What Came Before
Ten Years Before Pandora
The crowd screamed and cheered as the last of the doves exploded out of Kuroba Toichi's hat and flew around the ceiling of the theatre with the others. Toichi's sharp ears picked up a high whistle, almost too high to be heard, and he glanced slightly sideways with a smile. The doves, as one, flew down to the offstage area and the whistler. Kaito giggled as he was suddenly engulfed in feathers. Chikage smiled gently as she helped their son lure the doves back into their cages.
Toichi allowed himself a warm smile as he turned his attention back to his audience. Chikage hadn't smiled like that a lot lately. But soon, it would all be over. Tonight, after the show... this was it, it had to be, nothing else had matched the story so perfectly...
Then, finally, Toichi would be free.
"Ladies and Gentlemen," he called, causing the cheering to instantly die down. "It's the moment you've all been waiting for..." the crowd started cheering again as they realized what he was about to perform, the one trick that had quickly become his most famous. A little girl in the front row squealed.
"You'll finally get to see it, Tou-san!" she squealed. "It's amazing!"
Toichi saw a waving Kaito get yanked behind the curtain again by Chikage. Toichi continued to smile. He'd caught Ginzo's eye a couple of times during the show. The two of them had been friends—and, although Nakamori Ginzo didn't know it, rivals—for years, but this was the first time Ginzo had seen him perform (on stage, anyway). It was a good thing Ginzo was spending some time with his daughter, Toichi figured. The man so rarely did, even though his wife had died years ago. Kaito had insisted on giving Aoko free tickets to get him to come with her, which Toichi didn't have a problem with. The presence of police normally made him a little uncomfortable, of course, but when his family was around, the presence of the law made him just a little more comfortable...
"When I snap my fingers," he called, "with a flash of light, I will vanish. I will travel through time and space..."
"Two minutes of time and several back corridors of space," Yukiko's husband had once commented. Kudo Yuusaku was definitely sharper than your average novelist, a contrast to the sweet, trusting but slightly airheaded Yuki-chan he'd taught role-play to. "And she had to marry the one man that really gives me a hard time..."
Well, that was almost over now. With any luck, soon he'd be able to destroy that room. Every night now, he set the time-lock, always hoping that it would never be necessary, that Kaito would never have to know.
The crowd had set up a countdown chant. He tapped his foot in time to the descending numbers. The countdown to the final trick...
Toichi glanced up at the gallery. For a second, he wondered why his gaze was drawn to the audience there. Then he saw him.
He was smiling. Toichi's smile froze.
There was a flash of light from the flashbombs on the ground, a blast of smoke from the smoke-machines built into the stage, and the ground vanished as Toichi fell through the trapdoor.
The crowd was screaming again, but this time there were no cheers.
Two and a half Years Before Pandora
Kaito was still awake as the sun rose—not that he could see it, inside the hidden room. He sat on a dusty old desk chair, twirling the white silk top hat slowly in his hands.
Tou-san... You were...
He stared, almost unseeing, at the painting which concealed the hidden doorway, turned so that it was the benevolent smile of Kuroba Toichi that looked down on him, not the belligerent smirk of the Kaitou Kid.
You were a thief...
Yesterday evening—it seemed like a million years ago, now—he'd spoken so confidently to Jii when the old man had revealed the truth, proudly proclaiming himself the new Kaitou Kid. Lucky his father had taught him such a good Poker Face. The old man had been completely fooled.
So had I, he thought, smiling grimly as his gaze dropped to the white suit that he still wore. So was... everyone...
How could he reconcile both sides of the painting? His father and the international criminal? So different, In Kaito's mind, and yet, they were the same person...
You never told me, Tou-san, but now I know anyway, He mused. I know the truth. I hate knowing it. I don't want to know that you're a thief... but... if I forgot tomorrow, that wouldn't change anything, would it? You would still have been a thief... and your death still wouldn't have been an accident.
What was it that shook him up more? The truth about Kuroba Toichi's life, or the truth about his death? Kaito had gone in circles for hours, wondering if he was dreaming, if it was a trick, an illusion... and yet, he always came to the conclusion that it must be the truth, and he didn't know what to do about that. Was he ever supposed to have known? He must have—his father's voice had been speaking to him on that tape. But the tape had been degraded by eight years, so Kaito didn't know the full content of it. Maybe he wasn't supposed to ever have known, and the tape was simply a failsafe in case he found the room. How could he know? He couldn't bring himself to go and talk to Jii again. The old man had clearly been in reverence of Kuroba Toichi, and while Kaito figured that Jii would tell him the truth, it would be a rose-tinted truth—if there was anything dark behind Kuroba Toichi and the Kaitou Kid, Jii would hide it from him. Kaito didn't want or need that. He needed the truth. But who could give it to him? He'd thought he knew his father, but he'd only been a child at his father's death. Jii had been an adult, and one of his father's dearest friends. Who else had known his father so well?
