A/N: Oh, god, hattergems, I'm so sorry. I'M SO, SO SORRY. Also I'm one day late OH GOD SORRY. This is so, so much crack, and it wasn't supposed to be at first, no, really. It wasn't. It was supposed to be all mysterious and descriptive and—stuff, and then… it wasn't. I HAVE NO IDEA HOW IT HAPPENED SORRY.
Happy sixteenth, sweetheart. I hope this cheers you up.
And this is also in part for Katie-chan, whom I promised a birthday present months ago and I just. Can't. Write it. I dunno, Heiji and Kazuha are especially stubborn. So enjoy this too, love, and wait just a little bit longer.
Warnings: Oh, god. Crack. So much crack. Fade-to-black. I'm twisting canon a bit. Well, by two years, shut up. Silly!Touichi. And I didn't give Kaito's mother a name, so it is probably awkward in some places. Also, mops. And silliness. Silly, silly, sillyness.
Disclaimer: I don't own anything. If I did draw this manga I wouldn't just stop at hinting at possible awesome pairings between thieves. Or maybe I would.
(Seven Possible Uses Thereof)
This is not a story about falling in love.
It's actually a story about quite a lot of very, very different things, but to list them would mean filling the whole page, and that would most likely be awkward. It is not, though, a story about love, despite the fact that its main characters do eventually get married in the end. (But then, well, everybody knows that. That's where the real story begins, you see. There would be no story at all if they did not get married in the end. That is, at the beginning. That is—oh, bugger.)
This might just be a story about everything else.
This is a story about stories.
When he was a child, Kuroba Touichi wanted to be French.
This was not because the author of this story is French herself, although, if you ask her, it's a pretty damn good coincidence. Useful, too, because, hello, no having to use Google!translator to, um, translate, only in a shitty way, because Google!translator, let's admit it kids, doesn't know how to do its job. I hear it's paid quite a lot for it too. In bananas.
This was because eight-years-old Touichi had a remarkable sort of fixation on Arsene Lupin, much the way other kids have a fixation on Sherlock Holmes and Barney and Luke Skywalker. Some might even call it a crush, except Touichi was eight-and-a-half-going-on-nine, and that was kind of gross.
Anyway, fixation. Pretty big fixation, actually, the kind that doesn't just go away once you hit your teens and gives way to wearing flared trousers with flowery embroidery (what do you want, the shiny 70s) and listening to blaring punk music and flipping up girls' skirts. (Though admittedly Touichi did that too. It was, he had once been told, a genetic trait, and he hoped his eventual/potential offspring, should he ever have any, would continue right on carrying out the tradition. It would, obviously.)
By the sweet age of sixteen, Touichi knew this was no ordinary sort of crush. He was in love.
Not so much with Arsene himself, who is a larger-than-life, singing, dancing, laughing thingmapoop, and a teeny little bit fictional on the edges—and anyway Touichi was pretty sure he was straight. Although you never know. But. That's not quite the point I'm trying to make.
The point is, was, he was in love with the utter, wonderful thrill of everything related to stealing. Thieves and thefts and heists and pretty girls to chat up and aid through forced marriages and such, while snagging their wedding jewels behind their backs (not that they'd notice anyway, because they'd been given them by the creepy old men who wanted to marry them in the first place, and by the end of the book they'd elope in the spectacular finale with either Arsene or the nice guy who'd been working at the local library all along and who'd they really been in love with from the start). He liked the anti-heroes who weren't really, or at any rate weren't really villains, not like, y'know, the actual Big Bad Wolf. More like a Really Really Clever Wolf who didn't eat Grandma but stole her cookies, locked the Hunter in the toilet, and eloped with the Little Riding Hood. (Who, for the story's purposes, isn't a child, no, really—more like somewhat young. Not jailbait anyway, that's my point. I think.)
He wanted that, too.
