Truth, Trust and Promises

A Meitantei Conan fic by Orla


Disclaimer: I lay no claim to the characters; they all belong to Gosho Aoyama-sama! ^^

Continuity note:

Considering recent events in the Conan storyline, I'd just like to point out that while my story is canon (well, attempts to be ^^) up until the end of the bomber storyline at the beginning of volume 37 after that it's all my imagination and probably bears no relation to what is going to happen! ^^

Author's notes:

Although I try to use as little Japanese as possible, 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. Heiji also uses the Osaka dialect and the version of '-san' there is pronounced'-han'. I will also use some Japanese terms for items, which are unique to Japan, which makes the English translations a little clumsy.

Words between the brackets <...> are in English.


Part Nine


"They're all dead," he said flatly, pouring himself a drink. "And Vodka's organising the disposal of the remains."

"Good," Vermouth licked her lips. "And there was little protest from...?"

"None," his eyes glinted in the dim light. "Are you pleased that your guess was correct?"

"Now, now… you know I never guess!" she smiled smugly. "It was easy enough to gather opinions about our worthy leaders, and then all I had to do was act."

He leaned against the wall. "I'm still not entirely sure why you felt now was the best time to act..."

"It seemed a good idea to move while we had the opportunity," Vermouth said casually, smiling to herself when Gin reacted to her words.

"Opportunity? Are you suggesting that there is some... element that could harm us?"

"Well... there have been a couple of little problems…" she said leadingly and was rewarded with a curse and a scowl.

"If you mean Sherry..."

She waved one hand in elegant dismissal, her nose wrinkling with scorn. "Sherry! Pah! By herself that woman is no threat. No," she lifted her head and met his eyes. "I'm talking about the one helping her..."

"The man who saved her that time...?(1)"

"Not a man," she smiled secretively. "Just a boy..."

Gin made an impatient gesture. "You always have to be so dramatic!"

Vermouth sighed. "Sometimes you're no fun…" she sulked. "Fine... you remember Shinichi Kudo?"

"The nosy teen detective I killed about a year ago?"

"With the Apotoxin, yes," Vermouth nodded. "Well, he's not dead."

Gin stared at her. "He's not... but the records showed his death as confirmed," he said slowly. "It was assumed that the police and his family had dealt with him privately so as not to create a big media storm."

"Yes, well... you know the saying... `assume makes an ass out of you  and me'!" Vermouth quipped lightly causing Gin to glare coldly at her. "Okay, so the records showed his death confirmed, but it was _unconfirmed_ for quite a while before that... so I think they were changed by someone within the organization(2), and I have a fair idea who that someone was..."

"Sherry…" Gin hissed. "But why? She didn't know this Kudo kid..."

"No, but you remember the _original_ purpose of the Apotoxin?"

"Yes, but no one could get it to work, even Sherry couldn't replicate her father's original plan."

"Or so she thought," Vermouth murmured. "It was an excellent untraceable poison, but on some people it had a rather strange effect and actually achieved the original goal... after a fashion," she smirked at him. "

"But if this Kudo was alive then he would have kicked up a huge fuss about us," Gin pointed out. "I know that type... he wouldn't rest until he had brought us to `justice'," he snorted.

"True, but what the Apotoxin did to him meant that he couldn't openly attack us. After all…" she paused, enjoying the drama. "How many people are going to believe a little boy?"

Gin froze. "Little... And Sherry figured it out.…" he growled. "I always wondered how Sherry escaped the gas chamber, but it would make sense... a little girl's hand is smaller, she could have slipped put of those restraints easily..."

"And she suspected where Kudo was and made her way to him," Vermouth finished.

Gin's eyes narrowed and he approached her. "And just how long have you know about this?"

She smiled up at him. "About Kudo... a few months... I pretty much figured it out after I started teaching at his high school."

He leaned down and gripped her shoulders, fingers digging painfully into her flesh. "So you knew where Sherry was!"

She remained unruffled, steadily looking up at his face. "No... I didn't quite figure that one out until about a month ago and even then I wasn't one hundred percent sure until four days ago."

Gin didn't relax his grip. "And you didn't think that letting me know this boy was alive was _important_? He must have amassed quite a lot of information by now... what were you trying to achieve?"

