Quick Notes: We've had this done since October, we've just been slack about posting it here, because we hate having to spend the half hour to correct formatting to upload stuff here.
Parts of this fic may seem familiar, we spun part if it off for 'Gaining Watson' in 2003.



The Price You Pay: For Family

By Icka! M. Chif

Conan was bored. Mind numbingly bored. Bone numbingly bored. Lethargically bored. Bored. Bored. Bored. Bored. Bored.

Which meant that his traitorous mind had a chance to worry over things.

He -hated- when it got slow at Mouri's.

A dove landed on the windowsill he was leaning against and he lazily moved to swat it away. Then he noticed something peculiar about this particular bird.

It had a note attached to its leg.

"Psst." He opened the window and wiggled his fingers at the white dove. "Here, birdie, birdie... Nice birdie..."

The bird cocked its head, then shook its feathers at him before ambling over. He carefully grabbed it, and it allowed itself to be manhandled as he untied the slim folded piece of paper from around its leg. As soon as he set it down, it spread its wings and flew off again with a small cooing sound.

He watched it fly off, surprised to notice that instead of taking off into the sky, it flew towards the street, to disappear in the shadows under an awning. He frowned and unfolded the note.

"'Can you come out and play'-?" He blinked as he read the note out loud. "Play?!"

From the corner of his eye, he noticed a shadow separate itself from where the dove had vanished, then resolve itself into Kuroba Kaito, Hattori's grinning cousin.

Kuroba pulled a hand out of his jeans pocket and waved to him, before turning and casually walking down the street, message clear. Come follow.

"Ran-neechan!" Conan shouted, jumping out of his seat and scrambling towards the door, grabbing his jacket along the way. "I'm going out to play!"

"Conan-kun?" He barely saw her poke her head out of the doorway of the kitchen before he had his shoes slipped on and was running down the hallway, wrestling his jacket on. "Conan-kun!"

He sent her a silent apology as he took off jogging down the street, spotting Kuroba's wild hair about a block down the road. Kuroba glanced back and waved before continuing on. He sped up to a quick trot, struggling slightly to keep the other teen in eye shot as Kuroba led him down the streets, always keeping a slight lead on him.

A few times he thought for sure he'd lost the other boy, but every time Kuroba would simply reappear, hands in his pockets, a smile on his face and would walk off again. This continued until he finally found Kuroba waiting for him in local park, standing beside a park bench, two canned beverages in his hands. Kuroba's face lit in broad grin as he spotted him.

"Thought I'd lost you there for a moment." Kuroba smiled, tossing one of the cans towards him. "Careful, it's still a little warm. Coffee, right? Black?"

"Uh... yeah." He caught the can out of mid air and checked the label. One of his favourites. "Thanks."

"Not a problem." Kuroba waved it off, plopping down on the bench with the same careless grace he'd shown at Hattori's house. "Grab a seat. I don't understand how you can drink that stuff without anything, really. Too bitter for me. Gimme hot chocolate any day." He held up his own beverage, which was, as stated, hot chocolate.

He really wanted to like Kuroba. Really he did. The wild-haired teen was quick-witted and amusing to be around.

But then there were the small things that stuck out and set him on edge. Such as knowing that he liked coffee and how he preferred it when he was sure he'd never drunk or mentioned it in Kuroba's presence.

Or that fact that the one time he had mentioned his mother during their first meeting, Kuroba had recognised her almost immediately.

Not Conan's Mother, the plump lady with black hair, but Shin'ichi's mother. Kudo Yukiko.

Which meant that Kuroba -knew- that he was Kudo Shin'ichi.

And he wasn't quite sure how to deal with that.

He took a seat anyway. So far Kuroba hadn't shown any signs of wanting to hurt him, but he continued to remain on guard.

Kuroba snickered at his reaction and took a sip of his drink. "Geez. If you're going to glare at me like that, Kudo-" He grinned and leaned down, tapping a finger on the bridge of his glasses. With a small 'Pon!' they vanished off his face. "-at least take off the glasses."

Conan blinked, his eyes wide. Panic flared up for a moment, but then Kuroba leaned back out of reach, looking amused at his reaction.

Finally he noticed his glasses sitting beside him, politely folded up as if he himself had just taken them off to clean them. He put them back on, feeling a small measure of his equilibrium restored. "I'm going to KILL Hattori," he declared at last.

Kuroba chuckled good-naturedly. "Ah, relax. Heiji never breathed a word. Well... aside from the calling you 'Kudo' all the time thing, but by now I don't think anyone notices..."

"So you figured it out on your own." Conan winced internally. That came out a little harsher than expected.

"Yup." The response was relaxed and easy. Could be the truth or a really good lie. "But, Heiji did ask me to talk to you today."

Then there was some tension in the taller boy. The face didn't change, the hands remain steady, but the shoulder muscles bunched slightly. "About-" Conan's question was quickly cut off.

