Call the Clock
Massive Warning: this fic is extremely disturbing. I'm not kidding. I set out with my only goal as "write something creepy". I believe I have achieved that goal. If you don't like to see the results of characters losing it all-you probably shouldn't read this one.
If I owned DC or MK, I would be rich, famous, good at drawing, and be able to speak Japanese. I am none of these things. *sighs*
Many, many thanks to NinthFeather for being the most awesome beta reader on the planet! (And for challenging me to write something intentionally creepy in the first place.) This would not exist without her help.
As for the title: According to Wikipedia, it's "A method of discouraging [Poker] players from taking an excessively long time to act." For example, by pushing them over the brink of sanity.
It began with his father, all those years ago, with flames eating up a sold-out theatre to a chorus of screams as the patrons fled.
Jii had followed his master to the grave ten years later, leaving Kaito alone to finish the job his father had been unable to complete.
Then Tantei-kun and Tantei-han fell, together, chasing crows that they would never catch. Regrettable, but inevitable, according to the tabloids. Such things happened, when one chased dangerous criminals.
And with them went Kaito's hope of justice ever being served.
Nakamori-keibu was the next to fall, curses on his lips and a bullet in his lung. Kaito had been unable to go to him, pinned down under sniper fire—but he had heard him, was there when he took his last breath.
And still, he could not cry. He threw himself into his task more than ever instead, barely eating, hardly sleeping. Eight heists in six nights; a new record. A record that had killed Tantei-san. The detective had taken just one step too many, followed too close to KID's heels during the chase—tackled him to the floor when he saw the sniper, and took the shot meant for the phantom thief.
Kaito had dragged him out of the line of fire, put pressure on the wound, tied it off, done all he could—and still, it was not enough. Gloves and suit, formerly pristine white, were streaked with red when he stepped away, Poker Face barely holding on as he abandoned Tantei-san's body to the crows.
It was only a husk, after all. The detective's soul had long fled.
He didn't go home that night, though he could never quite remember the reason. Grief, perhaps, or the anger that smoldered in his heart, were too much for him to face his mother that night.
He should have gone home, but he did not.
And so he was not present when the crows circled his home, tortured his mother, ransacked KID's secret room, and burned the house to the ground. He learned of the "tragic death of Kuroba Chikage" the next morning, in the headlines.
Aoko, the only friend he'd had left in the world, had not even called him.
But then, she wouldn't. Couldn't. She had been hospitalized nearly three weeks before, a coma resulting from an accident. Hit-and-run, the police had ruled it.
Kaito knew better. It was Them.
The doctors told him that she would be just fine, nothing to worry about, she'd be perfectly safe there in the hospital. And she was. Kaito had visited her every day, talking about anything he could think of, trying to bring her back. She was all he had left.
And then, the day after the fire, she was gone. "Unknown causes", the doctors claimed, and the morgue's autopsy repeated it.
The words rang hollow in Kaito's ears. Dead. Gone.
He stood at the peak of Tokyo Tower, the new moon providing him with the cover of darkness, high above the cityscape where naught but the wind could touch him. Watching, waiting, as the lights went out far below, one by one, until the city was dark.
Alone in the dark, in a city of over one million people, and still, he could not cry. Not until They have fallen, he whispered to the darkness, the words a vow. Not until Their crimes are known, and have been punished. Not until They can hurt no one else.
He took out a card, reread the words, sketched the old, familiar grin onto the caricature, though his heart was not in it, and then dropped, white wings carrying him silently to the police station.
It would be his last notice to them.
Too many already.
There was no farewell for his fans, the media, the world. Not a note was posted, not a thing was heard again from the phantom thief who'd captured the heart of the world. And still, they waited, with bated breath, hoping beyond hope for his return.
Kaito cared for nothing, and devoted himself to his hunt of the dark. Heists were conducted silently, whole museums checked inside of a single night. But he could not find her: Pandora, the cursed jewel that had caused so much pain.
The police whispered of a thief on silent wings who was never seen, but they could not touch him, nor even prove his existence, for there was no evidence of interference left behind. Some said it was a kaitou, others a ghost… a few claimed it was a demon, for upon its appearance, criminals would go underground and simply vanish into the night.
But Kaito heard nothing of the rumors. He had stopped listening to the police long before, after his last ties to them had been cut with Hakuba's death.
He sent eyes and ears after the Dark ones instead, followed Them deep into the depths of Their lairs and laid them to waste, confiscating what little he could carry and burning all else.
"Never again," he said once as he watched a lab collapse, reflected flames lighting his single eye maniacally. A crow had taken the other eye, and the clover-charmed monocle, long ago. He had never bothered to replace it.
Never again will you create someone like Tantei-kun.
He watched until the lab was nothing but charred remains, even the embers long dead.
He went abroad, spent years chasing ghosts across several continents, before he caught up with Snake. The assassin had done well for himself, used every skill and threat he'd ever come up with to keep one step ahead of KID to this point, but his luck had finally run out.
Snake was out of bullets, trapped on the roof of a skyscraper.
KID smiled. "Seems… familiar, doesn't it?" he asked mildly, stepping forward and allowing his shoes to click on the cement. Click. Click. Click.
Snake pulled back, searching desperately for any method of escape, and cringed at KID's laughter.
No longer was it the laugh of a jester, or a magician. This was the laugh of a madman, of someone who had lost everything, and had absolutely nothing left to lose.
