Disclaimer: I don't own Detective Conan. Belongs to the brilliant mind of Gosho Aoyama. I don't own any of the songs used here, either..

CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR... THE SPIDER MANSION CASE - EPISODE 167 (VOLUME 25, FILES 6-7); MOVIE 7 - "CROSSROAD IN THE ANCIENT CAPITAL"; THE MERMAID ISLAND CASE (VOLUME 28, FILES 6-10)

When They Stopped Pretending

Chapter 2: When masks fall off and Heiji realizes he's an idiot...

We feel the same and slowly learn about each other
Someday we may possibly hear "I do"
In front of our friends we stay as just friends
But we know we'll be together forever, I do

"Kazuha!" He couldn't find her anywhere, and dammit, he was growing worried! Something about the frosty expression in her eyes had caught him off guard and - well, frightened him, too. Because he'd pissed Kazuha off countless of times, but there was something different about today.

Anyway, it wasn't his fault! Satoshi had been the one to kiss him, and not the other way around!

He caught a glimpse of white and immediately picked up his pace. She was in his sights now, and he'd rather be trapped in a cramped closet with Mouri Kogoro before he let her go! "Oi! Kazuha!"

She appeared not to hear him, which only served to make him angrier. He was wearing an entire itchy, formal black suit for crying out loud, and he had been planning on running to his dressing room the moment the curtain closed to throw on his usual clothes. But noooo, now, he was stuck with his best friend, who was pissed off for some reason or other, who wouldn't even hear him out!

Why was she so angry, anyway? It had only been a kiss - and it hadn't been that big of a deal.

Oh? his mind positively smirked, then why don't you try picturing Kazuha kissing another guy?

Eh?

The mere thought of it made Heiji's blood boil, for some unknown reason, and before he realized it, he'd already gotten into a reflexive kendo stance. He blinked, bewildered at himself, before remembering his purpose. He glared and began to run, jogging slowly at first and then growing to a full sprint.

Three...

Two...

One...

His right hand clasped over her right shoulder and he was caught off-guard for a moment by how thin her shoulders were. Had she always been so small, compared to him?

"What do you want?" she spat in his face. With his keen detective's eye, he noticed her eyes, which were slightly red, and deducted that she had been crying. The sight of it made him stop, temporarily.

"I..." he recovered quickly. "Well, you! What's up with you? Just storming off stage like that! Didn't you hear me yelling for you, idiot?"

"Shut up, dummy!" she retorted, loudly. "I just wanted to get off the stage!"

She was lying straight through her teeth. "That," he said, pointedly, "is the lousiest excuse I've ever heard. What's wrong with you? Was it the kiss?"

She stiffened visibly, and brandished her magic wand violently at him. Heiji blocked every strike easily, of course, and vaguely wondered if this was how Kuroba felt whenever Nakamori-han started hitting him with her mop. "Shut up!" she repeated, and he was able to detect the smallest hint of a crack in her voice, "just shut up!"

"You really are upset about it..." He sounded a little surprised. "But..why? It's not like it meant anything. Hell, I didn't want to kiss her, that's for sure."

"Well," Kazuha said, viciously, "I didn't see you making an effort to get away!"

"I was surprised!" he protested.

"..." Kazuha said nothing at all, and began to storm off.

"Kazuha! Dammit!"

"Leave me alone!" she screamed, throwing her wand at him over her back, which, in a complete twist of fate, landed with a sound thump on Heiji's head. He cursed loudly at the world in general before resuming his pursuit of her.

"Ka-zu-ha!"

"Go. Away!" she shrieked, before bounding inside her dressing room and locking the door shut. Heiji cursed again before beginning to pound on the door.

"Why are you so angry?" he demanded, furiously. "It meant absolutely nothing!"

"I don't need a reason to be angry!" she retorted, equally mad, "just go away!"

"No! I won't!"

"Why not? Jerk!"

"Because!" Heiji didn't feel like saying anything more. She'd most likely laugh out loud in his face if he told her that he hated having her so angry at him. Sure, she was always irritated or annoyed at him over something or other, but he didn't like it when she was this pissed off at him. It bothered him, and even worse, made him feel downright guilty. "After what I had to go through out there, you're still giving me a hard time?"

"What you had to go through?" she repeated, and then laughed. "Oh, you know you loved every second of it."

"Dummy!" he practically spat at her door. "Even our kiss was better than that!"

There was dumbfounded silence on the other side of the closed door. "...you...still remember that?"

He was startled by her sudden loss of anger. He gulped loudly. "Well...yeah." It was something that had thoroughly embarrassed the hell out of both of them, and neither of them ever brought it up. It had happened during the time they had been handcuffed together as kids. The details were a little fuzzy in Heiji's head, but someone had walked too fast and had turned the wrong way, or SOMETHING, and all he clearly remembered was that he had fallen on his back, she had followed after, landing on top of him, and their lips had inevitably met.

He leaned his back against the door. "Hey... Kazuha. I don't know why you're so pissed, but... I don't even like her, okay? The kiss didn't mean anything."

Before he had any time to react, she had pulled open the door and he had fallen, flat on his back. He was about to yell at her when he caught a glimpse of her, and, well, wow.

"You mean that?" she asked, uncertainly. He only vaguely heard her words. Because...wow, that dress really looked good on her. She'd also taken down her hair, and for some reason he wasn't sure of, he was finding it a little hard to breathe.

"Yeah.." he said, finally.

And suddenly she was smiling down at him, with this small, grateful smile. He couldn't remember ever seeing it on her face, except for that one time when he'd gotten her this crystal necklace for her birthday. It had been one of the few occasions she'd actually made him blush - although he was fairly sure he was already blushing right now..

Then there came the sound of a loud crash, as if someone had dropped something. The moment was gone. All that was left were two friends, a boy and a girl, and a misunderstanding.

"I.. have to change," she said, breaking the silence.

He blinked. "Um, yeah. Me too."

"Okay.." she trailed off, unsure. "I'll meet you later, then? Downstairs?"

"Yeah." He bit his lip, considering, and then shrugged. "By the way, you, uh, look nice."

A pink blush spread over her cheeks, and he left her standing there, immensely proud of himself. For some reason, he liked making her blush.

But..

Why?

/-/

"You were great up there," Ran-chan said, smiling supportively. Beside her, Aoko-chan nodded in agreement.

"Your dress was gorgeous," she added.

"Thanks," Kazuha replied, smiling gratefully at the two of them. Although she was feeling a lot better, she still couldn't get the sight of that darned kiss out of her mind! She scowled inwardly before shaking her head and telling herself to think nothing of it. After all, Heiji himself had said that it meant nothing.

"Um..." Ran-chan peered anxiously at her. "Are you... all right, Kazuha-chan?"

"Yeah!" Her slightly-too-large smile faltered at the knowing look across Ran-chan's face. "Well...mostly."

The three girls simultaneously threw a dark glance over their shoulders at Heiji, who was oblivious.

"I mean... I know it's not his fault..." Kazuha let out a frustrated sigh. "Because Yuka-san was the one who - who - well, did that, but I can't help but think that maybe he could have done something, moved out of the way, or...whatever."

"But.." Aoko-chan looked a tad uncomfortable, "was that his... first kiss?"

Kazuha turned red. "No.."

"Oh?" Aoko-chan and Ran-chan exchanged looks. "So who was his first kiss, then?"

"It's nothing important," Kazuha told them, trying to sound mild and conversational. "I'm hungry, aren't you?"

"Ka-zu-ha-chaaaan," the two girls whined, "you can't keep us in the dark!"

Kazuha shot them half-hearted glares. But then, she thought of all the times Ran-chan had confided to her about Kudo-kun, and all the times Aoko-chan told her about Kuroba-kun and...it would be fair, wouldn't it?

"It was when we were little," she said, quickly, as if by saying it more quickly it would be less embarrassing, "when we were handcuffed to each other, and I fell on top of him, and.."

Her two friends began giggling. "It's okay, Kazuha-chan," Ran-chan said, between giggles.

"Hmph," Kazuha said, scowling again.

"But you know that he really likes you, don't you?" Ran-chan went on.

"..what?" Kazuha furrowed her brow.

"It's true," Aoko-chan added, "didn't you notice him staring at you throughout the entire play?"

If possible, Kazuha's cheeks heated up even further. "What?" she cried.

"He was, he was!" Ran-chan insisted. "Gosh, the way he was staring at you! I can't believe you didn't actually notice. And then towards the... you know, the end, he just stormed off the stage without a care in the world. And he even called out for you, but you'd already left.."

"I - no, he didn't!" Kazuha's voice was steadily growing high-pitched.

"Yes, he did," Aoko-chan told her, calmly, "we all noticed it."

"But.." Kazuha's gaze shifted from the two girls to the dark-skinned teen standing in the back. "...what does it mean?"

/-/

"So..." Kuroba whistled innocently, twirling something in his hands. Heiji felt a little intimidated, and subconciously backed away from the grinning teen.

"So, what?" Heiji said, eyes narrowed.

"Must we spell everything out for you, Hei-chan?" Kuroba smirked. "How is it that you escaped alive?"

"..." Heiji scowled. "Shut up."

"I didn't know you were so popular," Kudo said now, "why, you've even got girls trying to kiss you on stage."

"It's not like I wanted to kiss her, dammit," Heiji hissed, "she caught me off guard!"

"Oh, we all know that you didn't want to kiss Satoshi-san, lovely as she is," Kuroba said, smoothly.

Heiji narrowed his eyes.

"We all know that you would much, much rather kiss Toyama-chan, correct?"

Heiji dearly wished he had his katana with him.

"Kuroba," he said, much too innocently, "if you don't shut up I'm going to ask Nakamori-han for her mop."

Kuroba muttered something under his breath.

"But she looked really angry," Kudo said now, "how'd you get out of it?"

"None of your business," Heiji said, rather rudely. "I'm already treating you guys to dinner. Isn't that enough?"

Kudo shrugged and said nothing more.

/-/

The following evening, as Ran sat at her kitchen table with papers scattered everywhere and a pen tucked behind her ear, she realized something quite suddenly and let out a loud gasp. Shinichi glanced up from his spot on the couch.

"What is it?" he called.

"Your best man is Hattori-kun," Ran said, trailing off.

"Yeah?"

"My maid of honor is Sonoko.."

Shinichi blinked.

"We can't have this!" Ran exclaimed, frazzled. "We can't! It's all wrong!"

"Ran.." Shinichi got up from the couch and crossed the room. "You're taking this way too seriously, you know that?"

Ran pretended not to hear him. "Well, this is all wrong!" she repeated. "The best man and the maid of honor are supposed to walk down the aisle together! We can't have Hattori-kun and Sonoko walking down together! It's wrong! Wrong, wrong, wrong!"

Shinichi furrowed his brow, thinking. Then it clicked. Oh. That.

"It'd be a little strange to ask Kyogoku to be my best man, considering that I don't really know the guy," Shinichi said, shrugging helplessly.

"No, it's fine.." Ran murmured, taking the pen from behind her ear and crossing something off a piece of paper. "Kazuha-chan will just have to be the maid of honor. I'll need to tell her soon."

"And Sonoko will be perfectly all right with this?" Shinichi asked, wryly.

"Sonoko wouldn't care if my maid of honor was a toad, as long as she gets to walk down the aisle with Kyogoku-san."

"Mm." Shinichi shrugged and sat down next to her, eyes still glued to the soccer game on the TV. "Hattori's an idiot, though, you know."

"Poor Kazuha-chan," Ran murmured absently, shuffling through the sheets of paper.

"I know. If I were her, I would've punched him by now."

"She kicked him once."

"Did she?"

"Uh-huh. Outside the fountains, after I found my dress. Remember?"

"Oh, yeah. She left behind a bruise."

"Really? Good girl."

Shinichi snorted.

Ran sighed and placed her pen down on the table. She stretched her arms, letting out a loud yawn as she did so. This wedding had definitely been a lot of work, but she knew that it would all be worth it in the end. She snuck a glance towards Shinichi.

"Saw that."

"Bleh." She stuck her tongue out at him.

To which Shinichi calmly grinned. "You know you love me."

"Yeah, and I can't for the love of me figure out why," Ran retorted, although she didn't shy away from the kiss that he placed on her forehead.

"Good looks? Brilliant brain?"

"That oh-so-lovely singing voice?"

"...meanie."

/-/

Kazuha sat down in front of the piano, gingerly lifting the lid. She took a small rag from her pocket and gently wiped at the keys. Dust had collected on top of them in all the time she hadn't played. And who could blame her? With school, and aikido, and constantly having to watch over That Moron, how could she have time?

"Let's see.." she mused, finding middle C and playing a scale up and down. The feel of her fingers running up and down the keys was something comforting and familiar, and a small smile rested itself on her lips.

She remembered having a conversation with Heiji about her playing the piano and practicing aikido at the same time. He'd scoffed at her, while playing with his hat in his hands, "That's gotta be the dumbest combination I've ever seen," she remembered him saying, "aikido, in which you're constantly twisting other people's wrists and having your wrists twisted around by other people, and then playing the piano."

To which she'd stuck her tongue out at him and had started playing, which had shut him up. Because even Heiji, as tasteless and culture-less as he was, could still appreciate good music.

Kazuha let out a sigh as she dropped her hands from the keys. She reached over for a music book and idly flipped through the pages. She liked playing the piano, because she knew that he liked it when she did.

Like, this song, for example...

Fly me to the moon...

And let me play among the stars...

She remembered teasing him about it. This was an old song, after all, originally sung by some American singer sometime in the 1950s. She'd never imagined him to actually like such a song. She then remembered struggling to learn it, just for him. The endless hours of practice, until her hands and fingers were so tired she could barely lift them. It had been worth it, though, to see the look of surprise spread across his face. That had been two, three years ago..

Let me see what spring is like..

On Jupiter and Mars...

Then he'd teased her, of course. Some childish, joking words, interpreted the wrong way on Kazuha's part. An angry yell, the loud slam of the cover, and some biting, harsh words. She'd run to her room and locked the door. He'd followed soon after, shouting at her through the door.

In other words..

Hold my hand...

The details were a little fuzzy, but Kazuha could clearly remember him making it to her door with a scowl etched on his face. He knew about the key that was hidden under the towels in the closet that could open her door. He'd used this knowledge to his advantage and had unlocked the door, much to her dismay. She'd yelled at him some more, and he'd been unusually silent, glaring all the while at her.

In other words...darling..

Kiss me...

Eventually, she'd run out of steam, and then she'd simply stood there, glowering heatedly at him. And then he'd looked away - eyes roaming her room, her door, looking at anything except her, and these words were what had come out of his mouth:

"Ready to play it again?"

Fill my heart with song,

And let me sing forevermore..

And then she'd stood there for awhile, dumbfounded. "Play what?" she'd asked, bewildered.

"The song." He was silent. "You sounded. Good. I guess."

"Really?" Even though she wasn't consciously aware of it, a smile was already spreading across her face. She saw something akin to relief flood Heiji's face.

"Yeah. So hurry up already."

"Yeah, yeah.."

You are all I long for..

All I worship and adore..

The memory was a pleasant one, and it was a reminder of how, no matter how much Heiji pissed her off, he always did something so... so... so unbelievably, undeniably sweet and thoughtful that Kazuha couldn't help but forgive him. Sometimes she wondered if he just did such unconsiderate things just to rile her up, to see her angry at him so that he could make things better again. But then that wouldn't make much sense, would it?

Honestly. That Heiji.

In other words...

Please be true..

Ran-chan and Aoko-chan often told her that they were positively, one-hundred-percent sure that Heiji liked her - no, sometimes, they even went as far as to say that he loved her. But Kazuha shook her head wryly at the thought. She wasn't sure Heiji even knew what the words "in love" meant. He may be able to solve the most impossible mysteries, but the human heart was a mystery far more complex than any other.

She thought back to that unwanted kiss that had taken place during the Cinderella play. The feelings of anger and - and - and hurt that had overcome her...

But then..., hadn't Heiji come along and made everything better again?

She snorted, causing her to miss a few notes in the song. She shook her head and caught herself, and the song mended itself on the piano keys. Yes. Yes. Somehow, in the end.. that stupid, ignorant dummy made everything better again. He always did.

"Heiji," she murmured, "you are such... an idiot."

In other words...

I love you.

/-/

Heiji paused outside Kazuha's front door. Straining his ears, he could hear the beginnings of Fur Elise being played on the piano. Kazuha was on the only one in her family who could play, and he'd remembered attending a few recitals with his parents when he was younger. Not that he'd ever admit it to her, but she was pretty good, and somehow, when she played for him, it relaxed him. Soothed him. Like when she sang. Again, something he wasn't likely to admit any time soon, but she had a really sweet voice, and he loved hearing her singing - even small bits of a little-known song. She didn't like to sing, though, and rarely did so.

Not wanting to interrupt her playing, he opened the door. It was unlocked. Kazuha apparently hadn't heard him, for she continued playing. The piano was located in the living room... right there. He could see the top from his spot behind the wall. Warmth flooded him.

They'd already put the issue of The Kiss behind them, and now they were acting like they normally did. Constant bickering, and then laughs, and at the end of the day, smiling and talking with each other. It had been this way for as long as Heiji could remember. He was content with it. There was nothing else he could want.

Of course not.

Somehow, he found himself watching her. Her hair was fixed differently, he vaguely noted, instead of its usual high, swinging ponytail, it was braided into a single plait, and was pulled over her left shoulder. Had her hair always been that long? He'd never noticed before...

He was jolted out of his thoughts when he realized that everything was silent. Kazuha was finished, and was currently stretching from her position on the bench. Heiji took this opportunity to clear his throat and make his presence known.

"Hey.." he said, waving slightly.

"He - Heiji!" Kazuha turned significantly pink. "How - How long have you been here?"

"Since the beginning of the piece," Heiji replied, honestly. Why was she blushing?

"Idiot!" she cried, halfheartedly. "You don't just... You don't just suddenly show up here and..."

Ah. A click sounded in Heiji's mind. "Embarrassed?" he asked, just a little teasingly.

"No!" Kazuha exclaimed, much too soon.

Heiji shot her a Look.

"Well.." Kazuha faltered. "A little. I mean... I haven't played for ages, and you just waltz in here, and in three seconds you're going to start up on me again.."

"You sounded good."

"...and..." Kazuha narrowed her eyes. "What did you just say?"

"You sounded good," he repeated, simply. "I mean it," he added, a little exasperated when she still eyed him doubtfully. "It was good."

She still wasn't buying it. Brow furrowed, green eyes scrunched up in thought, she crossed the room and made her way to him. A bewildered Heiji stepped back.

"Are you feeling okay?" Kazuha demanded shrilly, clapping a hand to his forehead. Something inside of Heiji stiffened at the sudden contact, but on the outside he remained impassive. He let her hand linger on his forehead for a little longer than necessary before brushing it off.

"Stupid," he told her, although there was no heat in his words. "Can't even compliment you? Fine. The end of the piece was flat, if you must know."

"No, it wasn't!" she protested. "Anyway, you know absolutely nothing about music.."

"I can sing," he stated, offended.

"Better than Kudo-kun, maybe," she said, nastily.

He scowled. "I can sing! Remember our old music teacher? What was his name, Ishida-sensei? Said that out of all the guys, I had the best voice!"

"Oh, please, you know that he only said that because your father was there."

"Fine! I'll prove it!" Heiji stuck his tongue out at her, somewhat aware that he was acting childish - but sometimes it was nice to let go and act like a five-year-old, wasn't it? "Play that song."

"That song?" Kazuha questioned.

"Yeah. That song."

"I don't - oh." Kazuha rolled her eyes, but traces of a smile remained anyway. "Fine." She strode over to the piano and sorted through her music books until she found the one that she wanted. She opened it up to the correct page and settled it onto the piano, glancing up at him. He'd moved behind her so that he could read the lyrics off the sheet music. He nodded, and she began to play.

"Fly me to the moon, and let me play among the stars..." he sang, in nearly flawless English. Truth be told, he knew the lyrics by heart - he wasn't sure why, but he did - and he concentrated on watching the girl in front of him instead, even as he sang. Her face was set in concentration, glancing every now and then from the music to the black and white keys. "...fill my heart with song, and let me sing forevermore..."

He could tell by the small smile on her face that his voice wasn't as horrible as she'd made it to sound. Sure, he wasn't the main authority on music, but he could still sing in key, and he could sing, quite well, by the way.

There was a small instrumental break, and Heiji chose to speak. "Well? How's my voice?" he asked, obviously very satisfied with himself.

"Hmph," she snorted, still playing, "better than I thought it was, I suppose."

And that, the detective of the west recognized, was the best compliment he was going to get from her, so he took it, grinning. He continued to sing, "In other words..., please be true..."

Kazuha glanced up at him in that moment, smiling. Heiji froze, but caught himself just in the nick of time.

"In other words.." he sang, still a little off-balance, and Kazuha looked up at him curiously. He met her eyes just as the words poured out of his mouth, "...I love you..."

She released the last chord moments after he'd stopped singing. There was a full smile on her face. She was beaming, and Heiji found that he rather enjoyed the sight of it.

"I'll admit," she said, still smiling, "that you're good."

Heiji was a little surprised, but accepted it graciously. "Well, so are you."

Long after he'd left her house, when he was lying in bed... the image of her, smiling up at him, burned in his head. It wouldn't go away. And some part of Heiji told him that he didn't want it to go away.

And he couldn't for the love of himself figure out why.

/-/

A little over a week before Kudo-kun and Ran-chan's wedding, Ran-chan called her to announce that she had picked up the gowns and that they were at her house. Kazuha had smiled, and told her that she would come soon.

"Tomorrow," she said, "Heiji and I'll be there. At about five in the afternoon. Don't forget!"

Ran-chan laughed at the other end. "Of course not, Kazuha-chan. You're sleeping over for the week, right?"

"That's right," Kazuha affirmed. "That's all right, right?"

"Of course!" came the reply. "We can do our girl things, and Hattori-kun can keep Shinichi occupied by talking about Sherlock Holmes all they want."

To which Kazuha had laughed. "Mystery-loving geeks, the lot of them."

In the middle of Ran's reply, Kazuha's front door swung open and slammed shut. His voice resounded through the air, "Oi! Kazuha!"

"In here!" she called out, then added, "the kitchen!"

"Oh? Is that Hattori-kun?"

"Yeah." Kazuha rolled her eyes and sighed loudly into the phone. "Honestly. Just barges in here whenever he feels like it."

Ran-chan laughed, again. "All right. I gotta go now. I'll see you at the station tomorrow afternoon, all right?"

"Uh-huh. Bye, Ran-chan."

Heiji, who had long since been in the kitchen, glanced up from the bag of chips he'd been munching on - which he'd gotten from the closet in Kazuha's kitchen. "What'd Neechan want?"

"Hello to you, too," Kazuha said, wryly. "She just wanted to tell me that our gowns had arrived."

Heiji chewed thoughtfully, uncharacteristically silent. Usually, Kazuha thought, he'd be talking and eating with his mouth wide open, all at the same time. He swallowed. "Yeah, I'll still have to pack."

"You haven't packed yet?" Kazuha raised an eyebrow. "I'm already done." She pointed to where two large, green bags sat. Heiji turned in that direction and goggled.

"You're bringing all of that?" he said, doubtfully.

"We're going to be there for a week!" Kazuha insisted.

Heiji raised an eyebrow. "I don't think you need that much stuff for seven days."

"I've got shoes in there, too," Kazuha said, defensively.

Heiji shrugged. "Hey, whatever. You're carrying them."

"They've got wheels, Mr. Detective," Kazuha retorted, rolling her eyes. "I won't need you to carry them."

"Good." Heiji stuck his tongue out at her. He finished up the bag of chips and threw it in the trash can. He wiped his hands on his shirt, leaving behind a small stain from the nacho-cheese chips he'd been eating. Seeing this, Kazuha sighed and shook her head.

"I swear, you're like a little kid sometimes."

"What?" he protested.

"Your shirt," she said, simply.

"...hm?" He glanced down and saw the stain. "Oh. No big deal."

"I can't stand it!" Kazuha burst out, and retrieved a yellow kitchen towel from a nearby drawer. She dampened it slightly and began to scrub furiously at the stain. Heiji, surprised, backed off.

"Oi.." he began.

"I'm just cleaning it," she said, lightly, although in reality being in such close proximity was making her feel a little breathless. "It bothers me. That ugly orange stain."

"Stupid," he said, but didn't move away, so Kazuha continued to clean at the stain. Gulping slightly, she realized that this was...well, it was rather... nice. They weren't fighting. They were just simply together.

This is fine, she told herself, in a convincing manner, this is all I need. Just him. By my side. I don't... I don't... I don't need anything more. Being friends is fine. I don't need anything more. I don't.

/-/

Heiji heard the ponytailed girl beside him give a sigh. They'd been on this train for what seemed like practically forever, and he couldn't blame her for being so bored and frustrated. But it still got on his nerves.

"Quit sighing," he snapped, "it's not making the situation better."

"Leave me alone," was the retort, "I can sigh if I want."

"Idiot." He stuck his tongue out at her, but didn't say any further. He was glad that she didn't, either, because truth be told, he was feeling rather sleepy.

"How much longer?" she asked, after awhile.

Heiji checked his watch. "An hour and a half."

"Ohhhh," Kazuha moaned, "why didn't I bring my CD player?"

"Because you couldn't carry it, what with those two huge monstrosities that you call luggage."

"Shut up."

Nothing else was said, and Heiji let out a long sigh of his own. He hadn't been able to get a good night's sleep last night... He'd kept tossing and turning, tossing and turning...

Then he was uncomfortably aware of the fact that someone had decided to use his shoulder as a pillow. He stiffened and awkwardly tried to shove her head off. She made an annoyed sound in the back of her throat.

"Oi," he began, unsure of what exactly to say. "Get off."

"No," she said, stubbornly, and a little hazily.

Heiji frowned. Judging from the sound of her voice, it was evident that she was already half-asleep. She probably didn't know what she was saying.

"What's wrong with you?" he asked, bewildered.

"I'm sleepy," she replied, still in that half-awake voice. "And you're comfy." She snuggled closer.

Heiji blinked. "Are you drunk?"

Snore.

Heiji threw the sleeping a girl a halfhearted glare before crossing his arms over his chest and closing his eyes. At least it was just her head resting on his shoulder, a voice in the back of his head reasoned, and just her head wasn't that heavy. He could hear her snoring lightly in his ears. He gave her an exasperated look, which softened in a few seconds.

He decided not to question why, exactly, his glare had softened.

Or...

Heiji furrowed his brow.

On second thought, maybe he would...

The last time he'd ridden a train with Kazuha had been on that day when she had finally found that bridesmaid gown. And during that time, Kazuha had fallen asleep as well, although she hadn't fallen asleep on him, like right now... Well, anyway, during that time, he'd been thinking about the two of them, together, and it had given him one hell of a headache. That's right, he'd been extremely close to figuring it out, but then his thought process had been interrupted, and he'd simply forgotten about it in the end.

Well... he had nothing else to do for another hour. Might as well try again.

So.. he'd been thinking about them, hadn't he? As in, together. More than friends. Romantically involved. For example, like Kudo and Neechan. Or even Kuroba and Nakamori-han. They'd all been friends since childhood and had gradually grown into something more. Well, Heiji thought huffily, that was all very good and well for them, but who were they to go lumping him and Kazuha into the same situation? Just because he'd been friends with her since childhood as well was no reason to start pointedly waving wedding bells at every presentable occasion!

Just because she came around and scared off every girl that showed interest in him meant nothing. After all, she had said so herself that she was like his older sister, making sure that he wouldn't get hurt by any of those girls. And just because he spent his free time hovering over his shoulder shooting glares of death at any other male that even showed the slightest interest in her meant zilch, as well. He was like the brother, then, intent on making sure that those icky boys didn't do anything to his sister.

And that was it. Pure, plain, and simple.

Heiji smiled, immensely proud of himself. Well, that mystery was figured out!

He would have gone on the rest of his life thinking that if only he hadn't turned his head and caught a glimpse of her slumbering face. Which resulted in him sucking in a large amount of air. Which resulted in him gulping loudly. Which resulted in him beginning to blush. Which resulted in him rapidly turning away from her so that he could stare at something safer. Like his shoes.

Oh, boy.

What in the hell was wrong with him? He'd seen Kazuha plenty of times - how about every single freaking day? Why should today make any difference? It wasn't like she was even pretty or anything, because she wasn't -

She was...stunning.

"Eep!" Heiji disregarded the fact that he'd just eep-ed, for he had other, more pressing matters to attend to at this current moment. He did not just think that his childhood friend and older-sister-figure was "stunning." Because she wasn't! People that were stunning were like... famous actresses and singers and celebrities and people like that! Not Kazuha! Not the girl he'd known for practically forever!

His eyes roamed her face of their own accord. Heiji instantaneously blinked them shut and didn't open them for a full fifteen seconds.

Okay. So he'd admit that she was rather cute, but cute was different from, say, stunning. Kazuha wasn't stunning. She was cute, perhaps, but not stunning. No, definitely not. Hattori Heiji would not, would never, openly admit that Toyama Kazuha was stunning. That would most definitely cross the line between friendship, and he had no desire to cross that line any time soon. More like, never.

Then, he started thinking of all the times they'd been in danger. Which, Heiji admitted, had been plenty of times. The one that stuck out most vividly in his mind had been during that incident at the spider mansion. He remembered the feeling of sheer terror and utter fear that she'd actually been killed. His heart had been pounding, so loudly, in his chest that he'd found it surprising nobody else had heard it. He remembered tearing straight for the warehouse, only to discover that she'd been hung from the ceiling, unconscious.

He'd thought she was dead...

And after that, after it had fully sunk in that she was alive, she was safe, she was here again, anger had coursed through his veins. Even now, simply thinking about it brought back the fury he'd felt back then. His hands clenched themseles into fists, and he remembered, that the case had been solved, and the murderer was in jail, where he belonged.

"All you ever do is make me worry," he said, glancing at the sleeping girl.

And protect me.

Heiji frowned at the statement, but his hand had already instinctively reached to the omamori hanging at his neck. Pffh. Right. He didn't believe in that superstitious nonsense like Kazuha did. The only reason he wore it was... was...

Um...

"Oh, shut up," he told himself.

The train then ran over a rather bumpy part of the track, causing their compartment to shake a little. This wasn't such a big deal. Heiji wasn't inexperienced with riding the train, and he'd had to go through this before.

What made it different was that Kazuha had moved.

Closer.

To him.

More to the point, her head was now resting in his lap.

His friggin lap.

Heiji gulped.

Ba-bump. Ba-bump.

BUMP-BUMP-BUMP-BUMP-BUMP.

And that would be the change in his heart rate in the past two seconds.

Oookay. So his best friend since childhood currently had her head in his lap. No biggie. Seriously. Absolutely no big deal. Hell, he'd been to murder scenes and he'd seen dead corpses close up! This should be nothing!

It should be. But it wasn't.

Why was his heart racing so fast? It was no big deal, dammit! It was just Kazuha! If it had been some other girl, then maybe, but..

Well, actually..

He vaguely remembered once, when one of his more, erm, enthusiastic fangirls had decided to accidentally trip on her own two feet, let out an extremely fake shriek, and fall on top of him. As in, directly on top of him. Yeah, he'd been embarrassed, but he'd been more irritated, truthfully. He wasn't a detective for nothing, after all, and he'd easily deduced that she'd done it on purpose. Kazuha had been standing by, not looking too pleased, and Heiji had gotten an earful later. So had the fangirl, actually. But that wasn't the point. The point was, that when the fangirl had landed directly on top of him, he'd felt nothing - nothing compared to what he was feeling now.

Heiji swallowed audibly.

"All right." Weighing his options in his head, he decided that getting Kazuha back up to a sitting position would be the best course of action. Why? Number one, if Kazuha woke up and found that she was sleeping in his lap, he was pretty sure that she'd make it so he'd never be able to have children. Number two, he didn't want her there, dammit!

Gwahahahah! his inner-self was thoroughly enjoying this.

Stop laughing, Heiji thought ruefully as he gently took Kazuha by the shoulders and sat her back up. Carefully, inadvertently, he found himself staring at her, at her creamy pale skin and at her long lashes, and at her hair, which felt really soft and smelled really good..

What... What was he feeling all of a sudden? A strange weight, a strange sense of being flustered and trapped and unable to speak, think, move, or breathe. What was it? He couldn't remember feeling like this before.

Or, no. No. Heiji furrowed his brow. Come to think of it, he had felt this way before, although he couldn't remember exactly when. In a sense, he'd felt like this so many times that.. that, well, he'd gotten used to it so that it didn't bother him anymore. But what was it?

Dammit...! He could figure this out, and he would figure it out. He was the Great Detective of the West, darn it, and he would solve this mystery, or die trying!

Kazuha stirred in her sleep beside him. He froze, and could do nothing but watch as she sleepily awoke and gazed at him with bleary green eyes. He swallowed once, then twice, and then Kazuha greeted him with a soft smile.

"Hey.. did I fall asleep?"

"...uh, yeah." Heiji shook himself mentally.

She yawned and rubbed at her eyes. "How much longer until we get there?"

"I, uh -" Heiji was cut off by the sudden stopping of the train and the loud announcement over the system. The doors opened, and Kazuha slowly got up, still a little woozy from her sleep.

"Now, apparently.." Kazuha answered herself, standing up and taking her bags. Heiji simply sat there, unmoving.

"Heiji?" she tilted her head questioningly at him. "Aren't you coming?"

"Oh.. yeah, yeah." Heiji stood up abruptly and grabbed his bags, following the ponytailed girl out the train. The strange feeling in his chest hadn't subsided; no, rather, it had grown worse.

/-/

"Why don't we go out for dinner?" Ran-chan suggested as soon as Kazuha and Heiji had finished unpacking. "The fridge is pretty empty right now, so there's really nothing to cook, except for some instant ramen.."

"Sure," Kazuha replied, smiling. Heiji and Kudo-kun were sitting at the kitchen table, newspapers scattered across the surface. If she strained her ears, she could catch snippets of their conversation, mostly clicking their tongues and sharing exasperated comments about the number of robberies and murders in the city.

"Which restaurant?"

"Your choice, Ran-chan," Kazuha replied, shaking her head. "After all, you're the one getting married, aren't you?"

A slight blush slithered over the other girl's cheeks. "I guess.." She lit up then, "How about Italian?"

"Sure." Kazuha smiled at her again. In the background, she could hear Heiji - "What the hell? A tribute piece to the Kaitou KID? With fan letters begging for him to come back?" - and rolled her eyes.

"Better hide that from Kuroba," came Kudo-kun's reply, "he'll never shut up if he gets hold of it."

"Oi, Kudo! Take a look at this! Apparently a woman was murdered using a fishbone.."

"What?"

"Right here! Solved by a Hakuba Saguru.."

"Detective geeks," Kazuha muttered, sourly. Ran-chan heard her and gave her a sympathetic glance.

"I know. But we've lived with them our entire lives. And we've survived, haven't we?"

"Don't know how, but we have," Kazuha agreed.

And now, Kudo-kun and Heiji were currently locked in a debate - there hadn't been any throwing of sharp and/or heavy objects yet, but heck, Kazuha and Ran-chan weren't taking any chances - on, in Kudo-kun's words, Why-Sherlock-Holmes-so-kicks-Ellery-Queen's-ass-you-doooooork!

Ran-chan knew the perfect way to stop the heated argument from progressing any further. "In my opinion -"

"And mine, too!" Kazuha added, cheerfully.

" - and Kazuha-chan's too, of course," Ran-chan amended herself gracefully, "we both think that Lupin could beat Holmes and Queen any day of the week."

Kudo-kun gaped, and Heiji sputtered a string of incoherent words.

"You traitor!" Kudo-kun managed, clutching a hand dramatically over his heart.

"Yeah, I'm sure." Ran-chan couldn't completely erase the smile from her face. "By the way, we're going out for Italian."

"We are?" Kudo-kun quirked an eyebrow.

"Uh-huh. So bring your credit card."

"Of course." Kudo-kun rolled his eyes, stood up, and looped an arm around Ran-chan's shoulder. He pressed a kiss to her forehead, and Kazuha smiled. Heiji settled for averting his eyes and stacking up the newspapers.

"I'll get your jacket, okay?" Ran-chan called as he left the room.

Already they acted like they were married. And maybe in a weird sort of way, they always had been. Kazuha frowned and fingered the end of her ponytail as she pondered. Not in an official, "I do" sort of a way, but the fact that they'd just always been there for each other, and for no one else - well, if that wasn't marriage, than what was?

Kudo-kun grabbed the keys by the door, and Kazuha mentally admired the shiny red car - she wasn't sure what model it was - that had been a generous wedding gift from Kudo-kun's parents. She sat in the back with Heiji, blissfully content at this current moment in time.

They arrived at the restaurant in a matter of minutes, and fortunately it wasn't too crowded, and they were quickly seated. Glancing around at her surroundings, she smiled at the soft, cozy atmosphere. The tables were round, with a light pink linen tablecloth draped over each one.

A waiter arrived, and the four of them quickly placed their orders.

"So we were thinking," Ran-chan had been saying, "that we'd have a rehearsal for the ceremony.."

"Really?" Kazuha said, "when?"

"Oh, the day before the wedding, instead of trying to cram it in right before the actual ceremony. It'll be quick. All you have to do is just walk down the aisle, you know.."

"I think it's nice that you decided to do the whole bridal party," Kazuha went on, and Ran-chan grinned in return.

"I know, it's a lot more fun that way... oh!" Ran-chan exclaimed suddenly, snatching her purse and quickly beginning to search frantically through its contents. Kazuha frowned, Heiji looked mildly interested, and Kudo-kun shrugged.

"Ran-chan?" Kazuha began, but was cut off by Ran-chan's triumphant exclamation of glee.

"Aha!" she cried, holding something in her hand. "Here!"

Kazuha caught a glimpse of what she was holding - and turned red. "Ran-chan!"

"I found this," Ran-chan said, grinning, "at a news stand. I must say that it's a very flattering picture of the two of you."

Kazuha slouched down in her seat. It was the picture - the picture - that had been taken when Heiji had won his kendo tournament. Yes. That one. The one of the two of them, sticking their tongues out at each other.

The one that she had secretly kept, buried underneath all of her other notebooks and papers on her desk.

"You never showed me that," Kudo-kun said, shifting closer to Ran-chan so that he could get a better look. "Geez, can't you two stop fighting to take a picture? Although it is very..., well, you."

Heiji glowered bitterly at the detective of the east, but apparently couldn't find a remark scathing enough to say, so remained silent.

"Here's your order.." The waiter had arrived with four plates of steaming pasta. He smiled as he put them down carefully before each person. Heiji, Kazuha noted from the corner of her eye, instantly dug into his plate. Kazuha rolled her eyes to herself, muttering under her breath about his lack of table manners.

"Oh, be quiet," the dark-skinned boy said, spilling some tomatoes on himself in the process. Kazuha raised her eyes to the heavens, seeking strength.

"Look at you!" she exclaimed, pointing at the various stains that had managed to find their way on his blue shirt. "And you've only had the plate for a minute!"

"Leave me alone," he scowled. "It's my shirt. I'll wash it. I'll get the stain out."

"You've never done laundry in your life!" Kazuha retorted, loudly. "Oh, for crying out loud -" She took her table napkin, dampened it with one of the extra glasses of water they'd been given, and proceeded to scrub at the stains on his shirt.

"Wha - oi, Kazuha!"

"It bothers me!" she protested. And it did. She hated stains. And Heiji was so rash and impulsive in everything he did that he often did get stains on his clothes. If other people had stains on their clothes, heck, she'd deal with it. But this was Heiji, and she'd dealt with more than enough of him, thank you very much.

Once she was satisfied with the faded orange splotch on his shirt, she leaned back into her chair. She was too busy ignoring the large grin on Ran-chan's face to notice the slight blush on Heiji's face.

/-/

It all started with a small cough on Kazuha's part. An innocent little cough. But apparently, Heiji hadn't seen it that way, and had promptly loomed over her shoulder after hearing her clear her throat.

"What was that?" he demanded.

"What?" she said, frowning.

"That - cough," he emphasized, pointing to his throat.

"Exactly what you said it was," Kazuha replied. "A cough. Oh, Heiji, don't get all paranoid like you always do."

Heiji bristled. "I do not get paranoid!"

Kazuha stared him down, and he stared right back. It was common knowledge that whenever Kazuha showed the slightest sign of sickness - whether it be a stuffy nose, a sneeze, a cough - Heiji would lecture her endlessly about it, shove fruits, vegetables, and chicken noodle soup down her throat so that she'd get better. Part of her found it... well, endearing, she supposed, but another part of her found it really annoying.

"It's just one little cough," she insisted.

"That's how all colds start!" Heiji said, waving his arms around wildly in an attempt to prove his point. "It starts out as one 'little cough', and then it grows into more, and more, until before you know it, you're sitting in bed with a fever!"

"Heiji.."

And from seemingly nowhere, the dark-skinned boy produced a thermometer, and stuck it in her mouth.

"Oh, for -"

"I will tape your mouth shut if I have to," he warned, and Kazuha knew that he was telling the truth because he had actually done that once, when they were both younger. She glared at him with all the vengeance she could muster.

"Good morning - well, hello there." Ran-chan stepped out of her bedroom, clad in jeans and a white long-sleeved shirt. Her grin turned positively sinister. "Having fun?"

Kazuha decided that Ran-chan was definitely spending too much time with Sonoko-san. Unable to say anything, she settled for pointing angrily at Heiji, who was holding the thermometer in her mouth.

"She's sick," Heiji stated, bluntly.

Ran-chan's eyes turned wide. "Oh, no!"

"No, I'm not!" At the precise moment Kazuha chose to speak, Heiji deftly removed the thermometer from her mouth. He frowned upon seeing it.

"Well?" the ponytailed girl demanded.

"You don't have a fever," he admitted. "But still! You coughed!"

Kazuha turned to Ran-chan for help. "Will you please tell him that I'm fine?"

"She coughed," Heiji said, fire dancing in his eyes.

Ran-chan, despite the karate master that she was, was obviously intimidated by the sheer, well, insanity that Heiji was currently emanating. "Well," she said, placidly, "Kazuha obviously doesn't have a fever, right? So I think that she should be okay.."

"Thank you!" Kazuha turned back to Heiji. "I'm fine, okay? No fever, right?"

"...rrgh." Heiji grumbled, but realized that the two girls were right, and said no more. Kazuha relaxed visibly, and swallowed to keep herself from coughing out loud. Because the truth was, she'd had a sore throat for a few days now, and the fact that she was now developing a cough was a sign that things were steadily growing worse.

Not that she'd ever do anything to tell Heiji that, because the moment he found out that she was sick, bam! Instant twenty-four hour bedrest. Hiding something like this - well, truthfully, hiding anything from the detective was extremely and excruciatingly painful work. And in the end, he would find her out anyway! He was too smart for his own good, she thought, fuming, always figuring everything out -

He hasn't figured out your feelings for him yet, though, has he?

- then again, he could be really stupid sometimes.

"...and with six days left until the wedding, I have to go around and make sure everything's going as planned," Ran-chan was saying, smoothing down her hair, ruffled from sleep, "I heard there were some problems with the flowers, so I have to go down to the florist's."

"Problems?" Kazuha questioned, relieved when her voice sounded normal and not hoarse.

"Not enough of the lilies, or something," Ran-chan answered, sighing. "But I'll just go down and see. Shinichi'll meet me there."

"Do you need us to go down with you?" This time Heiji asked, while unpeeling a banana. Kazuha shot him an exasperated look for going through Ran-chan's food, which he expertly ignored.

"No, but thanks," came the reply. "It'll be really boring, anyway, and it won't take that long. By the way, I'm supposed to watch a little girl today, just for a couple of hours while her mom goes out. She'll be here at around one. I should be back by then, but if not.." she trailed off.

"No problem, Ran-chan," Kazuha said, smiling, "we'll be glad to."

"Thanks." Ran-chan returned the smile. "Her name is Miyuko, and she's really well-behaved. Almost too well-behaved, actually. She's two years old."

"Two?" Kazuha came up with a mental image of a two-year-old girl. "Got it."

Heiji frowned. "Two year olds still wear diapers."

Kazuha grinned nastily. "Yes. They do."

Ran-chan laughed at them. "Listen, I need to go. It's already late.. I'm going to grab a quick breakfast with Shinichi. You two can help yourselves to anything you want in the kitchen, okay? Ooh, I'm just glad that my dad spent the night at my mom's place.." A grin lit up her features.

Ran-chan left the kitchen, going back to her room. Meanwhile, Heiji sat himself down on the couch. When Kazuha was positively certain that he wasn't looking at her, she scanned the cabinets and drawers of Ran-chan's kitchen, under the pretense of finding some gum. She quickly found what she was looking for, and hurriedly stuffed a handful of cough drops in her pocket.

/-/

Kazuha stood up from her spot on the couch beside Heiji when she heard the knocks on the door. She knew who it would be. Miyuko, and her parents. She opened the door with a smile already on her face.

"Hi.." A middle-aged woman with curly black hair began, uncertainly. "Is Ran-san here?"

"I'm sorry, she's not back yet," Kazuha replied, "but she told me all about Miyuko-chan, and I'll be more than happy to watch her."

The expression on the woman's face was still unsure. "But.."

"Kazuha?" Heiji had decided to see what was going on. "What's up..?"

Miyuko-chan giggled and reached for Heiji. Heiji blinked. Kazuha fought back a giggle of her own.

"You're..." The woman's eyes widened. "That famous detective from Osaka! Hattori Heiji! Miyuko goes crazy whenever she sees you on TV!"

"She must have a crush on you," Kazuha informed the dark-skinned man, smiling widely.

Heiji shrugged. "We'll take good care of her, ma'am, I promise," he said, talking to the woman.

"Well, she certainly seems to like you." The woman deposited Miyuko-chan into Heiji's arms and handed Kazuha a bag, undoubtedly full of diapers and milk. "I'll be back by four. Is that all right?"

"Of course," Kazuha replied, pleasantly, and closed the door. She turned back and smiled at Miyuko-chan, who giggled back. Heiji even had a soft sort of smile on his face, one that made Kazuha's insides flutter.

"Hey," Heiji interrupted, "what do we do now?"

Kazuha blinked. "We...take care of her, oh-great-detective."

Heiji glanced at the squealing baby girl in his arms. She reached up and tugged at his hat - on which Kazuha had expressed her opinion, loudly, "Why-do-you-need-to-wear-your-hat-inside-the-house-you-obsessive-compulsive-freak?" and promptly pulled it off and put it on her own head.

"Oh!" Kazuha gasped and clapped a hand to her mouth, loving every single moment. "She looks so cute!"

"Hn," he replied, although judging from the amused expression evident in his eyes, it was easy to see that he was enjoying this too. In an attempt to ruin the almost pleasant moment, he went on, "She'd better not spit up on that.."

/-/

Heiji, despite what certain girls with ponytails and annoying attitudes thought, was very smart, very observant, and very deserving of the title of Great Detective of the West.

In other words, he noticed that Kazuha was swallowing constantly. She was also clearing her throat an awful lot. She was also drinking water every two minutes.

Immediately he thought back to that cough. Aha! He knew it, he knew it, he knew it! She was sick, and she was trying to hide it. He smirked. She never could hide anything from him.

He knew that she wasn't going down without a fight. She never did. So, he thought, eyes resting on the ponytailed girl with the little baby in her lap, he'd have to force her to admit it. And he could think of plenty of curiously interesting ways to do so..

"Kazuha," he called, "do you want some ice cream?" His hand lingered on a carton of chocolate chip cookie dough ice-cream he'd found in Neechan's fridge. A flavor that he knew Kazuha couldn't resist.

Unless, she was sick, and couldn't have sweets.

He could see her debating with herself, and then she turned to face him, brow furrowed in annoyance. "Heiji!" she exclaimed, "will you stop going through Ran-chan's fridge? It's her food!"

"And we're staying here," came the quick answer with a practiced roll of the eyes. "She wouldn't want us to starve, stupid."

"You just ate an hour ago!"

"Well, I'm hungry now!"

She turned back to the T.V. with a huff, and he could see Miyuko-chan climb up on her lap and pull on her ponytail. Heiji couldn't help but smirk at the sight of that; he'd done the same thing many times when they were younger.

"So do you want some or not? It's chocolate chip cookie dough."

"No," came the deceptively nonchalant answer, "I'm not hungry right now."

The smirk on Heiji's face grew wider. "Sure." And went on to the next phase of his plan.

With a big, heaping bowl of ice cream, he plopped back down on the couch, next to her. He dug into his ice cream hungrily, because it was really good, and stared at the T.V.

Where a big, purple dinosaur stared at him.

"Barney?" He practically whined. "Kazuha, come on.."

"Try changing the channel," the ponytailed girl said wryly, eyes flickering to the giggling two-year-old on the carpet, "just try it."

Heiji scowled and watched as Miyuko-chan clambered back up to Kazuha's lap, and watched as the older girl laughed, picked Miyuko-chan up by her armpits, and lifted her up into the air. Smiling the entire time. Heiji shook his head. So not the time to start thinking thoughts like that.

Inevitably, Kazuha lowered Miyuko-chan back down to her lap. "Hey, could you get me a glass of water?" she asked him.

Oho. "Get it yourself," he replied, indifferently.

She twitched. "Heiji.."

"I'm busy," he said, waving the bowl of ice cream in her face.

"You idiot!" she hissed. "I need the water!"

"So get up and get it yourself. I'm sure you can carry a little girl and drink water at the same time."

"Of course I can, dummy," she retorted, "but she -" She jerked her head towards the nearly unconscious baby girl, " - looks like she could fall asleep any minute now, and if we don't let her go to sleep now, she'll never fall back asleep, and then she'll get cranky, and you don't want to be stuck with a cranky two-year-old, Heiji, you don't!" She breathed in and out heavily, and -

As Heiji knew she would -

Coughed.

And it wasn't a simple little clearing of the throat, or even a small, dry cough. Oh, no. It was a real cough, a cough that a sick person, with a cold would have.

Her eyes widened.

Heiji's green eyes, narrowed in grim satisfaction, met hers head on.

Kazuha protectively hid behind Miyuko-chan.

"You're sick!" he cried.

"It was just a cough!" she insisted.

"Along with the fact that you also coughed, earlier this morning, and that you've been clearing your throat and drinking water every time I see you in the kitchen; swallowing, annnnd, you didn't have any ice cream! Chocolate chip cookie dough!"

He could see the conflicting emotions in her face. Finally she looked up and stared right at him. "Stupid," she said.

"Hah." He took Miyuko-chan from her. "You're sick," he said, correctly deciphering the question written all over her face, "you don't want to get her sick as well, do you?"

"I'm not that sick," she told him, rolling her eyes, but let him have Miyuko-chan anyway.

Heiji stuck his tongue out at her.

About an hour later, after he'd put Miyuko-chan down for her nap and after he'd taken a bath, he came back outside to check on the two girls. Upon arriving at the scene, his lips twitched into an amused smile. Miyuko-chan had fallen asleep, at the couch, snoring quietly. Heiji saw that the two small pillows he'd placed at her side to insure that she wouldn't fall off had shifted, and he moved them back.

Then his eyes landed on Kazuha, also peacefully asleep at the black recliner on the other side of the couch. His eyes softened subconsciously, and they grew concerned when he heard her cough.

He padded into the kitchen and poured a glass of water. He re-entered the living room and placed it on the table in front of her.

She really was such a troublesome girl.

/-/

Somewhere in the middle of everything, a whiff of an unpleasant odor reached Kazuha's nose. She twitched and turned, burying her head into what seemed like a pillow to get rid of the smell. She soon realized, however, that her space was very limited and didn't leave much room for tossing and turning. She frowned. This wasn't her bed..

Her eyes fluttered open. She was in Ran-chan's living room. Okay. Sitting on her recliner. Okay.

And...

She squinted, eyes still drowsy from sleep. She hadn't been sleeping very well lately, which was most likely the cause of her little cold.. Ugh. She blinked once or twice to clear her sleepiness, but it didn't help.

"Heiji?" she called. She didn't see him, so why was she calling for him? She shook her head and then caught a glimpse of movement from the corner of her eye. She turned her head and saw him kneeling on the floor in front of Miyuko-chan, a wool blanket underneath her.

He glanced up at her. "Go back to sleep," he said.

She rubbed her eyes with her hand. He was... changing her diaper. She didn't even know he knew how to do that. "Are you okay?" she asked, already falling back asleep.

"I'm fine," he answered, somewhat exasperatedly. "I've dealt with murder scenes, for crying out loud. This is nothing."

A scowl flitted over the ponytailed girl's features before she fully closed her eyes. "Mm-kay. Goodnight."

"It's day," he corrected, halfheartedly, but she was already snoring.

/-/

"Miyuko! Oi!" She could vaguely make out Heiji's voice, lingering close beside her. "She's sleeping, and she's sick! C'mere.. oi, c'mere, c'mere... please, come here.."

Kazuha blinked and opened her eyes. Miyuko-chan was trying to climb up on her, and had only succeeded in squeezing the life out of her legs.

"And - she's awake." Heiji let a loud sigh escape his lips. "You were out for almost two hours," he informed her.

She blinked again, surprised. "Really? So you've been taking care of her?" She shifted Miyuko-chan into a more comfortable position on her lap, and the little girl laid her head against Kazuha's chest. Kazuha smiled, not at all minding the comfortable weight.

"She's really well-behaved." Heiji shrugged. "Put her in front of the T.V. and it's like she's not even here. But you do owe me - I had to watch the Teletubbies." He flinched.

"You must be scarred for life," she remarked, sarcastically, "those gruesome murder cases you're always out on don't scare you a bit, and a children's show sends you to the nearest asylum."

"The tall one's gay," he said, wrinkling his nose.

Kazuha snorted, and Miyuko-chan giggled her innocent baby laugh from her resting position on Kazuha's stomach.

"That's right," Kazuha said, making a face at the little girl, "Heiji-niichan's really weird, huh?"

Miyuko-chan giggled louder.

Heiji scoffed. "You're sick," he said, and Kazuha rolled her eyes - she'd been hoping he'd forgotten - "so go eat something."

She would have argued further, just for the heck of it, but her stomach chose that point to growl loudly. She sighed and lifted up Miyuko-chan, depositing her carefully on the floor. Miyuko-chan squealed and ran to Heiji, wrapping her chubby arms around his knee. Kazuha padded over to Ran-chan's kitchen, unsure of what to eat.

"Have you eaten all of her food or what?" she asked, irritably. It was then that she caught the smell of something warm and familiar. Soup. Heiji hadn't heard her, busy with watching Miyuko-chan. She furrowed her brow. It was chicken noodle soup, and it was still warm. The only possible explanation for this, she thought, was that Heiji had made it for her.

Peering into the pot, her suspicions were only confirmed. The chicken breast pieces were cut haphazardly; the carrots were large and chunky. Heiji was the only one she knew who couldn't cut food properly to save his life - despite the fact that he was excellent at kendo. One of life's little quirks, she supposed.

Despite the less-than-satisfying appearance, the scent of the soup was inviting. Chicken noodle soup. How many times had he made this for her when she'd been sick? He'd make it for her regardless of whether she'd caught a simple cold, or even a fever, down to the time when she'd gotten the chicken pox.

She poured some into a bowl and after searching through the cabinets, found a spoon. Careful not to spill, she brought the bowl to the kitchen table, where she had a clear view of Heiji playing with Miyuko-chan.

Despite his brash and somewhat abrupt nature, Heiji... well, he could be really, really sweet sometimes. Maybe that was part of the reason she felt the way she did about him. He was really a softie underneath it all. Way, way, deep, underneath it all.

"Ow!" Heiji squinted his eyes shut and shot a look of mock anger at the little girl, who'd just tweaked his nose.

Miyuko-chan laughed again, and started babbling in her baby-talk.

"Didn't understand a single word of that, kid," Heiji said, but he was smiling all the same.

Kazuha took a spoonful of soup, and subconsciously smiled. It tasted delicious. Once you got past the crudely cut carrots and chicken, it tasted perfect. She wondered how he'd react if she told Kudo-kun that he'd made this.

For the second time, "Ow!" escaped Heiji's lips. Kazuha tilted her head questioningly to look at the two of them, and a large smile formed on her mouth. Miyuko-chan had awkwardly clambered on top of Heiji and had given his hair a firm, and undoubtedly painful tug. She watched as he carefully pried her fingers away from his locks.

She took another spoonful of soup and watched them.

"Heiji," she called, feeling decidedly giddy.

"What?"

"Thanks. For, you know. Making me soup."

He reacted just as she knew he would. A careless wave of the hand. A soft curving up of the lips. "Just get better."

"I will."

/-/

By the time Neechan and Kudo had gotten home, Miyuko-chan had already been picked up by her mom, who'd thanked him profusely with a box of take-out. Heiji had almost laughed at the gesture, but had graciously accepted the box.

"Thanks again," Neechan told him. "For taking care of her last minute. How was she?"

Heiji shrugged indifferently. "No problem at all."

"She adored Heiji," Kazuha said, and then paused to cough, which caused the green-eyed detective to glare at her.

"And she -" Heiji jabbed a finger accusingly at the ponytailed girl, "is sick."

"Sick, as in, a fever sick?" Kudo questioned, glancing at Kazuha.

"Well - no," Heiji admitted, reluctantly, "but still! She's sick! Sick, sick, sick!"

"It's a cold, Hattori, she'll live," Kudo told him, rolling his eyes. "It's normal."

"You're right," Heiji said, much too sweetly, "she hasn't shrunken into a little kid yet."

Kudo glared.

"Anyway," Heiji went on, pointedly ignoring Kudo's death glare, "that doesn't change the fact that Kazuha is sick. So, go back to sleep!"

"Heiji!" Kazuha was whining now. "I already took a nap, didn't I? What were your exact words? 'You were out for nearly two hours.' Stupid."

"Still," he insisted.

"Hattori, leave her alone. Just make sure she eats plenty, takes some medicine, and gets lots of rest. She'll be better in no time."

"Are you on her side?" Heiji exclaimed, now rounding on the Detective of the East.

"Of course, because she's not a raging idiot." Kudo stated, bluntly. "You know, Hattori, I've always wondered about you, but really.."

"Oh, Shinichi," Neechan said, shaking her head, "he's just worried about her -"

Heiji nodded vehemently.

" - like a caring boyfriend should."

Heiji promptly fell out of his chair. Taking the chair with him.

Kazuha glanced down at him. "Oh, Heiji, don't break Ran-chan's chair. You've already eaten all of her food." Then she looked back up at Neechan, "and, he's not my boyfriend."

"It's so nice to know you care." Heiji picked himself up off the floor and lifted the chair into its upright position. "By the way, Neechan, I was looking for some medicine for Kazuha but I couldn't find any.."

"Oh." Neechan began rummaging through the cabinets in the kitchen. "As in, cough syrup?"

"Sure."

Kazuha made a face beside him, but didn't argue any further. Heiji was forced to look smug. At least, he thought, she knew that she was sick and she admitted it. Neechan put a bottle of cough syrup on the counter and Heiji snatched it away before Kazuha could take a look at him. She sighed, a long-suffering and pointedly loud sigh.

"One dose every four hours," he read.

"I can read, you know," Kazuha told him, irritatedly. "I'm not a baby."

"You just ate, so here, take some." He brandished the bottle at her face, and she grabbed it roughly from him.

"I can take care of myself," she said, green eyes narrowed, "I don't need you hovering over my back twenty-four hours a day, making sure I'm eating right and sleeping and resting."

"Yes, you do," Heiji said, bluntly, "if I'm not there to make sure you do all of that, you won't take care of yourself and will end up getting sicker. It's winter, for god's sake, Kazuha, it's freezing cold outside."

"Gahh," she said, throwing her hands up exasperatedly and twisting the cap off the bottle of medicine. Heiji watched, scrutinizing her as she poured out the right amount into the medicine cup. Behind him, he could see Kudo snickering at their antics.

When she had taken her dose, Heiji pointed to her bedroom. "Now sleep."

"I just slept!"

"Well, go sleep some more!"

"Heiji," Kazuha began, very slowly, and threateningly, "if you don't lighten up I'm going to take your cap -" for added effect, she reached over and snatched his cap from his head, causing him to grope for it and miss, "and flush it down the toilet."

Heiji stared her down.

She stared back evenly.

Heiji blinked.

Damn.

She smirked.

He reached over and took the cap from her grasp and safely put it back on his head. "Well, go lie down or something, then. Watch T.V. Read."

Kazuha stuck her tongue out at him in reply. "Fine." And stomped over to the couch.

"Cute," Kudo chuckled, "really cute, the two of you."

Neechan laughed as well, and ventured towards the stove. A thoughtful look spread across her face and she blinked. "What's this?" she asked, lifting off the cover of the pot that contained the soup Heiji had made. "Soup?"

"Oh, yeah." Heiji was all too keenly aware of the teasing expression on Kudo's face. "Hope you don't mind. I made it, since someone's sick."

"Of course not." Neechan waved it off.

Kudo arched an eyebrow. "You made soup, Hattori? You cooked? And the kitchen hasn't been burnt into the ground?"

Heiji glared.

"I think it's sweet," Neechan interrupted, "that you made soup for Kazuha-chan."

Kudo snorted, and Heiji wished he had his katana.

/-/

The next day, Aoko-chan and Kuroba-kun paid a visit. Heiji, of course, had loudly announced that someone was sick and that she should be getting as much rest as she could. Aoko-chan had expressed some slight concern, and Kuroba-kun had simply snirked at him.

"Worried? I wouldn't blame you. She is your girlfriend, after all."

Heiji glared. "She's not my girlfriend."

"You're practically married, and you know it."

"No, we're not!"

Kazuha chose this moment - because she knew it would be funny - to stick her head out from the bathroom. "Heiji!" she called, "were you the last one in here?"

"What -" Heiji paused in his bickering with Kuroba-kun, "yes! Why?"

Kazuha crossed her arms over her chest. "Don't you know to put the toilet seat down?"

"I -" A red blush spread over his face, and at this point, Kuroba-kun was rolling on the floor in sheer laughter. Kudo-kun was practically in hysterics from his vantage point on the couch.

"Good one," Aoko-chan mouthed from her position on the chair, and Ran-chan flashed her a thumbs up. Kazuha giggled and curtsied in reply, closing the door behind her. As soon as she did so, she exhaled, closed her eyes briefly, and then examined herself in the mirror. She looked normal enough, and Heiji hadn't made too big of a fuss earlier this morning. However, inside, she felt awful. Tired. She wanted to climb back into bed, but if she did, then Heiji would definitely know that something was up, and she did not - did not - want that to happen.

She coughed again, wincing at how harsh it sounded. Then again, she thought, she always did catch a cold around this time of year, somehow.. Washing her hands in the sink, she realized she'd forgotten to take her medicine, and made a mental note to do so when she got out.

Heiji was in a heated discussion with Kudo-kun and Kuroba-kun about exactly why the Kaitou KID never got caught and overheard little snippets of the conversation... but mostly she was aware of getting the bottle of cough syrup where she'd left it last night, and then pouring out the right amount in the little medicine cup..

And then the room began to spin and she began to feel lightheaded. Oh, crud. This couldn't be good. She groped for the wall and leaned against it, closing her eyes, taking deep breaths, and struggling to regain her composure.

Please, she thought, just...oh, whatever is happening to me, just STOP. Right now.

" -zuha? Kazuha!"

Ooh, boy, those people were looking really fuzzy and blurry. And pink. Why were they pink? Huh..

Hey, now they were green..

Heiji..?

Kazuha blinked rapidly, and shook herself out of the trance she'd just gone into. She reached out to hold onto something to steady herself, and got a fistful of clothing.

"Ooookay," she said, a little hazily. "That was weird. But I'm okay. Really."

"Bullshit." Kazuha jerked at the sound. It was Heiji's voice, but it sounded so unlike him at the same time.. "You nearly passed out, you idiot!"

"..." Kazuha didn't argue - mainly because she knew that he was right. She hated to admit it, but.. ugh. And then, maybe it was the fever taking over, but she decided to just kind of lean forward, just a little bit, so that her forehead was against his shoulder and she could still smell the soap he'd used from his bath..

"Kazuha?" What was that emotion in his voice? It sounded so foreign. Was it actually concern? Because that's what it sounded like, but why on earth would it be so blatantly obvious in Heiji's voice? He never spoke to her like that..

"Tired," she murmured, not really caring how he'd react anymore.

"You're burning up," he said, more quietly now. "Go back to bed."

"But - Aoko-chan, and -"

"Go back to bed," Heiji repeated, firmly. "I'll bring you your medicine." She felt one of his arms hesitantly embrace her around the back, and it made her feel tingly inside. "Just get better."

At this point, Kazuha regained enough common sense to push away from her childhood friend. She swallowed. "Right." Before turning the hallway that would lead her to her room, she faced her friends, "Hey, I'm sorry -"

"None of that," Ran-chan told her, shaking her head resolutely. "You go back and rest."

"It's fine," Aoko-chan added, "you just make sure you get better, okay?"

Kazuha managed a weak smile and nodded.

/-/

"And you guys," Heiji began, staring at everyone in the kitchen and living room, "need to go out."

"Out?" Kudo arched an eyebrow. "Why's that?"

"Because that's what you guys were going to do originally, wasn't it?" Heiji shot him a Look. "Kazuha's already feeling guilty enough about being sick as it is; she'd most likely want you to go out and have fun."

"Makes sense," Kuroba conceded. "What about you?"

"Me?" Heiji pointed to himself as if it were the most obvious thing in the world. "I'm staying here, of course." At their arched eyebrows and pointed Looks, "hey, it's only because Kazuha can never take care of herself. You don't honestly want a sick bridesmaid on your hands, do you?"

Neechan smiled. "We get it, Hattori-kun. We're leaving. If you need us, just call Shinichi's cell, all right?"

"Hn." Heiji nodded, and watched as they grabbed their coats, waved goodbye, and exited the door. Heiji shuffled over to the door and locked it, just in case. And now that that was all done and over - well, he wasn't quite sure what to do anymore. T.V., maybe? T.V. was good. He plopped down on the couch, fumbled for the remote, and went around the channels.

It was a cough - a soft cough, but Heiji wasn't a detective for nothing - that caused him to stand up and turn to her. Kazuha. He took in her disheveled appearance - she'd let down her hair and it was ruffled from her sleep; she'd also changed into her pajamas - and inwardly cringed at her slightly flushed face.

"I'm feeling a lot better," she informed him, before he could open his mouth. "So save it."

"You're not going anywhere. You're staying in here," he told her.

An annoyed look flittered across her features. "I know," she said. "But I'm hungry."

Heiji was instantly at the kitchen. "What do you want?"

She paused, thinking. "Chocolate chip cookies."

Heiji facefaulted. "Cookies? Kazuha, you need more nutritious foods, you idiot. Soup?"

"I already ate all of your soup," she snapped. "I want cookies."

"What? The kind from a box?" Heiji felt rather like an idiot at this point, but if she was craving cookies, he might as well give it to her. Because denying a sick and possibly PMS-ing Kazuha cookies was basically pure suicide.

"No," she answered, shaking her head. "I want a fresh batch."

Heiji blinked. "You want me to... cook?"

"Yes." She nodded, crossing her arms over her chest. "Surely the oh-so-great Detective of the West can bake a batch of cookies."

"Idiot," he said, halfheartedly. He opened the freezer and found a container of cookie dough. "Lucky for you Neechan's got this. Now what do I do..?"

"Men," Kazuha said, rolling her eyes. She turned her head to the side and let out a short cough before turning back to him. "You open up the can, cut up the dough into small pieces, and stick it in the oven. There are instructions on the side."

"I know that," Heiji said, exasperatedly. He cut open the can and popped out the freezing cold cookie dough. "Ouch!" he yelped, throwing it carelessly on the floor. Kazuha stared down at it, and then back to him.

"Moron," she said.

"Shut up," he muttered, picking it up and depositing it on a plate. He found a knife and haphazardly cut it into awkward pieces. Kazuha, leaning over the counter, whacked his arm.

"Whaat?" he exclaimed, nearly dropping the knife.

"Can't you cut any better than that?" she demanded. "God. It looks like a three year old got a hold of an axe and decided to go on a cutting spree. You won the kendo tournament, didn't you?"

"Using a wooden sword to attack a human being is quite different from using a knife to cut cookie dough," Heiji told her, stiffly.

"Yeah, yeah.." Kazuha waved him off.

"Pah," came Heiji's reply as he went in search of a baking sheet. Quickly finding what he was looking for, he placed all the cut pieces of cookie dough on the baking sheet. Then he threw them in the oven and set the temperature and timer. By this time, Kazuha had stolen the remote control and the T.V. Heaving a sigh, he washed his hands and sat down next to her.

"So Ran-chan and everyone went out?" she asked him, while channel-surfing.

"Yep."

"Why didn't you go along?"

"Why?" He stared at her as if she had just grown an extra head. "Well, because of you, stupid. You can't take care of yourself at all. Someone's got to do it."

"..." He noticed a light pink flush covering her cheeks, and he was fairly certain it wasn't because of her fever. Then, why? Why was it there? Was it a blush? Yes, it was a blush. But people didn't blush for no reason at all, right? There had to be a reason. Why was she blushing..?

"Thanks, then," she said, sounding a little awkward. As he shifted to look at her, she looked up at him and met his eyes. Green met green, and Heiji was vaguely aware of something fluttering in his chest.

"For what?" he asked, feeling... breathless, and - and flustered - and, and something else too, but he wasn't sure what it was..

"For staying with me, dummy," she answered, but she was smiling anyway, a brilliant smile. "And for baking me cookies. And, oh, for putting up with me, I guess." Her eyes softened and Heiji found himself lost within them.

And then, all of a sudden, in the middle of everything... it just clicked.

It would be impossible to describe exactly how it happened - but it was like he had finally found the missing clue in a flash of lightning. Lining it up with all the other clues had been easy, and after reasoning everything out, after going through the different possibilities... After throwing out all the other impossibilities... He was suddenly faced with a clear-cut answer in the face. Blinding him. Shutting everything out.

It seemed so stupid, really..

But at the same time, it made perfect sense, too..

But.. really? Could it - Could it actually be?

She - She - She...

"Heiji?" She tugged on his sleeve. "Hey, are you all right?"

He blinked. He opened his mouth to answer -

Ding.

The cookies, a practical voice in his head told him, the cookies are done.

"The cookies," he echoed, "the cookies are done." Much like a robot, he mechanically stood up and walked over to the kitchen. He was only semiconscious as he found some oven mitts and took the cookies out of the oven. Click. A turn of the knob to switch off the oven. Opening the cabinets and finding a plate. Putting the cookies on a plate. Washing the baking sheet. Drying his hands. Going out into the living room to give her the plate. Sitting down next to her.

Watching her.

Could it really be?

"These are good!" she said, taking a bite out of a round and chocolatey cookie. "I'm surprised that you didn't somehow botch it."

"Yeah.." He couldn't even come up with a biting retort anymore. All he could do was stare, and wonder..

Shit.

He couldn't take it anymore. He - He needed to - to get out of here. To do anything. To just sit and think.

"Heiji, are you sure you're all right?" Concerned green eyes met his, and he bit his lip, hard, so that he could taste blood.

"Bathroom," he answered, already leaping off the couch and going inside the said room. The last thing he saw before locking the door was her bewildered face, a cookie halfway in her mouth. Taking a few deep breaths to calm himself down, he groped in his pockets for his cell phone. He dialed a familiar number and waited for the person on the other end to pick up.

"Hello?"

"Kudo?" Heiji was frantic. "Kudo?"

"Hattori?" The voice on the other end sounded surprised, and odd. "Hattori, what's up?"

Heiji closed his eyes, and murmured something that was barely audible to Kudo on the other end. But Kudo heard, all right, and Heiji could clearly hear the sounds of him dropping his cell phone on the floor.

"Got it," Kudo said, "and don't you dare do anything stupid, Hattori!" Before hanging up.

Heiji blinked. Don't do anything stupid? What the hell was that? He had been expecting a bigger response...

He leaned against the door, too afraid to go out.

/-/

Meanwhile, as the girls entered the thirtieth clothing store they'd been into, Shinichi numbly put his cell phone back in his pocket and grabbed Kuroba by the shoulders.

"Kuroba," he began, "we have to go home. Right now."

"Hrm?" The previous Phantom Thief blinked curiously at the detective of the east. "What is it?"

Shinichi then proceeded to relay the message.

Kuroba gulped. "Yeah. We do need to go home right now."

/-/

Kazuha had bitten into her fourth cookie, pointedly ignoring the shrill voice in her head that was telling her to stop-eating-those-cookies-dammit! when the front door burst open. The cookie was in her hand, and she blinked, taking in rather calmly the fact that Kudo-kun and Kuroba-kun were red-faced and looking decidedly ruffled. Well, that was odd, she thought, because Kudo-kun and Kuroba-kun were two of the most composed people she knew.

"Where is he?" Kudo-kun asked, panting.

"Who?" Kazuha repeated, noticing that Ran-chan and Aoko-chan had trailed in behind the boys, looking equally befuddled.

"Hattori," Kudo-kun replied.

"Bathroom," Kazuha automatically answered, vaguely noticing that Heiji had been in the bathroom for a really long time.

" 'kay, thanks," Kuroba-kun said, and the two boys bounded for the said room. Kazuha gazed after them thoughtfully, then shook her head and went back to her cookies.

"You want some?" she asked the two girls, offering the plate.

"Sure, thanks," Aoko-chan said, as she and Ran-chan proceeded to take off their shoes. They clambered onto the sofa on either side of her.

"How have you been?" Ran-chan asked her.

"So-so," Kazuha said, waving her hand to emphasize her point. "Watched T.V., mostly, got Heiji to bake these cookies, and then he spent the rest of the time in the bathroom for some odd reason. How about you guys?"

"Bought some clothes," Aoko-chan said, pointing to the bags she and Ran-chan had dropped near the door. "But for some reason, Kaito and Kudo-kun insisted on coming back home in the middle of it. I have no idea why.."

The three girls simultaneously shrugged their shoulders in an almost comical gesture.

"Men," Ran-chan said, rolling her eyes, and the other two girls agreed.

/-/

"Wait a minute," Kuroba said, staring at him as if he was only seeing Heiji clearly for the first time. "Tell us, again, exactly what you said on the phone?"

Heiji exhaled, sitting himself down on the toilet lid, "I - It was - It was just really, really weird - I mean, for the longest time, I'd had this sort of - this sort of feeling, that something weird was going on, but everytime I started thinking about it, I couldn't figure out what the hell it was! And then - today. Today, it was just - I mean - I was just sitting there on the couch, next to Kazuha - and - and all of a sudden it just came to me! I don't know how the hell I suddenly figured it out, but I did - and then -" He slumped down, helpless. "And -"

"And?" Kudo prompted.

The last words came out in a whisper: "And... And I think... I think that Kazuha is... is in love with me."

There was dumbfounded silence as his reply. After a few moments, he couldn't take it anymore, and he glanced up at them.

Kuroba was the first to speak, "You only think she's in love with you? God, it's as obvious as... as -"

"As your skin coloring," Kudo supplied, helpfully.

"Yeah, thanks," Kuroba turned to him, grinning.

Heiji goggled. "What the hell? I just told you -that- and all you can do is grin at each other?"

"Well.." Kudo scratched his head and stared at him. "Truthfully, Hattori, I don't really see the big deal. I mean, all you've done is figure out what we've already known for the longest time."

Heiji decided to ignore the fact that they'd known about this for longer than he had, and hadn't seen fit to tell him about it. "What am I supposed to do?" he burst out. "I can't just - go out there and pretend that nothing has happened!"

"What are you talking about?" Kudo furrowed his brow at him. "You go out there, and tell her that you love her, too!"

Deathly silence greeted these words.

Kudo and Kuroba exchanged ominous looks.

"Hey," Kuroba said, kneeling down so that he was at Heiji's level, "you are in love with her. Aren't you?"

"I - I -" Heiji spread his arms out helplessly. "I don't know!"

Kudo and Kuroba took a series of deep, deep breaths to calm themselves down.

"What do you mean, YOU DON'T KNOW?" Heiji couldn't remember seeing Kudo this riled up before, except for the times Neechan had been in life-threatening danger.

Somehow, this only served to make the dark-skinned teen angrier and more frustrated. "I said, I DON'T KNOW!" He lost his steam as quickly as it had come, burying his head in his hands. "Dammit. Dammit. Dammit..." He looked up at them, painfully lost. "I've never been good at all this stuff, okay? Feelings and emotions and all. All this time, I just thought of her as my best friend. Always there, nagging me and never leaving me alone. I thought we were just friends, strictly platonic. And now, now that all of this has happened... crap, what the hell am I supposed to do?"

Kuroba spoke now, voice oddly understanding. "Well, it's time for you to sort out your feelings, that's all."

Heiji looked at him. "How does that work?"

Kuroba glanced up at Kudo. "You take over. You're both detectives and mystery freaks; you'll get through to him better than I can."

Kudo rolled his eyes but stepped closer to Heiji anyway. "I still can't believe that you haven't figured it out," he muttered, "what do you think you feel for Toyama-san, then? Surely you feel something for her? Anything."

"I told you," Heiji snapped, "friendship. I always thought of her as my friend, that's it."

"So why are you freaking out over finding out that she loves you?"

"Well, what am I supposed to tell her? 'Hey, Kazuha, I know that you love me, and that's just peachy' isn't really going to cut it, Kudo!"

And then Kudo was scrutinizing him with those piercing blue eyes of his. Heiji recognized it as the sort of glare he'd give a potential suspect, and couldn't help feeling a bit intimidated. Then his eyes lit up, and again, Heiji realized that he must have solved it, figured out a way to help him, and leaned forward in anticipation.

"I want you to just sit back and close your eyes," Kudo said.

Heiji shot him a Look. "What?"

"Just do it," the other detective insisted.

"You're not going to kiss me, are you?"

"I wouldn't do that even for all the money in the world, Hattori," the blue-eyed detective said dryly.

Heiji scowled - although he was relieved - and did as he was told.

"I want you to picture yourself at another murder case," Kudo said. "Picture it in your head, you got it?" At Heiji's nod, he went on, "and you're going around the murder scene, investigating every single thing you can lay your hands on. Interviewing people close to the victim. Okay? And then finally, you've found the missing piece, the tiny, almost invisible clue that solves the case for you. You stand up, and you begin your deduction.

"You're going along, explaining everything, pointing to the clues you've picked up along the way. And finally, you point to the person that you believe is the murderer -" Kudo pauses for effect, and Heiji imagines himself at the murder case, feeling the blood rush and the sheer adrenaline.. " - when who but Mouri Kogoro bursts in, telling you that your deduction is completely wrong."

Heiji tensed.

"And the old man goes on to explain what he thinks really happened - fully conscious, with no shrunken little kid to help him out, might I add - and as he points out other pieces of evidence that you hadn't noticed, you realize, with sudden comprehension, that you are all wrong, and that the old man has completely shown you up.

"Now, this has been a big, high-profile case. Your father is there. The news reporters are all there. They have all been there to witness that the Detective of the West has lost - to the famous Sleeping Kogoro."

"Oi!" Heiji burst out, thoroughly annoyed, but Kudo quickly cut him off.

"Shush," he said, sternly, "and listen."

Heiji growled.

"The next day, it's all over the papers, all over the news. The Detective of the West is a complete wash-out, the headlines say, he has lost to Sleeping Kogoro. No one will hire you anymore. Your previous reputation as a brilliant young detective is gone, replaced with a foul one. No one listens to you anymore. The Detective of the West - is gone."

"Now, just hold -"

"Be quiet, will you?" Kudo whacked him across the head for good measure. "If that were to actually happen in real life, how would you feel?"

"Like hell," the dark-skinned boy ground out through gritted teeth. "Let that bumbling fool beat me? I don't think so."

"So you'd feel pretty pissed, wouldn't you?" Kudo continued as though he hadn't heard him. "And just plain awful, right? I know I would."

Heiji was silent. "Yeah," he finally admitted. "I mean, solving mysteries - it's just - well -"

Kudo actually chuckled. "I know. Nothing like it, huh?"

Kuroba cleared his throat loudly. "If you detective freaks are done..."

"Tch," Kudo said, waving him off. "All right, Hattori - now remember that. That feeling that's going through you, like nothing could be worse. You can't solve mysteries anymore. You've been beaten by Mouri Kogoro. Doesn't get any worse than that, does it?"

"No.."

Kudo went on. "So imagine if Toyama Kazuha left you.. and you never saw her again." He clapped a hand on Heiji's shoulder, and his voice dropped. "Now, you tell me. Which hurts more?"

Which hurts more?

And quite suddenly, his heart knew the answer, and he gulped audibly. He was frightened, gods, yes, but he knew. He knew.

"I get it now," Heiji said, softly.

/-/

Three more days until the wedding.

With so little time left, Kazuha was beginning to experience the full giddiness of the entire situation. It was obvious that Ran-chan was, too, with that dreamy grin on her lips every waking second of the day. But Kazuha simply smiled, fully happy for her friend.

But, there were always due to be some problems in paradise. Kazuha rolled her eyes. And today, her problems were in the form of a certain person named Hattori Heiji.

There was something seriously wrong with him. Okay, Kazuha thought, there was always something - something - wrong with him, usually in the mental department, but these days - ugh! He wasn't even acting like himself anymore! And - and he'd taken to avoiding her, which was a bright red flag. Because the only times Heiji avoided her were if he'd seriously screwed up, big time. But what could he have possibly done this time? They'd spent the entire time inside Ran-chan's house.. Surely, he couldn't have done something from in here..

"What could be wrong?" she murmured to herself. She sat on the carpeted floor, glancing outside the window of her room. It was early in the morning, around five A.M., and the skies were dark and starless. Something about the entire scene soothed the ponytailed young woman, and she opened the window, just slightly, to let the crisp breeze flow into the room.

That was when she heard them.

Voices.

Now... Kazuha furrowed her brow and impatiently brushed a strand of hair that had fallen into her face. She was no detective like Heiji or Kudo-kun, but hearing voices outside her door at five in the morning was a sure sign that something weird was definitely going on. Only pausing to think about it for about two seconds, the young woman silently crept across the floor to her door, where she noticed that there was light flooding in from the crack between the door and the floor.

And hushed voices, masculine voices. Voices that were familiar, and that only served to pique her curiousity. She pressed her ear to the door in order to hear better.

"...and what," a voice that sounded suspiciously like Kudo-kun's, "do you think you're doing?"

"What?" That was definitely Heiji's voice, and he sounded irritated.

"I've seen you avoiding her, Hattori," Kudo-kun went on, and it sounded like he was struggling not to yell, "you've been ducking around corners just so you won't have to look at her. What are you thinking?"

"I'm just - I'm just not ready - not yet, anyway. Okay?"

"Oh, for -" Kudo-kun let out a loud and frustrated sigh. "This should be easy, Hattori. You've been given a gift!"

"A gift, you say." Kazuha heard Heiji snort. "What about you? It took you this long to go up to Neechan and declare your undying love for her -"

"That's because I wasn't sure she felt the same way!" Kudo-kun retorted. "Anyway, it was a lot easier when I realized she loved me back! Look at you, you know that she feels the same way about you - I don't see what the problem is."

"The fact is, I'm not ready!" Heiji burst out, probably louder than he intended to becaues there was a sudden, sharp drop in volume. "And dammit, Kudo, you're not making me say anything before I am fully ready, got it?"

"FINE." The word was ground out harshly. "Now hurry up and let's get back. It's your fault you ran out here and made me chase you.."

"Pfhh," came the offhanded reply, and Kazuha leaned against the door as she heard their footsteps fade away.

Well... now what in the world had that exchange been? It sounded like Kudo-kun had been trying to get Heiji to tell someone something... and something extremely important, from the sound of it. And - it was something about Heiji telling a girl something, and that the girl felt the same way, and why was it so hard for Heiji to tell this girl whatever it was he needed to say, and -

Kazuha clapped a hand to her mouth.

This... This meant that... that...

Heiji was in love with someone! And Kudo-kun was trying to get him to confess his feelings to this mystery girl, but Heiji was too afraid to, apparently - "not ready" my ass, she scoffed - and - was this the reason why he'd been acting so odd lately? That - that jerk! He - How could he...

How could he?

And the tears fell before she had a chance to stop them.

He's my best friend, she thought to herself angrily, how could he not bother to tell me when he's in love with someone? I have to meet this mystery girl of his. Bet she's some skinny slut he found off the streets...

A sob escaped her mouth. No. That wasn't it. She was probably a beautiful, mature young woman, much more intelligent than she herself could ever hope to be. He could probably discuss mystery novels with her without having to slow down and explain the finer details. Like he had to do with her.

How could he?

She climbed back into her bed and drew the covers up to her chin.

How could he fall in love with somebody other than me?

/-/

"Oh, Ran-chan," Kazuha admonished her friend and stepped into the kitchen, deftly taking away the knife from her. "You're about to get married! I'll take care of it."

"Kazuha-chan!" Ran-chan protested, but Kazuha wouldn't hear of it. "...oh, fine."

"Ran?" Kudo-kun poked his head of his room, a cell phone in his right hand. "My parents are here and they want us to pick them up at the airport. I can do it myself, but they wanted to see you.."

"I'd love to see them," Ran-chan answered, already smiling. "But I'll have to leave Kazuha-chan.."

"Absolutely no problem," Kazuha told her firmly. "You go and I'll have lunch ready when you get back. Or go and eat out, it doesn't matter."

"Thank yooou," Ran-chan chirped, giving her a quick hug before bounding off to change.

Which left her alone with Kudo-kun. Heiji was still, most likely, asleep. He'd always been a late riser, anyway. Thinking back to the conversation she'd overheard earlier this morning, Kazuha cleared her throat. Now or never, right?

"Kudo-kun?"

Kudo-kun raised his head - he'd been glancing down at a newspaper - to look at her. "Toyama-san?"

Kazuha continued to smile pleasantly. "Were you and Heiji up at around five this morning? Because I happened to be awake at that time, and I heard voices outside my door.."

If it weren't for the fact that Kazuha had been carefully scrutinizing him for any betrayal in his facial expression, she would have missed the fact that he'd actually blanched. Then it was gone, replaced with a cool mask of indifference. "Oh, that.." He scratched his head and even had the nerve, Kazuha thought inwardly, to shoot her a sheepish grin. "I got up in the middle of the night and was really hungry, but I didn't turn on the light because I didn't want to wake up anybody. The only thing is, Hattori was also awake at the time, and in the darkness, we ended up bumping into each other. That's all." He grinned again. "Sorry."

"Oh, that's okay." Kazuha kept that pleasant smile plastered onto her face. "I was just wondering, that's all."

Inwardly, she was fuming. How dare he lie openly, right to her face? No matter. She'd crack Heiji, that's for sure..

Ran-chan emerged from her room, changed into pants and a thick jacket. Immediately after she'd re-entered the room, Heiji exited his room, hair mussed from sleep.

"Oi, Hattori," Kudo-kun called. "Ran and I are going out for a bit to meet my parents. Don't burn down the house." And then, he mouthed the words - very subtly, but Kazuha had caught them, and it looked like he'd been telling him to "Watch-your-back!", which caused Kazuha to frown deeply.

"Shinichi," Ran-chan said, rolling her eyes. "We'll be back soon," she told them, following him out the door. Kazuha watched as the door swung shut, and resumed her stance at the chopping board, cutting the carrots into small pieces.

Heiji went straight for the cereal in Ran-chan's pantry, and Kazuha shot him an exasperated look. He ignored it. Actually... and as minutes passed, Kazuha's temper rose, Heiji hadn't even looked at her in the time that he'd been right there, in her face.

"Heiji," she called.

"Mm?" Not even bothering to look up at her.

Oookay. That was it. Her temper - infamously short with Heiji as it was - had reached its limit, and she threw her knife down on the cutting board, producing a loud sound. That, at least, had caused him to turn around to see her. "What are you doing?" he asked, bewildered.

"I," Kazuha began, positively livid, "am so sick and tired of you. What is wrong with you? What do you see me as? Just some friend that you want and will only talk to when you feel like it? That's not the definition of friendship, Hattori Heiji! You've been acting all - all weird the past couple of days! Avoiding me! Have I gotten uglier over the past two days? Have I gotten fatter? What? What? And -" she barreled on before he was given the chance to interrupt, "I heard you this morning! Outside my door, both you and Kudo-kun, arguing! About - about some girl, to boot! Who in the world is this girl? And why haven't you told me about her? You tell Kudo-kun about her, and he's trying to get you to confess your love to her - and - and who the hell is she?" She finished the question with a loud shriek, and then, suddenly reverting back to her normal self, began chopping up the carrots again.

He had stood up. Well, she thought bitterly, at least that had elicited a reaction from him.

"It's not that," he said, quietly.

"Oho, 'it's not that', he says," Kazuha said, throwing her hands up in the air and as a result brandishing her kitchen knife in a very dangerous fashion. "Well, then, Mr. Detective, what is it?"

The atmosphere changed drastically, and the next thing she knew, Heiji was standing right next to her, closer than he'd ever been before. He wasn't looking at her, and there was a slight pink tinge on his cheeks. "The thing is -" he began, completely flustered, "the thing is -"

Kazuha's heart was pounding her chest, and a new meaning sprung into light about the conversation she'd overheard. Could it be that... Could it be that the girl they'd been talking about, the girl that Heiji loved... was... was her?

Was he actually going to... confess... his... his love?

To her?

Her face turned completely red.

And Heiji still hadn't gotten any further - "The thing is," he kept stuttering, "the thing is..."

"Yes?" Heart still thudding furiously in her chest. But - this had been the moment she'd been waiting for since practically forever, and she wasn't about to let it slide by.

"I feel - I -"

"Yes?" she repeated, prodding him.

"It's just that, I think -"

And then the door burst open, revealing Kuroba-kun and a slightly ruffled-looking Aoko-chan.

"There's been a murder," Kuroba-kun said, casually, "in the nearby coffee shop. Thought I'd come and let the famous detectives know."

"A murder?" Heiji jerked his head up in surprise. "Kudo's not here; I'll go take a look.."

"What?" Kazuha couldn't help it; the word just fell out of her. "You're just going..?" What about his entire confession? What had happened? What had gone so terribly wrong?

"Well, obviously, dummy." And for a moment there, things had gone back to normal between the two of them. "There's been a murder, after all."

"But - But -" and her temper shot up again, "Dammit!" she exploded, swinging her extremely sharp kitchen knife around, barely missing Heiji's face - and truthfully, at this point, she didn't really care. She was also vaguely aware of releasing the Great Evil Kazuha Demon-Head of Doomâ„¢ as she blew up, "DO YOU ATTRACT DEAD BODIES OR WHAT?" Arms, holding knife, still flailing around in the air.

Heiji's eyes widened, "Ka - Kazuha -"

Suddenly she realized what she was doing, and her arms fell, limp, at her sides. She let out a sigh. What was she doing?

"Just - Just go," she said, defeated.

"You - You sure?" Heiji asked, uncertain, though Kazuha noticed out of the corner of her eye that he'd already started backing away from her. Feh.

"Go before I change my mind," she told him, bluntly.

He didn't need to be told twice. He quickly escaped, Kuroba-kun on his heels. After a beat, Aoko-chan stepped hesitantly into the kitchen.

"You okay?" she asked.

Kazuha flung the knife into the sink. "Why are men such idiots?" she asked, desperately.

Aoko-chan held her arms out and gently embraced the other girl. "That's a mystery we'll never figure out," she replied.

/-/

Sometime after that, Kaito flipped open his cell-phone and called Kudo - or, like he usually called him, Shin-chan, because he liked to live dangerously. After a few rings on the other end, the Detective of the West picked up.

"There's been a murder over here," Kaito greeted him cheerfully.

"What?"

"It's fine - Hei-chan is doing his thing, and I'm supposed to stand in the background and not touch anything." Kaito inserted a bit of sniffling into his voice. "Incidentally, I think I walked in on a private moment between him and Toyama-chan."

The other end was silent. "...what do you mean?"

"Uh, well, he was looking at her - you know, looking at her, and she was blushing, and they were standing pretty close together. I think that he was actually going to tell her."

"Huh." An exhale on the other line. "What exactly happened?"

"Uhm..." Kaito trailed off thoughtfully. "Oh, you know. Hei-chan just absolutely had to rush off to the murder scene, leaving Toyama-chan to pretty much rant and yell at him. By the way, have you ever seen Hei-chan's little trick? Where he makes his head grow all big and scary-like?"

"You mean the Great Evil Heiji Demon-Head of Doomâ„¢? Yeah."

"Have you seen Toyama-chan's version of that? Complete with her brandishing a knife, rather violently, at Hei-chan's head?"

"..." Awkward, almost fearful silence. "...no, can't say that I have."

"Well, then," Kaito said, matter-of-factly, "you haven't seen anything yet."

/-/

Two more days before the big day, Ran had decided that she'd had enough. She'd also called up Aoko-chan and Kuroba-kun, and they had gladly made the trip over to the park nearby where they'd decided they needed to "talk."

"It's high time for some intervention," Ran said, pointedly.

"I agree," Aoko-chan said, immediately.

"But, you know... Hattori can be a little scary when provoked.." Shinichi pointed out.

"Especially with his katana," Kuroba-kun added.

"Then we'll run," Ran told them, rolling her eyes.

This comment earned a snort from each of the two boys.

"We just need to catch them by surprise," Ran went on, ignoring them, "catch them both off-guard. And then do something that not even Hattori-kun could prevent."

"And make sure that his katana or any other object that even remotely resembles a katana is far, far away," Kuroba-kun told them, straightforwardly.

"Yes," Shinichi agreed, wholeheartedly.

"Okay," said Ran, exchanging a bemused look with Aoko-chan, "we'll make sure that his hands are preoccupied at the time. Okay?"

"Good enough for me," Kuroba-kun replied, grinning. "By the way, what did you have in mind?"

A sinister smirk spread across Ran's face. "Well, I was wondering... Kuroba-kun, do you have any handcuffs?"

/-/

"We're a little too old for magic tricks, don't you think?" Heiji said, doubtfully, and Kazuha couldn't help but agree.

"It's fun to go back in time once in a while," Kuroba-kun said smoothly, that easy grin on his face the entire time.

Kazuha's eyebrows twitched. There was something odd going on, she just knew it. But what could it be? She risked a glance at Heiji, who'd still behaved rather oddly around her and refused to even acknowledge the exchange they'd had in the kitchen before Kuroba-kun and Aoko-chan had shown up. Fine, she thought, fuming, if he won't talk about it, then neither will I!

She jerked as a cool, purple satin cloth was dropped over her and Heiji's outstretched hands.

"I swear to god, Kuroba.." Heiji let the threat hang in the air.

"No worries, no worries," Kuroba-kun continued to smile, "I'm very good at what I do, after all."

Heiji snorted loudly.

"This'll be easier if you guys held hands," Kuroba-kun said, mildly.

The mere thought sent Kazuha's heart pounding into overdrive.

"What!"

"You!"

These two statements were blurted out at the exact same time, and if Kazuha had thought to turn to look at Heiji's face, she would have noticed a red-faced expression identical to hers.

"You two are holding hands, not kissing," Kuroba-kun said, chuckling. "Unless, you'd rather do that - I'm sure I could find a way to make it work either way.."

"Shut it," Heiji growled, but he grasped her hand firmly underneath the satin cloth anyway, and Kazuha felt the butterflies in her stomach.

"Got it? Good." Kuroba-kun smirked, and upon seeing it, Kazuha was fleetingly reminded of all the times she'd seen KID on the news. A shiver ran down her spine. This couldn't be good.

And then she felt it - metal. Cold metal, encircled around her left wrist.

"Voila!" Kuroba-kun announced, loudly, grinning all the while. He whipped off the purple cloth with flourish, and Kazuha felt her heart plummet.

Handcuffs.

"What in the hell?" Heiji exploded, violently shaking his wrist, as if by doing so it would magically unlock the handcuffs.

"Ouch, Heiji!" Kazuha said absently, rubbing her wrist and wincing at the red marks Heiji had inadvertently made. She turned to Kuroba-kun. "Look, this is really... well-done, but could you take them off now? Please?"

Heiji glowered at him.

"No can do," Kuroba-kun chirped cheerfully, and Kazuha could only watch in dawning horror as he took a small, silver key - undoubtedly the key to the handcuffs - and -

...and dropped them into his mouth.

...and swallowed.

It all happened in a blur. Heiji leapt for the umbrella that Ran-chan kept by the door, dragging Kazuha along with him, and proceeded to chase the magician around the room, brandishing the umbrella at him with his well-practiced swings. Kuroba-kun avoided them all easily, although Heiji had gotten close to making contact a couple of times.

"This should be easy for you!" Aoko-chan shouted over the clamor.

"I beg to differ!" Kuroba-kun answered, indignantly. "Avoiding a mop is a little different from avoiding an umbrella that's being swung by the winner of the kendo tournament!"

"Heiji!" Kazuha shrieked, thoroughly annoyed at being dragged around like a rag doll. "Enough!"

"Not until -" whoosh, swing - "he gives us back -" fwam! - "sorry about that, Neechan!" - whish - "the key!"

Well, Kazuha hadn't taken aikido for nothing - in what looked like a complicated twist of the wrist, she managed to wrench the umbrella free of Heiji's grip and soundly whacked him on top of the head with it.

"Now, Kuroba-kun." She stared at the former Phantom Thief. "You must have a spare key somewhere."

Kuroba-kun still had the nerve to grin. "Well, these handcuffs here are magical, you know. They won't unlock until you two have solved your problems."

"Bull -" Heiji began, but Kazuha whapped him again with the umbrella.

"We don't have any problems," she went on, very calmly, "we are just fine."

"Kazuha-chan.." Ran-chan had somehow gotten very, very close to the door, "this is really, really for the best. You two need to talk, and we all think that this is the best way -"

"You're having an intervention?" Heiji's mouth had dropped open. "An intervention, Neechan?"

Kazuha's green eyes narrowed dangerously as Kudo-kun and Aoko-chan followed Ran-chan to the door. And she watched as she turned the lock, and then the knob.

"So-we-hope-that-you'll-forgive-us-for-this!" Aoko-chan said hurriedly, and ran out the door.

"Good luck, you two!" Kuroba-kun smirked, and winked, "and by the way, I suggest you close your eyes -" as a cloud of pink smoked covered his retreating form and a flash of blinding light caused Kazuha to automatically turn away.

"A flash bomb," Heiji said, disbelievingly, "I can't believe he actually kept them - no, never mind, I can.."

"Heiji.." Kazuha bit her lip, as the entire situation finally registered in her head. "We're handcuffed together." She raised their intertwined wrists weakly. "I think we're stuck."

Heiji cursed. Loudly.

/-/

Two and a half hours later, the two Osakan teens sat on the couch, as far apart as the handcuffs could allow, defeated. Kazuha had tried her best; Heiji had done everything he could think of, as well. But Kuroba had done something, and they were stuck. STUCK. TOGETHER.

"This is your fault," Kazuha huffed.

"My fault?" Heiji demanded, incredulously. "Tell me, Kazuha, how is this my fault?"

"I haven't figured that out yet," she muttered, under her breath. "But somehow, it is."

"Thanks," he replied, rolling his eyes and sinking down further into the couch. How had things gone so horribly wrong? He didn't need - he hadn't needed this, dammit, he thought, eyeing the handcuffs with distaste. He could've done it perfectly in his own time, without any of their stupid interfering!

He watched as she angrily swiped at the remote with her free right hand and furiously pushed at the buttons. He winced. She was thoroughly pissed. Not that he blamed her, because it wasn't like he was feeling all peachy-keen, either!

The thing was, he reflected, as he gazed at the fuming girl from the corner of his eye, he felt more than just a little... well, overwhelmed by it all. It had happened all too suddenly - and he blamed Kudo for it. Yes. Kudo. Kudo had been the one to help him realize his feelings anyway; if it hadn't been for him, then surely none of this would have happened..

He let out a sigh and buried his face in a nearby pillow. He felt like screaming.

Damn... He closed his eyes. Why was this so hard? It shouldn't have been so hard, he thought bitterly, he'd been to countless of murder scenes; solved all of them - well, nearly all of them, a small voice in the back of his mind said, reminding him of the first time he'd met Kudo - flawlessly... This... god, this should have been a piece of cake!

And then his brain shifted gears. What would happen, he wondered, if, say, he and Kazuha actually did get together? Like Kudo and Neechan; Kuroba and Nakamori-han. Would things change?

Well, obviously, another voice in his head said, dryly, obviously things would change.

But how? Ever since he could remember, Kazuha had always been there... everywhere he looked, every single time he turned around, she was just plain -there-..

His train of thought turned again.. If he'd only realized now of the feelings that he'd felt for her, exactly long had he - well - felt this way?

Well, she is your first love, isn't she?

Heiji vaguely cursed that annoying voice in the back of his mind. His first love... god, he'd been trying to forget about that for so long now. But...well, that had been different, hadn't it? He was younger back then, barely nine years old. And perhaps "first love" had been a little too exaggerated. He'd only seen a younger version of Kazuha back then, dressed up in a kimono and wearing make-up... he'd merely thought she was cute, that was all. It wasn't like he'd fallen for her. "First love." Pah.

No..

Then..., when had he first started having these feelings, then? This was so silly, really. But he was pretty sure that he didn't just suddenly start having these feelings for her! Like that feeling of protectiveness that surged through him whenever he thought she was in danger..

Oh.

Oh, crap.

And then he was fleetingly reminded of a promise that he'd made to himself. Yes... it had been after he'd barely managed to rescue her from that cliff - and he absentmindedly glanced down at the small, faded scar on the back of his right palm - that he'd made that vow... And he remembered being a little startled by the conviction with which he'd made that solemn, solemn promise, I won't let anyone harm you when you're with me...

Not to mention, the whole "first love" thing was still kicking him in the head. Because a stubborn part of him wasn't willing to just let it go to rest. Something about how you-wouldn't-call-her-your-first-love-unless-it-really-meant-something-hah!

Well, then, Heiji thought, rather irritatedly, maybe, somewhere deep inside of him, he'd always known, but had somehow buried it within him, and somehow, seeing her looking so goshdarned cute under those cherry blossoms had sort of triggered something in him... and then, after spending the regular time he always spent with her, the initial shock of realizing that Kazuha had been the one he'd fallen for underneath the swirling blossoms had melted away, and those feelings had faded back into his heart, back into the regular feelings of friendship he'd always felt for her, and...

Oh.

Oh.

Oh.

Oh, god.

His eyes widened as he slowly processed all of this information. Yes. That was it, wasn't it? That was it, that was finally it.

He'd... he'd always known, hadn't he? Somewhere... inside of him, hidden beneath the depths of his heart, he'd always known. She was the one that he always wanted to keep by his side. Despite all the insults they hurled at each other, despite everything he said and did, despite all the times he'd made her cry...

Somewhere, somehow, he'd always known...

Because, after all... wasn't it that friendship and love were so incredibly similar anyway?

Kazuha glanced at him, poking him in the chest for good measure. "Hey, are you okay?" she asked, arching an eyebrow. "You've been spacing out for the past ten minutes."

Ten minutes, was that only the time that had passed? He smiled at her. "Yeah," he said, "I was just thinking, that's all..."

/-/

Inside, Kazuha was raging. She struggled to contain her temper, though, because she thought that perhaps, if she decided to act nice and polite, he would go on and... well, if her instincts were right, confess!

But, goodness, they were already handcuffed to each other, for crying out loud! It couldn't possibly get any worse. It couldn't.

And then she'd opened her mouth, asking him if he was all right. And you know what? He'd smiled at her, smiled at her, and there was something so different in that smile that it made something flutter in the pit of her stomach.

She had always been a slave to her tongue, for she opened her mouth and demanded, shrilly, "Do you remember a couple of nights ago? Where you and Kudo-kun were standing outside of my door, talking?"

She noticed him stiffen. "Yeah," he answered, completely nonchalantly, "Kudo was hungry and went out to the kitchen for a snack. I was hungry, too, but neither of us had bothered to turn on a light. We ended up bumping into each other, that's all."

"Oh?" Kazuha glared. They'd even had the same story, too! "You know, I happened to hear your entire conversation. Outside of my door."

A trickle of sweat rolled down his cheek. "Oh, yeah?"

"Yeah." Kazuha smirked nastily. "And I have a pretty good memory, Heiji. Would you like me to repeat the conversation to you?"

"What are you talking about?" he said, rolling his eyes.

Oho. So he was going to deny it, was he?

"I'm talking about the conversation that you had with Kudo-kun outside my door," she went on, eerily calm. "About you. And a girl. You in love with someone, Heiji? Because that's with it sounded like to me. Kudo-kun was trying to get you to confess, but you 'weren't ready', or so you said -"

"Kazuha." He turned to face her, eyes staring straight through her, "just - just -"

Her heart froze for a moment, and then time went on. Ba-bump, ba-bump.

"What is it?" she asked.

"Why are you doing this?" he asked, and his voice was hoarse with emotion. "Why?"

"I - why?" She was dumbfounded by the question; all she could do was repeat it numbly. "Well, I was just -"

All of a sudden, she wasn't too sure about her theory anymore. There was obviously a girl, and in a fleeting moment of euphoria, she'd thought that she was the one... but.. but..

But what if she wasn't the one?

What if she'd come to the wrong conclusion? What if it had been a different girl? Someone else?

Her heart pounded painfully in her chest.

"Who is it?" she asked, softly. "Who is she?" Blinking back tears furiously, she refused to look him in the eye. "I'm your best friend, aren't I? Couldn't you at least tell me who she is?"

"I - Kazuha, dammit! Are you crying?"

"No!" she yelled, even though the tears were flowing down her cheeks. "Who is she? Who is she, Heiji?"

He opened his mouth to reply, but no sound came out. She hicupped.

"I wish I could tell you," he said, finally, after a tense stretch of silence. "I really, really do, 'zuha.."

"Then why can't you?" she demanded. "Don't you trust me enough? What's the big deal, Heiji?"

He closed his eyes briefly, and Kazuha saw an expression of pain and frustration cross his face. "I wish I knew," he answered, quietly. Kazuha sniffled beside him, refusing to meet his eyes. Even though they were handcuffed to each other, he seemed so far away.

/-/

It was nightfall when Ran finally arrived home, with Shinichi, Kuroba-kun, and Aoko-chan. They stood outside the door, breathing heavily in anticipation. Surely, they had gotten somewhere. The handcuffs had been blunt, almost cruelly so, but it was what needed to be done.

Ran turned the knob.

The atmosphere was silent and heavy. The T.V. was turned on to the news, but somehow it was obvious that neither of the two occupants were listening. Kazuha-chan turned to face her.

"You're home," she said, simply.

"I - uh, yes." Ran swallowed, and turned to her other friends. Something had gone wrong, horribly, horribly wrong... and Hattori-kun hadn't moved an inch since they'd gotten home.

"Kuroba-kun," Kazuha-chan went on, and tugged lightly at the handcuffs in an attempt to get Hattori-kun to move with her. He stood up with no protest. "Please. Please, take these off."

Kuroba-kun immediately stepped forward. Ran twinged with guilt, and she felt Shinichi come up from behind her and intertwine her fingers with his.

Ran hung her head, watching as Kuroba-kun, in a no-nonsense fashion, extracted a silver key from his pockets and unlocked the handcuffs. It seemed that he, too, had realized that something had gone wrong between the two of them. The two teens, previously handcuffed together, moved apart.

"Thank you," Kazuha-chan told him, and Kuroba-kun grinned back, although it was a more subdued grin than usual. Ran watched as Hattori-kun stormed off to his own room, without a single word of acknowledgement. Ran felt so horrible, and blinked back tears.

"Kazuha-chan," she began, reaching for her.

"Ran-chan," the ponytailed girl said, a small, oddly twisted smile on her lips, "I understand what you were trying to do. Honestly, I really do. But... I just really need to be alone right now. Okay?"

Ran shrunk back. "...of course." And watched helplessly as she silently strode to her room and closed the door behind her.

/-/

"Rise and shine!"

Kazuha blinked her eyes open, flinching as the harsh rays of sunlight hit her squarely in the face.

"It's almost noon," Ran-chan told her, and there was a small, apologetic smile on her face. The sight of it brought back all the memories from last night, and Kazuha felt a shudder pass through her spine. "I didn't want to wake you, but the rehearsal is today, after all.."

Right. Right. The wedding was tomorrow. This wasn't the time to be feeling petty and jealous over some girl that she didn't even know. Stop thinking about him, she told herself furiously, stop thinking about him!

"I made breakfast," Ran-chan went on, and after a moment's hesitation, sat down beside her on the bed. "Are you sure you're okay?"

Kazuha felt the other girl's arms wrap around her shoulders in a sisterly embrace, and she leaned into it. "I'm so sorry, Ran-chan. It's your wedding. I shouldn't be like this."

"None of that!" Ran-chan admonished her, firmly. "...it was mostly my fault, anyway, Kazuha-chan. I'm so sorry."

"No." Kazuha forced a smile on her face. "Let's stop apologizing, okay? And just forget everything. It's your wedding! The spotlight is all on you." And she pushed back from the embrace and hastily made her bed.

"Yeah." Ran-chan smiled. "You're my maid of honor, did you know?"

Kazuha froze. "What?"

And at the stunned expression on Ran-chan's face, Kazuha felt completely, completely horrible. This was her wedding, dammit! She had no right to be ruining it for her! She rubbed her temple for a few moments, and let out a sigh.

"I'm sorry," Ran-chan said, and she started sniffling. Kazuha was instantly at her side. "It's just - Hattori-kun is Shinichi's best man, of course, and originally I had Sonoko as my maid of honor, but Sonoko absolutely refused to walk down the aisle with anybody other than Kyogoku-san, so I thought that -" And broke down into sobs. "It's all my fault, Kazuha-chan, we should never have done that to you and Hattori-kun yesterday -"

Kazuha reached for a box of tissues on the bedside table and handed them to the crying girl. "Ran-chan," she began, determinedly, "it is fine. It is absolutely fine, I promise you." How could she be so selfish? It was Ran-chan's wedding, her wedding! After all the emotional torment she'd had to go through with Kudo-kun actually turning out to be Conan-kun... she deserved a happy, perfect wedding. She had no right to go destroying it.

"Are you sure?" Ran-chan rubbed at her eyes with a tissue.

"Yes." Kazuha nodded resolutely, even though she wasn't too sure.

/-/

Kazuha felt her breath catch in her throat as she stared inside the church. There were gorgeous, gorgeous bouquets of deep red roses everywhere; elegant stain-glassed windows; dark, rich, velvety carpet. Off to the side, a shiny grand piano sat, and Kazuha suddenly felt the urge to put her fingers on the keys and play her heart out.

"It's beautiful," she heard Sonoko-san saying, satisfied. Kazuha bit back a smile at the memory of Sonoko-san practically leaping into Kyogoku-san's arms.

"Ran-chan," she called, "do you mind if I play the piano for a bit?"

Ran-chan smiled, "Of course not. I didn't know you played.."

"Just a little," Kazuha thought, and felt an invisible knife stab her in the heart as she remembered the last time she'd played on the piano. It had been with him.. She quickly shook those memories from her mind and sat down on the bench, gingerly playing a scale up and down. Running quickly through the pieces she knew by heart, she settled on Pachelbel's Canon - after all, it was a well-known piece that was often played at weddings.

When she was finished, applause greeted her, and she forced a smile on her face, even though she knew she'd made a few mistakes in there somewhere. She refused to look at - him.

"Rehearsal time," Sonoko-san barked, loudly. "Shinichi-kun, you're going first.."

Kazuha numbly allowed herself to be moved, much like a chess piece. In front of her stood Aoko-chan and Kuroba-kun; in front of them were Sonoko-san and Kyogoku-san. Heiji stood beside her, unmoving. Behind her was Ran-chan.

She felt like crying, honest to god she did. But she had promised - this was Ran-chan's day, and she wasn't going to ruin it. She wasn't. She wasn't. She couldn't.

The rehearsal dragged on. Walking forward. Turning. Climbing into the pews. Sitting. Standing. Repeat. Once, twice.

But something happened in the middle of the rehearsal - it happened just as she was walking down the aisle with Heiji at her side, for the third time. An epiphany, perhaps? And it was then that she made a decision.

She was stronger than this, dammit. She was, she was! She was not - was NOT - going to sit around, moping, just because Heiji had some strange mystery girl he was in love with. No. She knew that she'd often scared the other girls off, but this was different - this time, Heiji was truly in love with this girl. How did she know? It was easy, really.. with the way he'd behaved yesterday. That look of regret in his face. Regret that he couldn't confess his feelings. He was really... He was really, truly in love.

And what right did she have to deny him that love?

"Last time!" Sonoko-san called, "line up in the back!"

So when they lined up in the back and the procession began, she turned to him, her childhood friend, the one person who had always been there for her when she'd needed it. He still wasn't looking at her. Stubborn as always, she thought. In a burst of courage, she reached out for his hand.

He jumped, as if electrocuted. She was unfazed. She tightened her grip on his hand, and smiled, a little hesitantly.

Please smile back, she thought, please...

It took him awhile - he'd simply stood there, staring intensely at her for the better part of two minutes. But then it had happened, a soft curving of the lips, and he squeezed her hand.

She didn't know what had possessed her to do it. But it had gotten him to look at her, gotten him to smile at her. And that was better than losing him altogether.

No matter how much it would hurt to see him with someone else.

/-/

In the room that he slept in at Neechan's house, there was a window directly in front of his bed. There were curtains to obscure it from view, but Heiji preferred keeping them open. There was a midnight sky full of stars, and they served to calm his head.

He was... such an idiot.

He had been given the perfect opportunity, right then and there... And - and he'd frozen up. Unable to say anything. Unable to hold her, even as she'd started crying.

Why couldn't he say it? Why?

She felt the same way - so why? Why was he so unable to say the words? Kudo had said it, no problem. Even Kuroba had managed to say them, too. He needed to do this. He had to do this..

Which hurts more? Kudo's words rang around in his head repeatedly.

If Kazuha ever left him - he honestly didn't know what he would do. What would life be without Kazuha, anyway? For as long as he could remember, she had always just been there, no matter what he'd done or said to try and prevent it. And why had he tried to prevent it in the first place? He would have died without her, so many times..

He fingered the omamori that dangled around his neck. After pausing to think about it, he took it off and held it in his hands like a sacred, fragile thing - which it was. He stared at it in the darkness, tracing its outline with his eyes.

Her presence, always surrounding him, threatening to drown in him in it. But maybe drowning could be a good thing, he thought vaguely, drowning in her scent, drowning in her..

Why wouldn't the words come out?

They were remarkably simple words to say. Short syllables. He'd heard them so many times, too, in movies and on television...

... because you're afraid.

Afraid? Heiji replaced the omamori around his neck and let out a sigh. Was that it?

...yes. Yes, it was.

Because some part of him was still doubtful, still disbelieving - what if his "deduction" had been wrong? What if Kazuha wasn't actually in love with him? Could he handle it - rejection?

"So stupid," he murmured, smacking himself on the head for it. Why, dammit, why? That simple, three-letter-word was floating around in his brain, threatening to drive him insane. Rejection, yes, of course, everybody was terrified of it, but he was Hattori Heiji, Detective of the West - he shouldn't.. he shouldn't..

But he was.

What if Kazuha really wasn't in love with him? Would he be prepared for the dreaded words she would undoubtedly say when he finally confessed? She would say no, and look at him with - with pity. Disgusting, blatant pity.

He wasn't sure he would be able to take it.

How would you feel if she left you, and you never saw her again?

Well, terrible, obviously, he thought, but.. but he would feel more than terrible. Misery. Pain. Agony. Blinding, heart-splitting agony.

And she already knew that there was someone he loved, but she didn't know who... Heiji almost felt like rolling his eyes at the entire situation. How stupid could she be? Who else would he possibly feel that way for?

He was still afraid. He hated to admit it, as anyone would, but it was the plain and simple truth. He was afraid. Afraid that his feelings wouldn't be reciprocated. Despite what Kudo and Kuroba and just about everybody he knew had said - "It's so obvious that she loves you!" - he still wasn't reassured. How would they know, anyway?

But if he never told her...

Then he would never know.

She would never know.

Can you really go on and live like that until you die, never knowing what might have been?

The answer was no.

He would tell her. Someway, somehow. And if he was rejected, then so be it. He'd bounce back. If it came down to it, he could always lie and tell her it had been nothing but a joke... He shook his head, a dry smile on his lips. His hand reached up to clutch at the omamori around his neck, and he closed his eyes. Tomorrow was going to be a big day.

/-/

"No, Shinichi-kun!" Sonoko-san shrieked, and promptly tied a red blindfold around Kudo-kun's eyes. Kazuha couldn't help it; a giggle escaped her lips. It had been pretty funny, anyway.

"Gah! Dammit, Sonoko!"

"You can't see the bride before the wedding!" Sonoko-san told him, firmly, hands on hips. "Now, get!"

"That's nothing but a stupid superstition, and you know it!" Kudo-kun snarled, and made to get past the fuming girl, but Kyogoku-san easily blocked his path.

"Kyogoku!" Kudo-kun positively howled.

"Kudo," Kyogoku-san said. "You heard them."

"You can't positively believe them!" And Kudo-kun made to take off his blindfold, but Sonoko-san's ear-splitting scream caused him to freeze instantly. "God! Sonoko! My ears!"

"Well, you should listen to her, Shinichi." Ran-chan sounded amused, and was holding the gown up to her body and inspecting herself in the mirror.

"Oh, come off it - you're not even wearing the gown yet!"

"It doesn't matter. LEAVE!" Sonoko-san commanded, and slammed the door in his face. Kazuha could hear his inventive cursing from the other side of the door and winced at some of it.

"Stubborn," Sonoko-san said, rolling her eyes.

"That's Shinichi, all right," Eri-san said, speaking from her perch beside Ran. "Come on, Ran, let's get you in the gown."

"Speaking of which, we ought to change as well, shouldn't we?" Aoko-chan questioned, gesturing to the three deep red gowns that lay flat on the bed.

"Right, right," Sonoko-san said, taking charge. "Yes, let's change. The make-up artist will be here any minute, and then the hair stylist.."

"Just do as she says, and we'll be fine," Ran-chan told them - her voice was a bit muffled as Eri-san had chosen that moment to pull the white dress over her head. "Hopefully the men will be on time, as well. There's a soccer game on that Shinichi's been dying to watch.."

"Don't worry," Sonoko-san said, exuding an aura of confidence, "I will personally drag his sorry rear to the church if he's even a second late."

"I'll be there, too," Eri-san added, a hint of ice underneath her deceptively easy tone. "Oh, Ran..." The other three girls turned at this moment, all of them in the midst of putting on their gowns. The gown was on her, and it fitted absolutely perfectly - hugging every curve, an exact fit..

"This is it," Ran-chan whispered, awed at her reflection. "I'm getting married today!"

/-/

"Kuroba," Kudo said, eyeing the magician. "What in the hell do you think you're wearing?"

"My suit," Kuroba replied, beaming proudly.

"You're not wearing that."

"Why not?"

"We've been over this! You are not, not, not wearing your KID clothes to my wedding!"

"KID?" Kyogoku-san furrowed his brow. "As in the Phantom Thief?"

"..." Awkward silence.

"They just scored a goal," Heiji said, vaguely, pointing at the screen, prompting a series of different reactions from each of the men in the room.

After the chaos had died down, Kudo and Kuroba picked up right where they left off. "No!" Kudo was saying, and Kuroba was proceeding to pull a variety of different objects from his pocket.

Kudo was not happy. Not at all. Heiji recognized that gleam in his eye.

"Kuroba," Kudo said, with deliberate slowness, "if you show up at the church in that, I am going to put this -" and he knelt down and unzipped a red backpack at his feet. Inside the backpack was a small aquarium with a variety of goldfish. Kuroba blanched. " - down your back. And if you're thinking I'm going to stick them in there one by one, you're sadly mistaken."

Heiji subconsciously stepped away. It looked like Kuroba was actually thinking seriously, and the guy was enough of a challenge when he wasn't doing so.

"Fine," Kuroba said, sniffing daintily. "It is your wedding, I suppose, so I shall have to follow the rules. I won't wear my suit to your wedding."

"Thank you," Kudo said, a relieved and triumphant expression on his face.

Heiji snorted at the exchange and finished buttoning up his shirt. Then - the tie. How he loathed it. He wrapped it around his neck - only to realize that he had no idea on how to actually put the thing on.

"Oi, Kud -" He was interrupted by a knock on the door.

"Sonoko-san told me to make sure you guys were aware of the time." That voice. It was her. Heiji blinked and shook his head.

"Gah, we are fully, fully aware of the time. We can read clocks, tell her that, will you?" Kudo sounded annoyed.

"I will." Amusement crept into her voice - and all of a sudden, Heiji felt a sudden longing to see her. He stepped closer to the door, tie still wrapped haphazardly around his neck, and called her name. "Kazuha!"

She turned, and for some reason, everything simply paused, and all he knew, saw, felt, heard - was her. She was wearing her dress; her make-up had been done; her hair had been styled, falling in soft waves past her shoulders. He swallowed. Wow.

"Heiji?" She was smiling, at least, but he couldn't help but feel that something was oddly out of place.

"Uh.." And he was all too aware of the attention he was receiving from Kudo and Kuroba - Kyogoku, thankfully, knew when to mind his own business. Why had he called her back? Surely it wasn't to finally tell her, because he sure as hell wasn't going to tell her in front of them.. Searching frantically for an excuse, he glanced down at the tie. Yes! He whipped his tie off his neck and limply handed it to her, "Help me with my tie, will you?"

"Oh. Sure." She stepped closer to him, bringing with her the scent of perfume. He inhaled it. "So you still haven't learned how to tie a tie yet, have you?"

And the uneasy atmosphere between the two of them, even after she'd gone and reached for his hand yesterday at the rehearsal, dissipated.

"Please," he said, rolling his eyes. "I don't need to know how to tie something like this."

"Lucky for you I learned from my dad," she remarked, and he cringed as her fingertips brushed his neck, "or else you'd be lost."

"Pffh," he said.

"Oh, admit it," Kazuha said, grinning. "You'd be lost without me, Hattori Heiji, and you know it."

Heiji snorted and chose not to say anything - but truthfully, she didn't know how right she actually was.

"There." She patted the necktie and stepped back to admire her handiwork. "Pretty good, hm?"

He glanced at his reflection in the mirror - and then his eyes landed on her. "Perfect," he agreed.

/-/

The church was packed. Craning her neck, Kazuha could see the outlines of people that she knew... Megure-keibu, Nakamori-keibu, Ran-chan and Kudo-kun's parents... Heiji's and her parents hadn't been able to make it, but had sent an enormous amount of flowers and other gifts to make up for it.

She saw Kudo-kun up at the front, with a slight expression of anxiety on his face. At the sight, she couldn't help but let a small smile creep up on her face; she'd never have guessed that Kudo-kun could actually look nervous. But just before they'd left the room, Ran-chan had had a small breakdown herself, which had been taken care of quickly.

Her ears perked up as the beginning chords of "Here Comes the Bride" began to play. Kudo-kun began his slow, deliberate walk down the aisle.

"Gah," she heard Sonoko-san mutter, "he's walking too fast!"

"It's fine," Aoko-chan reassured her. "No one will even notice."

Then Kyogoku-san and Sonoko-san began their walk, arms linked. In front of them, Kuroba-kun and Aoko-chan also linked their arms, and a small meep made its way out of Kazuha's mouth.

"We have to link arms?" she hissed, out of the corner of her mouth.

Heiji shrugged helplessly. "I didn't hear anything about it," he muttered.

"Oh, but we'll look so stupid if we don't.." Kazuha felt like slapping herself. This was Ran-chan's wedding, Ran-chan's wedding. Anyway, she'd been handcuffed to Heiji for an entire day; simply linking arms shouldn't hurt...

Kuroba-kun and Aoko-chan started to walk.

"Well?" he'd stuck out his arm so that she could put hers through it. She closed her eyes for a brief moment, calm down! And linked her arm with his.

They began their own walk down the aisle, and it felt like everyone's eyes were on them. Which, they probably were. Gah... she could feel herself beginning to turn red. Not good, not good. Just calm down. Calm down.

They reached the altar and separated; Kazuha to the left, and Heiji to the right. She nearly sighed out loud in relief. Thank god that was over now -

Ran-chan began to walk, with her father beside her. She bit back a laugh at the glare he shot Kudo-kun.

And then, and then, and then... it all happened.

A picture formed itself in Kazuha's mind. Years from now, at a similar church, a similar ceremony taking place.. she was also a bridesmaid, seeing as she was a close friend of the groom's, and the groom... The groom, it was Heiji! But the bride... was someone else, someone completely different. Light brown hair. Beautiful, hazel eyes..

Heiji, getting married... but to someone else?

Could she actually live through that?

She began to panic, gripping her small bouquet of roses tightly so that the stems nearly broke. No.. She promised herself that she would be supportive of whatever he chose to do with his life, remember? He could go get married to whoever he wanted! And as long as she wasn't some crazed lunatic, Kazuha would be content to stand by him. As long as she wouldn't lose him. No matter - no matter how much - now matter how much it tore her up inside -

Oh, god..

She couldn't breathe, she couldn't breathe, she couldn't breathe...

/-/

Heiji didn't pay much attention to the ceremony. He was aware, to some extent, of the readings that were being read out loud, of Kudo and Neechan sitting together up at the front... but mostly, his mind was on his current predicament. Involving a ponytailed young woman that he'd known for the majority of his life.

That same girl, who had slowly but surely become the most important person in his entire life.

The only problem was finding the right moment and the right words to tell her so.

He realized their cue too late - Kuroba and Kyogoku had already stood up to join the bridesmaids in front at the altar. He sighed exasperatedly, buttoned his coat, and stood up to join them.

He still wasn't paying attention to the vows. ("I do," Kudo said) He had to tell her. He had to tell her sometime. He'd kept her waiting for long enough, hadn't he? And - and, well.. he didn't want to risk losing her. As Kudo had so expertly showed him, losing Kazuha could - and would - be the worst thing that would ever happen in his life. He'd give up his blossoming career as a detective; dammit, he would give up his life for her...

Even if I die, I'll never let you go...

I promise.

God - this was it. This was it. Heiji suppressed the shiver than ran down his spine. Something had happened, he wasn't quite sure what exactly, but it told him, very clearly, that he needed to tell her. Now. The moment was right, darn it! In a church, surrounded by roses, and Kudo and Neechan were exchanging vows... ("I do," Neechan said) And his gut, and his brain, which were both responsible for solving all of his cases, told him that if he didn't do it now, he would never be able to it.

Okay.

Ready, set, and go!

"Kazuha!" he hissed, barely moving his lips - Kuroba had taught him a bit of ventriloquism. Kazuha looked around, startled, and Heiji noticed that she was really, seriously looking out of it.. why? Well, no matter. He doubted it was anything too serious as she'd gotten over her cold days ago...

Her eyes landed on his, and their gazes locked.

"I-love-you," he hissed, praying to god that she'd heard. Kuroba gave a sudden, ungentlemanly cough, and Kudo's face turned an odd shade of purple. All of which he pointedly ignored.

She narrowed her eyes and shook her head. "What?" she mouthed.

This wasn't going to be easy, was it? Heiji's eyes flickered upwards to the ceiling and prayed for strength.

"I - love - you." He emphasized the words as best he could without attracting too much attention to himself. He hoped, dearly, with all of his heart that she had heard.

She hadn't. "What?"

He was growing impatient. "I love you," he said, a little louder, but still soft enough so that others wouldn't know. Kuroba and Kudo had gone oddly stiff.

A confused look spread across her features, and she shook her head. "What?" she repeated.

That was it.

HIs temper, infamously short with Kazuha as it was, shot up in the blink of an eye. ("You may kiss the bride," the priest said, and Kudo and Neechan did so, lovingly) Heiji balled his hands into fists and erupted, angry and furious and hurt all at the same time.

"DAMMIT, KAZUHA!" he howled, "ARE YOU DEAF? I SAID, I - LOVE - YOU!"

The church went deadly silent.

/-/

Kazuha had been feeling queasy all throughout the ceremony. Ever since she'd pictured Heiji getting married to another girl, she'd been having difficulty breathing, and her head felt like it was going to split in two any second now...

What in the world was Heiji trying to say? She'd heard him call out her name, and then he'd started mouthing all sorts of nonsense, and she'd had no idea what he'd been trying to say..

The throbbing feeling in her chest only grew worse as Ran-chan and Kudo-kun finished exchanging their vows and leaned towards each other for a kiss.

Her mind chose that particular moment to replace Ran-chan and Kudo-kun with that mystery girl and Heiji.

Oh, god..

Heiji was saying something again, and she tried to hear him, but couldn't. "What?" she said, and an odd look twisted his features.

The room was spinning.

Heiji and that girl - kissing - in her mind..

She was only hazily aware of Heiji exploding and shouting numerous words for all the world to hear - she heard the words, but they were only garbled sounds and she didn't understand what it was he was saying...

And everything faded to black.

/-/

Her head hurt. Badly. Although, she seemed to be lying down on a really comfy bed..

Whoa.

A bed?

She wasn't supposed to be in a bed. She was supposed to be at the church, because Ran-chan was getting married, and she'd tried so hard not to ruin her perfect day..

Her eyes shot open, and she bolted up in bed.

"Awake, I see." Kazuha turned her head. Heiji..

She rubbed at her head, letting a sigh escape her throat. "What happened? Ugh.."

"You fainted," he replied, and he moved closer to her, staring directly at her - and it almost seemed like nothing else mattered, not Ran-chan's wedding, nor the fact that she still had a killer headache... it was only him and her, like it should be..

She quickly broke the gaze. The image of Heiji kissing another girl, marrying another girl..., was still too raw and painful for her to handle. Even if it wasn't real..

"Hey.." He suddenly seemed so awkward and far away. Why? "Did you, uh, hear me... back there?"

"Hear you?" Kazuha blinked. She thought back, and remembered him hissing something, but being unable to hear the words. "Oh. No.. I mean, I heard you screaming towards the end, but I didn't understand any of the words.." she shook her head. "Was it something important? ...Heiji! Quit banging your head against the wall!"

He turned around slowly to face her, forehead bright red from the abuse Heiji had put it through. She resisted a giggle.

"So, you didn't hear me," he said, tone oddly strained.

Kazuha shook her head in reply. "...no."

Heiji then proceeded to start muttering the strangest things under his breath. If Kazuha concentrated, she was able to hear little snippets of his rant - "Dammit, this is Murphy's Law biting me in the ass!" to "Is she freaking deaf or something? I yelled it for the entire church to hear! Kuroba wouldn't stop snickering.." to "This is all Kudo's fault somehow.."

There was something wrong with him. There was a wild, crazed look in his face, and before she knew it, she'd reached out her arm and touched him on the shoulder. The contact was electrifying.

"What's up?" she asked, softly. He was kneeling down on the floor while she was on the bed. He moved closer to the bed and placed his head down on the sheets.

"You're really annoying," he murmured. Kazuha prickled with anger.

"Well, excuse me -" she huffed, withdrawing her hand..

...and then completely freezing up as he enveloped it with his.

"Shut up and listen to me, will you?" Usually, she would have retorted, but she bit back the words. "A couple of days ago... it seems like so much longer, really.. but I suddenly realized something. It kind of just...well, bit me in the face. And at first, I couldn't believe it, I couldn't understand. And then.. with the whole handcuffs thing.." He gestured to their hands to emphasize his point. "That went all wrong, too. I didn't know why.."

He stood up suddenly, and Kazuha's hand, the one that he'd previously held, suddenly felt so cold and alone. "But the more that I thought about it, the more it made sense. You were always there. Whenever I wanted you to be there. Whenever I didn't want you to be there. And then I realized why I always drove the boys away from you. I found out why I always protected you. It made so much sense that I felt so stupid for not realizing sooner..

"I tried to tell you, so many times, but for some reason I kept freezing up. And I hated myself for it, because every time I did, I ended up hurting you. I made you cry. You don't know how crappy that makes me feel, do you? I'm such a jackass, and I'm sorry. Although.." His lips twisted in a wry grin, "you're a bit of an idiot yourself, you know, for sticking with me all this time."

The words she'd told him earlier echoed in the room, "You'd be lost without me and you know it," she told him, smiling.

"I know it," he said, and he scratched his head. "I can't believe you're still here." He stuck his hands in his pockets awkwardly, and Kazuha noticed that he'd taken off his tie. "I mean... after all the hell I've put you through..."

"You are a jackass," she informed him, using his previous words. "Although.. I suppose I shouldn't be talking, since I've let you do all of this to me without even complaining."

"That's what I mean," he told her, and suddenly drew nearer. Kazuha shivered at his mere presence. "You've stuck by me, all this time... like an idiot." He paused as she scowled, "and... well... I guess that's the reason..."

Everything stood still.

"...that I love you."

Kazuha held her breath.

Heiji drew back awkwardly, awaiting her response. Her eyes were wide, her breathing erratic. Was this a dream? She pinched herself to make sure that it wasn't.

It wasn't.

It wasn't a dream!

"About time!" she shrieked, clenching her hands and grabbing fistfuls of the bedsheets. "You - you complete - and total - moron! You have got to be - be the dumbest, most idiotic... jackass in the entire world!"

He hung back, a small grin appearing on his lips. "...and is that good?"

She wasn't done. "... you're the only person I know of that would keep a girl waiting this long! Granted, there was Kudo-kun, but at least he had a good reason, and... and 'is that good'? Is that all you can say?" And without any warning at all, she burst into tears.

"Oh, crap!" She heard him exclaim, and then he was sitting on the bed next to her, a hesitant arm around her shoulders. "Goddammit, Kazuha... what are you crying for?"

"I'm not crying!" she insisted, burying her face in the crook of his shoulder, staining the smooth black fabric with her tears.

His arm tightened around her body. "You really are an idiot, you know that?"

"Of course I'm an idiot!" She was wailing now. "Only an idiot would fall in love with you.. you... you dummy!" And her sobs grew louder, even as a deep - and relieved, Kazuha noticed - chuckle made its way out of Heiji's throat. "Only... only an idiot... only an idiot would... fall... for you..."

Her sobs grew less and less.

Wordlessly, and with a brilliant grin that she'd never seen him wear before, Heiji produced a light blue handkerchief from his pockets, handing it to her. Kazuha accepted it and blew her nose into it, almost wanting to laugh at the entire situation.

"Oh.." she said, still sniffling. "I must look like a mess."

"Not any worse than usual," was the reply, and Kazuha smacked him lightly on the head for it. Minutes passed, and she leaned into him, cherishing the moment.

She shifted in his arms so that she could look at him. "Well?" she asked him, childishly. "Don't I get a kiss?"

He laughed, and was only too happy to comply.

/-/

"So when's the wedding?" Kuroba asked, in a no-nonsense tone.

"What wedding?" Heiji frowned at him.

"You guys were in there for ages," Kuroba went on. "We all figured you'd proposed by then."

"It's true," Kudo informed him. "There's a running bet, especially among the police. Ootaki-san was the one who started it."

Heiji rolled his eyes. "Oh, really.."

"Well, it was pretty obvious," Kuroba went on, nonchalantly, "especially after you yelled it out for all the world to hear..." And here he changed his voice to sound exactly like Heiji, "Dammit, Kazuha! Are you deaf? I said, I - love - you!" He sniggered. "Even the priest cracked up, and that's something."

Heiji turned slightly red. "Moron," he said.

"Heh." They were at the front now, where the limousine waited. Kuroba, thankfully, turned to Kudo. "Be good on your honeymoon, Shin-chaaan!" and prompting a blush from the newly married man.

Heiji waved as Kudo and Neechan got into the limousine and stuffed his hands into his pockets. Maybe, he thought, one day... he and Kazuha... He glanced at the church, and then at her.

Maybe...

No. Definitely.

EPILOGUE:

Six months later, back in their hometown of Osaka, a dark-skinned young man and a ponytailed young woman stood in front of a quaint little bakery. It would have been such a pleasant scene - for the bakery was such a cute little thing, and inviting smells of the pastries wafted outside; little bushes and flowers completed the picture.

Yes. It would have been a tranquil and pleasant scene - if it weren't for the fact that the two people outside the bakery were yelling furiously at each other.

"You - you stupid -" Kazuha couldn't finish. "You told me to meet you here at FOUR O'CLOCK!" she raged. "Take a look at your watch, Heiji! What time is it now!"

"I already looked at my damn watch!" Heiji retorted, equally loudly, completely ignoring the bewildered stares of the passers-by.

"And?" Kazuha demanded.

"It's - it's five thirty, okay?"

"Exactly!" Kazuha was seething. "I stood here, Hattori Heiji, for an hour and a half, like - like a complete and total idiot! And then you just show up here, all happy and merry, and you expect me to just forgive you? Ohh, I think not!"

"I told you," Heiji began, "that I was doing something important!"

"Oh, you were doing something 'important', were you?" Kazuha was fuming. "A murder case, perhaps? You know what? Sometimes, I think that these murder mysteries of yours mean a lot more to you than I ever did!"

Heiji snapped. "Don't you ever say that," he hissed, dangerously, and stuffed his hand in his pocket, retrieving something. He glanced at it with loathing, and then - and then hope, and then said, "You'd better catch this or else!" and threw it.

She caught it deftly. It was a black box.

He pointedly stared at her, arms crossed over his chest.

She opened it. It was a silver ring... a beautiful silver ring, with one small diamond that glimmered in the sunlight.

"So? he asked, rudely, arms still crossed over his chest, feet apart, eyeing her warily.

She closed the box. "Fine, then," she said, not quite looking him in the eye.

Moments passed.

Kazuha was the first to crack - a wide smile broke out over her features, and an identical expression flooded into Heiji's face soon after. He crossed over to her and took her into his arms.

"You really are an idiot, you know?" he said.

She only hugged him tighter. "And you're a big fat jackass."

He laughed, and she snuggled into him.

They weren't the typical words of affection - but for these two, they fit perfectly. In this moment, as he held her in his arms and she leaned into him, nothing else mattered.

Until..

An undeniable shriek from across the street: "He's dead!"

Heiji tensed.

Kazuha let her head roll onto his chest defeatedly. "Just go," she murmured. "Just go.."

Heiji pulled away slightly and flinched at the expression on her face. "I love you?" he tried.

Kazuha rolled her eyes and huffed. "Yeah, yeah.."

"Ka-zu-ha..."

"Whaa?"

"Come on," he pleaded, tugging on her ponytail.

"Hmph," she muttered, pretending to be annoyed. But then she leaned forward with a mirthful grin and pressed her lips against his. "I love you too, you jackass."

I do I do
These words say I'll be with you forever, I do
Whenever I'm with you, carefully in my heart
I do I do wanna spend my life with you
I dream "I do" swear these precious words to you
I'm with you and you are beside me

/the end/

Random Notes: Kyaaaa! It's done, it's done, it's done! (dances) Anyways, I'm a firm believer in giving credit where it is due, so here we go!

1) The song that Kazuha plays on the piano and Heiji sings is called "Fly me to the Moon." Famous, famous song... the original version, I believe, was sung by Frank Sinatra, but the version I listened to while writing this fic was the one by Utada Hikaru.

2) Not really "credit," but about the whole bridal party thing - yes, yes, I actually did some research on Japanese-Western weddings, and came up with a bunch of different sites, but they seemed to contradict each other.. xD One site said that Japanese-Western weddings never had bridesmaids; another site said that they DID, and in the end I just kinda went, "Oh, screw it! I'm overanalyzing again!" Sooo, yesh.

3) The final scene where Heiji proposes (squeals) was inspired/adapted from something I saw in a "Gilmore Girls" episode. A sort of "blink-and-you'll-miss-it" scene in that episode... something like Richard and Emily were reminiscing, blah-blah.. heh..

4) See the italicized verses at the end of the first chapter, and then at the beginning and end of this chapter? They're actually song verses! xD It's from an amaaazing song called "I Do" sung by Bi, or Rain (guess he's got 2 names? xD).. it's originally in Korean; I was just lucky enough to find the translations online..

5) EDIT: (oops, forgot to stick this in here the first time I posted this..) You guys know the part where Shinichi's helping Heiji to figure out his feelings for Kazuha in the bathroom? That entire scene was inspired by this quote, taken from Angrybee's "Hajime & Tokio"...

"I want you to have my katana, Eiji. And when you find a woman, you take out that katana and look at it. Think of every single way you could hurt that yourself with that blade. Every slice of your skin that you could rip, every organ that you could puncture, every stinging line of blood that would fall. Then, when you put the katana away, you look at the woman you have chosen and imagine if she left you. If the second image disturbs you more than the first, you've found the right woman."

6) Finally, to all of my dear, beloved reviewers. I honestly, honestly love all of you and your comments kept me going throughout this whole thing! Thank you! (bows humbly)

7) Aaaand... (drum roll) to my dear, dear friend, Lyn Jarewo Wors, who has just been so amazing through it all. xD I can't tell you guys how much she helped me with writing this fic. She was the one who got me off my "lazy rear" and onto working on this.. ah, honestly, if it hadn't been for her, you wouldn't be reading this until NEXT MONTH, at the very least. (hugs) Thanks so muchhhh!

Whew, that was long. oO Please leave a review; any sort of feedback would be appreciated. (waves a Heiji/Kazuha banner)