. Not to mention the paperwork.

But for now, he could at least take solace in knowing that Kaito was okay. That Kaito was here, with him, and perhaps even trusted him. Everything felt a little less daunting now, in the dim morning light.