Hello, one and all. It's been a loooong time since I last updated this fic. But in recent months I've gotten back into Detective Conan again (you can think the 'Birth of a Big Couple' case for that) and wanted to start up this one-shot series again. I went back and re-touched the older chapters a little too, though the only real plot difference is I changed the name of Ayumi's stuffed bunny in chapter one. Otherwise it was just clean-up and touching up.
Special thanks to Boogum for helping beta- and proof-read this new chapter.
FRIENDSHIPS OF SORROW
Haibara awoke to the sound of voices. That was unusual. Outside of the Detective Boys, the Professor didn't get many visitors on weekends, let alone the morning hours. Since she was awake and curious Haibara got out of bed and walked down the hall, stopping just short of the living room to listen.
"He could've mentioned he was heading to Osaka," Haibara heard a woman's voice complain.
"You can hardly expect Shinichi to tell you it's a bad time to come when you don't call ahead to let him know you were coming in the first place, Yukiko-san," Professor Agasa's voice replied.
Even before the Professor had said her name, Haibara recognized the voice and petulant tone of Yukiko Kudo. Shinichi Kudo's mother was fond of visiting unannounced.
"If Shin-chan's not around then who will I play with?" Yukiko sulked, then suddenly brightened. "Oh! Is Ai-chan up yet?"
Haibara immediately began to retreat to her room as quietly as she could. She had no problem with Yukiko; however, the woman could be a veritable whirlwind of energy and Haibara did not want to get caught up in it alone. If she was lucky, she could get back to bed and feign sleep long enough to text the Detective Boys and get them to visit. The kids loved Yukiko and would easily be able to divert her attention.
The sensation crawling up Haibara's spine, the feeling of prey that's realized it's been caught in the sights of a predator, told her luck was not on her side today. It was similar to the sensation she felt when someone from the Organization was near, only more jovial.
"Ai-chan!" A pair of hands grabbed Haibara under her arms and lifted her. Haibara hated being picked up like that; the suddenness of it made her cry out. She was turned around so she could be face to face with her captor.
"What do you say to a girls' day out," Yukiko asked. "Just the two of us?"
The blunt answer seemed to surprise Yukiko. Haibara saw the beginnings of puppy dog eyes and scrambled for an excuse.
"We should invite the others. Even if Kudo-kun's not here we shouldn't leave anyone out."
"It wouldn't be a girls' day out with two boys tagging along," Yukiko told her.
"Just Yoshida-san then?" Haibara asked hopefully.
"Wasn't Ayumi-kun doing something with her father today?" Professor Agasa asked from the living room.
Stop helping! Haibara pleaded mentally.
"Looks like it's just you and I after all, Ai-chan," Yukiko said happily. She set Haibara down on her feet and told her to go get ready. "If you think you'll be lonely you can bring your little friend."
Haibara wasn't sure what Yukiko meant by that until she looked at her hand. She blushed as she realized she had been holding her-Ayumi's bunny doll through that whole encounter.
Thirty minutes later, Haibara was wishing she actually had brought Usa-chi along. In the face of Yukiko's driving, armrests and seat belts were feeling pitifully inadequate as objects to cling to for dear life.
She had forgotten that Yukiko drove as though traffic laws were but offhand suggestions she might follow if she were so inclined. Incidentally, Yukiko never was. The Detective Boys loved it, comparing it to roller coasters. Haibara envied their ignorance of what reckless driving could do as Yukiko took a corner at a speed no professional driver would have dared.
"When Shin-chan was a baby, I used to take him on drives like this when he cried," Yukiko told Haibara. Haibara couldn't fathom how she could maintain a normal tone of voice with the speeds and tight turns they were doing. "He loved car rides. He'd laugh and laugh, then drift off to sleep. Saved myself and Yu-chan a lot of sleepless nights thanks to that."
Haibara considered this and decided that it explained a great deal about Shinichi Kudo.
"Where are we going?" Haibara asked, noticing only after she had spoken that she had shouted the question. In response, Yukiko turned the wheel sharply. Haibara would've sworn the car spun once and came to a stop in a perfect parallel park. Haibara was very glad she wasn't prone to motion sickness. When she looked out of the window, she saw what seemed a fairly high end salon.
"A day of fun should make us feel good," Yukiko said. "And the first part of feeling good is looking good."
"Kudo-san, we're glad you and your daughter could make it so promptly."
The employee at the front counter offered Yukiko a bow and even gave a brief one to Haibara. She led them into the salon to meet with a hairdresser.
