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Written in blood

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Pain. More pain than Shinichi had ever imagined feeling. The poison burning in his veins, the utterly indescribable feeling of his bones cracking and reshaping themselves, he could feel himself dissolving. He wondered if that was what they meant by hiding the evidence. He vomited up blood, at least it was mostly blood, he thought. He wasn’t in much of a condition to check the exact composition but he was sure some of it must have been more serious than blood, because there had been squishy lumps of something forcing their way out of his throat along with the red. He was going to die here, the knowledge settled ice cold over his thoughts, he was going to die here, alone and no-one would ever even know why. And he wasn’t done, he wasn’t ready to be done. He’d never even had a chance to tell Ran that… his thoughts stuttered, losing coherency as pieces of skin started to peel away, thick and bloody, it was almost a mercy when his vision began to blur.

He could hear screaming as though at a great distance. It sounded like someone being murdered. Then he realised that someone was, and that someone was him. That the screaming was coming from him, and he was dying, and oh god the pain was so bad. Then his vocal chords cut out and he couldn’t scream anymore, even when he really really wished he could.

It took a long time. By the time he finally blacked out, death was a relief.

He hadn’t expected to wake up. He really really hadn’t expected to wake up, so when he did he was utterly disoriented. It took him a moment to register that he wasn’t dead, that whatever they had done to him hadn’t worked like it should have, because he was still breathing. It hadn’t worked like it should have but it had still had an effect because he sat up to find himself half swamped in clothes far too big for him, and soaked head to toe in blood. His own blood, came the sickening realisation. He blinked, looked around at the crime scene, at his own murder scene with a sense of morbid curiosity. It wasn’t a pretty sight, and the sheer horror of it paralysed him for a good few minutes.

He had to get out of here. The thought came to him suddenly, through the sense of numb shock. He had to get away. Because if what they’d done to him hadn’t worked they would try to finish the job, and he really didn’t want to die, not again, he couldn’t face that again. He tried to stand, and found himself tangled up in the bloody clothes that he abruptly realised were his, even if they were sizes bigger than they should have been. He disentangled himself, wrapped himself in the red soaked sweatshirt as he stumbled away. Somewhere in the distance he could hear sirens, and he picked up his pace. He couldn’t afford to get caught like this.

But he couldn’t wander the streets covered in blood either, heading home probably wasn’t the smartest decision, but he needed clean clothes, and a shower, and somewhere to take shelter while he planned his next move, and he had nowhere else to go. It took him far longer than it should have to realise it wasn’t his clothes that had grown, it was him that had shrunk.The sight of his reflection in a shop window was what finally connected the dots for him. He was a child again, six years old at the most. The price of survival. He wasn’t sure how to feel about that, the shock of his almost death leaving him numb to complex emotions.

It meant that Agasa Hakase didn’t recognise him when he caught him trying to break into his own house. Well that and the blood, which would probably have rendered him pretty unrecognisable in itself. He looked like something out of a cheap horror film he knew that much. It was a miracle Agasa hadn’t called the police the moment he saw him. It was even more of a miracle that Shinichi had managed to convince him of his true identity, that Agasa had been flexible enough, that Shinichi had been convincing enough. He wasn’t sure why he’d made such an effort to make him believe, except that a part of him wanted to be recognised just to prove to himself that he wasn’t dead.

That decision had at least got him inside, off the street, and gained him access to a shower, and he hadn’t realised just how pervasive the metallic scent of blood had been until he was finally free of it. Dressed in the old clothes Agasa had retrieved from his house he almost felt human again. Human, but not himself. Would he ever be himself again?

“They think I’m dead. The people that did this to me.” Shinichi said numbly.

“Will they be looking for a body?” Agasa asked, understanding instantly what would happen if they found out he wasn’t. Whatever else he might be, the professor was smart.

“No, I don’t think… No, there were enough… remains, at the scene to be convincing.” He tried not to think about the scene, about people finding it, about them realising what had happened. He hoped they didn’t get Ran to identify the body. She didn’t need to see that.

“Remains?” Agasa sounded worried, but Shinichi was feeling too numb to respond to his concern. Shock, a part of his mind informed him helpfully.

“There was… You know I’m a lot smaller now?” Agasa nodded. “Well all that extra body mass had to go somewhere right. There’s… not a whole body, but there’s enough there that no-one will believe I could have survived. Nothing bleeds that much and lives.” Agasa looked pale and slightly ill at the thought. Shinichi knew the feeling.

“What do you want to do?” Agasa asked, clearly trying to be supportive. Shinichi just laughed, an awful hollow laugh that he could barely believe was his.

“I don’t, I don’t know. What can I do? I can’t fix this. I wouldn’t even know where to start. Fuck there’s more pieces of me on the ground where they killed me than there are sitting here talking to you. And everyone will think I’m dead, and it’s better if they think that because those guys are still out there.” He made a sound that could have been a laugh or a sob “Maybe they’re right. Am I really alive, am I really Kudo Shinichi. Or am I just an echo, a leftover of a person.” Agasa clearly didn’t know what to say to that, to Shinichi’s mounting despair so he wrapped his arms around him like the child he appeared to be. Shinichi froze for a moment at the gesture before relaxing into the hold. He stared over Agasa’s shoulder as he continued in a small and broken voice. “Ran will cry when they tell her.”

If he started crying then, Agasa was too polite to call him out on it.

Chapter Text

“Oh hell.” Had been Megure Juzo’s first thought when he arrived at the crime scene. They hadn’t been joking when they said it was messy. It was bad. Nightmare fuel even for experienced detectives, and some of the rookies looked traumatised.

There wasn’t enough of the body left to make an identification, hell the remains were barely even identifiable as human. Anything more detailed would have to wait for lab results, unless they got lucky and found the poor bastards wallet. There wasn’t enough left to know the victim’s age, appearance, even if it was a man or a woman, but there was more than enough to know the victim was dead, had died bloody, and three officers had already thrown up at the sight, and had to leave the scene.

A mess of blood and soft tissues, and organs spread thinly over an area of about seven feet square, with the occasional shard of bone poking out, and what the hell could do something like that to a person. Juzo didn’t even want to imagine what could do that to a person. And yet he had to, if he wanted to find the culprit, if he was to have any chance of bringing some small measure of peace to the victim. He forced himself to speculate, acid maybe, some unknown kind of corrosive chemical, he didn’t think there had been enough time between the reports of screaming and the first officer’s arrival on the scene to do this kind of damage with blunt force trauma alone. Not without some kind of heavy machinery and there were no tyre tracks to indicate anything like that had been present.

He could smell the sharp, metallic edge of blood in the air, and he half wished he could throw up like the rookies had. The scene alone was brutal enough that he wouldn’t be sleeping easy for a long time. And yet it was more than just the horror of the scene that had his insides twisting unpleasantly. Because there was a cold sinking feeling in his gut that he couldn’t quite shake. It was irrational, but something whispered at the back of his mind vicious and insidious, this wasn’t just any victim.

He tried to put it out of his mind. Cataloguing the scene, trying to figure out what the victim and the killer had been doing at the scene to begin with. He’d almost succeeded, then one of the forensic techs going through the clothes found what appeared to be the victim’s wallet, and the chill of suspicion had coalesced into an ice cold certainty.

“Oh hell.” He thought again, numb, as he stared at the name, willing it not to be true. Kudo Shinichi, Yuusaku kun’s son, high school detective on friendly terms with just about every homicide detective in the city. An unfortunate side effect of running into as many murders as he did. Looked like this time he’d finally run into his own, a part of Juzo had always been afraid of this happening. And he just couldn’t stop thinking, over and over, his thoughts stuck on a loop “What am I going to tell Yuusaku kun?”

The sight of the crime scene suddenly became almost unbearable, he wanted to look away, but he couldn’t let himself. If he looked away now he’d never be able to look back, and he owed it to Shinichi kun to find out what happened to him.

He really shouldn’t be investigating this, he was too close, too involved to be objective, but the fact of the matter was there weren’t many detectives in the city who wouldn’t be and Juzo would be damned if he handed something like this to a rookie.

Fuck it had only been three hours since he last saw the kid. Alive and well, not a hint or a sign of what was about to happen, and he couldn’t help but wonder if there was anything he could have done to stop this, if he’d held Shinichi back to do paperwork, or said something or done something. But Shinichi had been on a date with Ran kun and he hadn’t wanted to interfere with that any more than necessary.

Ran kun. Where was she, had she gone home, had the killer taken her, had she seen what happened. Please let her be alive, Juzo found himself praying. He didn’t think he could stand giving the bad news to both Mouri kun and Yuusaku kun in one night. He set his officers to trying to locate her, and breathed a sigh of relief when she was confirmed alive.

He couldn’t get through to Yuusaku kun, and he bit back on a curse. The man’s son was dead and he had no way to tell him, and he wasn’t sure whether to be relieved or angry that he didn’t have to break the news just yet. On the one hand he didn’t want to say it, didn’t want to make it real, didn’t want to have that conversation, but on the other the press was already circling, and if he couldn’t get through to Yuusaku kun soon he would hear about his son’s death from the evening news, and Juzo owed him better than that.

Juzo ended yet another failed phone call, and stared blankly at the murder scene. Just what had Shinichi kun been doing here anyway, out of sight of cameras and security and random passers by. Whatever had happened to bring him out here it must have happen somewhere in the three hours between the murder scene on the roller coaster and the security officer finding his body. What could Shinichi have gotten tangled up in to end so badly so quickly.

Ran kun might know. But by all reports she’d only just managed to pass out exhausted from the shock and grief of what had happened and he was reluctant to wake her. The questions could wait for tomorrow. In the meantime he had what he knew of Shinichi kun’s personality, and the nature of criminals. He’d lay good odds that Shinichi’s curiosity had been the thing that got him killed, that he’d seen something he shouldn’t have, and become a loose end to be cut. It didn’t explain the violence of the murder, but it did fit with the timescale. And he always had been afraid Shinichi’s curiosity would one day lead him into trouble he couldn’t get out of.

He’d always been afraid of it and yet it still barely seemed real. Kudo Shinichi was dead, brutally, and by an unknown hand, and Juzo wasn’t sure how to live with that truth. Looking at his officers he could see a similar sentiment reflected in their eyes.

Chapter Text

Ran lay in bed, still and quiet. She didn’t want to get up, didn’t even want to open her eyes. As long as her eyes were closed it didn’t have to be real, didn’t have to be true. As long as she didn’t wake up, it didn’t have to be anything but a bad dream.

She hadn’t cried when they told her, she still hadn’t cried. She should be crying she knew that, but for some reason the tears just wouldn’t come. She’d just felt numb. She’d felt numb as they explained with faces pale and drawn, that Shinichi was dead, she’d felt numb while officers ushered her away from the scene, gentle, as though she were made of glass poised to shatter, she felt numb as they took her home and her father took her to bed and she drifted off into a state that wasn’t quite like sleep. She wondered if she’d ever be able to weep again.

