Disclaimer- Gosho Aoyama owns them, I don't. This story is rated PG by the Motion Picture Association of America for violence, language, and semi-mature themes. It's also the next installment in the "Supernatural" series, following after "Hospital Visit," so you should probably be used to that by now. Huge thanks to Snickerer and Ocianne for helping me hammer out a plot, not to mention Snickerer's insane theorybunnies for throwing up the idea of the Hope Diamond possibly being Pandora... Apologies to Saitaina, I had this idea long before I read Anesidora... Sick minds think alike? grin
Gift of the Moon
Hakuba Saguru had spent the entirety of a twelve-hour flight wondering if he was absolutely insane. He knew his companions were, of course; Kuroba had never really claimed to be anything else, Edogawa had been basically undercover for a year, and Hattori... well, Hattori had accepted the entire situation far too easily, tales of ghosts and magical gems included.
"Holmes said 'When you have discarded the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth,'" Edogawa had told him plainly, that day in the hospital. "But in Holmes' time, transplanting a heart from one person to another and having the recipient live... that would have been impossible. The fact is, 'impossible' is a lot harder to define than people think. I know what I saw, Hakuba-kun, and I know what happened to me. If you can't believe it, if you want to back out, that's fine... all I ask is that you keep quiet about this, for your safety as much as ours. If They ever think you know anything about this..."
The rest of the sentence hadn't needed saying. And despite his misgivings, despite how very hard it was to reconcile his view of reality with the things being laid before him... he'd chosen to stay. Damned if he was going to let Kaitou Kid-- or Kuroba Kaito-- disappear into the night without at least being in on the endgame. Besides, given the probable state of the former Kudo Shinichi's sanity, and the blatant lack thereof displayed by his companions, someone had to be the voice of reason and common sense. He'd said as much, only to be greeted once again by those identical grins from thief and child. Even now, simply remembering, he shuddered.
That had been a month ago. It had taken nearly two weeks for Edogawa to recover his strength to the point where Hattori would even consider letting him get involved with any sort of case. The smaller detective had not taken the news well at all, and Saguru had often given thanks that he was on the other side of Tokyo from the fights that were no doubt being conducted via cell phone.
Once the boy had passed the milestone set by Hattori-- being able to run up the stairs to the detective agency without becoming winded-- it had taken another week and a half for the four of them to arrange their schedules in such a way as to allow for a trip to the States, without the kind of undue haste that would draw attention. But at last they were on their way, though this had not brought Saguru's nerves any respite.
The four of them had gotten seats in first class, thanks to Kudo Yuusaku's excellent credit rating. Edogawa had been given one window seat, with Hattori taking the aisle seat beside him. The protective gesture had prompted the shrunken detective to throw a few glares at his older friend, but the lack of privacy on the plane kept him from saying anything. Kuroba'd taken the other aisle seat, of course-- the magician hated to be boxed in for any length of time. Currently, he was disguised as Kudo Shinichi himself, though he was keeping a low profile, thanks to Kudo's status as a hunted man. The resemblance, Saguru mused, was really quite astounding, the disguise requiring only a change of clothes and the liberal application of hair gel.
The flight had passed surprisingly quickly, filled with conversational sparring, books, and Edogawa charming the socks off of the flight attendants with his "adorable little kid act." It was just as well the mind behind those glasses was a detective focused on the pursuit of justice, Saguru thought with morbid amusement, because he thought in his current state, the boy could well get away with murder, quite literally.
The trip through Customs was uneventful, and upon exiting into the concourse, it only took a few moments to locate the Kudos, despite the mass of people.
"There they are," Edogawa muttered, as the four pressed through the crowd. "Prepare to be glomped within an inch of your life, 'Shinichi-niisan.'"
Kuroba just flashed him a quick smile. Then his eyes widened in what Saguru would have bet was not entirely unfeigned panic as Kudo Yukiko swooped down on him, throwing her arms around him.
"Shiiiin-chaaan!" She caroled happily. Saguru raised a fist to his mouth to cover his smirk, aware that Edogawa and Hattori were both snickering openly.
"Kaa-san! Air!" Kuroba flailed slightly, until the woman loosened her grip, backing away.
