Fandom: Detective Conan
Characters: Kaito/Aoko (General series)
Word Count: 1998 words
Author's Notes: I do not own Detective Conan. It all belongs to Gosho Aoyama. I simply borrow the characters, tie them up, and dance them around like life-sized puppets. I do wish they’d stop complaining.
Summary: I wish she would start playing again. I miss listening to it… Kaito/Aoko
“So what’s the plan for this afternoon?” Kaito asked as they walked towards the stairs. School was out, and he was on his way out of there with Aoko and Hakuba—Aoko had invited the detective along, and Kaito had agreed with no issues. After all, having Hakuba around meant that he had two people to tease instead of just one, and that was double the fun for his money!
“I vote ice cream,” Aoko offered. This was a well-received suggestion, and thus the plan was formed.
But at the top of the staircase, Hakuba paused and looked towards an open classroom door, a room he was not familiar with. “What’s in there?”
Aoko took a look. “Oh—that’s the music room.”
“I haven’t seen it,” he commented. “Is it all right if we go in?”
It apparently was, for they wandered in. The room was empty; no one was practicing there. There was a piano in the middle of the room, and various pieces of sheet music and other paraphernalia were scattered about. It looked relatively normal, all things considered.
Aoko walked in and strolled over to the piano. “I haven’t been in here in a long time, actually,” she commented. One of her hands reached down and touched the uncovered piano keys, dragging across the smooth white surface.
Hakuba watched curiously as she ran her fingers over the ‘ivories,’ as piano keys were sometimes called, and asked, “Aoko-san? Do you play the piano?” She had never mentioned it, but she seemed familiar with such a motion…
To his surprise, she jumped—and shook her head quickly. “No—no, I don’t. I used to, but…I don’t.” She closed the piano lid with a loud thunk and hurried to the door, grabbing her bag on the way.
“Aoko, wait!” Kaito called after her, but she was already out the door.
Hakuba turned to his classmate, concerned. “Did I say something wrong?”
Kaito shook his head. “Not really, no. But…well, Aoko used to play the piano.”
“She did?” Hakuba was reasonably surprised. “I did not know that.”
“Not many people do. That’s because she hasn’t played in years,” Kaito explained, wandering over to stand by the piano. He lifted the lid with one hand and touched the keys. “Not since her mother died.”
Kaito pressed one key, and the note sounded into the otherwise-quiet room. “When Aoko’s mom got sick, at first things weren’t too bad—there were treatments, but she kept up with everything. But after a while she got so sick that she couldn’t even climb the stairs on her own. So she spent a lot of time on the couch in the living room—which was conveniently near the piano. Aoko would hurry home after school every day to help out around the house…and she would play the piano for her mother.”
He could remember those afternoons, sprawled on the floor of her living room, listening to the strains of music drift through the house. His favorite was always “The Entertainer.” Aoko’s mother was sitting above him, the window behind her. She was smiling as she listened to her daughter play, though her smile had grown sadder and sadder every time he saw her.
“Eventually things took a turn for the worst,” he went on. “And she lost the battle. We were eleven when her mom died. And Aoko hasn’t played the piano since. Not a note.”
Hakuba’s eyes were wide. “I had no idea.”
Kaito nodded. “It seemed like a very long winter that year…” He remembered standing out in the snow with his mother at the funeral. Aoko stood with her father; she had been crying a lot, and he hadn’t known what to do to make it better. None of the usual things worked. Granted, he knew all too well how it felt to lose a parent, and how hard it was to smile afterwards…
It had been a long time before she had started to act like herself again. His memory of the first time she had smiled after her mother’s death was especially clear. But she rarely talked about her mom.
He gave himself a shake and threw Hakuba a sheepish smile. “Sorry. Got lost in a memory.” He sighed. “But I really wish she would start playing again. I miss listening to it…she was really good.”
The conversation ended when they heard a sound from the door, like someone clearing their throat. They turned; Aoko was standing there, looking faintly uncomfortable. “Are we going for ice cream?” she asked softly.
Kaito was immediately all smiles. “I want chocolate!” His cheer seemed to relax her, and the three made their way down the stairs and out of the school in search of frozen goodies. Not another word was said between them about the incident in the music room over their sundaes.
After saying goodbye to Hakuba, Kaito and Aoko made their way towards their own homes. It was getting dark, and so Kaito was playing the gentleman and making sure she got home safely before he headed to his own house.
Kaito had waited until they were alone to ask. “So…how long were you outside the music room?”
Aoko’s smile faded a bit. “Long enough to get the picture.” She looked away. “You told him?”
“Was that bad? I didn’t think it was a secret or anything…” he said. Suddenly he was worried that he might have overstepped a boundary. He certainly hadn’t intended to do so. He hadn’t thought that it was a completely taboo topic—it was just something that they rarely talked about, for obvious reasons.
“No, no,” Aoko waved a hand. “I guess he just caught me off-guard, and I overreacted. If anything, I’m sort of glad you told him. Means that I didn’t have to.” She let out a little laugh that somehow sounded very sad.
