Author Notes: This chapter covers two big plot hurdles, one involving the boys, and one involving the Organization. Yay! Enjoy!
An alternate point of view for this chapter is being written as a thank you for reaching 100 reviews! Thank you so much! Please continue to enjoy the story! The special reward will be posted in my stories Stream Of Consciousness, please look for it soon!
All Walls Down
Shinichi watched Kuroba disappear into the kitchen, a faint frown working its way onto his features.
Something had disturbed the thief greatly. Something involving the new customer. Enough for Shinichi to see it. While that novelty seemed to be wearing off pretty fast with how much he seemed to be doing that these days, it was still a problem that he could tell, because that meant the thief really was upset.
He studied the man as surreptitiously as he could. Maybe mid-forties, Japanese, around one hundred eighty-four centimeters tall. Well-dressed in a casually-formal style, light blue and red pinstripe dress shirt, white blazer jacket, charcoal gray slacks, black loafers. Black hair that was maybe getting a little gray at the temples but not much, neat small mustache, too far away to get an accurate color reading but they appeared a dark blue.
He also looked vaguely familiar, in a way that bugged Shinichi. Not as if he'd met the man, but had seen him before, like perhaps in a photo. Shinichi felt his frown get more pronounced, and made a forceful effort to smooth it away into blank passivity. Right, still at work. He turned back to the barista who was showing him the ropes, listening to the babble about proper coffee amounts for espresso, as he mentally worked over what could have thrown the thief for a loop.
Obviously, the first option was that the man was someone the thief knew, at least back home. Someone who unpleasant memories were associated with, perhaps? Enough to get a reaction at least. Perhaps one of the Organization? No, he was wearing white, unless there had been a huge dress code swap between universes, which could also be possible. He put the possibility in the back of his mind.
His attention was drawn back to the man as he saw the glimmer of plastic. A cellphone? The keypad was hidden so Shinichi couldn't catch what he was texting, but that was worrying. Or he could have been having an innocent conversation. Right, paranoia.
Debating the pros and cons of letting his paranoia run rampant about the man or assuming innocence until proven guilty, Shinichi almost missed Kuroba's reappearance. The thief looked near some breaking point, even if he doubted anyone else saw it. The way his eyes flicked around, never quite landing on the man's face, the muscles in his neck being slightly more defined than usual due to the tenseness they were apparently in, the way the slightest slouch the thief normally walked in had straightened into a ramrod straight posture. Every little bit was a clue that practically screamed that Kuroba wasn't happy. If he wasn't wired to muffle his footsteps at all times and was wearing something other than tennis shoes Shinichi would bet his footsteps would be hard and abrupt.
Shinichi glanced at the clock. Lunch was winding down and most of the crowd had filtered out during the past five minutes, and they'd been here around three hours. If he remembered right, they were only staying until six, which meant now was a perfect time for a break.
Setting down the cup he was cleaning, he smiled politely at his teacher for the day. "How do we take our breaks?"
The barista, a man in his early twenties by the name of Murakawa Jun, blinked, apparently surprised at the question. Well, it was the first one Shinichi had asked all day, he'd never needed to ask many questions when it came to rote memorization. "Ah...just ask anytime, though usually you need to have been here at least two hours. You're probably good to have one, you're here six hours, right? You'll get a thirty-minute lunch, off the clock."
Shinichi nodded. "Thank you. I think I'll take mine now, if that's all right?"
Murakawa waved him off. "Yeah, we get busier later in the afternoon so it's good to do one now."
Murmuring a polite thanks, Shinichi slipped from behind the counter and went to find Kuroba. After serving the man his coffee, he'd apparently retreated back into the kitchen.
Shinichi found him easily, as he seemed to be doing the dishes with a single-minded relentlessness. Definitely upset. Shinichi eyed him for a moment – wasn't there, you know, a dishwasher? Right, he'd seen the man go outside a minute ago for a smoke break – before turning to the manager. "Masutaka-san? May Kuroba-kun and I take our lunch now?"
"Huh?" The man turned towards him, raising an eyebrow, before glancing around then waving a hand. "Right, not busy, so go ahead. Be back in thirty minutes. Take anything from the fridge you want to eat, it's stocked for employees."
Shinichi smiled at him. "Thank you." Receiving a grunt in reply as the man went back to cooking, Shinichi turned and grabbed Kuroba's arm. The thief actually jerked at the touch, turning towards Shinichi and blinking owlishly.
