Disclaimer: I don't own DCMK


Sky Colored Eyes

2: Writing on the Wall

"Come on Shin-chan, it'll be fun!"

A sigh. "Mom, I already told you, I can't afford to miss any more school."

"Oh, that." Even through the phone, the dismissive tone of the woman's voice was clear. "You know, you could always just transfer to a school here."

Blue eyes blinked. "You mean…move to America? Permanently?"

"That's right. Then you can come live with your father and me, and we can go on family shopping trips on the weekends~!"

Shinichi shook his head at his mother's sudden excitement even though he knew she couldn't see him. "Right… I'll—think about it."

There was a sudden silence on the other end of the line before Yukiko broke it with a stunned question. "Really?"

"Yes, really."

"…But…Are you all right? I mean, why the sudden change? You've never shown any interest in coming before. Usually you just say no."

Shinichi frowned. "What, why can't I just change my mind? Besides, I only said I'd think about it."

"Oh…" A pause. "Okay. Well, if you do decide to come visit, just let me know and I'll arrange everything!"

"I will. Listen, Mom, I have to get going."

"Okay. Goodbye."

"Bye."

Hanging up the phone, Shinichi let his breath out in a short puff.

While the idea of living with his parents wasn't necessarily horrifying, it did have a certain…lack of appeal. He loved them, he really did, but they were…difficult people to live with at the best of times. They were both rather flighty and irresponsible, kind of like spoiled children really, and sometimes Shinichi seriously wondered how he could be related to either of them. His dad put more effort into being lazy and fleeing his editors than he did into actually working (which made it all the more infuriating that he was so damned good at what he did), and his mother was always seeing drama plotlines in real life. They never took anything seriously. They were very much people who lived only in the present with little care for things past. Of course, that wasn't a bad thing, but Shinichi couldn't live the way they did. He knew that, even if they didn't.

Even so, the idea of going away for a while… To leave everything that had happened behind… Part of him couldn't help but long for that. The other part of him knew it wouldn't help. Maybe for a while, it would, but he would never be able to go far enough to get away from his own ghosts.

Sometimes, he wondered what was wrong with him. What was done was done. So why couldn't he stop thinking about it? What did it matter what other people thought? Okay, so some of them were people he cared about—people he had been trying to protect. People he'd thought…would understand. But it was his own fault for hiding the truth from them. He couldn't blame them for being upset about it.

Letting his breath out in a sigh, he shook the thoughts away and moved to pour himself a second cup of coffee before he had to head to school. He was here because he needed to move on. Everyone else had.

X

Not wanting to commute from Beika every day just to go to school (and kind of really wanting a chance to just get away for a while from all the reminders of what had and could have been), he had talked to his parents and acquired a small apartment near the park in Ekoda. It was a plain, unremarkable place, but that suited him just fine. Besides, it had a decent view of the park and the clock tower that stood in it. He still remembered the first time he'd seen that clock tower from inside that police helicopter. Was KID's message still inscribed on the clock face? Maybe he should find some time to go check. That night felt like a lifetime ago.

Come to think of it, he hadn't been to a KID heist since he'd still been Conan. He'd thought about it once or twice, but he just couldn't seem to find the time. He also wasn't entirely sure he had the courage to go, pathetic as it sounded. The memories of his encounters with the gentleman thief were some of the only ones he had left that held no painful attachments. The almost-friendship they'd shared had meant a lot to him. If he went to a heist now though, everything would be different. And he really didn't want to deal with that along with everything else. He wanted…to preserve the memories he had.

His walk to school was pleasantly uneventful. The morning air carried a faint but refreshing chill. He'd made sure to fill a thermos with coffee right before he'd left home. It gave him something to focus on while he walked, and the familiar aroma was soothing. Ai had given him the evil eye when the first thing he'd unpacked when she and the professor had come to help him move was the coffeemaker, but really, coffee was one of the few things in the world that he could rely on to make his day feel brighter. While that was probably all kinds of sad in some people's eyes, he rather thought it was a blessing. Not everyone had the luxury of that kind of knowledge about themselves.

