DISCLAIMER: I do not own Detective Conan or any of its characters and concepts! They all belong to the genius of Gosho Aoyama. Except for Yuuichi--he's mine! ^_^ No touchie!
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|Never thought I'd be in this place;
It's someone else's life I'm living.
Wish I were living a lie.
The hardest part is when the bough breaks,
Falling down and then forgiving.
You didn't kiss me goodbye.
I'm choking on the words I didn't get to say,
And pray I get the chance one day.
Part 10: Falling Down And Then Forgiving
Everything stopped when their eyes met--everything was forgotten in that same heartbeat, as Ran's breath caught in her throat with all the emotion that burst up inside her at the sight of him. It was really him...panting, smudged, disheveled, distraught, looking so small and pale yet so fierce and determined--and now there was such sudden fear in his eyes that what she'd tried to say was choked off, and all that came out was one single sob.
His eyes had gone so wide with utter, utter shock--she didn't think it was possible for anyone's eyes to be so huge--and his face was even paler than before; he was completely frozen, like a child-sized statue, staring at her in something akin to horror and terror and complete disbelief...
And a hundred things flashed through his wide, wide eyes--everything from fear to regret to a thousand leagues of pain and grief that made Ran choke up more, unable to say anything but only to stumble toward him, her hands reaching out.
Reaching out just to touch him, to see if he was really real--he'd really come for her, for them, through who knew what hells--just look at him, so exhausted and bedraggled, now so terribly frightened--frightened of her, because she knew; she'd found out his deepest secret and now she was so close...
So close and so confused herself; her eyes saw Conan but her mind knew it was Shinichi--but even so it was hard to believe, and easy to believe. He looked like the tousled, sweaty little boy she'd always known--but his eyes were unguarded and within them shone so much...so much she'd never recognized, always blinded by her own perceptions.
And he was afraid, because she knew the truth--and she knew he thought she would hate him for everything now...she knew how awful he felt about all of it...
Her trembling hand only came up to touch his cheek, the tears flowing from her eyes like a silent waterfall as she felt him shaking just like she was...
She knows, she knows, oh God she knows-- Conan's mind beat about the inside of his skull like a frantic butterfly, panic speeding his heartbeat to a deafening throb. How--how--? Haibara told her--now she knows--she knows who I am--!
Terror danced with a strange, sad/glad relief. He couldn't speak, his jaw working--but both her hands came up to cup his face, and he could only stand there staring up at her with wide scared eyes full of trepidation and hope and apology and grief...
That same tingle of terror/joy spun through him again--she was looking in his eyes, touching him, speaking his name, and it took his breath away, took all the energy out of his limbs as the fear and relief crumbled what was left of his rage-born strength.
The fires of anger and desperation guttered out at last, leaving him weak and trembling like the child he appeared to be; his knees went out even as she began to pull him closer. With a soft gasp she tried to support him but her own limbs were trembling like a bird's and somehow they both ended up sitting there on the floor, Ran reaching up with one fumbling hand to tug at the frames of the glasses he wore.
Those cursed, blessed glasses that had kept him masked from her for so very long--she pulled them from his face and they fell from her fingers, dropping unnoticed to the floor. And then she was looking at him again, seeing him, free of the disguising frames--the little boy Kudo Shinichi had once been, in the happy days when they were children together. The little boy Kudo Shinichi was again, trapped this way but still in there, still the man she loved and cherished and missed so much...
Ran began to sob in earnest, cradling his face, pulling him forward until their foreheads met--and he irresistibly reached for her, his smaller hands touching her arms...almost afraid to touch her at all but unable not to, tears leaking from his own eyes as he listened to her cry.
"Shinichi...you stayed...you stayed...you were here, all along...you stayed with me..." Her sobs broke her words, making them almost indistiguishable, but somehow the communication between two hearts was as clear as her crystalline tears. "...you were here all the time...I missed you so much...but you were here...don't you ever leave, don't you ever go anywhere..."
