Disclaimer: I don't own Detective Conan/Case Closed. Or the song.

SLIGHT SPOILERS FOR THE GENERAL DETECTIVE CONAN AND MAGIC KAITO SERIES. (ALSO FROM VOLUME 28, FILES 6-10; AS WELL AS FILES 487-490)

When They Stopped Pretending

Chapter 1 - Ignorance is bliss, or so they say...

The past year, Heiji thought to himself, had been awfully, awfully hectic. A plethora of events had occured, each of which had affected him more than he'd like to admit.

First, Kudo was Kudo again. And thank god for it, for Heiji was growing tired of keeping his secret, and his constant slip-ups were proof of that. The little girl, Haibara-kun, remained as Haibara-kun, because she had nothing else to go back to. The Black Organization was taken down, with the combined efforts of the newly returned Kudo Shinichi, he himself, and... - this part he still sometimes had trouble believing - the Kaitou KID, who had also destroyed something called the Pandora Gem. The phantom thief was also known as Kuroba Kaito. Who looked so much like Kudo that they could pass for twins. But they weren't. Heiji had decided to take some aspirin and had promptly gone to sleep in the hopes that once he woke up, they would all be gone. His hopes were sadly crushed.

And, well, ever since then, the three young men had grown closer together, in a friendly rivalry type of relationship. Which was why the three of them were currently sitting in the Mouris' living room, watching TV.

Tonight was the eighth in a series of nights that Kuroba had affectionately dubbed "Boys' Night Inside The Apartment While the Girls Go Out Shopping" - for he always did have a knack with words. During such nights, Neechan, Nakamori-han, and Kazuha went off to who knows where to buy tons and tons of clothes Heiji was fairly sure they would never wear, while Kudo, Kuroba, and he would stay at Neechan's place to watch TV, occasionally play poker, and basically gave each other a hard time.

Especially since Kudo had just proposed to Neechan. Kudo had blatantly refused to spill any of the details, but Heiji was working on it with Kuroba. And they were extremely close to making the detective crack.

"Oooh, oooh," Kuroba motioned for Heiji to come closer, "I bet he made his voice go all deep and soft, and then he had some candlelight dinner, and then he took out the ring and got down on one knee, and..." Here he changed his voice to sound exactly like Kudo, "he gazed up into her eyes and said, 'Ran... I've loved you all this time, more than anything in this world... will you... will you marry me?' "

Heiji burst out laughing while Kudo turned a lovely shade of red. He aimed a halfhearted punch in the direction of the magician's face, which Kuroba easily dodged.

"What about you?" Kudo said, scowling.

Kuroba blinked innocently. "Me?"

"And Nakamori-san."

The expression on the phantom thief's face changed, ever so slightly. Heiji wasn't even sure if it had changed at all. "We're dating," he said, simply.

"Dating?" Kudo leaned forward, interested. "You never mentioned that before."

"Yeah, really." Heiji rested his chin in his hand, eyebrows raised. "Before, you were always doing something to piss her off and make her chase you down with her mop. And when anybody ever asked about your relationship, you'd avoid the question and claim to be just friends. What changed?"

There it went again, that annoying slight change of expression. What was it, that Poker Face thing he'd heard so much about? Heiji decided to file this little piece of information away.

"What can I say? I grew up."

And Kuroba looked so damned mature that even Heiji couldn't come up with a sarcastic remark to ruin the moment. So he settled for clapping the ex-thief on the shoulder. "Well, good for you. And at least you don't start sputtering and turn into a tomato when asked about your love life."

"Yeah, little Shin-chan still has some growing up to do."

Kudo sent them a glare that could melt ice.

Then there was a loud poof, and Kudo's hair was dyed a shocking pink. Heiji bit his lip to refrain from laughing. In the end, the laughter won out.

"Pink's definitely your color, Kudo. Definitely."

Kudo glowered, again -

and then there was a familiar gleam in his eye, a gleam of triumph, triumph of solving a complicated mystery..

Heiji subconsciously moved away.

"Hattori, why don't you tell us about Toyama-san?"

"Kazuha?" Heiji shrugged. "What's to tell?"

Kudo and Kuroba exchanged looks.

"Like, the way you're obviously freaking in love with her," Kuroba replied, helpfully.

Heiji rolled his eyes. "This again? That's rubbish."

"I don't think so," Kudo said, mildly.

"She's like my older sister." Heiji emphasized the last word. "Annoying, always following me around on all my cases. I swear, if I told her I was going to hell, she'd go with me!"

"Like a dedicated and loyal girlfriend?" Kudo smirked.

"Like an annoying older sister."

"He's in denial," Kuroba stated.

Heiji was beginning to grow exasperated. "I'm not in denial or anything like that. What I'm saying is the truth - Kazuha is just a friend, like a sister!"

The other two men looked unconvinced.

"I gotta tell you," Kuroba said, "if she's your older sister, then I'm seeing incest."

/-/

"Ooh, that dress looks really nice on you, Kazuha-chan!" Ran-chan exclaimed, smiling. "You should definitely buy it."

"Really?" Kazuha peered at her reflection. "You don't think it's too... tight?"

"It looks amazing," Aoko-chan stated. "But if you're worried about it being too tight, why don't you get the next size?"

"I wonder if he'll like it," Kazuha murmured to herself. Unfortunately for her, the other two heard.

"Well," Aoko-chan said, lightly, "if you're trying to impress Hattori-kun, then you're probably better off with the tight one."

Kazuha frowned. "...hey."

"You don't have to deny it," Ran-chan told her, "we all know, anyway."

Kazuha sighed. "Is it that obvious?"

"To everyone except him," Ran-chan said, cheerfully.

"That idiot," Kazuha snarled, green eyes flashing, "he solves murder cases no one else can, yet he can't see this?"

"He's a lot like Shinichi," Ran-chan said, helpfully.

"I can hit him with my mop if you'd like," Aoko-chan offered.

Kazuha's mouth twitched into a smile, "No thanks, I don't think that would help anyway."

"If he could see you now, he'd fall head over heels in an instant," Aoko-chan told her, smiling supportively. "You look gorgeous."

"Really?" Kazuha repeated. She fingered the halter-top styled dress, down to where the hem ended, just a few inches below the knee. It was a dark green color, with small flowers bordering the hemline. "You guys really think so?"

Ran-chan sighed, exasperatedly. "We wouldn't lie, Kazuha-chan. Buy it, buy it! Maybe you could wear it for Christmas."

Kazuha smiled gratefully at her friends before going back into the dressing room to change. "Yeah. I think I'll buy it..."

/-/

"God, what took you so long?" Heiji sprinted for the door and threw it open. Okay, so it was always difficult being around Kudo and Kuroba, but the pain intensified when they were making cracks about him and his childhood friend.

"Quit complaining," Kazuha snapped.

Heiji pulled at her ponytail and stuck his tongue out at her. "Stupid. I can only handle them for so long."

"Shush," Kazuha waved a hand at him in a dismissive manner. "We brought dinner, too, by the way," she announced to the rest of the room.

"Really?" Heiji tugged the plastic bag out of Kazuha's arms. "What'd you get?"

"Fish," Nakamori-han replied, throwing a nasty grin in Kuroba's direction, who involuntarily shuddered. Heiji still didn't quite understand the boy's phobia of fish - God, the guy could execute the most impossible gymnastics moves; fly a hang-glider, elude the police; steal valuable jewels, and he was afraid of a sea creature?

He really needed to get some new friends.

Neechan and Kudo got out the plates, and Heiji watched them from the corner of their eye. He could see the gold ring glinting on Neechan's finger, as well as the plain and obvious fact that the two of them couldn't stop glowing.

And then he turned to where Kuroba and Nakamori-han were sitting on the couch - they weren't being kissy-goo-goo or anything, which Heiji silently thanked the stars for, but something between them had changed, ever so subtly. Whether it was the way Kuroba occasionally smoothed down Nakamori-han's bushy hair, or the way Nakamori-han's eyes softened when she saw him, or the way they sat a little closer to each other than they used to... It was plain to see that there was something between them.

"Cute, huh?" Kazuha whispered, smiling faintly.

"Too cute," Heiji replied. "I'm going to be sick if I see any more of this..."

"Tch," Kazuha said, rolling her eyes. "You should be happy for them. They're so in love, you can't help but be happy for them." Her eyes flickered over to Kudo and Neechan, "Ran-chan's been through so much, and throughout it all, she waited for him. And now he's back, and it's like the end to a cheesy, but very good, love story.. And even Aoko-chan, too, what with the Kuroba-kun being the KID and all."

"You've given this a lot of thought," Heiji noted. Somewhere in the corners of his mind, he'd been aware up to some extent of the emotional anguish that Neechan had gone through - if it was anything like the stuff Kudo went through, it must have been pretty damn painful. He wasn't all that sure about Nakamori-han, though, because Kuroba's Poker Face was tough to crack.

Kazuha shrugged.

And somehow, he found himself watching her. For a few seconds, anyway. Which grew into a minute. Or two.

Or five.

Not, said a little voice in the back of his head, that I'm looking at her because I LIKE her or anything, though. Of course not.

/-/

"Wait, so tell me about this play of yours," Ran-chan said, looking over at Kazuha. "You're in it, aren't you?"

"We're doing Cinderella... and I'm playing the fairy godmother," Kazuha replied, wiping her mouth with a napkin. The smell of the noodles and cooked fish permeated the entire room, and it was apparent to see that Heiji still found Kuroba-kun's strange fear of fish very amusing.

The way he continuously offered the poor magician remnants of fish and waved them at his face were obvious proof of that.

But at Kazuha's words, he stuck the fish in his mouth and swallowed - without chewing. "Yeah. Isn't it strange, that the fairy godmother, who's supposed to be this old hag, is played by her?"

Kazuha poked his cheek with one of her chopsticks. Hard. Looking down at them, she then realized that she wouldn't be able to use them anymore, and sighed.

"Stupid," Heiji said.

Kazuha stuck her tongue out at him, and then looked out at the rest of them. "Well, did Heiji mention what his role in the play was?" From the corner of her eye, she saw him visibly cringe, and enjoyed the moment thoroughly.

"Hei-chan's going to be in the play?" She saw Kuroba-kun's eyes twinkle. Revenge for the fish jokes, she supposed.

"Oh, so he didn't mention it, did he?" Kazuha's smirk was sinister.

"It's nothing important," Heiji said, lightly, "anybody want some drinks?"

"No, no, do tell." Kudo-kun was looking very interested and Kazuha could see a manic gleam in his blue eyes. She smirked as well, even when she saw the pleading gaze in his deep green eyes...

"Heiji's going to be the prince," Kazuha announced, and Heiji shot her a look that promised revenge.

Kuroba-kun and Kudo-kun guffawed, loudly. They actually looked really funny - their physical attributes were similar enough, but add the fact that they were laughing like two hyenas and in identical manners made it actually considerably more amusing.

"This.." And Kuroba-kun pointed to Heiji as if an he were an object and not a human, "is going to be Prince Charming?"

"Kaito," Aoko-chan said, mildly, "sit down."

Her tone was easy and, well, mild, with no force behind it. But Kazuha, as a fellow female, understood the hidden meaning of Sit-down-or-I-swear-I'll-hit-you-with-my-mop-so-that-you-won't-be-walking-for-days, and smiled inwardly.

And Kuroba-kun, a very intelligent person, said, "Aww -" but sat down anyway, although not before giving Heiji an almost paternal pat on the head.

Kudo-kun wasn't finished, however. "You're going to be the prince?" he repeated, disbelievingly. "Who cast you?"

Heiji mumbled something under his breath.

