Pairing(s): HakuShin, KaiHakuShin, KaiShin, HakuKai (etc etc)

Warnings: Threesome, Angst, Depressed Shinichi.

A/N: Right. So. First chapter of my "Christmas Project" because I don't know if I'll have it done in time as, recently, I have been ambushed by a plunnie that insists it be written. So, surprise! you get a chapter now, and I'll update as I finish them.

Also, I edited this just tonight and I'm running on 3 hours of sleep. Forgive me if I missed stuff. And, y'know, I meant this to be a light hearted quick fic... but somehow I ended up with a depressed Shinichi and some weird romance/drama plot thing.

On another note... This chapter's mostly character establishment and background stuff so it's boring and I think it sucks. (Even if Sera and Sama seem to really like it) Sorry. D:


Part 1


A lot of things had changed after Conan and the Black Organization, not the least of which was Shinichi becoming an internationally known person. It wasn't always a good thing, really. Fame, he had long ago decided, was not what it was worked up to be. Though, at least it did make some things easier as he had often learned. Where before he would have had a bit of a fight on his hands with foreign cops in his ever going quest to solve a crime, the last time he'd been to America he'd been greeted with far more respect than the last. His father was still much more renowned, which still peeved him a bit, but he'd beat his father some day. It was a working goal.

All the same, while that was one of the largest of the changes in an objective point, the more important changes had occurred much closer to home. Things like Mouri Ran.

In the past Shinichi had always imagined that, by now, in his early twenties he'd either be steadily dating, engaged, or married to her. He wasn't any of these things, and, in fact, his long time friend wasn't even in the country. Things had been... rocky for awhile when he'd returned. They'd tried to work things out, even gone on a few dates, but, well, with the knowledge that Shinichi had a massive secret hanging between them things just hadn't seemed to mesh well. Ran had said it best: A relationship can't be built on secrets.

Shinichi had agreed with her, and though it hurt he let her go. They strove, in the end, to return to a comfortable friendship since they could not seem to strive for more, and, eventually, they had managed it. Things would never be the same, perhaps they would never be as close as they once were, but they were still friends and that was what mattered. Shinichi wasn't quite sure what he would do without Ran's steady presence somewhere in his life.

Still, his friend had decided to go to America to attend a school there, much to the grumbling of her father, but Eri had shut him up soon enough and told him to be proud of his little girl. They talked on the phone often, and Shinichi knew she was keeping in close contact with his own parents, which eased his worries a great deal. He couldn't help but want to make sure she was safe even now. She'd always own a part of his heart, after all.

Another change that Shinichi had never expected was that he'd ever have a sort of partner in his detective work. Sure, he and Hattori had worked together quite a bit, and they still did when it proved useful and came up. Heiji was still one of his closest and most reliable friends, but Heiji was also in Osaka, and had things of his own to worry about. Shinichi didn't begrudge him one bit, doubted he could. Heiji had saved his life, literally, more than once.

Shinichi shot a grateful, if not tired, smile at the cop who handed him his school bag, as well as his partner's. They had been left behind in the sudden chaos of the crime, a hostage situation gone wrong, and he really hadn't been looking forward to finding them again, nor having to replace them if things went that badly. Giving a polite bow, and murmuring his thanks, Shinichi set them by his feet.

"Kudou-kun," a cultured if not bland voice interrupted Shinichi's musings and he blinked away the cobwebs in his mind to focus on the present. "The suspect is in custody, unless you've had another of your epiphanies and are going to inform me we've had it wrong this entire time."

Shinichi barked out a laugh at the perfectly dry delivery, and turned to face Hakuba, the look on the blond's face was as wry as his tone, though he looked far more ruffled than usual: Blond hair mussed, and a smudge of dirt across one cheek, a small scratch on his left temple had already stopped bleeding. Shinichi was pretty sure he looked just as bad. "The chances that we were wrong don't seem to be very high."

Hakuba's lips twitched before he gave in and offered up a slight smirk. "Considering how hard he fought, and the fact that the murder was committed in front of around twenty people, if not more? You're probably correct. Whatever could have had you spacing out so much that you'd miss the delivery?"

"The past," Shinichi hedged nebulously. "And how different things turned out than I expected."

"During a case? Really, Kudou-kun I would think at this point in your career you would have learned to pay attention already." Despite the fact that the half-Brit's tone was faintly scolding, Shinichi took it as the light natured ribbing it was. It was hard to believe that Hakuba Saguru could tease, but after meeting the blond's long time sort-of friend, Kuroba Kaito, he could easily see who had managed to teach him to loosen up a bit. It was a massive difference from the stiff, smug teenager he could remember meeting a few times as Conan.

"Everything was under control, and you hardly needed my help."

The other detective snorted wryly, about to retort when one of the cops called out to the two of them. Hakuba lifted his hand to signal he'd be there in a second, then gave him another sharp, searching look. It was one of the things Shinichi hated about being friends with another detective, they always looked beneath the surface, just like he did, in search of any and all clues to work out the mystery you presented. Shinichi and his quiet world astounding case, along with his part in it, were an extreme mystery, after all. He'd never told a soul, had kept his mentioned involvement to nothing more than that. He'd been involved, a key part of the take down, but no one ever found out how.

Unless he had a good reason not to, Shinichi would take the secret of Edogawa Conan to the grave with him, as would the few other people who knew.

"I called Kuroba-kun to see if he would mind the two of us dropping by since he lives near here." That said, the blond turned and headed over to see what the cops needed.

Shinichi shoved his hands into his pockets and waited, trying to ignore the nettling bits of pain from the scuffle to subdue the suspect. The man had been half mad, raving and ranting after he'd murdered his wife in the middle of a nearby empty lot. The evidence was, of course, overwhelming, but the hard part had been to catch the insane man. The pair of them had outstripped the other police by a good deal. Shinichi put it down to spending too much time chasing Kaitou Kid, really.

The thief, he had to admit, was one of the major points of contention between them, but he was glad to have Hakuba as a working partner. It eased his paranoia and stress levels more than he believed it could. After the Black Organization had been dealt with he'd expected to just step back into his regular life, only to find it next to impossible. Working cases on his own, stepping back into the spotlight, had unnerved him so much he'd pretty much had a nervous breakdown.

He'd almost given up his dream, had stopped taking on cases very much for several years until he got into university and, without knowing what else to do with himself, signed up for classes to further his career as a detective. It was in those that he'd met Hakuba as Shinichi for the first time, and it was there, during a murder on campus, when they'd first worked in tandem. Shinichi had later learned that Hakuba had moved to Japan indefinitely to spend more time chasing Kid without constantly uprooting his studies.

