It's Thursday, so Tim is in the middle of poking at the programmers' latest project, trying to find holes, when the phone at his desk lights up. He can't help grinning when he sees the name on the screen.
"Hey, you. Isn't it a little early to call about lunch?"
"Hey right on back. Actually not calling about that," Jason says. There's a strange sort of tension to his voice, something worrying that Tim really doesn't like the sound of. "Do you think you could come to my office? Now?"
Well, clearly he should try and lighten the mood a little. "Oh, really? Look, I know you think you're special because you're the boss's kid, but some of us have actual real work ethics and can't skip out just because someone's feeling a little—"
"This is business-related. I've got Bruce here with me and we'd like to pick your brain about something."
"Mr. Drake," Bruce says, dry and awkward the way only a dad can be when he's just learned a little more than he ever needed to know about his kid's sex life.
Gulping, Tim tries to calm his racing heart. He's not afraid of Ba—Bruce, really he isn't. It's just an automatic response after years of running in the opposite direction every time he caught sight of him. Perfectly normal. "Of course. I'll be right up."
He's only at the Wayne Enterprises building twice a week, on those days he doesn't have any classes, so it's not like Tim is taking the trip up to the executive level for office shenanigans every day. As it is, most of the time he is bringing Jason lunch, making sure he actually eats in between slowly going insane with all the work people keep trying to shove on him. Sure, there's the occasional misuse of office furniture, but Jason has a private office and looks exceptionally nice in a tailored suit—Tim is only human.
All things considered, he has no reason to be nervous about going up there now, except for how he has every reason because he's just a lowly intern. He's only been here for six months, all his work is exclusively with the WayneTech branch of WE, he's smart and skilled but there are certainly smarter, more experienced people in every field under the sun working here.
It's probably not a shovel talk. That came ages ago, back when he and Jason finally made it official and told their respective mentors and family they were seeing each other. Heck, Bruce is practically his pseudo-dad now, what with how he and Selina tied the knot not long after everything with Tim's dad went down.
Despite all this, his heart's back up in his throat again by the time Tim tentatively steps up to the door of Jason's office. It opens before he can knock, and Jason smiles down at him. "Sorry about this," he says as he ushers him in. "He got a bee in his bonnet and can't get it out."
"Um, what?" is Tim's very elegant response. His eyes dart over to where Bruce is leaning over the computer and he barely notices as Jason locks the door behind him.
With the door shut, it quickly becomes evident how dark the room is. All the blinds are closed, both those on the outside windows as well as the glass wall that looks out on the adjacent corridor. What should set him on edge instead serves to put him at ease, since it makes it clear just what kind of meeting this is.
Jason's hand encompasses his, and he bites back a smile as he allows himself to be led to the desk. "Does Mr. Fox know you two are busy playing detective when you're supposed to be getting real work done?" he asks as they draw parallel to the desk. Bruce frowns when he hops up to sit on the edge, but since he can't exactly take his other usual spot (namely, Jason's lap), the big, bad Batdad just has to deal.
"For the past two months, there's been a series of robberies at art museums and galleries all down the coast, starting in Maine," Bruce says, gesturing to a very pretty map on the screen. Tim wonders if he's supposed to applaud. Probably not. "Gotham is likely to be hit next, sometime in the coming week."
"And you decided you'd ask me for help since I'm on payroll and can't exactly say no? I'm sure Jason's already told you, but let me reiterate: I'm out of the game. I haven't done a job in months, I haven’t been keeping up with gossip, don't have a clue about anything to do with that sort of thing anymore," Tim says, perhaps a little more harshly than he should, considering that Bruce is his boss. Well, tough beans. His original reason for putting on the cat ears is behind bars. He has no need to do that sort of thing anymore and every reason to keep his nose clean.
"Ah, well. There's been… chatter about the identity of the thief."
"B, honestly, this really isn't a good idea," Jason warns. "You heard the man, he doesn't know what's going on, you're better off running home and asking Selina for help."
"Chatter about the thief," Bruce repeats, raising his voice to talk over his son, "in that she sends a warning ahead of time and always makes certain to allow herself to be caught on camera." He fiddles with the computer and the map disappears, replaced with a somewhat-blurry still from a security feed. The person's face is obscured, but it does present a strikingly familiar form. "Tim. What do you know about Carmen Sandiego?"