Because Shinichi was dead, her friend, the boy she might have loved, and anything less than that would seem small and unimportant by comparison, not worth crying over. And as for this itself, this horror, and anything like it, tears fell short, no amount of weeping could ever be enough.

She heard her father enter her room, but still she didn’t open her eyes, she didn’t want to face the day. The first day where Shinichi no longer existed. There was some movement, and then her father set something down on her bedside table, probably a glass of water. Hah, just like she always did for him when he’d been up late drinking. Grief and hangovers had that in common it seemed. He didn’t try to wake her though, probably didn’t know what to do or say, she certainly didn’t.

It was her fault, a part of her knew that. She had been the last person to see Shinichi alive, aside from his killer of course. She should have followed him, she should have stopped him from running off on her, she should have protected him, she was a karate champion, she would have been able to do something, to fight off the killer, to hold Shinichi back. She could have saved him. But she hadn’t. She’d watched him disappear into the shadows and she’d known something was wrong, and she’d let him go anyway. And now he was dead and somehow she had to find a way to live with that.

Ran forced her eyes open, lying in bed feeling sorry for herself wouldn’t bring him back, and she owed him better than to pretend otherwise. The world was grey when she looked at it, grey, and bleak, and it was only sheer force of will that got her out of bed, and dressed, and into the kitchen to make breakfast.

She made a lot of breakfast, more than she was willing to eat. She picked at it a bit, then she cleaned the kitchen, and the bathroom, and her bedroom, before starting on the main living room. Her father was in there watching tv with a bottle of something stronger than his usual beer in his hand. She checked the clock, it wasn’t even midday yet, but then, they all had their coping mechanisms she supposed. Two hours later, and Tousan’s show was finished, and Ran had cleaned the apartment top to bottom until it sparkled. Neither of them had said a word, they didn’t know what to say.

Tousan wandered into the kitchen to snack on the cold breakfast food she’d left on the counter. He was a few bites in before he finally spoke, voice slurred from grief or drink, she couldn’t tell which.

“It was… He was a good kid. A bit full of himself, but he didn’t deserve that. No-one deserves that, but he deserved it less than most. He helped people and they just, they…” His voice trailed off, unwilling to talk further. That was fine, Ran didn’t want to listen anymore either, so she just shook her head and left the room.

There was nothing left in the flat to clean or cook, or do, but she didn’t want to go outside just yet either, so she sat in her room, and wondered if things might have been different if she’d told him she loved him, if she’d seized the day and hadn’t let pride and insecurity silence her. Sonoko always did say she should grab the moment and just confess. It turned out she’d been right all along, because now the moment was passed and there would never be another, because she would never see him again. Abruptly she realised that Sonoko probably wouldn’t know yet, that Ran would probably have to tell her. She didn’t want to say the words, but she did want to hear Sonoko’s voice, needed that comfort. Before she realised it her phone was in her hand and Sonoko’s number was dialled.

“Hey Ran.” Her voice was so bright, so happy, it didn’t seem quite real, and Ran wasn’t sure if she was capable of shattering it. Then Sonoko picked up on Ran’s distress from the other end of the line and immediately shifted tone to comforting and supportive. “What’s the matter? Did that detective idiot do something insensitive again?” Ran sobbed a little at that, barely managed to speak.

“He’s dead.” She couldn’t continue after that. From Sonoko’s end of the phone there was only silence for a moment.

“What?” Ran could hear echoes of her own shock in Sonoko’s voice. “Shit, are you at home? I’ll come over.” And that was Sonoko’s coping mechanism, to comfort others to distract herself. Ran shook her head before remembering Sonoko couldn’t see her.

“No, I think I need to get out of the house. Would you meet me somewhere? I don’t really want to be alone.” And she knew that Sonoko would say yes, would bury her own grief for Ran’s sake, so that she could be there for her, and maybe it was selfish but part of Ran couldn’t help but be grateful for that. She really didn’t want to be alone.

“Of course. Just tell me where and when.”

Chapter Text

Megure had been calling for three solid hours when Yuusaku finally answered. He answered the phone and his world shattered. He wished he’d picked up sooner, the moment he heard his phone ring, as though hearing it earlier might have made any difference at all to what happened. And he also wished he’d never picked up at all, as though, as long as he didn’t know, didn’t hear the words, none of it happened, none of it was real.

But that was magical thinking, it belonged to his stories, and Yukiko’s acting, and Touichi’s magic shows. The audience could afford to believe in it, but he was the author, and he knew real life didn’t work like that. His son was dead, and no phone call answered or unanswered could do anything to change what had already happened. Whether he’d answered the phone or not, his son would still be dead.

It had been like a bolt out of the blue. He’d seen Megure had been calling him, frantically for hours and he’d assumed there was a case he’d wanted help with. That was why Megure usually called him, although he’d done so less and less since Shinichi had started to seriously work as a detective, he’d missed it a little. So he’d answered, light and easy, with a grin in his voice at the thought of a new puzzle.

“This had better be important Megure. The editors are right on our tails.” It was an invitation to mockery, but Megure wasn’t laughing, and there was nothing light about the silence at the other end of the phone. When Megure spoke, his voice was deadly serious.

“You’d better come home now Yuusaku kun. It’s Shinichi.” And Yuusaku felt cold inside at the voice. He wasn’t an idiot, he knew that tone, he knew it far too well, even if he’d never truly understood it the way he did now. He’d heard that tone spoken a thousand times before by countless police officers trying to comfort the bereaved. He’d never realised just how deep it could cut.

“What’s happened to Shinichi? Is he ok?” It was a stupid mindless inane question. Yuusaku knew the answer already, in the ice wrapped around his chest, and the roaring of the blood in his ears, but still he couldn’t keep himself from asking it, trying to delay the moment when he had to face what happened. Megure was silent for a moment, clearly searching for a way to soften the blow. Yuusaku could have told him not to bother. What words could anyone say that would soften this?

“No Yuusaku. He’s not ok.” Megure’s voice was tired and worn, and griefstruck, and it was a forcible reminder that he wasn’t the only one who cared. Fuck, how was he going to tell Yukiko.

The silence was thick enough to suffocate as Yuusaku struggled to control his breathing, he was almost relieved when Megure spoke.

“We found a body. We think it’s Shinichi.” It was almost redundant for him to say it out loud, when both of them knew all too well what this phone call was about. But it was worth it to break that awful soul shattering quiet.

“What do you mean you think it’s Shinichi?” Yuusaku  spoke then with an irrational flash of anger, wild and undirected, hot enough to melt the ice that had settled around his heart, and almost a relief because of it.

 “We’ll have to wait for lab tests to come back to be sure, but we found Shinichi kun’s personal effects with the remains.” The reply sent a fresh wave of cold through his bones. Yuusaku knew as well as Megure did what wasn’t being said, that for them to be unsure the body itself must be unrecognisable. What had they done to his son.

“Remains?” And of course Yuusaku asked, he had to ask. Like father like son, even when he knew the answer was likely to break him because not knowing would break him just as surely.

“I can’t give you any details, this is still an active investigation. I’ve already broken regulations telling you as much as I have but I didn’t want you to find out from the press.” Megure refused to answer him, and no matter what he said Yuusaku knew it wasn’t regulations that stayed his tongue. He must have been afraid of what the answer might do to Yuusaku. Sometimes Megure knew him better than he was entirely comfortable with.

“That’s my son, I have a right to know. Hang the regulations, tell me what happened to him. If you’re my friend tell me.” Yuusaku wasn’t above emotional blackmail, he was married to Yukiko, he’d learned from the best. But Megure wasn’t a man easily swayed.

“No. You don’t need to know this, and I’m not going to tell you.  Because I’m your friend, and he’s your son, and you don’t need to remember him like this.” Part of him, underneath the anger, and grief, knew that Megure was doing the right thing, was trying to protect him, but it was so hard to keep hold of that truth when the man was refusing to tell him what had happened to his son.

“You know I’ll just find out anyway.” There was ice in Yuusaku’s voice now, cold and determined, later, later not now, when the pain was still so raw, he would be  impressed at how Megure held his ground in the face of Yuusaku’s anger, would respect him for it.

“Maybe. But you won’t find out from me. I won’t have a hand in giving you those nightmares.” Megure hung up then, and with the distraction of their conversation ended Yuusaku was left to stare blankly at the receiver, suddenly numb with the loss of momentum.

When Yukiko walked in, he told her with a voice scoured clean of all emotion.

“Megure just called. He told me Shinichi’s dead.” He barely heard Yukiko’s glass shatter on the cold marble floor. He should get up, help her clean it up, should hold her tight while she wept, comfort her, do something. And he would, he would, just, not yet, he didn’t feel ready to move just yet. Just a moment, while he tried to pull his shattered world back together, then he’d get up, then he’d do what needed to be done, then he’d be a good husband. Just, in a moment.

Chapter Text

Heiji paced like a caged wolf, restless, and angry, for reasons that were hard to explain. His father had forbidden him from leaving the house, and if Heiji were in any mood to be fair, he would admit he could understand why. Couldn’t honestly say he wouldn’t have done something similar if their positions had been reversed. But Heiji was far too angry to be fair, and knowing why his father had put him on house arrest didn’t make it any easier to bear.

Kudo Shinichi was dead. That was the word in the police department, that was what the news was saying. The Great Detective of the East was dead, murdered. It didn’t seem quite real, but the evidence was impossible to ignore. Heiji never even had a chance to meet him. He’d always planned to, but he’d never quite got  around to it. Now he never would.

His rival had been murdered, and Heiji wanted nothing more than to go to Beika and find out who, and how, and why. To make sense of it all, to find the truth, to bring some kind of justice for someone who he’d respected and never had a chance to meet. He wanted to investigate what happened, had started making plans to go to Tokyo as soon as he heard the news. But his father knew Heiji far too well, had guessed what he was planning and put him on house arrest and forbidden him from going anywhere near the case.

And Heiji understood why his father had done it, really he did. This case, whatever it was, had already cost the life of one high school detective and his father didn’t want him to be next. But that didn’t change the fact that Heiji was slowly going crazy within the four walls of his house. Kudo was dead, and Heiji could do nothing, not even solve his murder.

Kazuha had gone home hours ago, the frustration, and the shame, and the fear that he wouldn’t admit to out loud had turned him vicious, and they had fought. Harsh words had been spoken and she’d gone home angry. He regretted it almost as soon as she’d left. He hadn’t meant it. All Kazuha had done was care, none of what was happening was her fault and it wasn’t fair of him to lash out at her. But Kazuha knew him, better than anyone in the world. She would know why he’d been so angry, why he’d lashed out. And she would forgive him. She always did.

