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Title: A Life Less Ordinary (4/?)
Series: Detective Conan
Rating: G
Pairing: Shuuichi/Rei

Summary: Okiya Subaru disappears after Vermouth orders his execution, presumed dead.

So what does a black cat have to do with it?


Rei prepares much more carefully for the night’s adventures than he did for the morning’s. He double-checks each piece of equipment he packs, from his small grappling hook and nylon rope to his sparkling-clean lock picks to his dully gleaming side arm. He digs into the back of his closet where he keeps his mission blacks and produces a pair of quick-dry cargo pants, a turtleneck and a knit toque to cover his brightly bleached hair. He uses plain disposable latex gloves for his missions – far easier to hide or destroy than the black leather gloves so favoured in mystery novels, and also far cheaper.

Rye nudges through his duffle bag while Rei changes, sniffing each piece of equipment carefully like a cadet supervisor might have, back in his Academy days.

“I’ll be quick,” Rei tells him as he gently pushes the cat out of his bag and zips it up. “You’ll hardly notice I’m gone.”

Rye twitches his whiskers, the tips brushing against the back of Rei’s hand. He reaches out to stroke the cat’s head once. He’s never had a pet before; it’s something he could get used to. Perhaps someday his life will be stable enough to allow him to keep one.

“See you soon,” he says, pulling his duffle up onto his shoulder and donning his black coat and shoes. The cat sits at the edge of the entryway watching him with his shining jade-green eyes until Rei disappears out the door.

***

He stops off on his way to Yokohama to pick up the electronic lock-pick from his black market connection in Kabuki-cho. The sun’s hugging the horizon, the sky shrimp-pink in the west and turning to navy in the east. Neon signs are already lighting up across Tokyo, flashing advertisements for pachinko parlours and bars and host clubs. Rei drives through the falling night, his headlights flashing on as he crosses the Tama River.

He draws up at ESK Nippon just as the clock in his dash hits nine and finds the parking lot empty as expected. He parks out of sight of a security camera on the conbini opposite and slips out with his bag over his shoulder, pulling his gloves on as he goes. In this industrial area of Yokohama there’s no foot traffic at night, no pedestrians to avoid. Like a shadow he flows across the parking lot and around to the building’s balcony. It’s pressed up against the wall of the neighbouring building on the left, making good cover and an easier climb. Rei tosses the grappling hook up and feels it catch on the first throw – lucky.

He scales the rope quickly, catching hold of the balcony as soon as he comes level with it and pulling himself up onto its firm structure. He hops the railing easily and flattens himself against the wall beside the glass sliding door. There are no lights inside.

It only takes a moment for Rei to pick the door’s simple lock and slide it open. He ghosts into the break room, shutting the door behind him, and crosses to the hallway by the light of his flashlight.

Empty office buildings are eerie at night, cubicles soaking up shadows like sponges and sleeping computers flashing demonic red lights. Wary of a possible security guard or even an over-zealous employee, Rei treads carefully through the office and gives a sigh of relief when he reaches the stairs. It’s a matter of a moment to hurry down them and reach the door at the bottom whose lock takes a key-card.

He fishes the small gadget that he picked up in Kabuki-cho out of his bag and plugs it into the lock. There are a series of lights on its surface that flash red, yellow, then green. The door clicks open.

He’s into the data centre now, slipping carefully down the hallway and into the room where Miyano showed him how to access the satellite. Perching on the engineer’s chair cautious as a crow at the top of a cedar tree, he wakes up the computer and unlocks it using the code he hacked into the system earlier in the afternoon.

After that it’s just a matter of plugging in his external hard drive and copying the computer’s OS onto it. Rei sits watching the door while the files download, alone in the dark room bathed in the screen’s LED light. The building is silent apart from the ever-present drone of the fans to keep down the heat from the stacks of hard drives.

It takes nearly twenty minutes to copy the OS over, after which he spends another half hour in the system returning Miyano’s password to the previous one so the engineer doesn’t suspect anything when he comes in tomorrow, Rei’s gloved hands moving quietly over the keyboard. In doing so he’s also able to pull a copy of that password, guaranteeing himself access to the system again for his return.

When the files finally finish transferring Rei unplugs the hard drive and logs out. He turns off the screen, returns his hard drive to his bag, and slips out of the small office.

It’s simple to return upstairs, exit through the sliding door and re-lock it, and drop down by hanging off the balcony so as not to leave the grappling hook behind.