Since then the two of them had worked together whenever possible, and a shared interest had made it easy to form a friendship, and, of course, with Hakuba came Kuroba, the blond's favorite suspect. Shinichi even knew a few of their other highschool friends, though he wasn't around them nearly as much as the two men. Nakamori Aoko's resemblance to Ran had unnerved him so much at first that he'd pretty much gone mute around her, unable to even look at her. Kuroba hadn't been pleased, thinking he was snubbing his friend, but with some hedged explanations things had been smoothed over.

Kuroba had even admitted that he could understand. Apparently he and Aoko had a lot of parallels to Shinichi and Ran. Between them all, well, they'd been able to help him simply by not caring, and not having that sort of dark tension between them that Ran had. With Hakuba watching his back, he could feel safe knowing that the chance of another incident like Conan happening again had decreased phenomenally.

Hakuba returned looking half bored, half annoyed, and Shinichi fell into step with him even as he handed the blond's bag to him. They'd ended up at the scene right after class, and been there until now with the exception of that little chase. "What did they need?"

"Thank you. To ask if we required medical attention and to read us a lecture about chasing down dangerous armed suspects."

"Which you walked away in the middle of," Shinichi deadpanned.

"Of course," Hakuba sniffed as they paused at a crosswalk with a small cluster of other pedestrians. Cars prowled by, the city darkening into night around them while windows lit with the internal glow of electric lighting. "I wasn't going to stand there and listen to that old windbag treat me like I was some green idiot."

Shinichi forced back the smile that wanted to creep up, well aware that it could make Hakuba close up if he didn't. It wasn't everyone that the other detective was relaxed enough around to gripe so openly. Hakuba was still just as tactless and blunt as he'd ever been, but he was a little more forward about it with some people. "He's just not as used to being upstaged as Division One," Shinichi pointed out, playing devils advocate.

The pair of them sauntered across the crosswalk, thick white stripes passing by underfoot without a thought. Someone shouldered passed him in their rush, and Shinichi sent a baleful look at their back. That had hurt, he might not need medical attention but that didn't mean he wasn't bruising all over the place.

"It's not my fault that we don't deal with the hostage negotiators all that much. Most of the cases we stumble across are usually well and truly dead." Then looking faintly pained, Hakuba admitted, "Or they are too slippery to be caught."

"I'm sure he'd appreciate the compliment," Shinichi informed him blandly, swinging out of of the way of another hurrying passer by to keep them from jostling him this time.

Hakuba's only reply was a rude snort. They fell into silence, too tired to really keep the banter up at this point, but Shinichi could feel the tension that had settled between them at the mere mention of the thief. Hakuba's posture had changed as well, shifting from relaxed and tired to tensed shoulders that spoke of the agitation coiled just beneath the surface. He could feel it in himself as well; feel it in the tightening of his pocketed hands into fists and the way the languor had that encompassed him had disappeared.

Both of them wanted to catch him, they both wanted him. It was an unspoken knowledge between them that had turned every heist since understanding had dawned into a competition; into a silent battle that they warred to see who could capture the thief's attention. There was a silent agreement to keep it to the heists, even if it didn't always work. Testosterone and competitive nature being what it was, there was inevitable spill over.

They wandered passed a bar, the door propped open to allow the sounds of merriment within to filter out on the shadowed street along with the smell of alcohol and cigarette smoke. A young couple around their age stood near the entrance, the girl excitedly bouncing as she waved and called to a friend further down the street. The boy with her looked caught between boredom and reluctant amusement.

It was a faint reminder of what he'd lost, one that only gave birth to an echo, of a pang, in his heart. He'd moved on, left that all behind and was facing his future, changed as it was, without flinching. He hadn't dated since then, hadn't been able to find what he wanted in the mostly shallow social circles he sometimes found himself in. After experiencing something as deep as the connection he'd had with Ran, Shinichi couldn't help but feel anything less wasn't worth his time. Instant gratification might be wonderful, but Shinichi had visited the dark side of life and learned more about patience and frustration then most people could ever understand.

What he wanted, was someone who could keep him on his toes, someone who challenged him on every level and who could understand him, a person who could watch his back, be stability and balance. It was all very sappy and stupidly girlish sounding no matter how he looked at it. There were very few people who could, and one was currently a good ten years younger than he was, physically, while the other was dating someone. Not, of course, that Shinichi begrudged Hattori and Toyama their happiness. In the end the one that remained was...

"There is a heist coming up," Hakuba muttered out of nowhere. There was a barely there edge to his voice, strained, as if he wasn't sure he wanted to share this information. Shinichi glanced at him, and found that the blond, while looking perfectly normal to everyone else, had his head tilted down marginally. It was a sign of bullheadedness and pride he'd come to notice from exposure.

"When?" Shinichi asked, doing his best to mask his own annoyance with the thought that Hakuba would keep the information from him until, perhaps, too late when he learned it from the media. The task force seemed to see him as something of an outsider even now, closing ranks and keeping information from him when it suited them. He'd long ago learned not to bother asking and tended to rely on Kuroba or Hakuba to drop him information if they wanted. Or he'd find it himself.

Kudou Shinichi was not without resources, after all.

"The day after tomorrow. Nakamori-keibu has been trying to keep it quiet to avoid the usual media circus, and, for once, the owner of the jewel isn't putting up much of a fight." Shinichi recognized the derision in Hakuba's voice easily enough, and knew it was directed toward the owner rather than anything else.

Silence fell again, and Shinichi let it, wishing that the tension would evaporate but knowing it was only going to get worse over the next day or so, just as it always did. They were at an impasse, neither willing to fully declare their intentions, and neither willing to step down. Kid showed them both the same reaction, whoever tried the hardest, whoever came the closest won the thief's attention, and Shinichi could tell that he was thriving in the competition, though he had no idea whether the thief realized the undertones or not. His bet was that he didn't. So, they tried, going all out against each other and Kid himself in an attempt to sway the thief's attention more toward one of them or the other. It was a silent war, never spoken of, never remarked on, but very very present. They were Kid's top two rivals, after all, the best at thwarting him, the best at understanding him.

Shinichi slowed to a stop, eyes gazing at a Pachinko parlor across the street, on the corner, with a far away look in his eyes. He wasn't really seeing it so much as seeing the past. A shattered flow of memories assaulted him with remembered sounds and images: Of Kogoro muttering, words half slurred from the alcohol he'd already consumed that he was leaving, of sitting at the window, staring out at the dark streets below while Ran stalked around the room behind him grumbling about her father, of Ran pulling on her jacket, and making sure he had his on too, then taking his hand and marching off to find the old man, and of finding him and watching Ran drag him home while he cursed and complained in blurred words no one could understand.

