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Riddle in Reverse

Chapter Text

Dressed in Kaitou Corbeau’s tuxedo, Kuroba Chikage hurried down the service corridor.  The heist was scheduled to begin in a half-hour, and she needed to get into position soon—besides, while she’d rigged the cameras on this area to loop, police patrols were an ever-present risk.

However, even as alert as she was, she missed the presence of another person approaching until he was in her line of sight—which meant that she was also in his.  Frowning, she pulled a smoke bomb and a handful of feathers from a pocket in her jacket—

“Kuroba Chikage-san,” said the approaching figure, and all thoughts of disappearing vanished as thoroughly as she’d meant to.

“I’m sorry, but who are you talking about?” she asked politely, in a voice so much like her late husbands’ that even Kudou Yuusaku or another close friend might have trouble recognizing her as someone other than her husband himself.  She’d learned well, from him.

“I’m sorry, but I’m not in the mood for games, ma’am,” said the other figure—at a closer range, revealed to be a teenage, half-Japanese blond that Chikage recognized from both the news and her son’s stories—Hakuba Saguru, the Task Force’s high school detective.

“Perhaps another time,” he offered.  “For now, I would know your intentions.”

“A phantom thief steals, and returns, but they do not offer gifts, especially not when the asker is so blunt in their demands,” Chikage replied.

“Again, I have no desire to play games,” Hakuba said.  “Now, tell me: What do you hope to accomplish by wearing your husband’s face to challenge your son?”

“I wear no one’s face but my own,” Chikage said plainly—and it was true enough, as Corbeau was her own creation and it was Corbeau’s face, not Toichi’s, she wore at the moment.

“You lie well, but I know better than to believe you,” Hakuba said, in what could either be an attempt of flattery or a completely accidental compliment—she knew from her son that the boy’s social competence varied wildly.

“I have places to be,” Chikage said, imperious.  “Cease your questions; either make your attempt at arresting me or get out of my way.”

“You misunderstand my intentions entirely, ma’am,” Hakuba said.  “I am not here to arrest you.  I am here to know your reasons for challenging KID.”

Intrigued despite herself by how accurate her son’s description of Hakuba’s one-track mind was, she asked, “And what would you do with that information, if I told you?”

“I would decide whether to allow the heist to proceed as you planned it,” Hakuba stated plainly.  “Should I find your reasons good, I will continue to the announced location and mention this meeting to no one.  Should I find them lacking, I will call for reinforcements and force you to make a hasty escape.   I would then continue doing the same thing at every heist you set up until you returned to America in frustration.”

Chikage was too insulted to delay her outrage with another denial.  “What gives you the right to decide whether my reasons for holding a heist are legitimate?”

Hakuba cocked his head to the side.  “I’m affiliated with the police,” he said simply.

“Then just call for reinforcements,” Chikage challenged.  “You know that I was asking a different question.”

“True enough,” Hakuba said.  “I’ll reply with a question, then.  What gives you the right to return from the States and interfere with his work, just when things have started to settle down?”

Chikage’s first instinct was to respond, “I’m his mother,” but she couldn’t incriminate herself that way.  After a brief pause, she answered, “Why should you care?  You’re one of the detectives on his case.  ‘Interference’ just makes him easier to catch.”  She put some bite into the last word.

He doesn’t seem to feel it, though—and how, exactly, did a Holmes-obsessed high-school detective gain a Poker Face that equaled her son’s and approached hers?—taking her reply stone-faced before offering his own retort with a grin that she couldn’t decipher.

“Your son is quite aware that I have an interest in him,” he said.  “I’m afraid I’ve led him to misinterpret the nature of that interest, for my own ends.  I want the best outcome possible for him.  However, just as KID is not a straightforward thief, a straightforward method such as offering him consistent support outright or performing the tasks he sets himself for him could backfire.  My current situation allows me to be in a position where I can know when he needs intervention, and then intervene in the way that is most likely to aid him.”

“I am not Kaitou KID’s father, and I really have no idea where you’ve gotten that idea,” Chikage dismissed. 

“Perhaps it’s the resemblance?” Hakuba rejoined, a bit of a barb to the retort.  “Now, tell me, Kuroba-san, why did you pick Kuroba Toichi’s face for Corbeau, and why are you here?”

“While I do happen to resemble the great magician Kuroba Toichi, it’s mere coincidence.”

Hakuba sighed softly.  “Kaitou Corbeau, then, if you insist.  Why are you here?”

He won’t stop asking, will he?  Chikage thought.  And nothing I say will remove his suspicion that it’s me.  How is he so certain, anyhow?  This entire situation is suspicious…But it can’t hurt that much, to tell him my reasons, as long as I keep them vague.

“I am here to test him,” Chikage said. “Whether KID is returned or replaced by a protégé, the individual wearing the top hat must be up to a certain standards or else the reputations of all phantom thieves will be harmed.”

“That wasn’t a lie,” Hakuba said slowly.  “There were some omissions, but you were being honest.  That’s all you are?  You’re a bloody test?” His voice hardened with every word.

Then, he took a breath and shouted, voice echoing down the corridor, “I FOUND CORBEAU!”

Chikage ran for the nearest exit, hoping the police hadn’t already gotten there—she was more than capable of outmaneuvering them, of course, but it was difficult and she’d prefer not to.  At this rate, she really would be late for the heist.

This Hakuba kid was clearly more dangerous than he looked.

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After three straight heists of trying and failing to outmaneuver a boy who her son had been outfoxing—often by the skin of his teeth, yes, but outfoxing nonetheless—for months, Chikage was well and truly suspicious.  Either the newspapers, Nakamori, and Jii had all missed Kaito becoming the literal incarnation of Arsene Lupin, but only when Hakuba was present, or Hakuba was holding back when it came to chasing Kaito.

She was disinclined to take his claims of “wanting the best for her son” at face value—why, then, did he chase KID?—but she didn’t have another explanation.  Yet.  If she wanted to keep her son safe, or succeed as Corbeau, it was becoming increasingly clear that figuring out exactly who Hakuba Saguru was would be essential.

First, of course, she checked his records.  The Tokyo Police were rife with infiltrators from Jackal’s organization, and many of them could, quite honestly, say that they wanted KID to succeed—if only because they wanted the fruits of his labor for themselves.  His oddly protective behavior seemed strange for someone from that organization, but she couldn’t dismiss the theory based on that.

There were other possibilities, as well—a rival thief, perhaps, or a warlock of Koizumi’s ilk—but the organization member theory was the most troubling and the most easily supported.

It was still only a moment’s work to hack into the Tokyo MPD’s database and pull his records.   She printed them to review in greater detail, but paid the most attention to the clerk who’d signed off on his police consultant authorization.  One of the nighttime clerks, Ookuri, had also held that position when Toichi had been KID—and he’d been with the organization that wore black then, as well.  If Hakuba’s records were signed by him, it was much more likely that he was affiliated with Them than if his records was signed by another clerk.  Chikage and Toichi had kept a list of dirty officers as well—if any of their signatures appeared on the document along with Ookuri’s, he was certainly dirty.

She scanned the document.  A day clerk she didn’t recognize, Momoyama, had signed off on the records, and all of the other signatures on the document were either Nakamori’s or those of other high-ranked officers connected to the Task Force.  It wasn’t proof that he was clean, but it was at least proof that if he wasn't, he was smart enough to know how to hide it.  Which she already knew, since, in a way, she already knew he was dirty—after all, he had let a phantom thief run free, when it was ordinarily his job to catch them.

But, nothing she saw indicated a connection with Jackal’s group.  Satisfied, she moved on to his personal records.  They were real, but incomplete—nothing connected to the name Hakuba Saguru went back farther than three years—ah, an adoption.  Interesting.  And the previous records were sealed.  Closed adoptions for teenagers were fairly unusual, especially since his birth parents weren’t listed on the document and hadn’t signed it, either.

It was a much more interesting history that she had anticipated, and she wondered if her son was aware of it.  She supposed if he was, he was probably being polite about it, dear boy that he was.  She’d raised him a bit too well, perhaps.

But, the sealed records allowed for a great variety of pasts.  Jackal’s organization was known to raise sleeper agents.  This Hakuba Saguru…he would need to be watched, and researched further.  Best to start talking to people he knew.  Not the ones who would alert him—the casual acquaintances first, perhaps.

She’d wanted to meet Koizumi Akako, at any rate.

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How is a raven like a writing-desk? No answer.

—Lewis Carroll

Chapter Text

Koizumi Akako did not know what to make of Hakuba Saguru.  She suspected much of him, but she knew none of it for sure.

Very obviously, his destiny was connected to that of Kuroba Kaito’s—though her guesses as to how were no more than that.  Her strongest suspicion was that he was to Kaitou KID’s alter ego what her mother would often call a “Twin Star.”

Her mother had come of age in the late 80’s when Tokyo Babylon was released and had eagerly followed the storyline into X/1999.  Akako had been suitably confused by what she’d seen as an ancient reference, her mother had been suitably insulted by the term “ancient,” and a fight had broken out. 

“This is what having a Twin Star is like,” Akako’s mother had said, interrupting one of Akako’s angry screeches.  “Whenever you meet them, a fight is certain to occur.  The two of you are matched in every way, but never on the same side of any debate, large or small.  Twin Stars exist to balance each other out, to shore up both sides of a debate or war equally without tilting it in either direction.”

At this point, Akako, who had been raised on Pokémon, asked, “Is it like a destined rival?”

“Twin Star has more gravitas,” Akako’s mother said. Akako knew that meant, “yes.”

“So they exist but I’ll probably never meet one,” she’d concluded.

Her mother had agreed, and that had been that, until years later, when a blond teenager had walked into her homeroom and locked eyes with Kaito.  She felt their meeting, its significance radiating through her bones.

Imagine, getting to meet a real-life Twin Star (the term did, in fact, have more gravitas), in her own town.  She had to confirm it.  All she needed was something of Hakuba’s.

That was easier said than done.  It was like he knew what she was—which was impossible, as he had no magical aura whatsoever.  He was as mundane as poured concrete.  And yet—he knew something.  He refused to lend her anything, wrapped a shed eyelash in a tissue rather than flicking it to the floor as she expected, and flinched away from her attempts to pull at his hair.

She finally had to resort to borrowing a pencil that Keiko had borrowed from him.  Kaito was an easier matter—she found taking his hair impossible as well, as he always seemed to know when she was behind him, but he lent out pencils carelessly enough.

Unfortunately, something in the spell went horribly wrong—perhaps Keiko acting as the middleman on Hakuba’s side distorted the magic?  At any rate, whatever had gone wrong had gone wrong spectacularly, since none of the results so much as mentioned Hakuba.  She was a bit put out, and rather sure she’d made a mistake in thinking the two were Twin Stars, but she didn’t give it much thought until Valentine’s Day.

Even then, Hakuba Saguru was only of interest to her because he was connected to a delicious morsel—Kaitou KID and Kuroba Kaito, all wrapped up in one package that resisted the pull she exerted on men.  He was…intriguing.  She wanted him. So she would make him hers.

The sorcery she wanted to do at the heist was more complex than her standard fare, by quite a lot, so it took a great deal of preparation.  She spent much of her time at home, studying the intricacies of what she had planned and taking steps to make certain it would not fail.

Four days before the heist, she found a book on her doorstep, entitled, Consent: What It Is and What It Means to YOU.  She burnt it and used the ashes in a potion.

Three days before, she found a bundle of pamphlets, topped with one emblazoned with the words, “No Means No.”  She threw them in the river behind the house.

Two days before, every link on her computer took her to the same site about the meanings of “yes” and “no” in sexual situations.  Baffled, she performed a few charms on the computer, then called a tech support line in frustration when not a single one worked.

On the last day before the heist, she left a small flame spell around her house for any printed material bearing the words “no” or “consent,” and she felt it activate moments before she woke up.    

On the day of the heist, she found twice as many pamphlets, scattered just outside of her spell’s range.  This time, she disintegrated them.

At the heist itself, she marked out a barrier to prevent interference from whoever was leaving the pamphlets.  She should’ve known better.  The Task Force manage to restrain Commander Nakamori from wounding and weakening KID, as she’d planned him to (with or without her pamphlet-distributor, she’ll never know).  And then, when snow started to fall, someone threw a snowball that skidded across the ground and wiped clean a small section of the edge of her circle, making it inert.

This was disturbing for a number of reasons.  First, someone would have to have quite a throwing arm to be clear of her barrier and still manage to throw a projectile that far, that accurately.  Second, to know that disrupting the circle would end the spell…well, perhaps it was a lucky guess, but given all the other interference, she thought not.

Someone else in Ekoda had known exactly what she was doing, and had taken steps to prevent her from doing it.  That indicated the presence of another witch, one her spells couldn’t detect.

Though…perhaps their interference was for the best. Kaito’s words…the way he treated her after the heist…she wasn’t certain how to respond, but checking out that book about consent from the Library seemed a good place to start.

When she read it, she recalled Kaito, scrambling away from her frantically and felt sick.  She didn’t cry, though.  Tears would rob her of her magic, and she needed that. She needed it to make atonement.  She had nearly done something unforgivable, and, as distasteful as the thought was, she owed not only Kaito, but also the unknown magic user who had apparently predicted her actions and then tried to stop her.  Now, she just had to figure out who it had been.

A few days later, Hakuba passed her on his way out of the classroom, eyes strangely wary, and she began to suspect it was him. Male witches—warlocks, if one wanted to be old-fashioned—were less common than their female counterparts, but not so rare as to be unheard of.  There were also witches who could hide their abilities from other witches, making themselves seem mundane when they were in fact anything but. 

Of course, she had no proof.  And she couldn’t get any without confronting Hakuba—which could become very dangerous very quickly if it turned out that Hakuba was not the witch in question.  The last thing she wanted was the attention of one of Tokyo’s most single-minded mundane detectives.

Oh, yes, she suspected Hakuba Saguru of being many things—Kaito’s Twin Star, the interloper who’d prevented her from gaining control over Kaito, another witch with the ability to see the future—but she could prove none of them.

It almost gave her a bit of sympathy for the man and his suspicions regarding Kaito.

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“I suspect him to be another witch, but I have no proof,” Akako said.

Only Poker Face, learned from her husband, kept Chikage from spitting her tea everywhere.

“On what grounds?” she asked, after gathering herself.

Akako flushed, just a bit.  “I’m sure your son has told me of our first encounter while he was dressed in white.  Someone knew about it before it happened, and did as much as they could to try to prevent it as they could, without directly injuring me or destroying my property.”

“They could have guessed,” Chikage suggested.

“It is possible,” Akako allowed.  “And it is true that they used no magic.  But their guess was extremely accurate.”

“Why do you suspect Hakuba-kun?” Chikage asked.

“He seemed wary of me, after the heist,” Akako said.  She leaned forward, and the neckline of her already-revealing shirt slunk lower.  “That is not normally the reaction I receive, from men.”

“Ah,” Chikage said.  “If it was Hakuba, is it possible that he simply deduced what you had done?”