"His mother," Kazuha translated for him, "thought that it would be nice for him."

"And for the rest of us," Kuroba-kun added gleefully.

"But," and Ran-chan skillfully cut into the conversation before Heiji stood up and decided to test if an umbrella could be as useful as a katana when used properly, "who's going to play Cinderella?"

Kazuha's eyes darkened a little, and she noticed that Heiji stiffened slightly. Barely able to refrain herself from sighing, she answered, "Satoshi Yuka."

"...who is..." Aoko-chan pressed on.

"Really popular. Pretty. Little Miss Perfect, you know the type."

Ran-chan and Aoko-chan wrinkled their noses. Oh, yes, they knew.

"So, she's hot, right?" Kuroba-kun said, bluntly, and in reply received a withering glare from Aoko-chan. "...ookay."

The conversation pretty much died after that, but Kazuha found that she wasn't really paying attention. The truth was, she had been secretly worried about Heiji and that bit - girl, Yuka-san. Yuka-san was so much better than she could ever be, and it was glaringly obvious - except to, perhaps, Heiji, because he was awfully dense when it came to such things - that she harbored a crush on Heiji.

And - goddammit, she was jealous!

Not that she'd ever admit that to Heiji, of course.

How to say that privately, she'd wanted to be Cinderella so that she and Heiji could have been the stars of the show? She snorted quietly. If he ever heard that, he'd probably think she was on crack.

He was so stupid, really. How he'd ever become the so-called "Great Detective of the West" was way beyond her.

...but then again, she reflected, as she stared at her best friend out of the corner of her eye, she wasn't that much smarter than he was.

/-/

Kazuha sighed and tugged at her ponytail. How had she ever landed this role, anyway? Today, she had gotten her first glimpse at her costume - and had promptly gagged. She silently thanked her stars that Heiji hadn't been there with her, for he never would have let her live it down. The dress was pure white, and was all... poofy, and shiny, and filled with sequins, and... ugh. She dreaded the night -about a monthfrom now - when she would actually have to get on stage in that thing.

She was currently holding her "wand" - apparently, they weren't quite done with the actual thing yet, but Kazuha had heard that it was going to be very pretty, all silver and sparkly, with a star on top - which was a twig. She sighed, twisting it around in her hands.

Then, through the thick velvet curtain, she caught the sounds of Yuka-san, playing Cinderella, with her exaggerated sobs. Taking a deep breath and praying for patience, she strode out into the spotlight.

"Dry your tears, my dear," she said, kneeling down to the sobbing girl. She produced a pink handkerchief from seemingly nowhere - it had been strategically hidden behind Yuka-san's body - and handed it to her. "Why ever are you crying?"

Yuka-san stared up at her. "Because - I have no way of going to the ball."

"Never say never." And then Kazuha pasted a smile on her face, waved the twig, and said the magic words.

On, and on, and on it went. Kazuha had never been more grateful to have had a minor part in a play. She waved as Yuka-san got into her "carriage" and rode off into the night. She quickly escaped backstage, and let out a sigh of relief.

"You did okay out there."

Kazuha whirled around, startled. "Oh." It was Heiji. "Thanks.. I guess." And then she frowned. "What do you mean, okay?"

"You sounded forced," came the blunt answer. "Like you didn't really want to be here."

"Well, you don't have to be a detective to figure that out," the teenage girl murmured. "Anyway, I'm done. Thank god I only have a short part. Unlike someone," she said, smirking.

His dark face colored a little, but he recovered. "The prince isn't that hard to play," he said, "all I've gotta do is sit around, argue with my father, dance with Satoshi-san, and come back at the end with some sappy smile on my face."

"Can you dance?"

"...somewhat."

"You've got two left feet and you know it."

"I'll manage," Heiji bristled. Then his lips twisted into a sly grin, "I saw your costume, by the way."

Kazuha rolled her eyes and let out a long-suffering sigh. "I'm not wearing that thing if I have anything to do with it. I'm going to hunt Yukimura-san down and get her to fix it."

Heiji snorted. "Sounds like something you'd do."

"Hattori!" The director of the play stuck his head in backstage. "God, haven't you guys gotten enough of each other yet? Hattori, you're on."

"Coming, coming," Heiji grumbled, and Kazuha presumed that he'd simply ignored the extra and unnecessary comment. Before pulling open the curtain, however, he turned back to her. "So are you going to leave now? Or do you want to walk home together?"

Kazuha turned away so that he wouldn't be able to see the growing smile that spread across her face. "I think I'll stay." Then, so that he wouldn't suspect anything, "I like seeing you make a fool of yourself on stage."

His reply was a soft smile. "Yeah, well, you would."

Ba-bump.

Kazuha bit her lip. "Yeah. Well."

Ba-bump.

"HATTORI!" The tone in the director's voice promised instant death if Heiji didn't show up on stage in the next second. Simultaneously, the two teens rolled their eyes and Heiji stepped out on stage.

Kazuha collapsed on her knees, clutching her rapidly beating heart. What the hell was that? She glared down at her heart.

"Stop it."

And her heart, as stupid as ever, replied:

Ba-bump. Ba-bump. Ba-bump.

She sighed and leaned against the wall.

/-/

Mouri Ran was not stupid. Sure, sometimes she was overlooked, especially with the constant presence of freakishly smart kids like Shinichi and Hattori-kun and Ai-chan, but she still had a knack for observing certain things that even Shinichi was clueless about.

This knack? It was called women's intuition. And sensitivity.

She had been painfully obvious to the fleeting looks Kazuha-chan shot at Hattori-kun, to the way she put on fake smiles so that no one else would worry, to the way she was so jealous of any other girl that tried to get close to Hattori-kun.

And that Hattori-kun! Ran could have kicked him. How could he be so oblivious to Kazuha-chan's feelings? Was he adetective or what? Then Ran's inner voice reminded her of Shinichi, and she rolled her eyes, defeated.

"Ran?" Shinichi appeared in the kitchen. "You've been staring off into space for a long time now. The water's boiling."

Ran dazedly looked down. "Oh." She turned the stove off.

He stepped closer. "What's up?"

"I was...thinking."

He grinned playfully. "Don't hurt yourself, now."

Ran punched him on the arm, lightly. "It's just..." She trailed off in thought, a pensive look covering her face.

Shinichi seemed to sensed that she wasn't joking around. "Yeah?"

"About Kazuha-chan and Hattori-kun." She shifted around so that she was looking in his eyes. "I mean, doesn't Hattori-kun have any clue?"

"Did I?" Shinichi smirked.

Ran wrinkled her nose. "I was hoping you wouldn't say that."

Shinichi studied her - she was just drop-dead gorgeous to him, and she wasn't even wearing make-up or anything. She wasn't even dressed up; she was wearing a pair of dark gray sweats. He smiled to himself. He watched as she tucked her hair behind her ear and listened as she went on:

"It's just - Kazuha-chan's obviously fallen for him, you know? And I don't know how long she can stand it. Especially since Hattori-kun seems to only think of her as a friend."

"Or an older sister," Shinichi added absentmindedly.

"That, too," Ran agreed. "But - I know that he likes her back! Right..? You know him better than I do."

"It's as obvious as his skin coloring."

"..." Ran raised an eyebrow.

"..yeah. Okay."

"Obvious to everyone but him! And Kazuha-chan. We need to pound some sense into them," Ran suddenly said, eyes gleaming.

"Shinichi!"

"I'd rather not get in the middle of anything," Shinichi said, skeptically.

"I guarantee you, Shinichi, that you won't shrink into a little kid if you 'get in the middle' of this."

"That was uncalled for," said Shinichi, through half-lidded eyes.

"We'll be helping them," Ran insisted.

Shinichi eyed her skeptically. "..."

"Shinichi!"

/-/

Closing her eyes, the ponytailed girl listened to the rough clacks of two wooden swords hitting each other. She tilted her head back to stare at the ceiling, wondering vaguely in her head exactly what she was doing here.

It's not like you have to be here, a voice in her head said, you could just walk right on out of here and get to studying for that English exam that you really need to study for.

"I really should go, shouldn't I.." Kazuha mumbled. English was not her best subject, and it irked her to no end how annoyingly smart and intelligent Heiji really was - darn it, the idiot didn't even pay attention in class, and he was still easily the smartest one! She let a loud sigh escape her lips.

Her eyes flickered over to where he stood, in the middle of the stadium, with everyone's eyes on him. She tugged at her ponytail, mostly out of habit. He gripped his wooden sword with ease, and that same, annoying calm air that always surrounded him. Even though his face was covered, she could picture in her mind that intense, calculating gaze of his, with those piercing dark green eyes. Like when he was out solving mysteries.

She sighed again.

Shaking her head, she decided to concentrate on the kendo match at hand. She would never admit it, but she actually liked watching Heiji practice his kendo. There was something about his graceful moves, the way he easily handled the wooden sword - or sometimes, his real katana.

And the way he was really, really good at it, too.

...and...

...he looked pretty good, too...

Kazuha's cheeks colored. "What the hell am I thinking?" She could have pinched herself. "Oooh, just shut up. Shut up!"

She watched him as he raised up his wooden sword and brought a solid hit down on his opponent's shoulder. His opponent faltered and fell back. The referee raised a hand and blew his whistle.

"Winner: Hattori Heiji!"

The section of the stadium that was occupied by their school stood up in an excited frenzy, hollering and clapping. Caught in the momentum, Kazuha stood up as well, whistling and cheering. Heiji removed his helmet and gazed around the stadium, as if searching for someone. Kazuha noticed the gesture, and was promptly elbowed by one of her classmates.

"Hey, hey, Kazuha-san, I think he's looking for you!"

"...me?" Kazuha frowned. He'd never done that before - and something inside of her fluttered. "Yeah, right. I bet he's looking for his mom."

"Nooo," Naoko-san said, shaking her dark head, "he's definitely looking for you. You can tell, because he's smiling really big, and he only smiles that big when he's talking to you."

Against her mind's wishes, Kazuha blushed. "...really?"

"Yeah!" Naoko-san nodded vehemently. "Oh! He's looking this way!"

Completely instinctively, Kazuha numbly raised a hand, Naoko-san's words still ringing loudly in her head.

Heiji finally caught her gaze, and his grin widened even more. He waved to her, eyes crinkling into a smile. She found herself waving and smiling back - he had fought a good fight, after all. She also pointedly ignored Naoko-san's expression of smug satisfaction.

She was, however, caught off-guard when Heiji suddenly motioned for her to come down to the front and stand with her. Off in the corner, she could see the school's kendo coach - with large tears in his eyes - wheeling in the trophy. With a start, she realized that this had been the kendo championship tournament, and that...

"Heiji won the tournament," she murmured, dazedly.

"Yes, yes, Kazuha-san," Naoko-san said, "now, go to him!"

"But I -"

Apparently, her feet weren't listening to her mouth. She looked down and shot them a halfhearted glare, but it was too late. The damage was done, and she was climbing down the bleachers to..

To him.

She took her place beside him, and was greeted by a huge grin that split his face. "I won," he said, proudly. She found the simple statement endearing, and she replied with a genuine smile.

"I saw," she said. "...and, you fought really well."

He seemed a little surprised - perhaps he had expected her to criticize a particular move or hit. "Uh. Thanks."

"But," she barreled on, "you shouldn't have let him hit you that time!" She was referring to a particular hit he'd received at his throat.

"Yes, Mom." Heiji stuck his tongue out at her.

"Hattori-kun," the kendo coach said, eyes wet and starry, "thank you. Thank you so much." He hugged the trophy close to his chest before handing it to Heiji. Kazuha bit her tongue to keep from laughing.