"Kudou-kun?"

Shinichi blinked away the memories, and glanced at Hakuba with a dazed 'Hm?'

"Are you sure you're alright?" The other man sounded faintly worried, a welcome respite from the dark atmosphere that had settled between them like an unseen monster. "Perhaps you hit your head and we were unaware of it," Hakuba murmured hand lifting and reaching toward him before stopping mid air and dropping back to tuck into the blond's pocket.

An idea settled at the corner of Shinichi's mind right then, a half sort of realization that slipped through his fingers, but left him feeling oddly satisfied as if he'd just understood something at long last while still leaving him frustrated because he could not figure out what that epiphany was. He left it alone for now, knowing it could come to the fore when his mind had full comprehension. It was only a matter of time.

Pasting an arrogant slash of a smile on his lips, Shinichi bunched his shoulders upward in a half hearted shrug. "I didn't, a thought occurred to me is all." And, beyond that, he couldn't help but think that, with those thoughts, maybe he hadn't yet left the past as far behind him as he had thought. It wasn't the first time that fact had occurred to him either, sometimes the past seemed inescapable.

Shinichi wondered if he would ever be able to get away from the connections that weighed him down, made him unable to forget and move on completely. He could push it away for awhile, then it would reemerge like a nightmare from his childhood.

Hakuba looked like he wanted to ask, but decided to refrain, and turned away to head down the street. After a moment's longer pause Shinichi followed and they left the street they'd been on behind to walk toward the darker less sparsely populated streets between tall apartment complexes. Kuroba had moved out of his mother's home sometime ago. Hakuba had once told Shinichi he thought it was to make it harder to pin any evidence on him. Shinichi figured he was probably right.

Direction was automatic, they'd visited Kuroba often enough that they knew the way from almost any direction without any conscious thought. Hakuba lead the way, Shinichi content to follow the taller man, eyes staring contemplatively at the pavement as it passed beneath his feet.

The building Kuroba lived in was a simple two story affair, the apartments accessed from outside. The two of them climbed up the stairs onto the balcony walkway on the upper floor, and passed the quiet apartments to Kuroba's. Before Hakuba could even knock the door swung open, something that surprised neither of the detective's. The other man, Shinichi's near twin but for a small difference in build, the way they'd filled out, and the wild hair, blinked at them. Kuroba greeted them with a flat, "You two look like hell."

"Thank you, Kuroba-kun," Hakuba replied morosely. "We feel like hell too."

The magician looked toward Shinichi for confirmation, and Shinichi merely lifted one shoulder in an apathetic shrug. He'd been in worse pain so he wouldn't really call this hell. Hakuba sighed, a sure sign that he was following all this silent communication just fine, and could they please move on?

Kuroba stepped back, one hand still on the door handle, and bowed slightly, extending his other hand in a sweeping gesture to motion them in. Hakuba gave him an unamused, petulant look before walking passed him into the warm glow of the apartment. Shinichi followed, silently amused by the face Kuroba was making at the other detective's back.

Pausing just on the threshold, Shinichi turned to Kuroba and informed him, "Hakuba-kun thinks you're slippery."

Kuroba blinked once but didn't miss a beat, he never did. "Hakuba-kun thinks I do what in my spare time?"

"Must you speak of me as if I'm not here?" Hakuba asked sharply, though there was an undertone of complaint there as well that almost made Shinichi laugh.

"Did you hear a voice, Kudou-kun?" Kuroba asked blithely.

Cracking a small smile at last, Shinichi toed off his shoes, paused a moment to crouch down and turn them around next to Hakuba's, and stepped into one of the pairs of slippers sitting nearby. Kuroba drifted passed him and further into the small room. It was a modest space, really, only a tiny kitchen, a main room, a small bedroom, and a bathroom. It was what one would expect a brand new, up and coming magician of Kuroba's caliber to afford. Kuroba had had offers from very talented magicians to be their apprentice; offers that included food and board, but Kuroba had turned them all down.

Stepping into the main room, and absently setting his bag against one wall where it would be out of the way, Shinichi glanced over the organized chaos that made it up with the same faint feeling of amusement as usual. Gadgets and tricks were settled on all the shelves, a television tucked into one corner and the low table in the middle of the room covered in a variety of tools and the bits and pieces of something Shinichi couldn't even identify. Kuroba merely grabbed a plastic container and began sweeping the assorted screws, washers, a bits of metal into it without even blinking. The half built what-ever-it-was found itself relocated onto a shelf with his other projects. The entire time he was stepping around books and papers that littered the floor.

"I think," Shinichi murmured, eying the way Hakuba was directing a potent glare at Kuroba's back. "that the voice wants to murder you." That glare turned on him then, and Shinichi blinked lazily in response.

"He wouldn't dare," Kuroba chirped. "Not with the great Heisei Holmes around. He'd never get away with it. First aid kit is under the table, by the way."

Ignoring Hakuba's grumbled 'Why the devil is it under there?' and Kuroba's bland reply of 'It's easier to get to when the two of you come stumbling over looking like something the neighbors cat left on my doorstep.' Shinichi drawled, "It's good to know someone still has faith in my abilities."

Kuroba turned to him with a wink and a grin. "I would never have any doubt."

The first aid kit clattered loudly against the wood of the table as Hakuba set it down a little more sharply than was normal. "Though it isn't all that surprising that people have their doubts considering the last several years."

Shinichi froze for a split second before calmly settling down beside the table on one of the cushions there and resting his arms atop it. He focused his attention on the television which was showing a news channel. Somehow he wasn't surprised to see a recording of himself as he tackled the suspect from earlier, only to get slammed into a wall by the man. Hakuba arrived on the scene a few seconds after that, Shinichi being a faster runner from years of soccer practice.

"Low blow, Hakuba-kun," Kuroba said, though Shinichi barely heard him. "Stop being such a bitch or I'm going to kick your ass out of here."

From the corner of his eye, Shinichi could see Hakuba grimace, could feel eyes on him for a moment before they flickered away again and the quiet sounds of the blond rummaging through the first aid kit. After a moment, and the soft tap of a few things being set down, Hakuba cleared his throat and said, a bit haltingly, "My apologies, Kudou-kun. That really was out of line."

He was obviously sincere, and Shinichi knew it, so he flicked a glance toward the blond, noting his bowed head and intent concentration on the table top and a bottle of antiseptic. "It's only the truth," Shinichi pointed out dismissively. And, even though it was forgiven, even if it was understood, Shinichi still felt a little numb in spite of himself.

Somewhere out of sight, Kuroba made a despairing sound, one that usually meant he thought that they were both completely without help and nothing he could do would fix either of them. That wasn't unusual either, really, and it made a bit of humor seep back into him, but it just seemed to be swallowed up by the cold void that had opened in the vicinity of his chest.

