Case Closed Fan Fiction ❯ Loneliness ( Chapter 14 )

[ T - Teen: Not suitable for readers under 13 ]

Chapter Fourteen
Loneliness
“Conan-kun!” Ran rushed down the stairs as he was lacing his shoes on the step in front of the office. “You forgot your toiletries!”
“Ah, Arigato, Ran-san,” Edogawa Fumiyo said gratefully, taking the toiletries bag from Ran and tucking it into Conan’s backpack with a reprimanding look at her son. “Dear me, Conan-chan. Such a scatterbrain. Definitely your father’s son.” Ran had, whenever she asked, been told that Edogawa Soichiro was the sportswriter for the same newspaper that Fumiyo was the layout editor for, hence his transferral to America to cover the Superbowl, and was a man who didn’t have much memory retention for anything but sport. This explained a lot of Conan’s parents’ uncommunicativeness in the early days- apparently Soichiro had insisted that he would call and organize things, and, Fumiyo often said with a sigh, she really should have known better than to let him. She was grateful that Agasa-Hakase had been level-headed enough to find somewhere safe for Conan and contact them about it, although again he had left the details with Soichiro.
Even Shinichi, with that photographic memory of his, tends to lose track of all else when football or a murder gets on his mind…” Ran thought, smiling ruefully. “Must be a guy thing.” She was, privately, feeling a little embarrassed about some of the weird notions she used to have about Conan. She’d seen them together, hadn’t she, at the school play? And she’d talked to Shinichi on the phone when Conan was perfectly visible. There were rational explanations for the remarkable similarities between Conan and Shinichi, and the fact that Conan had turned up the very evening that Shinichi vanished… well, life was funny like that sometimes, wasn’t it? “Maybe someone knew that I’d be needing a little support.
“So is that really everything this time, Conan-chan?” Fumiyo said. Conan nodded, avoiding his mother’s eyes, one very embarrassed little boy. “Good. Now, we’d better hurry. Goodness, we’ll be late for the flight! Oh, it’s not fun trying to get flights on Christmas Eve…” She smiled at Ran as she picked up Conan’s bag and started to tow him away. “Arigato Gozaimasu, Ran-san. We’ll bring you back something nice as a Christmas present, won’t we, Conan-chan?”
“Uh-huh!” Conan said, looking back to smile and wave at Ran. “Sayonara, Ran-neechan!”
“Sayonara, Conan-kun!” she called. “Be careful!”
“See ya, brat,” her father snorted from over her shoulder. Ran looked back in surprise to see that he was also putting his shoes on. “Otou-san, where are you going at this time of night?”
“The guys are having a Mahjongg party!” he said gleefully. He shrunk back slightly under her glare. “Hey… I’ll be back by midnight, I swear, and then I’ll sleep off the hangover tomorrow morning and be in good shape to meet your mother for lunch like I promised. Good enough?”
Fine,” Ran sighed exasperatedly. “But make sure you have your keys, all right? I’m locking the door after you leave.”
“I’ve got `em, I’ve got `em,” Kogoro said, waving the aforementioned keys before stowing them in his pocket and bounding down the stairs. “Mahjongg, here I come!”
Honestly…” Ran muttered, locking the office, before turning and heading up to the apartment. “Am I looking after one child or two?”
The click of the lock seemed awfully loud as she locked the door to the apartment. The dinner dishes needed washing, so she did that, but all the while she was stuck on how eerily quiet it was.
Well, it would be,” she reminded herself. “Otou-san’s not got the horse races on, and when he’s not doing that, Conan-kun is generally chattering to you or watching one of his programs… The things he learns from TV, I’ve got to find out what it is that he watches… But they’re both gone, so you’re here on your own, and you’re much quieter than those two rowdy boys…
“Except for when I’m talking to myself,” she muttered aloud. Putting away the dishes, she felt oddly at a loss for what to do for a moment, Shaking her head, she retreated to her room and knelt down under her bed to pull out her little Christmas knitting project. “Might as well do something with my hands. Maybe I should turn on some music as well…
The knitting didn’t really improve her mood, though. It just reminded her of who it was for, who she wouldn’t be able to give it to face-to-face. Of who, right now, alone in the empty apartment, she really, really missed.