"Look at that," Heiji said, whistling. "Hah. I'll show it to Kudo. None of his soccer trophies are this big."

"Idiot," Kazuha murmured. "But, really. You did...a good job."

He smiled. "Coming from you, that's a real compliment."

Kazuha's face turned significantly pink. "Well, I figure you deserve some encouragement. Once in a while."

"Hah." He turned his nose up at her.

"Hattori-san, may we have a picture?" A photographer from the local newspaper interrupted, clutching a large black camera.

"Ah, sure!" Heiji grinned, and Kazuha made to leave. But Heiji apparently had other ideas, and he slung an arm around her shoulders. She stiffened.

"What?"

"Take a picture," he said.

"What? Why?"

"Because I want you to, dummy."

"Idiot! It's your tournament, and you won, so you take the picture!" She turned her body so that she could glare at him while yelling.

He glared right back. "I want you in the picture with me, idiot!"

A small part of her tingled at those words. "You just want me to help you carry this trophy!" Sure enough, she was holding one of the handles. "Because you're not strong enough to carry the whole thing!"

"Stupid!" He spat. "Who just won this tournament?"

"Must have been a fluke." She stuck her tongue out at him.

"Shut up!" He stuck his tongue out at her as well.

Click.

Flash.

Their banter stopped in that instant. "Did he just..."

"Take a picture of us?" Heiji said dryly. "Yeah, I think so."

"What? Oh!" Kazuha pressed a hand to her temple. "That'll be all over city! The two of us, sticking our tongues out at each other!"

"Well, it was all your fault," Heiji accused her.

"My -"

"Hattori-san, may we have a quick interview?" Another reporter this time.

"Oh, of course." And soon Heiji was surrounded by reporters, classmates, and - Kazuha's eyes narrowed - the fangirls. Apparently, though, he didn't seem to pay them a second glance, and some part of her felt relieved.

"Congratulations on your victory, Hattori-san! It was an amazing match. So, the Great Detective of the West is also now a kendo champion! Tell us how you balance solving murder mysteries with school and kendo practice!"

Kazuha rolled her eyes. His ego would surely grow worse after this...

But...

She dared to catch a glimpse of him, surrounded by his so-called adoring fans. With a slight layer of sweat that caused his skin to glisten in the light, that cocky, self-assured grin, slightly mussed-up hair, and a look of pure pride in his eyes... he... well, he...

He looked pretty damn good.

Kazuha could have slapped herself.

"Shut up, shut up, shut up," she told herself.

That didn't stop her from staring at him, though.

/-/

Kudo and Neechan's wedding was steadily creeping closer. Their wedding was planned for December 28th, just three days after Christmas. Today was November 10th, and Heiji personally thought that that was plenty of time, but according to Kazuha, it was going to take a lot longer than that because, "We still have to pick out Ran-chan's dress, find the cake, decide if they want a western or traditional styled wedding, and then go on from there!" in Kazuha's own words.

"Western," Kudo had answered promptly, when Heiji decided to question him.

"Western," Neechan replied as well, when Heiji asked her.

He grinned smugly in a way that caused the couple to blush. Must be nice, he thought mildly, to be in such good harmony and agreement with each other. If such a question were ever asked to him and Kazuha, she'd probably say western, and then he'd probably say traditional, because of the way his family was brought up -

NOT, he thought firmly, that he would EVER marry HER.

Right.

Anyway, now that the question of what kind of wedding was answered, they were off shopping for clothes. The girls had taken a separate trip, because Kazuha and Nakamori-han were adamant that the groom not be allowed to see the bride's dress. So now, the three boys were at at tuxedo shop, trying to find tuxedoes that were supposed to "fit perfectly."

"I really don't like wearing ties," Heiji told them, "bowties or neckties."

"They're not that bad," Kudo said.

"Well, you had time to adjust." Heiji rolled his eyes. "Along with the fake glasses."

"And neckties aren't that bad, either," Kuroba stated.

"You also had time to adjust," Heiji deadpanned, "along with learning how to fly a hang glider."

"Ran said that my bowtie was cute," Kudo said.

"Yeah, Aoko said that my necktie made me look sophisticated." Then Kaito switched his voice to imitate his girlfriend's perfectly. "For once in your life, that is!"

"But they're so annoying!" Heiji was close to whining.

"You'll only have to wear it for the ceremony," Kudo told him, trying to pacify the dark-skinned teen. "After that, you can take it off."

"You swear it on your life?"

Kudo sweatdropped. "Yes, Hattori, now pick one out."

"This one, then," he said, carelessly pointing to a black tuxedo.

"How about trying it on?"

"...fine."

Heiji stepped inside the dressing room and slowly changed. He felt so uncomfortable with such formal clothes; he preferred casual clothes, like the ones he usually wore. He pointedly left the tie on the hanger. Outside, he could hear the other boys' conversation.

"Hey, Kudo, can I wear my white suit to your wedding?"

"..." Heiji could imagine the look on Kudo's face.

"But it's nice, clean, and formal!" Kuroba said, brightly.

"Kuroba, you are not wearing your KID clothes to my wedding."

"Why not?"

"Because."

Heiji snorted from inside. If Kudo thought he could stop Kuroba with something as simple as that, he was sadly mistaken.

"But you know I look better in white than in black! Black's too depressing."

"Kuroba..."

"Ohh, come on, Shin-chan!"

Heiji could just imagine Kudo's grimace at the nickname. "...do I need to get a mop?"

"He's making irrational threats, Hei-chan, I think you'd better come out!"

"Coming, coming!" Heiji threw the door open, looking completely disgruntled.

And Kudo and Kuroba goggled.

"..what?" Heiji felt uncomfortably self-conscious as he smoothed out the tuxedo. Had he buttoned it up wrong? He hated tuxedoes, but he was pretty sure he knew how to at least put them on..

"You look...good." Kudo finally managed to stammer. Heiji narrowed his eyes, but his detective instincts told him that Kudo wasn't lying.

"He's right," Kuroba said, recovering from his previous shocked state. He grinned slyly. "I tell you, Hei-chan, if you weren't a guy, I'd kiss you."

"Nakamori-han wouldn't be happy to hear that." Heiji surveyed himself in the mirror. He supposed that he actually did look quite good, but he still yearned for his good old black shirt.

"See?" Kudo now turned to Kuroba. "If he can look good in black, so can you!"

Heiji narrowed his eyes. "Oi.."

"But he only looks good in black because his complexion is darker than mine!" Kuroba argued back.

A vein twitched in the corner of Heiji's forehead.

"Lousy excuse!" Kudo yelled back, "I've seen you in your school uniform, which happens to be black, and you look perfectly fine!"

"Well, now, that's different," Kuroba said, offhandedly.

"ENOUGH!" Heiji stormed in between them, using his Great Evil Heiji Demon-Head of Doom™ for added effect. "You," he roared, pointing to Kuroba, "wear the damn black suit! And you," he pointed to Kudo, "hurry up and pick out your own suit so that we can get out of here!"

"Yes, sir," the two boys said, meekly.

/-/

"This one looks gorgeous," Aoko-chan stated, pulling out a sleeveless white dress embroidered with small sequins that glittered in the light. "Doesn't it?"

Ran-chan went to join her and immediately gasped. "Ohh.."

Kazuha pushed her way through the rack of dresses and stared, dumbfounded. "...Ran-chan, if you don't buy it, then I will."

Ran-chan lit up and grabbed the dress. "I'll try it on," she said, before bounding over to the dressing room.

"She's glowing," Aoko-chan said, smiling.

"Yeah..." Kazuha smiled as well, looking a little wistful. And she hated herself for it. They'd been at the shop for well over an hour now, and Ran-chan had tried on dozens of dresses. And more than once, she'd...well... she'd imagined herself wearing the dress, with a certain someone beside her...

Stop it!

"You're blushing."

"...waah!" Kazuha jumped back upon the realization that Aoko-chan had been standing extremely close to her with half-lidded eyes. She pressed her hands to her cheeks after fully comprehending what her friend had said. "...am not.."

Aoko-chan gave her a Look that clearly told her she wasn't fooling anyone. Kazuha sighed.

"It's just...well, you know. With all of these wedding preparations and everything..."

Aoko-chan smiled knowingly. "Yeah, I know. I mean, it's impossible not to think about it."

"You've been thinking about it too?"

Aoko-chan blushed slightly. "Well, yeah.."

Kazuha smiled and clapped her hands. "Hey, at least you and Kuroba-kun are actually dating." Her smile faded. "That idiot still doesn't have a clue. And I'm beginning to get tired."

Aoko-chan appeared thoughtful. "You could always tell him."

"WHAT!" Aoko-chan winced, and the manager of the store turned an apprehensive eye towards them. Kazuha raised a hand in apology, and glared at the other teenage girl. "Are you insane?"

"There's nothing wrong with it," Aoko-chan said, innocently.

"Sure, except for perhaps losing my dignity!" Kazuha hissed. "No, no, no. No chance in hell."

Aoko-chan smiled, apologetically. "If it's any consolation, we all think he's in love with you. He's just too stupid to realize it."

"..what?"

Aoko-chan simply winked, secretively. "Oh, Ran-chan's coming out!"

Kazuha's left eye twitched as she turned around.

And then she gasped and smiled and rushed over to her friend, who was blushing yet smiling delightfully, all at the same time. Aoko-chan was right there beside her.

"You look breathtaking," they both gushed.

Ran-chan smiled widely. "I love it. I really do."

"It's the one," Kazuha said, happy for her friend. "You'd better take it before someone else decides to buy it."

Ran-chan raised a fist. "Well, they'll have to get through me first."

They all laughed, and Kazuha stared, longingly, at the sight of her friend dressed in a gorgeous wedding gown. She felt... gosh, she felt horrible about it, but she just felt so out of place, and to some extent, jealous. Ran-chan had Kudo-kun, and Aoko-chan had Kuroba-kun. And what about her? Well, sure, there was Heiji, but he wasn't there for her in that way, and she really did want him for her in that way, but..

Ohh.

"...so you guys didn't find any bridesmaid gowns?" Ran-chan shrugged. "That's all right. We still need Sonoko, anyway, and she wasn't able to make it today.."

"So what's the motif, anyway?" Aoko-chan asked.

"Red," was the answer. "It's..."

"Shinichi's favorite color," Aoko-chan and Kazuha stated in unison, grinning slyly at their soon-to-be-wed friend. "We know, Ran-chan."

Ran-chan blushed. "Fine. I'll go pay for this."

Kazuha and Aoko-chan laughed, following her.

/-/

The girls met the boys by the water fountain in the middle of the city. Judging by their bored appearances, it seemed that they had been finished with their shopping long ago.

"Ran-chan's gown is beautiful," Aoko-chan informed everyone, and Kuroba-kun gave Kudo-kun a not-so-subtle nudge. "It just suited her so well, and she'll look amazing at the wedding."

"Shin-chan's tuxedo is really good, too," Kuroba-kun stated, "fit him perfectly. Looked like a fairly decent human being, actually."

Kudo-kun narrowed his eyes. "Oi, oi.."

"Speaking of which, Mouri-chan, don't you think I'd look really good in my white tux?" Kuroba-kun cast Ran-chan a disarming smile.

Ran-chan sweatdropped. "Umm..."

"Kuroba, you're not wearing your KID outfit to my wedding!"

"But I look better in white!"

"Ughh.." Heiji looked disgrunted as he walked towards Kazuha. "Those two.."

Kazuha raised an eyebrow. "Don't you and Kuroba-kun usually end up giving Kudo-kun a hard time?"

"It depends on the circumstances."

"I see."

