A Meitantei Conan fic by Orla
Disclaimer: I lay no claim to the characters; they all belong to Gosho Aoyama-sama! ^^
I have kept the honorific endings such as `-san', `-kun' and `-neechan' in Japanese as there is no real English equivalent. `-kun' is used for boys and sometimes for girls (when addressed by their elders), `Ran-neechan' can be translated as `big sister Ran' (the male equivalent is `-niichan') and Heiji often refers to or calls Ran `Neechan' even though he is the same age as her, it's just a more casual mode of address.
I don't know whether the Mouri Agency building has a bicycle bay out the back, but the apartment I lived in had one, so I know they can exist! ^^
"Ran, if I told you to run, would you?"
Ran frowned and she raised herself from her reclining position on her bed. "What do you mean, Shinichi? Why would I run anywhere?"
Shinichi sighed down the phone. "I... I mean, if there was danger and I told you to run away to some place that was safe, would you?"
Ran's heart started to beat a little faster. "Shinichi..." she made an effort to keep her voice calm. "Is there some sort of danger that you're not telling me about?" a cold chill ran through her. "Are _you_ in danger?"
He laughed softly. "Idiot, if I was in danger I wouldn't be telling you to run!" he sighed again. "I can't explain now, Ran, but... do you trust me?"
"Yes," the word was out of her mouth before she could stop it. She frowned a little at her ready answer, but deep down she knew that she did trust him, completely.
"Then can you trust me enough to listen if I do tell you to get away?"
"I... I guess so," Ran said reluctantly. "But I wish you would tell me _why_ you've suddenly come up with this."
"Look, don't worry, Ran," Shinichi was evasive. "I'm sure this will come to nothing. Anyway, I have to go... something's come up. Talk to you later, bye!"
"Wait! Shinichi! Argh!" Ran through her cell phone down on her bed in frustration. "You mystery loving idiot! How can you ask me something like that and then hung up?"
His question continued to bother Ran all through the evening and the next day; she was so spaced out during school that she fluffed many of her lessons.
"What is wrong with you today?" Sonoko asked as they packed up their books after the last lesson of the day. "You nearly blew up the classroom in science, fell over during PE, quoted the wrong line in Japanese lit and now you messed up all your English tenses!"
Ran ducked her head. "It's... well... oh, I can't explain!"
Sonoko peered at her friend's face, one eyebrow raised. "It's Shinichi, right? _He's_ responsible!"
Ran sighed. Sometimes she wished that Sonoko didn't know her that well.
"Mouri-san?" Jodie Saintemillion, their English teacher, walked up to them. "I'd like to talk to you."
Ran's eyes widened slightly. "Uh... sure, sensei."
Sonoko touched Ran's hand briefly, her eyes conveying to Ran that they would talk later, and then she left the classroom.
"Well," Jodie folded her arms and regarded Ran who swallowed. "What am I to do with you, Mouri-san?"
This was the second time that Ran had been caught distracted in Jodie's class(1) and she fully expected a reprimand. However, once again Jodie surprised her.
"I think this talk would be better with some coffee and cake, don't you?" Jodie winked at Ran's astonished expression. "My treat."
Ran smiled weakly as she grabbed her bag. "If the others knew that this is how you scold people, sensei, then you might have more problems with your students."
"Then this will have to be our little secret," Jodie grinned and waved Ran out of the door.
The blond American took Ran to a small, quiet coffee shop not far away from the school, a popular haunt of several teachers and some of the older students. Once they had been seated and ordered, Jodie fixed Ran with one of her penetrating stares.
"You are usually a good student, Mouri-san, so I'm sure whatever has distracted you from your studies lately must be very, very important."
Ran blinked. "Me? A good student?" she blushed. "Not at English, sensei!"
Jodie waved her hand. "Oh, your English is standard, not great, not bad, but you _do_ try. And," she grinned mischievously. "You occasionally come out with some interesting vocabulary!"
Ran coughed. "Uh... really?" *Shinichi! What did you teach me? * "Well, I have a friend who is very good at English and he taught me some words."
"Oh yes! That would be your cool guy, right?" Jodie's grin widened and Ran blushed again.
"No... I mean, yes, but he's not _my_ cool guy!" Ran was grateful that the waiter chose that moment to bring their drinks and she could take a moment to compose herself.
Jodie raised a sceptical eyebrow, but didn't challenge Ran's statement and for a moment the two simply sipped coffee and nibbled some delicious cake. Then Jodie put her cup down and fixed Ran with yet another unsettling look.
