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Kudou Shinichi is not an unreasonable person.

He understands that there are things people can change, and things that people cannot change. He knows there’s no use in complaining about it, and that there’s no use in badgering people about it when said people are not capable of immediately rectifying the situation.

This is why he does not hate Haibara Ai.

In fact, there are several more reasons to not hate her, and Shinichi has always been the logical sort. She was born and raised into the Organization, her parents were part of it, her sister was part of it, so of course she couldn’t be expected to refuse to cooperate from the get-go. Not to mention that she ran away the second she had no one left there anyway. She hadn’t even wanted to make the apotoxin in the first place, after all.

When she told him that she was the one responsible for it, when he saw how she slightly cringed away, expecting a recrimination, expecting, perhaps, a blow... he couldn’t bring himself to condemn her.

The worst part about the apotoxin wasn’t that he was a kid again, although that part really sucked. It was more the fact that he was six again that was the problem.

 

~

 

The image of the origami cherry blossom is still where it had been before he’d shrunk: on his left shoulder, right below his collarbone, right where he had pinned that class badge all those years ago. He’d been born with that soulmark, the little pink blotch showing up in his baby pictures until his parents had stopped taking pictures of him without something covering it. Seeing the same soulmark on Ran was surprising, but wonderful. She usually kept it covered too, but at the beach you wear a swimsuit and she hadn’t realized how important it might be to keep it covered. They were already good friends at that point, so seeing it was like a promise that he’d found his Watson: the one that would stay with him no matter what.

They told their parents the minute they figured it out, babbling over each other about matching soulmarks, and the adults showed surprise until three of their faces softened into smiles, Kogoro-ojisan yanking Ran away and ranting about soulmates and how they were too young and how that brat’s not good enough for my angel. Eri-obasan whapped him on the head for that. Kāsan and Tōsan pulled Shinichi to the side too, and asked him if his mark hurt.

Bewildered, Shinichi asked, “Why would it be hurting?” His parents exchanged a measured look, and he could tell it meant they were keeping a secret from him.

His mother smiled warmly, all actress, no secrets, “No reason at all, sweetheart.” Shinichi opened his mouth to protest, but Tōsan reached out to ruffle his hair in a rare show of affection.

“That Mouri girl will be one of your best friends for years to come, Shinichi.” When Shinichi gave him a weird look, he grinned, doing his signature speculative pose, adding, “I can tell. If you can’t, then you’re not much of a detective,” which lead to an immediate: “Of course I’m that good of a detective, Tōsan, I knew it without you telling me, I could feel it!” that made Kāsan dissolve in a fit of giggles as Shinichi stormed off towards Ran, who was skipping back towards him, too. He and Ran played together for the rest of the day, and he tried to eavesdrop on the adults, but the only word he caught was platonic.

It slipped his mind.

 

~

 

The problem with being six again was that he no longer had the soulmark that had popped up on the inside of his left wrist when he was eight.

There wasn’t a significant event surrounding it. No story behind it. It was just that between one minute and the next, there was suddenly the solid black outline of a playing card, an ace of spades, where there had been none previously. Shinichi would’ve missed it if it hadn’t stood out so much, contrasting so absolutely with the color of his skin. As it was, he’d just blinked at it a couple of times before putting a sweat band over it and going back to soccer practice.

He only remembered it again when he took off the sweat band when he was home again and getting ready for a shower. There really wasn’t much he could do about it, if anything he’d just have to look at the wrist of everyone he runs into, and with that number being ridiculously high he pushes the thought aside. He and Ran were best friends, so it makes sense to assume that the one with the matching mark wouldn’t just be a random acquaintance. Besides, he couldn’t really make himself care that much about his new soulmark. He already had Ran, his Watson. Sherlock didn’t need anyone else, really, so why should he?

The only reason he remembered the day so well was because after his shower, he found his mother crying in the living room.

That never happened.

But when he asked her what was wrong, all she could get out was that someone close to her had just died in an accident, and that it was no one he knew. After that he just stayed next to her while she cried, both of them waiting for Tōsan to get home.

It slipped his mind.

 

~

 

So here he is, a genius sixteen-slash-six year old, solving a case using Sonoko Suzuki’s voice. This detail, of course, is not the significant one. Using Sonoko is his usual fallback if Kogoro-ojisan isn’t present, and that guy hadn’t made it over the burning bridge. Plus, he personally finds it slightly poetic that he uses a member of the Magic Lover’s Club to uncover the murderer who is also in said club. Using Kogoro-ojisan in this case just wouldn’t be as satisfying.

Anyway, he’s using the speaker now. He doesn’t think Ran is in danger, but he doesn’t like the fact that he hasn’t seen her since “Doito Katsuki” appeared on the balcony. He confronts Kaitou KID. He knows that he doesn’t have any real hope of catching him this time: his fever, though mostly gone, hasn’t exactly left him in the best shape to catch a master thief, and he’s already used his anesthesia dart on Sonoko. Theoretically he could go after KID with his shoes, but there’s the problem of not having anything to kick and the aforementioned “not in the best shape” working against him, so yeah. He’s not really hoping to catch him this time.

It’s the most innocuous thing that sends a crack through his universe, like noticing how the man in black (Gin) at the coaster that day had a killer’s eyes. Conan and KID are just talking, almost commiserating the fact that they hadn’t been able to save the victim.

“That can’t be helped. I’m not a detective and you’re also sick.”

KID raises his right hand to adjust his hat, pulling it down lower to make sure it doesn't fly off when he inevitably pulls out his glider. This detail is also not the significant one.

The significant detail is that, just before he turns to leave, KID raises his left hand in farewell, giving a little wave. The significant detail is that the light from the room behind Conan lights up the color contrast marking the skin of KID’s left inner wrist, where KID’s glove has somehow gotten stuck around the bottom of his palm, where KID’s suit sleeve has fallen slightly because of the little motion, just enough for Conan to make out the outline of a playing card.

An ace of spades.

KID’s already flying away on his glider when Conan’s knees collapse from under him, the sudden pain not exactly incapacitating him but taking him completely by surprise: his left forearm suddenly feeling like it was ground zero for a bomb. It feels like the apotoxin, the cure, like it’s concentrating all it’s pain in that one section of his arm. ‘Is it some kind of side-affect?’ he wonders, panic-stricken, ‘Are the drugs kicking in spontaneously now? Why is it only my arm?’ To be fair, the pain is spreading to the tips of his fingers and the top of his shoulder, but the pain there is dull compared to the centerpoint- his inner wrist.

The pain begins fading even before it can really spread, a dull ache where it had been acid, no sign of growing bigger or even of more shrinking, but it had just been so sudden, so out of left-field. And he has no idea what caused it, no idea if there was a cause. His brain insists there is something he’s forgetting, something important, but the now-dull-throb in his forearm has apparently decided he also needs a killer migraine on top of being sick.

Wonderful.

 

~

 

“Haibara, what the hell is going on.”

When he’d been force-fed the apotoxin, he’d passed out from the pain and woken up a couple hours later. When he’d drunk the alcohol that Hattori had given him, he’d slowly over the course of about ten minutes become an internal inferno, grew, was sick the entire time, and then the pain had come back and lasted about five minutes until he shrunk back and passed out. He couldn’t even be sure whether the sickness had gotten worse because of the cure, or if it was just that bad from the start. Which meant, logically (and Shinichi is a logical person), that anything related to the apotoxin is generally guaranteed three things: a ridiculous amount of pain that makes him feel like all of his bones are being submerged in acid, a change in size, and then the pain stops once he’s gone through a size change.

This time, even discounting the fact that nothing could have triggered the apotoxin, the only one of the three guarantees that have been somewhat acknowledged is the presence of pain part. As he sits on the exam table, a pressure wrap over the crook of his elbow, watching Haibara continue her tests on his blood so she can answer his question, he glances once again at the clock to confirm that as of two minutes ago it has been six hours since the episode. And his arm has not stopped aching.

Haibara sighs and pushes away from her desk, spinning her chair to face him.

“Kudou-kun, I’m not finding anything wrong with your blood, nor any traces of the activated form of the apotoxin. Are you absolutely positive that whatever is happening to your arm has to do with the apotoxin?” Conan’s eyebrows draw together, once again mentally cataloguing his status.

“Of course I’m not positive,” Conan rebuts, shifting on the table. “It’s just that I can’t think of any other obvious explanation. And considering the fact that the pain I felt when it started was the same intensity as the apotoxin, I felt it was a reasonable guess.” He stares at the wall to his right, feeling like he’s forgetting something, like he’s missing something important, “Do you have any guesses, Haibara?”

Haibara begins cleaning up her work station, responding with, “Well, as your doctor, I suppose I’m supposed to ask some obligatory questions. For example: was there anything, anything at all, that may have been the cause?” Conan opens his mouth, but she continues without sparing him a glance, “But you’ve already told me that there wasn’t. Several times. Which means that either A: there really was nothing, or that B: it wasn’t anything you recognized as a possible cause. Which leads to the question: what were you doing when it happened?”

Conan waits, wondering if she’ll just keep talking, when she looks over her shoulder at him and raises an eyebrow. “I was solving a case,” he informs her, and she scoffs under her breath.

“Of course you were,” she mutters, then adds, louder, “walk me through it. Step-by-step.”

So he does. Step-by-step, he summarizes all of what had happened in the Magic Lover’s Murder Case, from dropping Ran and Sonoko off at the beginning, hearing the radio’s news report, running back across the bridge to warn Ran. The body in the snow, the crossbow, the magic trick, the picture of a sail on the wine bottle. Then he tells her of how he’d tranquilized Sonoko, and how he explained the murder, Haibara paying attention as she sterilizes the test tubes that had contained Conan’s blood. His mind is racing ahead of his mouth, eager to finish the story, and he’s barely gotten to the explanation of how the body had gotten to it’s position in the middle of the snow when he-

When he remembers-

Oh.

Oh right.

He stops in the middle of his sentence, Haibara looking up sharply from where she’s polishing a beaker, and blurts out what he’s just remembered.

The ace of spades.

“I found my soulmate."

Haibara drops the beaker. Conan jolts in surprise at the sound of the glass shattering, his eyes darting up to see what had startled Haibara so badly, but her face is awash with a mix of bewilderment, shock, and betrayal. Conan blinks, “Haibara?” She ignores both his implied question and the shards of glass at her feet as she stalks over to stand in front of him, her arms folded tightly across her chest.

“Your soulmate? ” She asks in a strangled voice, sounding as if even she can’t believe the words coming out of her mouth, “You met your soulmate, and you didn’t make this connection earlier?” The near condescension coloring her tone makes him recoil slightly.

“What does meeting my soulmate have to do with this? How are they connected?” His tone is snappier than usual, but he feels it’s rather justified with how she’d phrased the question. Haibara pauses, her arms dropping to her sides as she gives him a look of disbelief that makes him shift once again on the table. “What is it?” He asks warily.

“You-” Haibara, for once, looks like she’s been blind-sided by an extremely heavy object. “Y- you don’t know?”

Wavering between irritation and concern, Conan bites out a terse, “I don’t know what.”

Haibara blinks. Then shakes her head. Looks at him and blinks again. Conan waits. Her mouth opens, then she pauses, and closes it again.

Her voice finally makes an appearance, coming out in a strangled: “Your parents never told you? You never read or heard about this at all?” Her question is laced with bemusement, and Conan feels like it’s rather obvious what his answer is, considering he’s already said it, but he shakes his head at her. She sits down hard on her swivel chair, staring at him as if he’s suddenly developed an entirely new face, then closes her eyes and sighs.

“Okay.” Her mutter is obviously not really intended for anyone in particular, but the following, “What do you know about soulmates?” is just as obviously directed at him.

He tilts his head at her, slowly uttering a confused, “They’re predestined? They’re with you for life?” Warming up to his (admittedly limited) knowledge, he lists, “You and your soulmate have a matching mark, which helps you identify each other. Almost everyone has at least one. It’s the general custom to cover up your soulmark at all times.” He stops here, mostly because that’s about all he knows from his lack of research. Haibara appears to wait for him to continue, but he gives a slight shrug of his shoulders, and a look of comprehension and calculation sets over her face

“Okay.” She repeats the phrase, care and deliberation in the single word. She clasps her hands on her lap, looks him in the eye, and states: “Here’s what you need to know.

“Although the term soulmates does imply some form of predestination, the topic of the wherefores is highly debated. Some believe it is destiny, such as the red thread of fate. Others believe it has more a chemical aspect to it: such as whose biological makeup is most compatible with whose. It is absolutely guaranteed that a soulmate will be with you for life, however: the most common scenario is for an individual to go their entire life without ever identifying or even run into their soulmate. Studies show that, upon encountering your soulmate, your soul immediately forms an emotional attachment to them, the bond growing stronger over time. Cases generally have proven that, when the bond is strong enough, it is extremely common for one soulmate to follow their other half in death, no matter if they are still young, healthy, and safe.” Conan grimaces at this little factoid: he never realized he was endangering Ran just by existing as Edogawa Conan. A small part of his brain whispers ‘KID is soulmate too’, the ache in his arm throbbing slightly as if in agreement, but Conan compartmentalizes that, for now.

“It is correct that each pair, or a rare trio, will have matching soulmarks. You are also correct in the fact that the majority of the population possesses at least one soulmark, though it is rather uncommon for someone to have more than one.” Conan puzzles over that, rather uncommon, and opens his mouth to ask Haibara about possible medical complications due to having two soulmarks, but she keeps talking.

“And lastly, you are correct in saying it’s common courtesy to cover one’s soulmark. However, I believe that you are not aware of why.” She pauses significantly, raising her eyebrows in question, waiting for him to tell her that she’s incorrect.

He says nothing.

For third time this half-hour, Haibara sighs. “Kudou-kun, the thing about soulmarks is that, well, they’re designed to react . What generally happens when you find your soulmate is this. First: you see their soulmark, the one that matches yours. Next: your brain or soul, whichever you prefer, identifies them as your soulmate. Finally: your soulmark will release an immense amount of pain to alert you of this fact.” Conan sits up straighter, confused and alert, and Haibara smirks slightly, “Sounds familiar, no?” Conan opens his mouth to protest, but Haibara talks over him again with: “The only way to stop the pain is to kiss your soulmate.”

What.

What?

“What?” Conan manages to choke out, his entire body (besides his thrice-damned arm) seemingly going entirely numb.

Haibara hums in acknowledgement, before adding blandly, “It works the other way around, too. You see your soulmate’s soulmark, yours hurts, you kiss them and the pain goes away. But when they see your soulmark, theirs will hurt and they have to kiss you to make the pain go away, even if you’ve already kissed hundreds of times.” Haibara absently rubs at the outside of her right upper-thigh.

There’s a word that keeps coming up in this conversation, the word that Conan is still stuck on. “Kiss?” He sputters the word, careening through emotions like an out-of-control ferris wheel: embarrassment, shock, confusion, horror- ‘I look SIX and I have to somehow convince Kaitou KID to kiss me if I want this shitty pain to go away?’ - and hysteria, let’s not forget that one.

Haibara, somehow almost enjoying the cyclone of emotions Conan has obviously brought along for show-and-tell on his face, says, “Yes, Kudou-kun, you have to kiss them,” with no small amount of amusement.

Bitch.

She swivels in her chair, stating over her shoulder: “Your doctor’s advice is to go find your cherry-blossom soulmate and give ‘em a kiss, that’ll clear the pain right up. Hopefully your soulmate is as willing to wait as Mouri-san is, if they’re closer to your real age.” But Conan’s mind has come to a screeching halt, skipping like some broken record. He doesn’t ask about how Haibara knows about the cherry-blossom: she’s done enough physical exams on him already to know him front-and-back (at least on a medical table).

What he doesn’t understand is- “Why do I have to kiss Ran?” It comes out of his mouth as he asks it, but the words bring the picture of it to his mind: her face coming closer into his field of vision, blocking everything else out, her eyes closed, her lips- no. He shakes his head vigorously, trying to get the images out of his head. No matter how many times Sonoko had teased Ran and Shinichi about being soulmates and destined from birth and practically married, the two of them had always shaken it off. Only two of those things were right, after all, and Sonoko wouldn’t listen whenever they told her they were just friends. Just friends didn’t exactly explain what they meant to each other, but anything that felt more right like made for each other and born to be together really had too many romantic implications to truly fit.

Haibara spins back around, her expression freezing in place. “What?” her question is tight, overly controlled. “Your soulmate is Mouri-san? She has your cherry-blossom?” Figuring it won’t exactly hurt to tell her, Conan just nods. “And you only figured it out now?” Incredulity bleeds into her voice, and Conan feels a disapproving look form on his face.

“No,” he snaps out waspishly. “I’m not stupid, we figured out we were soulmates when we were four!” Does she think he’s an idiot or something? Just because he doesn’t know that much about soulmates and soulmarks, doesn’t mean that she’s free to treat him like an actual six-year-old. Haibara goes oddly still, confusion attempting to make it’s way onto her face, but her poker face slams home.

“So, if you knew from the first time you were six, why did you not know about the kiss thing?” It doesn’t seem like the question she really wants to ask, but she still appears to want an answer, so Conan purses his lips, shrugging.

“I’m not sure. I mean, I never felt pain when I saw Ran’s soulmark, so, maybe that has something to do with it?” Haibara blinks, comprehension a flicker on her face.

“I see, that makes sense. You and Mouri-kun are platonic soulmates. It explains the seeming lack of romantic attraction between the two of you.” At Conan’s curious look, she adds, “Not all soulmate bonds are romantic, though it is admittedly rare to find one that is not. However, I have a more pressing topic for us to discuss. That is- if Mouri-kun is your soulmate...” She appears to steel herself, drawing her poker face back on. “Why,” her voice is oddly blank, “did you say you found your soulmate on this ‘Magic Lover’s Murder Case’?” Conan huffs impatiently.

“My other soulmate,” he clarifies, surprised that Haibara hasn’t made the connection herself. Well she had said having more than one was uncommon, and admittedly it’s unlikely she even knows about the other mark. He’s never had it as Conan- to his aggravation- and she’s only ever really known him as Conan. Come to think of it... does really anyone know about Shinichi’s second soulmark? Ever since it had popped up he’d just worn a sweatband over it. Only his parents had ever asked, and they’d only shown passing curiosity, so he hadn’t bothered to explain.

Haibara face is flabbergasted, as if she’s seen this coming but still can’t believe it. “Kudou-kun,” she says slowly, steadily, her voice careful, “where is your other soulmark?” Getting the feeling that something bad is coming, Conan wordlessly holds out his left arm, angled down, so that she would be able to see it easily, if it was there. Her eyes rove over his arm, then, almost frustrated she snaps out, “I don’t see it.” She gets up from her chair again and carefully takes his arm, leaning in to look at it closely. “Is it flesh-colored?” He scoffs under his breath and she glances up at him with sharp eyes.

“No, it’s solid black.” Her eyes widen and snap back to his arm, maybe searching for something small, so he tells her, “It’s not there. It’s been gone since I became Conan.” Once again her eyes flip back to him, a flood of horror washing over her face.

“What do you mean: ‘It’s been gone’? Soulmarks don’t just disappear!” This is one of those rare moments that Haibara chooses to use her “above-indoors” voice, and Conan decides that it is a lot less tolerable when they aren’t actually outdoors.

His reply is waspish: “Yeah, well, people don’t normally just shrink, either. Do they.” Haibara slams her palm on the table next to him, and Conan wonders if all the noise will bring Agasa-hakase. He hopes not.

“Then how do you explain still having the cherry-blossom soulmark?” She demands, leaning in. “I still have my soulmark! What does your soulmark vanishing have anything to do with the apotoxin if two out of three soulmarks are proven to have survived?” Conan groans, and puts a hand on her shoulder, pushing her slightly back.

“First of all, Haibara: personal space,” he gives her a pointed look, and she obligingly (obviously irritated, she crosses her arms again) takes a step back. “Second: it’s probably because I wasn’t born with that soulmark. I was born with Ran’s mark, and I’m assuming you were born with yours?” A sharp nod, and he continues, “I got the other one when I was about eight years old. I figured, when I noticed it was gone after the apotoxin, that it would come back when I hit that age again, whether through the cure or-” a pause, then a slight shudder as he finishes, “or when I grow back to that age. My theory was confirmed when it did indeed show up when I became Shinichi again that time.” Haibara paces back and forth, her shoes clicking on the floor in harsh footsteps.

“That makes no sense,” she hisses under her breath. “Soulmarks are connected to the soul, not the body, and even though it’s rare for someone to get a soulmark after birth, it’s not unheard of. But you would think that once you get the soulmark, it would be attached to your soul, not your physical body!”

Conan considers this, then contributes, “That would explain why my soulmark reacted even though it’s not physically there now. If I had completely reverted back to my pre-eight year old self, logically, wouldn’t their soulmark be gone too? Until mine came back?” Haibara’s frozen between steps, her weight mid-shift, staring at him with wide eyes and a pale face growing paler. Conan pushes forward with: “Besides, we’ve already confirmed the apotoxin literally de-aged us. You said it yourself: everything apart from the nervous system, memories, and personality of the inflicted is reverted to a child-like state. And, as you already know, the epidermis does not fall in any of those three categories.” He looks back at her again, wondering why she’s gone so quiet and why she looks so horrified, adding a defensive “What?”

“Kudou-kun,” she says softly, “I have absolutely no idea what could happen. Logically, I told you what’s supposed to happen, but you don’t have the physical manifestation of your soulmark.” She pauses, and shakily brings her hand to her face, “The way I see it, there are two possible ways for this to go. One: somehow, someway, the psychological aspect of the soulbond overcomes the physical requirements. Meaning that your soulmate’s mark would be triggered just by seeing where your mark should be. This would no doubt be disorienting to them, and they would be vulnerable to a number of things that they would most likely be able to defend themself from otherwise.” Conan’s mind flashes to the times he’s seen and heard gunshots during KID heists, and his hand clenches to a fist at his side.

“The second possibility...” She murmurs, obviously reluctant, “is that the physical requirement is exactly that: a requirement. Your soulmate’s mark will not be capable of reacting until yours comes back.” She bites her lip, deliberating. “The problem,” the words are forced out from behind her hand, muffled, “is that, in either case...” she trails off, then seems to steel herself and continues, “you would need to inform your soulmate of our situation if you wanted the pain gone.” Bewildered, Conan’s eyes flash to where his mark is supposed to be, the place that throbs in time with his heartbeat whenever he thinks about his mark, and back to her, positive there is confusion written on his face. In a tight voice, Haibara tacks on, “That is of course, assuming you don’t want to dart your soulmate into unconsciousness in order to kiss them.” His eyes widen in understanding.

“They wouldn’t have any visual clues to work on,” he deduces numbly. “I don’t have the soulmark to convince them they’re my soulmate, so I’d need to tell them the entire story and hope they believed me.” Conan’s mind flashes to KID again, to how all of his psychological profiles indicate that he’s at least slightly on the insane side, and thinks ‘He would believe me, I think. If I explained it all.’ But then, he remembers how completely unharmed Ran had been after that first heist. For all of his childish pranks, KID truly sticks to the motto “No one gets hurt”. Conan thinks back to the murder case, how “Doito” had hit in the ground in frustration, the empathy in his words: “That can’t be helped. I’m not a detective and you’re also sick”. KID is a good person. Conan’s eyes meet Haibara’s.

“What do you want to do, Kudou-kun?” Her voice is soft. “Considering they’re your soulmate, I can’t see how we wouldn’t be able to trust them with the information. But are you willing to endanger your soulmate by telling them, by bringing them into this?” She wrenches her gaze away from his, and pins it to the floor. “As your doctor, I’m obligated to warn you. The pain of finding and not kissing your soulmate is not designed to be endurable over a long period of time. It’s not unheard of for the pain to drive the sufferer insane.”

Now that she mentions it, Conan is pretty sure that he’s heard of a case like that before. A woman admitted into the insane asylum, alternating between being catatonic and screaming about how her foot was melting. After investigation, it was found that her soulmark was on the back of her right heel, and that her best friend’s husband had the matching soulmark. Even after he’d kissed her, it was too late. Looking back on that, Conan has to wonder how he hadn’t made the connection before. He admits that he’d chalked it off as “what happens when you don’t stay with your soulmate” and left it at that. The train of thought brings an image of his ace of spades soulmark, and his wrist throbs in protest. Haibara is still watching him, waiting for his decision.

He’s quiet. Considering.

He’s already gone through so much in order to keep Ran in the dark. He knows he may have permanently changed their relationship by trying to protect her: but he knows her. He knows that, if he tells her, she’ll do all she can to help him, and she’ll be considerably reckless about it. He knows he can’t risk telling her. But KID. Kaitou KID. Conan doesn’t know KID as well as he does Ran. He doesn’t know for sure whether KID would even do anything if he knew. But... KID is a good person. Conan knows this. Because of that, he knows he can’t tell KID. KID already has snipers after him, already pulls reckless stunts and sometimes gets so close to being caught that from KID’s side of things it’s not even funny. KID cannot be told, because telling him would place him in even more danger, and the thought of that, of being the one responsible for danger to his soulmate, sends an icy dagger of horror, fear, and pain deep into Conan’s psyche.

“I won’t tell him,” he finally says aloud. Haibara closes her eyes.

“Then you have to understand, Kudou-kun, that the possible consequences of dealing with an activated soulmark are very real. If you refuse to tell them- him?” Her sentence stops short in the form of a correction, and he nods. Does gender even really matter anymore? He’d been too obsessed with cases when he was Shinichi to even bother with romance, and now that he was six-year-old Conan, well, the situation speaks for itself. She nods too, a slight curiosity passing over her face as she continues, “If you refuse to tell him, as unethical as the situation would be, I suggest you go with the dart and kiss route.” He can see that she’s grateful he’s decided not to tell, and he knows in his head that she is only recommending it because she doesn’t want him becoming clinically insane, but it’s only the apologetic look in her eyes that is keeping him from shouting at her, the mantra of wrongwrongwrong echoing deep in his bones. Because she’s right, it is unethical, and even the idea of it makes his wrist throb again, makes his mind twist in disgust. He’s glad he doesn’t have to really argue his way out of it. She startles when he smirks up at her.

“I don’t think it would be that easy,” is what he says, trying not to sound smug, probably failing miserably. He kicks his feet, “He’s a wily one, my soulmate.” Haibara cocks her head to the side, her forehead creasing in a confused frown.

“You met him on the case,” she thinks aloud, her eyes focusing on a point passed his head, thinking hard. “And considering the fact that he’s male, that you said there was no mysterious outsider, and that you’re speaking about him in the present tense, he must be either Yoshinori Ara, Doito Katsuki, or Sugama Kiyohiro.” She pauses, then elaborates in an incredulous voice, “The owner of the house, a medical student, or some kind of unemployed housekeeper? How could any of those three be, as you say, too ‘wily’ to dart?” He continues to swing his legs in the air, and Haibara lets out an impatient huff. “Kudou-kun,” she stresses, and he grins up at her.

“Come on, Haibara,” he says, voice teasing with a hint of laughter. “Never heard of an anagram?” Her eyes instantly narrow, writing out the names in her head: he can see her arranging and rearranging the letters. He also sees when her face flashes in frustration, not making the connection. He almost blinks, rather surprised. Is it really that hard? It’d been second nature for him to figure it out, and he would’ve realized it much sooner if he hadn’t had a cold and a murder case to distract him. He sighs and adds, “Here’s a hint: one of those three left the area via glider.” Her eyes to flicker to him in half-acknowledgement, still puzzling out the names, when she seems to finally process what he’s said, her eyes returning to his with amazement and horror.

“Your soulmate-” she chokes out, and he interrupts with a falsely cheerful “Yep!” She falters, appearing as if she’d very much like to have a drink. Or five. “You can’t just dart him,” she mumbles in realization, walking back to her chair as if in a trance, sitting down heavily, “but you knew that.” Her eyes move to meet his again, “And yet you’ve decided not to tell him. Which means...” Conan waits for her to say it aloud, to make it final, and she breathes in a shaky breath before finishing, “you’ve decided to risk insanity.” He wrinkles his nose at the thought.

“I prefer to think of it as: decided to explore my limits of pain tolerance.”

Haibara’s expression flares, and she growls, “What are you, some kind of masochist? You’re reckless to a fault and now you’ve decided to risk insanity before possibly endangering,” she scoffs angrily, “the Kaitou KID? A criminal? Are you insane?” Conan sends an equally frosty look her way, and she flinches back.

“Don’t talk about him like that,” he says, his tone unforgiving. “He’s not a bad person. He’s not a criminal like Gin and Vodka and the rest of them. He doesn’t even keep what he steals! And I’ve looked into it: the majority of the damages caused during KID heists are property damage, and most of that is caused by the Task Force, not KID. And-” he cuts himself off, faltering, and Haibara’s eyes are already apologizing as he murmurs, “and he’s my soulmate, Haibara.” Instinctively, his right hand reaches to wrap around his left wrist, as if hiding it from prying eyes.

Shame pours into him as he finally lets himself think about it, how selfish he’d been. That day eight years ago, he’d considered his soulmark appearing at about the same level as developing grass stains. He’d been so happy to find that Ran had his matching soulmark, so what right did he have to just brush off another one? He should’ve been thrilled, amazed, and yet he’d just covered it up and forgotten about it. What an egotistical little brat he’d been. He hadn’t deserved another soulmate, and here he is: wishing and aching for the ace of spades to appear on his skin once more. For that: he deserves this pain, the pain that sweeps the feel of acid up his arm the harder he wishes for his soulmark back, the harder he tries to remember KID’s soulmark clearly. That day washes over him again, and with a pang he wonders (for once) why he’d gotten another soulmate at the age of eight. Soulmarks don’t just appear for no reason, after all. But what kind of reason would have warranted the development of something as life-changing as a soulmate? Had... had he been needed? Conan grits his teeth, feeling the pain, as he realizes that his soulmate- that the boy who would become KID- had needed someone- needed him- and he’d just brushed it off.

The grip he has on his left wrist hardens as the pain sears through him, and Haibara’s face whitens as she makes to get up. “No,” he manages, stilling her, “no, it’s fine.” It’s probably not fine, honestly, but it’s the best he can do. Won’t tell KID, can’t dart him and probably wouldn’t even if he could. Tolerating the pain seems to be his best option, even though even he will acknowledge that it’s not particularly a good one.

