A/N: As previously said, this is my theory of Chris Vineyard's recruitment into the Organization. Let's assume she belongs to the generation of Atsushi Miyano, his wife Elena and Pisco; then, due to an operation gone ashtray, became included among the test subjects of the incomplete APTX 4869. And she also turned up as an exception, then living the double life of Sharon Vineyard and her "daughter" Chris.

I got this idea when thinking back to the previous Detective Conan episodes, and recalled Agent Jodie Starling revealing that Chris Vineyard and her "mother" Sharon is only one person. Hope you enjoy reading it as I enjoyed writing. Now, on with the story, shall we?

{By the way, the italicized lines mixed with others signify the characters' thoughts. The italicized paragraphs signify memories. The italicized single words signify emhasis in non-italicized paragraphs. The italicized and bolded lines signify quotations/emphasis/notes/titles}.

Disclaimer: Almost forgot to include but as you all know, I just own the plot. Detective Conan and any associated features belong to Gosho Aoyama. The manga materials used are from Gosho Aoyama's volume 41 of Detective Conan and remains his ownership, as always. I neither own both the characters and the details nor making profit out of them. Entertainment purposes only.

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MASKS

[Borders]

Within the core of each of us is the child we once were. This child constitutes the foundation of what we have become, who we are, and what we will be – Neuroscientist Dr. R. Joseph.

She was always by herself.

Ever since she was a kid, there had not been one single day without a concerned parent dropping by her house after work hours to remind the family how their only child was always seen in the nearby park, unaccompanied by any adult and totally oblivious to her surroundings. Their favorite theory, as far as she could remember, had been along the line of some imagined shadow stalker who took advantage of her loneliness, caught her off-guard out of the blue, bound her with skillful fingers of a snake in action, and took off into the crowded streets bordering a working-class neighborhood.

_You would vanish without a trace.

Her parents had never forgotten to shrug off all such ramblings, just as they had always aimed the last sentence at her specifically, after hearing her voiced declaration that she preferred to play alone. Time after time, it turned out that their continual warnings had been the only being to disappear: not even a pet was reported lost. The gossip-lovers had masked their predictable failure by dubbing her parents "the uncaring neglecters" and herself "the accustomed neglected". Countless coffee talks had merely been used up on baseless insistence; to a point that left her wonder whether there had actually existed such genuine concerns for a neighbor's daughter, or had they been genuine talkaholics that could turn even thin air into a serious topic?

Her parents silently agreed with the latter. Her father only smirked. Her mother eyed all attendants challengingly, daring them to execute their sudden wish for lifting her up by one ear, when her perfectly innocent voice expressed such thorny words. The neighbors – that was the last time they stopped by, as she recalled – ended up grudgingly admitting her above-age intelligence, and flew past the main door.

_How in this world – one whispered to another when they had all been out of earshot – could a five-year-old girl pronounce "talkaholic"?

_Is that even in the dictionary?

_She's a lovely child, - a neighboring psychologist having been forced to come along to add authority to the bunch noted – She made that one up because of us.

_What do you mean, "because of us"? - some parents stopped dead in their tracks; their humiliation still stung.

_Let's be frank here: how many of you come almost everyday with that stalker topic as a starting line? - the psychologist questioned, her eyes analytic – We women are workers, but women still, we need some gossips to spice up our routine lives so as not to get bored to death.

_And your point being? - a defensive midwife ventured.

_Truth be told, we have very little time to play with our own children, the Vineyards are the same; yet we've been invading their personal space.

That shut them up.

Being left behind in their suddenly increased walking pace, the psychologist smiled to herself at the memory: a girl in a blue Sunday dress trying to steady an old woman and hit the ground herself in the process.

_She may be a lovely little one, but definitely not the type of "screaming at the flying cockroaches in the hope they would not slam into her face".

Personally, she had never placed herself somewhere in the same rank with ruthless teenage robbers and blood-thirsty youth gangs who fell back on the category of "unhappy childhood" whenever they were apprehended. Not all people with tough lives ended up behind bars. Their parents had not been given as a free choice, but their future had remained one until they themselves closed the door to it.