“Aoko…have you thought about starting to play the piano again?” Kaito asked perhaps a little too casually, swinging his school bag behind his head and holding onto it with both hands.
“Why would I do that?” she asked just as casually; her posture grew a bit more tense. “I haven’t played in so long. I’m way out of practice. It would sound horrible. Why would I subject anyone to that?”
“Because it’s been a long time…and you were really, really good at it,” he replied; with every sentence that passed between them, his impression that he was touching on something very, very bad grew. “And I miss hearing you play. I liked listening to it.”
“Well, I’m sorry, but I don’t play anymore!” she snapped, suddenly irate. “It’s in the past, now leave it be!” She stormed ahead, her empty hand balling into a fist at her side.
Kaito trailed behind for a few moments, then quickened his pace to catch up, slowing down again when his stride and hers matched. “I’m sorry…but I’m not,” he said. “I’m sorry that I keep poking at a touchy subject…but I’m not sorry because it makes me sort of sad that you gave it up.”
“You know why I stopped playing,” she said, her anger gone; it had been replaced by sadness.
Aoko looked up towards the darkening sky and sighed. “You know…it always amazed me that you could keep doing your magic after your father died. I couldn’t figure out how or why you managed. I guess I would have thought it would be too painful.”
“It did hurt for a while,” he said. “Even that trick I always do for you, with the rose…” He pulled a rose out of thin air and handed it to her, “…took me a long time before I could even manage that much.”
Even after years of seeing that trick and being presented with the flower, she still blushed at the rose. “But you did it.” She studied the delicate petals. “You’re just that much stronger than me.”
“There are different types of strength, Aoko. Yours isn’t any less than mine. Just different.”
They were heading up the sidewalk towards her house. The absence of a car in the driveway meant that the place was probably empty, and there was no harm in him hanging around for a little while. Aoko unlocked the door and stepped aside to let him in before she closed the door behind him and locked it. When she turned back from the door, Kaito was standing very close to her, his hands in his pockets.
“K-Kaito?” she pressed back against the door, eyes widening in surprise.
“You loved music. You still do. Just like how I am with magic,” he said softly. He was rarely this serious, and when he was, it was impossible to give him anything less than one’s undivided attention. “I think you’re still a little scared of the memories it might bring back. But when Dad and I would practice magic together…those were the moments when we were closest. I think it’s the same for you. Playing the piano for your mother while she was sick…you did it to make her happy. It kept you close to her.”
He reached up and brushed a stray strand of her bangs aside. “Whatever happens, you won’t know unless you give it a try, will you?” He straightened, a shadow of his normal smile securely back on his face. “I’m going to go find something edible. Then…maybe study?”
Aoko nodded, and watched while he bounced away. He knew his way around the place; he would rustle something up, no problem. But his words were still running through her head, especially the part about feeling closer to her mother through her music. It was true, but…
The music had left her when her mother had died.
…or had it?
For the first time in many years, her fingers were itching to feel the ivories beneath them.
Slowly, like one in a trance, Aoko walked to the old piano. It still stood there, just as it always had. She wondered if her father had kept it all this time in the hopes that she would start playing again. With shaky hands, she lifted the lid. It had been so long…the instrument would be horrendously out of tune, and if anything played on it sounded even remotely like a melody, it would be a miracle…
She sank onto the piano bench. Her fingers traced over the keys. Middle C was always so easy to find: go to the first letter of the manufacturer’s name on the front, and go down from that to the white key set beside the two black keys. On a whim, she pressed the key, and listened to the sound.
…she wasn’t going to be able to play anything of any actual worth on this, would she? Certainly not after so much time, unless her muscles had exceptionally good memory. But…what was the piece she had played so often…the one Kaito had always liked so much…
Aoko glanced through the music inside the bench, and found the song she was trying to remember. It was an American piece, very pleasant to listen to, called “The Entertainer.” Kaito had always pestered her to play that one. He said he liked the sound of it; it made him think of a circus performance.
The music was old and worn, but still very legible, and she set it on the piano and stared at it for a moment before lowering her hands to the keys, slowly trying to find each of the notes in the first chord. This was a fool’s errand, but somehow…
“It kept you close to her.”
Maybe Mom would help her…
In the kitchen, Kaito was just pouring two mugs of tea when he heard the piano start to play a familiar melody. He stopped to listen, already feeling himself smile at the sound of it. There was an error, a pause, another false start and another pause, and then…
PS. Rationale for this was that Kaito and Akako both have magic, Hakuba has mysteries (and falconry), Shinichi has soccer, Heiji has kendo, Ran has karate, and Kazuha has aikido. Of all the DC/MK characters, it seems like Aoko’s the only one without a special talent or activity (unless you count her trusty mop). So…I decided to give her music, since no one in this series seems to do it. Hope it came across as believable. Thanks for reading, all! Much love!