Yes, I am back in action! Forgive me for my absence, but shit happens . . . and happens . . . and [sob] happens . . . WAH!

Some would say that Ai is acting very out of character. You'd be right, in a way, but let me explain. Ai is a paranoid, darkened character who feels like she has done so much bad in her life. Throughout the series, she lightens up due to the efforts of Ayumi and Conan, yet the first is a child, unknowing of her friend's circumstances, while the second didn't really trust her at first. She also has issues adjusting to society, as the only life she knew was one the BO allowed her.

Add in Ranma, who has less social skills than her, more issues than her, and is in need of a friend . . . and some psych help. She invests much effort into getting Ranma ready for her 'disguise' as Agatha, allowing for a connection to build. Ranma latches onto it, while Ai doesn't even know it exists until it's too late to distance herself. In the end, we have Agatha, who isn't going to let her first real friend become an emo bas . . .er, bitch (yes, I am ex-Naruto fan-deal with it), and Ai, who is unsuccessfully trying to distance herself from her redheaded companion so she can sulk.

Pretty much, while Ranma/Agatha learns the social graces that she has missed out on due to the training trip, Ai will be learning how to look at the world with a child's eye a bit faster than normal. It also helps that, instead of an oddball detective taking an interest in her safety, which could be contributed as an interest in getting cured sooner or later, she has two protectors, one of which couldn't lie worth shit and who honestly seems to be enjoying his/her time as a child (despite the fact that she's stuck as a girl for this period of time).

I own nothing, and I apologize for any OOCness.

Addendum: I've been sitting on this chapter for about a year, and I apologize for it. Having applied and been accepted into Grad School has given me a passion for writing again . . . but not enough time to do it in. Trust me, having one to four tests every week is not much fun. I apologize again for the delay.

Addendum the second: After continuing this too a point, I ended up stalling out before I could reach a stopping point. However, I soon realized my problem. I am not going to write out every mystery from Detective Conan. This isn't about the mysteries. This is about Ranma/Agatha, growing up and learning more about himself/herself. This is Conan and Agatha, learning that there are more things on heaven and Earth then they ever dreamt of. This is Ran and Akane, leaving their comfort zones and becoming more than they ever believed possible. Any mystery I come up with, I will explain in full, but this isn't about the mysteries-it's about growth and friendship.

Sappy, I know, but I thought it was a point to bring up.

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Agatha was agitated.

Had this been a week ago, there would be nothing to be agitated about. Saotome Nodoka had come into her role as a surrogate mother figure/cover story for the three teens-turned-children, and had even taken to coming down to Beika every other day to check in.

Also taking center stage was Conan and Ai informing the redhead that she had been caught up on all the pop culture that every child should know, and was ready for Teitan Elementary School; in fact, today was her first official day at said school, and to be honest, it wasn't that bad.

In fact, Agatha had learned more history and language skills than she had picked up as Ranma in Furinkan. She had even learned two new kanji symbols that she had never learned of before (owing to the fact that Ranma's lessons in reading were rather scattered and had to be hidden from his father, who believes that reading was women's work).

Lastly, things in Nerima were picking up, with the Chinese Amazons actually behaving themselves. Ran had promised to head down to Nerima every other weekend to try and help out until Akane's arm was fixed. Then they would alternate weekends, with Ran visiting the Tendo Dojo one weekend, and Akane coming over to Kudo Shinichi's backyard on the next weekend (the de-aged detective having offered it up during a call to Ran as his former age).

No, what stressed her out was that a few days ago, Ai had come far too close with the Black Organization, giving her a rather nasty scare. The girl had been moody ever since, which set Agatha off. It was all she could do not to snap at Conan for getting her into that mess, as she was at least intelligent enough to realize that it wasn't his fault.

"Ah, he's so cute!"

At the moment, Agatha, Conan, and Ai were with the other members of Shonen Tantei. Yoshida Ayumi, a blue eyed brunette of the team, had jumped for joy when Dr Agase suggested that they could visit a friend of his and his dog while they were holding a garage sale. The idea had taken root, and the trio had been dragged along for the ride.

Ranma couldn't help but like the girl; she had a sense of child-like innocence that she found refreshing, despite the fact that she was kind of a girly girl. In fact, as soon as she found out that 'Agatha' was Conan's cousin, she immediately latched on to the apparently timid girl.

The only disturbing part in all of this was how, during recess, Ayumi covertly dragged the small redhead into the girl's bathroom so she could grill her about Conan.

"It's a Japanese Shiba dog." Tsuburaya Mitsuhiko reminded Agatha of a young Gosunkugi in appearance, though they were nothing alike in personality. The young black haired boy was a genius for his age, knowing lots of little trivia facts that Agatha never even knew about. The guy seemed to be a chicken at first glance, but even Agatha could tell that he had a spine of steel.