It had been puzzling to her neighbors, and some of her peers at the time, how she got along so well with others in their vicinity but was seen by herself most of the time, either at school, in the arcade or simply enjoying the peace in a park. None of them had been able to offer a sufficient explanation as for why a girl beloved in her own circle of friends would still be caught alone; even if it was several times revealed that she had simply been on her way to where she could enjoy some company. Unknowingly trapped within the borders of an obsolete pack mentality, they could not understand how to enjoy what most humans dreaded.

Loneliness.

Such a word, to her certainty and to others' doubt, never made it into her personal dictionary. Instead, she had been, indeed, appreciative of her solitude and suspected that the attitude would stay with her "until death do us part", to quote from some sappy romance novels she never spared more than a few seconds to finish browsing them through. Her own world had been one similar to Terabithia - a secluded kingdom, to which access would be was at will if it was found yours, but depended on personal permit from the queen should you be an outsider. It had been wide open for her parents, both when their eyes were not too exhausted to gape at its beauty, and accompanied with a specially prepared welcome ceremony if the former appeared unavoidable.

But they had been honor guests. Schoolmates her age, until she entered high school and formed her own trusted circle of friends, either had had such a kingdom at their disposal and for some reason did not wish to issue invitations, or had been too caught up in personal ornamentation to notice the existence of such a route. Adults, especially those who could see the world from her eyes, had been either too nosy, or lousy, or busy to pay her a regular visit. Some had stumbled upon it, like him – did she mention she had never confessed to him throughout their childhood together until career split them up? - and like a tourist who could not comprehend the full extent of a heritage's elegance, unknowingly, but willingly left.

She never declared herself a loner or practiced that lifestyle. She enjoyed others' company whenever she had the chance: in fact, she had never been absent from any gatherings whatsoever organized by her high-school friends – those she could relate to the most. But her preference for solitude had never faded, either. It was not isolation giving birth to loneliness, which again ended up in self-isolation. As far as she was aware, it was independence - the marker of being able to survive on your own but staying tuned to the larger concert.

And on a cloudy afternoon of a solitary walk in the park one-bus away from her university, that was how her silver-blonde hair ended up flowing with the wind on the same bench that already harbored a familiar black-haired head.

~a~b~c~d~e~f~g~h~i~j~k~l~m~n~o~p~q~r~s~t~u~v~w~x~y~z~

He was always by himself.

Ever since he was a kid, there had not been one single day without a concern face popping into his room at any hour to ask if he would enjoy the company of others, to which his response varied.

_Hello?

_Yes? - he had always replied without turning his head, eyes stayed focused on the sketch at hand.

_Aren't you lonely?

He would slowly get up from his desk near the window, chin slightly lifted, eying the inquirer while approaching, projecting an intimidating posture – the basic survival skill every street child was well-aware of – and assess the situation.

If that was a friendly warning for "you stuck-up brat think you're too great to associate with the likes of us?", someone – and he would make sure it would never be him, even against plural forms – had willingly, but unknowingly sealed their fate.

He was raised a fierce fighter, but not an implulsive one: he always made sure he would never take the blame of escalating a conflict.

If that was a caretaker worried for his well-being and ultimately her monthly salary, he would fake a sweet smile, weeping away some imaginary sweat, intentionally unsuccessfully reassuring her that he was just a bit tired, and hopefully some biscuits would be delivered to his room; eventually, his solitude would resume in peace. Meals had always been pathetic at the orphanage, even for someone with a weak heart certificate, strategically torn at places so that no one would suspect that to begin with it had never belonged to him.

If that was a scared little one looking for some company and perhaps protection, he would put his sketches to the highest shelf so the uncompleted projects would not suffer, drag out some self-invented toys and entertain the inquirer until bedtime or whenever a caretaker arrived to take care of the responsibility she absent-mindedly neglected. Miyano-oniisan had always been generous.

Perhaps his popularity among the smaller kids, who usually could gain anything from the caretakers by whining nicely, had been the reason for the huge farewell party thrown on his last night there, as a couple would arrive the next morning to resume tasks left behind by her parents when they dropped their car over a cliff one stormy night. Lies, he remembered thinking when officials told him of the accident – as if a five-year-old had not matured enough to understand the word suicide. It had never come to them that he himself might know of the initial plan: his parents had explained to him that was the only way to guarantee him their insurance, which opened a secure door to his future; and the last time he cried had been that very night, before the news arrived, in his parents' arms before they departed.

