Belling the Kaitou
By Icka! M. Chif

Once upon a time the mice once held a meeting to discuss the best way to rid themselves of the menace of the cat. Several ideas were mentioned when one mouse stood up and suggested they put a bell around the cats neck, that way they would always know where the cat was.
The idea was met with great enthusiasm until an old mouse stood up and said:
"Very well, but who is to bell the Cat?"
And the mice looked at each other, but none volunteered.

-summary of Aesop Fable: Belling the Cat

=^.^=

For the briefest of inane moments, Kaito wondered why the panties had betrayed him.

Then reality re-inserted itself and he flipped to avoid Aoko's fist flying towards his head for flipping her skirt in the first place.

He spared a glance to glance at Hakuba, who seemed to be smirking in victory. He gave a little motion of his hand, little more than a twitch really, a small tact permission to continue with the daily dance.

He supposed he should be grateful to the blond detective for that, but he didn't feel like it as he dodged Aoko's swinging broom.

Loser of the bet was the other's slave and had to do what ever the other said for three days. Koizumi had originally urged for a week, but Hakuba had talked her down, something he was currently grateful for even as he wasn't quite sure why the heck the crimson-eyed girl's option mattered in a bet between the two boys.

It still didn't make sense though. Aoko had been wearing plain white panties for -weeks- now, in an effort to discourage him from flipping her skirt to see what colour they were that day. Why had she suddenly decided on TODAY of all days to wear pale blue?

Of course, he probably should have realised that the odds would be against him when the bet had come up in the first place. Hakuba was a detective after all, and he rarely took bets he thought he couldn't win. 'Know your enemies' his father had said, and while Hakuba wasn't exactly an enemy while at school, he was at the very least a friendly rival.

Stupid ego. He just had to prove he knew better, didn't he? And Hakuba always seemed to know exactly the right thing to say to get him riled up too.

Stupid. Stupid. Stupid.

"Aoko-chan!" Keiko called, waving and cutting their dance short. Dammit, he didn't really want to go back to his seat just yet... But Aoko took the distraction and wandered off, taking the mop with her.

Dang it.

"You really should apologise, you know." Hakuba commented as he stalked back to his seat, his tone deceptively mild. No, Hakuba wouldn't gloat, never...

... and he wasn't sulking. Right. And there was a swarm of flying pigs out side the window...

"Is that an order?" He asked, making sure to keep his voice level as he threw himself into his seat, just because he knew it annoyed the other boy when he sprawled all over the chair instead of sitting properly.

"Never." Hakuba paused, raising an eyebrow. "You -are- keeping to our agreement then?" The expression spoke of quiet amazement.

"I agreed, didn't I?" He shot back. Okay, so Hakuba knew, or thought he knew that he was the Kid, but just because he was a thief didn't mean his word wasn't good. Neither he or the Kid had ever failed in keeping their word once they'd chosen a course of action. Even if said course sucked rotten eggs.

The blond nodded. "True. I'm glad."

Kaito did a double take. Hakuba had actually looked... relieved for a second. Almost grateful. Like he had expected a hard battle and had just gotten word that it wasn't going to take place.

Hakuba's expression quickly shifted into a more expected mischievous smug expression and one of Kaito's eyebrow rose as he wondered if he had seen it properly in the first place. The possibility the detective was on drugs flittered past his mind as well. The wonders of Prozac and all that.

Or maybe he was just seeing things.

Hakuba leaned forward. "You know..." He said thoughtfully "I do not really need a slave for the next few days-"

Hope rose that he might escape this with some dignity intact, even as he questioned it.

"-but I -do- have an idea that suites you perfectly."

Hope was run over by a VW bug driven by the youngest brother of Dread. While Hakuba wasn't known as the most creative of people, he still had the highest track record for messing up heists.

"Nakamori-kun!" Hakuba straighten and waved. "Might I borrow your new charm for a few days?"

Aoko looked up from her animated conversation with Keiko and blinked. "Uh... okay."

"Thank you." Hakuba stood up and walked over to Aoko's back, fiddling with one of the sides. Kaito leaned back to see what he was doing. "Stay there, please." The detective commanded, something cupped in one hand so he couldn't see what it was.

The eyebrow rose higher as Hakuba wandered over to the girls and said something in a soft voice. There was a pause from the girls, followed by several glances over in his direction and a nod from Hakuba, then the girls burst into a chorus of high-pitched laughter.

There was just something incredibly intimidating about a group of girls looking at you and giggling behind their hands. It was enough to make lesser men squirm. Running was looking really good around now, but that would have meant that Hakuba had won before the game had even started.