"Are the two of you hungry?" Kuroba called. "I saw on the news that you two have been there all afternoon. I've got some left over Chinese."

"How left over?" Hakuba answered absently, busy cleaning out a small cut on the heel of his palm. There was a tiny shard of broken glass laying on the table, bloody and dull. Shinichi couldn't even remember how he'd gotten that, he'd been too caught up in the case at the time, too focused on catching the suspect before he hurt anyone else.

"It's from earlier tonight, idiot," Kuroba's voice said from closer by. Shinichi flinched when Kuroba's hand touched his shoulder slightly. He hadn't realized until now how sore it was, though it didn't feel like anything more than some bad bruising. Probably from having it jammed inward when he'd collided with the wall. "Kudou-kun, are you alright?"

Grimacing slightly, Shinichi forced the black mood that had settled on him back and looked up to find two sets of eyes on him. "I'm fine, just some bruises and a pulled muscle. Possibly a sprained wrist." The words were barely out of his mouth before Kuroba had sat down beside him, Hakuba at his back, and tugged Shinichi's indicated wrist toward him. "What are you–" Shinichi was cut off by a quiet hiss of pain when Kuroba bent his hand too far one way and a flare of pain sparked along his nerves.

"Just making sure it isn't broken," the other man muttered. "Don't look at me like that, Hakuba-kun. Clean out that cut on your head before it gets infected. There's a mirror in my desk, top drawer on this side. You can't miss it."

"I'm fairly certain that I didn't break anything," Shinichi retorted drily.

Hakuba stood up without a word, and wandered over to the desk to retrieve the mirror in question. He was back a few seconds latter with it in hand, and settled it on the table in a small stand he'd brought with, especially for that, and set about cleaning the small gash on his temple.

"If that needs stitches I'm not doing it," Kuroba said pointedly, never even looking up. "I'm just checking Kudou-kun. I think I have a wrist brace around here somewhere. We're pretty much the same size so it should fit you just fine. Just let me go find it."

Shinichi thought about telling him not to bother, then just sighed and settled in more comfortably. Once Kuroba got an idea in his head there was no stopping him, really. Instead he just absently watched him rummage through a few drawers with the half hearted manner of someone who knew where they kept all their mess but generally misplaced things within specified piles of said mess.

"Didn't you have a show earlier tonight?" he asked instead.

"I've got about an hour before I have to leave," the magician replied, giving a triumphant sound as he returned with the brace and took possession of Shinichi's hand again. "The two of you are welcome to stay here tonight if you want to. You know where everything is, futons in the closest, and one of you can use the bed. Kudou-kun, you can borrow some clothes tomorrow if you don't want to run home before your classes. We're close enough in size."

"Excuse me for being a few inches taller than the two of you," Hakuba muttered darkly.

"Your genetics are inexcusable, Hakuba-kun," Kuroba deadpanned right back. "Besides, as much as the two of you show up here like this you'd think you would just start leaving something here, or carry a change of clothes with you."

Shinichi coughed to cover a chuckle. "It's not like we expect to run into criminals, Kuroba-kun."

"No," Kuroba allowed, after a long moment and great deliberation. "but you do anyway."

Shinichi woke up to the smell of coffee, as intoxicating as any spell. He couldn't even remember falling asleep, hadn't actually planned on it, and had merely settled against one wall, curled up in a way he'd come to use while Conan. It minimized space, made him smaller and less noticeable, and generally left him feeling slightly more secure. Which, he supposed, was the point. It was a silly inconsequential thing, but then his mind had grasped for things like that at times.

The last thing he really remembered from the night before was downing a couple of over the counter pain relievers to ward off the pain starting to throb in his shoulder, getting settled, and seeing Hakuba still sitting at the table, eyes fixated on the television long after Kuroba had left for his show. He could remember the flickering blue glow from the screen, and the way it had highlighted the other detective's hair, face, and his hands that were clasped before him, chin resting against them, as well as the white of the bandage Hakuba had wrapped around the one.

After that, it was as if he'd merely blinked and lost time, and now it was morning. Someone had draped a blanket around him as best they could, though he didn't know who. His entire body was feeling stiff, muscles cramped, and joints sore, particularly that shoulder. He supposed that was to be expected after being rammed into a cement wall though.

Shinichi uncurled his arms slowly, feeling every muscle in them and his back protesting every movement no matter how small. A particularly sharp stab made him cringe and curl in on himself again. He obviously hadn't really moved at all during the night if the way his muscles had tightened up was anything to go by.

"Take it slow," A voice Shinichi easily identified as Kuroba said, not unkindly. Shinichi merely grunted in response. He well knew how to deal with his own injuries thank you very much. "I had wanted to move you to the bed or something last night when I got home, but neither of us really wanted to wake you up." Kuroba scowled suddenly, resting one hand on his hip while Shinichi carefully stretched his arms out. "How much sleep have you bee getting lately? Even Hakuba-kun has noticed that you look like death warmed over."

That gave Shinichi pause, and he tilted his head up to look at the nonplussed magician. Kuroba seemed to be scrutinizing him just as much as Shinichi was him. Did he really look that bad? As far as he knew he didn't. Finally, not sure what else to say he just shrugged in bafflement and said, "Enough. Where is Hakuba-kun?"

Kuroba turned away with a muttered 'Define enough,' and crouched down to rummage around the odds and ends on the table. He had, apparently, been quietly working on his project again. "He left early this morning. Do you want another dose? Hakuba-kun told me you took a few before you fell asleep." As if to get his point across the man turned on his heels and held out the bottle of pain relievers then gave it a good shake to rattle the pills inside.

"Ah," Shinichi hummed, deliberating even as he picked himself up and moved to join the other man at the table, favoring his shoulder. The way his skin felt, hot and tender to every shift of his shirt fabric, he guessed he was probably pretty banged up. The real ache, though was more bone deep and sitting in the joint. Wincing as he settled at the side of the table he decided that, yes, he would like another. "That would be great."

Kuroba shoved aside a number of small metallic pieces and set the bottle of pills on the table in front of him, as if he'd been expecting that answer. He probably had been. "I'll get you a cup of coffee." As Kuroba walked away and Shinichi reached out to grab the bottle and twist off the cap, he called back, "I kept some breakfast for you. It should still be warm. I just went out and bought some things before I made it."

Shinichi almost laughed at the automatically added disclaimer. Kuroba was far too used to the two of them teasing him about his inability to remember to buy food regularly it seemed. Having been living on his own for years, Shinichi found it more amusing than was probably necessary.