"Lunch. Let's go." Shinichi said without preamble, worry making him blunt. There were so many reasons to make sure Kuroba didn't freak out, and he would be lying if personal worry wasn't the top of the list. He really did care about the idiot, damn it.
He just dragged Kuroba along, who followed him in silence, still looking rather like a lost puppy. Shinichi stopped and grabbed two of the cheap bentou boxes in the fridge as they left. He ignored the man in the corner – who flicked his wrist and made something disappear when they came out of the kitchen, a magician? – and just led Kuroba out of Poirot.
The day had warmed slightly since the morning, and now was hovering in that perfect fall chill that was cool enough to not work up a sweat, but not cold enough to be uncomfortable. Shinichi's favorite type of weather, but now was not the place to think about it.
He traced the route to Beika Park automatically, the recreational area just as he remembered it. Leading Kuroba to one of his favorite spots, an out-of-the-way bench surrounded by maple trees that were a brilliant red in this season, he sat down, pulling the thief down next to him.
He shoved one of the lunches into the thief's lap. "Eat."
Kuroba blinked again, but during the walk had apparently managed to regain a shred of himself, as he quirked a smile. Not up to his usual standards, but it was there.
There was some crinkling of cellophane as they opened the lunches, and for the first few minutes both just ate in silence. Waiting for Kuroba to compose himself, Shinichi spent his time watching the park. Being a weekday, there were barely any people about, although a few elderly couples were taking strolls through the park, and there were two mothers with young children chatting not that far away. There was the faintest breeze that was causing Shinichi to brush back his bangs every once in a while. It was a nice day, really. How long had it been since he'd been able to sit down and appreciate that? Ever since he returned it was a pattern of school, cases, and sleep, with copious amounts of paperwork for the first two.
It figured, that the first vacation he was able to take was an involuntary one to another universe. At least he hadn't run into any murders yet.
After about five minutes passed, Shinichi glanced towards his current partner. Kuroba was picking over the the food, seemingly having barely eaten anything. Still not recovered, then. Shinichi felt himself frowning. He was usually the one being pestered to eat, not the other way around.
They really couldn't have this. Kuroba had to be in perfect form if they were going to keep on doing this and find a way to get home. So, as much as he didn't want to, he was going to have to press the thief.
He closed his eyes, then sighed. "...Who was that man?"
Kuroba didn't respond for a moment, and Shinichi wondered if the thief was working up the nerve to be flippant about it. Which, while it would probably put him closer to where he had been, was not what they needed. He'd heard the waitress say he was a regular, so Kuroba was going to have to face this.
But then Kuroba straightened, taking a breath like he was preparing himself for something, like a show. "His name is Kuroba Toichi. One of the best magicians to have ever lived, in my opinion."
Kuroba Toichi...? Shinichi's mind flashed through several facts. He knew that name. Magician club murder, Kid in disguise had said he was his favorite magician, right? Also now he knew where he'd seen the man, that was the name of his mother's tutor in disguise. He'd never met the man in person, though he'd seen several photographs. Also Kuroba was – obviously – using the man's last name. He had passed away in a magic accident...ten years ago.
Conclusions came together, leaping like lightning from the facts even if he didn't want them too. Master magician and disguise artist. Died ten years ago. Kuroba was using his name as an alias. Kaitou Kid first vanished ten years ago. The second Kid was sitting next to him, a self-proclaimed fan of the man. It all leaped to one answer.
"He was the first." Shinichi blurted out, and noticed Kuroba's hands clench around his chopsticks. "You knew him. He's dead back home, that's why you're so shocked."
Kuroba managed a weak chuckle. "...Observant as always, Tantei-kun." Closing his eyes, the thief slouched back against the bench. "Yes. No use denying now, is there? And I, like an idiot, used the man's son as a disguise when...when in this world it was the son that died at the tender age of nine."
Ah, that would explain why Kuroba freaked. Kuroba Toichi, who had to be Kid in this world, as he was still alive, would know that his son was dead and thus couldn't be serving him coffee. But something else nagged at Shinichi. Something wasn't quite right about Kuroba's reaction. Would just a fan react so badly to a dead man's reappearance? And why be so nervous about being found out? Kid was never like this whenever Shinichi had deduced one of his disguises to be false. Wait, son...? A son that would now be how old...?
It came together in a single, clear fact.
"No, you are that son." He breathed, and Kuroba's lips thinned. "It's not a disguise."
Silence was the answer for a long moment. Busy city sounds filtered through in the background, but Shinichi paid them no attention, focused entirely on the young man sitting next to him.
