"Who ARE you?"
"Who am I? Heh...I'll tell you...in the next life."
The exchange, spoken in an elevator with a bomb on the roof so many months ago, echoed through Takagi Wataru's mind like the bell of a shrine as he stared in shock at the grim-faced boy in front of him.
Wrapped in a blue raincoat, hands held firm at his sides, dark bangs plastered to his forehead, thick droplets of water running down the lenses of his glasses, Edogawa Conan stood, head bowed, and spoke in a hush barely audible over the pouring rain. "You DO want to know the answer, right? To that question..."
Takagi swallowed thickly. "I—"
"I need your help, Takagi-keiji."
Takagi blinked. "My help? But...why—"
The young policeman frowned, not certain if he'd been praised or insulted. "Anou..."
The child's face suddenly twisted into a wry smirk. "You owe me your life, don't you, Takagi-keiji?"
Takagi nodded, brow furrowed in displeasure. "I suppose I do, Conan-kun." Though calling me on it like this is very bad form, his eyes said.
The bespectacled boy seemed to read the unspoken sentiment, because his smirk evened out into a kinder expression. "I wouldn't be so rude as to impose a life-debt like this if I wasn't well and truly screwed, keiji-san. I have more respect for you than that."
Takagi relaxed slightly, eyes softening. "Of...of course. I understand."
Conan nodded. "Now, we need to go someplace we can talk in private. You do live alone, right?"
A few moments later, a car carrying two detectives drove down the dark city streets as thunder rumbled overhead.
A typhoon was coming, and there was much work to do to prepare.
* * * * *
Takagi bought two cans of hot tea from a vending machine outside his apartment building. "This is the best I can offer," he apologised. "I haven't been shopping in a few days."
"It's fine," Conan replied, shivering from the chill of the rain.
They entered Takagi's apartment, kicking off their shoes and shucking their wet raingear at the genkan, and Takagi excused himself for a moment to procure several thick, fluffy towels, two of which he spread on the seat of his sofa, one of which he handed to Conan, and the last he kept for himself. They sat, drying their hair and hands and opening their warm tea.
"So, Conan-kun, what's this all about?" Takagi asked after a moment.
"I need your help to pull off a disappearing act," Conan replied.
"Disappearing...?" the policeman blinked.
The boy nodded, removing his glasses and setting them on the table. He looked up at Takagi with piercing blue eyes, and the older of the two felt that same unease he'd felt that day...there was nothing of a child in those eyes...
"Kudou Shinichi," the boy said, in that not-childlike voice he adopted so often.
"I'm sorry?" Takagi asked, shaking himself.
"The answer to the question you asked in the elevator that day. I'm Kudou Shinichi."
Takagi blinked, then laughed weakly. "Conan-kun, that's...just not possible..."
Conan raised an eyebrow. "Really?" He then began to speak at length, about a great many things.
And when he was finally done talking, Takagi believed.
* * * * *
"Otousan? Have you seen Conan-kun?"
"Hm? Oh, he said he was going to Hakase's place. I'm pretty sure he'll spend the night. He's not stupid enough to wander around in THIS weather."
Ran fretted at the window. "I hope so..."
She looked down at the palm of her hand, where the occasional flashes of lightning dimly lit a glittering object, and bowed her head.
* * * * *
The two sat in silence for a long moment, listening to the thunder crash and the wind howl.
"So...Kudou-kun...what is it you need me to do?" Takagi asked.
The teen-turned-child frowned into his tea. "Like I said, I need to disappear."
The police detective laughed. "It seems to me you've already done a good job of that."
Conan snorted. "I mean really disappear. I still call Ran, and she has my cell number, but...I need to disappear, for good, in a way that believably cuts me off from everyone I know. Well, cuts Kudou Shinichi off. Argh...I hate being two people." He took a long sip of his tea, grimacing.
"I can imagine," Takagi said, shaking his head in bemusement. "But why all of a sudden? It seems to me you've managed to keep this mess fairly controlled..." He paled at the glare the boy shot him. "Well, I mean, you're handling it better than I think I ever could."
Conan laughed bitterly. "Thanks." He sighed. "The problem...well...it started at the end of April..."
* * * * *
"I have a new formulation of the antidote I want you to try," Haibara Ai said without preamble as Conan walked through the door.
Instantly, he was standing before her. "A new antidote? It'll work? It'll cure me?"
Haibara shook her head. "It's not a permanent one, yet." At his crestfallen look, she continued, "It's better than the old one, though. For one thing, the effects are on a measured delay—like 'time-release' cold medication. Instead of going through the entire physical transformation all at once, it'll happen slowly over the course of about two hours."
Conan frowned. "That doesn't sound very pleasant..."
"Well, it will be painful, but not as painful as the other one, and it won't be as dangerous."
The boy nodded. "And? How long will it last?"
"You should resume your original form for approximately three days."
"Alright," Conan said. "I'll test it during Golden Week." He smiled. "I want to spend my birthday with Ran."
Ai smirked. "I thought you might say that."
* * * * *
"So...Haiba...eto...what was her name again? Sherry...?"
"Haibara is fine," Conan said. "She doesn't like being called by her real name anymore, and she absolutely hates being called Sherry."
"Right. So...she made a drug that let you change back for three days?"
"Yeah, and I took it the day before my birthday..."
* * * * *
Ran collected the beer cans littered around her passed-out father and sighed. Here it was, Golden Week, and she had nothing better to do than look after a drunk. Sonoko was off doing some rich-daughter thing, Conan's mother had showed up out of the blue to take him to America for a visit, and...
Her cellphone beeped, pulling her out of her reverie. "E-mail?" Scanning the small screen, she blinked.
Her eyes widened, and Ran flew down the stairs as fast as her feet would carry her.
And there he was, his usual cocky smile and bright, twinkling eyes greeting her as though they'd just seen each other that morning. "Yo," he greeted.
She slapped him.
* * * * *
"Yeah, well, I deserve it," Conan said, grinning. "And it's worth it, really. Being with her is worth anything..." He sighed.
Takagi swallowed, thinking of a certain female officer. "...yeah, I think I know what you mean."
* * * * *
As soon as he recovered from the slap, he was enveloped in a ferocious hug. "Where have you BEEN, you...you...JERK!"
He smiled, and took her hands. "I've got a lot to say to you, Ran," he said softly. He moved quickly, gracefully around her, picking up a shopping bag, and slipped into the alcove of the stairway that led up to the detective office. "Will you come with me to my house?" he asked.
"Eh? Y...yes, of course, but...what are you doing?"
A denim jacket, a pair of sunglasses, and a wool cap, none of which the detective had been wearing moments ago, had found their way onto his person. "Disguise," he said with a quirky, lopsided grin. "It's not safe for me to roam around in broad daylight."
