…And Many Happy Returns

By Ysabet

It was one of those days that proved the saying "Murphy was an optimist" to be all too true. If it couldgo wrong, it not only would go wrong, it would do it in the way which provided the most chaos possible. Or so Hakuba Saguru believed; but then, he was currently hanging upside down from a chandelier with his pants around his ankles, so perhaps he could be considered to have his reasons.

And it had started off as such a nice day, too…..

"Happy birthday, Sa-chan!" The tinny voice on the telephone sounded even more distant and far away than the considerable distance between England and Japan should have allowed for; maybe it was just a bad connection. "I've sent a present—at least, I think I sent it, but that's not a problem at all, darling, because if I didn't then the maid will take care of it. You'll forgive Mummy, won't you, Sa-chan darling? If it's just a tad late, I mean? And I DID send you a package last month, it had socks in it; I distinctly remember the socks…"

"Of course, Mother. It's fine. And I'm wearing the socks right now." I might as well; they're clean. And if my birthday present had gotten here on time, reflected her son wryly as he took a last quick bite of his buttered toast, the shock would probably have sent me straight to hospital. It would have been a first, after all. It wasn't that he didn't love his mother; quite the contrary. And hearing from here was a nice way to begin one's morning… But at the same time, there were excellent reasons why he preferred to live in Japan and not with his mother at the brownstone back in London, really there were.

Sanity, that's one of them. Saguru's mother made some quip on the other end of the line in her heavily-accented Japanese, and her tinkling, high-pitched and above all very British titter of laughter made him wince. Not having my eardrums pierced on a regular basis, that's another. And not being dragged to boring upper-crust parties where I'm forced to 'socialize;' and lastly, of course, I have my interests here…

Speaking of which-- The blond detective frowned, brushing off crumbs and glancing at his watch; seventeen minutes and thirty-four seconds until he should be leaving… "I'm afraid I have to go now, Mother; that case I mentioned, remember?"

"Case? Wh—oh, of course! That dashing Phantom Thief you're so obsessed with—what's his name, the Kaitou Cat or something like that? Such a mysterious, fascinating man, and with such—"

The fact that his own mother had become a borderline Kaitou Kid fan over the last year or so did NOT bear thinking of; just another good reason not to return to England, or at least not until he had caught the bloody bastard. "That's 'Kid', Mother, not 'Cat'. And yes, there's another heist tonight."

"You'll be careful, won't you then? Of course you will. Bring Mummy back a souvenir! Taa, darling, and have a lovely time!"

The connection cut off with a click before he could respond, and Irene Hakuba's son stared at the receiver in his hand in bemusement. "And just what kind of souvenir does she think I can find at a Kaitou Kid heist, I wonder? Does she want his autograph?" he asked the instrument rhetorically; it declined to answer back.

The house around him was echoingly empty that evening, other than a servant or two in the kitchen washing up or whatever they did. Hakuba doubted whether or not his father had even realized that today had been his only son's birthday, not that it was really important or anything; it was just… Well, never mind. Birthdays were for eight-year-olds, the kind who expected parties and cake and so forth… The last birthday cake he had been given had been when he was eight, as a matter of fact, and that's how it stood. Children got birthdays; and Hakuba Saguru considered himself to be a very long road away from the child he had once been.

Still; socks. How many young men his age had to deal with getting socks for their seventeenth birthday? Especially tweed ones.

No; it wasn't that he didn't love his mother—he did. He just didn't deal with her very well, not if they had to be in the same room for extended periods of time… It hadn't always been like that, but then he hadn't really always been Hakuba Saguru, had he? For too many years he had been little Sa-chan, his mother's only child, or Saguru, his father's heir, or that weird half-Asian boy at a British school ('Why doesn't he go back where he came from?') or the halfbreed itacho's son at a Japanese school ('Stuck up gaijin, look at that hair') or…..

Never mind. Here, doing what he did, he was Hakuba Saguru; he was making a name for himself, outside his father's influence and rank and apart from his mother's English old-school connections. And tonight he was going to try to catch the Kaitou Kid again.

…even if he was wearing the socks his mother had sent, just to ward off any lingering bits of guilt...