He wondered if Kudo had a Kazuha of his own, how she felt about all of this. He tried to imagine what his Kazuha would do if he had been the one killed and his mind shied away from the thought. He didn’t want to even imagine hurting her that way. But he could have done. He knew that. It could just as easily have been him dead on a case, instead of Kudo. It was a bitter warning, he wished he’d never received.

And it was that thought, that truth, more than anything, that kept him in the house. That left him pacing the walls of his house rather than defying his father’s demands and heading to Tokyo anyway. Because there had been real fear in the eyes of the ice cold Hattori Heizo, and Kazuha had left angry and worried, and his mother’s careful smile had gone brittle with worry. He wouldn’t leave while they were still so worried, sometimes the living had to matter more than the dead.

But that didn’t mean he was giving up. Kudo deserved justice, and Heiji needed to understand. Because they’d had far too much in common and if he couldn’t make some sense of his rival’s death Heiji might well go mad with wondering.

But Kudo was dead already. It would make no difference to him, if Heiji stayed long enough to reassure his family that he was safe, if he waited until at least some of the panic died down. Besides, there were things he could do from where he was. Otaki han would probably give him access to the case files if he thought it would convince Heiji to stay put.

He’d been right. It hadn’t taken much to get access. In the end, as it turned out, getting hold of the files had been the easy part. It was reading them that had been hard. Heiji had seen a lot of murders, and this one had been bad for more reasons than just its familiarity. But he’d forced himself through the autopsy reports, and the witness statements, and the photographs, and he’d paid attention to all of it, glad that he’d skipped lunch. He’d gritted his teeth and read and reread it all. Because he knew, without ever having met the man, that if their positions were reversed his rival would have done the same for him.

He paid attention and he noticed. There were things that didn’t add up. Specifically, the pieces didn’t add up to a whole person. That much had been noted on the autopsy report. What hadn’t been specifically pointed out was which pieces were missing. Brain, eyes, bone marrow, pieces of every major organ, whoever it was that killed Kudo had taken samples. Which meant that whatever they had used was experimental, and that they therefore must have had the facilities to develop experimental substances. Killers, and scientists, and enough contacts to keep the whole thing secret. The signs all indicated something a lot bigger than a single murdered high school detective. The conclusion, the chain of reasoning was so obvious he couldn’t believe the police had missed it. But then, maybe that was unfair. Other people missed a lot of the things he noticed.

Heiji felt almost dizzy, a sharp contrast to his earlier restlessness, as though he was standing on the edge of an abyss. It was obvious to him. But there was no proof, nothing but instinct, and pieces that didn’t quite add up. Nothing he could take to the police but it felt true in way that he couldn’t ignore. He shouldn’t get involved in this. He knew that, just as he knew it could so very easily have been him not Kudo in those autopsy files. But it could have been him, and if it had been him he knew that Kudo wouldn’t have let it rest.

And it had been Kudo, his equal, someone who he liked to imagine might have become his friend. Somewhere Kudo’s loved ones were grieving for him like Kazuha would grieve for Heiji, and it wasn’t in Heiji’s nature to ignore that. They deserved answers if nothing else.

Chapter Text

Agasa Hiroshi was lost. Shinichi was being so quiet. Too quiet. He’d never been a loud boy, but he’d always had a certain presence. Always had an opinion, always had an answer, always had something to say. He hadn’t been the sort to disappear into the background. But now, now it was like something was broken inside him. Like all the answers had just dried up, left him as empty as a dead river bed, and Hiroshi didn’t know what to do.

He thought about those men who tried to kill Shinichi. Sometimes just sometimes, with Shinichi wandering around his house like a ghost, a traitorous part of Hiroshi wondered just how far they failed. Because sometimes, just sometimes, it was hard not to agree with Shinichi in his black moments when he said that more of him had been left bloody on the ground, than had staggered away from the crime scene.

He tried. He tried so hard, but whatever it was Shinichi needed it was something Hiroshi didn’t know how to give, sometimes he doubted anyone knew, least of all Shinichi himself. But he tried. He fed Shinichi coffee, and woke him from his nightmares, and held him tight when it looked like he was about to break. It wasn’t enough. But then, faced with something like this, could anything ever have been enough.

It didn’t seem entirely real was half the trouble. It was like something out of a cut price anime. Not something that could really happen. People didn’t really shrink, didn’t really get turned from teenagers to six year olds. It had happened, but that didn’t make it believable, and so both of them, himself and Shinichi kept expecting to wake up. To find out it had all been a particularly surreal nightmare, and every time they didn’t it threw them all over again.

They’d found the body. Hiroshi would have known that even if Ran kun hadn’t called around all of Shinichi’s acquaintances telling them what had happened. It was all over the news after all. Just because he wasn’t letting Shinichi watch it, didn’t mean he couldn’t use it to torment himself, and he did. Whenever he was sure Shinichi wouldn’t see it, he watched. Heard about brutal murder, and no leads, and anyone with any information should come forward. Probably he should feel guilty about lying to the police. He had information, more information than he knew what to do with. But if he came forward with it Shinichi would die, for real this time, the killers wouldn’t be careless again, and that he could not allow. So he didn’t feel guilty, not about that at any rate.

About not knowing what to do, how to help. That he did feel guilty about. But guilt didn’t make anything easier. Fixing people’s hearts and souls had never been his specialty. Practical help he could do, that much he excelled at. He could let Shinichi into his home, let him wash off the blood in his shower and help him burn the ruined clothes he’d staggered home in. He could find him clothes that fit, and get some hot food into him to try and break him out of the shock that had set in, and call his old friend Jii to ask him to fake some papers to cover Shinichi’s new identity. But knowing what to say when Shinichi asked why, what to do when he wouldn’t get out of bed, how to help when his young friend’s whole life had fallen apart in a moment, that was beyond him.

But maybe he was doing better than he thought, maybe a safe place to collapse had been the best thing anyone could have done for him. Or maybe it was just that time was the best healer. Either way as time went by Shinichi seemed, not better, not ok, not even close, but… more functional at least. Slowly, slowly, bit by bit, Shinichi was pulling himself back together, finding some steady ground to stand back up and carry on after everything that happened. And with every inch of progress that Shinichi managed to make, Hiroshi found his respect for the young detective growing. Not many people would have been able to get back up after that kind of blow.

If Shinichi was spending more time frantically writing notes, and checking details on Hiroshi’s computer, in a desperate attempt to track down the ones who did this to him, well at least it was something proactive. At least it was better than sitting staring at the wall for hours on end trying not to cry. If his eyes were more and more filled with the fevered light of obsession, at least it was better than the broken, empty look, they’d showed during those first few days. It might not be healthy, but then, who would be after something like that. It was better, it was at least functional, and at least now Hiroshi could do something to help.

He’d managed to get Shinichi to pick out an alias at least, Edogawa Conan might not be the best fake name Hiroshi had ever heard, but at least Shinichi was guaranteed to react to it, and it had meant Hiroshi could give Jii the go ahead to forge the papers. He’d even managed to get him to go outside, heavily disguised, but at least it was fresh air and daylight, and Hiroshi was sure being locked away indoors had been doing no good for Shinichi’s state of mind.

There were still black moments. Still moments when Shinchi could barely breathe with the despair, and desperation, when all Agasa could do was hold him tight and try to be there. But having a purpose seemed to help. Shinichi had always been very driven, and having something to aim for, a mission to complete seemed to provide him with a much needed source of emotional stability. His new sense of purpose might well prove to be self-destructive in an entirely different way, but at least he was up and moving. Any other problems could be addressed when they arose.

Chapter Text

Gin was grinning at her. Grinning that vicious, smug, self-satisfied grin that made her want to punch him in the face. If only she dared. If only he didn’t terrify her right down to the bones, for reasons that were entirely justified. If only she could afford to show that much humanity. But she was Sherry, and Sherry didn’t care enough to hate Gin, or fear him, didn’t care about anything much except cold data, and results, so she let him talk.

“You fucked up Sherry.” He was still grinning, the worst thing was it wasn’t even personal. Gin just liked hurting people. If he saw a weakness, a mistake, a failure, no matter who it involved, he just couldn’t resist using it. It was one of the reasons she was so careful to maintain her persona of the ice cold scientist around him.

And so she didn’t punch him, and she didn’t flinch either. She didn’t even look at him, just carried on sorting through her notes, waiting for him to elaborate. He would she knew, he wouldn’t be able to help himself. He thought he had something on her, a way to hurt her, to undermine her, he wouldn’t be able to resist waving it under her nose.

“I tried that poison you gave us. You know the one that was supposed to be untraceable, and not draw attention from the cops.” There was a part of her, buried deep, tightly chained, that felt sick with horror thinking about yet more blood on her hands, about another poor soul that had died because of her work. It mixed in with the already present fear, of just what Gin thought he had on her to make her feel cold and broken inside. But she couldn’t afford to let it show, couldn’t afford to let Gin see that, so she kept her face blankly curious.

“Oh. That’s interesting. I don’t suppose you kept samples.” She glanced at Gin and sighed, “No? I thought not. Pity.” Then she went back to her work, and tried not to think about what she was becoming, how her mask was slowly eating away at her soul. Tried not to wonder what her sister would think if she could see her, if she knew what Shiho was really capable of. Would Akemi still love her if she knew how much blood she had on her hands?

“You know what’s also interesting. Your supposedly low key poison made a bloody mess. What part of messily dissolved corpses is meant to be untraceable? It’s like you want to attract the cops attention.” Gin snarled, uncharacteristically irritated. Indifference always got to him the way nothing else could. But it was what he’d said that caught her attention. A bloody mess instead of an unmarked corpse, and if she’d been any less practiced at hiding her emotions she might have forgotten to breathe. But her mask had held for years, so she just raised an eyebrow, didn’t show a trace of relief or hope, that maybe, just maybe this one had survived. It was the only protection she could give her victim, the only thing she could give to someone she’d taken far too much from already.

“I told you it was experimental. You were the one that decided to go around using in on random citizens outside of controlled conditions.” Her voice was utterly cold, not a trace of humanity, of weakness. The scientist irritated at having her work questioned, not the human being desperately praying that she didn’t have more blood on her hands. Nothing that could be used against her.

It must have worked because Gin glared at her, angry at the way she’d managed to push the blame back onto him, rather than gleeful, the way he would have been if she’d let the slightest crack in her mask show. It helped that she was in the right, technically it was his fault as much as hers, she’d developed the poison, but she had said it was experimental, and he should have been more careful how he used it.

He left soon after, having decided he would get no entertainment from the incident. With his departure she could finally breathe. No tears, if she started she might never be able to stop, and they were too hard to hide if she was unexpectedly walked in upon. No tears, but her breathing turned rough and ragged, as she tried to absorb what Gin had told her.