All in all, it takes him less than an hour. Flush with success he returns to his car and drives back to Beika.

***

Rei drops off the hard drive at one of the set PSB dead letter boxes; one of Kazami’s men will pick it up from there and give it over to their tame hackers to write the program by tomorrow evening.

All there is left to do in this mission is embed the code he’s given in ESK Nippon’s computers tomorrow evening. Then he’ll be done, loyalty proven, and Cognac can stop hovering like an ungainly osprey waiting to swoop.

Satisfied with this, he lets himself into his apartment and finds Rye lying on top of his open laptop’s keyboard, presumably enjoying the warmth. He looks over with large, luminous eyes as Rei comes in but doesn’t otherwise move.

“Good to see you too,” says Rei dryly. He pulls his cap off his head – he hates the fact that it makes him look like that bastard, and occasionally even considers stopping dying his hair just to remove the need to wear it – and steps out of his shoes and coat.

He spends a few minutes unpacking his bag; Rei is meticulous about not leaving any evidence of his misdeeds in the open, even if it means unpacking and repacking his mission bag daily. Then he steps over to the cat. Rye cranes his neck to look up at him, face humorously blank like that of all cats. Rei tweaks his ears and he snorts, shaking his shaggy head like a wet dog.

Rei pulls the toy he bought off the counter and unwraps the string from the stick. Rye perks up at the sound of the plastic dragonfly fluttering, and further tenses when Rei begins to dangle it, his hindquarters twitching comically in preparation for a leap. Rei whips the toy up and he springs, launching himself off the laptop and into the air with silent grace.

However funny the cat is as he wriggles and twists and leaps, Rei is reminded that, like himself, the animal is a well-trained killer. Rye’s claws and teeth are his weapons, and with them he’s likely ended more than a few rodent lives.

More lives than his namesake? There’s no way to know.

All of a sudden Rei finds himself thinking of Scotch’s last hours. Of the text he sent Rei warning him that he’d been blown, of that mad rush up the stairs, of the sight of the body slumped against the wall.

Of the wet blood on Akai Shuuichi’s face.

He’s always found Akai maddening. But he hasn’t always hated him. There had been a time, when the FBI dog’s relationship with Akemi was still solidifying, that Rei had wondered whether they could have been something to each other. Something more than snippy words and smoldering eyes. But Rye had made Akemi his priority – as his mission doubtless mandated – and the moment had passed. They had become rivals, not lovers, and most nights Rei hadn’t regretted it.

The idea that he ever regretted it, that he ever wanted the FBI dog in his bed, makes him sick now.

But with Akai possibly dead in a ditch somewhere, he’s had some more time to consider the moment that destroyed their friendship and planted the seed of vengeance. And, in the stark light that death brings, he finds he has more questions than answers. He has always assumed Akai prompted Scotch’s suicide to protect his own cover. But for all the evils he believes Akai to be imbued with, keeping Scotch alive as an ally would have made far more sense – and Akai has never sacrificed logic for maliciousness. And then there’s the question of the disappearance of Scotch’s gun, which for some reason Akai took with him from the scene. And the fact that in terrorizing him to death Akai made the fundamental mistake of allowing Scotch to destroy his cell phone, the recovery of which would have netted him high praise at the Organization.

Rei’s never allowed himself to think this way before. Never applied his sound detective’s mind to the problem as a puzzle rather than a firestorm of emotion. He’s a little taken aback by the fundamental questions he finds. It had been so much easier to simply know Akai to be guilty and chase after his death with no thought to what he might have to burn to achieve it. He made the mistake of allowing that knowledge to become part of himself, ever-present but never analyzed.

He feels a sudden burst of regret in his heart, and with it an absurd wish that Akai not be dead – not so he can have the pleasure of the kill, but so he can grill the bastard with these new questions.

Rye – the feline Rye, who has all the while been chasing the dragonfly toy – gives an immense twisting leap and catches it in his mouth. He comes to ground with a look of intense satisfaction and gives a sharp shake of his head that would have snapped the neck of a mouse.

As fierce a killer, thinks Rei again, this time with less anger and more confusion, as his namesake.

***

Rei goes to sleep early – he has the opening shift again at Poirot tomorrow and can’t miss a second day – with the comfort of Rye again pressed up against his hip. The cat never seems to purr, but he has the impression he’s at least contented with the arrangement. He sniffs a little at the comforter before settling himself down, and promptly curls up into a ball with his chin resting on his delicate paws. Rei smiles and switches out the light.