"Nope."

Conan's brows came down in a frown. "What?"

The manic grin returned as the magician held up a handful of cards, spread out like a fan. "Well... did you know that playing cards were originally used as Tarot? Clubs were Wands or Batons, Hearts were Cups, Diamonds were known as Pentacles or Coins and Spades were originally Swords. So..." The cards were shuffled, moving like a blur between two nimble hands, before being offered in the palm of an open hand in a neat orderly stack. "Would you like your fortune read?"

Conan was less than impressed. He conveyed this with a dry expression and a raised eyebrow.

"I didn't think so." The cards flew through the air, being reshuffled. Kuroba's tone was light as the cards formed different shapes in the air, like they were being juggled. Arcs, circles, figure eights, different sounds and patterns to all of them.

"Heiji said that business was slow for you currently, which meant that you were prone to either brooding, which is dangerous, or finding something to do, which is equally dangerous. So he convinced me to give you something to keep your mind occupied and out of looking for trouble."

"You mean besides figuring out how you know who I am or putting a soccer ball in your head?"

"... maybe some other time." Was the flippant reply. "But for now, it's time for part of a story."

"Part?"

"Well... the rest is up to you, if you find it interesting enough." Kuroba flashed him cheeky smile. "If not, that's up to you too."

"You know, I think I liked you better when you weren't trying to be cryptic." Conan commented.

"I'll take that as a compliment. But now... it's story time."

Conan rolled his eyes, but resigned himself to hearing the story. If nothing else, he had his shoes, a full can of coffee and his dart gun.

"Mukashi Mukashi or Once Upon a Time, however you want to start the story, there was a group of people." A card was pulled out of the shifting deck and set between them. A Four of Clubs, also known as 'The Devil's Bedposts'. "-They weren't exactly the nicest of people, nor the politest. Bad hygiene aside, they decided that they needed some help. So to do that, they created a man based off of a fictional character."

A second card was set above the Four of Clubs. The King of Diamonds. "Sherrinford Holmes." Kuroba explained.

Conan raised an eyebrow.

"That didn't exactly work out, some flaws and what not, so they tried a second time." The King of Hearts was placed to the left of the Four of Clubs. "Sherlock Holmes, our main detective man himself. Which is where Fate threw in a joker."

A smiling joker was put on top of the Four of Clubs, crossing it. "Their second experiment resulted in not one, but two people. A mirror to Holmes, ArsÈnÈ Lupin." The King of Clubs was set to the right of the crossed cards, mirroring the King of Hearts.

"Due to the unforeseen result of the... twins, a third and final experiment was created." The King of Spades was placed below the crossed cards, finishing the circle of cards. "Ellery Queen."

Conan scowled. "Wasn't Ellery Queen two people?"

"Yup." Kuroba's grin was easy. "Creates for a bit of a split personality, wouldn't you think?"

"Hn." He leaned back. "And this story is supposed to make sense how?"

"They're all people you know." Kuroba gathered the placed cards back into his hands and with a small poof! the deck disappeared. "And that's the end of my story." With a smooth easy motion, he grabbed his can of hot chocolate and rose.

"Catch you later, Kudo-an." The name was stretched out, an amalgam of Kudo and Conan. With a careless wave, the lanky teen started to walk away.

"Kuroba." He called out, pausing the other boy. "You're familiar. Have we... met before?"

Kuroba went completely still, one hand casually resting in his pockets, the other holding the can at his side. "Aa." He agreed. "Several times. But you've only ever seen my back."

A card was blindly tossed towards him with a flick of a hand, Conan catching it in surprise. "Find me when you're ready. Or bother Heiji, it's his idea anyway."

He glanced at the card that he'd caught. The King of Hearts, otherwise known as the Suicide King. Holmes, in Kuroba's story. "Don't you need this?"

"Nah." Kuroba tossed him a friendly grin, his non-coffee carrying 'empty' hand suddenly holding several boxes of cards between his fingers. "I've got spares. Take care of yourself, boya. And don't worry so much. I've kept your secrets this long, I'm not about to spill them now."

The magician walked off, and this time Conan didn't stop him.


It took him two weeks to work up the determination to track down Kuroba. It wasn't like the boy was trying to hide at all; all it had taken was a quick internet search for 'Kuroba Toichi' and he had gotten more information than he'd actually cared to have known about the World Famous Magician's Death.

The funny thing was that not a single news article mentioned the fact that it could be anything other than an accident. The fan forums however, were still ripe with speculation if someone hadn't staged that particular accident on purpose. Becoming world famous meant that you gained enemies, no matter how hard you might try to avoid it.

And if Kuroba Kaito knew things he shouldn't, it wasn't a great leap of logic that the father might have as well. Which brought up some nasty suspicions about men in black. Yet another thing to talk to Kuroba about.