Vermouth's gaze never wavered. "Timing..." she whispered. "Is everything. We now have Sherry in our grasp and Kudo will provide us with the final elements to achieve the right results for the Apotoxin," she smiled slowly, seductively. "He'll make a good subject for analysis… and he doesn't need to be alive for _that_."

He let go of her then and sat on the sofa beside her. "You really think he is going to just come to us?"

"Oh yes," Vermouth started running her fingers through his hair. "And he won't bring the police either."

"And Sherry?"

"She'll come too," she purred into his ear. "She won't be able to resist... even if Kudo refuses my `deal', which I expect he will."

Gin's eyes narrowed and he grinned savagely. "So, we win, whatever they do."

***

It was decided that Megure and Heizo Hattori would meet at the hospital where Kogorou was recuperating after Heizo and his company had cleaned up. Therefore Megure was able to wait for Officer Chiba to return and could take the poor man with him to explain what had happened. Chiba was less than thrilled with this idea and felt even worse when Heizo's party arrived. The tall, broad-shouldered Inspector for the Osaka area looked awfully stern and apt to be extremely annoyed with Chiba's failure to hold on to Heiji.

Heizo had brought Toyama with him and an officer named Otaki who had known Heiji for years. Pleasantries were exchanged and they walked into the hospital, procuring IDs on the way for the three Osaka policemen.

"We have had some contact with your son," said Megure as they traversed the corridors. He nodded at Chiba and the younger man gulped slightly, and then told Heizo what had happened – in as much detail as he could recall.

After Chiba had finished explaining, Heizo sighed. "I see... please don't worry, Chiba-san... this is exactly the sort of thing Heiji would do," he looked at Megure. "However, I take it that Ran Mouri isn't prone to such bad habits?"

Megure shook his head. "I've known Ran-kun since she was a baby and while she's been in some hairy situations she's never pulled a stunt like this," he said, leading Heizo into Kogorou's room.

"Never," Eri Kiseki repeated as she walked up to meet them. She bowed to Heizo, Toyama and Otaki. "My daughter has always been a sensible girl, something must have gone very bad for her to run off in this way, but..." she looked at Chiba with hopeful eyes. "When you saw her, she was alright? She wasn't hurt?"

"No Ma'am, she just looked a little tired and she was dressed..." Chiba hesitated. "A little oddly... in what looked like Hattori-kun's cap and coat..."

"WHAT?" Kogorou nearly leapt out of his bed. "What has that boy been doing with MY daughter?"

Heizo's grim face darkened further. "I'm very sorry for my son's behaviour, Mouri-san, you can be sure I'll be having some words with him once I find him."

Eri frowned. "I really don't think your son would have _done_ anything to my daughter, Hattori-san..." she looked at Toyama. "Any work from your daughter, Toyama-san?"

Kazuha's father wearily shook his head. "No, but I strongly suspect that if Heiji is here then she'll also be here... and hopefully staying safe."

"Ran does know what happened, right?" Kogorou asked plaintively. "Surely she'll come to see her Dad..."

Eri laid a hand on her husband's shoulder. "I'm sure there is an excellent reason why she decided not to come now, dear, but what we have to figure out now is what is linking our children's actions... and I think I know what it is."

The policemen all looked eagerly at her and she smiled slightly. "Don't you see? It's Shinichi Kudo."

"Kudo-kun?" Megure was puzzled. "But how?"

"Think about it, Megure-san... Shinichi-kun is Ran's childhood friend, he's also friends with Heiji Hattori who in turn is friends with Kazuha Toyama," she looked at Heizo. "If Shinichi was in trouble then my daughter would want to help him and I believe your son would do the same."

Heizo nodded. "Yes."

"And if Heiji was in trouble then Kazuha would rush in to help him," Toyama sighed. "Kiseki-san, your theory does seem quite sound. So... where do we find Shinichi Kudo?"

Kogorou made a rude noise. "Under a rock! That smart-aleck boy has been doing a disappearing act all year... AND making Ran cry all the time!" he scowled. "When I get my hands on that little bastard..."

Megure's cell phone shrilled suddenly and he answered quickly. "Megure... hmm? Oh! Yes, yes! Send them right here!"

"Ran?" Kogorou's asked hopefully, but Megure shook his head.

"No, but these two may be helpful locating Kudo-kun."