"Daughter?" Haibara asked quietly.
"I made the appointment while you were getting ready," Yukiko explained. "I had to be quick so I just said it was a mother/daughter affair."
"Are you expecting me to play the daughter?" Haibara asked. She was feeling wary. Kudo had a mischievous streak and Haibara was currently stuck with the woman he had inherited it from.
"I'll leave that up to you," Yukiko said vaguely as one of the available stylists approached.
"Kudo-sama." The stylist bowed. "I understand you were hoping for matching hairstyles?"
"That's what I said when I called," Yukiko replied. Haibara noticed she was trying to look sheepish. "But I have to confess on the way here I realized my Acchan's hair might not be long enough to style like mine."
"My Acchan"? Haibara thought as the stylist looked at her with an appraising eye.
"You may be right about that," she said. "I'm sure we can work something out. If not we can do all manner of cute hairstyles."
Haibara cringed inwardly at the word "cute." It was fine when applied to animals, or outfits, or even actual little girls. It was nota word Haibara ever applied to herself. She made an attempt to get Yukiko's attention.
"Um, wait, Yuki- um... I mean, Mother..."
"Hold on, Acchan," Yukiko said without looking down. "Mama's talking to the hairdresser. You'll get your chance to speak up."
Haibara was getting steadily more nervous as words like "pigtails" and "ribbons" entered the negotiations. A few times she tried to interject only to get shushed by Yukiko. When Yukiko looked down at her during one of those moments, Haibara noticed a wicked grin on the older woman's face.
Ah, I think I see where she's going with this, Haibara thought. To her own surprise, she grinned. Fine, Yukiko-san. I'll go along for now, but I hope you realize two can play this game.
"I want to match!" Haibara shouted suddenly. All eyes in the room turned to her.
No helping it, Haibara told herself, hoping she wasn't blushing as much as she suspected she was. I'm committed now.
"I don't want dumb pigtails. I want to match Mama!"
Yukiko smiled, then turned to the stylist.
"You heard the lady. Just do what you can."
Yukiko relaxed and let the hairdresser do her thing. She was and old han-she had experience with sitting still for hours on end while makeup was applied and hair done. This whole procedure promised an hour and a half at most. Child's Play.
That brought Yukiko's attention back to Ai Haibara. Due to the complexities of business, appointments, and so on, there had not been enough notice for two chairs to be free for "mother and daughter" to sit next to each other. The staff compromised by finding a spot where they could be seated directly across and watch the other get worked on.
Ai certainly knew how to enjoy being pampered, judging by the smile on her face as the woman working on the girl shampooed her hair. Yukiko mentally recapped what she knew about Ai from Shinichi and Professor Agasa. She knew Ai typically did not bother with the childish act like Shinichi tried to. That had only made Yukiko want to see what would get Ai to do so, and what she would do when she did.
Yukiko had meant what she had said before when she told Ai she'd leave it to her how far to "take the role." Had Ai done nothing beyond just half-heartedly try to interrupt, Yukiko would have picked something simple or fashionable for the girl and let the hairdressers get to work. The game wouldn't be fun if only one of them was going to play, after all.
Ai had not disappointed, and now a grin spread across Yukiko's face. Yukiko remembered another fact she knew about Ai Haibara. Judging from the story she had gotten out of Professor Agasa about chili powder in Shinichi's shorts during an onsen trip, if Ai felt slighted she would find some way to retaliate in kind. Yukiko wondered just what Ai would do now.
"Mama?" Yukiko heard Ai say some time later.
"How will this help me become a big sister?" she asked loudly.
"W-what do you mean?" Yukiko asked as eyes and ears started to turn toward them.
"I heard you telling the lady next door that once Papa saw you after the salon that you'd be well on your way to making me a big sister," Ai continued. "How does that work?"
Certain things will stop a room cold, no matter what. A child publicly asking where babies came from ranked high on that list. Now it was up to Yukiko to decide how she would react.
Out the corner of her eye, Yukiko saw the scissors by her head start shaking.
Oh, Ai-chan, you do not mess around, Yukiko thought as she considered her options.
Yukiko's first impulse was to tell Ai she'd simply misheard. She immediately disregarded that thought. That was perhaps what she might've done if she and Ai were an actual mother and daughter. In this circumstance, doing that would violate the first rule of improvisation: never deny what your partner offers for a scene.
"Well, you see..." Yukiko began, affecting just the right amount of nervous embarrassment, "a baby can be made when a Mama and Papa love each other very much. Becoming really pretty for the next time they try helps make that love even stronger."