“So what?” Haibara ekes out, her composure gone. “So what,” she manages again, “you’re just going to, what, wait it out?” A hint of incredulousness, even helplessness tinges her words, “Wait until your soulmark comes back when Edogawa Conan is eight?” A possibility they both know is impossible. Her face pales again as she realizes, “Until I manage to make a cure?” Whatever color she had been able to retain is gone as she whispers through white lips, “Until you bring down the Black Organization?”

A bitter smile plays out against the corners of his lips, and he murmurs, “Whichever comes first, I suppose.”

He hears the air hiss through her teeth: a sharp breath that will never become a yell or shout like it probably should be. “You’re insane,” she whispers, and the smile forces it’s way onto his face, a grin stretching wide. A perfect KID grin.

“I guess that’s one less thing to worry about, then,” and he stares down at the blank skin, feeling it throb.

 

~

 

So no, Kudou Shinichi does not hate Haibara Ai. But sometimes he really wishes he could go back in time to kick a soccer ball in Sherry’s face.

Just once.

Maybe.

Chapter Text

Nowadays, Kaito has come to the realization that meeting up with his favorite detective has been like flipping a coin: will it be during a heist, or will it be a fake-heist-slash-murder-scene? So far it’s been two heists (three if you count his little April Fool’s day prank), an accidental run-in at a not-so-accidental murder scene, and an aforementioned fake-heist-slash-murder-scene. It’s rather disconcerting, really, how often dead bodies seem to pop up wherever Meitantei goes. Even Nakamori-keibu occasionally mentions how Beika’s First Department of the Police have their work cut out for them, how there’s a rumor that the overnight-amazing-Sleeping-Kogoro may well have some kind of Death God trailing after him.

(And who’s always one step behind Mouri Kogoro? Can it really be a coincidence?)

But that’s neither here nor there at the moment (he hopes), so Kaito settles back in his spot in the broken-down mansion he’s currently in, and listens to the three kids from earlier return, bringing with them Meitantei, another girl their age, and a mustached, balding man. He sighs and wonders just how their paths have managed to intersect like this. He hadn’t even sent out a note! When he’d gotten wind of the diamond, a bunch of rumors centering around just enough information for him to try and confirm it, he hadn’t seen the need to write out a heist note. Even if the diamond was real, there’s be no real owners to “steal” it from. If it turned out to be real, he’d just need to wait until the moon rose, check to see if it was Pandora, and if it wasn’t (it probably wasn’t), put it back. No one need know.

Today just wasn’t his day, it seemed. He’d already located the diamond. Even gotten it out of the damn pond too, which he was slightly proud of, considering the fact that the pond was not free of certain scaley creatures. But then the water kept coming up, surging up inexplicably, and in his panic he’d immediately equated the removal of the diamond with the flooding of the pond. He’d put it back as fast as he was able, and as he’d figured the water simply sank back to proper water level. Which was, of course, when he remembered that he still needed to check and see if the gem was Pandora. He was, for once, stuck.

He’d debated on what to do next, because he’d never been one for backing down. ‘Well,’ he’d thought to himself, tapping his chin thoughtfully, ‘it stands to reason that there’ll be other treasure hunters coming.’ He had, after all, had an encounter earlier with one particular treasure hunter, one who’d seemingly thought that challenging the Kaitou KID to a race for who could get the diamond first would be a good idea. So it was reasonable to assume that Kaito would probably have another encounter with him, and he obviously wasn’t the only treasure hunter around. Maybe it wouldn’t be too unreasonable to check out the surrounding territory, i.e., the looming, ancient mansion behind him? It wasn’t too big a jump in logic to assume that the house probably had other hints as to the location of the diamond, which would mean it was probable that there could be booby traps. The phrase had made Kaito want to wiggle his fingers and make spooky “ooooh!” noises, but he’d be the only one entertained by it, so he’d refrained.

And so he’d gone into the house, stepping lightly and making note of every potential trap, testing out the ones he was reasonably sure he’d be safe from. A couple of hours later the sun was high in the sky outside, and as he pondered what to do next he heard the voices of three individuals that couldn’t have been older than ten. He’d watched out the window as the three children (two boys, one girl) stepped into the clearing, watching them make a bee-line for the pond after the initial intake of the area. They seemed to focus on something, loudly speculating what it could mean, how there was some kind of weird rock in the water, apparently. Once they’d mentioned it, Kaito’d noticed that there were pedestals that had been around the lake that were suddenly missing, but before he could really wonder at it, the kids had already started back the way they came. Good thing too: a lot of the traps in the house that Kaito had I.D.ed had the potential to be lethal, if one wasn’t careful. But it was about ten minutes later that Lady Luck showed that she was really not on his side that day.

He hasn’t planned for Meitantei. He isn’t prideful enough to claim that he can pull the wool over the kid without any preparation: ever since he’s shown up Kaito has really had to up his game in order to not get caught. He’s lucky he doesn’t actually want the gems that are not Pandora: getting away from Edogawa Conan has become difficult enough even without having to worry about keeping his targets. It used to be that the only one that could put a wrench in his plans was Hakuba Saguru, and he can admit that Nakamori-keibu is starting to put up a decent fight, but, compared to Meitantei, those two are practically glass slippers to those terrifying sneakers the kid has.

He sends out a prayer that Meitantei and his friends (he idly wonders how terrifying the kids he hangs out with are) will leave in peace, only to have his hopes squashed not a second later when the little detective declares the presence of the diamond, and the three kids from earlier cheer. Kaito considers his options, and grimaces at his chances of sticking around without Meitantei figuring him out. He could disguise as a treasure hunter, but honestly he’d prefer keeping away from them. Kaito can’t think of a single instance where the kid hasn’t managed to eventually unmask him, and he really doesn’t want to test his luck when it’s so obviously lacking today. Not to mention there’s a pond with things inside it that’s the centerpiece for this whole mess.

This is of course the moment the kid announces that there’s a body in the pond and what?

Evidence further supported by the old man pulling said body out of the pond and oh Kaito is going to be sick. There hadn’t been a body there when he’d had his own encounters with the pond, which meant it must’ve gotten there somehow while Kaito’d been investigating the house, after he’d replaced the diamond but before the kids had come initially. That kind of time-stamp does not speak well for an accidental death. Which, of course, is confirmed almost instantly by Meitantei declaring it a murder by strangulation. Kaito rubs his forehead in frustration, ‘Meitantei, you really are the Death God.’

He’s definitely relieved that Meitantei starts insisting that they leave, sending the old man off to get the police. From where he’s poked around, and especially from the Magic Lover’s Murder Case and Sunset Manor, it’s seemed like Meitantei is completely reckless with his own safety: a theory supported by how Meitantei’d tried to catch him during the heist where he’d disguised himself as old man Suzuki. It’s slightly reassuring to see that Meitantei knows where to draw lines where danger is concerned, although it slightly worries Kaito that the lines appear to only be for his friends’ sakes.

Kaito’s mood does not improve when he finds out that the corpse is the treasure hunter that had challenged him. And he’s definitely not sure it’s a good thing when Meitantei figures out Kaitou KID is involved. The way Meitantei and the girl with the light brown hair exchange glances as the other three babble after this revelation is suspicious, and the way the boy seemingly involuntarily reaches for his wristwatch slightly worries Kaito. Meitantei’s facing away, so Kaito can’t tell exactly what’s going on in the detective’s head, but the girl has a sharp-eyed look of concentration mixed with deliberation fixed on him, an expression Kaito’s never seen on a kid before.

Then again, he’s observed as much often enough from Meitantei. Kaito wonders idly if it’s the exposure to dead bodies that’s got these kids acting his age, then puts that theory on the back-burner when he sees that the other three, at least, are acting childlike. Just the two of them, then?

The entire train of thought is placed on a back-burner when Meitantei suggests going inside the mansion to get out of the rain, with a mischievous look as he adds a line about how they only have until the professor gets back to find the diamond. ‘Damnit, Meitantei.'

Kaito discovers how terrifying Meitantei’s friends can be, an entirely new form of terrifying, when the largest one- Genta?- decides that walking straight towards a stairway that is rigged with one of the lethal traps is something he must do immediately, even as Meitantei calls after him to stop for that exact reason. Which is when Kaito decides he’s gotta play back-up for the munchkins. He’s pretty sure Meitantei will forgive his presence if he figures out (surely he will) that it’s for the kids’ sakes. He’s just lucky a different treasure hunter had popped up in time to save a certain Genta from death-by-impalation.

He’s just touching up his disguise as an old woman (gotta cater to variety), when he hears yet another warning shout from Meitantei coming from... above? Immediately followed by the screams of approximately three of the five children. ‘Wait- not where that trap with the ladder-’ Kaito’s incredulous thoughts are just starting to form when he hears the familiar sound of Meitantei’s inflatable soccer ball appearing. He doesn’t even have time to suppress an instinctual ‘ duck and cover-’ before he sees the hole (yes, that trap) plugged up by Meitantei’s one-and-only soccer ball. Kaito sighs, then settles down against the wall, not far from the clue. He’s sure they’ll stumble over him sooner or later.

Everything nearly goes wrong again when Meitantei deduces the location of the booby-trapped sword. Honestly, his favorite critic’s skills should only be used during KID heists, when it’s (mostly, besides Snake and all) safe to go running around like this. These kids are too dangerous by halves. Exhibit C (from only today): Genta heading straightforsaidboobytrappedswordohshit. Kaito has no choice but to push the kid out of the way and demonstrate exactly why one does not rush blindly forward... by rushing “blindly” forward.

At least he knows what to do to be sure he doesn’t get sliced into ribbons.

And then Meitantei decides to give him what feels like a heart-attack by nearly getting sliced into ribbons himself.

Kaito dearly wishes he can trust Meitantei’s “I give up” and the decision to wait for the professor, but he’s right to not get his hopes up when he hears the serious girl tell Meitantei to drop the act the second they think he’s out of earshot. Kaito sighs wearily: ‘Kids.’ And of course Tantei-kun has to get the damn location right. ‘Maybe,’ Kaito considers thoughtfully, ‘maybe the kids- and the other treasure hunters-’ he tacks on with a grimace, ‘will leave the pond alone if they think Kaitou KID has already taken the diamond? Worth a shot.’ Kaito jots down a hasty note- with perfect penmanship, of course- and throws the knife-impaled note across the area, above the heads of the others and completely safe, the knife he’s nabbed from the house in case he’d needed to cut some rope as an obaa-san imbedding itself in the rock. They find the note near-moments later.

He comes out cackling, and his plan seems to work, when Genta (why is it always this kid?) manages to accidentally push the other boy- Mitsuhiko? (also, how has he only learned two of the other four children’s names by now?) into the pond. Which seems to be not-so alarming, considering Meitantei and serious-girl aren’t concerned, but a light appears out of no-where from underwater (had the kid- had Mitsuhiko had a flashlight?), and the sight gives Kaito a sense of foreboding.

“T-There is!” Mitsuhiko declares once he’s caught his breath. “Even though it’s hidden in the soil, there is definitely a sparkling stone at the bottom of the swamp!” This announcement sends the male treasure hunter leaping straight for the pond, Kaito’s “Don’t take it!” going ignored.

Also, Kaito’s quite miffed that Meitantei announces that he’s figured out who KID is right after the murderer(ess?) has drawn her gun. ‘Way to make Kaitou KID look like a killer, Meitantei,’ Kaito thinks sourly. Tantei-kun hosts his deductive show, and Kaito watches out of one eye while the rest of his attention is fixed on the water. ‘Pleasedon’tpullitoutpleasedon’tpullitout-’. The kid tranquilizes the murderer, so that’s two less things to worry about (no murderer running havoc and no tranq dart from Meitantei to anticipate), and it seems Tantei-kun’s about to reveal Kaito to the rest of them when ohshitno-. The male treasure hunter surfaces, brandishing the diamond. ‘Not Pandora,’ Kaito registers automatically, seeing no red light reflecting off the water, which is also about the moment he gets déjà vu from the sudden up flow of water. He doesn’t even have time to open his mouth before Meitantei’s yelling to the not-evil treasure-hunter to replace the diamond, and Kaito’s grateful to see the man wordlessly obeying.

And so, Meitantei finally makes the dramatic reveal, and Kaito pulls off his mask just in time for the boy to look back. What’s odd is that, when Meitantei sees him pull of his mask, an emotion that KID can’t quite place flashes across the detective’s face, his eyes focused for that one second on the motion his hand is making instead of his grand reveal. Tantei-kun’s hand seems to reach for his wristwatch, grasping his own wrist lightly for the space of a millisecond before dropping it as if nothing had happened, his eyes fixing themselves to KID’s.

KID suppresses a curious frown, working to dissect that as Meitantei breaks down all the actions that had given KID away. Meitantei never goes for his wristwatch after he’s used it. The kid may be a kid, but he knows what weapons he has and he keeps track of those weapons well. He knows as well as KID does what use it is to reach for an unusable weapon, so why? And the movement Meitantei had made, it reminds KID of the movement he’d made earlier, when he’d announced KID’s involvement in this debacle. Is it just instinctual for Meitantei to reach for his dartwatch whenever KID could be or is near? An alarming theory, that. That’s not even mentioning that Meitantei’s expression seems suspiciously like a poker-face. The entire gesture had seemed off, honestly. KID pays attention just in time to hear the compliments from the girls.

Are they compliments, though? The girl with the headband seems sincere, but the serious girl’s- almost teasing- remark is interwoven with a disturbing amount of calculation on her face. KID’s thrown off-balance by this (they’re just kids!), enough so that he barely registers a reverse-pickpocket move that’s done while he readies his glider. He registers it, but doesn’t try to avoid it. The only ones that are close enough to manage anything of the sort are the two girls, and, well, they’re just kids!

Right?

With all the time he’s spent with Meitantei, he should honestly know better by now.

 

Kaitou KID

I would like to discuss a matter with you that you may find interesting. You may decide whether or not it is interesting during the discussion, not before. I recommend our rendezvous point be the Kudou mansion, as I have good authority that the building has been and will be empty for the foreseeable future. I will be waiting there this coming night from dusk until midnight. Do not worry: I have no interest in capturing you, arresting you, alerting the police, or any similar method of entrapment.

However, I must insist you make an appearance. If you are unable to do so at my requested time, find a way to contact me so we may reschedule. On that note, I will not accept a proposed time later than this coming week, and I will only accept one reschedule. Also, although I feel that it goes without saying, I expect you to come alone. If you fail to make an appearance within the parameters I have set: I am quite capable of making circumstances extremely uncomfortable for you. There are some things I know that I am sure Kaitou KID would not want to be made public.

Please keep the circumstances of this matter in mind.

Haibara Ai

P.S. You may wish to find more form-fitting gloves. Ones that do not, as they say, “ride up”. It is ungentlemanly for one to be unscrupulous with one’s wardrobe.

 

With a shiver of horror running down his spine, Kaito looks straight from the postscript to his left wrist, extending his arm ever-so-slightly. It only needs to be “ever-so-slightly”, because, as the postscript states, his glove’s ridden up, and when KID doesn’t have his arm completely bent, his soulmark is staring back at him, stark black against the much paler skin. He gently places his hand against his face and groans in self-pity, his other hand already occupied with retrieving his cellphone from one of his many pockets. He dials without looking, and doesn’t remove his hand as he holds his phone to his ear. It picks up.

“Hey, Jii-chan.” Kaito does his best to keep a cap on his emotional state, but considering the situation, the fact that he’s currently alone, and that this is Jii-chan, he thinks he can be forgiven if his voice wavers a bit.

And yep, Jii-chan can definitely tell that something is seriously wrong if his worried, “Kaito-botchama?” is anything to go by.

“Well, Jii-chan,” he sighs, toying with the brim of his hat, “I’ve just found myself in the metaphorical ‘pot of boiling water’.”

 

~

 

It’s dawn of the next day, and Kaito’s got his head firmly planted in his folded arms on the bar of the Blue Parrot, Jii-chan on the other side of said bar, examining the note that is currently the source of all of Kaito’s problems. He’d gone straight there from Kichiemon mansion (that entire trip had been a disaster), and with the way things are going it doesn’t look like he’ll be going to bed early tonight.

“Botchama,” Jii-chan begins hesitantly, and Kaito raises his head just enough to make eye-contact, “do you know what information this,” he squints at the signature, “Haibara-san is threatening you with?” Kaito examines Jii-chan blearily, then pulls the long sleeve of his shirt (he’d changed out of the KID regalia, obviously) up to his mid-forearm, exposing his soulmark to Jii-chan, who inhales sharply in response.

“I forgot you didn’t know,” Kaito mumbles into his arm. He feels a whisper of wind against his forearm and can picture Jii-chan leaning in, examining it.

“Kaito-botchama, when did you...?” His voice trails off. He knows as well as anyone how extremely personal this line of questioning is, but he can’t seem to stop himself. “This was not here the last time I saw you,” Jii-chan adds helplessly. Slightly uncomfortable at the staring and the reminder, Kaito pulls his arm away and pulls his sleeve back down, shrinking back just slightly enough for Jii-chan to get the message.

“It showed up when Oyaji died,” he says, keeping every possible inflection out of his voice. He doesn’t say ‘It appeared like a magic trick, like it was mocking me while Kāsan’s tears soaked my shoulder. I hated it.’ He doesn’t say ‘It was like it was Oyaji’s last gift to me, and I didn’t want to share it with anyone else. I hated that Aoko saw, that she told Nakamori-keibu and he saw. It was mine and I cherished it.’ And he definitely doesn’t say ‘No wonder you never knew about it. It popped up when Oyaji died, which is right about when you disappeared until I became KID. What a coincidence, ne, Jii-chan?’

“Stay cool, Kaito. No matter what, always keep a good poker face.”

Jii-chan, not knowing what to say in response to that, knowing a sorry is unwelcome, goes back to the note.

“That explains the meaning of the postscript,” Jii-chan mutters, seemingly to himself. It’s quiet for a couple more minutes, until Jii-chan places the note carefully on the bar between them. “My deepest apologies, Kaito-botchama, but I can see no way out of this.” Kaito isn’t surprised, his head simply sinks back into his arms with a weary sigh.

“I didn’t think so,” he admits, “I’ve been trying to think of a way out of it too, but I’m at a loss.” It’d be a disaster if either the public or the police found out about Kaitou KID’s soulmark. He wouldn’t even need to worry about someone connecting the dots on their own (Hakuba), Aoko and Nakamori-keibu already know what Kaito’s soulmark is. If that girl (he is 99.8% positive it is the serious looking girl with the sharp eyes) decides to share it with anyone, Kaitou KID is made. At which point, her assurances that there will be no “entrapments” at the rendezvous become moot. Even if she does decide to have the entire police force there with her, KID will still have to go just because she has such a powerful piece of leverage. If the normal three of Meitantei’s friends are terrifying because they have no sense of danger, then this kid is terrifying the way Akako is terrifying. The way the note is worded, it seems like they even talk the same.

A thought that is not making him look forward to their late-night meeting coming up.

“The only space this Haibara-san is allowing you is a chance to reschedule,” Jii-chan puzzles out aloud, then glances up to look at the top of Kaito’s head. “You could reschedule it for next week, to buy some time?” Kaito is already shaking his head.

“No point,” he mutters past his arms, “why prolong the inevitable? I think I’ll just go and check for bugs and cameras. She didn’t say anything about punishment for debugging the place.” Jii-chan clears his throat.

“I was wondering about that,” he murmurs, attempting to be unobtrusive. “With the first name ‘Ai’, one would usually assume the individual to be female. Haibara-san is a woman?” Kaito lets out a bit of grim laughter.

“Not a woman, so much as a girl,” is his reply, and with a sound of confusion from Jii-chan, he tacks on, “Haibara Ai-san is approximately seven years old.”

When Jii-chan chokes out an, “I see,” Kaito can’t really blame him.

 

~

 

Kaito knows by now not to underestimate Haibara Ai, which is why he’s positive that this is not a trap. It’s been hours since he’d left the Blue Parrot- decked out in his all-black outfit- and had gone straight to the Kudou mansion. He’d been glad it was easy to look up it’s address, under the impression that any time it took to locate the place would cut into his time removing surveillance equipment. Small wonder how celebrities manage without any privacy at all, although when he’d looked it up it did seem that, as Haibara-san had indicated, no one was living there at the moment. The mystery novel author and the former actress seem to be globe-trotting, blurbs from France and Hawaii mentioning sightings as little as two days ago. The teenage son (he looks oddly familiar to Kaito, surprisingly. Probably just because he seems to be famous- famous parents for a famous son)- no mention of whatsoever in Kaito’s “recent history” internet research. It seems that Kudou Shinichi has just up and vanished- and not that long ago. But the layer of dust definitely supports the idea that- wherever the teenaged detective (detectives, why are they always detectives?) is now, it is not in Beika.

What’s truly bewildering is the fact that- after spending five hours searching the entire house top to bottom, there is not a single piece of technology that can be used for surveillance. Microwave? Check. Television? Check. Bugs? Nope. Wire taps? Nada. No video cameras, the kinds that would be hard to spot for any but an expert’s eye. There isn’t even a security system, which is bemusing; what kind of rich person doesn’t have a security system? Kaito’s seen the jewelry among the actresses’s personal items (Kaito idly wonders if he should check if any of them are Pandora, while he’s here), and even though they hold no personal interest to Kaito, he’s sure that with the sheer number of books in their library there’s bound to be more than a couple which are collector’s items.

But that’s not the point at this moment. The point at this moment is that- unless the owners of the house have fake books with bugs inside in their library- there is absolutely not a single scrap of evidence for the theory that this “request” to talk is a setup. Literally: not a single one. Kaito has checked. Triple-checked the living room, which is where he’s assuming the talking will take place. Which leaves him with a question that he would’ve asked much sooner if he hadn’t been so convinced it was a setup.

What does Haibara Ai want to talk about?

She’s stated in her note that he might find the topic “interesting”. Not horrifying, which means she probably doesn’t plan to reveal she knows even more of his secrets. Not “wonderful” or “amazing”, which means the news isn’t exactly good, either. What does that even leave? And another thing- why the Kudou mansion? Does she have a personal connection with this place? It is, admittedly, a wonderful spot to have a private talk: when he’d checked the perimeter he’d discovered exactly how hard one has to try to see inside the house from the outside. Probably because the owners are celebrities, and paparazzi comes with that particular status.

Also: why is the time-frame set for dusk to midnight? Is this her attempt at trying to make him feel comfortable? With what little he knows of her, that doesn’t seem like something she’d do, but exactly because he knows so little about her, he can’t confidently say the hypothesis is wrong.

And then Kaito is back to wondering what she wants to talk about. Interesting? Interesting can be any number of things. At this point he really doesn’t have much to speculate on. He glances at the clock: it is T-Minus 4 hours until dusk. If Haibara-san can be trusted to be punctual, then she should show up right about then. So he’d don his KID regalia in about three hours. Just in case.

The letter had been addressed to Kaitou KID, after all.

 

~

 

Right about when the sun dips below the horizon, KID hears the front gate creak open. A steady pace, more frequent than an average adult’s: indicating shorter legs.

Indicating a child?

The front door opens, and a girl- the serious-one (Kaito’d been right), steps inside, closing the door behind her. She turns to regard the figure standing in the center of the room.

“Punctual as always,” she says in a dry, unsurprised voice.

KID grins, “But of course! I wouldn’t dream of being late for our date, Ai-chan!” The look she sends him when he says that makes a shiver run down his spine. ‘Okay, she’s even scarier than I thought.’

“I believe,” the girl states severely, her eyes cutting into KID’s monocle, “that we are hardly acquainted enough to be on first-name basis, KID-san.” She moves to one of the less-comfortable chairs: an ornate, straight-backed, wooden one, and sits down, resting her hands in her lap. She gestures to the armchairs and couches placed strategically in positions that somewhat face her own chair, “Please, take a seat.” KID doesn’t move from his spot, his grin still pasted on his face.

“My apologies, Haibara-san, but I would much prefer to stay where I am,” he winks at her, ‘Stay in character,’ “but please, don’t hesitate to make yourself comfortable.” The girl’s eyes narrow, thoughtful, as she stares at him. He wonders if this is what it’s like to be on the other end of a microscope.

“I make you uncomfortable,” she says, no question in her voice; KID freezes. “The situation is uncomfortable to you. You feel powerless, and are doing all you can to gain some kind of control.” The more she talks, the more KID wants to shrink back. “Evidence: you arrived early, implying you took the time to scope the layout of the house. Unsurprising, but indicative of paranoia. Next, you are hiding behind your KID persona. The trademark grin is rather irritating, but if it makes you feel safer, I won’t stop you. As long as you don’t refer to me so familiarly again.” She pauses, “Without my permission,” she allows. “Lastly: the refusal to sit down. You feel more in power standing up because I am sitting down, and baser instincts will consider this me ceding power to you. You also maintain physical advantage as well as the inherent age advantage this way.” She pauses, waiting for him to comment, and when he doesn’t she asks her first question: “Am I wrong?” KID lets out a shaky breath, trying to muffle it in some way because the Kaitou KID cannot show weakness.

“You should not ask for confirmation for something you are confident about, ojou-san,” he says, trying for a bright voice but probably sounding nervous. ‘Bad. This is bad. It hasn’t even been five minutes and she’s already deconstructing my poker face.’ He considers again the pros and cons of sitting down, and conceding the points that she’s made, sits in an armchair placed along the nearest wall. Not directly facing her, precisely, but- ‘Ah,’ he thinks mournfully, ‘she’s turning the chair to face me.’

“It seems my note unsettled you more than intended,” she muses, not exactly amused, but definitely not regretful. She shrugs, “No matter. Would you like to begin the conversation, or shall I?”

KID tries very hard to keep an incredulous expression off his face, but he has no way of knowing if he succeeds. He crosses his arms without thinking, and sees her eyes glance at the movement, taking note of it. “Are you a psychologist, Haibara-san?” His inquiry is polite, if slightly distant. He’d wonder at his still-slightly intact sanity for asking the question seriously, if he didn’t already encounter a full-fledged detective her age on an often-enough basis. Her nose wrinkles, the edges of her mouth curling down slightly.

“Psychology,” she says with distaste, “a soft science. No, I gathered as much from body-language and educated guesses. I understand you’re well versed in both as well?” A soft science, she’d said. Is that an implication that she practices harder sciences, or is that reading too far into it?

He answers her question with an enigmatic, “In my profession I find them to be useful skills to learn.” She nods, accepting the answer she seems to have expected. She folds her hands, and takes a breath.

“I’ve been anticipating this conversation for a couple of months now, so I do have some questions that have piled up, if you don’t mind. Although we can get to those later.” The second half of what she’s said barely gets processed because a couple of months? He blinks at her, and she sighs. “Yes, Kaitou KID, a couple of months. You didn’t hear wrong. We may get to that. Anyway, there were a few reasons this has taken so long. What really prompted me to give you the note was that... a fact was confirmed.” He knows confusion flashes on his face, because she reacts, looking down and adopting a somewhat sheepish expression. “A... friend... told me in the beginning that you are, verbatim: ‘not a bad person’. Not often considered high praise, but from this specific person, it is.” KID tries desperately to keep his poker face firmly planted over the mask of confusion and bewilderment he most assuredly feels.

“I wasn’t going to argue with them, because they often show good judgement regarding a person’s character, but because I have had no real direct contact with you, and knowing what I do about your criminal exploits, I admit I found it hard to believe.” She falters slightly, then laces her fingers together. “A rather hypocritical view for me to have, I admit,” she adds in a whisper, which only confuses KID more. She straightens, and looks him in the eye, “Your actions yesterday proved my friend’s words correct. You saved Kojima-kun. You didn’t have to do that, and I thank you for doing so.” She bows her head, and KID feels the gape slide over his poker face.

This time, a significant amount of time passes in silence, her head still bowed, but tension bleeds into her as KID watches, her head staying down. She’s definitely waiting for a response this time.

KID ducks his head, his right hand coming up to toy with the brim of his hat, and he mutters, awkwardly, “No worries, Kaitou KID is always willing to save the day by saving a life.” Out of the corner of his eye, he sees Haibara-san finally lift her head in order to peer at him.

“You are a good person,” she finally murmurs, more an observation to herself than a compliment, but KID’s ears still go slightly pink. Her voice is sober when she continues, louder, “That’s why I felt that we should have this talk,” and KID looks up, startled. The eyes staring back at him look like an adult’s, weariness and concern heavy in her gaze. She looks away again, towards the wall, as she says, “A good person would probably not want to be in the situation we have placed you in. Someone who will instinctually save a child as you did would no doubt be more hurt if you were left unaware.”

An awkward silence, and she shifts, showing discomfort for the first time ever that he’s seen. Flabbergasted, KID queries, “The situation that you, plural, have placed me in?” Her eyes meet his once more, and her expression is slightly sad, the emotions leaking out behind her own mask.

“KID-san,” she starts, hesitating. She steels herself, “What would you do if you discovered that someone you know, may even consider a friend, is suffering in order to keep you safe?” KID sits back, pressing against the back of his chair, and considers the question and all it’s connotations like lightning.

‘It almost sounds like- so she’s saying that someone she knows, someone I know, knows about the Syndicate? They’re trying to protect me? But how? I haven’t seen anyone new during my heists, and no one trying to be some kind of meat-shield for a sniper. Maybe-is she saying that this person was caught? Is being interrogated for my location, which they refuse to give? No- no, that’s gotta be too paranoid a possibility. What then? What does she mean by suffering to keep me safe? Could it be just a hypothetical question? No, it’s too specific, and she does honestly seem to be telling the truth. I’m in a situation she and a friend of hers have placed me in? And from what she’s said, this situation has been going on for the months she’s been anticipating this talk for. What-’

The front door opens.

KID snaps to attention, thoughts pinwheeling with ‘trap-setup-dangerous-run-’, when a familiar face follows a familiar shoe into the house and KID’s mind freezes.

“Tadaima,” the newcomer mutters, seemingly unconsciously, and toes off the tell-tale sneakers. It isn’t until he’s barefoot that he finally glances up, surprise on his face when he sees the girl in her chair. “Haibara, why-,” Meitantei starts, his eyebrows pulling together slightly before following the direction she’s facing and looks directly at KID, still slightly curled back.