The door opened and a couple walked in. "Hello!" Yukiko Kudo smiled brightly and waved. "How nice to see you again, Eri... Kogorou..."

"How are you feeling, Kogorou?" Yusaku Kudo asked, nodding his head to the others.

"Not that good," Kogorou grumbled. "Thanks to your son!"

"Oh?" Yukiko blinked. "What's Shin-chan done now?"

"Yusaku, Yukiko..." Megure stepped forward. "Can you tell us where your son is?"

Yusaku shrugged. "I have no idea," he smiled. "Solving some case somewhere is all we know."

"Shin-chan is very bad about corresponding," Yukiko apologised.

The door opened again and two more people squeezed into the already crowded room. Sato blinked in surprise and Takagi looked a little overwhelmed. "Uh... Inspector," he said nervously. "We've just come back from Professor Agasa's..."

"Did you manage to speak to Conan?" Megure asked.

Yukiko twitched and Eri's eyes narrowed. Sato shook her head. "No, Professor Agasa says he's still too sick to talk."

"Sick?" Yukiko's voice was a little shrill. "W-what's wrong with him?"

"Oh! Yukiko-san," Takagi bowed slightly. "Well, he's got a bad cold apparently and can't talk."

Yukiko and Yusaku exchanged glances and Eri's eyes narrowed even further. "Poor little Conan-kun," murmured Yukiko. "I hope he gets better soon..."

"Getting back to Shinichi-kun," said Eri loudly causing everyone to look at her. "Yusaku, do you have his cell phone number? If we call him..."

Yusaku looked apologetic. "I'm sorry, Eri, but we don't have that number – as Yukiko said, he's bad at corresponding."

"We could call Professor Agasa," Yukiko suggested. "He might know Shinichi whereabouts."

Megure cleared his throat. "That's a good idea, Yukiko-san."

Unnoticed, Kogorou made a strangling gesture. "And when I get my hands on that little runt..."

***

"Why didn't you TELL me?" Kazuha demanded before Heiji could get another word out. "You've known about this for AGES and you've been keeping it from me!"

"Aho!" Heiji yelled, cutting her off. "If Kudo," – he pointed to Shinichi who was still hugging Ran – "Couldn't tell her, how could I tell you? If you'd known then you would've told her and that wasn't your right!"

"Why you..."

"Excuse me..." They both turned to see Ai standing there, her small face expressionless. "The professor was wondering if you'd all like to come inside," she said.

Hearing her, Shinichi and Ran pulled apart abruptly, both blushing faintly, and got to their feet. However, they continued to hold hands.

"Yes..." Shinichi said shakily, "That's probably a good idea."

Ran gave Ai a puzzled glance that the other girl met with a blank stare. Lips pressed together, comprehension dawning in her eyes, Ran followed Shinichi into Agasa's house.

The professor welcomed Heiji and Ran with a big smile and then bustled about getting tea and dashing out to get some snacks while the teenagers sat down with their hot drinks. Ai remained standing, keeping herself back.

"Okay," Ran drew in a deep breath and exhaled. "I'd like an explanation about Conan, Shinichi... just the truth please..."

Shinichi nodded. "Yes... of course," he said and then launched, without much preamble, into the story of how he had become Conan and why he had kept such a secret from her. He made his tale brief and factual, keeping his voice steady, although he avoided looking at Ran's face. Ran just looked at her hands, her only obvious reaction was when Shinichi explained about Ai and then Ran shot the little girl another hard look.

"And I just got back from meeting one of their members, Vermouth... the woman you knew as Jodie Saintmillion," Shinichi finished.

"You went there ALONE, Kudo?" Heiji asked, shocked. "Wasn't that a bit dangerous?"

Shinichi shrugged. "Yes, but... she just wanted to talk and..." he cleared his throat. "Propose a deal."

Ai sucked in a breath. "Deal?"

"Yes, she..."

The phone rang shrilly and they all looked up. For a minute they listened to it ring, but then Shinichi grabbed the receiver, picking up his voice-changer at the same time and twirling the dial to the correct setting for Agasa. "Hello?" he said.

"Ah, Professor!" a well-known and unwanted voice exploded in Shinichi's ear. "How are you? Do you know where Shin-chan is?"

Shinichi almost dropped the phone, he _did_ drop the bow-tie. "Mum??"