Shinichi…” she thought, her fingers slowing. “It’s strange… I still feel like you only just left… like if I just went past your house on my way to school, you’d be there, same as always, toast in hand and complaining about how early it was…
It wasn’t just because Conan and her father were gone, not really. Without Shinichi, no matter how many people were around… she always felt so alone. “You’re the most important thing in my life, Shinichi… so please… come back soon… come back at all
She had to put the knitting away again. She didn’t want to wipe her eyes with needles in her hands.
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“All right,” Ai said, holding up the syringe to the light and examining the red fluid. “I’m going to start analysing this. Here.” She handed him the small plastic test tube containing the antidote. “Better go take that. I think your mother left some o f your clothes in the bathroom.”
“Arigato, Haibara,” Shinichi said, picking up the pill and working very hard not to run to the bathroom. He wasn’t looking forward to the change, nor the twelve hours of just waiting he’d have to go through, but then, but then…
Yukiko had left clothes out for him, a slightly dressy but casual combination of blue jeans, a white button-down shirt and a dark blue jacket; at least she hadn’t been able to find a red tie, he thought ruefully. His mother had the strangest sense of humour sometimes. He closed and locked the door and set the pill on the countertop. He set his glasses and watch next to it before starting to undress; he wanted to do this before taking the antidote- he had no idea how long it would take to take effect, and he really didn’t relish the idea of suffering the same “Incredible Hulk” effect that he had in East Okuho.
Finally, he picked up the pill and placed it in his mouth. He really wasn’t looking forward to his bones melting and fire rushing through his veins, but it wouldn’t last forever- soon enough, he’d pass out from the pain, and when he woke up a little while later…
He’d be Kudo Shinichi, maybe just for a day, maybe for more, but definitely for Ran.
And this time,” he thought, steeling himself as he swallowed and fire burned its way down his throat, igniting his stomach, “I’ll say what I need to say… and nothing and no-one will get … in the way..
His thoughts faded as he collapsed against the door, gasping for air. His blood was on fire, every heartbeat sending it pulsing through his veins, melting his flesh and bones, and his heart was trying to jump out of his chest….
And then, cool, blissful darkness overwhelmed him…
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Ai was sitting outside of the bathroom when he came out, holding a stopwatch. She held it up, showing the numbers 11:30:49 ticking downwards.
“I started it when the screaming started,” she explained, sounding completely unruffled. “When it hits zero, you can go.”
“I have to ask- is there no way to make that any less painful?” Shinichi asked, relishing the deeper timbre of his voice.
“Aside from your body working overtime to more than double your body mass, and your cells being split apart to accommodate the new ones,” Ai said, tossing him the stopwatch, “you’ve got ten years of growing pains in about ten minutes. I think you should just be satisfied that it doesn’t kill you.”
“Well, that’s good too,” Shinichi said, and wiggled his fingers. “Hey, you were right- no elephantitis!”
“Baka,” Ai muttered, hopping down from the desk where she was perched and walking away, presumably to the lab. “Come on. I need a comparison blood sample. The drug won’t show up, but if it’s affected anything else noticeable, maybe I can work backwards from that…”
“Yeas, ma’am,” Shinichi muttered, but he couldn’t help grinning. It was almost like he was seeing everything for the first time from his higher perspective. He loved feeling the length and strength in his arms and legs as he walked, loved being able to reach doorknobs and light switches, loved being able to take the stairs two at a time. Maybe he could get his football- his adult football, with real weight in it- and do a little skills work out back while he waited to go free…
“Oh yeah, and a package came for you while you were out,” Ai said, cutting through his thoughts. “I didn’t see it, but your mother was squealing about it and your father was complaining about using his credit card for express delivery… sound about right?”
