Disclaimer-- Detective Conan and the characters thereof are the property of Gosho Aoyama. Rurouni Kenshin and associated cast are property of Nobuhiro Watsuki. I am neither of these men, and am making no money off of this. Please do not sue me; all you'll get will be several obsolete video game systems and a large collection of sarcastic t-shirts. This short is in my "Wanderers" universe, which means it uses DC manga canon and Vathara's Urban Legends backstory. It's rated PG by the Motion Picture Association for mentions of violence.


Takagi Wataru didn't ever remember feeling this exhausted in his life. Not even after a day of kendo practice with Kaoru-obasan, and that was saying quite a bit. But he'd spent the day chasing a serial bomber, nearly been blown up with Tokyo's most disconcerting elementary school student, and then found himself having to talk Satou-san out of putting a bullet in the bomber, when he wasn't entirely certain he wouldn't have shot the man himself, in her place. And if that weren't enough, he'd then spent the rest of the day in debriefing after debriefing, going over his story for every higher-up from Megure-keibu all the way up to Superintendent Hakuba. At this point, the only thing keeping him on his feet was the desire to get into his apartment, eat something remotely resembling dinner, and go into suspended animation for the two days leave he'd been given. Of course, that meant he'd have to cook... no, he thought there was some leftover food from the last time he'd hit an Italian restaurant. If not, there was instant ramen. He could stay awake long enough to cook that, probably.

Given his exhausted state, it was unsurprising that the scent hit him first, as he pushed open his apartment door. Something savory, with tones of pungent herbs and fresh greens, it made his stomach sit up and take notice. A quick look at the door showed that the lock hadn't been forced or even disengaged... Holding tightly to the knob, Wataru sent out a careful feeler of ki, heading for the kitchen. If there was someone hostile in there, he was in no shape to face them. Better to just back out of the apartment, go outside, and call the police. Well, the rest of the police.

But the ki that met his probe was warm and responded immediately in welcome. "Come in, Taru-kun," a familiar voice called from the kitchen. "Dinner is almost ready, that it is, and you are worn to the bone."

"Ken-ojisan," Wataru sighed, stepping into the apartment. As the door closed behind him, he shrugged off his suit jacket and shoulder holster, hanging them on the tree next to the door. He should have been surprised, but he wasn't. Idly, he wondered if it was because he was just too tired, or because finding Himura Kenshin in places you didn't expect him was simply par for the course.

Staggering into the kitchen/dining area, Wataru dropped into a chair with a grateful sigh, unsurprised to find a bowl of tea slid in front of him. What was surprising was the bottle of sake, complete with saucer, which joined it a few minutes later. Blinking, Wataru looked up.

"Ken-ojisan... Forgive me, but... what are you doing here?" he asked.

The red-haired man smiled. "We do not live so far away, and sword masters are always attuned to the ki of their students, especially when said students are family. Kaoru-dono and I felt a strong flare of ki from you two days ago, and we felt it best to keep an eye on the news coming out of Tokyo after that."

Wataru groaned. Two days ago, he'd been forced to put on a ki-powered burst of speed to escape a bomb under his car, set by a group of bombers who had planned to rob the post office while the police were dealing with the confusion. Most of his co-workers had simply teased him about his "running away skills," and hadn't thought to wonder just how he'd managed to outdistance an explosion without anyone seeing him do it. Not even Shiratori, though for him, forgetting it was no doubt understandable after nearly dying in a car bomb of his own. And given that the mess at Touto Tower had broadcast his name and face all over the city after his and Conan's narrow escape...

"Kaoru-obasan's not coming down, is she?"

"No, you have nothing to worry about," Kenshin replied, returning to the pot he was stirring. "She agreed that since you apparently escaped the mess with your skin intact, she'd let me come down and make sure you were all right by myself."

"Small mercies..." Wataru honestly loved the woman who'd raised him-- she was all the mother he really remembered, since he'd been so young when his parents died. But she had a mean bokken, and a tendency to use it to make a point. Or a lump.

The smaller man chuckled lightly. "Kaoru-dono is forceful in protecting those she loves, that she is. Even from their own pride or stupidity." He rubbed his head ruefully, obviously remembering. "But she knows when to step aside, even when protecting."

"Now..." Grabbing a bowl, Kenshin ladled broth, noodles, and vegetables from the pot, setting the dish and a pair of chopsticks in front of Wataru. "Eat this. If I remember you correctly, you have been too focused on your work to even think of eating, and what they offer in police stations is in no way considered food as it is."