The next morning passes much the same as his every day; he rises, washes, feeds himself and the cat, and goes to work. At Poirot he bakes and cooks and cleans, the store smelling of fresh bread and good coffee by the time they’re ready to open, Rei with a smile on his face and his usual manners ready for the customers.

He still needs to decide what to do about the cat. He’s been too busy with Cognac’s sudden appearance to give it the consideration it needs. Once he’s done tonight’s mission he’ll have to make a decision. He can’t simply adopt the thing, however soft his fur and comforting his presence.

Azusa arrives about then bustling with industry and concern for his health. He makes her a fresh cup of coffee and emphasizes that he’s quite all right now – just a 24-hour flu.

Of course, if he doesn’t produce the goods for Cognac tonight, it will be significantly worse than that.

Fortunately he’s always been good at compartmentalizing, otherwise serving tea and coffee and scones to customers while under a ticking death sentence would likely have driven him mad. As it is he finds himself working harder at his smiles and occasionally scalding his fingers while steaming milk, his mind not on the task at hand.

Apart from latent dread the day passes uneventfully and at the strike of four Rei finishes his shift and heads out to the grocery store on his way home. He buys only enough food for tonight – if things do end badly he would hate to think of Kazami cleaning out a full fridge while struggling with his sorrow. He can still remember packing away Scotch’s room after everything fell apart. Remembers the supreme effort it had taken to force himself just to stuff the clothes into garbage bags and drop them off at a thrift store. He had burnt or thrown out most of the rest of his other things except for the guitar, which he had sent back to be returned to Scotch’s family in what at the time had felt like a decent gesture but now seems a sop to his own sentimentality.

When he arrives home, he’s inordinately glad to see Rye waiting for him. He’s been alone in his head too long. He steps out of his shoes, puts down the groceries, and scoops the cat up into his arms – a first. Rye wriggles slightly but allows himself to be held as Rei strokes his soft head with the back of his index finger.

“I’m home,” he says quietly to the cat. It’s been a long time since he had someone to greet.

***

For some reason he’s expecting his second infiltration of ESK Nippon to end badly. Perhaps it’s superstition; perhaps it’s just fear that his luck will catch up with him.

Either way it in fact goes very smoothly.

He picks up the code from a different drop point in Beika shortly after eight and packs his gear once more and changes into his mission clothes. Rye twines himself between Rei’s legs as he leaves the apartment, coming for once all the way to the front door to see the PSB agent off.

He makes good time to Yokohama, arriving shortly before nine. He parks in the same empty lot in the same out-of-the-way spot as the night before and crosses on rubber-soled shoes to the balcony where he once again makes his ascent.

There are again no lights inside and this time he crosses through the office space more confidently, coming quickly to the stairs and thus into the data centre. He sits himself down at Miyano’s computer and enters the engineer’s password. A moment later he’s in, and he connects the USB stick with the back-door program to a slot in the front of the computer tower.

It takes less than ten minutes to access the satellite and plant the program within its streamlined software. It likely won’t go undetected forever, but it will serve its purpose and that’s all he needs. He withdraws the USB stick, logs off the computer, and slips silently out of the building.

Done.

He drives back with his heartbeat in his ears, post-mission jitters keeping his hands tight on the steering wheel and his eyes constantly checking the mirror. But he’s clean, he’s free, and he has the proof he needs to once again prove his loyalty to the Organization.

Rei’s half-expecting Rye to greet him at the door upon his return; when he opens the door and there’s no sign of the cat he frowns.

Then he spots the foreign pair of shoes in his entryway.

He lets the door click shut behind him and comes into his apartment, setting down his duffle by the door and entering into the dining area. Cognac is standing on the other side of the table leaning on the back of a chair smoking a cigarette. Rye is nowhere to be seen.

“I could have texted you,” says Rei, displeased by this intrusion.

“I’m here to make sure you got the job done. Show me.”

Rei glares but steps over and starts the computer he loaded with the company’s software. Using it he accesses the satellite’s connection and swivels the monitor towards Cognac so he can see the screen waiting for input.

Which is when he sees Cognac’s gun pointed in his face.

“What is this?” he asks, voice icy. His own pistol is in its holster at his side; it might as well be on the other side of the room. He’ll never draw it before Cognac pulls the trigger.