They were using her work to kill people. She knew that, she’d known that, she wasn’t stupid, as soon as she’d given them that poison she’d known what they would do with it, but somehow it had never seemed real before. She’d been able to set it aside, to not think about it, for the sake of her own survival, and sanity. But now someone had survived, maybe, probably. A rat was different to a human but she’d seen that particular reaction, that particular kind of bloody mess only once before, and that rat, out of all of her subjects had survived. Although, not unscathed, and she wondered why it was that the person who’d survived, the one that was damaged but breathing was the one that was affecting her so, rather than the nameless trail of dead bodies her creation had left behind it. There was a quote about that she thought, about tragedies and statistics, and how making it personal made it real.

She’d checked the files almost on autopilot, and suddenly there was a name, and a face, and stolen crime scene pictures of what she’d done to him and it took every bit of her self-control not to throw up. Kudo Shinichi, who’d had a life, and friends, and family, and a bright future, and was now either dead, or in hiding, trapped in the body of a child and isolated from everything he’d cared about. She wondered how much he would hate her if he knew who she was, whether it would be anywhere near as much as she hated herself.

Chapter Text

Some things time couldn’t heal, couldn’t help. It had been over a week, and still the sight of his too small body in the mirror made him feel trapped and ill, as though his skin was too small for him, more than once Agasa had been forced to physically restrain him from trying to claw it off, in a fit of hysterical desperation. It wasn’t right, wasn’t him, wrongwrongwrong, a cage made of his own flesh and bone, or what was left of it.

He’d seen the news. Agasa had tried to avoid showing it to him, Shinichi wasn’t entirely sure why, it wasn’t like he hadn’t seen what was left when he woke up. But then maybe Agasa was right because seeing it laid out cold and soulless on the tv was somehow even more awful than waking up in the middle of it had been. Perhaps because there had been a surreal, nightmarish element to that awakening, whereas watching it on the news reduced it all to cold, pitiless fact.

Megure had been there, asking for leads, asking for information, trying so very hard to at least seem objective. His parents hadn’t been on the tv, but then, last Shinichi knew they’d been a long way off the grid, it would take time for them to be contacted, and then more time for them to get back home, certainly he hadn’t seen them from Agasa’s window. They were probably still on their way. Ran hadn’t been there either, and Shinichi was grateful for that, he didn’t want to have to see her tears.

It was terrifying, how quickly his whole life had fallen apart, had been stolen from him. He looked down at his hands and was startled by the wave of anger, of hate, that washed over him.

It clung to his soul like burning petrol, acrid, and sickening, and bright, and just as hard to extinguish. Shinichi hadn’t known he was capable of that kind of hate, honestly it was something, he could quite happily have gone his whole life without knowing. But now he did know, he felt it, and the worst part was, he wasn’t sure he even wanted to stop feeling it. Not when it was the only thing that seemed to cut through the numb horror that had fogged his mind ever since he woke up in a pool of his own blood.

So instead he fed the fire, he threw himself into learning his enemies, swore that he would destroy them, even if it killed him. After all, he thought in black moments, he was nearly halfway there already. He ate because he would need the fuel if he wanted to act against them, he slept for much the same reason, he chose a false name so that they couldn’t find him, and pulled himself together enough to start researching them. Shinichi knew Agasa was worried, and on some level he felt bad about that, but he’d spent days in that fog, after it happened, blank, shattered, barely able to function, anything was better than that. The hate, the rage, wasn’t healthy, he knew that, but at least he could move, could eat, could act, with that fire driving him.

And with his newly regained ability to think beyond the shock and despair, he found that a number of questions he’d been unable to face previously were becoming increasingly impossible to ignore. His parents, Ran, all the people that loved him and now believed he was dead, that were grieving him, and planning to avenge him. That didn’t know the whole of what had happened. He didn’t know what to do, about any of them. Should he tell them he was still alive, was that even the truth or was he just the flesh and bone ghost of a dead teenager, would telling them just be false comfort. Even if he did tell them, if he could convince himself, that he wasn’t gone, that he was himself, and alive, and real, would they even believe him. If he told them the truth would they be able to keep him secret, could they hide their relief. He didn’t want to die again, and he didn’t want any of them to die either, for the crime of knowing too much.

His head and heart hurt with the choices he was faced with. He should tell them, he really should, he knew that. They thought he was dead, Ran would be crying for him. But the thought of having that conversation was paralysing, ice in his veins, as though saying it would make it real. There was a part of him, a childish, superstitious part, that was still desperately, pointlessly, hoping that he’d wake up, that this would all be a nightmare. Talking about what had happened, bringing other people in, would mean a final admission that this was his new reality, and he found, when he tried to pick up the phone, or raise the subject with Agasa, he just couldn’t bring himself to say the words.

Agasa wouldn’t say anything without Shinichi’s permission, not when Shinichi had already lost so much of his autonomy, when even his body was no longer under his own power. Not when he knew how much it burned at Shinichi, to have found himself so helpless when it came to it. He wouldn’t steal that last vestige of control. And so, until Shinichi gave his consent, the people who loved him would think he was dead. The guilt was like swallowing cold lead, but he just couldn’t force the words out. He couldn’t. There were a thousand reasons, he held his silence. He didn’t want them to see him like this, to see what he’d been reduced to, he didn’t want to have to face them, he didn’t want to face the situation, he was afraid, of so many things. In the end, it just came down to silence, to words he wasn’t ready to speak, and people he wasn’t ready to speak too, and it was unbelievably selfish, but he just, couldn’t. Not yet.

Chapter Text

In a really dark and twisted way it was actually almost funny. Miwako kept looking at the evidence, for this impossible, awful case and thinking that they should be calling Kudo kun in on this. Maybe he would be able to pull all the impossible tiny details together and force all of it to make sense. But they couldn’t call Kudo kun to solve this case, because Kudo kun was this case. Dead and in pieces, and the one person who might have been able to make sense of his impossible, nightmarish death, was him.

And it was impossible. Hours of research, up all hours phoning doctors, forensic experts, university professors, and no-one had been able to come up with a convincing answer about just what could have reduced Kudo Shinichi to a pool of half dissolved tissues within the space of the fifteen minutes that he was unaccounted for. A couple of people had suggested acid, but most acids didn’t act that quickly, and all of them would have left traces at the scene. There had been none. As far as the evidence went, it was like Kudo kun’s body had just spontaneously unravelled itself, and nobody could work out how it was done. Just that it must have been unbelievably painful, that Kudo Shinichi had died screaming, and that was how they’d found him so fast. An impossible crime.

They were coming up blank on suspects as well. There had been too many people in tropical land that day, too many people and not enough cameras. No fingerprints or DNA at the scene, at least, nothing traceable, and so many footprints that they all blurred together. The current evidence seemed to indicate Kudo kun had seen someone acting suspiciously and followed them. At least, that’s what it seemed like from what Ran chan had said, and it wouldn’t have been out of character. It made sense, but it also made identifying the suspects almost impossible. It made sense but they couldn’t discount the possibility that it might not have been random, might not have just been a matter of wrong place wrong time, and Kudo kun’s own curiosity getting the better of him. That boy had more than enough enemies after all, anyone who was as good as he was at what he did had enemies.

It was Takagi kun who had pointed out during yet another painful, obsessive, sickening, examination of the crime scene photos, that some of Kudo kun’s clothes were missing, and something told Miwako that was important, that it meant something. She just couldn’t figure out what. There were clothes missing and she could think of no reason why the killers would have taken them, especially since it wasn’t all of the clothes, not even most. She noted it in the file though, because it was yet another piece that didn’t fit in a case full of pieces that didn’t fit, and years’ worth of detective instincts were screaming at her that Takagi kun was onto something. Takagi kun felt the same she knew, even if he didn’t quite have the confidence yet to press the point. He was smart, perceptive, a lot more smart and perceptive than he thought he was to be honest, and if both his instincts and Miwako’s instincts were saying the missing clothes were important then they would be fools to ignore it.

Then a teenage detective from Osaka called and pointed out something else that they really should have noticed missing. Or at least, the lab techs should have noticed, although it had been hard scraping all the pieces of Kudo Shinichi up off the pavement. Still it seemed shamefully obvious when Hattori kun spelled it out for them, and maybe if they hadn’t all been so emotionally compromised they would have seen it. The brain was missing, and most of the nerve tissue, pieces of every vital organ, and there was less of Kudo there than there should have been, too neat to be chance or coincidence. What they had wasn’t the whole corpse. The killers had probably taken samples, Hattori kun had said, and Miwako had felt almost overwhelmed by a sickening, red hot rage at the very thought of it. Takagi kun had just looked sick, pale and horrified, and if Hattori kun hadn’t sounded so angry in his own right she might have hated him for adding that to their nightmares. He was only about the same age as Kudo kun, she reminded herself, and she wondered if they’d ever met, if they’d been friends, or if it was the lost opportunity, the encounter that never happened that cut Hattori kun to the bone.

Meguru keibu had looked grim when she’d told him. Grim, and ten years older than she’d ever seen him. He’d believed Hattori kun’s theory, easily enough, it made too much sense in a case that up until that point had made far too little sense. He believed it, he just clearly wished he didn’t. Miwako could understand that, she wished she didn’t either.

His eyes had been so very tired as he told her not to let the Osakan High School detective get too involved in the case. To keep him at arm’s length and try to keep him out of it. Enough teenagers had died trying to do the police’s job. It wasn’t a point she could argue with, not when it was so heartbreakingly true, but all the same she wondered if shutting Hattori kun out would do more harm than good. She knew that tone in Hattori kun’s voice, she’d heard it from Kudo kun far too many times, and so she knew, it didn’t matter what they said or did, he wouldn’t let this go. If they didn’t let him help then he would go off on his own.

Kudo kun had died trying to deal with this on his own. Miwako wouldn’t be able to live with herself if another teenager died on her watch doing the same thing. So instead of warning Hattori kun off she gave him her number and promised him help, no questions asked, if he would just promise to be careful. She didn’t ask but she knew Takagi kun had offered the same, and she prayed it would be enough, that he wouldn’t be too proud to ask for their help when he needed it. That he wouldn’t end up sharing Kudo kun’s fate.

Chapter Text

Ran stood in front of Shinichi’s house as the rain pelted down, and wondered why she’d even bothered coming. The house after all was empty. Shinichi was a week dead, his parents were on their way back but even with Yuusaku’s connections, booking flights across the world took time, and it would be at least another day before they arrived. There was no-one home to answer the door when she knocked, no-one for her to stand out in the rain waiting for.

And yet still she stood, hair plastered to her skull, cold water soaking through to her bones, as though it could wash away the terrible, overwhelming grief that had taken up residence under her skin. She could knock on that door again, just like she had a thousand times before, but Shinichi would never answer again. The thought was all encompassing, left no room for any awareness of the world around her, so it caught her off guard when she found herself being wrapped up in a raincoat and fussed over by Shinichi’s kindly, eccentric, neighbour as he ushered her into his home.