The one thing that worried the former Saotome scion was how the boy seemed to fixate on her, Ai, and Ayumi all at once. He was nowhere near as bad as Kuno, but it was worrying . . . mind you, it was kinda funny how Ayumi seemed to miss the cues, and the guy was likeable . . .

Agatha would later admit that, if she really was a girl, inside and out, she'd find the guy cute . . . in a somewhat geeky way, but cute all the same . . .

"What's his name?" Mitsuhiko's feelings for the girls were shared by the final member of the team, Kojima Genta. Whereas Ayumi was the charismatic member of the team, and Mitsuhiko was the 'brains', Genta was the muscle, as much as a grade school kid could be. He was brash and quick to jump in without looking, but he had the loyalty of a hound. In fact, he reminded Agatha of her older, male persona.

Fortunately for Agatha, the chubby youth had a greater fixation on food, one that Agatha could completely understand. After that, Ayumi took most of his focus. He also had an interest in sports and, surprisingly enough to the other youths, Martial Arts, going so far as to giving Agatha an enthusiastic hug when she promised to tutor him in some beginning forms, much to her irritation and chagrin.

"We named him Arthur, after Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the man who created Sherlock Holmes," replied Kano Teruya, the son of Agase's friend. The man was a bit of a mystery fanatic, but all in all, he seemed like an OK guy.

"If Conan and Arthur were to team up, then they'd be the best detective in the world!" Ayumi chimed in, playing with the dog's paws. Conan was quick to discount it, attempting to ignore Agatha's giggle while he was at it. Fortunately, this was enough to distract both Mitsuhiko and Genta from being too jealous of the young detective.

Agatha then perked up, turning towards where Dr Agase was walking in, Ai trailing nervously behind him. As she turned towards the two of them, Arthur started to freak out, growling and barking at her blonde friend. When the dog lunged, she leapt on top of him, holding the dog in place and delivering a light slap on the dog's head, "Bad dog!" The dog stopped struggling, though he did continue to growl at Ai, who was hiding behind Agase's leg.

"That's odd," Teruya muttered, moving towards them, "he's never acted like this before . . . "

"By any chance, did you guys pet any big dogs on your way here?" Conan asked pointedly.

"Well," Agase replied, "a friend of mine with a large dog did stop by the house earlier. How did you know?"

Conan smirked, but before he could show off his deductions, Agatha chipped in, "H-he probably noticed all the d-dog hair on your pants, Agase-sensei. Dogs and w-wolves can tell a lot by smell alone, and h-he probably felt threatened by you."

"Oh, that's why!" Ayumi gasped excitedly, delighted that her new friend also had cool detective skills.

"I guess his personality is kind of like Conan's," Mitsuhiko chuckled, amused by the thought of it.

Conan ignored this jibe, informing Teruya to not be too hard on the dog, "After all, he was just acting on instinct."

"One that is not like the others," Ai mused, a fake smile on her lips, "Maybe it wasn't just instinct . . . "

Ayumi and the boys stared worriedly at the blonde, until Agatha walked up to her, glared at her, and then pinched her side, making the girl jump. "Don't say stuff like that, Haibara-chan! After all, what would some dumb dog know anyways!"

Ai rubbed her side and mock-glared at her friend; ever since the incident on the bus, Agatha had been forced to up her act, moving from shy girl to occasionally bossy, shy girl. She still stuttered and hid behind Conan from time to time, but she made a point to knock some sense into her female friend's head every now and then.

Agatha met her glare, and the blonde couldn't help but shiver. Agatha might have to play at being weak and shy, but she sometimes forgot that there was the mind of a martial artist behind those eyes. The core of determination there was intense.

She broke away, only now realizing that a pudgy, middle aged man with a mustache had walked up and was engaging Teruya and Agase in a conversation.

She tried to ignore Conan's smirk and the other kids' confused looks, trying to pass off her past comment as a joke.

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Agatha marveled at the room, "So many toys!"

Fortunately, only Ai and Conan heard her comment, as the other three kids were off checking out clocks, models, and dolls from around the room. It was enough to even make Ai crack a smile . . . until she thought about why Agatha would be marveling about a couple of old toys.

Still, it was hard to stay depressed while watching the small redhead flit around the room, marveling at some of the odd antiques, picking up and playing with some of the more masculine toys, and trying to ignore Ayumi's attempts to get her to play with the dolls.

"Wow!"

Ai blinked, realizing that she had lost track of what was around her for a few minutes. Glancing over, she noticed a small white dog with black fur on her ears walking in. Conan, Mitsuhiko and Ayumi had already made their way over to play with Doyle (the dog's name), and she couldn't help but overhear Mitsuhiko say that she was a Papillion (or something like that; she couldn't be bothered by the details at this point).

