Disclaimer: I do not own Detective Conan/Case Closed.
Summary: Being on the run while working at the same time to bring down a powerful, criminal syndicate could have been miserable, only Kaitou KID didn't do miserable. Four heads were a lot more interesting if not always necessarily better than one, and that was only just the beginning.
Status: Part 1 of 12
Pairing(s): Kaito x Shinichi centric, eventual Hakuba x Ran and hints of Heiji x Kazuha
Countdown to Forever
By V. Shalyr
Endings and Beginnings
The two young men dressed in slightly tattered but otherwise nondescript clothes arrived at the mansion gate as the day had just given way to dusk. No car had been seen or heard bringing them and, while someone listening very carefully would have been able to hear the soft footfalls of one, the steps of the other were completely and almost eerily silent. They moved wearily but with purpose, the assured steps of people who were more than ready to return home at last from a long journey. And what a journey it had been.
The figure in the lead ran his hands lightly across the lock and the gate swung open with a slight creak. His companion was too exhausted to chide him about using a key, instead making his slow but steady way up the driveway and onto the front step he had last stood upon almost one year before. His key clicked in the lock and he stepped into the warm, muffled silence. No one else was home but he had expected as much. His parents almost never stayed in Japan anymore, and with their son in hiding for the past several months, there really hadn't been much reason for them to return. He stood for a long moment with his eyes closed just breathing in the familiar, slightly musty smell of the old mansion. It was good to be back.
Finally noticing that his companion hadn't followed him, he turned and raised his eyebrows inquiringly. "Kaito, you coming in?"
For a second his companion remained motionless, indigo eyes fixed upon the silver orb of the moon that was just becoming visible in the encroaching darkness. Then he grinned, a flash of white teeth in shadows, and took the last few steps out of the cold night air. "Of course, Shin-chan, thought you'd never ask."
Shinichi snorted, shutting the door behind him. "Like you've ever needed to be asked before."
Letting himself into places no one had asked him to be was something of a specialty for Kaito after all. What self respecting thief needed permission to be anywhere? Certainly not one as skilled as the Moonlight Magician.
"Hmm, quite so, but this time is different."
Shinichi paused with his hand still resting lightly upon the door. Yes, this time was different. He'd been trying very hard all the way here not to think about that. Because this time, the Organization and all its various branches had finally been destroyed. This time, they weren't running for their lives or trying to figure out who they could trust and who they couldn't. This time, Hakuba and Heiji were both safely in their respective homes, probably hesitantly trying to reconnect with the people they had had to leave behind.
This time, Shinichi owed Kaito an answer.
"Looks like we'll have a bit of redecorating to do," Kaito observed lightly, leaving his shoes by the door and making a beeline for the kitchen. "Way too gloomy in here. But for now, I think something to eat is in order."
They hadn't eaten since breakfast.
"Great, but I'm not sure if there's anything edible left in this house."
It had been a long time after all, ten months or so to be more exact. Strange, it had felt much longer.
"Mm, I thought about that so I picked some stuff up before we left the hotel. Is pasta okay with you? It's easy and fast. I've also got some oatmeal, some bread, ham—I would have liked to get eggs but I was afraid they'd go bad."
"Whatever is fine."
Shinichi knew better than to ask. The fact that Kaito didn't seem to be carrying any packages didn't mean a thing. He'd seen the magician conceal stranger things than groceries about his person and he seldom let himself ponder too long over the illogicalities of it all anymore.
They made dinner in relative silence, Kaito throwing together ingredients for the pasta while Shinichi moved about the kitchen making coffee and hot chocolate. It had more or less become routine during their months on the road going from one hideout to another, each of them taking turns doing their part of the meal. Not to say they didn't eat out as well—the four of them were hardly the best cooks in the world and they had gotten sick of one another's cooking more than once—but it always required so much hassle with new disguises and new personas that it had usually been safer and plain simpler to make do. And, well, there was something nice about the routine too when so many things in their lives had been so constantly subject to change.