He arrived on campus in plenty of time to test his memory of the layout of the grounds. Everything was normal and exactly how he'd thought it would be until he opened the door to his classroom. He stopped just inside the threshold and gaped, not sure what he was seeing and wondering if he'd taken a wrong turn somewhere along the way.

The room was full of giant fruits? There were strawberries, watermelons, cherries, persimmons, bananas, apples, pears—there was even a fig in the back corner. Every single fruit, regardless of species, stood several feet tall. In fact, now that he was looking closer, he could see that each was about the size of your average classroom desk. Only the slice of watermelon was bigger. That one was the size of the teacher's desk and, coincidentally, stood where said desk should have been. Okay… So someone had, what, disguised the furniture as matching fruit? Why? And which fruit—er, desk, was his?

"Kaito!" The shouting voice and that particular tone was already familiar to Shinichi despite this only being his second day in Ekoda High. It was Nakamori Aoko. She was standing beside the giant strawberry, holding a mop like a quarterstaff, and wearing a—a strawberry patterned dress and a leafy green hat topped with a stubby stem. That was when Shinichi finally turned his attention from the fruits to the students. Each student's uniform had been replaced with garments matching one of the fruits in the room. Here a boy stood in a green and white uniform with black, oval spots along the hems. Kiwi, Shinichi thought immediately. Then there were the two girls in matching black dresses covered in glossy, round baubles that puffed out in just the right way to look like blackberries. Hakuba was dressed entirely in red and his blond hair had been dyed green to go with the rather large leaf that looked like it had been glued onto the side of his head. He was pinching the bridge of his nose and appeared to be counting to a very high number. Some people were laughing, others were staring, still more just looked resigned.

Kuroba Kaito was the only person in the room not dressed up as a fruit (well, him and an elegant, redheaded girl seated primly amidst the chaos). Instead, he was dressed in shades of brown (later, they found out that this was because Kaito's favorite fruit was one that had chocolate on it, which no one else was inclined to think counted but was indeed being represented by the magician's own desk, which looked like a chocolate-covered fruit tart). He was laughing as Aoko brandished her mop at him in exasperation.

"How am I supposed to take notes on a strawberry?! Did you really have to include the stem and the leaves? There's no way to make my notebook lie flat!"

Kind of a funny choice of complaint, Shinichi thought, but logical in its own way. It went a long way in proving how often this kind of thing happened around here though that it was such a particular detail the girl was focusing on.

"But it wouldn't be a proper strawberry if it didn't have leaves," the culprit pointed out, sounding so reasonable that Aoko actually paused in her vigorous mop-waving.

Then her eyebrows twitched and the mop scythed through the air in a blur of wood and wiggly strands. The magician ducked just in time to avoid what might very well have been a concussion and ran off laughing.

"Oh, hey there Shinichi," he called out cheerily as he vaulted over an orange to dodge another swing. "I didn't know what your favorite fruit was, so you get the blueberry!" And, in a puff of matching blue smoke, Shinichi found himself dressed from head to toe in a blueberry blue (purple?) version of his school uniform.

Shinichi blinked, looked down at himself, then up and around the room once more. The teacher (in his pink suit jacket and striped, green pants) had buried his head in his hands atop the watermelon slice. Hakuba was now tugging in vain at the leaf in his hair and wincing as it clung to his green locks despite all his efforts to dislodge it. Shinichi couldn't help it. He laughed. It was hesitant and short and more surprised than mirthful, but it was the first time he'd laughed in what felt like years. Not that anyone knew that. For the most part, his arrival had gone by unnoticed by the majority of his new classmates, but that was how he preferred it. Feeling oddly lighthearted and slightly bemused by his own reaction, he wandered into the maze of fruits in search of the blueberry.

X

Kaito had spotted Shinichi on his way to school and spent a few moments observing him. The teen had been carrying a rather large thermos whose contents seemed to be occupying the entirety of his attention. Whatever was in there, he obviously loved it very much. The thief made a mental note to find out what it was. It could be useful information in the future.

Deciding he wouldn't learn anything else useful by hanging around, he'd picked up his pace in order to get to class early enough to set up the surprise he'd been planning for his classmates ever since the poll they'd taken last week about people's favorite fruits. It had been a while since he'd done anything more major at school, and he felt like trying something a little different today.