Then all the girls rose from their chairs and followed as Hakuba wandered back over, a small but definitely smug smile on his face. Kaito KNEW he was not going to like this as they surrounded his desk. Especially when Hakuba stopped directly behind him, just out of visual range. He corrected this by tilting his head back, face purposely expressionless to hide his trepidation. "Yeah?"

The girls giggled as Hakuba leaned over him, sliding something slightly cool around his neck, under the open uniform collar. Kaito tensed as the slight weight was tied around his neck like a loose choker. The girls giggled and happily clapped their hand together, making cooing sounds about how cute he was.

Koizumi helpfully ended his confusion by holding up a pocket mirror for him to see his new 'decoration'.

It was a bell. About three centimetres in diameter and a bright shiny violet colour that should have been un-natural to nature. The black ribbon holding it on wasn't so bad, but he really could have done without the bow on the side.

Then Hakuba smiled cheerfully and reached over to ruffle his hair with an overly familiar grace. "I always wanted a Kat-o." He said brightly in English.

The bell around his neck jingled.

Oh, hell no.

=^.^=

"Well," Kaito waved, casually holding his book bag against his left shoulder blade. "It's been fun. Let's do it tomorrow." The words were meant sarcastically, even if the tone was flippant.

"Why?" Hakuba gave him a puzzled look. "Where are you going?"

"Home." To take a nice long soak in the furo and ponder why today had gone wrong. And get away from everyone. The frequent head pattings were getting on his nerves.

"I thought I had made it clear." Hakuba reached over and messed up his hair again with an apologetic grin. "You are staying at my house for the duration of our agreement."

"Huh?!"

"Oh..." Keiko looked slightly sad at that. "Does that mean that you're missing the Kid heist tomorrow night?"

It took a massive effort not to tense up at that, especially with Hakuba's oh-so-friendly hand still on his head. The Heist! How could he have been so stupid as to forget that?! Stupid stupid stupid... There still had to be a way to pull it off, he just had to figure it out...

Akako distracted him by draping herself over his unburdened shoulder, wrapping her arms around him. "Ne, Hakuba-kun..." She purred. "Could you order him to come to my house tonight? We could have... fun."

Kaito glared at Hakuba, silently promising pain beyond imagining if he agreed to her request. Hakuba gave her a friendly smile. "I am afraid that I have other plans for my pet."

She let out a little squeal of delight and squeezed him. "So Cute! Have fun then!" She chirped. "LOTS of fun!"

Kaito wondered if the witch was a pervert. Just what exactly did she mean by 'fun' anyway?

"We will." Hakuba promised, a not-quite smirk on his face.

He wondered what Hakuba meant by that too.

"Well, if you're going there, I'll stop by Kaito's house and let his Mom know." Aoko offered brightly. "And pick up some clothes for him while I'm there."

"Thanks." He muttered even as his mind screamed 'TRAITOR!!!' Aoko was supposed to be on HIS side, what was she doing helping Hakuba out?! It wasn't fair!

"Bai!!" Aoko waved as Akako slid an arm through hers, the two girls running off and giggling.

Kaito stared after them, feeling his stomach drop somewhere about his feet. Forgetting about the heist, loosing the bet, this just was not his day. This was completely not his day.

Hakuba reached out and playfully tugged on one of the trailing ends of the ribbon around his neck, making the bell jingle. "Coming, pet?" He asked, still looking faintly pleased with himself.

"Yeah." He sighed, following after the taller boy. After all, what else could go wrong?

=^.^=

Kaito wished he had a tail.

Just so that he could twitch it around like an irate cat before it bit the hand of the person petting it.

Oh, Hakuba had been nice and polite. Even genteel. He hadn't made him do anything embarrassing, wasn't told to divulge any information and the only chore he'd been asked to do was help the other boy wash the dishes after dinner, which was fair enough. He'd helped dirty them after all.

He just wasn't allowed to go past arm's reach of the taller blond. Much less out of sight. -Except for when he went to take a shower last night. There hadn't been any windows to escape out of, so he had tried to call Jii. Only to discover that his mobile phone couldn't get any reception.

Anywhere in the house, actually.

It was enough to make a Kaitou suspicious.

Same for sneaking out while the detective was asleep. A squeaky guest bed had been set up in Hakuba's bedroom for Kaito to sleep on. And unfortunately, Hakuba was a very light sleeper. Every time he made a move to slip off the bed, the detective's amber eyes would open.

However, that had made for a very interesting morning, seeing as the blond was most emphatically not a morning person. Kaito had never seen anyone actually try to eat a sock for breakfast before.

School had been... interesting. He was also kill Keiko for bringing a pair of black cat ears and deciding to stick them on his head. All of the girls had cooed and thought it was so cute. And then took pictures.