When he spoke for the first time, it was just a squeaky whisper as they sat there on the cold floor, knees mixed together and not caring about who watched them--not Akai, not the curious soldiers behind him, not Haibara Ai who stood just outside the door of her lab with a half-hidden, tortured smile on her face--not any of them; it was all forgotten, and nothing mattered but the two of them.
"Ran...I-I'm sorry," he gulped, losing himself in the tears. "...I'm so sorry...I couldn't tell you...I wanted to, so much...I'm sorry for everything...it's all my fault...I lied to you, I hurt you, I...I..."
"Shhh..." Her thumb stopped his lips, gently, as she pulled back to look at him, shaking her head to say all that she could barely form in words. "It's not...you're here now...and I know you..." Through her sobs she tried a shaky smile, full of so much pain and joy that it almost broke him then and there. "I can see you now...Shinichi..."
Pent-up emotion brought his voice out in a choked, almost childish sob--startled but grateful when she pulled him close at last, embracing him for who he was despite his age, despite his size, despite all the things she should have hated him for, should have railed at him for...so many things she should be angry about, she should have pushed him away...but she didn't, she didn't--she pulled him in and held him, and his heart throbbed so strong it almost hurt with gratitude...
"I love you, Shinichi," Ran whispered through her tears. "Don't you ever leave me again...!"
Oh God, Ran, I promise, never--never...! The ache of love and sorrow and gladness and relief shut off his voice--the overwhelming feelings a battered mix of joy and agony and blessed release. So many things that had been wound so tightly inside him for so long--not just today, but for four long years...no, longer than that--a knotted tangle of love and longing that had lasted since the very night Conan was born...
So many torturously heavy burdens, and he'd never even realized how horrible they were until he could finally set them down...
"Ran...Ran...love you..." he choked, holding on to her like a lifeline. "...so sorry..."
She held on to him, and he clung to her, and the whole world disappeared as two lonely hearts began to heal each other, sharing tears at last to soothe the pain that had gone on so long--but now could finally, finally come to an end.
It was so poignant to watch that not even the most insensitive and flippant of Akai's men could manage a single comment--not a whisper, not even a breath could be heard from the soldiers behind him. Not a single one of them remained untouched by what they were seeing--struck silent and awed and disbelieving, staring mutely at the tearful scene in their own main office.
Akai himself couldn't even stop the fading of his anger. The wild-eyed little hellion that had taken on his entire troop and very nearly won had collapsed into Mouri Ran's arms like the little boy he resembled, all the fire and danger gone out of him like an empty balloon. The change from deadly to harmless--from dangerous invader to weary child--was so sudden it was disconcerting. It almost wasn't the same person who had crashed through their front door and flung himself headlong into battle with them.
Across the room, near the door to her lab, he could see Haibara--as rigid as steel, her face as flat as a plastic mask. But her eyes were bright and glistening with a pain he recognized through long familiarity, and though she held in her tears he knew that she was crying inside.
"Uh...Boss...?" Hiroshi's whisper, close behind him, reminded him of the presence of his men. They were uncertain and confused; still unsettled and wary from the recent "invasion," but unsure of how to proceed now that the vicious attacker had morphed into a helpless little boy. Most of them barely understood half of the real story anyway...
"Stand down," Akai murmured in reply, suppressing his own sigh of relief. "Go back to your stations, but stay out of the way."
"This mean I can get back to work?" Yakamoto grumbled quietly at Akai's other shoulder.
Akai nodded, glancing back. "Just...give him a wide berth, all of you. That's an order."
"Yessir," Hiroshi replied smartly, in no mood to argue that point--especially since he'd taken a couple of pretty good lumps from the "little boy" on the floor there. "Least he's not fixing to demolish the place any more..."
Akai stepped forward a bit, out of the door, as the men squeezed past him, looking ridiculously furtive as most of them all but tiptoed into the room--comically skirting the tables and chairs to maneuver around the two sitting on the floor, most of them heading for the cots at the far side of the room, presumably to lick their wounds and stare surreptitiously at the one-boy army. A few elected to linger in the doorway a moment before returning downstairs, not quite brave enough to remain--or perhaps wiser than those who chose to stay upstairs.
