wind·fall (w nd fôl ): 1. A sudden, unexpected piece of good fortune or personal gain. 2. Something, such as a ripened fruit, that has been blown down by the wind. (Miriam-Webster Dictionary)
Part One: Apprenticeship
"How do you do that?"
"Hm?" The young man in the scruffy jeans and t-shirt looked up from what he was doing; a small girl stood a few feet away on the sidewalk, dark eyes staring in fascination. He looked down at the four almond-sized pebbles that he had been juggling absentmindedly. "What, this?" The stones moved steadily in flight, tumbling over and over perfectly from hand to hand.
"Uh huh….." Her gaze never wavered as she hopped up onto the park bench beside him. "How do you keep them moving like that? Don't you ever drop them??" Around and around the pebbles went in a circle, changing in pattern every few seconds. The clever hands seemed to move almost without volition, as if they possessed a life of their own.
"Nahhh; I've been juggling for a long time—I could do this in my sleep." With a nearly-invisible flick of a wrist he added a fifth pebble. "'Course, you get better when you practice a lot." The teenager chuckled; "I'm always snitching things from my friends and juggling them—you know, like their house-keys, erasers when we're at school, their shoes, their lunch, their books… that sort of thing."
"Oh. I thought stealing stuff was wrong, though….. doesn't that make them mad at you?" The little girl regarded him solemnly, her wide eyes seeming almost hypnotized by the constantly-moving circle of stones.
"Sometimes….. but I always give everything back."
"Oh. That's okay, then."
For a few minutes neither spoke; the only sounds were the nearby rush of city traffic, the shouts and screams of playing children and the squawks of the small crowd of pigeons that the child had been feeding. The whirr of the stones orbiting through the air was nearly silent; with a look of studious absent-mindedness, the brown-haired young man added a sixth pebble and then a small, paper-wrapped something to the circle. He juggled for a few more moments, molding the pattern from a circle into an arch, a figure-eight, a double curve; "Hold out your hand, okay? Palm up."
Hesitantly the girl held a small, grubby hand out; the pebbles plonked into their manipulator's hands with an air of finality, but the last item dropped lightly into hers. She blinked down at the piece of candy. "I'm not supposed to take candy from strangers; my 'Kaachan said so…" she informed him in a conversational tone, poking at it rather wistfully with one finger.
He grinned, the expression lighting up his face and making his blue eyes flash. "Well, I don't want you getting into trouble with your mom—" Tugging a handkerchief that had seen better days from his pocket, the young man dropped it lightly over her hand; "Three—Two—One!" and he pulled it away with a flourish. The candy had disappeared.
"Awwwww…" The little girl looked crestfallen.
"Hey, no problem—we can fix that." He reached out the hand not holding the handkerchief. "My name's… well, you can call me Hei. Hei-san. What's your name, kid?"
Hanging back for a moment, the child seemed to consider the matter; after a second or so she seemed to come to the conclusion that he was safe, smiling up at the teenager. "I'm Ayumi." Solemnly she shook, her small hand disappearing in his. He grinned back at her cheerfully, stuffing the handkerchief back into his pocket; when he let go of the handshake, the piece of candy lay back on the girl's palm.
"There. Now we know each other's names, so I can give you this, right?"
She giggled, peeling off the wrapper and popping the sweet into her mouth. "Guess so." She sat for a few moments, examining his face with a brown-eyed, candid gaze. "I knew somebody else named Hei-san once… he used to work at my school," she announced, swinging her legs. "He was funny—he used to do magic tricks for us too sometimes, when we were on the playground. But he went away after….." Ayumi's voice trailed off as her face grew troubled, her eyes shadowing a little.
The young man studied her for a moment, his own face betraying very little. Then he nodded. "A funny man, huh? Well, I'm pretty funny myself." He stretched a bit, long legs sprawled before him and skinny-wristed arms above his head. "So what're you doing here at the park, Ayumi-san?"
