Notes and disclaimers: This is my first Kaitou Saint Tail fanfic! The characters of Asuka Jr., Kaitou Saint Tail, et al., are the property of Kodansha, Tachiwaka Megumi and TMS. I am just borrowing them for a little romantic adventure.

This story is rated G, and will offend no-one unless you are unreasonably puritanical. But you might need to brush your teeth after reading it. :-)  The story, Love Song, follows this one.

I'd like to dedicate this story to my editor, beta-reader, foot massager and general all-around most important person. (I just want to ask you one question - do you like my story?)

I'd love to hear from you if enjoy this.          

                                                                                                    by Stirling Twilight

 

 

The Opera House Emeralds

 

Floating above the action Saint Tail looked back in time to see Asuka Jr. running towards the end of the balcony, calling out, as usual, for her to wait. She smiled and bid him adieu, feeling triumphantly happy. The stolen emerald necklace was safely tucked in her pocket and it appeared that her escape was assured. A sudden movement behind him drew her attention however. What she saw, and the young detective didn’t, was the man who had also tried to steal the emerald necklace, rushing towards him from the French doors of the opera house.

"Behind you!" she screamed, and was relieved that he took her at her word and turned; but too late. The man rushed him, planting his head against the small of Asuka Jr.’s back, and the impact, and no doubt the surprise, made Asuka Jr. cry out. The momentum carried the two of them forward and Saint Tail saw Asuka Jr.’s head crack, face first, onto the marble. She felt herself screaming, but she had no idea if she was screaming words or not. She was totally helpless. The man looked up at her with an anger that made her draw back and suck in her breath. Gripping the bloody and unconscious Asuka Jr. by the lapels the man heaved him to his feet, and then pitched the young detective over the balcony.

"I’ll drop him, I swear I will!" the man yelled, shaking her limp classmate.

Saint Tail hesitated, looking at the drop. Surely, if awake, it would be no problem for Asuka Jr. but in the state he was in she was unsure how much damage he would suffer. In the distance she could hear the sounds of police approaching, but wasn’t convinced of the timing. Would they make it in time? Could she stall him?

With her free hand she conjured her wand.

"Don’t move!" the man bellowed angrily. "One more move and I’ll let go."

Again she hesitated, uncertain.

"Now," he continued, "Drop the necklace, there, in that bush!"

Looking down she saw a potted shrub. The sounds of police cars were getting closer, but not close enough. The wand puffed from her hand, and slowly she reached into her pocket, drawing out the necklace, and held it so he could see it. It twinkled, star-like, in her hand.

"Put him on the balcony and I’ll drop it" she called.

"If you don’t, you won’t get a second chance girlie," the man hissed. He pulled Asuka Jr. onto the railing, and she, aiming as best she could, let the necklace slip from her hand. It fell, glittering like a tiny comet that was extinguished by the small tree.

With a triumphant shout the man dropped Asuka Jr. onto the balcony, and leapt over the edge. He easily landed on his feet and ran for the bush. Saint Tail saw him grab the necklace and escape into the darkness.

Moving swiftly she conjured the wand, and flung it, with a trailing wire, to the balcony. She quickly counted aloud to three and felt the wire begin to retract, causing her to glide back to the balcony. Leaping down she tethered the balloons to the wire and ran to Asuka Jr.’s side.

Even as she neared Saint Tail could see he was stirring. Dropping to her knees the petit thief fought off a desire to cradle him in her arms. His face was awash with blood, but the cut on his head did not look bad. She quickly ripped part of the tuxedo tail off her jacket and tied it around his head, making sure to cover his eyes. The detective moaned gently as she lifted his head, but made no other motions. She didn’t notice the hot tears sliding down her cheeks until they splashed onto his face. This was her fault. If she hadn’t sent him the challenge he would be home safe in bed.

"Saint Tail," he whispered softly, "Saint Tail, you came back…"

She bent over him, quickly brushing away tears. "You shouldn’t talk," she whispered gently, laying a hand on his chest. "Please don’t move. The police will be here in a moment. You’re hurt," she was babbling and she knew it.