He had assumed his rivals re-thought of his situation when they too, showed up at his farewell party shamelessly. Perhaps they wanted his blessings, for not every orphan could end up in a rich home like he did. Perhaps they wanted to be taken notice of, as the young couple inherited one hell of a fortune and some higher-ups had been invited.

His adopted parents encouraged him of this idea, until he found out another night that they had paid in fresh cash for those who once fighted him tooth and nail to show up – just another boost to their authority. Since this revelation, the only adults he looked up to had forever been limited to his blood parents, who gave up their lives to secure him a better future.

Frankly, he thought they were better off dead. If they had survived the incident, they would end up enraged to death upon seeing his relatives dividing money among themselves and sending him to an orphanage anyway.

After the adoption, no matter how he despised the couple, he indeed enjoyed all technological advances they had been keeping him up-to-date with. They had given up on questioning his solitude; especially after he told them face-to-face that he would never be a lovely child to cuddle with, and instead advised them to get some exotic pet as replacement.

They did.

_Dad, you can't intervene, I need to discipline this brat – on whose money does he think he lives to breathe such insults?

_Honey, he's just a child! He said what he noticed!

_Indeed – the pencil-moustached middle-aged man said in his deep voice – and to notice such things means he's a genius. Did you hear how correctly he pronounced the pet species, judging from how old he is at the moment?

_Dad, no soup for him like...

_You know I'm bad at cooking, - the man feigned innocence, but when the couple looked away he winked to Miyano who had not missed a word - Besides, who knows, he may be right: if you want a cuddly one, why adopted an above-age intelligent kid?

The man said all these words while glancing through the corner of his eye at Miyano, watching – or awaiting? - his reaction.

"What fool in this world – he thought to himself – would be hurt by such words?"

But he suddenly kept his head low, shivered for effect, and took off at full speed to his room.

_Dad! How could you say that?

Until his recruitment he never paid enough mind to the real reason behind the couple's decision of not changing his last name. He had always been known as Miyano Atsushi: at the national genius institution – he finished that at nine; in the two-year abroad program – he had visited all heritage sites, appearing uncaring for studies just to take off with an Excellence certificate; and at university – where he had played the obedient, in-the-box student just to get out early with three inventions of his own.

Miyano Atsushi: the wonder student. Not some unknown spoiled brat with the last name of Masuyama.

He had, indeed, been appreciative of his solitude, for it granted him access to doors that those with a Neandertal pack mentality had been denied. His preference did not necessarily mean he had no friends; but rather, it indicated that he did not and never would rely on the advantage of numbers. Friends of his own, on the other hand, were always of equal, or at least equivalent intellectual level: even though he always maintained the humor and suaveness inherited from her parents, only those who could keep up with him stayed in touch. And it turned out, after his eccentricities gradually came to light, there were only a handful that wanted to maintain contact. He was not bothered. If he ever had to explain to his preference for solitude, it would be along the line of "leaving himself out before being left out".

_Hey, Miyano!

He turned swiftly around, a smile in place, fully prepared to deal with another fan club who had managed to tail him to his favorite location – a small café in a rather deserted alley. Instead he found himself facing a fat guy with his signature friendly grin.

_Souhei?

_What, does not being one of your fans disappoint you? - the grin grew wider.

_You have no idea, - Miyano sighed – last time they spilled coffee over my newest sketch and spent a whole afternoon following me around to repeat their apology.

Souhei Dejima burst out laughing; being a designer-in-training,he could easily picture the trail of girls insisting on "I'm so sorry Miyano-san!" to his childhood friend who was too courteous to ditch them all.

_They should – he said between tears – just have given you a tape.

_Maybe I'd take a second look if they do, - Miyano pretended to gape, hands brought together in a lovestruck gesture until both he and his friends dissolved into another fit of laughter. Sexist or not, his fan clubs should have spent time on better approaches.

He sipped his black coffee:

_Heard you're starting your own agency? - his voice was still casual, but his facial expression had grown serious.

_Yeah, - Souhei nodded, taking the hot chocolate from the waitress with a gentle smile – I've had enough.

_So next time I visit your house it'd be a worse mess than now? - He pulled a distracting question: his friend looked uncertain. Was it the decision to go his own way, or just stress?