"You know, if I'm going to be staying here," Kaito said casually, placing two plates on the table and taking a seat, "I'm going to need a workroom."
Can I stay? Shinichi translated in his head.
"You could convert one of the rooms on the second floor. I'm pretty sure we have at least one that doesn't have windows."
You didn't have to ask.
They hadn't really talked about it, but Shinichi had assumed the thief would continue to stay with him. It wasn't like Kaito really had anywhere else to go. His mother was still staying with their relatives and it wouldn't have been safe for her to return yet anyway. Even with the fall of the Black Organization, many of its members including the sniper Snake remained at large and Pandora had yet to be found. Shinichi wasn't entirely happy about the fact that Kaitou KID would still be carrying out heists and putting himself in danger in order to find a jewel that might not even really exist, but if Kaito had to continue to make himself a target like that, he would rather he stayed somewhere where he could keep an eye on him.
The last thing Shinichi wanted was a repeat of the incident that had started this whole mess. Granted, everything had worked out in the end and he had that "incident" to thank for getting his body back and the disbanding of the Organization. But he had also come so close to losing so much—too close, even though he hadn't known it then.
These thoughts drew his attention back to Kaito seated across the table from him. The magician was musing aloud about what he would like to do when they had the time to refurnish the house though Shinichi noted how his indigo eyes flickered about the room, probably cataloging all the possible exits and hiding places out of habit. If anyone had chosen that moment to barge in on them, unlikely as that was, they would be gone within seconds. Occasionally, the detective would make a sound of agreement or distaste for Kaito's plans and he would chuckle before moving on, though he hardly heard the words he was paying so much attention to just the sound of the magician's voice.
Really, it was a miracle that Kaito was still alive. He could still remember that night like it was yesterday instead of more than a year and a half ago—when the internationally wanted criminal Kaitou KID had become Kuroba Kaito.
And it had all begun, as so many other things did when it came to him and Kaito, on one of the magician's heists. Only unlike all those other times, this heist had not been publicized and the only people who had known about it were the thief himself and the group that had both been hunting him and been hunted by him for so long…
"Over there, I think I heard something!"
"Is it him?"
"I don't know."
"Stop flapping your lips and get moving! I refuse to lose him again after coming so close."
That last voice, cold and biting, sent a shiver down Shinichi's spine and he quickened his steps, breaking into an all out run. He didn't think they were talking about him, but they would see him if he stayed here any longer. He really should have been more careful. Ai would probably have a fit if she knew he'd seen possible agents of the Black Organization and just followed them. That was, after all, how he'd ended up shrunk in the first place, his biological clock turned back ten years from seventeen to seven.
Too late to think about that now.
His heart leapt into his throat as the relative silence of the night was broken by a gunshot and the ping of a bullet ricocheting off the concrete at his feet. He stumbled but recovered quickly and forced himself to run faster as the sound of shouting broke out behind him.
Skidding around the corner and bolting blindly down the dark street, Shinichi squeaked in surprise as hands grabbed him and lifted him up into the air. A gloved hand clamped over his mouth to muffle the sound and an oddly familiar voice whispered near his ear.
"Quiet, Tantei-kun. We don't want them to find us."
Shinichi stilled. He definitely recognized that voice, though he couldn't understand why he was hearing it here.
A moment later several men ran past below their hiding spot, their footfalls fading into the distance. They waited in tense silence until the sounds of his pursuers could no longer be heard.
The hand over his mouth relaxed just a little and Shinichi squirmed around to peer into the shadowed face of the international thief known popularly as Kaitou KID. "What are you doing here?"
Despite the grimness of their situation, KID managed one of his trademark smirks. "I could ask the same of you. But now's neither the time nor the place."
Shinichi frowned, blue eyes narrowed. Those men—could they have been looking for KID? But what in the world did the thief have to do with the Black Organization?
Even as these questions raced through his mind, KID had begun to move. Instead of dropping down into the street, he turned and peered at the wall behind them.
"Tantei-kun, I need you to hold on. I'll need both my hands."
