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[personal profile] seiberwing
Title: The Continuing Adventures of the Great Thief Yatagarasu
Fandom: Ace Attorney Investigations/Ghost Trick
Characters: Tyrell Badd, Kay Faraday, Inspector Cabanela, OCs
Warnings: Spoilers for AAI, none for Ghost Trick.
Summary: The Badd-Faraday family moves cross-country and a few inconvenient discoveries are made.
Author’s Note: Welp. Here it is. Sequel to The Back-Up Plan and The Faraday Cage, long as fuck.


Badd had eventually come to realize that fishing with Jack Faraday had as little to do with actually catching fish as watching a hockey game with the boys from the precinct had to do with concern for the activities of Canadians. It was mostly an excuse to sit around, drink beer, and have a little guy time without actually admitting that it was a socialization event.

As proof, Badd offered the fact that in three years of summer visits, Jack had yet to show him how to put the worm on the hook.

“They promoted Gant to district chief,” he said, giving his rod a slight flick and watching the bobber bounce in the algae-green water.

“Which one is that?” Jack asked, half-looking over his shoulder.

“The old guy. The one who laughs too much.” Badd reached behind him and tugged another beer can out of its plastic rings. When Jack’s blank expression continued, Badd added , “The one who likes strip poker.”

Jack winced. “Oh, the orange suit guy.”

“Yeah.”

Margaret Faraday’s ‘just pretend you like us’ plan had worked surprisingly well. Jack and Badd had been forced to spend enough time together that they’d been forced into awkward conversation to fill up the empty space. After a while the awkwardness had started to feel more natural, until they were actually spending time in each others’ presence consensually. Hanging out with Margaret had been a little harder to do, given Badd’s tendency to think that guys (and policewomen willing to be ‘one of the guys’) should only hang out with guys, but he had to respect her tendency towards straight talk. One could definitely see why her son had become a prosecutor—she had a disturbingly accurate ability to see right through you and not be shy in handing out her opinion on it.

Jack reeled in in his bobber and gave the empty hook a dissatisfied look. “So not a good thing, then?” he said as he flicked the rod back and sent his line out again.

“Not for the legal system.” Badd cracked the can open and threw back a strengthening gulp. There had been murmurs about Gant, there were always murmurs about anyone who got better results than the lamentable departmental average, but Badd just disliked him on general principle. No cop should enjoy his job that much. “And now he’s reformatting the department to get a better hold on it. We have bad but easily manipulated cops getting promotions, good cops getting demotions, and Angel Starr’s out of a job completely. And of course his pal Lana Skye’s just swapped over to the proscutor’s office and everyone knows who she’ll answer to.”

The names probably meant nothing to Jack, but he made comforting assent noises and nodded. Badd set the fishing rod crosswise on his lab and sucked down more beer.

“And you?”

“I’ve got too good of a reputation. He can’t have me demoted or fired and still have a legitimate reason for it.”

“That’s good.”

“So he’s having me transferred to Maine.”

“Maine?”

“Some tiny little town on the middle of fuck-all nowhere and close enough to Canada to spit on a Mountie. They don’t even have cell phones. Gant made up some bullshit about there being a special investigation unit that needs my experienced expertise, but we all know he just wants me out of the way.”

Jack swore so softly that Badd could only hear the inflection. “Wow. That’s a hell of a thing to do to you. How’s Kay taking it?”

“Well...”

**

“You didn’t tell her,” Margaret said, two hours and no fish later. “You’ve known for a full week and you haven’t told her.”

“I haven’t told her yet,” Badd corrected grudgingly. Kay’s grandfather had stolen her away for impromptu hiking after they got back, leaving Badd alone in the kitchen with the scarier of the two senior Faradays. She’d set him to washing dishes. “Jack said he’d test the waters a little while they were out walking, see how she felt about the idea. I was going to tell her when we got home.” The last part being an excuse he’d been using for a full week.

Margaret made a small disapproving tsk. “Putting it off won’t make it any easier—no, look, it’s still greasy. You have to scrub the rim as well as the inside.”

Badd scowled and began redoing the pot for the third time. He didn’t know how people put up with wives. “So I’m a coward. Sue me. I worked hard to keep her in Los Angeles, having to move out again after all that’s gonna break her little heart.” Give him a pack of heavily armed Mafiosos any day, if it meant he didn’t have to say something that would make Kay upset.

Margaret turned her scrutinizing gaze from Badd to a serving spoon. It was deemed satisfactory and went in the drawer. “She’s thirteen, Badd. Her heart’s getting bigger. Besides, it wasn’t Los Angeles you went to bat for. It was her right to stay with her family. You’re what’s important to her.” She prodded him in the chest. They’d acquiesced to his desire to be called by his last name, but personal space was harder to deal with.

Byrne hadn’t been fond of personal space either. On occasions it was heartbreaking to see how much his parents took after him.

“It’s not been that long since she lost her father,” Badd said as he raised his soapy hands from the sink. His voice softened. “A change this big…you know she’s still having problems at school.” Problems which couldn’t be completely credited to the fact that naïve little Kay had been very glad to announce to her classmates that her daddy had been married to another man and she was getting to live with him now. No official action besides a few detentions, so far, but there had been at least one after school fistfight that the faculty had thankfully never seen. Kay had come home with a bruise on her shoulder and claimed the other girl had gotten off worse, as if that made things better.

“Kids handle things better than you’d think.” Margaret leaned on the counter. Her eyes were unnerving to someone who’d grown jaded to interrogations and cross-examinations. “There’s no shame in a cop calling in for backup. Given what I’ve heard about your career, you don’t do it as often as you should.”

“I’m getting better about it,” Badd grumbled. Hadn’t been shot once since he’d taken in Kay, and for him that was saying something. These days he couldn’t afford to be as reckless with his own life. Fortunately he’d yet to run into a situation where he’d had to choose between caution and saving a hostage from a crazed gunman.

“It might actually be easier if you talk to her here. If she takes it badly, and I don’t think she will, she’ll come crying to me about it and I’ll set her straight.”

Badd smirked. “Neat trick.”

“And in return for that, you’re going to help me make cookies.” Margaret opened the pantry and began pulling out a large bag of flour that had somehow made its way to a shelf two inches beyond the reach of her arms. Badd had to help stabilize her before she dropped the bag on her own head.

“You think that’ll soften the blow?” he asked, carefully lowering the heavy bag to the counter.

“It might. Cookies rarely hurt matters and I’ve wanted to make them all week.” She reached up and flicked the stick of his lollipop. “Sweet tooths run in the family, you know.”

**
Kay took it well. A little too well, actually, it made Badd uneasy. Formally asking her if she minded the transfer brought up a long silence and finally a quiet “only a little bit”. She’d been remarkably tight-lipped even before the move started.

He didn’t expect that she was lying, obviously. One of Byrne’s strictest rules was that their family should never, ever distort the truth unless it was deeply important (or acting: Badd recalled Byrne telling him about comforting Kay through a crying fit before a school play because she thought that telling everyone that she was Bagheera the Panther counted as a lie). Secrets were permitted, as was pleading the fifth about misbehavior, but lies were the highest of crimes.

Still, ‘only a little’ covered a lot of ground. Hopefully she wasn’t repressing anything for the sake of not upsetting her Uncle Badd. He tried to distract her by pretending there actually was some reason for the rearrangement of their lives besides petty department politics, that this was an exciting change rather than punishment.

