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Kaito wakes up with the taste of salt in his mouth and a sharp pain in his side. The former makes him smack his lips and grimace; the latter makes him hiss and wince when he tries to sit up.

"Don't move," a low female voice urges him. His eyelids offer only the slightest resistance to opening, and he finds himself locking eyes with a brown-haired little girl. The age of her eyes don't quite match her physical appearance, though, and Kaito's thoughts go momentarily to his favorite young detective.

The girl turns away, asking someone for bandages - and speak of the devil. "Tantei-kun," Kaito marvels. "Whatever could bring you to help me?"

The boy looks Kaito up and down. There's something vaguely awed about him, colored by a bit of horror. "If you don't know already, you must not be aware of the situation you're in."

"What are you - ?" Kaito looks down and nearly jumps out of his shirt. Which, ow, he really should avoid sudden movements. But that is a lot of blood. Really, really a lot.

Too much.

"If this is all mine..."

"It is," the girl says flatly, pushing him onto his back again. She rucks up one side of his shirt, wiping at the bloody mess that is his side. Kaito winces automatically, but it doesn't hurt nearly as much as before.

"Then how am I alive?" he wonders, finishing his previous thought.

Both the girl and the detective nod toward the far side of the room - an upper floor of Tokyo Tower, Kaito realizes when he sees a familiar skyline out the window. And sitting next to it, head bowed...

Akako? "Ojousan?" Kaito sits up, ignoring the girl's protests; his side hardly hurts at all now. Given the apparent source of his healing, it makes sense. "Have you worked your magic on me again?"

She looks up at him and smiles weakly. "One last time, yes."

Kaito frowns. One last time? He doesn't like the sound of that.

Before he can question her further, a door opens - the staircase to the roof. Nerves high, Kaito has his card gun in hand and ready to fire before he can even see who's there. But it's only Hakuba, a white suit jacket in hand, looking surprised and unamused simultaneously.

"Your work is to be applauded," he says - to Akako? He then throws the jacket at Kaito, who catches it one-handed. Somehow, it's come out of this spotless. The blood is still damp on his shirt, so Kaito decides to not put the jacket on just yet.

"How much do you remember?"

Ooh, detectives in stereo. That's a bit disorienting. Kaito takes a moment to regain his balance and recall.

"I'd gotten the gem." He checks the jacket pocket; it's not there. Hakuba smirks, holds it aloft between two fingers. "I was flying off," to find a private rooftop to hold it up to moonlight on, "when..." Kaito's hand goes a few centimeters above his head automatically, and then to his side. "A sniper, I suppose?"

"Nakamori-keibu and his team are in pursuit," the younger detective says.

Kaito sighs. "They won't find them."

"So you know who your assailant is?"

Kaito shakes his head, but before he can speak, Akako does. "It's no use, Hakuba-kun. These men are beyond Nakamori's abilities."

The little detective hones in on Akako. "You're speaking in plural - of a group? An organization?" He shares a look with his medically-inclined friend at this. Kaito wonders, not for the first time, about who and how and why he came to be this way.

"That isn't important right now," Kaito says. "I take it I managed to reach the tower, even though my hang glider was punctured by bullets, but how did I escape them?"

Once again, heads tilt toward Akako. She looks away.

"It seems I owe you my thanks once again, ojousan," Kaito says with a KID smile, though he means it sincerely. He rises to his feet and gently inspects his side. It's hard to tell for sure beneath the drying blood, but he can't find any trace of a wound, and the area isn't even tender now. "Your type of magic is definitely superior to mine in this respect."

A pained look crosses Akako's face, and again Kaito means to investigate it, but a thunderous echo of footsteps interrupts his thoughts. Hakuba steps further into the room, away from the staircase entrance - but it's the one next to it, the one from floors below, that bursts open.

Aoko stands in the doorway, panting hard, clutching a white top hat with a single hole in it.

"Aoko saw a red light," she gets out between ragged breaths, "and remembered that Hakuba-kun and Akako-chan were still up here, even though the police said before they left for everyone to - "

Her eyes meet Kaito's, and she sucks in a loud, shocked breath.

"Aoko-kun," Hakuba starts to say, just as Akako says, "Nakamori-san..."

Kaito fumbles for the hem of his shirt and quickly tucks it back in. Fumbling for words takes him longer, and he doesn't do it nearly as well. "A-ah... I, ah, believe that belongs to me? Ojousan?"

Aoko steps closer, a curiously blank look on her face.


She steps closer, until they're almost nose to nose, and stares into his eyes intently. Then, without warning, she tweaks his nose.


And pinches his cheek.


And tugs at his ear, and his hair, and grabs him by the chin.

"Ow, ow, quit it, Aoko - " Uh. Shit.




Aoko's face shifts through more expressions than even he, with a lifetime of built-up Aoko experience, can identify. "It is you," she finally says, dismayed. She reaches out and touches his shirt, recoiling a few steps the moment her fingertips make contact with tacky, congealing blood. A broken noise comes out of her. "If you weren't really, really hurt right now, Aoko would - "

And that's when Snake steps out of the shadows, pulls Aoko back, and holds a gun to her head.

He must have come down the stairs when Aoko was running up, must have hidden just behind the door, must have waited for someone to get close enough... Kaito thinks these things so he doesn't have to think about Aoko standing in front of him, a gun pressed against her head, eyes very wide and very, very blue.