Ran's eyes widened. "Is Yukiko-san here?" she murmured.

Shinichi rolled his eyes in her direction and nodded as he answered questions from his irrepressible parent. "Yes... sort of... she is... he is... no, not yet... because it's a long story... yes it does... you are? But... oh... alright... I see... but what... er... thank you... Goodbye."

"Well?" Heiji asked once Shinichi had replaced the receiver. Shinichi sighed.

"Well, Professor Agasa told my parents about the `cure' and they decided to come over. But while they were at the airport they heard about Mouri-san (Ran did you know... oh you did...) and ended up tracking him down at the police hospital where they found your parents, Ran, and Hattori and Kazuha-san's fathers. And..." Shinichi smiled ruefully. "Apparently the general consensus is that I'm the catalyst for everthing that's happening."

"Lucky you, Kudo," Heiji said. "Your own personal lynch mob."

"Thanks for the support, Hattori," Shinichi said dryly. "Anyway, my parents are aware of the delicacy of this situation so they're going to buy me some time..."

Ran frowned. "But Shinichi... can't we tell the police everything now? Surely there's enough evidence to point them in the right direction?"

"Point them where, Ram?" Shinichi sat beside her and took one of her hands in both of his. "I don't know were this organisation is based... even Ai doesn't know now... and if the police get involved then Vermouth will know and they'll vanish before we can catch them and that will put everyone in even more danger..."

Ran bit her lip. "I see..." she said slowly and Shinichi squeezed her hands gently.

"I want it to be over too, Ran..."

"What was the deal?" Ai spoke up for the first time.

Shinichi let got of Ran's hands and turned to Ai. "Well..." he paused. "She told me that if I... I handed them Sherry, then myself and everyone else would be safe..." he expanded on this shocking statement by elaborating on his meeting with Vermouth, telling them what she had said - although he edited out her teasing come-ons.

There was a long silence and then Ai sighed. "I'll get ready to go then," she said quietly.

Everyone stared at her in astonishment.

"What are you saying?" Shinichi asked blankly. "Haibara, you..."

"I am the only ticket to some sort of safety for all of you," Ai interrupted. She smiled sadly. "It's all right, Kudo-kun. I've been anticipating this for a while now, I'm ready."

"No!"

Ai whirled and stared at Ran who was on her feet, fists clenched. "Mouri-san..."

"Do you really think that we're going to sit by and watch you sacrifice yourself for what sounds like an extremely shaky guarantee of our personal safety?" Ran shook her head. "That's much too big a price to pay."

"Clearly you weren't listening to Kudo-kun's report," Ai said coolly. "Once I'm handed over to them, you and your family have a chance to live," she shrugged. "Kudo-kun is right to agree to these terms."

"If you think that Shinichi's going to hand you over to them then you don't know him very well," Ran smiled down at Ai. "No one's life is expendable, Ai-chan. We wouldn't be any better than they are if we handed you over to them... in fact, we'd be worse because we'd have let a friend die for our own gain. And I would rather get killed than do such an awful thing!"

Ai swallowed. "You really believe this..."

"She's not the only one," Heiji grinned. "If Kudo had actually suggested that you go then I'd have had to kick the crap out of him!"

"You could try," Shinichi muttered. He knelt down in front of Ai and laid a hand on her small shoulder. "Haibara... I never seriously considered Vermouth's proposal. How could you think I would?"

Ai's stoic mask cracked slightly. "But..."

"After all," Shinichi continued. "Think how sad Mitsuhiko, Genta and Ayumi would be if something happened to you. Remember how you made me promise not to make Ayumi cry!" he squeezed her shoulder gently. "Don't be so eager to die, Haibara – that's the cowards way out."

"Living is harder..." Ran said. She knelt down beside Shinichi and reached out, hugging Ai. "You only have to die once, but to live..."

"You have to fight everyday," Ai said in a muffled voice. "You don't have to trot out the trite platitudes, Mouri-san... I understand," But despite her cold words, Ai smiled into Ran's shoulder.

"So when are we supposed to be giving Vermouth our answer?" Heiji asked.

Shinichi raised an eyebrow. "'We'? 'Our'?"

Heiji grinned. "We're as much a part of this as you are!"