Shinichi hesitated for only a moment before nodding and allowing himself to be shifted around so he could hang on to the thief from behind. When KID was sure he was securely on his back, he started up the side of the building, moving quickly and silently, yet even so Shinichi could tell immediately that something was wrong. The thief's movements, though quick for most people, were still slow for him and seemed oddly stiff.
"KID? Are you all right?"
The thief gave a slightly strained chuckle. "I've been better."
Minutes dragged by until the thief finally pulled them up onto the roof. If he hadn't been observing KID so closely, he might have missed the sudden tensing of his muscles before he relaxed again. The thief's indigo gaze was fixed on something on the other side of the roof, but Shinichi wasn't given a chance to look as KID straightened, casually taking a step forward and turning so that the billowing folds of his cape blocked the child from view.
"I should have known you were behind this."
Who was he talking to? At the sound of the safety being clicked off a gun, Shinichi froze in the act of trying to peer around him.
The same cold, menacing voice he'd heard earlier cut through the soft rustle of KID's cape in the wind. "Yes, and it seems I've won this time."
"Won?" KID laughed darkly, his voice icy in a way that made Shinichi shiver. He'd never heard the thief sound like that before. "As they say, this battle perhaps, but not the war."
The man sneered. "Arrogant little brat to the end I see. But I'd say that your luck has finally run out. The condition you're in, I'm surprised you're even still on your feet."
"What can I say? I'm full of surprises."
"That may be, but there's no way you'll be able to escape from the ground, and up here, there's me."
"So it seems. However, I am, after all, a magician."
The man growled and pulled the trigger. KID jerked to the side, ducked, and rolled, sweeping Shinichi up into his arms. Then the air exploded with smoke, angry yells, and the ring of gunshots, and the ground fell away beneath their feet. For one heart-stopping moment they were in freefall, then KID's glider engaged and they swerved sharply up into the sky, high over the buildings and into the night.
Shinichi turned his head to glance back at the building dropping away fast behind them, but the man was already nothing more than a little black dot dimly lit by moonlight. "What was that all about? Why were those people after you?"
KID didn't answer and Shinichi noticed again how his breathing seemed slightly ragged. The strained quality was back in his voice again when he asked, "Is there somewhere nearby where I can drop you off?"
Shinichi considered this. "Beika Street isn't too far from here."
Twisting around even more in the thief's grasp, Shinichi squinted, trying to make out any details in the shadow and moonlight. Dampness was seeping into his clothes where he was pressed against the magician and he realized with a sudden stab of horror that the dark streaks that tainted the pale cloth of the other's garments were, in fact, blood, almost black in the silver moonlight.
"You're hurt!" Had he been shot? But he was almost sure those last bullets had missed their mark. Earlier than that?
"Worried about me, Tantei-kun?"
Shinichi scowled, completely un-amused and perhaps just a touch disturbed by the laughter in the thief's voice. "You idiot, of course I'm worried! Your clothes are drenched in blood!"
And he was pretty sure it had to be the thief's blood. Famous thief though he may be, KID was also very well known for his strictly nonviolent rules. And while accidents did happen, they were never like this.
His worry only escalated when KID stumbled as they landed in the backyard of the Kudou manor. The thief caught himself, staggered again, then dropped to his knees, cursing under his breath.
"KID?" Shinichi was in front of him at once, trying not to panic while reaching out to steady him with a hand on his shoulder. "KID!"
Dull, indigo eyes struggled for a moment to focus on him then seemed to give up, sliding shut as their owner slumped soundlessly onto the grass.
…Kaito had lost a lot of blood, too much blood, and remembering the feel of it soaking through his shirt still made Shinichi sick. It was amazing that KID had made it even that far; he must have been running on pure willpower. If it had been anyone else he would have called an ambulance, but as it were, he and the thief had ended up next door in Doctor Agasa's house. Ai and the professor had raised a few eyebrows but refrained from asking questions, at least until later. Appropriate calls had been placed to the Mouri residence and then all he could do was sit back and watch Ai work.
That one strange night had brought with it so many questions, questions he had had to wait for the thief to wake up to answer—if he woke up, but he hadn't allowed himself to think about that.
The detective hadn't realized until then how much he had come to see KID as a constant in his life. So many things had gone wrong in the past two years, being turned into a small child by a poison that had been meant to kill him, being besieged by murder cases and yet still being so far away from solving the case he really wanted to resolve, and how he often felt like he was drifting away from everyone and everything from his life as the high school detective Shinichi Kudou. Yet through it all, KID had remained unchanged, somehow seemed to know all his secrets and treated him like the detective he was rather than the child he appeared to be. He had come to expect him to always be there, an infuriating but intriguing rival, a challenge free from the usual death that seemed to dog his own footsteps. Only now, it seemed as though the mysteries behind the mischievous and seemingly carefree Moonlight Magician contained more than a few dark secrets of their own.
The thief had drifted in and out of consciousness for days, sometimes talking with Shinichi and sometimes mumbling semi-incoherent things under his breath as though talking with someone else—apologizing for something Shinichi could never quite catch. From the fragments of information he managed to get in the thief's moments of clarity, he'd managed to piece together a story that was both so different and yet so similar to his own.
"She's like you, isn't she?" The question cutting through the silence as the door shut behind Haibara.
"Was she a nosy, high school detective too?" asked with more humor than Shinichi thought someone in the thief's position ought to be able to muster up.
A half annoyed, half concerned frown. "No, a scientist. But that's not important right now. What were you doing at that particular office building?"
"It's probably better if you don't know."
"The Black Organization."
KID's startled eyes jerking towards him, a surprised bark of laughter that had no humor in it. "So you know about them too."
What had happened was an elaborate trap, months in the making and all to lure the elusive Phantom Thief out into the open and into the Organization's jaws.
"I guess they got tired of trying to pick me off during my heists. My fault really for falling for it, but I had to be sure they didn't have it…"
"Why were they after you?"
"…Because I'm after something they want."
"Pandora, a jewel that shines red in the light of the full moon and sheds tears that grant immortality." A dry chuckle laced with more sadness than amusement. "No need to look at me like that, Tantei-kun. I assure you that I'm being perfectly serious."
And he had been serious, which in itself had been unsettling in a way. It was probably one of the first serious conversations they'd had, and it had occurred to the detective to wonder about that. Perhaps it was because they had discovered that they shared a common enemy. Perhaps it was because the thief had decided it would be easier to reach his goal if he told the truth, or as much of the truth as he had been comfortable with giving away. Or perhaps it was how close he had come to not making it that night and the realization that next time, he might not get away. Haibara had informed Shinichi that her patient had more than a few old scars, and yet no officer from the Kaitou KID Taskforce would ever even think of drawing a gun on their quarry. It just wasn't done—was against the rules somehow.
"This has happened before?"
"If you mean the shooting then yes."
"Then why didn't you stop? You couldn't possibly have expected to be able to handle them on your own, and as KID, you wouldn't be able to get the help of the police."
"…They took someone very important from me… I won't let them do that to someone else. The police can only do so much without hard evidence, you know that. I won't let them have what they want. And as long as their eyes are on me…"
As long as their eyes were on Kaito, they wouldn't target anyone else, at least not where Pandora was concerned.
Shinichi hadn't pressed him after that. Whatever had happened, KID obviously hadn't wanted to talk about it. Sometimes the deepest wounds, the ones that really changed a person's life, were the ones that you couldn't let heal because they were too much a part of you even when they hurt.
At least Shinichi hadn't had anything taken from him that couldn't be gotten back.
KID had laughed himself silly when he'd learned just how exactly Shinichi had ended up as a seven-year-old, bemused by what he considered a certain lack of common sense shared by detectives in general and genius high school detectives in particular. Shinichi had scowled in disgruntlement but let him laugh because it was almost a relief to see the mischief back in the thief's indigo eyes. His patience was rewarded when KID snapped his fingers and was suddenly holding a small, black case.
"Hmm, pills you said? Like these?"