"They sure are mystery fanatics," Agatha muttered, walking up behind her. The blonde snorted, but noticed that her friend seemed to be staring at the scene with a sort of longing in her expression.

"Let me guess, you wanted a dog when you were younger?" Ai asked the redhead.

The boy-turned-young girl shrugged uncomfortably, "Yeah, ever since I was about eight and found a stray at the side of the road. I tried to keep it for a few days, but then Pops started looking at it like it was dinner. Overheard the baka mention something about cooking it one night when he thought I was asleep. Barely managed to chase it away in time, and even then, Pops ended up giving me Hell for it for the next two weeks."

Agatha winced at the blonde's horrified look, "Don't worry, I got him back for it. Two months later we ended up camping out in a poor part of the country, not sure where. There were plenty of strays around, but the moment I caught him grilling one of them, I refused to even eat the rice. He thought it was all fine and good then, but after I started giving the locals sob stories about my cruel father who hogged all the food, they called child services and the cops. He barely got out of there with me, and it took him weeks to find an area where he wasn't known as a child abusing glutton. Never tried to eat dog again in my presence after that."

Agatha had a sad smile on her face, and Ai knew that if Ayumi ever heard that story, they'd never get her to stop crying. It was all she could do to keep from wrapping the poor redhead in a hug herself, but she didn't want to attract attention to them; they were lucky they weren't overheard as it was.

" . . . just like the greedy queen who got her head chopped off herself."

Both girls looked up to see an older woman leaning against the door frame. Ai cursed herself for losing her situational awareness for a few moments, but missed the woman's name when Agatha asked who she was talking about.

"Oh sorry, the door was open so I just let myself in. Your mother told me I could have anything in the house that I wanted." She wandered into another room, saying as she walked away, "If you don't mind, I'll just take what I want."

"She's a dog lover too?" Agase asked, just as Agatha asked again who the odd woman was talking about.

"I'll give you the overview later, it's a long story," she muttered to the redhead, who nodded confusedly.

". . . do I really want to know?"

"It's a pretty interesting story, but you need a lot of backstory," Ai claimed with a smirk, "To give it a quick summary, France was not a nice place a couple hundred years ago, and a lot of important people, including royalty, had their heads chopped off."

Agatha blinked, blinked again, looked around to ensure that nobody was close enough to hear them, and then asked, "That actually sounds kind of interesting. Why can't all history be like that?"

Conan, the Shounen Tantei, and the three adults in the room couldn't help but look confused when Ai busted out in a fit of laughter. This, however, snapped Tsunashima Yoshio into action, causing him to hand the small dog, Doyle to Ai and rush off to check on his clock. Ai couldn't help but stare at the dog, surprised.

"Hey Ai, Agatha, why don't you pick out something?" Ai chimed in excitedly, enjoying the atmosphere.

The redhead jumped, stunned and somewhat embarrassed, as Ai looked up in confusion.

Mitsuhiko and Genta chimed in, "Yeah, it isn't every day that we get a chance like this!"

"There's a lot of cool stuff here!"

"Well then," Ai seemed to think for a few seconds, "I guess I'll take this dog . . ."

Agase and Conan gave her a confused look, but Agatha just sighed and poked her friend, "You're going to say something dark, aren't you."

Ai just blinked in return, "And when I do, you're going to pinch me again, aren't you?"

For the first time in several weeks, Saotome Ranma's infamous smirk made its appearance, "What do you think?"

" . . . I think you've been imitating your Onee-chan too much. It's starting to stick." Agatha's only response to this was to stick her tongue out at the blonde. The rest of the room just giggled.

Suddenly, Arthur ran into the room, barking his head off. When his owner tried to scold him, the dog just started pulling on his pants leg, dragging the man down the hall to see a tall, black haired woman with a Shetrand Shepard standing in the hall.

The woman, Hasuki Shino, was quite nice, and the name of her dog, Christie, showed her to be a mystery fan. Ayumi couldn't help but remark about how Doyle and Christie seemed to be such good friends.

"Much like their owners, ne Conan-kun?" Agatha muttered, slightly amused.

"Huh? What makes you say that, Agatha-chan?" the small brunette asked.

Conan and Ai mentally cursed, not realizing that the other three were listening in, but Agatha just giggled a bit, "J-just an observation Ayumi-chan. Just an observation."

Suddenly, a clock bell rang and Doyle the dog perked up, leapt from Ai's grasp, and went running down the hall. Teruya explained how the little dog took his meals at noon, and then lead the way to his mother's shrine. However, the dog wasn't there . . .

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Ai stared at the scene in front of her in horror. While looking for Doyle, the Shonen Tantei and the adults had heard Arthur the dog barking outside. What they discovered out there seemed horrific.

