It's official – I cannot write drabble to save my life. Why do all my plunnies demand plot? Why? (And this is officially my longest oneshot to date. How does one sentence MORPH into such a monster? It's the blob that ate Pittsburgh for Christ's sake! How?)

The idea hit me while I was brushing my teeth, and has since refused to die. If you've read Book, you might know where I'm going with this Muwahaha. Enjoy!

Oh, and "Happy birthday to me, I am now twenty-three, I don't own Detective Conan, so please don't sue me!"

Being a member of the Shounen Tantei-dan had done wonders for Mitsuhiko's observational skills. Before, he couldn't have told anyone what they were doing five minutes ago, much less two days. Now, he could accurately note a person's actions, clothing choices, and conversations (provided they were somewhat short and to the point). And it wasn't just his need to pinpoint possible suspects in their ever-increasing load of cases that made his skills useful. He'd started noticing the little things around him as well. Little things that by themselves were nothing, but all together just didn't add up. Secret glances, coded words, cut off sentences when he entered a room. The fidgeting of a guilty conscience. Diversionary tactics to send him away. Mitsuhiko smelled a rat.

It was his own personal mystery! A case all his own for him to be the leading meitantei! Well, he could have dragged Ayumi and Genta into the case, but Ayumi would have demanded Conan and Haibara come along since they were members of the Shounen Tantei-dan too, and he couldn't have that. Not when they were pieces of the puzzle. So solo it would be. Meitantei Mitsuhiko is on the case!

Eagerly, he put his observational skills to work. It was amazing what he noticed when he paid attention. What was even more interesting was what he noticed when people thought he wasn't paying attention. Conan and Haibara sure acted weird when they thought no one was looking. All those big words and whispered conversations. Were they secretly a couple and not telling anyone? Oh please no. It wasn't fair that Conan already had Ayumi falling for him, could his crush not be spared? But wait, now Haibara was hitting Conan so he might have hope yet. Go Haibara-san!

...where was he? Oh yeah, observation. Well, apart from Conan and Haibara being smarter and even more creepy than he'd originally thought (-except for Haibara. She was not creepy, she was cool-), those two weren't giving much else away. Well, there were other places he could snoop and explore. He headed off to Agasa's.

While the professor was surprised to see him on his doorstep without the others in tow, he was nice enough to invite him in for tea in spite of his obvious lie at being there. He still wasn't very good at telling falsehoods. It's probably because Tou-san didn't take kindly to liars. "Never tell lies Mitsuhiko," he'd always say, "for lies will find you out at the end. And that end is hardly ever pleasant." So he really had no chance nor reason to practice. But seeing how Conan could lie himself out of any situation made him think it was a skill worth having. Tou-san didn't need to know, and it wasn't like he'd ever lie to Him anyways. He was Tou-san. You don't lie to your Tou-san.

But back to the matter at hand. Agasa sure had a lot of neat toys lying around, didn't he? There was the highly pressurized water gun disguised as a pack of gum on the floor, the electromagnets that looked like 10 yen coins scattered on the table, the sneezing powder ringpop by the TV, and Oooh! The sleeping gas sticker! But why did it now have a four leaf clover on the front? Hmm, he could swear he'd seen that icon before...

...Aaah, he'd figure it out another day. Best snoop around while Agasa was still in the kitchen.

Making his way through the chaos that paraded itself as a living room, Mitsuhiko made a beeline for the basement door. It was the one area that Dr. Agasa had forbidden them from exploring, so of course it was the first place he had to check. Opening the door, praying to every deity above that the hinges wouldn't squeak (they did in all the movies), he peeked his head around the door frame. Harsh, fluorescent light beckoned from beyond the door cracks at the bottom of the stairs like in all those monster horror flicks. Mitsuhiko gulped. He sure hoped there weren't any real monsters waiting to devour him beyond that door. Screwing up his courage, he placed one foot upon the descending staircase...