He was a rational young man; rational young men did not admit to feeling familial remorse over wanting to live far, far away from their mothers. Rational young men also wore whatever clean socks were available, despite the fact that they happened to be unmistakably tweed-patterned. The others were all in the wash, after all.

Bother. Never mind the damned socks.

Happy birthday, Saguru, he thought to himself, smiling just the smallest bit in anticipation as he rose from the couch to go and change for the evening.

Happy birthday to you…..

Well. So far, so good

The silent figure perched among the gargoyles on the rooftop of the Okinawa Museum of Modern Art peered past an overhanging marble batwing and nodded in appreciation. It was just before sunset; Nakamori's Kaitou Kid Taskforce had set up their lighting system in record time, the crowd-control barricades were in place, and the Inspector himself was smoking like a bad-tempered chimney right down in the middle of things where he could be easily seen.

"Yosh," the Kid murmured almost soundlessly to himself. Now, where was Hakuba--?

Ah; there. The single blond in a crowd of mostly brunettes stood out like a Twinkie in a plateful of sashimi (not a comparison he suspected Hakuba would care much for). The thief craned his head sideways and watched with interest as the other teenager made his way through the barricades and back towards Nakamori-keibu, who did not exactly seem overjoyed to see him.

Tough. A lot of tonight's performance was going to be directed towards one Hakuba Saguru, professional pain-in-the-rear and Birthday Boy. The Kid grinned gleefully, just barely keeping from chuckling out loud and scaring the pigeons that were coming in to roost for the night among the gargoyles surrounding him. He'd been working hard to set this up just right—working for the last two nights, actually, and not in the usual way…..

It was really amazing when you thought about it. Criminals (by which the Kid meant 'regular thieves who do it for the money') were no better at Home Security than anybody else was.

His train of thought was effectively derailed by a burst of activity below, and the Kid checked his watch. Almost time….. Hmm; Nakamori seemed to be gesturing towards the—oh, right. It looked as if Hakuba-kun was being sent inside the building with the more experienced Taskforce members; okay, that was fine, that was MORE than fine. The Phantom Thief mentally rubbed his hands together in anticipation…..

Perfect. Perfect, perfect, perfect. This was going to be GOOD.

I wonder where he's watching from?

It always irritated Hakuba no end that the Inspector and his men seemed to be oblivious to the idea that, even as they were doing their preparations, the Kaitou Kid was without a doubt doing his. And that included surveillance. Suspicions about his classmate Kuroba aside, if there was one thing that Hakuba had learned it was that the Phantom Thief was no idiot. Certifiably insane, perhaps; almost obscenely lucky, definitely; but not stupid.

Odds are he's on the building's roof, up there among the gargoyles. Why the bloody hell does a museum of modern art have medieval-style gargoyles on its façade? White marble, too; doubtless he has a lovely view. The teenaged detective pushed back his fair hair from his forehead; it was unseasonably hot that evening, and he was very glad he had left his tweed greatcoat at home. He glanced around, hands in his pockets; the place seemed to run heavily towards Lucite stairwells and metallic, modernistic friezes on its walls, not really attractive in his opinion but there was no accounting for taste, was there? Gargoyles outside, Cubism inside; Hakuba shuddered.

And then, of course, there was the target…

If it wasn't for the principle of the thing, I'd say let the thief HAVE it.

The Star of Brisbane was—well, there was no getting around it—was gaudy, showy, and a particularly effective exercise in bad judgment. If one had a stone of unusual beauty (as this flashy ruby the size of a pigeon's egg certainly was), one should show its qualities in a setting that neither detracted nor clashed… a fine sentiment, but not apparently one that the designer had ever heard of. Instead, the dratted thing sat in the middle of a silver brooch that seemed to incorporate an inordinate number of emeralds, pink topazes and shockingly orange citrines; the mix of scarlet, green, pink and orange fairly blazed from the Picassoesque background of silver and white gold, and Hakuba had never seen anything so blatantly tacky in his entire life. No wonder it was on loan from Australia; they would have probably paid to get the thing out of the country.

If there was ever proof that the damned Kid has a hidden agenda behind his thefts, this gem is it. Nobody in their right mind, not EVEN the Kid, would steal this—this—piece of expensive garbage for money, unless they were planning to melt it down and sell the gems separately. As he stared at the display podium, the colors swam in his vision, and the half-British detective turned hastily away before his stomach could rebel.

