(Disclaimer: Shinichi/Conan, Ran, Kaito, Heiji, and all the rest belong to Gosho Aoyama. Meitantei Conan and Majiku Kaitou are all his! I don't own anything; I'm only borrowing them. Standard legalities apply. Please enjoy!))

Relative Truth
by Becky Tailweaver

Opening Theme: "Truth" by Two-Mix

File 1: First Contact...And What Happened After

When Kaitou Kid, the Phantom Thief, returned from his initial preparations to steal the Suzuki family's Black Star pearl, the first thing he wanted to do was find out who had nearly caught him during the recent Clock Tower incident.

Someone had been directing the actions of the policemen at the Tower, guiding them with a skill and expertise that had Kid on his toes and off his guard the whole time. He'd spent more time dodging the police than he had actually accomplishing his goal. He'd almost been late because of that someone.

No way Inspector Nakamori was that smart. He'd been evading the man for almost a year now, and the Inspector had never come so close to catching him. Someone had put some brains behind that operation--and some very good brains at that.

The guy in the helicopter, the one who'd found him out at every turn, who'd cornered him repeatedly, and very nearly gotten him...

He wanted to know who it was that had almost matched the peerless Kid.

It didn't take all that much research. A simple, innocent question after a carefully guided conversation, put to Aoko Nakamori, the daughter of Chief Inspector Ginzo Nakamori. It had gotten him a quick--and rather heated, according to Aoko--answer to his quiery.

Shinichi Kudo.

Shinichi Kudo had been sitting in that helicopter, guiding the police force's actions.

Kaito Kuroba wasn't unfamiliar with the name. One had only to look at the newspaper now and again--and he did a lot of reading to catch up on the responses to his own exploits. He'd seen the name in passing--some fairly popular student detective, a boy about his own age who seemed to have a knack for solving cases. Since Kaito wasn't all that interested in murder mysteries, he hadn't really followed the guy's career.

But then, he'd just run up against this guy, and had come close to being undone. Now Shinichi Kudo was more than just another detective on his case--he'd become a potential threat. A threat on a level that Kaito had never even really considered before.

So he'd done some digging, in both newspapers and police records--with a bit of "help" from Kid, of course--to find out just who this Shinichi Kudo was.

It wasn't until he'd done this research that Kaito discovered just what he was up against.

Shinichi Kudo had more than just a knack for solving cases. The guy had never missed a mark--he'd solved every case he'd ever assisted with. Kudo came close to a detective genius, able to reconstruct the circumstances of each and every crime based on even the smallest bit of evidence. No matter how tiny the detail, he saw it; no matter how inconsequential, he remembered it. Not one criminal had ever escaped his skill at deduction. "A modern Sherlock Holmes," one newspaper caption said.

"Holy cow!" he'd whispered in something close to admiration, once he'd gone through several records about Kudo. "This guy was after me? Whoa..." He'd sniggered to himself then, feeling rather accomplished now that he knew who it was that he'd outwitted. "Just goes to show how good I am at what I do!"

But in his heart, he knew that Shinichi Kudo was not a foe to be underestimated. Although chasing Kaitou Kid was very different from quietly solving a murder case, Kudo had directed the police with ease and confidence, gathering, assimilating, and reacting according to the data provided to him as if he'd been standing right beside Kid himself the whole time. The phantom thief had been cut off at every turn.

Kaito knew he might not be so lucky the next time he crossed paths with the high school detective.

But then, Kudo concentrated on murder mysteries. He wasn't all that interested in "mere" thieves.

Kaito's first drive at the Black Star had been a feint, to provoke action from the police and see if Inspector Nakamori would be able to respond, and in what manner. And also, just out of a bit of curiosity, to see if Kudo would appear; since no one before Kid had ever escaped him, he might be interested in a rematch.

Kid wasn't expecting a little boy to show up at his forewarned arrival spot, as if waiting for him. He wasn't expecting that boy to face him without trepidation or retreat. He wasn't expecting that kind of fearless gaze from such a young face.

And he certainly wasn't expecting that boy to simply turn around and give him away with a little bottle rocket in a pop can used as a flare signal. Then there was the boy's half-grinning comment that the police helicopters were coming their way--and shouldn't Kid be running away?