“Ah… yeah!” Shinichi said, suddenly and rather guiltily remembering the order he’d made from Agasa’s computer the night before. “Good, it got here in time…”
“Last minute Christmas shopping?” Ai asked, reaching up for the doorknob to her basement lab. Shinichi, unable to resist, reached over her head and opened it for her. She just gave him a look that clearly said that the evil eyes and involuntary gratitude were cancelling each other out.
“Let’s get this over with,” he sighed, rolling up his sleeve. “You were right- I’m starving.”
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He was tying his shoelaces when the stopwatch finally beeped.
“You’re past the danger period,” Ai said, “and you haven’t even passed out like you did at the play.”
“So if I need to be back here around about seven, right?” Shinichi said, standing up and pulling on his coat. His voice sounded very loud in the quiet house- his parents had returned home and gone to bed sometime after midnight, once it was affirmed that the drug was unlikely to kill him in their absence, and Agasa-Hakase had already been snoring by then. “Merry Christmas.”
“Merry Christmas,” Ai said, with perhaps the merest hint of a smile. “Keep your head down.”
“Will do,” Shinichi said, waving as he shut the front door behind him and stepped out into Beika Street.
It wasn’t just Agasa-Hakase’s- the entire of Tokyo was still asleep. Unlike in LA, where he had spent a Christmas or two in the past, Tokyo wasn’t awoken by its grade-school population at roughly 4:30 AM. The world was dark and still, the only sound the softness of the falling snow.
He started walking, not really thinking about where he was going. He didn’t need to. His feet would carry him to Ran’s- a path he’d walked almost every day of his life.
He wasn’t sure if there’d ever been a time when Ran wasn’t his best friend. For Kami’s sake, the first picture in his baby album was of his mother and Ran’s mother sitting side by side, arms around their almost equally swollen bellies. They’d played together in nursery school every day, often going to Agasa-Hakase’s afterwards just so that they could play together a little longer. They’d walked to school every day for nine and a half grades- well, they still did, really. Ran’s mother had walked them, at the beginning of first grade, but then she’d left halfway through. Shinichi could still remember that day, and the period leading up to it; how often Ran had come to his house rather than going home just yet, too scared to face the fighting, and he’d thought nothing of playing games and chattering and making a fool of himself and just making her smile. Even then, that had been his first priority- Ran’s happiness. It was all that he thought about, really- insisting that she stay and have dinner, at his house, where she could play with him and laugh and be safe from her parent’s arguments… Especially the day when Eri finally left.
“Ran?” he said, passing the ball away and then doing the unthinkable- he stopped moving in the middle of a game. But something was wrong. It was a Sunday- wasn’t she staying home with her parents? Why was she out by the street?
When she looked up to his call, he was shocked to see tears pouring down her cheeks. Ignoring the jeers from the other boys, he rushed over to Ran, intent on finding out what had happened to her.
“Ran?” he said. “Ran, what’s wrong? Why are you crying?”
“O-okaa-san…” she said, gulping out sobs. “She left… she left in a taxi, and took all her things… She’s gone and I-I don’t know when she’s c-coming back… I t-tried to follow the taxi, b-but I l-l-lost it…” Bursting into loud wails, she flung her arms around Shinichi and sobbed into his shoulder. What could he do but hug her back?
Ran had been so distraught, and the situation so serious, that the boys hadn’t even teased them about it- and if it involves girls, it’s a pretty serious situation that seven-year-old boys won’t tease you about. Shinichi had just stood there for the longest time, holding Ran while she cried. He’d swung around in a tree like a monkey and deliberately fallen out- repeatedly- to make her giggle again. They played together the whole day, and in the end, she’d fallen asleep on a park bench, watching the sunset. Shinichi had just hoisted her up onto his back and carried her home…
Over ten years later, here he stood again, looking up into the dark windows of the Mori Detective Agency. He felt like he had at the beginning of grade school, when he and Ran had drifted apart because he’d told her not to call him by his given name in school- the other boys had been teasing him. Once again, she had to know him by a false name; once more, he had to distance himself from her. The people that he was involved with now would do far worse to her than tease if he didn’t…
You’re playing with the big boys now,” he sang, under his breath and closer to the key than usual, remembering hearing the snatch of song somewhere in the States. Gripping the bag in one hand, snow melting in his hair, he opened the outer door and entered the stairwell. It was seven-thirty in the morning, now; early, but he didn’t want to waste any time. He didn’t have a lot to spare.