Jumping like the devil was on his back, Mitsuhiko abruptly backed away from the staircase and slammed the door. Professor Agasa stood in the living room, tray of tea and snacks held in both hands, as he frowned disapprovingly down at the child. "Mitsuhiko, what have I told you about going downstairs?"

Eyes glued to the floor, heart racing a mile a minute, he guiltily replied, "Not to."

"So why did it look like you were about to walk down?"

Mitsuhiko stayed quiet. He knew better than to answer that question. Agasa stared at the boy for a while longer, then sighed. "Well, I can understand your curiosity, but I asked you not to go down there for a reason. It's dangerous, and I wouldn't want you or anyone else to get hurt."

Mitsuhiko's mind flashed back to the back-lit door. Maybe there really was a monster hiding down there! He quickly did a metaphysical slap upside the head to himself. Meitanteis don't believe in monsters! It's probably just the really cool inventions that explode everywhere.


No. Mitsuhiko, just No.

Finally glancing up from the floor, he met the amused stare of Professor Agasa. The old man gestured with the tray to the couch and sitting area. "Now, why don't you come over here and tell me the real reason why you decided to drop by all by yourself?"

Mitsuhiko gulped. Uh oh. This was not going to be fun. Tou-san, forgive me.

"Well, you see, I'd heard this rumor about a thief in the area..."

Now why did the professor's face just pale?

Okay, observation attempt number one had failed, so on to stake out point number two. The Mouri Detective Agency, home of the famous Sleeping Detective Mouri Kogoro and more importantly, fellow classmate Edogawa Conan. Looking up at the imposing structure, focusing in on the second floor bank of windows, Mitsuhiko sucked in a breath. The place looked a lot more menacing when Conan or Ran-neechan wasn't around. But if he wanted answers, he'd have to go in. It's now or never Mitsuhiko. You won't get another opportunity like this for a long time. Conan hardly ever goes out unless it's for school, cases, hanging out, or...cases. He's really into cases. But he never volunteers to go shopping, especially for clothes. Why would now be any different? Is it because they're for Neechan? Does that matter? Should it? He looked up at the apartment for the umpteenth time. ...Or am I trying to delay the inevitable? Come on Meitantei, suck it up! You can do this! It's not that scary.

And really, it wasn't that terrifying a place. Sure, there had been three murders in the last month outside the cafe Poirot on the first floor, but that wasn't any reason to get weak in the knees. It's not like the building's a death magnet, no matter what anyone says. It just has a high death rate. A really, really high death rate. Uh huh. Sure. And Mouri-san is not the Beika Shinigami. Even Megure-keibu was keeping his distance nowadays. No need to jinx yourself if you don't have to.

Okay, now he really was stalling. If Mouri-san was a death god, then that would have to make Conan a double death god or something. Considering the number of dead bodies cropping up weekly, Conan must be working for the Grim Reaper. Or he was cursed. Or both. Or something. No one has that much bad luck...

Anyways...time for action. Conan and Ran-neechan could come back at any minute, so Mitsuhiko needed to move his butt into gear. He placed his foot upon the first stair in the shadowy stairwell. The feeble light scarcely penetrated the dim interior, almost afraid to venture past the relative safety of the sunny sidewalk. Mitsuhiko could sympathize. One step at a time Mitsuhiko, one step at a time. And, one shaky step at a time, he managed to tread all the way to the top of the flight of stairs before the agency door. Now for the truly hard part.

He couldn't explain it, but something about the famous detective Mouri Kogoro scared Mitsuhiko witless. He didn't know what, but whenever he had to interact with the man by himself, he'd nearly freeze in fright. Only by himself. When he had someone else at his side - the Shounen Tantei-dan, Ran-neechan, Professor Agasa - he'd be perfectly fine, but alone, that man terrified him. And now he had to face him if he wanted to find answers. Oh Kami-sama, help me.

It took him two minutes to gather the strength to ring the doorbell.




