Okay. Although this chapter is just fluff I swear that we are going to have a serious plot sometime in the future. We're looking at excitement, intrigue, and a lot of near misses with the Black Organization. I don't feel comfortable wrapping up a series for a person as qualified as Gyosho. Since these characters are his I'll let him do that all on his own. See that? I slipped the disclaimer into the author notes like a Phantom Thief. I'll make it more clear now. *I don't own any of the characters in Detective Conan.* That kind of makes me sad just looking at it...Huh...You are going to see a little bit of the plot here in the first chapter, but it seems unimportant right now. Well I guess it will be for a while. But don't worry. I'm not taking you on the great train ride to no-where. It's all going to make sense soon enough.

Time In a Bottle

A Detective Conan Fanfic

By: Ranma151773012

"The murderer...IS YOU!" The Sleeping Kogoro's arm came up slowly and pointed at Muni-sensei.

"No! I didn't kill anyone! I thought you said this was an accident!" The man named Muni looked distinctly guilty now.

"You frayed the ropes on the mechanism earlier in the night. Set up the podium in the middle of the floor so that it was directly under the chandelier, and as you went to turn off the light for the presentation you added that powder solvent which burned through the rest of the rope. You gave yourself away because everyone knows how popular this place is to hold meetings and speeches; you're a well known professional. Yet, you placed the podium near this loud fountain and ran extension cables when the other side of the room has a microphone plug directly on the floor. The chemical burns on the ropes just sealed my suspicions. You didn't have to worry about the chandelier not killing him because you already knew that he'd had dangerous concussions from your history together in the martial arts. You knew that a blow like that was sure to kill him!" Kogoro sat there as the man cowered.

"It's true! He was going to buy my entire business. It would have ruined my life. We had been friends forever, and he was still going to buy out my whole business and fire me." There was a manic gleam in his eyes now and Ran slowly backed away from him.

The darkness in the corner seemed to envelop Mori Kogoro. "I found the contract that he'd drawn up inside of his briefcase. He had planed to sign over the business to you as a gift knowing that you could no longer keep the business running on your own. The contract left you in control and him only as a primary stock controller for five years, at which time the stock would have returned to you. He would only retain a 30 percent share. That was what the projector presentation would have shown you. You killed him just before he gifted his new company back to you..."

The man fell to his knees and began to sob uncontrollably. Ran Mouri felt a tear slide down her face. It wasn't that she had never seen a murder before. She had seen many dead bodies. It was just so awful, so terrible...so...

"Senseless..." Meguru Keibu shook his head and cuffed the suspected murderer.

Ran couldn't agree more.



**********

"Ran-neechan?" Conan looked up at Ran and she tried to smile in return, but it was weak at best. The light coming in through the windows on the taxi were magnifying the falling rain, and it created circular patterns across the young boy's face. Her father was dozing in the seat next to her; he hadn't woken from his deduction yet. "I have to ask you a question..." She stared attentively back.

"Yes Conan-kun?" She didn't want the boy to think that she was unhappy. He was very attentive to her feelings and she didn't want to make him feel sad. There was so much unusual tension in their lives, especially in the last few days.

"Are you feeling alright? I noticed that you were crying..."

"I'm just fine. I was sad because that man hurt his friend. Friends shouldn't hurt each other. That's not what friends should be about. I guess it just made me feel sorry for them."

"Does Shinichi-nii hurt your feelings Ran-neechan?" Conan was looking up at her with large worried eyes.

Ran was startled for a second. It wasn't as if the boy had never before asked a question like this. //He is always concerned about the relationship I have with Shinichi.// He idolized his "Shinichi-nii" and Ran knew it was important for her to give the kid a positive view of his relative, especially because he wanted to be like him. It was a moment before she realized that he was still waiting patiently for her answer. "Not like that." She smiled back at him. "I've never wanted to kill him with a chandelier." She left the words hanging and Conan smiled and laughed nervously back in answer. "I admit that I really miss Shinichi, and I might even get mad at him when I'm feeling lonely..." She looked out the window and watched the newly falling rain and the buildings flashing by as they returned to Beika. "But he'll come back someday, and when he does we can work everything out then, right?"