"Not safe? But...what? Shinichi!! ...mou...!"
* * * * *
"And then, I took her to my house, and I told her...parts of the truth. Naturally, I kept certain details from her..."
* * * * *
Ran's hands flew to her mouth. "Shinichi...! Why didn't you tell me sooner?" Tears welled in her eyes.
"I couldn't, Ran. I couldn't make you worry. Besides, I didn't really know how deep a hole I was in until recently." It was partly true. While he'd known for some months now that the Organisation had feelers everywhere and could strike without warning, it had only been since the incident with Kir that he'd fully appreciated just how insidious his enemy was, and how the entire situation could change in the blink of an eye.
And since they'd very nearly killed Mouri Kogorou on a mistaken assumption, it was time for Ran to know just how dangerous things had become.
"The truth is, the night we parted at Tropical Land, I saw something I wasn't supposed to, and they tried to kill me. They couldn't hang around with all the cops there, so they just left me for dead. Well, I survived." He chuckled, his eyes hollow and pained. "But I've been in hiding ever since. Of course, you know me—there's things I just can't resist sticking my nose into—and I've had to come out of hiding from time to time for various cases I couldn't handle without being seen. And, of course, I had to keep in touch with you." He swallowed. "I...I couldn't just go away and not even call. You mean too much to me."
"Shinichi..." The tears fell from Ran's eyes as she embraced him. "Oh...I'm so sorry..."
"Don't be, I'm the one who should be apologising. I've screwed up both our lives with my stupid mystery otaku ways." He chuckled, a bitter and self-depreciating sound.
Ran pulled back and scowled at him. "You can't help being what you are, so don't talk about yourself like that. It's not your fault."
Shinichi coughed. "Anyway, that's the situation. There are people out there who very much want me dead, and every new piece of information I learn about them is one more bullet with my name on it. I'm not in this alone, but..."
"Damn right you're not," Ran replied fiercely. "I—"
"You're not to get involved," Shinichi replied sharply. "That's exactly what I've been trying to avoid by keeping you out of the loop. I'm not going to see these bastards take you away from me, Ran. Promise you'll stay out of it and let me deal with it."
"But..." At the stern, hard look in his eyes, Ran swallowed, wiping her own eyes and ducking her head. "...hai."
"Yosh'," Shinichi nodded, taking her into his arms and stroking her hair. "Now, right now my partners have them tied up in Sapporo, because they felt like I could use a few days to stretch my legs. I wanted to be with you on my birthday, and there's something I want to give you—something I was going to give you at that restaurant that night..."
Ran blinked, looking into his eyes, which were now sparkling with amusement and mischief. "What...?"
"Back...that day," Shinichi said, his voice catching, "I thought it was all over. I thought I was free and clear. I found out that night that things weren't over yet—I should have known it couldn't be that easy. That's why I ran out without so much as a goodbye. But...the reason I took you to that place..." He pulled a small, velvet box from his pocket and placed it in her hand.
Ran's eyes widened. "Shinichi..."
"Ran...I love you, and I've wanted nothing more than to tell you that since all this started. And..." He swallowed. "I want to marry you. And I was going to give you this and ask you, that night, but..." Seeing she was about to speak, he interrupted. "Let me finish. I can't ask that question while I'm still hiding. My life is still in danger, I can't come back for good yet, and it'd be really lousy of me to ask you to make that kind of commitment when I can't guarantee I'll be there, or that I'll even still be alive tomorrow.
"But I want you...to take this ring, Ran. I want you to keep it. Don't wear it. Not until I'm able to come back to you. But keep it. As a promise. As a symbol."
Ran swallowed, fresh tears gathering in her eyes as she looked into his serious, sober face, and nodded. "Alright, Shinichi. I...I promise. And...I love you too, you idiot detective."
And their first kiss was salty with their mingled tears.
* * * * *
Takagi smiled. "So then what happened?"
Conan was smiling too, and his face was rather red. "We...spent my birthday together." He ducked his head, flushing even darker. "Really together."
Takagi caught the meaning, and turned red himself.
"And then, the next day, I said goodbye and left. And by nightfall, I was Conan again."
The police detective sighed. "Damn, that must suck."
"Worse than anything imaginable," Conan replied morosely.
"Well, it sounds to me like you have every reason NOT to want to vanish, Kudou-kun," Takagi said, confusion and uncertainty in his voice. "What changed?"
"Well, three days ago..."
* * * * *
"There's no antidote."
Conan stared at the shrunken scientist. Her hair was mussed, her eyes were rimmed red, and her posture radiated dejection. "What?"
"None of the antidotes work for more than a few days because APTX-4869 is incurable," Haibara said, matter-of-factly. "I thought I could work around it, find a hole in my own work, maybe notice something I missed, but..." She shrugged. "If you'd taken the first antidote within twelve hours of the initial exposure, it MIGHT have worked. MIGHT. But after twelve hours, the effects of the poison become permanent and irreversible. I'm not going to give up looking for a way out of this for you, but...I'm going to be honest: you might as well give up on ever being Kudou Shinichi again. I'm sorry...Edogawa-kun."
She turned and walked away, leaving him staring at her back.
* * * * *
Takagi paled. "Kudou-kun, I'm...so sorry..."
"Yeah," Conan said, sighing and kicking his heels against the sofa.
"But...the three-day pill! You have that, right?"
"It turns out it only works once," the shrunken detective said. "We had the same problem with the Chinese whiskey Haibara based the first antidote on. It turned me back into myself for about half an hour, but when I tried using it again later, all I got was a hangover." He sighed. "Any 'safe' pill based on the three-day pill doesn't work, and the only other antidote is too dangerous to use except in an emergency, because it could kill me." He shrugged. "I'm basically screwed."
"So...what is it you're planning to do?"
"Well...I've decided to use what little I've already told Ran about my situation as the basis for a disappearing act," the boy replied.
"Oi oi. You're not gonna fake your own death or something, are you?" Takagi asked. "Because that'd be a really cruel thing to do to Ran-san."
Conan shook his head. "No. I don't want to do anything that makes it impossible for me to EVER come back...in case Haibara comes through with an antidote after all. But I need to disappear, and that's why I need you."
"Okay, but...why me?"
"You're going to deliver a letter for me," Conan replied simply. "Kudou Shinichi's final letter to his girlfriend...before he enters the Witness Relocation Program in America and disappears forever."
* * * * *
Takagi stood nervously at the door to the Mouri Detective Agency, a plain white envelope clutched protectively in his hands. Dammit, Kudou...
Ran greeted him and invited him inside; he nodded politely to her, but kept a carefully schooled solemn look on his face.
It wasn't hard, considering what he was there to do.