But the riddle that the magician had given him had proved to be more difficult to solve than finding his address. The Kuroba household was also depressingly close to Beika, in the one of the more rural sections of the sprawling Metropolis that was Tokyo. A short train trip and he was there.

The house was on the large side, a two story on a decent plot of land. Not quite as big as the Hattori house, but still enough to state that the residents were quite well off. He half-wondered if Kuroba had designed the house, like Masakage had done, resulting in secret doors and trap halls.

He dismissed that thought from his mind, reluctantly walking up the path and ringing the doorbell. A woman who was obviously related to Kuroba answered the door if the long messy hair that was remarkably like Kuroba's was any indication. She smiled down at him, a friendly aura around her. "Hi."

"Hello." He almost stammered back. "Is Kaito-niichan home?"

"Just a moment." She smiled and half shut the door. He tensed,at the expected bellow that followed. "KAITO!!! YOU HAVE COMPANY!!!"

Well, that explained where the teen got his loudness from...

"COMING!" A shout echoed from the second level. Footsteps that sounded like a herd of wildebeests stampeding down the stairs thundered towards them.

Conan found himself bracing for impact, only to have the footsteps stop peaceably at the door. Kuroba's familiar smiling visage peered around the door. "Ah, Tantei-kun! C'mon in!"

The phrasing caught his attention, but he couldn't quite place where he had heard it before. "Ah, thank you." He hesitantly walked in the door, half expecting a dozen men with guns or a trap door to open up under his feet. Perhaps a laser web or stun guns instead.

Instead, it was an ordinary house, several sets of house scuffs waiting for him at the door. Kuroba's mother smiled at Conan as he changed shoes, as if having young boys over was a common occurrence for her teenage son. "I'll have snacks ready for you in a minute or two."

"That's all right." Conan tried to dismiss her offer, this wasn't a social call, but she was already walking down the hall, obstinately heading to the kitchen to get the aforementioned snacks.

"That's my Mom." Kuroba said pleasantly, a fond expression on his face as he watched her leave. "She doesn't know about any of this, she's completely innocent. Do anything to hurt her and I'll have your hide for a pair of suspenders. You can keep your trick shoes with you it'll make you feel better."

The abrupt change of topic threw him for a moment, then he shook his head. "It's fine." He turned his sneakers to face towards the door, looking up at the teenager with a slightly defiant expression. "You always entertain elementary grade school kids at your house?"

"I have a wide variety of friends." Kuroba motioned for him to follow with a tilt of his head. "Most of them wanna talk magic. C'mon up."

Conan followed, his hands in his pockets as he eyed the house. There were a lot of photos on the walls, framed mementos of Kuroba Toichi's glory days, autographed shots of famous people and pictures of the Kuroba family, both with a young Kaito and before his birth.

"Nice photos." He commented.

"Yeah." Kuroba agreed, touching one that looked like it was a favourite by the worn marks on the edges of the frame. "Trade 'em all to get him back though. He was a great man."

"Aa." Conan agreed. So he'd read. And one of the Seven Knights his mother had met.

"Here we are." Kuroba opened a door and walked in. "Grab a seat where ever you feel comfortable."

"Thanks." He took a seat on the floor, noticing that the window was probably easy enough to get out of. Kuroba took a seat by the bed, leaning against it, obviously at ease with his own territory.

"Mom'll be up in a minute or two, she firmly believes in feeding growing boys." Kaito explained. "Got any small talk until then?"

Conan thought about it for a moment. He'd known Hattori for a while, it still surprised him that the Osaka detective hadn't mentioned his cousin before Kuroba had suddenly appeared. Which was odd, considering how close the two appeared to be. "How'd you and Hattori meet?"

"Ya call that small talk?" Kuroba commented with an amused smirk. "Don't beat around the bush much, do you?"

"No."

"Fair enough." Kuroba agreed. "We met recently by accident. Got to talking and found out we had some ancestry in common."

"So you're not really cousins." Conan smirked.

"We are and we aren't." Kuroba's half lidded gaze looked smug somehow, pleasantly secretive. "But we're family, and that's really all that counts."

A knock on the door forestalled any more questions. "I brought you boys some snacks." Kuroba's Mom said, smiling at them.

"Thanks, Mom." Kuroba smiled up at his mother. "You didn't have to."

"I know." She set the tray down. There were two cans of juice, some seaweed crackers and... small yellow crackers shaped like fish. Kuroba's Mom winked at Conan. "If Kaito gets too excited talking about magic, just toss the goldfish crackers at him."

"MOM!!!" Kuroba looked horrified.

Conan chuckled. "Will do. Thank you, Auntie."

She smiled fondly at both of them, patted Kuroba on the head and left them to their business, closing the door behind her. Kuroba ran a hand down his face, a faint blush on his cheeks. "She means well, really she does." He muttered.

Conan grinned back. "Yeah." He helped himself to some of the fish shaped crackers.