Akako shrugged, and the neckline slipped down further.  “I don’t know much about deduction.  I suppose so.”

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Momoi Keiko actually got along with Hakuba pretty well, but it was a very deliberately well-kept secret.  They didn’t have much in common, at face value.  They didn’t have much in common, period, in fact—except one thing, but that thing happened to be something that both of them felt was rather important: Nakamori Aoko.

Keiko had a lot of friends, but Aoko was probably her best friend—and she was Aoko’s best female friend, at least, since the best-friend slot was occupied by Kaito until her friend recovered from her constant state of denial.  At any rate, the point of all of this was that, aside from Keiko’s family, she was the most important person in Keiko’s life.  She also happened to be mostly neglected by her dad, innocent to a fault, easily hurt when it came to emotional matters, and hopelessly attached to Professional Idiot Kuroba Kaito.

As Aoko’s friend, Keiko was mostly reduced to worrying a lot.

So, while she wouldn’t deny that she’d spent some time thinking of Hakuba as “the hot transfer student,” the moment that he came to her to talk about Aoko, he’d immediately become “her comrade in arms,” instead.

She remembered it vividly.  It was a few days after Valentine’s Day, when Kaito had gotten dozens of chocolates and brushed off Aoko’s offering like he didn’t care. 

Hakuba had walked up to her desk, looking almost hesitant. It was weird, to see someone that tall look nervous about talking to her.

“Should I be worrying about Nakamori-san?” he’d asked, hesitantly.   “She’s seemed…quiet, after Valentine’s Day, and---I don’t wish to pry, but I am concerned…”

Keiko, remembering his first day in class, raised an eyebrow.  “So you’re worried that the girl you have a crush on is worked up about having her chocolates rejected by someone else?”

He responded…oddly, holding up his hands up frantically as if she’d accused him of something serious instead of just denying it like a normal person.  “I—I didn’t…” he trailed off, looked away, blushed—finally, a normal reaction—and then gave her a weird little smile that seemed kind of wistful.  “Nakamori-san is a lovely girl, but she’s not—she’s clearly not interested in me and I shouldn’t have tried to flirt with her the way I did.”

All that blushing and flirting back when you kissed her hand didn’t seem much like disinterest to me—but I guess her crush on Kaito’s kind of obvious, Keiko reflected.

“I only wish to know if she is doing well,” Hakuba said firmly. 

Keiko considered.  It wasn’t really a violation of Aoko’s privacy to tell him that much, not when he probably could’ve deduced it himself if he’d wanted to.  She wondered why he was coming to her instead, but it seemed rude to ask.

“She’s okay,” Keiko said.  “A little upset, but she’ll be fine.”

Hakuba took a deep breath and smiled, slowly, looking like she’d taken something heavy from him.  Then, he gave her a considering look.  “Would it be…permissible, should the circumstances arise, for me to consult with you again on similar matters?”

It took Keiko a good minute to detangle that mess, but once she had, she nodded, slowly.

“I promise that I will never request to know the exact nature of your conversations,” Hakuba added.  “I will only ask after Aoko’s emotional state, and perhaps her willingness to speaking with myself or Kuroba-san.”

“That sounds fair,” Keiko said.

“In return, perhaps, I could alert you to when my or the Task Force’s actions may upset her?” Hakuba offered.

Keiko glared.  “I hope you’re not expecting that to be often.”

Hakuba winced.  “I hope it will be rare as well,” he said.

And that was when Keiko decided she liked things about him besides his fluffy blond-ish hair.

She nearly changed her tune a few weeks later, however, when Hakuba stopped by her desk while she was filling her bag to leave, and said, “I have to do something, tomorrow, as part of an effort to catch KID.  Aoko will be upset.  Please look out for her.”

And then, he breezed out of the classroom before Keiko could gather her last composition book and give chase.

She didn’t have to wait long to figure out what he meant, at least.  The next day went down in Ekoda High’s history.  It wasn’t every day that someone out-and-out accused another person of being Kaitou KID in the middle of class.

Keiko still remembered every detail.  Hakuba, finger extended toward Kaito’s chest in a perfectly straight line, stock-still like a kabuki actor in a mie pose.  Kaito, scrambling backward and halfway out of his chair, his expression wavering between shocked surprise and unnerving, stony blankness.  The rest of the class, frozen and silent in the wake of Hakuba’s loud, shocking claim.

Aoko will be upset, Keiko thought, recalling Hakuba’s words as she stared at the chaos.  She’ll be distraught, especially if he’s right.

She wanted to punch him, then, but she thought she’d have to get in line behind Kaito, Aoko, and possibly Akako.  And Keiko had a pretty strict policy about messing with Akako, which went something like, “Don’t.”

But at least she was prepared to comfort Aoko.  Her fridge at home was full of chocolatey pastries and she had a list of karaoke bars near their houses in case Aoko ended up angry.  As it turned out, she’d needed both—Aoko had eaten most of the pastries, ended up sugar-high enough to practically pass for drunk, and insisted on going to karaoke, where they sang angry pop songs badly until Keiko’s curfew. 

Within the week, the whole thing had blown over—Keiko never did get the details of how, but somehow Kaito had managed to prove to the Nakamori clan that he wasn’t KID without even swaying Hakuba’s opinion slightly.  Still, Hakuba continued to lack evidence and Aoko was no longer upset by his accusations, so Keiko was willing to forgive him.

Especially since he didn’t forget their arrangement.  A few days after the debacle, he came up to her again, looking more sheepish than ever.

“I apologize, with the full knowledge that saying it was necessary will not affect your anger in the least,” he said.  “How is she?”

“Very relieved that her childhood friend isn’t the criminal that her father has been chasing all her life,” Keiko said cooly.

Hakuba had the grace to look embarrassed.  “I appreciate your honesty,” he said, and left.

Eventually, they came to be on better terms.  Sometimes, Keiko would even seek Hakuba out, when she thought he might not be aware of a mood swing of Aoko’s.  Once, when Hakuba was acting particularly moody, she even reversed the normal process and gave Aoko a heads-up that her friend was probably going to be a little touchy today.

“How do you know that?” Aoko asked absently.

Keiko just laughed and said, “I have my ways.”

It was better for everyone if no one knew about the arrangement she and Hakuba had.  After all, Aoko might not appreciate it. Kaito would probably get all territorial.  And Akako might decide to enforce her monopoly on manipulation at Ekoda High.  And that could interfere with the very workable, effective system the two of them had for making sure that Aoko was okay.

Now, exactly why Hakuba was so concerned about her, when he had said outright that he knew Aoko wasn’t interested in him, and that he was okay with it, was a bit of a mystery.  Keiko had wanted to solve it, at first, but she’d quickly realized she would’ve needed to be Hakuba in order to figure him out—she would either need to be inside his head or have his detective skills if she wanted the least hope of deciphering what was happening inside his mind.

People tended to mistake Hakuba for normal because of the company he kept.  He spent most of his time with Kaito, Aoko, and Akako, and they were all extremely bizarre.  Kaito did sleight-of-hand as easy as breathing, acted dumb but was blindingly brilliant when he forgot to pretend not to be, and vaulted across people’s desks without even disturbing their schoolwork.  Aoko knew martial arts, wielded brooms like bo-staves, and could do complex math while jumping around the classroom like a monkey.  Akako had some sort of supernatural power over every boy in the school—teachers included—except for Kaito, and when she threatened people, she actually meant it. 

And then there was Hakuba.  Hakuba, who seemed the most harmlessly odd—unlike Kaito and his KID obsession, Aoko and her random bursts of violence, and Akako and her threatening aura, Hakuba was a detective.  He was with the police.  But the police he was with were the Task Force and they weren’t exactly the sanest—after all, they gave rise to the whirlwind that was Aoko.  For all that Keiko loved her, well—she had never understood how Aoko could regard the Task Force as normal.

And Hakuba fit right into their weird.  It wasn’t just the odd clothing and the bizarre time obsession and his insistence that Kaito was KID.  It was the way he stared off into the middle distance while he made logical leaps with no warning whatsoever, and the odd wariness he seemed to gain without warning every so often.  It was the way he seemed to regard violating Kaito’s privacy repeatedly as part of his job and yet treated Aoko’s privacy as all but sacred.  Keiko could write a book on every way he wasn’t quite right, but everything was so subtle that it didn’t really seem bad unless you looked at all of it together.

So, yeah, she had no idea what Hakuba’s deal was.  But he was her ally in worrying about Aoko and she was pretty much forever grateful for that.

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“We have an alliance to protect Aoko-chan, but you can’t tell anyone,” Keiko said.

“To protect Aoko from what?” Chikage asked.

“Anything,” Keiko said.  “A whole lot of things.  Mostly her own mood swings and Kaito-kun’s thoughtlessness.  You’re Kaito-kun’s mom, you know how they get.”

Chikage nodded.  She did, in fact, know.

“I tell him when she’s actually worked up over something and he runs interference between her and Kaito-kun when she needs it,” Keiko said.  “And he warns me if something’s gonna upset Aoko-chan.

“Like what?”

“Um, he warned me he was going to do something upsetting, the day before he accused Kaito-kun of being KID,” Keiko said, looking a bit uncomfortable.  She added quickly, “I’m still mad about that, but I’m glad he warned me!  I had chocolate on hand and everything and otherwise I wouldn’t have—”

Chikage held up a hand.  “You’re not responsible for him.”

Keiko laughed.  “Believe me, that’s a relief,” she said.

“Oh?” Chikage said.  “He’s a detective, you wouldn’t think…”

“No one does!” Keiko burst out.  “He looks so normal next to all the others, but all four of them are crazy, him included!”  She turned red.  “Um, sorry, ma’am.”

“I take it ‘all four of them’ includes my son?”

“Um, yes, sorry?”

Chikage shook her head.  This wasn’t getting her very far.  Perhaps she’d have more luck asking Ginzou or one of the other Task Force members.

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There is a house.  One enters it blind and comes out seeing. What is it?  A school.

—Ancient Sumerian Riddle

Chapter Text

Inspector Nakamori Ginzou liked Hakuba, completely despite himself. 

When the kid had showed up in Japan, he hadn’t wanted anything to do with him.  He’d heard about the chaos that Megure had to deal with over in Division Two because of Kudou—they’d modified a property damage form for soccer-ball-inflicted-damage while in pursuit of criminals, it sounded like a nightmare—and then he’d actually had to deal with Kudou for a heist.  The kid was right almost all the time but he didn’t have to be so d*** smug about it.  If that was what all high school detectives were like, Ginzou did not want one, thank you.

But, the thing was, while there were a tiny handful of ways to subtly ensure an officer the Superintendent-General had hand-placed on your squad would be moved, there was pretty much no way to worm out of it when he clasped your shoulder and told you, “Please take care of my son.”  His son.  Yep, no way out of that.

And, naturally, Hakuba was twice as much of a smug, arrogant b****** as Ginzou had expected.  Well, at least at first.   A few heists loosened him up to the point where he was almost tolerable…which was naturally when he had to go and accuse Toichi and Chikage’s boy of being KID.

Superintendent-General’s kid or not, Ginzou almost kicked him out of Tokyo, never mind the police, for that d*** stunt.  And again, when, even after Kaito proved he wasn’t KID, Hakuba stuck to his guns like he had an actual leg to stand on.

Ginzou wanted to just plain hate him—but the truth was, he had to admire the tenacity there, too.  It reminded him of himself, standing firm against the rest of the police department and insisting, “KID will come back,” even when no one believed him.  Of course, the difference was that he’d been right and Hakuba was laughably wrong, but the persistence was still admirable, on principle.

Ginzou had to wonder exactly where he’d learned that kind of persistence.  Because, the thing was, when it came to Hakuba’s skills on heists, he had a lot more questions than answers.  For an untrained kid, Hakuba’s reflexes were amazing—he’d probably saved Yoshida’s life by pulling him behind that building during a heist that a sniper had shown up to.  (Ginzou still had no idea who was gunning for KID but he intended to find out.)  His instincts were pretty good too, since he’d lied, straight-faced, and told Yoshida he’d thought he’d seen a sniper, not that there had actually been a bullet—because Yoshida was not a coolheaded sort and they were still under fire.  Speaking of his ability to lie—the only other person that good at it who Ginzou knew was Kaito, and even he could only manage that level of deception while performing—or at least Ginzou hoped so, otherwise who knew what the teenager was hiding from him?

Hakuba could also scale nearly-flat surfaces, hide nearly anywhere, search and disarm a suspect in less than five minutes, and, most confusingly, pick locks.  He refused to explain any of these skills, even when pressed.

The only real clue to where Hakuba might have learned any of it came after a heist during which KID had taken advantage of a relatively sane jewel owner and no sniper to go a little crazy on the pranks.  Okay, crazy to the point of bordering on sadistic.  Ginzou felt bad for Hakuba, what with his midterms in a few days, but the kid almost looked like he’d been expecting something like this to happen.

The upswing of all of this was that they were all covered in about six layers of various shades of washable pink, purple, and blue dye, which together had settled into a pleasant lavender.  And glitter.  One of them had to remember to tell KID on the next heist that, washable or not, if you dyed something with the same dye enough times, it started to set in a little.  All the white garments they were wearing were probably destined for the trash…but that left the problem of their skin, which varied along a spectrum light enough to at least show violet tinges, and Hakuba’s hair, which was now a muddy purplish-brown.

There was nothing for it but to take over the showers down at headquarters and hope that Division One didn’t get anything grisly tonight.  They tended to get pissy when they walked into the showers covered in blood and found the Task Force washing off glitter—because that was something that had happened before.  Sometimes Ginzou did hate his life a bit.

So, they all got in the showers—Hakuba being predictably shy about it.  Ginzou got being a teenager and being nervous about this sort of thing, but it wasn’t like Hakuba looked any different from the rest of them without clothes.  So, eventually they all ended up in the showers, and it quickly became clear that the department’s wholesale-ordered soap wasn’t going to cut it against whatever was in the dye.  It was slowly becoming slightly pinker, and the glitter was gone, but that was about it.  Eventually, Miuta toweled off—ruining the towel—and got a few of the spare bottles of some sort of workman’s soap that his cousin the farmer swore by from his locker.  At this point, it was at least a half-hour after they’d started trying to get clean and everyone was desperate, so they all tried it without much protest, save Hakuba, who seemed a bit reluctant. 

“So you want to go to school like that?” Miuta asked.

“Point,” Hakuba said, accepting the soap.

Miracle of miracles, it worked—even on Hakuba’s hair.  Granted, the shower itself was now a pinkish, sparkly ruin, but Ginzou just assigned two rookies to bleach the place and then went to get some clean clothes on—keeping a change of clothes in your locker was the first thing you learned on the Task Force.

As he fastened his tie, he heard movement behind him and turned around to see Hakuba walking past, slightly hunched over himself, with his damp hair hanging over his face as he rapidly buttoned up the front of his shirt.  His neck was still exposed, and on it, Ginzou saw what he at first thought was a leftover streak of pink.  He was about to let Hakuba know that he’d missed a spot when he realized that the skin there looked shiny and stretched out. D***, where the heck did the kid get a scar that long and jagged?  If it was surgical, it didn’t look it—and it sure hadn’t been in his personnel files.