Blue eyes widening behind fake glasses, a small hand reaching out to snatch the case from him and flip it open to examine its contents, "This is—but how did you get it?"
KID's trademark grin finally making its reappearance, "It was on the man I was planning to impersonate on my way out before things got out of hand. I was wondering what they were… Ne, Tantei-kun, it seems like we both have skills to offer for the sake of the chase, no?"
And that was how their partnership had begun really. It had been surprisingly easy to start working with Kaito, even though relying on others had been something Shinichi had had to learn as Conan and Kaito was only just starting to teach himself. They may have represented opposite sides of the law, may have been different in many ways, but they also had a great deal in common especially when it came to their desire to protect those around them and the things they valued—not so much truth perhaps but life and their own kinds of justice. The bottom line was that they understood one another, perhaps better than anyone else ever could because they could understand both the truths and the lies, their masks and what their masks sought to hide.
Well, perhaps "understood" was a bit strong. You could only understand so much when it came to someone like KID who was known for his insanity. Shinichi hadn't quite realized just how insane until he'd met Kaito as Kaito for the first time and not as KID…
The young man who had slid into the chair across from him flashed a razor-edged grin that he recognized all too well from years of chasing after a particular magician thief. "Sorry, Hakuba was being particularly persistent today."
Lifting his eyes from his book, Shinichi couldn't help but stare. Of course he'd seen the thief before while he was recuperating at his house, but it was still hard to get used to. The person sitting across from him could have passed for his twin to a casual observer though there were little differences here and there. His hair was brown instead of black and messier than Shinichi's ever was even without the aid of a comb. His eyes had a tinge more purple in them and the angles of his face were just a little sharper, and if they both stood up he might have been just a little taller. Still, the resemblance was uncanny.
"Hakuba? As in the detective Hakuba Saguru who's almost always at KID heists?"
"The one and only."
"You mean he knows?"
"He suspects, though of course he doesn't have any proof. We both go to Ekoda High School. In fact, he's in my class."
"And he makes a habit of tailing you?"
"Trying to prove I'm KID, yeah. He normally gives up after school because Aoko's with me, but when I'm alone he can make himself a real nuisance."
"Nakamouri Aoko, Inspector Nakamouri's daughter?"
"Yup, she's a good friend of mine."
Shinichi shook his head. No wonder Kaito was a good actor. He did nothing but practice all the time. "You're crazy, you know that?"
"So I've been told," the magician agreed cheerfully, though there might have been a hint of wistfulness there too and Shinichi was pretty sure he knew why. It was hard to remain close to people, even people you'd known all your life, if you constantly had to lie to them. When Shinichi had taken the antidote and finally told Ran about being Conan, she'd hit him, hugged him, then stormed off. Relations between them after that had been awkward to say the least. Whether they liked it or not, Conan had changed them both and they couldn't go back to how they were. They still cared about one another, but not in the same way they had before. Finally, after a week of walking on eggshells around one another, they had sat down and had the conversation they probably should have had the week before.
Briefly, Shinichi wondered what it must be like to be surrounded by friends who put all their energy into trying to put your alter ego behind bars. At least Ran had been understanding and neither of them had been too badly hurt by the whole fiasco. In fact, it was more like they had both gotten a sibling out of it and, considering neither of them had any actual brothers or sisters, it really wasn't such a bad deal.
"I brought some of my more recent files on them," Kaito said, his tone so casual that Shinichi almost missed the implications. "When I can, I try to follow the snipers back—trace their footsteps, take some pictures, and record anything else I think might be useful."
Shinichi accepted the folders he slid across the table and resisted the urge to flip through them, carefully stowing them in his book bag instead for later where he could be sure of some privacy. "I still can't believe you never said anything. To think that you were playing such a dangerous game with your heists…"
While at the same time facing off with one, two, or sometimes three detectives no less, along with Inspector Nakamouri and the rest of his Taskforce.
"What was I supposed to say? Oh, and hey—incidentally, a bunch of immortality-seeking madmen are trying to kill me, but don't worry, I deal with them all the time?"