As if the boy were mocking him--as if this brat were the one in control of the situation. But then again, he wasn't--he was just a little boy with a bottle rocket in a pop can.

It was all so innocent...and all so out-of-place. Just...weird.

Poker Face had almost gone bye-bye for a second there.

He'd just had to ask. "Tell me...you're not an ordinary kid, are you?"

Finally, the little boy had turned to look at him again. "Conan Edogawa," he'd replied, in a voice just too confident, too calm. "Detective."

And for the second time, Kid's well-trained Poker Face had almost given way to raised eyebrows. He'd never seen a look like that from a little kid--shrewd, self-assured, dauntless, bold. Conan Edogawa had...knowing eyes. And that gave Kid just a bit of the shivers.

And the boy recognized him as the elusive Kaitou Kid. He was too confident, too utterly unafraid, his keen-edged blue gaze almost daring Kid to try something. A strange, strange little boy; there was something very fishy about Conan Edogawa, and it gave Kaito an odd foreboding. It took a damn smart guy to figure out the riddles of the famous Kid, and if this child knew him, had actually solved his puzzle, and had been expecting him...

Well, Conan Edogawa had certainly put a bit of a kink in the works. The boy's presence had definitely accelerated his departure from the scene, that was sure. He would have at least been able to have a good half-hour's worth of fun with Inspector Nakamori if the kid hadn't arrived at the roof and signaled to the cops. At least Kudo hadn't shown up that time.

With his initial feint out of the way, Kaito's challenge to Mrs. Suzuki was clear. He'd get the Black Star on the Queen Elizabeth cruise for sure. And the Black Star operation would go off without a hitch--Kudo wouldn't be there.

At least, Kaito hoped he wouldn't be there. He was going to be isolating himself on a ship full of people who already knew he was coming. The last thing he needed was for a wizard of a detective to show up and get him arrested. Bad enough that clever fellow Kogoro Mouri was coming along.

Well, his arrest was simply not going to happen. Kaitou Kid was peerless--there hadn't been a detective born who could outsmart him.

"Keep your friends close and your enemies closer."

Kaito believed in that old saying, and he followed that precept dilligently. Since Shinichi Kudo seemed to have disappeared off the face of the Earth by the time the operation date came--and good riddance, too--he'd figured out a plan to keep that smart little boy and the famous detective both in his pocket for the duration of the Black Star heist.

By disguising himself as Mouri's daughter, Ran, neither the great detective nor the clever kid would be able to catch him. He'd be in and out with the pearl and they'd never even guess.

Looking back on it, he supposed he shouldn't have been so damn overconfident.

Acting as Ran, he got an up close and personal look at how Kogoro Mouri worked--and in his opinion, the man was almost as great a bumbling fool as Nakamori. But that little boy, Conan Edogawa--he was something else. There was a shrewdness, a cleverness about him that Kaito had never seen in such a young child. Conan seemed to notice everything, seemed to ask too many pointed questions, seemed far too intelligent...

Little Conan had a look about him, especially when he grew quiet and contemplative; something in his blue eyes seemed to indicate that a powerful, piercing intellect was hard at work behind the face of an innocent young kid. Those weren't the eyes of a seven-year-old boy wondering about a mystery--they were the eyes of a man who knew things about this puzzle that no child could understand.

At that point, Kaito had tossed off a weird notion about shrinking people into little kids with arcane magic. But then, he was a magician, not a wizard.

But...Conan's eyes...

And strangely, he even seemed to know when Kaito watched him. Conan would grow restless, agitated, glancing around suspiciously, whenever Kaito spent too long looking at him, too long evaluating him. The boy almost had a sixth sense about being stared at--as though he could sense a culprit's intent. Kaito was seriously wondering just what went on inside Conan Edogawa's head, what made the kid tick--and resolved to spend this trip studying the clever little fellow, when he wasn't involved in getting at the Black Star.

But even then, even after realizing there was more to the boy than met the eye, he'd been too confident. He didn't know when little Conan had caught on to him, but he figured that it had to have been pretty early on once the heist got moving in earnest. Kaito hadn't had the time to duck away and ditch the Ran Mouri disguise in the commotion; Conan had latched on to his hand like a leech and dragged "Ran-neechan" off, stating that he knew exactly what was going on.

In retrospect, maybe he should have cut his losses and run for it then. But his professionalism wouldn't let him drop his Ran act so easily, so he'd followed the kid...

