The hospital was a quiet place. It was a place of rest and healing. However, the current occupant of room 307, was getting very little of either at the moment.

"Honestly! This must be the stupidest stunt you've pulled since you handcuffed us together when we were kids!" Kazuha's eyes narrowed suspiciously, "Or is this just the first time I've known about one, since you're always wearing the omamori!?"

Heiji tried burrowing farther under the hospital blankets. "K-K-Kazuha…"

"I knew it! I should make you give it back, just so I know how much trouble you *really* get into." Then her expression softened suddenly and she ran a hand through the rough tangle of his hair. "But at least you're safe now." Kazuha turned, "And Conan-kun too, right?"

Ran and Conan, sitting at the end of the room, smiled weakly. It was a little embarrassing, caught watching what looked suspiciously like a lovers quarrel, and they had been doing there best to blend into the wall.

Kazuha's eyes fell on the flowers, a collection of brilliant orange tiger lilies surrounded in a cloud of babies breath, still clutched in Ran's lap. "Oh, we should put those in some water. C'mon, Ran-chan, let's ask the nurse about a vase."

As she was being led out of the room, Ran turned back. "Aren't you coming, Conan-kun?"

Conan grinned and shoved his hands in his pockets. "I want to stay with Heiji-niichan."

Ran looked doubtful. "Well, okay. But try not to bother him, all right?"


"Don't worry, he and I can swap manly stories. He won't get into any trouble." Heiji said ruffling the little boy's hair. Conan gritted his teeth, but didn't say anything. Ran still looked doubtful, but she left the room.

"Manly stories?" Conan snorted.

Heiji shrugged and settled himself more comfortably against the pillows. He fingered the little red charm once again dangling from around his neck. He was so used to wearing it by now, that it felt strange when he was without it. "Man, Kudou…I never really bought into Kazuha's superstitions before. But this is starting to get creepy."

Conan snorted and hopped up beside him on the bed, frowning as his legs dangled far above the floor. It didn't matter how much time had past, it still felt *weird.* "Don't be stupid, Hattori. Next you'll tell me that you believe in psychic investigations and all that crap."

"Hey don't mock it. You need to read more, kid."

"Who's a kid?"

Heiji pointed a warning finger. "Just 'cause you don't understand something doesn't mean it can't be real. Besides I didn't say I believed it. I just said it was freaky." Again his hand strayed to the charm.

"Well, I should have gotten stabbed, but I didn't." Conan admitted, coughing to hide his embarrassment.


"It was just a coincidence."

"Ha. What was it that guy said? Oh yeah, 'Once you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however unlikely, must be the truth…'" Heiji closed his eyes as if reciting a sermon.

"Don't quote Holmes at me. Besides, this *is* impossible." Conan growled.

Heiji folded his arms behind his head. "At any rate, I won't get on Kazuha's case anymore when she makes me wear it." Conan noted the soft note in his voice and, for once, wisely kept silent. Heiji continued to talk into the comfortable silence. "Not that I ever really minded before. Even before, it was kind of nice. Like…I dunno…I'm carrying a piece of her with me. Like it's proof that her thoughts are with me."

"You're a lucky guy, Hattori."

Heiji grinned again, looking very satisfied with himself. "Yeah, I guess I am."

Ran fluffed the flowers in their glass vase, trying to coax them into a prettier arrangement as the two of them stood in the bathroom. "So," she said shyly, turning to the other girl, "Are you and Hattori-kun…?" She let the question trail of. She'd asked before, but that had been in the presence of Hattori-kun, Conan-kun, and her father. Now that it was just girls…

Kazuha shook her head, but her eyes sparkled and she grinned. "No, not yet. He's still such a kid, you know? Besides, I'm not going to be the one to ask him first. He'll figure it out eventually."

"But you do like him."

"Yeah. Couldn't tell you why. I mean, he can be a real jerk sometimes. But still…there's just something about him." Kazuha sighed, and her eyes almost glowed, "Or maybe I'm just an idiot."

Ran laughed, "I guess I know what you mean."

"Oh, that guy Heiji's always all, 'Kudo! Kudo!' about?"

"Yes. Shinichi." Ran felt like pounding her head against the doorframe. "But I don't know…Kazuha-chan, how do you know how Hattori-kun feels about you?"

Kazuha looked surprised. "I don't know. I just do. We've been together for so long, and he's never said anything, never even looked at another girl." How to explain that she and Heiji were like pieces of a puzzle? They just clicked together to make a complete picture. "Besides," she closed her eyes and continued loftily, "He could never find someone better than me."

Ran leaned back against the cool tile of the wall. Doubt was creeping up again. The tight confusion that always seemed to come with thoughts of Shinichi. "Ran-chan?" Kazuha looked concerned.

"I used to think the same thing…That Shinichi and I were somehow…meant to be. He never said anything, but it was like…he didn't have to. I knew he was there for me, just like I was there for him." Ran took a shaky breath. "We went on a date. He took me to Tropical Land, and of course there was a murder. I swear they just follow him around. He left me there, to go investigate something else…and I just knew it was like I'd never see him again."