She supposed it was a reasonable response to seeing a friendly acquaintance freezing themselves to death without a coat or umbrella in front of an empty house. She just wished he’d left her there. The raindrops running down her face had felt almost like the tears she still couldn’t shed. It had made her feel almost human again.

Agasa passed her a towel once they were inside, before going to make her some hot tea. She appreciated his kindness, in a distant intellectual way, even if she would have much rather been back out in the rain in front of Shinichi’s front door, trying to convince herself that if she could just bring herself to knock, he would answer, and it would all turn out to have been a bad dream.

It was while Agasa was in the kitchen that Ran saw a ghost. The image of Shinichi, as he’d been in childhood, a snapshot of more innocent times, untouched by the shadow of death and unthinkable loss. At first, she’d thought she was hallucinating, that she’d cracked under the strain, that she had summoned up a dream of how things had been to try and distance her from the reality of how things were now.

Then she’d noticed the shadows in his eyes, the grief that matched her own, the way he shrank away from her gaze and refused to meet her eyes. Even as a child Shinichi had always been so confident, so bold. He had never really known grief, not at that age, not like this. This was no grief fuelled memory. And he was too solid, too present to be a hallucination. Whoever he was he was a real child, and it was unfair to call him Shinichi’s ghost, no matter how uncanny the physical resemblance might have been. It wasn’t his fault it hurt so much to look at him.

“Why are you here?” The child asked, in a voice far too old for his years. Had he known Shinichi? They looked alike enough to be related, and she knew Shinichi had a lot of distant cousins. Too many to keep track of, he’d always said, laughing. Maybe this boy was one of them.

“Someone I cared about very much lived in that house.” Ran honestly didn’t know why she bothered to answer, except that he looked so very much like Shinichi, even sounded like him, and if she didn’t think about it too hard, it felt almost like she was talking to him again. “You look just like him you know?” A pained look flashed though the boy’s eyes, there and then gone, almost too fast to see.

“You mean Shinichi niichan.” He said in a voice so small and broken that Ran could almost see the empty space that Shinichi left behind him, a shadow between her and this child that she was increasingly sure must be Shinichi’s relative, to know Shinichi so well and look so much like him.

“Yes. You’re his relative aren’t you?” He looked away before responding.

“Edogawa Conan. You’re Ran neechan aren’t you.” Her face must have shown her surprise, because he continued. “Shinichi niichan talked about you all the time.”

“He did?” And she knew it wasn’t fair, dragging secrets and memories out of a grieving child to try and ease the gaping hole of her own grief. It wasn’t right, but Conan kun looked just like Shinichi, and he knew Shinichi, and she just couldn’t stop herself. And from the way Conan kun jumped at the opportunity to talk, maybe he was taking some comfort from their conversation too.

“He cared about you a lot Ran neechan. He was… never brave enough to tell you, but you were his most important person. I think… I think he’d have wanted you to know.” Only the faintest hitch in his voice betrayed how close he was to tears. “He loved you. I know he did, and, and he’d have wanted you to be happy. He wouldn’t have wanted you to cry over him, he wouldn’t.” Conan kun’s eyes were bright with unshed tears, and Ran found herself abruptly angry. Not at little Conan kun, who was blameless in all this, but at Shinichi, for dying, for leaving her, and his little cousin to go on without him, for not saying something sooner.

“Well it doesn’t really matter what he wanted does it?” She snapped. “He died, he died, and left me behind and I never got a chance to tell him, how much I cared, what he meant to me. He was everything, he was always there, all my life, and then he died and left this horrible empty space where he used to be, and he doesn’t, he doesn’t have the right to tell me to be happy, not after leaving like that.” She felt guilty the moment she saw Conan kun flinch. She shouldn’t have snapped at him, it wasn’t his fault, wasn’t even really Shinichi’s even if it was his own recklessness into trouble he couldn’t get out of. Before she could apologise, Agasa came back in with the tea.

“Ah, I see you’ve met Conan kun. He’s staying with me for a while, since his relatives can’t take care of him at the moment.” He explained, vague as he usually was about interpersonal relations.

“I was supposed to stay with Shinichi niichan.” Conan kun added quietly, eyes fixed firmly on the floor. And in its own way that answered a lot of Ran’s questions, at least in broad strokes. Where Conan came from, how he knew Shinichi, why he was staying with Agasa. He looked down at the floor, so very small and alone looking, like Shinichi, and yet not. She didn’t think Shinichi had ever looked that small. It occurred to her that Conan had in some ways lost just as much as she had when Shinichi died. Alone in a stranger’s house, the relative he was meant to stay with dead, and she wondered where his parents were, that they hadn’t come to get him after everything that happened. He looked so lonely, so sad, it was like looking in a mirror.

The memory of Conan kun’s eyes stuck with her all the way home. It was perhaps not surprising that she felt the need to see them alone. He looked like Shinichi, and he felt like her, and talking to him was the first time since Shinichi died that she hadn’t felt alone.

Chapter Text

He truly hadn’t thought anything could hurt worse than the night he’d lost everything. Clearly he had been lacking in imagination because seeing Ran again, knowing that she was looking at him without seeing him, without knowing him. That was worse. That was like losing everything all over again, only without the shock of what had happened to insulate him. It hurt her to look at him, he could tell, maybe even more than it hurt him to look at her, to see what losing him had done to her.

She looked at him like he was a ghost. His own ghost, and who was he to say she was wrong. After all half the time he felt a lot more like a ghost than a living person. He shouldn’t have talked to  her, it was like swallowing glass forcing the childish, innocent, lying words out, but she looked at him like a ghost, and he couldn’t turn away. Not when there was so much he’d never had a chance to say.

He lied and told her he was his own cousin. It was as good an explanation as any, and he’d always had too many cousins to keep track of. He lied and told her he was here to stay with Shinichi, and let her think his grief was for the loss of a beloved older cousin, rather than for her, and everything else he’d lost the night that he should have died. He lied and lied, because the truth was a horror he couldn’t speak out loud, couldn’t force past the cold lump of misery in his throat.

But he told the truth too. All the things he’d never had a chance to say as himself, never had the courage to say. That he loved her, that more than anything he wanted to see her happy. It cut right to the bone, knowing that because of him she was looking out at the world with the same broken, hollow look that he saw in the mirror. He’d never wanted to see her look like that. It cut deeper still when she snapped at him and he knew it was no less than he deserved because she was right, he’d left her alone. She felt guilty for taking it out on Conan he knew. Conan was after all innocent of all of it, but Conan wasn’t real, there was just him, and in the end all of this was because of his recklessness. He was glad she hadn’t got a chance to apologise. Hearing that apology would probably have broken him all over again.

She hadn’t cried, not a single tear, that angry outburst was the closest thing he’d seen to real human emotion from her since the conversation had begun. Her eyes were dry, and utterly empty, like all her feelings had burned themselves out in an overwhelming surge of grief, and he hated himself for it. He’d done that to her, broken her heart, and hearing her apologise to him after that, even if she didn’t know he was him, that was more than Shinichi could bear.

She’d left after she’d finished her tea, and Shinichi couldn’t help but gasp in relief. Agasa had sat with him and held him as he breathed, ragged and shaking through the sudden release of pressure. It was only a temporary relief he knew, Ran would be back, she would come to talk to Conan again, and Shinichi couldn’t decide whether to look forward to seeing her again, or dread it.

Agasa was a good friend, better than anyone would have given him credit for. He might not be the most put together person on the planet, might blow himself up on a regular basis, and have only the most basic idea of how to act as a responsible adult, but he was kind. Even when things were difficult, impossible, when they were as bad as they could get, he was kind, and some of these days it felt like the only thing keeping Shinichi anchored to the world was the warm comfort of Agasa’s arms wrapped around his too small body.

He owed Agasa, and so when the professor said that his parents would be coming back soon, that maybe they should tell them the truth, he bit back on his first response to refuse, to avoid, to pretend none of it was happening. Agasa wanted what was best for him, and he knew, a part of him knew, that he was right, that they should tell his parents. It wasn’t fair to anyone to keep hiding this from them, he knew that.

But the thought of having that conversation made him feel sick and shaky, and he honestly wasn’t sure he could say the words. As though saying it out loud made it real. It wasn’t a productive way of thinking, he knew that, but that didn’t make it any easier to move past. Logic and emotions didn’t always agree with each other.

He should tell them, but he couldn’t, he just couldn’t, he knew it was selfish, and unfair to everyone involved, but he didn’t think he could look them in the eyes and tell them just how badly he’d messed up.

Agasa had offered to tell them for him, and Shinichi hated himself more than he’d ever thought was possible for saying yes, even more than he’d hated himself lying to Ran, seeing what his death had done to her. It wasn’t fair to ask Agasa to tell his parents, wasn’t fair to ask them to hear it from Agasa not from him, it wasn’t even fair to himself because avoiding the situation would do him no good in the long run, he knew that. But it would be more unfair not to tell them at all, to leave them to grieve for him, to force Agasa to keep caring for him. He couldn’t keep this from them, and he couldn’t tell them, so he was left with the coward’s option, of making someone else do what he should.

His parents would understand, and he wasn’t sure if that made it worse or better, but it was true. They were both far too clever, knew him far too well, they would know exactly why he hadn’t told them himself, and they would forgive him for it. Shinichi wasn’t entirely sure he wanted to be forgiven.

Chapter Text

Kogoro didn’t know how to fix this. The blank broken look in Ran’s eyes, the knowledge that the cocky, brilliant, good hearted kid that he’d watched grow up by her side was gone. Kudo Shinichi was dead, had been murdered, and there was nothing Kogoro could do to fix that. But then, that was nothing new really. After all, there were just so many things he couldn’t fix.

He had tried to talk to Ran about it. He’d known he should, so he tried to offer her the comfort a father ought to be able to give his daughter, but words had failed him, had fallen short, as he’d known they would. What words could soften something like this? The only ones that fit had been overused to the point where they became platitudes, and lost any weight they might have carried.

Besides, Ran hadn’t wanted to talk to him about it, not really. And could he really blame her, he wasn’t exactly the most reliable of parental figures. Too fond of his bad habits, too inconsistent in his behaviour, she’d mostly raised herself in the end, he could barely keep his own life on track, let alone help with hers. She loved him and she knew that he loved her, but he had let her down far too many times to be the one she turned to when everything fell apart. In some ways that was a shameful kind of relief, because he couldn’t fix this, everything had fallen apart and there was nothing to be done to fix it. Knowing that nobody expected him to, that made it easier to live with.

Nothing to be done, nothing to be done, and the awful stark truth of it killed him, cut him right to the bone. The drink helped, numbed him, it caused its own problems of course, but it did at least help with that, made it easier not to care, or at least to care less. It had helped when he was still a police officer who’d seen more than he could sleep easy with, it had helped when he’d lost his job, burned out by all those things he saw too late, too late to fix, it had helped when Eri left him, tired of his bad habits and inability to cope. And it helped now, when there were no words that could ease the empty look in his daughter’s eyes, nothing he could do or say to make the detective brat anything other than a bloody mess in an alleyway, or an empty hole in the world at his daughter’s side. It didn’t fix anything, but then, nothing really did, and that was a truth Kogoro wasn’t strong enough to face sober.