Akai watched Eiji and Yakamoto make beelines for their respective stations, again forcing down the sigh that wanted to well up at the fact that things hadn't gone as bad as they could have. Crisis averted, he thought to himself, keeping an attentive eye on Edogawa even as he watched Haibara. At least for the moment. I don't even want to imagine what that little monster might have done to Haibara if Mouri-san hadn't been standing right there...
Someone with eyes like that could be very dangerous, and Edogawa had proven that he didn't have to be armed or even at full size to put a respectable dent in a group of professional soldiers. The second response Akai fought down was a grudging, satisfied smile; all of this would turn out very well for his organization, if he had any say in the matter--and he did.
Like him, Haibara remained where she was at the doorway to her lab, watching Edogawa and Mouri-san with full/empty eyes. She was professional, if nothing else, and even as disconcerting as her blank mask was on a young girl's face, she was obviously determined to hold her course.
Akai moved to go to Haibara's side. However, he was not as furtive as his men, and did not give Edogawa as wide a berth as even he himself had suggested.
He had hardly taken two steps when Edogawa jerked around with a look of wild fight-or-flight in his wide eyes for an instant. His eyes were seemingly larger still, without the glasses--huge pools of near-luminescent blue--but only for that moment in which Akai's movement had alerted him. Even as the tall man froze in his tracks--involuntarily yet again, to his private chagrin--those eyes narrowed and a flicker of danger sprang anew in them like a lamp lit from within.
And even as Edogawa's slim frame seemed to gather like a coiled spring--even sitting perfectly still as he was--Mouri Ran's arms slipped further around his shoulders, holding him back. "Shinichi," she spoke, her voice hoarse and soft. "It's alright. They're...friends. They haven't hurt me--please, just listen..."
Some of the edge eased out of the boy's muscles. "Ran...?"
"It's okay, Shinichi..."
"Indeed," Akai added in, his tones as level as ever--daring to step even closer, if to the side. "If you had listened to me in the first place, you'd have heard me when I told you that Mouri-san and the child are perfectly safe."
Conan's eyes narrowed. The blue orbs shouted, Why should I trust you? in the clearest of voices, even though the boy spoke no actual words.
Akai pointedly ignored the glare, instead offering a hand to the young woman sitting on the floor. "Mouri-san...?"
Ran stared at his hand for a moment before blinking in comprehension. "Oh--thank you..."
As Conan scowled, Ran allowed the dark-haired man to help her to her feet, her own legs rather wobbly. She released Akai's hand quickly, watching Conan carefully as the boy tottered to his feet like a weary newborn colt. His dark stare never left Akai's face the entire time he helped Ran up, and the warning in his eyes refused to fade until the man had stepped back out of arms' reach of her.
However, Conan's glare did not last long once memory jolted him--he turned quickly back to Ran, his voice suddenly almost breathless. "Where's Yuuichi...?"
"He's fine," Ran replied shakily. "He's alright, too...he's just..."
"He's resting," Haibara Ai finished for her softly, from behind her. "In my lab."
As if he'd forgotten her presence until now, Conan whirled and stared at the girl with mixed emotions of shock, rage, relief, and betrayal. His mouth opened and shut, working, words trying to form around hissing grimaces of fury and sorrow; his hands reached out from his sides, fingers nearly flexing into claws, a gesture that was part angry threat and part desperate supplication. He stared at her for a very long time, trying to say something--anything--that would even begin to quantify all his questions, all his pain, all his grief and tears and years of wondering, all that he'd been through because she left...
That was all it took; her mask began to crumble.
"I'm sorry, Kudo-kun...I'm sorry..."
It started slowly, with the faintest trembling of her lower lip as her once-blank eyes began to glisten. Tears welled up visibly, startling everyone who saw them; her face ceased to be a plastic mask and became living flesh once more. She still fought against the expression of sorrow but it was too late; it was already plainly there, and even Conan could see it--though it did little to assuage his anger and accusation.