“I’m afraid, Bourbon, that you fell for my plan. Hook, line and sinker. No one could have gotten that work done in the time you did. No one without a little Agency help. Who was it? CIA? MI6?”

“Don’t be ridiculous. I copied their code last night and then wrote the back-door; I was just planting it.”

“You must be very good to write an entire program while working at a café.”

“I wrote it last night,” says Rei haughtily, bluffing for all he’s worth.

“Show me the proof,” replies Cognac, pistol unwavering. “Show me the code you compiled.”

He can show him the code of course. But the minute he asks Rei to explain it, all is lost. With ten minutes to prepare he could likely do a satisfactory job – but he doesn’t have ten minutes. He doesn’t have one.

Which is when he notices Rye slinking forward from behind them, low and lithe like a panther, his golden eyes focused firmly on Cognac. Rei can feel the animosity in him.

He’s not sure what’s going to happen. But he knows it will be his chance.

“Alright,” he says. “Let me get the stick.” He reaches slowly for his pocket, the one below his holster. Cognac tenses, finger tightening on the trigger.

And, like a black dart, Rye leaps up onto his back and buries his fangs in the back of Cognac’s neck.

The Organization operative shrieks and lashes out, barely missing braining Rei with his pistol. Rye is spitting and hissing even as he digs his claws into Cognac’s back. Rei pulls his Heckler and Koch and strikes out with his palm to knock Cognac’s from his hand. Cognac loses the gun and, in agony, grabs the cat by his hind legs and swings him savagely into the wall where his head and back connect with a crack. He drops him and Rye falls, landing in a limp black pile.

Rei, furious, brings the butt of his pistol down on Cognac’s temple. The man goes down and Rei kicks him in the stomach, hard, for good measure. He doesn’t react, down for the count.

The apartment is suddenly silent. Rei stares at the aftermath of the brief struggle for a moment. Then he’s crossing to his closet where he produces two sets of cable ties. He wrestles Cognac’s arms behind him and ties him, then ties his ankles. He takes the man’s gun from where it fell and puts it on the table. Then he hurries to Rye.

The cat is lying still and limp against the wall. When Rei puts his hand on his ribs he feels the rise and fall of his chest, warm beneath the thick inky fur. “Rye?” he asks, quietly. The cat doesn’t respond.

He stands, looking around once again and trying to marshal his thoughts. Everything has gone to shit with remarkable expediency. He pulls his phone out of his pocket and dials Kazami.

“Kazami,” says the familiar voice on the other end.

“It’s me. Listen. I may be blown – I’ve got to disappear, fast. Get some men over to my apartment; you’ll find Cognac on the floor. Arrest him and charge him with breaking and entering, then look up his priors – he’ll have a list as long as your arm. Arrange extradition to wherever has the longest sentence; we need him out of the picture until I can get things shored up here. Send in a team to clean out my apartment; I don’t have time now. I’ll call you tomorrow.”

“Furuya-san,” begins Kazami.

“No time,” snaps Rei. “Get going.” He hangs up and quickly searches 24 hour veterinary hospitals on his phone. That done, he goes over to the sink and puts in the plug before drawing several centimetres of water. He drops his phone into it; it’s nothing but a brick now.

He packs hurriedly: his gun, his laptop, a set of clothes, money and an unused credit card, several fake pieces of identification (his real is in a PSB safe). He puts this all in his duffle, zips it up, and stands.

Rye is still unconscious. Rei crosses over to him, bends down, and scoops the cat up into his arms. “Let’s go,” he says, grimly.

***

Down in the car park he pulls his emergency kit from the trunk of his car, then begins perusing the lot. He can’t take his own car, it’s far too noticeable. He finds an older Toyota and breaks into that, laying his two bags in the passenger foot well and Rye on the seat. He hotwires the car and pulls out into the night, adjusting the mirrors as he goes.

He drives across town to the outskirts of Adachi where he ditches the car and steals another old model – less likely to catch police attention. Before loading it up he pulls a new license plate from his emergency kit and puts it on, taking the old one with him. He then drives the rest of the way to the veterinary hospital he found online. The car smells of cigarettes and spilt coffee, the upholstery dirty and stained. He can’t imagine when it was last cleaned.

Rei parks outside just as Rye stirs, feet pawing gently at the air. A moment later his eyes open and he makes a quiet mewling noise.