"Good to see you, son," Kudo Yuusaku broke in more sedately, reaching out to squeeze Kuroba's shoulder. Meanwhile, his wife had scooped Edogawa up off the ground and was cuddling him happily, much to the boy's obvious disgust.
Kuroba grinned. "Good to see you too, Tou-san. Let me introduce you to my friends... Hattori Heiji and Hakuba Saguru. They're both detectives."
"A pleasure to meet you, sir," Saguru offered, and Hattori echoed him.
Yuusaku smiled. "And both of you. Now, I'm sure you're both tired after your flight, so I thought we'd get your luggage, head back to the house, and get settled in before we did any sightseeing. Sound good?"
His "son" nodded. "Yeah, but we don't have any luggage. We're only gonna be a couple days, we just brought our carry-ons. So if you're ready, we can go right now."
"All right, then. We'll get a taxi outside. After all..." the man's blue eyes sparkled mischievously, "you have to be crazy to drive in DC."
She knew she wasn't the most patient of people. Waiting quietly wasn't in her nature, Yukiko knew; she'd rather throw herself forward, headlong into whatever role or adventure life threw before her. So she thought it showed exceedingly good restraint and control for her to wait, sitting on her questions until the six of them had returned to the vacation house. Once there, she busied herself with getting the boys settled in, chattering brightly while Yuusaku and the Hakuba boy swept the house for bugs. The blond's skill with the detectors seemed to come as a surprise to the other three, and Yukiko had to bite her tongue to keep from commenting on how little the "friends" seemed to know about each other. She'd get her answers soon enough.
A quick game of lots had put Shin-chan and the Hattori boy in the living room, on a futon and in the hide-a-bed respectively. That left the other two to take the bedroom. Once the bug sweep was done, and while his companions settled into their rooms, the teenager currently pretending to be her son ducked into the bathroom, emerging several minutes later with the formerly immaculately styled hair relaxed into a riot of spikes.
"Finally!" he exclaimed, dropping onto one of the living room's overstuffed chairs. "How do you stand all that hair gel?"
Shinichi smirked, pushing his glasses further up his nose. "How do you stand looking like you just rolled out of bed?" he retorted.
Hakuba shot a glance heavenward. "They're getting along entirely too well for people who have known each other barely a month, aren't they?" he asked Hattori. The dark-skinned teen just snickered.
"Well, now that we're sure we won't be overheard," Yuusaku commented, "why don't you boys tell us what's going on? And introduce us to your friend?"
The spiky-haired boy smiled crookedly, sitting up straight. With a flourish, he pulled a rose out of thin air, offering it to Yukiko. "You're really pretty, oba-san," he commented softly.
Yukiko's eyes widened, and a hand flew to cover her mouth as she squeaked in shock. It couldn't be... but she remembered a little boy, ten years ago, with spiky hair and a face so much like her son's...
"Don't you know you're not supposed to use 'oba-san' and 'pretty' in the same sentence?" she said tremulously, taking the rose. It was real, of course... only the best would do for a magician of his line.
The boy sighed. "Kuroba Kaito," he told Yuusaku. "I think... I think you knew my father."
"Kuroba Toichi, the first Kaitou Kid," Yuusaku smiled slightly. "Yes. In some ways, I knew him very well, though we'd never officially met."
Shinichi shifted in his chair. "How much did you know about him? Did you know what he was looking for? What they killed him for?"
"Bits and pieces. We received a letter after his death, one he'd left as a precaution. He said there was a magical gem known as Pandora, one that could supposedly make men immortal, and that there were people who wanted it enough to kill for."
"And they did," Hakuba said quietly. "And they're still searching."
Kaito-- Yukiko couldn't call him anything else, not remembering the little boy she'd met years ago-- nodded grimly. "So am I. I found out a few more bits of information listening to them. It glows red under the light of the moon, it's buried inside another gem, and supposedly weeps tears of immortality during the pass of a comet."
Shifting position again, Shinichi made a face. "About a month ago, I got sick. Really, really sick. High fever, hallucinations-- I'm okay now, don't worry," he added, as Yukiko twitched. She wanted to pull him into a tight hug and not let go, but the expression on his face indicated that her son was not going to stand for much babying, especially not in front of three of his peers.