She scrubbed at the tears welling in her eyes. Frustrated that he could do this to her. Frustrated that it was so easy to make her cry. Kazuha touched her shoulder. "Didn't you?"

Ran nodded reluctantly, "Yes. But only in the middle of a case, and only for a few minutes. Then he was gone again. He hasn't been to school for months now…he'll never graduate at this rate. And I used to see him every day! He calls…sometimes…but he never says what he's doing!

"I thought we had a connection. But if we did, how could he do this? How could he let me worry? What if something happens to him? Why do I have to worry about him constantly? If he really cared about me…how could he?"

Wordlessly Kazuha handed her a handkerchief. Ran wiped her streaming eyes and tried to get herself back under control. "I'm sorry. You must think I'm really silly, to cry like this."

"Not at all." Kazuha hugged her elbows tight to her chest. "You can't help but worry. I understand. It's why I gave Heiji the omamori, after all." She leaned back against the wall, joining Ran. "I know what he does is dangerous, and he never took martial arts like I did.

"And I know it sounds a little silly. But I really do believe that the omamori will keep him safe. It's really the only thing I can do. And as long as he wears it, he'll know that I care about him, and that I'm thinking about him. And hopefully that will keep him from doing something phenomenally stupid."

Ran nodded. "I wish I'd given something like that to Shinichi."

"I'm sure he knows. You said he calls sometimes? He wouldn't even do that, if he really didn't care. And you've seen him once, you'll see him again, I know it. Maybe then you can do something."

A little smile crossed Ran's face. "Maybe…"

"At any rate, we need to get back to the boys soon, or they'll start to wonder." Kazuha said, taking the vase from Ran's hands.

"Right. Just let me wash my face, so I look presentable." Ran splashed herself with ice cold water, mentally pushing down the little storm of emotion. She could worry later. Now she had to be ready to face the day, not to mention her friends and family.

"Well, do I look alright?"

Kazuha looked her over critically. "Looks good. No one would ever know."

"Then let's get back to the boys. Who knows what they've gotten into?" Ran laughed, "With our luck there's probably been a murder."

The worst thing about being child sized, Conan reflected, wasn't any of the physical things. It wasn't not being strong enough, or tall enough. It wasn't even that no one would listen to him anymore. The worst thing was trying to act like a child, to be limited to child-like perceptions and child-like thoughts. He couldn't have an adult conversation with anyone outside of Hattori.

And right now he couldn't ask Ran what was wrong.

The three of them, him, Ran, and the old man were on the Shinkansen back to Tokyo. Mouri had had to get back to his agency, though Conan didn't really see the point, since he'd never be able to solve anything anyway. And now he was too busy checking out the drink girl. But Ran was staring out the window of the train, her face pale and drawn.

She'd been like that ever since she and Kazuha had gotten back from putting the flowers in water. Ran had done her best to be cheerful, but by now he could see right though it. And he was sure that her eyes had been red and puffy from tears. What had happened?

He turned back to the game in his hands. Watching the little blocks fall was oddly meditative. While the colored pixels hummed and shifted he could concentrate on other, more important things. It was like pacing for the brain.

/…I wish I knew what you were thinking…/

"Congratulations! You are a high scorer!" The little game bleeped at him. But Conan just couldn't seem to work up the enthusiasm.

/…I wish I knew what I could do for you…/

"Ran-neechan! I'm going out for awhile!" Conan called as he slipped his shoes on.

"Okay, be careful!" Ran called, but he was already gone. She sighed and frowned a little as she unpacked their bags from Osaka. "It must be nice to be that young. Not a care in the world. I wish I was a kid again." Especially since when she was a kid, Shinichi had been with her.

"Stop talking like an old woman. You *are* still a kid." Mouri snorted as he popped open a can of beer.

"Well maybe I would be if I wasn't always taking care of Conan-kun and you!" Ran snapped grabbing the beer out of his hand, "Otousan! It's way too early for that. Now help me unpack! You never help around the house, and-!"

Mouri retreated from his daughter until he was pressed up against the wall, his eyes never straying from the can of beer, watching as little drops spilled over the top. /She's not going to enjoy cleaning that up,/ he thought. He was just about to mention it to her, which surely would have earned him a punch in the face when the phone rang.

Ran slammed the cup down on the desk, putting a nice dent in the aluminum. "Hello?"

'Ran, you're back! How was Osaka?' The voice was tinny over the phone, but unmistakable.

"Sh-Shinichi?" Ran sank into the chair behind the desk. "Is that really you?"'

'Yeah. You were expecting someone else?'

"I wasn't even expecting you. How did you know we were back? We only just got in a half-hour ago." She laughed a little and twisted the phone cord around her finger. "Sometimes I think that Hattori-kun is right, and you're watching us from somewhere." She tried to say it lightly, but there was still a note of suspicion in her voice.

'You were supposed to get back yesterday!' Shinichi growled impatiently. 'I tried calling then, but no one was home.'

"Oh, that's right."