Wataru blushed, but he wasn't going to argue. For several minutes, the room was quiet as the two men focused on their dinner and their tea. Finally, Wataru looked up from his bowl and sighed.

"All right... I'll ask. Ken-jisan, why did you get out the sake?"

"Because I wish to know of what happened to you today, and both your face and your ki indicate that you are wound far too tight to speak of such things without the help of a small drink."

Ouch. Hanyou, swordsman, and war veteran-- Kenshin had never been anything but perceptive. With a sigh, Wataru poured himself a saucer of sake, took a sip, and started talking.

The story came out more easily than he'd thought, though he intentionally downplayed any feelings he might have had about competing with a ghost for Satou-san's heart-- that would hit a bit too close to home, and he didn't particularly like what it said about him anyway. He doubted that Kenshin missed that he was hiding anything, but apparently the older man wasn't going to call him on it.

"To be honest," Wataru finished, "the worst of it was really the tower. Afterwards, well, we took care of the bomb fairly easily, and I didn't have time to really be afraid while chasing down Satou-san and the bomber. But having to sit down in that elevator while Conan-kun disarmed the bomb... having to wait along with him for that clue... oh, and did I mention having a seven-year-old boy make the decision to wait until the last second, so he could get as much of the clue as he could? That... I'll probably be having nightmares about that for a month, at least."

"Mm," Kenshin nodded. "Waiting is always the worst, because it gives your imagination time to work, without the adrenaline to distract it. But you said the boy made the decision?"

A nod. "Conan-kun is... he's not a normal child. And I'm not just talking his intelligence, although that's what he shows to the majority of the officers he meets. He's... he acts like an adult. He spoke of Mouri Ran-san as 'the most important person in the world.' That's not how a child phrases things. He had the cool to wait the clue out, and cut the lead at the last second... and I'd bet you anything he wasn't even bothering to listen to the instructions I was relaying from the bomb squad. And when he proposed his scheme... Those weren't a child's eyes. I think that may be why he hides them behind glasses that I'm fairly sure he doesn't need."

Kenshin's eyebrows rose. "Do you think he's youkai, perhaps a kitsune in a child's shape?"

"There are some jokes around the station that he may be a shinigami, but no. His ki is human, even though it's... odd. Squashed. Much like the way a full-blood kitsune's ki changes when it shifts shape, honestly, but his ki IS human."

Wataru stared into his sake, turning the saucer around in his hands before taking another sip. "Actually... it's a swordsman's ki, for all that I don't think he's ever held a sword in his life. But he uses it, without even knowing what he's doing... he swamps people with it, the way a swordsman would swamp his unit. Police listen to him, despite his youth. Even ones who don't know him, don't know his reputation find themselves telling him things about the scene, the crime, the suspects. I've talked to some of them-- they simply can't help it. And they never think about ejecting him from a crime scene. Mouri-san does, Mouri Kogoro, but not often. The children he's always with... they fall into line when he orders them to do something, even if they don't understand it.

"But the worst... I've seen him talk to murderers. People who have killed, who have hidden their deeds, without the slightest show of remorse. And they look into his eyes, and they shiver... and they break, like warm ice. Some of it's the fact that they have no chance of hiding their crime anymore, but that's not all of it. The first time they waver, show any remorse or uncertainty at their actions, comes when they look at him. And many of them... they look almost afraid."

Kenshin sat, listening in silence, then cocked his head. "Do you think he's dangerous?"

"Oh yes, he's dangerous. Any sword is dangerous. But I don't think he'd hurt anyone who didn't threaten him or someone he cared about. I don't think he'd break someone who wasn't already hurting others. It's like you told me once, just because you can kill doesn't mean you have to, doesn't mean you will. I don't know what's going on with him, but I know he believes in justice, in protecting the weak, and in even murderers getting their fair chance." Wataru smiled slightly. "I don't see any 'Aku. Soku. Zan,' in his future, if that's what you're asking."

A light laugh. "Then I would suggest you head to bed, Taru-kun, and leave any worries about this for the morning. You are about to fall face down into your bowl of tea if you don't."

Well, there wasn't any arguing with that. Fighting back a monstrous yawn, Wataru hauled himself to his feet and stumbled towards his bedroom, barely managing to skin down to his boxers before falling onto his bed. As he burrowed under the blankets, he faintly heard a rumbling noise that he identified as the soak cycle of his washing machine. Ah well, he thought, as he slipped into sleep, at least I know I'll have clean socks in the morning.