"Anyway, I was seeing things that weren't there, lots of things, but... I don't know how else to say this..."
"He saw a ghost," Hattori said bluntly, drawing a glare from the smaller boy. "And crazy as that sounds, I believe it, because something got him out of the restraints the hospital had him in, nobody else had been in the room, and I know it wasn't me."
Kaito nodded. "Besides, apparently Oyaji told him a few things that he couldn't possibly have picked up just from hallucinating."
"The evidence, such as it is, seems to weigh in favor of the fact that E- that Kudo-kun did, in fact, see the ghost of the former Kid," Hakuba finished. "Said ghost seemed quite sure that the gem was real, and he left behind a riddle pointing to its location."
"He said we'd know where it was if we only read the legend again," Kaito continued. "I'm sure you can guess the rest, genius detective that you are."
Yuusaku nodded. "Of course. Which would be the reason that you asked us to meet in DC instead of our main house in LA. What exactly were you planning?"
The young magician gave an elaborate shrug. "Kid used to be an international jewel thief. If he's exhausted the list of Japanese targets-- and believe me, he's come darn close-- I don't see why he wouldn't move abroad. As for the choice of target, Kid never does anything by halves."
"So you're planning a heist?" Yuusaku asked. His gaze fell on the three detectives. "And you three are going along with this?"
The boys exchanged glances, but it was Shinichi who answered first.
"They're murderers," he said quietly. "We won't see murderers go unpunished if we can avoid it. He'll give it back. And I've broken enough laws pursuing justice... what's one more?"
"Can't let them find it," Hattori agreed. "Last thing we need is for people like them to be immortal. Besides, if they're the same ones who're responsible for the chibi here... we owe 'em as many black eyes as we can give 'em."
Hakuba sighed, looking down at his hands. "I won't say this is an easy decision. I still can't quite believe I've made it. At first I just wanted to know the 'why' of Kaitou Kid. Now I know it, and... if I have to choose between my career and my friend, there is no choice to be made."
The blond's admission seemed to startle Kaito, though he said nothing. Yuusaku, meanwhile, gave them all a long, measuring look. Then he smiled.
"In that case... let's get to planning."
Blueprints and floor plans were useful, Kaito agreed, but if he was going to pull a heist, he insisted on doing at least one sweep of the location in person. Surprisingly enough, Conan had insisted on accompanying him, citing the same reasons as Kaito for wanting to get the lay of the land. He rather thought Hattori and Hakuba would have liked to go as well, but none of them could afford to be seen in the Smithsonian before Kid's heist note arrived, and Kaito's skill with disguising others only went so far.
Disguising himself was easy enough-- today, he was dressed as a perky teenage girl, with chin-length brown hair, wearing a pink t-shirt and worn blue jeans. He'd deliberately left off any facial appliances or too much makeup, trusting to his natural resemblance to the chibi to make the two of them appear to be a sister/brother pair, out for a day of educational sight-seeing.
Conan's appearance, while not a classic disguise, per se, was actually more effective in some respects. The smaller detective had left off his glasses, mussed his hair into a good approximation of Kaito's normal style, and had traded in his usual clothes for a pair of beat-up second-hand blue jeans and a t-shirt bearing the logo of the latest shonen anime series to be shipped over to the States. Add in a reasonable facsimile of a normal child's behavior upon exploring the exhibits in the Smithsonian Institution, and it would take a sharp eye indeed to realize that this was the normally quiet and self-contained "Chibi Detective of Beika."
"You're disturbingly good at this," Kaito said idly, as the two of them took a break from their "sightseeing" to rest on a bench in the main hall.
The smaller boy smirked. "It's a lot easier to keep up when I know it's for a limited time. Plus, I don't have to make anybody take me seriously in this identity, so I can afford to act like a hyperactive kid."
Kaito nodded. "Is that why you wind up coming across as seriously creepy when you're being Conan?"
A wince. "That's a lot of things. I had to establish the identity on the fly, for one thing, and I've had to try and fool a lot of smart people who were paying me a lot more attention than the security guards here. I've had to keep it up for long periods of time, which means it has to be consistent, and when I started, I hadn't been around little kids since I was one. Now 'Conan's' pretty much established as a creepy little kid, so there's not too much I can do to change it. All I can do is keep it from being too blatant."