"Whaddya want?" Standing in the doorway, faintly back-lit by the latest Yoko Ono concert playing on TV, was Mouri Kogoro, half dressed, tie askew, peering down at Mitsuhiko with bloodshot eyes, smelling like a chimney sweep married to a three day drunk. To Mitsuhiko he could not have looked more terrifying. His mouth bobbed like a fish, but no words came out. His mind was a complete and utter blank. Mouri waited patiently for all of five seconds for the boy to say something before taking matters into his own hands. Grunting like the slovenly drunk he was, he bellowed, "Conan's not here so scram ya little pipsqueak!" at Mitsuhiko's face before slamming the door and returning to his beloved Yoko-chan.

"Okay," Mitsuhiko belatedly squeaked at the closed door and practically flew down the stairs. Running for the safety of home, he tried to remember why he'd gone to the agency alone in the first place.

His case. Trying to dig up information on Conan and Haibara. Right. Darn, now he'd failed a second time. Some meitantei he was turning out to be. Scared off by a drunk Mouri. The meitanteis of the world would be ashamed. Now what was he supposed to do? Go back? Picturing the look on Mouri's face as he'd opened the door, Mitsuhiko shuddered. Nope. Not happening in this lifetime. So what next?

Later that night, Mitsuhiko moped in his room, thinking on how he'd totally screwed up everything. How was he supposed to solve his mystery now?

"Why the long face?" a voice asked from across the room.

Looking up from his position sprawled out on his bed, Mitsuhiko turned to his father perched in the doorway. How could he reply to that? Nothing was going right! So he sighed and said the first thing that came to mind. "It's nothing."

His father tilted his head in a classic disbelieving expression. "It doesn't sound like nothing. Care to tell your old man what's wrong?"

Mitsuhiko rolled his eyes. "Tou-san, you're not old."

That comment caused his father to crack a smile. "Thanks, but that doesn't answer my question. What's eating you?"

Mitsuhiko tried to find a way to explain without truly explaining. It was still his mystery to solve, after all. Meitanteis don't need help. "Well, have you ever tried to do something and been shot down at every turn?" he questioned his father.

The man nodded. "It's happened a time or two."

Encouraged, Mitsuhiko elaborated. "I've been trying to figure something out, but I can't find a way to get to the information. Everything I try backfires. I don't know what to do!"

Tsuburaya senior rubbed his chin with his hand. "Hmm, sounds like you have a dilemma on your hands. Have you tried asking directly?"

"....not exactly..." Mitsuhiko looked off to the side. An eyebrow rose on his father's face. "It's a secret."

"Ah." He nodded his head in understanding. "And you don't want anyone to find out?"

Mitsuhiko nodded his head.

"Then you might need to try thinking outside the box."

His face blanked in confusion. "Outside what box Tou-san?"

"I'm sure a meitantei like you can figure it out." And with that said, he closed the door on his son's sullen face leaving Mitsuhiko alone with his thoughts, another question stacked upon the pile of confusion in his head.

Still pondering his father's enigmatic statement the next morning, Mitsuhiko walked into the kitchen in search of something to eat for breakfast. Kaa-san would make breakfast during the school week, but on the weekends the Tsuburaya household was left to fend for itself in the way of edible foodstuffs. Heading for the cupboard where the Poptarts were stored, he reached up and grabbed a bag. Now all he needed was a glass of milk. Pulling down a cup from the shelf, he made a beeline for the refrigerator. Grabbing the milk carton, his eyes roamed over the refrigerator shelves.

...Huh. That wasn't in here yesterday. Setting the carton on the floor, Mitsuhiko grabbed a book off the second shelf next to the eggs. Scanning the cover (Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Lock Picking but Were Afraid to Ask), he wondered what a book would be doing in the fridge. Books don't need to be refrigerated. Shrugging his shoulders, he carried the book with him to the table with his milk. It would give him something to read while he ate his breakfast. And Tou-san always said the best way to make yourself smarter was to read everything. Maybe this book would give him some ideas on how to "think outside the box." He flipped it to the first page and tore into his Poptart.

The book gave him more than a few ideas.

