When Shinichi awakened in an unfamiliar bed, the first thing he did was look at his hands. 'I'm Conan again.' He thought sadly, then the memories of the night before caught up with him. In a state near panic he looked around the room. He saw Kaito, no he was Arthur now, asleep in another bed, Aoko had dozed off in a chair nearby and Ran, Ran was asleep in a chair as well. Her head rested on her arms, which were folded on the bed next to him.
He reached out almost touching her.
"Ran-neechan?" He said softly.
She opened her eyes and looked at him. A flash of relief washed across her face but was quickly replaced by sadness.
"Don't! Don't call me Neechan, not now Shinichi."
Those words hurt more than he thought anything could. And he sat stunned and silent as she continued.
"Why didn't you tell me? Was it because you didn't trust me, or did you think I wasn't strong enough to deal with it?"
"No! That's not it at all!"
"Then what was it Shinichi? Was it some sort of game to you?"
"A game? More like a nightmare." His eyes looked far to old for his seemingly young face. And the pain his eyes showed stunned Ran. "I didn't lie to you yesterday when I said I didn't think it would be this long. And when it was clear it would be a while before I was cured I just didn't know how to tell you. And, and I was afraid."
"I told you yesterday I'm safer if I know when to duck."
"Not just that. I mean I was terrified that something would happen to you but I was also scared you would hate me."
"I can't do anything, I'm useless! I can't protect you, I can't be there for you, I can't even get something off a high shelf by my self!"
For a moment Ran understood what kind of nightmare this had been for him. Shinichi had always been very independent; he had hated being treated like a child even when he was a child. She remembered all the times she had picked up 'Conan', carried him or ignored him. Brushed aside his protests and opinions, he must have hated that. And school, he had been bored with school at the best of times going back to elementary must have been pure torture for him.
"You should have told me." She said. "I'm not so shallow or helpless that you can't depend on me. And more than anything I'm angry you didn't trust me."
Although her voice was fairly calm he looked like he expected to be booted out of bed and sent into orbit at any moment.
"You're right." He said sadly, "I've messed up everything. No matter what I try to do I end up hurting you."
"That's because you keep trying to do everything alone you idiot. I understand you wanted to protect me but I don't need a guardian. Or at least I don't need one any more than you do." She smiled at little as she thought of all the 'situations' he got himself into, both as Shinichi and as Conan. "I don't need a knight in shining armor, I need my friend. And if sometimes I need you to watch my back, well sometimes you need some help as well."
"I always said 'there is only one truth' I guess I should stop living a lie. Thank you Ran, for hearing me out. I've had nightmares about you finding out and never letting me explain."
"You should thank Kaito. I was mad enough to walk out but he woke up before you did and convinced me I needed to hear the whole story before I made up my mind."
They sat in silence for a while, just enjoying each other's presence, until a soft sound caught their attention. They looked over to see Arthur watching them with a broad grin on his face. Ran and Conan both blushed but neither moved away from each other.
"So, did you two kiss and make up yet?"
Ran blushed redder, Conan spluttered and Aoko smacked Arthur lightlyon the back of his head.
"Oww!" He moaned and collapsed theatrically on his bed. "How could you wound me so when I was grievously injured in your defense?"
They couldn't help laughing at his dramatics, and they were still chuckling when the door opened again and Ai came in.
"I'm glad you are feeling better now. But what part of 'don't draw attention to yourselves' did you not understand?" The boys stared at her in shock. "Earlier, Dr Agasa accidentally reveled that I am also affected by the Apotoxin." She explained impatiently, "Now what exactly happened last night? How were you found?"
Conan began explaining the night before. "The four of us ran into each other and decided to make a double date of it." He said. "Everything went well until we were walking back from Tropical Land. Vodka, one of the two that caught me that first night at Tropical Land, he was in an alley and saw me as we walked past." He took a deep breath and continued. "We got away but I'd been shot in the shoulder, I couldn't let the girls get near me but when we were hiding Ran saw the blood. Kaito was going to try to stop the bleeding but I started to change back early. I don't remember anything else until I woke up here."
Ran continued the story. "When you started moaning. Oh god, I thought you were dying Shinichi, you sounded like you were in so much pain but Kaito made me stay back until you stopped. Then he handed you to me but you were you Conan, not you." Ran stopped for a moment; she looked like her last statement had confused her as well as everybody else. Visibly giving up on finding a clearer way to explain it she continued, "We needed to get you to a hospital and Kaito said he'd provide a distraction. But the guy saw us and came after us anyway, Kaito jumped on him and stopped him but the guy was too strong and he, he asked Kaito if he had any last words but Kaito spit in his face. He threw Kaito on the ground and I thought he was going to kill him but then he grabbed his head, screamed and collapsed. Kaito began shrinking so Aoko picked him up and we ran. I don't think the guy was breathing when we left."
"Spit in his face?" Asked Conan.
"It was all I could think of." Said Arthur. "I could feel the antidote beginning to wear off and I hoped it would hurt him enough that the girls could get away. I didn't think the little bit of blood in my mouth would kill."