Let's see, then… He began to rummage through his pockets; he had come prepared this evening with several new devices—a remarkably powerful infrared scope, a tiny attachable tracking 'bug' designed to transmit over a five-kilometer radius, a brand-new set of handcuffs…

Nakamori's men were placing themselves at the ready across the room and up the staircase; senses at the alert, Hakuba took the steps up to the second landing and found himself a place by the banister. Overhead, chrome-and-glass chandeliers cast a dazzle of brilliance across everything; in the glare he checked his watch (six minutes to go) and considered that at least this heist would be well-lit—


--as without fanfare or fuss, the lights went out.

Oh, BLOODY Hell. "You're EARLY!!" Nakamori and Hakuba yelled simultaneously in identical tones of irritation.

From the darkness somewhere in the room, a laughing voice answered: "Now, now, gentlemen, have I stolen ANYTHING yet? Anything at all? My target's still in its place, I promise you….. No, I decided to arrive a little early this evening to pay my respects to Hakuba-kun….."

Bloody Hell indeed. Hakuba swallowed, trying to track just where the voice was coming from. Why hadn't the auxiliary lights come on like they were programmed to during a power outage? He had a very, very bad feeling about this.

"…..on the occasion of his birthday….."

Hakuba Saguru swore beneath his breath. He knew it. Fumbling with his handful of gear, he tried for the infrared scope but managed to drop everything over the railing. "Damn it all—"

"…and to deliver a present or two-- What's a birthday without a present, after all?"

"Presents?" That was Nakamori, beginning to froth at the mouth from the sound of it. "I'll give you a #$!!ing present—" And the auxiliary lights abruptly came on. Everybody flinched, covering their eyes; blinking hard, the Inspector stared wildly around for the Kid—

--who was currently hanging on the edge of the balcony by one hand, directly in front of Hakuba. A Cheshire-cat grin glittered on the Phantom Thief's hatbrim-shadowed face as he stared up at his adversary and held out his other hand, saying politely: "Here you are—I'm afraid you dropped your handcuffs, Hakuba-kun." There was a long, shocked pause while everyone caught their bearings and their breath; from railing-level, the Kid tilted his head and looked up at the detective above him. "Well, Hakuba-kun? Aren't you going to take them?"

Hakuba Saguru stared. And then, with the astonished and above all enlightened expression of a man who has suddenly discovered that the gods are smiling on him just this once, he dove towards the railing with both hands.


God DAMN. Nakamori Ginzo was not committing blasphemy; he simply could not believe what his eyes were telling him. Granted, with the goddamn Kid you never knew if what you were seeing was the real thing or not, but—

--there he was, the Phantom Thief himself, both wrists fastened firmly in handcuffs, still hanging on the railing. Hakuba loomed over him with what had to be the first honestly-if-uncharacteristically-overjoyed grin on his face that Nakamori had ever seen; and oddly enough, the Kid didn't even seem to be upset.

Thinking back later about the whole #$!! evening, the Inspector decided that this should have been considered to be his cue to run like hell...

"Happy birthday, Hakuba-kun," said the Kaitou Kid cheerfully as he swung from the balcony railing. "It appears you've gotten your fondest wish: You've finally caught me."

Hakuba opened his mouth to say something, anything; but his brain had apparently overloaded with the sheer shock of the moment and gone on strike; not a sound came out other than a sort of squeak. He had actually—

He had CAUGHT the Kid. He had caught the Kaitou Kid, at long last.

His prize grinned up at him, not one whit troubled by the situation or the handcuffs. "How do you like your first present, Hakuba-kun? Isn't this what you've always wanted, me in a pair of handcuffs?" The monocle gleamed mockingly up at him in the glare of the auxiliary lights. "It's so sad when a person can't have something they want so badly… so I decided to give it to you. I hope you like it…"

??? There was a faint note of amused, not-quite-dangerous warning in the thief's voice that made the detective's hackles rise.

"…since," the Kid added, "I never guaranteed that you could KEEP me—"

And that was when the shit really hit the fan.