Suddenly his arms were around her, and in direct contradiction to that action he began, "You should go. Don’t let anyone catch you," his arms slipped off, "No one but me," he whispered, and was unconscious again.

The sound of running feet made her pause, and then grimly decide. Rising she ran to the balloons, but found the wand so wrapped up in the rail that there was no time to retrieve it. She hated leaving it…

"Saint Tail!" came an angry voice from behind her. Gasping in alarm, the thief grabbed the balloons, and leapt into the air. She recognized the voice as Asuka Jr.’s father, and heard the panic in it. As she once again rose into the night sky she heard him yelling for someone to call an ambulance, but she dare not look back, she was still too close. Tears came again, and for the moment she allowed herself the luxury of them.

***

The next day in school was not at all what Meimi expected. She had imagined, the whole sleepless night, that Asuka Jr. would be proudly displaying not only the wounds received during the battle against Saint Tail, but the trophy wand she had left behind as well. She was sure his wound wasn’t bad enough to keep him home, so she little doubted he’d be very full of himself.

The Asuka Jr. that sat at his desk, however, surrounded by his usual group of friends, was as somber as Meimi was. Several people commented to her about her low spirits, and she had tried to smile, but the action was automatic, and not heart felt. She excused herself as best she could, and generally remained quiet. Seira had looked at her, and decided to leave any questions until much later.

"Did she really fail?" someone asked Asuka Jr., a giggle evident in the question. "She must be losing her touch!" This comment was followed by several laughs. Meimi felt herself sinking even lower, until Asuka Jr. jumped to his feet, howling in rage.

"She didn’t fail! She didn’t! I did," he finished softly, flopping back into his chair, gripping his bandaged forehead. "If I hadn’t gotten in the way none of this would have happened. If I had been paying attention..." he didn’t finish his thought aloud.

Meimi saw his head droop, and felt a hand on her own. Startled she looked up, into Seira’s eyes. Nothing was said between the two girls, but then nothing was needed. Meimi truly smiled for the first time that day and relaxed a bit. Rising, she moved closer to Asuka Jr.

"Good morning Asuka Jr." Meimi began, "Are you feeling alright? Does your head hurt?"

He looked sourly at her smile, and made no reply.

"Don’t be like that," she continued, "it’s the first time anything like this has happened. Don’t be hard on yourself." She leaned closer to him and winked, "Even Saint Tail makes mistakes".

He looked for one moment as if he might cry, rose abruptly, and marched from the room followed by his friends. Meimi, surprised, watched him go.

***

Later that afternoon Sister Seira and Meimi sat beside the pond, quietly discussing the events of the past evening.

"I find it hard to believe he blames himself." Meimi said.

"But he really is right," Sister Seira replied, "He should have been more aware of his situation."

"But we’ve never been so close to a criminal before!" Meimi protested in his defense. "Breaking into a dressing room is one thing, catching a thief red-handed is another!"

The young nun folded her hand together on her lap and sighed. "I think that I am to blame as well."

Meimi couldn’t suppress a laugh. "At this rate I’ll be blameless before dinner time." Leaning over she hugged her knees. "Let’s just forget about last night, let’s see if we can’t recover the necklace some other way."

"What about your wand?"

Meimi frowned. "I’m sorry to lose it," she whispered.

***

Asuka Jr. sat at his desk with no lights on in the room but the desk lamp. On the desk top before him lay Saint Tail’s wand. It had been checked for fingerprints, even though everyone agreed it was pointless, since Saint Tail wore gloves, had been bagged as evidence and given to him as a sort of…

"Consolation prize," he told himself.

The wand, now out of it’s protective plastic, lay before him. He hadn’t nerved himself up to actually touch it. Opening the evidence bag, Asuka Jr. had carefully slid the wand onto a towel. That was over an hour ago. With a sigh he dropped his head.