That was Kuroba for you though, and Shinichi didn't think anyone would have it any other way. Kuroba always seemed... refreshing, was the only way to really put it. He didn't care about things like Hakuba and he, wasn't caught up in the tight hold of the fronts they put up, but that wasn't to say Kuroba was without his own pretenses. Simply, Kuroba Kaito was more free with himself and other people than just about anyone else Shinichi had ever known, and he liked that. It was that, as well as the intelligence, challenge, and ability to understand through similar history that drew Shinichi to Kuroba like a moth to a flame.

Kuroba set a mug of faintly steaming coffee down in front of him, followed by a couple of bowls and all the needed paraphernalia for eating. A simple breakfast of steamed rice, natto, and miso soup. "Not much, but I've seen the way you eat."

"Like you're one to talk."

Kuroba winked cheerfully at him, because they both knew that he had a tendency to get so caught up in his newest trick or other little projects that he forgot to eat until someone forcefully reminded him and dragged him away from whatever he was working on. "Yes, well, think of it as me returning the favor, Kudou-kun."

A tiny smile worked its way onto his lips, before sliding off, his eyes watching Kuroba's hand as the magician fidgeted with the bowls a moment longer. He was pulling away, and Shinichi reached out to catch hold of Kuroba's wrist before he realized what he was doing. Looking up slowly, Shinichi met the magician's slightly startled blue-violet stare.

It occurred to Shinichi that, if he wanted to he could make move right here, right now. Maybe he would be rejected, maybe not, but he could. Hakuba wasn't here, all he would have to do was tug Kuroba down and he could just kiss him and see where things went. Yet, even as the thought occurred to him, Shinichi knew he wouldn't, couldn't, do that. He wanted to, a great deal, but it just didn't seem right somehow. Finally, he just released Kuroba ignoring the confused look he was getting, and murmured, "Thank you, Kuroba-kun. For this time, and the others."

The baffled look on his face softened slightly into a smile, and Kuroba shrugged. "What else could I do? Turn the two of you away?"

Shinichi would have said that that was exactly what he could have done, but the way Kuroba said those words made him stop. It also made that nagging thought that had been lingering at the back of his mind, the idea he'd meant to stay awake and mull over, stir. He tried to grasp it, only for it to slip through his metaphorical fingers again. Not letting that fact get to him he rolled his shoulder in a faint shrug and said, "Hakuba-kun would just accuse you of being up to no good if you did."

"Exactly," Kuroba replied pertly, straightening up. "I'll go see if I can find you a change of clothes to borrow that won't make you want to strangle me."

To be fair to Hakuba though, he hadn't really gotten on Kuroba's case that much. Kuroba had told Shinichi about how the blond used to be, and from his own experiences with the man, then teenager, as Conan, Shinichi could believe it. It was also that fact that often made Shinichi feel like he was intruding, like he should just back down and let Hakuba, well, he didn't want to say win because this wasn't exactly that kind of competition.

The very idea scared him though, more than Shinichi cared to admit. Where would he be? What would be left then? He didn't think that the two would just forget about him, but at the same time knew that things would change. They would shift, and Shinichi would, inevitably, be the one left behind. All his brain seemed to be able to come up with when he went over the scenario in his mind was 'not again.' He wondered if this clenching uncertainty was what Ran had felt all that time, which only made him feel like a miserable bastard.

Maybe it was karmic retribution.

That thought made him snort, and, attempting to shake off the malaise that had settled around him, reached out for the bottle of pills. Shaking a couple into his hand he set it aside again and popped them into his mouth before reaching for the coffee. It wasn't hot enough to scald, nor quite as dark as he preferred it, but the caffeine settling into his system along with the pain relievers felt wonderful.

Sighing he took another steadying swallow of coffee, giving a little hum of content at the strong flavor, then set the mug back down and reached for the food. He didn't want to seem rude, after all, even if his stomach seemed to be in knots that were making the idea of eating fairly unappetizing right then. Plus, he should probably have something in his stomach with the pain killers.

That settled he turned his mind to eating, focusing only on that and shutting out all the hundreds of other nameless thoughts that persisted to clutter his brain. He was so intently focused on his food, one bite to the next and not really even tasting it, that he didn't even notice when Kuroba came back until the magician sat down nearby and pulled his latest project toward him. Silence settled in, comfortable and easy, with only the small metallic sounds from Kuroba's tools, and the slight sound of tableware.

Finally settling back, and resting his chopsticks across the rim of his emptied rice bowl, Shinichi asked, "How did your show go last night?"

Kuroba grinned brilliantly. "It went great. They want to schedule me again, and it's a really nice venue. Pays well too. Maybe some day you and Hakuba-kun can come and watch."

"Only if we shut up and suspend our disbelief, right?" Shinichi shot back drily.

"If you ruined it for the rest of the crowd, I'd have to kill you," Kuroba agreed cheerfully. "Kill you so well that even you couldn't solve your own murder."

Shinichi thought about pointing how, being dead, they wouldn't be able to solve it anyway, but changed his mind at the last second and decided to practice separating his suspension of disbelief from his literal life view. He could swear he heard the other man mutter something about teaching detective's new tricks, and shot him a sardonic look.

"What time is it anyway?" Automatically Shinichi glanced around for a clock, even though he knew he wouldn't see one. Kuroba, for some reason, didn't have any in his home. Shinichi was almost certain that it was to annoy the habitually punctual Hakuba.

Lifting his hand Kuroba glanced at his wristwatch for a moment then said, "Almost noon." Blue violet eyes flicked up, and Shinichi found himself under that considering gaze again for several moments. "You already missed your morning classes. Why don't you just go home and take the day off? You really don't look so good, Kudou-kun."

Had he? Well, shit. Sighing again, Shinichi rubbed a hand over his face, then shook his head. "I'll be fine. I just need a shower, and maybe another cup of coffee." So said, he drained the rest of the mug and sat it back on the table.

"If you say so, Kudou-kun. Just don't push yourself too hard, we don't want you to collapse on us or something."

Half way to standing up, Shinichi paused, inclining his head to look back down at the surface of the table with its scattered components, and asked, "Don't you have to go in today as well?"

Kuroba groaned, letting his head thump down on the table at the reminder, though Shinichi highly doubted he'd actually forgotten. In fact he was pretty sure the image of a lazy student that Kuroba projected was completely fabricated. He enjoyed the things he did far too much to ever mind learning more about them. "Yeah, once you're ready we can go together. I'll just get this stuff cleaned up and find my books."

Shinichi laughed lightly, earning an amused smirk from the other man, though Kuroba didn't bother to remove his disconsolate gaze from the mess of books he was eying with a small amount of trepidation. Smirking in amusement, Shinichi turned away and headed off toward the bathroom.