To his credit, the young detective looks as shocked to see KID as KID is to see him. His mouth drops open, and his right hand instantly goes for his left wrist. ‘Wristwatch,’ KID thinks, panicky, and he flinches slightly when the skin of the boy’s fingertips meet the skin of his wrist.

“Edogawa-kun,” a girl’s voice interjects, worry in her tone that KID has trouble processing. It’s when Tantei-kun’s hand freezes mid-gesture, fingertips still barely brushing skin, that KID takes the moment to remember that there is another person in the room, and that, for all the niceties and almost-apologies she’s offered, she still knows enough to put a noose on his neck if she so chooses. Which means that he can’t run. “You’re scaring him,” her voice continues reprovingly, scolding. “If it’s so bad that you’re scaring him, it’s worse than you’ve been claiming.”

KID is unable to process what exactly the girl is saying, because he’s apparently missing key facts here and he’s also doing his best to repress his flight instincts. Severely. ‘If I run now,’ he tells himself grimly, forcing a KID grin back on his face, ‘she has full leave to tell Nakamori-keibu or anyone anything, and if she does, KID is made.’

He only realizes that not even a second has passed when he hears Tantei-kun’s response to whatever the girl had said. “I didn’t mean to-,” Tantei-kun sputters, a tinge of what could be chagrin coloring his voice as he glances at KID, taking in the (admittedly over-the-top) poker-face, and wrenches his right hand back to his side, curling it into a fist. He sends what can only be called a look of apology KID’s way, which surprises KID so much that he almost doesn’t mind the following hiss of, “Haibara, what is going on? What is KID doing here?”

Haibara-san only shoots him a slight look of concern, a glance at the wrist he’s dropped, before turning to take in KID’s still somewhat plastic grin.

Her expression softens, and the concern is back when she observes, “You’re nervous again.” She gets up, and KID’s body tightens just enough for both of the children to take notice. He hates how transparent he is right now when he’s supposed to be wearing a poker-face. Meitantei looks almost lost: worry, concern, and confusion warring behind his glasses as his gaze flickers between KID and Haibara-san, who is approaching him while watching the teenager carefully. When she stops next to Meitantei, a look of calculation crosses her face, a hint of curiosity touching the glint in her eye.

Tantei-kun, watching her warily, starts, “Haibara, I don’t-”, but the girl cuts him off by grabbing his left forearm. KID startles at the sudden motion, wondering for a panicked second if she’s planning to use Meitantei’s wristwatch on KID herself, while the boy in question yelps out a protesting, “Haibara-!” as the girl yanks the long shirtsleeve ( ‘Meitantei’s not wearing his coat,’ KID processes dumbly) down, showing the the bare skin of his left inner wrist to KID.

KID blinks: ‘Something’s missing,’ his mind insists, but he’s not sure what he’s supposedly not seeing so he sets the thought aside.

KID realizes then, finally catching up to what’s going on, as he sees the effort Meitantei’s putting into attempting to yank his arm back, and the death-grip Haibara-san’s got on it. Both of the children are staring at him, the boy’s eyes full of horror, betrayal, and worry, and the girl’s full of curiosity and wonder, like she’s finally gotten the answer to a question she’s had for months.

“See?” the girl says, smug as KID’s body loses quite a bit of it’s tension, “he doesn’t have his wristwatch. I told you there would be no method of entrapment. He’s not even wearing his belt.” And, indeed, KID finally realizes that Tantei-kun is most assuredly not wearing the distinctive inflatable-soccer-ball belt. He’s dressed down, casual in a button-down long-sleeved shirt and jeans, only the glasses and eyes blinking back at him from behind them ('he looks almost relieved,’ KID registers automatically) a familiar part of the image he has of Meitantei.

Haibara-san finally allows Meitantei to yank his arm back, and he immediately goes to pull the sleeve all the way back down again. The immediate movement reminds KID of how the detective had gone immediately for his wrist the second he’d seen KID, and how odd the action was in retrospect, knowing that he’d not had the dart-watch on from the beginning. It brings back the memory of the day before, and how Meitantei’d done that twice, once when the watch had already been used. Come to think of it, all the times he’s recently seen Meitantei, the boy’s gone for his wristwatch as if on instinct everytime KID’s name’s been mentioned. Sometimes, when KID’s line of sight includes the boy’s face, he’ll see an expression that he still cannot place bleed onto the bespectacled face before being tamped down by a childlike expression.

The silence is broken by Meitantei, whose, “Haibara-” is once again immediately cut off by the girl, and KID finally processes the fact that Haibara-san is not letting Meitantei get a word in edgewise.

“So, KID-san,” she interrupts, ignoring the look of irritated frustration from Meitantei. Her expression sobers as she continues, “what is your reply to my question?” KID, feeling like he’s completely in over his head with these seven-year-olds, simply blinks at her.

What question?” Meitantei inquires with steel in his voice, suspicion heavy in a glare directed at the girl. She examines KID’s face for a couple of moments longer, then sighs.

She repeats, “What would you do if you discovered that someone you know, may even consider a friend, is suffering in order to keep you safe?” KID blinks again, this time comprehension dawning on him as his brain suddenly decides to remember being asked it the first time.

He’s about to go back to piecing it out in his head when a choked, “What? ” makes an appearance, drenched in horror and betrayal, and spoken in Meitantei’s voice. KID sees stubbornness and traces of guilt settle on Haibara-san’s face as she meets the boy’s accusing gaze. “Haibara, you told me it was my decision! You said that as long as I handled it, you wouldn’t interfere! What do you intend to accomplish with this?”

A wave of realization crashes down KID’s awareness like a bucket of ice water. Haibara-san’s friend, a mutual acquaintance, someone who’s: “not a bad person” could be considered high praise. ‘It’s Meitantei,’ KID articulates mentally, wondering how the hell he had not made that connection earlier.

The kids continue trading accusations while he makes this connection, a fact he realizes as he hears Haibara-san’s defensive return of: “Edogawa-kun, I stated explicitly what I recommended to complement the situation. I have been very clear that I do not approve of the decision you made. Not to mention that you do not seem to be handling it, considering how you react whenever that occurs!”

After hearing this, KID connects the last dot, punctuated by Meitantei’s flinch in response to her words, his right hand curling over his left wrist in what KID now recognizes as a self-comfort gesture, Haibara-san’s sharp eyes not missing the movement. ‘What would you do if you discovered that someone you know, may even consider a friend, is suffering in order to keep you safe?’ It’s Meitantei.

Protect me from what?’, KID thinks wildly, ‘He hasn’t indicated knowledge of the Syndicate- from the police? Does he know who I am?’ KID has no way of knowing why exactly this fact doesn’t disturb him as much as it clearly should. ‘But unless the police know he knows, how would it be considered suffer- suffering?’ Which is when he pales rapidly, realizing that Haibara Ai would not use the word suffering lightly.

He interrupts the two children’s both defensive and accusatory glaring contest with the first words he’s spoken since Meitantei walked in. “What,” he manages to crack out, the two flinching and glancing at him, “are you not telling me?” Meitantei glares balefully at Haibara-san.

“Now look what you’ve started,” he grouses, his eyebrows pressing together in an expression that’s not at all childlike. Haibara-san simply stares at him, then glances at KID, waiting for his inevitable second prod.

“Meitantei,” he stresses, wondering whether he should get up, and the boy huffs and avoids meeting his gaze.

“Need not to know,” he mutters, obviously hoping it’ll end the conversation. KID can also tell that he’s not expecting it to end the conversation, which reminds him for the millionth time that Meitantei is not as ignorant as he sometimes acts with adults present.

“‘Need not to know’?” He repeats, incredulous. The boy opens his mouth, most likely to explain it, but KID barrels through that with, “Meitantei, from what I’m getting out of this conversation, I’m definitely one of the people that deserve to know.” The flash of guilt on his face confirms this fact. The boy pins his gaze on Haibara-san once more, the guilt, sorrow, pain on his face temporarily ceasing KID’s inquisition. ' What is going on?’ His mind whispers in horror.

“Why?” The boy’s voice sounds like it comes close to breaking, and Haibara-san’s face is awash with stubbornness and sadness, but no regret.

“You’re keeping it from him to protect him,” she says softly, crossing her arms in her own form of self-comfort, “but you never truly considered all sides. You’ve always picked the decision that you think ends with you being the only one hurt. Think about it, Edogawa-kun. He’s a good person, isn’t he?” Meitantei’s automatic nod barely penetrates the icy feeling in KID’s chest. Her eyes soften, “Would a good person be happy to know that someone they care about is suffering for their sake?”

Meitantei stills at that question, refusing to look at KID, searching Haibara-san’s face. His eyes trail away from hers, not avoiding her gaze but searching for an answer, and they fix on the opposite wall. He mouths unintelligible words to himself, and the young girl and teenaged boy are silent, waiting for him to reply. “It’s not that simple,” he finally murmurs, coming to a conclusion. One more solid than the ‘I have no explanation’ that his words imply, if his tone of voice can be trusted.

“Isn’t it?” Haibara-san shoots back, demanding. Finally, for the first real time that day (night?), Meitantei turns to face KID, who is still sitting in his armchair.

“KID,” he says finally, words heavy with exhaustion, “if I told you that telling you what you want to know would put everyone you love in danger, would you still want to know?” KID stills, but he presses on, “That once you knew, you’d never once stop looking over your shoulder, waiting for the moment there are the eyes of a killer staring back at you? You deal with snipers on heists, I know: I’m not stupid. But I’ve never heard of a teenage boy being targeted by a sniper, which means they’re only after Kaitou KID, not your civilian identity.” KID’s starting to get overwhelmed.

Meitantei clenches his teeth, “I’m not going to say you’re in any way safe at this time. I’m sure you have your reasons for being Kaitou KID, but that doesn’t change the fact that you’re an internationally wanted criminal, maybe even globally, and with snipers in the mix you’re nowhere near safe. But right now, you always have the option to throw away your cape and monocle and hat and never be Kaitou KID again, and you would be safe.”

Kaito is gaping at him through the monocle, feeling completely stripped of all his protective gear as Meitantei sucks in a sharp breath.

“But if you knew what we know, you wouldn’t have that option. You’d take off all your KID gear at the end of the day- night- whatever, and you’d still keep one eye fixed over your shoulder if you wanted to stay alive.” Meitantei’s eyes are weary and sad- one truth- and he asks, “Do you have any friends at school?” Startled, Kaito’s mind flashes to Aoko, her smiles and laughter. Hakuba, maybe, depending on how invasive the half-Brit was being that day. Akako- depended on how close the bluemoon was. Rare occasion. Softer, Meitantei prods, “Family?” Kaito’s Kāsan, toasting him with a mug of hot chocolate from around the world, maybe not always physically present, but always there for him, ready to smile softly and help him with his troubles if he ever once asks. Jii-chan, maybe not as close as Kāsan, but always the perfect back-up on heists if things went wrong. Kaito’d always been able to trust Jii-chan with his back.

Heavily, Meitantei says, “That’s why I can’t tell you, KID.” Kaito’s eyes flash up, confused. Meitantei meets his gaze steadily, decided, looking not a bit his age. When Kaito glances at Haibara-san, he can see that she’s looking away, sadness in her eyes, too. “You’ve only ever dealt with being the one that’s the target. If either of us tell you, and They find out, everyone you care about will be hunted to extinction.” Kaito flinches involuntarily. “They’re killers, KID. The worst you’ve dealt with are snipers fixated on particular jewel thieves, I’m guessing. The ones we’re up against will kill innocents without blinking on the off-chance that they might know something.” Kaito’s horrified expression is countered by the obvious weight on these children’s (how can they be children) shoulders.

“We never asked to be part of this,” Meitantei clarifies softly, his eyes seemingly fixed on the clover charm attached to KID’s monocle. “I was stupid, arrogant, and I’m lucky I didn’t die. Now-” he looks down, looking at his hands, then seems to shake himself. “Haibara didn’t have a choice either. She’s lucky she’s alive, too. They’re actively hunting her: our only saving grace being that they don’t know what she looks like.” The boy’s eyes meet his own solemnly. “If we mess up, if we get discovered...we’re not the only ones who’ll be killed. For Haibara they’ll kill the kids: Ayumi, Mitsuhiko, Genta.” The little faces flash through his mind, and Kaito feels nauseous. “Definitely Agasa-hakase too, since she’s staying with him.” The balding old mustached man. “For me, well, for me we’d be lucky if they stopped at just killing Kogoro-ojiisan and Ran-neechan,” he says bitterly. He glances at Haibara-san, who’s looking at the trees outside with an exhausted expression, “What’s the likelihood that they’d go after the cops I’ve interacted with?” he asks her, almost conversational. She glances at him and seems to consider the question.

“Admittedly unlikely,” she says finally, shifting her weight. “They probably wouldn’t risk drawing the attention of law enforcement.” She glances at Kaito for a moment, then adds, “Although, I think you would also definitely have to worry about Hattori-kun and your parents. And most likely Suzuki-san and Kisaki-san, considering the circumstances.” Meitantei nods, unsurprised, and the casualness of this exchange is leaving Kaito feeling completely out of place.

He’d thought he’d be prepared for anything, once he’d become Kaitou KID. Finding out his father had been Kaitou KID? Sure, yeah, okay. Snipers after him? Unsurprising. A magical gem that grants immortality? It would explain a lot of things. After that, a witch showing up was practically a cake walk.

Finding out that, not only is there apparently another entirely different bad-guy group, but that said bad-guy group is targeting two seven year olds? Practically unbelievable. Even worse, the fact that those two seven year olds, one of whom he’d already become rather attached to, can just discuss a possible mass-execution so apathetically? If Kaito didn’t know better, he’d think this was some kind of sick, elaborate kid’s prank. But it isn’t, and it’s less surprising if he takes into account what he knows about these kids.

For the two days he’s interacted with her, Haibara-san’s never given Kaito any kind of impression of a seven year old. If he never laid eyes on her, and only heard her voice saying what she said, he’d think she was a middle schooler, or young high-schooler with a high voice. If he had nothing to go on besides her words? He’d probably guess she was his age, or even older. She’d called psychology “a soft science”, for crying out loud, and implied she practiced other kinds of sciences!

Meitantei is definitely a force of nature: Kaito’s known this since the kid had lit that bottle-rocket on the rooftop. Sure, he acts his age sometimes around other adults, but Kaito’s seen him operate. Kaito’s known the truth behind “The Sleeping Kogoro” ever since the Magic Lover’s Murder Case, when Suzuki had dropped unconscious out of nowhere and her voice picked apart the crime, just as Meitantei’d done on the cruise ship with the black pearl. It wasn’t hard to connect the dots at that point. And with the amount of dead bodies he’s seen- murder cases he’s solved, Kaito knows that if he was a normal kid he’d have to be more than a little insane.

This is not a joke. The kids watch him with solemn eyes as he shifts in his seat, staring at his intertwining hands, and Kaito misses the look of warning the boy sends at the girl, and the girl’s responding hunch and chin-tuck, pursing her lips.

“KID,” Meitantei says softly, and Kaito’s head jerks up to look at him, watching his eyes gentle from behind the glasses. “Don’t worry, nothing has to change.” Kaito’s still got images of his important ones covered in blood in his head, and it’s almost like the other two can see his thoughts, concern and sadness washing over their faces in varying degrees. Haibara-san tears her eyes away. “KID,” Meitantei calls again, and Kaito works to focus his eyes on the young detective. “You don’t have to worry, whatever you’re imagining won’t happen, you don’t need to know.”

This reassurance makes the image in his head shift, sightless amber eyes becoming blue, blood no longer stained on light brown hair but spattered across glasses too-big for the face they rest on, a tiny body lying limp on the floor, skateboard and dartwatch shattered to pieces, an already deflated soccer-ball somewhere nearby. Reassurance does not reach Kaito as he stares back at Meitantei- the living, real one- and croaks out, “She said you’re suffering?”

A passing headlight lights up the room through the trees outside, the glare hitting Meitantei’s glasses, and in the swift light Kaito can see Meitantei’s left hand jolt: a movement suppressed but not erased, and Kaito’s eyes fly back to the boy’s face to see if he’s going to lie. But Meitantei’s eyes are still gentle-sad as he reassures, “Nothing to worry about. She’s over exaggerating- I’m fine.” A nagging voice in the back of Kaito’s head, a constant murmur of ‘Meitantei has always been an extremely skilled liar- has always been reckless with his own safety- can I really believe this is the truth?’ But the question that stands solid amidst the chaos in his head is an honestly bewildered, ‘If it isn’t the truth, then what could be causing Meitantei to suffer?’

Because, in all honesty, the kids really hadn’t held back their explanation. They’d given a very blatant and brutal outline of the situation to Kaito, which means Meitantei’s theoretical suffering probably has nothing to do with this other group of bad guys. The only other possibility Kaito can think of that Meitantei could be keeping from him- an idea he’d touched on for a panicked second earlier, is that Meitantei knows his civilian identity. Kaito’d have no way of knowing how, or why he wouldn’t have already arrested him in that case (Hakuba would be more than willing to assist, in that scenario), but if Meitantei’s purposely concealing the information, it could possibly cause him at least discomfort for keeping it to himself.

If that is the case, that’s the information that’s causing Meitantei to suffer, and to lie about it, Kaito can quietly admit- at least to himself- that Haibara-san’s words would make sense. Kaito hates even the idea of being the cause of his important ones’ suffering, and if it is true then Kaito’d honestly rather Meitantei gave him up then suffer. It’d be on Kaito for being Kaitou KID, for putting Meitantei in that position, and letting a situation like that continue would be on the same level as directing Snake’s attention to Meitantei. Inexcusable.

Except-

Except-

What would knowing Kaito’s identity, knowing about Kuroba Kaito, have to do with this other evil organization? Kaito can acknowledge the fact that- if the KID-causes-suffering theory is the case- then Meitantei could’ve told him without ever mentioning a word about the other bad guys. But Meitantei’d brought the entire thing up as evidence that they couldn’t tell Kaito because of it, and if the whole thing is considered, Meitantei would be lying to protect Kaito. And- and telling Kaito anything at all about a group that kills people that only might know anything doesn’t really seem like protection, to be honest.

So... Meitantei’s telling the truth. Haibara-san’s exaggerating- what about, Kaito’s too drained to care really. Maybe he’ll think about it later. Right now he just wants to go home and sleep.

It’s the feel of hesitant fingers reaching out to brush his arm that finally gets him to move, flinching away in exhausted paranoia. He looks up sharply (when had Meitantei gotten across the room? Kaito hadn’t heard him at all) and sees the hand freeze where it is, sees Meitantei’s eyes flash in hurt before settling into a mask of concern, letting his hand fall back to his side.

“KID?” The question is a whisper of sound, and Kaito has to be thankful that it’s no longer an interrogation. He feels too brittle, too unprepared to be Kaitou KID right now- which is why he almost wants Meitantei to stop calling him that. “You can go home, you know. You don’t have to stay.” Meitantei’s reassurances wash over him, and he wants to relax in response- Meitantei wouldn’t lie to him- but he knows that if he only slightly relaxes now he’ll go boneless. Tension is the only thing maintaining his composure.

Kaito glances at Haibara-san: a pointed look, and Meitantei makes the connection like a true detective, following his glance before looking right back into his eyes. “She threatened you into coming here?” The question is more of a statement of a hypothesis, but the fact that Haibara-san’s not denying it is obviously telling. Meitantei sighs, “Whatever she threatened you with- she won’t do.” Kaito’s feeling bewildered, which must show on his face because Meitantei offers him a tentative smile. “I guarantee it. And I wouldn’t lie about that- one truth and all.” A kind look is in the blue eyes watching him, and Kaito decides that he’s going to have to review all of this tomorrow, because there’s way too many things going on that he is not capable of processing at this moment.

Kaito. Still can’t seem to get himself to stand up, though. It seems his muscles have locked into place. After a silent pause, for some reason that Kaito can’t begin to fathom, Meitantei seems to understand the problem.

“Ah,” the boy’s voice lacks any judgement as he seems to survey options, “I’m assuming you don’t exactly want us to help you out the door?” Kaito has no idea how he would reply to that, which is why he’s grateful that this is also more a statement of fact. Meitantei shakes his head, looking at the wall behind Kaito as he considers, “But with the way things are, you’re probably not going to be able to get up as long as we’re here, either. Which leaves-” He turns to look at Haibara-san, an indecipherable expression on his face, and Kaito can see how she’s watching them out of the corners of her eyes. They seem to communicate silently, but Meitantei’s facing away from him and Haibara-san’s head is turned to the side so Kaito isn’t privy to the conversation, just slight facial movements that he barely catches. Finally, Haibara-san’s arms drop to her sides.

“Which means we should take our leave now, it seems.” Her voice is uncaring as she moves, muscles shifting so as to appear deliberately unthreatening, and she reaches the door. She hesitates only slightly before letting herself out. Meitantei watches that, and then turns to look at him, his shrewd stare making Kaito shift uncomfortably. The blue softens once more, and Meitantei leans in, too swift and unexpected for Kaito to anticipate, and pats Kaito’s left hand with his own, turning away and moving towards the door in one motion. Kaito blinks: his brain is so not ready to think about that.

With his right hand on the door handle and left in his pocket, Meitantei pauses as Haibara-san had, but unlike Haibara-san he calls, “You’re safe. See you next heist.” Then, almost forcing himself, he opens the door, stepping into the night. The waning crescent moon, though not a full one, still provides enough light for Kaito to see the way the muscles of Meitantei’s left arm flinch, and wonders at it as the door closes behind him.

It takes about five minutes for Kaito to straighten out of his curled position on the couch, and another ten to finally get his feet under him. He’s not entirely sure if the fabric of his cape is helping or hindering his balance.

Two minutes after that a figure in dark clothing makes their way out of the Kudou mansion and down the street, toward the train station. A neighbor down the street that often stays up late looks up to see the figure passing under a street lamp, and wonders if they’re imagining things because the figure looks suspiciously like that Kudou boy that’d gone missing some months ago. By the time they blink to confirm what they see, the figure is gone.

Chapter Text

When he’d gotten back home that day, Kaito’d written everything down. A list, because even though his memory makes him capable of transcribing the conversation, the entire exchange had still freaked him out too much to write more than the bare facts.

 

  • Other evil organization (connected to mine?)- not interested in gems or thieves or Pandora. Killers- will kill innocents for nothing more than suspicion (have they already?). Targeting Meitantei and Haibara-san.
    • Meitantei made a mistake - “stupid, arrogant”
    • They’re after Haibara-san but don’t know what she looks like
  • Haibara-san - scientist? “Psychology = soft science”. Smart.
    • Knows about soulmark - Meitantei said she wouldn’t tell?
  • Meitantei suffering? Because of me?
    • Was not denied, but was played down by Meitantei
    • Meitantei doesn’t want me to know
    • Haibara-san acting against his wishes
    • What reason?
    • Protecting me?
  • Meitantei knows Kaitou KID is a teenager
    • Acting wierd- gentle
    • comforting
    • Did not attempt capture

 

It’s when he’s in class the next day- unnerving practically everyone with how quiet he is, that he frowns, and considers the list yet again. He taps his pen against the desk, and the class collectively cuts their eyes at him. He doesn’t notice, his eyebrows pinching together, staring at the paper with an intensity that makes the teacher shift uneasily. Aoko’s staring at him, her eyes boring into him, but he brushes off the feeling: she has nothing on Haibara Ai. Akako’s out today, but Hakuba’s watching him too, his amber eyes curious. Almost suspicious. Kaito ignores him too. Looking at the list, he twirls the pen in his hand a couple of times, connecting dots that have appeared and long since faded from as far back as The Gathering of Detectives. The pen stops mid-spin, and the class stills in anticipation. But Kaito simply clicks his pen, and adds one more bullet to the list.

 

  • Meitantei’s left arm hurts?

 

He stares at what he’s written, then sets the pen down and sighs. The class relaxes visibly, and he finally seems to sense the atmosphere.

“What? What?” He laughs, pulling a much more natural-looking grin onto his face, “Were you all looking forward to my show?”

Aoko barely manages a warning, “Kaito,” before the class is engulfed in chaos once more.

 

~

 

By the end of the class Kaito’s relaxed enough to start looking into things. Mainly: figure out what it is about Meitantei and Haibara-san that makes them so different from other kids. So after school he goes straight for the door: ignoring Aoko who looks almost lost and Hakuba whose curiosity and suspicion had merged with confusion half-way through the day. Kaito stops by his house to put on a simple disguise, one that’ll help him blend in, then gets on the train and doesn’t get off until he’s at the stop nearest to a certain elementary school. He knows from previous research (not nearly thorough enough, apparently), that Beika Elementary ends at approximately the same time as his school, so maybe if he’s lucky (he usually is) (he hasn’t been in the last couple days), he’ll be able to find the kids in the park or something.

His luck hold up in that he finds Ayumi, Genta, and Mitsuhiko, but it seems like it’d been too much to ask that the other two would be with them. He briefly considers leaving the three to find one of the other two, then sighs and shoves his hands in his pockets, walking into the park. There’s no reason he needs to find the other two the first day of his poking around- and maybe the other kids can give him some information without freaking him out. Besides, there’s no guarantee that he’d even be able to find either of the other two. It’s only when he’s almost to the trio that he notices that they’re pretty low on energy, compared to the day before yesterday. Genta’s just kicking his soccer ball (shudder) at a wall, and Ayumi and Mitsuhiko are watching him looking bored. Kaito tilts his head ‘What’s wrong with the kids? They were fine when I last saw them…’ He approaches them and sits next to Mitsuhiko, which is about when they finally take notice of him. They stare at him, slightly suspicious, and he decides that it’s probably best if he’s the one that starts the conversation with Meitantei’s friends: the detectives in training.

“Why do you kids look so gloomy?” He asks brightly, blinking at them through dark brown contacts, “It’s such a nice day!” It actually is, and even Kaito feels slightly put-out by the fact: last night had been such a train-wreck that a nice day like this is a slap in the face. It seems his words are commonplace and expected enough to relax the kids, though, because Genta goes back to bouncing the ball off the wall and Ayumi sighs, pursing her lips.

Surprisingly, it’s Mitsuhiko that speaks first. “Our friends wouldn’t come with us, even though they promised yesterday that they’d play soccer with us after school today.”

“Ai-chan almost never plays with us, she always watches from the side, so we were really looking forward to it!” Ayumi pipes up, pouting.

“I’m sorry to hear that,” Kaito provides sympathetically. “But why do you think she’d break such an important promise?” The two sitting next to him hesitate, meeting each other’s eyes.

“Conan and Haibara are at each other’s throats!” It’s Genta, he’s stopped kicking the ball and is holding it under an arm, walking towards them. Curious, Kaito considers that. ‘At each other’s throats?’ Ayumi sighs, depressed.

“Something must have happened yesterday after we got back from the trip,” Mitsuhiko reasons out, and Ayumi nods.

“But what I don’t get is how? We dropped Conan-kun off at Ran-neechan’s house first and they were both fine, which means the only way they’d be mad at each other is if they met up after that, or at least called each other.”

“So the two questions are:” Genta surmises, sitting down heavily in front of them (Kaito blinks as realizes he’s being treated to a mini deduction show), “why did they get in contact with each other last night, and what made Conan so mad?” Well, Kaito obviously knows the answer to the first question, but he won’t be telling them that anytime soon. He is, however, just as curious about the second one.

“This Conan-kun,” he starts slowly, and the kids jump slightly: they must’ve forgotten he was there, “why do you say he was mad?” He knows it has something to do with Haibara-san trying to tell KID the whole situation, and that Meitantei had clearly not wanted her to do that, but he also knows the kids would not be privy to that information. Maybe what Meitantei’d done to let the kids know he was angry would give Kaito an otherwise unknown hint.

“Because he was mad,” Genta says, almost solemnly. Mitsuhiko nods.

“When we got to school today he wouldn’t talk to us, and Haibara-san didn’t arrive early like she usually does. She didn’t arrive until right before the first bell rang. She seemed normal, mostly, but when she saw Edogawa-kun she started acting strange. Then, when lunch break came, he dragged her out of the classroom. It’s even weirder because Edogawa-kun’s always been almost protective of Haibara-san, and now...”

Ayumi huddles into a ball, “I’ve never seen him so angry,” she whispers. Okay, definitely new information.

“Maybe, if you can answer my questions…” Kaito says, and their eyes all snap to him, waiting, “Maybe I can help you figure out some things? I’m a pretty good problem solver.” The intelligent looks in their eyes would be unsettling, if he wasn’t already used to Haibara-san. Not to mention Meitantei. Now they just seem almost cute.

It seems they’ve come to a decision when Mitsuhiko asks, “All right, what are your questions? We’ll answer what we can.”

Kaito holds up a finger, “One: when you say Haibara-san was acting strange when she saw Conan-kun, what did you mean?”

“She acted defensively,” Mitsuhiko replies promptly. “She sits next to Edogawa-kun in class, but when she sat down she didn’t look at him once and kept her eyes down the whole time. She stayed on her side of the desk.”

“She kept her hands folded under the desk the whole time,” Ayumi adds. “And I saw that she kept doing this,” Ayumi demonstrates by folding her hands and rubbing her palms and knuckles with her fingers and thumbs. Kaito sits back.

“That means something, doesn’t it?” Genta asks, noticing. When Kaito hesitates, he says, irritated, “We’ll tell you what we know, but only because you promised to help us. You have to tell us what you figure out.” Kaito considers this, and then them. They’re all staring at him, waiting.

He sighs, “Well, those are self comforting gestures,” he informs them, figuring it can’t hurt. “It doesn’t really tell us anything we don’t already know, just confirms the defensive bit. She obviously already knew Conan-kun was mad at her, and it made her uncomfortable.” He pauses, glancing at the children, then adds, for their benefit, “Guess it means that the argument or whatever started last night and that they went home before it was settled.” The kids slump at that, and Kaito holds up a second finger, drawing their attention back to him, “Two: did you hear anything at all of the argument?” They exchange glances.

“Well…” Ayumi draws out, reluctant. “Not at first. They were pretty quiet. But we followed them, and…” She looks almost pleadingly for help from the boys.

“They were at each other’s throats,” Genta repeats heavily. “They kept saying things we didn’t understand.” Kaito perks up.

“What kinds of things?”

“Edogawa-kun was being very accusatory, saying things like ‘what made you think it was a good idea?’ and ‘you had no right’. Haibara-san was being very defensive, saying that nothing had really happened in the end so what was with the interrogation?”