"Who am I kidding?" he mumbled softly. "If I keep playing cops and robbers someone is going to get hurt." And it might be her, he concluded to himself.

A tap at the window made him look up. Puzzled he rose and drew the curtains aside. Attached to the window was a note:

If you want to talk I’ll be at the phone booth in Park A
St. Tail

Asuka Jr. was out the door in a flash.

***

Asuka Jr. stood inside the phone booth, his heart racing. He scanned the area, but didn’t see her. Leaning back, hands in his pockets, he thought about the last time he was in this booth. Memories of intense longing and overwhelming happiness flooded his body. When the phone rang he was ready.

"Hello?"

"Hello."

The following pause allowed him to look around. She was nowhere to be seen.

"Are you feeling alright?" she repeated softly, "Does your head hurt?"

Not now, he thought but said nothing, suddenly speechless.

"Hello? Asuka Jr.?"

At the sound of his name he reacted. "Fine," he blurted out, "I’m fine really. It’s just a small cut, nothing really." The words came pouring out, and he couldn’t stop them.

And then, at the same time, they both said, "I’m sorry!"

"Please," she interjected quickly, "please, let me apologize, Asuka Jr. I never meant for anything like this to happen..."

"Let me see you!" he suddenly shouted with more feeling than tact. He felt himself blush and begin to pant softly. Was there no air left in the world!? "Please," he continued more gently, "I want to see you." He had heard her soft gasp, and the following pause was agony. Had he gone too far?

The sudden puff of pink smoke made him jump in surprise. On top of the phone was a length of black material. Puzzled, he looked at it.

"If you tie that on your eyes...I’ll come over."

He hesitated for only a second, and, picking up the material, made up his mind. The last time they had met like this it had been snowing and the windows of the booth had fogged, this time there was no such help for her, and he understood. She wasn’t here to turn herself in; she was here out of concern for him. Could he trust her less?

"I’ll wait for you," he eagerly declared, and hanging up the phone bound the cloth around his head, taking care to totally cover his eyes. He put his hands out behind himself, felt the wall of the booth, and leaned against it, willing himself to relax.

It didn’t work.

In less time than he would have credited the door to the booth was opened. She could not have been more than three steps away she was there so fast. He felt the chilly night air as the door opened and then her gloved hand gently on his own.

"Saint Tail?" he asked softly, as if it could be anyone else.

"Asuka Jr." was the whispered reply.

The detective could feel her move into the booth, still holding his hand, and the soft thump of the door closing. He felt her ponytail brush his chin by degrees as she hesitantly lowered her head onto his chest. Reflexively his free hand came up, rested gently on her bare shoulder, and he drew her in closer.

"Really," he whispered soothingly, "I’m alright."

This set her off into a fit of sobbing, her small body shaking under his hand. His heart suddenly ached in his chest. Dropping his head down onto hers he made soft sounds to comfort her, longing to somehow make it better, to take the pain away.

"Saint Tail," he murmured, "can’t I do anything to make you smile?"

She dropped his hand, and he felt her hands come together on his chest. "Hold me," was the almost inaudible reply.

The thrill that rushed through his body was indescribable. His arms were around her in an instant, holding her with an urgency he could not have explained. He felt her sobbing gradually slow, then stop, and finally he felt her relax. He pulled her closer then, feeling her whole body weight against him, breathing in her hair, feeling her heart beat. The joy these sensations were bringing him was intoxicating.

"I was so scared," she breathed against his chest, "I was so worried, and your father...he was as scared as I was, and I couldn’t do anything! Does he hate me? Does he blame me?"

Asuka Jr. was shaking his head, smiling. "There were two witnesses who told him how you dropped the necklace and came back to help me. He was relieved, that’s all."

"Thank heavens," was the quiet reply.

He reached into his jacket pocket, drew out a handkerchief and offered it to her. She accepted it, and he felt her wiping her eyes. When she was done she did not return it to him, but slid it into her own pocket.