Kuroba grunted back, snagging a can of juice and opening it. "So. What'd you think of the story?"

He debated the question as he munched on the crackers. Some sort of salty artificial cheese flavour. "I think it was lacking in details." He finally concluded.

He got an unexpected smile in return. "How else were we going to meet up again to talk?"

Conan frowned. "So it was planned out to get me here? To talk?"

"To think." Kuroba corrected. "Really, Heiji should be handling this, it was his idea." The wild-haired teenager looked unhappy with the situation.

"You said that before." Conan mused. Kuroba seemed both strangely reluctant and eager to tell the story at the same time.

"Right. So you know where to lay the blame." Kuroba muttered, pulling a silk handkerchief out of his sleeve. He put the silk over his hand, then pulled it away, revealing a manila envelope in his previously empty hand. "Same story, redux."

"You said everyone involved in the story were people I know." Conan interrupted him. "The organisation who created these people are the same people who shrunk me?"

"Very good." Kuroba not-quite purred, pulling paper-clipped print outs from the envelope. "Anything else?"

"That was all I got." Conan frowned at him. "You didn't give me a lot to work off of, you know."

"Yes." Kuroba agreed without remorse. "So. Once upon a time, or Mukashi Mukashi, there was a Black Organisation who decided that to study eternal life, they first needed to create life. After all, it never hurts to have a back-up plan."

Conan nodded. Made sense, in a twisted way.

"The first to be created was Sherrinford Holmes." Kuroba placed a stack of paper and a photograph, neatly paper-clipped together down on the ground between them. The black and white photograph was of a pale haired baby, staring at the camera with a bored expression.

Conan raised an eyebrow. "And I know this person?"

"They've grown quite a bit since then." Kuroba assured him. "These photos were taken almost twenty years ago."

"Hm. What was wrong with them?" The baby looked whole. Ten toes, ten fingers, all limbs attached. There was what looked like a question mark carved into one arm, similar to a faint scar Conan had on his own arm, but that was it.

"Programming." Kuroba deadpanned. "To create someone truly brilliant, you need the spark of emotion to drive them. Without that, you have a disconnected genius unable to properly form bonds with people. Some of it can be learned, with time and practise, but it never becomes completely intuitive."

He nodded, motioning for Kuroba to go to the next one.

"The next..." Kuroba laid a second file down, with another picture on it. "Is Sherlock Holmes."

Conan felt a chill run down his back as he stared at the photograph. It looked familiar. The baby's eyes were open and alert, staring at the camera with an alert expression. It too had the question mark cut in one arm. "And Lupin?"

Kuroba silently laid the file with the picture of the twin out next to Sherlock Holmes. Lupin's expression was equally bright, perhaps a touch mischievous where Holmes' was serious. Other than that, they could have been mirrors of each other. Even the question mark shaped cut was on the opposite arm.

The nagging sense of familiarity continued to annoy him. He should know them.

"A member of the organisation rebelled, stealing the children away in the night and adopting them to good homes. To be raised by people who loved them." Kuroba added softly. "The story may not be happily ever after, but they did end up happy."

"The last clone." Conan was surprised to find his voice was slightly thick, like he was having trouble getting the words past his throat.

"Ellery Queen." Kuroba put the file down close to Conan, leaning forward to do so. A baby looked up at him, a grin on his dark face, tan despite the obvious lack of sun.

"Three famous detectives and a gentleman thief." Kuroba said cryptically, leaning back against the bed.

The last baby looked like Hattori. It even had the same silly hair spike on the side of the head.

He felt a piece of the puzzle slide into place in the back of his head. Kuroba had said he knew everyone in the pictures, what if the baby really was Hattori?

-Assuming he believed this story about clones, of course.

But if Ellery Queen was Hattori, same hair style and all... What other detectives their age did he know? Other than himself and Hattori? There really weren't that many.

There was Hakuba Saguru, the British teenage detective. The pale hair of the Sherrinford clone could easily darken into Hakuba's tea coloured blond.

The Holmes clone had a recognisable hairstyle as well, the cowlick that stuck up in the back looked like his own. And wasn't Kudo Shin'ichi known as a Modern Sherlock Holmes?

And the Kaitou Kid was called the Heisei, or Modern, Lupin. He eyed the Lupin baby suspiciously. Three Detectives and a Gentleman Thief. The Kaitou Kid?

The puzzle pieces began sliding into place faster and he felt a faint growing sense of horror at the picture that was forming. The Kaitou Kid knew who he was. Kuroba knew who he was. They both did magic. They both called him 'Tantei-kun', something that he'd never told anyone about.

Kuroba had that damned question mark scar on his own arm, visible under his short sleeves.

The opposite arm from the mark on Conan's own arm.

His parents had no early pictures of him as an infant.

There were no pictures of his mother pregnant with him.