Even though those piercing eyes had given him that same shiver all over again...

Conan Edogawa had led him to--no, make that cornered him in the engine room. Bouncing that blasted soccer ball, speaking in a bright, cheerful, matter-of-fact little-kid voice as if discussing his day at school--and calmly laying out a flawless example of logic and deduction. Conan knew it all--the location of the pearl, how Kid had stolen it, the method of narrowing down suspects, and then...

And then that little-kid voice had disappeared in all but its pitch--and he realized that Conan Edogawa had found him out.

To his own credit, he tried--he really did--to fool the little guy back into believing he was Ran Mouri. But the boy was just too damn smart for that--he already understood everything. Everything. As if he'd walked through Kaitou Kid's plan with him beforehand. Conan was so dead-on accurate it was eerie.

Kaito's unbreakable Poker Face had actually cracked then--just a bit.

I am so very, very screwed... he'd thought briefly.

Escape was his immediate plan. Fleeing directly was not an option--they'd spot him in an instant--so he had to get out in a crowd. Using the ship's intercom phone to get a crowd of policemen was a daring gamble, but he'd done such things before. It should have been easy enough.

But Conan had been there for his first misdirection, and wouldn't be fooled by the same trick twice. The comm-phone had exploded right beside Kaito's head, and it took him a second to realize that the boy had just kicked the soccer ball right at it--with more force than should have been possible given his size. Those piercing blue eyes were on him again, as the ball rolled back to Conan's feet, and there was not a trace of childishness in that gaze.

Kaito got the shivers again, and it seemed for an instant that he wasn't looking at a little boy. For just an instant there was a young man standing there, with that look--the look that said, "I've got you, I win."

It was then that Kaito realized that he was in deeper trouble than he'd initially thought. Conan Edogawa wasn't going to give him an inch. The great Kaitou Kid had just been backed into a corner by a little boy who didn't even reach his waist--But what a weird little boy, with those knowing eyes and that laser-keen logic; who the hell is this kid?--and if he didn't think of something now, his goal of avenging his father's murder was going to turn into dreams and smoke just like a magician's art.

It was insane. It was a trump card that, given different circumstances, even he would never have thought to play. It was an idea that he might never have been so desperate as to use.

It was also a trick that would never--should never have worked on a six or seven-year-old boy. A teenager, maybe, but not a little grade-schooler who didn't even know what girls were yet, much less cared about the implications of womens' undergarments.

But making him think that Kid had stolen all of Ran Mouri's clothes to impersonate her...that had stopped Conan Edogawa in his tracks with flaming cheeks and an utterly shocked look on his face. A moment's slip was all he needed, but even so, Kaito's margin of escape had been as thin as rice paper in that very same moment. He'd had to ditch most of his equipment to fit--literally--into the role he'd chosen, and all he'd had with him were a couple of small smoke bombs and flash grenades.

They had sure saved his skin that time. But damn...that had been way too close. If that kick that took out the intercom was any indication, Conan was downright dangerous with a soccer ball. If he'd messed up...he didn't even want to think about what that ball might have done to the back of his head...!

It absolutely galled him that he'd had to tuck and run with his tail between his legs, unable even to leave the scene in his usual stylish manner. All he could do was skitter like a rabbit out of the engine room, duck the cops on patrol on the deck, and fling himself off the boat before anybody else caught him. He'd had an icy swim back to shore, gotten a terrible cold while covering up his escape, and he'd had to hand over the Black Star pearl he'd worked quite hard to steal. All thanks to one little brat.

No, not just one little brat.

A quick, skillful, observant, eerily intelligent young boy. Conan Edogawa, Detective.

He'd spent a bit of time pouting about it, after that failed heist. One boy--just a little kid! He had never been thus thwarted before--never! Positively miffed, he'd stewed for a few days, quite resentful that the peerless Kaitou Kid had been outmaneuvered--however temporarily--by a little boy.

After he'd gotten over his cold and his quiet little tantrum, his brain returned to its regularly scheduled intellect--and he began to put some very disturbing pieces together.

Conan Edogawa, a seven-year-old grade-schooler, had figured him out precisely not once, but twice. The first time had been no fluke--sure, a little kid just happened to show up on top of a hotel roof with a bottle rocket at half past midnight. Right.