The laugh of a killer, a murderer, something that KID had sworn never to become.
The white suit was one of the few things that had remained unchanged over the years. It had remained a symbol—but it had twisted to become a symbol of death, spoken of in whispers among Their ranks. The Angel of Death, They called him, forgetting that he had once been a symbol of life, of love, of laughter, of all that They had never been; for he had turned to darkness in his fall, and even the denizens of Hell itself feared him.
But Snake had known him before he'd taken the plunge from sanity, and to see him now was terrifying. "Who are you?" he whispered shakily, unable to see any part of the light-hearted child he had once hunted through the skies in the cold-blooded killer that faced him now.
KID's smile grew at his words, showing more and more insanity the closer he came toward the man who had murdered his family. "You don't recognize me?" he asked lightly, rolling a coin across the finger of his left hand, right holding the Colt .45 steady. "I'm hurt."
He threw the coin at such speed that its edges, specially sharpened in a manner similar to the playing cards that had been KID's signature, pierced the assassin's right hand.
Snake screamed on impact, dropping the gun uselessly to the ground with a clatter as he clutched his hand, fingers twitching in agony, to his chest.
"Do you know, Snake," KID said as he drew out a standard deck of cards, "what I plan to do with you? You've killed my family, you know. Every. Last. One of them." He riffled the deck, deftly palming the nine that he wished to keep before flinging the rest of the deck at Snake, pinning him in place to the railing.
"Ah ah ah," he chided, smiling broadly down at the terrified assassin, "can't have you running off, now, can we?"
He ignored Snake's gibbering and knelt in front of him so swiftly that the former magician simply appeared there.
"Pay attention, now," KID added, flicking Snake's nose with the backs of the stacked cards. "You wouldn't want to miss it."
Snake froze, and KID smiled at him, satisfied, before drawing the first card from the deck of nine. "Ace of Clubs," he said fondly, fingering the edges of the playing card. "It's been years now, but he was the one who started it all…" He trailed off, then pinned Snake with his eyes. "Care to take a guess?"
"K-Kuroba T-Toichi," Snake stuttered.
"Very good," KID said. Quicker than the eye could see, he swiped the card over the inside of Snake's left wrist, severing the vein.
"He wasn't in pain long," KID said, ignoring Snake's scream in favor of watching the blood seep from the cut with each frantic beat of the man's heart. "But oh, what a mess it made…"
He drew the second card. "The King of Hearts," he announced. "You arranged his death to look like a suicide. Excellent work—if I didn't know better, I'd have never guessed it was you."
"Konosuke Jii," Snake breathed.
KID nodded, then sliced a line across Snake's left palm, eliciting another cry of pain with a spurt of blood.
"The next two fell together," KID continued, holding up two cards. "A pair of Jacks—Hearts and Clubs. You likely didn't even know their names, so I'll enlighten you." His expression hardened. "Hattori Heiji and Kudou Shinichi."
The Jack of Hearts sliced a line down the assassin's right eye, the Jack of Clubs scoring a line across the opposite cheek. Blood mixed with the salty tracks on Snake's face, and the wounds burned as he cried, terrified and in pain.
"The others had nearly another year before you returned to take them," KID said. "And when you did, it was in quick succession." He spread the five remaining cards in his hand as if he was playing Poker, and tapped each as he mentioned it. "The King of Diamonds, Nakamori-keibu, head of the Kaitou KID Task Force. Jack of Diamonds, Hakuba Saguru, who took a bullet meant for me. Queen of Clubs, Kuroba Chikage, my mother, who you tortured and burned alive. The Queen of Hearts, Nakamori Aoko, my best friend. Royalty, all of them," he said fondly.
"A-and the last?" Snake dared to ask.
"You'll see in a moment," KID said. He dropped the last card to the floor, and swiftly used the cards to cut up Snake's left arm from wrist to elbow, allowing the vein to bleed freely, then made identical marks on Snake's right hand to match those on his left.
"Perfect," KID said as Snake screamed voicelessly, smiling at the ruined man in front of him, proud of what he had done. "And now, the final card: the Ace of Spades." He cocked his head and raised an eyebrow to prompt Snake to guess who the card represented, but continued after a moment's pause, knowing that Snake had lost too much blood by now to be fully coherent.
"This," he said, running the back of the card lovingly down the blinded side of his face, "represents myself, and all the things that have ever happened to me." KID gestured to the rest of the deck lying around Snake. "It is the combination of each and every card in this deck, of all the people you have taken from me, of every crime that you have committed against me, against my family, against my world," he said, tone hardening with every word.
He suddenly smiled. "And it is what will kill you."
KID slashed the Ace across the soft flesh protecting Snake's jugular, watching in rapt attention as the man who had taken everything from him bled out, crimson slowly soaking into black fabric.
He sat there, smiling at the corpse, until the sound of police sirens and pounding feet climbing the stairs to the rooftop broke through to him. He rose slowly and made his way to stand on the rail of the skyscraper, reveling in the touch of the night breeze on his face, of the glow of moonlight against bloodstained white.
When the police finally made it to the roof, he turned to them with a jovial smile on his face, politely tipped his hat to them in acknowledgement, and jumped off—just as if nothing had changed since his little games with the police, as if there wasn't a corpse at his feet, as if his gloves weren't stained with the blood of hundreds of the agents of Hell.
But there was one difference:
This time, the glider never opened.