"So, what brings you by, Takagi-keiji?" Ran asked.
"I...Ran-san, I..." He swallowed. With a quick glance out of the corner of his eye at the small form watching him sternly from the sofa, he continued, "I have some...bad news for you."
"Bad news?" Ran asked, instantly alert. Her eyes were clouded with fear and worry. "It's...about Shinichi, isn't it?"
"Hai." At her expression, he quickly raised a hand. "It's not what you think. He isn't...they haven't..." He coughed. "He's alive. He's well. But..." Sighing, he handed her the letter.
Trembling, Ran fumbled to open the envelope, and her eyes grew emptier and more dim as she read the words that shattered her world:
I'm in America.
The FBI is placing me in the
Witness Relocation Program.
I may never be able to see
or speak to you again.
I've asked Takagi-keiji to
give you this letter, so I
could at least say goodbye.
I love you.
"No..." Ran sank to her knees, sobbing, staining the plain white paper with her tears. Instantly, Conan was at her side, rubbing her shoulder, doing everything he could to comfort her.
The boy shared a silent glance with the police detective—a glance that showed his gratitude, his despair, his deep self-hatred, and his remorse for involving the young officer in his deception.
Takagi gave him a brief nod, made a quick apology, and left, not trusting himself to stay, not wanting to witness this scene.
The wind picked at his hair, spattering thick drops of rain on his face which masked his own tears.
Good luck, Ran...Kudou...
* * * * *
//The storm has become extratropical, and is not expected to make landfall. However, outer bands of thunderstorms from this powerful typhoon, along with widespread areas of disturbed weather created in the wake of the storm, will continue to plague the Kanto region for several more days...//
Conan clicked off the television with a sigh. So, there was no end in sight to the rain.
Really, he mused to himself, it fit the depressed mood of the house just fine.
It had been several days since Takagi had delivered his letter to Ran, and he'd begun formulating long-term plans. He intended to stick around for about another year, just to make sure Ran would eventually be okay, then finally rejoin his parents in America, and...
Move on, he supposed. It wasn't going to be any easier for him than it would be for Ran.
Conan sighed. Dammit, this is all so messed up...
Ran had not reacted well to the "news", of course. In fact, he was beginning to get concerned. She'd not been eating well all week, and she'd been sick frequently. He occasionally heard her vomiting, and he had to wonder—even as he flinched from the guilt of causing her so much pain she became violently physically ill—how she had anything in her to puke up in the first place, seeing as she rarely ate anything anymore.
That morning her father had finally suggested she go see the doctor. She had resisted the notion, but between the two of them, Conan and Kogorou had finally convinced her.
That had been four hours ago.
The storm clouds chasing through the young detective's mind were a perfect counterpoint to the raging storm outside; the dark thoughts thundering through his head so consumed him that he almost missed the sound of the door opening. Ran walked in, slipping off her shoes and calling a weak "Tadaima", and then dropped next to him on the sofa.
He immediately knew something was very, very wrong.
Ran was completely out of it, her eyes dull and listless, her face ashen. She made no move to take off her wet coat, or even to acknowledge him. She just sat there, a completely lost, forlorn look on her face.
"Ran-neechan?" he prompted, leaning around to peer up into her face.
She blinked, and her eyes tracked over to him, barely hinting at recognition. "Conan-kun," she said in a dull monotone.
"What's wrong? What did the doctor say?" Was she really that seriously ill? Had something else happened? The detective's mind raced furiously, various disaster scenarios flashing through his brain like the lightning in the sky. "You're going to be okay, right?" Right?
"Hm? Oh...yeah, I'm okay." Ran said softly, looking past the boy, out into the grey-black afternoon sky. "I'm pregnant."
II. Storm Warning
Conan stared at Ran, eyes wide, jaw agape. "Wh...what?"
Ran looked at him, and smiled, but there was no joy in that smile, nor in her clouded eyes. "I'm going to be a mommy, Conan-kun..."
"I KNOW what pregnant means," Conan snapped, eyes flashing. "I mean...are you sure? You're—"
"Why do you think it took me so long to come back from the doctor?" Ran asked. "I'm EXTREMELY sure. I'm..." She buried her face in her hands. "I'm..."
Suddenly, she flung herself at the smaller boy, burying her face on his shoulder as best she could. "Conan-kun, what...how am I...I can't do this!"
Conan said nothing, simply encircling her as best he could with his all-too-tiny arms and patting her back, whispering soothingly to her.
Inwardly, he was reeling.
Pregnant. Ran was...pregnant.
With HIS child.
...had told her he was going into the Witness Relocation Program, and would be out of her life.
"Dammit all to hell," he whispered.
Ran drew back. "Conan-kun!" she chided.
"This isn't right!" the boy snapped. "I..." He forced himself to calm down, closing his eyes and breathing slowly. "He should...be here."
"He?" Ran asked, tilting her head.
"Shinichi," Conan said, scowling at her. "Of course."
Ran flushed. "Anou...Conan-kun...what makes you think Shin—"
"Who else would be the father?!" Conan shouted.
"DON'T YELL AT ME, CONAN!" Ran replied at greater volume. She then clutched her head, and sank back into the sofa. A fresh wave of tears erupted. "Don't...I'm sorry..."
The pain on her face was mirrored on his own as Conan sat down and took her hand. "No...I'm sorry. I shouldn't have...it's not any of my business..."
"Of course it's your business," Ran replied, smiling sadly. "You're family, ne?"
Conan shifted. "Ah..." He stood and bowed. "I don't deserve your kindness," he said formally.
Ran sniffled and giggled, then reached out and pulled him into a hug. "You little..." She smiled through her tears. "And...yes, Shinichi...is the father. He's the only one I've been..." She flushed. "What am I saying to a second-grader? Mou..."
"Ran-neechan," Conan replied flatly, drawing away from her to look her in the eyes, "I'm not stupid. I know where babies come from."
Ran turned even redder. "That's not the kind of thing a boy your age should know about!" she replied, laughing almost hysterically.
Conan shrugged. "Whatever. Aren't we getting off the subject?"
Ran sobered and nodded. "H-hai." She looked down at her hands, folded in her lap. "I...I don't know...what to do, Conan-kun. I...of course I've always known I'd—" She flushed. "That Shinichi and I would have a family someday, but..." She shook her head. "I was thinking more..."
"You were thinking...he'd actually be around," Conan said softly.
Ran sniffled. "Hai."
Conan cursed under his breath. "Dammit..."
"Stop that, Conan-kun," Ran chided. She sighed. "I need to call Takagi-keiji. Or Hattori-kun. One of them might know how to—"
"Nobody would be able to contact him, if he's in Witness Relocation," Conan replied firmly. "There's a reason you give up your name and your old life for that."
