Disclaimer: Gosho owns them, I do not

Disclaimer: Gosho owns them, I do not. I own insanity and a few medications. Please do not sue. Thank you. This fanfic is in the "Supernatural" series following "Shinigami Tears" and is rated PG by the Motion Picture Association of America for violence and language. The first quotation in the last scene is TS Eliot's "The Wasteland," the other three are Shakespeare's "Macbeth."

Last Ride

The second international heist of the Kaitou Kid, coming after a hiatus of almost nine years, was a major affair. The appearance in DC had been blown off by most media types as a hoax, a joke. Only afterwards, after the theft and return of the famous Hope diamond, did people believe the near-legendary thief had truly returned to the world stage. Tonight, the Kid was in Baltimore, targeting a gigantic emerald known as the Akuma's Eye.

Police and spectators alike thronged around the building housing the emerald, an art gallery and museum that stood next to the waters of the bay. Some of the police were talking on radios, others setting up spotlights, and at least one was having a bilingual shouting match with Inspector Nakamori Ginzou of Tokyo's Kaitou Kid Task Force. The man was making up for not being in on the action by making damn sure he knew everything that was going on at every moment, giving the poor detective in charge of the heist scene the beginnings of what was sure to be a killer headache.

Detective Mike Tyler rubbed at his temples. He spoke no Japanese, Nakamori spoke no English, and so the two of them were reduced to yelling... and probably swearing... at each other through a phone translator. He really hoped the woman got a raise after this; she hadn't once raised her voice, cursed them out, or burst into tears.

"Well, I don't even have to ask who's on the other end of that call," a British-accented voice commented from behind him. Mike turned around, and almost groaned. When he found the idiot on the perimeter that had let two teenagers through, he was going to shove the man's badge somewhere unpleasant. The blond smiled sympathetically, extending a hand.

"That'd be Inspector Nakamori of the Tokyo Police, wouldn't it?" he continued. "If you don't mind, I'd be happy to talk to him for you... Give your eardrums a rest."

Mike blinked. "I'm sorry, who the hell are you and how did you get in here?"

"My name is Saguru Hakuba, I've worked with the Task Force on numerous occasions. This is my associate, Heiji Hattori. We're both private investigators who have worked extensively with the Japanese police. As for how we got through..." Hakuba coughed. "I have Interpol credentials, and the men supervising your barricades are rather overworked. I think they decided I was somebody else's problem."

... Right. He was going to send the guy's radio to join his badge, just as soon as he found him. But he could hear Nakamori on the other end of the phone, ranting, and if this Hakuba kid really did know him... aw, hell. It wasn't like this was a crime scene yet. He handed the phone over.

Hakuba took it, wincing slightly at the volume of the voice coming out of the handset, then cut in at Nakamori's next breath. "Ah, Nakamori-keibu! Kore wa Hakuba Saguru desu!"

The conversation that followed was in rapid-fire Japanese that Mike had absolutely no hope of following. It seemed to be working, though-- he couldn't hear anything from the other side of the line now. After a few minutes, Hakuba smiled and handed the phone back to Mike.

"Hello?" the police detective asked cautiously, still holding the phone somewhat away from his ear.

"You've got a real smooth talker there, Detective," the translator told him, amused. "Inspector Nakamori says that he'll be satisfied with the video feed they've got coming in over the T-1 line, and that you should listen to the Hakuba boy. Apparently he's the world's acknowledged expert on Kid, but you're not to tell him Nakamori said that, under pain of a few threats I won't repeat due to FCC regulations."

Badge, radio, and gun. Sighing, Mike capitulated. "Okay, tell him we're on it. If he sees anything he thinks we ought to know, tell him to call back, but we're pretty much going to have to handle it from here."
The translator said something in Japanese, to which Nakamori responded with a short sentence and a barking laugh.

"He says 'Good luck, you'll need it,'" she told him.

Mike rubbed his forehead. "Yeah, I kind of got that myself."