Other people are saying things - the little detective loudly, Hakuba firmly, Akako neutrally - all of them trying to convince Snake to let Aoko go.

Kaito just looks at her wide, blue eyes, and tries his best to apologize without saying a word.

"Shut up!" Snake barks, and they fall silent. Aoko is nudged sideways, until Kaito's staring into the eyes of his most hated enemy. "You're a hard one to kill, Kaitou KID."

"I would apologize," Kaito says flatly, KID poker face in full effect, "but I'm not a fan of dying."

"How many times has it been now - three? Four? Once nine years ago, once that night last year, and once tonight." Aoko's brow furrows for a moment, then her eyes go wide and sad. Kaito swallows against the old pain rising in his throat; it seems she's figured out the connection between the old KID's disappearance and Oyaji's death. "Three times, then. And there's no point in trying to kill you anymore."

Confusion threatens to break through the poker face. "No?"

Snake snorts. "I saw the red light, plain as day. I saw Volley's comet, though it's six months early. I know what you did, KID. You drank Pandora's tear!" He laughs. "Very clever, to make yourself immortal so we can't threaten your life." He grins, twisting the hand holding his gun. It digs into Aoko's temple at a painful-looking angle. She winces, and Kaito has to grit his teeth to keep from doing something stupid. "A shame you didn't think to give any to her. Now, give me the gem, and any tears you might have saved, and I might not kill your - erk!" With a little shudder, Snake collapses against Aoko. She wrenches free from his grip, grabs the gun from his slack hand, and shakily tries to unload the ammo.

The little detective's little friend straightens out of her crouch, shutting the lid on her watch. "Tranquilizer darts," she explains. "He should be unconscious for twenty to thirty minutes, depending on body mass."

Aoko hasn't managed to remove the magazine by the time Kaito can move his legs, so he gently takes the gun from her. Noticing his own shaking hands, he hands the weapon off to Hakuba, who neatly takes care of it as Kaito and Aoko both fall to their knees.

"I'm so sorry," Kaito mumbles, voice trembling, holding her hands in his as tight as he can. "Aoko, I'm sorry, I never - "

"Aoko knows, Kaito," she says, squeezing back. She's tearing up, and her voice is thick with it. "I-it's because of your dad, right? He was KID, and that man killed him."

Kaito's throat is so tight, for a moment he can only nod. "Because he wouldn't steal Pandora for them."

"Pandora... that jewel?" Kaito turns to see what Aoko's looking at; it's Hakuba, and the gemstone he'd recovered from Kaito's suit jacket earlier. He's frowning at it dubiously.

Someone laughs, high and creepy. Kaito nearly jumps out of his skin, he's already so tense with nerves, but it's only Akako.

"Pandora," she says, mockingly. "A jewel. Truly, men are fools." She laughs again, until it turns into sobs. Her head falls forward into her hands, and her shoulders shake heavily. Kaito doesn't really know how to react. He's not all that good with crying girls - not even when he's got KID's poker face on - and he's never seen Akako cry before.

He looks around. Aoko's wiping tears from the corners of her eyes. She still looks shaky, and Kaito knows that even though she knows why he became KID, even though she's a kind girl when her temper isn't flaring, tonight has changed things between them. Hakuba's on his phone - hopefully calling someone to pick up Snake, and not Kaito too, but Kaito can't be sure. The two little ones are hovering over Snake's unconscious body, inspecting him and discussing something quietly. Probably something to do with their own mystery.

Gradually, Akako stops crying. "It is said that Pandora was the first woman on Earth," she declares between loud sniffles.

Hakuba, done with his phone call, nods slowly. "I'm familiar with the myth," he says. "The gods give her a box full of the world's evils, and tell her not to open it. She does so, too curious for her own good, and only manages to shut it in time to keep hope inside." He tsks lightly, under his breath, and starts inspecting the gem again. "Is this gem meant to be the box, and hope the 'tears' inside?"

Akako gives Hakuba a cool look. "Truly, men are fools," she repeats. "I was not speaking of myth, but of history. Women "too curious for their own good" in fables and religion are witches by another name, as I am." She falters. "Was."

Kaito latches onto that. "'Was'?" Akako averts her eyes. "Ojo - " Wait, no point in that now. "Akako-san, what exactly did you do to save me?"

"I see," Hakuba says, nodding. "So the tears are literal, then. And the hope trapped inside is... magic?" He stumbles over the word, obviously uncomfortable with the concept. Magic doesn't fit the logical worldview of a detective the way it does Kaito's. Not that he understands any of what Hakuba just said.

"More or less," Akako concedes.

"More or less of what?" Kaito recalls the taste he woke up with - salt - tears? "Did you cry in my mouth?" He grimaces. That sounds so gross.

"A witch cannot cry," Akako says stiffly. "It's symbolic of losing hope. If she cries... she is no longer a witch."

What? "What?"

"Akako-chan's magic is gone?"

Akako's jaw tightens, and she nods. "But because I cried for - someone, the remaining magic was given to them." Kaito frowns. He doesn't feel all that magical. "In the form of healing energy," she explains tightly, and - oh. That makes much more sense. "If it was given to a healthy person, it might very well make them immortal."

"But for me..." Kaito presses a hand to his side. The blood's dry now, made his nice blue shirt all stiff and brownish. "It just brought me back."

Akako hesitates a moment. "I believe so, yes." Kaito gives her a long look - she's not sure?

Well, that's not necessarily a bad thing, he guesses.