And on paper it was. Despite its lack of cell reception Etros was a thriving port town, trading with both the eastern continents and the wilds of Canada. This also left it open to smuggling and criminal activity. Gant had recommended him as a ‘specialist’ in dealing with smuggling rings, which was not only disingenuous but subtly twisting the knife by focusing on the one prey Badd had never managed to defeat. Hopefully it meant he’d still get to see some action, but who knew what the natives might make of him.

Unfortunately Kay wasn’t as easily swayed by tales of Uncle Badd as a secret agent as she would have been three years ago. Age made her more capable of taking care of herself, but it also made it harder for Badd to understand how to sway her. She’d been distant lately, even before he’d announced the move. He wasn’t sure how to deal with it—or how much of it was his fault for being a bad father.

But she smiled, and she never lied, and he’d have to put up with that until he figured out what to do with it.

**
A month and a half later Badd had packed up three people’s lives, sold his car and Byrne’s house, relocated the Badd-Faradays to the east coast, and made his first foray into the unknown wilds of the Etros police department.

“Chief Gant recommended you very highly, Detective Badd. He said you were an expert in smuggling and artifact trafficking.” Badd’s new district chief looked decent, but after Gant so would nearly anyone. He wore a normal-looking suit and tie, he had normal large eyebrows and pointy jaw, he didn’t laugh at things that weren’t funny or give Badd obnoxious nicknames. Truth be told, he seemed downright mundane after the oddities of Badd’s old district. Nobody came to the work in a cowboy hat or a cocktail dress and there was nary a cravat in sight.

“He’s too kind,” Badd said, twirling his lollipop stick and looking down at the pudgy man with feigned interest.

“I’m sure you’ve got a lot to teach us. We’re glad to have you on the team.”

“Can’t wait to start.” Badd flashed him the false grin of formality and the chief returned in kind. The subtext of their words was mutual.

You know this is all bullshit, and I know this is all bullshit, but we have to go through this nonsense to make sure everything’s settled. After we’re done, then I can see what kind of man you really are.

Someone rapped on the door. Tap taptap tap taptap tap, a peppy little rhythm against the wood. The chief’s grin grew a little more sincere. “That must be your new supervisor. Come in!”

The door opened behind Badd and a lanky man in a long white coat walked in.

Well, not walked. Sauntered, perhaps. Sashayed. His coat and red scarf flared out as he spun on his toe and flicked out his wrist to offer a folder to the chief. “Here’s that report you wanted, boss man.” His heel clicked against the ground as he stopped and tossed a glance at Badd. “And who’s this worn old warrior?”

The chief pointed from one to the other. “Inspector Cabanela, Detective Tyrell Badd.”

“Ah, yes, the man from L.A. You’re bit bigger than I was expecting, but I’m sure we’ll find you a desk.” His voice was slow, gleeful syrup, and he seemed to draw out the vowels of words that interested him. Cabanela flicked his wrist out and offered his hand for a shake.

Badd took his hand with the expression of someone petting a stranger’s dog, wary of bites but wanting to still be polite. Despite the smoothness of his movements Cabanela’s grip was surprisingly firm. “I just need a few days to get my daughter situated; she starts school in three weeks. Then you’ll get me full time.”

“Fine, just fine, you take your time with the little lady.” Cabanela gave him a wink and a flick of his finger. “I can’t wait to see a bit of that big town skill in action.” He whirled again and sashayed his way out the door.

Well, that was a something. Badd was left gaping, and pondering if Etros was more open-minded than he had expected. “Is he…”

“Always like that, yeah. Sharp as a scalpel, but he’s always had a certain…unique flair.” The chief looked apologetic. “We’re a bit unconventional around here. I hope it’s not too big of a shock of an adjustment for you.”

Badd spun the lollipop bulb with his tongue, chuckling softly. “You know, I think I’ll fit in just fine.”

**

Etros was not the most urban and sophisticated town in the world, but it wasn’t bad. People tended to be a bit more jovial and welcoming than they were back in Los Angeles, which gave Badd some hope that Kay would make new friends without excess violence.

His original assessment that the town was too rural to have cell phone reception was incorrect, it just happened to be in a town-wide dead zone. Something about the mountains, Badd hadn’t quite been paying attention during that part of orientation. The local government compensated by providing the town with a massive number of public phones compared to the better connected parts of the country, and the ideal port conditions kept it from floundering. In general it was actually civilized and only bearably Canadian.

That didn’t quell Badd’s concerns about Kay’s first day of school of high school.

“Can I just go back to bed?” Kay asked, leaning groggily on the doorframe with her backpack dangling from one shoulder. She’d upgraded from pink and blue to a rugged grey pack, large enough to fit one of the little computers that seemed so essential to life in the modern world.

“I’m pretty sure the nice people at Child Services wouldn’t like you playing hooky,” Badd said. He poured himself a cup of strong coffee from the cracked coffeepot. Kay’s mother’s family had stopped trying to steal his daughter, but the both of them still treated Child Services as some kind of boogieman that came in the night and took away bad fathers.

“Dang.” Kay yawned and eyed Badd’s coffee enviously. “Hey…Uncle Badd?”

“Yeah?”

Kay’s fingers twisted into the strap of her backpack.“What do I do if someone at school asks about you and Daddy?”

So that was it. Trapped between the desire to avoid trouble and the need to show her pride in her family. Badd had been there plenty of times. He nodded in sympathy. “The kids in LA gave you trouble over it, I know.”

Kay gave a short, hard shake of her head that sent her ponytail swinging over her shoulder. She’d hit a tomboy phase that meant no makeup, no skirts and hair that was lucky if it got a brushing before she pulled it back. “Just a little,” she said, trying to blow off how much it had stung. “It wasn’t a big deal.”

Verging on a lie, but a justifiable white one with plenty of wiggle room. Badd abandoned his coffee and walked to the door, resting a hand on his daughter’s shoulder. “You tell them that your dad died and that your uncle Badd is taking care of you,” he said.

A slower nod. “What if they think you’re my real uncle? Like, dad’s brother.”

“Tell them I’m your legal guardian. It’s true, and the rest isn’t your business. You don’t have to tell them we were…”

“Doing it?” Kay gave a little giggle in response to his startled expression. Badd pressed on the top of her head, gently forcing her to hunch down as she broke into a fit of laughter

“You are growing up way too fast,” he said, meaning it more than she knew. “Stop it.”

**

Cabanela was a bit eccentric but he was good at his job, something that could be said of most of the cops Badd cared to know. After the obligatory friction between the New Guy and the Established Guy (or the Traditionally Minded Old Guy and The Guy Who Seemed To Be Possessed By Michael Jackson’s Ghost) they’d gotten along reasonably well. It had helped that Cabanela had pulled a few strings in the department that seemed to worship him as a demigod and gotten Badd back onto active duty, and in thanks Badd allowed himself to be pressured into socializing. Poker night he’d be fine with, or football, maybe a little manly drinking, but agreeing to Karaoke Night? Badd considered that an official exchange of favors.

There is a house in New Orleans
They call the Rising Sun
And it’s been the ruin of many a poor boy
And god, I know I’m one


That was before Cabanela took up the microphone and sauntered onto the stage. He was a lot of things—fop, ridiculous, arrogant, possessed of a dress sense several decades out of date—but he was definitely not a bad singer.