“‘It’s dangerous’ kept coming up,” Ayumi interjects. “It’s dangerous and something about being stubborn about keeping a secret for so long so why now?”

“The thing we didn’t get, besides them hiding something from us, is what Conan said near the end.” Genta’s words make Kaito’s attention snap to him.

“Can you tell me what you heard? As accurately as possible?” The children think about it.

“Conan-kun said…” Ayumi starts hesitantly, her eyes flickering, “Conan-kun said: ‘Who gave you the right? This was completely out of your-’” She pauses, struggling with a word, and Mitsuhiko provides, “jurisdiction,” and Ayumi nods, “‘jurisdiction, so what makes you think you can just throw everything to hell? It’s none of your business what’s happening with this, so why did you decide to throw him in the middle of it?’” That makes them pause, and they exchange surprised glances. Kaito guesses they’d forgotten the him bit, but since he’d rather they tell him what they know before deducing Kaitou KID’s involvement in this, he prompts, “And?”

(He files away the bit where Meitantei seems to be trying very hard to keep KID out of whatever this is- harder than Kaito’d thought- to a back corner of his mind where he’ll speculate on later.)

“Then Haibara-san said,” Mitsuhiko continues, surprising Kaito. Seems the kids remembered more than he’d expected. “‘Do I need a reason to interfere? I’m worried about you! You’re obviously not holding up as well as you claim, and the currently known maximum is four months. And that was an adult. You are currently seven years old and have already passed double the minimum! Nothing’s going to change the way you’re hoping for within two months- and I’m worried!’” The kids obviously have pretty good memories: their words are sending Kaito reeling. Maximum for what?  And- assuming the beginning of this limit had to do with KID- wouldn’t that mean it had to do with either that first murder case or- the detective gathering? Kaito’s inclined to think it was the gathering, Meitantei’d been acting normal at the Magic Lover’s one.

Genta startles him by continuing the recount, “Which is when Conan got a really weird look on his face. And he kinda- stared at her?- for a second, and then he said, ‘And you decide that now is the time to show your worry?’ and then he called her something we didn’t understand. It wasn’t a bad word, but it sounded like Shelly, like that song by Yutaka Ozaki. It hurt Haibara’s feelings a lot though.”

“She curled up standing,” Mitsuhiko recalls softly.

“Then Conan-kun walked away,” Ayumi says. “He just left. He didn’t go back to the classroom when lunch was over.”

 

~

 

Kaito doesn’t manage to find Meitantei that evening, after separating from the kids. Barely gets a glimpse of him the next day, after rushing out of class the second the bell rang and once again ignoring Aoko and Hakuba, Akako in the mix this time. He’d spotted him exiting the bookstore, but Meitantei’d just hopped on his skateboard and jetted away, and Kaito hadn’t been equipped to follow. Wednesday Aoko cornered him after class, demanding answers that he did his best to at least not lie about. ‘No, Aoko, I’m not doing anything suspicious. I’ve just been checking up on a friend. A mutual acquaintance told me he’s not doing well, but he’s pretty insistent that he’s fine. I’m just kind of worried. We keep missing each other. No, you’ve never met him, Aoko, so telling you who won’t help.’ On Thursday Kaito’d gotten on the train again and purposely got off two stops after Beika, because neither Aoko nor Hakuba are particularly skilled stalkers. On Friday he stumbles across Meitantei, but he also stumbles across Meitantei at a murder scene, which is not a good place to be for anyone that’s hiding anything. Kaito swears the kid can deduce affairs from two blocks away. He considers hanging around until after, then discards the idea. Who knows how long it will take for Meitantei to get the police to figure it out? He doesn’t have his favorite ventriloquist doll with him today, after all.

There’s a part of him that shifts uncomfortably at that thought: it may be true, but Meitantei doesn’t dart the guy and use his voice to be cruel, just to find justice for the victim. Besides, with how much Mouri has whacked Meitantei upside the head, and considering Meitantei does his job for him- well, Kaito definitely considers Mouri to be the one that’s taking advantage of Meitantei. But he doesn’t even know, does he? It’s amazing the man used to be an official police detective.

He also discards the option of trying to find Meitantei over the weekend. There’s no guarantee the seven-year-old will even be in Beika, not to mention Kaito has quite a bit of making up to do with Aoko, who’s pretty put-out that Kaito’s been ignoring her the whole week. The realization of this fact is worrisome: since when has Meitantei ranked higher than Aoko? Sure Kaito’s worried and confused about the whole situation with Meitantei, but- Aoko. Aoko, who’s been the only person Kaito has ever admitted he wouldn’t mind being married to, even after he’d gotten his soulmark.

After all, it was ridiculously rare to even find your soulmate.

So it’s the following Monday, exactly a week after his talk with the kids, that he finally tracks down Meitantei. And Haibara-san. And the other three. They’re all at the park, and it seems that whatever argument Meitantei and Haibara-san had has been settled: tensions are high but they seem to be at least trying for normal, as opposed to a fake front put on for the other kids, who look ecstatic.

Kaito stops at the entrance to the park, watching the scene. Meitantei’s juggling his soccer ball, a look of concentration on his face, doing some weird/complicated movement that Kaito doesn’t think even he could do without years of practice. He seems to also be waiting for the others to join him: the trio are all working to convince Haibara-san to join in a game, whines of “you promised last week!” responded to with “five’s an uneven number” which is largely ignored as the girl’s dragged onto the field. Meitantei pauses in his juggling, regarding her, and Kaito can see the faintest tensing in her from where he is. Then, Meitantei pulls on a grin that’s eerily like KID’s and kicks the ball to her. She catches it, startled.

“We did promise, Haibara,” is the statement that finally makes her relent, shuffling of her own volition to the middle of the field. Kaito considers the scene, then wonders what he’d ever intended to do once he caught up with Meitantei in the first place. He’s already gotten a bunch of hints from the kids, and Meitantei is apparently the person who is most against Kaito’s involvement anyway. And Kaito doesn’t necessarily want full disclosure, from what he’d understood that night, so he’s not really looking to have another chit chat with Haibara Ai.

So he just. Turns, and walks away. (Meitantei’d seemed fine.)

 

~

 

Kaito’s showing off card tricks to Aoko, who’s obviously impressed despite herself. Hakuba’s pretending to ignore him by having a book out and in front of him, but Kaito can see him watching when Hakuba thinks he’s not looking, trying to figure out the trick. Boring detective.

A conversation filters into his awareness, just a bit of gossip between two random female classmates, and Kaito barely gives them an ounce of attention.

“Did you hear?”

“Hear what?”

“Oh my god! So, like, there was a murder at that cafe down the street! You know, the one with the cat?” A gasp.

“No way!”

“Way!”

“So, like, what happened? Spill!”

“Okay, so like, you know Nishio Satomi? From class D?”

“Ugh, yeah. She’s a sweetheart. Wish she played for the other team.”

“I know, right? So, like, apparently there was some fucking creeper stalking her!”

“No!”

“Yes! But then, like, apparently he just dropped dead? Like, completely out of nowhere! But he was stalking her, you know? So she was, like, number one suspect!”

“Oh, nuh-uh!”

“But then, like, the weirdest thing happened! So, the thing is, I kind of got there not long after the fucker dropped dead? And I mean, I literally walked in and saw this mustached fatty in a fedora interrogating her! And I was like, ‘Oh, nuh-uh, Fatty, Satomi-chan would sooner give this creep first-aid than kill him!’ So there I was, about to give him a piece of my mind, when his phone goes off!”

“What’s so weird about that?”

“I’m getting to it! So, we all just kinda stop to look at this stupid cop that can’t even turn off his ringer during a murder case-”

“Oh!”

“- and even he looks kinda surprised, but he does hang up without looking, which I gotta give him credit for.”

“That is so true- if it was a girlfriend or wife he’s fucked.”

“Exactly! So he rejects the call and all, but just as he’s about to start back into Satomi-chan, it goes off again!”

“Ooooh, he’s in trouble!”

“No, wait, this is where it gets weird.”

“You said it got weird like five minutes ago!”

“No, seriously, super weird. Cause this time he looks at the caller-id. And he picks up.”

“On the job?? We’re not even allowed to be on our phones in class!”

“But, like, he’s obviously listening to whoever’s talking to him, and then he turns completely around to look at the dead guy again. Still on the phone. Completely ignoring Satomi-chan. And he starts finding things. Things he’d missed. Things that whoever’s on the other end of his cell is apparently finding for him.”

“What the fuck?”

“That’s what I said! So apparently, I mean, I said Satomi-chan was the main suspect, but it was actually more like she was the only suspect.”

“What??”

“But- no, listen- but then once Fedora’s got his phone open he’s apparently got the light of God shining down on his ass or something, because he starts asking other customers questions. And, so, like, they’d barred the way? I barely squeezed through the doors, the rest of the place was velvet-roped off and literally all the schmucks who were there at the time were all not allowed to leave. But once he starts asking questions, he talks to whoever his phone-bestie is, and just lets all but three people go!”

“Nuh- uh!”

“Yeah- huh! And he just digs into them! Poor Satomi-chan’s just standing there lost, while this guy is asking all sorts of questions that are super invasive, but apparently all creepily accurate. And, like, I shit you not, the guy was getting all these questions from whoever was on the phone with him!”

“You have got to be pulling my leg.”

“I’m serious! And then there’s this realllly long pause, and Fedora starts ordering around his minions, telling them to ‘sit there’, ‘do this’, ‘get that’.”

“Oh, this oughta be good.”

“And then, once they’ve gotten everything, they act out what must have been the murder! Like, Satomi-chan looks all horrified, and the other three look kinda shocked, so I kinda assume it’s how it went. Then, once it’s all done, the guy listens to phone-chan a bit more, then accuses the other girl! The only girl of the three he’d weeded out! So there I am, thinking he’s just a sexist quack or something, while she starts getting all pissy and denying it like, ya know, everyone would do in that situation, when he holds his hand up to shut her up and listens to the damn phone!”

“Oh my god, what the fuck?”

“No, this is where it gets good. Because everyone’s just standing there, waiting, when he’s suddenly all ‘check her socks, she’s got poison in ‘em’, and we’re all like ‘uh what?’, and one of his lackeys walks up to her and checks her socks. And. There it is. Like a piece of unicorn shit, there falls a packet of fucking cyanide.”

No!

“Yes! And then this girl just completely cracks and starts crying about how dead guy had been her boyfriend, and how he’d dumped her for Satomi-chan (who wouldn’t?), and how she’d done her best to pin it on Satomi-chan but apparently her ‘fires of vengeance could only be quenched by being extinguished’ or some shit. She’s handcuffed and the news guys outside are already snapping pics of her by the time I realize I wasn’t just watching a fucking movie.”

Oh my God!

“I know! And I was just fucking standing there like a goddamn numpty when Fedora walked right passed me. I mean, I wanted answers, so I held the door open, and I mean, the news guys were asking all the right questions! But then Fedora’s all ‘The police received aid from a cooperating party’ so I knew he wasn’t gonna just pull shit out his ass and say he came up with it himself, but when the press asked who the smarty on the phone was, Fedora’s all ‘The cooperating party wishes to remain anonymous’.”

“You’re joking!”

“I’m not! And he just kept saying that! Wouldn’t budge an inch. Which, of course, was when I remembered poor Satomi-chan, and immediately went to her. Nearly tripped over some kid coming out the bathroom. Anyway, so I have a date with Satomi-chan this Saturday!”

“You have a date with Satomi-chan? Wait- we have a chance?”

“Maybe you don’t, but I do.”

“Real funny, bitch.”

Kaito tunes them out completely when he notices how frustrated Hakuba is that he can’t figure out the trick. Kaito smirks at him, and the detective gets a petulant look on his face when he realizes he’s been caught, yanking his gaze back to his neglected book. Aoko giggles.

 

~

 

The next time KID sees Meitantei, it’s on the roof of his next heist. He’d almost given up on seeing Meitantei, not having seen him doing his thing around the emerald old man Suzuki had gotten his hands on, but here the boy is, sitting on the railing around the roof, staring out at the other buildings. He looks over his shoulder at KID when he manages to ditch the security sent after him, courtesy of Hakuba.

“It took you four minutes to ditch the grunts?” Meitantei asks, slipping off the railing to stand on the roof opposite KID. He sticks his hands in his pockets, “You’re losing your touch.” KID pouts at him.

“You’re not the only detective that can untie my shoelaces, Meitantei. Give me some credit!” What KID doesn’t mention is that, while Hakuba’s interference really is akin to untieing KID’s shoelaces, Meitantei’s interference is better described as a soccer ball to the face. For obvious reasons. The boy looks at him consideringly.

“Ah,” Meitantei tips his head in understanding, “right. I forgot Hakuba’s still in town.” Before KID can even begin wondering how he’d made that connection, he feels Meitantei’s eyes on him, and grins down at him.

“I know, I look much more dashing in full moonlight, don’t I?” He’s making a reference to the Kudou mansion disaster: why, he doesn’t know. He just inwardly hopes the detective will stop staring at him like that. His hopes are dashed in a way he does not expect.

“Yes, you do,” Meitantei responds absently, still examining him. KID’s not willing to admit that it feels like this seven year old is checking him out. “It makes me wonder if the fact that all of your heists are scheduled on full moons for the sole effect of aweing your audience, as opposed to being for a more important reason.” Meitantei’s eyes refocus, and he somehow senses the mild discomfort KID’s feeling. “Sorry,” he apologizes, putting his hands up in the “no harm” gesture, “you’re very distracting, is all. The moonlight is flattering on you.” KID slams his poker face on full force as fast as he can to keep from gaping, his ears tinting pink against his will. Meitantei winces, “I shouldn’t have said that.”

KID, for the life of him, cannot get words into, much less out of, his mouth. He’s left with his teeth clamped, KID smile shining brighter than his costume.

There’s a good half-minute of silence, KID-grin facing off against the look of chagrined apology on Meitantei’s face, which is broken the second they both hear the faintest crack of something familiar. In the next moment, Meitantei’s diving at him, hands grabbing at his cape and dragging him down, KID following the momentum in a kind of dissociation. His mind catches up when he’s lying on the ground, cape spread out behind him, Meitantei over him, smoking bullet hole five inches from his face, and his brain makes a correction to his assessment: Meitantei’s not just over him- he’s put himself between KID and where the sniper should be, judging by the angle of the bullet hole. KID knows better than to think it’s coincidental.

“What are you doing?” he hisses, trying to sit up to get the seven year old out of the line of fire.

Meitantei’s doing his level best to stay right where he is. “Stay down!” He hisses, pressing a hand down on KID’s sternum, trying to look over his shoulder to see if the sniper’s still there, and KID briefly wonders if it would be against his intentions if he kicked Meitantei off. He takes too long to decide, because the second Meitantei decides the coast is clear he’s got his hands curled into KID’s lapels and his face in KID’s face.

“What am I doing?” The boy demands, looking down at KID like he can’t believe anyone can be so stupid, “What are you doing? You almost got shot!” KID blinks dumbly at him.

“Didn’t you say you knew there were snipers after me?” Meitantei’s are wide behind his glasses, filled to the brim with incredulity.

“Yes, I knew about the fucking snipers, KID. What I didn’t know, apparently, is how out of control the situation actually is!” KID raises an eyebrow in confusion, and Meitantei’s hand slaps down hard next to KID’s head, startling him. KID absently notices that Meitantei’s not wearing his wristwatch again. It seems that startling KID had not been what the detective had had in mind, because he closes his eyes and sucks in a breath. “You’re an adrenaline junkie,” Meitantei’s voice explains, controlled. Well, he isn’t wrong, but that has nothing to do with this. “I thought you were letting the snipers run loose because they made things more difficult. More fun, in your dictionary. I didn’t realize they actually posed a threat to you.” Now KID’s the one who’s incredulous.

“Miscalculation on your part,” he chirps lightly, his grin firmly in place once more. He doesn’t say ‘They’ve already killed at least one other,’ because he doesn’t need Meitantei knowing more than he already does, and also because he doesn’t think he’d be able to get his throat around the words even if he tried. Meitantei looks irritated at KID’s words, but it doesn’t appear he’s mad at the thief anymore. He makes to get up off of KID but winces and almost crumples back in the process, his arm shaking with strain. KID wonders for a panicked moment whether the bullet had grazed Meitantei- but no. No blood anywhere on the boy or the ground. But the fact remains that the detective is grasping his left forearm- oh. Hello reference to final bullet point. Meitantei manages to get up, and KID sits up from underneath him, grabbing Meitantei’s left arm. Within the split-second of KID’s movement, every muscle in the arm tenses, tiny muscles standing out faintly against the detective’s skin. Meitantei doesn’t try to shake him off, just drops his right hand back to his side.

“What,” the boy whispers, not looking at him, “are you doing.” It’s almost not a question. And since it’s not an official question, KID doesn’t feel the need to respond. He simply tugs Meitantei’s left sleeve up to his elbow, and starts checking for injuries. As KID carefully examines the small forearm for anything from small cuts to muscle damage, the detective’s muscles slowly loosen bit by bit. A breath, then a quiet, “You won’t find anything. There’s nothing about my arm that’s different.” Maybe if KID wasn’t KID, or maybe if it wasn’t Meitantei saying the them, he wouldn’t have noticed the crushing sadness in the words. The truthful sadness. But he is KID, the words are Meitantei’s, and he does notice. KID looks up into the other’s face, their eyes meeting, the two blues clashing: drowning sorrow and pain shying away from confusion and curiosity and worry. KID’s almost breathless.

“What are you keeping from me?” They’re searching each other’s faces, and somewhere in the back of his head KID realizes that his face is tilting up towards Meitantei, the moon’s shining down, and that the boy can see his face. He. He just can’t care. But between one second and the next, Meitantei’s face shutters, the phoniest grin KID’s ever seen anyone pull off pasting itself on the detective’s face.

“What do you mean?” Meitantei’s voice goes up three pitches: the little-kid voice KID’s only ever heard being used on other adults, and only that very first time with himself. The blatant rejection in this action makes KID drop the boy’s arm like it’s a branding iron, flinching back with what feels like hurt pounding in his veins. Meitantei continues the act by tilting his head, asking brightly, “What could a seven year old be keeping from a Kaitou? Silly KID.” And he giggles. KID pulls his grin back on once more, rising to his feet, pulling his hat down so the brim can cover more of his face. A defensive gesture, KID can admit to himself.

“If that is how it is to be,” KID says, unable to meet the other’s lying eyes, “then, as they say, Que sera, sera.” His cape flares behind him as he makes his way to the edge of the roof, fingers already reaching for the trigger that’ll produce his glider, the faint sounds of running footsteps finally approaching from below, when Meitantei’s voice, his real voice again, rings out behind him.

“KID,” he calls, and KID can’t stop himself from looking back. The boy’s face is pulled into a frown now, regret and apology and determination swirling on his face. “Can you-” his voice falters, then continues, “can you send me the next heist note first? Please?” The “please” nearly makes KID whirl around, almost makes him start demanding that the detective tell him everything, but the sound of the door to the roof slamming open and the inspector’s furious yell of “Kaitou KID!” prompts the teenaged thief to kick off the roof, letting his glider do the rest of the work.

 

~

 

He corners Hakuba the next day during lunch break. The half-Brit’s at his desk as usual, reading a book as usual, but he startles and looks up when Kaito slams a hand down on his desk. Aoko’s out talking to their teacher about something, and Akako’s surrounded by her admirers, so no one’s paying attention to this, what one could call, bizarre situation.

“Hey, Hakuba,” Kaito says cheerily, his grin a tad sharp-edged. Hakuba looks up, appearing completely non-plussed by the situation.

“Kuroba-kun,” he acknowledges, turning a page in his book, “to what do I owe this unpleasant situation?” Kaito pretends to pout, giving the blond puppy-dog eyes.

“You’re so mean, Hakuba! Can’t a guy talk to his classmate every once in a while?” Hakuba’s sharp eyes look up at him, shrewdly examining him.

“You were off last night. You usually return the jewel before leaving, but this time you sent it back to the Police Headquarters after the heist. Is this your way of saying you’ll tell me what happened?” Kaito gasps in mock-outrage, placing a hand over his heart.

“How many times must I say it, Hakuba? I, sad as it is, am not Kaitou KID. Although I’m sure we could teach each other good magic tricks, I have had no interaction whatsoever with the mysterious Phantom Thief. Must you accuse me of this every time we exchange words? You wound me!” Hakuba gives him a look that says the blond’s not taking his words seriously, but Kaito knows that already. It’s one of the reasons this detective can untie Kaitou KID’s shoelaces in the first place.

“There was a bullet hole where there hadn’t been before, and though Edogawa-kun claimed ignorance, he didn’t seem surprised when I pointed it out,” Hakuba insists, lowering his voice. If Kaito wants to hazard a guess, he’d say the blond’s being quieter so Kaito will just answer his questions without worrying about having to deny being KID. Meaning Hakuba’s probably actually worried about him. Aw, how cute. However, not what Kaito wants to talk about.

“Hey, Hakuba,” Kaito says, brushing aside the blond’s attempted interrogation, moving to sit on the desk, “You’re good with numbers, right?” Hakuba blinks up at him, taken completely off guard.

He nods hesitantly, “I am extremely good with numbers, as you already know, what-”

“Then you can answer a question that’s been bothering me for weeks,” Kaito interrupts, leaning closer. Hakuba leans back in response, expression drenched in confusion and body language practically screaming What is going on???? Kaito grins shark-like- KID-like at the fumbling detective. “Have you ever heard of anything,” Kaito starts, backing off slightly to make sure Hakuba’s paying attention, “that has a maximum time limit of four months, and a minimum time limit of approximately one month? The maximum accomplished by an adult, but whatever it is can be experienced by a child?” Hakuba looks bewildered, and Kaito deflates. He’d been hoping that the second he resorted to the British detective would be the second he’d get his answer.

“Experienced by?” Hakuba repeats, clearly racking his brains for an answer in a true detective fashion, “Can you please give me all the details? As many as possible?” Kaito considers this, wondering how much he can tell.

“Someone I know,” he begins slowly, thinking about it, “seems to have hurt their arm, but there are no visible marks. The pain seems to come back sporadically, but I have no way of measuring the level of pain, and they keep saying it’s nothing.” When Hakuba shows no sign of recognition, Kaito presses, “I was talking to a friend of theirs, who overheard a conversation they had with someone else. The other person was saying that they were worried about my friend, and that they’re not holding up as well as they claim, and mentioned the times I gave you, the maximum and how my friend has already passed ‘double the minimum’ despite not being an adult, and how they only have two months left.” Hakuba looks thoughtful.

“Well, if it weren’t for the time limits, there would be quite a few possibilities,” he muses, then clarifies, “medical possibilities.”

“But there are time limits,” Kaito feels the need to bring attention to, and Hakuba’s lips pinch in a confused frown.

“Yes, that’s what has me confused. It also leads me to the conclusion that there are no physical problems with your friend’s arm, because time limit means that it will be bad for time to pass, not good. And if it were a case of the bad developing over time, your friend’s conversation partner wouldn’t be standing around worried when they could just take them to the hospital. That’s where I’m stuck.” Kaito deliberates, hesitating heavily. If he tells Hakuba everything he can, he may be able to figure it out, but it could risk giving the detective proof of him being Kaitou KID. Kaito isn’t sure if it can, but it’s a reasonable suspicion, considering Meitantei’s problem apparently has a lot to do with Kaitou KID. He thinks of the pained expression on Meitantei’s face when he was clutching his forearm, then settles on his decision.

“Apparently,” he breaks into Hakuba’s rumination, startling him again, “it has to do with another person.” A flash of bafflement passes over Hakuba’s face before it darkens in horrified realization, and he stands up suddenly, nearly overturning the desk with Kaito on it.

“But you said there’s no visible marks on their arm?” He demands, both palms slapping the desk Kaito’s still perched on, leaning in. This time it’s Kaito leaning back.

“There aren’t-” Kaito insists, a vague awareness of the attention they’re drawing from the class flickering in his mind. “There’s nothing on his arm. Nothing at all.”

Hakuba narrows his eyes at him, biting out, “And you’re sure it was his arm? Not a cover up? Not a skin-colored sleeve? There wasn’t anything covering it, like makeup? Any kind of skin-colored paste? He wasn’t wearing a wristband, or a glove, or anything at all?”

The sudden intensity in the blond’s words is throwing Kaito for a loop: ‘He knows what’s wrong’, and he leans back in, getting nose-to-nose with Hakuba, rumbling out, in an entirely non-Kaito-like fashion, “Tell me what you know.”

Hakuba doesn’t appear to be bothered by the sudden proximity in the slightest, his eyes hardening as he demands, “Answer my questions, Kuroba-kun.” Kaito huffs out an irritated breath as he thinks back to the night before. The feel of Meitantei’s skin under his gloves. No accessories, no, none at all, not even that damned wrist-watch, which still confuses him. But Kaito’d seen the faint tensing and relaxing of muscles in his wrist, which meant there couldn’t have been anything like a skin-colored sleeve involved. And there’d been no catch under his gloves, no visible of signs of texture that would indicate makeup or anything thicker like commonly marketed skin-colored paste.

He shakes his head decisively, “It was definitely his arm, and he wasn’t wearing anything that could be used to cover anything.” Hakuba’s eyes bore into him, searching for any signs that he’s lying, before drawing in a deep breath and relaxing, leaning back.

“It’s not that either, then,” he murmurs to himself, and the bell rings to signal the end of lunch. The other students start heading to their seats, but Kaito’s got his feet planted in front of Hakuba’s desk.

“Tell me,” he insists, his fingers curling on Hakuba’s desk.

“Kaito?” Aoko’s voice sounds off behind him, but he’s got his eyes on Hakuba’s, who looks like he’s deliberating something.

“Kuroba-kun, please return to your seat, class is beginning.” The teacher’s voice finally makes him glance to the front, irritated, before looking back at Hakuba, who’s suddenly sitting down. ‘Later,’ he promises the blond silently (darkly) before making his way back to his desk with a falsified grace fit for KID.

After an excruciating amount of time, class finally ends and Kaito is out of his seat like a shot, in front of Hakuba before the detective can even maneuver to stand. “Tell me,” he repeats, words dipped in steel, the rest of class having been spent agonizing over what the blond could’ve figured out. Hakuba looks up at him.

“I honestly cannot figure out what could possibly be bothering your friend,” Hakuba tells him, words laced with regret and frustration. “I have been thinking about it, but I can’t think of anything that matches your description.” The words send Kaito reeling, but his emotions don’t break his poker face. He examines the detective’s face, but there’s no signs of lying or falsehood from the blond. Kaito wilts, and Hakuba’s eyes tinge with concern, “I am sorry, Kuroba-kun. I will continue to think about it, but I honestly can’t figure it out. Perhaps if you ask your friend directly…?”

“Kaito? What’s wrong?” Aoko’s behind him, her hand on his shoulder, and he wishes he can relax into it like he usually can. As it is, he just raises his eyes back to Hakuba and shakes his head.

“He won’t tell me,” he says, exhaustion running it’s course through his body but showing no signs externally. Hakuba tilts his head in acknowledgement. He’s almost out the door when Kaito catches up to him, a sudden thought energizing him. “Hakuba!” he rushes out, grabbing the bottom of the blond’s coat, “what did you think of earlier? When you started asking all those questions?” Hakuba regards him thoughtfully, considering, then shakes his head.

“It was nothing, Kuroba-kun,” he sighs, shrugging his shoulders. “The possibility has already been disproved: it’s impossible, with the situation and description you’ve laid out. There’s no use in considering it.” Kaito’s fingers are suddenly limp with lost hope, and he watches as Hakuba turns and walks away. Aoko’s talking in his ear, words laced with worry and concern, but he can’t make out what they are over the rushing noise in his ears. Out of the corner of his eyes he can see Akako watching him with a measuring look.

His eyes harden, and he straightens. This calls for drastic measures. Time to face the second bullet point.

 

~

 

He finds them at the park. Again. Of course. Granted, it isn’t until the following Tuesday, but you’d think that five seven-year-olds would be able to find more than just one place to hang out after school, wouldn’t you?

(Although, admittedly Kaito had managed to find them the previous Wednesday at a nearby restaurant with the professor, but there’d been a murder case going on, so…) (Damnit Meitantei.)

So there they are, playing a game of one-on-three, Meitantei, unsurprisingly being the “one”, and Haibara-san’s sitting off to the side, reading a book but mostly watching them play. Kaito makes his way over to her, forcing his muscles to stay relaxed and to not tense up. He sits down on her right, making sure the skirt he’s wearing doesn’t ride up at all (he’d figured a teenage girl would be considered less suspicious than a teenage boy if seen talking to an elementary schoolgirl).

“So,” he says, his voice high and chirpy, adjusting the hair on the long-haired wig he’d pulled from the closet for this, “whatcha doin’ over here, instead of playing with your friends over there?” The girl’s sharp eyes snap up to examine him, but she doesn’t seem suspicious. She returns her gaze to her book.

“I’m reading, and if I joined then there wouldn’t be an even number of players.” She speaks the line as if it’s rehearsed, as if she’s said it hundreds of times before. Kaito’s lips quirk in a smile.

“Doesn’t seem like they’re playing even teams, though.” Haibara-san’s eyes glance up again, at the game this time, then return to her book, huffing an irritated sigh.

“I just don’t feel like playing, okay?” The girl’s words are prickly, and Kaito laughs, replicating the laugh of one of his classmates. She’s obviously had this conversation before, probably from some concerned mother.

This talk isn’t going anywhere anytime soon though, and Kaito’d like to get somewhere before any of the players get suspicious. So he decides to test something. He draws a KID grin on his face and utters the words, “You don’t wanna play with the other kids, Shelly?” Shelly in English, like the kids had said, like that one song by Yutaka Ozaki. He’d looked it up after.

Haibara-san does not react the way he expects her to. The blood vanishes from her face the second he says it, her book dropping from nerveless fingers. Kaito’s almost concerned, but in the next second she’s stuffed her hand into the bag between them and he hears a very familiar sound. Not one he’d expected to hear in the middle of a family park. The softest click, like the safety being taken off of a pistol. In the same movement she presses the edge of the bag to his leg, not drawing attention, but definitely making sure Kaito feels the muzzle and front-barrel of the gun. The blood from his face vanishes.