Taskforce members were charging in from all directions—the third landing, the first landing, down below, from the halls, practically oozing out of the woodwork—and as an enormous POOF!! of pink smoke suddenly bloomed from the railing, Hakuba felt himself yanked into space. He shouted and flailed, trying not to fall; something/somebody HAD him by the collar, then by the jacket, then he was being flipped around in a strong, wiry grip despite his struggles and—


"Aaargh!!" Why was his jacket all over his face? Batting at the tangle of fabric that suddenly seemed determined to smother him, the detective punched blindly at anything he could hit, only to strike empty space. Where the bloody hell had—

--and why was he—

--oh. OH.

Hakuba realized quite suddenly why things had become so disorienting; he was hanging upside down, suspended by something that dug rather painfully into his ankles. With a sinking feeling, he clawed his shirt out of his eyes and looked down (up?) at the very familiar pair of handcuffs that had been so snuggly applied between calf and shoe…..

"#$!!" Somewhere behind him he could hear shouts as every taskforce squadmember crowded up the stairs towards the second landing.

"Tsk, tsk, Hakuba-kun, you've been hanging around with the Inspector too much," admonished the Phantom Thief perched on the gently swinging chandelier below (above) his feet. The bastard had the gall to shake a finger briskly in his direction. "If you keep talking like that, you'll make a bad name for yourself, you know… Tarred with the same brush and all that." The Kid sighed dramatically. "And here I was being so nice and all, giving you what you had wanted for so long…"

His white-clad tormentor clucked his tongue. "Well, if you're going to be like that, there's nothing for it but to give you your other presents." A gloved hand dug into a pocket, producing something that glittered; leaning over carefully, he hooked it over one of Hakuba's feet. "Happy birthday again….. If you've been keeping up with the news, you'll recall that a group of thieves—far less skilled than I, of course—have been targeting several of the smaller museums around town over the past week or so. I dislike competition; and besides, two of their targets were ones I was interested in anyway. So….." Another bauble was draped over the opposite foot; a necklace? "As it was, none of the jewels they had acquired happened to be to my taste, so I'm returning them as usual." That Cheshire-cat grin again, white teeth against a shadowed face as a third gemmed bauble was tastefully fastened to an ankle. "Just think of this as my own little contribution to Law and Order." A fourth item was pinned to a sock, and the Kid paused; Hakuba could nearly hear his eyebrows climbing. "…You know, you're actually wearing tweed socks. I didn't even know that they MADE tweed socks. Interesting, the things you learn..."

The young detective swore, fighting against gravity and trying to climb his own body high enough to swing at the Phantom Thief. "They're—from my—mother, you—bastard-- Aaaargh!!"

"Really? I hope you thanked her."

Nakamori's men were attempting to snare the chandelier with a thrown rope by now; however, Hakuba's own wild gyrations were keeping it swinging erratically enough that success was unlikely. A few taskforce members were gesturing with their rifles, but as they were indoors a strict 'no shooting' policy was in force, even with the rubber bullets that had been issued; too much artwork could be damaged and everyone knew it.

Aaaargh…. swinging…….. totally humiliated……utter bastard… Hakuba had gone past being dizzy by now and was rapidly edging into nausea; and moreover, his ankles were really beginning to ache. The thief perched above his shoesoles waved cheerfully at Nakamori as they swung past, causing the Inspector to bite through his pipestem and half-climb over the railing before being dragged back by his men. The shouts from the Taskforce grew louder.

Got to… climb back up--

It was hard, struggling against the momentum of the swing and his growing dizziness, but Hakuba was nothing if not persistant. Grabbing handfuls of his own pants-legs, he dragged his head to about knee-level; "Pretty impressive," remarked his audience. "But what are you going to do if you manage to reach me? I don't suppose you've got another set of handcuffs on you anywhere, do you?"