“I think Cabanela missed his calling in life.”

“I think he only took us out here so he could show off.”

Detective McCaw leaned on the table and sighed mournfully. “It’s not us he’s showing off for,” he said, pointing across the bar. A trio of women several tables over were staring at him in intense fascination.

My mother was a tailor
Sewed my new blue jeans
My father was a gambling man
Down in New Orleans


Officer McCaw eyed the women wistfully, chin nearly dipping into his rum and coke. “Gods, I wish I wasn’t married.” Given McCaw’s remarkable physical similarity to Winston Payne, known toupee-wearer and five-time winner of Los Angeles’ Most Annoying Prosecutor Ever award, Badd sincerely doubted that would help. He made a matched pair with his constant companion Officer Grady, who was unmarried but unlikely to be headed that way anytime soon.

Now the only thing a gambler needs
Is a suitcase and a trunk
And the only time he’ll be satisfied
Is when he’s all drunk


Most karaoke participants stood awkwardly during the instrumental sections and stared nervously out into the audience. Cabanela put them to good use, swaying his hips and running his hands down the microphone stand with his eyes closed as if in passion. He seemed to ache along with the lyrics, as if he too had suffered despair and degradation in some little house of ill repute down south. Every set of female eyes was trained on him, including the heavily pierced punk chick minding the bar. At least one of them was getting off on it, Badd imagined. Personally he didn’t get the appeal.

Mothers…tell your children
Not to do as I have done
To spend your life in sin and misery
In the house of the Rising Sun


All right. A little of the appeal. If you liked that sort of thing. Badd had an odd quirk of not being particularly attracted to men he didn’t particularly like and that really killed any chance of interest. He stared too, but only because everyone was staring.

I’ve got one foot on the platform
The other on the train
I’m going back to New Orleans
To wear that ball and chain


The room exploded into applause when the music cut off. Cabanela took an elaborate bow, knee nearly touching the ground, before twirling his way off the stage with a flair of his spotless coat. A pair of drinks was waiting for him when he returned to the policemen’s table, compliments of two fine ladies across the way.

“Hm…” Cabanela picked up the whiskey first and sipped delicately at it before tasting the daiquiri, apparently weighing their relative quality. Badd swirled his tequila sunrise and looked completely apathetic.

His…status hadn’t been revealed to the department here but the white-coated inspector was meticulous enough to do a background check on anyone who came to work for him. If Cabanela knew he’d been screwing his partner back in LA he hadn’t made a big deal about it, which suited Badd just fine. As long as he got treated as just one of the guys he didn’t mind being expected to ogle women he had no interest in.

“Women buy him drinks.” McCaw nearly wept as his forehead hit the table.

“I’m sure it’s just artistic appreciation.” Cabanela raised the whiskey glass and pointed at it, looking in the direction of the bar. A woman in a sequined red dress waved coyly at him, while a brunette two seats away looked sullen. Badd thought the daiquiri girl was prettier, but what did he know about these things.

“Think I could have the leftovers?” Grady asked, looking hopeful at the runner up.

Cabanela gave Grady a light slap on the shoulder. “All women are beautiful,” he scolded. “It’s just this one bought me the better drink.”

Badd gently pushed the daiquiri in McCaw’s direction. “Here. I think you need this more than he does.”

Cabanela lounged back in his seat, one impossibly long leg up on the table. “By the way, if you and your little charmer want some family time, I’ll be out for the next few days,” he said to Badd as McCaw set to drowning his sorrows. “I’m not fond of making my unit do anything I wouldn’t.”

“Why? What are you out for?”

“High holidays. Two days now, and two days for Yom Kippur next a week. If anyone confesses any interesting sins out loud, I want to be there.” He threw back half the shot of whiskey, savoring it before he swallowed.

Badd had lived in big cities long enough to approximately know what Cabanela was talking about, but still to be surprised by it. “You’re Jewish?”

“A bit. Mostly in September.”

“I thought you were from Georgia.”

“Yep.”

“There’s Jews in Georgia?”

“Atlanta’s lousy with ‘em.”

“Huh.”

It wasn’t completely at odd with what he’d seen of the unusual inspector. People could reconcile strange things, and Cabanela was a strange man to begin with. Most of the population of Etros seemed to have an odd local religion not dissimilar from the Shinto practioners he’d encountered back in LA, though thankfully he’d never seen the police try to use a spirit medium to break a case. People went to church on Sunday and swore by gods-plural on Tuesday that they hadn’t been breaking into that convenience store on Monday. On a few visits to witnesses’ or suspects’ houses he’d seen small shrines tucked away in the corner of the living room. Cabanela himself wore a small, rune-engraved pendent around his neck and tended to make references to the gods having a hand in their more unusual cases. It seemed like his style to pick and choose what pleased him about a faith and leave behind the parts that bothered him.

And Badd could use the spare time to deal with that…other thing, that thing he’d been putting off scheduling. “Mind if I use it to recover from a parent-teacher meeting? Kay’s school wants to talk to me about her behavior.” He took a drink, as if bracing himself in preparation for the nasty deed.

Cabanela smirked without malice. “The little lady getting herself into trouble?”

“My guess is the teacher said something stupid, Kay mouthed off, I have to go in and play nice guy, and then we’ll go have a special talk about how to keep your mouth shut around idiots saying words.”

Cabanela laughed. “Bring her around next time Internal Affairs comes to visit. It’ll be a nice object lesson.” He knocked back the rest of the drink and stood up, keen eyes on the whiskey-bestower. “Have fun with the teachers,” he said, adjusting his red scarf and tugging down the lapels of his coat.

Badd tossed off a mock salute. “And you have fun with your anonymous sex in the men’s room, sir.”

“Ohhhh, I plan to.”

**

Badd had left the trenchcoat in the car before entering Etros High School. It was best to separate the part of him that acted as Kay's legal guardian and the parts that had bullet holes in them. He checked the room number and rapped on the open door with two knuckles. Badd wondered if the teacher even knew how they were really related--maybe he could get through the meeting without that annoying bit of exposition.

Kay's teacher was in her classroom, eating her own lunch. She was an innocuous-enough lookin woman, a little frazzled, a little on the fiftyish side of forty-five, and utterly unremarkable. When Badd’s shadow blocked the light to her collating she looked up and blinked at the very large, very... large man standing in her doorway. "Ah, hello," she said, standing up from her desk. "Are you Kay's father?"

"I'm...here for Kay, yeah." Badd sidestepped the statement and entered, offering a hand. "She gave me a note from you. Is something wrong?"

"Mmm... not wrong, precisely." She shook his hand with limp, well-lotioned fingers. "Your daughter certainly has a very active imagination, I must say. Very smart, one of my best students when she sets herself to a task. But I'm somewhat concerned about her responses to some of the creative writing assignments." The teacher went back to her desk, flipping through some folders and producing one with "Kay F." inscribed on the tab. She offered Badd a few of the sheets of paper, letting him read them himself.

Badd smiled softly. "She's always been pretty creative," he said, now merely curious instead of worried. Peh, probably wrote something that offended the teacher's delicate sensitivities, what garbage. It was a fairy tale style story, the sort of thing Kay had scorned at the age of nine in favor of reading about women who fought crime and solved mysteries. He went through the first page nodding, slightly smiling at the pretty princessness, smile dropping when he got to the…

"Oh, hell. I know what this is about." Badd sighed as he turned the page over. He’d really thought she was dealing better than this. "Yeah, that's um...the fluffy princess fantasy stuff is new, but that's not exactly fiction."

