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The eagle eats the snake on the 13th sweep.
The heart of the earth prickles at every beat
(Toki toki). My two-faced love sheds all sins:
Twenty-one, thirteen; the serpent eats its own tail.

9:03 pm on September 14th, and Conan is practically buzzing in front of the Jade Mask of Tlazolteotl, also known as Toci, also known as the Heart of the Earth, an Aztec goddess of forbidden love and purification. (Though that's the cleaned-up version for little ears. Conan had needed to sneak onto wikipedia to find out the bits about sexual vice, STDs, and adultery.)

His Shinichi-phone vibrates in his pocket. Of all the times for someone to call, ten minutes before the Kid is set to appear (and get his showboating thieving white ass kicked)--! But there are ten minutes, which should be enough time to check that there isn't something important in the message. Like Ran texting about a bomb threat or a murder.

(Why it's always something like that, he does not know.)

It's not Ran.

So, Meitantei. I am immensely curious. Last Wednesday, approx. 5 pm. Inquiring minds want to know! And by minds I mean just me, don't worry, your little games are safe.

Wait. Wednesday afternoon...? What had he been--

Conan feels his face and fingertips go cold. Last Wednesday, he'd had a good several hours on his hands. So he'd gone home -- to the Kudou mansion, not the Mouri's -- to indulge in a bit of a bad habit that had carried over through the apotoxin shrink.

And by bad habit... well. He'd been a teenager left to rattle around that giant house all alone for nearly three years, and there was only so much reading and cleaning anyone could do while their classmates labored slowly over schoolwork. Cases then didn't eat up nearly as much time as they do now, either.

His thumbs move numbly over the keypad without him actually thinking about it.

You watched that?!

The reply buzzes in scarcely a second after he hits 'send.

Only a minute or two! What do you take me for?

Then, a moment later, I only voyeur with permission. *wink*

Conan bites back a sputter (he does NOT want someone to come glance over his shoulder), but before he can think of something to say, Kid adds, You know I like to check up on my tantei, see they're eating right, sleeping well, not coming down with something that a heist would aggravate, NOT HURTING THEMSELVES, etc.

Okay. True. Damned weirdly-considerate pest of a thief. Gee, what could that capslocked bit be about, though. I was fine, Conan types back, hoping he isn't blushing for the world to see and wonder at. It's really nothing like in the manga. I was just sort of. Aware. The next day. No big deal.

He could smack himself the instant he hits send. Sure enough, Kid's text comes back with, It certainly looked like a big deal to me. The one I saw, that is. In the minute or two before I nearly fell out of the tree.

Conan glares at the screen. There isn't a tree with line-of-sight into his room. His parents built the house so that paparazzi couldn't get snapshots anywhere more than thirty centimeters into any room.

Was that one the biggest?

Oh good lord. I'm not discussing this with you.

Aw, why not? The red one's your #7, right? Do you get up to #8?

Don't you have a rock to steal?

Seconds later, shouts go up, and Conan looks up to spot Kid posed cool and untouchable in the spotlights on a railing far above. He looks right at Conan when he winks, and then he's off.

Conan almost manages to forget the string of texts in the ensuing chaos.

Almost.

-0-0-0

The next day is a Sunday, so Conan doesn't have school. Lucky him. His Shinichi-phone is ringing off the hook, so to speak. Text messages abound, called up one by one as he sets out.

Tell me you don't try to use the #11 these days. What did you do, repurpose a baseball bat?

I like your secret compartment, by the way. Mind if I steal the magnet-key design? What am I saying, I'll steal it anyway. :D

You never answered, DO you get up to #8? (In case you haven't deduced it yet, I'm numbering the things. So much easier than color-coding, especially since 10 and 11 are both white.)

I just ID'd the ridge on #11. I don't know whether to laugh or be utterly horrified.

I'm thinking horrified, actually. I really hope you bought this long before Sunset Mansion. I'll expire on the spot if #11 is Hakuba's fault.

It takes two cans of coffee, bought at vending machines on the way, for Conan to give up. The damn thief knows everything else, why not this too.

11 is not Hakuba's fault, although now that you mention it he does have a figure (and personality) to be admired... in magazines. Yes I get up to 8. I'd prefer 9 but I can't reach without there being too much tension.

Meitantei! :D So nice to hear from you!

How did you even figure out the magnet key?

Thaaaat would be b/c of a different checkup. Nice manga, btw. Very tasteful. I can't stand those ones where the mangaka clearly was using beach balls and baby bottles to draw women.

I know. Is it really so difficult to find topless pictures? An anatomy book, at least? And the cross-eyed lolling-tongue expression of "bliss" is pretty creepy too, I think. Although, "tasteful"?

... My bad. I'm not sure what the right adjective is. And really, Meitantei, I think your own preferred artists aren't using anatomy books either. This looks a lot like an 11 in a size-you.

I GET THOSE FOR THE SIZE DIFFERENCE.

Reeeeeeeally. :D

As if you hadn't figured that out already. You're not a bad detective when you put your mind to it.

So cruel, my Meitantei. :'(

The garden entrance to the secret passages in Shinichi's house isn't visible from his room. Conan reaches under an oblong river rock, inserts a five-yen coin halfway into a slot carved on the underside of the stone, and lifts an entire section of gravel-topped garden out of the way on silent hinges.

The passages are all cinderblock and carpet, thin carpet tiles right up the walls and across the ceiling. A full-grown adult wouldn't need more than a bit of caution to navigate them in complete silence; Conan can run right through unnoticed.

Just out of curiosity, what are #1-3 for? I know you have to start somewhere, but don't most people use their fingers? ... Are these strap attachments?

I wear them sometimes. When it's a slow day and I'm not expecting to run around or get thrown off a bridge or something.

Seriously?!

No.

Tease! :P

I'm never expecting to get "thrown off a bridge or something", and what if I got, say, hit by a car and taken to the hospital? How would I explain it?

You got me there.

Conan's reached his own bedroom door. Silent breath. Twist the knob, slow and silent. Throw the door open.

His bedroom's empty.

Really, Meitantei. Where did you think I was?

Of course.

-0-0-0

The next Sunday, there's a white, beautifully detailed vibrator banded in blue on his pillow. Kid's given him an 8.5 to try.

I would be extremely creeped out if I didn't know you had no sense of propriety, much less malice.

One out of two, Meitantei. You're slipping.