It takes him a moment to get control of himself long enough to respond. He can't believe—! "I know that's not her," he says, feeling rather proud of himself in that it doesn't sound as if he wants to bite someone's head off, just maul them a little.
"You're certain? There are many similarities in the MO, and authorities have good reason to believe that—"
"It's not her," Tim snaps. "It's not her because she died seven years ago."
"Hooboy, here we go," Jason mutters, but Tim can't even look at him right now, not when he let this happen when he knows—
Well. Technically, Jason doesn't know everything, because Tim never saw fit to explain himself, but the man was half-raised by one of the best detectives in the world, he likely has at least an inkling.
"Really? Because there were reports that she briefly resurfaced in Europe three years ago, along with a young male companion in a catsuit," Bruce says. "A catsuit that, when described, sounds remarkably like yours."
This would be what Tim gets for both being a good friend and incredibly lazy. "That wasn't me in the suit any more than it was her in Europe three years back."
"And why should I believe you?"
"Because it was me," Jason says. "In the catsuit, I mean. Timbo here was the one wearing the hat and coat."
"Jason needed to do some evidence-gathering and didn't want to use an identity associated with the Bats, so I loaned him mine," Tim patiently explains. "Since Dick was living up to his name, I said I'd help and get Jay in touch with my European contacts. Wearing the get-up—it opens doors in certain circles. There are a lot of people who still respect Sandiego, even after all this time."
Rather than being reassured, Bruce is frowning even harder now. "If it's common knowledge in those circles that she's dead, you were taking a big risk dressing up as her. There were rumors that she was involved in much bigger things than heists, no matter how elaborate."
"If you're talking about the espionage stuff, I already know about that. And I never pretended to be her, I introduced myself as Carolina, her daughter. It's been a while, but they remembered me, and were more than willing to help out. Jason found what he needed to convince the Justice League, they rescued you from the time stream or whatever it was, end of story."
"Excuse me, but—they remembered you?"
"Carmen wasn't an idiot. She knew to leave contingency plans in place, just in case something happened to her and I needed help. Introduced me to all the right people when I was a kid." Tim hops off the desk, shoves his hands in his pockets. "Look, if you need me to exhume the body so you can double-check she's not still alive and kicking, I can probably swing it without getting my dad involved, seeing as how he's a convicted felon and all. But I'd rather not have to when I can tell you here and now: that's not her."
Bruce's eyes narrow as he turns the chair to face Tim straight-on. "Mr. Drake, what exactly is your family's connection to Carmen Sandiego?" His gaze is dark and piercing. Tim has no idea how anyone has ever thought that anyone else could be Batman, but he supposes that's the entire purpose of 'Brucie Wayne'—to keep everyone outside a small, select few from seeing this side of the man before him.
"Our connection?" He laughs, shaking his head. "Wow, you really didn't know what you were getting when you called me up here, did you? Look, when she wasn't being called by that ridiculous pseudonym, she had another name," Tim patiently explains. "Janet Drake. Though I generally just called her 'Mom.'"
Warm arms wrap around him and he suddenly finds himself drawn in and engulfed by Jason, which is wonderful and perfect and exactly what he needs at this moment, particularly since Bruce looks about ready to have an aneurysm. "You expect me to believe—!"
"—that one of the world's foremost spies decided to first leave behind her corrupt country to join an international gang of thieves, and then later fell in love and married an archeologist-slash-businessman who wasn't completely on the up-and-up in either of his chosen fields?" Tim leans even further into Jason and the tight cocoon of his arms. He's feeling incredibly grateful for his boyfriend’s solid presence right now. Especially since he suspects Bruce fully intended to grill him one-on-one originally, only to have Jason intercede and insist on being present as well.
"Wow, B, you're right," Jason drawls. "That sounds pretty far-fetched and unlikely. Almost as crazy as a multi-billionaire choosing to dress up in a cape and punch criminals, adopt a bunch of random kids, and then marry one of the criminals he used to chase."