"Excuse me?"

The teacher sounded dubious, which for her was fair. Maybe she was used to having her kids try to write awkward romance or bad poetry, but Badd doubted she saw much high fantasy mixed with visceral descriptions of murder.

God damnit, Badd wasn't even sure if this was a good thing or not. Could be an early warning sign before something more sinister. He pinched the bridge of his nose. “Three and a half years ago, Kay's father was stabbed to death.” He read down the page, to a rather uncomfortably intimate description of a noble palace guard investigating the gaping wound in the king’s chest while an evil witch cackled sinisterly in the background. “Just about like this.”

The teacher blinked, then looked away. "Oh. Oh dear. Then you're her guardian...? I'm sorry, I had no idea."

"Guess nobody told you.” It wasn’t any of her business, but Badd would have thought Kay would have been more open about it. She was in the courthouse when it happened...nearly got killed herself before the suspect ran off." Aside from the depressing aspects it wasn’t half-bad. Not well written, but she was only thirteen and probably not trying very hard with this particular piece of nonsense. Badd took some morbid amusement in the depiction of himself as a noble avenging knight ceaselessly pursuing the Crowfoot Thief.

The teacher nodded. "We do have counselors here, for the children," she said, full of that well-meaning concern that somehow managed to annoy Badd as much as rudeness. "Do you think I should set up an appointment for Kay? She seems to be faring well, but if she's writing stories about her father's death, it might be bothering her."

“It’s been years. If she’s getting it out on paper, maybe it’s a coping mechanism,” Badd replied, barely paying attention to what she was saying. He kept reading, curious to know where the epic would end—Yew dead, ideally. The story wobbled around for several more paragraphs, drawing out the melodrama of the young princess’ sorrow, until the story dropped a ten ton weight on his chest.

The princess—the obvious stand-in for Kay—had found her father’s diary. And her father was the Crowfoot Thief.

Byrne had kept a meticulous record of their heists. Supposedly his partner hadn’t mentioned any names in it, or even let on that the Yatagarasu wasn’t a single entity, but if someone had found it among his possessions it would be easy to make the connection. Badd had hunted for it after his partner’s death but it has never turned up. He’d hoped that it had gotten lost somewhere where it couldn’t come back to tarnish Byrne’s memory, prayed that Yew hadn’t taken it for future blackmail.

How long had she known? Why hadn’t she said anything? “I’ll talk to her,” he said, folding over the next page and skimming the prosaic paragraphs with far more urgency.

The teacher was quiet for a moment as he read, then ahemed. "I'm sorry if I disrupted your day by asking to speak to you. I hope this hasn't been too much trouble...?"

"Mmm.” Badd ignored her to get to the last part, where the princess swore to carry on her father’s legacy. The story cut off abruptly, as if it had been scribbled out on the bus ride to school with no planned ending. Whatever the princess was planning, Badd would have to force the information out himself. He looked up at the teacher. "You think I could pull her out early? Maybe we can have a little talk." A long talk. A big talk. "Is she doing okay everywhere else?"

"Oh, yes, of course! You'll need to sign her out at the office, but I'll make sure her other teachers excuse her." Kay's teacher scribbled a note to herself. "Aside from the, ah, alarming fiction, she's been doing very well, as far as I can tell. Very smart, very active, very happy most of the time-- she seems to get along well with most of her classmates. I've never seen her cry over anything, or be needlessly cruel, which is why the story was so alarming-- there's some children I would almost expect it out of, but Kay's very sweet."

"Kay doesn't cry in public. It's a...thing with her." A promise. Badd folded the story up and tried to stick it inside his trenchcoat pocket before remembering he wasn't wearing it. "Maybe it's healthy, y'know? Getting it out in writing so she doesn't get it out by beating up other kids."

"I'm an English teacher, not a psychologist," the teacher said sternly, even though she was smiling at him. "I'm not exactly qualified to do more than read her stories and call you with concerns. All the same, thank you for coming-- it's good that Kay has someone who so obviously cares about her. You might think about getting her into counseling if this keeps up."

Yeah, well." Parent. That felt sort of nice. Badd stood, slipping one hand into his pocket as he made for the door. "I'll keep an eye on her. We'll go do something nice over spring break, maybe take her mind off it." Bullshitting now, of course, but if it made Kay's life easier he could do that. "Which way's the cafeteria?"

The teacher pointed off to the left, past the brightly colored posters promoting the scorn of booze, sex, and the fun things in life. "Follow the sound of a hundred teenagers in the same room.”

Badd just needed to take care of this latest snarl and talk some sense into her. It wasn't just the part about her finding out that bothered him, it was that she'd mentioned taking up his legacy. The Yatagarasu died with Faraday--he wasn't going to let Kay lose her life over it too.

Badd headed to the cafeteria, the folded story in one hand. Much like a mother bat, the detective knew his child's cry in a host of hundreds, and the look of her little black tuft of hair above the sea of heads. He waded through the crowd of chattering teens with sticky hands and tapped Kay on the shoulder.

Kay jumped and turned around, then squeaked through a half-chewed bite of lunch and attached to him. "Uncle Badd!" she said, happily, then wavered. "What're you doing here? I thought you had work today!"

That look of "oh man have I done anything wrong!" crossed her face, as well as a couple flashes of guilt as she seemed to count up stolen cookies and lifted lollipops.

“Felt like taking the day off." He nodded to Kay's boiled-to-death school lunch. "You wanna finish eating and join me? I think we need to hang out for a bit." He wasn't smiling, and he kept searching Kay's face for hints of deception. How could she keep such a big secret from him? Why? How could she not comprehend the deep danger her actions could put them all in?

“Is something wrong, Uncle Badd?” she asked, once they were in Badd’s beaten-up Honda and Badd was back in his proper trenchcoat. She looked uncertain, like she was searching her conscience for things to feel worried and guilty about.

"Not exactly. It's..." Badd licked his lips, then reached into the car cupholder and ran his finger over the collected suckers. Perhaps orange. Orange was good at focusing him. "I read your fairy tale story. It's not bad. I was just wondering why you changed a few things around."

Kay stared at him with wide eyes and an opened mouth. Obviously he was not supposed to have read that. “Oh. Oh, um. Did you like it?”

He could smell a suspect trying to cover her tracks from a mile away. This wasn’t making him any more comfortable. "Your teacher got a little concerned over the violent bits. Me, well, I'm concerned about a few other things." He unwrapped the sucker slowly, the way some men might gently handroll a cigarette. "Why's your dad the thief in this one?" He tried to keep his tone casual, questioning, not accusing of her of doing anything wrong.

"... 'cause I don't want Yew to be the thief," Kay said, guardedly, edging peeks at him from the corner of her eye.

"But she was. Even confessed to it, right in front of me and the von Karma prosecutors."

Kay fidgeted, looking distressed. "It's a fairy tale. My teacher said it doesn't have to be true. It’s just a writing assignment; nobody even cares about those things."

"So you're just making up the part about your father being the Yatagarasu?" She was fidgeting, he could see it reflected in the window. And lying to him…why? What had he done to break her trust so badly? "Cause that's a pretty weird thing to make up."