"I'll—THINK—of something—you—" he gritted out, a jeweled necklace swinging in his face. The Brit snarled as he grabbed hold of more pants-leg. Almost ankle-level now—

"Ooops. As much as I've enjoyed hanging around with you, Hakuba-kun, I've just noticed the time. Terribly sorry, but I've got to go—I'm a bit late for an appointment with a horribly gaudy jewel." The thief straightened up, standing easily on the swaying chandelier. "Take care of your ankles; I believe they've gotten a bit scraped. Good thing you were wearing thick socks, ne? I—"


The room fell silent in little gusts and trickles at the buzzing of the cell-phone; startled faces all over were evident as hands patted pockets and vests, only to come up empty as their owners looked blankly at each other: not mine…


…but it seemed to be awfully close at hand—

The Kaitou Kid had paused with his mouth open, halfway through his farewell; silently he pointed a white-gloved hand towards Hakuba, who had by now managed to actually grab the edge of the chandelier and hang completely doubled over. Hakuba Saguru blinked: and then yelped as pickpocket-light fingers plucked his cellphone from where the antenna protruded from his pocket.

brrrrrrrp!!brrr--"Moshi moshi…"

Absolute silence, except for the creaking of the chandelier-chain. And into the silence a familiar voice: "Sa-chan? Sa-chan, is that you? It's Mummy…"

Frozen in the act of clinging to the edge of the chandelier on either side of his ankles, Irene Hakuba's son closed his eyes as the overloud, tinny voice carried clearly through the museum. As if the day could become any worse—

"Sa-chan? --IS this Sa-chan? I wanted to let him know that I had mailed his present—"

A slow, delighted smile grew on the Kaitou Kid's face. "No, this isn't Sa-chan; I'm afraid he can't come to the phone right now… he's in a bit of a bind. But I'll be happy to pass along any messages, if you'd like."

"How lovely of you… Are you one of his schoolmates? He hardly ever talks about his friends, just those silly cases he investigates and so on-- Oh dear; wasn't Sa-chan supposed to be at a—I think he called it a 'heist'—tonight? I'm not interrupting anything, am I?"

The grin on the Kid's face grew even wider; if it went any further, Hakuba thought dizzily, it would surely meet in the back and unzip his head. "No, no, not at all," the thief assured the detective's mother; "In fact, you called at a perfectly appropriate time. And no, we aren't acquainted through school; I'm his quarry for the evening, actually."

Even the Taskforce members were keeping still and quiet by this point, straining their ears for the rest of the conversation; the Phantom Thief obligingly held the cellphone up so that they could hear the woman's response: "…his 'quarry'? I'm afraid I don't quite-- Oh! OH! You don't mean that you're the Kaitou Cat, do you?!? How very exciting! I'm so delighted to meet you!"

Dear God, the woman was burbling, thought her son in despair as he shifted his grip on the chandelier. Maybe he could loosen the handcuffs and fall to a merciful death. Grimly Hakuba began to pull himself further up. A little more and he'd be actually hanging by his knees—

The Kid winced. "Ahhh… that's Kaitou KID, if you please, not cat. And I'm delighted to meet the mother of such an intelligent, dignified individual as Hakuba Saguru." He edged a little further away on the large chandelier, avoiding the subject of the conversation's convulsively clutching hands. "He's quite amazing, you know; never loses his composure no matter what situation he finds himself in; a real role-model. You should be proud of your son."

"Oh, well, of course I'm proud of Sa-chan… he was like that even when he was a baby," 'Sa-chan's' mother cooed happily on the other end of the international connection. "Even that time when he got chased by a swan in KensingtonGardens when he was three, he didn't cry. Such a stubborn little tyke! 'Pig-headed,' my own dear mater used to say, though of course that's a rather dreadful label to put on a sweet little thing like Sa-chan…"

"He hasn't changed a bit," the Phantom Thief assured her. "Trust me on this one. And now I'm afraid I need to go… I'll pass on your messages and best wishes to your son, I promise you; charming to meet you, Hakuba-san—"

"And to meet you—Kid-san, is it? How quaint! Err….. that is….. You don't suppose…….."

