Disclaimer: Continue to not own Magic Kaitou. However, I guess I can lay claim to the Kaitou Kid Task Force and its superiors.

Notes: This is the flip-perspective of Slip and Fall, which was told from Kid's point of view. You don't have to have read it to read this; both stand alone. This started out being about Kid and Nakamori, and then somewhere along the way the Task Force shouldered its way in, quickly followed by the Tokyo Police's chain of command, and consequently this ended up being much more about Nakamori and the Task Force than Kid, who is relegated to a few scenes. Well, it won't do him any harm to share the limelight every now and then. Being pathetically lazy I gave up on working with any existing members of the Tokyo Police Dept and just made up my own; unmethodical but much easier. Enjoy.

--

The Kid's perched up on top of the flagpole like a damn bird, smiling down at his cheering audience. Well, that suits Nakamori fine, because he's already got a squad on the roofs and lobbies of all nearby buildings, squads which he has personally forced to memorize long nonsensical poems in order for the lines to be used as a running password whenever a member returns from a solitary trip. The weather's lousy, snow dropping down to extinguish his cigarettes and hamper helicopter back-up. Nakamori's still got one point in his favour, though. The wind is weak tonight, and he doubts the currents are strong enough to allow Kid to use his glider from the relatively short flag pole without nose-diving straight into the police force surrounding it.

This might be the night he finally catches the Kid. 20 years has taught him not to believe too hard, not to pour all his faith into any one thing. Kid and his heists seem to occupy a space just slightly removed from reality; once you believe in him it's damn hard to believe entirely in anything else. But it would be an illustrious catch, if he could land it. Kaitou Kid captured on one of the few nights of the year that his costume gives him a straight-out advantage. Nakamori stamps his feet and grins toothily. Tonight could be his night.

Kid's fiddling around with lead-ropes and although Nakamori can't tell which one he's chosen, which destination the thief intends to flee to, he's secure in the knowledge that whichever it is his men will be ready. Had damn well better be ready, this time. His hand twitches against the urge to radio them; he can't give the trap away. The idiots've rehearsed the plan enough times though, they should be able to do this in their sleep.

Nakamori keeps his eyes tight on the thief, just in case he tries something smart at the last second, as he's so fond of doing. No, he's making to leave the pole, to fly straight into the waiting hands of –

Something flashes in Kid's monocle, just a tiny flicker of motion, and the thief freezes. To his right, out of the corner of his eye Nakamori sees the original movement in the crowd. His instincts, years and years of policing melted together to form something much greater than the sum of their parts, tell him it's a wrong movement. A dangerous movement. He's reaching for his sidearm even as he turns and recognises it for what it is: a hostage taking. Mind busy cataloguing the features and dress of the assailant, it's several seconds before he recognises the hostage. His daughter.

Nakamori's priorities, and it's a long list, slip right out of his thoughts. The weather, his men, the trap, Kaitou Kid, they all disappear abruptly from the playing field as if the ground had dropped out from under them. All that's left is his daughter, with a gun to her head. He pays no attention to the crowd streaming past him, to the fear and terror thick and crackling in the cold air. Aoko and her attacker are painted in bright colours against a gray background. He walks forward on stiff limbs, suddenly aware of the strain and release of every muscle, of the rustle of his thick tweed pants against his legs, of the icy ground under the smooth bottoms of his well-worn shoes. He senses more than sees his underlings move in with him, tightening the circle slowly. He waits for the gunman to turn, for the shouting, for the arguing, for the threats. They don't come. Instead, the man tilts his head up to stare at Kid.

The thief is standing stock-still on the pole-top, poorly silhouetted against the gray sky. Nakamori spares him only the shade of a glance, but from what he sees the thief isn't about to run. Isn't about to go anywhere at all. Is staring down at all of them like some kind of goddamn angel, removed from the world and its problems. Kid is an outside force, a random catalyst. He helps or hinders as it amuses him to, and Nakamori can't risk counting on his aid.

The inspector therefore raises his own gun in stiff arms, sights along the barrel. He has a shot; the man's not even aware he's there. But with the muzzle pressed against Aoko's forehead there's no chance of any shot fired by a nervous twitch missing, either.

He's framing a plain statement when the gunman beats him to it. Shouts his demand out for the whole plaza to hear, despite the fact that it's only addressed to one person.

"Kid. Come down. Now."

Nakamori bites down on a growl of protest, of distress. Kid is everything fatal to this situation: unpredictability, uncontrollability, flippancy. Nakamori feels a grudging trust for the man, always has, respects his absolute refusal to cause injury or death. But he can't leave this up to him, can't let him be the one to handle this because goddammit, that's his daughter. His Aoko, with a gun to her head, whimpering in terror. One twitch away from lying dead in the snow and he will not let that happen.

"Let the girl go," he shouts, voice almost firm, trying to redirect attention. Deal with me, he thinks, begs. But the man doesn't turn. Doesn't take his eyes off of Kid.

Nakamori sees a flash of movement in his peripheral vision, the thief kneeling. He doesn't take his eyes off his daughter. A few instants later there's a soft thump and the whickering of a steel cable flicking against a hollow pole. Kid walks slowly forward, clothes white as the snow he treads on. His arms are raised complacently, movements smooth and easy. He doesn't fit in here, stands out horribly in this petty emotional conflict. He belongs in a story, a fairy tale, rather than here in the real world. It seems a let-down that he leaves footprints in the snow.

It's amazing how he can project that mystic air.

