The fourth time they met, Hakuba Saguru saw him hang.

The hanging had been delayed until noon the next day, primarily so people could get their chores done in the morning, knowing that it would probably turn into an impromptu party that would last for hours, regardless the outcome of the hanging. Word travelled fast and anyone who could make it on time, was. Kyoto was flooded with people coming to participate in the spectacle, bets being wildly placed on anything from if the Kid was actually going to hang and how he'd escape, to how many times the body would twitch before he finally died.

Saguru found the latter rather lowbrow and declined to place any bets, much less comment on the entire affair. Everywhere he went, people were either toasting him for catching the illusive Kid or wanting him to recant how he'd captured him. Neither of which he had much interest in, the entire celebration leaving him faintly queasy with bitter tasting ashes in his mouth.

He still hadn't gotten a chance to ask the Kid his question, distracted first by people congratulating him, then later when he'd finally been able to slip away for some peace and quiet by several figures in dark clothing attempting to silence the Kid permanently via turning the jail into Swiss cheese with many guns.

Okita Soushi, a teenage swordsman and Sheriff of Kyoto, had dispatched several permanently quickly and ruthless with the sword he carried with him everywhere. Saguru had taken several out himself, using not such permanent means, only to find much to his dismay that he was unable to question them on their reasonings for the attack due to the fact that an escaping member of their group made sure none of their comrades would be able to talk. Ever.

Kid, after attempting to assist and bandage both Soushi and Saguru, was sent back to his cell. Neither had seen him slip out of his cell, much less how. When questioned why he hadn't left during the melee, the thief simply pointed to the cooling corpses that lay scattered around the rooms, then pulled out a deck of cards and began to play. It was safer in jail, even with the sentence hanging over his head. Literally.

At that point, Soushi simply let him play. By that time he'd taken away five decks of cards away from the thief and yet Kid always seemed to have more.

Then his night had taken a distinctly odd turn with the appearance of more people, which then lead to him waiting on the fringes of the crowd as Soushi lead the Kid, hands tied behind his back, out of the jail house to the gallows, where the noose and the hangman waited for him.

Kid acted strangely serene for someone being lead to his execution. It was a grace he'd heard about before, a bit of gallows humour, but this seemed to transcend it a bit, a strange combination of resignation and the overall feeling that the thief had something up his sleeve.

Which was too bad, seeing as Saguru had his own plans to ensure that the Kid -didn't- escape.

The people around him raised their voices, cheering, shouting and booing as was their want. Soushi and Kid ignored them, continuing their walk unabated, the sheriff with a firm grip on thief's upper arm until they were both safely above the crowd's restless mass.

A hush descended upon the crowd as Soushi read the list of charges (-when had Kid impersonated a catholic school girl?!) against the Cyote Kid out loud and the hangman placed the noose around the Kid's neck, pulling the loop close so the thief couldn't slip his head out of it. "Any last words?" The hangman's rough voice gravelled, not unkind but not forgiving either. Saguru had been informed on the side that the hangman was also the town's undertaker. He'd make some money tonight.

Kid's head tilted to the side, his mouth slightly open as if weighing his words. Saguru glanced at his watch, and then smiled to himself, snapping it shut and slipping it back into his pocket. Almost time. He slowly backed up until he was standing next to a large saddled horse.

A rumbling sound sounded in the background, like a faint thunder on the plains. It was barely noticeable at first, then within people began to notice and shift nervously. Kid straightened, his taller perspective allowing him to see farther in the distance. The thief's pallor suddenly went pasty white as the colour drained from his face from something more terrifying than the imminent threat of death by strangulation.

It wasn't until the screaming came within range that the real screaming began. The crowd screeched and scattered, people running for the buildings and clearing the dirt streets in record time. Saguru smiled to himself, pulling a white sheet out of the saddlebags of the horse he was hiding beside and pulled it over him, his head sticking out of a hole in the centre, making a white poncho. A second strip of white material was wound around his head, neck and shoulders, like those nomads from Arabia, hiding his features just in time for the wave of the one thing that scared the Cyote Kid to death more than dieing to hit.

Horses. Dozens of them. All different shades, sizes and colours. All of them running full tilt down the main street. Towards the gallows. Towards the Kid.

The hangman saw the animals approaching and knocked the thief off his perch before leaping off the wooden structure and running towards the safety of the tavern.

Kid dropped like a rock, his mouth and eyes open wide in terror.

Damnation.

With a not-so muffled curse, Saguru jumped onto the horse and spurred it into the street as the first wave of horses hit. If the noose had been tied properly, Kid's neck would have been snapped by the weight of the rope as soon as he stopped falling.

A howling yell from behind him let him know he was not alone in the stampede. The cavalry was here as well.

His horse jumped on top of the gallows without complaint, they'd practised this last night, but with out the crowd. The large beast shifted in a circle nervously, knocking off Soushi, who gave them a small worried salute as he jumped off and 'dove' for the cover of the gallows. Saguru spared him a brief thought of gratitude. Soushi was good people.

He grabbed the Kid by the waistband, hauling him partly on to the saddle with a small sense of relief. Whomever had tied the noose hadn't given it the thirteen twists to it, thus not giving it enough weight to toss the head to one side and break Kid's neck. It was acting as a glorified slipknot, strangling the thief instead. Kid sagged against him, his entire body a limp dead weight as he wheezed in an effort to breathe again.

Another horse, a painted one bearing a second white-wrapped figure, joined him on the wooden structure, causing it to groan under the combined weight. A sword flashed in the sunlight, dramatic against the chaos around them. Kid's weight suddenly increased as the rope holding him up was severed, almost causing Saguru to over balance, then he braced himself in the stirrups and hauled the still limp thief over the front of his saddle like a limp sack of flour. With another wolf howl, his compatriot in crime dove off the scaffolding and disappeared back into the mass of rampaging horseflesh.