"Did he have a open wound on his face?" Asked Ai.
"Yes, right below his eye." Said Arthur.
"And you could feel the toxin becoming active before this?"
"That may be why it had such a profound effect on him. The Apotoxin was already active when it entered his bloodstream and it began changing the tissues it came in contact with immediately but there wasn't enough to continue the transformation." She saw the blank looks on everybody's faces and continued, "It probably changed the shape and size of many of the soft tissue structures in his face, maybe spreading to the neck and rest of the head. It certainty would have affected the blood vessels and may even have began to effect the bones of the face and skull before it stopped." They still looked confused. "The only reason you two survived the transformation is because all the tissues in your body changed size at the same time! Imagine, for example, if your muscles began shrinking faster than your bones. Your body would literally tear itself apart."
Everybody shuddered at the thought, Arthur looked sick. Ai walked up to him and said, "It would have been quick. Painful, but fast. That's more than many of his victims got."
Her words didn't seem to help much. Pale and horrified, Arthur said, "I killed him. Self defense or not I killed someone."
And when the nurse came in to check he found Arthur crying on Aoko's shoulder as she held him. While Ai stood silent as a statue and Conan watched from Ran's arms, his eyes too old for his face.
The boys didn't stay at the hospital very long; to the relief of the nurses as neither one was a good patient when bored. Although both were still sore they were glad to be home. The next day Ayumi came by with a surprise to cheer them up.
"Look what my mom got for us!" She shouted.
"What is it?" Asked Ran trying not to smile at Ayumi's enthusiasm.
"Tickets to a magic show! And, and there's enough for all of us! You and me, and Aoko-neechan, and Genta, and Mitsuhiko, and Ai, and Conan, and Arthur, all of us! We're going to see a real magician."
Behind her back, Conan snickered at the look on Arthur's face.
Later that week all eight attended the show. Although Ran was impressed both Aoko and Arthur seemed a little bored. While the magician announced that he would need someone from the audience for his next trick Ran leaned closer to Aoko and asked.
"Is something wrong?"
Ayumi was now hopping up and down in her seat hoping to be picked to assist.
"No," said Aoko "It's just that I've seen more impressive tricks in the middle of math class."
"How about you?" came the announcement, "The energetic little girl in the third row."
Ran and the rest of their group cheered Ayumi on as she ran to the stage.
"What is your name?"
"Are you excited to be here?"
"have you ever been in a magic show before?"
"No, but I've helped Arthur with his tricks. He's going to be a magician too."
"Oh is that so? Is he here?"
"Yep! He's sitting right by were I was."
"Would Arthur please stand up? … Now don't be shy… oh there you are I guess you were standing. Why don't you come up here?"
Arthur climbed down from where he had perched on the back of his chair had walked up to the stage. He had a broad grin on his face.
"Uh oh." Murmured Aoko.
"What?" Said Ran.
"I know that smile."
"So you want to be a magician?"
"Who do you want to be like?"
"I see you like the classics. He was quite good if a little old fashioned."
"Oh no." whispered Aoko.
It all went down hill from there. He asked Ayumi to pick a card and look at it then put it back, then he asked Arthur to shuffle the deck. When the magician went to show Ayumi's card he found that every card in the deck was a joker. Smoke began pouring out of his pockets for no reason at all in the middle of a trick. Then when he was going to pull a rabbit out of his hat he got a skunk! He dropped the skunk in surprise and backed away. The skunk climbed back in the hat then the hat tipped over and a flock of doves flew out, circled the stage and flew away. And the whole time Arthur grinned in a way that would be instantly recognized by any member of Nakamori's task force.
Even after Arthur and Ayumi went back to their seats things continued to happen. When the magician vanished from a locked trunk and reappeared from behind a curtain he found his hair was now dyed blue. The rubber ball he was using in another trick burst like a balloon leaving a shower of confetti behind.
Finally the poor man had had enough and stumbled off stage. After a few minutes of quiet the assistant came on stage and announced that unfortunatelythey had to cancel today's show but everybody here would receive a free pass for tomorrows show. After some confusion and a lot of grumbling the audience lined up to get their passes and left. Ran and Aoko corralled the kids and got them on a bus but the look Aoko gave Arthur made it clear that she knew who was to blame.
After leaving Ai, Mitsuhiko, Genta, and Ayumi at a park near Ayumi's house, Ran, Aoko, Arthur, and Conan walked down the street towards the Mouri Detective Agency. Although any bystanders would only have seen two young women walking with two little boys, in their minds and hearts they were two young couples enjoying each others company. No matter what they would face they each knew that the other three would be there for them. Whether as brother or sister in every way but birth or as something more they would face it together, no more secrets between them but one.
Thank you! everybody who has continued reading this for the past year and a half. I never would have thought that my first story would do so well! Over 2550 hits since the last time the counter was reset!
There will be a sequel to 'Little Kid' but it may be a few months before it's ready.
I will be posting another 'Detective Conan'/ 'Magic Kaito' story soon that is not part of 'Little Kid'. And my excuse for falling of the face of the earth is on my profile page for those who are interested