"You've put a lot of thought into this."
Blue eyes shot him a look, more disconcerting for no longer being behind glass. "My mother's an actress and not bad at disguise, though she's not on your level. I've been chasing you off and on, and you're a chameleon of the first order. One of Them is at least as good at it as you are, though lucky for me, she doesn't seem to want me dead the way the rest of them do... And hell, Holmes was supposed to be a master of disguise, too. Just because I don't make it part of my bag of tricks doesn't mean I haven't thought a lot about the way it works. Especially now that it's basically a matter of life and death."
Ouch. Yeah, that was a pretty good point. For all he knew Edogawa Conan was a teenage genius trapped in a child's body, every so often it was easy for him to forget it. He wondered sometimes how Hattori always seemed to remember.
"That reminds me..." Conan said suddenly, eyes sparkling with mischief.
Kaito regarded the detective with trepidation. "Yeees?" he asked warily. He knew that look, had seen it in his mirror before pulling a spectacular prank on Hakuba.
"I've been wondering something, and this is the perfect time to ask. Why do you dress up like a girl so much?"
The magician grinned. "Oh, that's simple. Everybody agrees Kid's a guy, right? Which means that despite knowing he's a master of disguise, knowing he pulls off dressing as women all the time, people still subconsciously expect him to dress as a man."
"Okay... next question. How do you manage to dress as a girl so much? I mean, nobody can ever tell. Ever."
Kaito sobered, gaze going distant. "To tell you the truth, tantei-san... I don't know. I mean, I know my disguise skills are good... pulling off a disguise like this, where I'm not supposed to be anybody in particular, just female, that's not that hard. High-necked shirt to hide the Adam's apple, the appropriate... uh, accessories, and I'm pretty skinny as it is, so I can be pretty believable as a girl, if one that's slightly larger and more solid than normal. But when it comes to taking the place of somebody who actually exists... Mouri-san wasn't too hard, since I was younger then, and she's tall and has some muscle on her, even if it's pretty feminine. Sometimes, though, I kind of wonder if people are seeing what I want them to, not what's actually there. I try not to think about it too much, though. Don't want to jinx myself."
That got a nod from Conan. "I can understand that. Last question-- what's bugging you? You've been getting steadily more annoyingly perky since we left the gem hall. It doesn't ring right."
Blinking hard, Kaito barely kept his jaw from dropping. "How the hell... I mean... Hakuba can't even read me that well, and he's known me a lot longer than you have. How'd you know?"
"I don't know," the boy responded, his sober tone echoing Kaito's previous one. "I just can, when we're here like this. Not on a heist, not when you're being Kid. There's something that screens you then, I can't pick it up. But here, I think you're not trying as hard. It's more habit, less survival. And you're avoiding my question. Don't."
"You, chibi-chan, are dangerous," Kaito replied frankly. "All right, if you really want to know, I'm beginning to think maybe we should just skip the heist. I could just disguise myself as a curator, get in, do the switch, get out. No fuss, no muss, no possibility of bullets from men in black."
Conan shook his head. "No," he replied immediately. "If somebody found the fake before you could do the switch-back? It'd get Their attention, and They'd want to know why you broke pattern. In fact, they'd probably assume that you'd found it, and then all bets would be off. They wouldn't hold back anymore, and even if they think you're your father..."
"They know who They could threaten to bring me out into the open," Kaito agreed. "Damn it."
His companion nodded. "Yeah. Better to treat it like a simple international heist. Get in, get the gem, send it back-- or send back a really good fake-- a day later. Let them assume it was just another bust."
Kaito sighed. "Guess you're right." He gave the boy sitting beside him a look. "You'd have made a hell of a criminal mastermind, you know."
"Yeah, well... Tou-san said once that any Holmes was just a few twists of fate away from being Moriarty. Granted, he was talking about the theme of the Night Baron books at the time, but..."
But it fit the situation all too well. And wasn't that just a pleasant thought?
Early summer in Washington, DC was lovely, Yuusaku mused. It was only later in the season that the humidity moved in and turned the air to mud. Tonight, though, as he waited on the roof of the Gem Hall, the air was warm and clear, the full moon shining bright on the rooftop, and the wind whispering quietly in his ears.