"I came down. Let the girl go." Kid's voice is gentle and almost playful. Almost. Underneath, though, there's a hint of steel. If he has something up his sleeve, his manner neither confirms or denies it. Nakamori prays he doesn't. Don't trust my daughter to magic.

The man laughs, just a scornful snort really. ""I know better. I could take shots at you all day and never hit you once, you dirty bastard. The girl, though, I'd have a hard time missing. Don't think I won't shoot her." He will, too. There's no hesitancy in his stance, no undue tensing of muscles. The thug isn't nervous, isn't the least bit concerned about the life he's holding in his hands. Nakamori signals his men to back off with his eyes. The man's next words raise the hairs on the back of his neck. "There's plenty more hostages to burn through. I'll pile up as many as I have to, you can believe that. Or should I convince you?"

The angle's wrong for him to see the action, but Aoko's wordless cry pulls like a knife over Nakamori's heartstrings. Kid reacts before he can, flinches almost imperceptibly, the motion caught in the inspector's sharp peripheral vision.

"Don't," he spits out, the first sign of tension Nakamori's known him to show. Ever. The wind is batting playfully at his cloak, but when it raises the white fabric high enough to show the Kid's stance it is lithe and relaxed as always. Nakamori throws a glance at the thief, and sees only calm thoughtfulness painted across his features, as though it had never left.

"Take off your hat," comes the sharp bark, and Nakamori's attention is ripped harshly back to the gunman. Now comes the uncertainty. Kid's already followed one more order than he's ever cared to in the past. His boredom with continuing to do so will paint the snow red. Heart clenching painfully as it pumps, Nakamori edges forward.

Kid reaches up with a gloved hand and plucks the hat off his head, dark hair swaying like shadowed wheat in the wind. He throws the hat behind him; it curves through the snowy air in a neat crescent and lands soundlessly. Without the brim shadowing his face it seems paler. But that's the spotlights.

That careless grin is still dashed across his face, blue eyes sparkling bright as gems. Kid's turning up the charm, exuding easy-going light-heartedness like an octopus does ink, trying to sympathetically reduce the tension. "Why don't," he begins in a soft playful tone, the kind used to give party invites. Or to talk jumpers down from their ledge.

"Your jacket." The persuasion hits a brick wall. Kid freezes, and Nakamori's heart twists. Not now, not yet, not yet. Play along, just a little longer! Aoko's shivering, legs swaying like a foal's, eyes squeezed tightly shut.

Then there is a flash of blue, and Nakamori realises Kid's shrugged off his coat. It lands with several clanks, the glider's frame forming an odd miniature landscape of mountains and valleys on the snowy pavement. Nakamori wonders vaguely what else is hidden in the suit's folds. Whether the thief has just abandoned a tool that would help him defuse this situation. Because they're running out of options, fast. There's no way this is going to end peaceably, not without interference, and very few ways that will end well. Kid's eyes aren't sparkling anymore.

"Turn around."

Nakamori feels the shock run through the officers, feels it run up his own spine like an electric current. Aoko gasps and stiffens. The gunman leans forward thirstily. Only Kid remains motionless, removed. Moonlight and shadows.

After several painful heartbeats Kid tilts his head slightly, tips of sharp teeth glinting under his up-twisted lips. Not his usual effortless smile; Kid's not thinking about it, not paying it his usual attention. He's thinking. Gods, let him have a plan. Let him know what he's doing. Let him pull this off. Let him have something to pull off. If he walks out now-

Kid raises his hands, as if appealing to the crowd. Perfect stage manners. Slowly, slowly, he begins to swivel gracefully.

"Since you're going to get what you want, you might as well let the girl-" his tone is soft and sweet as powdered sugar.

Nakamori doesn't know what's going to happen, but he knows it's going to happen now, and he's already tensing as the man roars, "Shut up about the fucking girl already!"

He's going to shoot, going to pull the trigger with the barrel pressed flush against Aoko's forehead goddamn him to hell, and Nakamori's already covered half the space between them when Kid's monocle comes flying out of nowhere straight at the bastard. The gunman shifts to fire, not at Aoko, but at Kid, as Aoko tries to break away. The pistol barks twice, and then Nakamori hits them at chest-height, shoulder turned to slam straight into the gunman's ribcage. He hears the sharp exhalation as they fall, and twists further to throw his weight onto the man and away from Aoko. Then a further press of bodies; his men piling on top of them. He hopes one of them had the sense to secure the firearm.

Nakamori catches sight of Aoko's white sleeve and grabs her arm, extracting himself and pulling her after him. She stumbles straight into his arms, immediately pressing herself against his chest and although he's wearing too many layers to feel her tears he can hear her sobbing even over the sudden explosion of noise in the square. It is only now that he realises how silent it was before.

"Inspector," says one of his men, and while he's torn between rage and giddy relief, he has enough sense left to recognize the urgency in the tone. He turns to glance at the man – Sawara, face white and nose red with the cold – and follows his gaze towards the flagpole. And Kid.

Kid is standing a couple of steps back from where he last was, footprints a confused mess in the snow. His red tie is fluttering in the wind. To its right, his blue shirt is stained by dark liquid; it glints wetly in the spotlights. His pristine gloves are mottled with bright scarlet, brighter than ruby, darker than fire. The colour of heart's blood. Kid looks up from the redness spilling over his gloves, eyes dull and unfocused. Nakamori's thoughts drain out for the second time that night, leaving his mind even emptier than before. Shit, is the only thing that comes to mind. Oh holy shit. Kaitou Kid's been shot. Kid, who can walk through walls and on air, who can fly over air and underwater and disappear into thin air, is bleeding like a goddamn fountain right in front of me.