Kuroba seemed to slouch suddenly, before chuckling softly, a strange smile on his face as he turned towards Shinichi, sketching as best a bow as he could form the sitting position. "As brilliant as always. Kuroba Kaito at your service."
Shinichi just stared for a moment, a bit blindsided that Kuroba had admitted to it. This wasn't an alias, it was the thief's real name and now Shinichi had it, had it and his face and could make the thief's life hell when they returned home. If they did.
Instead, he just sighed softly. "...Well, I can see now why you're upset."
The tiniest bit of tension seemed to leave Kuroba, and for a moment Shinichi felt pleased with himself for helping ease some of his stress. The next moment he wondered what the hell he was thinking with that.
Straightening, Kuroba sighed as well, plucking a carrot out of the lunch and staring at it like it held the meaning to life. "...It is a little startling to be serving coffee to your own father, yes. Especially one who died ten years ago."
Shinichi winced, then was suddenly hit with a thought. "...Does he know it's you?" The Kid sitting in front of him was a master of observation, he doubted the first had been any less. Especially since Kuroba was wearing that cheery name tag with his real name printed on it.
"Undoubtedly suspects. He saw the name tag." Kuroba gestured to the very thing Shinichi had been thinking about. "And as far as I know, this world is the same in that there are no other young male Kurobas in my age range in Japan, or even the world. It would be a fact even Mouri's father would manage to find."
Shinichi felt himself frown. "What do you think he's going to do?"
"He probably suspects I am a fake. After all, a double from another world is a little hard to come up with all on your own. Which probably means we are going to be very closely watched from now on as he tries to figure out what we're up to." Kuroba glanced at him. "It won't take much to find you're with me, so you'll be staked out too."
"I figured out as much." Something nagged at Shinichi, and he frowned. Right, when they left, the man, the first Kid, had hidden something away...that had been...
Replaying the memory, Shinichi stiffened. "He finger-printed you."
Kuroba glanced at him, a little confused. "He did? Ah, that's fine, I put fingerprint seals on when I went back into the kitchen to get his coffee."
Shinichi hissed, grabbing the thief's arm, who now looked surprised. "Idiot! I know you were shaken up about this but not that bad! Why would you use fingerprint seals!"
Kuroba blinked, seemingly not getting it. "I don't get what's so wrong, Tantei-kun, it means he won't know who I..." Suddenly it dawned on him. Shinichi could almost see the second the thief's confusion turned to horror. "Shit."
It was a little odd hearing a voice he was so used to hearing speak perfectly controlled, proper Japanese sweat, but now wasn't the time to be thinking about that. "A fake who suspected being watched by someone like Kid and was worth anything would be using your fingerprints. The fact that they won't be Kuroba Kaito's fingerprints either means you're a terribly-trained fake, or that those were deliberately fake fingerprints, which means...I don't know how he'll take it, but I doubt it will be anything good."
Kuroba, in a rare show of honesty, groaned and buried his head in his hands, muttering. "Such an amateur mistake...shouldn't have done it...haven't made a mistake like this for years...damn it, and knowing him he would have noticed the plastic sheen on my fingers and known I was using seals...damn it!" Shaking his head, the thief sat back up and ran his hands through his hair. "Okay. He's probably going to bug the cafe and our apartment, probably the printing place too. It's what I would do. Which means we can't talk freely there anymore."
Shinichi frowned, mind already thinking rapidly on the situation. "You think so? Could he be trusted here?" It was Kuroba's father, after all...
Kuroba was silent for a moment, then shook his head. "...No. I...it wasn't a stage accident, it was murder. It was only ruled as an accident because there was no evidence of tampering but, it was murder, By them."
Shinichi couldn't help the shiver that ran through him at that. "...So, if it was you instead, here, that means..."
A bitter laugh. "Two things. He was murdered for going against them and trying to find the jewel they wanted before them so he could destroy it. So, one, my death scared him back to them, or two, he's still working against them, but if I'm alive, somehow they staged my death to kidnap me and now I would look like the agent to him."
"...Which means he'll believe any information you give him is planted, at best, as you're either an Organization member or a member of law enforcement trying to root him out." Shinichi finished. The first option was horrifying. Kaitou Kid was, always had been brilliant, and Shinichi knew that he couldn't dare to underestimate the first, especially if he was even just under the thumb of the Organization. It felt coldly like Vermouth all over again, only without the guarantee of mercy she liked to reserve for him. He bit at his thumbnail, thinking.
