-Chapter 2: Secrets and Lies-

It has long been an axiom of mine that the little things are infinitely the most important.

-Sherlock Holmes

Ran yawned widely.

"Are you okay, Ran-neechan?"

Ran looked down at Conan who was staring up at her with his bright blue eyes, a concerned expression on his cute, little face. Looking at him, no one could ever think of him as anything other than a 7-year old boy.

"I couldn't fall asleep last night, so I'm just a little tired," Ran replied. She smiled at Conan. "I'm going to make pancakes for breakfast today. Would you like that?"

"Pancakes? Yay!" Conan cheered as he dashed into the kitchen.

In the light of day, her nightly musings suddenly seemed foolish. Shinichi would have to be the greatest actor in the world to spend every waking moment pretending to be an ordinary elementary school student. Would a grown man and overly prideful person like Shinichi really tolerate the indignity of being treated like an ignorant kid and a nuisance by people like her father? Of being babied and fussed over by her? He couldn't even reach the top of a counter at his size!

This agonizing was counterproductive. She had already made her decision, and there was no point in second-guessing herself now. Ran pushed her doubts aside and went into the kitchen to prepare breakfast.

"Would you like to lick the spoon?" Ran asked after she had finished mixing the batter. She knelt down until the bottom of her apron was touching the ground. It was one of those 'Kiss the Cook' aprons that her dad had brought for her mom as a joke a long time ago.

"Sure!" Conan said happily. He reached out to grab the wooden spoon.

"Here you- Oh no!"

The side of Conan's face and glasses were now smeared with batter.

"I'm so sorry, Conan-kun! Let me clean those for you," Ran said extending her hand.

Conan immediately jumped away from her, but Ran had expected this reaction and the boy was no match for her well-honed reflexes.

Ran quickly went over to the sink and started rinsing the glasses. She turned her head to look at Conan who was staring at her with a worried expression. She smiled reassuringly at him. "Don't worry, Conan. I'll be careful. I know how important these glasses are to you."

Ran put a finger to her chin in thought. "Oh, that reminds me. When was the last time that you went to see an eye doctor? It's important to keep your prescription updated. Maybe I should schedule an appointment for you."

"You don't have to do that, Ran-neechan!" Conan shouted. His eyes flitted left and right as if he was rapidly thinking. He said, "I don't need new ones. My parents got me new glasses right before I came to live with you!"

Ran gave him an inquiring glance then she asked, "Don't you think the frames are too big for your face though?"

"I like them," Conan announced, crossing his arms with a stubborn look on his face.

"If you say so," Ran replied, shrugging.

After turning off the faucet, Ran wiped the glasses on her apron and gave them back to Conan. He took them from her with a relieved expression. She smiled gently at him. "Go wash up real quick and then wake dad for me, okay?"

"Okay!" Conan agreed before he dashed out of the kitchen.

She waited a moment before dropping the smile from her face. She wanted to sag to the floor in weariness, but settled for leaning against the counter. Her heart was beating so loudly that she was amazed that Conan couldn't hear it.

Shinichi…

Ran had deliberately wiped the lenses using the part of her apron that had the word 'Cook' on it. There hadn't been more than a second's worth of time before the glasses made contact with the apron and was covered up from view by cloth, but that had been more than enough time for her to take a glimpse through the lenses and notice that the letters hadn't changed size.

The lenses were fake. There was no other explanation. Ran wanted to cry. How could she face Conan now? She felt like she had lost something precious. Maybe this was the reason that she had never thought to check the glasses during all the times she accused Conan of being Shinichi.

Now she knew why Conan wore his glasses all the time even when he was sleeping or bathing. She had been expecting to discover something like this, but expecting and seeing were two very different things. Even during the times that she wished that Conan really was Shinichi, there had been a very significant part of her that had hoped that she was wrong. That hope was gone.

No, she was jumping ahead of herself again. Yes, the glasses were fake. She finally had an irrefutable piece of evidence that showed that there was something worth investigating, but it wasn't enough.

If she tried confronting Conan now as she usually did when she thought she had found a 'smoking gun,' she knew that Conan would simply contrive some ridiculous explanation that she'd be forced to accept because it'd still be more probable than a grown man shrinking into a child. Maybe he wore fake glasses simply because he thought they made him look smarter or some other equally absurd reason.

Ran didn't think Conan had noticed what she'd done. And even if he had, what could he do that wouldn't further arouse her suspicions? And if she kept investigating it was inevitable that he would eventually uncover what she was doing.