He’d got the details from Megure, in all their bloody, sickening, glory. A large part of him wished he hadn’t asked, didn’t want to know. But he was an adult even if he didn’t want to be, and a father even if he wasn’t especially good at it, and for Ran’s sake, it couldn’t matter what he did or did not want to know. Because she was his daughter and he loved her. The only thing that mattered was what Ran might need him to know, so he gritted his teeth and asked, and Megure had told him.

His nightmares that night had painted that alleyway with Ran’s blood along with Shinichi’s. It could so easily have been Ran. He dreamed of Ran’s blood on the ground, and Ran’s body barely identifiable, of flesh, and blood, and bone, mixed together with Shinichi’s so that it was impossible to tell where one began and the other ended. Dreams that left him in a cold sweat, shaking with horror at what was and what might have been. A moment’s separation, a brief distraction, was all that had stood between his daughter and the fate that had claimed her childhood friend, and there would have been nothing he could do about that either. It was hard to look her in the eye knowing that. Knowing that only chance had saved her, that he couldn’t have protected her if the dice had fallen otherwise.

Part of him wanted to keep her close, to follow her everywhere or keep her locked away from the world, where he could at least try to keep her safe. But she wouldn’t stand for that, not from him, not now, and she would be right not to. She was far too strong for that, in body and heart and mind. Far stronger than he was, and even losing Shinchi couldn’t change that. He did put a tracker on her phone though, a way to find her, to know where she was. No much of a protection but at least it was something. What she didn’t know about she couldn’t argue with, and without it he would never have been able to breathe with her out of his sight.

When he was younger and more innocent, when he was still young enough to believe anything was possible, he’d truly believed he could make a difference. That they could, he and Eri both. He would be a detective and she would be a lawyer and together they would save the world, protect everyone, fix everything that was wrong. But reality wasn’t so kind. Reality was arriving at too many crime scenes far too late to save anyone, too late to do anything but bring peace to the dead. The victories were always so hollow when the victims’ families still had to put their parent, child, lover in the ground, at least, that had been his feeling. Maybe that was why he’d burned out of the police force so badly.

Megure and the rest of the police were on the warpath, determined to find the killer, bring him to justice, avenge the boy they’d known. Kogoro understood in theory, but in the end finding the killer would change so few of the things that really mattered. Shinichi would still be dead, and Ran would still be cold and grieving. It wouldn’t fix anything. So he knocked back a drink stronger than his usual beers in honour of a boy he’d never have admitted he respected, and tried not to think of things far too broken to fix.

Chapter Text

It almost surprised Yukiko, how natural it had felt to fall back on Touichi sensei’s teachings, these past few days. “Always keep poker face”, he’d said, “don’t let the audience see you flinch, see you cry, see you bleed, don’t let them see anything you don’t allow them to see.” Kuroba Touichi had made an art of wearing masks, of hiding his heart, and he’d taught that as part and parcel with the lessons in stage makeup, and voice mimicry. She hadn’t realised how well those lessons had stuck, until the mask became the only thing holding her heart together.

It had after all never been something Yukiko felt the need to do. Not for anything beyond amusement or performance. Certainly she’d never felt the need to make a mask part of her life, part of her soul, the way Touichi had until that mask devoured him entirely. That wasn’t the kind of person she was. But still, she knew how it was done, and now, now she felt that need. Now everything had changed. Now her world was shattered.

Yuusaku had shattered it, when he told her with blank voice and blank eyes what had happened to their son. Megure keibu had shattered it, when he made that phone call, no different to hundreds of others he’d made in his years as a policeman, and yet still unique in its horror. Shinichi had shattered it, when he died. No parent should ever have to bury their child.

It had taken too long for them to get back home, to see their son’s body, to make the awful, mundane arrangements that go with death. The world did not stop for one mother’s grief, and it took time to arrange flights, even with Yuusaku’s connections. They were a long way away and it was over a week before they finally touched down in Japan. Too long and yet still not enough time, not even close. (Would any amount of time be enough to come to terms with the death of a child?)

Yuusaku was fixated on finding their son’s killer. On solving the mystery? On getting revenge? Closure? She wasn’t sure even Yuusaku knew the answer to that one. He’d managed to bribe or bully the case files out of someone in the police department. Not Megure keibu, he’d stayed firm in his refusal, someone else, younger, more easily intimidated. Ever since then, he’d been buried in them, looking for answers, trying to make some kind of sense out of something that would never be anything but senseless.

He wasn’t sleeping right, wasn’t eating right, he tried to be there for her, he did. But for all his body was present, holding her close, trying to offer comfort, his thoughts were a thousand miles away at the scene of their son’s murder, and his heart, that was further still, somewhere out in the ether where their son’s soul had gone. She didn’t blame him for it, not really, not when she’d locked away everything real behind the mask a dead man had taught her to make.

She did wonder though, what Yuusaku thought he’d do with the answers he sought when he found them. And he would find them. Her Yuusaku always found answers when he went looking, even if he’d have been better off not knowing. She wondered what he would do, if he identified the killers, if he succeeded in hunting them down, if he had them helpless on their knees in front of him. She knew what she would do. She’d kill them, she’d make it slow. But Yuusaku was always the kinder of the two of them, less ruthless, more bound by law, she didn’t think he’d thought that far, not consciously at any rate. He still thought answers would be enough. She understood that about him. How could she not, she’d spent a lifetime loving Yuusaku she knew him better than her own self, just as he knew her better than himself. And because she knew him she knew he couldn’t help thinking that if they could just find the right answers, he could fix anything. Like father like son, he and Shinichi were too much alike in that respect. She wondered if that was why Shinichi had died, looking for answers and finding the ones that broke things instead of fixing them.

Yukiko knew better, sometimes secrets and lies were their own kind of mercy. Some truths only hurt. There wasn’t enough of Shinichi left to fill a coffin. Her son was dead, cold and dead, had died while she was sipping wine in blissful ignorance a thousand miles away. There was no beauty in that truth, nothing good, nothing that fixed anything. It was the kind of truth that destroyed lives.

And the truth of what she felt wouldn’t fix anything either, after all, there were no words, no tears that could express the grief, the guilt, the rage, she was feeling, and trying would only make decent people uncomfortable, would only put the not so decent people on guard. She didn’t want to give them that much warning. No, better to lie, to say the things people say, and do the things people do, and keep the sharp edges hidden, until it was time to use them.

So instead she took that truth, the truth of grief and rage, and vengeance, she took that and all the other heart shattering truths the past few days had been drowned in and she locked it away behind a mask she learned to weave a lifetime ago, back before she’d known why she would ever need to know how. She woke up each morning and put on her makeup, picture perfect, and put on her mask as unreadable as stone, and she let the performance carry her through the day. Don’t let them see you cry, don’t let them see you rage. And she didn’t, she couldn’t, because her poker face was all that was holding her together, and there were things to be done. Petty, mundane, unthinkable things, paperwork and funeral arrangements, and notification of all the far flung friends and relatives of what had been done to her son. There were things she had to do, while she waited for the blood that was her due. Yuusaku would find them, he would find them, and she would kill them.

Her husband would help her hide the evidence, somewhere it would never be found, impossible to trace back to them. He might love the truth, but he loved her more, loved Shinichi more, and while he might not have thought through what would happen if he found their son’s killers, she knew what he’d do if he found her standing over their bodies. They would get away with it, even if Yuu chan weren’t who he was, she doubted very much the police force would move against them, unless they were unforgivably obvious. After all, they’d loved Shinichi too.

Chapter Text

It was a week before his father relaxed his guard enough for Heiji to get to Beika. A part of him felt guilty, for going to the very place everyone he loved had most feared he would go. But he couldn’t just leave this case, this case of all cases. Not when he couldn’t get away from the thought that it could have been him, it could so easily have been him, and so he owed it to Kudo to find the truth of it all.

The Beika police had been surprisingly helpful, more helpful Heiji suspected than they were strictly supposed to be. Sato han and Takagi han were almost certainly going against orders in giving him the information they had. Sato han had said that it was better they give him the information that he asked for, than for him to get himself killed looking for it elsewhere. They clearly had experience with a teenage detective’s inability to let go of a mystery.

He wasn’t sure whether it was fear for him, or guilt over Kudo that drove them to offer their help so freely, but he wasn’t too proud to accept their offer, not with the thought of Kazuha crying for his death so close in his mind. Not when Kudo was already dead and Heiji getting himself killed would definitely only make things worse.

So he’d let them accompany him as he visited the crime scene, and the morgue, and the witnesses. The witnesses had been hard, worse even then the bloody remains of a body that was all that was left of his fellow detective. The look in Kudo’s girlfriend’s eyes had been like a kick to the chest, a shattered kind of disbelief that he couldn’t unsee, couldn’t stop picturing on Kazuha’s face. He could quite happily have lived his entire life without seeing that look in anyone’s eyes.

But it had been worth it, visiting Kudo’s girl, because she had been the last person to see him alive, the last person to speak to him. From what she’d told him there had been no more than half an hour between his disappearance and his body being found. That wasn’t much time to reduce a corpse to… that. It was an important piece of a very disturbing puzzle. She’d also confirmed what most people already suspected. That Kudo had seen something, had run off to investigate something that had caught his attention right before he died. Whatever had happened to Kudo, he’d known something.

Kudo had run off into the darkness after something he hadn’t explained to Ran, and it was terrifying how easy it was to imagine himself doing the same thing. He had done the same thing, to Kazuha, many times and it was all too brutally clear now that it was blind luck he’d never paid the price for that recklessness.

She’d told him something else too. Something that none of the police had picked up on, possibly because it had happened prior to the last time they’d seen Kudo. She told him, when he asked, that Kudo had reacted strangely to two people he had met earlier, at a murder scene. Oddly tense, even though they’d had nothing to do with the killing. Heiji had read the file on the case Kudo had solved just before his death, and for Kudo to be so bothered by two people who had turned out to be uninvolved with the crime, well it was telling. Heiji was unwilling to dismiss it.

Two men, dressed in black. Ran thought that one of them might have had silver hair, but she wasn’t sure. Hadn’t been paying a lot of attention at the time, which was understandable if inconvenient. The description might be sketchy, and the connection cobweb thin, but something told Heiji that in the end it might prove as significant as the missing organs in finding out what had happened to Kudo.

The crime scene had been mostly useless, this long after the event. The site had been cleaned up by forensics, and then trampled by a thousand careless customers, and any evidence was long since gone. A part of Heiji wanted to curse his father for keeping him away so long, but he remembered the fear in eyes normally ice cold, and he couldn’t pretend not to understand. He’d never have let any child of his near that crime scene either.