It doesn't count if your enemy is boredom.

-0-0-0

The 8.5 turns out to be perfect.

-0-0-0

Something about the last heist note has been bugging Conan for a couple of days. When he has some time -- sprawled on the couch while Ran makes dinner, Kamen Yaiba on as background noise and camoflage -- he pulls his copy out of his wallet, smoothes out the creases, and rereads it.

The eagle eats the snake on the 13th sweep.
The heart of the earth prickles at every beat
(Toki toki). My two-faced love sheds all sins:
Twenty-one, thirteen; the serpent eats its own tail.

Yes, yes, Mexican flag, Tenochtitlan founding myth, 13th day of the Sweeping Festival, in which one of the primary deities honored is the Heart of the Earth, the two-faced goddess Tlazolteotl-or-Toci, who eats (purifies) her own filth (vice), blah blah blah...

Conan shakes his head, shoves away the original interpretation, and tries skimming the verse for keywords.

Eats. Heart. Love. Toki toki, that's clearly a sound effect lacking dakuten marks...

Doki doki. Heart. Love.

Tlazolteotl is a sexual goddess.

And Kid saw Conan's personal time before he sent the notice.

Conan's head lands on the couch cushion with a puff that may as well be a thud.

The eagle eats the snake. The whole damn note is nothing but euphemisms and sexual innuendo.

He barely even looks at his phone when he drags it out of his pocket, simply scrolls down to ###-#### (how Kid managed to make his number show up like that, Conan hasn't bothered trying to figure out) and texts: How hard did you have to work to make the damn thing a double entendre?

Minutes pass, enough to make him realize that "two-faced love sheds all sins" means him, and isn't that worrying? Not so much the "sheds all sins" part, which Kid clearly intends to mean "catcher of criminals" and not "perfect paragon of virtue who should not make Ran cry or have one heck of a kink", but the "two-faced" bit...

His phone buzzes.

Meitantei, I am shocked -- shocked! -- at your implications.

A moment later, That is, at the fact that it's taken you nearly three weeks to notice. Not to mention the idea that my little love notes could possibly, conceivably, be difficult to write.

Conan snorts, and takes a gamble. Meaning you didn't actually notice the innuendo yourself until... when? Not before you sent it, your flirting with the Task Force is all strictly platonic.

It'd feel a bit incestuous otherwise, Kid admits.

Interesting. Did you actually notice the whole note is an entendre?

... You have a very twisted mind, Meitantei.

Conan closes the phone and buries his giggles into the pillow.

-0-0-0

He's still soaked and panting on his old bed, with the #4 settled comfortingly inside where he had the 8.5 just minutes ago. He feels so loose and free that he can barely drag the phone onto his wet chest.

Where did you get the 8.5 anyway? The only places I know that have two-colors are all custom jobs and take 4-6 weeks.

He pauses for a moment just to breathe, and squeezes a bit around the 4 just for the pleasure of it, then smirks and adds, They're also anthropomorphic.

He doesn't quite realize he's set the phone on his nipple, and lets out a breathless little gasp when it buzzes. Trade secret, Meitantei. No comment about the 'anthropomorphic' follows, and Conan's smirk widens. He's left Kid speechless. Point to him.

... He could try for two points.

I. to v., here, happy Monday.

... Meitantei, I think you're forgetting who hosts the parties here.

Everyone's a critic.

Kid doesn't respond.

Two points for Conan. What a great day.

-0-0-0

I can't remember the last time I resisted a dare, Meitantei.

Also, your invitation wasn't even in code. Were you asleep when you wrote it?

Btw, if you don't say otherwise, that means I'm taking it as an honest, conscious invitation and I WILL be there after your school Field Day.

Haven't you checked your phone yet?

Dammit, Meitantei, CHECK YOUR PHONE. I can see you!

-0-0-0

Thursday rolls around, and Kid's dramatic figure is blaring from every paper and newscast when Conan gets up.

Give me a Minute, my Panoply carries a black stain
upon its red ribbon wound round my head.
I cannot beat it out with my flail,
I cannot weave it hidden in my feathers.
It burns with all the colors of light;
Its fullness comes from the third finger of my east-raised hand.

Conan keeps in mind the fact that the last notice had been extremely sexual on a subconscious level. Given the last couple of weeks, chances are Kid's still got sex on the mind. One hit of wikipedia later, Conan's found an entry on the Egyptian fertility god Min, whose centers of worship included Panopolis and who was depicted with a flail, a feather crown, a red ribbon on his head, black skin, and a probable epithet of "he whose arm is raised in the east". (And, of course, the telltale anatomy that had prudish Victorian explorers defacing the images or taking photographs of them only from the waist up. But that's not part of the note.)

With that narrowing down the possibilities, it's easy to find the target. There's a black opal called "Flame's Pharaoh", which had been found in a tomb near Min's other center of worship, Qift (Coptos). 'Black' is a bit misleading: the opal is mostly red to the layman's eye, banded with faint lines of blue and black in a ribbon pattern.

It's also nearly the size of a baseball, though flattened instead of spherical, and makes the Egyptian jewelry collar it's set in look oddly modern.

Conan breaks away from the display case and eyes the preparations. Through one of the museum's narrow windows, he can just see the flashing lights of the police cordon holding back the crowd. It's only the first of two possible times Kid could have meant -- fullness could only mean the full moon, which is actually tomorrow morning, but best guesses about the third finger are that he means three hours after moonrise. That is, 7:29 pm Friday, or 8:06 pm Saturday.

"Nineteen hundred hours, fourteen minutes, and twelve seconds," a nasal, dryly amused voice says. Conan jumps and spins to find a tea-blond teen smirking down at him from much too close, clicking an old-fashioned pocketwatch closed. "How apropos. Good evening, Edogawa-kun."

Conan inclines his head. "Hakuba-san."

"Might I inquire as to your precautions for the evening?" Hakuba asks, as if that's not pretty much the most suspicious question he could possibly ask. But the teen tips his head down, gives him a piercing, pointed stare that looks like it should be delivered over a pair of prissy wire-rimmed glasses, and adds, "Not those in regards to the thief's activities. But the... shall we say... type of a more ballistic nature."

"What."