The adult-sounding honorific made her perk up, and she giggled again. "Just playing….. me and my friends like to meet here. I got here first today, though—they're slow, 'cause three of them are boys. Boys are always slow," she said with all the loftiness of a growing eight-year-old girl. "'Course, you're a grownup; maybe boys get better at stuff like that when they grow up," she added generously.
The teenager calling himself Hei-san laughed at that, shaking his head; he leaned back comfortably. "Not sure about that, y'know… my friend Aoko'd tell you you're wrong. She says I'm always late when we go places." He frowned, thinking about it. "Come to think of it, she's probably right….."
Ayumi merely nodded, accepting this at face value. Her dark eyes scanned the spaces between the trees as she surveyed the park, watching for her friends. They were *really* late this time…..
Annoyed, the little girl muttered something half-under her breath that made the young man beside her arch one eyebrow and half-frown at her, though his eyes twinkled in amusement; "I don't think you're supposed to know words like that, Ayumi-kun, much less call your friends those sorts of names. Where'd you learn 'em, huh?"
She turned innocent eyes on him. "From some boys in the Video Arcade we go to; they were mad because their friends were late. I heard them call their friends those names—I don't know what the words mean, though….. 'Kaachan says it's good to learn new stuff; what do they mean?"
"Uhhhh….." He sputtered slightly for a moment, his usual cheerful expression nonplussed; then he copped out utterly, floundering for an excuse. "Um, I don't know—I mean, not exactly—errrrr….."
She crossed her arms and regarded him severely with what her friends would have recognized as the Ayumi Death Glare. "Hmph. If nobody'll tell me stuff, how can I ever learn?" The little girl stuck out her bottom lip and sulked for a moment. "That's what Conan-kun does, too… he talks about interesting stuff just enough to make you want to ask questions, and then he won't answer them!" Her lip stuck a little further out as she chewed on it.
Hei-san eyed her, shoving back a tumble of dark brown hair from his forehead. "So what d'you do then? I mean, when he won't tell you things?"
Ayumi scowled ferociously. "I bug him and bug him and bug him until he gives. Or I cry at him; he really HATES that… he gets all red and stammers." She cocked her head to one side uncertainly, looking up at the teenager. "I guess I could *try* and cry at you….."
"Uh, nono— don't do that—" His eyes bugged out slightly. For the first time a thread of nervousness crept into the young man's voice; what had he gotten himself into? "Instead, why don't I—well—uh—" His gaze lit on the pebbles he was still holding; he seized the change of topic gratefully. "Why don't I teach you how to juggle?"
"Really?!?" The little girl's face lit up like a Christmas tree; "I don't think even CONAN knows how to juggle!! Will you teach me? Please?"
"Um, sure….. I've got to go in a little bit, but I guess I can help you learn the basics." Hei-san wiped at his forehead, wondering how to handle this. He stared down at the hopeful face that beamed up at his. It wouldn't be the first time he had ever taught somebody else a trick, but they were usually a little older than Ayumi-kun….. "Before I teach you, though, you have to promise me something, okay? Don't tell anybody who taught you."
The little girl's forehead wrinkled in puzzlement. "Why not?" She took two of the pebbles from his open hand, turning them in her small fingers.
"Well, see, I'm a magician—I do magic shows for people sometimes, and if the other magicians heard that I was teaching you how to juggle, they just might think I was telling you some of the secrets of our tricks too. We don't ever do that, y'know. So don't tell, okay?" Truthfully he wasn't quite sure just why he didn't want her telling—maybe it had to do with a certain runty little detective she hung around with—maybe not. It just sounded like a good idea.
The child thought about it seriously; she seemed to be a bright little thing, but Hei-san already knew that pretty well. "O…kay, I guess. I promise."