Shinichi snorted. "Still, there must have been another way."
"Isn't there always? The difference is between a good way, a better way, and the best way, and of course we always choose the way we think is best." Taking a sip of his tea, Kaito added almost as an afterthought, sparing his watch an exaggerated glance, "Ah, dear Hakuba should be here in twenty minutes, thirty minutes tops. I couldn't resist leaving him a present on the corner so he'll probably be a bit angry. We'd better move. I know a really good bookstore a few streets away and it should give us at least another hour. Then there's this restaurant near the train station that I've been dying to try."
…It had been a time of endings and beginnings. And even though it was death that had led their paths to cross, it had also been a time for living. Because nothing, not even brushes with death—or perhaps because of them—ever got in the way of Kaito and Life. It was one of the things Shinichi had come to admire about him
And well, the magician was good company. If they had met under different circumstances, they would probably have been friends a long time ago. But as it were, Shinichi supposed it was better late than never.
But then—to Shinichi, it seemed completely out of the blue—something changed. And the rules of their relationship were turned upside-down yet again…
The two of them sat at a table by the windows of a small café. It had become one of their unofficial meeting places where they went just to talk, not only about their plans or speculations concerning the Organization but their lives, friends, troubles, and sometimes dreams—anything that came to mind. It was located part of the way between Beika and Ekoda, just close enough for it to be convenient but far enough away so that people who knew them were unlikely to stumble across the two of them together and start asking questions. Though really, with how much time they had begun to spend here, Shinichi was rather surprised people hadn't started to take note of them.
Their illusion of normalcy was probably owed in no small part to the fact that he had yet to stumble across a single murder in all the time he had spent there. This was both a relief and a bit of a shock considering his usual bad luck in the matter, and if he had been more of a superstitious person, he might have suspected that Kaito somehow balanced him out. After all, when it came to the game of life, the magician seemed to have a tendency to be insanely fortunate. Or perhaps it would have been more accurate to say that he had a way about him of bending reality so that it suited his purposes, so it wasn't so much a matter of luck as a matter of the thief being a master of manipulation. He seemed to be able to wear the world in the same way he wore his disguises, nudging it just a little here and there so that he fit seamlessly into the scenery. It was a talent Shinichi rather envied. Before his time as Conan, he had welcomed the attention, basked and thrived in it. But more and more often now, all he wanted was to fade into the background.
"I've come to a very important decision."
Shinichi looked up into Kaito's face with a mixture of trepidation and relief. The magician had been acting strange lately and he'd honestly begun to feel a bit worried, but now it seemed he was finally going to find out the reasons behind his friend's recent distraction.
Kaito grinned his usual, manic grin but the eyes that met his were utterly, almost disturbingly serious. For a moment, Shinichi wondered if the snipers had started showing up again. They'd been oddly quiet according to Kaito after their last failed attempt on his life and it made Shinichi worry what they were planning now, but instead, Kaito announced, "I've decided that someday, I'm going to make you mine."
Shinichi choked on his coffee. "What?"
"I've always been perfectly honest when I say you're my favorite detective, and I've been thinking about it a lot lately and I'm sure now that I like you. You and Mouri-san aren't seeing each other and I'm not seeing anyone else, so as I see it, the way is clear. And if there are problems—well, I'm sure I can win you over."
That said, Kaito pulled the coffee mug from Shinichi's unresisting fingers, cupped his chin with his hand, leaned over and planted a chaste kiss upon his lips. Then he departed from the café with a brilliant smile and a wave, leaving a very stunned detective alone at their table now worried for an entirely different reason.
Endings and beginnings indeed.
TBC… (next chapter, XI Of Magician Thieves and Skewed Romances)
Author's Note: I hope you enjoyed it! This first chapter is a bit more serious because it's setting up for some of the more serious themes. Please let me know if it is confusing. The events in this story are not always going to be very linear since I am going back to the events of one and a half years before the "present" time where this chapter starts. In any case, thank you for reading and please review!