“The f*** is that?” he asked.

“A spot I missed, according to Officer Kusakabe,” Hakuba said humorlessly, without looking up.

“That isn’t what I meant,” Ginzou growled, annoyed.  Honestly, after a night like this, he wanted to play word games?

“The reason I prefer collared shirts,” Hakuba said, doing up the top button on his collar.  “Good night, Inspector.” With that, he turned to go, leaving Ginzou gaping at him.

“Where the h*** does a kid like you get a scar like that?” Ginzou asked, scrambling for words.

“Given your knowledge of my personal history, England would be the reasonable assumption,” Hakuba said, without so much as pausing or turning around.  “I would appreciate it if you were not to worry your daughter with this.  Again, good night.”

Cagey as h***, defensive, didn’t so much as confirm that it had happened in England—all Hakuba’s answer really told him was that the kid really didn’t want to tell him.  Which, for all that Hakuba was kinda private, was weird, because it wasn’t like Ginzou couldn’t go ask Superintendent-General Hakuba, if he really wanted to. 

Unless not even Superintendent-General Hakuba knew about it, which was a little too weird for Ginzou to contemplate.  For all that Hakuba could lie, he wasn’t the type to misuse that skill, or use it all, really, unless he needed to.  He wouldn’t be going around doing dangerous s*** behind his old man’s back and then lying about it unless some really big s*** was going on, and Ginzou was pretty sure he would’ve noticed by now if it was.

Then again, he hadn’t noticed Hakuba wearing collared shirts all the time, beyond thinking the kid was too d*** formal.  Come to think, he never wore short sleeves, either.  What the h*** else was Ginzou missing?

Despite being Ginzou’s best detective, Hakuba had long ago won the “second-biggest headache” prize (after KID), and he was gunning for “third-biggest mystery” (after KID and the snipers).  And yet, Ginzou still liked him—probably because he had his priorities in order.  He was arrogant, and baffling, but he cared about Aoko and he wanted to catch KID, and that was generally enough to get most people into Ginzou’s good books.

:::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

“I don’t know what he did before he joined the Task Force, but I don’t think it was ‘solving a few murders here and there’,” Ginzou said, leaning across his knees to look Chikage in the eyes.

“What makes you say that?” Chikage asked, intrigued.

“The kid can scale almost-vertical walls and pick locks,” Ginzou said.  “I didn’t teach him any of that.  Great reflexes, too, he’s kept at least one of my officers alive with ‘em.  And he can lie with a straight face if he has to. Not sure if I approve of all of them, but it’s not a bad collection of skills—for a guy in his twenties.”

“But for a teenager…”

“It’s creepy,” Ginzou finished.  “Where the h*** did he learn all that?  Why did he learn it?”

Chikage’s son knew how to do everything Ginzou mentioned, but she sincerely doubted Hakuba’s reasons were the same as Kaito’s.

“He’s got a big, pink scar, right about here,” Ginzou added, drawing a jagged line across the left side of his neck.  “Won’t talk about it at all.  I don’t know what his deal is, but I sure hope the Superintendent-General knows.  Someone ought to.”

::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

Hakuba Saguru was not someone who should be allowed on the Kaitou KID Task Force, and no one would believe Kusakabe Ren when he tried to tell them about it. 

Ren wasn’t a veteran of the original Task Force, but he wasn’t new, either, he’d been here before Hakuba had shown up, and they’d been doing just fine without the British smartaleck, thanks, but the Superintendent-General had insisted that his son be allowed to work with them.  So suddenly they were stuck with an arrogant, grandstanding showoff in an Inverness coat, who occasionally brought his hawk to heists.  Who did that?

Inspector Nakamori was too used to his crazy neighbor-kid and his doves to realize how weird it was.  But, for the love of everything, they were hunting a criminal, not rabbits and other small game in the British countryside!

Okay, sure, the kid was a good detective.  He seemed to know what he was doing.  But he was kind of preoccupied with the “game” he seemed to think he and KID were playing.  He was treating it like some type of contest, with rules.   The only “rule” was KID’s “No One Gets Hurt” and that left the thief a lot of room to get creative.  If Hakuba was trying to abide by some kind of chivalry and missing chances to arrest KID because of it, or straight out giving up chances to arrest KID when it wasn’t sporting, Ren might actually strangle him.

Kudou would probably show up out of his mysterious disappearance and solve the case.  Amida save him from teenage detectives.

So, the thing was, Kudou was kind of the reason he was on the Task Force.  He’d interviewed to get into Ekoda’s Division One the day after the kid had come over from Beika and solved a case.  The hiring officer had rejected him on the grounds that he wasn’t up to standards, which Ren suspected actually meant, wasn’t Kudou.  So he interviewed with Thefts, which was, at the time, blessedly free of high school detectives, and got in.  But it was like being trapped in a perdition of bicycle thefts and giving directions to tourists, so when the Task Force reformed, he was the third volunteer.  He figured at least this way, he’d see some action.

He saw action, all right.  And a friggin’ high school detective, only a few months into the job.  Hakuba was just as terrifying in his own way as Kudou, but he fortunately stuck to KID exclusively, so he wasn’t about to actually get Ren fired.  The kid was arrogant, generally a jerk, and preternaturally certain in every theory he came up with.  But there were jerks everywhere and Ren might’ve eventually learned to live with it.  If only the kid did his job like he was supposed to.  Except he didn’t.  And Ren caught him at it.

The Dark Night Heist sucked for everyone, and no mistake.  Nobody likes to see a dead cop, and Ren could’ve gone forever without seeing a dead cop with his kid crying over him.  Which made it all the more disgusting to see Hakuba kneeling down beside the body, picking up something white that had to be evidence, and slipping it into the pocket of his suit-jacket.

Ren cornered him in the locker room when they were both back at the precinct.

“I know you took something off the scene,” he announced.

Immediately, Hakuba’s expression went from dead-eyed exhaustion to something that Ren was tempted to call dangerous, even on a teenager—particularly on a teenager with a good deal of height on him, hand-to-hand combat skills, and a trained hawk at home.

“I did,” Hakuba said.  “It’s KID’s glove.”

“Why the heck did you do that?” Ren said.  “Is this part of your game?  What?  It wouldn’t be sporting to catch him after a heist like that?  He’s a criminal, get it through your head, Hakuba-kun!”

“I felt it would be wrong to catch him based on an item he lost trying to save Connery-san,” Hakuba said.  The phrasing was stiff, but the tone was pure steel.

Ren stared.

“Oh, come now, Officer Kusakabe, you’re smart enough to figure something like this out yourself,” Hakuba said, almost chidingly.  “The way Connery-san was positioned, the location of the beams—he didn’t fall right away.  KID tried to preserve No One Gets Hurt, but Connery-san was too large for him to hold up by himself.”

“And where was Nightmare during all of this?” Ren asked.  “Watching passively?  Hakuba-kun, if KID was still here when Nightmare killed Connery-san, and is still alive, he was either in the process of running or acting as an accessory.  You know as well as I do that Nightmare doesn’t leave accomplices alive.”

The ghost of a smile flitted across Hakuba’s face, but the expression was bitter.  “I suppose, from a certain perspective, Nightmare did kill Connery-san,” he said.

“Of course he did, you agreed with Nakamori that he did—” Ren started.

“Because Kenta-kun was still present,” Hakuba interrupted.  “And is still present.  There are times when a small falsehood hurts no one, but the truth could do untold damage.”

“What are you talking about?” Ren said.

“There were only ever two people in that warehouse, before we arrived,” Hakuba said.  “Kaitou KID.  And an Interpol agent who died with Nightmare’s mask inches from his head and a suspiciously vast amount of money in the accounts dedicated to his son’s brain surgery.  Kenta-kun can never know.”

Ren swore.  “And you haven’t told Inspector Nakamori?”

“I don’t believe it’s necessary for me to make his choices any more difficult right now,” Hakuba said.  “And…if Nightmare’s identity were to be discovered, the money for Kenta’s surgery would be seized as evidence by Interpol.  Kenta was promised an end to his pain; he doesn’t understand what was done to guarantee him that and I don’t think he should have to.  Not yet.”

“What gives you the right to decide something like that?” Ren demanded.

Hakuba gave him a thin smile.  “I had enough information to do so,” he said.  “You, Inspector Nakamori, even KID…none of you really know all the facts of the situation.  I do, and so I chose.  I’ll take responsibility.”

“You—you can’t just—and return that glove!  It’s evidence!”

“I’m afraid if you want the glove you will have to take it from me by force,” Hakuba said.  “And by tomorrow, you will have the challenge of convincing everyone else it exists. No one else saw me.”

“But I did, and you didn’t notice,” Ren pointed out.

“I noticed,” Hakuba replied.  “I just felt allowing you to notice was an acceptable amount of risk.”

Ren stared at him.

“I am sorry to have involved you in all of this,” Hakuba said.  “I do appreciate your contributions to the Task Force, Officer Kusakabe.  Good night.”

And with that, he left, without so much as swearing Ren to secrecy.  But—he’d probably known it wasn’t really necessary.  Ren wasn’t enough of a lowlife to rob a kid of a lifesaving surgery so he could drag his dead father through the coals, so telling anybody about Nightmare was right out.  And he had no desire to take Hakuba’s place as the Task Force crackpot (Kuroba was KID?  Honestly?) by making a fuss over the glove, so he didn’t do that.

Honestly, Ren hated Hakuba Saguru and didn’t really trust the kid any farther than he could throw him.  Someone willing to flout rules like that was frickin’ dangerous and needed to be watched.  Well, Ren was willing to do the watching—but he wasn’t actually sure he could stop Hakuba from doing anything, if it came down to it.

::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

“Yeah I know him, I wish I didn’t, bug off, lady.”

“I think you’re assuming that I like him,” Chikage said.  “I don’t, particularly, and if you have gossip, I’d love to hear it.”

“You’d never believe me,” Kusakabe replied.  “I’ve got reports to submit by five.  Get outta here.”

::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

As I was going to St. Ives,

I met a man with seven wives,

Each wife had seven sacks,

Each sack had seven cats,

Each cat had seven kits:

Kits, cats, sacks, and wives,

How many were there going to St. Ives? 

None, they were all going in the other direction.

--Traditional English Riddle

Chapter Text

No one who knew Nakamori Aoko would be surprised to know that she liked Hakuba Saguru—or even that she had harbored a slight crush on him for a little while.  But not everyone knew that she’d also been pretty angry with him for about as long, or that she still didn’t quite understand him.

Aoko remembered the day that Hakuba had transferred in with startling clarity.  But, it really had been a memorable day.  Really, even an aloof girl like Akako would’ve been affected if she’d suddenly found a blond, half-British boy kissing her hand and offering to take her on a date—and Aoko wasn’t nearly as cool-headed as Akako.  On top of that, the boy had promised to catch KID—to get the thief that took her father away from her at all hours of the day and night.  How could she not turn into the silliest schoolgirl imaginable in his presence?  Especially when she saw his eyes—there was real longing in them, real longing for her.  If anyone had ever wanted her that way, they certainly hadn’t bothered saying!

And then, she’d realized that he’d been using her to bait Kaito.  Her stomach had felt all twisted up and warm with something like betrayal, and she was about ready to swing a broom at his head for lying to her—but then he smiled at her, and she…she couldn’t quite bring herself to, then.

He had one of those funny almost-smiles on, one of the ones she’d only ever seen on Kaito, but, honestly, there had to be other people like him who didn’t like to show their sadness out there, so was it any surprise that she’d finally met one for herself?  But Hakuba was only halfway smiling, and Aoko started thinking about what her father would be like, if he didn’t have a daughter that he occasionally had to check on and act like a person around.  What would he be like if he didn’t have anything but chasing KID? 

He might know more about having rivals than having friends, she thought. He might have forgotten what the right way to ask someone on a date was—or, in Hakuba’s case, never even had a chance to figure it out.

That seemed like such a lonely way to live.  And Aoko wouldn’t allow it.  Hakuba was the one who’d been friendly to her first, so it was practically an invitation, right?  And if the fact that she was being friendly meant that Kaito hung around, suspiciously at first and then grudgingly interested and even willing to be friendly himself, well, no one could actually prove that Aoko planned it, could they?

People always forgot that Aoko solved math problems just as fast as Kaito did, because he was flashier.  Someone less intelligent would get jealous.  Aoko just enjoyed the camouflage.  High school students could get mean if they thought you were too different, after all.

Somehow, Hakuba managed to dodge that without trying, too.  Aoko wasn’t really sure how, especially since he bragged a lot about chasing KID and Aoko was far from the only fan of the thief at the high school.  Part of it was probably his looks.  The rest was the fact that, for all that Hakuba was arrogant and tended to rub people the wrong way without even noticing what he was doing, whenever a situation was really bad, he suddenly got really good at dealing with people.  It was more than the charm he’d pulled Aoko in with during their first meeting—she couldn’t even quite explain it as his using his detective skills to understand people, because the way he spoke at those times…he seemed less stiff and formal, and more ready to react to whatever situation arose.

Only under pressure, though.  Under normal circumstances, he was still awkward and formal and the nearest to natural when he was flirting, even though the flirting was never genuine and was nearly always directed at a teacher from whom they needed a favor.  He didn’t even relax when fighting with Kaito, and they were nearly always fighting.  Especially that week where Hakuba had done some sort of weird reverse psychology to make Kaito stop the skirt-flipping.  That had been weird.

Aoko blamed Hakuba for the fighting, by the way.  No matter what Hakuba’s suspicions were, the middle of class was not an appropriate time to point at Kaito and accuse him of being Kaito KID.  Besides, he’d been wrong, and Aoko had known it—or, at least, that’s what she’d told herself.

Truth be told, she was also a little angry at him for making her doubt her childhood friend.

She still didn’t like him muttering about Kaito being KID—but if Kaito was willing to put up with it, and the police weren’t paying any attention anymore, she’d put up with it. Other than that, she was fond of Hakuba’s company, even with all of his quirks.  Given Kaito, it was possible that she was just drawn to strange guys.

The strangest thing about Hakuba, probably, was the way he’d flit in and out of Japan like going home to Britain was going to Hokkaido for the weekend or something.  Except that…she really didn’t think it was. Sure, he left the country every five seconds, practically on a moment’s notice…but he never came back looking like he’d been on vacation.  To be honest, Aoko was a little worried about what the British half of Hakuba’s family was like, since he always came back looking exhausted and on edge—worse than Kaito after full moons (Keiko had a theory about astrology, Hakuba had a theory about heists, Aoko believed neither). 

She’d known him almost a whole term before she finally got up the courage to ask about it.  He’d come back from a trip home with dark circles and stress lines circling his eyes, and even Kaito had noticed and restrained himself to only a few small pranks. Hakuba had actually been caught completely unaware by a glitter bomb, though he’d flicked the subsequent paint bomb back at its launcher and left Kaito covered in greenish goop.