"Yeah..." She saw Conan look up at the window from the reflection and felt like she was staring into the eyes of her best friend Shinichi again. Her smile widened a little. "But I keep thinking that he shouldn't hurt your feelings. He must not be a very good friend if he hasn't come home yet. You shouldn't be friends with him." Her eyes widened and she felt a frown grace her mouth as she stared at Conan's reflection. "How can you like someone that never calls, and never tells you the truth?" Ran was shocked by the things Conan was saying to her, it was almost as if the boy had lost all faith in his role-model. She had to comfort him.

"Shinichi would never lie to me Conan-kun." Ran whispered seriously.

His face snapped up toward hers and she saw anger in his eyes. "How do you know if he's telling the truth? He might just be lying to you all the time, and you'd never know."

She smiled at him and tried to make him understand. "He would never lie to me to hurt me, and I think I would know if he were. So even if he did lie, it would only be to keep me from getting hurt." He was waiting for more to be said. //Was I like this when I was young?// She shook her head. "Shinichi and I have known each other since before we were your age. He's always been annoying, and he can be a little slow sometimes where people are concerned. I'm not saying he's perfect." She sighed. "Far from it. But we have always been able to tell each other things that we wouldn't tell anyone else, and that's why I believe that he'll be back. Because he said he will, and I believe in his one truth." She ruffled Conan's hair because she knew he hated it, but he was just looking at her. "Conan-kun, can I ask you a question?"

"Uh-huh..." He looked into her eyes.

"If I left tomorrow for school and I went over to Sonoko's to study, and I called home and told you that I was going to be home at six...Would I be home at six as long as something horrible hadn't happened?" He shook his head in accent. "It's the same thing. Okay, so he's been gone for almost a year...And I'm getting very lonely without his smile. He's a very important person to me. But don't judge him wrongly Conan-kun. He is a good man." She blushed and looked back out the window. In that same window she saw Conan smile as they reached their final destination.

"We're here. Conan-kun, help me wake up dad." She looked over at her father in the darkness and she noticed drool coming from the corner of his mouth. //Ugh...// However disgusting he could be, he was still her one and only... "DAD!" Her father snapped to attention.

"I SOLVED IT AGAIN! I'm the master! Here. Have a tip, I'm feeling generous today." Ran saw him slide an extra yen into the man's hand. He was up the stairs before anyone could protest.

"Gee Dad...You're so generous." She watched the cab driver staring at his hand while shaking his head. Ran noticed as Conan rolled his eyes and ran up the stairs toward the agency. She tipped the driver properly and skipped up the stairs to join them both.

************

The entire family retired to their rooms to get ready for bed. Conan heard the water turn on and knew that Ran was taking a shower. //I'm not used to sharing a shower even after a whole year,// he turned up his shoulders in a shrug. //I'll get a shower in the morning instead.// He was weary anyway, and he didn't want to do anything at all in that moment. Kogoro had gone straight into his room and fallen into bed. Conan wondered if it was possible that this batch of sleeping dart formula was too strong. Maybe the exhaustion was just in the air though, because he was really tired too. The small detective unrolled his futon and threw himself down on the blankets. //She said I was a good man...Am I a good man?// Guilt was something that he was an old hand at by now.

No matter how much he tried to convince himself that he was doing this for the good of everyone else, and especially Ran, right now the lying hurt. //It's been a whole year. She doesn't seem to hate me yet, but she's not going to wait around for me forever. The Bon festival* was a tribute to that, no matter how badly that turned out for Ran. // He had been almost avoiding her on some level since that escapade. She had been hurt physically and he'd been hurt every other way. He might have given himself away by yelling at Sonoko. But as usual he could rely on Ran's friend to miss the important details. Sonoko wasn't speaking to him at all, and at the moment it was fine with him. //I can't blame Sonoko for the things that Ran does by herself. But if that strange man hadn't shown up and killed the men in the clearing with them Ran and Sonoko might be the dead ones right now. What an odd chain of events...It's been bothering me, something about that whole situation. It felt staged, but for whom? Who would benefit from that? Maybe I'm just getting overly paranoid. Not everything is about me.//

