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I laugh with a twisted smile
Now that smile is the only one I can make.
The tears that dripped inside the mask
Has expanded the mask and on top of that...
I wore another mask.
-Spiral -Suiri no Kizuna- opening theme: "Kibouhou" by Strawberry Jam


Smile
By Icka! M. Chif

Koizumi and I aren't exactly friends. We're certainly not enemies either, but I wouldn't call us close enough to be friends. We run in different circles, have different friends and separate goals in life.

But we do share one very particularly odd hobby.

We both watch Kuroba Kaito.

Both of us -know- he's Kid the Phantom Thief, even if we cannot, or as I think in her case will not, prove it. We're both waiting for that slip up that will prove it beyond a shadow of a doubt.

But even then we watch for different reasons. I want the Kid behind bars. I think she just wants the Kid. I've never asked, and she's never told and we're both very comfortable with that arrangement, thank you very much.

And in watching him, we both learn about him. Sometimes we'll stop to compare notes on our odd hobby. Little things like 'He's planning something again' or 'There was a foiled heist last night' and those little pieces help us solve the puzzle that is the Magician we both watch.

We're not the only ones who watch him, of course. He's too flamboyant of a personality for us to be the only ones who notice him. In fact, one of the most interesting pieces of information was gained during a class discussion while he was on one of his frequent absences.

The topic of conversation was him, actually. Speculation on the tricks and pranks that he pulled. Momoi Keiko, holding court in her own small way, pushed the glasses up on her face and made the simplest of observations and asked the simplest of questions: "Kuroba-kun is always smiling. Why does he smile all the time?"

A smile can be many things.

A mask, to prevent others from knowing what you are thinking.

A weapon, sharp enough to wound or draw blood.

A shield, to keep people from looking too close.

A distraction at an unlikely moment.

An invitation to come play.

A beacon for hope and joy.

An offer of friendship.

A silent laugh.

A precious gift.

A bond.

There was a slight lull in the conversation as the question was thought over, and Koizumi threw out a second question in the pause. "What would happen if he stopped?"

An outcry is the only thing I can think of to explain it. Shudders and exclamations of 'he wouldn't!', soothsaying of an impending doom and various theories were tossed around like so many pieces crumpled pieces of paper during an unruly classroom battle. To think of Kuroba without a smile was like trying to picture the sky without stars.

Improbable.

The topic of conversation came up later in the Kaito Kid Task Force's office, about how un-nerving the fact that the Kid always seemed to be smiling was. It was like he had that smirk permanently stapled to his face or something.

So I asked Koizumi's question. "What would happen if he stopped?"

And this time there was a long silence.

It was one of the veterans who had been on the Task Force the longest who answered. "I'd quit."

I may be the world's expert on the Criminal 1412, but these were the men who had chased him the longest, fought the hardest to capture him.

It was also one of the most superstitious groups of men on the force. People often didn't last long on the Kid taskforce simply because it was -too weird-. It wasn't just the laughter, or the unpredictably or the fact that he didn't act like a normal thief, it was the flat out bizarreness that wore you down after a while.

People weren't supposed to vanish into smoke. Or become invisible. Or fly. Or have eyes that glowed in the dark. Or have that damn luck that he seemed to have that was bordering not just on the paranormal, but the supernatural.

Magic Kaitou he was sometimes called. Not because he dressed like a magician, but because sometimes there was no other explanation for how he did things.

Magic.

The people who managed to stay on the task force, including Nakamori who was considered to be a freak of nature anyway, usually had two things in common.

At least one protective talisman or charm against evil spirits, because there was only so much bizarreness you could handle on the job before you started to wonder if it was going to follow you home. It was almost an introductory ritual when ever anyone transferred into the Task Force, someone gave them an omamori or some sort of good luck charm. The ones that didn't carry it around, or seemed reluctant to get one were usually the ones that ended up leaving shortly after, being unable to deal with it.

The other thing that the ones who stay learn very early on is that they are there because of one simple fact. The Kid -invited- them. He doesn't need to give advance warnings, frustrating riddles or anything else. He could get in, take what ever he wanted and get out again without anyone being the wiser.

Instead he invites us to a come play in a game of his devising

And as eerie as it is to have a familiar laughing disembodied voice greet you -by name- and inquire as to how your pet hamster is doing, there is also a strange sense of comfort. Because it is a game, and games have rules.

Minimum property damage. No one gets killed, or hurt when it can be prevented. The Kid never misses a note.

And the Kid is always smiling.

If he stopped smiling, it wouldn't be the game anymore. What little margin of safety there is dealing with the un-predictable thief would be gone.

And that is more chilling than any of the unpredictability combined.

The rest of the Task Force looked at the veteran who responded and nodded.

They also changed the subject rather quickly.

Since then, I've watched Kuroba's smile, trying to figure out -why-. Why does he smile all the time? It's more than just a mere magicians poker face.

And I realised recently that when he smiles, it's not a poker face at all. Not even when the Kid smiles.

He smiles because he's happy.

Or thinking.

Or melancholy.

Or friendly.

Or angry.

Or teasing.

Or scared.

Or determined.

Or lonely.

Or mischievous.

Or even when he's not feeling anything in particular.

But quite frankly, I think he smiles simply because he is alive.

Because Kuroba Kaito is the Kaitou Kid. There's little to no doubt about it. He's the second Kaitou Kid to be exact.

And I know what happened the first one. He does as well.

He also knows that the very same thing can happen to him.

He is walking a trip wire over an abyss and laughing. The slighted waver and he very well could fall. But he doesn't. He keeps smiling and walking that fine line. And each day, each prank, each minute that he is still alive and plotting is a gleeful victory.

A victory he shares with the rest of us by smiling. And in doing so, he brightens our day. Because as long as he's smiling, there's hope that we can as well.

And hope that maybe, just maybe, he can pull off what ever it is that he is doing.

I think Koizumi has reached a similar conclusion.

She did a funny thing, today. I think he had been having a bad day, it happens to all of us occasionally. He had been smiling, but it was a tired smile, slightly strained. We were all on our way out of school, when she stopped in front of Kuroba, effectively stopping him in his tracks. He just blinked at her, his smile fading as his expression turned bewildered.

Koizumi reached up and brought his head down so that his forehead was resting on hers, with a sense of familiarity he won't allow for but a very rare few. And even then, usually only Aoko-chan.

She only said one word to him, with their faces so close that it probably looked like they were kissing to any casual observer.

"Smile."

And he did.

-fin-

Yeah, strange and weird, sorry.

I don't know if Kaito is the one I identify the most with, but he's the one I have the most in common with, personality wise. We both have the same basic defense mechanism.

We smile. ^_^

Written to get rid of some bad juju.