She waited until lunch, and then until Kaito had wandered off to trade his carrot sticks for something “more appealing”—she was betting that meant “easier to juggle” rather than “tastier”—and then sat down near Hakuba.

“Do bad things happen, when you go back to England?” she asked, carefully.  “Aoko was wondering.”  Sometimes, the childish sound of her speech quirk could be used to disarm the person she was talking to.

Hakuba seemed to study her.  “Sometimes,” he said.

“Then, why don’t you stay here?” Aoko asked.

“Because worse things would happen if I didn’t go,” Hakuba said.  “I’m a detective, Nakamori-san.  You could say that ‘bad things’ are my job.”

“But you don’t go to England just to be a detective, do you?” Aoko asked.

“No, but that’s a lot of what I do while I’m on trips,” Hakuba said.  “I enjoy detective work, but it can be very draining.”

“I don’t think I’d like to be a detective,” Aoko said, speculatively.

“You wouldn’t,” Hakuba said, with an odd amount of certainty.

“Maybe I would!” Aoko protested.

Hakuba started backpedaling rapidly, looking nothing so much as panicked.  “It’s not that I don’t think that you could do anything you set your mind to—it’s just that I don’t think you’d really get much out of it—oh, I’m not saying this right, just please don’t become a detective to prove me wrong—”

He seemed…weirdly concerned about that possibility, like the idea of Aoko being a detective was somehow scary to him.  Which, given that he wasn’t one of the thousands of criminals she would undoubtedly catch, it shouldn’t have been.  But it was so bizarre to see actual fear in Hakuba’s eyes that she dropped the subject without a second thought.

Hakuba was a nice person, even if he did make a lot of trouble for Kaito.  Aoko just wished she knew how to get him to rely on the people around him a little more.

:::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

“Why are you curious about Hakuba?” Aoko asked, blinking.

“I suppose I just want to know a bit more about Kaito’s new friend,” Chikage responded.

Aoko tilted her head to the side.  “Hmm…well, Kaito must’ve told you about when Hakuba accused him of being KID, right?”

“He complained about it a little over video-chat,” Chikage recalled.  A little—more like, for hours, but who’s keeping track?

“Well, Aoko was pretty angry too, but Hakuba-san has been a good friend other than that,” Aoko said.  “And Kaito played a lot of pranks on him, after that, for revenge, so maybe they’re even now?” She looked thoughtful, then added.  “Well, except that he keeps bringing it up.  It’s annoying.”

“What is he like when he’s not accusing my son of grand theft?” Chikage asked, keeping her tone light.

“Nice,” Aoko said, with a small, fond smile, “but always busy with work, you know?  And kind of…not shy…Aoko guesses the right word would be lonely?” she finished, touching a finger to her chin as she glanced off to the side.

“Lonely?”

“Like Aoko said, he’s always busy with work,” Aoko said.  “Aoko doesn’t think he spent a lot of time with people when he lived in England.”

“Kaito says he goes there all the time, though,” Chikage recalled.  “You don’t think he’s visiting people he misses?”

“He said some of what he does when he goes back to England is detective work,” Aoko said, shrugging.  “He didn’t say what else he does, but he comes back from trips looking tired and grumpy a lot.  So maybe he’s not there to visit.”

“But you don’t know what he is doing…” Chikage murmured.

“Why are you asking about this?” Aoko asked, eyes narrowed.

Chikage quickly grinned and decided to cut her losses.  “Just curious.  Thanks for talking with me, Aoko.”

::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

Hakuba Saguru was lots of things to Kuroba Kaito—rival, accuser, critic, and closest male friend, to list the biggest—but he was also currently the subject of one of Kaito’s most interesting theories.

That being that Hakuba and Kaito’s Creepy Mystery Friend were the same person, AKA the Theory of Making No Sense.

So, to explain all of this, Kaito had to start with the Creepy Mystery Friend—or maybe Hakuba?  Nope, Creepy Mystery Friend first, because Hakuba was pretty straightforward—British Holmes-obsessed high-school critic, flair for the dramatic, dangerous in every situation, even when helping—until you got to the bits that intersected with Creepy Mystery Friend.

So, Creepy Mystery Friend. He?—She?—They were a person who liked to sneak around Kaito’s life doing things to keep him safe, except that occasionally the things violated his privacy or the law or both and were just generally a little stalkery.  The stalkery part maybe should’ve been his first clue that Hakuba was a possibility.

As far as he and Jii could tell, Creepy Mystery Friend’s grand debut had been probably their creepiest move so far—sneaking into Dad’s hideout and sewing Kevlar lining into every spare KID costume in the place.  That had been a few days after the first heist, right after just enough dust was gone that Kaito wouldn’t’ve noticed footprints.  Oh, and then Creepy Mystery Friend had impersonated Kaito—not KID, but Kaito— to ask Jii to add Kevlar to any future costumes he made.  Which, right away, marked Creepy Mystery Friend as a person of many talents.

Now, Kaito was grateful, especially after the last few heists.  Jewel plus Kevlar between Kaito and bullet equaled less bruised ribs equaled him being able to breathe normally sooner, which was nice all around.  But he did not at all like the idea of someone else knowing where Dad’s hideout was.  He didn’t really like the idea of someone impersonating him, either, even if it was for benign reasons.  And, obviously, someone knowing that he was KID and Jii was KID’s assistant was unsettling. Also, this person seemed to be…kind of stalking him?  Well, him as in Kaitou KID.

Like, during the heist Akako crashed, someone broke her circle with a snowball.  During the Crystal Mother heist, Jackal showed up on top of the train with bruises on his face and accused him of having an accomplice, while the prince had shown up later and said that KID’s friend wasn’t a very good babysitter but he was good at martial arts.  Nightmare mentioned that someone had been trying to keep him from contacting KID but that he’d managed anyway—and then, Kaito’s lost glove had vanished, completely, from the scene.

Akako disavowed any knowledge-she was the first one Kaito asked.

The help wasn’t even consistent.  If Kudou or his tiny alter ego were involved, Kaito was completely on his own, for some reason.  It was all really confusing and Kaito was about ready to sympathize with his critics in his desire for an answer. 

And then, at some point, it had occurred to him that only one person he knew had openly helped him, as Kaitou KID—Hakuba Saguru.  Even his mom had only bailed him out of a problem she herself created, and then possibly created a freaky test for him, which was not helping, and if she incriminated herself as Corbeau Kaito was going to tell her that.  Hakuba had called him from another country to tell him something about Chat Noir that kept the heist from ending in a disaster.

Hakuba had, in fact, helped him, and that was really friggin’ confusing.  Even more confusing was the idea that Hakuba could be Creepy Mystery Friend.  For one thing, Hakuba lacked half of the knowledge—

Well, okay, so Hakuba had to know a little about costumes: see the Inverness.  Kaito had seen him use lockpicks and scale walls at heists.  He was obviously crazy-smart and made no secret of it, and he knew that Kaito was KID, for all that he couldn’t manage to prove it.  He was, in the most basic of senses, qualified to be Creepy Mystery Friend.

But what would be the point?  What would lead Hakuba to do something like that?  Creepy Mystery Friend’s goal, as near as Kaito and Jii could tell, was to keep Kaito alive and safe; Hakuba wanted him in jail.  The two were very much not compatible, especially since Creepy Mystery Friend had seen Jackal’s face and if Creepy Mystery Friend was Hakuba, he would’ve researched Jackal enough to know about Jackal’s organization, who would not let Kaito live in jail.

So, it was tempting to just bury the whole matter in a file labeled “The Theory of Makes No Sense” except that…other than the obvious logical disconnects, it really did make sense.  So much sense.

The only person in Kaito’s life who had as little regard for Kaito’s privacy as Hakuba was Creepy Mystery Friend, and vice versa.  The only people who knew about Kaito’s nightlife outside of the people who knew his father, besides Creepy Mystery Friend? Hakuba (well, Akako too, but since Creepy Mystery Friend had been protecting him from her, she was cleared of suspicion).  He and Hakuba were thief and critic, yes, but they were also friends…and, well, there were times when it almost seemed possible.

So once, just once, he asked.

“Hey, Hakuba-san, have you ever broken into my house?”

Hakuba goggled at him.  “Why would you even ask me that?”

“Well, someone did, at some point?” Kaito said.  “I’m narrowing down suspects.  Like a detective!”

“Don’t even think about calling yourself that,” Hakuba muttered.  “And why would you decide to ask me, of all people?”

“You were on hand?” Kaito said, shrugging, smile still in place.  Hey, it’s not like I can say, ‘You seem like the kind of person who might break into a thief’s hideout and sew Kevlar into his costume, that’s all.’

Hakuba made an offended noise, as the commotion drew Aoko’s attention.

“You had a break-in?” she asked.  “Was anything important stolen? You definitely should’ve reported it to Dad!”

Did Hakuba just…smirk? Kaito wondered, staring at the detective’s face.  But, no, there was the customary annoyed expression.  Must’ve imagined it.

“Nothing was gone, they just went through some of Dad’s stuff,” Kaito said.  “I didn’t really want a lot of officers going through and checking for prints…” Or finding out I’m KID…

Aoko nodded, serious.  “But you shouldn’t accuse Hakuba-san of things!”

Kaito practically choked on the irony.  “I shouldn’t accuse Hakuba-san of things?” he managed.

Hakuba smirked, and Kaito glared at him.  Aoko giggled.

So, there it was.  Whoever Creepy Mystery Friend was, they weren’t Hakuba. Probably.  Almost definitely.

Someday, Kaito would figure it out for sure.

::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

“Of course I’m being careful, and besides, there’s Kevlar in the KID costume now, so I’ll be fine!” Kaito insisted, fingers drumming busily on the kitchen table.

“Kevlar?” Chikage asked.  “I don’t remember—”

Kaito flushed a bit. “It’s new,” he said.

“That was a good idea,” Chikage said approvingly.

Kaito looked abashed rather than proud.  Ah, it was Jii-san’s idea, wasn’t it.  He’ll admit it eventually, I suppose.

“But that’s not the only thing you have to worry about, is it?” she pressed.  “What about Hakuba?”

“What about him?” Kaito asked, belligerent.  “Sure, he’s a pain, but I’ve stayed ahead of him this long!”

“I just want to make sure you aren’t letting your guard down,” she said.  “After all, for him to suspect you in the first place—you must have let something slip.”

Kaito grimaced, sheepish.  “Guess I did,” he said.  “When I was starting out, well, I wasn’t always careful.  I guess not all of my reactions always made sense for someone who was just a KID fan—and I was probably flashier with pranks than I should’ve been.”

“So that’s how he figured it out?”

Kaito shrugged.  “I mean, I guess so?  It’s not like I can ask him, without confirming his suspicions.”

“So you have at least figured out that much,” Chikage said, a bit severely.

“What?” Kaito said, defensive.

“I’m just worried that you’re not taking him seriously enough,” Chikage said.  “He’s a detective, and he’s watching you nearly all the time.  You have to be very careful.”

Kaito scowled for half a second, before saying, very neutrally, “I’ve been doing all right for the last few months, haven’t I?”

Chikage nodded.

“Then you don’t need to worry,” he said, grinning, and getting up from his seat.

This conversation is over, Chikage translated, privately a bit stunned. He’s gotten better at Poker Face while I’ve been gone.

:::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

Imagine you are in a dark room. How do you get out? Stop imagining.

—Source unknown

Chapter Text

Kudou Shinichi’s first impression of Hakuba Saguru was I know that voice.

It took him awhile, but he finally reclaimed the bleary memory of British-tinged Japanese swearing a blue streak…it felt as though it was from during one of his transformations, but he couldn’t remember which one.  The memory felt older than the Sunset Mansion case, but that was the first time that Hakuba had met him, wasn’t it?

It seemed pretty unlikely that Hakuba had seen him turn from Kudou to Conan or vice versa in the first place, really.  Except…Hakuba’s behavior at the Detective’s Koshien had been odd, in a few ways.

It was Hakuba, not Hattori, who had suggested that Shinichi stand in for himself as the Great Detective of the East.  It would’ve made sense for Hattori to do it, but it was an odd choice for Hakuba to make.  Hakuba didn’t seem like the kind of person who would normally humor small children, and police-station gossip confirmed that he wasn’t especially good with kids.  Besides, something about the way Hakuba had declared the title had been certain, in a way that didn’t make sense for someone who barely knew Conan and certainly didn’t know either his fake relationship to Shinichi or his real identity.

During the case, he’d felt like he was working with both Hattori and Hakuba—which shouldn’t have been the case.  Hakuba shouldn’t have been taking him that seriously.  He was in elementary school. And yet…Hakuba had treated him with the same dismissal he’d shown Hattori—he hadn’t really respected either of them, but he hadn’t treated Conan differently based on age.  If anything, he’d treated Hattori differently after they’d clashed over preserving the crime scene.

But…he’d never said anything.  He didn’t act like he was on the lookout for those people in black, and he certainly didn’t dress like one of them either.  So, Shinichi wasn’t sure what to think.

Added to that, Hakuba almost always seemed inordinately pleased to see him.  Not Kogoro, either—him.  Even when Hattori was around, too, and Hakuba and Hattori were constitutionally incapable of getting along.

The two of them were a study in contrasts, and not the ones you’d expect, at face value.  In a room full of police inspectors, Hakuba seemed straight-laced and overly rigid, while Hattori came off as casual and brash to the point of ignoring procedure.  But watching the two of them together was an entirely different experience.

Shinichi recalled a particular crime scene illustrating the point rather well.

“I’m curious, Hattori-san, do you think that the victim’s blood will form the kanji of the murderer’s name if you stare at it long enough?” Hakuba asked, smirking.

"Shut yer mouth, I'm tryin' ta work," Hattori snapped, not looking up from the corpse.

“Perhaps I would be, as well, were you not blocking my view of the scene,” Hakuba said, annoyed.

“Find yer own murder!” Hattori exclaimed.  Then, probably realizing how that statement had sounded, he amended, “I’ve got this case under control, go find somethin’ else ta solve.”

“We are in Tokyo,” Hakuba said.  “Technically Kudou’s territory,” and here Hakuba’s eyes had flicked toward the currently-shrunken-Shinichi, or at least Shinichi’s paranoia had convinced him that they did, “but in his absence, as a resident, I have a better claim to cases here than you have.”

“Hakuba-han, we’re teenagers, we ain’t got jurisdiction,” Hattori said flatly.

“Well, we have to decide these things somehow,” Hakuba said practically.

“How about we decide them by I hit ya over tha head wit’ a shinai an’ then ya shut up,” Hattori growled.

“I’m sure we don’t need to resort to violence,” Hakuba said, frowning.

“Wit’ you, I really, really do,” Hattori muttered.

Hattori may have seemed like the louder of the two, but it was Hakuba who was responsible for the majority of their arguments.  For whatever reason, he seemed to take a special joy in winding Heiji up without saying anything that would seem especially provocative to someone who wasn’t Heiji, making it pretty much impossible for Hattori to explain why he hated Hakuba outside of long, insult-laden diatribes that were usually empty of facts.

Hakuba seemed straight-laced, single-minded, and a little prone to wild theorizing, but Shinichi was fairly certain that if he ever decided to indulge his mild devious streak, they would all be in a whole lot of trouble.  Whereas Hattori was actually extremely by the book, in his own way—it was just very much a book of his own that no one else had a copy of.

Shinichi had only really met Hakuba a few times, but he found him intriguing.  There was something decidedly odd about him—something beyond the weird deduction style that Hattori went on about.  It took him a while to realize what was bothering him, and when he did, well, he couldn’t help but be suspicious.

Hakuba didn’t read correctly as an eighteen-year-old.  Perhaps it really just was his arrogance, but there were times when he just seemed a bit too at ease among the adults of the Task Force, as if he’d completely forgotten he was the only one among them who was still a high-school student. And while rumor had it that Hakuba did have a martial arts background, even Ran’s black belt didn’t excuse her from occasionally forgetting that her limbs were longer than they’d been a few months back. 

But not Hakuba.  Hakuba was…well, for all that he wasn’t physically imposing, his movements were careful, controlled in a subtle way that reminded him of Akai or KID.  Shinichi had never seen him in a fight, but he was fairly certain that if he and Hakuba were ever to be cornered by a criminal, Hakuba would be as good for backup as Hattori was.  Maybe even a bit more predictable.

Naturally, given circumstances, Shinichi considered apotoxin.  Statistical improbability aside, the drug shrunk a person by roughly ten years.  Hakuba didn’t act that much older.  He seemed off by a few years, at most, and APTX 4869 didn’t do that.  Shinichi was jumping to conclusions again—Hakuba was most likely nothing more than a mature-for-his age veteran of an early growth spurt.  Well, one who possibly knew something about Shinichi and who made Heiji nervous.

Honestly, Hakuba was a mystery…but he wasn’t, so far as Shinichi could tell, a murderer or a threat, so Shinichi would have to let it bother him for now.  He still had bigger—hah—things to worry about.

:::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

“You want to ask Heiji-nii-san about Hakuba-san?” Edogawa Conan asked, wide-eyed.  He looked nothing like the blue eyed justice-demon her son had described to her over video chat so many times, or the so-called KID Killer whose name was starting to become legend among the Task Force’s members.

Chikage was just trying to find the Great Detective of the West, who was apparently visiting Tokyo and was her best shot at an unvarnished negative opinion of Hakuba, but of course Edogawa had to be hanging around. 

“That’s right,” Chikage answered.

“That’s a bad idea,” Conan said firmly.  “You’ll just make Heiji-nii-san get angry and yell a lot.”

“Well, I still want to ask,” Chikage said, smiling indulgently.

“But, I can tell you about him,” Conan protested.  “I met him at the Detective Koushien.”

“Did you?” Chikage asked, wondering what on Earth a ‘Detective Koushien’ even was.

“He’s stuck-up,” Conan said.  “But I think he likes me, even though he doesn’t like Heiji-nii-san.”

“He doesn’t seem like he’d be good with children,” Chikage mused aloud.

“He’s not,” Conan said, flatly, sounding a good three years older.  And then, the sugary tone was back.  “But he likes seeing me!  It’s probably because we’re both detectives.”

“And is he a good detective?” Chikage pressed.

“He’s in the newspapers all the time,” Conan didn’t really answer.  “Say, ma’am, why are you asking so many questions about Hakuba-san?” He blinked at her, wide-eyed.  “Are you a detective, too?”

“Not me!” Chikage said, carefully keeping her automatic revulsion at the thought out of her voice. 

“Then why are you asking questions about people?” Conan pressed.  For a second, the wide-eyed expression looked more like the disarmingly-innocent variant of Poker Face.

Startled, Chikage just managed to keep herself from drawing back. This was the demon her son was talking about, and he needed the truth, at least part of it, or he would be on her heels for the forseeable future.  “Hakuba has been causing my son trouble at school and I’ve been trying to learn more about him.”

The boy’s eyes narrowed outright.  Chikage had the urge to run on principle; she was facing a detective.  “Why?” he asked.

“I want an idea of his character,” Chikage said, and it was true, in the broadest sense.

“If he’s causing your son trouble, don’t you already know?” Conan said, curious.  “Though, that doesn’t sound much like him…”

“You’d be surprised,” Chikage said.  “And you know, you can never have too much information about someone you think might be a problem.  Shouldn’t a detective know that?”

The little demon’s eyes flashed with something that could have either been grudging respect or a split-second of nervousness.  Either way, Chikage took the opportunity to brush past him and look for Heiji.

:::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

Contrary to popular belief, there were people who Hattori Heiji hated more than Hakuba Saguru.  But most of them were criminals, so…

He knew he was being unreasonable, and he knew he should be able to explain it better.  But the guy just got under his skin, every single time they talked, and he couldn’t explain it.  Every time he tried, he got so upset that he couldn’t even sort out exactly what he was so upset about, and when he did have a clear idea, it got jumbled on the way out of his mouth and tumbled out so mixed up with epithets and insults and general outrage that he didn’t blame his listeners for having zero idea what he actually meant. 

Hakuba baited him, and no one but Kudou even noticed.  Ever.  It was infuriating.  But if that was all—well, he’d had years of putting up with his dad to learn not to blow up when faced with passive-aggressive conflict.  But that wasn’t all of it.  Not at all. 

He’d finally managed to get all of it together once, while talking to Kudo at his house after they’d solved a disappearance together—the three of them, that is.

“Gah—it’s just, if nobody notices ‘im messin’ wit’ me, is anybody noticin’ any o’ the other stuff?” he finally burst out.

“Other stuff?” Kudou repeated, blinking up at him through those freaky little fake glasses of his.

“Like—like the way he is with bodies, you’ve noticed, right?”

At Kudou’s blank look, he insisted, “C’mon, you can’t tell me you haven’t noticed!”

“I haven’t,” Kudou said.  “What is it?”

"“’E hates ‘em!” Hattori burst out.  “He’s been a detective how long, and he still doesn’t know how to be professional ‘bout ‘em, no’ really.  They freak ‘im out, you can tell if yer lookin’.”

“What does that have to do with you hating him?” Shinichi asked.

“It’s just—ugh—that’s no’ good, ya know?” Heiji said, frustrated.  “Like, what if he never learns to deal wit’ the bodies an’ nobody ever notices an’ he jus’—snaps?”

“Hattori-kun, is that really likely—”

“His deductions are all kinds of weird, too, like, sometimes they’re nat’ral and sometimes it’s like he learned how ta do this from…I dunno…books, or teachin’ ‘imself, or somethin’,” Hattori interrupted.  “It jus’ makes me nervous.  I don’t trust ‘im.  An’ everyone still thinks he’s some kinda bigshot while I’m just some loose cannon from the country.”

“Hattori-kun, you don’t have any reason to be jealous of him,” Kudou said, sounding exasperated.

“Doncha get it?” Hattori insisted.  “He’s…there’s somethin’ weird about how he solves murders an’ he tries to cover it up by acting better’n everyone else an’ pissin’ me off!”

“What are you accusing him of?” Kudou asked, eyes narrowed in a mix of confusion and concern.

“I dunno, exactly,” Heiji admitted.  “Somethin’ like…he’s not safe to be workin’ on murders. There’s somethin’ that’s no’ right about ‘im.”

“Okay, but what do you want to do about it?” Kudou said.  “Even if you’re worried that he might not be stable…the police won’t listen to something like that without more evidence than you have.”

“I know,” Heiji said, frustrated.  “But—it’s not jus’ pettiness, ya know?”

Kudou nodded.

“Also, he’s a gigantic jerk, an’ he ticks me off on purpose, ya know,” Heiji said.

“I know,” Kudou said.  “I wonder where he learned how to do that, anyhow.  I don’t think he’s got siblings.”

“He might, in England or whatever,” Heiji said.

“If he had siblings, he’d have more social skills, don’t you think?” Shinichi said.

Heiji laughed, a little.  “Don’t be all high-an’-mighty, yer the one who couldn’t even figure out that—"

“If you call Ran Neechan or start talking about how we’re in love, I’m going to kick a soccer ball at your head tomorrow,” Kudou said, almost calmly.

Heiji quickly shut up, since he’d been thinking of doing both.

He never did talk to anyone about his concerns about Hakuba—because, really, what would he tell them?  He could hardly accuse the son of the Tokyo Superintendent-General, with whom he had a very public rivalry, of being dangerous when he didn’t have a lick of evidence.  Well, he could do it, but nobody who mattered would listen.  There wasn’t much point in dragging his reputation and Hakuba’s through the mud in tandem, only to stir up nothing more substantial than a cloud of rumors. 

So, that left him with no choice but to watch Hakuba closely whenever he showed up in Osaka—which at least wasn’t often, but still—it was as annoying as heck when it did happen.  He had no idea how everyone else missed the sharp-edged glint of joy in the guy’s eyes every time he got in a good one against Heiji.  But somehow, they did, every time.

And every time, Hakuba flinched and skittered around the body, and sometimes his deductions were awkward enough that Heiji was sure someone else would see it, but, no.  Maybe it was intelligence, maybe it was subtlety, heck, maybe it was politeness, but no one else ever reacted, much less said anything. 

In the end, maybe it didn’t matter much that he hadn’t told anyone about it.  After all, if Hakuba ever did go off the rails, there wasn’t much question—it would be up to him and Kudou to run him down.  No one else would even have half a shot at it.   Hakuba was too smart, and he knew too much about how crimes were committed—it would take other geniuses to keep up. 

After all, while Hakuba was annoying as heck, Heiji still had a lot of respect for the guy’s skills. 

::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

“I dunno what yer business wit’ him is but I sugges’ you find another detective, like, I dunno, anyone wit’ a head smaller ‘n Tsutenkaku Tower and the ability ta deduce their way outta a paper bag consistently,” Heiji spat.

“I’ll, er, take that into consideration,” Chikage said carefully.

“He’s an a**,” Heiji added.  “An’ a…wha’s the word he likes ta use…oh, git.  If ya need a detective, talk to me or Ku—I mean, uh, Conan-kun, because he lives wit’ Sleepin’ Kogoro and ya know that guy’s got a reputation.”

Conan muttered something that Chikage couldn’t make out and Heiji was obviously pretending not to hear.

“I was merely curious if you’d noticed anything…interesting, about him,” Chikage said.

“Besides the fact that he’s fulla hot air?” Heiji asked.  “And a complete jerk? Like, seriously, I swear he gets his kicks from messing with people…”

Chikage sighed.  She wasn’t going to get any useful information here.

::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

This is a thing that is devoured by all things; flowers, trees, beasts, birds; bites steel, gnaws iron; grinds hard stone to meal; beats mountain down, ruins town and slays king. What is it?  Time.

The Hobbit, J.R.R. Tolkien

Chapter Text

Hakuba Tsuyoshi’s first impression of Saguru—just Saguru, then--was of a teenager in a poorly fitting suit, strutting around a crime scene like he had all the rank and authority that Tsuyoshi did--and somehow not managing to look ridiculous, because everything he was saying was right.

Really, the fact that he’d been able to meet the boy at all was a huge coincidence.

Shiyomi had cajoled him into a trip to England, to visit her relatives. One nephew who worked at the Yard had casually mentioned that they’d managed to get “one of those kid detectives your Japanese papers are always going on about.”  When questioned, he’d admitted he wasn’t sure exactly how old the boy was, only that he was half-Japanese, answered to Saguru, and could solve a case faster than some divisions together.

He’d been intrigued, but not really enough so to pursue the matter—until he went to the Yard with the nephew for a tour and they happened to catch sight of a round-faced blond tagging along behind a group of homicide detectives. 

Well, I’ve never actually seen Kudou-kun or Hattori-kun in action, Tsuyoshi remembered thinking.  It could be interesting.

Interesting was certainly a word for it.

“Keating, what did Mrs. Sullivan say she was doing at 6:15?” the boy questioned sharply, in a voice that seemed too deep for the young features it came from.

“She was taking a walk in the park, she said,” Keating, a highly-ranked detective replied.

Saguru glanced back at the body, and didn’t quite cover up a wince.  In all of their time at the crime scene--the sidewalk in front of a modest little flat with flowered windowboxes and wrought-iron railings alongside the stairs--Saguru hadn’t managed one good look at the corpse without looking upset.  It was never revulsion, either, oddly enough.  He always looked sad.

The ability to get past the idea of a stranger’s corpse as “gross” and on to the idea of it as “sad,” was fairly impressive in a teenager.  Tsuyoshi wasn’t sure what to make of the fact that, for all of his experience with cases like these, the boy had never made the next step to simply considering the body as evidence.

“You’ll recall that it was raining yesterday around that time,” Saguru said.

A few of the gathered officers, as well as the aforementioned Mrs. Sullivan, the landlady, her husband, and her daughter, variously nodded or made noises of assent.

“It was a bit wet, during my walk, but I don’t see what it has to do with--” Mrs. Sullivan started.

“If you look at the victim’s shirt, you’ll see that it’s discolored in multiple places, in ways that aren’t consistent with blood spatter,” Saguru said.  “They are, however, consistent with the damage that occurs when silk fabric becomes spotted with water.  Since the,” a pause, that anyone other than Tsuyoshi might not have noticed, “degree of rigor mortis indicates that the time of death was between the 6 and 7 o’ clock hours, this makes Mrs. Sullivan the most likely culprit, especially given her motive.”

“Motive?” Inspector Harring, the ranking officer on-scene, asked.

“Mr. Sullivan looks inordinately distressed for the death of a tenant that he maintains he had almost no contact with,” Saguru said.  He turned to Mr. Sullivan.  “So, how recently did you tell your wife about the affair?”

“T-there was no—” Mr. Sullivan stammered.

“Oh, why don’t you stop lying?” Mrs. Sullivan snapped.  “I’m going to jail over it, anyhow, the least you can do is admit you cheated on me with that worthless little--”

“There are children present!” Shiyomi’s nephew interrupted.

“My daughter’s heard worse,” Mrs. Sullivan said.  She turned to stare at Saguru.  “And whatever the h*** that is, it’s no child.”

Keating got out a pair of handcuffs as two officers Tsuyoshi didn’t know moved to restrain her.

Saguru didn’t snarl back, or frown, or do anything, really--he just sort of froze, for half a second, and then turned back to the police.  “Do you need me to fill out any paperwork, or is it all right for me to go, now?”

“Actually, I’d like you to meet someone,” Shiyomi’s nephew said, pushing Tsuyoshi forward.  “This is Hakuba Tsuyoshi, the Superintendent-General of the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Force.  He’s also my nephew-in-law.”

Saguru stared up at him, looking mildly panicked for all of a second before bowing deeply.  “Yoroshiku onegaishimasu,” he said, a faint British accent to the words.

Yoroshiku,” Tsuyoshi replied.  “I’m very impressed with your work,” he added, in English.

“I’m glad I was able to be of service to the police force,” Saguru replied, formally.