Shinichi shot his friend a dirty look. "Fine," he said. "Well, she said she would call me after the sun sets tonight and set up the meeting place..." he paused and frowned. "When does the sun set?"

"Between eight and eight thirty," said Agasa, arriving back just in time to hear Shinichi's question. "Why?"

"Knowing Vermouth, she'll think it's tremendous fun to meet at midnight," Ai said as Shinichi made an 'I'll tell you later' gesture to the Professor.

"That wouldn't be so bad, would it?" asked Kazuha, looking around the group. "It'll give us time to prepare... decide what we're going to do and everything."

"And rest," Ai said coolly appraising Shinichi. "Kudo-kun only took the Apotoxin antidote a couple of hours ago... his body needs time to recover."

"Haibara, don't be so dramatic," Shinichi said as Ran turned worried eyes on him. "I feel fine."

Ran looked closely at him and frowned. "Hmmm..."

"Er... Shinichi-kun, if you're all going to rest, then it would probably be better to use your house," said Agasa. "I don't have enough bedding here."

This was deemed an excellent idea and the four teenagers made their way to Shinichi's house, Ai deciding to remain with the Professor and deal with any further enquires about Conan's health.

"If it comes to it, then I can just disguise myself as I did before," she said with a slightly wicked smile in Shinichi's direction, causing Ran's eyebrows to shoot up and Shinichi to laugh nervously.

The Kudo residence had been unused for an entire year, but it was still clean and relatively dust free - thanks to Ran who had the habit of regularly conning Sonoko to help her clean it (along with Conan who's knowledge about the house no longer seemed remarkable). While the boys dealt with the food Agasa had bought. Ran led Kazuha up to the linen closet.

"You and Heiji can take the Japanese style guest rooms," Ran said, handing Kazuha some sheets. "There are futons there and..."

"Ran-chan..." Kazuha interrupted. "Why did you go to Heiji?"

Ran turned and looked at her friend's troubled face. "Well..." she said slowly. "Well, because he seemed like the best person... once I'd figured out who Shinichi was," she smiled and laid a hand on the Osaka girl's shoulder. "I didn't mean to get him into trouble... I'm sorry, Kazuha-chan."

Kazuha was still for a moment and then she tilted her head and smiled. "Sometimes I'm so stupid," she said and Ran was alarmed to see tears in her eyes. "I should be the one apologizing, Ran-chan."

Ran frowned slightly. "Kazuha-chan... you didn't think Heiji and I...?"

Kazuha blushed and abruptly hugged her, dropping the sheets she was holding. "I told you I was stupid sometimes!" she said. "Ran-chan, I don't think you're really responsible for getting Heiji into trouble. He'd have been here like a shot the minute he knew what was going down. I'm just glad he could help you out..."

"Thanks, Kazuha-chan," Ran returned the hug.

"Is there a reason you're hugging in the linen closet?" Shinichi asked, popping his head around the door. "The beds won't make themselves you know!"

Ran threw a pillow at him. "They'd be made a lot faster if some people helped!"

The pillow hit Shinichi in face and Ran gasped. "Oh! I was aiming for over you..." her voice trailed off and she turned away, bending down to pick up the sheets Kazuha had dropped.

Kazuha met Shinichi's eyes and saw the plea there. "Umm... I'll start making up mine and Heiji's rooms," she said and darted out, walking quickly towards the rooms Ran had pointed out earlier.

Ran's fingers moved deftly, gathering and smoothing the tumbled sheets. She kept her head down and didn't acknowledge Shinichi calling her name until he knelt beside her. His fingers brushed her shoulder and she swallowed, feeling the hot prick of tears behind her eyes.

"I'm sorry," he said again.

"Is this permanent now?" she asked at the same time.

He sighed heavily, his breath ruffling her hair. "Ai thinks so and she's the only one I can count on for that truth..." he touched her shoulder again. "Does it bother you that much?"

She turned her head and met his eyes. "A little," she said, honest as always. "But..." she added just as he opened his mouth. "It's not such a big change really."

That startled him and he blinked. "Wha...?"

"Well, it's better than being a whole ten years younger," she said with a little smile. "And you don't look _that_ different... taller and your face is... ummm... thinner, but you still look like you."

"That's good," he echoed her smile. "Ran... I know should have warned you, but I guess I was hoping that there wouldn't be any change and I'd be the old Shinichi you knew."