Being chased by a whole Task Force of Very Very Angry Policemen actually sounded kind of cool. Cool-ish. Cool enough to deserve the capital letters. In the mind of a sixteen-years-old, anyway. It might just be a sixteen-years-old thing, he told himself very sternly, after he'd drunk vodka all alone in his room for the last three hours, just like it had been a fourteen-years-old thing and an eleven-years-old thing and an eight-years-old thing. Maybe when he'd turn seventeen, or nineteen, or twenty-one, it'd just go away to, um, infect other people, or take a well-deserved retirement on the Riviera. Maybe. He pondered this very carefully for twenty-seven minutes and three quarters, and then shrugged and downed his n-th glass. And then promptly passed out.
(He woke the next morning with a raging hangover, and a promise to himself to Never. Do That. Again.)
Alright, he thought, the night he turned twenty-two, when he escaped his laughing, partying friends and went to light a fag on the balcony, so maybe it wasn't a Thing. Whatever it was, it wasn't a Thing. He just… wanted to be a thief when he grew up. Except he was all grown-up now, he reminded himself. Sort of, anyway.
Other kids wanted to be astronauts. Or James Dean. He wanted to be Arsene Lupin.
Well. This was interesting, at any rate.
This is a story about legends.
To be fair, the legend is a rather silly one. Don't get me wrong, Aoyama is a great mystery writer, and he always imagines the most convoluted crime scenes, with lots of train schedules and ice creams and chess pieces and bookends and. Other things. Right. But really, Aoyama-san, legends? You Are Doing It Wrong.
Because, really, who believes in stones who bleed immortality? who bleed said immortality, coincidentally enough, at the very precise moment when a very rare and particular comet happens to whoosh past Earth? no, really. Who?
Alright, so Touichi did.
So did a Very Very Evil Branch of a Very Very Evil Organization, which really isn't the same organization as the one who will attempt to poison a young high school detective going by the named of Kudo Shinichi, with largely unpredictably results for all parties concerned—no, really, not the same organization at all, who do you take the author/mangaka/whatd'youcallit for—despite the fact that they both seem to be attempting to achieve immortality. Right. Because there are two different Very Very Evil Organization with an intention to achieve immortality by all means possible and a matching (and rather terrible) fashion sense cohabiting in Japan. Of course. That's highly likely, really.
And when Touichi (by means unknown: it really involved an apple, a dentist's seat, and a shopping mall, but you really do not want to know) just happened to overhear of this Very Very Organization and its nefarious purposes, his thought process went pretty much like this:
OH HAI THERE PRETTY LEGEND.
OH BOO BOO BAD ORGANIZATION, BAD.
JEWELS WHAT JEWELS. OOH. SHINY.
HAPPY SOLUTION: BECOME A THIEF!
Makes perfect sense, when you look at it the right way.
This is a story about books.
Well, obviously. We've already stated that Touichi loved Arsene Lupin books. It's really all quite logical. Touichi, when he wasn't flipping skirts or practising magic or imagining car chases, was quite the scholar, and he knew perfectly well that books held the Truth. The Answer—to Life, the Universe, and Everything.
Wait, hang on. Wrong fandom.
So maybe not.
A Truth, anyway, and if there was anywhere that Touichi could find a How-To Guide on: How To Be A Good Thief: A Guide, he was fairly certain that was the local library.
Books! Books, books, books everywhere! Touichi was twenty-five-years old, and he still liked them as much as he'd ever had. He drifted mechanically toward the L shelf, where he knew for a fact that all the Maurice Leblanc books that had ever been translated into Japanese were stacked (mostly because he'd all read them a dozen times before he'd been able to buy them all with his own allowance). He hadn't come in a while, and he allowed himself a few moments to feel nostalgic before he remembered his Aim (Saving The World, v.0.1) and swerved back towards the counter to ask the counter girl whether she knew of any books that might help him become an Internationally Wanted Thief.
The counter girl turned out to be adorable and exceedingly helpful, but this, of course, is not what this story is about.
This is a story about skirts, and the girls who wear them.