Kaito suddenly jerked his head up, staring at the ceiling, mentally summoning a map of the house. Where this room was... his parents' room should be directly above it. Kaa-san... you'd give me the truth, wouldn't you?
He stood, placing the hat on the desk and reaching up to undo his tie. Every movement was slow, measured, careful, delicately procrastinating the moment when he confronted his mother. He longed for the truth, but he also feared it.
Tuesday... I'd better just change back into my uniform, he thought, carefully steering his mind away from the "what ifs" of the impending conversation. I mean, I don't know for certain whether or not Kaa-san really knows. If she actually didn't, it might freak her out just a little if the Kaitou Kid walks into her room... and if she does know, it might freak her out that little bit more...
Finally dressed, he walked over to the painting. Now, how did I do this..? He reached up to the top corner of the painting, carefully pressing the spot that he'd leaned on the previous night. The gentle pressure set off the interior mechanism, but this time he was ready. He grabbed the revolving door, holding it steady so that it didn't fling him through again, and carefully walked himself around back into the study.
Now he saw the rising sun through the window. It illuminated Kuroba Chikage, who had fallen asleep, curled up in an armchair by the hidden door. Kaito stared at her for a long moment, forgetting what he'd wanted to ask.
Kaa-san... you knew, didn't you? he thought, sitting himself quietly down on another armchair. And you remembered... what happened to Tou-san... were you scared that the same would happen to me? That I, too, would be...?
Chikage stirred slight, then looked up, blinking blearily, before her gaze suddenly focused on her son. She gasped sharply and sat upright
"Kaito!" she cried, getting up. She flung her arms around Kaito as he stood up too. "Thank Kami... Aoko was here looking for you, but just as she was leaving, I heard a strange sound, and when I saw that the painting had turned, I realized... you found it... and I thought..."
"Thought I was going to get murdered, too?" Kaito said softly, hugging her back. She went rigid in his arms, before beginning to cry gently.
"I'm so sorry, Kaito," she sobbed. "I'm sorry I never told you. T-Toichi said he didn't want you to know, but he feared t-that you would, someday. I j-just didn't want them to kill you, too..."
"It's okay, Kaa-san," Kaito said, "Jii told me he was murdered, he just didn't know who. I know you were just scared that they'd kill me too, that's why you didn't tell me. I understand. It's just... I have to know." The pulled away from each other, and Kaito looked his mother straight in the eye, summoning up his unwavering Poker Face
"Why?" he said finally. "Not why didn't you tell me... why was he a thief? Why did he start? Did you always know?"
"Yes," she admitted. "I knew from… well, to be honest, it was how I met him." She sighed, then smiled in an oddly nervous way, biting her lip like a child holding back giggles. "Let's just say I was hardly in a position to condemn him for theft. And once he told me what was going on, I knew I had to help him."
"What was it?" Kaito asked again. Chikage looked out of the window, chewing at her lips as she decided what to say, her smile fading.
"There is an organization," she said eventually. "I don't know much about them. Neither of us ever did, really. But eighteen years ago..."
Two Years Before Pandora
He slipped silently past the employee entrances to various attractions, pressing up against the wall as he carefully peeked around the corner to the empty area beneath a rollercoaster. He jerked back to the corner as he spotted the two men; the flustered-looking owner of Tropical Land, and the suspicious man in black from the rollercoaster.
"Here!" the theme park owner cried, opening his suitcase. "It's all here!"
Whoa! Shinichi thought in shock, staring at the massed stacks of notes in the case. There's got to be a hundred million yen in there...
He silently pulled out his disposable camera as the talk turned to gun smuggling. There were a lot of shots of he and Ran in the camera, all over Tropical Land, but there should still be about fifteen pictures left...
"Shut up! Compared to what your Syndicate does, I haven't done anything—"
"Enough of that talk if you know what's good for ya."
Shinichi shrank back as he realized that the man in dark glasses was reaching into his suit and pulling out a gun. Shinichi clicked the camera a couple more times, thankful that there wasn't a flash on it and hoping that the pictures came out alright. The grass rustled behind him.
"I don't have to take this anymore!"
Shinichi took another couple of pictures. Damn... if he fires that gun, do I just sit here and take photos? But I can't let him murder that guy...