"Where does the baby come from?" Ai asked.
"A stork," Yukiko replied without missing a beat. "Mama's and Papa's love calls a special stork which brings the baby."
"Ohhh," Ai said with exaggerated understanding. Yukiko, seeing the twinkle in the girl's eye, braced herself for what she had in store next.
"Then what are all those noises and shouting you do at nighttime?"
Yukiko's face went red, this time in actual embarrassment. She also eyed the scissors next to her head more nervously as they began to shake harder.
"Aren't you supposed to be sleeping by then?" she asked Ai.
"You wake me up," Ai replied. "What are those sounds? I can't hear them very well through the walls."
"Those... those are stork calls, Acchan."
"Oh. I learned bird calls when I went camping before," Ai said. "Can I help next time?"
By the time Yukiko and Haibara left the salon, everyone present had been blushing, scandalized, trying very hard not to laugh, or some combination of the three. The mother and daughter themselves managed to keep up the act, Yukiko acting the embarrassed mother while Haibara demonstrated a few bird calls, until they were back in Yukiko's car and had driven around the corner.
Yukiko parked on the side of the moment, but didn't say or do anything else. Haibara noticed the other woman was looking away from her and what Haibara could see of her face looked red. Haibara wondered if she had taken things too far and legitimately embarrassed or angered Yukiko.
Then Yukiko snorted.
"Can I help next time..."
With that, the dam burst and Ai Haibara found herself laughing alongside Yukiko. Haibara could not honestly remember having laughed so hard in her life.
"Stork call..." she managed to gasp.
"Did you see the blush on those high school girls waiting their turn?" Yukiko asked.
"You should've seen the woman cutting your hair!"
"I saw her scissors shaking," said Yukiko. "Thought I was about to lose an ear!"
"And the old woman..."
"I haven't seen an old lady that shocked since I was a teenager! If I'd given her half a chance I'm sure I would've gotten an earful about disciplining my child."
Haibara could only imagine the sight they must have been to passers by. A woman and a little girl with almost identical hairstyles laughing themselves sick. Definitely an unusual sight for the typical Tokyoite.
Once their laughter had run its course, Yukiko started the car, Haibara triple-checked the tightness of her seat belt, and they were on their way.
"So, 'Mama', where are we headed next?" Haibara asked when a stop light blatantly forced Yukiko to cease her forward motion and Haibara was certain she could speak at a normal volume.
"Next?" Yukiko asked, smiling. "So you're not interested in going home?"
"I'm surprising myself by saying this, but no. Not if there's anything else like that planned, at least," Haibara replied.
"How about karaoke, then lunch?"
"Karaoke? What are we, high schoolers?"
"Well, maybe if you average our ages..."
"Didn't Kudo-kun tell you?" Haibara said in her best deadpan. "I'm eighty-four."
"Not at the moment you're not."
"The math still doesn't work out."
"Well, if you consider my mental age-"
"Middle school. At best."
"Middle schoolers enjoy karaoke, too." Yukiko said with a shrug.
"Alright, point taken. So, what's the catch?"
The light changed before Yukiko answered. All Haibara saw before the world took off was Yukiko grinning.
Yukiko's catch, as Haibara found out once they were secluded in a booth, was they would choose each others' songs. The pair took turns quizzing one another about their preferences to better select songs the other was sure to hate.
"How do you feel about this?" Haibara asked.
Yukiko looked at the tablet and its list of songs.
"That a new one by Yoko Okino?" Yukiko raised her nose and huffed. "I can sing anything that upstart can. Better, too."
"Let's put that to the test, then." With a beep Haibara added it to Yukiko's playlist.
"How do you feel about that magical girl anime with the poofy skirts?" Yukiko asked.
"It's my very favorite," Haibara replied without much conviction.
"Isn't this the singer with the really deep, manly voice?"
"Their song lists are really comprehensive here," Yukiko noted. "They've even got American singers. Really old ones, too."
"Are you familiar with Shirley Temple?"
Afterward, Haibara had been forced to concede victory to Yukiko, if only because of the latter's utter shamelessness. After the second sweet saccharine song she'd submitted swiftly. Yukiko, on the other hand, had kept going; singing both of their song lists and giving her all each performance.
"I still can't believe you managed to get your voice that deep."
"It's not easy, but it was worth it for the surprise on your face. You should've held out longer. You didn't even make it to Good Ship Lollipop."
"I'm much more firmly attached to my dignity than you are."
"Your loss," Yukiko said with a shrug. "Speaking of which, since I won our little game, it's time to settle up."
"Wait, we never placed any kind of bet," Haibara exclaimed as images of Penalty Games involving taffeta and pink bows entered her mind.
"Oh relax," Yukiko said, as if perfectly aware of what Haibara was thinking. "I only meant I choose where we have lunch."
Haibara sighed in relief.
"Although..." Yukiko said in an ominous tone. "Next time we need some kind of penalty for the loser. What do you think?"
Haibara thought that by next time she should learn to be as shameless as her host if she didn't want to die of even greater embarrassment later.
The part-timer behind the register watched the woman and little girl walk into the restaurant. She was used to seeing kids excited to eat here. This little girl, her hair done up similarly to her mother's, seemed almost reluctant. From what she could hear of the conversation as they approached the counter, the girl was clearly willing to backtalk her mom about the matter.
"The food here is hardly healthy," the child said.
True enough, the part-timer thought.
"You need to learn to live a little, Ai-chan," said the girl's mother.
"Alright," the girl agreed. "but please do not order a childrens' meal."
Huh, the part-timer thought. Kid doesn't want a kids' meal and would rather eat healthy? That is a first.
"Are you absolutely sure?" the mother asked.
"Fine," the mother sighed. "Have it your way. No childrens' meal. Go and get us a seat while I order, please."
The child looked at her mother with a skepticism the part-timer had never seen in a six year old.
"I promise," the mother said with a roll of her eyes. After the girl left the woman shook her head and chuckled.
"Isn't it just adorable the way they try to act so grown up?" she asked the part-timer.
The part-timer smiled.
"Will you be ordering the childrens' meal after all?"
The mother shook her head.
"No. I promised her I wouldn't. But if you wouldn't mind..."
As Haibara looked at the tray in front of her, she realized that while she had stipulated no kids' meals, she had failed to say anything about another, related detail.
"Was it hard to convince them to give me a toy without the meal?" she asked as she held the little wind up toy in her hand.
"Not at all," Yukiko replied. "The girl at the counter had to ask her manager's permission, and she has a boy in third grade who tries to act oh-so-mature, so she was quite sympathetic."
For no particular reason, Haibara wound up the little toy, some kind of cartoonish cat, and watched it move across the table. Yukiko caught it before it could go over the edge and handed it back.
"Is that a character from anything?" Yukiko asked.
Haibara shrugged. She only barely followed what books, games, or television shows the Detective Boys enjoyed. Most of that was either sentai shows like Yaiba, monster movies, or detective stories thanks to Kudo's influence.
Haibara and Yukiko ate mostly in silence, making small talk between bites. Only after the food was finished and cleared away did Yukiko speak more seriously.
"So, Ai-chan, what are your plans?"
Haibara idly fiddled with the wind up cat.
"I can pick the next place?"
"Maybe," she teased. "But not what I meant. While I'm not sure how much he actually has planned, I know the first things Shin-chan wants to do when he gets back to normal is let Ran-chan know all about how he feels and take on that Organization. What about you, though, Ai-chan? What does Ai Haibara plan to do when she grows up?"
Haibara didn't answer right away. The serious question, coming after everything else that day, had caught her off guard.
"Was it your plan all along to ask me that question?" Haibara asked, a touch of hostility creeping in as she did.
"No," Yukiko replied, "but it is something I've wanted to ask you. For all that Shin-chan's talked about what he wants to do when he's a teenager again, I've never heard anything like that from you. Shin-chan and the Professor haven't mentioned anything about you either. That just makes me so very curious. Do you even intend to become a teenager again? Assuming, of course, you were joking about being eighty-four."
Haibara tried not to meet Yukiko's eyes. Yukiko kept quiet to let Haibara think and took a sip from her soda. Haibara didn't know if what she did next was motivated by her annoyance at Yukiko for thrusting the topic on her, suspicion that despite the older woman's words this was exactly Yukiko's plan all along, or if the timing was simply too good to pass up.
"I want to be an idol like Yoko Okino!" she happily exclaimed.
Yukiko, caught between sipping her drink and a sudden urge to laugh, choked herself into a coughing fit that made her drop her soda onto the floor.
"Uh-oh! Mama made a mess!" Haibara shouted. Yukiko began coughing even harder, hastily pulling a handkerchief out to cover her mouth. When she finally composed herself again, Yukiko's glare met a grin that would rival the Cheshire cat. Yukiko grinned back.
"Fine, be that way," Yukiko said in a voice hoarse from coughing.