When Shinichi returned he found Kuroba waiting patiently, eyes riveted on some show on the TV that was loud, flashy, and reminded Shinichi of the things he'd been subjected to by the Shounen Tantei when he was Conan. He must have chuckled, because Kuroba turned toward him, brow quirking in silent question as if to ask 'You expected anything less?' The reminder of the three children who had, by their own volition become his friends, sent a pang through his heart. He hadn't seen much of them since he had become Shinichi again. What he did see of them was mere glimpses as they enjoyed cheerful days with Ai.

Haibara herself had changed a great deal from the uptight girl she'd been, and, while she was still intensely serious for the most part, ever since the Black Organization had fallen she had been more, well, free, he supposed. Which made a lot of sense. The added blessing of a second childhood allowed her a new chance a life, and it made Ai seem downright happy. The APTX had been Miyano Shiho's saving grace while it had just destroyed Shinichi's life. It was at time like this that he wondered if he wouldn't have been better off remaining Conan, though those moments were always short lived.

If he'd have stayed Conan he would have been plagued with what if's. So, even if things were not perfect, at least he knew he had done his best. His lowest points, few and far between, were when he'd actually contemplated asking Haibara to whip up a batch of Apotoxin so that Conan could come back. After all, it wasn't like many people would miss Shinichi if he left again.

Grabbing his bag Shinichi went to shoulder it only to have it snatched away by Kuroba. "I'll carry it for you," the magician informed him cheerfully. "The last thing you need is to end up actually doing some damage."

Shinichi frowned. "I'm not going do any damage. It's just bruised."

"And probably weak from that impact."

Rolling his eyes, Shinichi allowed himself to be ushered out the door, then paused to wait as Kuroba locked tit behind them. "I wasn't even planning on using that shoulder." Or arm, really, his wrist was still hurting as well.

"Good, then stop arguing."

"Nothing I say will make a difference will it?"

Kuroba hummed an affirmative that made Shinichi sigh. As the pair of them walked down the street, Kuroba occasionally calling greetings to a few people he obviously knew– Shinichi was never surprised with how easily he got along with everyone. –the magician pulled a small notebook out of his pocket along with, to Shinichi's amusement what looked like a red marker. Peering curiously over his shoulder, Shinichi was able to read a few lines. They were a nearly indecipherable mess of Kanji, English, and a few other languages.

"I didn't know you knew Dutch."

"Kudou-kuuuun," Kuroba whined, pressing the small notebook to his chest until it was hidden against the loud, brightly colored logo on his shirt. "Don't you know it's impolite to look at a magician's secrets?"

Ignoring the wounded and betrayed look that was being directed at him, Shinichi shoved his hands into the pockets of the jeans he was wearing. The clothes were far more casual than he usually chose, but they were comfortable, so he wasn't going to complain. Not to mention they smelled like the detergent that Kuroba used. "That isn't anything secret and you know it. It's just a reminder that you need to go shopping again."

A pout formed on Kuroba's lips before he screwed his face up into a wounded look. "Why are you deciphering my notes anyway?"

"Why are you writing your notes so they need to be deciphered?"

"Touche, Tantei-kun, touche."

The mention of his old nickname made Shinichi freeze mid-step, and, for a moment, his brain was caught up in a crazy whirl of emotion and thought that made him want to physically sag against some solid surface so that he didn't have to hold himself up. Then, logic caught up with him, along with the fact that there was no way Kuroba could know that he had been Conan. After all Kid called him Meitantei-san these days, and, anyway, even if Kuroba did know, he wouldn't be so stupid as to make his status as the Kaitou Kid so obvious.

"Kudou-kun?" Kuroba's voice called, a worried tinge tainting it.

Shinichi gave himself a slight shake trying to chase away the memories that had been conjured, because that was far gone now, so why worry about it? "It's nothing, I just thought I was forgetting something."

"If you're sure... I still think you should–" Kuroba was interrupted by the sound of his phone ringing. Slanting a look at Shinichi he fished it out. One glance at the display had him grumbling, and, to Shinichi's surprise, he tossed the phone to him. "It's Hakuba-kun. You can deal with him."

Giving the magician a perplexed look as he skipped over to slump against the sign for the bus stop, Shinichi answered Kuroba's mobile and set it to his ear. "Moshi moshi."

There was a long pause, then Hakuba asked, "Kudou-kun?" in a tentative voice. Shinichi couldn't blame them, the number of times Kuroba had changed his voice when he answered the phone was enough to make anyone careful. Though, Shinichi sometimes wondered about that...

"Yes. Kuroba-kun shoved his phone at me and told me to deal with you."

"Oi! Kudou-kun, don't be so mean!"

"I see," Hakuba deadpanned in his ear. "I was just calling to see if you'd woken up yet, actually."

"We're on our way in right now so I'll see you in class, Hakuba-kun."

"I'll let you borrow my notes from our morning classes as well."

"Thank you."

"Give me the phone," Kuroba piped up, beside him again.

Shinichi shot him a curious look."I thought you didn't want to talk to him."

"What isthat idiot doing now?"

"Being childish."

"What did he say?"

"That you're an idiot."

"Hakuba-kun and Kudou-kun are very mean," Kuroba lamented. "Why am I friends with the two of you again?"

Shinichi shrugged, leaning away from Kuroba as he attempted to take the phone from him. "Do you want to deal with Kuroba-kun?"

"I'm not sure, but I might as well see what he wants."

Humming in agreement, because the alternative was a sulky Kuroba Kaito for the rest of the day followed by revenge on Hakuba for not talking to him, as well as revenge on Shinichi for not stopping Hakuba from hanging up... Well, it didn't really bear contemplating. Shinichi handed the phone back to its owner.

Ignoring the rapid fire conversation going on nearby, Shinichi allowed his posture to slump slightly and covered a yawn. If there was one thing he knew, he was very much looking forward to his bed tonight. He was really tired.

Shinichi slumped down into a chair in the commons having just escaped a lecture on Morality and Crime that had left him, for some inexplicable reason, feeling absolutely exhausted both mentally and physically. Hakuba was sitting next to him, picking through his notebooks to find the notes for the classes Shinichi had missed. He, meanwhile, slid down in his seat and let his head fall to rest on the cool surface of the table with a slight thump. His eyes had that annoying gritty feeling, like when he'd stayed up way too late only to get up much too early the following morning. It felt insanely good just to let his muscles relax.

"Whatever class you two just took," he heard Kuroba's voice say suddenly. Cracking open an eye he watched the magician drop down into another chair at the table they were occupying. He had a can of tea, Shinichi couldn't see what flavor, clutched in one hand. "but I never want to take it if it can knock Kudou-kun out like this."