They stood there, not moving, for a very long while, neither wanting to break the spell. Asuka Jr. couldn’t remember ever being this happy, and Saint Tail was lost in the wonder of his warmth. It was he who finally spoke.

"Saint Tail..." he began slowly, "I want you to know that I...I mean, I want to tell you that…I…I think we must look very silly like this," he finished with a laugh, unable to admit his feelings.

Saint Tail took a step back from him, and felt the chill air against her body where he had been. The loss of heat, and his obvious unwillingness to confide in her, cut her to the bone. He felt her stiffen, and understood immediately why. Desperately he reached forward, and managed to catch her around the waist.

"No," he cried, "don’t go! Don’t go," he stammered, "because...because I’m a coward. Please. Please stay. This is so hard for me..."

She relaxed and turned towards him.

"Saint Tail," he sighed, sounded totally defeated, "I am so in love with you, and I have no idea what your name is or what you look like. How can anyone admit to something like that?"

"Are you afraid I don’t like you?" she began almost angrily. "That I’m standing here, in your arms, only because I want to comfort you?"

He smiled weakly, "I guess that sounds silly huh?"

"Oh, Asuka Jr." she moaned. "Don’t you know that I love you too, that you’re my hero? If I could work my magic on you…"

"You have," he finished, drawing her in and kissing what he could reach, which turned out to be her nose. Smiling, she put her hands on his face and drew his head down, gently kissing the bandage on his forehead. Even more carefully she lifted his head up and kissed his lips. The touch was brief, but it transformed them both. When she pulled away he let her go, and waited for several minutes to assure her of his sincerity. When he finally pulled off the mask he couldn’t suppress the whoop of joy that escaped him. At this explosion of emotion the black material slipped from his hand and fluttered to the ground. Stooping to retrieve it, Asuka Jr. saw white writing on the back.

Tomorrow night I will steal the opera house emerald necklace from the house of Natsui Yurio.
        St Tail

Stunned he looked at the note, and a slow smile spread over his face.

***

The following day at school Seira couldn’t help notice the change in both Asuka Jr. and Meimi; they were both incandescent. She knew about the challenge, but couldn’t imagine why they were both so happy about it. When Meimi finally confided that she had delivered the challenge in person Seira was able to guess the rest. Seira smiled to herself, and wished them both joy.

***

Saint Tail swung her legs over the edge of the roof and looked down. The drop was four stories. With a flourish she produced her hat, and cried, "It’s showtime!" Suddenly the air around her was full of huge balloons. Dropping the hat onto her head she leapt off the roof and onto a bright pink balloon. Drifting downwards under her weight the balloon gently brought her to the veranda where she moved quickly to the first set of doors. Glancing into the dark room she could make out the shape of a bed. Moving rapidly she placed an expanding rose in the door, and then did the same to the remaining three doors along the balcony. Laying flat against the building she counted aloud to three, and all four doors opened at once. The sound of alarms was astounding. Smiling she ducked into the nearest room and slipped into the shadows. She could hear the sounds of people running, and she recognized Detective Asuka’s voice among those shouting orders. A momentary pang gripped her heart, but she didn’t hesitate as she ran down the hall to the first bed room. As she opened the door someone on the inside pulled it open with such force she lost her grip. Looking up she found herself face to face with the man who had stolen the necklace from the opera house dressing room two nights ago. Grinning he grabbed her wrist and pulled her into the dark room.

His grip was an iron clamp on her hand, and she knew better than to struggle. He turned towards her, his voice an angry hiss, as he demanded, "Where’s the real necklace?"

She smiled, took a step back from him, and snapped her fingers. Suddenly the lights went on, and he sucked in breath, stunned. They stood surrounded by the almost blinding twinkle of a hundred emerald and diamond necklaces, each one exactly like the next.

Tightening his grip on her hand he pulled her towards the veranda doors. "You’re not going to make a fool of me again, girlie," he hissed.

Saint Tail glanced around the room, for the moment unsure of what to do. Was he going to drop her off the balcony too?