"I...I guess so," Ran said. She blew upward at her soaked bangs in frustration. "I guess it'd look ridiculous, a pregnant Japanese girl wandering all over America trying to find her fiance, wouldn't it?"
"Fiance?" Conan asked, raising an eyebrow.
Ran flushed. "Shinichi gave me a ring...when I saw him last," she said. "I've kept it hidden, like he asked me to, and he said he wasn't going to ask the question yet and he didn't, but...he doesn't have to. I've already answered it in my heart." She looked down at her stomach. "And in here," she added.
Inwardly, Conan cringed, feeling like needles of ice were piercing his heart. God, I'm a complete BASTARD.
Suddenly, he stood. "Ran-neechan, I think I need to go over to Hakase's. I don't want to leave you, but..."
Ran blinked. "Why, Conan-kun? And in this weather?"
"I don't want to be here when you tell Ojisan about this," Conan replied.
The tall girl tilted her head. "Why? It's not like you have anything to do with it," she replied, frowning.
"Un, but Ojisan's gonna be really mad, and he kinda has a habit of...well..." Conan thumped himself on top of the head lightly with a fist, pasting a sickly, childish smile on his face.
Ran made a face. "I really need to have a talk with him about that, especially with...this," she said. "But...I think you have a good point. Go ahead, just be careful and take your umbrella."
"Un! I'll be back later, neechan!" And I wouldn't leave your side for a second if I didn't need some time to think without slipping up and giving everything away...
Ran silently watched the door long after he had departed. Then, she crossed over to the phone, dialing a number she only needed a moment to recall. "Kazuha-chan? It's Ran...listen, I have a problem..."
* * * * *
Agasa Hiroshi had a largely open-door policy when it came to certain of his acquaintances. In short, this meant that one Kudou Shinichi, nee Edogawa Conan, knew where the spare key was hidden and was welcome to let himself in at any given time.
For the most part, it was so neither Agasa himself nor his ward, Haibara Ai, had to interrupt their own experiments to answer the door.
So it was that Conan let himself into the house. After removing his shoes and raincoat and stowing his umbrella, he walked to the center of the room, threw back his head, and began screaming every obscenity he knew—in every language—at the top of his lungs.
Agasa and Haibara emerged from their respective haunts. Agasa looked confused and slightly put out; Haibara simply looked amused.
After apparently running out of steam on his tirade, Conan leaned against the nearest wall and began smashing his forehead against it over and over again, punctuating each smack with a barely-audible "Shit!" hissed between clenched teeth.
"Shit!" *thud* "Shit!" *thud* "Shit!" *thud* "ShitshitshitshitSHIT!" *THUD* "Ow." Finally, he turned his back to the wall and slid to his rump, rubbing his bruised forehead and grimacing. He removed his glasses, tossed them carelessly onto the carpet, and folded in on himself.
"...something wrong, Shinichi?" Agasa hazarded after a long, awkward silence.
"Hakase, do you want me to fetch the soap?" Haibara quipped.
Conan's head suddenly snapped up, and he was on his feet and across the room as quickly as though he had teleported. He grabbed Haibara's shoulders in a deathgrip and began shaking her. "ANTIDOTE! I need an antidote! Quickly!"
Haibara glared coldly at him, scowling. "First of all, stop shaking me. And let go. Secondly, I already told you, there isn't one. I'm still trying to find a way, but..."
"You should never have given me that three-day pill!" Conan exclaimed, shaking Haibara again. "Ran and me, we...and now she..." He released the chemist and slumped wearily onto the sofa, looking down at his toes. "...dammit."
The two scientists looked at one another, puzzled and worried. "Shinichi?" Agasa asked softly. "What happened? What's wrong with Ran?" His eyes widened. "It's not...THEM, is it?"
Conan shook his head. "No. I almost wish it were. At least then I'd know what to do."
Haibara frowned, studying the detective, who looked as though his entire world had just crumbled around him—and as though he'd also had his dog shot and his last piece of candy stolen by a bully at the same time.
Metaphorically, at any rate.
"What's wrong with Mouri-chan?" Haibara repeated the professor's question, hoping her softer tone of voice would coax the missing data from the dejected boy.
He looked at the two of them, then down at his hands, then sighed, a deep, rattling sigh. "I've done something...horrible."
* * * * *
Mouri Kogorou returned from his mah-jongg game looking grumpy, sopping wet, and carrying a six-pack of beer in either hand. Ran intercepted him nervously at the door to his office.
"Otousan...I need to talk to you. It's important."
Kogorou looked at his daughter, and instantly became concerned. She'd been very ill recently, and now she looked as though... "Ran? What happened? You saw the doctor?"
"Hai, I...I saw the doctor."
"And?" He felt her forehead. "You look like you need some rest. Have the brat do something useful and look after—"
"Conan-kun went to stay at Hakase's place for a bit," Ran replied. "He...thought it'd be better if he weren't around."
Kogorou blinked. "Weren't around? Why?"
"Because you're about to be very angry with me, and I guess he didn't want to be around to see it." She bowed her head in...shame?
Setting his beers on his desk, Kogorou placed his hands gently on his daughter's shoulders. "Ran? What's wrong?"
"Otousan, I'm..." Ran swallowed, then looked into his eyes. "During Golden Week," she began, her voice catching, "Sh—Shinichi came back. He...he wanted to tell me some things. Some important things. Mainly...mainly how he feels about me. And...that he's in a lot of trouble.
"But he wanted to be with me on his...birthday..." Ran began to sob. "And...and you know he's...not coming back..."
"The Witness Relocation thing? If it's true."
"It has to be, because Takagi-keiji brought the letter himself," Ran sniffled. Her tears were coming faster now.
"Ran...if this is about that Kudou brat, it's—"
"It's about him, and it's about me, too. It's about both of us. We...we both chose to...do what...we did," Ran's words were becoming halted and shaky from the sniffling and tears.
"Chose to...what did you...?" Kogorou asked. A faint note of alarm crept into his voice.
"Otousan, I'm...pregnant. With...Shinichi's child."
All the color drained from the detective's face.
A moment later, Ran winced as the angry roar of her father's tirade drowned out the fury of the storm outside for several long minutes.
"I'll KILL THAT BASTARD! I'LL RIP HIS GODDAMN HEAD OFF! I'LL—"
Ran slapped him.
He stared at her, stunned.
"You won't do anything of the kind, even if...even if either of us could find him," Ran said, a note of steel breaking the unevenness of her voice. "I don't regret what happened between us. If he weren't...in the trouble he's in...he was going to ask me to marry him. I have the ring, Otousan." She pulled said ring out of her pocket, showing it to her father. "He asked me not to wear it until he's out of danger and can come back to me, but..." She sighed. "Now, it looks like..."