_Actually, not my house, no, - Souhei shook his head – I'm looking for some other place, you know, my house has all those designs and models and...

_Tell you what, - Miyano cut him short, an idea sprang to mind. Take care of my dad's inheritance for me.

_No way, - Souhei shook his head again – do I need to remind you how much we pulled the poor attorney through to regain control of it?

_Look. - his friend leaned closer – I've found a sponsor for my research interest. But their facility's not here.

_You mean you're leaving? - Souhei looked surprised; he had been the only one Miyano came to when the research world began to distance themselves away from his friend.

_I mean you can use my dad's house as your designing agency. I need someone to watch over it, after all, and you're among the few ones with mouths small enough not to swallow it whole when I'm back.

Eyes locked, faces both dead serious; after a moment they burst out laughing.

_You know, when was it that we last competed in the stare contest? - Souhei wiped away his tears the second time that day.

_I'll take that as a yes, - Miyano half-jokingly warned.

The vibration from his cell phone brought him back to reality; he glanced at the screen briefly, then turned to his friend who was sipping the chocolate.

_Meetings, - he explained – they wanted to hear an expansion for on my book.

He stood up quickly, leaving some money on the table.

_I'll mail you the legal stuff.

His sudden urgency did not escape Souhei's perceptive eyes, but he dismissed it as similar to his own – first sponsor, first step on the ladder, accompanied by all kinds of negative thoughts.

_Hey, Miyano, - he added quietly.

His friend stopped to look at him, the sudden change in tone did not go undetected.

_Return sometime, there's some new video games you'll end up hooked.

He grinned.

Great, I'm distracted now, Minyano thought to himself annoyed, though he smiled at the memory. Souhei had always been with him through thick and thin, minus the orphan stage; and last time he checked, his friend was acknowledged as a star designer. Well that's a good way to cultivate the inheritance, he darkeningly eyed his pillow, under which a weapon lay in wait.

Better than who I've become.

Exiting the café after waving goodbye to his childhood friend, Miyano walked one block before ducking behind a corner to check his cell phone again.

"Meet me at home. Masuyama couple taken care of".

_So they're sent on vacation, - he thought to himself. His doing, eh?

On his screen, slipping in and out of the moving spotlight was an old-fashioned glass containing a foamy, ivory-colored coctktail.

Pisco Sour.

_His signature drink, isn't it?

A meeting with Pisco.

He glanced at the golden tint sunset was leaving on afloat clouds, suddenly felt worn out. His solitude had never bored him, but an unchanged surrounding did. Often.

He knew his ways to the fifteen-minute-away park.

~a~b~c~d~e~f~g~h~i~j~k~l~m~n~o~p~q~r~s~t~u~v~w~x~y~z~

She thought her eyes were deceiving her for a moment when a familiar black-haired head came into view. He should have left for his home country when the course ended, she wondered briefly before moving closer for a better look. As fate would have it, she stepped on a stray twig, drawing his attention.

_Vineyard-san?

_Professor Miyano?

They both exclaimed at the same time. Feeling no need to conceal herself, she walked to the bench.

_I thought you already left?

_My sponsor wanted me to conduct some research for a while, - he lied convincingly, at least that's half of the truth. The other half is something you should never know.

Or may be you will. Someday.

Because you're unknowingly among my research interests.

_And you're taking a break? - she smiled, causing him to mirror her action in return.

_You can say so, - he added a nod, awaiting the inevitable whenever someone found him all by himself. She's always been sharp.

_Aren't you lonely?

_It must be nice - she inhaled the sweet smell of grass – to have the whole world to yourself some time.

He was taken aback.

Until he remembered she was always by herself as well.

So that's how it is, - he smiled quietly, half in response to her remark, half in reply to his own realization.

Vineyard-san, you definitely worth my attention.

_May I sit down?

Her question brought him back to the bench she was standing near.

_My apologies, - he stood up immediately, one arm extended – why not?

They sat at two ends of the bench in silence, among them Mother Nature's gold was dripping slowly into water.

_Vineyard-san, - he suddenly thought of a testing inquiry. Small, but effective.

_Yes?

_What do you think defines the borders of criminality?

_One moment please.

Her eyes turned thoughtful.

_Sure.

He turned to the side, leaving her some space. She was not slow to react, nor hesitant to snap; no, she just was never impulsive as other fools.