As they emerged onto the veranda she heard the sounds of the police and knew there was no escape, for either of them. Using her free hand she conjured her hat, and dropped it onto her head, low over her eyes. The robber was so absorbed in looking for an escape that he hardly noticed.

"Saint Tail!"

Asuka Jr.’s voice!

"At your feet!"

Looking down she saw her wand slide to a stop. With a joyful cry she scooped it up and turned to her captor. "It’s showtime!" she cried with delight, and brought the wand down on his hand with as much force as she could. Startled, he dropped her hand and, gripping the ailing member, turned towards her with an angry growl. Leaping backwards into the air, Saint Tail threw the wand, with it’s trailing wire, so that it bounced off railing and walls, wrapping itself around his ankles. As the wand ricocheted back into her hand she gave it a firm pull, bringing the would-be thief to the ground. Jumping onto the railing Saint Tail left him lying there and was back on the roof in a twinkling. She paused long enough to see the police gathering around him, and his feeble attempts to get away. Smiling she ran for the peak of the roof, and safety.

"Saint Tail!"

Startled, the petit thief slid to a stop. Asuka Jr.’s voice again! She doffed her hat, hiding her face, and turned towards the source of the shout.

Asuka Jr. stood at the far end of the roof, in the shadow of a tree, his arms crossed across his chest, his eyes down cast.

"I could catch you," he declared with a flatness that surprised her. "I could catch you and put an end to your life of crime."

"Am I a criminal?" she asked softly.

"Why did you fake stealing the necklace? Oh yes," he added at her intake of breath, "We now know the real one is safely locked away. All this," he gestured, "was a ruse. But why?"

"To get her nephew caught in the act of stealing." Once she began explaining, the narrative flowed easily. "All Madam had left was the emerald necklace; he had taken and sold everything else. She loaned it to the opera house, hoping he wouldn’t find out, and had the copies made. Madam hoped that if he was caught, with a fake, he would be scared enough to turn over a new leaf. It didn’t seem to have helped," she finished quietly.

"So that night, at the opera house," he raged, and saw her turn away in shame, "I got hurt for a fake?!"

"That is why I was so upset," she moaned, sinking to her knees in despair. Her breathing became ragged, and she didn’t try to run as she heard him draw near, knowing she deserved what was coming. Dropping her hat she buried her head in her hands and cried. He knelt down next to her and she felt him stroke her hair.

"Saint Tail," he began gently, so gently, "Do you trust me?"

She nodded silently.

"Then look at me."

Fear, desire and hopelessness welled within her. She couldn’t suppress the sob that escaped her body. It was over. It was all over. Slowly she raised streaming eyes, and found herself looking at the masked face of Asuka Jr.! Using the same black material she had left at the phone booth he now knelt beside her in self imposed blindness.

"Oh Asuka Jr." she sobbed, flinging her arms around his neck. They both fell over backwards at the impact, and lay there on the peak of the roof, while she covered his face with kisses.

"I do love you," he whispered finally, and she paused in her assault on his person. Taking his hands in hers she placed them on either side of her face, and leaned towards him. Taking the hint he guided her lips to his own.

"I love you too, Asuka Jr." Saint Tail laughed lightly, "And," she added sitting up, "you can’t catch me."

Mentally his eyes flew open as she slipped easily from his arms. Scrambling to his feet he heard her counting, "One!" and the sound of her running, "Two!" he pulled the mask off his face, turning towards her voice, "Three!"

Seemingly four Saint Tails leapt from the roof in a shower of streamers and confetti, each off a different corner of the house. At that moment Asuka Keiji clambered onto the roof.

"Asuka Jr.?" he called, puffing.

"Here!" Asuka Jr. called back, suppressing a smile and pocketing the mask. Turning he walked towards his father.

Asuka Keiji looked puzzled at his son, and then followed his gaze to one of the disappearing Saint Tails.

"Oh! Saint Tail!" he cried in feigned surprise, "Escaped again, huh?"

Asuka Jr. smiled to himself. "No," he thought, "She caught me a long time ago."

                                         

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