There was a loud whack, and the two Osaka teens turned to see what the commotion was about. Apparently, Kudo-kun had gotten tired of Kuroba-kun's whining and had whacked him across the head. So now, Kuroba-kun was "crying" to Aoko-chan, who looked like she was partly amused and partly exasperated by the sight of it all. Meanwhile, Ran-chan was admonishing Kudo-kun, but had a slight smile on her face anyway.

Kazuha sighed, and suddenly felt furious and hurt all at once.

She turned to Heiji.

"Get a clue already, why don't you!" And she aimed a hard kick at his shin.

She stormed off at his howl of pain, and heard Ran-chan and Aoko-chan stifle a giggle.

/-/

Yukimura-san was a sensible young woman. She was a very smart girl, always in the top ten of her class, and was amazing when it came to sewing and costumes and the like. Which explained why she was in charge of costumes for the Cinderella play their class was putting on.

And which also explained why Kazuha was standing in front of her with veins throbbing out of her forehead, clutching her newly modified costume.

"Why, hello, Toyama-san," Yukimura-san said, airily. "What can I do for you today?"

Kazuha was so not in the mood. She brandished the dress at her. "This! What is this?"

"Oh, this?" Yukimura-san smiled. "It's your costume, of course."

"I figured that much out, thanks." Kazuha was losing her patience. "I thought I told you to make it less poofy."

"But I did."

"But I didn't say anything about lowering the neckline and shortening the hem, did I?"

"No, I took my artistic license and ran with it."

"Well, take your artistic license and run back!"

"It's so cuuute, though!" Yukimura-san grinned devilishly. "And Hattori-kun will think you're so cute."

Kazuha promptly turned red. "What!"

"Think about it. I know it's a little more revealing than you're used to wearing, but you'll look stunning in it, and trust me, Hattori-kun will definitely enjoy it. I know these things!"

Kazuha lost her steam. "But it's so...short."

"You've worn miniskirts before."

"But this is.."

"Try it on."

"What?"

"Go over there." And here Yukimura-san pointed to a dressing room. "Try it on, and you'll see what I mean."

Kazuha sighed, shooting her classmate a halfhearted glare, but went to the dressing room and tried it on anyway. She slipped on the not-so-poofy-anymore dress and stared at her reflection. It was still...

"It's just uncomfortable, okay?" She announced, tugging at the hem, as if to stretch it so that it would magically grow longer.

"It's so cute!" Yukimura-san squealed. "Why don't I call Hattori-kun -"

Kazuha grabbed her wrist. "Do it and you'll never be able to sew. Ever. Again."

Yukimura-san's smile faded. "Ah. Okay."

Kazuha sighed. "Look. I'm not trying to insult you. But - okay, I'm supposed to be a fairy godmother, right? I don't think the fairy godmother wore something this short!"

Yukimura-san scowled. "...I guess.."

"The fairy godmother wore a big, poofy gown - oh, no, not poofy."

Yukimura-san smiled. "Okay, okay. I got it. You're too modest, Toyama-san. But, if you really want to, then I'll lengthen it down to here -" She bent down, "around mid-calf. And I'll add just one layer underneath, so that it's slightly poofy, but not too much. " Then her kind smile turned devilish. "Y'know, this looks almost like a wedding gown."

Kazuha choked.

On air.

"Oh, god, what -" Yukimura-san began to pound on Kazuha's back. "-um. Water. Here." She handed her a bottle of water, and Kazuha gratefully drank from it. She watched as the ponytailed girl slowly regained her composure. "You know, Toyama-san, you've really got a lot of issues to work through."

Kazuha rolled her eyes. "Don't remind me."

"Would they have to do with - oh, I don't know, Hattori-kun?"

Kazuha instantaneously began to choke again.

Yukimura-san cringed. "Drink the water, drink the water! And breathe!"

Once Kazuha began breathing normally, Yukimura-san carefully chose her words, "You..um..okay?"

Kazuha made a face. "As okay as I'll ever be."

Yukimura-san smiled wryly. "Men are idiots, aren't they?"

A sad smile slipped onto Kazuha's face. "That, Yukimura-san, is something that I know all too well."

/-/

Heiji was beginning to get the feeling that he was being followed. He narrowed his green eyes and stopped, dead in his tracks, while turning around to see if there was anyone there.

But there wasn't.

He exhaled, loudly. What was wrong with him?

There it went again! The hairs on the back of his neck prickled. There was definitely something out of the ordinary here. It was a familiar feeling, though...

Oh, dear. Heiji furtively glanced around. No...no dead bodies...

...yet.

He suddenly realized that one, he was all alone - Kazuha had aikido practice today - two, the hallway was rather dark, and three, this wasn't the first time this had happened.

Granted, he knew that he was rather popular with the female population. Not that they had ever gotten his attention or anything, but he was a pretty smart guy, and things like hordes of females chasing after him didn't go by unnoticed. Of course, there had been a few fangirls that had gotten a tad too close, but...well, Kazuha usually scared them off.

Vaguely, in the back of his head, he wondered why. Whenever he questioned her about it - just to get a rise out of her - she gave him that speech about being his older sister and that she had a duty to protect him, so that he wouldn't get hurt. Or something. She had this really neat glare, actually, where her eyes got all big and scary. He had seen her use it once or twice, mostly on him, but, it made her really pretty green eyes stand out, and -

Pretty...green...eyes?

Heiji shook his head vehemently. Great. Somebody was messing with his head, and it was seriously not funny.

Tap. Tap.

He jumped, and reflexively got into a kendo stance. He glanced in all directions: above, below, behind, front, left, right...

Nothing. Absolutely nothing.

However, his detective instincts were telling him one thing:

He was being stalked.

/-/

Of course, since Kazuha was his best friend, he confided in her. Yes, yes, he often kept her in the dark so that she wouldn't get hurt, but he figured that this was just one of the more obsessed fangirls - it had taken him some time, but he had gotten over the possibility that men in black were following him around - and that maybe she might even have a clue on who it was.

"You're being stalked," she repeated, disbelief clouding her voice.

"I know it sounds stupid," he scowled, "but I swear. For the past week."

The expression in her eyes gave way from amusement to concern. She moved, just a little closer to him, and something fluttered inside of him, but he ignored it. "But that's so weird. And creepy." She frowned. "Well, let me see... You had two fangirls that stood out among the rest. They were thinking of starting a fanclub."

Heiji was forced to preen. "Oh, really?"

She smacked him on the arm. "Get your ego in check," she snarled. "...anyway, of those two girls, one of them got a life and found a better catch."

Heiji rolled his eyes. "..so?"

"Which leaves one possible option," Kazuha said, matter-of-factly. "Satoshi Yuka."

"Satoshi? Cinderella?"

"Yeah." The detective in Heiji noticed her eyes darkening just a shade. "The girl is obsessed with you, Heiji! I once caught a glimpse of her locker -" She clapped a hand to her mouth. "Never mind."

"What?" Heiji was awake and interested now. "What did my adoring fangirl have in her locker?"

"Nothing!" Kazuha said, fiercely. "It was freaky, I swear," she muttered in an undertone, "she's in serious need of mental help."

"Tell me," Heiji insisted.

"No!"

"Why not!" This would definitely be good for his ego. The next time Kazuha insulted him, he could easily say something like, "Well, you don't have someone obsessed enough with you to have a... -insert random object here- in their locker!" He grinned.

"Because!" Kazuha practically spat in his face. "The next time I insult you, then you'll just say something like, 'Well, you don't have someone obsessed enough with you to have a... something in their locker!"

Heiji blinked. God. That was weird.

Then the familiar smug grin found its way back on his face. "Exactly. So that's why I want to know."

"Well, I'm not telling you." Kazuha stuck her tongue out at him. "Idiot."

The expression on his face changed. His own version of the Poker Face. He made a mental note to show Kuroba sometime soon. "You know, I have ways of making you spill."

She shivered visibly. "Yeah, right."

He loomed over her suddenly. "...you don't believe me?"

Her eyes contorted in fear. Something inside of him twisted. "...I...no...no, I don't...

"One last chance," he sang.

Her eyes narrowed in fierce determination. "No."

Heiji smiled. "Oookay, then.." He raised his hands; Kazuha flinched, and..

He tickled her.

They'd known each other for far too long for him not to now exactly where she was ticklish. She shrieked in laughter, struggling and failing to push him off.

"...stop... can't...breathe..." Her face was flushed from her laughter, and her ponytail was coming undone.

He stared down at her. "Will you tell me, then?" He grinned his smug, detective grin.

"Ahh.." She suddenly turned away, and her face was brighter than it had been. He gulped, suddenly realizing the extremely compromising position that they were in. Muttering incoherent apologies, he hastily got off of her and kept a good, even distance between the two of them.

Silence.

"Well..." Kazuha avoided his eyes, in an obvious attempt to prevent the blush that stained her cheeks from showing, "it was just like a...shrine to you. Paparazzi pictures. Stuff like that."

Heiji was torn between amusement and, well, that slightly creeped-out feeling you get when you realize someone's been stalking you. He wrinkled his nose. "...really."

The blush was still apparent on his best friend's face. "So there you go! Your stalker."

"Oh, yeah. Thanks."

Again, that stupid, goddamned, awkward silence. He hated it. He scowled.

He glanced at her out of the corner of his eye. She was still blushing.

And...she looked... kinda...

Cute.

Heiji gulped.

/-/

That weekend, Kudo, Neechan, Kuroba, and Nakamori-han came to Osaka for a visit. Heiji and Kazuha had basically shown them the entire city at least three times, so they decided to check out some bridal shops, for the bridesmaids' dresses.

"If we see one we really like, we can always just take a picture and show it to Sonoko," Neechan had suggested.

So, the three boys were left to sit around while the girls bustled around the shops, gushing over the gowns.

"Hei-chan's awfully quiet," Kuroba said, smiling gleefully. "He's preoccupied."

Kudo arched an eyebrow. "Come to think of it, you haven't said a word. Something's wrong."

Heiji rolled his eyes. Going over his options in his mind, he came to the conclusion that if he chose to hide it from them, Kudo would eventually back him into a corner and make him spill. And then there was Kuroba, who was just plain freaky.

He sighed. He hadn't even told Kazuha this yet..

"It's this." He retrieved a crumpled envelope from his pocket and threw it at the two of them. Kuroba caught it with ease and excitedly opened it.

"Hey, it smells good. Like perfume..." Kuroba trailed off and exchanged looks with Kudo. Then they began to read. Heiji flinched; Kuroba just had to read it out loud in a girl's voice..

"Dear Hattori-kun," he read, "I have had a crush on you for the longest time. I wish to meet you so that I may tell you something. Please come and see me after school by the swings on Monday afternoon."

Kudo frowned. "It's unsigned."

"Do you know who it's from?" Kuroba asked.

Heiji flushed. "Mystalker."

"Come again?"

Heiji shot them both death glares. "My stalker."

Blink.

Blink.

Then:

"GWAHAHAHAHA!"

Heiji sat back and shot them his most pointed, menacing glare. It had no effect, just as he'd thought. So he waited, while sulking, for the two of them to stop.

Seven minutes and thirty-eight seconds later...

Kudo and Kuroba sat down on either sides of Heiji, still smiling a little too widely for Heiji's comfort.

"So you've got a stalker, do you. My little Hei-chan."

Heiji glowered at him. "If you don't shut up, so help me, Kuroba, you will never see your white tuxedo ever again."

Kuroba looked mildly surprised, and then hissed, "Shin-chan, he's really angry!"

"I see that, Kuroba." Kudo tilted his head and analyzed Heiji as if he were analyzing a murder suspect. "So, are you going to meet this girl?"