First things first, they had to continue to act as if nothing was wrong. The moment they were actively nervous about this was the moment that they'd probably be struck at, as nervous people were people who were about to run, and Shinichi knew that if he had two promising leads to the Organization he would never let them run.
Kuroba seemed to have come to the same conclusion. "We can't run."
Shinichi nodded. "There's no telling what he'd do to stop us, and besides, landing another living situation like this is too lucky to bargain on." A pause. "We need a place to talk securely. Where?"
"Probably the library. If we switch up the positions enough, it'll be too much of a hassle trying to bug every possible place we might talk privately there, it's a big building with plenty of corners away from windows, and bugs placed on us personally can be cleaned beforehand or used to plant false information."
"You don't think he's bugged us now?" Almost automatically Shinichi looked down at himself, then up at the trees. If the Kid he knew used doves, he'd probably learned it from the first. However, Kuroba shook his head.
"You still need to touch someone to bug them without them noticing. He didn't get me, and was never near you. Don't worry about the doves, he probably didn't have any on him, although the future will be different probably." So that was one trick Shinichi would have to still remember, then.
Kuroba took another breath. "We can't take anything home, either. I can secure the apartment, but I can't guarantee it to be totally secure." Unspoken went the fact that Kuroba was obviously unsure of how well he'd match up to his own predecessor. "Hope you're good at remembering everything we'll be looking up, Tantei-kun."
Shinichi scoffed. "You're not the only one with a good memory." Shaking his head, he frowned as he checked his watch. "...We have to talk about this later, we only have five minutes to get back to work."
He watched in slight worry as Kuroba stiffened up again slightly. "...Will you be okay?"
Kuroba looked at him in some surprise, before bursting into soft, breathy laughter. "...It's okay. Now that I know, I'll...handle it somehow." A beat, and just a smidgen of his normal cheer returned. "Worried, Tantei-kun?"
Shinichi felt that damned blush surface again, he had no idea why the thief kept inspiring it today. "Well, I am stuck with you until we go home. I can't have you freaking out on me, can I?"
Shinichi watched, nonplussed, as Kuroba dissolved into a fit of snickers at that. The small lapse seemed to be from sanity, but it also seemed to do some good as Kuroba straightened, grinning brightly and looking far more real than before. "No, no freaking out. Now, shall we? Ah, let me finish the lunch first."
The mention of the food reminded Shinichi that he hadn't really touched his either, and he quickly chewed down the choice bites from the bentou. Kuroba just wolfed his, in a way oddly reminiscent of Hattori, although nowhere near as much or as fast. Shinichi had never really been able to eat that fast, and was mystified at his fellow gender and age group when they did. Where did they put it?
Lunch finished quickly, they stood, tossing the leftovers into a nearby trashcan and heading back towards the cafe. On the way there, a news broadcast from a television sitting in the window of an electronics store caught Shinichi's attention.
"–and now we turn to Miyano Shiho, one of the top developers of Keaton Electronics, to see if she can give us a glimpse into the future of the Shell operating system. Miss Miyano?"
Shinichi froze in place as he stared at the screen as it cut to a young, severe-looking woman that he'd seen only once, but knew her younger face by heart. Indeed, Miyano Shiho, Haibara's unshrunken identity, sat there calmly, wearing a cold expression that made his mouth dry. He hadn't seen her have that expression in a long time, when her former life finally started receding and she managed to start opening up to him and the other children.
She was also dressed from head to toe in black, aside from a vivid red scarf around her neck, which just make Shinichi feel like she'd died. Haibara never wore anything black larger than a sock. She hated the color, for good reason.
The substance of the broadcast finally got through to him. Shell operating system...? Right, that one in the library. Now that he thought about it, Yuusaku hadn't been using it...
Wait. An operating system. In widespread public use like the Windows of home, probably even on computers in places like banks, police, the government...
He barely noticed when Kuroba gently took his arm and started leading him back towards the cafe, mind spinning with the possibilities. Home, the Organization had been everywhere, true, with many hands in technology, but they'd never bothered marketing any of it. They'd always behaved as the perfect criminal organization, hiding in the shadows.
If they had decided on a different infiltration technique...like, say, distributing a personal computer operating system developed by them that had a back door, just a little hole that no one noticed because why would the operating system itself be a security risk...thousands of little fingers, all over, if it was anywhere as widespread as Windows was at home, and from what he had seen, it was even more.
And Kaitou Kid, the original, could possibly just another arm of theirs here.
He looked at Kuroba, whose face had moved into a blank, impassive mask, which did nothing to settle his stomach.
This was nothing like home. This was worse.
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