Warning: mild swearing and the giving away of a magic trick. Just so you know. Oh, and there's a lot of words in Caps. Sorry 'bout that.

Rules of the Game

Inspector Nakamori is running. He is alone, chasing Kaitou Kid. The others are circling around, and when he gives the word, they'll tighten like a noose around the thief. This time Kid will not escape him. He tastes it, feels it in a wild rush of exhilaration, like effervescent bubbles breaking agains this skin.

"You won't get away this time Kid!"

Kid is standing above him on the window ledge. He's fastening his belt, so Nakamori knows he's about to launch his hang glider. But at his remark, Kaitou Kid turns, "So confident, Nakamori-kun! Perhaps another time. Though you really shouldn't get your hopes up."

It's because he's talking that he hasn't noticed that the window is not glass at all...but Plexiglas. And then Kaitou Kid turns back to the window.

First he smacks into the glass. Second, the corner of his hang glider catches in the windowsill and breaks. Third, Kid gets tangled up in his own cape as it comes loose. He spins around so fast that the charm on his monocle thwocks him right between the eyes. It's just enough that...Fourth, Kaitou Kid loses his balance and falls with a crash almost two stories to the museum floor.

By some chance his top hat flutters down and covers his face.

Nakamori is sure this is a trick. The figure is too still. Kid would be up and running. He didn't REALLY just knock himself out, did he!? It must be one of Kid's dummies. But when he touches it, it's warm. And there is a pulse at Kaitou Kid's wrist where he holds it. He really IS unconscious.

The radio crackles loudly in his other hand. "Captain! Where is your location? We're ready to close in."

Nakamori looks down. He is holding Kaitou Kid's wrist. He's caught him. He has only to take off the hat, the monocle. And it's all over.

It is a very big decision.

"You mean it's a rubber thumb!? THAT'S how the scarves disappear!? What a gyp!"

Touichi snatched away the rest of his close-up illusion tools before I could get into anything else. He looked at me with an unreadable expression. "That's what you get for trying to figure out the secrets of magic."

"What, a letdown? It looked so impressive in that show last week, but it's all just marked cards and loaded dice, isn't it."

He chuckled, "I'll accept the compliment. And as to the rest... I'll tell you one of the biggest rules of stage magic, Ginzou. People WANT to be tricked. It's not about figuring out the how, it's enjoying the surprise of the moment."

"I'm a detective, Touichi. It's my job to figure out the how."

Again the unreadable look. "I'll tell you again. Magic is about wonder and surprise. It's not about smoke and mirrors."

And well...I stayed out of his tricks after that. I never could appreciate the disappearing scarves anymore. I didn't want to ruin the whole show for myself, now did I?

That's the first thing I learned about magic.

Nakamori flicks on the radio. He can't believe he is about to do this. Everything that he is, everything he has built towards says that this is effin' STUPID. He's been out to catch Kaitou Kid since before the shiny wore off his badge. But a deeper part of him, the part that is happy each time the Kid sends a note, happy each time the Kid gets away...knows that this is the right thing to do.

The inspector raises the radio to his mouth. "Ahh, forget it. He got away again, dammit."

"What about the jewel, Captain?"

Nakamori sees it lying a few feat away. The glittering yellow of the Majesty's Sapphire. "Heh, well let's just say that the night wasn't a COMPLETE wash."

"All right! Way to go Captain! We'll have to celebrate tonight!" He can hear the dull staticy cheers in the background.

"Yeah, yeah. I'll meet you guys back at the station. I'm gonna give the sapphire back to the owner and clear up a few more loose ends." He cuts off the radio, slips the sapphire into a pocket and looks down at the snoozing thief.

"Now what the hell am I supposed to do with you?"

Maybe it's the tone of voice, maybe it was the right angle. But I could have sworn I saw that somewhere before...Yeah. That's it.

That was just the line Touichi used in his act when I took Aoko last week. And the same swirl of cape.

Now if that didn't hit me like a ton of bricks, I don't know what would. It all fit. White tux, magic tricks, why all the international heists seemed to happen when Touichi was on a show. Dammit. Touichi was my pal, not Kaitou Kid! I never wanted anything not to be true more. But that didn't make it go away.

That night on my way home I swung by the Kuroba house. There was a light on in the upstairs window. I thought about ringing the bell, but I didn't wanna wake the missus or the kid. I still hadn't decided what I was going to do, and I didn't want a scene if it went ugly. So instead I lobbed a small rock up at the window and heard it ping off with a satisfying sound.

Heh. Still got it. I could have played for the majors if I hadn't become a cop. Well, maybe.

At any rate, Touichi opened the window looking tired and rumpled. For a second I could have sworn he looked surprised, but he just said, "You're up late, Ginzou."

"So're you. We just foiled a major jewel theft. Wanna celebrate?"

He laughed dryly, "I'll be right down."

The lady at the izakaya gave us two big bugs of cold frothy beer and we ordered a round of yakitori and snacks. After she slid the door shut Touichi raised his mug for a toast. "Congratulations on stopping the robbery, Captain. Kanpai!"

We clinked glasses and took a long gulp of bitter cold beer. No pleasure greater. "Mm, but we didn't catch the thief." I tried to sound glum as I downed the beer. Didn't have to try too hard.

"Well, this is Kaitou 1412 you're after, right? I hear he's a pretty slick customer. Can't be easy." Was that pride in his voice?