Heiji scowled, and then shrugged. "Well, I guess so."

"It's obvious she's going to tell you she's madly in love with you or something," Kuroba added.

"Then, I'll have to reject her."

"Because you're madly in love with Toyama-chan."

"..." Heiji stoutly refused to saya word.

"Do you know who this girl is?" Kudo skillfully changed the subject.

"According to Kazuha, it's Satoshi Yuka."

Kudo frowned. "The girl who's playing Cinderella?"

Heiji silently commended Kudo for his memory. "Yup."

Kuroba and Kudo exchanged looks again. Heiji noted to himself that this was getting rather tiring.

"Wait. So you're saying that your stalker is the very same girl who's playing the starring role opposite you in the play."

Heiji nodded.

"Doesn't this seem just a little fishy to you?"

Kuroba scowled. "Do you have to say that word?"

Kudo smirked nastily. "Yes. It sounds fishy, doesn't it?"

Heiji furrowed his brow. "...no.."

Kudo looked at him incredulously. "Come on, Hattori! Are you the Great Detective of the West or what?"

Heiji felt thoroughly insulted. Determined not to be beat by Kudo, he sat back and thought.

"Oh!" The wheels in his head finally began to turn, and something clicked. "You mean, she... probably cheated in order to get the Cinderella role? That's...really weird. And creepy."

"Good job, Sherlock." Kuroba patted his head. "Say, does Toyama-chan know about this, then?"

"About my stalker? Yeah."

Kudo and Kuroba glanced at each other.

"And...how do I say this delicately..." Kuroba paused. "...she hasn't tried to kill this Satoshi-san yet?"

"No..."

"Interesting."

Heiji shot them both Looks. "What are you guys thinking...?" he asked, warily.

"Nothing!" Kudo chirped, reminiscent of Conan.

Kuroba imitated Conan's voice perfectly. "Absolutely nothing, Heiji-niichan!"

Heiji rolled his eyes. "...ggh."

/-/

Kazuha waited. And waited. Behind the dumpster - she had brought a clothespin from home so that she wouldn't have to deal with the...wonderful scent of the trash. It was Monday afternoon, and she had a perfect view of the swings.

See, she had heard from Ran-chan, who had heard from Kudo-kun, that Heiji had gotten a letter from his stalker, Yuka-san, who had asked to meet him by the swings right around this time. And now she saw Yuka-san there, wearing a pretty, flowy, yellow dress. Kazuha halfheartedly glanced down at what she was wearing - casual khaki shorts and a red t-shirt - and sighed.

But... Heiji didn't actually... like Yuka-san, did he?

Did he?

Kazuha flushed with anger and peeked from the side of the dumpster. She checked at her watch. It had been thirty minutes since the bell had rung, and there was still no sign of Heiji. Did this mean that he had decided not to show up at all? Well, then, that must mean that he didn't like her! A small part of her felt a surge of victory.

"Ah! Hattori-kun!"

And her happiness went plummeting down, down, down...

Kazuha narrowed her eyes as she peered around the dumpster. Sure enough, there he was, wearing his kendo uniform - and looking pretty damn good, a small voice in the back of her head added - and scratching the back of his head. So he had shown up after all. She felt the anger coming on.

But... maybe he was here to reject her. That was always a possibility.

"Okay...so, uh, what did you want to talk to me about?" He sounded a little awkward and uncomfortable. Heiji almost never sounded awkward and uncomfortable.

"Oh! Um, well, I... oh, this is so embarrassing!"

Kazuha rolled her eyes.

She then heard Yuka-san take a deep, deep breath. Again, she peered around the dumpster to get a better view. Yuka-san was now bowing to Heiji, face beet-red.

"It's just... I've liked you ever since...well, a really, really long time ago! And... I... I'd love to be your... your girlfriend!"

Pure, dumbfounded silence.

Kazuha pulled at the end of her ponytail, a habit that presented itself whenever she was nervous or anxious about something. She bit her lip. What would he say? When she had told him about Yuka-san stalking him, he had seemed a little frazzled, but he hadn't expressed any hatred or animosity towards the girl. And even if Yuka-san did have some mental issues, she was still really, really pretty and popular, and did Heiji go for that kind of thing? What was going on? Yuka-san still had her head bent down and Heiji was still staring at her and why the hell wasn't anybody saying anything?

Heiji cleared his throat.

Kazuha looked up. Finally!

"Listen, I'm really flattered..." He sounded slightly sheepish but for the most part, calm and collected, "but I'm really not interested."

Yuka-san's head snapped up, and there was a fire blazing in her eyes. Kazuha blinked. "Is it another girl?" she promptly asked.

"No.."

Yuka-san's eyes went wide. "Is it a boy?"

Heiji stood, shocked for a moment. "No!"

"Then, what?"

"It's..no one! I just don't really... like you in that way."

Yuka-san glared, hands on her hips. "It's Kazuha-san, isn't it? You two are always together. Inseparable! It's almost like you two are married!"

Kazuha blushed, and an identical expression crossed Heiji's face as well. "It's not that stupid girl! Why would I ever date someone like her?" he shouted.

"But you won't date me?" Yuka-san pressed on, glaring at him.

"No!"

"And it's not because of Kazuha-san?"

"God, no!"

Kazuha's hands itched to get themselves around Heiji's throat.

Yuka-san regarded Heiji distastefully before turning her nose up at him. "The rumors are true. You really must be gay."

Then she walked away, leaving a stuttering Heiji and a highly amused Kazuha behind.

/-/

Heiji was thoroughly angry. Mad. Furious. No, not just that. He was extremely, highly pissed off, and he wasn't trying to hide it, not at all.

Because, dammit, he was not, not, NOT gay!

And why was Kazuha laughing so much, anyway?

He glared at his childhood friend who was walking beside him, laughing her heart out. A small voice in his head noted that she looked extremely cute while laughing and that he should make a point to make her laugh more often. Another, louder voice in his head told the smaller voice to shut up.

She seemed to sense his glare and calmed down. Well, slightly. "I'm sorry," she said, still giggling in between syllables.

"It's not funny," he growled. "Have you heard about any of these rumors? That I'm - gay?"

"No," she answered, honestly, "I can't say that I have."

"Then... WHO!" Heiji threw his hands up in frustration. This was like being thrown into a mystery, except this time, he didn't have the answers. He didn't like this feeling, not one bit.

"Or, no, wait a minute..." Kazuha tapped her chin with her index finger. "Actually..."

Heiji was suddenly right in front of her and he stared directly into her eyes. "What. Do. You. Know."

Kazuha sweatdropped and pushed him away to a distance where both were more comfortable. "Some of the girls were talking, that's all."

"About...?" Heiji insisted.

Kazuha sighed. She tugged at her ponytail. "Well. You're pretty popular with the girls, you know? And don't you start grinning at me, Heiji! Then, they started noticing that no matter how many girls asked you out, you always rejected them. At first, they thought that it was because of...well, me - " She paused at length and both turned slightly red, " - but when we both continually denied it and the rumors were rejected, they threw that theory out the window. So, there was only one option left...and that was, well...you know, that you were gay."

Silence.

Heiji breathed in and out, in and out. The Great Evil Heiji Demon-Head of Doom™ was threatening to come out.

"And," he said, slowly, "why didn't you tell me this?"

"Because they're not true!" Kazuha said, simply. "So there's no reason for you to let it bother you. Unless...it is true...?"

"IT'S NOT!" Heiji roared.

Kazuha blinked. "Oh. Okay."

Heiji stormed off, still absolutely, positively, pissed. He couldn't exactly explain why this bothered him so much. Something along the lines of manly pride. Because he was not gay. He groaned. If Kudo or Kuroba ever heard of this, he would never live it down. He'd rather jump off a cliff into an ocean of sharks than even entertain that thought.

"Hey..." She jogged up beside him, touching his arm. "You shouldn't let it bother you. I know you're not gay."

"I know.." He scowled, vaguely noting that her hand remained on his arm. His anger ebbed away.

"Anyway, they only started that rumor because they were mad that you didn't pay any attention to them," Kazuha explained, matter-of-factly. "Look at you, having all those girls like you. Lucky for me, none of the guys like me.."

Heiji snorted, and dismissed the glare that he received. That's only what she thought. Hordes of guys had slowly realized that Toyama Kazuha was not just any girl, but that she was an extremely cute girl who was easy to get along with. Now, whenever a boy started to get too close, the Great Evil Heiji Demon-Head of Doom™ would then surface. He enjoyed making them cry, when it came down to it.

Why?

Heiji blinked. What?

Why do you push the other boys away when they come too close to Kazuha?

Heiji narrowed his eyes in concentration. Because, he thought, Kazuha was like his older sister, and wasn't it younger brothers' jobs to make sure that no evil, stinky boys went near their older sisters?

Or, like his previous theory, that he was the boss and Kazuha was his follower, and that as the boss, he would obviously feel concern for his little follower if the stinky boys came around.

It wasn't like he was freaking in love with her or anything. Heiji actually laughed out loud at the thought.

"Heiji?" Kazuha looked up at him, concerned, and he was startlingly aware of the difference in their heights. When had he gotten so much taller than her? "Are you okay?"

Heiji blinked. "Yeah. Yeah, I'm fine."

/-/

The following weekend, the girls, along with Sonoko-san this time, met up at yet another, different bridal store. Heiji had expressed his disbelief at "how many goddamned bridal stores are there?" to which Kazuha had replied with a well-timed, sharp elbow-jab to the rib. As she looked around, she noticed that there was a larger selection of dresses here, and that hopefully, they would finally find the perfect dresses at this shop. She was growing tired of going around to all these fancy stores and trying and trying and trying on gowns that just didn't seem to make the cut.

"It'll be freezing in December," Sonoko-san noted, "so knee-length dresses are just plain out of the question."

Kazuha and Aoko-chan murmured their assent.

"Floor-length, then? Or ankle?"

"Floor," Kazuha and Aoko replied, together.

Sonoko-san grinned. "Was about to say the same thing."

Ran-chan also grinned, leaning her chin on Sonoko-san's shoulder. "This girl is the fashion queen. With her here, we'll definitely find a dress."

Sonoko-san winked. "Leave it to me."

Ran-chan tapped her on the shoulder. "Remember. Red."

"I'm thinking a dark red. Velvety. You know?"

"I trust you."

Kazuha fingered the fabrics of the dresses. Smooth and silky. Truthfully, she wasn't all that sure that she would look good in such a fancy gown. She'd worn skirts and dresses before, but they were all of a casual, cotton style, and these gowns were definitely not casual or cotton.

"Off-the-shoulder," she heard Sonoko-san muse. "What do you guys think?"

"Sounds great," Aoko-chan replied, cheerfully.

"With a flowy skirt. Not too poofy, that's too fairy-godmother-like..."

Kazuha not-so-subtly glowered.

"Maybe... some sequins..."

Kazuha was so tired of this. Glancing out the shop window, she saw the three men sitting on a nearby bench, playing cards. How she wished she could do that, too. She was just so tired of this whole wedding thing. And she felt terrible for it, because she knew that she ought to be happy for Ran-chan, and she really was, but...

Ughh.

"What about this?" Aoko-chan pulled a dress from the rack. Kazuha was mesmerized by it. A dark apple, spaghetti-strap style dress, with a flowing skirt that touched down to the floor.

"That's gorgeous!" Sonoko-san gushed, taking the gown for closer inspection. "And there's even a shawl, in case you get too cold.."

Ran-chan peered over the next rack. "That looks nice!" she exclaimed. "Aoko-chan, you have to try it on."