With a wild cheer of his own and a good grip on the Cyote Kid's waist, Saguru urged his horse to follow suit and for a moment they were air borne. Time seemed to hover, just for a moment as the frantic horses rushed by them, legs pumping, eyes rolling as they cried out their fear. In the periphery vision, he was aware of the townsfolk watching everything from the safety of inside the buildings or clutching to porches.

Then his horse hit the ground with an audible 'thump', pitching him forward over the Kid for a moment and they were off and running again, surrounded by the large moving bodies that protected them from immediate retaliation. He could hear shouts behind and around them, over the pounding of the horses' hooves, but ignored them as the futility that they were.

The momentum of the rushing herd of horses carried them well out of town, the big white horses' tracks covered up by the other animals. He heard barking and slowed his horse down, who was beginning to sweat at the sudden exercise. Slightly ahead of him, he saw the other figure in white slow down his painted horse as well, circling it as they waited for Saguru to catch up. Together, they began to trot away, both to cool down their horses as well as put some additional space between them and any pursuit.

As they did so, Saguru became aware of another sound besides the clomping of the horses' hooves against the dirt. Kid was no longer gasping for breath and was instead saying something.

"Lemme go, lemmego, lemmegolemmegolemmego," Kid chanted over the noise of the pounding hooves.

If he was complaining, he was alive. Saguru grinned in relief. Kid would be alright.

Kudo Shin'ichi, now shrunken down to 'Edogawa Conan' and the third member of their party, rode up on the back of a large mongrel dog that had been introduced as 'Jumbo'. "Suck it up, Kuroba." The shrunken teenager grumped, a definite smirk on his face from what Saguru could see.

"If I let you go," Saguru informed him politely "You will fall off the horse. And most likely be trampled."

Kid went very very still, but he whimpered occasionally.

Hattori Heiji chuckled, pulling the fabric off of the lower half of his face and smiled broadly. In broad daylight, it was easier to see the dark colouring he'd gotten from his grandfather, one of the natives. "And after Saguru here went to all this trouble of picking out his namesake too."

"I chose this horse because Soushi commented that it had the best stamina for carrying two passengers." Saguru shot a dry look at the angelic looking Detective of the West as he pulled the wrappings off his face as well. "Not because my last name happens to mean 'White Horse' as well."

"Ooooh." Wicked devilment flashed across Heiji's face. "Size and stamina to ride all day long. I see."

Obviously, no help there. "How are your dogs?" He asked Conan.

The shrunken detective glanced back, spotting a border collie following them. "Ayumi's on her way." He reported. "Genta and Mitsuhiko will follow her after they finish scattering the rest of the horses on the other side of town."

Conan's small mixed 'pack' of dogs, the Inu Tantei, had come in handy when they had planned this escapade the previous night. He hadn't been sure of what to make of the lurking shadows that followed on the heels of the men in black shooting at them. There had been several wild moments of confusion until Soushi recognized Heiji as his rival in swordsmanship.

Talking followed and fast on the heels of that was comprehension. Saguru followed the travels and antics of the Cyote Kid. Heiji and Conan were following the mysterious people in black Kid had warned him about the first night. And after reviewing notes and maps, they discovered that the men in black were following the Kid.

Every single one of the Cyote Kid's heists took place anywhere from a few days to a few hours before the people Heiji and Conan were following got there. The highflying thief was determinedly foiling the villains time after time again.

If the Cyote Kid died, so would Kudo's best chance of tracking down the people who had shrunk him and reversing the process. He had a sweetheart back home, Mouri Ran, which he was eager to get back to. Hence the normally upright detectives had assisted him in saving the thief's life.

Soushi, as sheriff, was honour bound not to assist them do something that was technically illegal. That didn't stop him from making cryptic comments every so often about the lay of the land, best places to hide from pursuers or the odd advice about which horses would be better for a long ride.

Now all they had to do was drop their current horses off at the Onimaru homestead to be returned to Soushi, pick up different rides and ride off into the sunset.

Then hunt down the bastards in black once and for all.

Not a bad plan at all when he thought about it.

"So, Kaito..." Saguru grinned. The tousled haired boy pried one pinched shuteye open up to look at him. "I have LOTS of questions for you."

"Whatever." Kid agreed easily, closing his eyes again. After all, he now owed them one for the escape. "Just... after we get off the horse, 'kay?" The thief's voice wavered on the last word, like he was going to be sick. He -really- did not like horses.

Saguru's grin broadened and he noticed similar expressions on his companion's faces. Tension left his shoulders as he relaxed into the ride as it sunk in that they had succeeded in pulling their plans off. "Alright."

Because after those questions were answered, he'd have more questions and the Cyote Kid, Kuroba Kaito, would have more answers. And occasionally it might be the reverse.

But there would be many more meetings between the two of them in the future.

-Fin-

Ha! The last part of the Cyote Kid. Sorry it's taken so long, but this is the third or fourth take on this chapter. Once it clicked that we didn't HAVE to write everything in chronological order, everything fell into place.

Typo of the Fic:
" - until they were both safely above the crowd's restless ass. "
... whoops. #OO#

Noose information courtesy of dinner discussions with my Dad, and a quick websearch for Hell's Hauntress a while back. It should be noted that it is also illegal in some States in America to tie a noose with 13 twists in it, because of the reasons mentioned in the fic. Go figure.

Inspiration for the stampede comes from about 2 minutes of a movie we saw well over a year ago. No clue what movie it was, just that it was a western.

Anyway, thus ends the Cyote Kid. I hope it was as interesting a ride for you as it was for me to type it. Cause I never know how these things are gonna go... heh.