Only Aoko's warm weight against him anchors him to the moment, to the fact that he has responsibilities here. Carefully, gently as he can, he pushes away from her. She sniffles but doesn't object, and that tears at something deep inside because she hasn't developed self-sufficiency due to her own strength so much as his absence. He hears her gasp softly, though, and knows she understands. "Call an ambulance," he spits at Sawara, and turns his attention to the thief.

Kid rocks backwards with Nakamori's first step forward, and the inspector freezes, but when he raises his empty hands carefully and steps forwards again there is no reaction. Kid is staring in his general direction, but his eyes are looking far into the distance.

"Kid?" says Nakamori softly, gentle as he hasn't been since Aoko was a child. Since before he was an only parent.

The blood's running down beneath the thief's hands now, lake flooding over its dams and flowing loose. He's shivering, throat snow-white; his face has been painted with something, it's the only explanation for why it retains its colour. But his expression is close to blank, just a slight hint of confusion in the line of his eyebrows. Nakamori moves closer and the thief's eyes suddenly snap into focus, brows furrowing further. "Kid?" repeats the inspector. "Kid, you've been shot; we need to get you to a hospital."

Kid doesn't react to the statement, but when Nakamori makes to move forward further he takes another uneven step backwards. His foot hits the step up to the flagpole and he tips backwards. His eyes are rolling even as he falls, tie flowing through the air like a river of blood.

Nakamori sees it coming, and runs to catch him before his head strikes the cement. He's expecting to be dragged down with the thief, to be tipped into the snow. But the weight in his arms isn't nearly as much as he braced himself for. Granted he's only supporting Kid's shoulders, the man's hips and legs lying in the snow, but still.

Kid's shivering in earnest now, eyes tightly closed, and Nakamori can't help but notice that his lips have a disturbingly blue tinge to them. He presses his hands against the warm wetness of Kid's shirt as hard as he can, finds the wound under the right collarbone and tries to smother the blood flow.

The rest of the force is closing in now, some kneeling beside Kid, others forming an outwards-facing circle to fend off the approaching crowd. He can hear Aoko behind him, pulling in shallow breaths through a tight throat.

"Pick him up – get him out of the snow." His order is followed immediately, the Kaitou Kid task force lifting the thief's body easily. Nakamori, suddenly aware of how thin Kid's silk shirt is, signals Yamamoto on his left to take his place and pulls his bloody hands away. He pulls off his thick coat in an uneven movement, tweed harsh under his numbing hands. He wraps it around Kid as best he can, draping it over his chest and under his back, Yamamoto's hands hidden from the elbow down. Kid continues to shiver, tremors increasing, if anything. Nakamori, cursing anything and everything that comes to mind, turns to ask where the damn ambulance is.

The sound of distant sirens rapidly approaching cuts his demand short. He has no trouble estimating the arrival time from the volume; more than a minute, less than three. He reaches down and presses two wet fingers against Kid's neck. The pulse runs quick under his fingers, but it's thrumming is weaker than it should be at that pace, heart busily engaged in pumping away all his blood. The inspector's fingers paint a red stroke across Kid's white skin. Time is a luxury, and they can't afford it.

Nakamori turns his head to glance over his shoulder. Aoko's standing in the lee of two officers, arms wrapped tight around herself. Her face is red from her tears, but only her eyes are damp now. They glisten in the spotlights.

It's so like Kid – even this one time when he would have stayed with her, when he would have put family before his work for the first time in a long time, the thief has found a way to pull him away.

She must see it in his eyes, or maybe she just knows him too well, because she gives a weak, shaky smile. "Go with him," she says, more a whisper than anything else, throat still tight with tears. "I'll be okay." In the distance, the ambulance is slowing to push its way through the returning crowds.

Pride manages to claw its way through the storm of fear and worry filling him to sail briefly across his face, and he nods sharply. "You two," he singles out the two men behind her with a glance, "take her home."

"Yessir!"

The sirens have stopped now, but red light is still slicing across the square in twin bands. It sweeps past the snow at the flagpole's feet and turns it crimson. Nakamori grits his teeth and turns back to the thief.

The ambulance has wheeled out a stretcher, and Kid's limp body is lifted onto it by five men. There's a scuffle getting back to the van; crowd pushing and murmuring and shouting at the sight of Kid's dark head lolling. He hears disbelief, and anger, and fear. Kid's always been good at inspiring fans. Even unconscious he has their full and undivided attention.

Nakamori only remembers the thief's discarded clothes halfway to the ambulance, but at least one of his underlings has his head screwed on right; there is a scuffed bare patch in the snow where the coat and hat lay. One of his men, noticing his glance, adds, "Houki's got 'em, Inspector." Nakamori nods and shelves that thought. He marshals his troops on the short jog alongside the stretcher, shoulder jolting against a paramedic on one side and Yamamoto on the other, the man's hands still under the heavy jacket.

"I want three – no, five – men at the hospital. It'll be Tokyo General. Sawara, I want a press blackout until I can give a statement – no one speaks to the media. Oogawa, brief the Superintendent." They arrive at the ambulance, stretcher's legs folding upwards under the palette as the men lift it into the van. The paramedic hops in, police officers fanning out to help hold back the crowd. Nakamori reaches for Oogawa's arm before he catches sight of the still-wet blood on his hands. "Oogawa," he waits for the man to turn back, and then drops his voice to a whisper. "Tell him – Kid's not in custody. Not at this point. Got it?"