Aoko-chan beamed and headed for the dressing room. Kazuha smiled softly at the girl before turning back to find the same dress in her size. She found it just in time to see Aoko-chan step out of the dressing room with the gown on.

"Wow..." She breathed. Sonoko-san and Ran-chan excitedly made their way towards the slightly blushing girl, scrutinizing the gown.

"I really like it," Aoko-chan was saying once Kazuha had gotten there. "But I don't know if Sonoko-san or Kazuha-chan would -"

"Even if it looks horrible on us, we'd still take it, because you look absolutely beautiful," Sonoko-san interrupted her, smiling kindly. "I'm serious. You look amazing."

"Kuroba-kun hasn't been able to take his eyes off of you," Ran-chan informed Aoko-chan, a teasing glint in her eyes. "He's been gaping like...well... a fish, but don't tell him I said that."

Aoko-chan lifted her head to see outside the store, and Kazuha followed suit. Sure enough, Kuroba-kun was staring at her. But he was as composed as ever, and Kazuha saw no traces of a blush or anything of the sort on his face. But his eyes softened as he caught Aoko-chan's gaze and he smiled.

"Why don't the two of you try it on?" Ran-chan suggested, gesturing to Kazuha and Sonoko-san. The two girls nodded in affirmation, and while Sonoko-san went off to find the dress in her size, Kazuha strode towards the dressing room, with her gown in hand. She hoped that she didn't look too horrible in the dress. Heiji would never let her hear the end of it...

Kazuha paused in the middle of taking the dress off the hanger. Heiji... How she would love it if he looked at her with the same expression Kuroba-kun had given Aoko-chan. But... she snorted, resuming her changing. Heiji, frankly, was an idiot. And anyway, he saw her as nothing but an older sister, or even his little follower, and that wasn't about to change any time soon.

She pulled the dress over her head and zipped up the zipper in the back. She made a few adjustments and smoothed out any wrinkles. About to exit, she paused when she heard somebody get inside the dressing room next door. "Sonoko-san?"

"Ah, Kazuha-san? Luckily I found my size. It was the last one they had!"

Kazuha murmured something in agreement.

"Wait for me to change, will you, please?"

"Sure," Kazuha replied, still tugging on the dress. She...well, she looked decent, she supposed. But she was her own worst critic, and after seeing Aoko-chan in the dress, she didn't look anything special. She pulled at her ponytail. There was no way she was going to be wearing it up during the wedding. Might as well practice, she supposed, and pulled off the ribbon so that her hair came cascading down her shoulders.

"I'm done!" Sonoko-san announced, and Kazuha heard the creaking sound that signaled the door had opened. Sighing once more and running a hand through her hair, she thrust open the door. She saw Ran-chan beaming at Sonoko-san, but they hadn't noticed her yet.

"Kazuha-chan?" Aoko-chan made her way to the Osaka teen. "Wow, I've never seen you with your hair down before..."

"She's right," Ran-chan said, smiling happily. "This is great! We have to order these, right now."

Kazuha smiled back. "I was a little worried. It just seemed so... I don't know, different."

"Well, you don't need to worry," Sonoko-san answered, "because you look stunning. Okay?"

Kazuha turned to her, grateful. "Thanks."

She glanced down at her dress again as the other three girls began talking. The dark reddish color really was pretty, she decided, and she was about to turn back to change when she glimpsed out the window. A shudder ran down her spine as she met familiar, dark green eyes. She saw him, him, him. Only him. Heiji.

Who was staring at her.

/-/

The journey back home to Osaka was unusually quiet. Kazuha looked like she was about to drift off any moment now, and Heiji exhaled loudly through his mouth. They were now on the train, and there were three more stops before they came to his house. Checking his watch, it was nearly midnight, and he really didn't trust Kazuha to make it back to her house without falling unconscious.

"Oi," he said, nudging her gently with his elbow.

Her eyes fluttered open, threatening to close. "...mm?"

"Why don't you spend the night at my house?"

Her eyes stayed open for a full three seconds before closing shut. "Why?"

"Because my house is closer. And," he barreled on before she could interrupt, "you're not in any shape to make it back to your place on your own. And I don't feel like bringing you to your house and then coming back to mine."

A scowl of annoyance flitted across her face. "...fine."

Heiji shrugged, and they settled into a comfortable silence. He leaned back against the train window, listening to the sounds of the train rolling along the tracks. As he sat there, one sharp, very specific picture formed in his mind.

Kazuha, his childhood friend and "older sister", looking very, very, VERY good in a dark red dress.

His face flushed, and he angrily rubbed at his cheeks, as if by doing so he would make the red go away.

The picture still wouldn't go away.

Gah! He stood up abruptly, and Kazuha shifted in her slumber, but didn't wake up. He paced up and down the train compartment, nearly ripping his hair out in the process. Okay, so he'd noticed on more than one occasion that Kazuha was a very... very good-looking girl. But so what? He didn't like her in that way, because liking Kazuha in such a way was just...well, just plain weird, and probably against some secret, unwritten law that stated that childhood friends were to stay childhood friends only, nothing more.

He pointedly ignored the voices in his head that were screaming, Neechan and Kudo! Neechan and Kudo!

Kazuha and him... or he...whatever, they weren't like Neechan and Kudo. First of all, Kudo and Neechan were freaking in love, and they had practically gone through hell just to be with each other. Now, when it came down to this wild theory of "Heiji and Kazuha," well, in Heiji's opinion, that was just plain bull. They were childhood friends. He cared about her, sure, but only as a very close friend, and nothing more! Okay, so he'd risked his life for her more than just a few times, but she had done the same! Only as friends, though. Only as friends.

Only. As. Friends. Dammit.

He fingered the small, faded scar on the back of his right hand. With his sharp, intuitive mind, it hadn't been hard to figure out exactly why Kazuha had chosen to stab him with her arrow when they had been clinging onto dear life on the edge of that cliff. She'd obviously wanted to save him...even at the risk of throwing away her own life.

"Stupid..." He couldn't bring himself to sit down now, so he settled for standing directly in front of her, reaching a hand up to hold onto the rings for support. "I'm not going to let anything happen to you.."

His eyes widened at the realization of what he was saying.

"In a strictly platonic way," he hastily added, in a vain effort to justify his previous words.

But, he thought, why did he have to justify anything? If they were really just "friends" as he - no, they kept claiming, then there was absolutely no reason he had to validate anything!

Something was beginning to line up, to click. Heiji was somewhat aware of it as that feeling he got when he was on the verge of solving a case. The clues were all there... All he really needed to do was to piece them together, like a puzzle. Insert this piece over there, see how it worked, if it didn't, then take it out and try it all over again.

Subconsciously he turned his baseball cap around, deep in thought. What could it be? There was something lingering in the back of his mind... And he knew that there was something he was forgetting. Something that he should know, yet for some reason or other, didn't...

Insert this puzzle piece here, insert that one there. A picture was beginning to form...

He constricted his eyes in thought. Almost there, almost there...!

"Heiji?" With a jolt, he drew his head up to meet Kazuha's bleary eyes. "We're here. It's our stop. Didn't you hear it over the system?"

Heiji blinked. "Oh...no. Sorry." He gathered himself together before exiting the train with her. He cursed silently. He'd almost had it, too..

/-/

"Parents are probably asleep..." Heiji murmured as he unlocked the front door. "So be quiet, 'kay?"

"I know, I know," Kazuha replied, a little annoyed.

"...and, well...you pretty much know where everything is, right?" Heiji knew that it was pointless for him to ask such a question. Kazuha had been over at his house so many times it was practically like her house, as well.

"I know." Her voice had lost the edge it had held before. She moved past him, a keychain from her backpack glimmering in the moonlight. He watched her faint silhouette move gracefully across the hallway into the guest room, her room, the room across from his. He didn't know why, but he didn't move, and he simply stood and observed as she slid open the door and entered.

Sighing, he strode to his own room and slid the door shut once he entered. He flipped on the switch and threw his belongings, a little loudly, on the bed. He undressed and was about to climb into bed when something caught his eye.

The newspaper.

It was just any newspaper. It was THE newspaper.

Mumbling some curses under his breath, Heiji picked it up roughly from his desk. The date was over a month ago, on a November 5th. Doing some quick mental calculations in his head, he found that today was December 8th, and that there were only twenty more days until Kudo and Neechan's wedding.

The paper was already folded back to the section that had the large title emblazoned across the top: "Hattori Heiji Takes the Top Spot in the Kendo Tournament!"

Heiji snorted lightly. His other two opponents, Okita and Kurogane, hadn't shown up for some reason or other. It had easily guaranteed him the victory, but of course, the competitive part of him regretted that he hadn't been able to fight them in the finals.

His eyes landed on the picture, and he snorted to himself. It would have been a really nice shot, if only they hadn't been sticking their tongues out at each other.

He purposely ignored the voice in his head that was asking, rather loudly, exactly why he had decided to keep the newspaper. Opened to this exact page. With this exact picture.

Heiji smacked himself lightly across the forehead. He really needed to stop listening to those voices.

He placed the newspaper back on the desk, switched off the light, and climbed into bed. He closed his eyes and struggled to fall asleep... but one teensy little picture kept flickering in his mind...

Kazuha.

In a dress.

That spaghetti-strap, red dress.

Which looked really, really nice on her.

Really nice.

So, now, if he imagined her standing at the altar up front, holding a large bouquet of of deep, red roses that complimented her dress, up against the pale, creamy flesh exposed by the neckline that wasn't too low, but low enough -

Heiji turned red.

The sudden flash of lightning sent his head crashing against the headboard. He bit back a muffled yell and rubbed furiously at the bump that was steadily growing on top of his head. A boom of thunder soon followed, and he glared in annoyance at his window.

Somebody up there really didn't like him today.

He sunk back against his fluffy pillow, unable to go to sleep. He scowled. He even had a math exam tomorrow, as well as extra rehearsals for that god-forsaken Cinderella play, which they were performing in a week's time. He'd never be able to stay awake for anything.

Knock. Knock.

He sat up in bed, furrowing his brow. Who would be knocking at this time of night? He stumbled out of bed and slid open the door, only to be greeted by the sight of her.

He swallowed.

"...what?" he asked, finally. Her hair was down, and it was slightly disheveled. She was wearing a pair of light green pajamas and her face was contorted in an expression of fear.

Fear?

"The thunder," she mumbled, so softly that Heiji had to strain to hear it. Once he comprehended, everything made sense, and he glanced down at her. Kazuha was afraid of thunder, so much that it was almost funny. Not that he'd ever tell her that, because he quite liked having his arms and legs just where they were, thanks. Usually, it didn't bother her as long as she wasn't alone, and he knew that on more than one occasion she'd crept into her father's room. But...

Her father wasn't here right now.

And she sure as hell wasn't going to be sneaking into his mom and dad's room.

So...

There was only one other option left...

Crap.

Her face was slightly red. "Can I... come in?"

His mind was racing. Yes, yes, of course he fully understood that this would only be in a strictly platonic way, like the way a brother and sister might sleep in each other's beds sometimes.

But...god, they were eighteen, going on nineteen now!

He knew the consequences of being discovered. And he should say no, shouldn't he? He'd never be able to live it down if they actually were discovered. He stared at her trembling frame, her wide, green eyes, and he opened his mouth to say no.

"Fine."

Dammit. That wasn't right.

And so she climbed into his bed, and he climbed in after. He noticed that she was sleeping right on the very edge, in an attempt to keep a decent distance, which he was grateful for. But he also knew that from where she lay, she could very easily fall off.

He sighed.

"Come closer," he said, and saw her stiffen visibly.

"What?"