"That's it, kid..."
Shinichi suddenly became aware that someone was standing behind him. A second later, he became quite painfully aware that that someone had what felt like a length of lead pipe.
"No more playing detective for you!"
Shinichi's world exploded into pain as he was hit in the back of the head. He slumped to the grass, half-conscious, only dimly aware of the sharp throbbing of his skull and a warm trickle as blood dripped down his face.
The men were talking. Muzzily, Shinichi tried to focus on what they were saying.
"... new poison that the Syndicate developed..."
He felt a hand grip him by the hair and pulling him up to a sitting position. He tried to resist, but the tug on his hair caused fresh waves of pain to radiate from his head, incapacitating the rest of his body.
"...untraceable in the body..."
Something was put into his mouth. He couldn't even swallow, but he felt some liquid washing the small... whatever down his throat. It blazed a trail of fire behind it.
"Still in development... never been used on humans..."
He slumped to the ground as the hand let go. The fire was spreading from his throat to his stomach, and from there to the rest of his body. He forced his eyes to move, to look up at the retreating black figures. For a second, his vision focused, and he saw him; the one with the long silver hair and the eyes of a killer. He smiled as Shinichi burned.
"So long, Meitantei," he said, before turning and vanishing. Shinichi tried to reach out, as if he could grab him and cuff the bastard, but he couldn't move. The fire had overwhelmed him, and it was melting his bones...
Should've listened to Ran, he thought vaguely as his consciousness slipped, remembering her voice calling after him not to go. Ran...
And he fell into cool, comforting darkness.
Six Months Before Pandora
The Iron Tanuki's not in the papers, huh? I guess I shouldn't be surprised... Kaito thought with a frown as he flipped through the newspaper. Jirokichi-jiisan's gotta be pretty embarrassed. I guess it was kinda pathetic... almost a literal interpretation of "open the box with the crowbar that you will find inside"… his thoughts were cut off by a hand suddenly forcing his paper down onto the desk.
"Sensei's here!" Aoko hissed, standing up. "Pay attention! Honestly..."
"Good morning to you too, Aoko..." he muttered, standing up and bowing with everyone else as the teacher entered the classroom.
"All right, everybody, first things first—I have some good news!" she said. "A new student is joining this class today—or, should I say, returning to us, after his long stay overseas..."
Oh, no... Kaito thought, glad that his Poker Face was second nature. Please tell me it's not...
"Welcome back, Hakuba-kun," the teacher said, smiling at the blond boy who had walked through the door and was now bowing to the class.
"I graduated early from my courses in England," Hakuba Saguru said, "And so I thought it best to return to Japan for the remainder of the High School year. After all, with my educational future already assured, I can devote myself to dealing with crime here in Tokyo... Particularly my old nemesis..."
His arrogant sapphire eyes locked on Kaito, who briefly entertained the thought of yanking them out during a heist.
This is my first Meitantei Conan fic, so I hope it goes well... I'm planning to update weekly at the moment, but I might do it more often if I suddenly get an attack of the Muses. :P Anyway, enjoy, and please comment—they mean the world to me!
Oh, and just do you know—whenever anyone's speaking English in this fic, It'll be in bold. There's a rather special group of foreigners making a few appearances, so there'll be quite a bit of that...
UPDATE—09/01/2014: Wow. What am I doing here nearly five years after I first posted this? Well, partially being astonished at how often I still get reviews from people who started reading this fic and love it. I haven't actually read DC in about a year, but the fact that people still tell me that this is their headcanon for the end doesn't exactly suggest that there's been a lot of plot progression…
People are still reading this, at least one Vietnamese translation is out there, and I can't even look at this fic without going "OH GOD I DID SO MANY THINGS SO WRONG". Which says a lot about my progression as a writer, I guess. So I feel honour-bound to touch this fic up a bit. There's unlikely to be major changes, just… touching up. Plus, editing this helps me get my brain into writing gear for my current writing projects.
(I'm sorry I haven't posted DC in a long time. But I recently got into Baccano! and got a great idea for a crossover, so maybe I'll catch up and write a little for this fandom again. No promises, though. But thank you, after all this time, for still reading and enjoying. Thank you.)
I do not claim to own any of the characters in Meitantei Conan. They are the intellectual property of Aoyama Gosho. All characters, couples and locations, if Canon, will be faithful to the manga up to chapter 679. I urge you to buy the official Tankoban novels (up to volume 27 are out in English at the time of writing) so that Aoyama-sensei can afford to continue gracing us with his imagination. Now, I hope you enjoy the fic! (If you don't, please see my previous comments re the back button).