A few days later, with some secret lock picking practice under his belt (it was a good thing Tou-san had all those locks lying around in the shed out back for him to practice on) Mitsuhiko was ready to set his plan in motion. The name of the plan? Operation Explore Forbidden Basement Without Getting Caught. Aka Sneak Into Agasa's House And Explore Basement For Information On Conan And Haibara (Without Getting Caught). The 'Without Getting Caught' part was very important. Agasa had told the him, Ayumi, and Genta they could come over at any time, but Mitsuhiko was pretty sure he didn't mean come over in the middle of the night. Thus the sneaking in. What Professor Agasa doesn't know can't hurt him, right? And Conan sneaks into places all the time. If Conan can do it, he can do it! At least, that's what Mitsuhiko told himself to rationalize his actions and shoo off the lingering sense of guilt nipping at his heels.

So here he was, waiting in the shadows near the wall by the haunted house next to Agasa's place waiting for the lights to go off. It was a good thing his Tou-san liked to take him star-gazing in the middle of the night from time to time, otherwise he didn't think he'd have been able to stay awake. Why do adults stay up so late? It's almost ten-thirty! What adult stays up till ten-thirty? Well, Tou-san does, but he's Working. He has an excuse. Agasa doesn't work like Tou-san Works. There's a difference. So Agasa needed to sleep so he could sneak in and snoop.

10:45: Lights still on.

11:00: Lights still on.

11:15: Lights still on.

11:30: Lights still o-hey! They went off! Finally! And just in time, it was getting really dark and stormy out here. And yes, it was dark and stormy. It was a dark and stormy night when Meitantei Mitsuhiko made his way into the Professor's house. Nah, sounds like a cheesy novel opener. Better just stick with the facts. It was dark. It was storming. He was about to make his way into the Professor's home.

That sounds a lot better.

Giving the Professor another fifteen minutes to get into bed, Mitsuhiko bounced on the balls of his feet in anticipation. Soon he would find the answers he'd seeked. Soon the mystery would be solved. Soon everyone would be praising the mind of Meitantei Mitsuhiko. Soon Haibara would be clinging on to his every word Gah, not even in his own daydreams can he picture that without trepidation. She just has a way of making him feel like an idiot, second-guessing himself at every turn. But maybe if he can prove himself, things can change. He might be able to work up the courage to ask. Maybe. Possibly. Haibara is really scary when she wants to be.

But when she smiles, he can't help but feel like he can take on the world.

"It's for her," Mitsuhiko muttered to himself. "Figuring all this out is for her." This is my way to prove I'm good enough for her. If I can't figure out a mystery right under my own nose, I can't figure out anything. And I want to know what she and Conan have been hiding. She can't get mad if I solve it on my own right? Right? Somehow he wasn't so sure. But at this point in time, those fifteen minutes had passed and he could make his way to the back door of Agasa's house. The time for pondering was over. Alright Mitsuhiko, it's time to lock and load.

He probably shouldn't watch so many American movies. They weren't the most educational of media. But heck if they didn't have the best lines. A smirk danced on the edge of his grin as Mitsuhiko dashed out through the rain towards the back of Agasa's. Time to prove his worth.

Picking the locks was surprisingly simple. Agasa had a relatively normal lock on his back door, only four tumblers Mitsuhiko had to maneuver around. It didn't take him any time at all. This might have worried him - he'd picked up on the lock picking at home astounding fast, almost like it was hardwired into his genes - but the adrenaline rush had him ignoring such worrisome thoughts. Only the thrill of the case was what mattered.

It took Mitsuhiko about twenty-seven minutes to make it to the basement door. Twenty-four minutes longer than it should. Apparently Agasa liked to have a midnight snack before bed. How was he supposed to know? It was a good thing Agasa didn't think to check under the kitchen table for late night visitors as he fixed himself a plate. Haibara would not have been pleased to see all those cookies, but she would have probably been livid to find out that Mitsuhiko had snuck into her home. She's always been a bit paranoid. Although he did wish fervently that the Professor would stop humming the theme song for Kamen Yaiba. He thought Conan's voice was bad? Conan's voice was an angelic choir compared to the Professor's. Poor Haibara. How did she stand it?