In the phone booth across the street Conan heaved a huge sigh. For as smart as he was, and for as much as he knew about criminals and lowlifes in general he was a horrible liar. He was very lucky that Ran was about as naive as he was lousy, otherwise this whole charade would have fallen to pieces a long time ago. Not that it almost hadn't anyway any number of times.

Now he just had to try and remember that he didn't know anything that happened in Osaka and he'd be just fine.

"So, how come you were so late anyway? Too much shopping to do, or did you have to wait until your old man's hangover wore off?"

"No! For your information, Mr. Great Detective, there was a murder. Actually there were a lot of them. And then Hattori-kun got shot."

"Geeze. Is he okay?" Conan tried to feign shock and interest.

'Yes, thank heavens the bullet didn't do much damage. But the kept him in the hospital overnight. And we couldn't just leave. So we visited Hattori-kun in the hospital before we left. He should be out pretty soon they said.'

"Did they find out who did it?"

'Hattori-kun figured it out. He's almost as smart as you are, Shinichi."

Conan tried not to preen as he stood in the phone booth holding a necktie to his mouth. He looked silly enough as it was.

He could see into the agency's window from here, see her on the phone talking to him. There was practically no distance between them. But somehow everything still managed to come between them.

'Oh! And I almost forgot, the most amazing thing happened!' The excitement in Ran's voice almost charged the air between them.

"What?" Conan asked as his mind raced. He couldn't think of anything else noteworthy that happened during the trip to Osaka, unless something happened with Kazuha?

'Conan-kun, you remember, the boy staying with us? Well he got attacked too, but since he was wearing Hattori-kun's omamaori, he didn't even get hurt at all! I guess Kazuha-chan makes him wear it all the time. That's probably why he got hurt when he did, because he lent it away.'

Oh that. "Wow, really? That's some coincidence." Memories from his conversation with Hattori flashed before his eyes. / Hattori lying in bed with his hands folded behind his head, a silly grin plastered on his face. 'Like…I dunno…I'm carrying a piece of her with me. Like it's proof that her thoughts are with me.'/

'Mou. You're too practical for your own good, you know that Shinichi? You can't even hear a sweet story like that without thinking it's stupid.'

Conan was caught off guard, his mind still at the hospital, still dwelling on the conversation. So he replied without thinking, "I didn't say I think it was stupid. I just don't think it had anything to do with the charm."

'Oh?' He could almost hear the smile in her voice, 'then what do you think it was?' There was mockery in her voice, a challenge. He hated it when she did that. Ran's teasing always got under his skin and ate at him. And so he continued to talk without thinking first.

"I don't think it was the charm itself that saves him. I think it's that she worries about him and thinks about him. Even when she's not there, he knows she's thinking of him. Protection like that doesn't come from a little red bag you get at a shrine." Conan smacked himself on the forehead. /What am I saying?/

Ran's voice was a whisper over the line. 'Shinichi…'

Damn. He'd managed to shove his foot straight in his mouth yet again. And he'd only wanted to call and make her feel better. "So, uh, other than that…"

'Shinichi…' She cut him off and paused for a deep breath. 'You know, you know that I…worry about you…that way, right?'

He was so surprised that he almost couldn't answer. "I—" he swallowed, "I hoped that you were."

'I miss you, Shinichi.'

Conan's hand tightened on the bow, hearing his own voice being echoed into the receiver. "I miss you too Ran. I'm sorry."

'Why? Why do you have to be so far away? Why can't you be here?' The sadness crept back into her voice, made his chest ache.

"I'm on a case," he said lamely, "It's really tricky. It needs tact. I can't just do like always."

With a watery laugh she said, 'You don't have any tact.'

"No. That's why it's taking so long. I'm not happy with this either you know. But…" /Wait for me/ he wanted to tell her, /I'll find my way back./

'I understand. But…I'll keep think of you…that way. If it's okay.' Ran's voice was a shy whisper once again.

"And I'll do the same. We'll be each other's omamori's." He said, "I have to go now. I'll talk to you later."

'Take care of yourself, Shinichi,' Ran said before saying goodbye.

Conan hung up the phone and straightened his bow. The man waiting to use the phone gave him a strange look, but he ignored it. He looked up at the agency and he could see her leaning out of the open window, her eyes searching the skyline as if she were looking for him. The wind played with her hair, pulling it back away from her face. She was so beautiful.

/We'll protect each other/ Conan thought solemnly, /And I promise I'll come back to you./


Omamori- A charm usually bought at a Shinto shrine. They have them for everything from getting good grades to good health. Apparently Heiji's is to protect him from harm.

Neechan- Big sister

Niichan- Big brother

Author's Notes:

Well, that was interesting. It got away from me there at the end, it wasn't supposed to be so bittersweet. But anyway, this is my first Conan fic, and if I've gotten anything wrong I blame it on the fact that I don't have all the manga, I'm still missing a bunch of volumes, so if I've gotten my facts wrong I'm sorry. This takes place in the middle of volume 19, but is almost completely unrelated to the plot.