Even Ran could not tell if the boy's face displayed grief or anger, and her uncertainty made her hesitate to reach out to him, to stop him. No one could move, not even Akai--something had frozen them.
Conan's hands clenched and unclenched, white-knuckled; his teeth gritted and his eyes were dark, and there was something both frightening and piteous in his expression. The way he reached out to the motionless blond girl made it seem as though he wanted to grab both her shoulders and shake the answers out of her.
"Haibara...you left..." he hissed, half incoherent. "...you ruined everything...you..."
He took one step toward her.
With a shrill cry, a dark-haired little form seemed to come from nowhere, leaping in between them with arms outflung, stopping Conan in his tracks with wide-eyed, pale-faced, chin-trembling defiance.
"You leave Ai-neechan alone!" Yuuichi demanded, angry and beseeching. Having watched everything from the safety of the laboratory door, he had seen what lay in his "Niichan's" eyes and reacted, knowing that the older boy's anger was somehow wrong. "She says she's sorry! She's sorry so you stop bein' mad!"
Arms gone slack at his sides, Conan stared down at the child in shock--along with nearly everyone else in the room. His frame slackened visibly, the sight of his son drowning a good portion of his anger and taking the fight right out of him once again. His voice cracked with relief, as well as confusion. "Yuu-kun...?"
Yuuichi was almost as tearful as Ai, staring up at the older boy in determination laced with hesitance and almost faint fear. "Don't?" the little voice pleaded, wavering. "You're scary...don't be mad, she's sorry...please?"
Conan caught his breath, flinching back that step he'd taken. Then Ran was there, quickly kneeling down to pull Yuuichi into her arms and cradle him, letting him hide his face in her neck.
"There, there," she soothed, holding him tight while her eyes traced up to Conan's suddenly-bleak face. "It's alright, Yuu-chan..."
"I..." Pale with apology, Conan seemed to have forgotten about Ai again. Instead, he reached near-involuntarily toward Yuuichi's trembling shoulders, stopping just short of touching him. "I didn't...Yuu-kun, I..."
Blue eyes peeked hesitantly out at him, but Yuuichi did not let go of his mother. Ran patted the child's back reassuringly, trying for her cheerful mother-voice and only barely managing to keep the tearfulness out of it. "See? Look, Yuu-chan--Niichan was just a bit upset, it's okay now. Nobody's going to hurt Haibara-chan..."
At this, Conan glanced up at Ai again, taking in the glistening trails of moisture down her cheeks. She had not moved at all, not forward or back, and even now she did not flinch from his gaze. His eyes had lost their furious fire, and only throbbed with the dull, weary ache of an old wound.
"I'm sorry...Yuu-kun," he said, not looking at the boy, swallowing hard to marshall his voice. "I...have a lot of things...to ask Haibara about..."
Mute, Haibara Ai nodded. And that was all she did, all the movement she had made since her apology; she had not run, nor hidden, nor defended herself.
Akai spoke up at their side so suddenly that all of them but Ai jumped; they had been so focussed that they had not noted his approach. Conan's eyes flashed guarded warning again, but calmed when the tall man spoke.
"There are many things to explain," he said grimly, unperturbed at the tableau. "But not here. I think the privacy of the lab would be much more ideal than this area."
Ran quietly agreed. Faint noises of disappointment could be heard from the men across the room; it wasn't every day they got to watch a drama such as this unfold before their very eyes.
Haibara led the way to the lab door, Akai close behind her. Ran followed, carrying Yuuichi, and behind them all trudged Conan.
Yuuichi's eyes still watched from the safety of his mother's arms, staring down at Conan in a way that made him concerned. There was something worried and apprehensive in the little boy's eyes, and it hurt to have such uncertainty and fear directed at him. He had expected at least a greeting, maybe even a smile...but it was as if he'd suddenly become a stranger.
~~to be continued~~