...Probably with a wooden spoon and a threatening glare.

But once Agasa had waddled into his room and the house had settled into silence once more, it was easy peasy reaching the basement stairs. And they didn't even creak! Mitsuhiko hadn't thought of what he'd do if the stairs groaned and woke someone up. Thank Kami-sama that wasn't an issue. Now all he had to do was open the door. Please don't squeak, please don't squeak, please don't squeak Mitsuhiko chanted in his head as he pulled on the doorknob.


The door slid softly against the tile floor, opening onto a scene only duplicated by Mitsuhiko's wildest imaginations. Now this was what a science lab should look like! Test tube beakers everywhere, blinking lights on machines with names he couldn't even begin to pronounce, computers running lists of numbers and equations in real time data collection, sharp pointy instruments of mayhem, chemicals lined up in rows on shelves. There was even a steel table laid out front and center with an IV and everything! All the place needed was a doctor and nurse, (or a hunchback if those weren't available). There was enough science surrounding him to make his jaw drop to the floor.

This is awesome! No wonder Agasa wouldn't let us down here. He's got C4, pure sulfur, nitrous oxide - there's enough stuff in here to cause some real damage and blow the whole block sky high! Wow...

...Must resist urge to touch...Remember the mission Mitsuhiko. You're here for information, not to make cherry bombs. Even if cherry bombs are really really really cool and this stuff would make the best cherry bombs EVER...

Sigh...The things he'd give up for a case. Sheesh, somebody had better appreciate his sacrifice.

Slowly tearing his eyes away from the beautifully deadly chemicals, Mitsuhiko looked for where any suspicious information might be hiding. But with all the stuff cramming the shelves, he was stumped as to where to begin. Hmmm. Now if I were a clue, where would I be?

Think smart Mitsuhiko. Haibara's about your height, right? So if she were to hide something, it would have to be retrievable, which means in her reach. Stick to ground level and bottom cupboards shelves. So,with that settled, Mitsuhiko walked over to the left side of the lab and stared a thorough survey of every nook and cranny head height and lower, steadily moving counter-clockwise until he'd encompassed the entire room. Sadly, he came out empty handed.

Oh come on! Am I gonna have to climb over all the shelves too? I've searched along all the walls, the only place that's left is dead center and that gurney's not hiding anything...

Wait a minute, what is it Conan's always telling us? "Whenever you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbably, must be the truth." If that's true... Mitsuhiko latched onto the table, scouring every shiny inch. It seemed this avenue of exploration would be a bust as well, until his finger caught on a groove on the underside of the bottom rack.

Hmm, we seem to have stumbled upon something. Tugging on an almost invisible lip, Mitsuhiko was able to pull out one of the smallest drawers he'd ever seen. Reaching for one of three notebooks stored in the shelf, Mitsuhiko allowed himself to smirk. It seems I've stumbled across the motherload. Yes! Now to find out what's going on.

Flipping open the first page, Mitsuhiko's eyes devoured the words jotted down in carefully precise strokes. But not even halfway into the first sentence did his eyebrows rise in confusion. What's this? I can't make any sense of these kanji. And the katakana is pure nonsense! エピチエックス(Epitiekusu). What is heck is エピチエックス (Epitiekusu)? He skimmed the next few pages, but it was all more jargon and incomprehensible nonsense.

Even the name signed at the end of each entry was wrong. Miyano Shiho? Who's Shiho? And why did she have Haibara's handwriting? Was Shiho a penname or something? Kami-sama, his head was starting to hurt. And he was only five pages in! Looking at the other two notebooks waiting for her perusal, Mitsuhiko sighed.

This was gonna be a LONG night...

Correction: This was gonna be the start of several LONG nights (and LONG days of endless frustration, speculation, and contemplation). Since he couldn't take the evidence with him, (not without someone realizing the jig was up) he had to memorize what didn't make sense and puzzle it out later.

There was a LOT that didn't make sense. He brought a notebook the third night so he could start taking notes.