To his credit, Bruce looks mildly aggrieved by the accusation. "I didn't mean it like that. It just seems unlikely that out of all the places in the world for this imposter to target, they should pick a region where Sandiego chose to make a civilian life for herself. Considering this is the first time I've heard of any of this, I suspect her identity as Janet Drake was a well-guarded secret and not one that even her closest associates knew of."
"You would be correct in that. I mean, I wouldn't be surprised if Selina at least partly suspects that my mom wasn't entirely what she appeared to be," Tim admits. "The average kid probably doesn't find out about their dad's illegal practices and decide the best course of action is to sneak out after curfew and steal from museums." Even Stephanie had simply sought to spoil Cluemaster's plots rather than come in after the fact to quietly do some sort of damage-control.
"Always thought it was weird that she encouraged you instead of sending you home to Mommy and Daddy," Jason grumbles, his arms tightening somewhat.
"Oh, she definitely did that the first few times. I just kept sneaking out, which is remarkably easy to do when Mommy and Daddy are half a world away."
Bruce is looking troubled again, though, so he probably doesn't appreciate the subtle digs at his wife. Or possibly at his own less-than-stellar parenting practices, though he seems blind enough to his shortcomings at times that he may not see the connection. But then he manages to completely astound Tim by continuing on with his previous thought like a dog with a bone. "The coincidence is still more than a little concerning. We will have to consider that the imposter may in fact be trying to target you for some larger purpose."
"Me? What the hell would they want with me? Like I said, Mom was really careful about keeping her lives separate. Sure, she might have used Dad to move a few of her more historical prizes, but definitely with no more or less frequency than any of her other fences."
At his back, Jason suddenly stiffens. "Crap. This is my fault."
"This is not your fault, why would you even say that?"
"I think what Jason means is that because of the way you both chose to go about gathering proof three years ago, there is now a definite connection between Stray and the Sandiego name. If nothing else, this imposter may see Stray as the best way to track down Carmen's elusive 'daughter'—and eliminate the largest obstacle they have to taking over the name and all its associated history," Bruce explains, gesturing back to the screen and its security still of Tim and Jason in their rather distinct outfits.
"If that's the case, it's likely this is one of my mother's acquaintances." Tim isn't sure how he feels about that. He didn't exactly stay in regular contact with them after her death, but those he did maintain relations with were personal friends of Janet in her Carmen alias. As such, they had been akin to honorary aunts and uncles to the child they never met in person, but certainly had communicated with via carefully staged video calls. Hell, a handful even made up the information network he used in his activities as Stray, not that any knew Stray and Carolina Sandiego were the same person. "But why would they do this? They were genuine friends of my mom's, they would never dream of trying to steal her legacy from me, let alone target me for some unknown reason."
"That is certainly something we will have to figure out. Can I count on your assistance with this?"
He honestly is trying to leave behind the life of crime and rooftop chases now that he no longer has his father to think of. But this is different. This is his one exception to all of that. "Bruce, you had me on this as soon as you mentioned Carmen Sandiego."
"Wait, wait, back up and say that again," Tim says, nearly flinging his California roll across the room as he gets a bit overly enthusiastic with his gesturing. The threat is real, so he pops it in his mouth before he runs the risk a second time.
Jason sets down his own chopsticks and leans over to wake up his laptop, turning the screen so Tim can see better. "The Sandiego impersonator has been sending warning cards before she—they—hit a place. Here's the one from some fancy-ass art museum up in New Hampshire."
Tonight I will steal the Amethyst Single Lense of the Invisible Academic at 11:45 p.m. — Carmen Sandiego
"Oh, that's…" Tim frowns, squinting at the language used. "That's… distressingly familiar, actually."
"Really? You think you might know who sent it?"
"I don't… It seems familiar, but also like there's something not quite right about it? I feel like I've read something similar before, but I can't think of where." It's really annoying, when it comes down to it.
"What about these?" Jason asks, pulling the laptop closer and calling up several more images, all of them additional notes clearly written in the same hand. "Anything familiar about them?"
The language on each card is nearly identical in the same, not-quite correct way. "I've never even heard of most of these things," Tim comments as he skims over the notes, no doubt acquired by Oracle from various police departments all across New England. "I've been out of touch most of this past year, but not I don't think I'm that out of the loop. Usually if someone chooses to purposefully target specific items, they don't go for the really obscure stuff."
