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Ayumi knew she was… cute.

She had big blue eyes, and a small face, and she took care of herself. But standing there, watching Conan and the rest of the Detective Boys eyeing Ran and Ai as they stripped down to their swimsuits had her second-guessing her pink, frilly bikini. Ai had opted for a monokini, black, sat around her chest and hips like a greedy snake. It showed her body off in only the best of ways, hugged her waist and made her seem so perfect that a mere glance at her had even Ayumi entranced. Ran, naturally, was a beauty, seemed so confident in her laced push-up with her high-hipped bottoms. She had such good skin, such great toned legs, a defined stomach.

Ayumi looked down at herself and tried to press her stomach in. She wasn't fat, but she didn't… have that kind of stomach. The kind movie stars in action flicks had. And her breasts were so small, nothing like Ai's gracious gifts. Even the tightness of her halter top did little to help her; she still plucked at the tie around her neck. She glanced from her frilly bottoms to the drool coming from her boy's mouths and the blood running down Conan's nose and frowned. Ran was laughing, leaning in, getting close, teasing Conan in blissful oblivion, and he was responding in kind in that open-mouth, gaping wordless way that he did. Ai was, less obliviously, teasing Mitsuhiko and Genta about their eyes and the road they'd taken along her curves. Both jumped into hysterics, Mitsuhiko trying to deny in gentlemanly stature, and Genta straining to throw out as many innocent compliments as possible.

So, instead of leaving the safety of their rented beach house in her significantly more childish swimsuit, Ayumi wrapped herself in one of Genta's jackets and zipped it up to her neck. He wouldn't mind, and it was the perfect length of her mid-thigh, just long enough to hide everything.

The group gave her a weird look when she came out and claimed one of the seats under the umbrella and didn't rid herself of the jacket. Ai raised an eyebrow and tilted her head, and Ayumi did her best not to look at her, because that girl read her like a book— a children's book with huge letters and bold pictures. "Ayumi-chan, aren't you going to be a little hot in that?"

Yes, in fact, she was already burning up. "No! Not at all! I'm actually kind of cold!"

"In this heat?" Mitsuhiko crouched down next to her and pressed his hand to her forehead. "Are you sure you're not sick, Ayumi-chan?"

"Y-Yes! I'm fine!"

Nobody seemed convinced (except maybe Genta), but they let it slide. They all knew she had her reasons for doing things, and it didn't much matter if they found out now or later. She smiled at them and grabbed a sunhat and placed it upon her head, but found Conan's eyes a moment too early. He was giving her his Detective Look, not quite suspicious, but contemplative nevertheless. She waved at him, hoping he would take her at face value for once; he turned his attention back to Ran. Though she was relieved, that kind of hurt.

She stayed with their things while everyone else ran to the ocean, swam around and splashed each other. At one point, she saw Ran sneak up behind Conan and tickle him. He startled, and twitched, and Mitsuhiko and Genta took great joy in joining Ran's Surprise Torture Session. Ai watched from the side, laughing into her palm and trying desperately to hide the smile on her face. Ayumi was happy to see them having fun, and meanwhile tugged at the hoodie of Genta's jacket. She knew she'd have to go inside- soon, if she didn't want to faint, but she also wanted nothing more than to strip herself of it and join her friends.

But… She pulled at the zipper and looked down into the oversized head hole. Her chest was still as flat as it had been twenty minutes ago, and her skin no smoother. Ayumi zipped it back up and took one of the beach bags and held it to her chest, hoping it would hide how small she felt right then.

"Ah! Ayumi-chan, is the beachball in there?" She squeaked, glanced up to see Ran and the rest running for shelter from the sun. Mitsuhiko and Genta went for the towels and wiped frantically at the sand in their hair, and Ai took to getting a bottle of water out of their cooler. Conan bent down and reached for his glasses, wiping them of sand before putting them on. Ran stood patiently in front of her, smiling and nodding to the bag Ayumi held like a crying infant at her chest; she sighed and held out the bag for Ran to take.