"Okay—let's start off with two pebbles….. Now, hold your hands out like this---" Dim memories of his father's voice saying 'That's right, straight in front of you just like that; toss it up now so you can gage the height you'll need' flickered through his mind, making him smile. *So Conan-kun doesn't know how to do this, hm? Right; let's show the little twerp something new.*
"Now, toss the one in your right hand straight up—"
* * * * * * * * * * * * *
"Hey, Ayumi-kun? Where'd you learn to do that?" Conan stared, puzzled, as the little girl fumblingly juggled two small stones; she was clumsy and unpracticed but was visibly improving.
She frowned, concentrating; several yards away Genta and Mitsuhiko paused to stare with simultaneous exclamations of "Cool!" Rin smiled from beside her on the park bench, tilting her head to one side. "I didn't know you knew how to juggle, Ayumi-kun," she observed, her chocolate-brown eyes curious. "Who taught you?"
Ayumi giggled, working hard at keeping the stones in the air. "Not gonna tell you….."
"Huh? Why not?" Conan left his skateboard upside down on the ground, the small screwdrivers he had been using on it laying haphazardly about in the grass.
"'Cause I promised."
Rin and Conan blinked at one another in puzzlement, then sat back on the bench, legs dangling, to watch their young friend practice.
"Hey, pretty good, kid!" The voice came from behind a tree to her left. Ayumi jumped slightly, peering at the tree; nobody there. Frowning, she almost missed her catch but managed somehow to keep the pebbles she was attempting to juggle moving more or less correctly.
"Keep that up and you can add a third rock pretty soon, so long as you keep practicing…" Now the voice seemed to be coming from the trash-can beside the bench. Ayumi's eyes widened a little, but she kept juggling. "Hei-san?" she asked the air tentatively. It sounded like him…..
"… and over here!"
"and over here…"
Scowling ferociously, Ayumi caught her pebbles and knotted her small hands into fists around them. Uncertainly she stared in turn at two other trees and a large rock; no Hei-san in sight. "Where ARE you?!?"
"Find me!" Now the teasing voice sounded as if it were coming from the branches of the nearest tree. Hesitantly the little girl slid off the park bench, thinking hard. She remembered hearing about this from TV—it was called ventral-, ventril-, ventaril… something. People could sort of put their voices somewhere else, so they sounded like they were anywhere but where they were. So….. if Hei-san *wasn't* where his voice was coming from, then he *wasn't* behind those trees or up in the branches or hiding behind the trashcan or under the rock…..
With surprising methodicalness for a gradeschooler Ayumi scanned her surroundings, mentally checking off hiding places. Where was he?? "All those places where your voice was are in front of me….." she said slowly; "So—that means you're—"
A finger tapped her on top of her head, making her jump; she snatched at it, barely missing, and Hei-san laughed as he leaned over from where he had been standing behind her. "Gotcha!"
This time his voice seemed to come from the right place. Ayumi wrinkled her nose, impressed. "That was really neat. Can you teach me how to do that too?" She smiled to herself, picturing some of the tricks she could play if she could put her voice in Conan's lunchtray or Rin's backpack.
Hei-san plunked himself down on the bench beside her; today he was wearing a school uniform. Somehow, though, he looked just as scruffy as he had the week before, when she had seen him in his ripped jeans and t-shirt. "I could try…" he said somewhat doubtfully; "It's a lot harder than juggling, though. You sort of have to juggle your voice, and that takes a lot of diaphragm control."
"What's a dia- diaf—"
He pointed to his midsection. "It's something you use to make your voice stronger or pitched differently. Hm; maybe if you start by learning how to imitate voices you'll strengthen yours enough….."
Ayumi-chan perked up. "That sounds like fun—can you teach me how to do that? Please, Hei-san?" She kicked her feet in excitement where they dangled off the bench; one small sandal dropped to the ground but she ignored its loss.
*Those big brown eyes….. aw, man…..* Like most people who are fond of kids, the young man succumbed with barely a struggle. "I guess….. How DID I end up being your tutor, anyway?" He scratched his head.