"That's the weird part. The items that get stolen aren't exactly the same as what’s named in the notes? Sometimes the notes come pretty damned close to naming them, but sometimes they're just—you gotta wonder what the thief was thinking," Jason says with a shrug. "Oh, and here's the kicker—in each location, she replaces the item she takes with whatever was stolen at the last place. She's not holding onto anything for herself."
"Could be really good fakes," is Tim's immediate response. "That's what some people do—make it seem like they've 'accidentally' dropped it, or left it behind, or given it back, and then when the 'returned' item is appraised for damage, it turns out it's been replaced by a fake. Depending on the amount of time between the robberies, the imposter could have plenty of time to come up with a convincing facsimile."
Jason glances at him, the corner of his mouth twitching. "You ever do anything like that? I know some of the things your dad 'discovered' are still in museums. Always wondered why you didn't think them worth the effort of stealing so they could be returned."
"Well. Some of them he actually did discover during licensed digs or were acquired through otherwise legitimate means. And some were fakes in the first place, just Dad and whoever he sold them to never realized it." Tim toys with his chopsticks, not entirely sure how much he should admit to. So far, the Bats have indicated that they plan to turn a blind eye to all his past activities as Stray now that they know the story behind the whole thing, but who knows how long that will last, when it might change. "Forging is… difficult. Successful forging at a level that even an expert can be fooled? That takes a particularly skilled expert."
"Is this where you bat your eyelashes and tell me all your artistic talent is strictly in photography and even then you're just an amateur?" Jason teases, tugging him close and pressing a kiss to his cheek. "Relax. I'm not going to insist that everything your dad ever sold or donated be gone over with a fine-toothed comb. I know if you did make any fakes, you had only the best of intentions in mind."
"You assume an awful lot about me," Tim grumbles, but he leans into the touch, and not just because it gives him a chance to snag the last spicy tuna roll from Jason's plate and pop it in his own mouth.
"What?" Tim asks around delicious fishy goodness. "Gonna accuse me of being a thief? Hate to break it to you, Jay, but that's hardly front-page news around here."
"Don't forget I know where you sleep at night."
"I'm a growing boy," he maintains, because there's always the chance he'll be a late bloomer and finally get a much-anticipated growth spurt. "I need more protein."
"Oh you do, do you?" Jason growls, his hand slipping under the hem of Tim's shirt. "I'll show you protein, you sneaky little kitty—"
"Why, Mr. Todd-Wayne," Tim says, shoving aside the remnants of their dinner and quickly scrambling into Jason's lap, "what big hands you have."
If Jason makes any effort to continue the game after that, it gets lost when Tim's mouth meets his.
"Wait, wait. Did any of the stolen items get replaced with duplicates? And do you have pictures of them?" Tim asks sometime later, sitting bolt upright as a thought occurs to him. The thought may have been partly inspired by Jason's exceedingly clever tongue and certain other clever tongues he's known in the past, but he'll never admit it.
Jason grunts, taking a little longer to collect his thoughts and relocate his brain. These Bats—no wonder Selina found sex to be such an effective distraction for years. "Uh, I don't know? It's been more Bruce's pet project than mine, he just pulled me in because I—well." He gulps and doesn't meet Tim's eyes as he fumbles first for his underwear, then his laptop.
"Because you might have insights into the connection between Stray and Carmen Sandiego three years ago and you're way easier for him to bully than Mama Cat is." Tugging on Jason's discarded shirt, Tim glares at a wall since he doesn't have Bruce handy. He will definitely be having words with the man about that later, and he isn't afraid to appeal to higher powers—namely, Selina and Alfred—to make sure that it's a conversation that goes his way.
"Hey, I didn't tell him anything, just said he'd do better talking to you directly instead of getting everything secondhand," Jason says, because he's ridiculously sweet. "Okay, according to what Oracle pulled, it looks like some of the returned items have been tested… Those that have been all seem to be genuine, though not every museum had the means to hire a fancy certified professional, so that might not hold true everywhere…"
"Some of the places hit were low profile?" Tim crowds up behind him, eager to get a gander at the screen and not just because it gives him an excuse to press against Jason's back.
"Yeah, little hole-in-the-wall local museums, a library, and a couple of universities. Here are some of the items taken—mainly jewelry, or jewel-encrusted trinkets. One sword with a huge-ass ruby on the pommel, a dagger with a diamond on the crosspiece… Oh, this is cool—it's a single emerald that was carved into a sort of pocket watch back in the seventeenth century—"
"Gems. They all have at least one large, central gem. But that doesn't make sense—the thefts are too close together for them to—and it's been years, it shouldn't even matter anymore... Unless the same M.O. is being followed for a purpose… if there was a new threat…" Tim bites his lip, trying to work out the reasoning behind it all. The similarities could just be coincidence… but if they aren't…
"Hey, Earth to Tim—please come in, Tim." Jason twists around, dislodging him from where he's leaning. "Did you have some sort of amazing breakthrough?"
"I don't know. Maybe? It's just, it's all pretty close to what a particular thief used to do—the warning notes, the elaborate thefts, the large gems, even the returned items. But he was looking for a very specific jewel, one that had to be tested under the light of the full moon. And he was working against a deadline, one that's already come and gone."
"Maybe he decided he liked the challenge enough to keep trying?" Jason suggests, tugging him back down into his lap. "That's a lot of shared factors for this to be pure coincidence."
"Well, maybe. Just… This guy, he was all about giving a show for his audience—the cops, the people he was stealing from, whoever else happened to be there—enough so that I find it hard to believe he'd dump one identity and assume a completely new one out of the blue," Tim explains. "Plus, he pretty much operated exclusively in Japan. And last time I looked into it, the Kaito Kid had hung up his top hat and retired from a life of crime."
"How is it you know about this guy?" Jason asks later that evening as he pulls on Redwing's armor in the Bunker deep underneath Wayne Tower. Tim's still in civies, seeing no reason to break his retirement streak before there's any actual reason to. "Is there some newsletter for gentlemen thieves or something that you subscribe to?"
Tim throws a gauntlet at his head, but Jason easily catches it. Stupid Bat training. "Met him while I was living in Japan."
"Excuse me, but since when have you ever lived in Japan?"
"Uh, pretty much my entire junior year of high school?"
Jason frowns, pressing his mask into place. "I have no memory of this."
"That would be because it also happened to be the year B gathered his little birdies and left Gotham to tour the world," Tim patiently explains. "My dad got offered a visiting professorship in Japan, so he packed up the whole family and we spent a year there. I ran into Kaito Kid one night when I was snooping around the local art galleries."
Plus, Kuroba was one of his classmates at the time and it wasn't exactly difficult to put two and two together once Tim had determined the other thief was nearly the exact same age as him. Not that he's about to tell Jason that—secret identities are sacred in this business, after all. "We got along well and had similar goals, so we worked together a lot that year," he says instead. "He didn't laugh at me when I used the wrong word and I taught him a few new tricks when it came to picking locks."
If anything, this prompts Jason's frown to turn into an all-out scowl. "You didn't use the hands-on method to teach him, did you? Tim—"
"It was before you and I got together and he was always a complete gentleman, Jason," Tim snaps back, because he doesn't appreciate Jason passing judgement over who he may or may not have hooked up with in the past.
"Yeah, but I'd kinda thought after you and Stephanie broke up, we might—"
"And since the guy I liked had run off to globe-trot without giving me any kind of head's-up, I didn't see any problem with having a little fun." Not much in the long run, since for all his flirtations, Kuroba only ever had eyes for Nakamori when it came down to it.
Sighing, Jason reaches out and loops an arm around Tim's waist, tugging him in. "Sorry. I know I shouldn't let it bother me, but it's hard to think about you being with anyone else, especially since it took you so long to make us official."
"Well. That's what you get for being one of the good guys," Tim grumbles. He's finding it increasingly difficult to stay annoyed with him when he's got Jason's solid arm around his waist. "Wouldn't have had to wait so long otherwise."
"You say that, but we both know you were good from the start," Jason says as he pulls him down.
Tim doesn't even notice the gagging noises Damian insists on making on the other side of the room.
Friday, Jason is there to pick him up after his last class of the day.
"Aren't you supposed to be meeting with some bigwigs from New York?" Tim asks, eyeing him with suspicion but easily relinquishing his bag when Jason offers to carry it. After all, why bother with having a huge, muscle-y boyfriend if he's not going to take advantage of that fact?