Ran thanked her and reached in, grabbing a deflated multi-colored ball from the bag and flicking open the air tube. "Who wants to play volleyball?"

"Ooh! Me! Me!"

"Give me a few moments to cool down first, but that sounds like fun." Ai reached into the cooler and handed a very grateful Mitsuhiko a bottle of gatorade. Ran turned to Conan, who smiled, as he always did at Ran, and nodded. She then turned to Ayumi, who was very busy trying not to keel over, and said: "How about you, Ayumi-chan? Oh, are you feeling okay?"

"Y-Yeah, I'm fine! I'd love to play!"

Conan glanced at her from over Ran's shoulder.

It took only a few minutes for Ran to finish blowing up the tube, and five minutes to set up the net. Ai once again prompted her to strip herself of the jacket, but once again she refused.

Boys against girls, the points came out 4:5; Ayumi was ashamed to say Ran did most of the work, but she knew Mitsuhiko and Genta could say the same about Conan. Besides, Ayumi told herself, she wasn't in peak condition at that moment; the jacket was making it hard to breath, and the heat its black cotton soaked up from the sun sat at her chest like a weight and made it hard to move. Ai kept giving her worried looks, but she was fine. She swallowed hard and played with the zipper, then saw how glossy Ai's skin looked and how sexy Ran looked with wet hair, and she dropped the zipper; she was fine. She didn't hug Ran as long as she would have, maybe, but nobody seemed to notice. She didn't want the extra body heat, and she definitely didn't want to feel just how lacking in the chest department she actually was. She was relieved when, as pentanence for losing, the boys offered to pay up in the form of lunch— a small seafood restaurant with air conditioning and cold drinks. She practically raced them to the front porch steps.

And that was how it started. It was just one weekend at the beach, with her closest friends nonetheless, and she noticed that she dreaded looking in the mirror. She got home that Sunday night and stood in front of her reflection for thirty minutes, turning, picking at her extra skin, then pulling at the fat that should have been there and wasn't. She finally took off Genta's jacket, which she intended to return the following morning, which she'd worn all weekend without pause, and looked at how her bikini fit her— or how it didn't. She tilted her head at her waist and pinched her chin. There was too much there, too much under her chin, her waist was too thick. Sure, she was healthy on the scale but…

She leaned in and pressed her fingers to her round face, still thick with baby fat, and pushed the skin up to see if she'd looked prettier with higher cheekbones, or more definition at her jaw. She tugged at her hair and watched the way it strained in her nails, slipping in and out of the space between her fingers as she wondered how long it'd been dull. It was lackluster, didn't have the same volume Ai's did or the same sheen Ran's did. She wondered if it would look better if she cut it shorter, like Sato-san's hair, then looked at her big forehead and decided her face wasn't feminine enough for that.

So she cleaned Genta's jacket and returned it to him the next morning in a nice, tidy fold, and threw on their uniform's winter vest and hid it under a baggy, spacious raincoat. Nevermind that it was Fall and they needen't worry much about that kind of weather. If her friends asked, she'd tell them it was always best to be prepared. She'd done her hair differently that morning, stuck it in a bun with small strands sticking out at the nape of her neck, and she'd put on more makeup than usual. Where she usually applied some sunscreen and some mild concealer, she applied a layer of foundation, concealer, mascara, and a tinted coral lipstick. It was normal for girls her age, she'd tell her friends if they asked, normal that girls experiment with makeup; ask they did, and those lies she told. She didn't care if they believed her, because she knew her friends, and knew they could say nothing without evidence to support their theories. They'd say nothing to her if she gave them no more fuel.