That was a roll of film that certainly wasn't going to get processed correctly...

But the bell had to be the most annoying thing ever. Every time he made any sort of move, any at all, it rang. Even when he slipped into 'stealth mode', with the silentest of movements, it rang.

It was like the bell was cursed. He couldn't even prank Aoko.

He hated it.

He hated being trapped.

Which is what he was, currently.

As soon as they had gotten back to Hakuba's house from school, Hakuba had barricaded them both in the library. They had done their homework, which due to the fact that they were both higher than normal intelligence, didn't take very long.

Which left the countdown to the Kid heist.

And nothing to do.

The one good thing, he mused, was that Hakuba had stopped pacing fairly quickly. He'd done about two laps of the room before sitting down before Kaito the chance to pounce on him to make him stop, or check his blood level in the caffeine steam.

Faking reading books hadn't worked either, and eventually they had ended up like they were currently, little more than half an hour before the heist. Hakuba sitting in one of the arm chairs, watching the sun set outside the window while Kaito sat on the floor, his back resting against the side of the chair. Hakuba was absently petting him, the blond's fingers running through his hair in a gesture that might have been soothing if both of them weren't currently wound up tighter than a couple of long tailed cats in a room full of rocking chairs.

Kaito was sorely tempted to simply knock Hakuba out and make a run for the heist. It'd be close, but he could probably make it.

But if he did that, he might as well hand over the proof the British Detective needed to prove that he was the Kid.

On the other hand, if the Kid didn't show up, he was doing practically the same thing.

He could practically hear his father's spirit rolling in the grave.

The sound of a radio crackling to life made them both jump. Fingers stilled as Hakuba reached with his unoccupied hand and turned on the light on the table resting next to the chair, illuminating the slowly darkening room. He picked up a previously un-noticed police radio that had been sitting the small table and answered it. "Hakuba here."

"Nakamori." Aoko's father's rough voice growled. "Enjoying your night off?"

Icy fingers of dread ran down Kaito's spine. Nakamori and Hakuba weren't on the friendliest of terms, there was no WAY Nakamori would call to ask on something so trivial before a -Kid- Heist.

Suspicion upgraded to Alarm.

"Very much, sir." Hakuba said, his sugary tones smooth and calm. "It's always nice to spend a relaxing evening with a friend."

"Alright. Have fun."

"You too sir. Happy Hunting."

The radio fell silent once more. "Would you mind if we listened to the heist?" The blond asked softly.

He shrugged. "If you like."

Screwed, he was so completely screwed. Nakamori knew he was here too. First thing he'd do if the Kid showed up would be to send someone to check on Hakuba. He was paranoid and experienced enough to ignore anything he couldn't see and touch when it came to the Kid.

Stupid Ego. He had waltzed right into a trap.

One that he was wholly unprepared for.

... Which was probably the idea...

Voices crackled over the radio, filling the room with the noises of the police officers getting ready for the heist, positions and equipment checked and double-checked. The object of the heist was double checked for authenticity, traps placed, triggered and set again.

The usual hustle and bustle of before a heist.

And they sat in silence, the glow of the sunset streaming in through the window bathing them in shades of golden light. Fingers moved across his scalp, steady as a metronome, counting down the seconds.

"One minute." The radio cackled.

Hakuba's hand stilled, fingers tangled in his hair as he tensed.

Contingency plans... he may not have had any of his gizmos with him, but if it came down to it, he could probably still knock the other boy out and run for it. He'd have to go into hiding for a while, but that was at least better than capture...

The thought that maybe he should give himself peacefully if it came to that flickered through his mind and he abruptly shoved it aside. He wasn't going to give up that easily.

A bead of sweat slid down the back of his neck, a nervous distraction.

The grandfather clock down the hall chimed the hour.

The silence echoed.

A voice complained over the radio. "He's late."

"He's often late." Nakamori growled. "Give it a minute."

More silence.

"I don't think-"

"THERE HE IS!" The voice was sharp, like the crack of a pistol, causing both of them to jump a bit. Fingers pulled on his hair, painfully tugging on his scalp. He rammed his elbow in Hakuba's leg and the other boy eased his grasp.

They listened in tense silence as the Kid not only stole past the majority of the guards, got the target, lead the police on a bit of a chase before disappearing in a cloud of smoke at the top of the building.

It wasn't until Nakamori started cursing that he finally felt himself relax, and allowed a bit of a smile to slip.

Jii. That was Jii's handiwork through and through. Aoko must have told his mother at least part of the reason why he was staying at Hakuba's and his mom would have passed it on to Jii, who filled in for him. They already had the notes and research done for the heist, all that was required was following it through.