She squirmed, looking down into her lap. "My teacher says I'm creative," she tried. Twisting herself in knots, trying to find something that wasn’t a lie but wasn’t quite the truth. He’d seen the technique before but never for such high stakes.

"So the part where you're thinking of picking up where the Yatagarasu left off...that part's being creative too?" Badd twisted his lollipop stick between his fingers, still not putting it in his mouth.

Kay bit her lower lip and went quiet. If she was hesitating, that was as good as a yes. Damn it.

Badd didn’t know whether Faraday would want Kay to know, but he knew what Uncle Badd wanted. "The Yatagarasu got your dad murdered, Kay," he said, turning to Kay. "What it did was wrong, and dangerous, and Byrne paid the price for it. Don't go around initiating a murderer just because it looks like they did the right thing."

"Yes, Uncle Badd."

Too quick, too ambiguous. Badd pressed further. "Kay, I want you to promise me you won't ever try and do what the Yatagarasu did. Promise me.” Badd couldn’t come out and say he knew. If she thought he disapproved entirely, that he’d been chasing down that black-clad thief in pure honesty, maybe it'd warn her off.

Kay kept chewing her lip, at war with herself. She looked small, and terribly vulnerable, as she struggled between her Uncle Badd’s orders and imitating her beloved father.

“Kay!" Badd's hand tightened around the steering wheel. He rarely raised his voice to her but he meant business now. Kay, don't fight me on this, don't get idealistic and get a knife through your heart.

Her voice shook. Her thin frame was curling up into itself. "I promise," she mumbled.

"Good." Badd finally relaxed and leaned back against his seat. "And you always keep your promises to me and to your dad?”

"Yes, Uncle Badd.”

"Of course you do." He put the lollipop in his mouth and closed his eyes. Paperwork signed, confession in, he trusted Kay not to go back on her word. Any other kid he’d expect to lie without thinking about it to stay out of trouble, but Faraday had drilled this into her so hard that it had become a moral guideline. Perhaps it was a little hypocritical of him to have lied to her in return…

Badd’s teeth clacked against his candy. "You found his diary, didn't you?"

Kay looked up at him, jaw hanging. "... You knew?” she asked, shaken.

“I knew he kept one.” He’d planned to burn it. Even if you couldn’t prosecute a dead man you could still smear his good name…and while Byrne had taken the utmost precautions, anything that could tie Badd to the Yatagarasu was something that threatened everything he loved. “I knew he was up to something.” Still not lying.

Kay looked away, trembling with one knee to her chest. “I didn’t want you to hate Dad.”

“I wouldn’t hate him for anything.” Badd reached over and petted her head, trying to comfort her through...whatever it was she was thinking. He knew the draw of noble theft, he'd loved it when they'd done it together. "I'll get rid of it when we get home. It's not something people need to know about."

Kay pulled away from the touch, leaning her forehead against the window and watching the world.

Badd's hand stayed in place, frozen, horrified. She'd never done that to him before. "Look, Kay. I get why you'd like it,” he said, pulling his hand back to the gearshift. “It all seems like fun, jumping around in the middle of the night and fighting evil like you're a superhero. But it's no good...they always win when you try to take it outside the court. And when you try taking a way around it they find you and they hurt you, and I don't want to see you dead for the exact same reasons they killed your dad."

"Y-you don't understand," she said, squeezing her eyes closed. “It was important to him.”

“I understand a lot more than you think. I'm your uncle and I've seen a lot worse things than you have, you listen to me." He put his hand on her again and this time he squeezed her shoulder hard, trying to impart the important of the situation into her. It wasn't fun. It wasn't cool. It was life or death with the smugglers.

She shrugged him off, hard, still not looking his way.

Damnit, Byrne. You raised your kid too well. "You think I want to see you dead?" he asked, raising his voice again in frustration. "You think I want to be the one investigating your murder because you stopped looking behind you for two seconds and actually trusted someone, you want me to be the one helping you right into your grave? Because that's what happened to your dad and that's what's going to happen to you if you don't give up this garbage!"

"But he was doing the right thing," she said, quietly, as if it was all that mattered.

Badd slammed his hand down, leaving a sticky smear across the steering wheel with his lollipop.” The right thing isn't going and leaving his little kid an orphan! They won, and all we have to show for it is a few little guppies put away and your dad bleeding out on the courthouse floor." Faraday was the idealist, Badd was the cynic. He'd rather Faraday be here and the rest go to hell.

"It's not like Daddy murdered himself!" Kay said, angrily, but she didn't look towards Badd, still talking to the window. "It was Yew. You can't blame Daddy for what she did!"

Byrne had been the one who’d brought her in. The Yatagarasu was his idea. Sometimes Badd really did blame him for the entire affair. Kay fumed, turning an angry glare on her Uncle Badd for a moment, then jerked at the locked car door. "Lemme out, I'm gonna walk home," she snapped.

"No, you're going to come home with me." Badd groped for his keys and started the car, sucker rolling unnoticed to the car floor. He threw her a glare right back.

Kay didn't answer, jiggling the handle for another moment before hissing at it in frustration and curling up as far away from Uncle Badd as she could.

Badd swerved out of the parking lot, fingers clenching on the wheel as he felt the entire situation spin out of control. "You know I just want to keep you safe. Letting you do this...letting this happen again, I couldn't do that." he says, voice softer. Couldn't lose both of them.

"You're not my dad,” Kay muttered, folding up in her seat. “You don't get to tell me what to do."

Badd was silent for a long while after that, trying to plot out a response that didn't involve screaming at her. 'Low' didn't begin to describe that remark. In three years and the worst of arguments, she had never dared to throw that insult at him. Wasn't he doing his best? Hadn't he fought for her, given away his second biggest secret to the world for her, wouldn't he die for her same as Byrne?

Wasn't he doing the right thing?

Kay curled up more in her seat, folding her legs until she could press her face against them. She was, again, being suspiciously silent and didn’t respond to his prodding for the entire drive home.

A thought occurred to Badd, outraged as he was. Byrne had never lied to Kay, deception wasn't the same as lying. And here Badd had been lying to her and her lying back to him and this whole mess was going into a horrific downward spiral when it had been perfect this morning over coffee and cereal and---

He wanted to just blurt out that he’d been in on it. He’d known the whole time, and been an active part in it, and hadn’t had the good sense to stop Byrne from doing something that had destroyed his life. But it would only encourage her. She’d be angry with him when he finally destroyed it but it would be good for her. She’d see. Eventually.

As soon as they got home, Badd stormed up to her room and went tearing through her closet. Kay screeched and grabbed at his arms but he flung her back against the bed. “Where is it?” he said through gritted teeth.

“You can’t have it! It belonged to him!”

Not in the nightstand, not under the bed. “It’s dangerous. Give it to me.” Badd lifted Kay’s mattress with one arm, checking her room with the precision he’d used to find drugs and hidden weaponry.

Kay remained recalcitrant, arms folded and a defiant pout on her face. Badd responded by going through her desk drawers. He dumped out the contents on the floor, tossing the last one aside before going to look in her nightstand.

“Stop it!”

He could feel guilty later, Badd told himself. He needed a strong hand with this and he hadn’t been strong lately. If he’d been firmer it wouldn’t have come to this.