The heist was a suitably grand affair, with Kid taking every opportunity to tease, taunt, and befuddle the American police officers who, quite frankly, were much more used to criminals that tried to shoot at them, rather than cause mental trauma by severe weirdness. As a result, the vast majority of the uniformed officers and no small number of the detectives found themselves following the lead of the two teenagers who had insinuated themselves into the preparation. Age or not, the two had police credentials, some apparent political pull, and most importantly, they seemed to know what the hell was going on. To anyone with street experience, that last was good enough to start listening when they called the shots.

More performance than battle, the chase ranged through the museum to the roof, where the Kid bid his pursuers a fond goodnight before throwing himself off the building, glider extending to catch the night breeze now blowing out over the ocean. For just a moment, the associated police stared after him in wonder... and then it happened.

The flat crack of a rifle echoed over the noise of the crowds and the sirens, over the horrified shouts of two teenage detectives, trapped helplessly at the edge of the roof. Methodically they rang out, one shot, then another, three in all. The thief's glider jerked, then the nose dipped, plunging down into the bay like a falcon stooping on a dove, disappearing into the black water below.

Down on the ground, Mike Tyler launched into a fleet of curses that would have impressed Nakamori despite the language barrier, and began ordering rescue boats into the water, while several squads fanned out to search for the shooter. Up on the roof, Hakuba sagged against Hattori's shoulder, blue eyes staring emptily at the horizon. Out in the bay, a small inflatable Zodiac raft picked up a passenger, far from the lights and hubbub of the port. And in the confusion of the crowd, a teenage boy dressed all in black slipped away into the night, a padded bag tucked under his arm.

The rescue boats found nothing that night, and when the bay was dragged the next morning, all that was found was a broken, bloodstained glider with three bullet holes dead center, a priceless emerald safely secured in a bag on the frame. The currents were swift and deep, and the water was cold... no one was surprised there wasn't a body. And no one believed the thief, despite his reputation for phenomenal luck, could have survived this time. The news went out-- the Kaitou Kid was dead.

And half a world away, a police squad watched, as history repeated itself.

"Nakamori-keibu? Sir? It's, um, two AM. Your daughter just called for the fourth time. The... uh, the paperwork will still be there in the morning. Sir."

Nakamori Ginzou knew it was petty, but he took some comfort in seeing the younger officer squirm under the glare his superior was giving him. The man-- Murakami, Ginzou recalled faintly-- didn't seem to be leaving, though, and finally the older man relented.

"Yes, it'll still be there in the morning, and so will all the new friends it picked up overnight," he growled. "The last time the Kid disappeared, I had men scattered to the four winds within two weeks. That's not going to happen this time."

The younger man-- hell, he was barely more than a boy-- wavered, then raised his chin in a stubborn expression that reminded Ginzou entirely too much of his daughter.

"Sir, you're not going to be able to convince the higher-ups to convert us back to a Major Case Squad if you're so tired you're misspelling your own name. You've been practically sleeping in here all week, since... since the heist. If you keep pushing yourself like this, it'll just give them more ammunition. They may even try and push you into early retirement, on the grounds that you were too invested in Kid to do your job properly in the future. You need to go home and get some sleep and come back to this stuff when you can see straight."

Well, hell. Ginzou sighed. He wasn't too stubborn to see sense, even if he was too stubborn to be gracious about it. Putting down his pen, he stretched, wincing at the crackling noise in his spine. In the words of that American movie Kaito liked, he was "getting too old for this shit."

"Fine," he growled. "I'm leaving, happy?"

"Ecstatic, sir," Murakami replied blithely. "I'll drive you home. The last thing I want is for your daughter to kill me because I let you drive when you were exhausted."

Ginzou gave the man a sidelong look as they exited the office. "You're afraid of my daughter?"

"Sir, I'm a police officer. And I've seen your daughter mad. I have enough of a sense of self-preservation to know it's not a good idea to make her mad at me."

A snort. "Smart man. Fine, you can drive... but how are you going to get home?"

Murakami shrugged. "I come in on the bus. I can catch one home from near your neighborhood."

"Forget it," Ginzou replied gruffly. "I'll call you a taxi once we get there."

A brief flash of a smile. "I'd appreciate that, sir."

Once settled in the passenger seat of his car, Ginzou had to admit, if only to himself, just how really tired he was. He let himself half-doze as Murakami pulled out onto the road. Once they were away from the station, the man reached down into his pocket and fumbled with something, filling the car with a low buzzing sound.