"Gah!" Mitsuhiko flopped face-first onto the couch ten days later. Why couldn't he figure it all out? There were too many weird things going on in those notebooks that he couldn't think straight! Why him? Maybe he'd just go and ask Conan for help after all. It's not like Meitantei Mitsuhiko was getting anywhere. He slammed his fists into a cushion. Whack! That felt good. So, he did it again. Whack!

"Something wrong son?" a voice above his head asked. Mitsuhiko raised his eyes to the sight of his puzzled father hovering over the couch, one hand holding the daily newspaper. He started to shake his head no before glumly stopping himself and letting out a sigh.

"That bad huh?" Mitsuhiko didn't deign to respond. His father merely stepped around and settled on the couch next to his moping son. "You know, it might help if you talked to someone."

"Don't wanna," was the muffled reply from within the cushions.

"I promise I won't tell a soul."

"Really?" Mitsuhiko's eyes rose from the couch's comfy depths. He mentally debated the merits of telling his father the problem. It was his mystery to solve – but he wasn't getting anywhere! Two heads are better than one – but would he still be a meitantei if he asked for his Tou-san's help?

His father seemed to understand his dilemma. Placing a comforting hand upon his back he replied, "I swear, as long as it won't get people hurt."

Well, what he'd uncovered was weird, confusing, driving him insane, but Mitsuhiko didn't think it was dangerous. And if Tou-san said he wouldn't talk, then if they figured something out, he could take all the credit and no one would have to know Meitantei Mitsuhiko had help. And then he could show Conan and Haibara just how amazing he was! Decision reached, Mitsuhiko pushed himself up into a sitting position and started to spill.

"Okay. Well, do you remember my friends Conan and Haibara?"

Almost an hour later, after laying down all the facts he'd uncovered before his father and answering some of his questions, Mitsuhiko was still no closer to finding a solution. "I just don't get it! What does it all mean?"

Looking at his father, Mitsuhiko hoped he might shed some light on the case. His father's face was drawn, brow contemplative. Mitsuhiko knew this face – his father was Thinking. And when he finished, he would have a answer. So Mitsuhiko just sat quietly back and waited.

He didn't have to wait long. Soon enough his father's face smoothed out, a slight smirk to his lips and a calculating gleam in his eyes. Funny, but he looked just like Conan did when he'd figured out a case. Then his father started to laugh. It was soft at first, little more than breaths of air, but soon bellowed into gut-clenching cackles. Mitsuhiko just stared at his father with wide eyes. "Uh, Tou-san...?"

It took a couple of tries for his laughter to subside, but the humor did not fully dissipate. Smiling down at him finally, still slightly shaking in glee, his father wrapped him in a bone-crushing hug. "My boy, you are wonderful! Absolutely wonderful! All this time and that's what happened? Ha ha!"

Now hopelessly confused, Mitsuhiko wondered if his father had gone crazy. He knew his case was weird and confusing, but was it enough to cause insanity? He poked his father in the ribs. "Tou-san? Are you okay?"

"Okay? OKAY?" he questioned his son with a manic grin on his face. "My boy I am better than okay, I am wonderful! Amazing! King of the World, and it's all thanks to you!" He squeezed the air out of his son's lungs a second time. "Where do you want to go to dinner son? Anywhere at all, it's my treat."

"What about Kaa-san and Asami?"

"It'll be just us boys, a father-son meal."

Mitsuhiko's eyebrows scrunched down in confusion. "Why? Tou-san I don't understand...did you figure something out?"

"Why yes I did Mitsuhiko my boy, yes I did. It's something I've been wondering about for a long time."

Mitsuhiko's eyes lit up. "Really? What is it? Is it about my case? Tell me!"

"Okay, okay! Hold your horses!" He set Mitsuhiko down on the floor and looked into his eyes. "Remember when I told you about the Game?"

Mitsuhiko gave his father a suspicious look. "You said we couldn't talk about the Game. Once you know about the Game, you can't talk about the Game."

His father nodded. "Very good, I'm glad you remembered. Now, I'm gonna let you in on a little secret. This Conan and Haibara? They know about the Game."