He'd slipped away from the others before the heist began to take up this position, ostensibly to cover the Kid's favorite escape route. In reality, he was there to make sure the Kid got away without any unpleasant interlopers in black making their presence known.
Leaning against a temperature-control unit, hidden in the inky shadow it cast in the moonlight, he smirked to himself, thinking over the events of the last few days. It had been decided, not without many protests from his son, that Kid's best bet for avoiding security would be simply to go on the heist as Kudo Shinichi. Conan had protested that Kid had used that one before, and it would make them look really stupid to fall for it again. Kaito had only grinned at that, and pointed out that really, who'd believe Kid was stupid enough to try it again? At that, Conan had subsided, albeit grumpily.
Meanwhile, the note had been sent to the security staff of the institute, who had been appropriately incredulous about the whole thing. Not that they weren't familiar with Kid; anyone responsible for the safety of so many precious gems had to know the most famous jewel thieves active in the world. But knowing of him and dealing with him were two very different things, especially when the person involved was the normally insane Kaitou Kid. And then Kudo Yuusaku, who'd received his own challenge from his old adversary, had showed up with his young assistants to offer his services in the game...
Well, it had gone like clockwork. He'd watched, impressed, as the four boys manipulated the security staff like pieces on a chessboard, playing off each other perfectly, despite the short term of their acquaintance. If Kaito turned his talents to any sort of crime-solving after this, the criminal element of Japan was going to be in very deep trouble.
Shouts, pops, and infinitely familiar laughter over the radio he wore signaled that the heist had begun. Soon enough, Kid would come pelting up the steps, out the access door, and be soaring away on his white glider. Soon it would be over.
As if in response to that thought, the wind picked up, whipping around him, the whistle in his ears almost like a voice. Ue, the whisper told him. Up.
Yuusaku couldn't say why he listened, later. He only knew he was acting on some instinct buried deep beneath the logic of a civilized man. He turned his head to watch the wind blow... and then he saw it, on a higher roof some yards away. A black shape and the glimmer of a rifle scope in the moonlight.
Behind his glasses, Yuusaku's eyes narrowed. Slowly, he was able to pick out more of the man's face, moonlight creeping under the brim of the black fedora in ways that it really shouldn't be able to do. Harsh, cruel features, a thick handlebar moustache... Yuusaku knew that face. Kaito and Conan had both made sure of that, over the last few days.
Snake, AKA Jackal. Sniper and jewel thief, member of the Syndicate that had stolen so much from all of them over the years. The man who had sabotaged Kuroba Toichi's final trick, who had shot Kid twice, once stopped by a gem in the thief's pocket, once by a well-hidden bullet-proof vest. The man who was now waiting, sniper rifle aimed at the door Kid would use to reach the roof.
Like hell, Yuusaku growled. Snake's attention was fixed on the doorway, shining white in the brilliant moonlight. The ladder to reach the sniper's perch was only a few feet away, shrouded in the same shadow Yuusaku had chosen to hide in. It took only a moment for him to reach the ladder, never stepping out of the darkness.
He climbed the metal rungs quickly and silently, the wind howling now, covering any sound he might have made as he made his way to the top. The sniper, focused on adjusting his shot for the rapidly increasing wind, didn't see him until it was too late.
Yuusaku'd never been much interested in martial arts, but a man who wrote crime novels needed at least a reasonable knowledge of how to handle himself in a fight. And the element of surprise can never be discounted, especially when your opponent is lying prone in a classic shooter's position. Yuusaku's first kick sent the sniper rifle spinning out of Snake's hands and over the edge of the rooftop, crunching into the gravel below. A second kick struck the black-clad man in the ribs, before he managed to grab Yuusaku's ankle and pull him down.
Ground fighting is a nasty, messy business, whether you're trained for it or not. The two men rolled around, jabbing at throats, eyes, ears, any soft places they could reach. Somewhere along the way, Yuusaku lost his glasses, though he hardly needed them at this distance. Snake went for the handgun in his shoulder holster; Yuusaku promptly bit the man's wrist, teeth sinking down to the bone.