Hakuba sighs. "My apologies. I'm being overly oblique." He leans down, easily within face-grabbing range, and ignores Conan's reflexive pinch with the ease of long practice. (There's no latex or the slight powdery-stickiness of makeup under Conan's grip, and Hakuba's face is nothing like Shinichi's [and therefore Kid's] at all.) "I missed the last heist, but fortunately, certain undesirable elements did not take Kid's bait."

Conan goes very, very still. What bait? He's missed something.

"The eagle eats the snake," Hakuba quotes. "Kid as the noble, untamable eagle; serpents, such monsters as Orochi and Hydra." His gaze bores into Conan's, heavy with implications. "Many-headed, unkillable, predators upon society, slipping free of their crimes and going forth to do so again."

Gin. Vodka. Vermouth.

"I do believe Kid makes a habit of wearing Kevlar," Hakuba points out mildly. One hand lands heavily upon Conan's shoulder. "So I ask again, Edogawa-kun. What are your precautions for the evening? In case persons unknown should take his bait this time?"

Conan can only gape.

"Consider the matter, Edogawa-kun," Hakuba says, straightening. Then he turns and vanishes past the nearest cluster of guards.

-0-0-0

When were you going to tell me I missed the real second meaning of that damn note?

It takes several minutes for the text to return. Someone's been telling tales out of school, I see.

You're BAITING HOMICIDAL MANIACS and all I get is a sulky "someone's been telling tales"?

Pot, kettle. Hm, I don't think you've chatted with your alphabet friends recently... #11, then. He must've had a little coffeeklatsch with his Interpol buddies over hols. I'll have to dye all his argyle puce.

Conan chokes before he can start thumbing a reply into his phone. #11, the white stallion toy, Hakuba. Don't ever refer to him like that again, I want to be able to use 11 again someday. He flails for something else to think about -- this notice, yes, this one wasn't baiting anybody but the usual Nakamori-Task Force-museum-public-Conan conglomerate. Right? Right. Why wasn't it--

Third finger. Rises.

You flipped the bird at them for not showing up to shoot at you last time?!

You make it sound so vulgar.

No. No I do not make it sound vulgar. I make it sound completely, utterly, suicidally insane.

Hi, Kaitou Kid, have you met me?

Conan throws the phone across the room.

-0-0-0

He steadfastly ignores the texts that come in for the next two weeks.

He also uses the 8.5 whenever he gets the chance, hard and rough and angry. Kid - is - stupid! Stupid - stupid - stupid - STUPID - STUPID!

("Conan-kun, are you okay?" Ayumi asks one Monday morning, after he winces upon sitting down.

"Eh? Oh. Yeah. I think I pulled something playing soccer," Conan replies. Maybe both evenings of the weekend were a bit much to exercise his frustrations.

He's more careful about his pacing after that.)

-0-0-0

Beaivi's light does not touch me,
Her rays cross no quarter of my mind;
Would that they soothed my madness.

Conan can't find any dare or taunt to the mysterious homidical contingent in Kid's note. He can see the obvious date and time -- the new moon, 9:51 pm on Sunday the 3rd -- and any idiot can spot Kid's admission of insanity.

("I think we all knew that!" the news anchors laugh on the air.)

Wikipedia calls Beaivi the Sami sun goddess, of spring and fertility and sanity, and has a picture of her symbol, which strongly resembles a cross or plus-sign. The topaz they find is a deep red gem, cut in a pyramidal shape with a little nip off the top. The cut is nearly an exact match to the symbol.

Topaz is supposed to calm excess anger.

Conan skips the heist anyway.

-0-0-0

You didn't come. :'(

My doctor hasn't finished making my Kevlar vest. I think it's on purpose.

... What.

Also I'm still annoyed with you. Obviously.

Go back to this bit about Kevlar and your doctor.

No. Deduce for yourself.

Ugh.

So I hear you disguised yourself as the curator. How did that work? You were wearing that vest I've heard about, weren't you?

Tactical corset, actually. Doesn't quite provide the same coverage, but needs must. A woman just can't have bulky shoulders~

Conan gets blindsided by the vague image of a lean male figure in a strict, no-frills, matte-black corset. It couldn't lace up like a regular one, not if it's supposed to be all function and no fuss... snap clips? And it would have to cut straight across the upper chest, armpit to armpit, no sweetheart neckline, to protect Kid's heart.

Maybe fingerless black gloves to match, the kind that pull all the way up to mid-bicep. Matching black boots. Definitely. Tall ones. And between...

Between...

I am trying to be mad at you. Bastard.

Apology accepted then? :D

I'll think about it.

-0-0-0

He thinks about it, but not nearly as much as he'd like. November's usually a slow month, people's tempers cooling off with the temperature, a criminal lull before December brings with it the snapping tensions of midterms, holidays, and the corporate crush, but not this year.

Junior high girls have one of the highest rates of suicide in Japan, which already has the highest rate of suicide in the world as it is.

Conan's missed the last train (he's stayed too late at his favorite coffee shop again) and is waiting at an all-night internet cafe for Agasa to pick him up, when he hears a strange rattling thump from a private cubicle in the back. The noise is low to the ground, not sharp, more like--

Heels.

He bursts from his chair, nearly rams into the door flinging it open. There's a schoolgirl writhing in the pale light of a computer, dangling centimeters off the ground.

"Call 119!" Conan yells into the nearly-empty cafe. He doesn't have a blade, he needs a fucking blade--

He hurls the monitor to the ground and jumps on it. The screen shatters into jagged shards of poison-laced plastic, but luckily so does the non-poisonous frame. Conan yanks free the cleanest piece, shoves the computer table over, and saws at the cheap cotton noose.

(The tension of her weight helps, thank god it's not a nice school uniform scarf or a silk one.)

She drops in a little heap onto the floor, and Conan jumps down to help tear off the scarf. The girl's face is puffy and going blue fast. She scrabbles at Conan's shoulders, all nails and white-ringed teary eyes, chest heaving ineffectively -- the last loop finally comes off -- her throat's crushed.

Conan has to kick her in the gut to tear free. No time no time she's got a drink on the table. He grabs the straw, spills ice and soda everywhere yanking it free, and drops to his knees. Pinning her to the ground, legs clamped on either side of her head, he eyes the soft part of her throat just below the ligature mark-- there. He jabs the sharp plastic shard in and follows it with the straw.

The girl sucks in a bubbly, whistling breath. Conan wraps the damp napkin from her drink cup around the base of the straw, trying to soak up hot blood and improve the seal for her to breathe.