"Made Bruce do it. Another notice from our imposter was delivered this morning, figured you'd want to get a look at it and do some planning for this evening."
"He's letting us take point on this?" Bruce has been weirdly supportive of their relationship ever since they finally came clean to Selina and the Bats last spring, but from everything Tim's gathered, that approval doesn't really extend to his alter-ego.
"Pretty sure Selina had some rather pointed words with him about the importance and integrity of legacies and all that. I wasn't there to witness it, but Dick implied that sleeping on the couch may have been brought up as a threat." Jason raises his eyebrows to emphasize the significance of this, not that he really needs to—the lovebirds have been a bit disgusting ever since they got back from their honeymoon. There are reasons Tim has made an effort to try and avoid both the manor and the cave underneath it all summer, and they aren't all because he doesn't yet feel comfortable in either space. They’re the same reasons Damian prefers the Bunker and has all but dragged Dick along with him.
"And you just assumed I'd to let you help," he comments as he stops beside the car and waits for Jason to unlock it.
"Obviously, you don't have to. I just thought you might want someone to watch your back. Just in case this turns out to not be your friend."
Tim really doubts that—both that it won't be Kaito Kid and also that Jason doesn't have any kind of ulterior motive here—but since it won't add anything to the conversation, he keeps those observations to himself. Mostly. "You know I love you, right?" he checks, taking his bag back and climbing into the passenger seat.
"Of course," Jason says a little too quickly, nearly killing the engine as he pulls out of the spot with jerk of movement completely atypical of his normally smooth driving style. "I don't know why you'd even feel you have to ask that."
"Mm, right. And I don't know why I even have to bother reassuring my boyfriend of several years that I'm not going to leave him for some guy I had a fling with when I was sixteen."
"Hah, so you did—I, uh. I mean." Jason grimaces, suddenly completely focused on the road as he navigates the busy streets around Gotham U.
"It's cute that you're worried, but it's also pretty insulting that you don't trust me." Sure, maybe back when they were playing the whole secret identity game it might have made sense, but they're both past that now—they're involved with each other, not with their night-time personas. Heck, The Gotham Voice even interviewed them together last month. It's all very real and official.
"I can't help but wonder, sometimes. If maybe you'd prefer someone who could… understand you more. Relate to you on the same level?"
"Wait—are you jealous because the Kid is a thief and you're not?" Tim laughs and, when Jason stops at a red light, leans over to steal a kiss. "Have you forgotten that our first date was us breaking into the Natural History Museum together? The Kid never took me anywhere near so nice, Jason. And besides, aren't you the one who's always saying Stray is more a Robin Hood than a robber?"
"From what you've told me about him, sounds like this Kaito Kid is in the same boat as you when it comes to that," Jason mutters, shifting gears and lanes at the same time.
"We're hardly the same—his M.O. is entirely different. He's a gentleman thief who returns what he steals, Stray is a cat burglar who gifts things back to the rightful owners. The differences are subtle, but nuanced."
"If you say so." From his tone, it's clear that they still sound mostly the same to him, but he's not going to press the issue.
Tim coos and reaches over to pat Jason's hand on the shift lever. "Don't be like that. Of course I want you to come with me. If nothing else, it'll keep the night from being a total wash if the imposter fails to show up. You can help keep me company while we wait."
"Yet another chance to possibly scar Bruce for life? Sign me up."
"Sometimes I really miss the catsuit you used to wear," Redwing says, settling a hand on Stray's waist and letting his thumb slip under the hem of the hoodie.
"It was impractical in that it completely lacked pockets and was clearly not normal street clothes. With this I can slip into a crowd if I need to. Besides," Stray observes. "The catsuit served its purpose and I don't need it anymore."
"And what purpose was that? Definitely wasn't protection, since that get-up at least had an armor weave to the cloth, which is more than can be said for this one."
"It caught me the bird I was aiming for and kept his attention for as long as I needed it to," Stray says, turning under his hands and stretching up for a kiss.
Redwing frowns and—albeit reluctantly—leans out of reach. "It's too early in the evening. Cool it."