"Come closer," he repeated, a little louder. "Look. If you stay there, you're going to fall off the bed. Plus, you're hogging the sheets and I'm cold. So come on."

She hesitated, but came closer anyway. She was still tense, and hell, so was he! Screw the fact that they weren't going out, despite what more than half of their school population whispered (He had made sure that the rumor that he was gay was put to an end. Which brought back the rumor that he and Kazuha were going out. After pondering it in his mind, he'd come to the conclusion that he'd rather have the latter than the former). He was still a guy, and she was still a girl, and any sane, heterosexual male would be uncomfortable in such a situation!

"You need to relax," he finally said, irritated at it all. "I can't sleep because you're so tense."

Her eyes fluttered open and she sat up to glare at him. "Relax?"

"Yes. Relax. You're the one that came into my room, remember?"

He could see that she was battling with herself. "Fine then." And she shifted around so that she was facing him, moved closer - a lot closer - and buried her face in his chest. After getting over his shock, he realized that her shivering wasn't only due to her fear of the thunder, but also because she was cold.

"This doesn't mean anything," she muttered into his chest.

He scowled, and cautiously put an arm around her shoulders. "Neither does this," he retorted.

"Good."

"Good!"

Well, then, a voice in his head said, nastily, why does that make you so disappointed?

/-/

Heiji scrunched up his eyes in a futile attempt to prevent the sunlight from getting into his eyes. Somewhere in the back of his mind, something told him that something was out of place. His detective instincts, he'd assumed. But he was still too sleepy to open his eyes, so he ignored it for now. After all, what could possibly be wrong?

Something stirred.

Heiji froze.

There was something... moving in his bed. And it wasn't just a bug or anything; it was something rather big, life-sized. Heiji cringed. Dare he open his eyes?

Wait a minute. Where were his arms?

The dark-skinned teen then came to the sudden realization that his arms were holding something. Rather tightly, actually. And the object in his arms was something warm, and soft, and quite comfortable... Heiji shook his head rapidly. He didn't like where this train of thought was going.

Stay calm, he ordered himself. He'd been through the most gruesome murders, and he'd handled it all in his calm manner. This shouldn't be affecting him in such a way!

He opened his eyes.

And saw hair.

Dark brown hair. Heiji blinked, bewildered. Hair that looked like it belonged to a human being... More specifically, hair that looked like it belonged to a girl.

Whoa.

There was a girl in his bed.

A girl.

In his bed.

Heiji leaped up faster than lightning. Forget that calm, cool, collected demeanor now! He was panicked, dammit, and for a hell of a good reason! There was a friggin girl in his bed, and Heiji for one had now idea how it had gotten there!

She. Not it. She.

Heiji tiptoed silently towards the bed, droplets of sweat streaking down his face all the way. The girl was still asleep, and she had the sheets draped up over her so that he couldn't see her face. His heart thudded in his chest. Who in the world could she be?

He struggled to calm his heart. Okay. Time to go into detective mode, he told himself, think this over calmly and rationally. There was a girl in his bed. Yes, he'd figured that much out. There was a girl in his bed, dammit!

Heiji clapped a hand over his mouth to prevent himself from screaming and waking her up. He eventually calmed down enough to figure out that in order to find out who this girl was, he ought to think back to whatever had happened last night.

Last...night?

Glancing down at himself, he was extremely relieved to find that he was wearing all of his clothes, and that the slumbering female appeared to be wearing all of hers, too. He couldn't suppress the shiver than ran down his back. God, how thankful he was!

Okay! Heiji turned away so that he couldn't see this mystery girl. So yesterday, they'd gone to visit Kudo and Neechan so that they could finally pick those troublesome bridesmaid gowns. Oh, yes, and they had found one that looked really...really, really nice on Kazuha... ahem, and yes, they then went back to Osaka, and he remembered that awful headache he'd gotten on the train because he'd been thinking too hard about something... and then... and then...

And then, he'd brought Kazuha back to his house because it had been too late to bring her back to her place. Speaking of which, he idly wondered if she'd remembered to let her father know. Not that he'd worry, though, because the first place he'd look would be at the Hattori residence...

Kazuha?

Kazuha!

Heiji's eyes widened. That's right! It had been raining last night, and there had been thunder and lightning, and Kazuha was deathly terrified of thunder and lightning, and so she had come into his bed, and...

His face turned bright red.

Well, the reasonable voice inside of him began, why are you turning red? There's no reason for you to turn red! It's not like anything happened, right? And you guys don't even like each other in that way! You're just like siblings, right? Right?

"...right?" Heiji whispered, weakly. "Right. Right. Right."

To make things even worse than they'd already been, he started thinking about how it'd felt, with her in his arms last night. It wasn't a very clear picture, but he remembered more than enough details. He swallowed audibly. It had been... pleasant. More than pleasant, actually, to tell the truth. Unbelievable. Nice.

...perfect...

He risked glancing around to look at her again. Somewhere in his rambling, she'd shifted and the sheets were now down to her stomach. He saw that the light green pajamas she was wearing were a very modest pair, except for the fact that the first few buttons had somehow gotten unbuttoned..

Heiji promptly turned red. Again.

Dammit! She was like his sister, or his follower, or... just a mere childhood friend! Nothing like... nothing like the way Neechan was to Kudo, or Nakamori-han was to Kuroba! Because...well, he'd known her for so long that for her to be anything more would just be so abnormally strange to him!

So, yes, maybe he'd noticed on more than one occasion that she was...you know, cute, but it wasn't like that meant anything! He thought that lots of girls were cute, and that definitely had sparked any kind of a relationship. It wasn't like Kazuha would let him, anyway.

Woah. What?

Why should he care what Kazuha thought? If he found another girl better than her, then, yeah, he'd definitely go for it!

Better...than...her...?

Oh, boy. He could already feel the migraine coming.

Judging by her deep breathing, he concluded that Kazuha wasn't going to wake up any time soon, so he stealthily crept over to her side and, stuffing his hands into his pajama pockets, narrowed his green eyes as he scrutinized the sleeping girl before him. Fine, so she was pretty cute, especially when her hair was down and she wasn't all glaring and yelling at him for every single little thing. Yeah, so if he looked at her at a particular angle, he could almost say that she was pretty.

And...yeah, he could kind of see why the other guys were beginning to look at her.

He stared at her.

For a really long time.

"I want..." the words were quiet against his lips as he contemplated, "...to kiss her."

Immediately, he slapped his two hands against his mouth, eyes wide in horror. Had he just said what he thought he'd just said? Because - because, kissing Kazuha - with him being the one doing the kissing - was probably against some law somewhere that said that thou shalt not kiss thy best friend.

His cheeks heated up. He could feel it.

ARRGGHHH!

"Mmmph.." He heard her move around on the bed. He'd turned away again, for fear of doing something that he would greatly regret later on, once he'd lost full control of his limbs courtesy of a certain girl. "...ahh... waahh!" And she sat up on the bed, frantic.

Heiji slowly turned around.

There was a wide-awake, rumpled-looking Toyama Kazuha sitting on his bed. He took a deep breath and raised a hand, looking only slightly sheepish.

"Uh... good morning..?"

/-/

Ten minutes, a pillow fight, and dozens of muffled shrieks later, the two teenagers had calmed down to the point where Kazuha wasn't rapidly throwing any pillows and/or heavy, blunt objects at Heiji anymore. Which Heiji was greatly thankful for, by the way.

"You," Heiji hissed, in an undertone, "were the one who came to my room in the first place. Remember?"

He took in the fact, with great satisfaction, that a blush had slithered over the girl's cheeks. "But - but -"

"What?" he challenged her.

Her shoulders slumped, obviously defeated. "Fine! But, you - you -"

Heiji managed to reach the same train of thought. "I didn't do anything! Get your mind out of the gutter!"

"Well - ugh!" She threw her hands up in the air and threw a final pillow which landed with a very satisfying smack against Heiji's face. "Okay! So it was my fault! I'm going now!"

Heiji watched as she stormed out the room. Little did she know, that deep in his mind, he'd been remembering the feel of her warm weight, settled in his arms.

/-/

Kazuha tugged self-consciously at her dress. After throroughly examining herself in the mirror, she'd eventually come to the conclusion that the dress actually did look very good. Yukimura-san had really outdone herself, she thought, fingering the silky white fabric. The dress fell to around the mid-calf area, flowing in layers of solid, then sheer fabric. She adjusted the fabric that was coming off her shoulders. It was in an off-the-shoulder style, and after twirling around a few times, she sighed and sat back down.

So the Cinderella play was tonight, and the stadium had been filled. Her father, and Heiji's father as well, were both unable to come due to their police duties, but she was fairly certain that Heiji's mother would be there.

She fingered her hair. At least it was still up, although the "make-up committee" had messed with it so that it wasn't just in its regular fashion. They had pinned it up in some sort of fancy bun at the back of her head, stray strands of hair outlining her face.

She sighed. Around her, the other girls in the play were bustling around the dressing room, crying loudly - "Where is my hair brush? Where is my make-up? Dammit, where are my shoes?"

And then had a sinking, sinking feeling as something brushed against her ankle.

She looked down.

And saw a rat.

"Gyaaah!" She leapt up as if she had just brushed against fire. She made a completely disgusted face and backed away, glaring daggers at the offending creature.

"Kazuha-san, what - aiiiiieeee! A - A - A raaaaat!" Another girl shrieked, completely turning into a blubbering idiot. This simple statement sent the entire room into utter chaos. Kazuha almost regretted having started the entire thing, but darn it, there was a rat, and it was all shiny and blinking and there were flashing lights all over -

Wait a minute.

It was at this moment that Heiji decided to burst into the door, looking just a little bit frazzled. "Oi! Has a mechanical rat come in here by any chance? It's for the play, so it's really important!"

Mechanical?

Kazuha could have punched herself.

She was the first to cautiously approach the small creature. To her relief, she saw that it was completely made out of metal and snatched it up, halfheartedly glowering at it. She threw it at Heiji, who caught it with ease.

"Ah. Thanks. And sorry for the trouble, everyone..." He then made the sad mistake of glancing around at all of the girls.

Girls. In a dressing room.

Where they were changing.

Everybody froze.

"GET OUT!" And then proceeded to throw various objects at the boy who had come in. Said various objects included hair brushes, compacts, mascara, lipstick, and heavy, heavy, pointy shoes. Heiji did not escape completely unscathed, but he did escape, at least.

"Geez, it's not like I did it on purpose," the dark-skinned teenager grumbled under his breath.

"Well," Kazuha snapped, "as a detective, you should've known better than to barge inside a girls' dressing room. Idiot."

"Don't call me an idiot!" Heiji snarled. His expression of annoyance fell away quickly, though, "What are you doing out here?"

Kazuha blinked, as if just now realizing her surroundings. "Oh. I just...followed...you."

Heiji smirked. "Habits are hard to break, huh?"

Kazuha rolled her eyes. "Not funny. By the way, are you planning to go on stage in that?" Heiji was only wearing a white button-down shirt, with the first few buttons unbuttoned.

To which Heiji replied with a scowl. "I can't believe I have to wear a friggin suit. Hate the itchy slacks, the choking tie, the black shoes..."

Kazuha laughed at that, knowing full-well Heiji's dislike for formal clothing. "At least you don't have to wear - this." She gestured to her dress. "Although it's actually a lot better than how it was before."

"The poofy version?"

"Well, yeah - but before this, Yukimura-san made this awful, revealing, skimpy little thing. Cut down to here -" she gestured to the plunging neckline that would have revealed ample amounts of cleavage, "and ended up here -" She gestured to her upper thighs.