And with that, all the fire left her, and she collapsed bonelessly onto her father's receiving couch, fresh, wracking sobs shaking her frame.
The sight, as well as her words, drained most of Kogorou's fury as well, and he sat down beside her, gently enfolding her in a hug. "It's okay, Ran," he said, his gruff voice soft and choked. "It's...it's going to be okay. We'll get through this together. We'll..." he grimaced. "We'll call your mother, she can help, whatever needs to be done...I'm sure even Conan'll be good for SOMETHING..."
Ran looked up, pouting. "Don't pick on Conan-kun," she chided. "He's a very sweet and kind boy, and I think I'm going to need him even more than..." She paused, flushing. "Gomen, Otousan."
Kogorou just nodded. "It's okay. I know you have some special bond with that kid." He smiled.
"It's just that...sometimes, having him around makes it feel like...like Shinichi never...never left," Ran said, wiping at her eyes with a tissue. "It's silly, but..."
"Well, he is a lot like that punk in a lot of ways," Kogorou said, a note of crossness returning to his voice. "Ran...you know you don't have to have this baby if—"
"OTOUSAN!" Ran shouted, eyes snapping and flashing like the lightning outside. "Shame on you for even suggesting such a thing!" Calming herself, she said, in a firm tone, "I'm having this baby. It might be all I have left of...of the man I love." Once again, she fell into a silent, grey funk, staring down at her lap.
Kogorou sat with her for a moment, then nodded firmly, stood, and picked up the phone, jaw set and face grim.
* * * * *
"PREGNANT?!" Agasa shouted, eyes wide.
"Baka," Haibara chided, arms crossed.
Conan ran a hand through his damp hair and let out an exasperated sigh. "And I went to so much trouble to try to remove Kudou Shinichi from her life so she could move ON...and now THIS...God I'm an asshole."
"I won't lecture you on how irresponsibly you've behaved, Shinichi," Agasa said after a moment. "After all, it's not my place. I'm not your father."
Conan's head snapped up, a panicked look on his face. "Oh, SHIT! I didn't even think about THAT..." He buried his head in his hands. "I'm SO dead when he gets hold of me..."
"Now, Shinichi...your father understands what it's like to be a young man. After all, he and your mother weren't much older than yo—" Agasa paused. "Er..."
"I know what you mean," Conan said, shooting the older man a half-lidded sideways glare.
"Right." Agasa coughed. "Anyway, your parents do need to know about the situation, if for no other reason than to know they're going to be grandparents. Er...I'm assuming Ran intends to keep the baby?"
"I hadn't even thought to ask," Conan admitted. "But I'm pretty sure she will. I know Ran."
"You certainly do," Haibara commented. Conan threw a pillow at her.
"I just..." the boy detective sighed. "I wish I hadn't pulled that stupid Witness Relocation bullshit. Now I'm really screwed, and I've messed things up for Ran even worse..."
Haibara walked over and, in a rare gesture, patted his shoulder comfortingly. "You're only human, Edogawa-kun. You can't predict or control what's going to happen in life any more than anyone else. The only thing you can do now is be there for her, as Conan." She paused. "I'll do my best to find an antidote for you, but...don't get your hopes up. And...I'm really sorry."
As Conan settled into a self-pitying funk, the phone began to ring. Agasa picked it up, still casting a sorrowful glance at the young detective. "Moshi-moshi? Ah, Hattori-kun! Eh? Er...no, not really. No, now's really not a good time...yes...alright, I'll tell him."
Conan looked up. "Hattori-kun wanted to speak with you if you were here," Agasa said. "I didn't think, under the circumstances..."
The detective nodded gratefully. "Arigatou, Hakase." He sighed. "Dammit...Hattori'll find out about this sooner or later, too. That's REALLY gonna suck..."
* * * * *
Hattori Heiji put down the phone and cursed. "Dammit, Kudou, I KNOW you're there..."
His cell rang, and he answered it after glancing at the caller ID. "Yo, Kazuha. ...no, I don't know where to find him. ...AHOU! Witness Relocation means NOBODY knows where to find you, that's the whole POINT!" Kazuha screamed at him for a moment, and he sighed. "Look...I care as much about Neechan as you do, but...there ain't really nothin' I can do about this. I'm sorry."
After Kazuha finally let it drop and hung up, Heiji sat on his bed, scowling. "Thanks, Kudou. You just keep pissin' these girls off...what th' hell'd you do THIS time?"
* * * * *
"Ran-chan? I'm sorry...Heiji doesn't know how to get in touch with him either." Kazuha frowned as she listened to her friend's forlorn thanks for trying. "Look...do you need me to come help with anything? ...are you sure? Okay...look, as soon as this stupid storm goes away, I'm coming to Tokyo. You're not going to go through this alone, Ran-chan. You've got lots of friends and family, even if that ahou Kudou-kun..." She winced. "Gomen, Ran-chan. Look...I'll call tomorrow to see how you're doing, alright? Alright. Ja ne."
Kazuha hung up the phone and let out a long sigh. "Damn you, Kudou Shinichi...I hope she does find you, so she can rip off your balls. Or something. I don't know." She flopped back onto her bed and stared at the ceiling. "A baby..."
* * * * *
"You may as well get it over with, Shinichi," Agasa said after Conan had sat silently on the sofa for fifteen minutes.
Sighing, scrubbing his hand through his hair, the boy nodded and went over to the phone. Dialing in his calling card number and then a long international number, he braced himself.
"Kaasan? Yeah, I know what time it is there. I'm sorry. I...look, can you get Tousan to pick up the other extension? I need to talk to both of you...yeah, I...it's important. ...okay."
A long, tense moment passed. A gruff, sleepy voice sounded in his ear, and he winced. Why didn't I wait until they'd be awake? "Tousan? Is Kaasan still on? Okay, look...I kinda have a problem. ...yes, a different problem. ...no, not the 'I'm about to be murdered' kind of problem. ...no, not the 'someone else has been murdered and I can't solve it' kind of—WILL YOU JUST LISTEN? ...sorry...
"Look...Ran's pregnant. Yes, with...NO, NOT AS CONAN, KAASAN! THAT'S JUST WRONG! During Golden Week. On my birthday. I know. I KNOW! Look, it's not—this was before I had to come up with that Witness Relocation bullshit...yes...YES..." Conan sighed. "Alright. I'll see you when you get in. Right. Bye." He hung up the phone, and exhaled deeply. "This day just keeps getting better and better..."
* * * * *
"Tadaima," Conan called listlessly as he returned home.
Home, he thought to himself with a bitter curse. More like slow, painful hell...
"Okaeri, Conan-kun," Ran called.
