Disclaimer- Gosho Aoyama owns the boys, I do not. Anubis belongs to himself. This short is rated PG by the Motion Picture Association of America for language and implied death. This is in the same basic series as "Psychopompos" and "No Such Thing."

Not Quite Ingmar Bergman

He hadn't honestly expected to wake up at all, given that the last thing he remembered was a blinding pain in his head, mixed up with gunshots and Snake's mocking laughter. But here he was, slowly swimming to consciousness, hard flagstones beneath him more than making up for the lack of headache he was experiencing.

"Oh, for... You AGAIN?" a rough, low voice asked, somewhere above him. It wasn't Snake, which was a plus, and so Kaito forced his eyes open, pushing himself up off the flags as he did so.

He blinked, eyes adjusting to the low light around him, and then blinked again, mindtrying to adjust to the impossibility of his surroundings. Instead of the roof of the building he'd been flying over, or the streets of Tokyo, he was lying on a sandstone floor, in a room lit only by torches and braziers. The sandstone walls were covered with carvings, as were the pillars that held up the ceiling, and all of it was shrouded in the flickering shadows cast by the fire.

But none of that was as strange as the ... person in front of him, the one who had spoken before. From neck down, he looked normal enough, though he was wearing nothing except sandals, a white linen skirt, and a gold collar inlaid with gems. His head, though... The man had the head of a jackal, pointed ears, glossy black fur and all. And the golden eyes in that head were regarding him with an amused exasperation.

Bits of gem research and history lessons clicked together, and only years of Poker Face let Kaito keep from groaning. "Anubis, I presume?"

The god snorted. "You never remember... Yeah, I'm Anubis, god of embalmers, ferryman of the dead and guardian of the gates of the underworld. And you're Kuroba Kaito, AKA Kaitou Kid, AKA the idiot who goes out dressed like a giant target on his nights off."

Kaito opened his mouth to protest that, though he wasn't sure which part, when his appearance sank in. He was dressed in his Kid costume-- white suit, blue shirt, gloves, the works-- but his hat and his monocle were missing. One hand went up to cover his left eye in shock.

The exasperation on Anubis' face faded into something a bit more sympathetic. "Sorry, kiddo, those are masks. You don't carry those with you here."

"I see," Kaito replied numbly. "So... um... I'm dead?"

"You could say that. Sniper shots to the head do tend to be fatal. But I'm thinking we can fix that."

Cocking his head, the boy regarded the jackal warily. "I don't have to play chess to get my soul back, do I?"

"What, you think I want to keep you? HELL no! Besides, around here we mostly play sennet anyway."

"No one alive today knows how to play that," Kaito pointed out.

The god grinned. "Yeah. Convenient, ain't it? But no, keeping my sanity for another couple decades is more than reason enough to send you back. Besides, you need to find what you're looking for, or several much bigger fish will slip my net permanently. And that's bad news for everybody."

Kaito nodded at that. "Don't suppose you could tell me how I find it? Or IF I find it?"

"I'm a god, not a Fate. Besides, you're one of those people who doesn't have a destiny. Like everything else, you just make it up as you go along. So no, I couldn't tell you where it is. I don't even know. It's not... well, it's not ours, let me put it that way."

Somehow, Kaito had a feeling that he didn't want to know the story behind that comment... and that he was probably going to find out, in the most unpleasant way possible. But he just shrugged and pasted on his best "Kaito" grin.

"So what do I have to do? Click my heels together three times and say 'there's no place like home?'"

Another snort. "No, Dorothy, just close your eyes and brace yourself... because you're gonna have the headache from hell when you wake up. And STOP GETTING KILLED, I'm sick of doing this... oh, hell, you won't remember any of this anyway..."

Closing his eyes, Kaito had just enough time to wonder how many times he'd DONE this before a wave of pain crashed over him, carrying him back into darkness.

"... That could have been you, you know." Anubis pointed out, not looking over his shoulder at the flash of white hiding in the darkness.

"I know. But it wasn't worth the price."

Physics talked about conservation of matter, conservation of energy. Metaphysics had its own version of that... conservation of destiny. You could flout her will, but one way or another, the bitch generally got her way. Toichi's accident, his death, had been in the cards. Anubis could have shifted it, let him live through it... but that would have required an equivalent exchange. Toichi's son had been woven into his father's life-thread from the beginning. Let one live, and the other would die. For Kuroba Toichi, there'd never been any choice at all.

"You ever sorry? About the rest of it?"

Smiling, the magician stepped into the torchlight, leaning causally against one of the carved pillars. "He'd have died destroying it, once he found it. Spending my afterlife "stealing" souls home is worth it, to give him the chance to write his own story. Besides, this way, I get to keep an eye on him. And kami know he needs it."

Anubis shook his head. "Yeah, can't IMAGINE where he gets it from."

"Must be all those detectives he hangs out with," Toichi said lightly. "I hear they're a bad influence."

"Bad influence? The Kudo kid keeps me so busy, I'm about ready to drop. And it's getting to the point where I'm gonna have to put Ammut on a treadmill."

"Hearts light as a feather ARE in short supply these days... Come on, let's go. You people invented beer, we should be able to get a decent drink around here SOMEWHERE..."

Bickering good-naturedly, the God of Embalmers and the Thief of Souls headed off to get drunk.