Careful now. This is not, as I said, a story about falling in love with said girls, or even asking them out, or anything remotely similar, no matter how much Touichi might have enjoyed looking at the counter girl's legs, which were long and nice and not in a skirt at all. She wore jeans, which was somewhat boring, since jeans could hardly be flipped, but then she did have great legs, skirt or no skirt. Jeans. Hmm. Touichi pointedly did not stare.
See, there? Purely aesthetic appreciation.
The girl did look sort of panicked for a bit, though Touichi couldn't really fathom why. So he gave her his best imitation of a teary starry-eyed puppy, and she laughed, and he laughed as well, and gave her a charming grin and said, "So, yeah? thieves. Books?"
—which wasn't very specific, he felt, so he added, "I mean, anything remotely near the subject would be nice. Some guides, maybe? or maps? I mean, no, maybe not, because maps don't really tell you what to do, they just tell you where places are, right, but. General gist, that's the main thing. I think. Oh, fiction books would be great, too. Or biographies. D'you have biographies of great thieves? which shelf, do you think? Politics?"
The girl stopped snickering (shame, because when she snickered a lock of her hair fell atop her nose, and she looked really funny like that and just about to sneeze at any given moment), looked at him, thought about it, and then said, "Well, we do have most of the Arsene Lupin se—"
"Oh, I know that," he said, cranking the shininess of his smile a little further up. She frowned at him.
"You wouldn't happen to be Kuroba Touichi, now would you?"
He blinked at her. "How d'you know? You didn't go to one of my magic shows, did you? because I'm pretty sure I'm not all that well-known just yet, but if you did—"
"No," she said, "but your name is on every library card in every Arsene Lupin book here."
"Oh." He thought about this for a second. Maybe this did not bode quite well for his future hidden identity. Then he thought about something else, and promptly forgot everything about that particular concern. "You read Lupin?"
"Well." She seemed to consider it. "Well, yes."
He stared at her, open-mouthed. "I think I really, really have to ask you out for coffee now."
In a purely platonic way, of course.
This is a story about spandex.
"So," Touichi said to her one day upon arriving at the library, "spandex."
"Oh," she said, blinking up from the pile of books she was balancing on her knee, "oh, no. Nope. Absolutely not."
Touichi's heart, which had been going on and on in happy spandex crusades and How To Use It for the last three days, was crushed. "Oh," he said miserably, and then, "why not?"
"Because," she replied patiently, carefully picking up The Admirable Crichton from the pile and placing it on the relevant shelf, "spandex is terribly difficult to put on, insanely hot once you're in it, and a horror to take off. It ripples and sort of snags and rolls and makes life horrible for you for about half an hour. And then you need a strong, stiff drink."
Touichi blinked at her. "Has some kind of superhero passed by and told you that?" and she smiled. She had a very nice smile, too.
"Trust me," she said.
This is a story about newspapers.
It did make sense, after all, because Touichi had always figured the press would be very interested in the exploits of a great Japanese thief. The only thing he'd never considered was that the thief in question might not be him.
"Phantom Lady!" he said, throwing the paper down on her counter. She blinked owlishly up at him, blinked down at the headlines, blinked, and blinked up at him again. There was something a little frantic on her face right now, he thought absently, but anyway that was not why he was there at all.
"Um," she said.
"Why's she coming back now?" he asked, and flopped himself down in one of the library chairs, arms sticking out everywhere and legs lifting to thunk down on the countertop. "I mean, okay, she's great and all, but she went out two years ago. Why come back for, oh, Ryoma's belt? why now? why now, of all times?" he whined, and did the puppy-eyed thing at her again. It always worked.
"Well," she said.
"It's just," he said crossly, "it's just that she's doing it well and now I might have a rival, I dunno, and aren't superheroes supposed to save a few people—well, steal a few jewels, anyway—before they're stuck with an arch villain on their tail? a take or two, before the fight to the death, or something. Right?"