The next car ride was significantly more sedate than before, thanks to the archenemy of energetic drivers everywhere: traffic.
Yukiko glared at the car in front of her as if her fury alone would will it to move. The driver in front of her did feel a chill running down his spine until he made a right turn and Yukiko kept straight.
This snail's pace was making Yukiko bored. Ai had tried a round of asking "Are we there yet?" over and over, but Yukiko's annoyance at the traffic was overwhelming her playfulness, so that had gotten old quickly. Since then Ai had been quiet.
"Hey, Ai-chan," Yukiko said. "How do you really feel about Shin-chan? I have to confess, I am fully in Ran-chan's corner. We have history and all. But I wouldn't hold it against you if-oh."
While speaking, Yukiko snuck a peek to the passenger seat and noticed Ai had fallen asleep.
"Car rides. Works every time," Yukiko said to herself. "I guess our Girls' Day Out has come to an end."
Yukiko looked at the dozing girl next to her, clinging tightly to her seat belt just like she would have her stuffed rabbit and clearly not in a now-instinctive act of self-preservation, and wondered what she was dreaming about.
There's a smile on her face, so it must be a good one.
"Geez, Yuki, what were you thinking with all those kiddie songs?"
"I was thinking 'It's going to be hilarious watching Shi-chan sing these.'"
"Well, I hope it was worth it," Shiho said.
"Oh, please," Yukiko said, rolling her eyes. "It's not like you didn't give as good as you got. Half the songs you picked were sung by men! If I miss my chance with Yusaku-senpai because you made me screw up my voice I'll never forgive you."
"He worships the ground you walk on." Shiho waved her hand airily. "The only thing that might, might, hurt your chances is being male."
"You're mean, Shi-chan!" Yukiko pouted.
"Besides," Shiho said, continuing as if Yukiko hadn't spoken, "After all that time at the beauty parlor he'll need your help picking up his jaw from the ground."
"You're nice, Shi-chan!" Yukiko gave Shiho a hug.
"So I'm mean and nice? Make up your mind." Shiho gently pushed Yukiko away and smoothed out the wrinkles Yukiko's sudden affection had put into her uniform's blazer.
"My mind's made up its mind that it's time to get food," Yukiko declared. "I'm starving."
With that, Yukiko made a beeline for the nearest fast food restaurant.
She's more like a grade schooler than a high schooler, Shiho thought. Then she grinned. I wonder if I could get away with ordering a kid's meal for her.
Shiho's thoughts were interrupted by a tug on her skirt. When she looked down she saw a little girl, about six or seven, with dark hair and a hairband. Her round eyes looked up at Shiho.
"Ai-chan, are you awake yet?"
Haibara opened her eyes to see Ayumi standing beside her bed.
"Sorry, Ai-chan, I didn't mean to actually wake you."
Haibara waved her hand at Ayumi and sat up.
"It's fine," she said with a yawn. "Where's Yukiko-san?"
"Conan-kun's mom? She said she had to be going but asked me to tell you she had fun today."
"How long was I asleep?" Haibara looked down at herself and saw she was still wearing the same clothes from earlier and it was still daylight outside, albeit with the beginnings of sunset.
"You were already napping when I got here," Ayumi said. "That was thirty-seven minutes ago."
Haibara thought that was unusually precise. She chalked it up to Kudo's influence.
"Conan-kun's mom said you guys had lunch an' sang karaoke an' even got your hair done. It looks nice, by the way."
"Thank you," Haibara replied. She didn't bother correcting Ayumi about calling Yukiko Conan's mother. The only person who ever seemed to really bother was Kudo himself, and she honestly couldn't remember what made-up relation Kudo had told them, anyway.
"But I'm annoyed at you, Ai-chan."
"Huh?" Haibara was surprised. "I'm sorry you couldn't join us, but you were busy, too, right?"
"Not that. Why didn't you tell me you wanted to be an idol?"
"Conan-kun's mom said you told her you wanted to be an idol when you grew up!"
"I- I did, but-"
"Then let's do it together!"
"Yoshida-san, I was jo-"
"Conan-kun's mom said she could get us costumes-"
"-and teach us to sing 'n' stuff!"
Yukiko listened to the conversation through one of Professor Agasa's spare Detective Boy badges.
As Ai tried desperately to dissuade Ayumi from wanting to put on a concert for their friends, Yukiko barely kept herself from laughing out loud.
She hoped this last prank didn't push Ai too far. Good playmates were so hard to find.