That was no mere chance; the kid had to have puzzled out his initial riddle. How Conan had managed that when the rest of the police force had been stumped was a mystery even to Kaito. It hadn't been one of his more difficult riddles, to be honest; but still, it was Conan who'd taken the hint and shown up to challenge him--not Inspector Nakamori. The police had only come in response to the boy's hint.

And the second time...

No way in Hell that was a fluke. Kaito had witnessed a little detective genius at work; he'd been standing beside the kid the whole time, getting goosebumps from those too-intelligent eyes--why hadn't he caught a clue then? He would have been more careful, if only he'd known; he should have seen it sooner--that deduction was way too much for a child. And in the engine room, that trick with the underwear--why had that worked on a seven-year-old boy? Why had little Conan Edogawa frozen in place, blushing and gaping? Why would a child like that even care to think about Ran Mouri that way?

Whatever the reason, the trick had worked--but Kid had lost a game for the first time in his young criminal career. And he was not pleased about the blight on his record.

But...there was something about Conan. Only one other had ever thwarted one of his heists, and that had been the famous Shinichi Kudo, young Detective. What was up with the little boy?

Kaito Kuroba had made Conan Edogawa his case study for quite a while after that. When Kid wasn't planning heists and making off with the goods, he was keeping a casual eye on the Mouri Detective Agency--and one small resident in particular. He made sure he didn't watch Conan too closely--he knew from experience that the kid had a sense about that.

He'd even had the opportunity to go into some cases side by with Conan, getting an up close and personal look at how Ran, Mouri, and Conan worked together. Uncannily, the little boy would pick him out from the crowd no matter who he'd disguised himself as, forcing him to duck out before getting captured. He was always on his toes in such times, never knowing when Conan might have spotted him--or when the kid might decide to make a move.

Kaito had also been able to witness one of the times Shinichi Kudo had returned. It had been startling to see the high school detective as large as life, not as some little newspaper picture; there he was, Kaitou Kid's ultimate rival, the great "modern-day Sherlock Holmes." Even more startling to notice for the first time a not-quite-mirror image of his own features in the other youth's face--but even more than that was the fact that Shinichi Kudo seemed familiar, and not just from the newspapers.

Not just his face, or those piercingly intelligent eyes--but his voice, his manner, his stride, his expressions. Kaito was a master at reading people, at watching them and learning their every move, their every nuance--all the better to mimic them when he needed to. Just watching Kudo, he got the craziest feeling that he knew the guy. From somewhere...or from someone.

Kudo's method of solving a mystery closely matched little Conan's--the logic, the deduction, the eye for detail, the memory of every piece of evidence. Watching Kudo run down the facts and march flawlessly through an explanation of the exact crime committed, Kaito got the odd impression that he was watching a snippet of an event from the future--what little Conan-kun would be like someday, with that powerful intellect and perfect deduction. Kudo and Conan even had the same eyes...

The idea had hit him suddenly then, absurd and insane and so utterly wild it was almost believable.

Conan Edogawa and Shinichi Kudo--the same person? No freaking way--this was the real world. Even his own "magic" wasn't really magic--just smoke and mirrors, feathers and glitter, a magician's art. Shrinking people into kids? If there was such a miracle on the market, old people all around the world would be rejoicing.

But...was it possible? Even remotely so?

Maybe. Maybe not. But still...

Apparently Ran Mouri suspected the same thing. Conan's oftentimes mad scramble to prove her wrong only seemed to prove her right--that a little kid really did have something like that to hide.

Even though he knew it was nuts, Kaito was almost ninety percent sure that Conan and Kudo were the same person. Like with Miss Mouri, certainty and doubt hovered in his mind, and the constant misdirection kept even he, Kaito Kuroba, guessing as to the real truth.

After quite a while, he finally received confirmation--and he had the Detective of the West, Heiji Hattori, to thank for it. Out of sheer luck or random chance, he hadn't even been looking to find out at the time.

He'd been on a planning trip, scoping out some very fine prospects just outside of Osaka. Just minding his own business, really, gathering the information he'd need to pull off his heists. That's when it all simply fell on him--a young man's rough voice speaking, "Hey, Kudo, are you sure about this?" And a clear, serious reply spoken in an all-too-familiar little-boy voice--a little-boy voice that had nothing little about it except for its timbre--"Sure, Hattori. I can't think of any other explanation..."

Conan's voice. That had made Kaito's head crank around--What on Earth is he doing in Osaka?--and there he was, standing beside a tall, tanned young man in jeans. Conan and this Hattori fellow continued to converse even as Kaito hung by to listen--and Hattori addressed Conan as "Kudo" clearly and repeatedly. Conan replied without hesitating or correcting him.

Not wanting to attract attention to himself--he felt rather goggle-eyed and slack-jawed--he'd reeled off as quickly as he safely could. The Osaka venture was indefinitely postponed while he worked this development out. Lord knows even the greatest of minds would have trouble grasping an idea such as this!

Conan was Kudo. Kudo was Conan.


It was almost as freaky as the idea of a magic gem that cried tears of immortality elixer during a comet's pass. Neck-and-neck on the Weird-O-Meter.

But then...it made perfect sense, too. The only man who'd ever outwitted him--from the very beginning in that police chopper--was Shinichi Kudo. Not a little boy--Shinichi Kudo himself.

Good Lord, he'd been skating on the edge of disaster every time he'd crossed paths with that "little kid." He just hadn't known--that was no boy. That was Kudo in there, every bit of him--razor wits and flawless deduction, all of it. Once that fact had been assimilated--once he got used to the idea of Shinichi Kudo having been shrunk into a grade-schooler--he could see it any time he looked at his nemesis.

With understanding came curiosity; one thing he and Kudo shared was an insatiable amount of it. First and foremost, he wondered how the hell an up-and-coming detective genius had managed to get himself into that kind of wacky situation--and how on Earth he was handling it. Conan/Kudo became once again his case study, and he spent a great deal of his free time picking up bits and pieces of information and putting them together.

Jii Kounosuke--his father's old assistant and Kaito's "mentor" of sorts--became aware of his new little hobby almost immediately, but remained remarkably close-mouthed about it for the longest time. For a while, the surest way to make the old man clam up was to mention the name "Kudo."

And for a while, Kaito ignored it. Until he assimilated his data--that Kudo had been attacked by some kind of crime syndicate, and fed a poison which had failed to kill him and instead turned him into a child--it didn't really matter.

Until his digging uncovered some disturbing connections between the "Black Organization" that had done this to Kudo and the group that had killed Kaito's father.

Parts of the same whole--or merely partners in the same game? There was little difference; Kaito immediately realized that he and Kudo's interests might be linked. And in their case, two heads just might be better than one...that is, if Mister Detective was ever in a listening mood. They might be able to negotiate some information sharing, if nothing else; when it came to avenging his father's murder, Kaito was willing to stoop even to consorting with the "enemy."

Strangely, Jii grew oddly disturbed when Kaito announced that he was going to start feeling out Shinichi Kudo, to see if the thief and the detective might be of use to each other. Kaito continued his Kudo-watching on his "off time" between heists, and things continued at a level pace for a time...until Kaito happened to be thumbing through his father's old notes and files--kept in a dusty filing cabinet in the secret room--and spotted several references to someone named Yuusaku Kudo.

His father had run up against an amateur detective by that name, and had been thwarted several times. Kaitou Kid vs. Kudo had happened before, years ago.

And now, the two of them... Mere coincidence...or fate?

But his father's notes were written in anger and sadness, full of confusingly vague references to friendship and betrayal, trust and broken bonds. This older Kudo was someone important, someone his father had known. And with his father gone, only one man alive still knew the answers to his questions.

Kaito immediately cornered Jii and demanded to know about Yuusaku Kudo--and his connection to Shinichi. Who were they, and how was it that they could defeat even the matchless Kid? It couldn't be a coincidence--not with Shinichi's uncanny mind and the way Kaito's father described Yuusaku's skills.

Jii was, again, saddened and disturbed. But when Kaito pressed him, he relented, taking a deep quiet breath to tell his tale.

"I don't know how you'll take this, young Master," the old man began, "but all I can tell you is what I know of the truth. It started many years ago, when your father was still a young man..."

To be continued...

Author's Note: Just another little thank you to my dear friend Ysabet, who has once again prodded me into posting! I owe so much to her! ^_^ Thanks again, Ysabet!

So go read her Detective Conan fanfics--they're absolutely wonderful!