"Yes?" An eyebrow went up in the shadows of the white hat-brim; from his uncomfortable perch on the edges of the chandelier, Hakuba Saguru saw it clearly. He swore to himself as he strained to pull himself higher. --dammit, dammit, dammit—think my bloody pants have caught on something—damn you, Kid, when I get my hands on you I'm going to--

His mother was still talking; she sounded uncommonly flustered, too. "…well, dear….. I, errr…. I wouldn't want to put you to any trouble, but…. Would it—Could you---ah-- Would you mind leaving your autograph with Sa-chan? I did tell the boy that I'd love a souvenir of one of his investigations, and well, you're a bit of a celebrity, aren't you? My dear friends at the club would just DIE of envy if I showed them an authentic Kaitou Cat, sorry, Kaitou Kid autograph—"

On the stairwell, the Taskforce members were carefully looking anywhere but at the Inspector by now; a number of them were covering their faces as their shoulders shook with badly-concealed laughter. Nakamori himself had turned an amazing shade of purple and was probably well on his way to an aneurism… But the Kid merely chuckled into the phone. "Say no more, dear lady; I'd be honored. And I'll take care of the matter RIGHT now. Delighted to talk with you, jaa!"

He grinned down at Hakuba as he closed the cell-phone with a click. "Love and kisses from your mother, 'Sa-chan'…"

The blond detective's response was quite profane and not at all repeatable. "Tsk, tsk, tsk. Do you talk to your Mummy with that mouth? …Never mind. And now, if you'll pardon me, I'll take care of that little 'autograph' matter—I wouldn't want to disappoint the lady, after all." Whipping out a black felt-tip pen from nowhere, the Phantom Thief leaned down to nearly within reaching distance. "Tell me, would you prefer my signature on your left cheek or on your right?"

"What?!? Bugger that, you-- Aaaaaghh The yelp was caused by a sudden tilt of the chandelier; its two temporary inhabitants had apparently misjudged just how much it could take, and one of the heavy chromed pipes that made it up had finally torn loose. Flailing, Hakuba managed to keep from plummeting headfirst down, instead managing a kind of slithering exit across his own legs.

In the process he belatedly recalled feeling the seat of his pants catch on the metalwork; there was a sudden ripping noise, a moment of pressure, and—

--a draft…..


Still holding his marker in hand, the Kid surveyed the sight that hung below him unblinkingly. In a slightly shaky voice, he said "I believe I take back what I said about writing my signature on your, ahh, cheek. Instead…" He stooped quickly, pushing aside the tangle of cloth that had torn and hung up on the chandelier's modern-art curlicues. A bit of work with the marker and it was done; "There. And now I really MUST take my leave. Sayonara, 'Sa-chan', and don't feel too badly about this evening, ne?"

Suspended upside down, wearing a sweatshirt , a pair of boxers and a fatalistic expression of bleak despair, the blond detective hadn't even the energy to scowl any more; he had completely given himself up as doomed. "Oh, really? Why shouldn't I?" he asked bitterly. "It's my birthday, I'm currently hanging four meters above a marble floor while making a public display of my underwear and a wanted criminal has just drawn his caricature on one of my socks. Perhaps a moron such as yourself might not have a problem with that, but….."

Hakuba's complaint petered out. What was the use, anyway? He'd been made a complete fool of. The Kid had won, once again… "Why shouldn't I?" he asked again; it came out less bitter this time and more of a question, almost without rancor.

His adversary stood quite still, staring downwards; the gleam of the lights obscured him even more than darkness would have. "Well… you DID catch me, you know, even if it was only for ten seconds—"

"Twelve." Even hanging upside down in his underwear, the half-Brit still retained his sense of accuracy.

"Twelve, then. And you DO have the stolen items from the other thieves' heists to return….."

This was true, he supposed...it didn't help much that he had been given them by somebody who had one of the top spots on Interpol's Most Wanted list, but they were back in legal hands.

"...and you've got your mother a souvenir..."


The Kid chuckled. "Be sure and give it to her; you wouldn't want to disappoint the lady, now would you?" Easily he leaned outwards, altering the arc of the chandelier's swing so that it was now moving in a wide elliptical orbit. "Happy birthday, Hakuba-kun; enjoy your third present!" His free hand moved then, something small and relay-ish dropping from his sleeve into his palm before he closed his fist—

CLICK.Lights out again…..

Hakuba began very quietly to curse beneath his breath as far below, the sounds of breaking glass (as in 'glass from the display case containing the Star of Brisbane') indicated that the Phantom Thief's heist was now back on schedule. "AFTER HIM!!" roared Nakamori-keibu, causing a veritable stumbling, tripping tidal-wave of Taskforce squadmembers as they all tried to head down the stairs at once.