She shrugged, scrabbling around in her pockets; several pigeons had landed nearby, and she tossed them a broken cookie that she had been saving for later. "You just *did.* And anyway," she pointed out, dusting her hands off, "aren't adults supposed to teach kids stuff?"
The young man beside her considered the matter solemnly, leaning back and tilting his face up to the afternoon sunlight. He seemed to find it not in the least unusual to be holding a serious conversation with an eight-year-old. "I guess you're right. And I started learning magic tricks and juggling and other things when I was even younger than you, so…" He clasped his hands backwards before him, cracking his knuckles and flexing his long, nimble fingers. "Are you waiting for your friends again?"
"Uh-huh; they're late….. Genta-kun had to stay after class because he got into a squabble with Mitsuhiko-kun, and Rin-kun got caught passing notes to Conan-kun again." Her face fell a little. "Rin-kun….. Conan-kun's waiting for her. He doesn't play with me as much as he used to—he just wants to play with Rin. They talk an awful lot." She was silent, fiddling a little with the stones; the young man beside her watched sympathectically. After a moment she continued, a somewhat doleful and confused note in her young voice. "She—I like Rin-kun, she's my friend, but she's… funny. Sometimes she says things and does things kind of like Conan does—like she knows more than the rest of us. She's awfully smart….."
Ayumi's voice dropped into silence; for a few long seconds the small clearing held only the sounds of traffic and the calling of birds. Hei-san nodded as though he understood, rumpling his dark brown hair back from his forehead with one careless hand. "Well, Rin and Conan are both… a bit different from most other kids, y'know?"
The little girl glanced up, tossing a pebble (the speckled one, her favorite) from hand to hand. "I know….. I don't know how she's different, but I *know.* Rin-kun… When she came here….." Ayumi hesitated, wrinkling her brow. "I wish Ran-neechan was still here," she said abruptly.
"Because….." Ayumi bit her lip, fumbling with her juggling stones a little. "Just because. Because—because I want to see her and Rin-kun at the same time. 'Cause….. never mind."
The teenager sat silently, watching. His face was calm, betraying nothing of what he might be thinking.
"Hei-san? How do you know Conan and Rin? And Ran-neechan?"
"Oh… I know all sorts of people….. I come to this park a lot." It didn't occur to Ayumi that his second statement might have absolutely nothing to do with his first; she accepted the explanation without comment.
The child sighed; shaking her head as if to rattle uncomfortable thoughts out of it, she looked down and carefully positioned her stones to juggle. Hei-san eyed her for a moment, then moved the small hands a little closer to her waist. "You don't want to hold 'em too far out—it's easier to lose your control if you do." She nodded, tossing the first pebble into the air.
She concentrated hard on not messing up in front of her teacher, biting her lower lip in concentration; the stones began to circle with a little more regularity and precision. "….. Hei-san? Who taught you all this stuff?"
He clasped his hands behind his head, stretching his legs out before him as he leaned back in what she was coming to see as his favorite position. Dark blue eyes stared off a little distantly into the leaves overhead. "My dad—he was a magician, a really great one. He wanted me to follow in his footsteps—he was the best, and he taught me all sorts of secrets and tricks….." He laughed a little sadly. "I didn't learn a few of 'em until just recently, though; there were a couple of things he never told me—I had to find out about some of his more important secrets the hard way….." He sighed, a rueful look on his thin face; beside him the little girl continued to send her pebbles around and around, one following after the other. The soft thud of the stones against her palms seemed to counterpoint his thoughts as he continued softly.
"He was a good man—he loved me and Mom a whole lot, and he loved magic too; I think he taught me tricks just so he could share that love with me, y'know?—it was almost like a conversation between us when he was showing me a new one. There's just something about making everybody laugh or surprising them by doing impossible things… it's a fantastic feeling, and I guess he wanted me to know that feeling too."
Ayumi's juggling faltered at the sadness in his voice; she allowed the stones to drop to the ground. "Doesn't he do magic anymore?"
Hei-san shook his head, his eyes darkening. "No… he died when I was a little older than you."