Still it had been worth visiting, because just being able to look at the layout, at the absence of camera’s and the out of the way position, spoke to Heiji of shady dealings, of criminal meetings, and it helped him form a picture in his mind, of just what Kudo might have been doing just before he died.

He’d seen something, someone, suspicious, possibly the same people ran had said he was concerned by earlier. He’d followed them, just as Heiji would have. He’d found them doing something, meeting someone, trading something, whatever it was it must have been bad, for people to be willing to kill over it. Then, then Kudo had got caught, somehow. He’d been caught off guard, and then they’d done something to him, killed him but not cleanly. Why? Why not just shoot him? Heiji considered.

The park had been crawling with police after the earlier murder. Maybe they hadn’t wanted to draw attention with the sound of a gunshot. But if so, surely Kudo’s screaming would have been just as much of an issue. Unless…

What if the, whatever it was hadn’t performed as expected. He’d already theorised it was experimental, sometimes experiments have unexpected effects. So they were trying to be subtle, they didn’t want to be seen. That meant they should have cut and run as soon as Kudo started screaming. But the missing pieces of Kudo’s body, indicated they stopped to take samples instead. Why? Something wasn’t adding up and for the life of him Heiji couldn’t work out what it was. Just that it was important.

Chapter Text

Kudo Shinichi was on the news again, it had been more than a week, and still Saguru couldn’t quite bring himself to change the channel or look away. Still no word, no new leads on who had killed him, but the media kept dragging it back up. He couldn’t decide whether it was morbid or comforting. The media fed like dogs on the corpse of his fellow detective, but at least his death hadn’t been ignored, swept under the rug. What had happened to Kudo might have been unclear, but at least it hadn’t been forgotten yet.

He’d thought about offering his services, trying to help find out what had happened to someone who might have been a rival or a friend if they’d just had a chance to meet. But the police were understandably shy of hiring teenage detectives, and when he’d brought the idea up at dinner, his father had just looked worn and tired, more worn and tired than Saguru had ever seen him. If Saguru had pressed the issue, he wouldn’t have stopped him. Chief Superintendent Hakuba believed in letting people make their own choices, he would have let his son in on the investigation if he asked, and that was why Saguru couldn’t bring himself to ask. Couldn’t bring himself to add to those lines on his father’s face, to risk leaving him with the same blank look in his that Saguru had seen in the eyes of so many victims families. He didn’t like seeing that look on strangers, he wasn’t going to put it in the eyes of his own loved ones if he could help it. It was one of the main reasons he’d switched to investigating theft. Robbery victims got upset, angry, maybe even a little frightened, but they never had that look. Like their whole world had shattered around them and nothing would ever make it right.

He respected Kudo Shinichi, wanted to know who killed him. But he loved his family, and he’d always believed in placing more value on the living than the dead. Sometimes, it just wasn’t worth the risk.

Yui didn’t think she’d ever felt so cold. Not even when Kai nii died. She stared blankly at the television where the news was running through the murder of Kudo Shinichi for the fifth time that day. Pictures of the victim before the incident, so terribly terribly young, but with that bright detective spark in his eyes that only another detective could see. No pictures of the corpse, or whatever was left of it. There were after all, rules about what could be shown on television and from what she’d heard in the department, what was left of that poor boy definitely crossed the line.

She’d heard other things too, about how smart young Kudo kun had been, about his uncanny instinct for solving cases, about his devotion to finding answers. She heard all those things and she felt cold because Kan chan was missing, and she couldn’t quite manage to brush it off as coincidence.

Did that make her a terrible person, she found herself wondering. That a young boy was dead and all she could think about was whether her friend had met the same fate. Or did that just make her human?

Kudo had been found because his remains were in a public place. Kan chan had been up in the mountains. Would they even be able to find a body? Morofushi keibu certainly thought so, or maybe he was just in denial, he’d gone looking. Rule abiding Morofushi had defied orders to go looking, for Kan chan or his body, while she sat in her apartment and tried not to cry. Did that make her a bad friend, a coward? Or did it just make her realistic? Taka kun didn’t think Kan chan was dead, she could tell, didn’t believe that someone with Kan chan’s sheer stubborn force of personality could die so easily. But Yui knew better, Kai nii’s starved body at the bottom of that cliff, poor Kudo Shinichi’s mangled remains on the streets of Beika, people died so easily. Kan chan was probably dead, and her going looking for his body wouldn’t change that, would only break her heart all over again. The only thing the living could do for the dead was avenge them. She couldn’t avenge Kan chan, not when she didn’t even know where to look, but Kai nii. For him, maybe there was some justice to be found. After all she didn’t have much else left to lose.

She hoped that Kudo Shinichi had someone willing to do as much for him.

Of all the things Kaito had expected to see on the news, his own face attached to a murder victim had not been on the list. Closer examination had revealed subtle differences, but the likeness was uncanny, and the news coverage had been… unsettling. Like hearing about his own murder. A week on and it still gave him chills.

A part of him that he refused to examine too closely wondered if maybe he’d been the intended target. They looked so much alike after all. Was this boy killed because Kaito made enemies? Could he bear to acknowledge it if he was? That kind of guilt could paralyse a person, and the Kid couldn’t afford to stop moving, not for anything.

But no, Kudo Shinichi was a detective, surely he’d made plenty of enemies of his own, ones that knew his face, unlike Kaito’s enemies, who were still hopefully in the dark. Maybe he’d seen something he shouldn’t have? Detectives must do that all the time, Hakuba certainly did, and not all criminals were as nice as Kid. It probably wasn’t his fault.

A part of him wondered if it might be a sign of things to come though. A warped mirror of his own eventual fate. He’d always known the figures in black would kill him if they could, they’d tried, before, would try again, it was only the luck of a phantom thief that had kept him alive so far and luck was a fickle mistress. He always known, and yet, mortality had never seemed so real to him. Would it be his name listed next to the photograph on the news when they finally caught up with him? Would the reporters be able to change the names and recycle their old articles? Would there be enough of him left for Nakamori keibu to identify the body.

It didn’t pay to dwell on such things though, not when he was already in so deep. The Kid couldn’t afford to stop now, not when it would raise more questions Kaito couldn’t afford. Kid had to be flawless, untouchable, immortal, because that immortality, that inhumanity, made it that much harder for anyone to see Kid as a flesh and blood human being, and sometimes, that was all that kept Kaito’s name safe. He was in too deep to stop now, and Kaito might be afraid but the Kid couldn’t afford to be, so as he dived off the roof he held his poker face and tried not to think about a face too like his own on the news.

Chapter Text

Yukiko was wearing makeup.

She wore it every day now and Yuusaku really wasn’t sure why it was that detail caught his attention, when the only other thing he could bring himself to think about was the files in front of him. The files that laid out in cold fact and colder tone, the details of how they’d found Shinichi. The files that might make some sense of the waking nightmare that he couldn’t escape, if he could just find some way to connect the dots.

But the clarity of thought he’d always prided himself on had deserted him. He stared at the files, but he couldn’t see clearly through the haze of grief. Shinichi was dead. His son was dead. His bright, brilliant, brave son that he’d loved in ways he’d never been able to find the words for. The little boy he’d held in his arms like the most precious fragile thing in the world, and taught to read from Sherlock Holmes novels. The little boy he’d encouraged in his dreams of becoming a great detective.

Those same dreams that had most likely got him killed. Of course, no-one was saying it out loud, not where Yuusaku could hear, but everyone was thinking it. Certainly Yuusaku himself was, and he couldn’t help wondering, if he hadn’t encouraged Shinichi in becoming a detective, if he’d tried to change his mind, would his son still be alive? Was it all his fault? No-one would say it out loud, but at least some of them had to be thinking it, and who was to say they were wrong.

And where was he when his son was screaming his last? Where was he when Shinichi needed him? That, he knew for a fact they were wondering about. He’d heard it in whispers cut short when he walked into the room, in the looks people gave him when they thought he wasn’t looking back, in the headlines of the kind of newspapers that didn’t censor themselves out of respect for the grieving.

And the truth was they were right to wonder, because where had he been? Halfway across the world, blissfully ignorant of what was happening. Fuck, he’d been happy that night, he and Yukiko had been happy and laughing together, while half a world away their son was dying, alone and screaming.

Yuusake wasn’t sure how he was supposed to live with that.

And yet, even through the haze of grief and guilt and shock, he still noticed, when his wife woke up every morning and applied layers of makeup like warpaint. Yukiko usually only wore makeup on camera, on stage, when she was trying to put on a performance of one kind or another. It bothered Yuusaku, to see how that had changed.

And deep down he knew exactly why it bothered him, but he couldn’t think about it, he just couldn’t. Not now. Not with the files in front of him, laying out in cold black and white the circumstances of his son’s death. He was almost glad of the way the words burned in his lungs and heart and soul, of the pain that cut deeper every time he read through the details of when and where and how, of the bloody remains that weren’t enough to fill a coffin. He almost wasn’t sure anymore, whether it was answers he was looking for in those papers, or if it was just the pain itself he craved. He deserved the pain after all. He deserved it, and even if he didn’t, at least the pain felt real, cut through the fog that had been clinging to his mind since he first picked up that phone call.

But no, it wasn’t just about the pain, not really. He was looking for answers. He was looking for answers because Shinichi deserved them, because someone who loved the truth as much as he did deserved better than to have his own mystery left unanswered. He was looking for answers because he wanted to make the bastards that killed his son, answer for what they’d done, because Yuusaku might be more even tempered than his wife but his son was dead and words couldn’t begin to describe his rage.

And yet, for all that those reasons were good and true and understandable, they weren’t the ones that haunted him. No, the truth was, he spent day after day, night after night, cutting himself to the bone in search of the truth of who killed his son and why, not for truth or justice or vengeance or even to punish himself, but because he just didn’t know what else to do.

Habit, years of habit, had him trying to fix his world by finding answers, because it had always worked before and somehow, his logical mind couldn’t convince the rest of him that this time, the truth wouldn’t be enough to fix things, that maybe it never had been. It didn’t help of course, that the logical part of him had no suggestions for what would fix everything.

So he buried himself in the case files he’d bullied out of a nice young police officer, because looking up from them, looking away, would mean admitting to himself that nothing would ever be okay again, and admitting that might just be enough to break him. He couldn’t look up, couldn’t look away, not even at his own wife, and if Yukiko was wearing makeup it was nothing he could deal with right now.

He should. Because she was his wife, because he loved her and she wasn’t okay any more than he was. She was wearing makeup, and making funeral arrangements, and she hadn’t cried once since that awful night when their world had come crashing down around them. He should reach out to her, if he was a better husband he would. He would step away from the papers, at least for a moment, would take the time to comfort her, to be with her, because he wasn’t the only one who’d lost a son, and she needed him.