“I’m running away!” Kay shouted. “I’m going to run away from home and you’ll never see me again!”

“Kay—”

Badd pulled his head out from under the bed in time to see her vanishing out the window, leaping from the porch roof to the ground below. By the time he made it out the door she was halfway down the street with a cardboard box under arm.

In a straight run Badd would probably have gotten her. Despite his age and injuries he kept himself in excellent shape, if only to stay one step ahead of the fitness tests. But Kay knew the territory, what yards to avoid because the dogs barked, what trees could be climbed, what stairs had space under them to hide in, and she ran like the devil himself was after her. Badd found himself tripped up by low picket fences and wound up leaving his coat behind in the tangled remains of someone’s rosebush as he raced on after her. His lungs burned and his ankles ached from constantly stopping and turning around again, and he finally lost her behind a shed.

Badd skidded to a stop, trying to get his breath back enough to talk. He’d stopped smoking years ago but the scars on his lungs remained. “Kay…Kay, c'mon out. I'm not angry…I promise. I didn't mean to blow up at you."

It was entirely possible he was talking to the wind and the squirrels, but he a\was pretty sure he saw her disappear behind the building. He paced, looking for spaces that would fit a girl her size. "Come out and we'll talk about this, okay? I know it's a big deal about your dad, but...but you don't have all the info, okay?"

Badd held his breath, waiting for the sound of small feet on flowerbeds. If he could just get a grip on her arm he could drag her back home, and then he’d explain everything.

There was a shuffling in the bushes behind him. Badd whirled as Kay burst over the few yards of yard and was over the fence in a moment, pounding her way across the front yard and street as fast as her skinny legs could carry her.

Goddamn, when did she learn to run like that? Badd chased her down, coat flying behind him like a cape as he managed to keep pace with her across the street. Just had to get one hand around her arm and he'd have her...

Kay scrambled under a hedge too small to accommodate Badd and by the time he’d untangled himself from the branches she was out of sight again.

"Kay!" he screamed, to be answered only by the excited yaps of a nearby dog.

She was bluffing. Where would she go? Badd knew she had friends in the neighborhood but she couldn’t get far on her own. She would have to come back eventually.

Badd walked home with his shoulders low, picking his way back through trampled flowerbeds and picking up his coat along the way. He checked the underside of every building he passed on the way home, just in case, but eventually wound up slumped over in the kitchen wondering whether he should phone in a missing child report.

He wanted to call her bluff and wait until she came home repentant and tired, but it was barely twenty minutes before he was calling every connection Kay had in the neighborhood. Paranoia paid off, here, he’d made sure to get contact information for every kid Kay made a playdate with—especially the boys. Badd tried to make his brain treat this as just another fugitive hunt, looking for where the criminal might take shelter or have sympathetic friends. Kay was sharp but not a tactical mastermind, and you couldn’t get far in this area without a car. She’d come back soon.

She had to. And when she did he wasn’t sure if he was going to lock her in her room or hug her and never let go.

After a dozen answering machines and vocal shrugs Badd finally got a hit at the Baileys’ house.

“Yes, she was here a few minutes ago—”

“Did she say where she was going?” Badd tried not to sound desperate.

The receiver was muffled and Mrs. Bailey shouted something incomprehensible. Badd waited, fingers tightening around the edges of his worn leather address book. When the woman returned her high voice sounded mildly suspicious.

“Matt says Kay was running away from home. Did something happen?”

“We just had an argument. She threw a fit and ran off. I just need to know where she is.”

Another pause, while Badd’s fingernails left long scars in the address book’s cover. Let Kay be a stupid criminal. It was getting close to dusk and he knew what happened to girls her age that tried to make it on their own…knew better than any father who wanted to sleep at night ought to.

Whatever was happening on the other side of Mrs. Bailey’s hand, someone wasn’t very happy about it. Her next comments sounded less concerned and more pissed off. “She borrowed one of our sleeping bags and told Matt to come get it from Temsik Park tomorrow. And apparently took several boxes of granola bars with her.” Her tone did not indicate she had been informed of this fact until now.

Temsik…that big park, near the garishly red apartment complex. About two miles out from the house, but Kay could run that easily. Badd tossed out a small thanks and slammed the phone down, dashing for his car.

All he had to do was get a hand on her arm and he could drag her home. Badd didn’t think about what would happen beyond that, all that mattered was getting her in custody. Home.

The whole thing really did feel like a hunt for an escaped suspect, Badd mused as his one-man SWAT team entered the park. He caught himself checking for his gun as he waded through the overgrown grass and discarded balls. It was the only thing he could think to do right now. They’d argued, both before and after Byrne’s death, but she’d never cut and run on him—well, not since she was old enough to be off the toddler leash.

Temsik Park was litter-ridden but deserted. Badd fixated on the small wood and steel treehouse in the middle of the park, just big enough to fit a half-dozen children or a very determined teenager. The ladder was gone but Kay was enough of a monkey to get in anyway.

Badd stood at the bottom of the tree and waited to be noticed.

Kay’s dark-maned head poked out of the treehouse window. There were twigs in her snarled hair and she looked like she’d been crying. "I've run away," she yelled down, "I'm not coming home."

Yes, you're going to live on a tree and eat granola. This is a great life plan. But now that he’d found her he couldn’t stay mad. Just desperate. “Kay…I’m sorry, all right?” he pleaded.

"I'm not. I don't care that you are."

Badd slipped his hands into his pockets. "Your dad's book told you he was the Yatagarasu, yeah? Didn't tell you the whole story." No more lies. No more of that.

She ignored him, settling into the crook of where a limb met the trunk, pulling a wrapped energy bar out of her pocket and crunching it down noisily.

Badd walked around so he was almost directly underneath her. Talking up to her was an odd sensation. "He wasn't the Yatagarasu. We were. I didn't just know about it, I was the one helping him. If I wasn't there maybe he wouldn't have been able to pull it off at all." He waited, heart in his throat, for her response.

Kay stopped eating.

"... you…” Badd’s heart broke at the look of desperation and betrayal on her face.

"You made me lie to you!" She tore a dead branch from the tree and threw it down at him. "You made me break a promise to daddy! You made me lie! I didn't want to lie but you made me! W-Why? Why did you-- I don't know what-- I hate you!"

Again, Badd sidestepped the branch. Hugs and candy weren't going to solve this one...she was growing up and getting complicated. "Because I thought it'd keep you safe if you never found out. Because I'm stupid. Because I'm the kind of guy who violates what his badge stands for to go forging and destroying evidence to make sure nobody ever finds the thief he's been assigned to catch in the first place. Don't get mad, Kay, I'm a bigger liar."

"You are stupid!" Kay agreed, angry and crying. “I hate you!”

Which is why I don't want you being stupid like me." Badd reached up and grabbed the platform of the treehouse, hiking himself up on the stub of a trimmed branch. "Kay. I'm sorry. I'm not really good with this sort of thing. Your dad was, I'm not. But I figure two liars cancel each other out." Suddenly he was flashing back to the custody hearing and all those things that slimeball lawyer had said about being an unfit caretaker for the poor orphaned Kay...and how most of them were right. He was old, had never had so much as a babysitting job, had never been married, and generally had no idea what he was doing.

But I've never lied," Kay choked back a sob and scuttled higher still, until she was resting on branches almost too weak to bear her thin form. "And you've been lying for-- for a year, for years and years, why couldn't you tell me? Why did you lie to me?"