Shinichi snorted and thought about forcing himself to sit upright like a normal person. After a bit he decided he didn't care right now, and if anyone else did they could get back to him on it. Kuroba shifted to reach over Shinichi's head. He heard the echoing thump of something heavy landing on the table behind him, the impact enough to rattle his skull, but mostly ignorable. Kuroba slumped back in his seat then, scooting down in a boneless sprawl that made him look far more relaxed than Shinichi thought he had any right to be.

"I doubt you need any help delving into the innermost workings of the criminal mind, Kuroba-kun," Hakuba said drily.

"What's that supposed to mean?" Kuroba asked mournfully, giving Hakuba a hang dog look; all big sad eyes and protruding lower lip.

Hakuba cleared his throat imperiously (Obviously expressing irritation with Kuroba's antics. Right.), and shuffled a few more papers before laying them down and sliding them across the table. Shinichi groaned, and began forcing himself to sit up, but before he could manage it, Kuroba reached over and snatched the sheaf of neatly piled papers up.

"Kuroba! What are you–"

"Bleah. You're so neurotic, Hakuba-kun!" the magician complained waving the papers. He had to lean away and hold them out when the Half-Brit attempted to snatch them back.

Reaching over Shinichi tugged the papers from Kuroba's grip and set them back on the table, absently smoothing out a few creases the magician's grip had left. "Thank you, Hakuba-kun."

The blond sent Kuroba a dull glare, before nodding faintly. "You're welcome Kudou-kun."

"Hey, Hakuba-kun." The other detective turned toward Kuroba while Shinichi leaned over to fish a notebook and pencil out of his bag. Flipping open to a new page he began to idly copy down Hakuba's precise notes. "I was talking to Kudou-kun about this earlier, but sometime would you like to come to one of my shows? They want to schedule me at the venue I worked last night." Before Hakuba could say a word, Kuroba held a hand up in perfectly timed, theatrical manner. "If you do come you have to promise not to deduce my tricks. You've got to let go and have fun~!"

"I... That could be interesting," Hakuba admitted, sounding almost begrudging, as if the idea of being forced to have fun was absolutely intolerable.

"You don't have to make it sound like such a chore." Despite the whine, Shinichi could tell the magician was just teasing the stoic blond. Glancing up he found Hakuba rolling his eyes in exasperation while Kuroba grinned cheekily at him.

Shaking his head slightly at the pair, Shinichi propped his elbow on the table and rested his head on his hand. Writing with his sore wrist wasn't easy, but the brace kept it immobile enough that he wasn't in pain either. Focusing on copying the notes, since his brain was scattered enough at the moment that it was making it hard to even remember what he was reading as he wrote it down without listening to the pair of them, Shinichi wrestled his mind back on task.

Idly turning a paper over once he'd finish with it, Hakuba only wrote on one side, he continued onward mowing through the notes even as his mind continued to drift somewhere else. Once he'd fallen into the rhythm of reading and writing to the exclusion of all ambient distractions it was easy enough to turn his mind elsewhere.

Like the lecture he'd just gotten out of. He wasn't altogether sure why it had effected him so much, left him feeling drained, but it had. Maybe it was because of his time spent as Conan. How he knew that everything wasn't quite as cut and dry as many people seemed to think. He'd had the question posed to him so many times when he'd been stuck as Conan: How far could he go, how far would his morals allow him to go, and would he know when he'd gone too far?

There were times when he'd been so deep into things that when he'd realized the stuff he was doing he'd been scared he was loosing himself. When it came down to it, when you were pushed into things, it wasn't always easy to recognize you were stepping beyond your initial moralities. In the end, some human instincts drive you farther, push you harder, than you can ever guess until that situation arises.

Shinichi well knew how far he'd go when cornered, how hard he'd fight to protect, and that knowledge still scared him.

Very few people could understand that, or even dared to acknowledge that side of themselves. Perhaps the only person Shinichi knew who did, aside from Haibara Ai, was...

Lifting his head Shinichi looked at Kuroba as the other man grinned wickedly at Hakuba. The half-Brit was looking more than a little annoyed as he lectured Kuroba on just why he shouldn't use magic tricks to switch all the things in their bags around. Not like it wasn't the first time the magician had done it. Flipping back several pages in his notebook, Shinichi found that he'd been writing in his own at least. Well, that was good. Either Kuroba was feeling benevolent today, or he'd gotten lucky.

"Kudou-kun doesn't care."

Blinking blankly at the sound of his name, Shinichi furrowed his brows as he tried to figure out where he belonged in this conversation. "I don't care about what?"

Two pairs of eyes, one blue-violet and the other cinnamon colored, sent him odd looks before Kuroba finally said, "That I switched around the stuff in our bags."

Oh, right, that. "I hadn't even noticed."

Hakuba's lips pursed slightly, a frown drawing his brows together sharply while Kuroba looked surprised before putting on an expression like someone had just taken his favorite toy away. "How could you not notice?" he whined.

"Kudou-kun?" Hakuba's voice was flat, questioning, and curious. It reminded him of the night before when he'd been concerned. "Are you sure everything is alright? If you hit your head hard enough to cause this level of disorientation..."

"Like I said, I didn't. My head doesn't even hurt, and I've not had a headache or anything." Though, despite what he'd said he probably wasn't as okay as he thought. Looking down at the kanji he'd neatly penned on the star, lined sheets of paper, the strokes of each character almost seemed like they were moving. Shinichi had to blink a few times to make sure it was just his mind tricking him. "I think I'm just really tired," he admitted at last.

Pressure against his forehead made him tilt his head back until he found himself staring at a deadpan Kuroba Kaito. The magician's eyes were half lidded, a sort of look that made him feel like he was looking in a mirror more than ever. The surreal feeling, the one that came with being overly tired, that had settled around him didn't help either. Crossing his eyes slightly, Shinichi tried valiantly to stare at the hand in front of his face, two fingers of which had been used to push his head up., then finally he decided to just focus on Kuroba who was half sprawled over the table.

"Kudou-kun," Kuroba said slowly. "If you're this tired you should really go home and get some more sleep. No one's going to blame you. Iiiiidiooot. You aren't super human!"

"Ha ha... Thanks for that notification, Kuroba-kun."

"You always act like you are."

Shinichi wanted to tell him that he knew very well he wasn't super human, that he was far from it and that he'd had that fact proven to him quite thoroughly, but couldn't find the words or the will to say them. Hakuba reached up, pulling Kuroba's hand away and gave him a glance that seemed to read him from the inside and out. "We just don't want you to hurt yourself, Kudou-kun. You'll do yourself no favors by allowing yourself to completely burn out."