Her mouth moves.

"Hey, don't try to speak," Conan says quietly. "It won't work. You'll be okay, the ambulance will be here soon."

Her tears are running in clear pulsing streams sideways from each eye, soaking into his trousers. Muscles shift, "Hey, whoa, don't move--" and one rainbow-nailed hand lands on his knee.

He said it was a game, she traces out in slow, shaking kana.

"A game?" Conan echoes. No. Please no, she can't be saying--

Get high free. No drugs to catch. No one notices scarves in winter.

"Who said?"

Online. Was watching.

Conan glances at the computer tower, at the faint wisps of smoke smelling like burnt sugar seeping from between the seams. Dammit. Forensics is going to have their work cut out for them. "Just you?" he asks.

No.

Goddammit.

-0-0-0

Conan's not a computer genius by any stretch of the imagination. He can't help with the investigation. Somewhere out there, possibly not even in Japan, some sicko is getting his rocks off -- possibly literally -- tricking stressed, naive, lonely young girls into dying of auto-asphyxiation.

At least he's saved a life for once. It might not last, she's on heavy antibiotics and hovering on the verge of sepsis, but she's alive.

Takagi told him the police have been sending officers into the junior highs and putting up posters at cram schools. The news has been airing PSAs every other day.

But.

Another young girl died tonight.

Some days, I really hate the world, he sends into the ether.

Some days, so do I, Kid responds.

-0-0-0

Conan yawns as he opens up his shoe locker, toeing off his outdoor shoes for his school shoes. He'd spent half the night curled around his phone, hoping -- wondering if -- Kid would elaborate. It felt almost like companionship, the veil of Kid's mockery nudged aside for just that one moment. (They spent most of their time with nothing but lines of text between them anyway, whether heist note or phone. It would've felt so strange to have Kid curled in the same space, breathing the same air...)

It's a good thing that Conan's Shinichi-phone looked just like his Conan-phone, otherwise Ran would've noticed when she caught him that morning fast asleep with it in his bed. He'd gotten an earful for not putting it away to get charged anyway.

When he reaches the classroom, the Shounen Tantei are there already, Ai setting down her satchel while the other two hover near Mitsuhiko.

Mitsuhiko looks like he hasn't had a wink of sleep either, all white and shocky.

Conan goes cold. Mitsuhiko's sister. She's exactly the right age to be targeted by the serial killer. "Mitsuhiko--?" he asks.

Mitsuhiko hiccups. "Neechan..."

No. Please no. Not Mitsuhiko--

"She said-- that case, the girls all hanging themselves--" Mitsuhiko gulps in another breath, and wails, "She said if I didn't shut up about it that she'd try it!"

"WHAT?" Conan yelps, as do Ayumi and Genta.

"I don't know! I was just, it's so important, I was just making sure she knew not to do it!"

A dire shadow looms up at Conan's side. Ai's face has gone stony and dark. Conan gulps.

"Mitsuhiko," she says flatly. Mitsuhiko jerks like he's been slapped out of hysterics. Ai continues, "Your sister is not going to do anything so stupid and hurtful."

Mitsuhiko scrubs at his eyes, tries to look brave instead of like Ai's words are the last life preserver on a sinking ship. "But-- how do you know?"

"Because we are going to go over to your house tonight, and I will make her," Ai replies.

When they leave Mitsuhiko's (and a very pale and apologetic twelve-year-old girl), Ai turns those stony eyes on Conan.

Conan doesn't need words to understand the look. He pulls out his Conan-phone and checks the voicemail.

One message, left during their afternoon gym class. "We think we've got the guy," Takagi says without preamble, furtive and hushed. "We're staking out his apartment in Hinode n-- ah, Satou-kun, hi. Is that coffee? Thanks-- no, just leaving a message, ahaha--" and the message ends.

Conan grins fiercely at Ai, and something deep in her eyes goes feline and satisfied.

"I'll see you tomorrow, then, Kudou-kun," she says when they reach Agasa's.

"Tomorrow," Conan replies, before heading next door.

He's here already. He might as well... not that it'd take that long to get back to the Mouri's, where his Shinichi-phone is confiscated and charging, but since he's here he might as well check his secret compartments. Kid's found them, after all, and might've left something. Like a way to program his number into the Conan-phone, since Conan can't make it show anything but ###-#### on the Shinichi-phone.

(Having two phones is such a headache sometimes.)

It's dim inside the house. He keeps the curtains on the ground floor closed, so people can't sneak up and look inside, so the only light is from late afternoon sunlight streaming through gaps in the curtains upstairs.

He flips on a small lamp near the door -- that's all that's needed, really, once his eyes adjust -- toes off his sneakers, and heads upstairs. His room could use a bit of airing out, the quality of musty air in here is ever-so-slightly different from the rest of the house, enough so that someone paying attention might realize it's occasionally occupied... Plucking a small, round magnet off the metal memo board over the desk, Conan bends and sets it against a wood knot under the lowest shelf of his bookcase.

This is perhaps the most cunning of all of Agasa's inventions. The bookcase looks like nothing more than the sort of modestly-priced, durable plywood shelving you'd put into a rambunctious child's room, with a bracket at the top keeping it from toppling over if the kid tries to climb it. In truth, though, the bracket is there so that people searching the room -- paparazzi, light-fingered fans, burglars, and the unexpected Syndicate -- won't move the shelf unit and discover the compartments hollowed out of the wall behind it.

The unit doesn't actually have a back. The shelves themselves are thin steel covered with wood-patterned laminate; each one holds an L-shaped piece of plywood covered with matching laminate, tiny electromagnets keeping them firmly in place unless the circuit's disrupted. Which is what the little magnet key just did. Conan can -- well, Shinichi could -- lift out any shelf in its entirety without disturbing the contents, or the dust patterns if he hasn't cleaned in a while, and set it aside to reach the recesses in the wall.

(This is where he keeps his adult toys and reading materials, of course. But it's also where he keeps a box of sentimental mementos, his CLAMP manga -- because the genius mystery otaku Kudo Shinichi cannot possibly appreciate Wish or Card Captor Sakura, the public would Make Something Of It -- and his fake IDs and makeup. His mother's wigs and clothes fit fine for going out in disguise, but they have completely different complexions so he can't use her cosmetics. Even if it was sanitary to.)

The subliminal hum of electricity fades, and Conan reaches for the bottom shelf.