"I think _he_ is the reason behind your distraction, Mouri-san. Did something happen?"
Ran was thrown off-guard by Jodie's question and stammered for a moment. "No... yes... well, he... I..." she swallowed. She didn't feel entirely comfortable telling her English teacher everything, despite her liking for the blond American. "He called me last night and said something a little strange which indicated that he might be in danger..." *Or I am.*
"I see," Jodie tilted her head to one side. "He means a lot to you, doesn't he?" light glinted off her glasses, making her eyes hard to see.
Ran licked her lips. "He's a big mystery loving fanboy! But..." her voice wavered. "I've known him for so long..."
Jodie nodded. "I see, I see! Poor Mouri-san! It must be hard on you," she leaned forward, her lips curved into a conspiratorial smile. "But maybe he's just being overly dramatic... from what I've heard of Shinichi Kudo, he does get a little carried away at times... am I correct?"
Ran laughed despite her embarrassment. "Yes... I guess so," she sobered again. "Not that I would know whether or not this has changed... considering I have barely seen him all year!" she burst out suddenly, her frustration spilling out. "A phone call is not the same! I just can't understand why it is so hard for him to come and see me... even if it's just for an hour..."
"Perhaps he can't?"
Ran looked up, startled by Jodie's words. "Can't? What... what do you mean?"
Jodie pursed her lips and shrugged. "I just wonder whether he is afraid to see you, perhaps something has happened that he thinks will make you... abandon him."
"No!" Ran cried out loudly, startling the other patrons of the café. She ducked her head and twisted her hands in her lap, repeating herself in a quieter, but more tearful voice. "Jodie-sensei, I wouldn't abandon Shinichi... unless he... what I mean is..." she raised her head and looked Jodie in the eyes. "I just want the truth from him, is that unreasonable?"
"Truth, huh?" Jodie smiled, a catlike smile that made a slight shiver shoot down Ran's spine. "Truth is such a vague concept, don't you think? We all perceive it in such a variety of ways that I wonder sometimes if it even exists."
The shiver developed into a sense of unease as Ran stared at her teacher in confusion. "What do you mean... Sensei?"
"Hmmm... I'm not sure," Jodie laughed and winked at Ran. "Ah, Mouri-san! Don't look at me like I'm about to explode! Your Cool Guy always says that there is only one truth, correct? Well, maybe I can help you with that `truth'. Tomorrow I will give you something that will help you with the problems you are having with him."
"Oh no, sensei!" Ran objected as a small voice, sounding very much like Shinichi, clamoured for her attention, telling her that accepting help from this woman was a bad idea. Ran tried to shove the little voice aside. Really, Shinichi's words were making her paranoid! "This is my problem, please don't worry about me!"
"You Japanese... so reluctant to accept help!" Jodie sighed. "Mouri-san, you forget that your 'problem' is affecting your studies. So, as your teacher, it's my duty to help you."
"No buts," Jodie said firmly. She drained the last of her coffee and stood up. "Tomorrow, after school... no arguments will be accepted. I'll pay for the afternoon tea. Bye-bye, Mouri-san!"
Ran blinked. "Okay... now I'm really confused and a little scared," she mumbled to herself. "How can Josie-sensei help me? AND Shinichi?"
Her mobile phone beeped, interrupting her confused thoughts, and she answered it. "Hi Sonoko, what's up?"
"How did you know it was me?"
Ran smiled. "Because I saw your number on the screen, silly."
"Well, whatever... so, are you in big trouble?"
"No," Ran frowned. "She just talked to me and..." Ran hesitated. The whole conversation had been a little surreal and she wasn't quite sure how to explain it to Sonoko. "Well, she basically told me not to get distracted anymore."
"Phew... you are so lucky, Ran!" Sonoko teased. "But tell me... was it Shinichi who was making you distracted? Did he say something weird to you?"
Ran flushed at the eager tone in her friend's voice. Clearly Sonoko was hoping to hear that Shinichi had made a passionate confession to Ran. "No, not really. He just said some odd stuff, you know, like he always does and I thought he might be in trouble."
"And you were worried!" Sonoko sighed theatrically over the phone. "How romantic! Such devotion!"
"So-no-ko!" Ran's face was bright red and she turned away so that the other people couldn't see her furious blush. "It's not like that at ALL! I couldn't care less about that..."
"Mystery-loving geek?" Sonoko finished for her. "Ran, you sound like a broken record!" her tone changed from teasing to serious. "Isn't it time you stopped pretending?"
Ran sucked in her breath. "I..."