An old oven that had originally come with the property, and had been left unlit for many years, was hot and open. Arthur was growling at the door. Conan had leapt to the fore and grabbed a set of tongs to go digging through it, only to find the charred remains of Doyle's collar.

As Teruya let loose a heartbroken cry, Ai stood in the back in shock. Dark thoughts ran through her head as her arms shook. She tried her hardest to hold back the tears in her eyes as the oven and the apparent gravesite seemed to grow more distant in her vision . . .

Wait . . .

Ai blinked and looked behind her, where Agatha was gently leading her back into the house. As she opened her mouth, the redhead quietly shushed her, and continued to drag her onwards into a room with two Hifi speakers and a sound system. Slipping behind one of them, Ai couldn't help but gasp when she saw Doyle lying inside it, peacefully sleeping.

As the blonde fell to her knees in relief, Agatha sat down, picked up the sleeping Papillion, and handed it to AI. I thought something was off with the bell that rang, and thought I'd investigate that. I found him just before Arthur started barking at the furnace. Somebody left him food laced with a sleeping agent; I can tell that much from having dealt with Kodachi in the past."

As Ai started gently petting the small dog, she glanced up at her friend, "And you didn't tell the others because . . . "

Agatha grimaced, "Dogs can't drug themselves like this, so there must be a mystery behind it. If I just brought Doyle out of hiding, Conan might miss the evidence that could point to the asshole who did this."

The pint sized scientist nodded thoughtfully as the two sat there with the dog in silence. Then Ai glanced at her friend, "Agatha-chan?"

"Yeah?"

"Thanks."

The redhead just shrugged, "Don't mention it. You and Conan are my best friends; makes me wonder what it might have been like to have spent my first childhood with you two."

Ai blinked, "First childhood? Didn't know you even had one!"

"Ha ha, very funny." Agatha deadpanned.

The two girls giggled for a bit, and then fell silent, taking turns petting the dog that lay on the blonde's lap. They continued to be silent as people went through the house, looking for Doyle. When Conan and Ayumi finally found them, they couldn't help but giggle at the look on the child detective's face as he gaped at them, stunned that he had been beaten to the key evidence.

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Later that afternoon, Dr Agase walked the kids (and the apparent kids) home. Ai was busy trying to calm Ayumi down, as she was rather annoyed that the two girls didn't take her to Doyle (Agatha had a bit of forgiveness for being new and for being Conan's 'cousin'.

As they walked near the back, Conan slid next to Agatha, "Thanks, I owe you one for keeping Ai from being . . . well . . . "

"Depressed? Macabre? Dark?" Agatha supplied glibly. At Conan's grimace, she sighed. "As I told Ai, you guys are my best friends. I might not be able to add much to this team, but at the very least, I can keep you two from tearing yourselves apart."

Conan grinned weakly, "So have you forgiven me yet?" When Agatha continued to stare at him, he shifted uncomfortably, "For that bus ride thing?"

Agatha rolled her eyes, "The bus thing wasn't that big of a deal. It was you ignoring Ai-chan's instincts that got me. For a detective, you can really be an idiot!"

Conan winced, "But there wasn't anyone of note on board! I couldn't . . . "

"I knew I guy that could disguise himself as any inanimate object in the room. I couldn't even sense his presence until he popped up as the trashcan or desk or mailbox or something like that. Who's to say the bastard wasn't disguising himself on that bus?"

"Then how could Ai know they were on the bus?"

Agatha grew pensive, "Ai's really good at sensing presences and intent for a non-martial artist. Since she spent most of her time around those creeps, she can instinctively recognize their presence in the room. For all we know, it could have been the little old lady next to you, or the grown man in the back; she just knew he was on board."

The shrunken detective grimaced, "I didn't think of that. I learned a little about disguises and costuming from my mother, but I wasn't as into it as I was with learning how to be a detective from my father. By the time I picked it up, my mother was off working on her career."

Agatha nodded, thoughtfully, "Next time you see her, could you introduce me?" At Conan's odd look, Agatha grimaced and shook her child sized fist, "You and Ai are the brains in this operation; the only reason I found Doyle first was because I could tell the difference between a clock bell and a recording. I'm too weak to be the muscles, but I was tired of being Saotome Ranma even while I was Saotome Ranma. Maybe if I can pick up some disguise techniques, I might be able to start contributing more to our group."

Conan grinned and snickered, "You do know that you'll be stuck playing dress-up as long as she's around, right?"

Ai blushed, "I know, but . . . well, it might be . . . fun . . . " She then slugged him in the arm, "Just don't tell anyone; it'll ruin my reputation."

She then ran ahead to join the rest of the group, Conan laughing and grumbling behind her.

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NEXT UP: We meet up with Conan's/Shinichi's counterpart in Osaka, as well as the infamously insane Kuno Tatewaki. Enjoy!