"Oh." The little girl stared, her eyes large; to his surprise they filled with tears. "I—I'm sorry, Hei-san."
He smiled down at her again, his expression controlled. "It's okay; he's been gone a long time now. I still miss him… I always will. But it's okay." Attempting to lighten the mood the teenager reached out and plucked something out of the air, presenting it to Ayumi with a flourish. "Here; this ought to make us both feel a little better….."
It was a white rose, perfect and fresh; the petals seemed to gleam with their own inner light in the dark green tree-shadows. Ayumi exclaimed over the flower in delight, all sadness forgotten. "Oooo, pretty! Is it really for me? Thank you!!" She stroked the petals, cradling the bloom carefully in her small hands. "But why would it make *you* feel better too?"
His eyes twinkled. "'Cause it always makes a guy feel good to give flowers to a pretty girl. I give roses to my—I mean, to Aoko all the time." He laughed wryly. "Keeps her on her toes, y'know? And I don't think she hits me with her mop quite as hard as she could because of 'em."
"Aoko? Who's that? Why would she hit you with a mop?" Ayumi buried her face in the flower, breathing in the sweetness; she looked up at him after a moment, pollen dusting the end of her nose. *Geez, she's a cute kid, isn't she? Makes me wish I had a little sister; being an only child isn't all it's cracked up to be.*
"Oh, just a girl I know. She has a really awful temper, but she's sort of nice anyway. I've known her since I was about your age." His sharp gaze had been scanning between the trees; it suddenly fixed on several small figures heading towards the bench. "Gotta go now, Ayumi-chan. Tell you what—" he said to her downcast face, "—you practice copying people's voices, okay? Just think hard about how they sound and try and imitate them—oh, and never ask *them* if you sound right, because nobody ever really sounds like they think they do. Ask somebody else."
Watching the children meandering towards them, Hei-san suddenly got a rather gleeful smirk on his face. "In fact…… why don't you work on imitating Conan's voice? That'd be a good start." Mentally he rubbed his hands together. *Let's see how you handle THAT, Kudo-san…..*
"Okay—but when'll I see you again?" She gathered up her pebbles and stuffed them in one pocket, eyes hopeful.
Hei-san stood, stretching. "Well….. since we keep meeting like this, we ought to make that official. You come here most afternoons, right?"
"Uh huh." It didn't occur to Ayumi to ask her friend how he knew this, although later she would wonder.
"So why don't I meet you here every Friday? You head over a little early and I'll teach you what I can." He grinned down at her lopsidedly. "Bet I can make a magician out of you yet….." The teenager held out a hand. "You don't tell anybody who's teaching you and I'll keep on with the teaching, okay? Fair deal?"
Eyes sparkling, Ayumi shook hands with Hei-san for the second time since meeting him. "Okay!"
"That does it, then--- you are now a Magician's Apprentice. Better get going now, your friends are coming. Seeya later, Ayumi-chan!" He chuckled as she waved and scampered off through the trees, snatching up her fallen sandal en route but not bothering to put it on. Hei-san's laughter had a certain note of wonder in it, as if his own actions surprised him; he rumpled his hair with one hand, scratching at his head in slight puzzlement. *Why am I doing this, anyway? She's a cute kid, but I've mostly been keeping tabs on her to make sure she hadn't had her psyche scarred for life by that Ojiwa bastard—I hadn't intended to take her under my wing like this at all--*
..… but he really didn't have anybody else to share his magic with; never had, not since his dad had died. No matter how many times he performed in small school displays, no matter how many times he did tricks to amuse himself (or befuddle certain less appreciative audiences, ones in uniforms), their attention stopped at viewing; nobody seemed to want to learn how to do his tricks themselves. It was a lack he had thought about ruefully a time or two before and tried to remedy, but somehow things just never worked out. And while it wasn't really a big deal (or so he told himself), sometimes that lack made him feel maybe the least little bit… lonely.