And she tried not to, but they noticed (even if she didn't notice that they'd noticed). They noticed that she turned away sweets and only ate half a serving when they went out to eat. They noticed that she seemed to shrink and hide away under those layers of clothes she threw on. Haibara and Conan exchanged a look one morning on the way to school, one Ayumi wouldn't see from her place a few steps ahead of the group. They were worried, knew Mitsuhiko and Genta were worried, too. The two of them agreed, silently, to keep an eye on her, to make sure the situation didn't progress.

But carry on it did, and it got worse. Ayumi only touched a quarter of her bento when they ate lunch together, and started falling asleep in class. She walked slower than the rest of the club in the mornings, and carried a bottle of cold water to drink, seemingly at random; Conan noticed that she only drank from that thermos when there was food around. She lost more weight. Her eyes stood out against her skin until, eventually, the color started to fade from them. She continued to carry her cheery disposition, but as her voice grew softer, the more apparent it became that she was wearing a mask— for their benefit, or hers.

But Ayumi saw a skinnier face in the mirror, and a smaller waist, and though her hair grew duller by the day, the bun she wore hid it well. She figured she'd start wearing hair masks, because she'd read online that it would help. The extra skin at her chin seemed to shrink away, and blemishes on her skin did well to hide under the makeup she'd begun using. She purchased a push-up bra and loved the way it made her look— like a woman, like Ran or Ai at the beach. She sought a bikini with the same merit, and found a large array of them at a small market by her home. She tried on cheetah prints and cherry prints, but her stomach still wasn't as defined, and the good shape her legs had before started to become too skinny. So, instead, she opted for a swim shirt and a pair of swimming shorts. It was still a little tight for her taste, but it didn't show as much skin. People were starting to stop her on the street, ask her if she was a model. Even if she laughed and told them that she was merely a high school student, the euphoria sent her practically running home. She got in the door and swung around her room and squealed in happiness, because maybe she wasn't as babyish as she thought, maybe she looked more like a woman now— maybe this meant she was pretty.

It was Haibara who got tired of keeping quiet.

"She's lost so much weight! She looks like a ghost! And we all know her chest didn't just suddenly swell up, Edogawa-kun!"

"You're right, you're right," and Conan waved her off, because this had never been a problem with Ran or Sonoko. He was unsure what to do about it, and evidence was all objective, or circumstantial, so he decided to stay quiet. "If she's going to listen to anybody, it's you, Haibara."

"You aren't wrong, but you underestimate the power of your opinion." He said nothing.

Haibara invited Ayumi over— to spend the night, to talk about girl things, at least in theory. Ayumi was happy to oblige, came to her door that evening with bells on, arms full of candy and soda. And Haibara was relieved to see her eating for the first time in a long time, alone with just her in the living room of Agasa's home, sitting on the floor with blankets and card games. Ayumi popped gummies like pills and drank the sweet jello flavor, and Haibara was more than happy to take a handful, herself. Anything to encourage this behavior. "You've lost a lot of weight, Ayumi-chan…"

Her eyes, despite the dullness, lit up. "Is it that noticeable? I got stopped a few days ago! Some guy wanted to scout me as a model! I was so happy!" She smiled and pressed her hands to her cheeks, and Haibara tried to reflect that optimism.

"It is noticeable. We've all taken note," she set her elbow on the table and rested her chin in her hand "... even Edogawa-kun."

Ayumi's cheeks lit a small blaze, a pleasant shade against the pale. "...did he?"

"You know, Ayumi-chan, Edogawa-kun doesn't care much about weight."

She'd hit a nerve, that happy smile seemed just a bit duller. Ayumi laughed. "Well, he has his preferences, doesn't he? He likes a well-built girl," the light in her eyes dimmed as she glanced to her lap. "He likes girls like Ran-neechan." She took another handful of gummy bears.

Haibara reached over to the pile of snacks and grabbed a salted chip, taking a crumbling bite of it and catching the crumbs in her hand. "There's nothing wrong with your body type, Ayumi-chan."

Ayumi laughed again, and pointed at her chest. "That's easy for you to say, Ai-chan! You're just like her, a real natural beauty!"