He looked up at Kuroba, no, the Kaitou Kid's pitying, almost pleading gaze. He knew. The bastard had -known- . And had kept it secret from him until now. For what? His own amusement? To have something to dangle over him to tease him about at his leisure?

"I refuse to believe that the KAITOU KID is my BROTHER!" Conan lashed out at the thief, his hands clenching into fists at his sides.

A gasp from the doorway caught their attention. A girl with shoulder length wild hair stood there, her eyes wide as she stared past him towards the lanky teenager behind him. He didn't know how long she had been there, but it was obvious that she had been there long enough. "Aoko..." the Kid breathed, for it really was the Kid, his eyes equally wide and shocked.

An inarticulate scream of rage, fear and pain tore from her throat as she threw the book she was holding at him. Kid didn't dodge it, just stared and winced as it hit him in the shoulder.

With that, she turned and stormed out, eyes scrunched up to hide tears

Conan turned just in time to see what appeared to be the world drop out of the other boy's eyes. There was a funny twist in his gut as he realised that the girl that had just left was Kuroba's version of Ran.

He suddenly had the sick feeling that he had done something very, very wrong.

"K-"

"Don't say anything, Edogawa." The voice was of someone much, much older than their seventeen years as Kuroba knelt down to retrieve the fallen book, his eyes shadowed by his hair. "You've made your decision. Go back to your life. I won't bother you anymore."

He nodded once, turned and left the room without looking back.


"Figured I'd find you here." Saguru called out as he climbed down the grassy embankment the magician was sitting on.

The magician didn't even flinch, just continued to stare woodenly out over the water. Saguru winced internally. That was... unusual. The other boy was usually ready with a quip, or a grin, or -something-. Warning bells went off in the back of his head.

"Your cousin called me, asking me to keep an eye on you." He continued. There was no sign that Kuroba had heard him at all as he walked down the grassy embankment to where the magician-thief sat. "He said that there had been a bit of trouble last night. He's been trying to get hold of you ever since."

Again, no response from Kuroba. He frowned, walking over to stand at the side of the wild haired boy. Above them, Watson made a confused keening cry as she circled.

'Lifeless' was the first thought that came to mind. He'd seen his share of dead bodies, and Kuroba didn't look so much like he was dead, but more like he was living with all the life sucked out of him. Alive, but not.

Dull flat eyes, devoid of even the slightest hint of their normally vibrant hue stared out over the water, as if waiting for it to suck him in. Dark smudges under his eyes stood out in stark contrast against skin that seemed almost ashen. Even his hair hung limply around his head, as if it couldn't be bothered to spare the energy to stick up.

Warning bells upgraded to alarm bells. "When was the last time you slept?!"

Kuroba startled a little bit, as if surprised to find someone standing there, something that probably shocked Saguru more than Kuroba. The magician was -impossible- to sneak up on. He knew, he'd tried it countless times before. Then it passed, and the unalive look settled over Kuroba's features again. A small knot of unease started to grow in the pit of his stomach. Something was very very wrong in Kuroba Land.

"Kuroba?" He pressed. Again, no reaction from the magician. He paused, uncertain for a moment. Time to switch tactics. "I know you're the Kaitou Kid."

That got a reaction, but not the one he expected. Bitter laughter bubbled out of the lanky boy, sharp enough to draw blood. "Everybody knows." Kuroba commented with an overly bright and jovial expression, his words laced with a bone deep sorrow. "Heiji knows, Aoko knows, my older brother knows... I'm just waiting."

Alarm bells went into full Level Five Warning Mode. "For?" He asked, having to swallow. His throat seemed too small. When the hell had Kuroba gotten a brother and Saguru not known about it?!

"The end, perhaps." The words were too flippant, even for the magician. "The police, most likely. Perhaps even for you." Dull eyes, devoid of any of their normal vibrant hue looked up at him. "Are you here for me?"

There were many levels that question could be taken on, Saguru noted. So many different levels.

"Yes." And so many levels he could reply to as well.

"Ah. Good." Kuroba's shoulders slumped a bit, as if a bit of a load had just been taken off.

The blond detective stared at the slumped body in shock for a moment. Did the idiot WANT to be caught?! And just what the hell happened last night?

He did not like the feeling of being left out of the loop. Or discovering that there was a loop that he was out of.

Especially when it concerned Kuroba. While they weren't -exactly- friends, he liked to think that they were more than just opponents. And this sudden startling lack of information was mind-boggling.

He was the World's Foremost Expert on the International Criminal 1412. He should -know- Kuroba by now.

That didn't mean the magician didn't continue to baffle him to wits end.

He sighed after a moment and sat down next to Kuroba. Close enough to grab the other boy if necessary, but hopefully not so close that he was impeding on his personal space. He had promised Hattori to watch out for him, after all.

Kuroba didn't react to that either, continuing to stare woodenly at the water. He sighed again, looking up at the sky to find Watson. The Sparrowhawk was flying in circles around them, her shadow occasionally passing over them.