Conan Edogawa couldn't sleep, and so therefore Shinichi couldn't sleep. //I'm glad she believes in me. But how am I supposed to keep her faith if I stay like this?// He stared up at the ceiling and listened to Kogoro snore and in the background water hitting the floor and the occasional louder quick slide of water from Ran running her hands through her hair to remove soap and water. It was just a little more distracting than Kogoro's snores for some reason. //Maybe I should call her tomorrow as Shinichi. There isn't any reason for me to make her worry about me. She should at least believe I'm ok...even if I'm not ok. This is terrible.// He stared at the hands in front of his face. The water had stopped and he heard the door from the bathroom open and close, followed by Ran's room door. He looked back at his hands. They were short, small, and certainly not eighteen. //I'm being strangely introspective tonight. I think I should go watch TV until my brain numbs up.// He got up off of the futon and slid into his house slippers. The door didn't squeak unless it opened to the halfway point, so he slid out through the slightly opened door into the hall. If this were the best part of being small, he would be taller and older again any day.

He avoided the creaking floorboards and went through the hallway soundlessly. He saw a strange light in the office/family room and approached the room with the sneaking sensation that he wasn't the only one burning the midnight oil. "It's alright Conan-kun. You can join me out here. I really don't care. We can watch a movie together." He was only surprised for a moment. //How does she do that?// "Sorry Ran-neechan. I was very tired when we got home, but I can't sleep now. Isn't that strange?" She was sitting in her pink pajamas with a towel wrapped around her hair and she was gently toweling the water out of it.

"Not really. If I didn't have school tomorrow I don't think that I could sleep tonight at all. Just nervous energy, I have to give a speech tomorrow in English class. I'm not the best English student, so it isn't going to be easy." Conan threw himself down onto the couch and tried to remember what it was like to throw yourself onto a couch when you weren't this short. //I wish I could help you. I speak English really well. But you already knew that, right Ran? Are you still sore from where that guy hit you? I want to talk about what happened, but maybe it would be better if I don't.//

"Mitsuhiko speaks English really well. Maybe he could help."

"I don't think so Conan-kun. But thanks anyway."

"Anything good on?"

"Not really. I was thinking of watching something fun. You know something like...I don't know. A comedy?" She screwed up her face at him. "But there isn't anything on at all. How can there be so many channels with nothing on?"

"I'm a detective...Not a television analyst." He smiled at her winningly.

"Conan-kun?" His face fell a little.

"Yeah?" He was worried. She looked so serious. Maybe she wanted to talk about the Bon festival after all. It was a shock when the pillow flew unguarded and connected with the side of his head.

"That's for being a smart-ass." Her eyes went wide and she covered her mouth. "I'm sorry Conan-kun!"

"It's all right Ran-nee, the other day, Sentaro, he's in the next grade up from me, was on the playground and he called Rika a..." Her hands were already over his mouth and she shook her head.

"I really don't want to know Conan-kun." Her cheeks were red and he could see only a tiny amount of bruising left over from the attack a few days ago. "Anyway, I'm going to start looking for something to watch. Tell me if you see anything." She was staring at the glowing screen and he noticed that it made her skin even paler than it already was. She really was worried about this speech. Why hadn't she just told her father to go on his own to the damn meeting? Mouri didn't want to go alone, Ran suggested her mother as a date, but for some reason he hadn't gone for it. //Wonder why? Huh...// Then again, if Kogoro hadn't insisted that she come with them Conan would not have been there to solve the mystery.

"See anything yet? Conan, you will never pick a channel if you keep staring at me..." He blushed red and turned toward the screen noticing the heavy scent of her shampoo. Channel after channel of commercial went by in a flurry of surfing.

"STOP!" Conan wrestled the channel changer away from Ran and turned back the channel two times.

"What are we watching?" The screen had a carriage going across a snowy field being pulled by a horse.

//Only one of my favorite movies! Geez Ran, I can't believe you don't remember this movie? Okay, so it wasn't very true to the story line of the Holmzian cannon...// He looked over at her for a second. "The Young Sherlock Holmes?" He looked at her with what he hoped would be a kind of begging child look. "It's one of my favorite movies...Directed by Chris Columbus, 1985."