A brick wall hits him in the back.

His left hand cracks sickeningly against the floor -- it hurts it hurts he nearly retches from the fiery pain -- he's pinned under something hot and heavy and choking him--

"You stole my kill you little bastard!"

A man. That man, the cyber strangler, the webcam was still on, he must've seen Conan burst in to rescue the girl, Conan is going to die--

Conan twists, thrashes -- it won't work, he can see the man's got his watch hand pinned under a knee, though most of his weight's on Conan's back; it's an awkward angle to strangle someone from but it only needs to work long enough for Conan to pass out...

It figures he's still deducing even while he's dying.

Dark spots start to swim before his eyes.

Ran... Kid... Hattori... I'm sorry....

Pssh.

Dead weight slumps onto Conan's head. A moment later, it vanishes, and Conan sucks in air -- cool, fresh, blessed air -- as the clinging fingers slide free.

Someone presses his shoulder to the floor. "Don't move," Kid says, icy and terrified, before cool fingertips pat professionally at Conan's nape and all down his spine. "Anything broken? Does breathing hurt?"

"Love breathing," Conan rasps. He loves air so much. He's going to live. He's-- he's-- "Handcuffs."

"He'll be out for a good half hour," Kid assures him, and Conan knows that -- it has to be the same damn gas Kid uses on heists -- but he needs the sick fuck captured and ready for arrest now.

"No chances," Conan hisses.

Kid sighs. "Middle drawer, behind the Night Baron fanfic printouts?" It's not actually a question. "And then I'll call 119 and check your hand. Don't move," he adds, as he reaches for the desk. "I'm not sure about your spine."

Conan hadn't been planning to budge an inch. His hand is sending waves of fire up through his bones and straight into his stomach. He doesn't want to grind the bones together and pass out.

Cuffs snick closed and a phone clicks open. Faint beeping, then Shinichi's voice, tight with fury, snaps, "Megure-keibu. Send officers to my house immediately. And an ambulance."

Dark shoes stalk into Conan's line of vision. Conan blinks, as Kid continues with his Shinichi 'I'm trying to be properly polite but I have never been so personally furious and scared in my life' act. Dark shoes, dark socks, dark slacks. Of course Kid wouldn't waltz around in full regalia but it's so weird to see him without it.

(Conan knows he's trying to distract himself, now that the danger's handled and backup's there.)

(It's still weird.)

"You doing okay?" Kid asks, crouching down into Conan's sight and wiggling his cell phone towards Conan. Very faintly, a siren is wailing out of it.

"Fine," Conan says, not as loudly as he'd like. "Keibu...?" Wild guess. It could be one of Megure's people on the line by now, but Megure isn't really the type to pass Shinichi's calls off to a subordinate and it's not like he drives the police cars. "He said I stole his kill."

Behind the phone, Kid's combing gel into his hair. A shift of expression, and it's a very panicky, angry, worried Shinichi crouched on his heels before Conan. He glances up, then lifts the phone away. "I can hear the sirens now, keibu." He toes out of his shoes and picks them up. "I'll go downstairs to let you guys in. The door auto-locks... hm." A pause. "I'm going to have to let you go. Don't want to leave Conan-kun alone with this guy-- yes he's out and cuffed, and I used his own tie to get his ankles just in case, but... my little cousin, you know? Bye, keibu."

The phone clicks shut.

Kid's knees hit the floor, one hand buried in Conan's hair and his breath ruffling the locks caught between his fingers. "God, Meitantei..."

Conan wishes, so much, that he dared to move. He reaches out with his unbroken hand, clutches at Kid's knee. "Thanks for the save," he mutters into the floorboards. "Don't think I've been so glad for your stalker tendencies since the Kichiemon mansion." Where Kid had saved Genta's life.

Kid exhales shakily. "I'll be right back." Then, in a puff of pale smoke, both he and the cyber strangler vanish.

"Showoff."

-0-0-0

Conan is dazed and hot-eyed with pain when he's wheeled out of X-ray... but he's not dazed enough to not recognize the girl hovering next to Kid-as-Shinichi.

"Conan-kun!" Ran all but pounces. She looks almost as sickly as Conan feels, turning huge eyes up to the doctor.

The doctor gives her a reassuring look, glancing quickly over her shoulder to catch Kid's nod of permission. "It's mostly just bruising, miss. We're on our way to splint his hand now, and he'll be released by morning." He turns to Kid. "It's very lucky you came home when you did, though."

"I know."

The doctor takes them to a small room, where bandages and plaster are already waiting to be used. As is a small syringe of anesthestic.

Conan tries to distract himself from the creeping horror of not feeling his hand, and the sight of his little bones being manipulated back into place -- he's trying not to watch, but he can't stop himself from glancing over every couple of seconds. (Not my doctor not Agasa not Ai--) It's only the fact that Kid and Ran are there, watching, that lets him ignore the doctor that much at all, since the anesthetic means that he could stick Conan with damn near anything and Conan wouldn't feel it happen.

Distraction. Right. He needs one.

... What the heck did Kid tell Ran, that she hasn't hauled him over to the corner to have a tearful argument-reunion?

Conan's mind goes utterly blank. He can't even begin to imagine how Kid's explained this one. 'Not now Ran' would have gone over like a ton of bricks, even with 'my cousin needs me'. Kid doesn't look like he's been decked, though...

"What color, son?" the doctor asks.

Conan blinks. The cast is mostly done. All that's left is the dyed top layer kids usually get. "Blue," he says, thinking of his favorite coat.

As the doctor turns away to mix in the color, Kid leans over. "Doing great, Conan," he says for the doctor's benefit, ruffling Conan's hair. Then, more quietly, "I told her I'm not who she wants right now."

Not who she...?

That he's not Shinichi. Therefore, that he's someone who had to disguise as Shinichi. Someone who cannot afford to be seen by the police. Someone who rescued Conan and means him no harm, which would be enough to keep Ran quiet out of sheer gratitude.

He might have even admitted to being Kid.

"Thanks," Conan murmurs.

The wrapping turns out almost exactly the shade of Kid's hatband.

-0-0-0

A week passes, then two. Conan has no time to go home or text Kid; December's crime spree is in full swing, and Ran's watching him more closely than usual. Which is fairly normal for the few weeks after a major injury.