"What I gotta wonder about is why a guy like that keeps giving back the jewels after the heist. They all go back to the real owner, or back to the museum. Why bother?"

"Maybe the reason isn't what you think it is." Damn but he sounded smooth.

"Then why don't you enlighten me...Kaitou Kid?" I put my hand down hard on his shoulder. He kept his damned poker face, but I could feel him tense up. Hard to fake that.

"Now really, Ginzou. I think you're working too hard. You're seeing phantom thieves everywhere! Maybe you need a vacation?"

I snorted, "Look Touichi, I may not be the sharpest crayon in the box, but I'm not STUPID."

"And I say you must be mistaken."

I let go. "I hope like hell I am. You think I LIKE suspecting my friend of being an international jewel thief? What would your wife do if I arrested you? What would MY wife do?" I took a swig of beer, "Now, just supposing you WERE Kaitou Kid, why exactly would you be stealing jewels? Just for kicks? Dangerous hobby if you ask me."

He gave me a wry look. "Just supposing, hmm? Well, if I were Kaitou 1412, which I'm not I might add. I'd say I'd have to have a pretty damn good reason for doing it. Obviously, it's not for the money. It would have to be a good enough reason..." Touichi stopped and took a drink, as if his mouth had suddenly gone dry. "It would have to be a good enough reason to risk getting arrested. A good enough reason to risk leaving my son without a father. I'm guessing, and it's only a guess, Ginzou, that Kaitou Kid is really one of the good guys."

"Hmph. And this is something the police wouldn't help with?"

He sighed, "I'm betting it's more of a 'can't' than a 'won't.' Sometimes justice doesn't always follow the letter of the law. If he could turn to the police, don't you think he would? Since it has such capable men as yourself in it."

I couldn't figure out whether that was a compliment or an insult. I couldn't figure out whether it was an explanation or not either. But I could tell it was sort of an apology. I guessed.

Our order of yakitori came, which shut us both up for a minute. He sat there eating chicken and onions, carefree as you please, and I was stuck. If Touichi WAS Kaitou Kid, well, he's a smarter guy than I am, even if it is a pain to admit it. He wouldn't play a game this dangerous without a good reason. And it was something I couldn't help with. Not without breaking the law, apparently.

"Look," I told him, gesturing with a chicken skewer, "If I KNOW who Kaitou Kid is, I gotta arrest him. I can't let him go. I can't help him out. I'm a good cop and I do things by the book."

"Your moral character is one of your better points, Ginzou." He sounded a little sad. "I'm sure the Kid wouldn't have it any differently. Are you planning on making an arrest now? Or will you give him a chance to say goodbye to his family first?"

"I shouldn't. He'd probably only run away."

I downed the last of my beer. "But, like I said, that's if I KNOW who Kaitou Kid is. If I KNOW, then I gotta do something. You following me here?"

"I'm not sure."

"Let me spell it out for you. Kaitou Kid had better make sure that I don't know who he is. Even if he's gotta be in two places at once to do it. That way I don't get suspicious. No probable doubt, if you know what I mean."

"I think I understand you," he said seriously.

"Good, 'cause if you didn't, you'd be dumber than you look."

Touichi looked offended. "Who's dumb looking?"

"You are, with that stupid little moustache. You look like a seventeen year old kid who's just discovering facial hair. What, can't grow a real one, Touichi-kun?"

He started flicking edamame at me and I knew things were going to be fine. Then we got down to the business of getting seriously drunk.

When Kuroba Kaito wakes up, he's handcuffed to the guardrail on the roof of the museum. It's no big deal. Police issue handcuffs are the second easiest lock in the world to pick. The first being the lock to the girl's dressing room.

What surprised him is that he's not in jail. He remembers taunting Aoko's dad, he remembered that stupid disaster. But he's not in jail. He's not arrested. Even his hat and monocle are in place.

But there's no way on earth that Nakamori wouldn't have hung him out to dry. The old man's been chasing the Kid for too long to back off now.

That's when he notices there's a note pinned to his cape. He's disgruntled at first. That's HIS trick. He doesn't like it when people pull his own tricks on him. Kaito pulls it off and unfolds it. Looks like it was torn from a police casebook.

It reads...

Kaitou Kid,
Don't go messing up like that again. Makes you look like a damned idiot. Catching you is supposed to be a challenge. Your father'd be disappointed in you. Now don't expect any more handouts.

The paper isn't signed. But Kaito knows that handwriting. Hell, he's forged it enough times that he ought to. He's completely dumbfounded.

Then he looks up at the moon and starts to laugh.


Author's Notes:

1. Totally, totally blame this on Wosamu of Wosamu Goods Special. I bought one of her doujinshi which focused on Touichi stories. There were a few pictures of Ginzou and Touichi hanging out, and I figured maybe they were pretty good friends. And I just like Captain Nakamori. He's silly.

2. Lesse...yakitori is basically chicken kebobs. Edamame are a kind of salty green bean that go very good with beer. It's like the bar nuts of Japan.

3. I hope this ended up ok, for such a little nothing bit of a fic, it's probably the most ambitious thing I've tried in terms of style in awhile. It was supposed to be longer with some reflection on Kaito as Kaitou Kid, and Touichi's death, but Nakamori got all gruff on me and told me that real men don't angst, and they definitely don't do it in fanfic. And what does he look like, some gangly big eyed CLAMP character, for Pete's sake!?