“I’m sure they’re glad of your help,” Tsuyoshi said.  “How many people, at your age, are handling cases like that…”

“I’ve heard that you have a few, over in Japan,” Saguru said, the first hint of life sneaking into his tone--if Tsuyoshi read it right, that was suppressed amusement.  “Kudou Shinichi seems worth meeting, from the news articles.”

“You can read Japanese, as well?” Tsuyoshi asked, surprised.

“Father was born there,” Hakuba said, softly.  Tsuyoshi didn’t miss the odd exchange of looks between his nephew and Inspector Harring, but he filed it away for later, and focused on the discussion at hand.

“Well, in that case, perhaps I could send you the occasional case summary, and ask your opinion?” Tsuyoshi offered.  “That is, if the Yard wouldn’t take it as my trying to steal their youngest detective away.”

“It’s up to Saguru whether he wants to accept or not, and I’m sure the chief will agree,” Inspector Harring said, with a small laugh.  “We don’t pay him.”

“That sounds very interesting,” Saguru said.  “If you’re sure you wouldn’t mind…” He pulled a notebook out of one of his pockets and wrote for a few moments, then handed the paper to Tsuyoshi.  The email address was written in neat, slightly looping letters, and it soon found a home on Tsuyoshi’s desk at the precinct when he returned to Japan.

Though he kept in touch with Saguru on his return to Japan, he forgot entirely about the odd exchange between Shiyomi’s nephew and the Inspector.  That was, at least, until he sent Saguru an email about a particularly interesting locked room case that Division One had tried to throw at Kudou, only for him to pass it up so he could take a trip to America with his parents.

After two weeks without a response, Tsuyoshi had gotten a little worried, and called Harring. 

“It’s about Saguru, isn’t it?” Harring had asked, almost rhetorically.  “I guess he isn’t in contact with you, either.  There was a bad case a few weeks ago, so we thought he needed some time to himself, but we’re getting concerned now...”

“You haven’t heard from him?” Tsuyoshi asked, alarmed.  “Can’t you get in touch with his parents?”

There was a telling silence.

“What’s the boy’s situation, Inspector?” Tsuyoshi asked, a bit more gently.

“We’ve never been precisely certain,” Harring admitted.

“What?” Tsuyoshi demanded.

“He was being helpful, and the suspects tended to confess themselves, so it didn’t seem likely that he was planting evidence, but--” Harring broke off.  “We’re...fairly certain that his father passed away at some point.”

“And that’s all you know about him?” Tsuyoshi asked.

“That’s all we knew,” Harring corrected.  “We’ve been investigating.  It’s...er, it’s not good.”

Tsuyoshi used the same tone he used on his own subordinates.  “Tell me.”

“We can’t find what school he goes to,” Harring said.  “Actually, we can’t find evidence that he goes to school. No-one with his first name and description attends school in London, period.  Keating’s been looking for his citizenship record and isn’t doing much better.”

“Do you even know his surname?” Tsuyoshi asked.

“Ah, not—no, no we do not,” Harring said.  He sounded very nervous, which Tsuyoshi felt was wise.

“I’m going to do my own investigation into this matter,” Tsuyoshi said.  “I trust that you’ve learned from this experience, Inspector?”

“Uh, y-yes?” Harring stammered.

Tsuyoshi was fairly certain that was a lie, and he was also quite sure he didn’t care.  If Saguru had avoided given a surname, did not attend school, and didn’t speak of his parents--the chances that he was a runaway of some sort were very, very high, especially given his very careful politeness and poorly-fitting clothes.  The evidence Tsuyoshi had did not add up to a pleasant picture, and he’d only met Saguru in person once, for all their email correspondence. Scotland Yard should have put this together long ago.

He sent another email to Saguru--this one quite cryptic, about a missing persons case in the London area that he’d taken an interest in and a meeting he’d like to have with Saguru about it--and then had a serious discussion with his wife.  The last step of his plan was the Herculean task of attempting to set up the Tokyo MPD to handle a few days without his presence--but he ultimately managed it, and made it onto a plane to London.

He was only waiting at the cafe he’d designated as meeting place for a few minutes when Saguru showed up. 

He was still wearing a suit that wasn’t quite small enough for him, his hair was disheveled, and he seemed to be limping a bit, but seeing him took an enormous weight off of Tsuyoshi’s mind. In that moment, he realized that he was certain of his course of action.

“Superintendent-General Hakuba,” Saguru said, sounding a bit winded. “I received your email.”

“So I see,” Tsuyoshi said.  He glanced deliberately at Saguru’s leg.  “Are you injured?”

Hakuba made a vague waving gesture.  “It’s quite minor.  Nothing to concern yourself with. Now, this case--”

“A teenage detective who regularly spoke with the police dropped out of contact without warning for...hmm...three weeks,” Tsuyoshi said.  “I think you’ve already contributed greatly to the case.”

Saguru stared at him, wide-eyed and pale.

“Please, sit down, you look unwell,” Tsuyoshi said.

Saguru inclined his head and took a seat.  “I apologize for worrying you.  I was occupied with other matters and lost track of time, somewhat.”

“Schoolwork?” Tsuyoshi asked, testing.

Saguru studied his face.  “So, the Yard has finally taken an interest in what I do when I’m not doing their jobs for them,” he said, resignation in his tone.  “That was inevitable, I suppose.”

“You could have told me that you were homeschooled,” Tsuyoshi said.

“You would, in that case, want to meet my parents, I think,” Saguru said. “That won’t be possible.  I am trying to study, independently, but my efforts in that directions wouldn’t satisfy any set of curriculum requirements I’m familiar with.  I think, in this situation, honesty is best.  I am not attending school or replacing that attendance with anything similar, at the moment.”

“Because you have other things to attend to,” Tsuyoshi said, disheartened.  “Such as, I imagine, supporting yourself.”

Saguru nodded, grimacing.  “It’s not...something I wished to trouble the Yard with.”

“I imagine that Keating won’t find any records for you under your current name, either,” Tsuyoshi said.  “You’re obviously familiar with the police; if you’re in a situation that required you to change your name to avoid being found by someone, I’m sure they could—”

“It’s not the sort of situation they need to get involved in,” Saguru said firmly.  “I wasn’t—hurt, or anything like that.  It is…complex.  To be plain, it would be better for all involved parties if my mother were not to be aware of my current location.  But it makes things a bit challenging for me, because it leaves me without legal identification.”

“I may be able to help you with that,” Tsuyoshi said.

Saguru blinked at him.

“Understand, my wife and I are seldom home,” Tsuyoshi said.  “You’ll spend most of your time with our housekeeping staffs or alone.  But I am offering you a permanent roof over your head, food, clothing, a small monthly allowance...and a last name, if you’ll have it.”

Saguru gaped at him for a few seconds.  “...An adoption?” he finally managed, voice slightly shaky.

“If you’re willing,” Tsuyoshi said.  “We can have fostering paperwork drawn up if you’d prefer, but I think adoption would be simpler.”

“That would be...you are incredibly generous, I don’t—I don’t think I can accept—” Saguru stammered.

“And I don’t think I can allow one of the most skilled young detectives I’ve encountered to remain in this situation,” Tsuyoshi said.  “My wife has agreed to it.  We have an apartment in London that you can use for now, if you’d prefer—but I hope you’ll decide to come to Japan eventually.”

“Y-you know nothing about me,” Saguru managed.  “Are you quite certain—”

“I know that you continue solving murders even though you can barely stand to be near a corpse,” Tsuyoshi said. “That tells me a lot about who you are.”

Saguru made a soft choking sound, then nodded jerkily.  “I-if you’re sure.  If you’re absolutely sure, I would truly appreciate it.”

Saguru didn’t come back to Japan with him, not for six months.  He spent that time catching up on schoolwork and solving an impressive number of cases with Scotland Yard—until KID appeared in Japan, and Tsuyoshi got an excited overseas phone call.

The suit he wore to his first heist fit perfectly.

:::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

Hakuba Tsuyoshi glowered at her from beneath thick, white brows, his hands folded on his desk.  Chikage shifted nervously in her chair.  Phantom thieves, even retired ones, didn’t belong in police precincts.

“I’m just concerned that this…rivalry is interfering with Kaito’s school life,” Chikage said carefully.

Saguru isn’t the one who disrupts class,” Tsuyoshi replied.  “And you aren’t the only one whose son speaks with them.”

“Kaito’s pranks are harmless,” Chikage sniffed.

“Saguru comes home with his hair and clothing dyed on a regular basis,” Tsuyoshi said.  “He insists that it’s a mere annoyance, but I’m at the point of complaining to the teacher.  Ridiculous verbal accusations don’t merit attacks or property damage.”

“Kaito uses washable dyes,” Chikage said.  “If that’s changed, we will be having a talk. “

Tsuyoshi sighed. “I’d just hoped for a more normal school life for him.”

“He’s hardly an ordinary boy,” Chikage pointed out. 

“Do you say that because of what you’ve heard from your son, or because of the background check you ran on him?” Tsuyoshi asked, almost innocently.

“Is monitoring investigations into your son really a good use of police resources, Superintendent-General?” Chikage asked, mirroring his tone.

Tsuyoshi’s feigned joviality fled.  “When I have reason to think someone might be seeking him, with ill intent, and when I have little idea what your intent is—yes, yes it is.”

Well, there’s something I never expected to have in common with the Superintendent-General.  Now, how to say, “Who’s after yours?”

“There was a particularly odd interaction between him and Kaito a few weeks ago, and I was present,” Chikage lied.  “It occurred to me that I was taking the whole matter of Saguru-kun’s accusations less than seriously, and that I might be making a mistake by doing that.  But, if I can ask—why are you concerned someone might be looking for him?  Is it about a case?”

Tsuyoshi shook his head.  “I hardly think that’s any of your business, Kuroba-san.  Saguru values his privacy and I can grant him that much.”

So…not a case.  Perhaps, related to his adoption somehow? This kid is just a bundle of mysteries, isn’t he?

“Well, if that’s all you came to discuss, I think it would be best if I returned to my work,” Tsuyoshi said.  “I trust you can see yourself out?”

::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

Saakamoto Rinko, longtime servant to the Hakuba family and as such known to most of them only as “Baaya,” frankly, thought of Saguru as her grandson.

How else could she approach the situation?  She had no children or grandchildren of her own, and even though the Hakuba family had many children, her employer’s branch had remained childless.  Until, out of nowhere, Tsuyoshi had shown up in Japan with a young man, already a teenager, and announced that he and his wife had adopted.

Well, it hadn’t been what she’d expected, but she was ready to do her best work for the family.  Especially since the boy seemed uncomfortable in the house.  After Tsuyoshi took her aside and briefly explained what he knew of the boy’s background, she understood why, at least to some extent.  There was no knowing exactly how long young Saguru had been on his own, but it seemed to have been some time.

It was a good thing her employer was doing, giving such a determined child a home, and she had wanted to help from the start.  Particularly since she knew that for all Tsuyoshi’s good intentions, it would take a true miracle for him to be home more than one or two nights a week.  While he was in Japan, Saguru would be in her care.  And, by how standoffish and quiet he was at the start, she would have her work cut out for her.

But the trick of a housekeeper’s work is in small tasks, done over and over.  She’d seen the child’s eyes soften the first time she called him “Saguru-botchama,” even as he protested the “excessively respectful” title.  To tell the truth, she’d been hoping to eventually move on to calling him “Saguru-kun,” but it was clear that the honorific “-botchama” meant something to him.  So she kept it, almost as a term of endearment.

She kept track of the foods he did and didn’t like, and made a point not to move around the house too quietly after the first time she startled a scream out of him.  She stocked the library with Sherlock Holmes novels—his favorite, Tsuyoshi said—and bought him an Inverness jacket when the weather got cold. And she tried not to question his odder requests—but every once in a while, he came up with something a bit too odd to simply accept and ignore.

“I’m not certain we can keep a hawk in the city, Saguru-botchama,” she said carefully, frowning at her employer’s son.

“I’ve done the research,” Saguru protested.  “I’d need to take it out flying regularly, but there are places where I can do that within driving distance.”

“Taking care of it will require a lot of work, and it will not be part of my job,” she said.  “I am not paid to feed a large carnivore rodents every day, and I’m sure your father will agree with me.”

“I want to be the one to take care of it,” Saguru said. 

“You can’t just decide you don’t want it anymore and take it back—”

“I know that!” Saguru interrupted, in an unusual show of rudeness.  “I just…I used to have a bird.  I miss having that.  Please?”

Her eyebrows rose.  It wasn’t often that Saguru spoke of the times before he’d come to live with them.  It seemed he was quite serious about this matter.

“I’ll speak to your father,” she said, and Saguru grinned, eyes alight.

They did, in the end, get the hawk, and Saguru proved to be an exceptional master to it.  He took full responsibility for its feeding and care, and was remarkably skilled in training it.  He always kept it on its tether around the house and even cleaned up the feathers it shed.  His sole act of irresponsibility was to name the clearly female bird “Watson.”

Well, that and a certain incident, a few nights after what Saguru told her had been a particularly maddening KID heist.  She was doing some evening housecleaning when she realized that Watson’s cage was open and empty, and when she went to ask Saguru about the matter, she found him missing, as well.  She searched the house for some time until she noticed the open window in Saguru’s room and leaned out, to see her grandson in all but blood crouched on one of the manor’s Western-style gables, while Watson, her wings unfurled, perched on his back.  Saguru’s wings were unfurled as well, in their own way—he wore the Inverness, and it flared and snapped in the wind.  Watson was tethered to his gloved right wrist, while his left hand pressed down against the roof’s center beam.  His eyes were closed, and he seemed to be enjoying the night breeze.

“Enjoying the evening air, Saguru-botchama?” she asked, teasing.

“It’s nice,” Saguru said, softly, casual as if he’d been standing next to her inside the house.

“Be careful,” she said, with a soft laugh, returning to her cleaning.

“I always am!” Saguru called after her.

But if he was, why did he always return from his trips to England looking like he’d seen the worst of a fight?  Tsuyoshi insisted that his son be allowed privacy, but she ached to intervene, to demand to know what he was doing while he was away and whether it was truly dangerous.  She doubted she’d receive genuine answers, though.

For all that she loved him, young Saguru seemed determined to remain somewhat of a mystery.

::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

“He’s a dear boy,” the old woman said, smiling over her tea.  “A delight to have in the house.”

“And the hawk isn’t a problem?” Chikage asked, skeptical.

“Oh, no, he looks after Watson himself,” the housekeeper said.  “His father insisted.  I haven’t had to so much as dust up a feather.”

I remember how bad Toichi used to be about that…but Kaito’s always been very good about cleaning up after the doves when they molt, Chikage reflected.  Possibly because he’s worried a stray feather will give away one of his tricks.

“Could you tell me a little bit about him?” Chikage prompted.

“Hmm, well…he doesn’t really like the taste of fish…oh, and he’s very fond of Sherlock Holmes and tailored clothing,” the housekeeper said, enthusiastic.  “He usually does the dishes himself unless it’s a heist night or he has a great deal of homework…He gets very impatient with traffic jams, even though he doesn’t drive…”

None of this is useful! Chikage thought, frustrated.