Haibara dumped the crumbs into the empty convenience store bag at their side with a raised eyebrow. "And you're not?"

Ayumi tilted her head, and gave a reluctant, then acquiesce smile. "No, Ai-chan, I'm not." She sighed and leaned back until she was propping herself up against the seat cushions of the couch, tilted her head back and glanced up at the ceiling. Haibara took another chip and waited for her to continue. "You and Ran-neechan probably didn't notice it, but the way the boys looked at you two… to be honest it made me kind of jealous! And a little bit sad." Her eyes popped open as she realized what she said, what it'd sounded like. "Not that I'm mad at you and Ran-neechan or anything! It's just that," she hummed, and relaxed against the cushions and set her neck back until she was laying her head upon the seat. "My body isn't like yours. Conan-kun and the other guys looked at you two with so much praise, and it just hurt, knowing that I'm not that pretty, too."

Haibara swallowed her sip of soda with great force, and it stung and tingled all the way down her throat. She looked at Ayumi with empathy, sat there and watched the girl who reminded her so much of her sister waste away, the same bright-eyed little girl who once told her that she'd never run away. That same adored girl, who brought love and admiration anywhere she'd go, sat on her floor and looked up at nothing and told her she wasn't pretty. As though Mitsuhiko and Genta hadn't been fawning over her for ages, as though Haibara didn't have to actively stave off the waves of men flocking to take advantage of that good, pure heart of hers. And still, she'd been tainted, had her heart broken by her own reflection and a foolish boy's indifference. Ran would have wept had she heard her, now. "Ayumi-chan, Edogawa-kun drooling over Mouri-san doesn't mean—"

"You don't have to lie to me, Ai-chan. You and Ran-neechan, you two are so beautiful, and if I want to be as pretty as you guys are, I have to work a little harder!" She looked so determined as she said that, fists raised, small smile, narrowed eyes- the most heartbreaking scene.

Haibara threw the bag of chips to the side and climbed over the rug and crossed by the table, then set her hands at Ayumi's shoulders and shook her when she had her attention. "Ayumi-chan, please! Starving yourself isn't going to help! You're a fool to think you're anything less. Ask the boys! They'll tell you the same thing." Ayumi blinked, wantonly staring at her with some loss of comprehension, like rereading a book she didn't understand. Desperate measures, then. "I'll call Edogawa-kun right now if you don't believe me."

"Ah—! No! Don't!" Haibara reached for her badge, and Ayumi lunged forward to take it from her before there could be any damage done. Haibara pressed a hand to her face and pushed her back, took the badge in her other hand and held it as far away as her arm could reach from Ayumi's blindly grasping hand.

"Then eat, Ayumi-chan! Eat at lunch, for heaven's sake! The normal amount! And It's too hot for our winter uniform! Take it off!"

"Okay! Okay! Just don't call Conan-kun!"

"Say it! Say you'll eat!"

"I'll eat!"

"Say you'll wear your summer uniform!"

"I'll wear it, I'll wear it!"

Ayumi seemed to gain some of that weight back again, and her skin gained its natural color back, even the rosieness of her cheeks. She did as Haibara asked and wore their summer uniform, though she often hid her small chest behind a slouched posture when she sat at her desk. The boys seemed relieved; they weren't sure what brought on the change, and Haibara would never tell them, but all three saw her finish her bento at lunch and drew in a collective sigh. Conan and Haibara exchanged a look, his thankful, hers detached. Ayumi returned to wearing less makeup, just the small bits of concealer and sunscreen, but she kept the mascara and coral lip. Haibara wished she'd take that off, but she'd won the more important battle. Besides, a conversation like that during school hours would likely draw the attention of the very pursuers she'd been fending off of Ayumi for ages, eager to wipe it off her lips in the most uncouth of means.

Eventually Ran invited the group out to the beach again, and despite Ayumi's very clear hesitance, she agreed just like the rest to go.