"I..." That nagging thought was back, sitting like a self important gargoyle at the edge of his mind and waiting patiently for him to acknowledge it. He seemed to increase the more he looked between the two and took in their expectant expressions.

"If it's about missing another class you really shouldn't worry about. I mean Hakuba-kun can get you notes, and it's not like you aren't smart enough to catch up. Hell, if it matters that much I'll go for you." As he spoke, Kuroba reached up and smoothed his hair back, neatening it into an exact replica of Shinichi's controlled hairstyle. He ended the effort by sucking on his finger a moment then twirling it in the hair at the crown of his head to create a copy of Shinichi's cowlick.

Shinichi blinked, and his doppelganger mirrored him perfectly. A slight tilt of the head, and Kuroba did the exact same thing with only a minor, almost unnoticeable, delay. "That is completely unnecessary," Hakuba drawled pointedly, though Kuroba seemed content to ignore him.

"It's fine, I'll just copy Hakuba-kun's notes so long as he doesn't mind, but... I think I will go home." If only because he had other things plaguing his mind right then and wasn't sure he could stand the rest of the day. Murmuring a soft farewell, Shinichi gathered up his things, tucked them back into his own school bag, and made to leave the table.

"Kudou-kun?" Hakuba called, causing him to pause for a moment. "Are you sure you don't want me to call Baaya? I'm sure she'd be willing to come and take you home."

"No thank you, Hakuba-kun. I'll be fine."

"Try not to trip over any crime scenes," Kuroba teased, absently messing his hair back up.

Shinichi gave a final, wry, smile and turned away. The entire way out of the room, he could feel their eyes on him quizzical, and feeling as if they were dissecting him down to his very core.

In reality, Shinichi didn't go straight home. In fact he ended up in the park nearby his neighborhood, the one that the Shounen Tantei had always dragged him to as Conan, and spent his time thinking while he basked in the sunlight. The ambient sounds of the city, as well as the quiet rustle of the wind in the trees here, had served to calm his nerves a little, and he had, more or less, settled into a slight doze on the bench he'd claimed.

"Who were you with last night?"

Blinking his eyes open at the question, Shinichi found Haibara sitting placidly on the bench next to him. He had no idea when she'd gotten there or why she was there. "Shouldn't you be in school?"

The blond girl sent him a bland look that seemed to inform he was extremely dimwitted and she was oh so disappointed to learn this. "School is over, Kudou-kun. Come on, you can walk me home." Shinichi snorted, because she really did make that sound like some sort of privilege, or an order. He took his time getting up, just to try and annoy her a bit. If it did, though, she didn't show it, a fact that didn't surprise him at all. Instead Ai simply stood up and absently dusted her skirt off. "So, Kudou-kun, who were you with last night?"

He could have taken offense at her asking that, but they'd been friends through too much for him to really be bothered by her apparent attempt to pry, instead he merely asked, "What makes you think I was 'with someone' last night."

"While the others might have lost interest in playing detective, I still indulge on occasion."

The reminder made something in his chest ache, before he forced it away. They had just been, and still were, children after all, it was hardly surprising that, once Conan and the excitement had left, they would lose interest and move on. In some ways he was glad they had, he didn't want any of them ending up like him, in others... Well, it twisted the knife deeper and made him feel as if he were being forgotten by everyone.

"You're being awfully blunt today," he noted absently, taking his mind off the thought by fiddling with the strap of his school bag. It felt awkward having it sitting on this shoulder like it was.

"I'm just a capricious child," she retorted without missing a beat. "I haven't learned tact yet."

That really did make him laugh, and he caught the tiny smile on the girl's face. It was amusing as ever, her odd attempts to cheer him up. "For your information, Haibara-chan, I merely stayed the night at Kuroba-kun's last night after that hostage situation was resolved."

"I see..." she murmured.

Silence fell between them, the comfortable kind that appeared between long time friends who had little or no secrets between them. It made Shinichi relax minutely. As they turned the corner onto their street, Shinichi let his eyes wander over the familiar sight of the Kudou manor, and the professor's house. "How's he doing lately anyway? I haven't seen him in awhile..."

"He's locked himself up to work on a new invention," she sighed. "I'm going to force him out tonight if you want to stop by and join us for dinner."

"You just want me to help you drag him away from his work," Shinichi deadpanned.

"Yes, but I also want to make sure you get a decent meal this week."

"Why is everyone mothering me lately?" he complained, shoulders slumping.

Haibara turned to look up at him, one hand resting on the gate to the Professor's house. There was a stern, yet amused look on her face. Then a slight smile broke all the stoicism, and she informed him, very matter of fact, "Because someone needs to, Kudou-kun. We all know you can't look after yourself."

"That's not true and you know it," he grumbled. "I've been taking care of myself for years."

The girl snorted, half derision and half honest disbelief. "Denial will get you nowhere." Turning away she opened the gate, pausing just beyond once it had closed, and turned to look at him with such a serious look on her face that made him feel like he was Conan again; like they were about to have some conversation about the dangers of the Black Organization. "They ask about you still, you know, from time to time. They want to know if you're happy and doing okay."

Confused and unsure where she was going with this, he merely answered with a noncommittal, "Oh?"

Turning away again the girl headed toward the door speaking as she went, "I tell them that you are. I don't like lying to them, Kudou-kun. So, make sure to make this the truth soon, okay?"

She left him standing there, feeling perplexed beyond belief. He didn't know what she was talking about, after all, he was doing just fine wasn't he? He was living, moving on with his life... right?

Shinichi drew his hand up, running it down his face wearily. He headed next door, to his own home, pausing to look back only once. He wasn't exactly sure what to make of that conversation, but... Shaking his head he opened the gates, let them close behind him, and headed up the short walk to the front door. What he did know was that he had figured things out, at least a little.

He knew exactly what he needed to do now, though perhaps a little more observation of his 'suspect' was necessary before he made his deduction. Smiling faintly he made his way inside, pausing only to kick his shoes off as he shut the door behind himself, then headed toward the silent sitting room.

Dropping his bag on one of the chairs he settled himself on the couch. Twisting and arching his hips slightly to dig his cellphone out of his pocket, he deposited it on the nearby table alongside his keys.

The heist would be the perfect opportunity to observe his 'suspect' and then, if all went well, he would approach him afterward and ask him to meet him. After that... He just had to give him the proof, and convince him he was right. Shinichi curled onto his side and tucked his arms under his head. Though the couch was rather uncomfortable, he was asleep seconds later a faint smirk on his face at the prospects of his plan being set in motion.


A/N: Gah, Fanfiction keeps eating part of a sentence in this chapter so if something reads weird that's probably why. -grumbles.