“But of course that’s not the sort of thing you’re interested in at all, is it?” the woman asked, giving Chikage a searching look.  “The Superintendent-General told me about what you’re doing.  I don’t really understand why you think you have to investigate Saguru-botchama, but do stop.  He hardly needs any more difficulty in his life.”

More difficulty?  On top of what? Chikage thought.  Welll, on top of working with the police as a teenager, and being half-Japanese and half-English when both countries aren’t as welcoming of outsiders as they could be…and then there’s the matter of the adoption.

I didn’t think about it until now, but, before he was adopted…where was he?

“So, I’m afraid I won’t be assisting you in your investigation,” the housekeeper continued.  “Feel free to finish your tea before you go.”

Chikage hadn’t even tried her tea, so she sipped at it, out of politeness.  It was incredibly over-steeped, and so bitter as a result that she almost choked.

Across the table, the housekeeper did a poor job of hiding a smile.

::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

What walks on four legs when it is morning, on two legs at noon and on three legs in the evening?  A human.

--Oedipus Rex by Sophocles

Chapter Text

The heist was going well, until it wasn’t.  Which, really, could’ve been the title of Ginzou’s autobiography—if he ever bothered writing one.  But, seriously, the heist had been going all right—sure, KID had the jewel, but he was right behind him and the Task Force had officers all over the roof, ready to tackle him if he made a move.  Except, maybe ready was going a little too far.  KID had swerved left, neatly dodging Kusakabe and Miura, and leapt off the roof.  With a sharp snapping sound, his cape turned from loose waves into the flat, sharp-edged triangle of the hang-glider, and he’d taken off.

Nakamori had his walkie-talkie up to call in the helicopters when he saw the bullet hit.

It tore through the fabric of the glider, and then KID’s upper body—chest or shoulder, it was hard to tell from a distance, but Ginzou was really friggin’ hoping it was the shoulder.  KID dropped like a stone, crashing into a rooftop a good six buildings away from them on his way down.  He was a whitish splotch from their vantage point, but even from a distance, you could see red spreading across the tuxedo.  D***.

Obviously they had to call 119—he knew someone in the city had rescue helicopters, though he couldn’t remember if they belonged to the hospital or fire company and really couldn’t be bothered with that detail right now.  The bigger issue was whether whoever he called could outpace whoever had fired that bullet.  Ginzou wasn’t feeling too optimistic on that front.

The sheer frustration of the situation turned his stomach.  Was that really all he could do?  Watch from here while his quarry was helpless, out of reach, and about to be in the hands of an even worse criminal?  KID was his to arrest, and he was going to bring him in alive, and in one piece. 

Unless the bullet had already taken care of that for him.  Don’t think about that, Ginzou he thought, gritting his teeth.

“KID was only shot in the shoulder,” Hakuba said matter-of-factly, from his side. “He may be unconscious, but he’s not in immediate danger of his life from the injury.”

Ginzou glanced at him, annoyed.  “How do you know that?”

“I calculated the trajectory,” Hakuba said.  There was something…off, in his expression.  He was focused, but it wasn’t the dog-on-a-scent intensity Ginzou had come to expect from him.  It was steadier, and expectant, somehow.

So when Hakuba spoke again, he wasn’t surprised.

“Sir, am I correct in assuming that you would be willing to entertain suggestions as to how to rescue KID before the shooter can reach him?” he asked.

“Yeah,” Ginzou said, hand falling away from his cell phone.  “You got something?”

Hakuba nodded, and began to, of all things, shrug off his suit-jacket.  “But you have to promise me that you won’t mention this in your reports.”

“What’s the plan, kid?” GInzou asked.

Having thrown his jacket to the ground, Hakuba began to loosen his tie. As he did, the top edge of that scar of his peeked out over his collar—which was pretty d*** appropriate, because Ginzou was starting to realize that the Saguru from that night in the locker room was who he was dealing with—not the Wolf of Europe, or the Task Force’s eccentric high school detective, but the evasive, mysterious teenager he’d only caught one glimpse of.

After taking off the tie, Hakuba picked a small duffel bag up off of the ground and swung it over his shoulder.  Ginzou’d seen the thing before, but never its contents—he had no idea what Hakuba kept in it or why he thought he might need it on heists, or to explain plans, for that matter.

Hakuba took a deep breath, as if steeling himself for something. 

“This is the plan,” he said—and then he ran off across the rooftop, planted his hands firmly on Kariya’s left shoulder, and used him to vault across the gap between the building they were on and the one next-closest to KID.

His landing looked practiced, and he came out of it into a sprint.  Ginzou stared after him, dumbfounded.

“Did that just happen or did KID leave some weird gas around here?” Miura asked.

“Where the heck did he learn that?” Kusakabe demanded.

“What does he think he’s gonna do?” Ginzou wondered aloud.  “Does he think he’s gonna carry KID?  While he’s doing that?  HAKUBA-KUN, GET BACK HERE, THAT IS A S*** PLAN!” he shouted.

Hakuba, already four roofs away, gave no indication that he’d heard.

::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

Kaito’s vision swam the moment he opened his eyes.  Except he was on a heist, which meant he wasn’t Kaito, he was KID, and so the fact that everything hurt meant that this was more than the aftermath of an acrobatic prank gone wrong.  So he needed to get conscious enough to take inventory of his injuries and get help.

He blinked a few times, and he could make out…roofing tiles.  Not helpful, except to tell him that he probably shouldn’t move while he was this out of it, in case he ended up maneuvering himself straight into a vertical drop.

He remembered some of the heist, he knew he had the jewel…and…oh.  He’d gotten shot.  Crap.  Now that he thought about it, the shoulder pain did feel a lot worse than everything else. Yep, tender and raw and burning with pain, as opposed to the rest of him, which just generally felt like a bruise ready to happen.  That would probably be from the crash.

Okay, new problem.  If he had a shoulder injury and everything else ached bad enough that he wasn’t sure he’d be willing to take the entire cost of the jewel in his pocket in exchange for moving, how, exactly, was he gonna get out of here?   Particularly before the person that shot him or the Task Force got here.  Especially before both of them ended up here, because like heck was Kaito going to be the reason that Nakamori met up with the people after him face to face.

He heard faint yelling in the distance, speaking of Nakamori.  Panicking, he tried to get up, and in doing so, put some weight on his shoulder.  The effects of his mistake were pretty much immediate. He lost track of Nakamori’s voice in the ensuing wave of overwhelming pain, and by the time his vision wasn’t grey again, everything was quiet except for the sound of footsteps too light to be Nakamori’s.

Actually, if he took a few deep breaths to control the remainder of the pain and concentrated, he knew those steps.  “Tantei-san,” he greeted, but the words came out as a half-choked croak. 

Not much better than Nakamori, really, but there was at least a chance that Hakuba would see this as against the rules of their rivalry and choose not to take advantage. 

“I’m not here as your rival,” Hakuba said.  “I’m here to prevent your death, if possible.  Are you conscious enough to inventory your injuries?”

“I am,” Kaito said, wheezing.  His lungs hurt.  “I’m not certain I should trust you, though.”

“That’s proof that you’re indeed awake,” Hakuba observed.  “I promise that I intend you no harm.  You can either take my word or send me off and hope that you can move away from the sniper on your own power.”

“I dislike my options,” Kaito said.

“You’re bleeding as we speak,” Hakuba said, voice gaining an edge.  “You lack the time to dislike your options.  Choose.”

“The bullet is in my shoulder,” Kaito said.  “Everything else feels bruised,” he took a deep breath, trying not to let Poker Face slip as the movement made everything ache, “but nothing is broken.”

“Good,” Hakuba said.  “I will require you to trust me, now.”

“Trust you?” Kaito echoed.  “For what?”

“Moving you will be difficult if you’re conscious,” Hakuba said.

Kaito did not panic.  That would be silly, and unbefitting of a phantom thief.  “And you—what?  You have a sedative in your Inverness?”

“If you were in a condition to look up you’d see that I have one of your sleeping-gas bombs,” Hakuba corrected lightly.

Kaito laughed—and then stopped laughing very quickly, because laughing hurt.  “Those don’t work on me anymore; I built up a resistance.”

“Perhaps when you have normal blood oxygenation,” Hakuba replied.

A gunshot sounded, and this time, Kaito did panic.  “H-Tantei-san?”

“I’m not hit,” Hakuba said lowly, his voice suddenly closer—he must have ducked.  “But the longer we remain here, talking—”

“Do it,” Kaito said softly, swallowing.  If he woke up in a jail cell at least Hakuba would probably be alive on the other side of the bars.

“When you wake you will be alive and outside of police custody, I promise,” Hakuba said, just as quietly.

“You can’t promise—” Kaito started, as pink smoke filled his vision.

“I really think I can,” Hakuba replied, as a soft thump signaled him jumping back.  “Tonight follows KID’s rules.  No one will get hurt.”

So he is Creepy Mystery Friend, Kaito thought, as the pink smoke went all swirly and the throbbing pain in his shoulder started feeling oddly distant.  Figures.  But—how’d he get one of the pink smoke bombs, and how’d he get over to this roof anyhow—

Kaito felt himself go limp, and the pink swirled away into rapidly encroaching darkness.

:::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

Chikage, once again dressed as Corbeau, watched from a nearby roof as Hakuba disengaged the glider and gathered her unconscious son up in his arms. She’d wanted to go to him, the moment he was hit, but she could see the sniper from her vantage point and whoever it was, presumably Jackal, had her very effectively pinned.  If she so much as moved, she’d be visible to them as well, and then nothing more than another dead body for either her son or Ginzou to find.

So, instead, she was reduced to spectator as a boy she didn’t understand quite literally held her child’s life in his hands.  Kaito’s blood was already starting to spread across Hakuba’s shirt as he stood, carefully adjusting Kaito’s weight in his arms. The night wind blew his thick bangs into his eyes in a way that made his already indistinct expression even harder to read.

“I know you’re watching, Kuroba-san,” he announced.  “If I create a diversion, will you take him to somewhere he can be treated for his injuries?”

“I don’t know what you’re—” Chikage started, unwilling to admit her identity to the detective, but he cut her off.

“Now is not the time!” he all but shouted, now turning to face her exact location.  “Your son has been shot in the shoulder; the Kevlar in the suit doesn’t cover that.  And even if he didn’t feel internal bleeding…he could still have some.  He could still die.  I’m not entirely sure he believed me, when I promised not to turn him in—are you as stubborn?”

“He is more familiar with you—perhaps he knows best,” Chikage said.

“I tire of these games,” Hakuba said, scowling.  “I lack the medical knowledge to treat him myself, and if I take him to the hospital now, people will know he’s KID.  If you treat him or take him there, his identity remains intact.  Will you help me, or not?”

“I will help, but if you betray either of us…” she trailed off suggestively.

“I have more reason than you know never to do that,” Hakuba replied.  With that, he leapt across the rooftops toward her, carrying Kaito as if he weighed very little—which, while Kaito was in full costume, was far from the case.   The hang-glider and cape together added a good deal of weight to Kaito’s already somewhat-muscular form—even with the height difference, he had to weigh as much as Hakuba at least in uniform.  So how could the other boy carry him?

When he reached the rooftop Chikage had hidden herself on, he set Kaito down and caught her eyes.  “I’m certain you can fabricate an explanation for his injuries.”

“I don’t know him as a civilian,” Chikage said flatly.

“You are at least related, for all that you spend little time together,” Hakuba corrected, glaring.  “Ma’am, we don’t have time for this.”

“You are a detective, I can’t just tell—”

“I already know!” Hakuba interrupted.  “The portrait with a room behind it, Pandora, the fact that the clover on the monocle is a ridiculous pun—I know all of it.  So just stop.  For all my chasing, I haven’t arrested him yet, and I don’t plan to do so in the future, either.”

Chikage stared at him, dumbfounded.  “You—what?”

“I’ve known all along, thank you, so your foolish insistence on keeping secrets is doing nothing except worsening your son’s condition,” Hakuba said.  “Now take him and leave!”

“If you already know, if you aren’t going to arrest him, then why did you chase him?” Chikage asked.  “I can’t just—this is his life, you’re asking me to trust you—“

“I have my reasons, but they’re a bit complex to explain in the time we have,” Hakuba said.  “The sniper is still here.  I find being shot unpleasant, don’t you?”

“I’ve never tried it, actually,” Chikage replied, slipping into banter without meaning to.

“I wouldn’t recommend it,” Hakuba said flatly.  “I’m sure KID will concur.  Now, get him somewhere where he can be treated. I’m sure you can find a way to explain his injuries.”

Chikage nodded.  “What will you tell the Inspector about all of this?”

“That KID was less injured than I thought, and attacked me as I was attempting to rescue him,” Hakuba said, matter-of-fact.  “I’ll be found later, disoriented, with little memory of what passed on the rooftops.”

“Do you really think you’ll be believed, when no one sees a hang-glider leaving the scene?” Chikage asked.

“I wouldn’t be, if that was what happened,” Hakuba agreed, absently taking his pocket-watch out of his pocket.  He flicked off the cover, the movement almost too fast to track, and Chikage found herself wondering when he’d gotten so skilled with his hands.

“You concern yourself with that KID,” he continued, gesturing toward Kaito with the hand that wasn’t holding the watch.  “I’ll take care of the one the Task Force is chasing this evening.”

“The KID the Task Force will be chasing?” Chikage asked, blinking.  “What on earth are you talking about?”

Hakuba’s hand twitched, and the watch swung on its chain, the glass catching the full moon’s light and sending daylight-brilliant glare directly into her eyes—and when her vision cleared, he wasn’t wearing his half-cast-off suit anymore. A suit, yes, but not his suit.

Familiar folds of white fabric billowed around his shoulders, a red tie fastened at his throat over a blue collared shirt.  A monocle glinted over his eye, the clover charm that dangled from it blowing in the wind.  Though his hair remained brownish-blond rather than black, his face matched the outfit—not quite young enough to be Kaito’s, or old enough for Toichi’s, but rather something in between, a face in its early twenties that was a clean-shaven, rounder version of what Toichi had been…or perhaps a prediction of what Kaito might one day be?

Chikage huffed. “You aren’t fit to wear that,” she said flatly.

Hakuba offered her a faint smile.  “I never was,” he said, before running off across the rooftops as if he’d been born to KID’s role.

:::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

What is as light as a feather, but no one can hold it for more than a minute?  Breath.

—Source unknown

Chapter Text

Hakuba showed up to Chikage’s house the next morning, wearing a dress shirt and slacks and carrying a package of relatively upscale chocolate pudding cups. 

She stood in the doorway, unmoving, as he held out the pudding cups with a small, sheepish smile on his face.  “For when he can keep down solids again.”

She frowned at him as she accepted them.

“I promise the packaging is still intact,” Hakuba said.  

“That’s hardly what I’m concerned about,” Chikage said. “Why are you here?”

“I wanted to make certain that Kuroba-san was all right, after last night,” Hakuba said.  “You would be acting differently were he still in unstable condition, so I must assume he is not.” He paused.  “I also thought to save you the trouble of tracking me down to interrogate me.”