He was rather proud of his work. Everything had gone exactly how he'd planned. The only thing that had surprised him was the reaction of their school's newest detective.

He'd expected a scowl or a complaint or maybe even confusion. He hadn't expected Shinichi to laugh. Granted, he looked more like the sound had been surprised out of him than anything else, but it was still a laugh.

Interesting.

The rest of the day passed relatively normally—relatively because there was only so normal class could be when everyone had to work around their newly fruit-ified desks and accessories. Most of the students ended up placing textbooks underneath their notebooks to compensate for the unevenness of the fruits. Then there was the crowd of students from other classes who showed up every break to get a look at the new décor. Shinichi even spotted several people taking pictures. The whole affair made it feel as though their class had been turned into a tourist attraction for the day.

Kaito was rather proud of how much attention his latest prank was getting. Out of the corner of his eye though, he couldn't help but notice that Kudo flinched every time a camera flash went off. Strange. He would have thought a detective as well known as the Heisei Holmes would be well used to having his picture taken even if he hadn't been in the papers for a while. Judging from the frown on Aoko's face, she had noticed too.

She abandoned her latest attempt to decapitate him by mop to approach the detective's desk. "Kudo-kun?"

The boy looked up from the book he'd spent their whole lunch break reading. "Nakamori-san. Was there something you needed?"

"Would you like to get ice cream with us after school?" the girl asked with an encouraging smile that made Shinichi think of someone talking to a shy child she thought might turn and run if startled. "We could show you some of the better places to eat and stuff while we're at it."

"Yeah," Kaito agreed enthusiastically, popping up beside Aoko in a shower of sparks. "You left so fast yesterday, we never got the chance to show you any of the really cool stuff!"

"I don't…" Shinichi began then stopped. He did actually have time. The last time he'd done that whole 'just hanging out with friends' thing was while he'd still been Conan and being towed around by the Shounan Tantei. Truth be told, he kind of missed those afternoon outings he'd once thought boring. Back in his old life—the one he'd had before being shrunk—he'd mostly kept to himself, having been too preoccupied with his mystery obsession to care about playing with other kids his age. But if his second childhood had taught him anything, it was that you should value the time you had with people because you never knew when it was going to end.

He didn't know these people very well yet, but he was here to start over. And, well…he didn't really want to be alone. It was a wistful little hope he tried not to think about, but it was there all the same. He might not know very much about making friends (the few real friends he had had mostly barged into his life of their own accord and, if asked, he really couldn't answer how or why they'd ended up hanging around), but he did know that shying away from invitations like these weren't the way to go about it.

Biting back his reflexive urge to refuse, he agreed, hoping he didn't sound as nervous as he felt.

X

"The ice cream parlor we're going to is always coming up with new flavors," Kaito was saying as he led the group through the streets of Ekoda. "They've also started doing sorbets, though personally I think their ice creams are better."

"I rather liked the tropical sorbet they had a few weeks ago," Aoko replied. "But it's definitely true that the variety of flavors they have for ice cream is amazing."

"They also offer a decent selection of coffees and teas," Hakuba added.

"They even let you make floats with them," the inspector's daughter agreed. "Of course, they also have the usual soda-based floats. In fact, I think they have a promotion for those right now. It's too bad Keiko couldn't come with us. She loves them."

Shinichi was just beginning to settle into the swing of the conversation when they were interrupted by a scream. He almost groaned. So much for a normal afternoon.

His feet were running before his mind had actually registered the sound. They carried him into the park past neatly kept lawns and trees. It didn't take long to locate the gathering of shocked civilians. They were murmuring amongst themselves as they stared at something in the bushes behind a series of benches. Shinichi wove his way through them until he too could see the body lying mostly concealed beneath said bushes. A baseball sat near one limp hand. A few steps from it, a little boy sat frozen with eyes wide as dinner plates. It seemed he had been searching for his ball when he'd stumbled over the body. A woman who was probably the boy's mother had just hurried to his side and was pulling him into a protective embrace.

"Call the police," Shinichi instructed the horrified spectators at large before crouching to examine the victim.

It was a teenage girl around his own age. In fact, she was wearing the Ekoda High girl's uniform. His stomach twisted unpleasantly. While all murder was despicable, it always seemed just that touch more grating when the victims were so young.