The boy looked on his father with surprise. "They do?"

His father nodded once more. "Yep. And from what you've told me, it sounds like they've been playing the Game for a long time."

"But that's not fair! I don't get to play the Game!" Mitsuhiko responded petulantly, arms crossed across his chest.

"And for good reason. You see, the Game can be dangerous. People can get hurt."

Mitsuhiko cocked his head to the side in a quizzical fashion. "Then why play?"

"Because sometimes you have to risk yourself if you want to win. Remember when you twisted your ankle playing soccer? You did it in order to score that winning goal. Do you regret getting hurt?"

Mitsuhiko furiously shook his head. "No way! If I hadn't made that goal, we would have lost!"

"So it was worth it?"


"Well, that's why we play the Game. That's why I play the Game. It might be dangerous, people may get hurt, but the rewards at the end are worth the sacrifice. Remember that quote I told you?"

"The one where the end justifies the means?"

"That's the one. No matter what acts you take, no matter what blows you endure or cause, as long as the prize at the end is equal to the suffering endured to obtain, then the journey to that prize is worth it.

"But what if it's illegal? What if it's theft or murder? Nothing can be worth killing someone!"

"You're right. No prize on earth is worth killing another over, not when there are alternate options available. But sometimes there aren't alternatives. Sometimes people have to do something wrong in order to do accomplish something right." Seeing Mitsuhiko giving him a stubborn, disapproving expression, he hurried to explain.

"Think of it this way: Say there's a man who has a bomb capable of killing one hundred people. He's going to kill these people if the police do not comply with his demands. Negotiations with this man have failed, and there's no time for a SWAT team rescue. The people will die in two minutes if this man isn't taken out of the equation. One police officer has a clear shot at the bomber. Should he shoot?" He poses this question to his son. "If he doesn't, one hundred lives will be lost. If he does, one life will be lost. Which is the better outcome?"

"The one where the bomber dies," Mitsuhiko sullenly replies. "But that doesn't make it right!"

"No it doesn't. But sometimes what is right and what is necessary lie on opposite ends of the spectrum. Perhaps if the situation were different, or the ones in charge had been notified sooner the outcome could have been changed. No one might have needed to die. But we can't always mold the circumstances to our preferences. We have to take the situations as they come, and turn them to our advantage. That's what makes a great leader. Someone who can weigh the pros and cons of a situation, and determine the best course of action. Someone who can see past the horrible options available, see past an action that would typically be uncondoned, and carry out said action in order to ensure the right solution. It's not a position to be coveted lightly. A leader must have the courage to act against preconceived ideals and the responsibility to stand by his actions. The will to fight against the odds and the fortitude to stand against the allure of power and the corruptness it encompasses. For power, true power, is a heavy, heavy load, and would break the backs of all but the heartiest of men. It's not easy to lead, not at all."

"You sound like you know a lot about this Tou-san."

"Well you see, I'm the boss of the Game."

"Really? So that's why the people in black call you Anokata!"

"Been paying attention, have you?" Vigorous nodding. "That's my boy. Getting to be a right old chip off the ol' block. How about we head off for that dinner?"

"Can we have sukiyaki?"

"We can have whatever you want, my boy." He ended his sentence with an indulging smile.

"Cool! Then I want the beef sukiyaki with carrots and cabbage and negi and tofu and soba and mushrooms!"

Mitsuhiko's father paused in the act of dialing on his cell phone. He looked down at his son. "I thought you hated mushrooms."

Mitsuhiko glanced sheepishly at his father. "Well, Haibara-san loves mushrooms, so if she likes them they can't be that bad, right?"

The older man just ruefully chuckled. "You think a lot of this Haibara-san, don't you?"

It was just the excuse he'd been looking for. "Tou-san, you wouldn't believe it, but she's amazing! She's so smart and pretty and cool and funny - well, intelligent funny, I don't normally get her jokes, but that's because she knows soooo much, she's nice and sweet...sometimes, but it's fun when she picks on Conan-kun, and she's the only one who's been able to pull one over on Conan-kun, and she's got the greatest smile! And -"

"Whoa, whoa, slow down!" The man looked down at his excited son. "Got a bit of a crush, do you?" Seeing the color bloom across his son's cheeks, he chuckled again. "Maybe I'll be able to help you out there..."