Hawks ate doves.

"Ever hate what you are?" Kuroba finally asked, his voice just barely loud enough to carry.

He paused for a moment. "'What' or 'Who'?"

"What."

What could be the Kid, who was a thief. Or would 'who' also be the Kid? He sensed a headache coming on in attempting to solve that one. So he changed tactics again. It worked well enough for the Kid, after all. "Did you sleep at all last night?"

Dull eyes looked haunted. "...No."

He sighed. It hurt to see his... rival? Opponent? Whatever he was like this. He wasn't supposed to be quite so human, have weaknesses like this.

Obviously the solution was simple. Kuroba needed to make sense again. Or whatever passed for sense in that crazed head of his. And to do that, Kuroba needed sleep. And if he bloody well wasn't going to do it on his own, it was up to Saguru to make sure he did.

Saguru sighed, then reached over and wrapped an arm around Kuroba's head, resting a hand on his forehead as he drew the wild-haired boy's head to his shoulder and pulled them both down to the grass. Kuroba's head pillowed where his arm met his shoulder. He might have been moving a puppet for all the resistance Kuroba offered.

"Sleep." He ordered, letting his arm fall back in a more comfortable position.

Kuroba didn't move, his eyes still open and staring at nothing.

"Despite anything anyone may have heard, there's no proof that you're the Kid." He informed Kuroba curtly. Yet, anyway. Heavens knew he'd been looking for it. "And no one is going to believe that I, out of all people, am cloud-watching with the Kaitou Kid. So go to sleep. No one's going to drag you away just yet."

When Kuroba had asked if he was there for him, this probably not what the other boy had meant.

But it was what -Saguru- had meant.

Kuroba let out a breath, but otherwise lay there unresponsive. "You're different now." Kuroba commented quietly. "Calmer."

"Hmm. I suppose I am." He commented, noting that Watson had moved off.

"Ever since you came back from vacation with the hawk." Saguru blinked. He hadn't realised that Kuroba had noticed Watson at all. It wasn't like he brought the sparrowhawk to school or anything, even if she did have a habit of following him.

"Did I ever tell you how I got Watson?"

Long pause.

"... no."

"Consider it a bed-time story then, because if you open your mouth to speak afterwards I'm going to use one of your filthy unwashed socks as a gag."

There was a twitch against his shoulder, and he felt somewhat better for getting some sort of positive response.

"Over the last summer vacation, I went back to England, as you probably know." He began, shifting slightly to get rid of the grass blade that was poking the back of his neck. "While I was there, I went to visit the man who got me into mysteries and Sherlock Holmes in the first place. I'm still not sure if he was an old friend of the family or actually my uncle, but he was my favourite uncle growing up."

"He gave you that stupid coat, didn't he?"

"And hat, yes." He agreed, deciding to gloss over the 'stupid' part for the moment. After all, it was no more ridiculous then running around at night in a white tuxedo and cape. "He was an expert on Sherlock Holmes, the mysteries, the characters, the era, everything. They even enlisted his help on an interactive game set in London at that time..."

Saguru trailed off, lost in the memories for a moment.

"I called, then went to his house for a visit. He was fond of stories about the Kid, you know. Thought you were a right scoundrel. Arsene Lupin incarnate he'd call you. It was perhaps a half hour after I called when I arrived to find the front door open and a side window smashed."

Kuroba shifted, curling up on his side, facing him.

"His house had been broken into, right after I called. I went inside to find him on the ground, dead. Watson was in the room as well, keening wildly because of an injured wing. They had knocked him over the head with a vase and stolen some of the first edition books. Watson, who had been hand raised by him since she was out of the egg, had somehow gotten into the room and attacked the culprit."

"I threw a fallen curtain over her, which quieted her for a bit, then called the police and looked for what clues I could without disrupting anything. It was just a smash and grab job, nothing of real note left behind. And Watson was the only witness."

"What did you do?" The others boy's voice was becoming hazy with sleep..

"The only thing I could do. Track them down." He tilted his head to the side, spotting the sparrowhawk in a nearby tree watching them. "Watson was injured, but wouldn't let me leave her sight. So I took her with me and together we found him. She's been with me ever since. That was how I found out the hard way that I couldn't lose my temper and do things on impulse, like I did when we first met."

"Nh?"

"Animals, especially birds, pick up on emotions very well." Watson gave herself a shake, then closed her eyes, settling down for a nap as well. "If I get angry, or irritable, she picks up on it. And in addition to that beak, she's got talons almost as long as your pinkie finger. So if I'm being stupid, she's going to let me know. So I had to learn patience and to control my temper very quickly. She won't always do what I'd like her to do. Sort of like someone else I know..."