The same thing happened, same scene with new bathing suits. Ran, this time, had a pearl string bikini with parts shaped like triangles, parts that Conan's eyes drew to as the ground drew his jaw. Ai stripped her baggy shirt to reveal a corset bikini top with string bottoms, a deep plum color that sat like black licorice against her soft skin. Ayumi could feel the heat radiating from Mitsuhiko's skin from where she stood, again, at the cabin's doors. Genta sat staring like a man with two arm fulls of eel and rice, head twitching back and forth as he decided which sight he'd rather behold.

Ayumi, deciding to join them, turned back around and carried up to her room to change. Before her laid two bathing suits; the one from a year earlier, a pink and frilly tie-side scrunch with a matching halter top, or the swimming shirt and shorts she'd purchased earlier. She bit her lip and stared them down, trying to figure out if she was feeling brave or cautious.

She put the bikini on, stared in the mirror, and decided she was feeling cautious.

She was reaching up to untie the top at her neck when there was a knock at her door. "Ayumi-chan? You coming out any time soon?" Conan's voice, thick from either salty water or salty thoughts. She squeaked.

"O-Oh, yes!"

"Are you dressed?"

"Yes, I—!"

"Coming in."

"No, no, no! Wait!"

He opened the door, sooner than she could raise her arms to cover herself, not that she'd pulled the top undone yet anyway. He paused mid-stride, and she jumped to cover her exposed stomach, her hips, her small breasts— anything she could reach. He blinked and stood there paused, half-way in the door. Her face turned red, and she very nearly reached for the pillows on the bed next to her for better coverage, but he'd already seen everything.

He'd seen that she really didn't measure up to the other two, that under her uniform she wasn't as pretty as Ai was, or as shapely like a model as Ran was. He'd seen everything she'd been working so hard to hide, and he'd never like her the way he liked Ran.

Ayumi, in all of her ensuing terror, did not see the rising blush on Conan's face, or the growing panic as the strings on her top really did start coming undone— or the painfully big nosebleed he got when they did.

Her arms were already raised to hold and hide her chest, so the top didn't fall far, but she hardly noticed that when Conan fainted in front of her.

He woke up to Ayumi standing over him, holding her bikini top to her chest as the straps fell over her arms. The nosebleed he'd felt come over him earlier gained a second wind as she crouched to his level and leaned over him so he could plainly see most of everything, and he cheeped and covered his nose to hide another undignified stream. He scurried so that he wasn't flat on his back anymore, and propped himself up against the door hinge. She watched him from a much better, less blood-rushing angle, and frowned. "Conan-kun! Are you okay?"

"Y-Yeah! I-I'm fine!" He wiped viciously at his nose. "O-Oi, i-is that new?"

"This?" She pulled on her bottoms, and he tried his best not to see the tiny bit of extra skin that pinch displayed. "No, I had this the last time we stayed in the cabin."

No, that couldn't have been true, because he would have remembered Ayumi dropping her cover dress to reveal something so utterly heart-stopping. All that he could remember was Genta's huge jacket, a great many too sizes big on her small shoulders.

Conan paused, "Ayumi-chan, was this the bathing suit you had on under Genta-kun's jacket?"

She startled, and blushed, but nodded nevertheless. "Mm, I thought maybe I'd feel differently about it this year, but…"

"If it makes you uncomfortable, why did you buy it?"

"It didn't make me uncomfortable before! It's just that, the more I look at it, the more I see that it- um, isn't fit for me."

He raised an eyebrow at the straps, still falling and dangling listlessly over her arms, and reached forward to retie them. She squeaked, and tensed up, and still let him reach around the back of her neck. He tied the two strings once, then tied them in a double knot for good measure (if Genta and Mitsuhiko were witness to another clothing mishap, he was sure they'd die drowning in their own hormones— as happy a death as it would be for them, he wasn't one to encourage Death's boney hand). She looked at him as he pulled away, lower lip jutting out in a round shade of coral, a color he hadn't taken a liking to on her. He flicked her nose. "I think it fits you just fine."