“You’re alright,” Rei tells him, hoping it’s true. He picks the cat up carefully; he’s still mostly limp and doesn’t protest. “We’ll get you fixed up.”

The interior of the hospital is all clinical white walls and shining counters. Somewhere in the back a dog is barking. He walks in and sees the woman at the front desk’s eyes widen. “Sir, he needs to be in a carrier,” she says, standing.

“I don’t have one. It’s an emergency.”

She looks at Rye lying in his arms with his eyes half-open and his mouth opening as well to reveal a red tongue. “Come with me.”

She takes him into a back room with a counter holding a scale and a pad the size of a baby change-pad. On the walls are posters about feline gingivitis and vaccination schedules; against the wall is a tall cabinet with locks on it. He puts Rye down on the pad. “What’s your name?” she asks, starting up a computer at a standing desk beside the cabinet.

“Inoue Akira,” he says, providing the name on his credit card.

“What happened, Inoue-san?”

“There was a burglary at my home. The man threw my cat into a wall; I found him like this. He’s just started to wake up now.”

“When did this happen?”

“About 40 minutes ago.”

She enters all this information into the computer with simple efficiency. “I’ll alert the veterinarian. She’ll be with you shortly.”

Rye is lying on his side staring up at Rei, slowly extending and retracting his front paws. Rei pets his side carefully. If he’s in pain he’s clearly too dazed to understand it.

The vet comes in a moment later, a short, plump woman with frizzy hair dressed in a white coat. She reads the notes on the computer, then comes over. “I’m Okayama,” she says dispassionately. She shines a light in Rye’s eyes, listens to his heart, and runs careful hands over him. Rye makes an indistinct noise, then starts hacking, his sides heaving. He throws up a runny brown mess, the vet carefully holding his head out of it.

“I believe he has a head wound,” she says. “He’ll need an x-ray to confirm.”

“Will he recover?”

“It will depend on any broken bones or internal bleeding. I’ll have the x-ray prepared.” She steps out of the room, Rei standing beside the table and stroking the cat. Rye closes his eyes.

“Hey now. Don’t do that. Stay awake,” prompts Rei, digging the tips of his fingers a little harder into Rye’s side. The cat’s eyes slide open again, looking up at him. “I told you: you’re going to be okay. So just hang in there.”

The vet returns with a trolley onto which she loads Rye. “Please stay here. The x-ray will take about ten minutes.” Then she and Rye are gone, and he’s alone in the exam room.

There’s a plastic chair; he sits down and takes the time to re-arrange his wallet so that his Inoue Akira identification is foremost. He wishes he knew what was happening with Cognac right now.

Wishes he had hit him harder.

An assistant wearing scrubs comes in to clean up Rye’s sick, then departs. A minute later the vet returns with Rye; he’s still awake, and now seems to be pawing with a little more strength.

The vet turns to the screen and brings up the x-rays. “He has a hairline fracture on his skull, and a concussion. Surprisingly little bleeding. No damage to his spine. He should recover. It would be best if he stayed overnight and received intravenous fluids.”

“I’m afraid I have to take him with me,” says Rei. “I’ll make sure that he has plenty of water.”

The vet nods. “Very well. I will give you some electrolytes to dissolve in his water. If he falls asleep and you can’t wake him, or has more fits of vomiting, bring him back immediately.”

“I understand. Thank you.”

He picks up Rye and heads out to pay and pick up the packets of electrolytes.

***

He wonders later that night as he settles down in a PSB safe room far from Beika, why he insisted on bringing Rye with him. Why he didn’t take that opportunity to leave the cat with the vet where he would be bound to get good care. Is it because he still believes the cat may be connected to Akai’s disappearance? Or some kind of guilt – the cat, after all, was nearly killed protecting him.

Rei strips off his clothes and leaves just his singlet and briefs on, then climbs into bed and places the cat carefully beside his head where the second pillow should be. He turns out the lights and lies on his side, stroking him.

Slowly but surely, for the first time Rye begins to purr. Rei can feel it under his fingers, the cat vibrating with the strength of his affection. Despite the fact that he’s on the run, that Cognac will doubtless spill his guts to the Organization the first chance he gets, that he’s alone without help, Rei feels a sense of calm come over him. A feeling of warmth filling him like treacle, thick and sweet.

Why ever he chose to keep him, he can’t help but feel it was the right decision.

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