"Well. Maybe you're the arch villain," she suggested, pushing his feet off from her keyboard. They plonked down to the floor, and he frowned at her.
"But she's a thief!"
"So are you," she pointed out, and it did make sense, in a very strange way.
This is a story about thieves.
(Well, duh. Don't look at me that way.)
"BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH!" he bellowed, flapping his cape in a very (he hoped) threatening and villain-y way. "PREPARE TO DIE NOW, CHAT!"
Phantom Lady paused in her pondering over the jewel-encrusted belt she was preparing to steal, and considered him carefully. There were a few moments filled with Dark Tension as both super beings gathered their inner energies as a preparation for the fight for the death that would doubtlessly be ensuing. Then Phantom Lady straightened up, and Kaitou KID flipped his hair out of his face in a way which he hoped was very distinguished, but really nearly got tangled up in his monocle.
"Ah," she said finally. "My arch villain, no doubt."
"Yes!" Kaitou KID insisted, before he remembered that he wasn't exactly supposed to agree with her. "Um, I mean, PREPARE TO DIE."
"Okay," Phantom Lady said agreeably.
"DO YOU SURRENDER."
"Um," she said. "No."
"Well, for one, you don't even have a gun."
"I do too!" Kaitou KID protested, waving it. "See?"
She eyed it. "That's not a real gun."
"It throws cards!"
"I'm a magician!"
Kaitou KID looked at Phantom Lady, who looked back, and then sighed dejectedly. "You don't believe me."
"I do, really."
"You don't believe me when I say I'm an arch villain."
"I didn't mean—"
"Did too, and anyway I am an arch villain. I, um, kick kittens. For fun. And, um, I have this EVIL base. It's called like that, see, for Evil Villainous Irritating Ludicrous. Base. Um. Or something. Well, anyway, arch villain. I plan to take over the world on Friday—hang on." He eyed her. "Are you wearing spandex?"
That's when the police charged in.
They escaped easily enough; Phantom Lady didn't steal the belt that day; and Kaitou KID didn't blow up whatever he was planning to say he'd blow up. Later that evening, in his studio, Kuroba Touichi proudly drew the results of the night escapee on a large poster he had stuck on the wall:
Phantom Lady— 0
Kaitou KID— 0
Police Task Force— -0,5
Yeah, that looked nice.
Though next time he'd make sure Phantom Lady knew that he was a very, very dark arch villain, who was admittedly trying to save the world, but then he wouldn't tell her that. He'd only be an arch villain until she was gone, and then he'd save the world from the Very Very Evil Organization With A Terrible Fashion Sense. Right. He wondered how he could convince her he was her arch villain. Maybe if he got one of those 'Hello, I am —' tags…
This is a story about friendship.
"Alright," he said to her as he entered the library, "she is cool."
"I'm glad you think so," she replied non-committally, and plunked a stack of books into his arms. "Here, help me with those." He followed like a puppy.
"Well, she is," he admitted. "Though she won't believe me when I tell her I'm her arch villain, I don't understand why. I told her! Three times!"
She raised her eyebrows at him. "Did you tell her in a nice way?"
He thought about it. "Well, I was waving my card gun at her…"
"There you have it." She beamed, took two books off of the pile, and then added six. Whoomph, went Touichi.
"Anyway," he added, by the time he'd recovered. They were standing behind the shelves of the Biographies section, which was very dark and dusty and isolated. She seemed to go there a lot whenever he came to see her. He wondered why. "Anyway, there's one thing I have and she doesn't, and that's how I plan to defeat her."
"Oh," she said, taking all the books off, placing them down on a crate, and then looking at him expectantly. She did that a lot, too. "And what's that?"
He beamed. "Magic, of course!"
This is a story about magic.
That's rather obvious, too. Touichi was, after all, a magician—it was his career of choice, and something he was very adept in. He loved magic about as much as he loved Lupin books and being Kaitou KID, and as time went by he had discovered he was pretty talented, too, and people would come by to see him. By the time he had first thought up his KID persona he was already rather well-known, and after his third heist people just started to flock in. Seemed that the presence of two thieves in Japan made people begin to believe in impossible things.
I'll say it again: Touichi was very talented. Very, very talented. He was an excellent magician, who had invented ten tricks at age five and about three hundred and twenty-eight and a half at age twenty-six. He knew well how to work an audience, which was useful to both of his personas, and he had never glitched up a trick before, ever. Not in public, anyway. He could work his way out of handcuffs, scramble out of water-filled jars and heavily-barred cages without anyone understanding exactly how he'd managed it.
Which went no long way to explain exactly how he managed to lock himself and Phantom Lady inside a mop closet as all thirty policemen of the Task Force thundered by.
Phantom Lady lifted an eyebrow. "Was this part of your nefarious plan?"
"No," Kaitou KID replied absently, and then thought better of it, "I mean, YES. OF COURSE. AHAHAH."
"Okay," Phantom Lady sighed, before letting herself slip down and against the door. "So what do we do now?"
"NO IDEA," Kaitou KID admitted. "WE COULD PLAY CARDS. I HAVE A LOT OF CARDS."
"I meant to get out."
Phantom Lady smiled under her mask. "Because otherwise, I have quite a few ideas as to what sort of game we could play—"
"Really?" Touichi said, always liking a challenge. "What sort of gmmphhmmm."
And then there were lots of strange noises and sighs and groans and slippery… stuff. Elbows were knocked into some unfortunate places, masks and monocles slipped off (thank god for darkness), and seven different and rather unusual uses for spandex were discovered within the next two hours. And the police never so much as heard them.
See, right there?
This is a story about revelations.
Touichi showed up on her doorstep at seven the next morning, half-frozen but with two coffees in each hand and a declaration to make.
"Isleptwithmyarchvillain," he blurted out, as soon as she opened the door.
She blinked. She was obviously just getting out of bed, as her hair was all sticking up in weird places, and she yawned the following word: "Whaa -ah-at?"
"I slept," Touichi repeated frantically, "with my arch villain."
She looked blank.
"My arch villain. My arch villain? Phantom Lady? woman thief? it happened in a broom closet. Why does it always happen in a broom closet? There were mops in there. Mops. Evil, nefarious mops."
"And you know, I have no idea how we got out, I mean, one moment the door was locked up good, and the next it was open and then she was gone and—"
"And really, does this make sense? it doesn't make sense. When do arch villains sleep with their superheroes? okay, so she's not really a superhero, so that might be why, but—"
"Touichi. Shut up."
He shut up.
She took one of the coffees from his hand. "I knew that, you idiot," and pressed a mask made of bandages in his hand, sipping her hot drink.
SYSTEM ERROR, Touichi's brain went, as he stared at the mask and at her and then back at the mask. REBOOT.
She looked awkward. "I know I should have told you earlier, but you were so enthusiastic about saving the world and being an arch villain and magic—"
"And I'm sorry about last night and it wasn't supposed to happen but it was so—well, I really, really liked it, so maybe if you wouldn't mind, maybe we could—"
"Just maybe, we could, er, try it again?"
He blinked at her. Then he took the coffee out of her hand, walked her backwards into her flat, grabbed her face and—
Whatever he did then, that's very obviously not this story's business.
This is not a story about love.
It a story about a little boy who will be born soon, about nine months from now, and whose name will be Kaito. It's a story about French books and flared trousers and astronauts—kids who want to be, libraries, skirts, spandex—costumes made out of and comfort thereof, James Barrie, comic books, coffee, magic tricks, apples, marzipan, tags, mops (a sign of impending doom, surely), and a whole lot of other things that this story didn't quite come around to talk of. It's a story about a thief and his enemies and his plan to save the world from said enemies (or possibly just the world's fashion sense, I'm not quite sure). It's really quite serious, the whole of it.
It's not a story about love.
End Notes: I'm so, so sorry.