Well, she sounds a little less dead...
Noticing that Ran had finally removed her coat, Conan did likewise; he also took a few minutes to grab a towel, dry himself off, and change into dry clothes before he sought Ran out.
He found her in her room, sitting on her bed, reading. "Ran-neechan?" he asked.
"Conan-kun," Ran greeted, patting the bed beside her. He hopped up onto it and sat down; she wrapped an arm around him and pulled him close.
Blushing, he asked, "Are you okay?"
She nodded. "Un...I think I'm going to be okay. I'm still in shock, I think, and...it'll be a while before I really..." She sighed. "Otousan's gone out again. He went to talk to Okaasan."
Conan blinked. "He did?"
"Un. She wasn't in her office when he called, so he decided to go and wait for her in person. I think it's just to have something to do. He...wasn't very happy when I told him."
"I didn't think he would be," Conan replied, nodding. "How bad was it?"
"It could've been worse," Ran shrugged. "Shinichi's probably better off being hidden away for a while, but..." She bowed her head. "I wish he were here."
"So do I, Ran-neechan," Conan replied, looking forlornly up at her. So do I.
Ran sniffled, then smiled at him. "But at least I have Conan-kun, ne?"
The detective smiled softly up at her. "Always."
III. Disaster Preparations
Kisaki Eri snapped her umbrella to shake water off as she entered the lobby of her office. As she did so, she caught a familiar—and unwelcome—sight on the sofa. Her jaw tensed, eyes narrowing. "Anata," she said in a frosty tone.
Mouri Kogorou stood, and nodded to her. "Eri," he said.
"To what do I owe the pleasure?" the lawyer asked briskly. "Being sued over mishandling an adultery case, or—"
"Let's cut the usual sniping," Kogorou said abruptly, moving a few steps closer to her. Eri tensed. "There's...a situation."
"A...situation?" Eri asked, raising one slender eyebrow.
Instantly, Eri's demeanor changed. "What's happened to Ran? What—" She paused, face paling. "It must be something serious, if you came here to tell me in person."
Kogorou nodded. "Ran...our daughter...is..." He swallowed. "Shimatta...I can't say it."
Eri's hands flew to her mouth, her eyes wide in horror. "She's...what? What's happened to Ran?"
"Well, it's her and that punk Kudou..." Kogorou looked up at the ceiling, at the potted plants in the room—anywhere but at his wife's eyes. "They, um..." He swallowed.
Eri's eyes narrowed once more, her cool demeanor recovering. "Ran's pregnant, isn't she?"
The detective blinked. "That's right. How'd you—"
The lawyer let out a slow, angry hiss of air, her eyes closed. "I always knew it was going to happen, and I had a fairly good idea it'd happen before she got out of high school. Those two are EXACTLY like us, only even more foolish. Though, with him missing all this time—" She paused, frowning. "Didn't I hear from Ran that he's been put away by the FBI in America? To keep him from being killed?" Suddenly, her face took on a look of pure alarm. "Ran! She's in danger too, then! If she's—"
"Calm down, woman! It's...according to what we know, Ran's probably not in danger, especially if this...doesn't get out to..." He frowned. "Whoever's trying to kill the brat."
"This isn't funny!" Eri replied. "He...and she...they..." She shuddered. "Let's go. We'll take my car. I need to see Ran, NOW."
Kogorou nodded, and the two departed without further discussion—Eri didn't even bother to tell her secretary she'd be out again.
* * * * *
Agasa frowned at the expression on Haibara's face. "Ai-kun?" he prompted.
"Is this really alright, Hakase?" she asked.
"Is...oh, Ran and all that?" The elderly inventor shrugged. "I wouldn't say it's 'alright', but...it's not a problem the two of them can't overcome. It's not nearly as much of a mess as the other problems Shinichi has."
"What I mean is, what if THEY find out about this?" Haibara asked.
Agasa's eyes widened. "You don't think they'd—?"
Haibara scowled at him. "They would. In a heartbeat."
The portly man collapsed into his chair, face chalk-white. "Oh dear..."
The small girl shrugged. "I'm sure once the shock has worn off, Edogawa-kun will realise this as well, and he'll come up with a plan." She snorted. "He seems to be very good at coming up with plans..."
"He's also very good at getting into bigger and bigger trouble all the time," Agasa pointed out.
"You said it, not me," Haibara replied, smirking.
* * * * *
The estranged couple had barely cleared the genkan when Eri, operating on some instinctive radar Kogorou supposed was simply a mother thing, homed in on Ran's present location and—with a loud cry of "MY BABY!"—flung herself at her daughter, displacing a slightly shellshocked Conan, who retreated from the room, glasses askew.
Kogorou surveyed the child. He looked...drained. Like this day had been as taxing on him as it had on everybody else.
Perhaps it had been. The kid was unnaturally intelligent, and strongly attached to Ran. He squatted down in front of the boy. "Oi. Conan."
"You...wouldn't happen to know of any way to get hold of Kudou, would you?"
Something dark flashed across the child's eyes for such a brief second, Kogorou wasn't sure he didn't imagine it. "Barou," Conan replied in that lower, more adult voice he occasionally adopted during murder investigations. "If I knew anything like that, I'd already have done something about it."
The detective nodded, frowning. "What about that Osaka kid?"
"Ran-neechan already tried that. He doesn't know either." Conan shrugged. "I don't really see any way we can find out where he is."
Kogorou sighed. "You're right...they put people in Witness Relocation for a good reason, after all." He shook his head. "Well, I guess the only thing left to do is call the bastard's parents..."
"They're already on their way back to Japan," Conan said. "I took care of it while I was at hakase's earlier."
Kogorou blinked, then narrowed his eyes at the bespectacled boy. "That's an awfully responsible thing for a little kid like you to think to do," he said. "And how is it you know how to get in touch with them in the first place?"
Suddenly, the little-kid voice was back in full force. "Ah, Agasa-hakase told me to do it! An' my mom's related to Yukiko-bachan, remember? I know she told Ran-neechan that once." He smiled a patently false smile.
Kogorou raised a sceptical eyebrow, but let it drop. "Okay. Just so long as they know." He grumbled. "But what I wouldn't give to get my hands on that punk..."
"Ojisan?" Conan piped up. "Don't...don't be too mad at Shinichi-niichan. I don't think he meant for somethin' like this to happen, an'...an' he really cares about Ran-neechan. It's not his fault bad people wanna kill him. If you wanna blame someone for screwin' things up, blame the bad people an'...I dunno, help try to catch 'em. You know, so Shinichi-niichan can maybe come home?" He kicked the floor with one sock-clad toe, hands behind his head.