"After all, you MUST love him... otherwise WHY do you never pay any attention to other guys? Especially that cute Doctor Araide... I swear he's into you!"
Ran's body sagged slightly in relief, she had been a little afraid that Sonoko was going to make her admit to something that... well, she wasn't about to admit to in a crowded coffee shop. "Perhaps I don't want a boyfriend right now," she retorted.
"You are so weird sometimes... ah well, all the more for me at Izu beach!"
"Oh, that's right... you're leaving tomorrow, aren't you?"
"Uh-huh," Sonoko squealed. "I love summer vacation!"
"Sounds great," Ran said wistfully.
"Are you sure you can't come? You know you're always welcome..."
"Thanks, but I have a lot to do... especially with the karate tournament coming up soon."
"Oh yeah... I forgot about that... well, I'll be back by the time it's on, so train hard and I'll cheer for you, Ran!"
Ran giggled. "Thanks, Sonoko."
They chatted for a little while longer about inconsequential matters before saying goodbye and Ran left the café.
Hurrying towards the Detective Agency, aware that she was very late and her father (and Conan) was probably starving, Ran turned over the day's events in her head. Jodie's words were troubling; her teacher seemed to know a lot about Shinichi and she hadn't even met him, only seen him at the school play(2) all that time ago.
"When I see Shinichi... _if_ I see Shinichi... I'm going to force him to explain so much," Ran muttered to herself. "If he thinks that he can..."
She stopped abruptly and turned, an uncomfortable prickling on the back of her neck suggesting that someone was watching her... with unfriendly eyes. However, the few people she saw were paying no attention to her, only concerned with themselves. Ran sighed. "I really am getting too paranoid for my own good," she shook herself slightly and continued on her way, determined to ignore the cold feeling tickling her spine.
Ran didn't sleep well that night, odd dreams that she couldn't remember kept her tossing and turning. The only thing she could recall when she got out of bed the next morning was that Jodie and Shinichi had played a part in her dreams.
"Are you all right, Ran-nechan?" Conan asked her at breakfast, his blue eyes fixed on her face. "You look tired."
Ran sighed. "I didn't sleep very well last night, Conan-kun," she said, setting his breakfast down in front of him. "Don't worry, I'll be fine."
Conan looked dubious. "Ran-neechan?"
"Do you want me to stay here tonight?"
Ran laughed and swooped down on the little boy, hugging him. "Conan-kun, you are so sweet to worry about me! But I'm not going to deprive you of a sleepover at Professor Agasa's, so go as you planned tonight, okay?"
"'kay..." muttered the little boy who was flushing deep red.
"Ran!" Kogoro walked out of his bedroom, scratching his side and yawning. "I'll be out tonight."
Ran frowned. "More Mah-jongg, Dad? No wonder Mum isn't coming back anytime soon!" she huffed and stalked off to the kitchen to get her father's breakfast, Kogoro muttering crossly behind her.
The rest of the day passed in a normal fashion, Ran allowed herself to be distracted during break by Sonoko's chatter about the upcoming holiday and forgot about Jodie-sensei's promise until she was packing up her bags at the end of the day.
"There you are, Mouri-san!" Jodie called out, entering the classroom. "I've been looking for you."
"Sensei..." Ran smiled wanly. "I'd forgotten, sorry."
"Never mind that," Jodie held out an object. "Here, give this to your Cool Guy."
Ran took the gift and stared at it in consternation. It was small, just a little box that felt light and was wrapped in plain brown paper. "What is it?" she asked and Jodie grinned, placing one finger on her lips.
"That's a secret, but don't worry... your cool guy will understand."
"Don't open it!" Jodie said sharply as Ran's fingers plucked at the packaging. "Just give it to him, or someone else who can contact him."
"Uh... okay," Ran agreed reluctantly.
"Good, good! And don't worry, he'll know what to do with it I'm sure," Jodie was all smiles again. "Goodbye Mouri-san, have a great summer holiday!" her glasses glinted in the light. "Make it one to remember."
"Umm, yeah, you too Sensei."
"Say hello to Cool Kid for me!" Jodie waved and walked out of the classroom.
"Cool Kid? Oh, she means Conan-kun," Ran looked down at the little package. "And just how am I supposed to get this to that idiot Shinichi? I have no idea where he is! I... oh!" Ran smacked her forehead. "Of course... Professor Agasa!"