Makeup was a mask to her, and he remembered Touichi, who’d made his mask so much a part of himself that it was impossible to say where the mask ended and the man began. He remembered, and feared that his wife might just go the same way as her teacher, and yet he couldn’t bring himself to reach out, to offer comfort, to ask for the same in return. Couldn’t bring himself to face the full truth of what had happened. He should, but he couldn’t, so he buried himself in a desperate search for answers while his wife’s mask solidified around her.

He tried not to think of what Shinichi would say about his cowardice.

Chapter Text

Shinichi lay dead still on a borrowed mattress, staring blankly at the ceiling, and he wondered just when the whole world turned grey. Like an old photograph, washed out, and indistinct, and utterly devoid of colour. He’d been lying there awhile. Sleep had deserted him and yet still he didn’t, couldn’t move, instead staring at the cracks in the ceiling and trying very hard to think of nothing at all.

Get up. An angry whisper at the back of his mind. Get up, get out of bed. If you don’t get up you’re giving up. If you don’t get up you’re letting them win.

In that moment, getting up out of that bed felt the hardest thing he’d ever done. But he did it, he did it, he had to, if he wanted to remain himself he had to. He got up out of bed, and he walked down the stairs, and he ate the breakfast Agasa put in front of him even if he couldn’t taste a bite of it, because he refused to give those bastards the satisfaction, wouldn’t let them break his will, not after he’d already cheated the death they’d chosen for him, not after they’d taken nearly everything else from him. Spite it turned out, was a wonderful motivator.

Halfway through a bowl of cardboard tasting cereal Agasa decided to make conversation. Shinichi didn’t mind really, not as long as Agasa was willing to carry the conversation, it was at least easier to handle than his own thoughts, but talking was… hard.

“Hattori Heiji is looking into your murder.” Agasa told him, with a look that Shinichi could easily identify as worry, as concern, although whether that was for him, or for this Hattori person, or just the situation as a whole, it was impossible to say.

“Who’s Hattori Heiji?” Shinichi asked, rather than addressing that unspoken concern. The curiosity in his voice wasn’t even entirely faked, and it was almost a relief to feel that familiar fevered itching of wanttoknowneedtoknow under his skin. Curiosity was, always had been, so much a part of who he was that he hadn’t realized how empty he’d felt in its absence. Despair had strangled it, along with so many other parts of him, and so, feeling it prickle at him again, at this new and unlooked for puzzle felt unexpectedly good, despite the uneasiness that the unanswered questions evoked.

Who was this Hattori Heiji that his investigating was so much more notable than any of the other dozens of investigators on the case? Who was he that Agasa was worried? Was he a friend of the professors, the friend of a friend? Was he a name, the kind that might be good enough to find out the truth, that might be good enough to get too close to the truth and pay the price? Or worse, was he somehow connected to the ones who did this to him? Agasa’s reply cut short Shinichi’s ever intensifying spiral of panicked thoughts.

“Well, I suppose he’s you but Osakan would be the easiest way to describe him. They call him the Great Detective of the West” Shinichi blanked out for a moment. What?

Well he was right about Hattori being a name then at least, and he found himself regretting a little that he’d never been the sort to keep tabs on fellow detectives, because some background information would be useful right about now. But Hattori being like him but Osakan also made it abundantly clear why Agasa was worried. After all, given what Agasa knew had happened to Shinichi himself, watching another teenaged detective get themselves in too deep had to be hard for any adult to watch. Still at least there were no indications of those people being involved. Yet.

“What does he know?” Shinichi asked. Wondering what he’d do if Hattori got too close. Would Shinichi warn him about the danger, would he dare, could he live with himself if he didn’t? Or was Hattori good enough to figure it out on his own, without Shinichi needing to say a word. Probably not, after all de-aging drugs weren’t exactly a likely scenario. Shinichi only believed it because it had happened to him, no way would anyone, even a great detective, figure that one out spontaneously.

“He’s been to the crime scenes, and the police station, and he’s talked to Ran chan too. Detectives Satou and Takagi seem to be keeping an eye on him. They say he’s very very good.” Shinichi very carefully chose not to know exactly how Agasa knew these things, just like he’d carefully chosen not to know about how exactly Agasa had managed to get him the fake papers.

“Interesting. I wonder what he’ll find.” Shinichi mused, half to himself, before forcing himself to ask even if he didn’t really want to hear the answer. “Is there anything else I need to know?”

“Your parents are back.” Agasa said softly, as though to a wounded animal that might bite or run if he wasn’t careful. Shinichi couldn’t bring himself to resent him for it, after all, from a certain perspective that wasn’t even particularly far from the truth. “I haven’t spoken to them yet.” Agasa continued. And then, after a pause. “Are you sure you want me to…?” Shinichi looked away, couldn’t look him in the eyes.

“Yes. They deserve to know.” Please. He didn’t say.  Please, and I’m sorry for putting this on you, I should be better but I can’t, I just can’t. Right now it’s taking everything I have just to get up out of bed, and if I try and say the words I’ll shatter into a million pieces and I don’t think anything will ever be able to put me back together again. He didn’t say any of those things, not in so many words, but something told him Agasa heard them all the same. He was perceptive like that, somehow, it probably came with being kind in that way that he was.

“Alright then. If you’re sure. I’ll go over tomorrow morning, there’s too many people in the house right now to tell them anything safely.” Shinichi nodded mutely. Words had deserted him. The rest of breakfast passed in utter silence.

Chapter Text

Ran didn’t know what mad impulse had possessed her and led her back to standing in front of the professor’s door. Except that she did really. She knew exactly why she was there. She was there for shared loss, and understanding, she was there for the lost broken look in Conan’s eyes that matched her own, and, in a dark, secret corner of her mind, she was there for a ghost, for a little boy who looked far far too much like his dead cousin, alike enough that she could almost pretend.

It wasn’t a good idea. She’d known that even as she rang the bell, but, she just couldn’t help herself. It hurt looking at Conan, but anything, even that pain, was better than the all-consuming numbness that had been consuming her ever since Shinichi’s death.

Conan had answered the door, just as she’d hoped he would, Agasa hadn’t been in. Conan had led her through to the kitchen, and made tea, looking old far beyond his years. Could six year olds usually make tea on their own? Ran didn’t know. Her exposure to young children was limited, but surely someone as young as Conan shouldn’t be acting like a miniature adult, like a miniature Shinichi.

He even made tea the same way Shinichi did, like her best friend had been shrunk down into a child’s form.

It wasn’t healthy, for either Ran or Conan kun, for her to come over and talk about nothing but Shinichi and his death, for her to look at him and see nothing else. It took the edge of the guilt that she was pretty sure he saw something similar when he looked at her. Saw her as an extension of his cousin, his cousin’s friend, the girl his cousin loved, the girl that knew his cousin better than her own self. It took the edge off the guilt but it didn’t make it any more healthy. At one time Ran might have cared about that.

“I loved him.” She said, so softly she was almost surprised Conan heard her. “I loved him and I never said. I was waiting for him to say it first. I thought there was time, I thought we had a lifetime to say it out loud. I should have said something.”

“You weren’t the only one.” Conan said, with a voice too old for his face. “Shinichi nii should have said something too.”

“No.” Ran shook her head. “Shinichi was always slow to say how he felt. I should have spoken up. I would have, if he’d waited much longer. But I never thought we’d run out of time.”

“Maybe it doesn’t matter so much, whether anything was said out loud.” Conan suggested. “What matters isn’t the words, it’s what you both felt, that’s what was true, anything else is just, a side issue.” Fuck but he spoke too much like Shinichi, and not like Shinichi as a child. Conan didn’t speak like a child at all, maybe it was the grief that had aged him, but he spoke like Shinichi had at seventeen, and something about that didn’t quite sit right in Ran’s grief hazed mind.

“It matters.” She replied, rather than address the source of her unease. “I couldn’t tell you why. Not in words, but it does.”

“Aa, maybe you’re right. You understand the heart better than I ever could.” And there he was again, speaking far too much like Shinichi. She couldn’t help but laugh bitterly at his words though.

“You think so.” She bared her teeth in something that might have been termed a smile if it weren’t for the anguish behind it. “You know that I haven’t cried once since Shinichi died. Not once. My best friend, the boy I… And I haven’t cried, I’m not even sure I remember how. I feel blank, numb, hollowed out. You think I understand the heart, no, I can’t feel anything, and I’m not sure I ever will again.”

“Ran…” Conan trailed off, at a loss for words. Ran refused to look at him.

“I know what I should be feeling. Anger, and pain, and the kind of grief that could drown the ocean in tears, and it’s too much. I can’t…” Words failed her, and she trailed off into a silence that said more than words ever could. There were tears in Conan’s eyes as he spoke.

“I’m so sorry Ran.” He said, and there was nothing in his face but Shinichi’s ghost.

“Why.” She snapped, harsher than she should to a child. “Shinichi was the one who got himself killed not you. You haven’t done a thing wrong Conan.” Something flittered across his face then, and if his face had been any less a ghostly mirror of Shinichi’s she might have missed it, but Ran had spent her whole life reading Shinichi’s expressions, she knew what guilt looked like on his face. Conan was guilty about something, Ran knew it as sure as she knew her own name.

“Or maybe you have.” She considered slowly, suspicion growing, little questions, small inconsistencies surfacing demanding her attention. “You look too much like Shinichi, you talk too much like him, more than family resemblance can explain. You appear out of nowhere after he dies, and yet I’ve never heard of you before. Tell me Conan. Who are you really?”

“I.. it’s not…” Conan looked lost for words, unable to explain himself.

“You look like a child but you don’t talk like one, and your eyes are too old for your face, and you are too much like Shinichi, as he was when he died, not when he was six. So tell me who are you.”

“I… “ Ran interrupted before he could try and come up with an excuse.

“Am I mad, are you some sort of hallucination my mind cooked up to help me cope. Or maybe you’re a ghost, that would make as much sense as anything else that’s happened this last week.”

“Maybe I am a ghost.” Conan said in a voice half a breath away from breaking. “I’m not sure I feel completely alive.”

“But you are.” Ran decided. “You’re too solid to be a ghost or a hallucination, which means you’re real. So tell me, Who are you?”

“Do you really not know?” There was a raw ragged edge to his voice as he asked, and maybe she did know after all. Maybe she always had on some level, impossible though it seemed.

“Shinichi.” She said, and it wasn’t a question. He just nodded silently. The shock of the realisation echoed through her head. It should have been impossible and yet, now that she saw it she couldn’t unsee it.

“Why didn’t you tell me?” She asked, in a voice torn four ways between anger, and joy, and confusion, and hurt. “Why didn’t you say?”

He looked at her then with his heart in his eyes, and said “I didn’t know how. I didn’t know how to say the words, because saying it out loud made it real, and I couldn’t face that. I’m so sorry Ran.”