Kogorou snorted, and rubbed Conan's head a bit forcefully, but affectionately nevertheless. "I know you're just trying to help, boy, but...right now, this is an adult thing that's happening. I'm not saying it's all Kudou's fault. I'm not saying it's not, either. But..." He paused for a minute, then shrugged. "Someday, you'll grow up, and you'll have kids, and you'll understand." With that, he stood and walked to his daughter's bedroom to talk to his family.
Conan watched him, dark clouds in his eyes, his mouth a thin, tight line. Yeah. I'll grow up again, eventually. But I'll have a kid long before that. And I DO understand, Occhan. Better than you think.
Shrugging, Conan threw himself onto the couch, picked up a magazine, and tried to force himself not to think about what was going on in that bedroom, or about the baby, or about his parents' impending arrival, or...anything.
For all of thirty seconds, he almost succeeded.
* * * * *
An hour after Heiji had attempted to contact Shinichi at Agasa's house, Kazuha showed up at his door. "I'm goin' to Tokyo," she announced.
Heiji blinked. "Eh? With th' weather the way it is there? You can't fly, you'll hafta go by train...an' what's goin' on, anyway? What kinda trouble is Neechan in?"
Kazuha scowled. "Whaddya MEAN what kinda—" She paused, blinking. Her mouth formed a small 'o'. "I...didn't tell you, did I?"
"No, ahou, you didn't," Heiji replied, scowling. "You just called an' bitched me out about needin' t' find Kudou. What's goin' on?"
Kazuha told him.
Heiji's eyes widened to the size of dinner plates. Then, he disappeared into his room, returning a moment later with a tote bag, a raincoat, and his keys. "Fuck th' train," he said. "I'll drive."
* * * * *
Eri embraced her daughter tightly, a multitude of emotions swarming across her face behind the lenses of her glasses. "This is why I told you not to get involved with a detective," she said thickly, tears gathering in her eyes.
"I know, I know; sorry." Eri sighed. "Are you going to be...? I mean, if you stay here with your father, all you've got looking out for you are a drunk and a little boy..."
"Conan-kun will be everything I need," Ran replied firmly. "Honestly, I don't think I'd be able to make it through this if I wasn't sure that he'll be there the entire time."
Eri frowned. "Ran...I know he's an unusually bright boy, but...he is only a small child..."
Ran shook her head, smiling through her tears. "You don't know him as well as I do, Okaasan...just trust me on this."
Unconsciously, Ran slipped her hand into the pocket where her engagement ring lay, clenching it in a tight, firm grip.
Her mother smiled, sniffling. "Well, if you're sure...just know that if you need more help, you're welcome to come live with me. I can juggle my work schedule..."
The teen shook her head. "I'll be fine. Besides, I have a feeling I'll have all the motherly attention I can handle..."
"Oh?" Eri asked, raising an eyebrow.
"Conan-kun told me...Shinichi's parents are on their way back."
The lawyer nodded, eyes wide. "Yukiko..."
"Is probably going to be almost more than I can handle," Ran replied, giggling.
* * * * *
"Thank you, honey."
* * * * *
By nightfall, Kogorou, Eri, and Conan had all been in and out of Ran's room so many times, in varying numbers, that the pregnant girl was getting rather dizzy. Dinner had been ordered and delivered, and currently the four of them sat in the living room, sharing an awkward silence with the meal.
As the rain continued to lash at the windows and the thunder rumbled, the door chime buzzed. The group blinked at one another; Conan stood to answer it.
A moment later, he returned with a thoroughly drenched Hattori Heiji and an equally waterlogged Toyama Kazuha. Like Eri earlier, Kazuha immediately homed in on Ran with a loud squeal and a fierce hug.
Heiji approached the two men, looking somber. "I brought you some more of that whiskey, Mouri-han," he said to the older man, placing a large glass bottle on the table. "I figured you might need it." He then shot a meaningful glance at the smaller boy. "Ku*cough* CONAN, come downstairs with me for a minute, I got somethin' for you, too."
Conan glanced around for a moment, then nodded warily and followed Heiji down to the second-floor landing.
As soon as they were out of earshot of the upstairs, Heiji wheeled around and kicked the smaller boy in the gut, hard; Conan sprawled against the wall, cursing as his head hit the concrete.
"KON'YAROU!" Heiji roared. "WHAT TH' FUCK WERE YOU THINKIN', YOU LITTLE ASSHOLE?!"
Conan picked himself up gingerly, grimacing as he clutched his abdomen. "I don't need to hear this from YOU, Hattori," he grunted.
"Yeah? Well you're gonna, Kudou. This is just..."
"This is just none of your business," Conan spat. He then winced. "Okay, I'm sorry, that..." The boy sighed, running a hand through his hair. "Look, don't you think I'm already—"
"I don't want to hear that, and I don't care how bad you feel about it, because it's not damn near bad enough," Heiji cut across him. "Neechan's fixin' ta go through hell because of your dumb ass."
"I KNOW THAT!" Conan shouted. "You think I don't KNOW THAT, Hattori? You think I'm not gonna be right there going through it with her? And having just as hard a time of it because that's MY KID and I have to pretend it isn't?! Do you have ANY IDEA how much that's gonna suck?"
"So tell her the truth," Heiji challenged.
"Barou. That'd make everything about a thousand times worse."
"I don't really see how, Kudou."
"WILL YOU STOP CALLING ME THAT?! I'm NOT Kudou Shinichi! I'm never going to be Kudou Shinichi AGAIN, don't you get it?! The girl I love is going to raise our child alone, because I..."
The two were silent for a long moment.
"Kud—" Heiji coughed. "Conan. Look, man, I'm..." He sighed. "I'm sorry. It's just..."
"Yeah, I know. I..." He looked up at Heiji, removing his glasses; the raw pain and anguish in those clouded blue eyes staggered the dark-skinned teen. "I don't regret what's happened. I just regret that I can't be with Ran, beside her, the way I should be. She should have a husband to help her through this, not..." He snorted. "Not a twerpy little brother..."
Heiji stuck his hands in his pockets and wouldn't meet Conan's eyes. "...yeah," he finally said. "She should." The Osakan detective shrugged. "But she ain't, so she'll just hafta make do with what she's got. And so will you."
They stood silently for a long moment.
"I got somethin' even stronger than the stuff I gave Mouri-han down at th' bike. You want?"
Conan snorted. "That'd be a sight. 'The amazing drunk and horny chibi...'"
Heiji laughed despite himself.
* * * * *
The next day, Kazuha stayed with Ran to help her make plans and arrangements—as well as to plan out a shopping expedition—while Heiji and Conan went over to the Kudou estate to clean house in preparation for the return of Conan's parents—and so the two could talk freely.
"Still no closer to an antidote?" Heiji asked as he dusted a shelf.