Praying that Ran wouldn’t kill him, he rang the bell.
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“Shinichi!”
Ran tried to call out to him, but her voice was gone. She couldn’t move her feet. She reached out, but he was out of her reach, so far away, and alarm bells were ringing…
Drrrriiiinnnnggg…
Ran slowly opened her eyes as the alarm bells transformed themselves into doorbells. She blinked, waking up fully, and glanced over at the clock. It was seven-thirty in the morning. Who was ringing at this time of the morning? Her father must have forgotten his keys after all. Yawning, she pulled on her robe and slipped on her slippers. “I’m coming, I’m coming,” she said to the empty air as the bell rang again. As she unlocked the apartment door, she wondered why he wasn’t yelling yet. Maybe he had a hangover.
Finally, she got the door to the apartment unlocked, and stifled a yawn as she pushed it open and looking around.
“Otou-san, I thought you had your…” she began, but stopped, for two reasons. One was that her father had just snored very loudly from his room.
The other was that she’d caught sight of the man standing on the landing below, a gift bag in hand and snow melting in his hair. She gasped, wiping her eyes, as if the lingering remnants of her dream were playing tricks on her. But when she opened her eyes again, he was still there, and now he’d turned, smiling up at her…
“Hey,” he said. “Um, sorry for waking you up…”
“Shinichi?” Ran whispered, before clearing her throat and finding her voice. “I had no idea you were coming back-!”
“Gomen,” he said, smiling a little nervously and walking up the stairs. “I kind of had to… sneak away… and my body clock’s a little messed up, so I forgot how early it was…”
Ran really didn’t care. She was more focused on the fact that she was wearing her dressing gown and pyjamas, and her hair had to be a mess.
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It’s May 4th– Happy Birthday, Shinichi! May the fourth be with you! (I’m such a geek… ^_^; )
Two chapters this week, Mel7200! (It’s a long weekend and I can pass this off as English revision 😛 )Don’t worry, I’ve written their next meeting, though as I’ve written up to chapter 32 so far, who knows when it’ll be? *evil*
The next few chapters are going to be fluff practice for me since I don’t write it so well and there’s a lot of oncoming angst, so I don’t think I’ll be quite that mean, twilightserius…
Of course I mentioned you first, Sable Katze! You were the first to review the last chapter! 🙂 I don’t think Shinichi will ever learn how to sing. 😛 Shinichi’s a sharp guy, but he’s so easily jerked around by the girls. Poor guy never knows what to make of Ai. :3
Yeah, Pretztailfan95, Shinichi’s life sucks more than a bit just now, and unfortunately it’s about to get worse *evil*… but then, it won’t matter for long. (what am I saying?) And don’t worry about the long review. I like long reviews. Why do you think I put up with Bobbyneko? 😛 (aww, but I love y’all really.)
… I’m in a weird mood today, aren’t I? >_>
And Lady Paper- I know you didn’t review, but it’s still nice to know I’m on all your favourites and alerts. <3 Thanks to everyone else that’s added me so far, while I’m at it!
I do not claim to own any of the characters in Meitantei Conan. They are the intellectual property of Aoyama Gosho. All characters, couples and locations, if Canon, will be faithful to the manga, so if you’re into fics with weird pairings like Shinichi and Heiji, the back button is at the top there. The fic may not make sense if you have not read up to chapter 689, which you can do at a site called (read between the lines) O/n/e/ma/n/g/a, but I advise you to buy the official Tankoban novels (up to volume 28 are out in English at the time of writing) so that Aoyama-sensei can afford to continue gracing us with his imagination. Now, I hope you enjoy the fic! (If you don’t, please see my previous comments re the back button).
 
Plan A
All I Want For Christmas