"I knew her," Hakuba murmured as he joined Shinichi. "I believe she was on the Ekoda High swim team."

"Do you know what kind of person she was?"

"I only met her a few times, so I can't say for sure. My impression was that she was rather shy."

As the two detectives talked, Aoko stood awkwardly some meters away. She didn't want to look at the body, but she couldn't seem to drag her eyes away from it for long. Her gaze just kept sliding back to the unmoving figure there under the bushes. She too had seen the girl before, though she didn't know her personally. Being a policeman's daughter, she heard about these kinds of things probably more often than the average teenager, but this was still the closest she had ever been to a corpse. Hearing about these things was nothing at all like seeing them for real—it was so much worse when it was real.

And to think that the person lying there was someone she had seen at school not so long ago… Someone she would now never see again, just like that…

She shook her head hard. A hand landed on her shoulder and she looked up to see Kaito watching her with concern.

"Are you all right?"

She let out a short laugh that was anything but amused. "No, of course not. What do you think?"

"I guess that was a stupid question. Here." Taking her arm, he guided her towards the benches opposite. She dropped onto the weathered, wooden seat, hand going automatically to twist in her uniform's skirt.

"Do you want something to drink?"

She shook her head quickly. "No. I don't think I could swallow anything right now."

Kaito nodded and sat down beside her, his gaze going back to the two detectives at their work. Part of him wanted to go over there and find out what the hell had happened, but he stayed put. Aoko didn't look so good, and he didn't want to leave her alone. Besides, he was sure he'd hear about it later whether he wanted to or not (in his experience, detectives didn't seem to know how to keep their mouths shut even when it meant giving the villains they were dealing with the perfect chance to off them).

The police arrived not long after and the area around the body was roped off. Some of the officers began to photograph the scene while others set about taking statements. Spotting Shinichi, Megure-keibu made a beeline for him.

"So what've you got for us, Kudo-kun?" he asked without preamble.

Shinichi greeted the inspector with a slightly strained smile before launching into a description of what he and Hakuba had pieced together.

Megure-keibu and many of the men from his department who remembered Shinichi or who had interacted with him as himself on the rare occasions he allowed his name to crop up in cases while he'd still been Conan still saw him as something of a savior with all their answers (kind of creepy, but it tended to make things go faster), but to the rest of the police he'd become the once-famous high school detective who'd just up and disappeared for two years. To them his credibility was questionable at best. Having to prove himself to them was a tiresome task that he really wished he didn't have to deal with right now. He had too many other things on his mind.

Fortunately, the inspector seemed to have sensed some of this, and so he took it upon himself to speak to Shinichi personally whenever he could. It was a simple gesture that Shinichi appreciated—probably a great deal more than the inspector would ever know.

By the time the proceedings were over, it was far too late to go anywhere anymore. It was a subdued group of teens that left the park. Shinichi bid the others farewell and turned his steps homeward. He barely heard their replies, mind still circling around the case.

It was strange. They could tell that the girl had died some time the previous evening. They could also tell that her body had been lying in the park all night. What they couldn't figure out was how she'd died. There were no visible wounds and none of the signs of poison that either he or Hakuba had been able to check. They had to wait on the autopsy for further details, but it was still strange. Neither had the scene indicated that she'd been in any pain. It was like the girl had simply fallen asleep and never woken up. If it wasn't for the location, her death could easily have been written off as a freak accident.

Well, the location and the marks. There had been strange marks on the backs of her wrists and on her forehead under her bangs. They had looked strangely like brands, and they were the only signs that anything unusual had been done to the girl. However, out of place as they were, they couldn't have been the cause of her death.

Letting his breath out in a sigh, he pushed the questions to the back of his mind. The next move belonged to the police. They needed to contact the victim's family and research her acquaintances. Megure had promised to keep him informed of any new discoveries. For now, he still had school work to worry about.

X

"What happened?"

Freezing in the doorway with his shoes half off, Shinichi looked up to see a familiar, blond girl standing before him with her arms folded. She was glaring at him with piercing blue eyes that always seemed to see right through him.