"Okay, okay, I don't need an entire filmography. We'll watch it!" She grabbed a blanket and slid down until her head was against the cushion of the couch. "Blanket?" She threw open the side of the blanket and patted the space next to her on the floor. He grabbed up the pillow she had hit him with and sat down next to the person who caused most of his restlessness. They didn't say anything for a long time until Ran spoke up, "I like the actor they got to play Holmes...He's cute." Conan rolled his eyes.

*************

Ran watched the movie with a detached sort of fascination. Conan was watching it with all of the attention that an adult would be expected to have. He did say it was his favorite movie. He looked up at her. "The CGI in the movie is really good for it's time. Supposedly it was one of the first..." She nodded and kept watching the screen. Every once in a while Conan would comment on what was going on, or what parts he thought were particularly good.

The time went rather quickly, and when the girl playing Holmes' girlfriend was shot she jumped back and stared with wide eyes. Sherlock kept dueling with his evil professor...He was too caught up in the moment. He had to finish the mystery; he had to catch the man who had hurt all of those people. A tear tried to sneak from the corner of her eye. She remembered the movie vaguely, she remembered that there was a reason she hadn't watched it in almost four years. //Shinichi? Would you chase the mystery until it killed me?//

"There were only two times in Shirlok Holmes' life when he cried. This was the second." Said the older voice of Dr. Watson. Ran broke down and let the tears leak from her own eyes. //It's too much. It's too sad. Why did she have to die? What did he do other than love her? I'm making a complete fool of myself in front of Conan-kun now...//

"Ran-neechan?" She looked down at the hand that she had grabbed sometime during the fight between Holmes and the Teacher...She couldn't remember his real name, it was something Egyptian. "Don't cry. It isn't that bad. I mean, if you put it in the place of cannon it would explain why he doesn't go near women. I mean, sure in the books he says that they are worthless, but I always thought that might be an excuse. Maybe he was gay?"

"CONAN-KUN!" She stared at him and smiled. "You only said that to stop me from crying didn't you?" A yawn split the word crying into the strange new word rarrrrrrying.

"Well yeah. It worked too. Don't tell Oyaji-san I was saying bad things though okay? I think we should go to bed Ran, I'm tired now." She nodded her head and started to gather up the blanket from the floor, and she took her pillow back from Conan.

"Thanks for watching the movie with me. I really enjoyed it." She turned off the television and the room descended into complete darkness. //When he calls me just Ran...It reminds me of Shinichi.// "I must be really tired too. I think I might just be able to sleep now. Conan?"

"Huh?" She couldn't really see him very well in the dark so soon after the lights had gone out, but she could see his outline. It was time she said the things she'd been thinking for the last three days.

"I'm sorry, about everything that happened at the Bon Festival. I didn't mean for what happened to upset you. I haven't properly apologized for getting into something that I couldn't handle. I could have been hurt and I'm sorry. You haven't been happy for a few days, and neither have I. I want to make it better with you, and I'm going to talk to Sonoko tomorrow too. Thank you for being good about all of this, but I have to take responsibility. If you had kept watch over me like you had wanted, maybe it wouldn't have happened at all. Thank you, and I'm sorry."

"It's okay Ran-nee...I knew that you didn't mean to worry me." His eyes were reflecting the streetlamps outside and he looked almost like he wanted to say something more.

"I understand why you were angry earlier tonight. I know why you're upset with Shinichi. Don't blame him for my mistakes, and don't worry. Whatever is going on, he'll be back...I know...I do..." The darkness yielded a little more so that she could see Conan's hopeful face.

"I hope so..." He turned and walked toward her father's room. "Good night Ran-neechan."



************

The next morning Conan woke up early so that he could have his shower before the rest of the house got up. He walked by Ran's room and heard the alarm go off. She was probably getting up early for a little practice before her presentation. Ran's English wasn't nearly as bad as she made out, but she probably wouldn't want to be unprepared. Conan closed the bathroom door and slid off his slippers. Even his morning routine was different as Conan. There was no shaving, but he really didn't do it very often when he was older. But the fact that he was unusually short did not help him here. He'd never thought about the difficulties of the young and the vertically challenged until he was young again. He showered quickly and got ready for the day ahead.