“Who are you?” The girl’s voice demands over the rush of sound in his head. She’s whispering. “Vermouth?”

“No?” He squeaks out, trying not to draw attention since he’d disguised himself for that exact reason, but still not wanting a bullet in his thigh for a case of mistaken identity. “Just your friendly neighborhood Phantom Thief?” He can feel the pressure she has pressing the gun to his leg falter, and swallows audibly, KID grin still in place to keep him from visually panicking. He’s had guns pointed at him before, but never by a seven-year-old.

“That doesn’t make sense!” She hisses at him, and Kaito wonders if there’s a drop of sweat coming down his face. He thinks he can feel it. “If you’re KID, how would you know about-?”

Her voice cuts off, and he rushes to explain, “The other kids heard your’s and Meitantei’s argument after our little chat last time. They said that he called you Shelly, and you reacted badly, so I was just curious.” He really hopes she’ll put down the gun. The pressure falters even more distinctly this time, before she releases a violent sigh and clicks the safety back on, removing her hand from her bag and folding them both on her lap. He relaxes slightly, but not completely. Oh no, he is not stupid enough to relax completely in the presence of a seven-year-old that apparently takes guns to school.

“Of course,” she grumbles, and starts pulling grass. “Of course they were eavesdropping. That explains so much. They must’ve forgotten about it before they had the chance to interrogate us.”

Kaito laughs lightly, nerves hovering on the edge of the sound, “I’m assuming he went pretty far by calling you that?” She hesitates visibly, glancing at him warily.

“Careful, KID,” she murmurs, returning her gaze to the ground, “you’re treading into dangerous territory.”

“Really? I would never have guessed. What kind of gun is that, anyway?” She curls her fingers into the ground in response to the question, staring at the other kids. They’ve managed to steal the ball from Meitantei, and he’s playing seriously.

“You don’t want to know,” she says finally, and starts examining her nails. Kaito shrugs: true, that is very true. Kaito doesn’t particularly want to know what kind of gun a seven-year-old has managed to get her hands on.

“You’re right,” he admits easily, leaning back, fake nails coming in contact with the grass. “You never answered the question though, Ojou-san.” He can see the faint tensing in her jaw out of the corner of his eye.

“To answer your question, yes, he did go quite far in calling me that. However, I don’t particularly blame him, and he did eventually apologize.”

“A week later?” His guess is apparently correct, because she glances at him sharply.

“You’ve been checking upon him?” She’s surprised, then she closes her eyes and leans back, “Of course you are, you’re a good person.” He’s not sure how to respond to that, so he doesn’t, knowing she’ll continue. She sighs heavily, heavier than a seven-year-old should: “So, to what do I owe this surprise visit, KID?”

He gets right to the point, “I want to know what’s going on with Meitantei. What is wrong with his arm?” She leans her head back, letting the sun wash over her face, looking exhausted.

“I can’t tell you.” He twitches in surprise. He’d- he’d thought- he’d thought that the second he came to her, he’d get his answers! First Hakuba, now Haibara-san? What is wrong with his life?

“And whyever not? You were quite eager to tell me last time.” Her face twists into an irritated grimace, and she returns to pulling out grass.

“I still don’t want to hide it,” she grumbles, not looking at him. “It’s illogical, and unwise, and self-sacrificing is what it is, but my hands are tied.”

“Then why?”

“Doctor-patient confidentiality.” She spits out the words like they’re the most offensive words she knows, like they’re poison in her mind and on her tongue. She sighs, resting her hand flat on the ground, “He’s excellent at coming out on top of arguments, even though I don’t believe this can be considered ‘on top’. The situation is similar to a man refusing to tell his doctor that he needs anti-anxiety medication, even though he’ll tell his psychiatrist.”

O-okay. The seven-year-old has a seven-year-old doctor. Okay! “So are you the psychiatrist in this scenario?” His question is light.

She looks sharply at him, and sounds personally offended when she says, “Yes. Which is why I hate this. Psychology is a soft-science, and practitioners are incapable of doing anything substantial, besides providing an ear to listen and prescriptions which are substantial. Which is why I’m not a psychiatrist. Damned detective,” she adds in an irritated mutter.

“And what,” Kaito asks, curious, “kind of science do you practice?” She raises her eyebrow at him in question, appraising him.

“Biochemistry and pharmacology, primarily,” she says finally, and- Kaito had not been expecting that. “However, recently I’ve had to delve into anatomical science and the like.”

Kaito decides to just run with it, and freak out about everything later. He’s finally getting answers, after all. “Because of a certain Meitantei?” He murmurs the question, and they’re both watching the boy run across the field, outpacing the other three- well two, Mitsuhiko’s sat down right in the middle of the field- dribbling the ball as he makes his way to the other goal.

“Yes.” She says nothing more than that single word, and a pause hovers between them.

“How is he doing?” Kaito’s question is quiet, and he can tell his poker-face is not extending to guard his words from her. They’re drenched in his concern for Meitantei, his hurt for being shut out- even for his own protection, his worry over what the time-limit could mean for the detective.

Meitantei scores the goal, body heaving in exertion, then looks over at them. Kaito sees curiosity flash over his face from where he is, and he tenses as the boy picks up the ball and starts walking over to them.

“You tell me,” Haibara-san breathes back, and her cryptic answer nearly makes him turn to her in outrage when the light hits Meitantei’s face at such an angle that-

He’s wearing makeup. Not heavy, and not the overdone kind. No eye makeup- not like eyeshadow or mascara or anything. He’s wearing foundation and cover-up around his eyes. It’s very well done, Kaito can note absently: he must’ve had a skilled teacher. Kaito wouldn’t have noticed if he hadn’t just finished a gruelling soccer match. Kaito can see faint bags under his eyes, the lines of exhaustion so carefully hidden showing through the smears. Some form of despair washes through Kaito at the sight, carefully hidden behind his poker-face, but Meitantei must notice something because a frown of confusion tilts his lips and he picks up the pace.

“I see,” Kaito breathes back, almost not even an answer to the non-question, and stands up, brushing the dirt off of his skirt. “Well, Ojou-chan,” he chirps brightly, and both seven-year-olds blink at him, “it was very nice talking to you, but I’m afraid I must go now. Errands to run and all.” And he flounces off, leaving Meitantei to stare after him in bafflement before looking down at the little scientist, who simply shrugs and goes back to her book.

When Kaito’s out of earshot and the detective’s sitting next to her, the three children dragging themselves back, the girl murmurs, “I think you’re due for a touch-up, Kudou-kun.”

 

~

 

Kaito can’t think of anything he can do. Meitantei’s obviously lying to him, which seems like an oxymoron in itself, but about how much Kaito can’t begin to fathom. What level had it started at? If he has hidden it for so long, how bad is it that he can’t hide it anymore? But he is hiding it- he just needs help from makeup now too.

The only option he can think of is either bringing his suspicions to Mouri- the girl, his caretaker- and let her figure it out for him. Meitantei’s always been pretty weak for the girl- some kind of puppy-crush?- and it seems unlikely that he’d lie to her if she asked.

(Kaito swallows a distinctly burning feeling back down- something that is a mix of anger and hurt and want.)

But it seems like almost a violation to consider this possibility: it’s obvious that they’ve already told Kaito more than they’ve told the other teenager. Whenever he’s heard Mouri address Haibara-san, she calls her Ai-chan and speaks to her as if she’s nothing more than an ordinary seven-year-old, rather than a biochemist/pharmacist/doctor. And he’s never seen Mouri looking over her shoulder with paranoia like he’s sometimes noticed from the two.

And watching them, Kaito’s realized that Mouri’s perceptive. She’s noticed some of the tells he’s noticed from Meitantei as well: he’s seen her reach out as if to swipe a thumb under the detective’s eye, as if to smear the makeup. But Meitantei’s not telling her anything, just like with Kaito. And Kaito doesn’t want to find out how much on Meitantei’s bad side he’d be on if Kaito brought Mouri into this.

It makes Kaito want to act on the last and final option he can think of, makes him want to storm up to Meitantei, grab him by the shoulders and shake him . ‘Why,’ he wants to demand, ‘why won’t you let me help? Why won’t you let Haibara-san help? Why won’t you let anyone help? No one should have to do whatever it is you’re doing alone. Haibara-san’s right- you’re self-sacrificing and it needs to stop.’ But he knows it won’t change anything. Meitantei will just retreat further into his shell, using his appearance as a shield, and Kaito’s not sure he can take the rejection of being spoken to in that voice again.

He can’t do anything and he hates it.

 

~

 

A week before the next full moon, Conan finds a heist notice on his pillow, and flinches hard, right hand automatically wrapping around where-his-soulmark-should-be, before forcibly ignoring the subsequent flare-up of agony in his arm. It’s getting harder and harder to ignore. He almost glances around before his mind acknowledges that the Phantom Thief must already be long gone. His lips pinch in a regretful scowl as he reaches out to pick up the piece of paper, turning it over in his hands. He wishes he hadn’t had to fall back behind the mask of seven-year-old-boy with KID: it’s one of the few places he’s never had to worry about acting his true age before, but KID is starting to get curious- and that’s dangerous. Conan can still remember the way KID had faintly trembled when he and Haibara had spoken of the Black Organization, the faint terror making the teenager’s muscles tense, visible only in the cords of his neck. Conan can’t let KID in- not when curiosity is making him forget that fear. He’s thankful that KID has acceded to his request, though. He waits until Kogoro-occhan stumbles into his own bed, snoring the second he hits the pillow, and Conan takes the cue to leave his nest of blankets and pads out of the apartment, making his way into the Detective Agency's office, locking the door behind him.

Conan reads the heist note a couple of times, committing it to memory, then begins piecing it out. It’s a couple of hours later- past midnight- when Conan settles back in the desk-chair. Then he opens Kogoro-occhan’s laptop, and pulls up a couple of maps of the area around the next heist location, focusing on the ones that have 3D imaging. His eyes focus on a particular spot and he pulls out his phone, dialing immediately. Despite the late hour, the phone picks up on the second ring.

“Hey,” he starts without preamble, “I need your opinion on something. You know the museum in Gunma?” He pauses, listening for the answer, then answers the other’s question with, “Hypothetically, if someone were to be standing on the roof, where would you set up to snipe them?” The pause this time is longer, and he lets the other consider the question.

When the other finally replies, Conan frowns, looking back at the 3D map. “Okay,” he says, feeling a bit exasperated, “and where do you think a different sniper would set up, if they didn’t have anything near your legendary skills?” Another pause, measured this time, before a reply is given, and Conan’s face breaks into a shark-like grin.

“That’s where I was thinking, too. You know, I have a very interesting lead on a group of bad guys that seem to also have a fondness for black. They may not have any relation to our Black Organization, but I’m sure catching them would reflect well on your crew. And since they have nothing to do with our Organization, there’s no need to worry that you’ll draw their attention.” He pauses, not to let the other answer, but to let the information sink in.

He goes in for the kill. “So what do you say?” he chirps, turning the chair to look out the window behind him, “You in?”

After the affirmative is given, they begin to discuss conditions, contingencies, and plans. Staring out the window, Conan wonders idly whether he should go to Ekoda after school tomorrow. It’s been a while since he’s checked up on his soulmate.

 

~

 

Conan’s on the roof during the next heist, perched on the edge again, waiting for KID to show up like last time. He’s got his eyes fixed on the distant smudge of a sniper, in the exact place he’d predicted, the zoom and night-vision features on his glasses coming in handy. His solitude is interrupted when he hears the distinct sound of clunking footsteps. Not KID. Conan scrambles off his spot and hides behind the AC unit, hoping it’s not one of Nakamori-keibu’s men: it would throw a wrench in his primary plan.

(He has a plan for anything and everything, contingencies save lives after all: he just really hopes he won’t have to dart a police officer. His hand slips into the pocket he’s shoved his dart-watch into, just in case.)

It’s not a cop, but it’s not anything Conan could’ve expected, either. A man in black, but not part of The Organization, no, he’s muttering too much to be one of their operatives. Conan notes the man’s horseshoe mustache before he has to duck down again to not be noticed.

“Still don’t know how the bastard managed to stay alive-” Conan can suddenly make out the mutters: the man must’ve gotten closer. He lessens the sound of his breathing even more in order to eavesdrop. “Damned Toichi,” the snarl leaves his mouth, and Conan almost flinches in response. The venom in the man’s words? Negligible. The name…? It couldn’t be… “Slippery bastard can’t stay dead even after being blown up. Can’t shoot him from far away, because apparently he’s got a kid in the same cage he keeps his damned doves, keeping him safe. How many times do I gotta kill this guy before he stays dead? Gonna make damned sure the bastard stays far away from Pandora, gonna shoot him in the fucking face this time-”

Conan darts him before he can even breathe in to release his evil-villain laugh. He drops like a stone, and Conan falls back too, breathing hard, his arm aching, the mantra of “Dead fathers change lives/change futures/this man responsible/to blame/hurt him/hurt KID/hurt Kaito/hurt SOULMATE” spiraling in his head, wrapping around his mind like a vice.

Conan is choking on self-disgust: he’d thought they were some B-rated villains and he’d practically called them that to KID’s face and this man had killed KID’s father. He can barely gather enough self-composure to kick the man behind the AC unit he’d been hiding behind, making sure to zip-tie the man’s wrists and ankles together, then using an extra one to connect the two: just in case the man’s somewhat resistant to anesthetics. Then he curls up into a ball behind what is probably the heating system and tries very hard to get his breathing under control.

He hadn’t been prepared for this.

 

~

 

Meitantei’s not waiting somewhere around the focus of tonight’s heist, which is not as surprising as it had been last time. Now KID can hazard a guess as to where his wayward detective is. Hakuba isn’t here either, but that’s not surprising either- expected, rather. He’d left three days ago for England to spend a week with his mother for her birthday.

What is surprising is the foreign woman standing next to Nakamori-keibu, chattering loudly in a very bad American accent, looking around at everything with wide eyes behind her glasses. The first question that runs through his head at the sight of her is: Why is Nakamori-keibu letting her stick around? Though it looks like she’s been cleared for being KID: she has a bright pink pinch mark on her cheek. The other question in his head is more along the lines of: Who is this woman and why is she here? He’d wonder at what makes this particular heist different from the others, enough to explain this stranger, but KID already knows what’s different. He’d given Meitantei a week’s warning, as opposed to the official notice he’d sent to Nakamori-keibu only three days ago. So what does this woman have to do with Meitantei, and why did Meitantei bring her? And if she’s with Meitantei, why isn’t she with Meitantei, waiting on the rooftop?

So many questions, but now it’s time to begin his heist. He has an amber pendant to temporarily procure.

The room dissolves into smoke and chaos, KID’s laugh the only taunt he feels like giving tonight, and with Nakamori-keibu being the only one giving orders they all fall into a disorganized mess. Honestly, without any detectives to match up to him, this entire Search-for-Pandora thing would be hopelessly dull. Oh, and the snipers. Can’t forget them. Or Snake.

But the fact remains that KID is expecting to see Meitantei waiting for him on the roof again, so when he pulls the door to the rooftop closed behind him and does not see a certain seven-year-old… he does not react well.

‘Where is he?’ his mind demands, eyes flickering around. ‘He wouldn’t’ve stayed at home… even the likelihood of that happening during a regular heist is minimal at best, and this is the one I’ve given him advance notice and he’s brought someone new along.’ Mounting panic: ‘He hasn’t collapsed somewhere, has he?’ Images of just that occurring make KID freeze in place, terror coursing through his veins, wondering if the pain’s gotten so bad…

(A cool voice somewhere in the back of KID’s head wonders exactly when he’s started to care so much, and why he’s so paranoid, that this reaction isn’t logical, but it’s muffled and smothered by the rest of his mind.)

“Meitantei?” He manages to keep his voice steady and calm despite the frantic ‘In danger/lost/in pain’ running circles in his head, but the query still tumbles out of his lips. “Where are you?” It’s a hiss of words, nerves building up with nowhere to go.

There is no answer, and KID is starting to hear his own heartbeat as the inexplicable fear continues to increase. “Meitantei!” This time the prompt is a demanding hiss of worry and frustration, and he’s starting to get a headache from whipping his head back and forth.

His detective’s clear and even, “KID,” snaps his head down to his left, where Meitantei’s coming out from behind the heater. The blood stops rushing in his ears, and it’s almost silent on the rooftop besides KID’s uneven breathing and Meitantei’s steady footsteps approaching, weighing each step. It reminds him of how Meitantei had acted in the Kudou mansion, and KID starts forcibly evening out his breathing, grasping at his frayed nerves to pull on a KID grin once more. KID cannot allow himself to be that vulnerable again, especially not during a heist.

Meitantei stops in front of him, and fixes his gaze somewhere off to the right of KID’s head. It’s a defensive instinct that makes KID glance over his shoulder to make sure nothing’s there, but there isn’t, so he looks back at Meitantei again. The detective has his hands hanging loosely at his sides, palms facing KID: there’s nothing in them, and his expression is oddly placid, no indication that his attention’s focused on KID. KID know what this means, he does but it’s not processing-

“Are you alright?” The boy’s voice is calm, and KID finally starts truly calming down. There’s a quiet pause: Meitantei’s waiting for him to answer, still staring off to the side at nothing.

“You had me worried there for a moment, Meitantei.” He doesn’t have to work so hard now to keep his words light. “May I ask why you were behind the heater? It’s not a particularly cold night, tonight.” A flicker of eyes: an assessment of status, before Meitantei finally meets his eyes, his expression twisting into something KID can’t seem to place.

“I-,” his voice falters, and he looks away. ‘What?’ “I’m sorry for what I said last time,” Meitantei finally drags out, apology and regret in every word. KID’s eye almost twitches in confusion, but the poker-face is firmly in place. What is he apologizing for saying last time? The withdrawal? The may-or-may-not-be flirting?’ The door behind KID jerks open: a harsh creak announcing the movement, and KID darts out of the way of any possible grabby hands.

A delighted “Eh?” is what catches KID completely by surprise, followed by a heavily-accented, “It’s the Phantom Thief 1412! I was so sure you’d be gone already!” The foreign woman’s closed the door behind her, and stares at KID in open curiosity. She claps her hands together, “Everyone’s right! The white outfit combined with the light of the full moon really does make you look quite dashing!” KID’s lips quirk at the vague reminder of the last heist before sending a dubious glance at Meitantei, so fast she can’t’ve noticed, then grins back at her.

“Jodie-sensei,” the words come from Meitantei, a warning in them, and the woman-Jodie-sensei?- nods repeatedly in response.

“Yes, yes, Cool Kid, I remember your conditions!” KID sends a sharp look at Meitantei, but the detective’s expression has stiffened into an unreadable mask. “But if you don’t want a certain dashing Phantom Thief to be caught, you should tell him that the only reason I came in so soon was because I heard the,” she makes a face, “charming Inspector start to make his way upstairs, so he should probably make his escape ASAP.” She winks at KID, “Ne?”

Her presence has somehow enabled KID to slip into the KID persona like a second skin, because he laughs airily and declares, “However much I appreciate the warning, Sensei, you need not worry about me. I am, after all, a Thief of many talents.” She grins right back at him.

“Oho? Well, I’m sure you are! However, I wasn’t invited to this show in order to capture the performer, so I’ll have to wait for the Inspector to arrive for that.” While KID is processing this, she and Meitantei seem to have a silent exchange. She’s waiting for him to say or do something, and he responds by staring at her for at least ten seconds before jerking his head towards the AC unit. She raises her eyebrow in response before sending another curious glance KID’s way, making her way towards said AC unit.

“Shuu’s got the other guy, so we’re all good once we get this one back,” she chirps conversationally to Meitantei, and the familiar sound of footsteps pounding up stairs reaches them. “Ooooh, he’s an ugly one!” the declaration is made when she stops next to the AC, looking behind it.

The door to the rooftop slams open and allows lights from the hallway that have been turned on to pour over the scene. The first thing KID registers is that Jodie-sensei is now holding up an unconscious and restrained Snake. KID’s dumbstruck at the sight- repressing some instinct to look around and see if he’s being punk’d, American style, but Nakamori-keibu seems a bit shocked by the sight as well. Most likely, KID theorizes with slight hysteria, because Jodie-sensei is pulling out handcuffs of her own, and she is most definitely not wearing a police uniform.

“Gentlemen,” she greets brightly, click ing the handcuffs together around Snake’s already bound wrists, “I’m sure you won’t mind.” Nakamori-keibu’s mouth is stuck in a considerably unattractive gape, but it’s all KID can do to not follow suit. “According to every heist report, there’s never been any sign this man’s existed, has there?” Silence. “No reported gunshots, no reported bullet holes that weren’t there before. I double-checked, you know, just to confirm my source was correct. And whaddya know, there was nothing. Which means:” she beckons to the door, and a tall foreigner with a square jaw comes out, making to pick up the unconscious Snake (KID’s eyes take note of the zip ties around the hitman’s wrists, ankles, and securing the two together), “this never happened, either. No muss, no fuss, nothing to worry about!” Her grin is shark-like, and KID can’t quite peel his eyes off the other foreigner’s back as he carries Snake (the man who killed his father- what does this mean for KID?) away. Jodie-sensei takes advantage of the confusion to flounce away, waving at someone behind her without looking back, calling “Bye-bye!” before the door closes soundly behind her.

(There really is no way she can’t get away with it: KID already disabled the cameras on the roof pre-heist, and there has truly been no previous reports about anything Snake nor his snipers have pulled. At this point it’s Nakamori-keibu and his subordinates’ words against some apparently important foreigner’s, and Nakamori-keibu doesn’t have a body to show for proof. Whoever she is- she’s good.)

Which is when the shock starts to leak away, leaving KID with a bunch of tangled-up realizations. She’d come with Meitantei, at his request, ‘received his invite’. What did ‘Shuu’s got the other guy’ mean? Did Snake not come alone this time? There’d also been something about conditions. And, the unconsciousness, the zip ties. After KID had come up to shut off the cameras, there’s only one other person who’s been on the roof before KID’s reappearance. Besides Snake, apparently.

KID drags his gaze to Meitantei and gets what feels like the second shock of his life in one night when he sees the detective’s face in full light. The makeup is much heavier than it’d been on that soccer field. Meitantei’s eyes look slightly sunken in, and the circles are probably much darker now considering the amount of concealer around his eyes. Again, not a bad job, but KID’s sharp eyes enable him to see the sheer amount, and Meitantei won’t meet his eyes, hovering next to the edge of the roof to avoid Nakamori-keibu’s lecture/rant for as long as possible. But there is a significant detail that’s holding KID together better than desperation this time, at least. Kaitou KID does not break into pieces.

KID activates the smoke bomb that he’s got hidden in his left glove, and in the confusion is in front of Meitantei within moments.

“Meitantei,” he says in what is not a whisper but cannot be heard by anyone but the boy, and the detective seems to tense, “it seems you’ve been playing poker with an astonishing deck of cards.” He doesn’t seem inclined to reply, so KID reaches for his face, finding that the boy is looking down. He lifts his chin with his left hand, where there is no longer a hidden contraption, and there is no resistance from Meitantei as he raises his head. “Who were those people?” This time it is a whisper- but he hasn’t lost the KID lilt yet.

A small hand is suddenly resting lightly on the hand KID’s using to hold Meitantei’s head up, and it slightly tenses for a moment before his voice breathes out the English letters, “FBI.”

KID stills. The FBI? What in the world- Meitantei is in contact with the FBI? As KID’s processing this new information, Meitantei leans forward through the smoke still billowing out of the smoke-bomb towards KID and whispers out, “You can’t tell.”

The moment KID had felt Meitantei leaning forward he’d almost thought it was a trap- but this makes him relax again as Meitantei makes no more moves. KID also realizes that the kid’s close enough for them to see each other’s faces, but the detective has his gaze pinned downward- almost to show he has no intention to make a move against KID. The smoke’s running out- it hadn’t been designed to last that long- so KID has to purse his lips and accept that he must take his leave soon. He can only make one more move before everything’s clear and the Task Force will collectively pounce on him if he’s still on the ground at that point. KID’s more or less convinced that someone will say something if he does this, though.

In that last second both he and Meitantei do one thing- one in reaction to the other. KID reaches his right hand up and lightly presses down on the detective’s face, his fingers reaching under the glasses to smear the makeup down as best he can in one movement, a fair amount attaching itself to his glove. An aborted protest of, “Wait-!” escapes Meitantei’s mouth as the grip he has on KID’s left hand/glove tightens in shock- at the exact moment KID pulls away. The glove slips seamlessly off his hand.

The smoke is clear by the time KID’s got his glider out and he does a little hop past Meitantei to get to the roof where he pushes off from the second he lands. He’s slightly concerned about his wrist, the wind resistance is stinging the skin there, but he keeps it angled and forward so the only way anyone could’ve seen was if they were in front of him, and the only one that fit that description was Meitantei. Meitantei, who’s in cahoots with Haibara Ai: one of the few individuals who already know about his soulmark. There’s no chance that Meitantei hadn’t already known about it anyway.

 

~

 

Kaitou KID flies away from the heist scene, ruminating over the night’s events and the fact that he’s going to have to send the not-Pandora amber pendant directly to the Police Headquarters again.

What he knows of the scene he leaves behind: Edogawa Conan is there, his right hand clutching a non-incriminating KID glove, and his face is covered in smudged makeup that no longer hides the lines of exhaustion and deep circles around his eyes.

What he doesn’t know: Edogawa Conan is currently being surrounded by concerned Task Force Members. He’s on his knees, hunched and trembling, and he’s got his left wrist in a vice grip with his right hand. His bottom lip is bleeding around the indents made by his teeth.

What KID doesn’t know is that, though Edogawa Conan will pull himself together just soon enough for the Task Force to not report this to Mouri Ran: this incident is the catalyst for the finale.

Chapter Text

“A spade…” The voice behind Kaito almost makes him jump in surprise- and there are not many people that can creep up on him like that. Only one in this classroom. Kaito turns around.

“Akako-hime?”

“You’re calling for it,” she observes, staring at him with unnerving focus, “but you do not hear it call for you back, so you can’t find it.” Her eyes flick up to meet his, her lips quirking in a signature smirk, “Lose a part of your set?” Curiously, Kaito works out what the witch could possibly be talking about. ‘A spade? And combined with the “part of a set”, leads to playing cards. Have I lost a spade card? But no, as accurate as Akako’s magical predictions can be, I only just shuffled my primary deck this morning and all the cards were there. And I doubt she’d be divining a lost card from any other deck.’

Kaito sends a wide smile up at her, quirking an eyebrow, “Do you truly believe an amazing magician such as myself could possibly misplace such an important item?” He watches, slightly bewildered, as her smirk slowly falls into a small frown, her eyes narrowing in confusion.

“You haven’t noticed?” Laced in confusion as they are, her words make him tilt his head. She presses, “It would’ve been quite a few months ago. I never addressed it since it was just a card, but the call has just continued to grow stronger. It’s been getting rather painful with how powerful the call is now, so I thought I’d lend a hand in helping you find it.” The expression on his face answers his question for him, it seems, because she leans back slightly in shock.

“Perhaps…” Kaito says, hesitant at how she’s acting, “perhaps you’re mistaken? Maybe someone else lost a playing card?” Her lips pinch together, a full-on scowl becoming more and more pronounced.

“Mistaken?” She spits the word. “How could I be mistaken? Admittedly, I thought it was odd that you were so distressed about losing something so simple as a playing card, but it’s not exactly simple to understand how Kaitou KID’s mind works.” Kaito glances around instinctively- he does not need to have to start denying the claims from Akako too- but is thankful to find that no one else is listening. Hakuba’s still in England, of course (the heist was only yesterday), and Aoko’s trying to quickly finish some homework due next period. He raises his hands slowly, trying to calm the insult she seems to be perceiving.

“Akako-hime, I of course mean no disrespect-”

“You’d better not,” she mutters.

“I don’t,” he assures, rather unnerved by the situation. “However, the fact remains that I am not missing a card from my deck. So,” he shrugs slightly, almost apologetically, “I fear we are at an impasse.” Her face is almost a snarl now: insult and indignation oozing from her pores. Kaito glances around again and realizes she must’ve cast some sort of distraction spell, because otherwise there is no way no one would be staring at their school idol for acting like this.

“Your soul is screaming for it,” she insists tightly, gritting her teeth. “It seems to be reaching for your soul as well- much too wispy to be effective- but enough to have come in contact without you having realized.” Kaito simply shrugs at her again, this time a helpless gesture. “You cannot lie to me!” The sudden yell is filled with a ferocity that is truly not helping Kaito’s nerves whatsoever. She grabs a hold of his left hand with the speed of a snake, and before Kaito can even consider jerking his arm away she yanks his shirt sleeve up, revealing the rainbow-bandana he always keeps tied over his soulmark. Kaito pales, then desperately attempts to yank his arm away. She doesn’t seem to notice- her fury appearing to have washed out and become bewilderment once more.

“Let go, Koizumi,” he hisses, anger pulsing in his veins at the rudeness she’s exhibiting with this action, no objective part of his mind left to laugh at how they seem to have switched places.

“I don’t understand.” A dry whisper floats out of her mouth, and she’s staring wide-eyed at his wrist. “It’s right there- but it can’t be, because-” She’s still got one hand on his own and the other on his elbow, holding up his sleeve, but new horror is bleeding into her expression as her eyes seem to get impossibly wider. “It can’t be-” is all she manages to say, her hand releasing his hand and reaching, almost entranced, to touch his bandana.

The moment her skin comes in contact with the fabric, her eyes shoot from horror to terror and agony as she releases the most piercing scream that Kaito’s ever heard leaving a person’s throat, drawing the attention of everyone in the classroom as her glamor shatters. She’s still screaming when Kaito finally wrenches his arm away from her hand, and the second she loses that contact her eyes roll up and she collapses in a heap on the floor, barely avoiding braining herself with a desk or three.

The room is silent: everyone seems to be too surprised to move, and their eyes are all moving between Kaito and Koizumi in confusion. Kaito’s too surprised to move- but there's something in him that can admit that his lack of movement is slightly vindictive, as well. There's an infuriated voice somewhere in the back of his head saying, 'She should've minded her own business. She has only herself to blame for whatever just happened: she's too nosy for her own good. What did she think she was doing, anyway?’ But there is another voice in his head, a more sedate one, whispering, ‘But what could she have seen that caused… that? She was so insistent that I lost a card, and then it was like she just shut down. And that scream…’

“Kaito?” And Aoko’s coming over, staring at the crumpled body of the witch. “What happened? What did you do to Akako-chan?”

All he can do is stare down as well, a cocktail of catty smugness and inexplicable fear whitening his face as he can only respond with a bewildered: “I have no idea.” As if in answer, the skin under where she’d touched starts to itch slightly.

 

~

 

Something had happened at the heist last night; Kudou-kun, unsurprisingly enough, is refusing to tell her. Ai wonders absently how she could've pissed the universe off enough to deserve a friend- her first friend- that is this reckless with his own health and life.

Maybe it has something to do with having invented the apotoxin, even though that wasn't necessarily her own fault. That had probably warranted a lot of major bad karma that has to end up somewhere, and God forbid the mojo ever go anywhere near the actual Black Organization. And so it just rebounds onto the brains, as is the ending of every story.

Kudou-kun’s not using his left arm for anything at all, though, and if that's not a bad omen then Ai's a fish. She is also 90% positive that he's paler than he'd been the day before, but it's hard to tell with the amount of makeup he's wearing. Kudou-kun isn't talking much either, but Ai isn't sure whether it's because it's hard for him to talk right now, or if it's because he's hiding how raw his lips are. A dark, ‘Maybe both,’ flits through her head, but she suppresses it, because there's no factual evidence behind the hypothesis.

(No factual evidence: what a load of crock. His entire personality and method of dealing with this is enough factual evidence to support the theory. Ai just doesn't want to stare down a probability that she can't do anything about by herself.)

He seems to be holding up… well enough, though. As little as he's fooling Ai: the other Detective Boys, usually surprisingly observant, still haven't noticed the signs. Most likely for the same reason she and Kudou-kun haven't been caught yet: you see what you expect to see. You expect to see two seven years olds, you see two seven year olds. The kids expect to see their perfectly healthy friend, so that's what they see sitting in his desk, and talking to them during lunch.

It's when Yoshida-san pulls out a deck of cards that everything starts to go to hell.

Ai sees it first, Yoshida-san approaching with the little box, and Kudou-kun’s distracted by Tsuburaya-kun and Kojima-kun, but his attention is caught when the girl asks cheerily, “Ne, Conan-kun, do you wanna see a magic trick?”

Yoshida-san’s already removing the cards from the box, making sure they’re all face down, not waiting for an answer because she probably can’t imagine a “no”. Because all three of the kids have their attention focused on the cards, Ai’s the only one that sees Kudou-kun stiffen, and when he turns he’s wearing a KID smile, likely learned straight from the source. He's hiding a reaction.  Ai’s eyes narrow, ‘Is it because the word magic is a reference to Kaitou KID? Even innocuous references like that activate the bond now?’ Ai can see the slight tightening around Kudou-kun’s eyes when they land on the cards.

Yoshida-san’s still chattering, “Someone in the park showed us this trick a couple days ago, and it was so amazing: I bet you won’t be able to figure it out!” ‘Us?’ Tsuburaya-kun and Kojima-kun perk up.

“Oh! You mean that trick!” Kojima-kun seems to be on it too, whatever it is.

And Tsuburaya-kun, because he pipes up, “Yes Edogawa-kun, I’m sure you won’t be able to figure it out!” Ai’s suspicious. When had the kids run into whoever showed them this? She and Kudou-kun have been there with them almost at all times this last week. Yoshida-san spreads out the cards in a large fan, holding them face down in both hands.

“Pick a card!” It’s a happy demand, but a demand nonetheless, and if Kudou-kun doesn’t want to draw their suspicion he has to. But he has a look in his eyes that is giving Ai a very uncomfortable feeling. Kudou-kun seems to finally make his hand reach out for a random card, arm faintly trembling (it’s his right arm, so why?), when the kids’ smiles fade just enough to look slightly confused. They perk up again as Kudou-kun removes the card from the fan. The trio seem to wait eagerly, but Kudou-kun just stares at them, still holding the card face down.

Kojima-kun frowns, grousing, “You’re supposed to look at the card, Conan!” At these words, Kudou-kun looks over at Ai. Not a stare, barely short enough to be a glance, but in that moment Ai can see the dread in Kudou-kun’s eyes, and it makes Ai feels like she’s suddenly seeing him standing at the gates of death. Kudou-kun flips the card over so only he can see before Ai can wonder what’s scaring him so much. The second he sees the card, his right hand tightens drastically around the card, barely avoiding crumpling it. He stares at it.

“And now,” Yoshida-san says eagerly (how are they not seeing how Kudou-kun is? They’re not as naive as they used to be: they should see it), “I guess what card it is!” She makes a show of thinking about it while Tsuburaya-kun and Kojima-kun snicker, but Kudou-kun is still. Staring. Yoshida-san claps her hands together, making Ai and Kudou-kun jump slightly, “I know! It’s the ace of shovels!” Ai blinks in momentary confusion at the declaration. Shovels? Tsuburaya-kun shakes his head.

“Ayumi-chan, it’s not called shovels. I’m sure you mean to say spades?” Yoshida-san “oh!”s at his correction, then nods.

“It’s the ace of spades!” She pauses, seemingly finally noticing that Kudou-kun is still staring at the card with the blankest expression they’ve ever seen on his face. Yoshida-san looks confused and prompts, “Right? Conan-kun?” Kudou-kun finally manages to wrench his eyes away from the card, eyes flashing to the four of them in what Ai can see is shakily concealed horror. He carefully sets down the card face down, and manages a weak grin.

“You’re right, Ayumi-chan, that’s the card.” Theories are now flying through Ai’s head, because there has to be a reason these cards are scaring him so much, but the only thing she keeps coming back to is Kaitou KID and his magic tricks. Yet, there’s a voice whispering in her ear that she’s forgetting something. Something important.

“So?” Kojima-kun’s question draws Ai’s attention, and she looks up to see him staring at Kudou-kun. “Did you figure out the trick?” Kudou-kun almost seems to be debating something internally before he pastes a wider grin on his face and shakes his head, faking a sheepish look.

Yoshida-san happily squeals, “We beat Conan-kun!” and high-fives the other two boys. Ai would usually be amused at this, but concern is washing over her because Kudou-kun’s nearly slumping against his desk. “Are you disappointed?” the little girl’s curious voice makes Ai find her with her eyes, seeing that Yoshida-san appears to be speaking to Kudou-kun, who does not notice.

“Conan, cheer up! We’ll show you the trick!” Kojima-kun’s voice seems to break through Kudou-kun’s sound barrier because he sits up suddenly, looking horrified.

Kojima-kun’s already got the cards from where Yoshida-san’s set them down, and he’s flipping them over when Kudou-kun shoots to his feet, his face white through the makeup, pleading, “I don’t want to know, please Genta-” Kojima-kun looks up, startled at the words coming out of Kudou-kun’s mouth, but the cards are already all face-up, and Ai watches as Kudou-kun’s eyes slowly look down at them as if he has no control over what they do.

Fifty-one aces of spades stare up at Kudou-kun and Ai. One half of Ai muses that it’s a fairly interesting trick: easily accomplished by children; the other half watches in horror with the other three children as Kudou-kun keels over where he stands, his teeth in the marks that’d been made last night and right hand clenching around his left wrist, fingernails digging into skin. He’s out cold the moment his head collides with his desk, a horrible THUNK echoing throughout the room, and Ai’s by his side before he even hits the ground, catching him before he can receive another possible head injury.

The room bursts into motion: Yoshida-san crying out a horrified “Conan-kun!” at the sight of his crumpled body on the ground. The three children are crowding around Kudou-kun and Ai in an instant, and she can vaguely hear a nameless classmate call that they’re getting a teacher before hastily exiting the room. More children are gathering around them, some asking what happened, some asking Kudou-kun why he’s on the ground, and some already outright crying. Ai’s becoming terribly uncomfortable with the crowd of bodies around her.

“Is Edogawa-kun alright, Haibara-san?” Tsuburaya-kun’s question seems to quiet the rest as they all wait for the answer. Kojima-kun adds in a hoarse whisper, “he’s not dead is he?” The stress is mounting, and Ai almost snaps a very irritated reply to him when she realizes that tears are coursing down Yoshida-san’s face and Tsuburaya-kun’s and Kojima-kun’s faces are frighteningly pale. Ai glances down, where they’re looking, and realizes, her stomach turning, that Kudou-kun’s body does indeed look entirely lifeless. And, she remembers with an internal wince, these children have seen enough dead bodies to make the comparison.

“Edogawa-kun is fine,” Ai says, her voice carrying, the sound of an adult’s running footsteps approaching, “he is simply unconscious.” She glances almost helplessly at Yoshida-san, whose tears are not stopping.

“I- I just-” the girl sniffles, bringing her fists up to her eyes, “I just wanted to cheer him up! He never smiles anymore! I thought-” her sobs are being cut off by storms of hiccups.

“Maybe it was because it was the black card, instead of the heart card?” Kojima-kun’s doleful offer makes Ai’s head snap up without her conscious decision, his words strengthening the feeling that she’s missing something, “The nii-chan at the park used the heart card, and we’re fine.”

“Don’t be stupid, Genta-kun,” Tsuburaya-kun snaps out, obviously irritated by what Kojima-kun’s said. Most likely because Yoshida-san’s hiccups are now mixed with even heavier tears. “The color of the card had nothing to do with the trick or with this, obviously. How would that make sense? Red or black doesn’t matter.”

The teacher finally makes a running skid into the classroom, clearing the way and beginning a cursory check-up to make sure it’s okay to move Kudou-kun to the nurse’s office. Meanwhile, Ai’s remembering exactly what’s been nagging her.

 

“No, it’s solid black.”

 

And the glimpse- the glimpse she’d caught of Kaitou KID’s soulmark. She hadn’t even bothered to consider what exactly it’d been. On top of the fact that anything surrounding another’s soulmark is extremely personal, meaning that piecing it together unnecessarily would be a violation of both KID’s personal space and Kudou-kun’s, who she honestly respects more than she can ever admit to anyone besides herself, she could’ve just asked Kudou-kun if it did turn out to be that important. But now- but now.

 

KID is readying his glider, and Ai is inching close enough so that she may slip the note that she’s been carrying around in her pocket since this entire fiasco has begun (two months now, two months and counting-) into the thief’s. She tucks it in as carefully as possible- KID must notice- but KID seems to let it be, finishing up his adjustments and making some form of final sweep-check. There is a black mark on the inside of his left wrist, exposed because his glove has ridden up again, and she knows this- there is no need to stare- it’s unspeakably rude to stare, but there is some unconscious piece of her that watches that blur almost idly, and observes that ‘it looks like a playing card’.

 

“No, it’s solid black.”

 

‘...like a playing card.’

 

Kudou-kun must’ve already known the trick- hadn’t wanted to face the trick, because “ please, Genta-” came out of his mouth, a frantic plea.

 

Their soulmark is the ace of spades.

‘Shit.’

 

~

 

This is not Ai’s first time calling this number. This is not her second time, nor third, nor fourth. Hell, Ai’s pretty sure only the call history knows how many times she’s called this number. The problem being, of course, that every single time her calls have gone unanswered.

“Hello, you’ve reach-” She hangs up, immediately hitting redial.

This is now the second time she’s called this number while Kudou-kun’s been unconscious on her “operating table” in Agasa-hakase’s basement- her lab. He’d been on the couch, but when he woke up just an hour ago (he’d been unconscious for two days- that can medically be considered a coma-), he’d woken screaming bloody murder and instantaneously proceeded to claw at his left inner wrist with the child’s fingernails of his right hand. It had taken a panicked three minutes to retrieve Kudou-kun’s wristwatch so they could dart him insentient once more, Hakase fumbling around as Ai desperately tried yelling for Kudou-kun to “calm down/snap out of it/Kudou-kun!” and held down his wrists as he thrashed and continued screaming.

So yes, he is now on her glorified operating table, because there is no way to fit the wrist-restraints, now secured to Kudou-kun, around the couch.

“Hello, you-” Hang up, redial.

The mild concussion that Kudou-kun had obtained falling into the school desk must’ve dangerously affected his soulbond, Ai’s concluded. Luckily, nothing detrimental to the soulbond itself, necessarily (thank God ), but it has either A: at least tripled the pain-process, or B: rendered Kudou-kun unable to hide or muffle it from an outside point of view. Both equally terrifying prospects. Honestly, Ai is doing her best to smother her panicked thoughts of ‘it’s not too late, it can’t be too late, please anyone who will listen please don’t let it be too late’, and the infuriated, never-ending screech of ‘Kudou, you fucking asinine detective, you swore you were fine! You swore it you self-sacrificing dick!’

“Hello, y-” Hang up, redial.

Ai’s nearly hysterical. ‘What kind of people...?’ she can’t imagine. She’s never met them personally, no, though she has heard stories. She’d always thought it would be interesting- maybe even entertaining to meet them, to share stories. But this- isn’t this blatant neglect? She’s tried to reach them ever since Kudou-kun had decided to risk insanity (risk insanity- it’s been four months), and they have never once answered. Always the same voicemail. Thinking back, hadn’t Kudou-kun said he’d lived alone in that God-forsaken mansion next door by himself for years before the apotoxin had been administered? An actual teenager- maybe even pre-teen, maybe worse, left alone in a mansion for years. No matter how independent Kudou-kun is, no one should grow up alone; even Ai had had Akemi at least. It says a lot about the people she’s trying to contact, in retrospect.

There’s a pounding on the front door, familiar now, and Hakase scuttles off to go deal with- but Ai can’t deal with that right now. Staring at an inert, restrained Kudou-kun is all she can barely manage right now. Praying that-

“Could this be Ai-chan?” The heaviest sigh escapes Ai’s mouth at the sound of a woman’s voice coming out of the phone, the best cover she has for the flood of tears she can suddenly feel behind her eyes. “It is, isn’t it?” The woman’s voice is excited. “Oh this is wonderful, I’ve been thinking that it would be fun to talk to you! Shin-chan is always so evasive~”

“Kudou-san. You picked up.” It’s pretty much all Ai can say. It’s all she can think, at least, that’s even remotely polite to say to this woman. Kudou Yukiko trills out a laugh.

“Oh! Have you tried calling before? Sorry, sorry, Yu-chan’s editors have been right behind us, and I was worried they’d try calling us! I couldn’t think of anyone else that might have Yu-chan’s number that wouldn’t be in his contact list, but we lost them finally so I checked the GPS location of the calling phone and-”

“Kudou-san.”

“Call me Yukiko!”

“Yukiko-san.” Ai cannot deal with this right now. She can hear yelling from upstairs, demands that she can only barely block out and there is no time. “You and your husband need to come back right now.” A pause, and Ai can practically feel the break in the actress’s happy mood.

“What?” It’s almost a pout, but there’s underlying tension there. Good. “Why?”

“You need to come back and try to convince your idiotic son that there should be a line between being protective and being suicidal.”

A bewildered, “What?” come out of the phone. Irritation is clawing at the inside of her skin, and she has no idea what she’s going to say as she wrenches her mouth open into a snarl, when Kudou-kun stirs with a low moan. Ai freezes. “Ai-chan?” the woman calls, but it’s from a dropped phone because Ai let go. Kudou-kun’s already semi-conscious, panting but not screaming which she hopes is a good thing, but when she’s within two steps from him she can hear the neverending moan of pain emanating from low in his throat. The air around him is a haze of heat, and Ai swallows involuntarily.

“Kudou-kun.” the sound of her own voice surprises her, and his eyes seem to roll slowly towards her, eyes hazy and unfocused. He’s still panting shallowly and she can now see the fever’s heat painting itself across his cheeks. He tries to- probably speak- but his voice is a mess of a croak: he’s only had the water she’s been able to force him to drink over the last two days and he’d screamed for a full three minutes an hour ago. Ai bolts away, past the frantic voice coming from the phone, up the stairs, and throws the door of the refrigerator open, reaching blindly for a water bottle.

“Ai-kun?” The professor calls from the most-likely still-open doorway, but she doesn’t pause because she can’t deal with- and there is no time. She runs back, nearly tripping over the stairs, and doesn’t even spare a glance to her still-open phone.

“Here, Kudou-kun, I brought water.” Her teeth are slightly chattering, and she’s never done this before- this is an intense fear reaction- but she helps him take shallow sips while her hands are shaking hard enough to spill some of the droplets onto his shirt.

“Haibara,” he cracks out, eyes roving in her direction, still unfocused. He groans, the end curling off into a whine, and slurs a pained, unintentional, “’S hot.” She fumbles at her desk ‘Where is it, it’s here, where-’ and comes back to him with a thermometer. She checks his temperature and-

“103.7 degrees,” a horrified murmur tumbles out of her lips, ‘Bad this is bad this is so bad-’ She runs upstairs once more, retrieving freezer packs and towels as fast as possible, ignoring the calls of the professor and the teenage girl coming from the front door, filling a large bowl of water as well and grabbing a hand-towel almost in after-thought. She does her best to not spill a significant amount of it on her way back down again. The droppable items clatter out of her arms onto the counter next to where he’s laying, the bowl full of water set more gently down. She begins methodically removing his shirt, noting unconsciously that the fever’s red burn has spread even down to his chest. She realizes he’s trying to talk.

“What was that, Kudou-kun?”

His face twists in pain, but he grits out, “Toxin?” What? Oh- but- has he forgotten?

“No,” she says, gentle, “this is nothing to do with the apotoxin.” He moans out some sort of sound of confusion, and she- Ai hopes- “Kudou-kun, I need you to tell me who your spade soulmate is.” She tries for a firm voice, but she knows as well as anything that it’s wavering, especially when he flinches. His eyes almost focus on her, and she almost says ‘please’ but instead out comes, “I know you know. Now I need you to tell me.” The look in his eyes is deliriously pained. She tucks the towel-wrapped freezer-packs around his body, wets the hand-towel and places it on his forehead. He has not responded. She gives in.

Please .” Her voice cracks, and his eyes widen slightly in surprise, his lids lifting just a bit more.

“We…” his voice is a creak, and she waits, “... alone?” Are we alone? She nods before uttering a frantic, “Yes, Kudou-kun, we’re alone.” He blinks slowly, eyes wandering in a fever haze, and mumbles, one word at a time, “Soulmates… Ran and… Kaitou…”

Ai’s hands clench into a fist but she has nowhere to channel her frustration except into a sharp, “Yes, Kaitou KID, I know, what I need is his name.”

His eyes are drooping, and he doesn’t even try to look in her direction. She’s not even sure he remembers she’s here as he mumbles, “Not… Kaitou… Kaitou…” She blinks, praying she can get an explanation before he’s unconscious, when she hears footsteps coming towards the stairs from above, fast and there’s two sets.

“No!” She’s shouting before she’s even completely turned around, frantically scrambling for another towel to throw over him just in case. “Hakase no! No one besides you can come down here! He’s feverish and making him wear his shirt won’t help his condition!” A scuffle at the top of the stairs, sounds of arguing followed by a door slamming and yelling, but the stairway is now clear, and Ai relaxes. When she looks back towards Kudou-kun again she finds, unsurprisingly, that he is unconscious once more. The demanding voice coming from her phone, forgotten on the floor, finally draws her attention once more.

“Ai-chan? Answer me! What’s going on? We’re packing now, please pick up the phone! What’s happened to Shinichi?” Ai’s fingers are quivering as she brings the phone back to her ear. She clears her throat.

“Yukiko-san, I’m back.”

The actress finally stops yelling, but her voice is still frantic as she repeats, “What’s going on? What’s happened to Shinichi?” Ai exhales a shaky sigh, closing her eyes.

“Kudou-kun has another soulmate.” Ai can almost hear the actress blink.

“What?”

Testily, Ai repeats, “Kudou-kun has another soulmate.” A slight pause, then a shaky laugh comes through the phone’s speaker.

“Oh! That makes so much sense. I’d wondered about that sweatband.” All Ai can do is blink. “On his left wrist, right? But that’s wonderful: what could be wrong about that?” She’d known? Apparently not much, but still more than Ai had walking into this.

“What’s wrong?” Ai repeats incredulously, at the end of her rope. “Well here’s the short and simple version: Kudou-kun found his soulmate four months ago, and he hasn’t kissed them: it’s not platonic like with Ran-san. Four months ago. He’s currently overwhelmed by pain and fever, although I’m not sure whether the fever is because of the soulbond or because of the mild concussion he gave himself two days ago when he collapsed because of the pain. And the best part?” The worst part, “I have no way of contacting his soulmate. I only know his alias, and your son has refused to tell me what his real name is, or to let me tell his soulmate he is their soulmate.” Ai wants to yank at her hair, but refrains from doing so. “Meanwhile, I’ve been attempting to get a hold of his parents, you, for the four months the bond’s been activated, and yet you never once answered because you were too busy escaping editors to bother even checking up on your only son!” She’s breathing hard, heaving lung-fulls of air in and out. She finishes with a slightly vindictive, “That’s what’s wrong, Yukiko-san.” She can hear her own voice echo back to her: she must be on speaker. Maybe Kudou Yuusaku had heard her as well. She hopes so.

Her hopes are answered. “Haibara-kun,” a male’s voice resounds from her cell, bringing back memories of Kudou-kun watching interviews and awards and everything his father’s ever had an appearance in, “we are on our way to the airport now, and we’ll be in Japan in about eight hours. Now, something we can hopefully help you with from here: you don’t know Shinichi’s other soulmate?”

Her resentfulness washes away, leaving only exhaustion. She can only reply, “I don’t know his name. I have no way to find him.” She hears the murmur of “male” from the man, as if he’s writing it down.

“You mentioned an alias? Can you tell us what it is? It may in some way be a reference to his name.” Ai lets out a sardonic laugh.

“If it was that easy, he would’ve been arrested years ago.”

A terse “Elaborate,” is the response she receives. “Long-time criminal” seems to be added to the list Kudou-san is making.

‘Whatever’. “His soulmate is the Kaitou KID.” Silence.

Then, “Yukiko, what is Toichi’s son’s name? You mentioned that he’d brought his son to that dinner that one time.”

“Yuusaku?”

“Yukiko, it’s most probable that the boy is Shinichi’s soulmate. Please, what’s his name, and where would he be right now?”

“I-” the woman’s voice falters, and Ai clutches the phone tighter. They can tell her. “Kaito. His name was- is Kuroba Kaito.” Kaito. “Not… Kaitou… Kaito…” That’s what he’d meant.

“Where is he, Yukiko-san?” Ai breaks into the conversation, finally capable of reaching what she’s been searching for for months.

“Ekoda?” The woman seems bewildered by the change of events. “Chika-chan’s travelling, but she’s never said anything about officially moving away from the family home, which is in Ekoda.”

“The address?” Her husband requests tersely.

“It’s- but no, it’s about eleven over in Japan isn’t it? He’d be in school about now, as long as he’s not skipping.”

“What’s the school name? And his home address in case he’s skipping.” Ai’s flying in motion, wetting the hand-towel on Kudou-kun’s head again before going upstairs to put on shoes.

The woman rattles off an address that Ai can GPS if need be, and then says, “He should be at Ekoda High School. I know Chika-chan, and he’d have to be really sick to be allowed to skip school. And Kurobas-” She cuts off, then adds with a bitter laugh, “Kurobas have always been lucky with that kind of thing, except when they have no luck at all.”

A pause on the phone line, Ai’s wrestling with her shoes, grabbing her wallet, calling out to Agasa-hakase, telling him to keep an eye on Kudou-kun, to lock the front door and the door to the stairway when he’s downstairs, and leaves before he can say anything more than a surprised, “Eh?” It may be faster to use the Professor’s car, but someone needs to be with Kudou-kun the way he is now and that someone can only be either Ai or the Professor since Hattori-kun is still in Osaka, unaware of how bad everything is, unaware of the soulmate situation. She’ll just catch a taxi: she has enough money in her wallet for that. It’s always wise to carry a couple ten-thousand yen bills with you wherever you go, and no one thinks to mug a seven year old.

Over the phone Ai hears the author tell his wife, “Come to think of it, that was around the time Shinichi started wearing that sweatband, wasn’t it?”

A shuddering breath, and the actress says, “You’re right. It makes sense. It all makes sense.” Incredulous laughter, “Shin-chan’s got a romantic soulmate too, and it’s Toichi-san’s little boy. Of all the odds.”

A gentle, “It must be due to the Kuroba luck,” is met by softer, happier laughter.

“Yukiko-san, Kudou-san,” Ai is out of breath, but she feels the need to inform them: “I’ve found a taxi. I should be there in about fifteen minutes.”

As she climbs inside, she hears, “Yes, we’re at the airport now. We’ll see you in a couple of hours. I’ll call the high school and tell them to make sure he’s ready to leave when you get there. Thank you, Ai-chan!” The line goes dead as Ai is blinking, and she pulls her phone away from her ear. That had just happened. She wonders how Kudou-kun’s avoided becoming as flighty as his mother, then remembers the amount of dead bodies that pop up around him and realizes he must take after his father in temperament.

The taxi driver clears his throat, “Where to, Miss?” Ai pockets her cell-phone and meets the man’s eyes.

“Ekoda High School. It’ll be a round trip, with an extra passenger on the way back.”

 

~

 

The two nights after Koizumi had passed out in the classroom are the nights Kaito wakes up in a cold sweat with tears coursing down his face, remembering nothing but blood and pain of the same nightmare.

 

He’s at Tropical Land with Aoko again, walking down the pavement by her side, but the world he sees is monochrome. There’s no sound as he watches her lips move, the only thing he can hear is an unfamiliar yet familiar woman’s voice echoing around him as if coming from loudspeakers, but the majority of what she’s saying is unintelligible. Aoko seems to be crying, wiping her eyes and almost yelling at him, but even though he should be able to at least read her lips, he can’t. Suddenly, Aoko’s gone, and he’s- still at Tropical Land but not in Tropical Land. He can see that big rollercoaster above him, but he realizes in the same instant he’s following someone- and they don’t know he’s there. Who- Snake?

Snake’s talking to someone else, and Kaito can’t make himself move away, his feet are planted, he’s pulling out a disposable camera, and he hears his own voice murmur, “Photographic evidence” in his ear, his thumb pressing the capture button without his volition. Then suddenly “Look out!”, but it’s too late because he feels like a piano’s suddenly fallen on his head- or maybe an iron beam- and he falls face first into the ground.

Then a hand- an enormous hand- is wrapped around his left wrist and he’s being hauled into the air, face to face with a man who’s face looks unclear and fuzzy like an unfocused photograph. Everything’s too big- the man’s face is too big what is happening? The man’s face settles into Snake’s cruel eyes and smile, his moustache as dastardly as ever. “No.” Kaito’s voice in his ear sounds weak now, weary. No wonder, he’s been brained by an iron beam and now everything’s like a funhouse. “No. This man has been arrested. This is wrong. Look closer.” The grip on his wrist is painful- so painful- but he’s right. He’d watched Snake be taken away: the details are too fuzzy, but the memory itself is there. Snake’s face is fading off the man’s body, but the body is becoming taller, leaner, the hand holding him up slimmer, and the man’s face resolves in a flash into something even crueller, the glint in his eyes murderous. The man’s hair is now long and pale, and the smile growing on his face is evil and a shudder runs down Kaito’s spine. “Gin” his own voice spits out, he can hear it, but it can’t be Kaito because who is Gin?

His wrist is an agonizing inferno- why?- but the man shifts the angle Kaito’s looking and he can see past him- Kaito is too high nothing is making sense- but then. There’re bodies on the ground. His breath hitches- his- and the voice that comes out of his throat is higher than he’s expecting. A man and a woman, short dark hair on the male and shoulder-length dark hair on the woman. ‘Kāsan? Oyaji?’ he thinks, dazed, and the voice responds with a simple, “Yes.” But the voice in his ear is wrong because the image warps, the woman’s hair grows long and curly and less dark, and now that he looks he can sees glasses crookedly tilted on the man’s face. Dark liquid is splattered around them as if they have fallen- fallen-

The man and woman disappear, and three more replace them. But the bodies- they’re so small. So young. Three children with bullet holes in their temples. He can hear a horrified gasp in his ear and it’s his voice again but the second he blinks an old man replaces the children, his throat slashed and black blood all down his front. ‘Jii?’ but “No.” and it’s not- not Jii but he looks familiar-

A woman and a girl replace the old man who is not Jii and- so familiar Kaito doesn’t understand- They look like carbon copies of each other, but one is a child and one is a young adult. The woman is wearing a lab coat and the girl is wearing a dark hoodie, but they have matching rope burns around their necks, nail marks “Yoshikawa lines” around the burns. The man with pale hair whispers “Sherry,” in Kaito’s ear, his face still too big, his grip still too tight and another shudder runs through Kaito’s body as he watches-

Just one body again- just one- but it’s a teenager, Kaito’s age, male and ‘Hakuba?’ but the voice is no longer even trying to be even as he hears a broken “No.” in his ear, and no, the features resolve, the teen’s hair is dark, his skin is slightly dark as well, a baseball cap is near his head, and his body is heavy with water, eyes open and unseeing.

His body disappears like the others but nothing replaces it. The breaths Kaito is panting out don’t sound right- they are high and reedy- but the voice in his ear is swallowing back tears and his eyes unwillingly go to the man again. Color comes back to Kaito in a wave of agony as his wrist screams- and he’s looking past the silver hair again to see two bodies have appeared- two teenagers- and they’re sitting back to back, and-

And-

The girl is Aoko. It must be- there is- a sobbing “NO.” cuts off that idea and no, no this girl is not wearing the Ekoda High uniform, this uniform has a green tie- not a red scarf, the uniform itself a different shade of blue. And this girl’s hair is smoothed down in comparison to Aoko’s semi-permanent explosion of curls. Before he can process that his eyes drag themselves to the male at her back and-

And…

It’s Kaito. There can be no possible disagreement on this. That is him, with his Ekoda High Uniform and his hair standing up and the KID hat sitting in his lap, propping up his left wrist. No dissent comes from the voice that is hitching out breaths and tears.

There are two knives in each body, sticking out in a macabre “stuck like pigs” fashion. They both have one in each of their hearts, driven deep and blood has obviously poured: the killing blows. But from the amount of blood around the knives it’s easy to tell that the other knives had been stuck first: the girl’s first is near the the one in her heart, but slightly higher, nearer her shoulder; Kaito’s is straight through his left wrist, the blade driven outward, blood dying KID’s hat a sickening red. The voice sobs in his ear, holding nothing back as “Ran.” and “Kaito.” are fragmented words extracted from a bleeding throat.

The man drops Kaito and he falls through the ground, magma heat consuming him- his wrist is pain incarnate- it hurts everything hurts and the sobs in his ears harmonize with the high-pitched wails ripping out of his throat-

 

Which is when he wakes up, a phantom pain in his wrist fading in seconds, dulling to that slightly itchy feel that hasn’t receded since Koizumi had collapsed.

A shaky sigh escapes his mouth, and he presses the heels of his palms to his eyes, blocking out images that he won’t be able to remember when he tries in an hour.

 

~

 

“Kaito,” Aoko’s reproachful voice brings Kaito back to the classroom setting from where he’d been zoning out. Her lips purse into a concerned line, and Kaito can see the way her hand is making aborted movements, as if she’s stopping herself from- something. He doesn’t know. “BaKaito, why do you look so shitty? You look like you haven’t slept since Akako-chan fainted. Is it really bothering you that much? She’s fine, you know, she called and told Aoko.” Kaito’s eyes drift in the direction of Koizumi’s still-empty desk, but he’s honestly not that worried about the witch. He’s pretty sure that she’s enough of a bitch that if she dies, she’ll try to drag him down with her. Then again, that would explain the disturbing dream he can’t remember that he’s had the last two nights. The dream’s probably why he looks like hell: he’s pulled all-nighters before with none the wiser, after all. “Kaito.”

The worried tone finally prompts him to say “I’m fine Ahoko, it’s just that the last two nights have apparently disagreed with my ability to sleep peacefully.” Aoko sends him a suspicious look and opens her mouth to say something else when the bell rings, signifying the start of next period. She glances up at the students moving towards their seats, annoyed.

“This isn’t over,” she warns him, then stomps over to her desk. Idly, he opens his notebook, peering down at all the doodles he’d drawn all yesterday: all done with his black-ink pen, except one image in the corner. His doodles are half-done and vague, mostly because his memory of what they’re based off is spotty at best. The only one, besides the colored one, that is clear-cut and finished is, for some reason, a disposable camera. Kaito’s used a couple disposable cameras in his time, so he can obviously recognize one, but he has no idea why one has cropped up in an extremely disturbing nightmare. Most of the other doodles are unrecognizable, lines on lines that make no sense without details, but Kaito can guess that one of them is a baseball cap and another is a pair of glasses, both of which look familiar, but he can’t place them.

The one in the top right corner is KID’s top hat, and Kaito’d had to bring out a red pen to draw the red stain on it so it matches what he keeps remembering. A very grim picture, he has to admit to himself. He morbidly wonders if his dream is at all prophetic; he can at least admit to himself that he severely hopes not. He’s still building up the tentative hope that, since Snake has been arrested, he may no longer have to worry about potential assassins on heists, so the image of KID’s bloody hat being imprinted in his brain is not doing wonders for his probability of survival, to be quite honest.

His phone vibrates, signalling an alert, and Kaito almost freezes to blink at it in surprise. The only people that have his phone number are Aoko (who is still occasionally shooting concerned glares in his direction and wouldn’t dream of pulling a phone out during class), his mother, and Nakamori-keibu, the two latter being adults and knowing that Kaito’s currently sitting at a desk in a classroom with a teacher at the whiteboard. Almost disbelievingly he pulls his phone out of his pocket, glancing at the message and raising an eyebrow. He’s fully ignoring Aoko’s indignant look.

 

From: Unknown Number

Be aware: contact has been established. Destiny is approaching with frantic strides. Give your trust to the herald or you will sorely regret it.

(You better go with her I swear Kuroba-kun I will eviscerate you if you screw this up.)

 

‘Huh. The first bit sounds kinda like Koizumi’s prophecies.’ Kaito shrugs internally, ‘It would explain how someone else has my number.’  Now, who could the herald be? And whatever for?

Kaito spends the next couple of minutes completely ignoring the teacher, avoiding Aoko’s unnerving stare (she’d stopped just glancing after the text), and puzzling out the message ‘Contact has been established? Sounds like an alien thing. And seriously, what herald? A female, obviously, but what is this mysterious female a herald for? Who is she?’. His rumination is broken by the sound of pounding footsteps- running- and it’s enough to make even the teacher fall quiet as they all wait to see who’s running in the halls during class-time (a late student?), which is why the classroom’s perfectly silent when their class door slams open. Even though it’d already been silent before, there’s a kind of stunned atmosphere that sets over the class as they all at the same time recognize the student council president, hands on his knees, heaving breaths like he’s just run a marathon (Kaito idly remembers that the guy is kind of bad at sports). He looks up, and before even looking at the teacher his eyes start searching the class- and stop when they meet Kaito’s.

“Kuroba-kun!” His shout makes the girl nearest the door fall out of her chair in surprise. He doesn’t even glance at her as he straightens up and walks over to Kaito with shaky legs, stopping when he’s standing near Kaito’s desk. “Gather your things, you’re being excused for the rest of the day.” Kaito thinks that he can be forgiven for not moving immediately, because at least he doesn’t let his jaw fall open like half of the classroom (Aoko included).

Kaito manages a bewildered, “Wha-?” when he realizes the guy is waiting impatiently for him to start moving, but stops when he starts making frantic, ‘get up’ motions. Kaito looks around the class- wondering if this is their attempt at getting back at him for his pranks or something, but almost everyone just stares back at him, as if they’re wondering if this is his attempt at another prank. The rest of the students seem to be staring at the teacher and Kaito follows suit. She seems to startle out of her shock.

“Um, Hibiki-kun,” she starts, seemingly as shocked as Kaito is, “what in the world-?” The president- Hibiki-kun, apparently, twitches at her voice and seems to remember that there’s a teacher there. He hurries over to her, and cups a hand over the space between his mouth and her ear as he whispers into it. The change in her expression is startling in itself- she goes from being as confused as the rest of the class to exhibiting a disturbing mix of being horrified and elated. She says- no, demands- “Are you certain?” and Hibiki-kun nods. She immediately pins Kaito with a look he only ever gets when he’s thrown the class into disarray. “Kuroba-kun,” her voice is a warning knoll if Kaito’s ever heard one- more serious than anything Nakamori-keibu’s ever yelled after him while he’s hopping around in his KID regalia, “pack your things immediately. Hibiki-kun will explain.” For another two seconds Kaito continues to just sit there, but when neither of them shout “Kidding!” or anything similar he slowly puts his notebook in his bag and gets up, watching them warily. The only thing that’s happened during this is Hibiki-kun’s started tapping his foot impatiently. Then Hibiki-kun- completely with no warning whatsoever- grabs Kaito by the elbow and starts dragging him out of the classroom. Kaito’s too surprised to do more than follow.

Kaito hears Aoko call after him but he’s already pretty far down the hallway and almost at the stairs when he registers that tidbit. “Um,” he starts, still following the guy he’s only ever seen standing at the speech podium during school events, “so, are you going to tell me what’s going on?” He does his best not to trip while going downstairs at the pace of  “two seconds before the late bell rings” and someone else having a hold on him, but he’s proud to say he manages it. No one can say his skills haven’t prevented his death-by-stairs now.

He barely gets a “No time!” before he realizes he’s not being dragged to the principal’s office but to the front door, where he’s told to change his shoes, and Kaito belatedly remembers the “excused for the day” part of Hibiki-kun’s apparently truthful announcement. As Kaito does, he hears a “Now I haven’t been excused so I can’t hang around but they should arrive shortly so good luck Kuroba-kun,” and Kaito realizes the other boy is walking away without telling him what is going on just as he looks up to see slippers disappearing up the stairs. Kaito stares after him in confusion.

He’s still standing there twelve minutes later, becoming slightly irritated by this turn of events and wondering when exactly he can give up on this mystery person coming (and what he’s going to do when they don’t: should he really go back to class if he’s already been excused for the day and already has his shoes on?), when the front door slams open with the second Bang! he’s heard in the last half-hour, drawing his startled attention. He freezes when he makes eye-contact with the not-stranger, wondering if he still has a chance to escape.

The tiny form of Haibara Ai is standing just inside the door frame, panting and staring up at him with a disturbing look of determination Kaito has no idea how to deal with. It’s a distinctively unconscious self-defense mechanism that brings a KID grin onto his face. Unsurprisingly, Haibara-san notices. Her eyes narrow.

“Come with me, please,” she says, as if she isn’t defying the laws of the universe by being here.

Kaito blinks, nonplussed, and shoots back, “How about a no, Haibara-san?” As the words leave his mouth his brain lets out a sort of helpless keen. Mostly because of the fact that this girl still has significant leverage over him that she is probably willing and able to use, no matter what Meitantei had said. There is also the fact that she has somehow figured out KID’s civilian identity (i.e. Kaito), and that this is seriously not good. His entire thought process goes sideways, however, when the look of narrow-eyed-determination etched into Haibara-san’s face crumples, leaving a horrified, helpless look that disturbs Kaito a lot more. In fact, he’s starting to feel rather concerned at the sight of this expression being on her face. It becomes full-blown concern when her knees crumple like her face had, and then she’s-

She’s-

What.

Kaito can’t stop from goggling at the seven year old who is currently performing a perfect dogeza. Her forehead is flat on the ground in between her trembling palms, also flat on the ground, and once he’s processed this Kaito gets an overwhelming urge to pinch himself. Because Haibara Ai is currently prostrating herself on the dirty floor of his high school where he’s sure millions of shoes have stepped, and there is no way he’s not dreaming this. Her body shivers and a detached part of his mind wonders if she’s cold, when her breath audibly hitches and- oh. She might actually be crying.

Please,” she says again, but no, she’s begging, her eyes beseeching in a way he’d never have thought possible. Her lips are pinching together, probably trying to hide the trembling in her jaw, but they both know it’s not working very well. Kaito can’t move, especially when he sees some sort of water build up behind her eyes and oh god no- “There is no time,” her words are pained, agonized, and in her eyes he can see the equivalent of watching an important person bleed out.

Kaito is currently not processing information right now, so he can’t really make himself try to figure out what she’s talking about, but he has a lot more free reign in regards to his muscles than he’d had when she’d first shown up, so he hurries over to her, trying to tug her out of the position by her elbow.

“Hai- ojou-san, please, get up.” His voice is semi-frantic but the fact that he’s not dreaming this must mean he’s either hallucinating or something is seriously wrong, and he’s not hallucinating because he’s got his hand firmly wrapped around her elbow.

She’s refusing to leave her position, only looking up at him with a hopeless/desperate expression and breathes out, “Please,” once more.

“I-,” Kaito’s voice is pretty strangled at this point, and he’s actually considering just following her if it’ll stop her from actually crying. Mentally, he runs through a list of Whys and Why Nots.

Why: 1) He really does not want to see Haibara Ai cry. 2) She’s never actually done anything bad to him. Threatening him with information he was too careless to protect from her was more his fault, and she’s actually known about it a lot longer than he’d expected anyway. If she was going to go to the police, she’d have already done so. And if she was just going to wait to threaten him again then she’d be doing that right now instead of kowtowing like this. 3) He’s honestly slightly curious at this point about what could bring Haibara Ai to this. 4) Haibara Ai is obviously Akako’s ‘Herald’, and the witch had threatened him with evisceration if he didn’t go with said herald. Easy enough to believe from someone who dabbles in magic and literal voodoo.

Why Not: 1) It might be a trap? Then again, it’s basically like the Kudou mansion all over again. How had he phrased it? “Even if she does decide to have the entire police force there with her, KID will still have to go just because she has such a powerful piece of leverage.” Even if she wants to walk him straight to the police, it really doesn’t matter because she doesn’t need him to be with her to tell the police what she knows. She can ruin everything with her own words, after all.

So he’s basically just convinced himself that he should follow Haibara Ai down whatever dark alleyway she wants to lead him.

He sighs and runs a hand through his hair, “Okay,” he tells her, watching hope take it’s place in her desolate expression. “Okay, where are we going?” She nearly brains him when she sits up suddenly, still on her knees but at least her torso’s vertical.

He can feel her eyes examine his expression carefully before her lips shape to form an oddly vulnerable yet hopeful, “You’ll come with me?”

Kaito hesitates, then nods reluctantly. “Yes, ojou-san. I’ll come with you. Where are we going?”

He doesn’t receive his answer until he’s already in the taxi, because after hearing his response Haibara-san had grabbed his wrist and attempted to bodily drag him out the school doors. He’d helped her by following along.

“Number 22, second department in Beika,” she tells the driver who nods before setting off. She settles back in her seat, resting the back of her arm over her eyes, and avoids looking at Kaito. Mostly because he’s still waiting for some kind of explanation. Several minutes of awkward silence stretch between them. The constant itch in his forearm becomes more pronounced for some unknown reason, not like an “I need to itch it” kind of way, more of a “I’m here and I refuse to be ignored” kind of way. More of a non-painful squeeze than an itch.

“So,” he asks, tired of waiting, “what did you say to get me excused from class?” He sees her peek at him from behind her arm, eyes calculating, and adds, “Everyone was pretty frantic, and I was told ‘good luck’, so…” He watches her eyes close.

“She probably told them the truth, then,” she says, her eyes covered once more. ‘She?’ he wonders at that. The girl hesitates before peeking at him again, “I’ll tell you most of what you want to know, mostly because-,” her eyes flit towards her arm, more of a look toward the driver of the taxi than anything, then looks back at him. “Anyway, I’ll tell you, but you have to accept that I’m not going to lie to you. What I tell you is the truth. Anything you’re confused about I can explain in more detail when it’s-” she glances again at the driver. Throughout her entire mini-speech Kaito’s felt his eyebrow go higher and higher, so it’s probably in his hairline right now.

“Okay,” he says slowly, almost drawing the word out, “please tell me what you can then.”

He can actually see her bite her lip slightly before starting,”You know how you wanted to know what was wrong with Edogawa-kun?” He jolts in surprise: is that what this is about? Then he thinks about it and worry slams home. ‘What had she meant about ‘There is no time’?' She seems to recognize where he’s going because a tired look settles over her face, and she brings her arm down so she’s looking at him fully. She takes in a breath. “He’s your soulmate,” she tells him, oh so carefully, her eyes speaking of only honesty, and a white noise starts playing in Kaito’s head. It’s broken by her adding, “He saw your soulmark during the Magic Lover’s Murder Case.” And the white noise is back, drowning him in incomprehensible ‘What’ s and ‘How’ s. He blinks at her dumbly.

“He doesn’t have my soulmark, though,” he tells her blankly, feeling rather numb.

She rubs the bridge of her nose, “It’s complicated, but I will explain it this time. Just not now.” Okay. Um, okay. If that can be trusted then- Kaito feels his face pale horrifically as another thought occurs to him, one rather important.

“But,” he blurts out, his lips unsurprisingly numb, “but that- that was- that was four months ago!” He’s waiting for her to say anything, anything at all, because honestly he’d’ve been less surprised and/or horrified if she’d actually just taken him to the nearest police station, honestly.

“You see the problem, then,” she sighs, letting that tired expression settle on her face, and she looks like Meitantei-

Meitantei. Who is apparently his soulmate. Kaito should probably stop calling him Meitantei, then. Edogawa? Conan? Oh god, his soulmate is seven-years-old. Which is when he remembers the whole four months thing and promptly blows a gasket.

He’s actually not ashamed to admit that his voice cracks when he finally manages to ask, “How-? ” But that’s also when Haibara-san’s phone goes off, startling both of them. They both stare at her pocket for a moment before she answers it, staring at Kaito with wide eyes.

“Hello?” She asks, not breaking eye contact, but the sudden sound of frantic babbling breaks through her bewilderment into something a lot more panicky. “Hakase, is he responding, or is it-” she pauses, cut off, then cuts into the other’s ramblings with, “if you have to use the dart-watch again, then there’s no choice, but it would be preferable not to considering a seven year old body probably wouldn’t take well to being tranquilized twice in as many hours. Those darts are meant to-” she cuts off again, done by herself as she listens to the phone. Then she asks, sounding horrified, “Is that him?”

Kaito only realizes that they’ve already stopped (the taxi driver’s looking back at them in curiosity) when Haibara-san’s free hand snaps out to yank open the door. She stops only long enough to grab what must be her wallet and deposits quite a number of ten-thousand yen bills through the driver’s open window before taking off towards the house they’re parked in front of, still talking into her phone. Kaito scrambles after her, a quiet part of his mind registering that they’re right next door to the Kudou mansion before nearly running into where she’s frozen. He looks down at her face (ashen, looking like a trapped mouse), before looking to see who’s she practically cowering from.

Mouri Ran is standing in front of them, facing off with them in righteous indignation, her right arm curled over her body like a sash, her right hand clutching at the front of her left shoulder. Idly, Kaito acknowledges that the pressure on his wrist has become distinctly heavier. However, Mouri’s eyes are staring purple daggers into him, so he’s slightly more distracted.

The only thing she says in his general direction, though, is “You’re not Shinichi,” and proceeds to completely ignore his presence by turning to Haibara-san, who’s still frozen like a deer-in-headlights. Kaito feels slightly miffed at the dismissal. “Ai-chan,” she says, and her voice has changed completely. It’s beseeching, and her eyes are hurt and sad and pleading. “Please. I know he’s in there. I don’t know how to explain it,” her fist clenches over her shoulder, “but it’s him, I know it, and I need to see him.”

Practically hiding behind Kaito at this point, Haibara-san manages a weak, “Edogawa-kun is not taking visitors at this-”

I need to see Shinichi,” Mouri cuts her off, staring intently at whatever she can make out of the girl behind Kaito. Her fist spasms again, in tandem with a not-completely-painful throb of Kaito’s wrist. “I know he’s in there, Ai-chan. And he’s calling,” she shoots a pained expression over her shoulder, looking longingly at the house. Haibara-san makes a sound of surprise, peeking a bit further out at the girl. Kaito is honestly starting to feel left out.

“Your soulmark is reacting?” Haibara-san asks, and Kaito looks down at her, startled, but her eyes are locked on Mouri. Who, unsurprisingly, also looks startled, staring down at her. That somehow answers her question because her eyes instantly snap to Kaito, who immediately feels like a glass slide under a microscope. ‘Scientists,’ he despairs, and Haibara-san snaps out a demanding: “Is your soulmark reacting, Kuroba-kun?” Both girls’ eyes examine him, Haibara-san’s sharp while Mouri’s look perplexed. His mind helpfully provides him an answer to keep from visibly flailing.

“Yes,” he blurts out, then follows the fact that had made his brain decide this was the answer. The pressure on his forearm- it had started on the spot under where Koizumi had touched- his soulmark- and that’s still the center-point for the pressure. He explains this aloud to them for reasons he’s not exactly sure of at this point. “I’ve been feeling a- pressure- on my-” he glances at Mouri, “soulmark- since Koizumi-” wait, probably not the cause then, “since- I mean- for about two days now?” He ends it in a question, wondering if it’s what Haibara-san wants to hear. It seems to be what she’s expected, anyway, from the look of startled- almost curiousity- look in her eyes. He adds, perhaps unnecessarily, “The pressure’s gotten stronger the closer we’ve gotten to-” he pauses, looking toward the door of the house they’re in front of, “here.” Mouri’s eyes narrow in concentration, looking between Kaito and Haibara-san as if piecing together a puzzle that she’s not sure she has all the pieces for.

Then her eyes widen, looking at Kaito with a look of surprise, “Wait, does that mean you…?” Whatever she’s about to say is cut off by the door slamming open, revealing a panicking, familiar, balding, mustached man.

“Ai-kun…!” He wheezes, and the shock is enough to bring Haibara-san out from behind Kaito, quickly walking over to the man. He looks up at her almost pleadingly, “I don’t know what... to do… his heart… I don’t think…” Kaito can’t hear whatever he may or may not be managing to say, though, because the pressure on his wrist is suddenly gripping, tight and demanding. It’s just on the other side of painful, just enough to not be, but much too intense to brush off. It’s a reflex: to reach for the new sensation, to see if there’s a way for it to be averted. With the invisible grip comes an overwhelming, numbing sensation of terror and the taste but not feel of pain. There’s an undetectable tug, his entire mind seeming to reach with yearning fingers for the open doorway. The smallest part of his brain that is not currently being overwhelmed by the need to push the old man aside and to run into the house to find- find- find-, notices that Mouri had staggered when he had, her fist clenching white, and as she pushes past the old man to do what Kaito wants to do- what he needs to do- to find-

Kaito doesn’t notice that he nearly bowls Haibara-san over in his rush to get past the old man, his only thought to follow the tail of black hair disappearing behind a corner in this house he’s never been in. His mind- the majority- suddenly seems to know more than he does because it’s screaming ‘She knows where- she’ll show us- we need to follow her-’ and he reaches the door she’s flown through, a door that opens to a flight of stairs leading down. He tries to fly down as well- We’ve flown before, his mind thinks nonsensically- but the moment- the instant he sets a foot on the top of the stairs…

His surroundings go up in flames.

Chapter Text

Everything hurts, but his soulmark hurts most of all. It’s agony, it’s pain personified, and his nightmare is dancing around the edges of Kaito’s mind, flitting through almost teasingly with the feeling of a too-large hand clamped around his wrist, and the sensation of falling, and the inferno. The inferno is around him: he can feel it searing into his flesh, can see the tongues of flame surrounding him- reaching even higher than him.

Kaito isn’t looking up though. The pain is too much, the fire is too hot, and he can only hear his own voice repeating, despair coating the words, “I couldn’t save him. Couldn’t. What good is trying if I can’t succeed? Useless. I couldn’t save him.” He can suddenly hear everything again, hear the crackling of fire, but more importantly he can hear the sound of a piano playing a familiar song. Nothing important, but at the same time it’s too important. He looks up and in the middle of the room is a man playing a piano. The man’s appearance is blurry and fading in and out in the haze of heat, but somehow Kaito makes out the short blonde hair, the angular face, the suit, the stain of red.

Fuzzily, so fuzzily, Kaito barely manages to mumble the man’s name, his moniker: “Nightmare…” Kaito’s voice is high, higher than he can understand through the pain. He’s been shot before, but this- and he realizes he’s looking up at Nightmare, from a height that makes no sense. He realizes this as he hears the voice end it’s litany with a sharp gasp.

“Kaito…” the voice murmurs, almost a caress, then, sharper, “Snap out of it, Kaito. You’re not asleep. And that’s not your Nightmare.” There’s a searing, splitting pain that Kaito suffers in a single instant, the center-point his soulmark, as he looks again through the haze and the man’s hair grows dark and longer, the figure becoming shorter and less angular, the clothes becoming a pure black dress, and then Kaito’s not looking up at the player, he’s looking straight forward at them and there’s a small hand in his own. He looks down.

Edogawa Conan looks up at him, smiling sadly, his tiny hand engulfed by Kaito’s. His mouth opens and Kaito’s voice- wait, no- that’s not his voice- but it’s close- comes out, a gentle, “Hey”, wrapping itself comfortingly around Kaito. He gapes down at the boy. Kaito realizes, belatedly, that he no longer feels the pain that had been eating him alive, and that, even though the fire is still curling up, past Conan’s head but not quite to Kaito’s, he does not feel the heat anymore, either. Conan’s mouth twists into a dark-humored smirk, but the voice is filled with apologies as it leaves the boy’s mouth, “I’m sorry, Kaito.”

~

The first thing Ran registers upon reaching the basement of Agasa-hakase’s house isn’t the sound of a body falling down the stairs to lie in a lifeless heap behind her, even though in all honesty it probably should. It’s not the desperate calls of her own name being shouted by a young girl’s voice and an older man’s that she can barely hear through white noise.

It’s not the fact that the boy she’s taken care of for months now is currently strapped down by his wrists to a table in the middle of the room. It’s not that the boy is unconscious yet still making pained noises, not that the room is several degrees higher than the rest of the house, not that the boy’s skin is flushed red-hot.

It’s the sight of the cherry-blossom-badge soulmark that she sees as she nears Conan-kun. The soulmark that only one person besides her should- could- can possibly have. Her knees weaken and she slides to the floor as she sees Shinichi’s soulmark on Conan-kun’s fevered skin, knowing that this confirms everything, no matter how many times she’s been tricked- lied to before. And all she can think as she stares hopelessly up at her soulmate’s small body is an extremely hurt ‘Why?’

A gasp from behind her slithers it’s way into her consciousness: a worried, slightly panicked, “Kuroba-kun?!” spoken in the voice of the girl she’d always thought was just an ordinary, if rather mature young girl. Well, she’d thought that until two days before, when she’d been called by the Elementary School and received a heads up that the boy in the Mouri’s custody had been hurt during school and that he’d been picked up by one of the boy’s emergency contacts, Agasa Hiroshi. This of course being the first she’d heard about it, Ran had rushed to Agasa-hakase’s house only to find that she was not allowed inside. Considering it was coming from the man who had enabled her soulmate and herself to do many dangerous things when they were Conan-kun’s age, Ran wasn’t exactly impressed. It hadn’t taken long to discover that it was Ai-chan that was responsible for the barring of the way, and no matter how much Ran had pleaded neither the girl nor the man had budged.

Her train of thought is interrupted by the fact that the professor seems to have lifted the strange boy Ai-chan had brought, carefully arranging his unconscious body into the chair next to where Ran is, where Cona-Shinichi is strapped to. Ai-chan is helping as much as she is able, apparently saying something.

Ran tunes into, “Kuroba-kun you need to wake up. Please wake up. Kuroba-kun.” It’s repeated, the only slightly varying reiterations growing more and more desperate. Ran stares listlessly at the boy. “You’re not Shinichi” she’d said to him, the only thing she’d said, and in retrospect she acknowledges that that was rather rude. She forgives herself: they hadn’t exactly been in the best situation to be properly introduced. And they would be, they would have to be, if Ran is correct in her own deduction. But that will have to wait.

“Conan-kun,” she breaks the girl’s despairing litany, startling her into silence, “is Shinichi.” Ai-chan says nothing, so Ran wrenches her gaze from Con- Shinichi to level a demanding look at the seven-year-old. The girl looks miserable, which is practically a confirmation. “You obviously knew that,” Ran observes, watching the girl slightly flinch, “which makes me wonder exactly how you’re related to him. I never knew you before he was Conan-kun, so it’s highly unlikely that he knew you before then, either. Would you mind explaining to me exactly what is going on, Ai-chan?” The girl is hunched in nearly a protective ball, having cringed away from both unconscious boys and Ran and ending up huddled against the floor. The girl licks her lips.

“I can’t tell you, Mouri-san,” the girl’s voice is quiet, downcast, but also resolute. When Ran visibly bristles, she hurries to add, “I can’t tell you what you’re asking right now: it’s Kudou-kun’s decision in what exactly we can tell you. But there are some things I can tell you…” Ai-chan trails off, glancing almost helplessly between the two unconscious boys.

“Is one of those things,” Ran starts dryly, figuring that giving into hysteria won’t help in the least, “possibly why exactly Co-Shinichi is strapped to a table and seems to be running a ridiculously high fever? Why his arm is twitching? Why he's been wearing makeup for at least a month? Is it, Ai-chan?” Ai-chan lets out a shaky breath and meets Ran’s eyes.

“Yes, Mouri-san,” she says quietly, slowly letting her eyelids fall. She nods. “Yes, I can tell you that.”

~

Kaito will probably never admit to the fact that his voice cracks when he finally says, “So, Meitantei, I’m told we’re soulmates. He glances down unnecessarily at the boy’s blank wrist, revealed by the fact that Kaito’s holding his left hand and the sleeve’s fallen back, “Although it would explain a lot, it would also need quite a bit of explanation itself. I’m sure you understand.” The eyes behind the glasses peer up at him, his teeth worrying into his lip, looking a mix between concerned and chagrined.

He finally sighs, his eyelashes fluttering slightly, and speaks again in the voice that sounds more like Kaito’s than Meitantei’s, “Yes, I was worried that this would happen eventually. And you were right with what you said that night: you deserve to know.” His shoulders seem to slump in resignation, “Ask what you will, Kaito. I’ll tell you whatever you want to know.”

Kaito pauses at this, considering exactly what he’s just heard, then asks in his best lilting KID voice, “Well for starters, how long have you known my real name? And how long has Haibara-san?” The detective’s mouth twitches, although whether in amusement or irritation Kaito isn’t sure.

“Well,” he blows out a breath and looks up at the burning ceiling, “I’ve known since about three days after the time we talked at the Kudou mansion.” Kaito lets out a rather choked sound, mostly because even though he can’t imagine Meitantei’s lying to him, he also can’t imagine why he wouldn’t have turned Kaito in- oh. Soulmate. Right. “Haibara…” the boy continues, staring into middle distance with a furrow in his eyebrows, “I think she actually only figured it out today.” A small sound of surprise escapes Kaito, and the younger looks up at him with a wry smile, holding up two fingers. “Two reasons. One: she would’ve gone to get you the day she found out, so.” He gestures around unnecessarily, then continues, “Two, I’m pretty sure I heard her talking to my parents.” A thoughtful frown grows more pronounced, and he tilts his head, “I think. But if I’m right then as long as she says the right thing Tōsan would be able to figure out enough to get Kāsan to drop the rest.”

Kaito clears his throat, nonplussed, and asks, “What would she need to say? And why would that be an immediate reveal?” Meitantei looks back at him and quirks the edge of his lip. Never once has he separated their hands.

“She’d just need to say my soulmate is the Kaitou KID.” The statement is spoken matter-of-factly, but Kaito still twitches because the identity of the Kaitou KID is not known to many people. Obviously. The boy meets his eyes, a soft look in his own, and continues, “To answer your other question: my parents knew the original Kaitou KID,” he pauses, and adds an even softer, “your father.” Kaito startles even harsher than he had before, and the fact that he’s being so visible with his emotions should set him on edge, but even with the fire continuously burning wherever they are and the unknown person at the piano ignoring their presence, Kaito can’t feel anything but safe looking at this boy. The power of soulmates. “Tōsan was friendly rivals with him and knew him as KID. Kāsan was his apprentice and knew him as- as Kuroba Toichi.” Conan glances up at him through his eyelashes, almost shy. Kaito stares down at him, no idea what his face looks like, and clears his throat, his neck feeling hot. Even though he’s standing in the middle of a supposedly burning room. Why does he not feel the fire? ‘Anymore’ his mind prevaricates softly. He breaks eye contact and makes a show of looking around.

“So,” he says brightly, “What exactly is this place? Where are we?” He makes a motion towards the person at the piano, “And who is that lovely young lady?” When Conan says nothing for a moment, Kaito chances a glance down, and- his stomach drops. Conan looks hurt, and it’s obvious he’d seen Kaito’s change of subject for what it was: avoidance. An indirect rejection of trust. He seems to piece himself together again though, before Kaito can think of what he should say in this situation.

“That,” he says, looking behind him at the woman at the piano with an almost blank expression on his face, “is, or was, Asou Seiji, a serial killer.” Kaito must let some sort of surprise show but his soulmate does not look up at him, just blandly stating facts as he stares at the dead killer. “The son of a murdered pianist. He was trying to get revenge by killing the men responsible for his father’s death. By the time I figured it out and revealed him, he’d managed to finish off the ones that hadn’t died because of a heart attack.” A shadow passes over the small face, and with a chill down his spine Kaito remembers the voice coming out of Conan’s mouth saying “I couldn’t save him. Couldn’t. What good is trying if I can’t succeed? Useless. I couldn’t save him.”

The boy’s mouth flattens into a grim line as he glances around. “This is where I found him. He’d run after I revealed him, you see. The cops were too busy listening to my deduction to notice him leave.” Conan’s shoulders hunch under an invisible weight. “It was already on fire when I got here. He was at his father’s piano,” he gestures needlessly at the piano the after-image of the killer is sitting at. “I-” his voice finally cracks, a hint of vulnerability making itself known, and Conan licks his lips. “I tried to stop him. To get him out. I told him his father wouldn’t have- hadn’t wanted him to-” he struggles with his words, grasping at them yet at the same time seeming to flinch away from them.

A lump in Kaito’s throat makes it difficult for him to swallow, and he squeezes Conan’s hand gently. The eyes behind the glasses look up at him, helpless, while the glasses themselves reflect the dancing flames around them. “He said his hands were already stained with the blood of those men. He threw me out of the window to make sure I didn’t burn to death alongside him.” His eyes go slightly hollow, a distant look, and he says vacantly, “On bad days, sometimes I wonder if…” he trails off, his face twisting into a horrible look that has no place on a child’s face. His heart wrenching, Kaito kneels down and brings up his free hand to cup Conan’s cheek. Kaito’s basically holding the entire left side of his face with how big his hand is compared to the boy’s face. Meitantei seems to snap to attention, and when his eyes meet Kaito’s they go soft and gentle. Kaito still has the lump in his throat, especially when Conan brings his free hand up to hold the teenager’s hand to his cheek, his mouth relaxing into a soft smile, eyes fluttering closed.

‘The soulbond’ Kaito realizes with sudden clarity. ‘It’s affecting me, sure, but it’s been softening Meitantei for months. It really does explain a lot.’ And Kaito knows it’s affecting him too, even if he hasn’t seen Conan’s missing soulmark: his heart is too warm, too full at the feel of Conan’s cheek against his hand, and a wave of what can only be fondness rushes through him.

“As to why you saw Asou as Nightmare,” Conan resumes softly, his eyes still closed, and Kaito starts slightly. His soulmate’s eyes open slightly to look at him through his eyelashes. “I think it was your mind’s way of processing what you saw in my head. You didn’t have my memories, so your brain tried to come up with the best equivalent. The one you couldn’t save for the one I couldn’t.” He closes his eyes again and leans into Kaito’s hand, as if for comfort, and continues “Snake for Vodka and Gin. Your parents for mine. You didn’t have an equivalent for the kids or Haibara, but your Jii-chan for Agasa-hakase. Hakuba for Hattori.” He curls in even more, seemingly not noticing Kaito’s horrified expression as he finally remembers with perfect clarity the dream he’s had the last two nights. “Nakamori-san for Ran. It was the best your mind could do under the pressure of the soulbond.” Kaito’s hand tightens slightly into Conan’s cheek and his eyes open again, finally meeting Kaito’s horrified look.

“That dream,” he chokes out, “was yours?” Conan nods slowly.

“My mind’s become pretty unstable after I hit my head two days ago,” Kaito’s soulmate says quietly, not looking away from his eyes. “I think my mind was trying to call for help from my soulmates. You’re the only one that entered my dreams, though.” Kaito blinks.

“Soulmates? Plural?” Conan nods again.

“I have two soulmates,” the boy tells him, his hand tightening slightly as if hoping Kaito won’t try to run. “Ran’s my platonic soulmate. We figured it out when we were kids.” A choked sound escapes Kaito’s throat, but he doesn’t try to escape. The feel of Conan’s cheek under his hand, Conan’s hand over Kaito’s, is too comforting to even really consider.

All he can manage is a slightly strangled, “Since you were kids? If you hadn’t noticed, Meitantei, you still are a kid, and you couldn’t have known Mouri when she was a kid.” Conan’s face seems to shutter for a split second, but it settles into an expression of resolve before Kaito realizes that he was almost blocked out again. His meitantei looks up with a twisted smile, almost pained.

“Kaito,” he says, hesitant, “there’s one more person your mind is changing to fit your perception.” At Kaito’s bewildered look, Conan seems to bite his lip, gaze fluttering around. “My soulmark,” comes out of his mouth, still in that strange voice that Kaito’s gotten used to, older, but weak now, “it’s there, you know. I have my soulmark in my own mind, at least. It’s just…” He trails off helplessly, then gently shakes the hand that’s been attached to Kaito since he’s appeared. “Look.” Dutifully, Kaito leans forward slightly so he can examine the seemingly blank wrist, still not seeing anything. Kaito feels Conan lean in, hears him whisper a pleading, “Please see it, Kaito.” And-

And suddenly, there it is, unfurling itself across the pale skin of Meitantei’s inner left wrist. The stark black of the ace of spades: an exact replica of what is on Kaito’s own wrist. But then-

Kaito’s shocked nearly out of his skin to feel that his hand is suddenly not encompassing the left side of Conan’s face, just cradling a cheek too large to be a child’s, no glasses pressing into his fingers. And the hand that is holding Kaito’s to the new cheek is no longer tiny: it’s the same size as Kaito’s- if slightly smaller. It’s still warm and comforting, though, which is why Kaito doesn’t jerk back and away, just snaps his face up to meet the eyes of-

Of-

Is this Kudou Shinichi??

It is, which is nonsensical enough, but the supposedly missing teen detective is wearing only pajama pants and nothing else which is quite enough to startle Kaito into speechless silence. There’s a pink soulmark low on his left shoulder that looks like a giant cherry blossom, but it doesn’t negate the black soulmark still imprinted on his left wrist, the fingers of their left hands intertwined.

Kudou Shinichi’s mouth tilts into an amused and fond smile, opens, and speaks with the same voice Conan’s been using this whole time. A voice that matches him much better than the seven-year old. “Hey,” he says softly.

~

Ai-chan seems to take a couple of moments to put her thoughts together, and Ran lets her, but when the silence stretches out too long Ran raises an eyebrow. “Well?” Her prompt makes Ai-chan’s shoulders hunch, but the girl lets out a breath.

“Well,” the girl falters out, looking hesitantly at Ran, “well, I mean… how much have you figured out?” Ran stares at her for what feels like a long time before slowly letting out a breath.

“He,” she says, indicating the boy in the chair, “is Shinichi’s soulmate as well, isn’t he?” Ai-chan freezes, surprise painting itself on her features, and the unspoken question in her eyes makes Ran rub at her own disheveled hair. “I was always…” she pauses for the right word, “curious about the fact that Shinichi always wore that sweatband, especially after he left the soccer club. I wouldn’t have made the connection, but the way you talked about soulmarks a bit ago, and how he talked about his…” she trails off when she sees the wonder in Ai-chan’s eyes and a flush rises to her face. “I’m not as smart as Shinichi is, but I’m not stupid.” But those words leaving her mouth make her eyes drift to the boy on the table, make her thoughts wrap ribbons around her mind, forming ‘Shinichi seems to think I’m stupid, though. Too stupid to tell the truth to, at least,’ and the thoughts are bitter against her tongue as she struggles not to say them. It seems Ai-chan can read her thoughts though.

“No, Mouri-san, we never thought you were stupid.” Ai-chan’s face has twisted into a pained expression, guilt infusing itself uncomprehendingly into the girl’s words. “Kudou-kun has never thought you were stupid, so don’t think that, please. He’s been trying to protect you, is all. Trying to protect everyone the best he can, no matter how reckless or self-sacrificing the actions he takes are.” The words weigh on Ran’s mind, curling protectively around her, and she licks her lips. She looks again at the boy- her childhood friend- her soulmate- lying pained and unconscious and feverish on the table.

“Why,” she finally manages to ask, “is Shinichi like this? It’s not a normal fever, is it? He’s been getting bad for a long time now.” Ai-chan twitches again and directs her gaze at Shinichi’s other soulmate. Ran waits for her to speak.

“He…” Ai-chan murmurs eventually, not meeting Ran’s eyes, “he’s not Kudou-kun’s platonic soulmate.” Ran blinks, the words turning themselves over in her head.

“Oh.” A simple noise of surprise. That’s all that makes it out, before the meaning slams home in her head. “Wait.” An idea is inking itself in her mind, bleeding all over her memories of Conan-kun becoming more and more worn-out. The words are shakily desperate when she manages them, “Ai-chan, please tell me this isn’t what I think it is.” Ai-chan peeks at her through her eyelashes, hesitancy warring with despair to rule her expression. She looks away from Ran and towards her lap where she folds her hands, sitting cross-legged on the floor.

“Kudou-kun doesn’t have his other soulmark as Edogawa Conan,” Ai-chan explains quietly. “He’s told me it showed up when he was eight, and Edogawa Conan is physically seven. So in order to convince his soulmate to kiss him, he’d need to tell him about Kudou Shinichi. And, well, knowing the truth behind Kudou Shinichi and Edogawa Conan makes anyone a potential target for a group of bad people. And Kudou-kun…” She pauses, faltering, before finally meeting Ran’s eyes, anguished, “Kudou-kun would hate being the reason someone important to him is in danger.”

“He didn’t tell him,” Ran surmises breathlessly, her eyes trailing between her soulmate and his, “He didn’t kiss him.” Horror is overwhelming her, and her knees tremble, threatening to give out on her. “How long?” She whispers through numb lips.

The longest pause, agonizingly long, before the young girl finally admits, “Four months.” Ran’s knees hit the floor. ‘Oh, Shinichi.’

A silence washes over them, and Ran takes this time to wrap her head around what she knows now. The silence is broken by a sharp inhale, not from the other girl, and Ran looks up. Ai-chan is staring at Shinichi, looking surprised, as the boy’s teeth grit together and he pushes air through them, his eyes squeezing shut.

“What’s wrong?” Ran is on her feet again, shaky but standing. Ai-chan doesn’t answer, her eyes fixed on Shinichi, wide and astounded, and Ran follows her gaze. They’re both staring at Shinichi’s left wrist now, which Ran now recognizes as covered in red, raised lines indicating furious scratch marks, all barely visible under the restraint, but...it’s smoking? There’s a thin curl of smoke emanating from what can’t be anywhere but his wrist.

“... Ai-chan?” Ran asks hesitantly, her voice small.

~

“Kudou Shinichi?” Kaito asks blankly, feeling as if he's been blind-sided by a heavy piece of construction equipment. A sheepish twist to the fond smile forms on the other boy's face.

“Yes,” he finally says, his eyelashes fluttering. “It's been a while since anyone's called me that.” Kaito searches the detective’s face, almost tempted to tug on the other's cheek to see if this is a disguise. But no, Kudou Shinichi had started out as Edogawa Conan, and no amount of disguise can make a child a teenager. Kaito, of all people, knows this fact.

“I-” Kaito stammers out, unable to tear his gaze away from what are undeniably Edogawa Conan’s eyes. “How?” The sheepish look has taken over his soulmate's face, and Kaito feels more than sees the other's thumb tentatively rubbing against the back of his hand, still resting on the other teen’s cheek.

“Well-” comes out of Shinichi's mouth, when a sudden tension flashes into his muscles, so clear that Kaito can see it just as much as he can feel it. He also sees Shinichi's eyes widen slightly, feels the hand on his own curl slightly. Kaito is about to snap out of the surprise at this sudden change, he is, but then the hand that Kaito's been holding since Conan had shown up in the burning house spasms in his grip. He looks down, following Shinichi's gaze, and sees a trail of smoke rising from Shinichi's ace soulmark. The questions double-down in Kaito's head, but for some reason unknown to either of them, Shinichi manages to speak first. “Kaito,” he says, his voice strangled by what Kaito registers as what must be an immense amount of pain, “don’t worry.”

Then there is the inexplicable instant where he revisits what he'd felt upon entering this house: the drowning, incomprehensible agony, and the burning fire melting him from the inside-out. 'Shinichi’ he thinks blearily, then everything goes black.

~

Ai-chan blinks a couple of times.

“I-” she says, appearing utterly bewildered. She leans in closer, as if to convince herself that she's not seeing things. “I- could it be possible?” Ran’s eye twitches in response.

“Could what be possible?” She is sick and tired of being out of the loop. So to hell with these vague responses to her questions- because Shinichi’s body spasms and a low groan escapes his clenched teeth- and Ran still does not know why. Which is honestly unacceptable. “Ai-chan-”

The boy in the chair, Shinichi's other soulmate, jerks awake like he’s been jabbed by a live wire.

Shinichi,” he gasps, an involuntary release of sound, then blinks and looks around. Ran and Ai-chan stare at him, and there’s a single beat of silence as they and the boy size each other up. His mouth twists into a sheepish line as his eyes start to catalogue the room around them. “Uh…” comes out of his mouth, and he blinks again. “Hi?” he tries, his hand reaching up as if to scratch at his neck.

Just as Ran is about to say something- anything she can come up with- a snarl of pain breaks the awkward atmosphere. Ran’s eyes snap back to Shinichi- a little boy on an operating table- and she realizes that while she’s been preoccupied with the other boy two more plumes of smoke have begun to rise from her soulmate, who appears to be attempting to unconsciously curl up. She stumbles to her feet, her knees bambi-shaky and they haven’t been this unsteady since the last time she’d suspected Conan was Shinichi and he was bleeding out from a bullet wound.

“Take my blood,” she’d said then, praying that her soulmate would not die, not before he could explain himself, explain what had happened and why he’d been hiding so many important things from her- that he would not die. They’d needed blood to replace his, and Ran had the same blood type as Shinichi, so of course she offered her own. Her soulmate, her life-companion, her brother-but-not. There is nothing she can offer in the face of these smoke plumes- she has no idea what they are, what they mean, and her soulmate’s other soulmate has risen to his own feet to stand next to her with the same expression of helplessness that is eating her alive.

There is only one conscious person in the room that does not look confused or helpless. Ran feels an irrational fury thrum in her veins as she suppresses the urge to wipe the fascinated look off the little girl’s face.

“Ai-chan.” Ran has never been a hostile person. Many of her peers think her sweet, kind, calm, and gentle. That there is nothing behind the girl that does the housework. Her club-members, friends, and other martial artists know that she is capable of fighting, know that she can take a punch as well throw one. Know that she can break a wall if she so chooses. But only Sonoko and Shinichi know her and have always known her and always will. They see the girl that takes care of people, and they know the girl that can break walls, and care for the girl who rejoices when she wins and cries when she loses. Protect her from having to be more than herself, having to protect those that don’t deserve her protection. And even though she loves Sonoko, Shinichi aches when she aches, and Shinichi will always be Shinichi, her other half. Ran is losing Shinichi.

“You will answer me right now or so help me. What is happening to Shinichi.” The other boy glances up, startled, a slight flinch indicating he knows the girl that can fight, and Ran wonders at that, but the little girl pales, the fascination washes off her face like rainfall, and stares up at her with wide eyes. Ran hates the anger washing over her, but she knows it’s tinting her face dark shades of pissed, and the boy seems to feel her anger oozing off of her skin because it washes onto his own.

“You know what’s happening, Haibara-san? Why aren’t you telling us?” His demand is sharp and volatile, a ship being tossed around in a summer storm, indignation tainting the curiosity.

The girl’s eyes are wide and almost fearful, looking between Ran’s eyes and the eyes of the other, and her small face is drawn and weary. Months of worry have etched themselves into her face, and Ran feels a pang of guilt bite into her when the girl’s small voice whispers, “He’s- I think he’s reverting to Kudou Shinichi.”

As if in response, Shinichi's voice cries out, an anguished sound, and the table shakes as Shinichi's entire, tiny frame convulses, steam engulfing their sight. Shinichi’s other soulmate, Kuroba-kun, Ran thinks she remembers Ai-chan calling him, reaches out to touch him but yanks his hand back immediately, the steam a hot burn. Ran nearly has a panic attack at the sight- probably would’ve- if the steam hadn’t dissipated almost as suddenly as it had appeared, leaving Shinichi- Shinichi- laying on the table where he’d been just a moment ago as Conan-kun. The pajama pants he’d been wearing are stretched around his hips- stretched to their limits, and are the only thing protecting his teenage modesty. Their soulmark is its proper size now, the same size as hers is, but when Ran’s eyes drift curiously towards his left wrist she can see the wrist-restraints digging into his flesh, covering up the majority of the seeming black soulmark under it.

~

This entire shit show Kaito feels like he’s glider-crash-landed into isn’t over yet, though. Shinichi’s skin is still flushed red and sweaty, still panting with a rasp in the sound, and his face is scrunched up in an expression of hidden pain that Kaito only recognizes because of his Poker Face training. Mouri reaches out, a silent plea that is answered by Shinichi’s eyes snapping open and staring straight up, glazed and unfocused. Kaito and Mouri startle backwards- having been unconsciously leaning towards him- when his mouth wrenches open to let out a guttural scream, jolting the now-seeming-fragile operating table with the bang! he makes when he brings his tightly restrained wrists down.

Shinichi!” Kaito finally manages to find his voice in the wake of this surreal waking-dream, his shout in tandem with Mouri’s own as they both rush forward, reaching to free him of the restraints that are cutting off the circulation to his wrists.   

“Wait!” Haibara-san cries out, a panicked sound that stops them both for the split-second it needs to. Kaito realizes he’s never seen a feral Edogawa Conan, never even really seen Kudou Shinichi, when he sees Shinichi lash out at them in blind, pained distress. If Haibara-san hadn’t stopped them, whoever got to the farther wrist cuff would’ve been kneed in the head by a panicking, teenage soccer player. Kaito swallows involuntarily at the prospect. But Shinichi falls back onto the table, his fever painting itself in heavy strokes along his cheeks, neck, and chest. He’s breathing heavily, eyes still glazed and staring at the ceiling, his left hand trying to break free of it’s restraint. Somewhere to his right, Kaito can hear Mouri making a noise of despair in the back of her throat.

Kaito’s about to try again for the wrist restraints- his own panic swallowing up his heart and bleeding thoughts like ‘Shinichi is hurting/Shinichi is in pain/SHINICHI’ into his brain with a ringing noise blocking out all other thoughts. A sharp yank on the hem of his gakuran breaks him out of the swirl of thoughts, helped along by an equally sharp voice.

“Kuroba-kun!” The girl behind him is snapping at him, her eyes narrowed and glinting dangerously. “This is because of the soul-bond. It’s highly probable that the majority of Kudou-kun’s problems will be solved if you just kiss him!” Kaito blinks dumbly at her, slightly shell-shocked, when he feels a hand settle firmly against his back. He’s in the process of turning his head to stare at Mouri when she pushes him towards their soulmate, falling face first.

This is, admittedly, not how he’d expected his first kiss to go.

It almost doesn’t even count as a kiss, considering the majority of it is just a mash of teeth and lips and a slight but painful impact of teeth meeting teeth.

‘What happened to the romance?’ the part of him that is not in a shocked/numb frozen state asks indignantly.‘Kāsan lied to us!’

Then Shinichi’s entire body relaxes, eyes closing, the stiffness and pain visibly washing out of his nerves, tendons no longer standing out in violent agony, and the previously shocked/numb frozen part is overtaking the whiny part and hissing ‘Don’t be such a baby, we’ll have more time later.’ The previously indignant part of him swoons at the “more time later” bit and Kaito decides that’s his weird-romantic side he can never let anyone know he has. ‘Now shut up he’s waking up.’

Shinichi’s eyes are indeed fluttering open, his eyelids still obviously heavy as he peers past them at Kaito. Who is still only two centimeters from his face after pulling away from the “kiss”. Kaito doesn’t squeak, but he lets out something in that category as his ears and cheeks flush red and he pulls away. Kaito doesn’t miss how Shinichi’s eyes soften when he recognizes Kaito, how the corners of his lips pull up in a smile. Kaito may or may not flush harder at that.

The voice that leaves his lips is cracked and hoarse, but otherwise it’s the same voice from the dream, washing a wave of warmth and comfort over him. Kaito takes an extra couple of moments to process what exactly Shinichi had said. “Is it hot in here,” he’d rasped, a smirk etched with his lips, “or is it just you?” Because she’d processed the words first probably, Mouri reacts first, a startled, half-amused snort of laughter escaping her as Kaito reaches up to cover his burning face with his hands.

“Oh my God, Shinichi. Didn’t Sonoko use that line on Kyogoku-san? Are you seriously stealing lines from Sonoko?” From the gaps in between his fingers, Kaito sees Shinichi’s eyes leave him and wander to a point to Kaito’s right, making a face and sticking his tongue out.

A half-amused half-exasperated sigh comes from behind him, and as he recognizes Haibara-san’s voice he feels a small body push it’s way past him and Mouri to get to Shinichi, holding a thermometer and a tiny flashlight. “I’d like to check what’s happened with your fever and possible concussion before you start up with your soulmate antics,” is her bland comment. Shinichi’s eyes drift aimlessly for a moment before focusing on Haibara-san, blinking in mild surprise. Just as he opens his mouth, probably to ask a question, Haibara-san jabs the thermometer into his mouth and he startles, jerking slightly, making a noise of affront that is muffled by the instrument. “Don’t be ridiculous, Kudou-kun,” she grouses, entirely ignoring Kaito and Mouri who are hovering uncertainly over them, “you whacked your head against that desk hard enough, if you’ll recall. And I never did determine whether the fever came from the concussion you surely you got from that or the soulbond. There was never a chance, considering you hadn’t become appropriately conscious until now. Now, follow the light with your eyes.”

Kaito shrinks a little as she goes along with the check up, Shinichi's eyes struggling to follow blearily, making it obvious he has some kind of head injury. His skin is still red, which means the fever isn’t gone, either. The soulbond. This had all happened because of their soulbond. It all comes crashing down on Kaito as the adrenaline begins to wear off, the memory of all the things he’d noticed from Conan, and everything just falls into place, like he’d had all of the pieces of a puzzle but hadn’t known how to put it together, and now that he knows what the puzzle was supposed to be it’s so obvious.

All the times Conan had “reached instinctively for his watch” hadn’t been for his watch. He was reaching for his soulmark. The makeup to hide the lines on his face, the strange conversations exchanged between him and Haibara-san, the sudden bouts of inexplicable pain. Hakuba? Cripes, the fact that Conan didn’t physically have a soulmark was the only thing that stopped Kaito from figuring it out that much sooner. And Koizumi is a lot easier to figure out now he knows she was probably feeling their soulbond and received Shinichi's end. Kaito’s stomach churns at the thought, remembering her agonized scream and the terror on her face.

Haibara-san clicks the flashlight off and pulls the thermometer out of Shinichi’s mouth, looking at it with a pinched expression. “You’re not exactly the picture of health,” she says dryly, stating an obvious fact. “You definitely have a mild concussion, though you should be thankful it’s only mild. A testament to your hard head.” She knocks lightly, teasingly, on his forehead and he rolls his eyes at her. “Slightly delirious, mostly just affecting your brain-to-mouth filter.” She glances with an amused look back at Kaito, and Mouri snickers slightly when Kaito ducks his head. “And your fever’s at 102.1, but considering this is the first drop I’ve seen, it’ll probably go away soon enough. Congratulations, Meitantei,” she sets the thermometer and flashlight down with a clack onto the metal table at the head of the- table- he’s laying on, crossing her arms and staring down at him, “you just broke the record for surviving an incomplete soulbond. By far the most asinine stunt you’ve ever pulled, including the time you pretended to be me to fake out Vermouth. I hope you’re happy.” All three of them jolt at these words; Kaito, unknowing of why they reacted (though Shinichi looks slightly betrayed), hears the words “who are you? Vermouth?” echo in his mind.

Haibara!” Shinichi rasps out, a reprimand, and out of the corner of his eye Kaito sees a white-faced and trembling Mouri turn to head upstairs, mumbling something about “water”.

Don’t start with me, Kudou.” Haibara-san’s voice is the true reprimand, the lines of worry and exhaustion reforming on her face, and Kaito winces. “You almost died. For no fairly good reason. You know there was a different way you could’ve gone, if you’d put even the slightest priority on your life!” There is a slight pause, a brief intake of breath, when she tacks on in a whisper, “You almost made me watch you die. You wouldn’t let me help.” Shinichi winces at this, his mouth opening, then closing with no words to speak. She visibly pulls herself together, then asks, “Now, is there anything I missed during the review?” At his obvious hesitation, she narrows her eyes and snaps out, “And do not lie to me, Kudou.” Shinichi’s ears have gone pink and his eyes are wandering slightly.

“Well,” he says, hesitant. “Well, um, my wrists- kinda. Hands.” It takes a moment for both Kaito and Haibara-san to process this, then they look down, as one, to see Shinichi’s hands turning almost blue from the lack of blood flow, the wrist restraints meant to be snug on a seven year old cutting off circulation too effectively to be even slightly safe on seventeen year old Shinichi.

Shit,” Kaito says in horror, a perturbed inhale coming from Haibara-san echoes the sentiment, and they both immediately reach to undo the wrist cuffs. Haibara-san, with her tiny body and short arms, goes for the cuff closer to them, so Kaito reaches over without thinking to undo the farther cuff.

The one on Shinichi's left wrist.

The instant the cuff falls away, Kaito’s eyes are drawn to the soulmark on his soulmate’s wrist. Their soulmark. And his wrist suddenly feels like it’s been shot. Kaito crumples forward, on top of Shinichi who lets out a startled sound, at the sudden onslaught of pain conflagrating him from the inside-out. ‘What??’ his thoughts are tangled up in a pained, panicked jumble: uncomprehending. He hears voices around him, but he can’t distinguish words. Not until-

“Kaaaaasaaan?”

A sound of amusement, “Yes, Kaito?”

“How am I supposed to know if I find my soulmate?”

A considering hum, “Well, the stories say your soulmate has the same soulmark as you.”

“I knew that! I mean, what if someone has the exact same tattoo or something? What if you’re just really unlucky and somebody got a tattoo of your exact soulmark and it happened to be in the exact same spot as your soulmark? How would you know?” He bounces on his spot on the couch as a thoughtful pause hovers around them.

“It’s said,” she finally says, “that, the moment you see your soulmate’s soulmark, you suddenly feel an immense amount of pain. The legends say that it’s a punishment for ever having been separated from your other half in the first place.” Kaito stops bouncing.

“That sounds awful! Why would you wanna find your soulmate if it just hurts?” His Kāsan looks down at him.

“Well,” she says pensively, “I don’t know. Our soulmates are supposed to be our other halves, so it’s fair to assume it’d be worth it. Besides,” she adds playfully, nudging him, “it’s not like the pain stays for forever.”

“Oh,” Kaito blinks, thrown off, “it doesn’t?” Her laugh fills the air, a rare thing since his Oyaji’s passed.

“Of course not you silly goose!” His Kāsan nudges him again, grinning, “You just have to pucker up and kiss them! Legend says kissing’s the solve-all!”

His cries of “ew!” while she tickles him are the end of that memory, because-

Kaito feels something press against his mouth. It’s more lips than teeth this time, chaste with a tinge of desperation and worry that Kaito somehow reads in the press. His arm immediately stops feeling like it’s just gotten lobbed off and feels more like an arm again, and at the same moment he registers there’s a hand on the back of his neck. Usually a startling discovery: now there’s just a part of him that’s basking in warmth and comfort, coming in waves from the hand on his neck and the breath he feels against his cheek. The lips have pulled away from his own, it seems.

He opens his eyes to meet Shinichi’s, the familiar blue tinted with a level of adoration that makes Kaito’s cheeks and ears flush pink again, while the ridiculously sappy part of him, his soulbonded romantic, nearly purrs at the attention.

“Hey,” Shinichi says, his voice hoarse and soft, “you okay?”. Kaito feels Shinichi's thumb stroke the nape of his neck and has to fight to not go boneless on top of his soulmate. As it is, he gives in to the urge to press back against the hand like a cat.

A strangled sound comes from the entrance to the room, and both Kaito and Shinichi’s heads snap to the side to locate the source. Mouri is standing at the foot of the stairs, clutching a glass of water, blushing to the roots of her hair, looking everywhere but directly at them. Kaito’s face goes as red as hers as he sits up hurriedly.

“I’m just gonna-” she squeaks, gesturing frantically behind her before hastily setting the glass down on a table next to her, turning to rush up the stairs. Kaito stares after her before looking down. Shinichi is hiding his face with his hands, both free now Kaito’s not nose-to-nose with him.

“Sonoko’s never going to let me forget this,” he says, the horrified tinge to his voice lessened only by the redness of his ears. “Hattori’s never going to let me forget this. Kāsan- oh God.” Kaito fails to stifle a snicker, which leads to Shinichi moving his hands to send a betrayed, sulky look up at him.

“You’ll deserve every bit of the mocking you get, Meitantei.” The dry voice comes from Haibara-san, sitting in the chair in front of the computer along the opposite wall. Her arms crossed, she stares drolly at Shinichi, pointedly not watching as Kaito tries to scramble off the other, his goal the glass of water and maybe a little less of an embarrassing position, thanks. Shinichi manages to sit up just as Haibara-san continues with, “I, of course, will never let you forget this either. In fact, I’ll be sure to tell anyone who asks all about the time you spent a full hour trying to describe to me exactly how cool the Kaitou KID looks driving a motorcycle.”

Shinichi chokes, and Kaito nearly trips with how fast he spins around to look at his soulmate in delight.