"You wouldn't have been the Shinichi I knew a year ago anyway," she said gently. "You've changed a lot... in fact, to some degree I think being Conan has been good for you."

Shinichi's jaw dropped and Ran giggled slightly at the thunderstruck expression on his face before she became serious again. "Face it, Shinichi... you wouldn't have been half so sensitive to my feelings before," she shook her head. "And you'd never have been so..." she blushed slightly. "Demonstrative..."

"I..."

"But I have to wonder if you didn't enjoy your little deception," she shot him a challenging look. "Was it funny hearing me say I loved you? Or watching me worry? Ooh!" she thumped his shoulder, making him wince. "It just makes me so mad thinking about how you made me doubt myself! Playing all those little tricks so I'd tell myself I was being stupid for even considering that you were Conan!"

"Ran..."

"I know, I know - you were trying to protect me! But surely these men in black would've come after me and Dad ANYway considering you were living with us! I could've helped... I _would've_ helped..."

"Ran!" he grabbed her shoulders. "No! I never enjoyed watching you suffer! It hurt me so much when you cried, I felt like the scum of the earth... I thought of leaving and just vanishing, to take the danger away, but..." he choked. "I couldn't... I just couldn't do it... I know it was selfish and stupid, but I had to be there... with you because that way perhaps you'd know, somehow, that I did care... Oh man... you have no idea how much I regretted not telling you how I felt before Tropical Land. I was such a coward..."

"How you felt...?" Ran whispered and he nodded.

"I've felt strongly about you for years," Shinichi confessed, his cheeks reddening. "But I was too scared to say anything because if you didn't feel the same way then... well, I'd have ruined our friendship. But... on the day we went to Tropical Land I thought I'd say something that evening... but..." he sighed.

"And then hearing how you felt when I was Conan... argh! When I came back that time at the school play(3) and we went to the restaurant I was going to say something, but..."

"There was a murder," Ran recalled, smiling wryly. "You do attract dead bodies at the most inconvenient times, Shinichi!"

"Yeah... well, there won't be any now," he said, looking intently at her. "Unless Hattori and Kazuha-san kill each other and I can ignore that! So, Ran..."

"Yes?" she breathed.

He swallowed. "I... I... lo... lo... love you!"

Ran's eyes filled with tears again and she blinked them away, smiling. "I love you too... although you probably already guessed."

Shinichi cupped her face in his hands. "Well, I had a couple of uneasy moments this past year," he admitted. "So it's good to hear you say it..."

"Again."

"Er... yeah," he glanced over his shoulder, checking that no nosy Osaka friends were hanging around. "Anyway, I'm going to do something I've been wanting to do for ages..." and with that, he bent his head and kissed her.

Initially surprised, Ran soon responded and for a while nothing was said. Finally, a little breathless, Shinichi pulled back and without hesitation asked the question that just popped into his head.

"Ran, will you marry me?"

Ran blinked at him. "Wha... er..." she collected herself, eyeing him warily. "I... ah... um... yes?"

"You don't sound very sure," Shinichi said, slightly insulted. He was also a little astounded at his own daring, but wasn't about to retract his proposal – not at ANY cost.

"Well…" Ran hesitated. "It's a bit of a shock, you just asking me here and now and… to be honest, I never imagined being proposed to in a linen closet."

"Does it really matter?"

"Umm… I guess not," she looked doubtful. "But I did think a ring should figure somewhere and you don't have one."

"Yes I do!" Shinichi grinned. "Had one for ages."

Ran goggled at him. "Huh? Just how long have you been planning this?"

He flushed. "Well, it wasn't me… it was my mother. She showed it to me when I was five and told me I had to give it to the girl I proposed to…" he laughed, rubbing the back of his head. "Not that I ever considered getting married then."

"Wait a second…" Ran frowned. "Didn't we first meet when we were five?"

Shinichi raised an eyebrow. "Yeah… we did…" he sweated slightly. "Trust my mother… Achem! Anyway!" he leapt to his feet, pulling Ran up with him. "The ring's in my parents' bedroom, let's go!"

"Wait!" Ran pulled free and picked up some sheets. "Okay."

He stared at her. "You're about to get your engagement ring and you're grabbing bed linen?"

"We have to make up the bed there anyway, so I'm just saving time," Ran pointed out and Shinichi rolled his eyes.