"You never let me have any fun." Stray puts on a pout, but it doesn't last long as he notices a flash of movement over Redwing's shoulder. "Ah, seems you were right. C'mon, this way."
Per their earlier agreement, Redwing hangs back when they get to the roof of the gallery. Stray doesn't doubt the hero would love to follow him on this particular venture, but they still haven't completely decided how much of a connection should be allowed between them while in masks now that they're openly together in their civilian identities. He easily spots the imposter at the roof's edge, leaning over to no doubt watch the flurry of activity on the street below. Tossing a wave at his hidden companion, Stray lopes off across the roof.
"You have a lot of nerve, running around dressed like that," he says, more to get the imposter's attention than anything else. If it's who he thinks it is (hopes it is), it's not likely that more than half his words are actually understood.
The figure slowly turns and for a moment Stray's breath catches in his throat, because that face—
But no. The face isn't the one from his childhood, despite the slight resemblance. If anything, it's closer to his own than his mother's, which makes sense, all things considered. If this is the Kid, the only way he'd know of the connection between Stray and Carmen Sandiego is if he'd gone digging and found out about his and Redwing’s romp through Europe.
"Stray Cat," the imposter says in English that's more than a little accented. "Nice to see you."
"You know, if you wanted my attention, there are much easier ways to get it," Stray says, switching to Japanese for his reply.
"Well, I did try calling you," the imposter replies in the same language, "but it seems the number I had was no good."
Stray growls, reaching up to snatch off the floppy hat. "That would be Spoiler's fault. She compromised my last burner and I had to ditch it in a hurry. Since I basically retired right after that, I didn't think to bother with getting a new one. Sorry."
Laughing, the imposter tugs off first wig, then face, revealing—of course—Kaito Kid beneath. "But this proved an excellent chance to practice first my detective work, then my disguises!"
"You're really very lucky you pulled this stunt in America and not Europe. Some of the real Carmen Sandiego's old contacts over there wouldn't take at all kindly to someone trying to wreak havoc with her legacy," Stray warns as he hands back the hat.
"Ah, well. I had to catch your attention somehow, and I couldn't remember which city you were in! Aoko-chan came to the rescue with some of the inspector's old crime journals. Did you know you were photographed when you were traveling with Sandiego a few years ago? Shoddy work." Kid tsks, shoving the wig and mask in his pocket as he inexplicably puts the hat back on.
"That wasn't Carmen Sandiego either," Tim corrects. "It was her child." Still, it's good that no one's figured out the ruse.
"Ah, well, close enough. And my plan worked! Which is good, because I have something for you." He waves a gloved hand, and suddenly an envelope appears in it. "For you, Cat."
Frowning, Stray takes the envelope, turning it over to examine the paper. It's an elegant cream color, heavy in weight and textured. The characters for 'cat' are neatly written on the outside in a familiar hand and he doesn't even need to open it to know what it contains. "No. She didn't!"
"She did!" Kid crows, twirling on the ledge before leaping down from it. "I think she was just as surprised as me when she agreed! I was sure she'd make me wait another dozen years or more!"
"She didn't make you retire the top hat first?"
"Oh, she did—that's part of the reason why I'm sneaking around incognito," Kid admits, sounding more than a little sheepish. "She refused to agree as long as Kaito Kid was operating, which I guess makes sense considering her dad's a police inspector and everything."
"A fair point." Glancing over the edge of the building, Stray isn't surprised to see that the assembled added security has already started to lag. This is why Kid's methods work, in his experience—everyone gets so cocky with the luxury of being allowed to pre-prepare for a robbery that they become sloppier over all. "Are you still planning to carry out the theft?"
"No point, now, since I've already done what I came for. I've been over here too long as it is, I can't be taking time to return the jewel after."
"Fair enough. Look, I'll track you down tomorrow before you fly home, alright? We can catch up some and you can finally meet Stephanie in person."
"The lovely Spoiler!" Kid crows, punching the air. "At long last!"
They chat a while longer, until Stray begs leave of him after extracting a promise that Kid will go straight back to his hotel room for the rest of the night. Sauntering back to Redwing, he can't help the smile on his face. "Hope you haven't outgrown your tux," he says. "I've just been invited to a wedding in Japan, and I'd love to take you as my plus-one."