Shinichi'll love hearing that one, Yuusaku thought absently, as the sniper pulled away, bleeding, yowling, and cursing as the pistol skidded across the roof. Scooping up a handful of gravel, Yuusaku tossed it at his opponent's eyes, as they both dove for the gun.
The shot wasn't very loud, with the gun's barrel pressed tight against fabric, but it was enough to startle away the few pigeons that hadn't been routed by the fight. For a moment, everything was still. Then Yuusaku pushed himself into a sitting position, leaning against the retaining wall of the roof, watching as a white glider soared into the night. Brushing his hair out of his eyes, he looked down beside him, at the corpse staring sightlessly up at the moon.
"That was for Toichi, you son of a bitch," he said quietly. And the wind in his ears murmured comfortingly.
Kuroba had already changed out of his whites by the time the other three arrived at the parking deck they'd chosen as a meeting place. Which was understandable, hanging around as the Kid after a heist would just be insane, but given that he was back to being Kuroba Kaito instead of Kudo Shinichi, the magician was dressed in dark jeans and a charcoal grey shirt, allowing him to blend into the darkness entirely too well for Conan's comfort.
"Took you long enough," Kuroba said lightly, stepping out into the moonlight.
Conan rolled his eyes. "We left kind of a mess back at the Smithsonian. We're lucky we got away when we did."
The thief frowned. "Mess? What kind of mess?"
"Guy you called Snake, big mustache? He's dead," Hattori said bluntly. "He was waiting on the rooftop for you to come out the door... Kudo's dad caught him."
"Tou-san's fine," Conan added quickly, as concern flickered over Kuroba's face. "Snake pulled a gun on him, they fought over it, Tou-san won. Snake went down, one bullet through the heart."
Kuroba chuckled, though there wasn't any humor in the noise. "Appropriate."
A nod from Hakuba. "The police are leaning toward ruling it self-defense, but Kudo-san is still answering questions, and will probably be at the station for a while. We, on the other hand, were not present, and had a young child who was up past his bedtime, so they simply took our statements and released us."
"So," Conan finished, "did you check it?"
A wry smile. "As tempting as it was, tantei-kun, no. I thought it was best to wait for the rest of our little group; not much of a show without an audience, after all. But since we're all here..." Twisting his wrist, he extended a hand, which had been empty moments before. Now his palm cradled the large blue diamond, color almost indistinguishable in the shadows cast by the four.
"You realize, if this isn't it, I'm gonna feel really stupid," Conan commented.
"Everyone's entitled to one or two mistakes in their career, tantei-kun," Kuroba replied lightly. Then, taking a deep breath, he raised the diamond up into the light of the full moon.
For a moment, nothing happened. Then the stone began to glow like a hot coal, flooding the empty parking structure with light the color of fresh blood. All four of them stared in shock, faces awash in crimson light.
"My God," Hakuba murmured in English. Conan could understand how he felt. Even though he'd seen the ghost, even though he'd made up his mind to believe in the legend, actually seeing the glowing gem was something else.
Squinting against the light, Conan looked closer at the stone. It looked like something was condensing on the outside of the gem, running down, gathering into a drop of liquid on the bottom. With a start, he realized that it was the liquid itself that was glowing, oozing out of the stone until finally it fell away, the liquid turning into a glowing crystal even as it fell.
Conan didn't think; his reactions simply overrode his brain, and he reached out to catch the gem as it dropped. It hit his palm with a damp smack, and he had just one second to think about what a truly stupid thing he'd just done. Then the burning began.
It shot up his arm in a rush of fire, his fingers locking tight around the stone in his hand without his telling them to. He opened his mouth to yell, to scream, something, but nothing came out except the sound of breathing, far too deep and fast. Then his body began to steam, and he knew this feeling, except it was wrong, the sensation of growing and stretching was accompanied by a terrible burning in his eyes, his joints, his bones, and a yawning empty hunger growing in his stomach. He stumbled, and felt hands grab his shoulders, heard Hattori's voice coming from somewhere too far away, and he tried to say something, to drop the stone, anything...
And then the world spun away, and there was only that horrible hungry darkness.