Her cheeks turned her more natural shade of rose, wide blue eyes peering back at him. "You do?" He nodded, and she leaned into his space, brows furrowed as her balled hands clenched at nothing in her lap. "It doesn't make my chest look too small? I don't look like a little kid?"

"What? Of course not! Is that what you were worried about?"

He laughed, but Ayumi's frown as she pulled back told him he'd hit the nail a little too close to its head. She turned her head away, pressing her forearms to her chest, hid the skin under skin. His heart fell, because that hadn't been what he was expecting, because he knew this all could have been avoided had he said something earlier. "Ayumi-chan…"

"It's just that… Ai-chan and Ran-neechan are so pretty, you know? Everybody thinks so, and it's hard to stand next to them." She squirmed around where she sat on her legs. "How could a bland girl like me hope to become a woman like Ran-neechan or Ai-chan?"

"Barou." She blinked. He scowled at her and crossed his arms. "Where did you get that idea? You're as much an adult as Haibara." Not really, in a very different sense, but she didn't need to know that. It had nothing to do with the conversation at hand. "Mitsuhiko-kun and Genta-kun are gonna fall all over themselves when you walk outside in that."

"But…" Her cheeks puffed, resembled two peaches on either cheek as her fingers twiddled at her chest where her shoulders scrunched forward. Her eyes fluttered at him with vague mischief, but more than that, some hidden message he was supposed to be picking up on. He stared at her with no answer, and she squirmed around until she wrought the nerve to say what she wanted so badly to. "Do you think that I… look good?"

"Do I--?"

She leaned forward, earnestly, hopefully, daring him to lie to her, begging him to tell her the truth as she sat with her hands squeezing at the end of the frilly bottoms in her lap. "Did your jaw drop when you saw me? Did you have to come up with excuses for staring?"

No, but the nosebleed he'd gotten had very nearly drained him of every drop his brain needed to function. His nose twitched. "Barou! Why would I tell you if it did?"

She hummed in that sad way she did and leaned back on her knees, eyelashes grazing her cheeks as she stared forlorny at her lap. She looked so sad, and he hadn't seen that face on her in a great many years, not since they'd hit middle school. It was a face he'd been glad to do away with, but now...

His heart skipped a beat in the way that it felt like a low bolt of electricity had been taken to his chest, and he relented. With a grunt, he glanced away. "Of course I think you're pretty, Ayumi-chan…" Her sad eyes widened, and he pouted and sideyed her in a way that very much said he wouldn't be repeating himself. "What idiot wouldn't?"

She frowned. "Conan-kun, do you mean that?"

"Barou! My whole life has been about chasing down the truth! The truth is that I'd be lying if I said you weren't!"

She lunged forward and wrapped her arms around his shoulders and squeezed, nose digging into his collarbone as she fell forward into him. He caught her in ready- albeit remarkably surprised- arms and steadied both of them on the floor. She exhaled into his chest, half-covered by the overshirt he'd thrown on before coming inside to check on her. He shivered, but the smile he felt against his bared skin kept his arms around her; he was happy she was smiling, for real, for the first time in a long time. "Conan-kun, thank you!"

"Don't thank me, I told you I was just telling the truth…"

She laughed, and he turned his head away so that, by some miracle, she couldn't feel the heat of his face from where he'd set his chin in her hair.

(Conan had been right; the moment she set one foot on the sandy beaches outside the cabin, Genta and Mitsuhiko momentarily lost their minds. The beach ball Genta and Ran had been hitting back and forth hit Genta's distracted head right in the face, square in his nose. The water bottle Mitsuhiko had been greedily sucking down spurted from the top and soaked him as his hand clenched the plastic in a too-tight grip. Ayumi held tight to Conan's arm as they approached the small set up, laid perfect with towels and a single umbrella sticking broadside out of the ground.)