He wakes on the morning of the sixteenth to his alarm and Kogoro's snoring, yawns -- ow, aching hand -- and then blinks at the white marks right on top of the cast. They'd all been dark when he went to bed, little wobbly signatures and drawings from all his classmates done in magic markers that went purple or green or black against the blue dye.

The lustre of Paris gleams softly
like the spring moon within a cup of tea.
Even the dragon sips it in peace,
though not without offending the cat.

- Kaitou Kid ^_O

"He broke into our house?!" Ran yelps when he tells that to the Task Force.

"Not to be mean," Conan answers absently. It's a very good point, why would Kid bother breaking into the Mouri's instead of sending the usual letter? It's not as if the Mouri's place is any sort of challenge. Although sneaking around Conan might be... hah. Still not a challenge, not with Conan unarmed and asleep. Which begs the question of why Kid had to write the note on Conan's cast? "Cats and dragons," Conan mutters to himself. "Year of dragon was last year... month of dragon's in April... hour of dragon's during the day... so it's not a zodiacal dragon. Teacups, moon... it's December, why a spring moon?"

So time isn't the key. Conan blinks, shakes his head, and looks at the note again. Paris. Why Paris? Cats, Paris, but that Chat Noir had retired... why is Paris catching his eye? Paris, paris, written on Conan's cast...

Casts are made of plaster of paris.

Gypsum.

"Alabaster."

"What's that, Conan-kun?"

Conan jerks back into reality. "Ah. Ahahaha." Cover, cover--! "I was thinking of something I saw on tv," he says as innocently as he can. "They said that casts are made of the same stuff as alabaster, and isn't it funny, and then they showed a bunch of pretty sculptures."

A beat. Then three officers pounce their laptops, typing so quickly it sounds like a flock of woodpeckers have flown into the room.

"Nakamori-keibu! Alabaster is thought to be named after the Egyptian cat goddess Bast!"

"Nakamori-keibu! There's an exhibit of alabaster votive statues on loan from Notre-Dame-des-Victoires of Paris!"

"Nakamori-keibu! There's a Saint Paris of Teano who is said to have slain a dragon at a spring near Teano!"

"Nakamori-keibu! The exhibit does include an image of Saint Paris of Teano!"

"Nakamori-keibu! The full moon is at 6:29 pm tomorrow night!"

Conan grins. Time to play.

-0-0-0

I did not appreciate being duct-taped to the ceiling.

Also you really should've known Ran would try to knock you into orbit.

Now are you going to come give me a hand or just keep peeping?

Maybe next week, Meitantei. Your better half kicks like a mule. Ow.

-0-0-0

I hate this time of year, Conan texts a few days later.

Crime sprees?

Ran, actually, Conan explains. Christmas Eve and Valentine's, she keeps scheming to get her parents back together and it's just...

Oooooh. Blatant, tactless, and embarrassing for all concerned?

However did you guess.

I'm a bit of a connoisseur that way. Would you care to skip the inevitable disastrous date night attempt on the 24th? I could show you where I got the 8.5.

The trade secrets of the #1 most unpredictable thief himself. How could I resist.

Tuesday afternoon at your place, then.

-0-0-0

It's barely noon when Conan manages to escape Ran's doki-doki-romansu plotting. (He understands how much her parents' separation hurts her, but her parents are old enough to be idiots at each other without help. It's not her fault or responsibility, and it hurts watching her beat herself up over it.)

He kicks his shoes off at the door of his old house, and pauses. It's Not Done, no more than wheeling a muddy bike or driving a car through a house would be, but...

It's a stupid thought. If he were to be attacked, again, he wouldn't have the chance to put the shoes back on anyway. He leaves them where they belong, in the genkan.

His watch, of course, stays firmly buckled over his cast. Conan stops by the kitchen for a plastic bag, then heads upstairs to the bathroom. Anticipation starts to tighten low in his stomach; if he's right...

The tiles in the bathroom are damp.

He's right.

Conan grins, and strips quickly, folding his clothes on the shelf over the towels. He's right, he's right, and Kid's here already. The water's even still warm when he turns the faucet on, so Kid can't have finished his own shower more than five or ten minutes ago.

Conan hurries through his own shower, though he makes a point of being thorough in one particular spot. He's not nearly so careful about toweling off, and he doesn't bother to dress again. He pads out of the bathroom with his hair still dripping cool runnels down his neck and into thick terrycloth.

Which room will Kid be waiting in?

His parents' room is right out. No. Absolutely not.

His room... familiar territory, possibly too much 'his' for Kid's comfort... then again, Kid makes a habit of trespassing...

Conan glances perfunctorily into the guest room, and heads to his own.

It looks unoccupied, but there are signs of Kid readily apparent. The curtains are drawn, for one thing, which they weren't the last time Conan was here. (That's why Kid was able to see him being attacked.) Also, the desk lamp's on, warmer and brighter than the pale winter sunlight shining in thin beams around the edges of the heavy curtains, and there's a very familiar box on the bed. Its clear plastic only slightly blurs the toys inside, one brightly-colored rod per compartment-- except for the very smallest, jumbled together in the rightmost compartment, and the #11, which is too long to fit and has its own box.

Behind Conan, the door clicks shut.

Conan cranes his head around, blinking at the figure lurking in the shadows behind the door. Kid's wearing the dark clothes again, and looks oddly unlike himself, vulnerable and wary. Not like he's cornered, but like he can be, like he's capable of being trapped. The infamous phantom magician in the moonlight never looks like capture is a possibility.

"You look..." Kid thinks, tries on a couple of ever-so-slightly different smiles, then lets them go. "... critical."

Conan snorts. "'Criticize' still isn't a synonym for 'deduce'."

Kid grins more honestly at that, tosses a black baseball cap onto the desk, and plops himself into Conan's desk chair.

"So, Meitantei." Conan edges up between Kid's splayed knees, one hand clutching at the towel knotted around his chest. Terrycloth catches against dark wool, spreads just the slightest bit across Conan's hips; it's not enough to reveal anything, but it's harsh and teasingly light on Conan's groin. "Got a couple questions for you," Kid says, tracing one gloved finger across Conan's nose. It's oddly like an Eskimo kiss. "What have you deduced about the 8.5?"

He hasn't really been thinking much about it. Consciously, anyway. "Well," Conan begins, "given turnaround time, shipping, color and pattern--" The 8.5 has only about a finger's width of blue banded at the base, rather than taking up half the length or being gradiated into the white. "-- huh. You made it yourself." And Kid wouldn't have used someone else for a model.

