Fic Pairings: Mostly Genfic. Light Kaito/Aoko, Shinichi/Ran, Saguru/Aoko, and Heiji/Kazuha

Final/Series Pairings: Saguru/Aoko, Heiji/Kazuha, Kaito/Shinichi (more may appear)

Chapter Warnings: mentions of explosions.

A/N: Alright, here it is folks: As per my tradition I am posting something on my Birthday. So, today I am 21, and here is my post.

Since everyone's been highly interested in this fic, I am posting the first chapter of Pestilence, the first fic in my "Horsemen" series. Updates on this fic are likely to be slow, but here's how they'll work:

At the moment I have 6 chapters done, when I finish chapter 7, I will post chapter 2, and so on and so forth. Until then, enjoy!

-Koorii


Chapter 01


Conan sat at the low kotatsu, eyes staring blankly at the TV screen which displayed some random serial drama he wasn't paying more than half attention to. His fingers sorted, absently, through the bag of chips sitting before him; a couple had spilled out on the table top itself. His fingers caught on one, and he pulled it free in a motion that sent a couple more to join their escaping brethren. Breaking off a small portion with his front teeth, Conan left the chip dangling listlessly between his lips.

Ran always insisted on buying these sorts of things, said that little kids enjoyed snacks like this. Conan wondered, sometimes, if he'd been that way when he really was this age. He couldn't really recall. All the same, it had been easy, and within reach, and that suited Conan just fine at the moment. Right now he didn't want to think, didn't want to care.

Soft and brittle, wintery late afternoon sunlight spilled into the room from a crack in the curtains. The tall, thin shaft of dim white light turned the table almost reflective. Conan could see dust motes spinning in an absent dance above the polished surface. The TV changed, displaying loud commercials that offered their products in a million outrageous ways, but the apartment itself was quiet. For that, alone, Conan was glad.

The solitude suited the rather listless mood he was in at the moment perfectly. Kogoro had gone out on a case that, for once, held no interest to Conan; something about tailing an employee of a bank who was suspected of small time embezzlement. Ran had gone out as well, with Sonoko, after repeatedly asking Conan if he was sure he didn't want to come and if he'd be fine home alone.

Normally he jumped on the chance to go anywhere with her, but today he just didn't feel like it. Today... With another slight crunch he bit off a bit more of the chip, and stared lazily at the TV. He wasn't really seeing it at all, rather, he was staring into the middle distance.

It had been nearly two years now. He'd be turning nine soon, for the second time, and Haibara didn't seem any closer to the cure. That, in all its complicated simplicity, was the root of his bad mood. She'd been so...he couldn't say excited, as the term didn't really suit her in any form, but Haibara had thought she was on to something. It had turned out to be a fluke reaction.

One step forward, two steps back. They were, more or less, in the same place they'd been for the last year and a half or so.

The cure wasn't the only place where they had come up against a wall. The Black Organization was an unstoppable force that crawled, and oozed, and sank its claws into everything. Conan didn't know if he was just becoming paranoid, or if the little signs he saw in the world around him were real. He didn't dare bring it up with Ai. Lately, any relation back to them had her on edge and snappy for weeks. He wasn't sure if it was stress over her continued failures, or if she was getting as jumpy as he was.

What he really needed, Conan knew, was a distraction. At that moment, as if in answer to his mental cue, his cellphone began to buzz across the table. Snagging it, he flipped it open and set it to his ear. Using his shoulder to keep it there, Conan reached for the remote.

"Yo, Kudou!"

Giving a sarcastic mental laugh, Conan pulled the rest of his chip into his mouth and crunched it loudly in an effort to spread his general aggravation around in some manner. He doubted that Hattori would pick up on that fact; he'd learned a long time ago that it was a universal rule: Hattori Heiji and subtle cues that had to do with a person's emotional status were non-mixy things.

"Kudou?" Hattori's vaguely confused sounding tone asked.

Conan sighed heavily. "Yeah? What do you want, Hattori?"

"I'm wounded!" Hattori replied. It was said so cheerfully, though, that Conan couldn't help but think a hearty 'yeah right.' "I'm y'best friend, y'oughta be happier t'hear from me!"

He could just imagine the idiot, beaming, as he said those words. How Hattori could be so obnoxiously happy sometimes... "Was there a reason you called, or is Kazuha trying to get you to do something and you want an out?"

"What's that supposed t'mean?" Hattori grumped, and Conan mentally gave himself a point for spreading the ill cheer, before immediately feeling a bit bad for it. He really shouldn't be taking his sour mood out on Hattori; Hattori who'd been nothing but a reliable friend, one who'd stood by him through this entire mess.

"Nothing. So, what's up?"

As fast as it had come, Hattori's mood lifted again. Conan could hear the grin in his voice, and it made him wonder why he'd changed his mind about baiting the idiot. "So y'haven't heard then?"

"Heard what? Hattori."

"Geez, don't get y'self all in a twist. I just figured y'would've since it's all over the news. Even here in Osaka."

"Get to the point already, Hattori," Conan growled. Really, what was he on about?

"Check out the news. I'm sure it's on there too."

Rolling his eyes, and biting back a sigh at Hattori's unequivocal ability to frustrate him with the smallest things yet still remain one of his closest friends, Conan absently jabbed the buttons to switch the channel to one he knew would be airing news, and, immediately, found his attention riveted on the screen.

"–as you can see, behind me the preparations for tonight's Kaitou Kid heist are well underway." The camera panned up, revealing one of the large sky scrapers in Beika. It was a monolith of steel, glass, and cement that caught the slowly dying sunlight and sent it flying back into the air like the shards of a broken jewel. The reporter's voice continued, "The men of the Task Force have come over from Ekoda ward with Nakamori-keibu, self proclaimed expert on the thief, in the lead." Faintly overlaying this part, Conan could hear a bellow that sounded like 'It's the truth!' "Kid is believed to be targeting The Lucky Seven. The Lucky Seven are a set of seven large star sapphires that belong to the well known businessman Wakahisa Hajime-san, who happens to be standing next to me right now! Now, tell me Wa–"

The woman's question was aborted as Nakamori stormed into the frame, snatched the microphone from her hand and faced the camera. Pointing at it, he hollered, "I KNOW WHAT YOU'RE REALLY AFTER KID! YOU AREN'T FOOLING ME!" Shoving his face as close to the camera as he could, Nakamori snarled, "And this time you're not going to escape!"