He trailed off for a moment, glancing down at the magician on his shoulder. His eyes were still open, but only by bare fractions. "It turns out the thief was just some stupid git, down on his luck. He didn't know the blow had killed Uncle, he'd only meant to stun him. Unfortunately Uncle was old, and had landed at a bad angle. The strain on his heart is what killed him, really. Bloke was in tears as the cops took him away. But I guess you could say that was my trial by fire."

It certainly hadn't been easy. Between the loss of his uncle and dealing with a large grieving injured bird of prey, he'd been at wits end just trying to hold himself together, never mind solve the mystery. But he had, and he liked to think of himself as stronger for it.

"Sherrinford."

"Eh?" He blinked, looking down at Kuroba, not sure if he had heard correctly or not. The other boy's eyes were shut now, and if he didn't know better, he would have said that the magician was fast asleep.

"Sherrinford Holmes." Kuroba repeated slowly, his voice sort of breathy from the haze of sleep. "Just as smart as Sherlock, but not as popular."

"Yes, the original template for Holmes." Saguru puzzled. What about it?

"You're one of us..." Kuroba breathed, almost so soft that he missed it. "The oldest... Sherrinford..."

That made no sense to him at all. "If I'm the oldest, doesn't that mean you have to do what I say?" But then not much of what was going on right now made sense either. He'd get it out of the thief later, after Kuroba had gotten some sleep and was making some semblance of sense again. "Well, I say for you to go to sleep."

Kuroba let out a soft noise that could have either been an affirmative or telling him to sod off. It really didn't matter either way, the magician was lax with sleep, exhaustion catching up.

"Damn." Saguru sighed to himself, glanced up at Watson, who was still fast asleep. Well, that left him with more questions than answers.

You'd think after all this time hanging around Kuroba, he'd be used to it...


Watson's soft cry woke Saguru from a light doze he had accidentally slipped into, and he opened an eye to see Nakamori Aoko slowly walking up. There were shadows under her eyes, and it looked like she had been crying a lot recently.

If from what he had deduced from Kuroba's disjointed conversation was correct, she had just discovered last night that her best friend was the Kid. So her haggard appearance wasn't a complete surprise. That was about the only thing that made sense, at least.

She looked up at him, for a moment reminding him very much of spun glass- fragile, and likely to break with a jarring blow. She was stronger than that, he knew. Much like Kuroba was usually stronger as well. But there were breaking points. There were always breaking points.

"Good Morning." He greeted her quietly out of difference to the sleeping magician on his shoulder.

"Morning." She whispered back. "Kaito... is he?" She trailed off, as if uncertain about the question she was asking.

"He's asleep." He deadpanned. Kuroba could work things out with her on their own time, Saguru wasn't the person for that job. "I don't think he's slept in a while."

She sighed, her shoulders slumping a bit. "Yeah..." From appearances, she hadn't slept much last night either. She straightened again, worried blue eyes searching his face. "Kaito... you know... what he is, right?"

Again with the 'what' instead of the 'who'. Most puzzling. "A bit." He admitted.

She seemed relieved by the fact that he knew -something-. He got the distinct feeling that what he knew was different from what she knew, but they both knew some of the same facts.

He could feel the headache coming back.

"It doesn't matter." Aoko murmured, sitting down on the magician's other side. She smiled at him before lying down and curling up against Kuroba's back, her hair tickling his hand. He shifted slightly to accommodate her. "Kaito is Kaito, no matter what."

Aoko let out another soft sigh, and he could -see- some of the tension slip out of her body as she fell asleep, loosely spooned against her best friend.

Watson let out a questioning cry as she flew overhead, her head tilted to look at them. Hakuba resisted the urge to shrug, and instead closed his eyes again, drifting off once more.


The next time Watson woke him up with a cry, a small boy stood off to the side, looking at them with very serious, solemn eyes that seemed out of place for someone so young.

It took a moment for his brain to match the face with a name. Edogawa Conan. Miniature tantei.

Who had also been at the slightly surreal sleepover at the Hattori household with Kuroba.

"Let me guess." Hakuba quipped dryly. "You didn't sleep well last night either."

"No." The voice was lower in timbre than he remembered as Conan slipped off his glasses and pinched the bridge of his nose as if he had a headache. With the glasses off, it was easy to see the grey bags of exhaustion and stress under his eyes as well. The boy motioned to the other two sleepers with the glasses. "They okay?"

It took a moment to differentiate the difference between a question about their well-being and a question about them as a couple. "I don't know." He said slowly, trying to feel his way through what felt like blind corridor. Why did everyone seem to assume he knew more about what was going on than he did?! "He didn't sleep at all last night, and she just got here..."

"Ah." Conan nodded, looking wearier than before. "My fault." The admission seemed to hurt.

Saguru wasn't quite sure how to reply to that.

The wind picked at the small boy's hair, sending it momentarily into disarray, and Saguru vaguely noted that the boy looked like a serious version of a younger Kuroba.