“And I’m sure that was out of consideration for me,” Chikage said, not entirely keeping the mockery from her tone.

“No, I wanted to spend as little time dreading this as possible, so I hoped to finish with it sooner rather than later,” Hakuba said flatly.  “That said, if you don’t think it would be a problem—I would like to look in on Kuroba-san.”

“He doesn’t need harassment from detectives right now,” Chikage said.

“I won’t harass him,” Hakuba said, almost looking hurt for half a second, before returning to his customary expression of quiet distaste.

Chikage looked at the boy.  He looked like a desk-jockey who might be blown over by a strong wind, but moved across rooftops with the grace of a phantom thief, even when carrying another person.  No one she’d talked to had given her enough information for her to figure out exactly who he really was or what his intentions were.  But he’d come here with the intention of answering at least some of her questions, and he had saved her son’s life less than 24 hours ago.  That earned him entry to the house, at least.

“Come in,” she said.  “Give me a second to put that pudding in the fridge; then we can go up to his room.”

He followed her in, and was still waiting patiently in the entryway when she came back from putting away the pudding.  She frowned at him again, then jerked her head toward the staircase. 

“His room is this way,” she said.

He nodded, and followed her up.

Chikage knocked on the door, and opened it at Kaito’s answering groan of, “Come in.”

“I’ve brought a visitor,” she announced, all cheer.

“Kuroba-san,” Hakuba said.  “There’s chocolate pudding downstairs, for when you’re able to eat it.”

Kaito stared at him for a long moment.  He was still almost as pale as the uniform Chikage had cut off of him last night, and the bandages she’d wrapped around his stitched-up shoulder wound were still soaking up blood.  Meanwhile, the bruises forming across his collarbone and shoulder blade were darkening from last night’s rosy pink to a lurid shade of blue-black. A bruise on his left cheekbone was more brownish, and marred by a scabbed-over scrape.  But at least his eyes were open, clear, and tracking their movements. 

Last night had been entirely too long, and too uncertain, for her taste.

“Thank you,” Kaito finally said.

Hakuba inclined his head.  “A quick recovery would be a more than adequate show of gratitude,” he said.

Kaito blinked at him, slowly, then said, “I’ll try.”

Hakuba smiled, slow and slightly sad, as he glanced around the room.  “Your mother and I have some things to discuss.  Do you mind if we leave you to rest?”

Kaito seemed to sink down in the pillows, closing his eyes.  “Sounds nice.  Don’t…do anything, either of you, okay?”

Hakuba glanced at Chikage.

“I have access to hospital-grade pain medications,” Chikage explained.

“You said those were candy,” Kaito murmured.

“I was lying,” Chikage replied sweetly.

“You’re dangerous,” Kaito accused.

“Sleep well, dear,” Chikage said, sweeping out of the room. “Come along, Hakuba.”

She heard his footsteps—as light as hers or Kaito’s—follow her down the stairs and into the kitchen.  She sat down in one of the chairs and watched as he sat down across from her.  For a half-second, intense discomfort flickered across his face—it was almost as if he had some sort of Poker Face of his own.

I’ve got him right here, she thought.  I have questions, and, now, an opportunity to get them answered. I just need to be sure not to waste it.

“You said, last night, that you’d explain why you helped,” Chikage said, open challenge in her tone.

“I told you I know about KID,” Hakuba said.  “I also know about what he’s doing, and why.  I understand why he can’t do it through legal channels.”

“If that’s true, then why have you been chasing him, all this time?” Chikage asked, narrowing her eyes at him.

“Imagine, if you will, if KID had no opponents other than the Task Force, and very occasionally Snake,” Hakuba said, almost casually.  “Imagine, then, that he is suddenly confronted with those like Chat Noir and Nightmare, who would do him real harm if pressed.  Or Snake’s colleagues, who would do so with no provocation beyond his existence.”

“You have no way of knowing that he’ll come up against anything like that,” Chikage said, chilled but unwilling to show it. 

“Ah, but he already has,” Hakuba said.  “Nightmare came, despite my best efforts, and as for Chat Noir…if you don’t appreciate how close a call that was, then you don’t realize how well your son has learned showmanship, and applied it to his recounting of his heists.”

Despite his best efforts? “But it’s still only Snake at the heists, at the moment,” Chikage said firmly.

“And so I hope it shall remain,” Hakuba said.  “It would be nice, if some of my efforts were to work out exactly as I plan them to.  But, should they not, Kaito is far more ready to face such a disaster than he was last year.”

“So, you’re testing him,” Chikage sniffed.  “And after scolding me for doing it, too.”

“I’m not doing it with his father’s face on,” Hakuba rejoined, and this time, the spark of anger in the words was actually palpable.

“He needs to be able to deal with surprises,” Chikage said, dismissive.  “And he can’t keep defining himself only as Toichi’s echo; it’s not healthy.”

“Neither is the way you’re trying to get him not to do it,” Hakuba said.  “You really don’t understand him, do you?”

“And you do?”

“Better than you might think,” Hakuba said, amusement suffusing the words.

Chikage resisted the urge to scoff at him, but it was definitely there.  “And now that he knows you aren’t a threat?”

“I might try making the heists contests instead,” Hakuba said, considering.  “He’s improved greatly, so I’m not nearly as concerned as I was.”

“He was shot!” Chikage said.

“That was inevitable,” Hakuba said. “It could have been worse.”

“You can say that, since you didn’t have to remove a bullet from his shoulder last night,” Chikage all but spat.

“How fortunate, then, that you were still in the country to do it,” Hakuba said, tone light and smile all teeth.

How dare he—  “You still haven’t explained how you know any of this,” Chikage said.  “You say you support what Kaito’s doing, but all I have to prove that is one rescue and we both know that very well could’ve been an attempt to get inside my guard.  I have few enough reasons to trust you without factoring in your snide comments.”

“Such suspicion,” Hakuba said, tone slightly laughing.  “You’ve been spending too much time with the elder Nakamori, I think.”

“According to what you’ve said, you should understand why I’m being careful,” she replied.  “You know quite well that there are people out there who would kill Kaito—”

“And you should have found out, by now, that someone’s been protecting him,” Hakuba replied.

“Are you trying to claim it was you?” Chikage said. 

“Kaito will confirm it, when he wakes long enough for the two of you to talk,” Hakuba said levelly.  “I saw his expression change.  He’s suspected for a while, I think—he asked some questions of me in class that could only be explained as clumsy attempts at detective work—but I doubt he was certain enough of the theory to air it publically.”

“Sets him apart from you, doesn’t it?” Chikage prodded.

“I suppose it does,” Hakuba said, unruffled.  “My accusation really was such a clumsy attempt that no one will quite let me live it down…now, even if someone accused Kaito with evidence, I’m sure they’d be thought of as another crackpot theorist.”

“Don’t try to convince me that you planned it that way,” Chikage said flatly.

“I needn’t convince you,” Hakuba said.  “It is a fact, whether you believe it or not.  ‘There is only one truth’—doesn’t that child who likes to bother your son on heists often say that?”

“A typical way of thinking, for a critic.”

Hakuba shrugged, deliberately casual.  “That is what he is, and what I am.”

“He may be, but you are more than a simple critic,” Chikage said, grinning sharply.  “A critic doesn’t leap-across rooftops or keep a copy of a thief’s clothes to quick-change into.”

“I am perhaps a bit unorthodox,” Hakuba said.

“That was more than unorthodox,” Chikage said.  “Explain it.”

“I don’t think so,” Hakuba said.

“You promised me answers,” Chikage pressed.

“Not those answers,” Hakuba said, brusquely, moving to stand.

“Don’t even think of leaving,” Chikage said. 

“I think you’ll find that you’re unable to stop me, should I truly desire to go,” Hakuba said flatly.  “But if you insist, I will remain, on the condition that you cease this line of questioning.”

“I won’t,” Chikage said.  “Quick-changing, into even a different face, like that—that’s a phantom thief’s skill.  How did you acquire it?”

“I was taught,” Hakuba said.

“By who?” Chikage said.

“That is, frankly, none of your concern,” Hakuba said, voice even flatter than usual.

“Oh, I think it is, and I will find out,” Chikage said.  “I’m giving you the chance to tell me, because when I met with your father he implied that there was someone looking for you, and I’d rather not put you at any actual risk by investigating openly, but—”

“Oh, I rather think that ship has sailed,” Hakuba interrupted, a touch of chagrin to his tone.

“Then, you’ll go into hiding, now?” Chikage asked.

“I haven’t decided how I will respond,” Hakuba said, almost cautiously.  “I think it would rather depend on how feasible it is for me to remain here.  Right now, it’s seeming untenable.”

“Last night you were willing to risk snipers to protect KID, and now you’re ready to cut and run,” Chikage said.  “Who is it that you’re running from?  Do I need to be worried?”

Hakuba laughed, a short, grating noise with no joy to it.  “Not a bit,” he said.  “What I’m worried about is no threat to you.”

“But if it’s a threat to someone who knows my family’s secrets…” Chikage pressed.

“I won’t be caught,” Hakuba said, and that was KID’s grin.

Something must have shown on her face, because his expression immediately went blank.  “I’m sorry, ma’am, I need to leave.”  He stood, moved toward the door—

And Chikage caught him by the arm.  “Not before you tell me who you are.”

“My name is Hakuba Saguru,” he said, frowning and trying to pull away from her.

“You know that’s not what I’m asking,” she said.  “What Nakamori-keibu has told me you can do, what I’ve seen you do, that smile just now…where did you learn all of that?”

“I told you, I don’t want to—“ he continued trying to pull away.

“Were you Toichi’s student?” she asked, flat-out, because that was the only explanation that made sense, bizarre as it seemed.

Hakuba stiffened, then nodded.

“When?” she demanded, letting go of his arm and stepping back in surprise.  “How?  He never told me!  And you’re hardly old enough, to have learned--”

“It’s…complicated,” Hakuba interrupted.  “But…you do believe that Koizumi-san’s abilities are real, yes?”

Chikage nodded.

“She was involved,” Hakuba said.  “Not with…my tutelage, but with how I was able to have learned without your being aware.”

Chikage narrowed her eyes. “What did you do?” she demanded.

“I did nothing,” Hakuba said, very quietly.  “But Koizumi-san saw fit to distort the timestream for KID’s sake, and so I am here.”

Chikage stared at him for a few seconds.  “That’s your story,” she said, at length. “Time travel.”

“‘Story’ implies fabrication, which I assure you this is not,” Hakuba said stiffly.

“So, everything you know…”

“I learned in the previous timeline,” he said. “I would try to prove it to you by predicting something, but I’ve already gone much farther in this timeline than I did in the last.”

“But you knew about Koizumi’s plans for Kaito, and that he would need Kevlar for the snipers,” Chikage said, as the pieces slipped into place.  “Why didn’t you just warn him?”

“If I’d simply warned him, he would have changed his plans, possibly in a way that made things worse,” Hakuba said.  “The only way to make those warnings effective would have been to tell him to stop.  Do you really think he would have?”  More quietly, he added, “Do you think he should have?”

As much as I’d like him to be safe…this is something he’s chosen to do.  And it’s pretty noble, for all that it’s dangerous.  I am proud, I just wish-- Grimacing, Chikage shook her head. And then, asked another question.  “Aren’t time travelers supposed to avoid interfering or something?”

Hakuba barked out a laugh.  “I’m not here on vacation,” he said, with distaste.  “I was given a chance to fix things, and that’s what I’ve been doing.”

“Then…what you talked about, earlier, the scenario in which KID wasn’t ready for stronger opponents—” she started.

“That’s what I’m here to prevent,” Hakuba said.

“But—why would she send you?” Chikage asked.  “And—how would you, of all people, end up training with a master magician, even in a different timeline?  If Kaito still becomes KID, then you were still far too young…”

“You’re assuming that this is my true name, and my true face,” Hakuba said quietly.  “Neither are.  Let us leave it at that.”

“Of course, if he taught you disguise—how old are you?” she demanded.

“I asked that we leave it at that,” Hakuba repeated, ice flooding his tone.

“I find myself unwilling,” Chikage said. 

“You are truly incapable of leaving well enough alone,” Hakuba said.

“You are all but incapable of straight answers,” Chikage replied.

“You don’t want straight answers,” Hakuba said, eyes hard and voice even harder.  “You don’t want to know.  The timeline I came from was exceptionally unappealing and knowing more about it will do nothing but worry you.  Knowing who I am will be of even less benefit.  I ask that I be allowed to leave.”

Chikage stepped into his personal space, and looked more closely at him.  “You aren’t wearing a mask,” she said.  “Only makeup and a few facial prosthetics. You can’t be more than a few years older than your apparent age.”

“Good-day, ma’am,” Hakuba said, sharply, voice suddenly loud. 

She flinched at the sudden change in volume, and he was gone when her eyes opened again.  In the distance, the front door slammed shut.

“Toichi would’ve had to train you as a child, and he didn’t train children,” Chikage murmured to herself.  “Not in the things you know.  Even with Kaito we didn’t start the wall-climbing until—”

She broke off, and remembered the face she’d seen during the heist last night.  Too young to be Toichi’s, too old to be Kaito’s, clean-shaven—

With a quick-change, either that was a mask…or your real face.  And given everything else, only one of those options makes sense.

“Kaito?” she asked aloud, taking a gamble.

Outside the open window, something rustled in the bushes.

Panicking, she ran to the window.  “Kaito?” she shouted, voice embarrassingly high-pitched.

“’m up here,” called Kaito—her Kaito, her teenage son, the one who wasn’t pretending to be half-British and working as a detective at the moment.  “Wha’s the yellin’ about?”

Chikage wasn’t even sure how to answer him.

:::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

His own first impression of Hakuba Saguru was that it was a little too weird of a name to get used to.  “Saguru” was one thing.  It was a little awkward and long and almost slithery on the tongue but he could deal with it.  But Hakuba? That was a police superintendent’s name.  How was he supposed to call it his own?

Just hold on to Poker Face, he told himself.  It’ll carry you through.

It had carried him through his moonlight ventures turning into a waking nightmare that bled into daylight and made No One Gets Hurt impossible to enforce.  It had carried him through his skin catching fire and a bullet ripping apart his left lung, and the smoke and blood stealing all the air away until he woke up, gasping, in the grass of Haido Park, whole again somehow, with a dead witch’s voice echoing in his ears.

“I’ve stolen a second chance for you, KID-san…”

It had carried him through rifling through a savaged white suit jacket to find a pocket watch that wasn’t his and displayed a date four years earlier than the last he remembered.  It carried him through months alone and planning, juggling identities and jobs and trying to afford essentials he’d never had to pay for himself as he tried to figure out what to do with what he’d been given.

Compared to all of that, what was a slightly bizarre new name?

Hakuba Saguru.  Just another tool in the arsenal of weapons he had at hand to avoid the future he’d messed up and caused last time. 

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If you have it, you want to share it. If you share it, you haven't got it. What is it? A secret.

—Source unknown