"Put it this way: Haibara doesn't call me 'Kudou-kun' anymore. At all."
"I'm glad you an' Toyama-san are gonna hang around for a while. Things are gonna be a little hectic for the first bit here, and Ran needs all the support she can get."
"Hey, we'll be there as much as possible," Heiji replied. "So, when are your folks gettin' in?"
"I'm not entirely su—"
The front door opened.
Conan paled. "Actually, right about now, it seems."
Kudou Yusaku strode into the study, his eyes burning darkly behind his glasses, which flashed ominously in the light as he shucked his raincoat and hung it calmly over the mantle. "Son," he said firmly.
"Ah...welcome home, Tousan," Conan replied nervously.
Heiji glanced between the two, and swallowed. "I'll um...just help your mom get settled in, Ku—Conan." Bowing slightly and hurriedly to Yusaku, he vacated the study as rapidly as dignity would allow.
Yusaku watched him go, then turned his full attention on the small boy who stood on the rung of a ladder across the room. "Son," he repeated. "We're going to have a very, VERY long talk. And THEN I'm handing you over to your mother."
Conan gulped nervously. Where's Gin with a gun when you really need him?
Yusaku was silent for a long moment, electing to simply stare at his diminished son. Conan couldn't bring himself to meet his father's eyes. Even as a teenager, he often quailed under Yusaku's steely gaze; now, reduced to the body of a child, that unrelenting glare coupled with the extra meter of height looming over him made Kudou Yusaku far more difficult to stand up to in person.
At length, Yusaku sighed, removing his glasses and polishing them on a handkerchief.
"Well...this is quite a mess, isn't it."
"I know, I know," Conan groaned, rubbing his face with both hands.
"If I'd known something like this was going to happen, I wouldn't have let you stay here. As it is, you have no choice—you MUST come back to America with us now."
Conan stared at him. "What?!"
"You can never have contact with her again. Not as Shinichi, not as Conan."
The small detective was silent for a long moment. Then, he turned his eyes up to his father, removing his own, unnecessary glasses. Cold, icy rage burned in his eyes.
"I'm not going ANYWHERE. I don't run away from my responsibilities like SOME fathers."
In a flash, the older man was directly before him, hand raised, face contorted with rage.
Conan braced himself for the hit...
...but it never came. Yusaku dropped his hand, as well as his gaze. "I...probably deserved that," he said sadly.
Yusaku shook his head and sighed. "Shinichi...if your mother and I were better parents, we'd have come back home and STAYED when we found out what had happened to you. Instead, we came back, put you through a hellish ordeal, then left you behind to fend for yourself—just like we did when you were thirteen. I don't think either of us really realised..."
Conan shook his head. "I've gotten along alright. I mean...well...aside from the obvious."
Yusaku sighed. "No...you needed us, and we weren't here for you, all because we were more concerned with running around like teenagers than accepting the fact that we've got a teenaged son—well, more or less—and need to behave responsibly."
The shrunken boy shrugged. "I don't think we even HAVE a gene for responsibility, Tousan. If we did, I wouldn't be IN this mess."
Yusaku shook his head. "Son, you can't...well, yes you can. But even when you blame yourself, just remember that the thing between you and Ran...it happens." He sighed. "It's a damn shame that the situation is more complicated than it needs to be, what with you being shrunken and there being no cure, and..." He stopped at Conan's dejected, wilted look. "I'm sorry."
Conan shook his head. "I screwed up, and now Ran's paying for it. I deserve anything anyone hits me with." He winced as he rubbed his midsection. "Or kicks me with."
Yusaku raised an eyebrow at that, but didn't pursue the matter. "So...what is it you plan to do, Shinichi?"
"What else can I do? If I can't be here for her as myself, at least Conan can be here to help her through this, and help her take care of the baby."
Yusaku was quiet for a long moment. "Can you do it, son?" he asked softly. "Can you really tell me you can handle it, day after day? Tending to her during the pregnancy, seeing her with the baby after, wanting to hold your child in your arms and have that child know the touch of his father's hand? Knowing that you can never be what you need to be to that child? Are you really strong enough to face that kind of life?"
Conan looked up at him, daring to challenge his father's hard yet caring gaze. "We'll just have to see, won't we?"
Their eyes held for a long moment...and finally, Yusaku smiled.
"Ran is lucky to have you, and your child is lucky to have you for a father...even if neither of them will ever know it."
Conan smiled slightly. Then, his brows drew together. "Tousan? What's it like?"
"Being a father."
Yusaku looked up and rubbed his chin thoughtfully. "It's..." He shook his head and smiled his patented enigmatic smile. "It's something you'll find out for yourself."
* * * * *
Yusaku and Conan conversed for a moment longer, then the elder Kudou left the room. Conan had barely enough time to sigh before his mother stormed in, severe disappointment and disapproval written on her face. Conan braced himself...
Yukiko grabbed both of his cheeks and pulled them wide apart, making him wince painfully. "Baaaaaaaka!" she snapped. "BakabakabakabakabakabakaBAKA!" She tugged and stretched and pinched and punched his cheeks for emphasis as she berated him, then let go of him with a forceful shove which sent him staggering backward into the bookshelves.
As Conan righted himself, his mother glared down at him, hands on her hips. "SAFE! SEX! Didn't I always tell you not to do THAT with a girl without using a—"
"KAASAN!" Conan cried, cutting her off, face flaming.
Yukiko clucked her tongue. "So rash, so arrogant...that's what got you shrunk, and that's what got Ran pregnant. I would have thought for sure you'd learn not to be like this after seeing what a jerk your father is, but..."
Conan just stared at her.
"Oh well. You're not going to leave her to have your baby without even being around to help out, are you?"
"Of course not!"
"Good. Because I know Yusaku wanted to take you back to America with us, but that's just the kind of stupidity I expect from—"
"Enough already!" Yusaku yelled from outside.
"Oi oi," Conan muttered, eyes half-lidded.
Yukiko rolled her eyes. "Anyway...we're going to come back home to stay, so we can help out with the pregnancy. I think your father wants to take a more direct hand in flushing out the people who did this to you, but I honestly expect him to get bored with that fairly quickly and wander off to Hawaii without me." She sighed. "Really, he's such a troublesome man—"
"I SAID ENOUGH ALREADY!" Yusaku bellowed.
"Could you two pick on each other when I'm NOT stressing over being an underaged, unwed father who can't even let Ran know I'm really still here for her?" Conan groused, rubbing his eyes tiredly.
Yukiko smiled. "Gomen ne, Shin-chan." She bent down and enveloped her shrunken son in a hug. "It'll take us a bit to get settled in, but we'll want to see Ran-chan as soon as possible."