It was SO nice to have a back up now and then.

Hakuba's warm hand untangled itself from the top of his head and he heard the detective let out a deep breath, his entire body shuddering a bit as he felt the larger boy suddenly un-tense.

"Congratulations." The detective's voice was soft and he glanced up to see a look of what almost appeared to be relief flicker across the blond's face for a moment. "I do not know how you pulled it off, but you did it."

He schooled his features into an innocent mask. "I don't know what you're talking about. I keep telling you I'm not the Kaitou Kid."

"Right." A ironic smile flittered across the usually placid features as he reached over and picked up the police radio and changed the channels.

"Nakamori-keibu." The British voice was professional and clipped now. "He's still here."

Kaito raised his voice. "Hey, Nakamori-san!" He called cheerfully.

Nakamori growled something, the static distorting his voice so it was impossible to understand what the police inspector was saying. Hakuba made a few affirmation noises before wishing the older man goodnight and turning off the police radio.

There was a flash of light reflecting off of something metallic outside, and Kaito was aware of several people stealthily leaving the area and Kaito was very glad he had decided against attempting to sneak out.

"I am afraid..." Hakuba said, reaching down and untying the ribbon that held the accursed bell around his neck. "...that I have a preceding agreement with Aoko-kun that circumcises our own arrangement. Our contract is concluded and you are free to leave."

"Agreement?" He echoed as the weight annoying purple bell left his shoulders. He shifted sideways to look up at the detective better.

"There has been much debate among the Kaitou Kid Task Force as well as the Police Departments if you were in reality the Kaitou Kid himself, since you share similar abilities and traits." Hakuba explained as he slid the bell off the ribbon, casually resting the ribbon across one leg as he fiddled with the bell. " Despite the fact that you and the Kid have managed to be in two different places at once, not once but twice."

"Once while handcuffed to you." He pointed out with a slight smug grin.

"I have noted Koizumi-chan's... abilities in the past, as illogical as they may seem." Hakuba raised an eyebrow, eluding to Akako's mystical talents. And that fact that she did seem to dearly love moonlight rides on her broomstick, much like the one she rode when impersonating him.

Kaito just smiled. Butter melt in his mouth? Never.

Hakuba ignored it. "It was decided among Nakamori-keibu, Aoko-kun and myself to settle this matter once and for all, with the aid of the police department." The bell came apart, revealing a complex looking gadget inside the top half, and a loose round bell rolling around in the bottom half. "A tracking device." He deadpanned.

"Uh-huh. And the head pattings?"

"Affirming that it was you and not someone in disguise." The blond shifted slightly, faintly uncomfortable. "It was better than pulling skin."

"True." Most of the time anyway. "How'd you get Aoko to agree to that bet anyway?"

"It was her suggestion, actually." He didn't look entirely comfortable with the idea. "I have no idea why Koizumi decided to join in."

"I think she's just pervy like that."

"Most likely." Hakuba nodded.

A trap set for him by his best friend, the guy in charge of catching him and his rival.

To prove his innocence.

And it had worked. Scared the bejeezers out of him, but it had worked. There had been no way for him to be at the Kid heist and Hakuba's mansion at the same time.

He'd probably figure out how to do so -later-, but that was beside the point.

...He had some really good friends.

"Aoko-kun will most likely make her way here to retrieve you as soon as her Father has informed her of your... 'innocence'." The last part was phrased in such a way that it was apparent that his supposed innocence was not believed by the Detective. Which was fine. It kept things interesting. "As stated, you are not bound by the terms of our bargain and are free to return home."

That was a clear dismissal if he had ever heard one.

Kaito paused for a moment, mulling over the past couple of days.

Then with great deliberation, he reached up and retrieved the black ribbon off of Hakuba's leg and tied it back around his neck, happily free from the bell.

"Kuroba?" Hakuba's voice was startled, almost strangled as he stared at him like he had just grown a second head.

Ah, what the heck. He was an Honourable Thief after all, right? And what was one more night?

He shifted so that he was leaning against Hakuba's legs and tiled his head up so that his cheek rested against the blond's knee as he grinned like a cat in the cream. "Hey, do you think we could catch Aoko before she leaves?"

"Uh... possibly." Confusion reigned in golden eyes. "Why?"

"Well, if she's coming over, why not have her spend the night too?" His grin turned cajoling. "We all stay up late, watch some bad monster movies, a few cheesy horror flicks, eat popcorn and generally have a good time together with some of our favourite people."

Hakuba looked surprised for a moment, then grinned. "I think I'd like that…"

-fin-

Many thanks to Kiena and Dogmatix for their help comments with the ending.

Sept-15 Oct 2003