"Ahh. Hakuba Labs white noise generator," the driver said, in a very different, very familiar voice. "I'll say this for the man-- he may starch his underwear, but he has such wonderful toys."

Ginzou sat up as fast as his seatbelt would allow, exhaustion chased away by shock, fury, and a rush of sheer exhilarated joy that he would never have admitted even under torture.

"You... You..." he spluttered. "What the hell are you playing at?"

"I'm not playing," Kid said, voice deadly serious. Ginzou froze. He'd never heard that tone before, though he'd always known on some level that the thief had to be capable of it. The eyes fixed on the road before them were chips of black diamond, colder and darker than the space between the stars.

The thief continued, his tone somewhat lighter, though the icy expression didn't change. "I've retired, Nakamori-keibu. What you saw a few days ago was my last heist."

"You found what you were looking for," Ginzou said slowly. Kid favored him with a momentary grin.

"Bingo! All that time around Hakuba-san is paying off, isn't it? Yes, I found what all the heists were searching for, but Kid's work isn't done. That's why I'm here... to finish it.

"You have two choices, keibu," Kid continued. "You can attempt to arrest me, knowing that if you succeed, that scene I played out in America will become truth after all. Or... you can let me help you close one last case. The case you've been working on for the past nine years."

Nine years... There was only one case that Kid could be talking about. Officially, Kuroba Toichi's death had been ruled an accident, the case closed within weeks of being opened. Unofficially, Ginzou had never really let go of it, or of the suspicion that his best friend had been murdered.

"What do you know about it?" He asked gruffly, eying the thief warily.

"I know you've worked on it unofficially, you and several members of the old Task Force. I know that it was closed far too quickly, and with far too much pressure from above. I know who they are, and I want to give them to you, wrapped in a shiny red bow, for everything they've done to me and mine. But I also know they're woven into the police administration... and this will be very, very dangerous. And you have a daughter to think of."

For a long moment, Ginzou stared through the windshield. "What good is it for me to tell her about right from wrong if I refuse to stand up for it? What good is this badge if I let murderers hide behind it, and use it to cover up their crimes? I took an oath to uphold the law, and I can't just hide my head in the sand and let these bastards make a mockery of it. That doesn't mean I'm going to do anything stupid, but... I can't just hide because I'm afraid."

"Then to bring them down, you're willing to work with a criminal?" The voice was studiously neutral, far too controlled to be real.

Ginzou sighed. "The justice system is based on compromise. Cops have informants. Lawyers make plea bargains. There's the concept of justifiable homicide, and self-defense is not a crime. They teach us in the Academy about the letter and spirit of the law... Besides, a policeman works on evidence. And the evidence says that Kaitou Kid is dead. If he appeared after this, I'd have to chase him again, but as things stand now, yes, I'll work with you to bring them down."

Kid didn't react to that, but Ginzou thought he could detect the faintest lessening of tension in the former thief's shoulders as he drove. Staring at the man in the seat beside him, a man Ginzou finally had to admit to himself was hardly more than a boy, old bits and pieces of evidence locked together, and this time, he didn't push them away. The Kid was done with hiding, and so was he.

"You know," he said quietly, leaning his head back against the headrest of his seat, "I think your father would be proud of you. Whoever he was."

A long moment. Then Kid sighed.

"Thank you," he said softly. The rest of the trip home was made in silence.

It was funny, Ran thought, as she chopped carrots, how quickly she'd forgotten what it was like not to have Conan around the house. He'd been gone a little more than a week now, off visiting America with Hattori-kun during the break in the school term. They'd only planned to be gone a few days, but a Kid heist had popped up while they were there, and so of course they had to stay for it. Ran smiled, remembering how earnest Conan had sounded as he explained. The Kid was going after the Hope Diamond, she'd been told, in tones approaching awe. And Hakuba Saguru had been there, and Kudo Yuusaku, and even Shinichi, though afterwards it had come out that once again, "Shinichi" was simply the Kid in disguise.

Knife slowing, Ran sighed, staring at the kitchen wall. She hadn't heard from her baka tantei otaku in far too long, and to be honest, she was beginning to worry. Even her dreams had been surreal and disturbing recently.

She shivered. The live radio coverage of the Hope Diamond heist (provided by an enterprising Tokyo reporter with a platinum credit card and an immunity to jet lag) had ended around 3 PM, Tokyo time, and Ran had sat around and listened to an hour or so of the follow-up, hoping to catch an interview with either Conan or Shinichi, as so often happened with Kid heists. After that, she'd turned off the radio and made dinner, and had gone to bed early that night, trying not to worry.

It wasn't that Ran was unused to nightmares. She'd seen too many dead bodies over the past year, and faced too many dangers not to have a few. Her worries about Shinichi followed her into too many of her dreams as well. But this one had been different, nothing like the usual images that sometimes haunted her sleep.

She'd found herself standing on a black sand beach beside an ocean of deep, ruby-red water. A bone-pale full moon hung above, casting glimmers of silver on the waves. Farther ahead, she could hear splashing, and she followed it. Finally she found the source of the noise-- an inlet made a deep pool in the rocks and sand, and in that water stood Shinichi, submerged to his waist, with Conan helplessly treading water beside him.

"Sh- Shinichi?"

He'd looked up at her, eyes reflecting the silver of the moonlight, and had only smiled. "Tide's coming in," he'd said calmly. "Soon it'll be a flood. Do you know how to swim?"

"Shinichi... Why aren't you helping Conan-kun?"

"Hmm? Oh... he's served his purpose. I don't need him anymore... Let me finish up here, and then I'll be with you. I'll teach you to swim, and we can watch the rest of the world drown."

She'd taken a step towards the pool then, but something warned her not to trust the water. "Conan-kun!"

The boy had looked at her sadly, even as Shinichi took hold of his shoulders. "I'm sorry, Ran-neechan," he said quietly. "I never wanted you to cry."

"It's almost over, Ran," Shinichi'd said then, with a smile as cruel and as white as the moon above. "Just one last loose end." And he'd shoved Conan under the water, heedless of the boy's thrashing or the bubbles coming up.

Ran had awakened in the darkness of her bedroom, shaking, barely able to believe she hadn't screamed herself awake.

But it had only been a nightmare... Conan was just fine, he hadn't even been at the second heist, the one that had ended in Kid's death. That had been four days ago... surely he'd be home soon.

The trilling of a telephone startled Ran out of her thoughts, and she realized the ringing was in fact coming from her cell phone. Picking it up, she frowned at the unfamiliar number, then shrugged and flipped it open.

"Moshi moshi!"

"Mouri-san?" an unfamiliar woman's voice greeted her. "This is Edogawa Fumiyo, Conan's mother?"

Ran's stomach clenched, but she forced herself to answer calmly. "Yes, Edogawa-san, I remember you. What can I do for you?"

"Well, really, dear, it's not that there's anything you can do for me... We happened to run into Conan-kun and his chaperones in Baltimore, after that distressing business with the thief, and since our family situation has finally straightened itself out, we've decided it would be best if he just stayed here with us."

"Wh.. what?" Her fingers clenched on the phone tightly enough that the case creaked in protest.

"Oh, don't worry, we'll make sure to send you another check this month, just to make up for the inconvenience," the woman hurried on. "I know Conan-kun left a lot of things there, if you could just box them up and give them to the Professor, I'm sure he'll manage to get them to us."

For the first time ever, Ran thought she understood what made people commit murder. Vaguely, through the red haze in her head, she heard her voice calmly continue. "Edogawa-san, do you think I could talk to Conan-kun for a moment? Is he there?"

"Oh! Oh, yes, of course, dear, how silly of me. Hold on just one moment." There was silence, the sound of someone fumbling around, and then a familiar voice broke in.


"Conan-kun." Ran almost melted. "Are... are you okay?"

He sounded somewhat subdued. "Yeah, Ran-neechan, I'm fine. Kaasan and Tousan say that I can come home and live with them again. I'm supposed to start school here in September... Heiji-niichan was kind of upset, but... I'm going to get to go home. That's good, right?"

"Yeah, Conan-kun," she replied, forcing the tears back. "That's good. I'm going to miss you, but I'm glad you're back with your parents."

He sighed. "Can you say goodbye to Genta-kun and the others for me? And you can give my Holmes books to Mitsuhiko-kun, I have copies here. And Genta-kun can have my video games, and Ayumi-chan can have my Starblade toys, and... um... I've gotta go. Mom says we can't afford much more long distance."

Biting her lip, Ran forced herself to sound cheerful. "Sure, Conan-kun. You'll write to us once in a while, won't you?"

"Sure, Ran-neechan, I promise. I'm sorry I have to go, I wanted to stay with you until Shinichi-niichan came back, but I guess that's not happening." He paused for a moment.

"I... I love you, Ran-neechan..."

Oh kami-sama, she really was going to cry. "I love you too, Conan-kun." She managed to wait until she heard the line click off, and then the tears came.

And in a motel room in Virginia, Kudo Shinichi did his best not to throw his phone through the wall.

The problem with being dead, Akai Shuuichi reflected, was that it gave your skills a chance to go to hell. Of course, given that the guy who'd gotten the drop on him was also dead, maybe he could be forgiven the lapse. Still, being snuck up on in the hallway outside your own apartment was just embarrassing.

"I think it's traditional for one of us to quote Twain at this point," Kudo Shinichi drawled, leaning against the wall, "but we can probably skip the formalities, don't you think?"

Shuuichi couldn't help himself; he snorted. "I think we might as well have this discussion inside my apartment. I just had the exterminators come by last week, so it'll probably be a lot more comfortable."

A grin from Kudo. "Yeah, I've heard this city has the occasional problem with cockroaches."

Once inside, Kudo had surprisingly enough offered to help put away the groceries, which made a comfortable backdrop to their conversation.

"So," Shuuichi said, stacking soup cans on a shelf, "how'd you know I wasn't dead?" He wasn't going to ask how Kudo knew him at all, given that the Edogawa kid was supposed to be Kudo's protege. The kid would certainly have mentioned him to Kudo, especially after the mess at the hospital.

"Well, for one thing, it seemed out of character for you to walk into a Syndicate trap, even for the sake of a CIA agent, without any type of plan. Plus, any body that has to be identified by fingerprints always makes me, as a detective, suspicious. Once I started thinking about it, it was fairly easy to guess what had happened. There was already a body with a bullet hole in the head, from the Syndicate goon who'd killed himself earlier. His fingerprints were on Conan's phone from the investigation. Easy enough, with the van set on fire, to leave his body instead of yours behind. With even your FBI compatriots convinced you were dead, the Syndicate would certainly buy it, leaving Rena free to infiltrate and you free to move around like a ghost."

Shutting the refrigerator door, the teenager grinned at him. "Besides, I'm a Holmes otaku. I'm naturally suspicious of deaths at waterfalls."

Shuuichi had to laugh at that. "Touche. So how'd you find me?"

"Well, you couldn't be in Japan. Too small a country, too much Syndicate presence. If they saw you, your cover would be blown and so would hers. So, back to the States. You can't go out on assignment as an FBI agent, you're supposed to be dead. But you'd have to be a part of the whole thing-- you know too much not to be a valuable resource. Which meant, given the lack of secured communications in this country, you had to be in DC, close enough to physically sneak into the FBI building when necessary. You wouldn't be in your old apartment, so you'd want someplace inexpensive, but not too poor. Too much risk of attention if there's a crime. So, middle-class apartment area, new leases, neighborhoods where an Asian face wouldn't stand out too much... then I just started doing a lot of footwork. I've kind of missed that aspect of detecting this past year."

Whistling through his teeth, Shuuichi leaned back against the counter, arms folded across his chest. He'd wondered if Kudo's reputation as the "Heisei Holmes" wasn't a bit inflated; now he knew that it was the honest truth.

"Okay," he said aloud. "Next question... why'd you come looking for me?"

Kudo sighed, dragging a hand through his hair. "I'm tired. I want to go home, and that means I want to make sure this Syndicate is taken down. I think I can help that happen."

"Go on."

"It's pretty simple. The Syndicate's a hydra. Thousands of heads in Japan and the US. Cutting off the heads one at a time isn't working. What we need to do is break its back, and that's going to take one simultaneous action on both sides of the Pacific. We need an attack on multiple fronts, all at once, before they can react and move the command chain elsewhere."

Shuuichi tilted his head. "And what makes you think we're not working on that?"

A snort. "Come on, I know what 'interdepartmental cooperation' is like. It's basically a bunch of hyenas taking down one zebra. The FBI and the CIA couldn't even exchange enough information to keep from tripping over each other's operatives. And let's not even get into how bad relations generally are with the local cops. You've got egos, jurisdictional conflicts, people claiming credit, and if you try and put things through the usual channels, all it takes is one higher-up to be in the Syndicate's pocket, and you're blown.

"That's where we come in. We don't want credit, we don't need money or funding or the reputation. Hell, the three of us get more cases than we can handle NOW. And you know we're trustworthy. What we're proposing is... it's almost like a telephone tree. We use 'em a lot in high school for class communications. Let us act as unofficial liasons. We go around the official channels. Get warrants through judges we know we can trust."

"Wrap the spiders up in a web of our own," Shuuichi realized.

Kudo's grin was almost feral. "Exactly."

"Okay, so why are you pitching this to me?"

"One, you're the only one of that group of FBI agents in the States right now. Two, you're higher-up than you act."

A raised eyebrow. "Excuse me? What makes you say that?"

"Because in that mess at the hospital, you didn't stop to ask for authorization before pulling anything you did. Black might be the one calling the shots on the operation, but he's got no leash on you."

Shuuichi had to smirk at that. "You're good."

The teenager's expression mirrored his own. "I have to be, I'd be dead now otherwise. Oh, and I have one other piece of information you might find interesting... It's a phone number. Direct line from a certain rotten apple back to the tree."

For a moment, Shuuichi could only stare. Then he grinned, as slowly and evilly as Chuck Jones's Grinch. "As the man said... this might be the beginning of a beautiful friendship."

It was late summer now, and the buzzing of cicadas filled the trees of the small park as Haibara Ai sat and waited. It had been winter when she'd come into this new life, she remembered, shrinking and escaping into the fierceness of a driving rainstorm. She didn't often get philosophical about such things, but she couldn't help but think how appropriate it was. Edogawa Conan had been born in the spring, a time of new life and hope. Ai had been born into the death and sleep of winter. And it was in the bright, golden summer, when life was full and good, that they would both walk away forever.

Two months ago, "Conan" had disappeared for good, ostensibly returned to his parents. In reality, Kudo Shinichi had regained his body, in a way that the scientist in Ai still had trouble completely believing. The existence of vampires went against every tenet of the logical world, but... four witnesses couldn't be wrong. And then there was the innoccuous package sent to the Professor from one Dr. Egon Spengler... a simple exchange of data between colleagues. Except that the data was the result the analysis of of two blood samples taken from Kudo, one from during his vampiric state, the other after his cure. Combined with the data she'd had on him from his time as Conan... She was almost certain she had a cure. But there was only one way to be certain.

And if the cure failed, given what she'd concocted it from, it would kill her. That had not gone over very well with the Professor, who'd questioned whether she really needed to take it now. She'd smiled, at peace for the first time in a long time.

"It would be best, for what Kudo-kun and the others are planning, if Miyano Shiho were able to testify against her old masters," she'd explained gently. "And I'd prefer it if the government were not aware of the possible side-effects of the apotoxin. The lure of youth and immortality is one that few are strong enough to resist."

She'd made contingency plans, of course. She'd written out her testimony in several journals, in her precise handwriting, sealed with fingerprints that were only a bit smaller than they should be. Were she to die, her work would speak for her. Not that she wanted to die-- not anymore, not after this. She wanted to go on living, for Akemi, for Kudo, for the Professor, and for herself. But after so many years with the Syndicate, she was prepared for death, and would face it without fear, if it came.

That said, there was only one thing left to do, one loose end to wrap up. Conan's disappearance had come without warning, without goodbyes. If Haibara Ai was going to disappear as well, she at least owed it to her friends to say goodbye.

"Ai-chan!" Ayumi's call echoed across the park, as the three children ran towards her. Ai smiled, raising a hand in acknowledgement. Her friends. Funny how less than a year ago, she'd have scoffed at the idea that these three could be more than accquaintances to her, people to protect and hide among. But they'd supported her, and stood by her, and listened when she cried, offering her warm shoulders and flowers and the occasional frog to try and make her happy. Because of them, she'd had a second chance at the childhood she'd never had. And short though it may have been, she'd always treasure it.

"What's wrong, Haibara-kun?" Mitsuhiko asked, as the three got closer. "You said on the phone it was really important..."

Ai took a deep breath. "I... I'm moving away," she told them quietly. "My sister is coming to take me home... We're going back to America. I won't be living with the Professor anymore."

Three faces fell in unison. "You're leaving too?" Genta asked, bewildered.

"But... you're going to America," Ayumi added, a wavering smile on her face. "Maybe you'll see Conan-kun!"

Choking back a laugh, Ai smiled. There was no way she was going to be able to adequately explain how much was wrong with that idea, even if their cover stories HAD been the truth. The size of America was pretty much incomprehensible to somebody who'd never been outside Japan.

"You'll email us, right?" Mitsuhiko asked earnestly. And oh God, Ai thought she was going to cry, looking into those warm puppy eyes.

"If I can, I will," she promised. She probably wouldn't have to keep the emails up for too long, little children lost interest in things like that quickly. Given enough time without her, they'd move on, even if they didn't forget.

Her throat seized up then, and she barely managed to keep her smile. "I... I have to go, they're waiting for me... but I... I wanted you guys to know... you've been the best friends I ever had. I won't forget you... promise."

Breaking away, she ran down the street, hoping she'd manage to make it back to the Professor's before the tears fell.

"'This is the way the world ends... Not with a bang, but with a whimper.'" The old words (not her own, but the words she spoke rarely were) fell into the silence of the cell like Basho's famous frog into the pond. She was in solitary, of course-- Yukiko's boy had insisted, not trusting her farther than he could throw an armored transport. She didn't mind, though. Lying on her small cot, the woman who had been Sharon Vineyard, then Chris, but always Vermouth, stared absently at the square of full moonlight that lay on the bare floor. Oddly enough, the longer she stared, the more the square of white seemed to twist, shadows gaining form and definition until... oh. How interesting.

Sitting up, Vermouth smiled at a man she knew to be eight years dead. "'The times have been, that, when the brains were out, the man would die, and there an end, but now they rise again, with twenty mortal murders on their crowns.'"

Kuroba Toichi raised an eyebrow. "Macbeth. Appropriate, I suppose. They do say that Lady Macbeth is the role of a lifetime for any Shakespearean actress..." Then he too began to quote, that smooth, unforgettable voice rolling out words written centuries ago.

"'Come you spirits that tend on mortal thoughts, unsex me here, and fill me from the crown to the toe top-full of direst cruelty! Make thick my blood; stop up the access and passage to remorse, that no compunctious visitings of nature shake my fell purpose.'" Stopping, he fixed her with a keen gaze.

"Your organization is destroyed, Sharon. Cells have fallen all over the world, and even your boss is cooling his heels in a cell right now. The trials will take months, if not years, but considering the weight of the evidence against you, a guilty verdict is almost certain, and a life sentence is the minimum you'll get. Pandora is gone, it and the immortality you sought lost to the Syndicate forever. You played games none of the rest of us could hope to follow... so I'll ask. Was it worth it?"

She only smiled. "A secret makes a woman a woman." He'd always had the ability to hide his thoughts and feelings, a poker face that a professional gambler would envy. What settled now over those mobile features wasn't the blank mask she was used to, but it was just as unreadable, an emotion she couldn't begin to categorize. At last, he sighed.

"You know, Lady Macbeth committed suicide," he commented, folding his arms. "Given the security here, I rather doubt you'll be allowed the same escape. And I'm in a position to know that natural death will not be visiting you here for some time. Enjoy your kingdom, Sharon..." And in a glimmer of cloud and shadow, he was gone, leaving her gazing at nothing but a patch of light.

Leaning her head back against the wall, she closed her eyes... and smiled.

"Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow, creeps in this petty pace from day to day..."