/poses/ My triumphant return! Ahem… I know it's been a while, and I have good (personal) reasons for leaving you all hanging. However, I finished this chapter today! I'm back in the mood for more now, although we'll see what happens and how far I get before I need to take another break. Hopefully, I'll be able to take this through to the end now without too many interruptions.

As always, I don't own Detective Conan, Magic Kaito, or anything else that might be referenced for my story.

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Chapter 6: The Gathering Point

At about 10 o'clock in the morning on June 24th, there was a knock on the door of the Mouri Detective Agency. Ran went to answer it.

"Hey, Ran-chan! What's up? Is Conan around?"

"Hattori-kun! Uh… yeah, I'll go get him, why don't you come in. You know… I wasn't really expecting you to come back, at least not so soon…" She went to call Conan to come downstairs, while Heiji took a seat on the sofa.

"Heiji-niichan," Conan said with a little bit of surprise when he entered the room. "Welcome back. Does this mean you were able to figure out what the target is?"

With a look of disappointment, Heiji said "No, and I'm assuming you didn't, either." This was confirmed when Conan shook his head.

"Would you like some tea or something," Ran asked.

"Just water would be fine. I actually came to pick up Conan."

"Pick him up?" It finally dawned on her as she walked into the kitchen. "You guys are really gonna go follow Kid…"

Heiji leaned over and whispered to Conan after Ran left the room. "Go get your stuff together. I already have the tickets. If we leave now, there'll be more time to search the City." Conan nodded and ran back upstairs.

Conan returned to the office/living room five minutes later, to an impatient-looking Heiji and a worried-looking Ran.

"What's wrong, Ran-neechan," he asked.

"You didn't even think about how I'd feel!" She threw her arm up in the air. "You're just gonna run off chasing the one guy that no one can seem to catch, and you didn't even think about how it would affect the people around you! Mou, Shinichi, I could just strangle you sometimes!"

The boys were lucky she didn't notice their shared surprise. "Uh… Ran-chan," Heiji hesitated.

"What?"

"Kudo isn't here…"

The girl looked around, as if coming out of a daze. She plopped down onto the sofa. "That's right… he isn't… but that doesn't mean I'm not mad at you, because I am. How could you do this to me… let alone my father?" She pleadingly looked into Conan's eyes, which made him increasingly uncomfortable.

He tried to play it off with a joke. "Well, you know how he'd react when he sees how much the plane tickets and all the other expenses along the way will cost… heh, heh…"

"As true as that is, I don't think it's very funny," she retorted. "If it was important enough to him, he'd find a way to finance it… I was just hoping to find a way to trick Nakamori-keibu into agreeing to let him accompany us, but so much for that brilliant idea… I can't just leave him by himself all summer, though…" She stared at Heiji with a look that screamed 'threat.' "You had better take good care of Conan, Hattori-kun."

The absence of the honorific suffix caught both boys by surprise. Heiji nodded. "You can be sure of it." He stood up. "Let's go, kid, we don't want to miss the flight."

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Conan watched the ground as they made their way towards the airport. "Ne, Hattori, do you ever get the feeling you're never gonna be forgiven for something you did?"

Heiji rolled his eyes. "Geez, of all the times for you to go soft on me…"

"Well?" When the pint-sized detective got no more responses, he looked up with hurt-filled eyes at the taller boy. "I know you know this isn't something new…"

Heiji shrugged. "Yeah, I do… and frankly speaking, it's getting to me. It really amazes me how well you seem to have done for yourself, seeing as how she's always on your mind…"

"You know what else might amaze you?"

"What?"

"How much I wish she was here right now, so that she could kick your ass."

"Need your girlfriend to fight your battles for you?"

"No! At least, I didn't used to… Damn it, Hattori, why do you always feel the need to pick on me?"

Heiji studied the sky. "Why…" he said after a few seconds. He looked back down at his companion and shrugged again. "I suppose it's just because it's so easy…"

"Oh look, we're here," Conan said abruptly.

"So we are…" Heiji entered the building first, Conan's shorter stride causing him to follow a couple steps behind.

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Kogoro scanned the room when he finally woke up. His daughter was sitting alone at the table, staring at the telephone with a somber look on her face. He felt an eerie silence, as if there was no one else in the apartment. "Where's the brat," he asked.

"He left with Hattori-kun this morning," she replied bitterly.

"Why didn't you go with them?"

"It seemed like they didn't really want me along, and anyway I decided it might be better for me to stay here, so I can keep an eye on you…"

"I appreciate the sentiments, but don't you think at least one of us would be better off going with them?"

"I can't leave you alone here for two months…"

"Two months?"

"Yes, that's why they left without us."

"Cheeky brats… what was the real reason?"

"That's the only one they gave me, dad – that they were sure you wouldn't want to have to deal with all the expenses involved."

Kogoro put a hand up to his forehead. "My G-d! They know me better than I thought they did!" He thought for a few more seconds. "It doesn't excuse their behavior, but they do have a point… Ran, I want you to go with them."

"But dad…"

"Don't argue with me, sweetie. I need to be here in case something comes up. Go. They'll need you, they just don't know it yet."

"What about you?"

"I already told you, I need to stay here. Start getting your stuff together, I'm gonna find out when the next flight to Beijing is. Maybe I can pull some strings… Don't give me that look; you want to go, don't you? Don't worry, even if they decide to not utilize your abilities, you'll still be there with them. You're getting to see the world! Opportunities like this don't come very often!"

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"You know, Kudo," Heiji muttered, "it's a good thing I was able to bribe my father into getting these plane tickets for us. Nakamori still doesn't know we're coming, and I'm not sure we would have been able to get them otherwise, let alone at such a good price…"

Conan nodded. "I'm just glad my parents left the right passport for me the last time they came to visit…"

The pair had no trouble getting through the international flights' security checkpoint. They looked at the list of departing flights and saw that they still had some time before they needed to be at the gate. "Wanna grab a snack before the flight," Heiji asked.

"Sure."

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"Okay, I talked to the travel agent, and they said there aren't any more flights to Beijing today. But, she was able to get you on the one tomorrow," Kogoro explained to his daughter.

Ran fell onto the sofa. "I'm having trouble believing that this is all really happening."

"You care for him, he cares for you… You know, it's amazing you two have been able to keep it a secret from that other detective brat for so long."

"Huh? You mean Shinichi? I guess it just never came up in the conversation all the times we've talked on the phone…" She sighed when she thought about his recent antics. "That guy is so annoying!"

"If he pisses you off so much, why don't you just dump him?"

"How can you even say that, dad?"

"You don't deserve the way he's been treating you, that's all there is to it. You're even getting better attention from our little house guest."

"But… I don't know what I'd do without Shinichi… and it's not fair to tell him something like that over the phone; it's much better done in person. I can be patient a while longer…"

"Suit yourself. I'm just trying to look out for what's best for you."

Ran walked back over to where her father was sitting, and put a hand on his shoulder. "I know dad. Thank you."

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Kuroba Kaito meandered up to the gate and looked out the window to where the plane was sitting. He was dressed casually – there was no need for his school uniform on a trip like this – and he carried a small backpack with his Kid costume in it. There was no way he'd leave something that valuable in the hands of the airline attendants. Satisfied that the aircraft looked how it was supposed to, he walked up to the counter. "Excuse me ma'am, I'm meeting some people here today, could you tell me if they've checked in yet?"

The woman on the other side of the counter looked down at her computer screen. "Sure, what are their names?"

"Nakamori Ginzo, Hattori Heiji, and… Edogawa Conan." He took a deep breath at the recovery from almost saying 'Kudo Shinichi.'

She typed in each name. "They are all booked on this flight, and they all checked in when they checked their baggage at the ticket counter."

"Thank you very much."

"You're welcome."

Kaito turned away from the counter and looked around. Suddenly, he noticed Nakamori sitting off to the side, and his grin grew even wider than normal. He didn't go greet the detective though, there would be plenty of antagonizing from him later and he didn't need it to start now.

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The pair of high school detectives sat at a table in the airport's food court. "You think Kid's here already," Heiji asked his companion of diminutive stature.

"Yeah, probably… if he is on our flight, then I'm sure he's here already."

"You make it sound like he has no other way of getting there…" Heiji took a long drink from his glass of cherry cola.

"He's only human, you know. He just knows a whole bunch of magic tricks and methods of deception. He's gotta go on an airplane, whether or not it's the same one we're on. Hey, do you hear that? I think they're announcing our flight."

Both boys strained their ears to hear over all the other discussions going on around them. "…flight to Beijing is now boarding out of gate…"

"Oh, crap, we gotta get over there," the Detective of the West exclaimed. They cleaned up the debris from their table, and started jogging down the concourse. "We're not gonna make it in time!"

The pair arrived at the gate just as the last few people got in line to board the aircraft. "Now boarding all rows," one of the attendants announced. The detectives took a few seconds to catch their breaths.

"We made it just in time!"

"Yeah… you ready, Ku…Conan-kun?"

Instead of replying, Shinichi handed his ticket to the attendant and started walking down the jetway.

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End Chapter 6

A/N: Aaaannnnd they're off! The immediate future might be kinda obvious, but I also have some surprises in mind for later.

Guess that's it for now, catch ya later!