*Oh well….. might be fun, teaching somebody who actually wants to learn. Besides, this is one way to keep tabs on a certain somebody ELSE as well…..*
As he slipped away through the lengthening shadows he paused for a second, watching his small friend as she joined the others; one child moved more sedately than the others, more deliberately and less randomly. *Hey, Conan-kun; glad to see you're feeling well enough to play with your friends—I wonder, do you really enjoy being a little kid all over again or is it all just that, an act? Wonder how I'd handle it…? Bet I'd totally freak out.*
*Look at him; he seems… happy. Happier than he was without 'Rin', that's for sure. Good for you, Kudo. Bet you'd be way embarrassed if you knew I was watching you climb on the Monkey Bars, though.*
*Guess I'd better get going; got places to go, people to avoid being arrested by, gems to steal….. I don't really think that that ruby down at the Metro Museum's gonna be the Pandora Gem, but I'd feel like an absolute idiot if I didn't check it out and it DID turn out to be the right one. Besides, I don't want to disappoint Nakatori-san, do I?* He chuckled to himself, flexing his fingers; he could almost feel his other self sliding into place with all the ease of a garment being donned—a cloak perhaps, or a top hat…..
Smiling to himself, Hei-san left the park; he had a busy evening ahead.
"Hmmm? What?" The woman sat at her computer in the family room, quick fingers flying across the keys as she checked her email. Her daughter watched for a few minutes more before speaking, toeing the carpet in her bare feet and pajamas.
"Can we grow stuff on our balcony?"
The question was unusual enough to catch her mother's attention; she quirked one eyebrow towards her child. "I suppose so… we get enough light. Why? Did you want a plant, 'Yumi-chan?"
"Uh huh; I want a rosebush! Please, 'Kaachan? Can I have one?" The child reached across her mother, playing with the mouse and making the pointer spiral all over the screen. She wiggled impatiently. "Pleeeeeease? I'll take care of it— I'll water it and, and bring you flowers, and keep icky bugs away, and—"
"Well….." She blinked. *A rosebush…? Hmph; who can understand how kids think these days, anyway?* At least she wasn't asking for another video game. It was a good sign for her to be so interested in other things beside that detective club she spent so much time playing with, especially after what had happened not that long ago….. The mother's mind shied away from the whole incident, trying not to consider the 'what ifs' that had haunted her sleep for weeks afterwards. "I don't see why not; we can pick one out tomorrow—what color of rose would you like, 'Yumi-chan?"
The little girl bounced in place happily; the mouse-pointer made delighted loops across the monitor. "White!"
* * * * * * * * * * * * *
And as sirens wailed and police inspectors cursed his ancestry, a thief chuckled as he soared on the winds above the city with a glittering jewel clutched in one gloved hand, hefting it absentmindedly and wondering how it would juggle. He'd have to find several more of matching size and weight….. temporarily, of course…..
End of Part One
Ysabet's Notes: HOW did I ever end up writing a multi-part story like this? (Wail!) This was supposed to be a one-parter! Geez…… Um, if you haven't read "Second Wind" you are going to be SO utterly lost here—this is another direct continuation, starting about two weeks after the end of SW. I really, really, REALLY didn't plan on it being a multi-part thingie, but so it goes; once again a fic has taken on a life of its own. I swear, when I started thinking about cutting it down it *growled* at me and threatened to hide all my right shoes, an awful thing that has only happened to me once (Don't ask. Just don't ask.) and not something I wish to see happen again. So, well….. Yes, this one'll involve Ayumi's suspicions regarding Rin/Ran; yes, it'll cover a span of a few years; and yes, there will be LOTS of Kaitou Kid as well as Conan in it. How do I get myself into these things? Rrrrrgh.
Sigh….. I'm really writing this against my better judgment. I really am. I'm working on other fics. It was supposed to be a *short* fic (whimper)! What happened?!? ………………………..Ysabet (wandering off in search of her common sense, with *very* little hope of finding it. This was bound to occur sooner or later.)