"Idiot… it's not that far!"

"Shinichi, you don't insult the girl you're proposing to!"

"Sorry!" he grabbed her wrist and hurried out of the closet, pulling Ran along with him.

The master bedroom was located a couple of doors down from the linen closet and was also clean and dust free. Ran dropped the sheets on the bed and automatically began smoothing them out while Shinichi made a beeline for the wall safe. It took him a little while to remember the combination during which time Ran made the bed. She sat down and watched Shinichi with a small, shy smile - finally ready to believe this was actually happening.

He opened the safe and rummaged through his mother's various knick-knacks until he found a small black velvet box. "Aha!" he turned around and immediately froze. Suddenly, with the ring in his hand, this all seemed so serious and he hesitated, wondering if he should kneel.

"Don't!" cried Ran as his knees started to bend.

"Huh?" Shinichi was taken aback. "But…"

"If you kneel, I'll laugh!" Ran threatened.

"Laugh?" Shinichi questioned, feeling miffed.

"Well, either that or cry," she blushed.

"Crying is nothing new for you," he shrugged. "You're frequently springing leaks."

"Shinichi…" Ran growled, getting to her feet. "What did I tell you about insulting the girl you're proposing to?"

He took a step back, eyeing her nervously. "Er… Ran, I don't think you're supposed to inflict bodily harm on the guy who's proposing to you…" he warded her off by removing the ring from its box and holding it out to her. "Anyway… here… will you… do you want it?"

She stared at it. "Oooooh…"

The ring was perfect. One of those pieces that screamed wealth without being ostentatious as it was simply exquisite in design and size. Made of a simple gold band with a beautifully cut sapphire set between two smaller, equally well-cut, diamonds. Her breathing shallow, Ran's left hand lifted, almost of its own accord, and extended, palm down towards the ring. Shinichi captured it and with a sweet smile, he slipped it on her finger.

"Oh Shinichi…"

He kissed her again and they embraced tightly, breaking the kiss to simply hold each other, Ran's face buried in the hollow of Shinichi's neck and he resting his chin on her hair. Then Shinichi completely ruined the mood by yawning very loudly.

Ran giggled. "Haibara-san was right," she said, pulling back and giving him a reproving look. "You ARE exhausted!"

Shinichi tried to protest, but another huge yawn stifled him and he ruefully agreed with her.

"Go. Sleep," Ran pushed him towards the bed. "A good four hours rest will make you feel a hundred percent better!"

"Yes, ma'am," Shinichi said obediently, taking off his slippers and stretching out on the newly made bed. "Why don't you lie down and get some sleep too?" he asked, patting the bedspread.

Ran's eyes narrowed. "Ummm..."

"Ran, I'm not going to _do_ anything – I swear!" Shinichi looked at her appealingly and she sighed.

"That puppy-dog look should be listed as a crime," she grumbled, kicking off her own slippers and lying down beside him.

Ten minutes later, Kazuha glanced into the bedroom and saw them both curled up close together on the bed, fast asleep. Quickly, and silently, she edged away, only to be nearly startled into screaming by Heiji's sudden appearance behind her.

"Did you find...MmPH!" Heiji was cut off by the rapid application of Kazuha's hand to his mouth. "Shhh!" she hissed. "Kudo-kun and Ran-chan are asleep."

"Together?" Heiji whispered, peeling her fingers away. He looked past her and grinned when he saw the figures of his friends lying on the bed. "How cute."

Kazuha chided him with a look and quietly closed the bedroom door. Heiji yawned and stretched. "Guess we should follow their example," he said.

Kazuha's eyes widened and her heart thumped hard in her chest. "We... we should?"

"Yeah... I'm pretty tired."

"B-but..."

"See ya later," Heiji patted her on the shoulder and walked away, disappearing into one of the guestrooms.

Kazuha stared after him in a mixture of embarrassment and fury. "You... oh! Aho!" she growled and flounced off into the other guestroom.

***

1) Volume 24: Shinichi used an adult male voice to distract Gin & Vodka so Ai could escape.

2) Volume 18: Ai revealed that she had changed the records on Shinichi.

3) Volume 26

I'm very hazy on the exact layout of the Kudo house, all I know is that it's BIG! So I took liberties for the sake of the story.


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