The rest of the group exchanged fizzy drinks and dango, which of course Ran had made herself the night they'd taken the train up. Haibara and Mitsuhiko snickered at Genta as he made a very valid- very futile- attempt at wrangling his towel out of the mangled mess of his beach bag. Conan plopped down on the towel under the shade of their striped umbrella, and Ayumi dropped down beside him. "Oi, Ran-neechan, mind passing us a soda?"

Two cold refreshing blueberry sodas, one set gently in Ayumi's lap, the other pressed against Conan's face like the teasing older sister Ran always went out of her way to be. Conan startled and then grunted, taking the soda but waving Ran away, as little brothers do. Ayumi flicked open her can and took a long, grateful sip. "Thanks, Ran-neechan!" Conan followed suit, taking a smaller sip from his before setting it in his lap to look out over the crystal blue waters that went on for miles before them. "Neh, Conan-kun, do you want some chips? Genta-kun brought some!"

"Conan-kun can take my chips over my dead, buried body!"

"Is that a threat you want to make, Kojima-kun? You've seen Edogawa-kun take a bullet to the back and live."

"Haven't seen him take a knee to the stomach!"


Conan snorted, and took another sip from his can as he watched Ayumi turn to scold Genta out of the corner of his eye. She was sulking, lower lip jutting out as she tried to work her unknowing magic and make Genta apologize. The light hit her pursed lips, made the coral lipstick stand out against the peachy pink of her bathing suit. His nose twitched. "Oi, Ayumi-chan."

She turned back to him, and he moved forward and raised the sleeve of his forearm out, startling her as he pressed it to her lips and wiped mechanically back and forth until he couldn't feel the sticky tar she called makeup brushing back in motion. He just wanted it off- it didn't suit her, not the way the natural pink did when she smiled. When he finally pulled back, after only a few moments, he found Ayumi's captivated wide eyes looking at him with all the life of a block of ice. Her cheeks were red, and her now-nude lips sat in a small 'o' as she waited for him to say something. He blinked, and looked around to find everybody else watching them in equal freeze-frame demeanor; Ran's hands were by her mouth, barely covering the ear-to-ear grin she was hiding in front of blushing cheeks, while Haibara seemed ordinarily amused with her cocked brow and discerning smirk. Mitsuhiko and Genta looked ready to low a fuse.

The reality of what he'd done on mere instinct seeped into him the way an old hag's claws dragged over the skin of the luckless protagonist doomed to be a witch's lunch- slow, intense, and then very, very cold. His face felt so suddenly hot that he debated sticking it in the cooler. "W-Wait! I-I was just-! Her lipstick was- it wasn't a good color on her, so I-!"

"Chose to get rid of it yourself?" Ran, oblivious as she was to so very many, very important factors, was no less than enthusiastically inquisitive. "Hey, Conan-kun is finally becoming a man, hm?"

He shouldn't have looked to Haibara for help; that was a mistake. She shook her head and clicked her tongue at him, all the while smiling in that irritating way she did. "I'd think a man would have come up with a better means of taking her lipstick off… though I suppose this was the best way in present company."

Oi! Haibara! He hoped his hawk-eyed, demon-raising stare would somewhat penetrate that irksome attitude of hers, but Haibara merely turned away to placate the two raging, impending bulls he had unintentionally created with the red of Ayumi's cheeks. He turned to see how Ayumi was responding to the situation at hand, because he wasn't sure he could put up with the unsure, tentative affection he'd undoubtedly set himself up to receive. Instead he found her laughing, tilting her head to the side as her hands gripped at her sides and she bent over her ribs until her hair was swaying off her shoulders and over her lap. He was, perhaps, momentarily surprised, but all in all he was relieved.

The sun lit the warmest smile on her face and shined in her blue eyes as her laughter calmed to a still breath, and she laid her head to rest upon Conan's shoulder; despite the color on his cheeks, he readjusted his arm to pull her closer.