Heiji had an awfully odd, contorted expression on his face, Kazuha noted, but didn't press the matter further.

"TEN MINUTES!" A short, stocky, glasses-wearing boy hollered, at the top of his lungs, while strolling down the hallway.

"Okay, then..." Kazuha forced - forced? But why was it forced? - a smile onto her face. "You'd better finish changing."

He blinked, staring at her for a while before regaining himself. "Oh. Right." He raised a hand halfway as a goodbye, and Kazuha watched his back as he ran from her.

/-/

"I can't believe it. This entire room is packed!" Aoko-chan murmured to herself. The four of them hurriedly made their way to front row, claiming the seats Kazuha-chan and Hattori-kun had saved them.

"For a silly little play?" Shinichi muttered under his breath, earning himself a glare from Ran.

"It'll be fun," she told him.

"Just like your little Black Knight play!" Kuroba-kun chirped brightly, appearing from seemingly nowhere.

"..." Shinichi shot Kuroba-kun a Look, and Ran uttered a small sigh at the two boys' antics. Aoko-chan dismissed them with a wave of her hand.

"Ignore them, Ran-chan," she said, "the play's starting!"

And it was. With a thunderous bolt of applause, the red, velvety curtain was lifted, revealing a petite girl in rags, undoubtedly, the Cinderella. A voice spoke over the microphone:

"Once upon a time, there was a young girl, who lived with her father..."

Ran's eyes narrowed in thought. So that was Satoshi Yuka, hm? Heiji's little stalker. Pretty enough, she supposed, eyeing her distastefully. As she glanced at her other friend, she saw that Aoko-chan was doing the exact same thing as her.

"Kazuha-chan's better, isn't she?" she whispered, so softly that the other girl could barely hear.

"Definitely."

The play progressed, going on to introduce the evil stepmother, the wicked stepsisters, and Cinderella's little friends - which, Ran noted with amusement, were mechanical little rats. The scene shifted, to a grander, more sophisticated scene. The palace. Subconsciously Ran sat up straighter.

"The prince needs to find a bride, and soon!" the Queen was saying, "our son is as stubborn as a mule. But it's high time for him to select a bride, and a ball would be a perfect place."

"A ball, hm?" the King mused, "I suppose so." He turned to his butler, "Fetch the prince, will you?"

"Yes, your Majesty." The butler exited the room, and returned a few moments later, with the prince in tow.

Ran, Shinichi, Aoko-chan, and Kuroba-kun simply gaped.

Hattori-kun looked like a completely different person. Perhaps it was the absence of his baseball cap, or perhaps it was simply the fact that he was actually dressed up. His hair even looked different too, just slightly neater, and less tangled. He carried himself with a sort of subtle grace that none of them had ever noticed before.

"Wow," Ran breathed, and she was all-too aware of the Look Shinichi gave her, and she smiled in return.

"Mother, Father," Hattori-kun acknowledged, bowing his head slightly. His voice sounded smoother, too. Ran wondered exactly where Kazuha was and what she thought of this change.

"Your father and I have decided that it is time for you to find yourself a suitable bride," the Queen said, kindly yet sternly at the same time. "And therefore, we will hold a ball, tomorrow night. The invitations will be sent out to all the young girls in the kingdom. And tomorrow, we expect you to find yourself a suitable bride."

Hattori-kun bowed his head, but only reluctantly. "Yes, Mother. Yes, Father."

Kuroba-kun hissed, rather loudly: "He would never be that submissive! He'd fight them tooth and nail!"

"Shhh!" Aoko-chan told him, furrowing her brow.

On it went, until the scene where Cinderella knelt down, slumping over, tears streaming down her cheeks. Her sobs were overly done, Ran noted to herself, perhaps a little biased.

"Whatever will I do?" she weeped, "How will I get to the ball now?"

"Dry your tears," a soft, but firm voice announced, walking slowly towards the crying girl. Ran and Aoko-chan squealed silently from their seats. "Why ever are you crying?"

"She looks so pretty," Aoko-chan whispered. Both girls admired the dress that fit Kazuha-chan so well.

"Because!" Cinderella sniffed, "I have no way of going to the ball!"

A gentle smile appeared on Kazuha-chan's face. "Never say never, my dear." And she retrieved a pink handkerchief from nowhere and handed it to the girl. "Now, now, stand up, stand up." And she produced a silver, sparkling wand. She said the magic words, and the carriage and horses materialized in front of them.

"And your dress," Kazuha-chan said, pretending to think about it. "I have just the perfect dress in mind." With a flick of her wand, she pulled Cinderella to a full, standing position, revealing the beautiful, satin dress she wore. "And this, as well." Another flick of the wrist, causing glass slippers to appear at her feet.

"This is everything I could have ever asked for," Cinderella said, breathily. "Thank you so much!"

Kazuha-chan smiled. "No need for thanks. Now, go, hurry," she told her, ushering her into the carriage. "Have fun, and enjoy yourself at the ball. But... one reminder." She paused for effect. "No matter what it takes, you must - you must - get out of there before the clock strikes twelve. Once the clock strikes twelve, the spell will wear off, and your gown, your shoes, your carriage - everything will disappear."

Cinderella nodded, waving a hasty goodbye. "Goodbye, fairy godmother!"

Kazuha-chan smiled softly. "Goodbye..."

/-/

The music struck up loudly, dozens of couples dancing on the floor. Up high on the throne, the King and Queen gossiped between themselves.

"He's not even dancing!" the Queen hissed.

"Give it time," the King replied, patiently, "if he finds someone he truly likes, he'll dance with her."

"Hey.." Ran nudged Aoko-chan with her elbow. "Look over there. Right next to the door. Isn't that Kazuha-chan?"

Aoko-chan squinted. "It is!" she finally said. "They must have run out of extras.."

Ran nodded absently.

The audience gave a gasp as Cinderella appeared at the door. Right on cue, Heiji's head snapped up and focused directly on Cinderella.

"Who is she?" they could hear him mumble. "Who is she?"

He approached her, as if in a daze, and bowed to her, taking her hand. "May I have this dance?"

Cinderella blushed prettily. "Of...Of course."

They stepped onto the dance floor, dancing like all couples do. Cinderella gazed directly into her prince's eyes, looking like she was in absolute bliss. Which, Ran thought, frowning, was weird, since she'd heard from Kazuha-chan that she hadn't taken Hattori-kun's rejection of her very well. She squirmed. Something wasn't right.

"Look." Shinichi was suddenly saying, and Ran abruptly turned to him to see what was happening.

"What?" she questioned, softly.

"At where Hattori's looking," he replied.

Ran turned her head, as did Aoko-chan and Kuroba-kun. She heard Kuroba-kun give a loud snort, and Aoko-chan's shoulders shift slightly, as if stifling a giggle. Her mouth dropped open, just a little.

Hattori-kun wasn't looking at Cinderella.

His gaze was resting near the door, not at the girl in front of him.

And there was a certain girl standing near the door...

Ran smiled.

/-/

The play was near its end now, Ran realized, being familiar with the famous fairy tale. The prince and his messenger were now at Cinderella's house, with the infamous glass slipper that had been left behind.

"So there is no other young maiden living here?" the prince, Hattori-kun, questioned politely. The two stepsisters were rubbing their feet, and the stepmother's expression changed ever so slightly.

"No, I'm afraid not." The stepmother laughed smoothly. "Unless you'd like for me to try the slipper."

"Well, if this is all, then we must leave," the messenger said, brusquely. "There are many more houses we must visit -"

"Wait!" A breathless, hopeful voice, and the audience simultaneously heaved a relieved gasp at the sight of Cinderella, a little out of breath, but smiling nonetheless. "I - I would like to try on the slipper."

"No!" The stepmother stood in the way, blocking their path. "She's just a little servant girl. She's unimportant; you needn't have her try on the slipper.."

"Every young maiden in the kingdom must try on the slipper," Hattori-kun said, a little ice creeping into his tone.

The stepmother faltered. "Ah. Very well, then."

The messenger, clutching the glass slipper, carefully made his way towards Cinderella. However, just as he made it to her, the stepmother insidiously stuck out her leg, causing the messenger to slip, fall on his face, and the slipper to break into fragments.

"How clumsy of me," the stepmother admonished herself, no tone of remorse evident in her voice.

"That's quite all right," Cinderella said, quietly. She reached into her apron, and withdrew something small and shiny. Glass. "For, you see, I... have the other slipper."

The audience drew in another dramatic breath. Ran found herself clutching her seat cushion.

Confetti swirled, and Kazuha-chan appeared, with her magic wand, smiling at the entire situation. She waved her wand, and all of a sudden Cinderella was wearing the same, exquisite gown she'd worn previously at the ball.

"You deserve your happy ending, my child," she said, voice sounding almost invisibly strained.

"It's you..." Hattori-kun stared, but it was impossible to tell if it was Cinderella or the fairy godmother he was staring at, for the two girls were standing side by side.

Cinderella approached her prince, and Hattori-kun held out his arm in a gentlemanly gesture. Apparently, however, Cinderella, or Satoshi-san, had other plans. Instead of taking his arm, she leapt at him, searing his lips with a kiss. Ran stiffened with shock. This was most definitely not in the script; the wide-eyed, panic-stricken look on Hattori-kun's face confirmed that. And Kazuha-chan hadn't said a single thing about it...

Kazuha-chan's wand clattered to the floor, producing a loud, piercing sound that reverberated around the completely silent stadium.

Satoshi-san pushed away, smiling at her prince. "Shall we go?" she asked, gazing up at him.

"..." Hattori-kun didn't reply, blinking rapidly and gazing at Kazuha-chan, who had picked up her wand and was determinedly avoiding his stare. "Kazuha," he said, completely disregarding the fact that he was on stage.

With all the strength she could muster, Kazuha-chan turned to Hattori-kun and Satoshi-san, no traces of a smile on her face. Her voice was tight. "My job is finished here," she stated, "I hope you two have a happy life together." She bowed her head slightly and exited calmly - much too calmly - off the stage.

An odd expression crossed Hattori-kun's face, completely visible to Ran, who sat directly in front of his position on stage. He settled for storming off the stage in the direction of the door, saying absolutely nothing at all, doing nothing at all. Satoshi-san hurriedly followed after him, picking up her skirts as she ran.

The stadium was deathly silent.

"And so," the narrator said, realizing his cue belatedly, "they lived, uh," he cleared his throat, "happily ever after.."

And I need to know

Is it only me who can feel this way?

Or does your heart feel the same way mine does?

Dreaming of always being together...

/ to be continued /

A/N: Originally intended to be a one-chapter story. But once I got to the 19th page (I'm talking single-spaced, size 8, Arial font) and realized that I wasn't close to being finished, I was all, "Oookay. I think I need to make this into two chapters." And so, yes. The next chapter will probably be as lengthy, if not more, since it will be the conclusion. In other words, it will take some time to write that much. XD Please be patient, and do leave a review. There aren't enough Heiji/Kazuha stories out there, and that's why I decided to write this. :smile:

BTW, that scene where Kazuha kicks Heiji and tells him to get a clue? Inspired by a very similar scene from Kare Kano Volume 2. Except it's Yukino doing the kicking and Soichiro who's totally clueless. Heh.

Also, for those who don't know, the -han suffix is the same as the -san suffix, but people from Osaka say -han rather than -san, soo, yeah.. Well, I guess only some people from Osaka use the suffix..? Because I've heard Heiji definitely use the -han suffix, but I've heard Kazuha use the -san suffix, so.. ugh. I'm overanalyzing this...

Also, I meant absolutely NO OFFENSE to anyone about the "being gay" thing. Just wanted to clarify. :smile: