Disclaimer: Yes, of course I own Detective Conan. That's why I'm writing fan fiction and getting paid nothing for it. Except you know, not.
She was beautiful, intelligent, kind and could light up the room just by entering it. She befriended anyone and with a flash of her smile could win them over in an instant. She had no problem attracting young men, with her long, shiny, chocolate mane, sparkling blue eyes and overall brilliant aura; even if she was peacefully oblivious of her power over the opposite sex. Always kind, always caring, with fierce protective instincts. She was a beautiful person, inside and out. She made you want to be a better person; that's just the kind of girl she was.
Miyano Akemi had indeed been such a person; her younger sister Miyano Shiho could testify to that fact. But now she was Haibara Ai and had been for the past year. If she so much as let on to a stranger that she had known Akemi, there was no doubt that she'd be dead within the hour. Those that were hunting for her would find her that fast.
To think that her beloved sister had descended into such dark depths to help her, to save her, haunted Ai every day since she'd learned of her death…of her murder. It was rare that Ai ever lost her composure but whenever she thought of what had happened to Akemi, anger and sorrow rushed through her veins. Guilt figured quite prominently in there as well.
Leaning back against her computer chair, Ai swiveled from side to side, contemplating the kind of woman Akemi had been. Wrapping her arms around herself against the shiver that had run up her spine, she leaned her head back and shut her eyes.
Akemi had been a normal girl, she had been able to study and go to university and make friends. All the things Ai had never been able to do. But Ai held no grudges against her oneechan. If anything, Ai hated the fact that her sister had lost all that in an attempt to get Ai out of the organization. Akemi had been born into the organization just like Ai had but she had been allowed to live amongst civilians. Akemi had been no fool; she had known that they had been shadowing her all her life, especially in those last years as a university student and graduate.
From time to time, Ai wondered why her sister hadn't been groomed to be an assassin or something equally horrid. That's what the organization specialized in; after all, taking innocents and destroying everything they loved and believed in to make them a part of the syndicate. Maybe they figured that the Miyanos were best used for chemical research and upon realizing that young Akemi had no scientific inclination whatsoever they'd let her go.
'Shiho-chan, I have no idea how you can stay in a stuffy chemistry lab all day long! Especially, when there are so many other things you could do!'
'You kind of get used to it, Oneechan. After all, I don't know how you stand to read Japanese literature all day long.'
Ai chuckled softly. Akemi had always shuddered at the thought of spending her life in a lab coat. And at times, Ai had thought her sister a bit naïve; that perhaps Akemi had not truly grasped just how many horrors Ai had been forced to endure. But after her death, that had come too early, Ai began to wonder if she had been the naïve one. Akemi had willingly entangled herself in the dark; she had known what she was doing. Ai felt that perhaps that she had been the sheltered, naïve girl.
Sighing, she shifted in her seat, raising her knees to her chin but kept her eyes shut. She could remember her sister better that way. Well, there were other people who could bring such memories to the forefront but she didn't want to think about that.
Only with her sister did Shiho think she was ever truly herself. Akemi had always brought out the best of her. Only with her sister had she let herself laugh like a schoolgirl. When they'd managed a trip to Shibuya to do some shopping, Shiho had tried on various outfits and joked with her sister and watched the young men trail after her. But Akemi had never noticed, she'd been content to enjoy Shiho's company and had instead urged her sister to find a boyfriend.
Only her sister had been able to bring a smile to her face and Shiho had allowed herself to recognize that she had it in her to be a cheerful, laughing normal teenager. Akemi had often commented that during their time together, Shiho had often started out serious but then would open up and then they'd be talking about anything from the latest news to Akemi's college classes or a school trip she was planning on taking. Even Shiho would divulge how her research was coming along; she sometimes managed to conduct her own experiments on things that interested her…as long as Gin wasn't around.
For Shiho's 16th birthday, Akemi had requested special permission from somebody, to take her away to a weekend beach trip. It had been the best time she'd ever had because for that one moment, Shiho had forgotten about the APTX, the organization, Gin, the Boss, being an orphan and her separation from Akemi. For that one weekend, her sister was right there with her (Shiho had even gotten a tan); she'd watched the boys stride up to her sister and to her extreme surprise walk up to her. In that weekend, Shiho's icy demeanor had melted and she'd smiled charmingly, laughed and (at Akemi's insistence, really, her sister had been quite the hopeless romantic!) had lunch with one of the boys who hadn't been an egotistical idiot. He had been smart, charming and completely handsome and the part of her that hadn't lost her senses completely knew she could never get close to him because then…
'Shiho-chan! He's cute and he likes you. Stop working on that silly drug and get yourself a boyfriend!' Akemi had smiled widely and winked at her.
But she knew she couldn't and she'd never called the boy back after he gave her his number.
'Sometime, you know, if you ever want to talk…or hang out…' He had said. The deep blush on his cheeks made Shiho want to smile and cry all at the same time because she knew that normality didn't have a place in her life.
Ai's eyes flew open at the thought. Now why on earth had she begun to think about that? Blinking her eyes rapidly in an attempt to rid her mind's eye of the boy's image, she settled back once again lost in her memories.
Her birthday had been their second and last trip together. During their first beach trip (which had been Akemi's birthday), her oneechan had chided her over her modest one piece suit. Upon seeing that Shiho had fully intended to wear it for her birthday trip, Akemi had stepped in with a skimpy red bikini and an admonition to 'strut her stuff.' This was really quite funny, considering Akemi was so modest; she could probably never perform the aforementioned stunt without flushing like a tomato.
Akemi had always been the light at the end of the tunnel and her light didn't overshadow Shiho's; instead, it allowed hers to burn brighter. It allowed for the possibility of hope and the chance that maybe someday she'd be free from the dark.
Ai didn't pretend to believe that Akemi had not suffered as well. Losing her parents so young and being estranged from her sister, knowing what her sister was being forced to do, had eventually been the cause of her demise. Especially in those last few weeks…
'Oneechan, are you really ok, I heard you did something dangerous…'
'Don't worry, everything is fine! I'm perfectly ok!'
But she hadn't been perfectly ok. Not at all. She had been in so much danger. If only Ai had known, she could have warned her. Could have told her that they had lied to her. That they wouldn't hesitate to kill her. But Ai had taken her word for it, despite the nagging feeling that she should have pushed the issue.
But Akemi had always been so good at hiding behind a smile. Ai hid behind a cold mask of mystery but Akemi just flashed a smile and kept it all inside. Her oneechan would never have let on what was wrong because she always carried other people's burdens along with her own.
'Creations reflect the inner state of the creator. Look at the chocolates! They have sad faces despite the smiles.'
'Now that you mention it…'
Sitting up quickly, Ai tried to gather her composure. There was another who held back her sorrows in the same way her sister had, another who hid her grief behind a smile and chocolates. But she didn't want to think about her. It hurt to be around that girl.
Shutting off her computer, Ai jogged up the stairs and went to her room. Changing into her pajamas, she flopped onto her bed (her small body barely rustling the sheets) and tried desperately to forget. Forget it all.
It was in Haibara Ai's opinion that babysitting was, to put it bluntly, a real pain in the butt and she was grateful that she didn't have to look over three children, Kudo-kun and herself not withstanding.
Professor Agasa was currently juggling three large sodas and several stuffed animal souvenirs as Ayumi, Genta and Mitsuhiko ran around excitedly with loud exclamations of "OH! Look at that!" or "Conan-kun! Ride the teacups with me!" The latter exclusive to Ayumi. Tropical Land…a child's paradise.
"Oi, Agasa's looking a bit worn." Kudo nudged her and Ai turned to look at him.
He was in fact looking a bit ill. Ai remembered that he had been working on another new-fangled invention all night and chances are he hadn't gotten much sleep. Not to mention that he was recovering from a cold…why had he agreed to this?
"Professor? Are you feeling all right? You look tired; maybe we should call it a day." Kudo said, eyeing the professor warily.
"Oh no, Conan-kun!" Ayumi whined. "We still haven't ridden on the really fast rides!"
"And there's still the cotton candy!" Genta chimed in.
"Err…well…" Agasa stuttered. In all frankness, he'd much rather go home. Sure, they were like his grandkids but…
"I know! We'll stay here and you go on and rest, Professor!" Ayumi smiled sweetly and rather manipulatively.
"Somehow, Ayumi-kun, I don't think your parents would love that idea." Agasa replied. Just how was he going to convince them that it was time to go home?
"Why not? We're the Shonen Tantei! We've faced murderers and solved mysteries; we can take a trip to the park!" Genta's loud voice boomed over the rest.
"I know!" Mitsuhiko grinned. "Conan-kun, call your Ran-neechan!"
"Yay!" Ayumi cheered. "Of course, Ran-neechan will come!"
Conan raised an eyebrow but sighed, relenting. "Well, I don't know. She said she would go shopping with Sonoko in the morning. Maybe she's back but if she can't come, we're definitely going home." Walking away slightly to dial her number, the children began to cheer and make plans excitedly. After all, Ran-neechan was a karate champ; her stamina was bound to be much higher!
Ai, on the other hand, was not so pleased. She wasn't as hostile with the young woman as she had been and she hadn't forgotten how Ran had saved her from Vermouth. Nor had she forgotten how important it had been to keep the young woman at Agasa's house that time Mouri-san had almost been killed. It was just that Ran evoked some powerful memories in Ai's mind that were often too much to bear.
"Good news. She's coming. Sonoko's boyfriend dropped in for a visit so Ran-neechan was just at home." Shinichi looked away. If Sonoko's long-distance boyfriend could come in for a visit there was no doubt that Ran was probably sitting at home with her own memories of him, possibly waiting for a phone call.
"Uh, I think I'll go home as well; I need to look after the professor." Ai began to back away, ignoring Kudo-kun's knowing look.
"No, Ai-chan! You can't! You have to stay with us!" Ayumi cried and her eyes began to well up. Ai wasn't sure whether the tears were feigned or real. With Ayumi, you could never be quite sure.
Trying to keep Kudo's snickers from reaching her ears, Ai tried to remain stolid in her decision but then the boys began their beseeching.
"Come on, Haibara-san! You'll miss out on all the fun!" Genta tapped his foot impatiently.
"Please, Haibara-san. It'd really be a lot more fun if you stayed…" Mitsuhiko implored quietly, a blush reaching his ears.
Kudo's chuckles were really getting quite loud now. It was on the border of obnoxiousness.
Ai sighed. After all, Mouri-chan would probably be far too busy trying to reign in the excitement of three children. Never mind that Kudo would probably be giving her longing looks and then turning away quickly before she noticed…
"All right. I'll stay."
Yes, Ai concluded that Mouri-chan would be far too busy to notice the quietest member of the Shonen Tantei. In all likelihood, she would be able to forego any interaction with the young woman, aside from a quick greeting.
Who was she kidding? Mouri Ran would definitely try to talk to the quiet girl and get her to open up. That's just the kind of girl she was.
"Don't be so serious, Shiho-chan! You have to open up. Especially to your oneechan."
No, no more thinking. No more comparisons. Instead, Ai decided to devote her attention to Ayumi, who seemed as if she'd burst from excitement if Mouri-chan didn't get here soon.
"Excited, much?" Ai gave the little girl a small smile.
"Of course! Ran-neechan might even take us to the big kid rides!" Ayumi all but squealed and clapped her hands together.
"I don't know about that Mouri-chan is pretty responsible about those sorts of things." Ai raised an eyebrow but couldn't keep a small grin from forming.
"But maybe if I beg her and behave really well and ask really really nicely." Ayumi brought her hand to her chin, quickly devising a plan.
"Yeah and then we can buy her an ice cream if we put all our money together!" Mitsuhiko grinned, obviously proud of his brainstorm.
"But we'll have enough money for our own ice cream, right?" Genta asked, clearly not liking the idea of being ice cream-less.
"Oh, for goodness sake…hi, Ran-neechan!" Conan's eye roll transformed itself into an eager grin and he jogged over.
Ai took a moment to size the young woman up; Mouri Ran was clad in a pair of light blue cropped jeans, and sandals. As well as a lacy, white, short sleeve blouse, that Ai herself had been scoping at a store window in Shibuya (granted she couldn't wear it yet but she could put it away for later). She was carrying a handbag that Ai recognized as a Fusae Campbell design. Ran had great fashion sense, Ai had to admit. She snuck a look at Kudo-kun and smirked. Judging by the detective's reaction, burning cheeks and the glazed look in his eyes, he seemed to be fond of the fitted, slightly low cut top.
Ai rolled her eyes. Men.
After Agasa greeted Mouri-chan and made his apologies, he left, and Ran turned to the children.
"Hi, kids! I'm glad you called! Oh and I brought gifts!" Ran smiled cheerfully and reached into her purse pulling out five packs of Pocky. "They're much too expensive here in the park so I figured..." She drifted off and handed each child a box. Ran smiled and winked at Kudo-kun, reigniting his previous blush, before handing him a box of chocolate Pocky. When she finally got to Ai, Ran handed her the box and a bright smile.
"Thank you Mouri-chan," She said, giving Ran a shy smile. But the young woman seemed satisfied with that and with another grin in her direction proclaimed that it was time to get on the rides.
"So seems like you've taken a liking to her." Kudo said, giving Ai a knowing smile.
"I don't know what you're talking about. I've never disliked her." Ai replied shortly.
"Uh-huh. I'm just saying you're getting friendly."
"I'm merely being polite, Kudo-kun, and I'd advise you against being too friendly. Ogling Mouri-chan's bust in that lacy top might give you away." Smirking, Ai crossed her arms behind her head and sauntered off leaving a choking Kudo in her wake.
"But Ayumi-chan those rides are for the big kids! There's a height requirement and everything!" Ran attempted to reason with the little girl.
"But I've grown lots lately. Really! When I went to the doctor, he told me I'd grown an inch and a half!" Ayumi smiled proudly.
"That's wonderful Ayumi-chan but even so you might be afraid! After all, the mystery coaster has all sorts of scary things in it!" Ran tried once again to persuade and shifted the kids' prizes in her arms.
"Do you need help with that Ran-neechan?" Conan inquired and Ai rolled her eyes from behind Ran.
"Oh, that's sweet of you Conan-kun! But I'm fine." She ruffled his hair and turned her attention back to Ayumi and the other detective boys.
"But really kids, how about the tea cups again?" Ran asked hopefully.
"Awwww…" Genta groaned.
"B-but, Ran-neechan!" Mitsuhiko pouted.
"Mouri-chan, perhaps it might be best to let them ride. As long as they pass the height requirement, if they get scared well then they'll have to deal with it themselves." Ai interjected. Ran was beginning to get the twitch that often comes with baby-sitters who are ready to throw themselves off a cliff.
"Haibara's right, Ran-neechan." Conan looked at the three hopeful kids and sighed.
Ran relented and looked at each child sternly. "Fine. Fine, but if any of you start crying after the ride…"
"We won't!" The children grinned cheekily and Ayumi turned to Conan. "Ride with me, Conan-kun!" She began tugging him towards the relatively short line. Genta and Mitsuhiko treated Conan to a characteristic glare.
"I'll stay behind. I'm not really in the mood for a roller coaster ride." Ai hung back.
"Um, I…um I'll stay behind too." Ran stuttered and avoided Conan's questioning glance.
Ai suddenly began to have second thoughts but then decided against going on the ride. It would be too suspicious. It'd only be ten minutes. Small talk would hold her up.
As the kids drifted into the cave, Ran guided Ai over to some benches. "So are you afraid of heights, Ai-chan…I mean Ai-kun?"
"Ai-chan is fine, Mouri-chan. And no, I'm not. I just didn't feel much like riding." Ai leaned against the bench.
"Me neither." Ran commented softly and a wistful look came over her face.
Against her better judgment, Ai decided to pry. It was a strange expression and it was awfully familiar.
"Are you all right…Mouri-chan?" Ai said quietly and looked at her shoes.
Ran looked at the blonde girl, startled, and smiled. "I'm perfectly ok, Ai-chan, really."
Ai looked up sharply at the seemingly happy face and inwardly sighed. "You don't seem ok."
Surprised, once again, Ran smiled sadly. "It's just that the last time I rode the Mystery Coaster, it was with that idiot Shinichi. There was a murder and then he ran off. I haven't seen him since." Resting her chin on her hand, Ran sighed.
Though Ai was well aware of the story, she couldn't help but feel sad over it. Ran was an indirect victim of the Apotoxin, the drug she had created.
"He's off solving cases, supposedly, but it's so strange. He's always so vague about everything and sometimes he sounds so lonely. I just think that he's in some real danger but he just doesn't want to worry me. Idiot! As if it isn't worrisome to not know!" Ran seemed to be talking to herself now as Ai regarded her carefully.
But Ran just laughed deprecatingly, in a way that strongly reminded Ai of Kudo-kun, and looked at her charge. "Look at me. I'm sorry, Ai-chan. I must seem like an idiot."
"I don't think that at all, Mouri-chan. You're just concerned. It's perfectly natural." Ai responded lightly.
"I know he's in trouble. I just know it. If he'd just confide in me then I'd help him. I would!" Ran hit her knees with her fist.
"Maybe, he just doesn't want you to be in trouble. I've never met him but he doesn't seem like the sort that would be able to forgive himself if he put his loved ones in danger." Ai said quietly.
Ran looked at the young girl and looked away smiling. "You're right. Of course, that doesn't mean I won't beat him senseless once he gets back." She grinned and Ai couldn't help but laugh.
And then Ran grew pensive. "Ai-chan…if you don't mind my asking, I was curious as to where your family is?"
Ai stiffened. "What have you heard, Mouri-san?"
Ran flinched. "I'm sorry, Ai-chan, I didn't mean to pry; I just…well once I noticed a photo that fell out of your school bag. It was a picture of a pretty young woman. Was she…was she your sister?"
Ai remained silent not sure what to say. While she knew that giving out some information was unlikely to endanger Ran…she didn't think she could bear it. But then Ran had bared her soul hadn't she?
'Sometimes, Shiho-chan, it helps to let things off your chest.'
All right, Oneechan, maybe you're right.
"Yes, Mouri-chan. That young woman was my sister. She died recently." Ai looked away.
"Oh…oh I'm so sorry!" Ran's eyes teared up and she pulled the little girl into a hug.
At first, Ai tried to pull away but then she let herself rest in the embrace. It had been ages since she had been hugged.
"It's all right, Mouri-chan…really." Ai smiled as she pulled back.
"You must miss her very much." Ran kept an arm around Ai's shoulder.
"I…I do. It's strange not to have her around. She was just always there for me." Ai reflected back. It was strange but Mouri Ran was very easy to talk to.
"I don't know what I'd do if I lost someone so close to me." It was her secret fear, naturally. Losing Shinichi would be unbearable.
"Akemi always brought me out of my shell; I mean that time she took me to the beach for my six…sixth birthday was the best I ever had…I just wish that I-" Ai stopped suddenly, not wishing to divulge anything unnecessary. Besides a mysterious prickling at her eyes was beginning to form.
"You just wish what?" Ran asked gently, fully aware that if she pushed too hard that Ai would just pull back from her.
"Nothing, it's not important."
"Ai-chan, what is it?"
"It's my fault."
Ran's eyes widened but she stopped herself from shouting that of course it wasn't. Somehow, she didn't think such an outburst would reassure her. She was a lot like Conan-kun in that way.
"Why would you think that?" She asked instead. Ran had to know why a seven year old child would think such a thing.
"Because it is." Ai said simply. Fine. If Ran wanted to hear it, she'd give it to her.
"If I had only pushed her into telling me what was wrong…she might still be here. I knew she was in trouble. I knew it. But I just took her word for it. I could have warned her."
While Ran wondered just what the seven year old could have saved Akemi-san from, it seemed to her that perhaps she just wasn't meant to know. The important thing was that Ai felt it was her fault and her emotions and convictions seemed so mature, so profound. If the girl felt it was her fault, it was because she had good reason to. Ran could never understand; just like no one could ever understand just how hard it was for her to lose Shinichi. He was gone too. And despite whatever crazy ideas she came up with, there was no Shinichi. And no one…not Ai, not Conan, not her parents…no one could understand.
"Maybe your sister didn't want to endanger you." Ai heard her words echoed back at her. "I never met your sister but from what you tell me she couldn't forgive herself if she would have gotten you into trouble."
Unbeknownst to her, she had met Akemi. And Ran didn't know how right she was.
Ai sighed. "Perhaps. But I can't-"
"-help feeling like you should have done something anyway? Same here." Ran smiled at her and gave her a quick hug again.
"You'll never know what you could have or shouldn't have done, Ai-chan. I just know that your sister wouldn't want you to keep questioning yourself like this." Ran winked at her. "Take it from another big sister."
Ai laughed, despite herself. If Kudo-kun had heard, he would have had a heart-attack. Sure, Ran and Akemi had their similarities but Ai began to wonder if perhaps she and the karate champion had more in common than she had previously thought. After all, they were both big Fusae Campbell designer handbag fans.
"Thank you, Ran-san." Ai said quietly, subtlety trying to wipe a few stray tears away.
Ran smiled, surprised at the less formal honorific and the tears, and squeezed the girl's shoulder.
"WOW! It was amazing!"
"Sure it was, but ten minutes in line is just illogical!"
"What are you talking about Mitsuhiko-kun? A ten minute wait is great for that ride."
Ayumi, Mitsuhiko and Genta talked animatedly amongst themselves as Conan rolled his eyes next to them, his arm still attached to Ayumi's iron grip.
Ran and Ai stood to greet them. "So, no tears?" Ran teased.
"No way, Ran-neechan! It was the best ride ever!" Ayumi grinned her little girl smile.
"You seemed to take awhile; was the line long?" Ai asked.
"For goodness sake! Ten minutes is a great waiting period. It's normally over an hour!" Conan cried out exasperatedly.
Ran raised an eyebrow.
"Ahem. Not that I would know…just what the kids at school have said." Conan grinned nervously and turned to Ayumi. "Um, so it's getting dark…"
"Awww…" Ayumi whined but was interrupted by a loud yawn emanating from her. "Oops." She grinned sheepishly.
"Yup, I think its time to wrap it up kids. Besides, didn't you all tell me you're parents would be here at eight? Its 7:45. We should head over for the gates. Ai-chan, do you need a ride?" Ran asked.
"No, she's coming home with me! We're having an all girls sleepover." Ayumi clapped her hands, excitedly.
"That's wonderful." Ran grinned and began passing out the kids belongings as she opened their lockers.
Genta and Mitsuhiko left first, each boy munching on their cotton candy; as the Yoshidas drove up, Ayumi planted a kiss on Conan's cheek while Ai tried to keep a snicker in. Ayumi then gave Ran a huge hug and waved goodbye.
Unsure of how to say goodbye, Ai began to wave but Ran knelt forward and pulled her into an embrace. Ai was surprised but returned the hug. Ran leaned back and smiled at her. "Thank you, Ai-chan."
Shinichi looked on a bit confused but decided to keep his inquisitive nature out of it. He could bug Haibara later and Ran on the way home.
Raising his hand in a wave he called out. "See ya, Haibara."
Ai turned and gave him a real grin. "Bye, Edogawa-kun." And she got into the car.
Just then Mouri Kogoro drove up and she could already hear Ran scolding the not quite drunk but still incorrigible detective.
Settling back into her seat, she listened to Ayumi's excited retelling to the Yoshidas.
Akemi and Ran were both beautiful, kind, caring and filled you with light. But they were also strong, independent women.
And Ai decided that that was most important. And that she shared that quality with them as well.
Haibara Ai and Miyano Shiho would be ok. Perfectly ok, in fact.
Sapphire Stars' Notes: I hope you all enjoyed this. I just felt that there was a lot of uncharted territory with Ai and Ran as well as Akemi. Ai has a lot of issues with Ran. While I think that Ai being jealous of Ran over Conan makes for great romantic fodder, I think that Ai's biggestissue with Ran was the whole similarity to Akemi thing. And this isn't coming from me just because I'm a Ran/Shinichi fan. I've done a lot of thinking about this. Hopefully, its reflected in the story. Personally, I think Ran and Ai would make a great team driving Shinichi crazy, hehe
As always, please review its much appreciated!