"Right, Inspector." His lieutenant salutes, dark eyes hard. The man will be able to stand up to the Superintendent's tantrum, and there will undoubtedly be one.

"Good."

--

It's him, Yamamoto and the paramedic in the back of the ambulance, Yamamoto bending awkwardly over the unconscious Kid while the medic tears gauze from plastic packets, and Nakamori crams himself back against the wall to be out of the way. His thick jacket is tossed onto the floor, revealing the thief's thin shirt under it. In the ambulance's harsh overhead light, the bloody patches on the silk are inky black, taking on a red hue when tilted the right way. But then the medic's tearing the shirt off, shredding the front from collar to hem with a sheer hissing sound. The shirt falls to land on the abandoned jacket at the foot of the stretcher.

Nakamori's ready for the blood, deep pools of maroon in some places, light pink strokes in others, but mostly bright shining scarlet. He's even ready for the dark circle he catches a glimpse of when Yamamoto's hands are traded for a thick pad of gauze, almost hidden in the bottom of a crimson lake. What he's not ready for is the Kid's chest. There's decent muscle tone there, no extra fat but no stretched skin either, and here and there some white scars. But it's too thin, narrow and bare and trembling with his uneven breaths. It is, in fact, a kid's chest. A teenager, past the round formlessness of childhood but not yet grown into the full weight and muscle that will come with adulthood. This is no 40 year-old.

Yamamoto doesn't say anything, and the paramedic frantically setting up an IV doesn't care, but Nakamori can feel the world tipping under him.

--

Nakamori's spent days of his life in hospital waiting rooms, waiting for any number of things. Waiting for his wife, his daughter, his men, his friends, his boss. Waiting for x-rays, surgeries, bone-settings. Waiting for a birth. Waiting for deaths.

The plastic hospital chair is a familiar companion; he knows its strengths and weaknesses. He knows that after six hours of sitting in it, there is simply no possible position that will not make something ache. Eventually he stops trying and sits stooped with his back bowed, like a broken old man.

He could have forced the doctors to let him into the operating room. Could have used his authority, his badge, the need to supervise an exceptionally slippery criminal even while said criminal is unconscious and under anaesthetic. But his mind is an open wasteland, and his thoughts are howling through the emptiness like wind, insubstantial and uncatchable. So he sits outside the OR doors on a chair stolen from the nearby waiting room, staring at his knees. There's an officer stationed on either side of the doors, the other three standing spread out down the spartan hall. Standing like toy soldiers while their boss tries to make sense of the man – the boy – lying on the table behind the closed doors.

When Nakamori looks back on it later, all he remembers of those long hours is the feeling that he had somehow become disconnected from the world, was staring at it through a frost-covered window unable to find his way back in. The feeling that everything had been turned on its head, but worse, that it had happened years ago, and he had just never noticed. He knows he must have spoken to his men, to the doctors, to the hospital staff. But the only thought Nakamori remembers distinctly, coming to him sometime in the bleakness before dawn, is that he had been living all along in a gray world, and only imagined the colours.

--

There's no way to keep it out of the media, and the morning's papers have it printed in bold headlines: Kaitou Kid Shot During Heist. The related articles have only the bare bones of the story; the police are sitting tight on all the information they can, a dragon jealously guarding its hoard.

The Kid sleeps, or rather lies unconscious, hooked up to a forest of chirping and flashing machines in a private room, while outside the hospital a wall of police officers fight to distinguish real patients and guests from reporters thirsty for the story of the century. Nakamori stations two plainclothes officers outside the room, and a further two uniformed officers inside. Ostensibly it is to stop the Kid doing what he does best – escaping from an impossible situation – but the truth of the matter is that it's for the Kid's protection. Or rather, for the protection of his identity. Because, despite all he's been through, there's still a thin layer of moulding clay on the thief's face which alters the planes enough to prevent recognition, and a further layer of make-up over that to add to the disguise. Nakamori has given explicit orders to the hospital staff and his own officers that it's not to be washed off, standing firm even against the head nurse who comes to him to protest on grounds of sanitation.

The Kid's doctor, surprisingly, seems to support this decision. Nakamori can't say he likes the man, who clearly dislikes the presence of police officer's in his patient's room, but he does at least seem to have said patient's best interests in mind. Irritatingly, that extends to refusal to give out Kid's medical information to him, short of a brief report summarised with the fact that he can be expected to recover, and the approximate date he may wake. Five days.

--

In the police station, the Kaitou Kid Task Force is a ship fighting its way through a squall, and it's having to do so with only half of its captain's attention. Nakamori sits in his office all day fielding calls and issuing orders, and he forgets about them the instant they're out of his hands. Around him his officers fight to man their stations with a skeleton crew, the majority of the Team on duty at Tokyo General.

Yamamoto, running in looking harried and slamming the door behind him. "Sir, the media is strongly requesting a statement about –"

"No."

Sawara, arms full of files, trying to hold them and free a hand for writing. "Sir, the prisoner's lawyer is requesting –"

"No."

Houki, glasses skewed, with a hunted look in his eyes. "Sir, the hospital wants us to lower the police presence outside the main entrance."

"No."

Oogawa, serious and conveying a slight tone of warning. "Sir, the Superintendent wants a briefing on his desk by the morning."

Nakamori turns off the lights and goes home.

--

He's smoking on the back porch wrapped tight in an old mouldering coat when Aoko comes out. She doesn't like him smoking in the house, but he's outside tonight because he feels like it, because he wants to stare up at the sky. In Tokyo even looking straight up the only star he ever sees is the North Star, and of course hanging like a bright shining disc, the moon. But the snow storm's clouds are still thick in the sky, and all he can see is the faint yellowish-gray of light pollution trapped in their folds.

"Dad?"

Nakamori doesn't turn, but takes the cigarette from his lips, red tip glowing in the crisp air like one lone firefly, and clears his throat. Aoko's footsteps are almost silent; he feels the wood vibrate under his feet more than hears them.

"Is he going to be okay?"

This surprises him enough that he tilts his head to look at her, standing next to him. She's pulled on a coat, but is wearing only her slippers over thin socks, and a pair of loose pants she wears around the house when cleaning. She's staring, not at the sky, but at the back fence of their tiny yard. In the pale light streaming out from the door behind them it's more of a shadow than anything else, long and looming.

"Doctor says so, as long as nothing changes."

"Will it?"

He and Aoko hardly ever talk these days, hardly ever really have. Just scoldings, mostly on her part, and jokes, mostly on his. Flippant, meaningless words to fill the emptiness in their house. He can hardly remember the last time they had a real, serious conversation. He can't remember at all the last time they had one in which Kaitou Kid didn't figure. It's very nearly all he ever talks about. It's very nearly all Aoko hates. And now she's standing with an overly-straight back resolutely staring away from him, asking after the Kid's health. Resolutely not showing her concern.

"No," he says. He won't allow that. Won't allow it, any more than he would have let her be harmed.

As if he could stop it.

She goes back inside without a word. Nakamori pretends not to hear the sigh of relief.

--

On the morning of the fourth day, he submits his report to the Chief.

XXXX/11/14

To: Tokyo Superintendant General Arakawa Hideki

CC: Tokyo Police Division One Superintendant Tsutomi Kiyosuke, Police Division Two Superintendant Higashiyama Yuki

Regarding the incident of November 10th 2008, the gunman known as Ito Masaya is currently in police custody at the 39th Precinct, charged with two counts of attempted murder, assault, possession of an illegal firearm, and sundries. Questioning so far has revealed strong ties to the Nishiki crime syndicate, which may reveal a further motive for this assault.

As for kaitou 1412, designated Kaitou Kid, he is currently in a solitary room in the intensive care ward of the Tokyo General Hospital. Long-term prognosis is uncertain. Owing to the legal and physical difficulties of taking such a patient into custody, he is currently being guarded by four police officers at all times, but is not under arrest. Arrest will be carried out when feasible.

Due to the intense media demand for information regarding kaitou 1412 and extensive efforts on the part of reporters to break into his room, police officers from the kaitou 1412 Task Force have been assigned to create a perimeter around the main entrance of Tokyo General as well as all other entrances barring the Emergency access. Although this is causing considerable friction with the hospital authorities, it is necessary to preserve both the safety and security of kaitou 1412. All officers have been informed to make no statement to the media, and the kaitou 1412 Task Force is engaged in presenting a blank face to the media; a statement will be made only at Superintendant General Arakawa's order.

Nakamori Ginzo

An overly formal report, taking refuge in misdirection if not outright lies, at least in the case of Kid's prognoses. Nakamori, unconcerned, leaves Oogawa in charge and drives across town to set up base at the hospital. After all, with Kaitou Kid trapped in a hospital bed, it's not as though the Task Force needs him.

--

It's while sitting in the tiny room adjacent to Security, more a broom closet with a chair than anything else, waiting for his officers to radio him that Nakamori finally allows himself to really think about what this all means. For four days he's been distracting himself from work with Kid, but he's also been distracting himself from Kid with his work, so that he hasn't paid full attention to either. But he can only ignore the weight on his shoulders for so long before it crushes him, and he can already feel his bones beginning to grind together.

So Nakamori sits on a dusty chair, listening to the guard in the next room clipping his nails while watching security monitors that probably haven't shown an incident for his entire career, and tries to accept what this all means. That Kaitou Kid is not one man but two, and one is barely older than a child. Barely older than his own daughter, if that. That this is not the man he chased ten years ago, twenty years ago. That, quite possibly, that man is dead.

The fact is, Nakamori's based his entire life around capturing Kaitou Kid, and that kind of focus produces powerful reactions. To justify his abandonment of his family, and then perhaps worse his daughter alone, he built his vendetta against Kid into a towering necessity, a crusade against evil. But he knows, he's always known, even if he can't admit it because doing so would mean he had deserted Aoko for nothing, that Kid isn't evil. Somewhere under the cover of burning eagerness to catch the thief lies the cooler knowledge that he respects him. The Kid is as close as it's possible to get to not being a criminal, while still falling into that category. He rarely injures others and never kills, and he usually returns what he's stolen. He has even on a few occasions acted in the public interest. As he did four days ago. It makes Nakamori grit his teeth, but if he set aside his bluster he would have no trouble admitting that he knows why so many people come to watch Kid's heist. It's not just the theatrics. It's the thief's honour.

Under his mask of irritation and outrage, Nakamori's always had a soft spot for the thief. Something between respect and admiration. Something that couldn't be called friendship, certainly not with a man whose name he doesn't even know, but that feels almost like it all the same. He was happier than he's ever been when Kaitou Kid came back after nine years apparently in the grave, so happy he didn't look the gift horse in the mouth and refused to see what was right before him. That Kaitou Kid hadn't come back from the grave. That he's probably there now, while a kid runs around in his shoes.

That Nakamori lost the closest thing he had to a lifelong friend without realising it.

--

The call comes in a while after breakfast on day five, as predicted. Just a short burst from his radio, "Sir, the Kid's waking up." He's out of the room before the guard has time to ask what's happening.

Kid's room is a standard single room, located in the Intensive Care Unit but slightly removed from the longer rooms of multiple beds. Nakamori supposes it's usually used for particularly contagious illnesses, or particularly wealthy patients.

He's been coming by the hospital regularly to check on the media situation, but he's only been to the room once, when the Kid was originally established there. He stood over the thief's bedside while the doctors hooked up the heart monitor, watched with shuttered eyes as they arched his back and ran a tube down his throat while the whole time Kid was as limp as a ragdoll. After the medical staff had all gone, Nakamori stood staring at the boy for what felt like hours. Watching his narrow chest rise and fall under the thin sheet, room heated to a comfortable temperature by unusual indoor heating. With the tube down his throat, the Kid was forced to sleep with his mouth open, lying still and unconcerned. Sleeping like a child. Nakamori stood by until the rhythm of the thief's heartbeat was stuck in his head, until the ECG drew its bright green lines across his eyes when he closed them to blink.

The room's the same now, a little brighter, atmosphere a little lighter. But there are none of the superfluities of a regular patient's room, no table adorned with gift baskets, no bouquets of flowers or boxes of chocolates or bunches of balloons. The Kid's room is empty except for the bed, the equipment crowded around it, a low set of drawers probably containing further small tools of the medical trade, the two officers and Kid's doctor. Ironically, the Kaitou Kid Task Force has been working harder with Kaitou Kid captured than it usually does when he's free, all officers pulling daily shifts at the hospital regardless of rank or regular duty.

Nakamori strides into the room, nodding at the officers, but his attention is immediately drawn to Kid and their presence fades far into the background of his thoughts.

The thief is breathing hard, an odd raspy sound, chest heaving under the sheets as he pants. Sweat's running down his face, slicking his thick hair to his skull, and he's trembling slightly. It's his eyes that catch Nakamori though, spear him and hold him like a steel bolt. They're wide and staring, looking up at the ceiling, completely out of focus. Kid, Nakamori realises, is panicking. There's a hint of a whine in his gasps, a sliver of keening. The Inspector steps forward, own heart picking up to pound in his chest, but the doctor's already there.

White-clad shoulders crisp and sharp, the man slips a syringe into a junction in the IV with a quick, competent movement. "Breathe, kid, breathe. You're fine." His tone is solid and reassuring, filled with sincere calm. Whether because of that or whatever drug he added to the IV line, Kid's pulse slows, heart-rate monitor's pitch and speed lowering in synch. The thief relaxes, slumping back into the bed, eyes remaining unfocused but assuming a more normal width.

The doctor steps back, glancing over his shoulder and noting Nakamori's presence without any change in expression. Kid's head turns, just slightly, to look at them. The Inspector's sure his face under the make-up must be gray, and even with it it's clear from the lines of his face that he's still exhausted from his struggle to heal. His eyes on Nakamori are still not properly focused, blue seas on a foggy day, but the Inspector thinks he can see recognition there. He certainly sees wariness, and his heart clenches with anger. Anger that the Kid was shot, that he's lying here soon to be arrested for a good deed, that he's living this lifestyle. That he's a kid.

"Kid?" he asks, gruffly, sounding as though his mouth were full of rocks. "Do you know where you are?"

The thief seems to be about to speak, but only produces a quiet gargling sound. His head lolls back slightly on the pillow, shadowed eyes closing for a moment before opening again.

The doctor slips into the conversation while Nakamori stares, unsure how to deal with this unknown weakness, with the fact that Kid can't talk back, never mind fight back, can hardly stay awake.

"You're in Tokyo General Hospital, kid," says the doctor matter-of-factly. "You've been here for five days. You're going to be fine, but you've got a tube in to make sure you get enough nutrients until you can eat for yourself. You lost plenty of blood."

The man had submitted a report to Nakamori stating the same, written up in complicated medical language, but amounting to the fact that the thief had been lucky not to bleed to death. He thinks of the stained shirt, lying on his coat on the ambulance floor. The coat's being dry-cleaned, is probably ready by now in fact, but Nakamori doesn't want to pick it up.

"I'm Dr. Akede, by the way. Helped to pull the bullet out of you and put your collarbone back together. You were pretty lucky: significant shock, blood loss and bone fragments nicking your subclavian artery. It'll be a while before you can use the arm again, but it should heal up fine."

Kid nods at this, more a tip of his jaw than anything else, and Nakamori's pretty sure he's not actually listening. The doctor seems to agree, as he turns to give the Inspector his full attention. Nakamori gives him only half in return, the rest watching as Kid's eyes drift away to stare at the ceiling, slanting closer to closed.

"You can stay with the kid for a few minutes, Inspector, but keep it light. He's weak and in a fragile state of health. Don't say anything to upset him, make sure he stays calm. The drugs will help with that. It is, in fact, not entirely ethical for you to be present at all, considering that in his current frame of mind-"

The idea that he could get the better of Kid, that he could upset the thief, is one he's never considered before. But the implication that he would purposely take advantage of this situation, that he would do something to endanger the Kid's health, whips up his anger. As does the suggestion, more in the doctor's tone than in his words, that he has less right than Akede to be here. He bristles, and replies sharply,

"Doctor, this is the Kid we're talking about!"

"No. This is a kid we're talking about. Judging by his growth plates he's 16 – possibly 17 – and he's just suffered a major injury, prolonged surgery, and is still under the threat of infection. The boy could have died, and you still have the potential to cause a major set-back to his recovery. No questioning, no bullying, and definitely no threatening him. I'll be back in a few minutes."

Akede gives one last glance to his patient and walks out without waiting for an answer. Nakamori bridles at the tone, but the words cut to the bone. 16 or 17. He knew he was young, but gods… As for the reminder that the Kid was an inch from death, is still not entirely out of those bony fingers, he doesn't need it. He saw it for himself first hand in that ambulance, and he prays to all the gods he knows he never has to sit through another ride like it.

He stands over the Kid, waiting for him to notice his presence. It's almost a minute before Kid's eyes track back from the ceiling to him, staring up at him with unusual blankness. The kind of vacancy Nakamori's used to seeing in the station's drunk tank, not in Kid's bright eyes. But, at the moment, he's being pumped full of who knows how many drugs.

"Do you have anyone you want us to contact?" he asks eventually, when there is no change in that stare. "Family members? Or an acco- a friend?" Even now, knowing what he knows, it's hard to shake habit.

The gaze persists, and Nakamori wonders if Kid's really listening, if there's enough of him there to process the words. But after a minute he shakes his head minutely, forced to keep it mostly straight by the thick tube running down his throat. Nakamori isn't surprised by the answer, but he wonders what lies beneath it. Who's waiting at home for the thief? There must be someone behind that mask, and that someone must have a family, friends. No one with such a personality could exist without them.

"You're sure?" presses Nakamori. It should be the policeman pressing for information, looking for a clue as to Kid's identity. But it's not. It's a father, who fears that somewhere out there there's another father waiting for his son to come home, wondering where he is, whether he's okay. "You're a – a minor; you have the right for a guarding to be present…" Kid's not listening, and Nakamori knows he can't convince him to speak, knows he couldn't if he were in his regular state and can't press him unfairly now.

The room is silent for several minutes except for the whirring and beeping of the machines, Kid lost in his own presumably fuzzy world, Nakamori unable to think of a conversation which would not be straining. Finally, the Kid glances at him again, making to speak. All that comes out is that same gargle, somewhere between a choke and a cough, and Nakamori realises as he should have before that half-conscious there's no way the Kid could produce a sound around the tube in his throat. Once again the thief's startling weakness is rammed home, and it produces nothing but that same strange rage. Nakamori closes the hatches on it and pulls his notepad and pen out, flipping the pad to a new page.

Kid's right arm is lying unfettered next to his side, but Nakamori knows from the doctor's report that his shoulder is taped up tightly, preventing any use of his arm for the immediate future at least. But he's seen the Kid shoot with his left hand, knows the thief could bulls-eye a target with it, and although he hasn't seen it he takes it for granted that that ambidextrousness extends to writing. He lays the pad and pen down by Kid's left hand.

Kid is slow to pick the pen up, hand hovering heavily above it before closing over it with clumsy fingers, and it takes him several seconds to turn it so that the point is resting on the paper. Eyes narrowed in fierce concentration, he guides the pen through small, sharp strokes. The man, he writes laboriously.

"Under arrest for two counts of attempted murder, and a couple of extra charges tacked on. There's hundreds of witnesses; no way he'll walk."

It wasn't the first thing he had thought the thief would have on his mind, and he is surprised enough that he growls the answer out with more emotion than he would have liked to display. But he's got nothing but for contempt for the bastard, and he's never been much good at disguising his feelings. The Kid watches him with dark eyes, but makes no other acknowledgement. Finally, he looks back to the paper and his pen moves again.

The girl?

Mind now wound back to that night, the image of Aoko trapped with the pistol against her temple flashes through his mind like lightning. Any number of might-have-beens follow in its wake, thunder to make him quake. It takes Kid glancing up at him to prompt him to answer.

"She's fine. No injuries. Even a little grateful, which although you might not realise is almost a world-changing notion for her."

Kid sighs, that same rattling echo, and relaxes back against the bed, eyes drifting closed. Nakamori can see the effort writing even those few words cost him, barbs digging into his chest. He tries to think of something to say, something between reassurance and the stark coldness his role demands. But the thief's heartbeat is slowing again as he drifts into unconsciousness, and Nakamori is spared that effort.

The inspector relaxes and passes his hand over his face. Exhausted as he clearly is, it'll be a while before Kid wakes again, prolonging a conversation Nakamori isn't eager to have. He turns to the guards.

"Keep a record of when he wakes and sleeps. No one in or out except for the nurses on the roster and Doctor Akede. He's not to be given anything – if he wants something, even a pen, call me."

"Yes sir."

Nakamori leaves with a sharp nod, closing the door behind him as quietly as he can. He feels even more lost than before.

-------------------------------------------------------------

With the event he's been waiting for over he has no plans and it's just as well, because there's a message waiting for him at the Security office when he gets back. Higashiyama's shouting for his head, probably a direct result of Arakawa shouting for his. This has been relayed by Oogawa, who's no doubt in a damn rocky boat back at the stationhouse. Nakamori makes a note to stand him a couple of rounds at their next party. Which, if things continue the way they're going, may be held to celebrate the capture of Kaitou Kid.

With a scowl on his face, he goes to meet his superior.

Higashiyama Yuki has never gotten along well with the head of the Kaitou Kid Task Force. He's a new face in the Tokyo police force, having transferred down from Sapporo only a few months after the Kid rose like a bright white phoenix from the ashes. He hasn't been Superintendant of Division Two long enough to know of Nakamori's work in the dry years, plodding and unenergetic but efficient, nor yet to know the zeal and dedication he threw into his work in the height of Kid's first career. He only knows Nakamori as something between a fanatic and an incompetent, chasing after a butterfly with a wide-headed mallet and failing to hit it every time. He resents the drain on the Division's funds and manpower which the Task Force represents, and further resents the fact that Nakamori's inability to catch one man reflects badly not only on the Inspector but on him as well.

Nakamori's well aware of all of this, but draws comfort from the secure knowledge that his boss couldn't do any better than him if he tried, and that however it galls Higashiyama he has the support of the previous Superintendent of Division Two and current Superintendent General Arakawa and the Division One Superintendent Tsutomi, who do remember both the old days and the bad years and Nakamori's diligent efforts therein. Or at least he did, before all this.

Higashiyama's sitting behind his desk when Nakamori knocks on the metal door, pristine venetian blinds swaying and clacking against the glass with the motion. The Superintendent sees him through the window and motions him into the chilly office.

That the man doesn't heat his office, holding true to the grade school-ingrained notion that weather should be embraced not fought, gives a pretty clear idea of his personality. He runs his Division by the book, straight as a ruler. This is reflected in his chrome-and-glass office, everything precisely squared with the walls; what few items aren't made of either glass or given a metallic finish are black. Like the leather chair he directs Nakamori into without rising from his own.

"I've been trying to reach you since yesterday afternoon," he begins, not bothering with greetings.

"Sorry, sir. I was in the hospital; no cell phones." Nakamori sits stiffly, more aware than ever that he has no ally in his boss.

Higashiyama gives him an unimpressed look, but doesn't make an issue of it. Instead, he picks up a single piece of paper and turns it so that Nakamori can recognise his report. "Would you explain this?"

"Which part, sir?"

"All of it, dammit," snarls Higashiyama, and slams the paper down on the sleek black metal of his desktop, meekness vanishing without a trace. His fists leave warm prints on the polished surface for a moment before they fade. "This garbage about not arresting him due to, what, his unconsciousness? As if we've never arrested an unconscious man before! As for his 'uncertain condition,' I put a call through to the hospital and was assured by the head nurse that kaitou 1412 is expected to fully recover, and that he should regain consciousness any day now."

"Dr. Akede is in charge of the Kid's treatment, and he's made it clear to me that the b – man is nowhere out of the woods yet. I have his number here, sir, if you would like to confirm." He hands over Akede's card, perfectly sure of the doctor's reaction to another cop prodding him about the possible release date of his patient. Continuing to play his dangerous game, he lets the matter of Kid's waking fall entirely by the wayside.

"Another pal of yours, Nakamori?" The Superintendent tosses the card crookedly onto the desktop without a glance.

"No sir."

Higashiyama doesn't appear to hear him, or doesn't care if he does. He fixes Nakamori with a hard stare and a turned lip. "Frankly Inspector, I'm sorely tempted to remove you from this unit. I'd have done it already if I had my say. You've got some powerful friends, but after this," he pushes the report forward, "I wouldn't count on their protection for much longer. Incompetence was one thing; Kid's shown himself a match for any officer in this Force and if nothing else you've at least got experience." He spits it out as if it were a dirty word. "But I think it's become clear something else is going on here. Your actions come damn close to crossing the line, Inspector. They sure as hell aren't by the book." Higashiyama thumps on his desk, metal shivering. "I think you're shielding him, Nakamori. You've spent so long running after him you've come to admire the damn thief. You don't want to catch him, and now that you have purely by accident, you're doing your best to sabotage it."

"That's not the case, sir! Of course I want to catch the Kid! I've spent the past twenty years chasing him down!"

"Yes, and never caught him once," says Higashiyama dryly. "Luckily for you, I don't believe anyone could pretend to be that incompetent; that's the only reason I'm not reassigning you immediately. Nevertheless, until further notice you are suspended from your position, pending permission to remove you permanently from the kaitou 1412 Task Force. Of course, the Task Force doesn't have much longer to run in any case."

"Sir!" Nakamori was prepared for a royal dressing down, a lashing with no holds barred. But he had never expected this. To be removed with no warning, no chance to prepare. Swift and silent as a heart-attack.

"As you are effectively on enforced leave, you are not to enter this these offices or police premises without a valid reason, you are to turn in your weapon and your badge to the duty officer, and above all you are not to attempt to see kaitou 1412. The officers on site have already been given these instructions. You will be contacted with the specifics of your relocation when such information becomes available. Dismissed."

Nakamori sits staring for several seconds at the blank face of his superior, slack-jawed and wide-eyed. Then his ears prod him into motion, orders still ringing strong.

"S-sir." He tosses an uneven salute and staggers out the door, not bothering to hear it catch behind him. Walks blindly through the maze of desks in the outer office, down the corridor and into the elevator, thumbing the button through experience rather than attention. On the ground floor he walks straight by the duty officer's desk before Higashiyama's words pull him back and he turns, digging out his badge and his sidearm and tossing them onto the desk in front of the surprised sergeant. "Nakamori," he grumbles, throat tight, and turns his back on twenty years of his life.

TBC