"Really?!" Mitsuhiko jumped up, sparkles in his eyes.

"Maybe. We'll just have to see if she's open to persuasion. Now, get your jacket son, it's cold outside."

"Okay!" Mitsuhiko raced for his coat. Things were looking up! His father had figured out the case, there was hope for him and Haibara, and he was getting sukiyaki! How could the day possibly get any better? Ramming his arms through his coat sleeves, Mitsuhiko looked back to see his father talking on the phone. "Tou-san, come on!"

The man raised a finger at his excited son. "Just a minute Mitsuhiko, let me finish talking first."

Mitsuhiko looked at the phone. "Is that Ji-san?" His father nodded.

"Hi Ji-san! Hi Bi-san! Tou-san's taking me out for sukiyaki - hurry up!" His father laughed. Looking down at the impatient boy, he smiled and shook his head. He was going to be an absolute terror when he got older. Listening to the other person on the line, he had a sudden thought. Sure, it was a bit early, but as they say "There's no time like the present."

"Mitsuhiko, mind if G-san and V-san join us for dinner? We have a few things we need to discuss."

Mitsuhiko frowned. "Am I gonna have to go home early?"

"No, I was thinking you could join in on the conversation. Maybe even join the Game."

"I thought I couldn't join the Game until I was nine?"

"Well, you've certainly proven yourself in my eyes. All this hard work and initiative to uncover a mystery. The Game could use a meitantei like you."

Mitsuhiko's eyes threatened to fall out of their sockets. "Really?"


"Cool!" And with that, Mitsuhiko was in heaven. This was officially the best day ever! Dragging his father to the door, Mitsuhiko jumped up and down with glee as his father wrapped up the conversation from his end. He didn't pay attention to his father's words, (It's not nice to eavesdrop Mitsuhiko.) but one sentence in particular stuck out from the pack. We've found Sherry. Who's Sherry? And why was Ji-san laughing? He considered asking, but figured Nah. If it's something important, his father would tell him. He tugged on his father's arm a second time. "Can we go Now?"

Closing his cellphone with an almost ominous click (but why would it be ominous?) Mitsuhiko's father chuckled at the question. "Sure son, we can go Now." And with a mischievous smirk, he raced past his son to the door. Glancing back at his boy, he blithely commented, "Well, aren't you coming?"

With a cry of indignation, Mitsuhiko ran to his father and both raced for the car in the driveway. Letting his son win the race, he slowly pulled the keys out of his left pocket, jingling them in the open air. "Can't get anywhere without these," he teased.

Mitsuhiko whined at his laughing father. "Tou-san! Come on, Ji-san and Bi-san are probably there already!"

"It's not like the sukiyaki is going anywhere."


"Alright, alright." Finished with tormenting his son, the elder Tsuburaya unlocked the car doors and made sure both of them were buckled in. But before starting the car, a thought flashed across his mind. It was not a pressing issue, but one that would have to be settled before Mitsuhiko got too involved in this new world. Well, they had the whole car ride to discuss it.

"Hmmm, if you're a part of the Game, we'll need to give you a codename. How does Absinthe sound to you?"

I think I like the father/son interactions in this most of all. No one ever thinks of Anokata as a father figure. And yes, I know Anokata does not mean boss in Japanese, but that's how the Black Org members refer to their boss, so I'm going with it.

エピチエックス (Epitiekusu): APTX in katakana

And they get caught, not with a bang but by a little boy's curiosity. -^.^- Mitsuhiko might just be my new favorite. Squee!

Oh, and if anyone can tell me which line was the inspiration for this fic, I will offer you virtual Irish soda bread. (because everyone gives virtual cookies, and I like to stand out from the crowd.)

Does anybody else feel like they need to watch Fight Club now?