All of a sudden, her voice swayed the sunset.

_I remembered a story long ago, - she began – of a philosopher who counts the number of humans attending a housewarming party by placing a block of rock in their path.

He listened on intently.

_He found out no human, all of whom able-bodied, bothered to spare a few minutes in order to move the rock out of the way for others; instead they did anything to overcome the obstacle and moved on with their lives. Except for an old lady. She was, he later recorded, the only human present.

He smiled.

_We could use the same measure, seemingly unrealistic I'm aware, to determine who's a criminal and who's not.

Miyano laughed lightly, I never thought of that.

_Good idea, - he added upon seeing her puzzled face – I can't do better.

Before she could regain her composure at the odd agreement, he suggested.

_Vineyard-san, I don't think your insight fits a fixed environment like psychology. Why don't you try... let's see, acting, instead?

_Actually, that was what I plan to discuss with you until the loss of contact.

Little did she know, long ago, someone had spun a line similar to her and was recruited.

_What do you think defines the border of criminality?

Masuyama Kenzou asked his adopted grandson at the "welcome home" party after motioning for him to give courtesy a break and ditch his fan clubs for a while.

Being a street child for enough time, Miyano had several glimpses of the answer.

_Place a telephone booth over there, lead a homeless blind man on the way straight to it, see who helps him to avoid needless injury, the moving shiny suits or a man covered in tattoos and always curses.

The older man laughed.

_Smart boy.

_Genius, - he replied.

_I like this scene, - he spread one arm toward the gold-lining water.

_I take it you somewhat enjoy the sunset?

_Vineyard-san, guess why.

She was secretly wondering his sudden openness, but brushed the stray thought aside herself.

_A scenery of transcending borders?

_Correct.

He nodded in emphasis.

_There has never been any border anyway. Mother Nature doesn't play privileges. Just us humans created it for a sense of security.

Deep inside, he knew all too well why he had been, and she would be, recruited. Just as he had realized they wanted no connection between agents if avoidable – that was why he had not had to switch his last name to his adopted parents'.

'Cause they passed the tiny test that any street child could have?

Because in one moment, around them shone an equivalently piercing light to that of angels, and the Organization always wanted the best.

Because in one answer, they saw through masks worn by others, who would drop dead like fish out of water should their clearly divided world between good and evil be merged.

Deep inside, she knew all too well the reason for her – and perhaps the Japanese professor's - preference for sunset. Without sunset, there would never be sunrise; without sunrise, there would never be sunset either. And because in that moment, the world becomes one.

Ironically, she thought to herself, people campaigned for unity but strove to retain existing borders as salvation of their own authority.

Ironically, he thought to himself, unity had never meant the absence of borders. It meant the embrace of which. It meant the appreciation of differences, be it in ideologies, lifestyles or even personalities.

Perhaps, they thought to themselves somewhere along one line, unity would become reality when we could be the child we used to be without being frowned upon.

Some people argued should the world become one, chaos would ensue as no boundaries ever existed. Some simply dismissed it, as that could never be; borders were always inevitable order. And some merely smiled, knowing the world would eventually bond, in a web with connections but without prejudices.

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A/N:I myself don't even know who is the man I wrote about that Chris Vineyard fell in love with, and I don't think that fits with Gosho Aoyama's idea either; but she has been a very intriguing character to me. I started thinking, what if she was only an ordinary lady like all others, with extraordinary skills that not every person had been able to sharpen? Thus, the story began.

Souhei Dejima, as mentioned in Detective Conan Volume 41, is Miyano Atsushi's childhood friend. I presume from Gosho Aoyama's writing that the latter grew up as an ordinary child, but I took it to a peculiar level to fit my plot.

Sharon Vineyard, as in my plot, planned to study psychology, then switched to acting and filmography. She's also the only daughter of a working-class family who sent her across the country for better education.

The story she told was something I read somewhere, but couldn't remember clearly whether the philosopher mentioned is Aristotle or not.

As of note, guess what kind of "soup" Masuyama Kenzou (codename Pisco) could have cooked and was mentioned. And by the way, his favorite drink was something I made up, even though the cocktail itself does exist – you can go try it if you want.

Looking forward to your review.

Chrys.

PS: Please don't associate my screen name with my interest in this character. Just a nickname, that's it.