So Ran took a small detour from her usual route home and was soon ringing the bell of Agasa's house. While waiting for the old man to arrive, she glanced over at Shinichi's huge house next door and felt her heart twinge. It had been such a long time, or at least felt like it, since she had last been there with him. Ran remembered homework sessions and movie nights, talking for ages in the comfort of the living room, and expeditions to explore the huge attic. *When am I going to see him again?*
Agasa's door opened abruptly and the rotund professor blinked in surprise when he saw who his visitor was. "Ran-kun? How nice to see you. Did you want to see Conan? He's not here yet, he's still playing with his friends at the park."
"Nooo, that's okay, Professor," Ran held out the little package. "I just came by to drop off something for Shinichi."
Was she imaging it or did a flicker of unease show in Agasa's eyes. "Shinichi-kun? I..."
"I know you've been handling his mail," Ran said. "So I hoped you could get it to him."
"I think I can," he said slowly, taking the package from her. "Is it a present from you, Ran-kun?"
She flushed. "No, it's from... strangely enough... my English teacher, Jodie Saintemillion. She says it can help him, that he's know what to do with it," Ran shrugged. "I have no idea what she means though."
"Well, I'll do my best to get this to Shinichi," Agasa promised.
"Thanks!" Ran waved goodbye and walked away. She hoped Shinichi would call her soon and tell her what _it_ was, and to that end she paused to check her mobile phone was on. As she stood there, Ran once again felt the cold, prickly sensation that had scared her the other day, but when she looked around there was no one nearby. However, she put the phone away and hurried back home; two such feelings so close together where too many to be coincidental.
The Mouri Detective Agency was quiet without Kogoro or Conan there and Ran couldn't help feeling a little frightened, even with the traffic noise outside. She put on some music and tried to study, but couldn't concentrate, becoming alarmed at every little sound that seemed out of place. Ran crouched over the table, covering her face with her hands. "Why do I feel so scared?" she asked herself. "There's nothing wrong! Nothing..."
The phone shrilled, startling her and for a while she stared at it, her heart beating quickly. With a shake of her head and telling herself not to be such an idiot, Ran picked up the phone.
"Hello, Mouri Detective Age..."
"Ran! You have to leave NOW!"
She froze, her eyes widening. "Shinichi?"
"Remember your promise!" he spoke urgently, a note of fear (for her?) in his words. "You have to go and hide somewhere safe right away!"
"Ran, please," his voice cracked. "I promise I'll explain everything, but now you have to trust me... leave the agency now!"
"I... okay," Ran whispered, her eyes darting around the room as she tried to weigh up her options. "Maybe I'll go to..."
"Don't tell me," he interrupted. "Your landline might not be safe, call me on your mobile when you're safe, okay?"
"Are you saying this phone is TAPPED?" Ran shrilled, alarm and disbelief colliding and forming a ball of angry fear in her stomach. "Shinichi! What are you... OH!"
"What? What?" he cried at her sudden gasp.
"Dad and Conan... what about them? I can't leave them in danger!"
"Don't worry," Shinichi soothed her. "I'll make sure Conan's safe and your Dad. Please, Ran you have to go and make sure you disguise yourself and use the back door!"
"And with that he hung up, leaving me wondering if there were going to be dozens of goons pounding up the stairs to attack me all at once! But... I did what he asked, not just because he had made me promise, but because I knew _someone_ had been watching me, or worse following me. So I disguised myself as best I could, even to the point of grabbing a pair of..." Ran swallowed and drew in a deep breath before continuing. "Of C... Conan's glasses and when I point them on..." Ran looked at Heiji. "You knew," she said softly, almost wearily. "You knew his secret. Why..." her voice faltered. "Why didn't he tell _me_?"
Heiji shifted uncomfortably and looked away from her. "Ran... I can't tell you; it's not my place to tell you... that's up to Kudo. But Ran..." he looked back into her eyes. "I _can_ tell you that his reason not to tell you was a good one."
"It better be," Ran mumbled. "After all this..." she blinked away tears.
"So, why did you come to me, Ran?" Heiji asked. "Why not the Tokyo police?"
"Because I figured that's what would've been expected and besides, what proof did I have of anything? I have no evidence, just a pile of theories... and besides," she sniffed. "I understood so much more about you and him then, you being his co-conspirator for so long..."
"Er... what makes you say that, neechan?"
"DON'T YOU DARE DENY IT!" Ran flared, slamming her hands on the table and leaning over to glare at him fiercely. "You've known that Shinichi was Conan from the start! You helped him cover up! To hide... to hide from ME!" her anger fled and left behind unhappy bewilderment. "Why...? Why didn't you tell me? Why did HE tell me? Didn't he _trust_ me?"