It had all happened so fast. Kudo was so much shorter than the rest of them, he'd been in the perfect position to reach out and catch the falling stone before any of them could have made a move. Heiji had only a second to process that, however, before the smaller detective had arched, eyes widening, mouth dropping open as if he'd just received an electric shock, fist clenching tight around the gem he held. Even as Kudo staggered, Heiji was dropping to one knee, catching the boy as he fell, as steam began to rise from Kudo's body in a reaction Heiji'd been told about, but had never seen. Until now.
Kuroba's jaw dropped. "What the-"
"It's the drug," Heiji cut him off tersely. "Whenever he changes size one way or the other, he does this." Indeed, he could feel Kudo's body gaining size and weight, though the cloud surrounding him hid the transformation from view. Shifting his grip, he drew his friend closer, all too aware of the spasms still rocking the changing form. He knew the transformation was painful-- Kudo'd said once that it damn near felt like a heart attack. But there was something wrong about this...
"Tears of immortality," Hakuba mused, still staring. "You don't think..."
"Technically, he's been poisoned," Kuroba replied. "It might be."
Heiji paid the two of them little mind. He was kneeling on the pavement now, one arm under Kudo's shoulders. The rapidly growing detective rested halfway across his lap, in a posture that would probably be rather embarrassing, if he gave a damn how either of them looked right now. The cloud of steam was thinning, and from the weight resting on him, Kudo had reached almost his full size. As the vapor finally cleared, Heiji found himself looking at the face of a teenager, the face Kuroba had been wearing earlier in the night.
"Kudo?" Heiji called tentatively. "Yo, you there?"
Brown eyebrows twitched, as Kudo frowned slightly, and then his eyelids slowly slid open. Heiji had only a second to see the eyes behind them, electric blue with vertical pupils like those of a house cat, before Kudo opened his mouth, baring a truly impressive set of canines, and lunged upward at Heiji's throat.
Kendo reflexes saved his life, as the Osakan yelped, throwing himself backwards even as he launched a knee up, catching Kudo in the stomach as he tried to follow. A fast punch to the jaw put the Detective of the East out again, sending him crashing down to the pavement.
Sitting on the asphalt, Heiji could only stare at his unconscious friend, breathing heavily. Then he looked up, meeting two pairs of blue eyes that echoed his shock.
"What the hell was that?" the dark-skinned detective demanded.
Kuroba shook his head. "He... had fangs, didn't he? And he was going for your throat... oh kami-sama..."
"The change must have taken a great deal of energy, given how much mass he gained," Hakuba guessed, calm tone at odds with the look of horror on his face. "He must be starving. Hattori?"
The blond swallowed. "Any comments I've made in the past about your tendency to react first and think later? Please accept my most heartfelt apologies. If you'd been any slower, we'd all be a few pints low, I think."
Heiji blew out a breath. "Apology accepted. What the hell are we gonna do?"
"I... might have an idea about that," Hakuba replied. "I have a relative who specializes in such things, a distant cousin. I don't know if he can fix this, but at the very least, he can give us a place to start."
Looking up, Kuroba frowned. "I don't think we're going to have much luck getting him on a plane, to Japan or England, Hakuba-kun."
"We won't have to." A wan smile. "He lives in New York City. That's... what, about ten hours drive, I believe? I do have an international driver's license..."
"Toss Kudo in the back of a car, throw a blanket over him to keep the sun off, and head north," Heiji extrapolated. "Sounds like a plan. But if we're gonna get a car, we're gonna need to go back to the house... and tell his parents."
Kuroba swore. "'Sorry, Kudo-san, my obsession kind of turned your son into a vampire.' Oh yeah, that'll go over real well."
"Considering how well they handled him turning into a six-year-old, this shouldn't be too much worse," Hakuba replied, pulling on a pair of gloves. Kneeling, he scooped up the glowing gem from where Kudo had dropped it after losing consciousness. Dropping the gem into a plastic evidence bag, he carefully tucked it away in the pocket of his slacks.
Carefully, Heiji and Kuroba maneuvered Kudo to his feet, draping his arms over their shoulders, two friends supporting a third who had partied just a little too hard.
"Hey, Kuroba... if he wakes up and tries to chomp us again..."
"Got a sleeping gas capsule ready to go," the magician assured him.
Heiji sighed. "Then I guess it's time for a road trip."