As he exited, the still sleeping Mouri Kogoro's room Conan couldn't help but wonder again if the darts were in fact a little too drugged. //I'm going to have professor Agasa look at these today. I wonder if it's possible to have an allergic reaction to these things? I need to get into class early today...I have room duties with Mitsuhiko.// The small detective put on his best excited little boy face and entered the room. "Ran-neechan! Good morning! Smells good! What did you make?"

"Pancakes. Yours are on the table already. I heard your shower running. Is Dad up yet?"

"Nope. That deduction must have taken a lot out of him huh Nee-chan?"

She raised her eyebrow at him and shook her head. "Yeah, well he has an appointment with Musashi Chemical at ten. He'd better get up. I'll do it. I remember the last time you got him up..." She left the room quickly and scampered down the hall.

//Revenge is a dish best served cold Ran. Think of it as payback for all the times he's bonked me on the head.// He noticed the devilish smile on his own face and replaced it as quickly as possible. "Ran-nee! I have to do the class preparations this morning, so I have to go in early. Is that okay? I can go alone if you want."

"Nah, I've got to get all of my materials ready for this afternoon anyway. I was going to drag you with me." She smiled winningly and Conan failed to stop a lame look from crossing his face. "Besides. It's nice out this morning."

"Why is Oyaji going to Musashi today?" He was just finishing up breakfast when he asked the question. //I hope it's nothing serious. I'll have to pay attention to this one if it's chemicals; the Black Organization may have something to do with it. These pancakes were good today...I wonder if I can get her to make breakfast for me even if I do become myself again.// The thoughts were quickly derailing into less than eight year old thoughts when he started to pay attention again.

"...And apparently someone keeps coming in and taking them. But my biggest question is...What would anyone want with dead lab animals? I mean. Yuck. Maybe it's just some sick-o, but according to the lab owner no one but the employees can get in; it's very secure. So it has to be one of them. Although, I can't see why they don't pocket them at the time instead of sneaking back in and risking being caught."

"Control count."

"Huh?" Her eyes narrowed and she starred at him intently.

"I saw it on TV. Every night before the end of work there is a control count and it is done throughout the day. Since they are considered a biohazard they are very carefully maintained...Or something." He threw his hand behind his head and he laughed nervously.

"Whatever. I still think it's gross. I mean what do you do with a dead rat?" Conan got an image of Dr. Frankenstein with a little mouse instead of a monster. //Heh. Let my creature live!//

"I don't know Ran-neechan. But I think we're going to be late unless we leave right now." She looked at the clock and was running back toward her room as Conan grabbed his lunch. He sat down and began to put on his shoes in the entrance. //Dead lab animals...I'll confer with Ai. Maybe they had a project going. That does sound unusual. I doubt that it has anything to do with the Black Organization. Ran may be right. Maybe this guy's just some wacko taxidermist that falls in love with his clientele.// Ran flew into the room with her school bag and made a run for her shoes. She nearly jumped out of her house slippers and into her brown slip-ons. //For some reason Musashi sounds really familiar. Though, I can't say why that might be.//

"Calm down Ran-nee. I'm sure that everything will be fine. Your presentation will go great." He beamed up at her and she smiled back and nodded her head once very quickly as she threw the door open.

"Thanks Conan-kun. Let's go and get everyone!" She waited for him to take her hand before she descended the stairs and Conan couldn't seem to help that his heart skipped a beat in the late summer morning.



*********

*The Bon Festival incident is in the Live Journal and takes place before "written" story continuity. If you want more information, go read it there. :)

This is the place where I say: End Chapter One. Gosh. That feels kinda nice. Normally this is the place where I would say. Read and Respond. Unfortunately I'm not quite done with you yet. I have Ran writing a LiveJournal for this story. Yes. Believe it or not. There is some wacky experimenting going on with this fanfic. Go to http www livejournal com users ranma151773012 add in all appropriate dots and slashes.

Please oh please someone do me the wonderful favor of becoming my "reserve beta" It would make me ever so happy. My personal beta just decided to run off to Japan for a year, and she doesn't have a lot of time on her hands. She was able to beta this chapter by begging alone. Not to mention I would seem less stupid considering I won't have weird spelling and grammatical errors all over the place. That would be bad. Thanks so much for reading my story. If you liked it...Review.