"Ha—Haibara," he stammered, trying not to squirm. After all, he hadn't done anything wrong.

"I distinctly remember telling you yesterday after your relapse that you needed to rest today. It's almost midnight. Where have you been?"

"I—I was at the park," he scrambled to explain as the intensity of the little girl's glare increased. She had been intimidating enough when she'd been taller than him. Yet despite the fact that he was now quite a bit taller than her, she still managed to make him feel tiny—like a bug under a microscope. An extremely nervous bug who knew it wasn't going to be able to get away. "There was a murder. It was a student from the high school…" He trailed off, wilting slightly. "I'm sorry I lost track of time."

Ai stared at him for several moments longer before relenting and turning away. "Put your stuff away and come to the kitchen. The professor and I brought dinner. You will eat it before you go to bed." Her tone brooked no argument.

The problem was that he still had homework. He supposed he could wait until she'd left.

"I don't care if you have homework."

He blinked then stared at the girl's back. "You—how did you—"

She turned briefly to grace him with one of her droll looks. "It's you." With that, she disappeared into the kitchen.

He let out a breath he hadn't realized he'd been holding and finished removing his shoes. In the distance, he could hear the hum of the microwave going to work. A small, tired smile made its way onto his face. He really did appreciate that she was trying to look out for him. The rest of him though wished she wouldn't worry about him so much. He didn't want to be a burden to anyone.

X

Miyano Shiho, now known to most of the world as Haibara Ai, had stopped believing a long time ago that her life could ever be peaceful. First her parents, then her sister—murdered. For the longest time she'd been sure she would follow them soon. Every new day was an unexpected gift. At the same time, it was another day of anxious fear. She had gotten good at pushing it down into the depths of her mind, but no matter how well it was hidden she'd always known it was still there.

When she had met Kudo Shinichi, things had changed. Not quickly—far from it—but slowly, bit by excruciatingly tiny bit, she had begun to think that maybe there was going to be a future after all. Their little successes had given her hope, and his determination had kindled her own.

She had found a home at Professor Agasa's and made friends. Even overshadowed by her fears, it had been a new beginning. It was the second chance she'd never allowed herself to wish for.

And here they were now. Their war was over, and as far as she was concerned things had turned out better than anyone had had any reason to expect.

The professor and Shinichi… They weren't just her allies anymore—or even her friends. They were her family. They had been there for her throughout her ordeal, and they had done everything they could to help her even when they didn't have to.

There would never be words enough to express her gratitude towards them. What she could do, however, was watch out for them the way they had done for her. After all, wasn't that what you did for people you cared about?

The problem was that she didn't know what she could do to fix this. It wasn't as easy as making sure the professor got enough exercise and ate healthily.

Peering through the crack of the door into Shinichi's bedroom, she studied the still form under the covers, analyzing the breathing patterns until she was absolutely sure he was asleep and not faking it so that she would leave. That was the problem with him. Shinichi didn't seem to understand that there was a time when even the most capable of people needed to call it quits and rest. When he'd still been Conan, he hadn't had a choice in the matter. But now that the waiting game was over and he had his old body and mobility back, he seemed to have decided he needed to make up for lost time by doing everything at once. At the same time, she couldn't help but notice the way he sometimes paused in the middle of whatever he was doing to stare off into space, looking lost.

Perhaps it was the sudden disappearance of a longstanding goal. Not just because they had taken down the organization, but because he had finally realized that the life he'd thought he would be going back to had drifted beyond his reach the day he'd first been poisoned. Unlike her, he didn't see the way things had changed as an opportunity.

He was like a runner in a race. He'd been sprinting full tilt towards the finish line. Only suddenly he couldn't see the line anymore. But, instead of stopping to see where it had gone, he only ran faster in the hopes that it would show itself again. It was only natural that his confusion grew as it continued to elude him long after the track had vanished. He hadn't realized that the race was over and it was time to take a breather.

Shutting the door as quietly as she could, she sighed and shook her head. "What am I going to do with you?"

TBC


A.N: And that's chapter two! I also recently put up the full-sized version of the cover pic for Outlaw Hearts on Deviant Art. The link is on my profile, and I decided to actually put the mini in as the fic cover. Anyhow, see you in two weeks! ^_^