She supposed she could have just checked out his glasses earlier that morning while he was still sleeping, but she had to know if she could look directly into Conan's eyes and lie to him. She knew now that she could do this. Deceit was not something that came naturally to her, but her characteristic straight-forwardness would not help her in this.

Ran knew that she was nowhere near the end of her journey. There were still too many pieces to this puzzle that she didn't have. But one thing had been accomplished. Ran had been wavering, but she was now filled with the resolve to see this through to the end. There would be no turning back now.

But she still felt some hesitation. If she continued, she'd have to ruthlessly dig through Conan's life. This wouldn't be just another episode of Ran yelling at Conan to confess like some crazy woman like all the other times. She risked permanently alienating the boy if he found out what she was doing and it turned out she was wrong. Was the truth really worth that?

Ran stared at her reflection in the toaster. What would Shinichi do? The answer was obvious. The truth was always worth knowing no matter what the cost.


"Miss Mouri? Miss Mouri!"

"Huh? I mean, yes, sensei!" Ran said, sitting up straighter when she realized that her math teacher was giving her a hard stare. She had the sinking feeling that the man had been calling her name for awhile now. The other students snickered at her obvious inattention causing Ran to blush a little.

"I know that you students don't consider math to be the most exciting of subjects, but I'd appreciate it if your heads remained in the classroom and out of the clouds!"

Ran was extremely grateful that the lunch bell rang at that moment.

"I'm really sorry, sensei. It won't happen again!" Ran said as she rapidly packed up her books and rushed out of the room. A girl with short, brown hair followed after her.

"Geez, Ran! Didn't you feel me poking you in the ribs?" Sonoko complained as the two girls headed outside to find a spot to eat lunch.

"Sorry. Thanks for trying though."

Sonoko looked at her slyly. She said, "I saw you staring at Shinichi's old seat again. Were you thinking about our missing idiot detective again?"

"I just had a lot on my mind," Ran explained. She hoped that Sonoko would drop the matter, but judging by the annoyingly familiar look her face, she knew that was not going to happen.

Sonoko clasped her hands together and fluttered her eyes rapidly. "Oh, Shinichi! I wish you were here to whisk me away from this life of tedium and differential equations!"

Ran didn't give the usual reaction to her best friend's antics. Instead, she sat down on a bench near the school's baseball field and asked, "Do you think it's possible to know someone your entire life yet not really know anything about them at all?"

"Aren't we in a serious mood today," Sonoko replied lightly. She joined Ran on the bench and asked, "What brought this on?"

Ran knew she couldn't tell the other girl what she was investigating, but she had to talk to somebody. So she started talking about the one person who was always on her mind in one form or another.

"Sometimes, I think Shinichi and I are drifting apart. He doesn't call often, and whenever he does, I do most of the talking. He's always so close-lipped about everything, even the things that can't possibly have any relationship to his case. We'll talk about what's going on in my life and current news and sports events, but he never talks about himself. Not what his books he's read or even if he's made any friends. It's like his life stopped after that day we went to Tropical Land."

And now she possibly knew why. Blinking back tears, Ran said, "I think he's keeping a secret from me."

Sonoko looked aghast. "You don't mean…"

"No, nothing like that!" Ran cried. She felt embarrassed thinking of a time she thought Shinichi had disappeared to be with another woman. But he had disappeared so suddenly, and there had never been a case that had stumped him for so long.

"It's just… I hate the idea that he's lying to me. We've always told each other everything. I don't understand why he would hide things from me now."

"Ran…"

Ran fumbled for her handkerchief and dapped at her eyes. "Look at me, getting all sad over that idiot. I don't know why I even bother getting all worked-"

"Maybe he has a good reason?"

"What?" Ran asked, turning to her friend in surprise.

Sonoko squirmed uncomfortably at the attention. She glanced down at her crossed arms and said, "I said, maybe he has a good reason. I know I always rag on Shinichi, but he's a good guy. You better not tell him I said that though! His head's freakishly large as it is."

The short-haired girl reached over and pulled Ran into a hug. She continued, "I really don't think he'd lie to you if he didn't think it was important. You know how guys are. He probably thinks he's protecting you with his caveman act. So please cheer up."

"Thank you, Sonoko," Ran said softly, returning the hug. After a moment, she pulled away and gave the other girl a bright smile. "If you don't mind, I'd like to be alone for a bit. I'm fine, really. I just need to think."