Conan feels his face go hot.

Kid waggles his eyebrows. "Wanna try the original model?"

"Yes."

Kid swallows the last of the word in his mouth, tasting a bit of chocolate and mint and cool water. Long fingers thread through the back of Conan's hair, holding him close, and the towel falls in a damp heap around Conan's ankles. Kid's other arm snakes around Conan's back, hauling him up against the curve of Kid's body.

He's so much bigger and stronger than Conan, looming over and enfolding Conan's small body so it seems like the world is almost all Kid. There's nothing else, no empty mansion, no cases, no eyes demanding justice or retribution or perfection, nothing to prove... Just him, and someone who wants him (not the detective not the soccer star not the prodigy).

And the bed. The backs of Conan's knees hit the mattress, and he sprawls on the soft covers, suddenly cold and untouched. Kid hovers over him in the soft light.

Kid's hair is starting to spike up in little curls as it dries.

His eyes glitter over the dark jut of one gloved hand, teeth flashing white against the fabric. Conan can't look away as the thief pulls slowly at the glove's index finger, stretching it long and thin, cloth bunching in thick wrinkles on the other fingers and thumb before they accordion limply free. That glove lands in a velvety puddle on Conan's chest.

"What to do first," Kid hums, following the glove with his fingertip.

Conan sucks in a thin hiss of air, the finger tracing from collar to sternum and leaving goosebumps in its wake. "Naked would be nice," he manages.

"Oh?" Kid trails the very tip of his nail in a shivery little circle right over Conan's heart. "Naked, hm." He rests his head on one hand, stretching out next to Conan, and toys with the zipper pull at his collar with the other. (It's matte black, with a stylish ring dangling from it, and part of Conan wants to bite it and yank it down. Most of him wants to relax into Kid's game, though. He ends up staring at those long, skilled fingers twisting the ring around and around...) "But we have all afternoon."

Conan stares. No way is Kid going to be able to hold off that many hours. Unless...

"If you aren't interested," he snaps, shoving up off the bed. Of course Kid wouldn't be. Not really. Conan looks... looks...

"Hey, whoa--" Conan lands back on the bed with a thump, Kid straddling his stomach. "Not what I meant, Meitantei." Kid's spine has to be mostly cat, the way he's managing to press their foreheads together and his cock against Conan's stomach and oh the bastard somehow got his pants off while Conan was watching the shirt zipper.

That's. Wow.

It's somehow, subtly, so much different when it's warm and alive and attached to a powerful, rangy body.

"Okay." Conan swallows and relaxes into the mattress once more. "That's. Definitely interested. I'm convinced." Kid's simply going to need to take his time.

"You're right, though, that it's going to be... difficult... to sustain it," Kid says, as if he could read Conan's thoughts writ large on his face. He probably can, as skilled as Kid is at reading audiences. "It won't be any good for you if I can't outlast my patience."

He's probably overestimating how long it'll take to coax Conan open, but he has a point. He probably also has a plan. Conan raises an eyebrow and waits.

Kid's smile flashes. "That's my Tantei," he murmurs, uncurling and shifting forward on his knees. It brings the head of his cock right up to Conan's lips.

Conan's heart skips a beat. He doesn't have any experience at this end! He swallows to wet his mouth, and turns a sly look at Kid up through his lashes. "Not worried about DNA evidence?" he asks, soft flesh bumping against Conan's lower lip.

Kid's smirk widens, and he circles long fingers around his shaft. "One, Meitantei," he says, tapping Conan's mouth with the head of his cock, "you want this too much to take any of it to the police." Conan exhales sharply through his nose, making Kid's breath catch. "Two, you know as well as I do that DNA means nothing without a suspect to match it to. And three," the very tip eases in, thick and hot and faintly salty, "they might just already have it."

Already... already have...? Conan can't think, he's about to screw up in front of Kid-- He flicks his tongue against the slit, and Kid makes a soft sound, quickly stifled.

"Maybe," Kid teases, "maybe I missed swapping out one little sample. Or maybe I didn't." The head fills Conan's mouth, and Conan licks frantically. "Though I'm pretty sure I'm not a mongoose. Do you think I'm a mongoose, Meitantei?"

Eats the snake. "Nnguaneegu," Conan mouths around the thick cock, making Kid shudder and pull free. Conan licks at the slit, smirks a little, and repeats, "Think you're an eagle. Obviously."

"Noble and majestic." Kid preens, inhaling deeply enough that his half-open zipper slips a scarce centimeter further down his chest.

"Prone to flying into cliffs," Conan corrects, hand splaying over Kid's ass. One small finger slides in. "From paying too much attention to something else."

"Didn't think you wanted this," Kid gasps, squeezing suggestively -- deliberately, Conan's finger is too slim to be anything other than easy to accomodate.

"I don't." It would be pleasant, but no. "I'm just better with my fingers than my mouth. And I can't reach anything else." He presses his finger in as far as it'll go, explores the hot, soft inner walls, watches Kid's curious expression. His finger's not long enough. "Hand me a toy," Conan murmurs. "The #3."

Kid raises an eyebrow at Conan, but slides his fingers free of his shaft and reaches for the compartmented box. His cock brushes over Conan's face, warm and the tinest bit damp, as he tears open a condom and fits it down over the #3.

#3 is long, slim, and virulently pink where the base peeks out from the pre-lubed condom. Conan settles it a little bit awkwardly against Kid's anus, wiggles it gently as he presses, and it slides right in with only the slightest breathy grunt.

Kid rocks, more curious than pleasured, then Conan angles the #3 down and Kid gasps loudly.

Gotcha.

Conan works that angle ruthlessly, sending Kid gasping and shuddering, curled down over Conan with his head resting on the mattress and one hand working his shaft. Kid whimpers when Conan catches the head of Kid's cock with the flat of his tongue, lifts the warm weight into his mouth and sucks.

(He's starting to understand why people enjoy giving this. Kid's shamelessly falling apart on his fingers and tongue, and it's almost enough to make Conan want to follow the #3 inside him.)

(Maybe someday, when he's big enough.)

Kid shudders and keens, and suddenly bitter-salty fluid floods Conan's mouth. He swallows more out of surprise than anything else. It's not entirely unpleasant, but Conan gulps and swallows the taste out of his mouth, waiting in the musky dimness between Kid's thighs while Kid catches his breath.