The falling leaves caught on his coat, nestling under his ragged collar. "Tell a kid her dad was a crook? I couldn’t do that. I knew..." He swallowed and looked up at her. Not a kid. Or wouldn't be a kid forever. "I knew what we did was right. But I couldn't see how to show you that, not when I spend my time telling you to obey the law."

"But-- but today, you, you found out, but you still didn't.” Kay looked like she was about to hyperventilate from grief and rage.

"Yeah, because I worry about you and I know you can't do this. Your dad had me backing him up, and you saw what happened to him." Badd started to hike himself further up to the tree, but stopped when he saw Kay moving for the upper branches. He wanted her down, but not by the will of gravity and not from that high up.

"These people are horrible monsters, worse than your stories. Do you see?" he asked quietly. His voice sounded strange to his own ears with this much pain and emotion in it. "I was scared."

“You wanted to burn his diary," she whimpered, not looking at him.

"I don't anymore. You can keep it.” Keep anything you want, just come home to me.

"... I can?"

She looked at him with nervous hope, still shaking and tearful, and Badd’s spirits began to lift.

"How do I know you're not lying again?"

Badd held out his hand to her. He couldn't quite touch her from here. "No more lies, Kay. Not for your own good and not because I'm a yellow coward. Come home and I'll give you the whole story."

She wavered, wiping her tears away, looking at his hand-- then looked away. "I've run away. I'm not coming home,” she said sullenly.

Badd hid his annoyance. "Will you at least let me make you dinner?" Before you come back to sleep in a treehouse? He didn’t remember being this stupid at thirteen and he’d had far more reasons to run away.

"I had food at a friend's house.”

"Dessert? There's more cookies in the pantry." Badd offers a hesitant smile.

"I'm not hungry."

Badd shifted, wedging his tall figure into the treehouse and stretching out as much as the small space would allow him. “Kay. Please. Come home.” He’d never groveled before, not to the highest power in the courtroom, but he was doing it now.

“Go away, Mr. Badd. I’m not coming back and you’re not gonna talk me into it. That’s it.”

Badd went back to the house alone and immediately set about brewing a stakeout caliber pot of coffee. Sleeping outside for a night wouldn't kill her, not with a sleeping bag and a roof over her head, though it might take some of the fight out of her. But he wasn’t about to let her sleep alone.

By sunrise Badd had depleted his coffee and formed a pretty good guess of who did it in the cheap mystery novel-on-tape he brought to keep himself entertained. He left his car and quietly walked over to the treehouse, climbing up to peer in the window at her and her noteworthy lockbox.

She looked tiny and freezing and miserable, curled around the box, face a bit pink from crying half the night-- but, for the moment, asleep again, breathing slowly and utterly unconscious. Badd's hard mouth quirked in a slight smile. He leaned into the treehouse to gently touch her arm...she felt so cold. He'd have offered his coat, as he always did when they were together and she was shivering but she'd probably have thrown it away.

Kay shifted and clutched the box closer. Badd pulled his arm back and waited, arms and head resting on the windowsill.

Kay blinked tear-reddened eyes open against the soft glow of morning. It took her a moment to look and see him-- but when she did, she glared up at him and held box against her skinny little chest, scooting back against the far wall.

"So is that it, then?" he asks, nodding at the box. "Little Thief and the diary?"

"You're not taking them from me!" She clutched the box tighter and glared at him like a trapped raccoon. So Byrne’s greatest creation was in there too.

Badd shrugged. "I don't want to. I wouldn't mind seeing them...they're Byrne's. It's part of him. But I'm not gonna break something he worked so hard on." God knew how. Faraday had tried to explain Little Thief to him a few times, all about sonar detection and light and sensors, and Badd had just told him to make sure it worked. Good to know the ring hadn’t gotten their hands on it.

She relaxed, but retained her iron grip on the box. "Then what do you want?"

"I want you to come home with me." There. Honesty. Badd shifted and wriggled himself up a bit further, so was head is nearly brushing the roof. "You can keep the stuff. Only thing I wanted was to keep it out of the hands of people who'd get the wrong idea...if you managed to hide it from someone living in the same house I don't think we have to worry."

She scrunched back, away from him, open distrust on her face.

Badd slumped, despairing. He wasn’t going to let her run away...he'd keep following her wherever she went. But he'd rather not have to send the boys in blue to bring her home kicking and screaming. "What do I need to say to make you stop living in a tree?" he pleaded.

"... I dunno." She looked away, clinging to her box.

"I can tell you about your dad. The real truth, all of it, him and me and Calisto." He'd been planning on telling her. Someday. Possibly on his deathbed.

She visibly wavered. "... You won't take Dad's things away?" she asked, looking at him with wide, uneasy eyes.

"Won't lay a hand on them without your permission." And as demonstration he made a slash across his chest, crossing his heart. Not that he hadn't been hoping to die half this evening, or at least feeling he deserved it.

"I can run away again if you try," she warned, and unscrunched from the wall.

Badd shifted and swung down, refraining from offering to carry her. "Which is why I won't try," he said, folding his arms into his coat.

Kay followed, standing a few wary feet away from Badd and still clutching the chest as if it held her heart.

Badd turned and walked away, trusting her to follow him.

Thoughts indeed...Badd wondered whether he'd have had the strength to burn it if he'd actually found it before Kay.

Kay got in the car. She was obviously still unhappy with him, but she wasn’t running, which was a decided improvement over yesterday. Badd considered it progress enough and didn’t lock the door. "It started about three years before he died. Half a year before me and him did the paperwork. It'd been bubbling under Byrne's skin for a while, I think, but Cece Yew pushed it over the edge."

Kay had the box in her lap, fingers splayed over it protectively as she listened. Even if she was only going to sit still as long as it took to get to the house, he was going to tell her.

“About three years before your dad died, we got involved with a woman named Cece Yew. She was gonna be a whistleblower for a bunch of corruption going on in the Cohdopian embassy—you know the place, the gaudy building a few doors down from Vitamin Park. There was a smuggling ring based out of there and Cece was the key to busting it wide open. Byrne took up the legal end, I got put on bodyguard duty for Cece. I…failed.”

Kay knew some parts of the story. She’d been too young to understand the entire business, but Byrne always tried to answer her questions with as much clarity as possible. She’d remember seeing Uncle Badd splayed out in a hospital bed with bandages where they’d pulled the bullet out of his leg, and being ordered out by Byrne so Badd could rail against his own incompetence with the most vigor the painkillers would allow him.

“We got the killer on tape. Manny Coachen, another embassy employee, and we were going to nail him to the witness stand. But the evidence up and vanished right before the trial and we had nothing to hold him on.” The bastard had been smirking when he walked out of the courtroom. He knew where his friends were.

“Cece’s sister…what we thought was her sister…she came up after the trial and slapped me in the face. She was crying.”

Kay finally spoke up. “Calisto Yew.”

“Yeah. We didn’t know how to catch them. Not legally. I honestly thought Byrne was going to quit law completely. And then the Yatagarasu happened. It was Byrne’s idea. He was a genius. It wasn't just the courtroom or the stealing, it was ambition. We did things I didn't think anyone could do. My job was to clean up afterwards, that’s why I got myself put on the case, chasing down a thief I made sure no one would catch."

