Author's Note: Inspired by another one of the chapter's from Chatty Plunnies, this one being Afterlife Conversations (Chapter 40). Again dedicated to Dragon-sama, and especially Koorii for looking over this. *much love*
Author's Note #2: First DC fic on from me. Go figure it would be this one. XD
Chapter One: Tumble
Kaito was quickly beginning to dislike Shinichi's pit stops. Since they had started the road trip, they had made three (this was number four) and each time, without fail, they had 'stumbled' across a dead body.
The first pit stop had resulted in them finding the wife of the owner in the freezer. She'd been sleeping with any passer-through that would have her. They located the body of one of her flings in the corn field out back.
The second pit stop they'd found a man dead on the side of the street and left to rot several streets over after stopping to get a bite to eat at a dinner the locals had all raved about. The man's father had murdered him after he discovered his son was stealing hundreds of thousands of yen from him. He'd tried to make it look like a random accident.
The third pit stop Kaito had slept mostly through. By the time he'd come round, Shinichi was just wrapping everything up. The teen magician still wasn't entirely sure about all the details, but apparently a young girl had been murdered because it turned out she and the local preacher had been having an affair, and when she'd when she'd suddenly broke up with him, he'd gone into a fit of rage and murdered her. They'd found her body in a well.
Kaito was getting the feeling there was nothing to do with 'stumbling' across them anymore.
Especially this time.
They didn't need gas. They didn't need to get a bite to eat (they'd eaten an hour previously). It was too early for turning in. And yet, here they were, because Shinichi had suddenly gotten an odd look on his face as they'd passed the four-way and decided to go left instead of right.
Which had lead to them turning into a town that was on high alert looking for a girl that had been missing for the better part of twenty-four hours.
"She- She just went out to play," the little girl's mother, Kyouga Ritsuga, explained through her sobs into one of the ever ready handkerchiefs Kaito kept on hand and had produced for her. "She's such a sweet girl." The woman sniffed, hard. "She'd never do something like this!"
Kaito patted the woman on the back, radiating calm and soothing. Over Kyouga's head, he glanced at Shinichi. The teen detective was looking out towards the woods with that same odd look he'd had when he'd made the deliberate wrong turn. It took a moment, but Kaito finally realized what was so disturbing about it.
Shinichi looked as if the girl was already dead. They just hadn't found her body yet, which didn't make any sense because there really wasn't any clues as to what happened to her. Shinichi was a good detective, but he wasn't that good.
Kaito swallowed, and gave the woman a last pat. "If anyone can find her alive, my Shinichi will." Kyouga nodded, even if she didn't look like she believed him any more than he believed himself.
He turned back to Shinichi, who was staring at something wide-eyed. Kaito blinked. "Shinichi?"
Shinichi didn't take his eyes off whatever he was watching. "Stay here. I'll be right back." He was off and running for the forest without another word.
Kaito snorted. Like hell he was going to stay here. He was going to find out what was going on.
And, more importantly, he was going to find out what that look was about. There was something very, very wrong with that look.
"We'll be back later," he told the woman, but she didn't seem to be listening. He didn't stick around to tell her again.
Laughter ringed in his ears. A white skirt twirled once, before vanishing in the green of the forest.
Shinichi knew Kyouga Kara was dead.
Just like he knew he was following a ghost. It was a fact that should have bothered him, but after several years of seeing them, he had grown quite used to them. Even if he wished they would leave him alone. He could solve their deaths just fine without their... help.
He still couldn't seem to stop himself from running the moment he saw one, though.
Little Kara skipped along the path seemingly without a care in the world, and completely oblivious to the fact she was, indeed dead. She would occasionally glance back, before giggling and darting off in a new direction. She had already lead him deep into the forest and if she went much farther, he wasn't sure she would be the only one that needed to be found.
He spotted her standing on the edge of the path, staring into some distant part of the forest only she could see. When he came closer, she smiled sadly at him, and then stepped off the path.
Shinichi realized wherever she had just gone, he was about to find out how she had died. Swallowing in an attempt to calm his racing heart, he took that first step off the path. And then promptly slipped on the rain damp grass.
Right down a very steep hill.
Shinichi yelped, trying to grab something - anything - that would stop his fall. Some addled part of his mind pointed out this had probably happened to Kara, too. It had been raining off-and-on for days, and if she'd had slipped, she could have easily have broken her neck on the way down. It was only too late that he realized, just as the ground disappeared under him, that it wasn't the fall down the hill that had killed her.
It was the fall over the cliff that had.
Shinichi grabbed at the ledge as he went over, but the ground was too soft and damp to find any purchase. He cursed as his hands slipped and for one horrifying moment, he was in free fall.
And then the hand caught him.
"Hold-," Kaito grunted as Shinichi's weight and momentum very nearly pulled him over, too. He adjusted his grip on the tree. "Hold on."
Shinichi stared up at him in amazement. "Kaito? Wha... What are you doing here?"
Kaito managed a strained laugh. "You thought I'd let you run off on your own like that?"
The teen detective scowled. "Baka-kaitou."
The teen magician just smiled at that, and readjusted his position. "You're going to have to find some footing." He grinned, despite the obvious effort it was taking to hold them up. "Position doesn't allow for any free hands. And who knows how long this tree will last?"
As if to emphasis this, the tree creaked just so.
Both boys gulped.
Shinichi set about the task of finding something - a rock, a root, anything - he could brace himself on. In the sunlight, just above eye level, something glinted in the sun light. He was sure when he had the moment to spare to think about it, he'd recognize it, but for the moment, he had more important things to do. Like survive this.
Several inches up from his left foot, to his relief, was a thick root protruding from the ground. He twisted, apologizing as Kaito made a pained noise at the movement. Once he was steady, he gripped at the grass again with his free hand. It wasn't very sturdy and it wouldn't hold for long, but it would have to be enough.
He looked up at Kaito. "Secure yourself better."
The other teen blinked. "To do that I'd have to let you go."
Shinichi nodded. He looked down at the water below. Little Kara stared back, eyes sad and regretful. She expected that he'd be joining her soon.
Not very likely.
"I know that."
Kaito gaped. "But you could fall-!" He glared. "I am not going to let you fall to your death to save myself!"
Shinichi's expression was dry. "Baka, like I'm Kazuha." There was an edge of fond exasperation at the half-insult. The look grew serious as he explained, "It doesn't do either of any good if you fall trying to pull us up."
Kaito's glare only heated up. "I hate your logic."
Shinichi smiled sweetly and completely without repent.
Kaito looked between the tree, to their clasped hands, and then to the fingers precariously hanging onto the ledge. "If you fall-"
"I won't fall. You won't let me."
Kaito started at that, turning a little pink. Shinichi didn't talk like that very often, but when he did...
Very reluctantly, Kaito let go.
And Shinichi didn't fall.
Quickly, Kaito secured himself, and then got a much better hold on Shinichi. With painstaking care and not a little pain on either's side, Shinichi was once again on solid ground again, both spent but blessedly alive.
Despite having exerted himself more, Kaito recovered first. And he was furious. "Idiot detective, what the hell were you doing running off like that?"
Shinichi glanced at the cliff. He couldn't, exactly say that he'd been following a ghost. Instead, he reached over to untangle the object he'd seen.
It was the bracelet Kara had been wearing when she disappeared. Kaito and Shinichi stared at it, one carefully blank and the other with a dawning sorrow.
"Kyouga Kara is dead. She slipped down the hill and right over the cliff."
Kaito looked from the bracelet to the cliff. He was many things, and even more that he would admit to, but he certainly wasn't an idiot. There should have been no way they'd wind up right there, right where she fell. It was too random. Right? Unless, somehow...
He turned his gaze on his partner, eyes sharp and searching. "Shinichi...? Why did you run off like that?"
Shinichi, instead of answering, carefully got to his feet. "We should get back to town. They should know where to start looking."
Kaito knew a subject change when he saw one. He was, after all, a master of them. Reaching out, careful not to over balance either of them, he grabbed Shinichi's arm. "Shinichi-!"
Shinichi jerked his arm free. Glaring, he turned to say something; he wasn't sure what and would never know, as he spotted Kara behind Kaito. She seemed pleased neither had fallen. Shinichi swallowed, suddenly aware of how easily they really could have joined her. How close he'd come to getting Kaito killed from trying to save him.
He turned away to distract himself from wanting to kick himself. "There's a mother who needs to know what happened to her daughter. They might find her body if they know where to look." He started up the hill, mindful of slippery spots.
Kaito watched him go with narrowed eyes. Something was going on here, and, even if he had to do something drastic like tying the detective up and refusing to let him go until he told him, he wasn't going to let it go until he found out what it was.