"Meitantei..." Kid eventually breathes. "Meitantei." He rests his weight on his arms above Conan's head, legs straightening to either side of Conan's hips. Then he slides back slowly, dragging his wet-tipped cock down Conan's chest and stomach and groin, and captures Conan's gasp in his mouth again. "So good, my Meitantei..."

Conan relaxes into the kiss as Kid's weight presses him comfortingly into the mattress, Kid's knees pushing his legs apart. The edge is off. Kid will be ready to go again by the time Conan's caught up.

Deft, slick fingers prod at his entrance.

Kid is clearly an idiot. "Forget your voyeuring?" Conan asks. He presses down and Kid's finger slides right in. "I'm easy."

"I wouldn't say that, Meitantei," Kid replies, but he slips in a second without any prompting. It feels good, muscles warming around Kid's fingers, without any of the awkward twisting Conan needs to reach when he's alone. The only point of discomfort is the strip of sharp-cornered condom packets Kid's got pressed between them.

One scratches over his nipple and okay they're clearly not so bad.

Kid's fingers slide free, making Conan moan in protest and cling to Kid's shoulders. He breathes in the scent of his shampoo on Kid's almost-dry hair as Kid moves over him, plastic clicking and crinkling as Kid digs through the box at their side. The #4 is a flash of lurid red in the corner of Conan's vision, a bit slender but cast in slightly exaggerated detail. It reaches in far deeper than Kid's fingers --

"Aah!"

-- and the ridge rubs right over his prostate as Kid settles firm fake balls against the soft flesh behind Conan's groin.

"I wonder how loud you'll get," Kid murmurs against Conan's cheek. "Text and line-of-sight is a bit..." he presses the #4, fake balls and all, in a circular motion that makes sparks fly behind Conan's eyes, "... limiting."

"Like --" Conan grunts at a particularly good twist, "-- you haven't -- nnh! -- bugged the place --"

"Actually, I haven't." Kid nips playfully at Conan's ear. "Terrible oversight. What was I thinking."

Conan bites back a laugh. "Who are you and what have you done to my rival."

"I am the best thief in the world, I've stolen all the blood from the amazing Kaitou Kid's brain." Kid taps the #4 nice and hard. "Repeatedly."

This time Conan does laugh, gasping and clenching joltingly around the #4.

Kid reaches for the #5.

It doesn't take long before Conan is moaning and whimpering on the #7. He's had to bite his lip several times to keep from begging, though that's only gotten Kid to switch between fingering and kissing Conan's mouth. ("No marks, Meitantei," he'd chided considerately when he thumbed Conan's lip free.)

Kid's working the #7 in and out, gliding it easily its full length each way. His hand is shaking on Conan's lip, heist grin flickering more and more raggedly in time with his straining fingers, though his control of the #7 remains perfect. "I can hold off through another one," he breathes, voice as overcontrolled as the #7's slow glide. "If you need me to."

Conan swallows, understanding seeping in slowly. Oh. Oh. Words. He needs... "Skip it."

Kid goes very, very still.

When he does move, it's slow and deliberate, almost delicate as he pushes condoms and toys aside, as he lifts Conan's legs over one arm and around his hip. The #7 shifts pressure off Conan's sweet spot, then the toy slides free and vanishes like one of Kid's jewels.

Though it's really more the reverse, taking away the fake and replacing it with something real... Something, Conan realizes as it breaches him, that's vital and alive and huge.

His breath hitches as Kid sinks slowly, gently, inexorably deeper. It's too much, it's almost too much, it's perfect and it aches. All the cliches are true. Kid's warmer than anything Conan's ever tried; Conan's so sensitive he can feel Kid's heartbeat.

He can feel. Kid's. Heartbeat.

His eyes go wet.

"Sorry, sorry, did I hurt you?"

"No--" There are no words, he's been opened up and surrounded and... and... "Too close," he gasps, blinking the blurriness away. Above him, Kid's eyes are dark with raw emotion.

Kid's mask is gone.

Conan's masks are gone.

He squeezes his eyes shut, ignoring the sudden cold, wet trail streaking down each temple, and locks his arms around Kid's shoulders. "Move."

Kid manages a rough chuckle. "As you wish, Meitantei." Conan has a snarky comment right on the tip of his tongue -- because that line sounds familiar and also calling him 'Meitantei' now when Kid's hip-deep inside Conan is just plain ridiculous -- but then Kid snaps his hips and the snark comes out as a strangled gasp.

Another couple of careful, testingly sharp thrusts, and Kid settles into a deep, demanding pace that Conan moves with as best he can.

"Shh," Kid breathes, hot and damp against Conan's temple. "Shh. Relax. I've got you."

And he does. Conan can barely move, knees hooked over Kid's arms and sides cradled between Kid's legs. All Conan can do is cling tight and let it happen.

Kid's got him.

-0-0-0

 

"So the way I see it, there are three thieves in this bed."

Conan blinks open bleary eyes. He's warm and damp everywhere, the scent of sex and sweat thick and heavy in his nose, and he aches wonderfully. Especially between his legs, and even in his groin where he feels like something tried to wring out every drop of semen. Which is pretty much what happened. He'd thought dry orgasms were a myth, but apparently it actually is possible to run out of come and still orgasm.

"What?" he rasps. How is Kid even still awake?

"Well," Kid begins, and now that Conan's more than half-conscious he can hear the tired purr poorly hidden in Kid's voice, "there's the thief of gems... the thief of blood," Kid's hand flexes low on Conan's stomach, making it unmistakeable what body part he means by that, "and the thief of... hm."

"If you say virginity I'm going to hurt you."

"... I was trying to decide if 'control' or 'composure' was the right term."

Conan snorts. "If you thought either of those were going to stick around in bed, you've been doing it wrong."

He can practically hear Kid's overexaggerated pout. "Aw, Meitantei, I thought I did it all right."

"'Been doing', not 'did this time'," Conan corrects. "And yes that means I am very fond of my original-model 8.5 and would like to go again with it someday, but not today because there's nothing left in either of us." He weakly latches onto Kid's wrist and hauls Kid's muscular arm over himself like the top of a blanket. "Now shut up and afterglow."

Silence.

"Christmas miracle," Conan mutters, before going to sleep.