Kuroba's comment about both Aoko and his brother came to mind, causing a bit of a sinking sensation in his gut as abstract pieces fell into a place in an disturbing manner. It should have been impossible but...

There was no way for such a small boy to be Kuroba's older brother... was there?

Conan slowly walked over and plopped himself on the grass at their feet with a sigh that was much too old for such a small body. Glasses firmly in hand, he crawled into the space between Saguru and Kuroba, then curled up facing the wild haired teen. There was another large sigh from the small boy, and the tense form relaxed somewhat.

Saguru raised an eyebrow. This was getting confusing. And crowded.

He was even more surprised when a few minutes later, one of Kuroba's arms dropped down to drape across the small boy in a loose hug. Conan's eyes went wide as he stared up at the sleeping boy in a mixture of shock and wonder, then a small smile tugged at his lips. He squirmed around for a second, getting comfortable, then closed his eyes and went to sleep as well. "Thanks... little brother."

Saguru found himself very wide awake. And thoroughly confused.


Saguru was still alert when Hattori joined them about a half hour later, shadowed by a small blond girl with wise eyes. "Let me guess." He deadpanned, looking at the girl. "You're in on it too."

"Irene Adler." The girl introduced herself. "Call me Ai."

"Haven't had a chance to talk ta Kaito 'bout it." Hattori commented. His voice was jovial, but his expression was drawn, serious. "But she and her sister predate us by about a year."

'Us'? What 'Us'? Kuroba had called him Sherrinford, so did that mean he was included in this 'us'? Did he -want- to be included in this 'us'?

They were all going to have to Sit Down and have a nice Long Talk about all of this... this... confusion.

"Oneesama was Eve." Ai said, as if that was all the explanation he needed. She sat down on the grass next to Saguru, pausing to give Conan an unreadable look for several long seconds. Hattori walked past the group as well, then choose a spot just out of Saguru's arm's reach, laying down on the grass and looking up at the sky. Ai rested her head on Saguru's chest, curled up against his side like a small cat.

"What is this?" Saguru raised an eyebrow as he looked down at Ai. "Am I destined to become a pillow for everyone who comes along?" Despite the scowl in his face, it wasn't completely a complaint. Although he had long lost feeling in his arm that Kuroba and Aoko were using as a pillow.

"It's cause you look comfy." Aoko murmured, sleepily nuzzling Kuroba's neck. Kuroba made a murmured sound of agreement, but didn't appear to wake.

"Ahh... it's a nice day out." Hattori commented, putting his hands behind his head. Out of their small group, he appeared to be the one in the best spirits. And grinning like the cat who got the cream, despite the smudges under his own eyes.

Saguru raised an eyebrow at Hattori. "What are you so pleased about?"

Hattori's grin grew wider. "I got my family." He glanced over at Aoko, who was still wrapped around Kuroba. "Plus one!"

"Yes, let us all remember that this is all Hattori's doing." Ai's dry voice quipped.

"We shall have to thank him later." Conan commented. There was an evil sarcastic undercurrent to the childish voice.

"-After our nap." Kuroba muttered sleepily.

There were many murmured assents from the mass of dozing people. It had been a long day for most of them.

Hattori's grin faded as he realised that retribution was probably not going to be a pleasant thing. Then the Osakan tucked his hands behind his head and grinned again, looking up at clouds.

Saguru mentally shrugged. Ah, well.

Such was the price you paid.

-finis-


Mukashi Mukashi Japanese equivalent to 'Once upon a time"

Meanings I could find for Playing Cards as Tarot, plus the person that they represent in this fic:

Kudo Shin'ichi, King of Hearts. "A good-natured, fair-haired man. Good advice." (suicide king, he's stabbing his own head with a sword. He's currently kinda the king of broken hearts at the moment, too...)

Kuroba Kaito, King of Clubs. "King: An honest, generous and affectionate man. A dark-haired man." (batons magic. Plus a club looks kinda like a clover, ne?)

Hakuba Saguru, King of Diamonds "A stubborn and influential man. A very fair-haired man." (diamonds can also mean money, his father's the highest ranking of the lot)

Hattori Heiji, King of Spades. "An ambitious and authoritative man. A very dark-haired man." (swords!)

Joker optional: New developments, fresh starts, taking a risk.

Can't remember why the Four of Clubs ("Changes for the worse. Lies and betrayal.") is the 'Devil's Bedposts', but it's used here to represent the B.O. - a very smelly organization. Hee hee hee

For those that do or understand tarot, the cards end up in a Southern Cross formation, just not laid out in the 'proper' order. (I can't do tarot, we completely fry the cards P)

There is some debate if the Kings on the playing cards represent historical Kings. Don't know either way, but just for kicks, these are the Kings they supposedly represent:

King of Clubs - Alexander the Great of Macedonia
King of Spades - King David
King of Hearts - Charlemagne
King of Diamonds - Julius Caesar

Masakage - Vol 47 ch 8-11, with Heiji

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