It took some convincing, but Ran was soon alone with her thoughts. Sonoko's words had struck a chord in her. Ran had been so busy moping over the possibility of Shinichi lying to her that she hadn't even thought to ask why.

Why would the so-called savior of the police force turn against his principles of honesty and integrity and lie to her every single day? It was hard to imagine. What would be the point? What would motivate such a person to lie?

Means, motive, and opportunity. If she wanted to prove that Conan and Shinichi were the same person, then she'd have to find the holes in their stories and hope that would lead her to the most complex yet simplest of questions: How and why?

The first was beyond her grasp at the moment, but the second question was more pertinent to her. Why? Why would Shinichi lie to her like this? During one of the times she had confronted Conan, she told him she suspected that he had drunk one of Professor Agasa's strange medicines and that was why he was a child.

There were numerous problems with that theory, of course. First, Shinichi was not stupid enough to just drink strange chemicals lying around, and she doubted that Agasa was callous enough to trick or cajole him into doing so. Second, if this was just the result of one of the professor's experiments gone wrong, why would Shinichi lie to her? She could understand him doing so if it was just a temporary condition but it had been months. There was no justification short of life and death…

Ran paused in thought. She had never considered that maybe Conan's reason for lying to her was because the truth was dangerous. So dangerous that Conan went to great lengths to keep her from prying or even suspecting that there was anything wrong at all. If that was the case, then shouldn't she trust that he knew what he was doing and leave well enough alone?

On the other hand, if he didn't want her involved then he had some nerve living with her and her father! And it wasn't like she hadn't faced danger before. In all the murder, kidnapping, and bomb cases she'd been involved with, she was surprised that she hadn't ended up in the morgue yet!

It was probably typical macho crap about wanting to protect her. That would be so like him. But the problem was that didn't mean he was wrong. The thought disquieted her. What could be so dangerous that Shinichi couldn't even confide in his oldest and closest friend?

But she wanted to know. She didn't care how dangerous it was. It was one thing to be totally ignorant of something. In a case like that, she wouldn't even know what she was missing. But to stand on the cusp of understanding like the Greek figure Tantalus thirsting and straining to reach the fruit just barely out of his reach…

It was the worst feeling in the world.

Shinichi had once told her about how Sherlock Holmes pretended to be dead for three years. He hadn't even told his closest friend, Doctor Watson. Ran didn't doubt that one of Holmes's reasons was to protect his partner nor did she doubt that his concern for his friend was anything but sincere. Yet there was one line that Shinichi had quoted to her that had always stuck with her:

Several times during the last three years I have taken up my pen to write to you, but always I feared lest your affectionate regard for me should tempt you to some indiscretion which would betray my secret.

Watson's reaction to these words was not known, but Ran suspected that it didn't differ much from her own. Was this how the good doctor had felt when he discovered that the man he respected most in the world apparently didn't hold him in the same regard? It didn't matter if Shinichi had the best intentions in the world. The fact was that he didn't trust her enough to even keep a secret.

Ran finally let the tears that she'd been holding back fall.

NOTES:

I hate making Shinichi look bad, but I really want to explore his reasons for hiding his identity from Ran. I don't want to diminish the sacrifice he is making because I'm sure he knows very well that he risks losing Ran's friendship if the truth is revealed. But I can't help feeling that his subterfuge is insulting in many ways.

Agasa, Ai, Shinichi, and Heiji all seem to think that if Ran finds out the secret then it would only be a matter of time before the Black Organization tracked them down and slaughtered them all. This would seem to imply that this would result because of Ran. How insulting is that? I can understand if they feel that Ran is not good at lying just as I understand why Holmes deceives Watson from time to time, but that doesn't mean I can't feel peeved on behalf of the characters being deceived.

I'm sure Shinichi doesn't consciously think that Ran will lead to his downfall even if he constantly underestimates her. I'm sure that if he had his way neither Heiji nor his parents would know that he turned into a child. He especially wouldn't want Kaitou Kid to know! But it's not surprising that Ran would feel that he's looking down on her. I'm not saying she's right. I'm sure Shinichi has the most noble of intentions, but would Ran see it that way?

-The Holmes quote at the end was taken from "The Adventure of the Empty House."

-Episode 10: Ran worries that Shinichi might have run off with another girl.

-Episode 96 references: Ran comments to Conan about how he wears his glasses everywhere. Later, when she confronts him, she accuses him of taking one of Agasa's chemical concoctions to turn into a kid. A surprised Conan mentally notes that Ran's guess is extremely close.