Heiji fidgeted, not wanting to look into her tearful eyes and see the hurt in them. Damn Kudo for letting it get to this, and damn himself for not forcing the issue out into the open sooner, for both Kudo and Ran's sakes. He understood Shinichi's reasons for the silence, but he personally felt that Ran was in danger whether she knew the truth or not, a theory recent events had proved correct. However, despite briefly considering spilling everything he knew, he kept silent. Hearing the truth from his lips now would likely only make things worse; so he tried a different tack.
"Ran, I think the best thing to do is ask him outright and the only way you can do that in this current situation is by staying safe..."
"While Shinichi's in danger?" Ran shook her head. "As much as I want to thump him right now, I'm not going to let him suffer alone, Hattori-kun, he's only in a child's body now..."
"And he's been surviving fine in it, right?" Heiji tried to reassure her, half-suspecting that his friend wouldn't be Edogawa Conan for much longer. "He wanted you to be safe, Ran," he fixed her with a stern glare. "So he could work at getting the... er... bad guys without worrying over you!"
Ran opened her mouth to protest, but was halted by Heiji's outstretched hand. "You should realise that no matter what he would do anything to protect you and if you fell into _their_ hands he might be killed trying to save you."
Denials automatically bubbled to Ran's lips, but she bit them back, knowing that Heiji spoke the truth. Yes, Shinichi had always protected her, not matter what form he was in, perhaps she would be more of a hindrance than a help to him now. Her head dropped and she exhaled heavily. "So, what should I do?"
He smiled. "You mean what should we do, neechan. Kudo would never forgive me if I didn't help you."
Ran looked at him in alarm. "Hattori, I can't let you get into danger because of me!"
His smile turned wry. "It's a bit too late for that... I have a strong suspicion that I'm already known to the people who..."
"Who are they?" Ran asked pleadingly. "Can't you just give me _something_ so that I can understand a little better? This is like a bad nightmare that's reaching a climax and I'm blind to everything! And it all started with Shinichi chasing after those men in black at Tropical..." she stopped abruptly as several things clicked into place. "Those men! They're the ones responsible!"
"Whoa... slow down!" Heiji broke into her deduction. "Ran... you're right, those men ARE part of it, but it's a little more complicated than that and..."
"It certainly IS complicated if my English teacher is also part of this mess," she growled. "I _trusted_ her!"
"Look, I really think it would be better if you stopped guessing and got some rest," Heiji argued. "It's late and you've had a long journey as well as being shocked. Things'll be clearer in the morning, right? We'll go to the main Osaka police office and talk to Toyama-san, plus my Dad will be back by lunchtime so we can talk to him," Heiji sighed. "As much as I'd prefer NOT to get them involved... if only because my ears will be ringing after they've finished yelling at me... I really don't think we should tackle this alone."
"I guess so," Ran echoed Heiji's sigh and then yawned. "Umm... where do I sleep?"
He got to his feet. "Come on, I'll get you settled in the spare bedroom."
"You lost her?"
"Well... I don't know what happened, Ma'am... we were watching the front non-stop, she couldn't have stepped out without us seeing! But when we went to the apartment she'd gone. There was a note to her father saying she was going to Izu, of course I've sent someone to check it out, but we don't know when she left."
"Didn't you have someone stationed at the back?"
"The back? Ma'am, that just led to the bicycle storage and the exit to _that_ was at the front too, the back was walled off."
"Er... a couple of metres."
"Not that big an obstacle to a healthy girl who's also a karate expert."
"You _failed_ me, Masatsugu, you know the price for failure, right?"
The unfortunate man's pleas were abruptly cut off by a sharp retort and he fell back, blood streaming from a bullet hole between his eyes. His assassin narrowed her eyes and smiled slightly, playfully blowing away the smoke from her gun before turning to the other man in the room.
"She didn't go to the Tokyo police?"
"N-no, ma'am... nor to any of the other spots in the city."
"I see, well then she must have gone to the other boy..."
"Take a small group to Osaka, go to this house and you'll find her there along with a boy called Heiji Hattori."
"What do you want done with him?"
She considered the question for a moment. "It's a pity, but..." Vermouth shrugged. "You'll just have to kill him."
(1) Ran was distracted in Jodie's class in volume 33 of the manga. Jodie asked her to find out the meaning of `X'.
(2) Shinichi `came back' at Ran's school play in volume 26 of the manga. It's revealed in volume 27 that Jodie saw there.
Go on to Part Two
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