"So y'really didn't know?" Hattori's amused voice sounded in his ear, and drew Conan's attention away from the ranting man on the television screen. The poor reporter was trying, timidly, to get her microphone back, and not having any success at all. The owner of the jewels, a man in his mid to late forties, stood back looking amused and baffled.

"No, I hadn't."

"Y'gonna go then?"

It didn't sound like Hattori cared either way on the surface, but he could hear a faint thread of worry beneath the other detective's tone. Conan couldn't understand why, it was just a Kid heist after all. He was about to tell Hattori as much, and that he wasn't sure yet, when he realized he was already sweeping the loose chips back into their bag. It seemed he'd already decided to go after all.

"Yeah," Conan replied indifferently. "Why?"Standing up he rolled up the bag with a crinkle of plastic before dropping them, mostly untouched, into the nearby trashcan.

"I dunno, Kudou. I've just got a bad feelin' about it, is all. I look at the broadcast and can't help but think somethin's gonna happen."

Conan snorted at how ludicrous that sounded even as he set the phone down to pull his jacket on. Picking it up, he balanced it between his ear and shoulder again. It didn't seem like Hattori had noticed his inattention or, if he had, didn't mind. Reaching into his pockets, Conan found his voice modifier and Detective badge were already in there along with some of his allowance. To Hattori, he said, "Who knows? Maybe what you're feeling is the general populaces devastation when Kid's finally caught."

Hattori laughed at that, and Conan had to admit it was a bit of a laughable thought, before falling serious again. "Y'never know. Just be careful okay, Kudou?"

Giving the wall a hard frown, Conan hefted his skateboard against one hip. Hattori actually sounded really and truly worried about this for some reason, and, though Conan couldn't fathom his reasons, he'd take it into account. They'd both experienced enough dangerous happenings to warrant caution even without Hattori 'feeling something weird'. As it was, they also both knew to take into account their instincts as detectives.

"It's just a Kid heist," he said, but he knew that they both understood the unspoken message. 'But, I'll keep both eyes open.'

They both knew that every case he solved, every day he lived, could very well be the one that brought hell down around them, could be Conan's last. Conan had grown used to walking with death in more ways than one; they were old companions and, as everyone knows, hell often follows death.

Snapping his phone closed before Hattori could try to talk him out of it or something equally inane, Conan pocketed the device and trotted over to turn the TV off. He paused, for a moment, to check the location again. The TV channel was airing it in scrolling script across the bottom of the screen as well as the fact that they'd be shooting the entire event live as if it were some kind of spectacular show. Conan supposed that, perhaps, it was.

The reporter was looking harried now, but at least she had gotten her microphone back from the Inspector, who was nowhere in sight now. Both the reporter and Wakahisa were sporting signs of prior cheek pinching. Conan turned the TV off as the two on screen began to discuss the total cost of the jewels. To him, that was unimportant; all that mattered, in the end, was the thief going after them.

Conan, for one, was never sure what to think of him. Sitting down he pulled on his shoes, tightening the laces as his mind raced over the information he knew, over their past encounters. Kid remained a baffling mystery that Conan almost ached to solve. He hated it, not knowing an answer to a puzzle, and the phantom thief was one of the hardest ones he'd ever bent his mind to.

Standing, Conan grabbed his skateboard once again and darted out the door, making sure it was locked behind him before trotting down the stairs. If he had his timing right he ought to be able to make it to the bus stop in time. The heist was far enough away that he'd rather go via public transport. A cold front had parked itself right over the Tokyo area and seemed in no hurry to leave. As a result the weather was colder than usual, and the air had a biting chill to it that allowed him to see his breath puffing, a small white vaporous cloud, with every exhale.

Jogging down the street the boy wound around the few passers by, his focus intent on where he was going as well as the thoughts churning through his mind. Skidding to a halt at the bus stop, Conan waited for his breathing to regulate again. The cold air made it harder to breath because it stung his lungs, and the inside of his throat and nose. He winced slightly as he realized he probably should have left a note for Ran. With any luck she'd call the professor first, and Agasa would automatically cover for him.

Tugging his jacket more tightly around him Conan waited in silence, hands shoved deep into his pockets. It really was fortunate timing. Just when he'd needed a distraction, the perfect one provided itself. It seemed almost too serendipitous, and that alone was enough to make Conan wary. What did the world have in store for him now? Another life changing event, perhaps? His lips twisted into a wry half smile at the thought. Who was he kidding? He wasn't so vain anymore, to think the world was that interested in him.

Sighing softly, the air steaming with his breath, Conan pondered this fact. Once upon a time Kudou Shinichi had been the kind of person secure in his place on the stage of the world: he was the leading actor, and all eyes were on him. How roughly he'd been disabused of that notion! Kudou Shinichi had gone from the master of the stage to the master behind the curtain, the puppeteer who hid behind a pseudonym.

A couple of middle school age boys ran by, exchanging good-natured shouts about what they were going to do when they got to one of their homes. Ambiguous, harried, adults strode by with quick staccato steps that sounded sharply against the pavement. The rush and growl of passing traffic seemed muted by the chilly aura that gripped the city in brittle fingers, and the dying afternoon seemed lonely even in such a busy metropolis. It was truly a day where everyone preferred to stay inside, and only those with a purpose, or an amount of insanity, ventured out.

With hiss, and the grumble of its motor, the bus pulled to a stop and Conan clambered up the steps, grinning boyishly at the driver as he stopped to pay his fare.