And here came their mistake, something even worse than how he’d failed Cece. “See, the Yatagarasu’s a mythical bird with three legs, a messenger of the Japanese gods. The head of the smuggling had it on the cards he used to send orders to his minions. But the reason our bird has three legs is that it had three members.”

“Three?”

“There was Byrne, he did the breaking and entering. I concealed the evidence. But our third was the one who got information on our targets and their security systems in the first place…” Badd’s tongue ran over his lips, seeking out a lollipop that wasn’t there. “It was Calisto.”

The treacherous viper had been the one person they thought they could trust. Badd kept his eyes on the road so he didn’t have to look Kay in the face. It had been Byrne’s idea to bring her in, not Badd’s, but that didn’t reduce his guilt.

“She was there to destroy us from the start. There never was a Calisto Yew, her defense attorney paperwork was faked, and she only knew about the corruption we found because she was in on it. She let us catch the little fish and stabbed us in the heart when we got too close to the truth. If we’d just let it go this never would have happened...but looking back I can’t see us going any other way.”

"You did it because it was right,” Kay put in.

"He did. Me...I think I was guilty about Cece Yew, and I was angry about them getting away when we had them clear as anything. Can't really say I was noble about it." Honesty hurt, for Badd. He was used to concealing his emotions behind grunts and hard stares, peeling himself open like this was painful enough in his own head without letting the rest of the world know how weak he was. But he’d do it for Kay...he’d open himself to earn her trust, the way he did to earn her during the custody hearing “Byrne was the idealist. I was always the cynic. And Calisto..." Badd repressed a curse. "Always thought that compulsive laugh of hers was a mask. Turns out the mask was her."

"I don't want to be like dad because it's dashing and cool.”

"You don't?" They were almost to the house now. Badd was hopeful, maybe she'd seen sense....

"I wanna do the right thing. Like he did. Even if it gets me killed, too." She hugged the box, resting her cheek on it. "Daddy was great and cool and all that, but that's different from being the Yatagarasu."

The car softly creaked to a stop in the driveway. Badd closed his eyes as he turned off the engine. "Kay...you're barely thirteen. Byrne was forty and he still had plenty of life to go. I'm not saying it's not the right thing, it was, I just don't want to be the one cleaning up your murder scene." He reached over and brushed her matted hair back out of her face.. "I don't want to lose two people I love. You're all I've got, without him." His parents were long gone and he missed Byrne more than them, he'd barely seen his brother in the last ten years, and the rest were...companionable, but disposable.

Kay flinched back from his hand, looking at him with wide eyes, a little scared and still a little angry and a little worried and very, very tired. "... I'll be careful.”

“You promise me?”

“Yeah.”

Badd's hand slipped back, as if acting on its own. He kept his eyes closed, trying to pull himself back together. The angry, terrified tension slowly began to seep out of his body. "Okay. If that's the best I can get." Her father raised her right...maybe not safe, but right. He wasn’t going to brute force her out of it, couldn't scare her out of it, couldn't logic her out of it...only thing left to do was make sure she didn't kill herself too easily..

Kay went into the house and padded up to her room, putting her box back into its hiding spot and looking at the mess Badd made of everything else.

"I'm...sorry about the mess. I'll fix it for you. Point one on what good thieves don’t do, leave a big mess behind.” He picked up one of her pillows and set it back on the bed next to her stuffed animals. Kay curled up in the corner with her arm around her shins.

"... I wish you guys had told me," she said, face to her knees. "I was so afraid you'd find out about Daddy and hate him for, for breaking the law, for not telling you..."

Badd went about awkwardly cleaning up, probably putting everything back in the wrong place. Kay didn’t comment on it if he was. "I think he might have, when you got older. I'm sorry. You know I suck at this.”

“It’s okay.”

Badd kept his back to her, not showing his face. "I'll get over it. That was...that and me and Byrne were the biggest secrets I had. I won't lie to you again, not about something like this." He bent to clean up her scattered gel pens.

Kay watched him with dulled eyes. "Do I have to go to school today?"

Heh. Always that little splinter of selfishness in the bold proclamations. Badd loved his little girl. "Your teacher called me out because she thinks you're messed up because you wrote about stabbing Yew to death. I'm pretty sure she'll buy you needing a day off." He replaced the last figure on her shelf, then came to crouch next to her.

She leaned against him, tired and quivering and red-eyed. Badd doubted she’d gotten much sleep. "Okay," she said, one hand curling into his coat.

Badd hugged her like he'd been dying to since yesterday lunchtime, so hard it nearly hurt her. "If you're gonna be a thief...then you be the best dang thief you can be, better than anyone, better than me. Promise me that?"

"O-of course." She sniffled against him, nodding hard. "I'm gonna be the best and make Daddy proud of me and catch all the bad guys that you guys couldn't."

"Good." Badd rested his weary head against her shoulder and pushed away the desire to consider what came next...he was still dogged by the idea of her following in her father's path in full and dying for it and leaving him alone. She wouldn't. He'd make sure of it, even if he had to take the shot for her.

"I'm hungry,” Kay murmured in his ear.

Badd twisted one leg back and stood, still holding Kay. She was almost too heavy, despite being a bony little thing, but some deep paternal instinct needed to know he could still cradle his daughter in his arms. "Cereal okay?" he asked, shifting her about and carrying her downstairs.

"Yeah." She leaned her head on his shoulder, hands twisted in the bulletholed lapel of his coat, eyes half-closed.

Badd sat her at the table and fumbled about for cheap sugary cereal and the last of the milk. The breakfast offering was neatly placed in front of her, complete with small spoon, and Badd took his place in the other chair with a slightly more manly bowl. He predicted a heavy nap for the both of them once the caffeine and adrenaline wore off.

They ate, faces in their dishes, occasionally coming up for air and meeting each others’ eyes with a slight smile. On a mild whim Badd dug into his pocket and pulled out his wallet, coming up with his business card. "Kay?" He laid it on the table.

"Yeah?" She looked at the card in weary confusion. The sugared cereal wasn’t doing much to wake her up.

Badd tapped the card, making sure her attention was on it. He pulled his hand back and swept it over the table, the card disappearing into his hand as he passed over it. When Badd turned his hand over, the card was gone.

Kay stared, then blinked and shook her head, looking more intently.

"... Again?" she asks, interested.

Badd smiled and took the card out from his sleeve. "Little trick your dad taught me," he offered as explanation. "To help small things disappear quickly. When you've got some sleep in you I'll see if I can teach you." He set the card down and then palmed it again.

Kay leaned down, watching closely, but couldn't quite see what he did. "I'm not tired," she said, peering at his hand, reaching out across the table to hold it and feel inside his sleeve for the card. Badd repeated the motion, slowed down so she could see the way his fingers moved.

“So how does your story end? That one you wrote for class.”

“I don’t know. That was as far as I got. I forgot about the assignment until the day before so I just wrote down the first thing I could think of.” Kay giggled nervously. “It’s not my best work. I’m not usually that…cutesy.”

“So how do you want it to end?”

“I dunno yet.”

Kay watched Badd palm the card and replace it, his hand sweeping back and forth across the table. On the last pass she plucked it from between his carefully arranged fingers and set it in front of her. Her thin, cold-reddened fingers hovered over the table, sizing up the card.

“Let’s go find out.”

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seiberwing

May 2013

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