Typical. From his place on the chandelier, Hakuba strained his eyes in the dark, trying to make out the confusion below; no good. With a sigh of frustration, he began working his way back up to where his ankles were attached again, only to pause as his brow furrowed in puzzlement…

"Third gift?" he asked the air out loud. Once again, it declined to answer, and he sighed. Maybe returning to England again wasn't such a bad idea after all…..

There was no-one up waiting for Hakuba Saguru when he reached his home later that same evening, after all the paperwork had been filled out; no-one but a single sleepy servant to let him in and carefully refrain from making any comments about his young master's borrowed, badly-fitting slacks. Nakamori-keibu had done the best for him that he could, but most of the Taskforce members had been considerably larger than the young detective and it showed.

The jewels that had been left dangling from his feet had all been returned; that had been the cause of the bulk of the paperwork, actually, that and persuading the staff photographer to hand over or at the very least destroy certain embarrassing photos… Slumping into an overstuffed chair, the blond young man groaned and rubbed at his aching ankles and thanked God that his mother had bought thick socks—

…Oh, right. Bloody HELL.

It wasn't a bad Kid-caricature for the little time that it had been drawn in, but somehow the owner of the pair of socks wasn't in much of a mood to admire it. Wadding them up, Hakuba hurled the offending footwear forcibly across the room and into an umbrella-stand before rising to stagger towards the kitchen. Tea; yes, a nice cup of tea would make it all better, and then he could sit down and seriously consider whether or not leaving for England would be a better change than joining a monastery somewhere…

Neither he nor his father (when he was around) were wont to encourage staff to sit up and wait on them late at night; therefore the kitchen was quite deserted. As he put a kettle on to boil, though, a faint and oddly out-of-place scent caught Hakuba's attention, as tired as he was: burning? Sulfurish… burning matches? What-- And something sweet—

There were two non-servant dining rooms in his large house; the main one, echoingly huge and quite cold, and the smaller and more intimate breakfast nook. It was there that the scent led him, sweetness and candle-wax and the smell of struck matches, all of it carried by the breeze from the room's open window…

It was chocolate, most probably; the frosting job looked quite amateur, but all in all it wasn't a bad-looking cake. The seventeen brightly-burning candles gave it a warm glow, reflecting in tiny pink, green, red and orange stars off the ornate piece of jewelry that had been planted squarely in the middle of the frosting. Rather numbly, Hakuba stepped up to the table and simply stared; the Kid caricature on the cake stared back, but for once the slantways grin did not seem to be mocking him…..

Instead it was just that: a grin.

A single plate lay beside it with a fork resting squarely on top; and tucked beneath the plate was a note. With fingers that absolutely did NOT shake (no matter how the words flickered in the candle-light), the newly-seventeen-year-old opened it:

My best wishes to an honorable adversary, and I hope you enjoy your cake. No drugs, explosives or anything else; you have my word. Please return the Star of Brisbane to Nakamori-san tomorrow with my thanks.

Happy Birthday, Hakuba-kun, and many happy returns.

P.S.: I didn't precisely LET you catch me, you know. If you hadn't been fast enough, you wouldn't have been able to put the 'cuffs on at all. Better luck next time in keeping them there………… 1412

Slowly Hakuba laid down the note and picked up the serving-knife that was resting beside the cake. As he cut a large slice, the rich scent of chocolate rose to his nostrils and, almost involuntarily, he smiled ever so slightly.

'Next time', hm?

Maybe England could wait just a little while longer…..

Ysabet's Notes: Okay, THAT was a crackfic if there ever was, and written in record time; I sure hope it's okay. No idea how or why Hakuba's birthday became the subject, but there you are. After having written 9/10ths of the thing, I realized with over a conversation with Icka M. Chif that she had ALSO written a Hakuba-and-the-Kid-trade-handcuffs-on-a-stair-railing fic over a year ago (lots and lots of variations, but still…); so, my apologies and profound homage! Big, big differences, so I don't feel too bad. And she laughed her head off when I wailed about it, too.

P.S.: And the 'Kaitou Cat' was an in-joke re: Icka's Fullmetal Alchemist/Kaitou Kid crossover fic about "that blasted red stone"-- just HAD to do that, Icka! :P