For a moment he paused, gaze sweeping the seats in search of an empty one. The bus was still relatively populated despite the fact that the world seemed intent on holing itself up, and usual preferences to use the trains. Making his way silently to an empty seat, he hopped into it, and set his skateboard to rest over his thighs.

As the vehicle began to roll, the feeling of eyes on him had Conan lifting his head. A little boy, no more than four, was peering at him, curiously, out of large dark eyes. Conan looked back down, contemplating his hands through the fog gathering on the lenses of his glasses. Frowning slightly, he pulled them off and cleaned the fake lenses with a few, quick, business-like strokes of his sleeve before replacing them. Warmth began to seep back into his bones, and Conan sat back, fingers gripping the far edge of the skateboard to keep it in place.

People came and went as stops passed by, but mostly they came, and soon the bus was full of muted, but excited chatter. Conan let his mind drift absently where it would, and paid no mind to the growing atmosphere around him. As always he found himself thinking about tomorrow, because tomorrow was an ever elusive promise of maybe. Maybe he'd hit on a lead, maybe something advantageous would happen. Just, maybe...

Ayumi had been going on all day about how she was sure that it would be a perfect day tomorrow despite the unusual cold snap that had settled over the city, and they'd all made plans to meet up in the park tomorrow because of it. She'd beamed brilliantly when even he and Ai had given in without to much of a fight. Conan wasn't sure if he should hope everything went well so he didn't have to deal with the kids' downcast faces, or hope it wouldn't so that he wouldn't have to deal with their excitement. Maybe if his luck continued a real case would appear on the Sleeping Kogoro's doorstep.

There probably was no escaping it, and he admitted he'd probably feel bad if he tried to make an excuse. They weren't bad, really, and with his and Ai's influence they were a lot more mature than the rest of their class. A lot of the time, Conan felt bad for that. Guilt was an emotion he'd become used to over the past couple of years.

The sound of his skateboard's wheel spinning drew him from his dreary thoughts and Conan flicked his eyes up to find that the little boy had slipped passed his mother, and made his way over. The child gripped the wheel to keep his balance as the bus maneuvered around a corner. Then, as he regained his balance, he spun the wheel again and looked solemnly up at Conan. "You look sad."

"Really? That's strange because I don't feel sad."

The boy frowned at him, eyes fierce in his slightly chubby face. "You shouldn't lie. Mama says it's bad."

Conan's grip tightened slightly on his skateboard, and he found himself fighting to not look away from that oddly condemning stare. Why was it that children always seemed to have this strange way of making sense, or knowing once you stopped disregarding them? Well, at least, some of them did. He wondered, not for the first time, if this was how Takagi, Satou, and the various other adults felt when he said something overly mature. Perhaps not the same, but still profound, maybe more so for it's childish delivery.

"Yeah," Conan agreed, and managed to keep the ragged tiredness that suddenly beat down on him out of his voice with practiced ease. "She's right, you know, and..." Looking up he wasn't surprised to find the woman looking over them, worried, but not sure if she ought to get up to retrieve her son at the moment. "And, she's looking for you."

Turning, the little boy beamed at his mother and waved, she smiled and lifted her hand to return the gesture. He turned back to Conan then and frowned again, eyes narrowing thoughtfully. "Where's your mom?"

"I'm going to meet her." Lying to make other people happy got easier every time he did it, but it didn't make the sickly clenching of his stomach lessen. He still couldn't find it in himself to tell the child anything nearer to the truth. But, really, what was the truth? Edogawa Conan didn't have a real mother, and his real mother was an ocean away.

The child nodded, grinning at him. "Make sure she gives you a hug so you won't be sad anymore!"

As the boy turned to head back to his mother, Conan caught the sound of his stop being announced. Several people hit the alerts that they wanted off, and the bus slowed to a stop. The little boy nearly lost his balance, and Conan reached out, automatically, to steady him with a hand on his shoulder.

Sliding the rest of the way off his seat, Conan juggled his skateboard around, and walked the boy back to his mother. The woman smiled kindly at him in thanks as she scooped her son up. Smiling crookedly, Conan waved then trotted to join the queue of disembarking passengers. Almost all of them were getting off here, which was as close to the heist sight as the bus was likely to get at this point. The streets were clogged with traffic of both the vehicular and pedestrian variety.

When he stepped out onto the sidewalk, Conan took note of a scattering of police in the area directing traffic. They didn't seem to be having much luck with those traveling on foot though. The crowds were thickening with each passing moment. Darkness had fallen during the trip over, and shadows had gathered at the corners of the buildings. The streetlamps and the glow of advertisements in brilliant color lit the street like runway guides. Though he could not see it, he knew the crowd was thick somewhere ahead of him, gathered at the base of the skyscraper just outside the police blockade.

Despite the weather the excitement was palpable. A group of teenage girls trotted passed him, laughing excitedly and carrying home made signs under their arms, faces rosy with cold and the atmosphere. Almost in spite of himself Conan could feel the rate of his own heartbeat increasing, and he realized he was smirking. It wasn't any smirk: it was that smirk he got when he faced Kid again and again, a knowing smirk, a challenging smirk. The thrill was already in his veins and there was no stopping it now.

Conan set his skateboard on the sidewalk and stepped onto it as the bus grumbled to life and eased back into the flow of traffic. Sliding one foot back he pressed the switch, and the small turbine came to life with a soft whirring whine. He'd have enough power, at least, to get there, and that was really all he needed. The force of the building power whirled around him, lifting his hair and causing a few passers by to skip out of the way in surprise. He ignored their stares as it kicked into gear and sent him racing down the sidewalk.

Leaning to one side, Conan swerved neatly around the crowd, the wind whipping at his cheeks in nippy bites. It was cold, and made his eyes water behind his glasses, but he was intent. Around him, the tall buildings passed unnoticed and shadowed but for the few lights in the offices that remained lit. Ahead of him, growing ever closer, the focus of the nights excitement glowed like a bright island in the darkened city from the flood lights below.

They played to Kid as much as the magician thief played to them and the crowd. They created his stage, gave him his audience, invited him in like Stoker's monster and let him have his fun without rebuke, for he was too cunning to be caught, his hideaway too well hidden to be ferreted out.

Coasting around a tight knot of teenagers, Conan ignored their shrieks of surprise at his passing. He couldn't help but wonder if this was why Sonoko had dragged Ran out today. Were they here even now? Were the two somewhere in the crowd, waiting for the madness to begin? He would have to be careful, just in case. Ran would probably stop him, scold him, and he didn't want that now. All he wanted was his chance to face off against one of the most twisted, mad, brilliant minds he knew of.

A harmless game with no stakes.

Not for the first time, Conan wondered what he'd do if he ever managed to catch Kid and, again, not for the first time, he didn't have an answer to that. Surely the proper answer was that he'd turn him over, put him in jail, but was that the truth? Would he do it if given the chance? Conan had no idea if he would, and, realized, he probably wouldn't until faced with the choice. There were far too many unanswered questions where the thief was concerned, and when he faced him Conan always felt torn between wanting to find the answers to those questions, and wanting to put Kid behind bars.

With heavy thumps, the rotors of a helicopter broke the air like thunder as one of them passed by overhead, low within the artificial canyon of the skyscrapers. A search light roved restlessly over the gathering crowd below. The crowd itself was getting thicker now, so Conan pulled his foot off the button and allowed the skateboard to slow to a stop. Stepping off, he kicked it into his waiting arms without missing a step, and darted off between peoples legs. Those who noticed him only paid enough attention to see what had jostled them before going back to watching the skyscraper.

All around him people chanted and cheered, lifting homemade signs high into the air as they screamed the thief's name. The cold didn't seem to reach here, kept at bay by the close press of human bodies and the sheer thrill in the air. Conan had to hand it to Kid, Conan didn't know many people who could get such a reaction out of a crowd so easily. He might not even be here yet, hadn't even begun the show... They might not even see the show, just a white figure jumping from the rooftop, and still they came; just for a single glimpse.

Conan would bet anything that Kid was already inside the building.

Finally, he caught a glimpse of the blockade through people's legs, and, with a few more pushes and the occasional annoyed shout, he ducked beneath the wooden police barrier in his way. Not that he had to duck far, but that was something else altogether.

"Hey, kid!" One of the men, dressed in the usual Kaitou Kid Task force manner, shouted. Conan deviated his course, and trotted over to him, grinning. Luckily, it was one of the ones he actually recognized from a few of the other heists he'd attended.

"Kanada-san!" Conan grinned up at him. "Stuck on crowd control again?"

Kanada blinked down at him, then smiled, "Oh, Edogawa-kun... You're here again? Ha, I shouldn't be surprised." The man sighed and scratched the back of his helmet absently. "Ah, that? Well, truly I'd rather be out here. Dealing with the crowd is easier than dealing with Kid."

"Ha ha... I guess you're right."

"Not for you though," Kanada pointed out. "You've always been able to keep up with him pretty well. What's your secret?"

Conan shifted, nerves jangling slightly, and coughed nervously. Luckily he probably just came across as a sheepish boy to the man. "I just get lucky is all, and I try hard! He probably just takes it easy on me 'cause I'm a kid."

Kanada laughed, and neither of them spoke what they both knew: That Kid challenged Conan several times harder than the rest of the force. It was just something that was, something that no one paid attention to. It was a fact that was like one of Kid's tricks, hidden as long as no one paid it any mind, and no one paid it mind because they didn't want to uncover it. Some things were best left a mystery.

"Are you going to try your luck again tonight, then?"

"I was hoping to, after I saw it on TV. Ah! Kanada-san?" Conan waved his hand directing the man to crouch down closer so he could ask his question more confidentially. The man did so obligingly. "I saw Nakamori-keibu on TV, and he said that he knew what Kid was doing. It's strange, isn't it? I mean we all know what Kid's doing! He's here to steal the jewels right?"

"Ah, well, that is..." Kanada glanced around then leaned in a bit closer once he was sure no one was paying them any attention. "The Keibu doesn't think Kid's after the Lucky Seven at all. There's an eighth jewel in there, called The Blue Elpis, that he thinks he's after."

Blinking wide eyes at him, Conan asked, "Is that jewel worth more?"

Kanada laughed and shook his head. "Quite the opposite apparently. The Elpis is just a regular sapphire while the Lucky Seven are all very rare colored star sapphires. Apparently it was given to Wakahisa-san, free, when he bought the last for his set several years ago. The man who was selling them desperately wanted to get rid of the Elpis, said it was cursed."

"Oooh. A curse? Really?"

Giving a nervous chuckle, Kanada nodded. "That's what I heard anyway." He paused, and shot a glance up at the building. "I should get back to work. Why don't you head on in? The jewels are kept on the eighteenth floor, they ought to all be there."

"Okay! Thank you, Kanada-san!" Conan turned away, then paused and gave a man a thoughtful stare. "Could you watch this for me until after the heist?" He asked, holding up the skateboard. It wasn't likely he'd need it until then, and, even then, he would probably just call the professor and see if he'd come and get him.

Kanada grinned and took the skateboard, setting it to lean against the leg of the barrier in front of him. "No worries. I'll keep an eye on it for you."

"Thanks!" Waving, Conan trotted off toward the building.

The shadows wrapped themselves tightly, masterfully, around the thief as he stood perfectly still. In one white gloved hand he held a small device that showed him a split screen view of eight different rooms, in the other he clutched a remote. The room Kid stood in was completely dark, no light entered, and only the faint, eerie, glow from the device in his hand lit up the lines of his chin, and the twist of his lips. Mischief danced at the corners of his mouth in a smile that would have otherwise been pleasant, but just seemed mocking.

The Task Force bustled around like a crazed group of ants who's ant hill had been set on its head, or perhaps a hornet's nest was more appropriate. After all, these busy little workers would surely imprison him in a waxy little cage given half the chance!

Movement in the lower screen dedicated to the main gallery where Nakamori was stubbornly standing alongside the display case holding the Elpis caught Kid's attention. The room was nearly empty of other people, with only two guards at each door way, the Keibu, Wakahisa, and the reporter with her camera man, but had suddenly gained another, far smaller, occupant.

The grin on Kid's lips widened further, unfurling into a Cheshire smile that flashed white teeth against the shadows. "Well, well, what do we have here?"

The small device in his ear gave a crackle of static before Jii-chan's curious voice asked, "Young Master? Is something wrong?"

"No, no... Everything is just perfect," Kid purred.

"Young Master?"

Kid laughed, almost giddily, as he remarked, "It seems my most favorite critic, my number one fan, has put in an appearance!"

Checking the other screens, and seeing everything seemed to be running smoothly, Kid brought the image of the main gallery into a larger view and had the camera zoom in on the scene playing out with the small detective. Lifting his hand, he palmed the remote and fiddled with his earpiece to tune into the listening device closest to the group.

"–ho let that kid in again?!" Nakamori bellowed, pointing irately at Conan.

The boy was wandering toward them, navigating around the many display cases with their shiny baubles. Kid noted the way he paused to examine The Blue Elpis sitting prominently at the center of the room. It truly was a resplendent specimen: A deep blue, with high grade transparency. The circle of lighting above it refracted off the multiple facets sending sparks of blue hued light splintering in the air around it. While cut, the stone wasn't set in anything and was simply placed on a velvet lined stand.

Conan's head tilted up, turning and tracking his gaze across the entire room. Kid could see him take note of every entrance and exit as well as every corner, every nook, every person, and display case. Those sharp eyes didn't seem to miss a detail, but Kid knew he wouldn't find anything in that room unless he spotted his covert watching and listening devices. He didn't think he would though, but the kid always managed to surprise him. Kid did so enjoy returning the favor.

The strangely intelligent child wandered over to the Elpis' case and stood up on his tip toes, small hands braced against the side of the podium beneath the glass case, to get a better look. A moment later Nakamori had snagged him by the back of his jacket and pulled him up and away. It really was amusing how the kid had barely gained any height at all in the span of time he'd been chasing him. Kid grinned, watching the resigned look flicker and disappear over the boy's face as he glared at the Keibu from the corner of his eyes.

By the time Nakamori had hauled the little brat far enough back to see him, Conan was smiling that childish smile. If Kid hadn't been watching, hadn't known to watch, he might have thought that adult annoyance he had displayed had never existed.

"So that's the jewel Kid's going to steal?" Conan asked chirpily.

Nakamori set him back down on his feet a lot more gently than Kid had seen Mouri do in the past, and privately he thought it was because the dogged old Keibu was more used to dealing with capricious children. He'd had to put up with Kaito as his daughter's best friend for years, after all.

"Ah, no..." Wakahisa piped up before Nakamori could even begin dressing down the boy and trying to convince him to leave. "We believe he's going to steal The Lucky Seven."

"Ehh? Really? Can I see the heist note? I love puzzles!"

Kid allowed himself a snicker. Just like that the little detective had brought the entire room under his control. A well placed smile, just a few words, and he had everyone eating out of the palm of his hand. The best part was that they didn't even know it. Edogawa was the most masterful puppeteer Kid had ever encountered. He hated to admit that, most of the time, he really didn't know what to do with the boy. He had, however, learned to never underestimate him at that first heist, and had the lesson driven home time and again. Every time Kid was sure he had things in control, just add one Tantei-kun to the mix and everything fell apart.

Edogawa Conan was the wrench in Kaitou Kid's proverbial gears.

The quality of the small screen was rather grainy, add that to the size and it was nigh on impossible to really see the child's face now as he poured over the sheet of paper he'd been handed. It was obviously a copy of the note, as told by the lack of evidence bag. Nakamori scowled on, obviously resigned to the kid joining the hunt once more.

Kid, personally, thought that the man was more fond of Conan than he let on. After all, not just anyone could keep up with Kaitou Kid, but Nakamori was still set on the fact that only he could capture him, something that continued to amuse the thief to no end.

"Good luck on that, Keibu," he murmured. As far as he was concerned the only way that was going to happen was if he was killed, or someone ratted him out. "The day I see you come walking up to my front door, cuffs out and with the intent to arrest me, is the day I will quietly admit defeat."

In the end Kid was sure just about everyone in the rather easy going Task Force had developed a soft spot for the pipsqueak. He really did fit right in, kind of like Hakuba in a way. It really was such a shame he hadn't managed to get the two detective's together at one of his heists. The thrill would, no doubt, be phenomenal.

Another man came jogging onto the scene and waved to the reporter woman from across the gallery to signal that everything was set up. Wakahisa had, somehow, convinced Nakamori to allow the whole thing to be recorded. Kid didn't mind, of course, it was just a bigger audience for him.

"Take the brat with you," The inspector growled. "That way he'll stay out of my hair."

As Conan followed Wakahisa, the reporter, and the camera man he rolled his eyes at Nakamori's bluster. Kid quickly switched the channel of his earpiece as they passed out of one devices range and into another.

"But aren't the jewels in that other room?" Conan asked as he trotted obediently at the heels of the adults. "The one that man came out of?"

"Actually," Wakahisa murmured gently. "Each of the seven is kept in its own separate room so we've set up a camera in each room, as well as guards."

"Wow! And Kid's going to steal them all? I wonder how he'll manage that!"

"It certainly seems impossible," the reporter commented, cheerfully. "And we've got front row seats!"

Conan gave that razor edge smirk Kid was used to seeing when he was intent, focused, and ready to rip the curtains concealing his every nuance down around him as he replied, "Well, he's Kid right? He can do the impossible."

For a moment Kid wondered if the brat knew he was listening, or if he just expected him to be. He would probably never know, but he could certainly feel the way his pulse picked up at the faint taste of danger, the feel of being hunted, and knowing the hunter was aware of his presence. Kid never could understand how such a small human could give off the feeling of such a massive predator.

The reporter stared back at him, visibly unnerved. "I... I guess so."

Conan's demeanor immediately changed back to that of a bubbly little boy, and he shook off their unease just as quickly. Kid would have applauded. Sighing softly, resigned to the fact that, no matter how amusing, he couldn't spend the whole night watching the little detective lead the adults around by their hands, Kid twisted his wrist around to peer at his watch. He had to squint to see it in the faint glow of the device in his hand.

60... 59... 58...

Beginning the count down in his mind, Kid quickly brought the screens back to their multi-screen setting. Everything was ready, now all that was left was to wait for the appropriate moment. He shook the remote back out of his sleeve and set the viewer aside in a dark shadowy pocket, then leaned down. Pinching his fingers around the antenna of a radio he tossed it neatly up into the air, straightened, and caught it tightly in his free hand as it began to fall.

Turning on his heel, white cape fluttering out in a faint rustle of fabric, properly dramatic despite the lack of current audience, Kid stepped into place and brought the radio to his mouth.

10... 9... 8... 7...

In his ear he could hear Tantei-kun saying something, but he tuned it out.

Showtime~!

He pressed the button on the side of the radio as the well practiced Kid smile slid back into place and he spoke, "Good Evening ladies and gentlemen, my dear Task force, Nakamori-keibu, Wakahisa-san, and last but most certainly not least, Tantei-kun. I bid you all welcome! And, now, I shall take the prize I said I would come to claim..."

With that, Kid thumbed the switch to activate the first phase of his trick.

Conan's head whipped around as the voice of the thief suddenly echoed from every corner. It seemed to come from everywhere and nowhere all at the same time. The men of the Task Force tensed up even as the camera man swung his camera to take in the scene of the small room they had emerged into. It wasn't much: very small and containing little else but a black star sapphire sitting within its display case. Windowless, and with only a single entrance to the room in which the four of them stood, there was no way that Kid was actually in the room and so...

Narrowing his eyes Conan started to dash toward the pedestal where the jewel sat when the lights went out. The abrupt change in the light made Conan halt roughly, his own momentum sending him falling to one knee where he froze, waiting for his eyes to adjust. The only illumination was provided by the dim lighting set around the jewel itself. With one hand braced on the floor, Conan swung his head from one side to the other, listening and looking. He took in the clearing silhouettes of the other people in the room at a glance. Wakahisa and the two news workers remained frozen just inside the doorway while the few Task Force workers stood nearer to the jewel. Conan was alone in the middle of the room.

There was a sudden, soft hiss, and smoke began to filter into the room; thick white plumes of it that coiled into the air and stuck there, heavily, like fog.

The radio at one man's belt crackled, "Kid! It's Kid! He's in the gray room!"

"What?!" another voice hollered, "No way! He's in the yellow room!"

"He's here also! In the white room!"

On it went, reports from each of the rooms where the star sapphires were housed until... Someone made a surprised noise, and even as the task force member jerked his radio out to report the appearance, Conan turned to focus on Kid as the thief's mocking laughter echoed from the ceiling and the walls.

Kid crossed one arm in front of his stomach, then bowed over it before straightening and grinning. The smoke that filled the room cloaked him, twining and mixing with the bright white of his suit and cape in a way that made his edges blend and blur. In that moment he was very like the warped and twisted phantom he masqueraded as.

Conan stared, eyes narrowed in focus. There was something that wasn't quite right about the thief there. He didn't have quite so long to think on it because, even as he could hear the men starting to muster themselves again, could hear people regaining their minds and recovering from their confused shock, a renewed chorus began.

"It's gone! It's just… He has it! Kid has it!"

Sure enough the figment standing in the room was suddenly flipping one of the jewels up and down, and seconds later (as more shouts of shocked outrage came) a second jewel appeared as the thief began to juggle them dexterously. One after another the sapphires appeared, looping neatly through the air and reflecting soft light in battered fragments over their glistening surfaces.

Turning, Conan brought his attention on the black gem sitting prettily in its case and, not a second later, it disappeared in a puff of gold hued smoke and a shower of metallic shaded confetti. Twisting back around Conan watched as the thief added the black star sapphire to his juggling with a flick of his wrist.

Kid even had the audacity to wink.

Then, just as quickly as it had all happened the smoke billowed up, Kid caught all seven gems, brought his cape up, and vanished.

Shouts of surprise and aggravation rang through the rooms, and he could hear Nakamori's bellows for them to find the thief even here. Behind him the reporter was talking excitedly, "You saw it here! Kid appeared in all seven rooms at the same time and proceeded to steal all seven of the stare sapphires! Multi-location! Can you believe it?"

The men of the Task Force darted down the hall as the lights flickered back on, obviously searching to see if the thief was there. Conan ignored the growing insanity, and turned to glare at the point where the thief had 'appeared'. In the first moments as brightness filled the room again he could swear he'd seen a flicker of something.

Wakahisa and the news crew had turned and were giving chase back to the main gallery leaving Conan in the room alone. Faintly he could hear Nakamori-keibu instructing his men to go and check the exits and roof. It seemed that they figured once the thief had the jewels he'd make his escape. Hadn't they been sure that Kid's target was the Elpis? Yet, he didn't seem interested in it; he'd gone straight for the Lucky Seven.

Something didn't sit right.

Brushing it aside, Conan stood up and made his way toward where Kid had appeared through the dissipating smoke. It didn't seem like there was anything amiss over here, just a wall like the rest. Turning his head to glance back toward where the jewel had been, Conan caught that slight flash again.

Trotting forward quickly he almost tripped over the filmy material laying there. Kneeling down he frowned at it, reaching out and touching it. It was some sort of thin, papery material that was of a similar color to the walls. He stood back up and took a few more steps only to come face to face with himself. Conan smirked, pressing a hand against the cool, smooth glass of the mirror.

Of course, it was classic, it was basic, but done with pompous flare in a way that was all Kaitou Kid. Who would suspect the master magician thief to use a trick so base as smoke and mirrors?

Most likely the smoke had covered up the paper's fall, and the confusion over Kid's multiple sudden appearances had kept anyone from acting quickly enough. How had he managed to 'appear' in so many rooms? They were located in a circular fashion around the main gallery, with three on each side and the seventh directly across from the elevator! Sometimes Conan couldn't even begin to fathom how the thief's mind worked. Kid's mind was so much like a fun house to be able to produce these kinds of tricks and traps, and he couldn't help but get lost just like anyone else. He just had the capability to find his way more easily.

Sucking in a sudden, quiet, breath of realization Conan looked up slowly. There! Another out of place flicker, but up much higher. It really was just like a fun house, wasn't it? Or maybe a laser was more accurate. Leave it to Kid to pull off something so impossible.

What remained, though, was what he was up to. Conan had read the heist note, and he thoroughly agreed with Nakamori that Kid was after the Elpis, so why take the Lucky Seven? Kid didn't steal what he didn't come to take after all. Of course, Conan was pretty sure the thief had already had the Lucky Seven all things considered, but why take them at all? Why set up this elaborate trick?

Unless... A distraction! That's right; all magicians worked by distracting the audience so you didn't see the trick!

Whirling around Conan bolted from the room, down the short hall, and skidded back into the main gallery which had been left guarded by only a handful of Task Force members. Said men were currently slumped on the floor in various places enjoying a nap. Kid stood before the podium where the Elpis' display case rested. The thief turned his head to regard Conan, and grinned widely at him.

"Ah, Tantei-kun! I knew you were too good to race off like the rest of them. So thorough, so capable.... You really are such a good critic. It's so nice of you to stay back and examine the fine details. You're like a sommelier! Such a fine connoisseur, you are."

Snorting at the thief's dramatics, Conan shoved his hands in his pockets and started forward. "What are you talking about? I just pick your tricks apart so I know the truth of your ridiculous game."

Kid turned to face him completely, pressing the fingertips of one white gloved hand against his chest. "I'm hurt that you think so lowly of me! Here I put on a spectacular show all for your benefit and you treat me as nothing more than a crass street magician. For shame, Tantei-kun, you should learn to appreciate things more!"

"Ha... ha..." Conan choked out sarcastically. He was close enough that he could get a clean shot if he wanted to. "You didn't even know I was coming."

Heaving a melodramatic sigh, the thief waved his hand at Conan as if to dismiss the boy. "But I had hoped, and isn't that what truly matters?"

Conan blinked at him, head tilting slightly in confusion as a scowl marked his face. "What does that even mean? I wouldn't have come, but I decided you were slightly more amusing than the latest reruns of Kamen Yaiba."

"You're always so cruel," Kid complained mockingly, and skipped back a couple of paces. "No sense of true art and imagination at all!"

Conan knelt in a single swift movement and put his hand on the button at the ankle of his shoe. Kid's grin widened a fraction at that movement. As Conan charged the power on his shoe, Kid brought his hands up tugging on his sleeves one after the other in the classic 'nothing up my sleeves' gesture. Conan wouldn't have believed it if his life depended on it.

Reaching back, Kid caught the edge of his cape in one hand and brought it swinging forward to hide the display behind it, arm concealing even more of his face. His other hand he held up, just above his arm, four of the seven jewels suddenly held between his fingers. His hand dipped down quickly, hidden for a split second before coming back up with the remaining three jewels. Another dip, and he brought his hand up holding nothing.

Kid closed his hand, opened it, turned it to show the back, then pulled his cape away from in front of the case with a loud flutter of fabric. A puff of smoke engulfed his previously empty hand which now contained the Blue Elpis. The thief grinned wickedly, tilting his head a bit to the side to indicate the display case. Conan gave it the barest of glances, and wasn't surprised to see it contained the seven jewels from before.

Surging back to his feet Conan reached down, and grasped the buckle of his belt, but before he could act Kid dropped a flash bomb. More than prepared Conan brought his arm up and swiveled away, following the light sound of fabric fluttering as Kid rushed passed. The room really was too quiet, and narrow to allow him to take such a route without some notice.

Conan hit the button, and kicked out blindly. The ball rushed through the air, full force, and a second later he heard Kid's steps change and falter as the thief was forced to skip back lest he be caught in the head by the projectile; a second later the soccer ball impacted loudly against the doors of the elevator.

When the spots bouncing around his vision cleared Conan could see the doors to the service stairs just finishing their swing closed. Without giving it a moment's thought the shrunken detective gave chase. Dashing across the room, he was slowed only marginally by the heavy door before he slid into the stairwell.

Two choices: Up, or down. Default knowledge on Kid said that the thief would head up because of the heights, but there was a possibility that Nakamori was waiting up there because of Kid's ploy. Poised to choose one or the other, Conan's mind raced, spinning out possibilities and calculating probability. A sudden whistle had him jerking his head back and looking upward. Kid was leaning over the railing a few floors up, gripping his hat with one hand and waving with the other.

"Yoohoo, brat! This way!"

Giving an annoyed growl, Conan quickly whirled toward the upward heading stairs, even as Kid leapt away from the railing and resumed his climb with a delighted laugh.

"Bastard!" Conan hissed, gritting his teeth and fairly flying around the corner at the next landing.

The thief had waited long enough that Conan could see the trailing end of that white cape flapping up ahead of him, teasing and taunting him with every glimpse. He was so focused on that slight flicker of movement that he almost missed the sudden cascade of hundreds of marbles bouncing down the steps toward him. Yelping, Conan quickly grabbed the railing and flattened himself up against it.

"Kid!"

The thief peered down at him, clapping politely. "Wonderful reflexes, Tantei-kun! One day you might just catch up with me!"

"I won't just catch up!" Conan retorted, angrily. "I'll take you down!"

"I look forward to the day!"

Once the shower of marbles had stopped, Conan tore after the thief again. He stumbled slightly as he came to another landing. He had nearly fallen face first into a series of tripwires. Growling loudly to himself, Conan proceeded to pick his way between the meticulously laid traps. He had no idea how Kid had managed to lay these so fast. Though there was a high probability that the thief had set the traps beforehand, just in case.

What was it he'd said? He had hoped Conan would come. It occurred to Conan that there was a possibility Kid had prepared all of this just for him, on the off chance he showed up. It was, in a strange way, kind of flattering that Kid thought him enough of a... rival?– to do this. Conan didn't think threat was the word he was looking for there. Kid wouldn't have basically invited him to chase him if he felt he was a threat. He wasn't sure whether to feel insulted or not.

He made it passed the trip wires, or so he thought, until he tripped over the last one and fell flat, chin catching on the step in front of him hard enough that his teeth clacked together rather painfully. The horde of Slinkies that came scrambling down the stairs, however, was more amusing than anything.

By this point he was, despite himself, starting to get annoyed. Shoving himself back to his feet Conan scrambled up the stairs, dodging the slowly advancing army of metal coils, and sprinted upwards. Not far off he heard a door slam, and found himself exasperatedly amused to see a sign had been plastered to the wall with a Kid doodle, hand added that pointed further up the stairs with the words 'He went that way!' written on it as well.

Snorting in amusement, Conan yanked the nearby door open and tumbled inside. The hallway before him was startlingly empty and illuminated only by moon glow, and the floodlights outside. Conan scanned the space slowly, looking for the thief. Could he have tricked him? Could Kid have slammed the door, and continued upward? He hadn't heard any sounds of movement, but...

A sudden rush of air made Conan stumble backwards as the thief in question dropped from above and landed, crouching, a few inches in front of him. Kid's moon white cape pooled around him, the shadows clinging in loving heaviness to his face. He'd pulled the top hat forward to deepen them, and the glassy surface of his monocle glinted. Conan stared, attention held raptly.

Kid reached out, gloved hand lightly capturing his chin and tilting his head up. Conan found himself frozen as the thief leaned in closer, apparently examining his chin with studious intent and a faint frown on his face. He realized, numbly, that he could have taken Kid out at any second (maybe); could just reach out and knocked his hat off, or brought his watch up. It could have been over in seconds, but as the feeling of a cloth covered thumb sliding over the bruising skin of his chin made him wince, Conan realized he couldn't. Not like this. They had something of a strange moral understanding between each other, though Conan was never quite sure of how far it went in any direction. It was a mercurial understanding at best..

"My apologies," Kid murmured.

"Its fine," Conan said brusquely. "I missed the last one. My fault."

"All the same..." Kid released him then, and stood, before backing away slowly as if afraid any sudden movement would startle him into action again.

Conan let his position relax, stood there staring contemplatively at the thief in much the same way he would view an out of place clue on a case. Once Kid was far enough away from him that the thief didn't look like he'd bolt away at any moment, Conan walked forward. He kept one eye on Kid even as the thief tensed up again, and stood before the window. Reaching out he placed one hand on the cool glass, breath fogging against it, and looked down at the roaring crowd below.

He watched Kid's reflection. The thief looked wary, but relaxed, and more than a little unsure and surprised. Conan could only wonder what was going through his head right then.

"And, now, you're going to make your daring escape right, Kaitou Kid-san?"

Kid's head tilted, and Conan could almost feel the thief's curious regard. "Giving in already, Tantei-kun?"

Conan gave a noncommittal hum, then a sharp smirk. "Your adoring public awaits, is all." The plastic gave a little click as he flipped the cross hairs of his dart watch up and turned to face the thief, finger poised on the trigger.

Kid tensed up, ready to spring out of the way at a moment's notice. Conan bit back a sigh, wishing for a fleeting second that this encounter could have lasted a little longer. He realized, oddly, that he would have liked to just carry on a conversation with the thief and see what made him tick without all the hassle and bustle of a heist involved. He'd probably never get a chance like this one.

Both stood still, poised on the precipice of continued confrontation, at least, until the distant roar of an explosion shook the building. The two of them looked upward as bits of dust were shaken loose from the ceiling. Another distant roar sounded, and the building shook again.

"What the...?" Kid hissed. His hand flew up to press against his ear as if he were listening to something. Whatever he heard made him swear quietly.

Conan immediately darted for the stairwell. Whether he planned to get out or see what was going on, he didn't know, but even as he raced for it another, much closer blast sounded. He stopped a few feet from the door, a second of indecision that probably saved his life as the stairwell behind was ripped to shreds in the next blast. Fire, light, heat, sound; it all roared around him, the door blasting open. White engulfed him, an arm catching around his waist and pulling him sharply back even as more explosions sounded. The roaring seemed like it was never going to end.

"We need to get out of here."

"I could probably carry us both if we jumped," Kid offered.

"We'd need to break the windows, is there–"

The thief wavered as the floor bucked under his feet, and nearly fell. Kid set him back on the floor where Conan staggered, hand automatically grasping a handful of Kid's slacks to steady himself. The building was heaving like it was under assault by a powerful earth quake, and flames licked across the walls with vicious golden-orange tongues all around them. An ominous groan coiled through the walls like a rising monster; it was a sound that made his stomach swoop uncomfortably. Conan looked upward to see cracks splintering through the ceiling.

Yet another blast went off, and the floor cracked open as another shake twisted the building. Several more that sounded like they were above them resounded in quick succession, and the next thing Conan knew he was being tackled, scooped up, and propelled toward the nearby wall. Kid's top hat went flying by his face as the thief crouched over him, and then the world was lost in a twisted mass of sound, light, and movement before darkness reached up and pulled him down into its tender grasp.