Oops. I did it again.

I wrote another drabble instead of working on in pursuit of victory. Sorry. Might have to put it on hiatus because writer's block and school is coming for me.

This has nothing to do with in pursuit of victory. I don't think so. Same themes, kind of?

Well. Anyway. Enjoy this post-BO takedown angsty/romance fic. It'll be a two-parter, I think.


"Hi."

"Hi," Kudo Shinichi smiles. She notices the smile doesn't reach his eyes-in fact, nothing does, these days. His eyes have never been the same since...everything.

"You look...nice," he manages to stutter out, and she blushes red, because, damn it,he still manages to do that to her. She can't help but stare at his lips: full, red, and inviting. She's sure she's turned a shade redder. He clears his throat. "Ready?"

She's wearing a blue dress, light and free (the way his eyes used to be), and it feels soft but whispers betrayal to what she really wants to wear-anger, sadness, confusion.

He's wearing a suit, perfectly and utterly black, and a black tie, and she winces at how he'd been able to put that on, or who helped him straighten his tie, considering the still healing bullet hole in his side and the three broken ribs he'd collected.

"Of course," she fakes a smile, much like his-except he is much better at faking than she is. (She notes a hint of bitterness in her thoughts.)

He nods awkwardly, seeming to think of something and hesitate, then holds his arm out to her. (Maybe he's nervous about her father, but she knows the famous "sleeping detective" is already waiting in the car outside, and she knows that he of all people noticed; so she can't help but notice the tremor in his fingers as they lace their forearms and walk down the steps of the detective agency-together.) In close proximity, her nose catches a whiff of him. He smells like apples.

The car ride to the church is silent, with her father grumbling to them to get in after a hard glare at Shinichi. He sits on the right side of the car, in the back, staring out the window, cheek against the palm of his hand, elbow on the windowsill. His back is ramrod straight, as if he's acting like a military man. Usually, he would slouch. Shinichi would be blabbering on about Holmes and slouching, throwing an arrogant smile in her way every five minutes. But he doesn't. She wonders whether or not he even can slouch-Professor Agasa told her that in the two weeks he returned home from the hospital, he ripped his stitches twice from attempting to exercise. (Or maybe that's what he told the Professor: he was probably running down the street to another corpse.) She sneaks a glance from the left side, but she can't see his eyes from there, so she turns away and looks out the window to the blur of sakura trees and people.

At the service, Sato-san looks stunning in her white dress, laced and dollied up to perfection. Takagi-keiji is a lucky man, and it's clear he is excited to kiss his bride and go off to his honeymoon (with half of the police department glaring daggers at him-with the exception of his best man, Chiba-san, of course). Ran grins happily, clapping for the happy couple. When she chances a glance to him, catching the smell of apples again, the grin fails, and she plasters a fake one in its place. It's his eyes, again-his smile is genuine (she can tell, the way his eyes crinkle, and the way the edges of his mouth turn up like the collars of a coat), but his eyes never smile with them.

She tries not to think of it at the reception afterwards, politely sitting at a table-with him across from her. (The seating is spectacular: one small, rectangular table, reserved for Kudo Shinichi and Mouri Ran. She supposes she has Sonoko to blame-she probably convinced Sato-san to do this.)

When they sit, she senses they're both confused. Should they sit in silence, letting the awkwardness simmer; or should they make even more awkward small talk? She squirms uncomfortably in his stare-she can feel him observing her, answering all the questions he has about her day.

Well? Say something, Ran!

She opens her mouth to say anything-awkward small talk, it is-but the waiter, a man with a thick mustache and a jacket-less tuxedo, is quicker.

"Hello, welcome to Central Kyoto's Sightseeing Tower. Could I interest you in some alcohols? We have the finest collection of wines and cocktails in Tokyo."

Shinichi breathes in so sharply she feels her own ribs ache at the movement. It's as if they've inhaled the entire atmosphere of the wedding, and the earth has stopped spinning.

"No."

Shinichi licks his lips, moves his bangs out of the way, before finishing, "No, thank you."

The waiter nods, waiting. Shinichi blinks for a second, and she decides to swoop in, and they awkwardly start the same phrase: "I'll have…"

They fall into a silence as they flick their eyes to each other. Shinichi clears his throat, the waiter obviously uncomfortable.

"Sorry," Shinichi says quickly. "Ran, you can order first."

"Oh, um, yes, right. I'll just have water, please." She is not blushing with embarrassment now.

"I'll have water, as well," he says, politely thanking the waiter as he bows and moves on to the next table.

The silence is pregnant with tension: Ran wants to touch and pet and comfort the elephant in the room. But the last time she tried to do so, his tone was so bitter, it almost broke her.

It's already broken him.

The elephant: the fact that Kudo Shinichi and Edogawa Conan were-are the same person.

The other, smaller elephants: he lied to her-not only lied; he deceived her with magic trick after magic trick. He convinced her she was being insane, that she had harassed a first grader because she thought he was her childhood friend. He ridiculed her; all this time, all the tears and the anger and the worry, he was right there under her nose.

Ran shakes the thoughts out of her head. He's been over it before-just once, three weeks ago. (Then she ran away from him, from the hospital room, from the anger and the shame and his guilt and their pain.) He had no choice. He had no choice. You have to forgive him.

(She doesn't miss the pain flash through his eyes as she cried and yelled and seethed, boiled with anger; she doesn't miss the hopelessness shaping from his mouth in an almost-sob before composing himself, devoid of emotion.)

That idiot. If only he walked with her, if only she ran with him, if only he didn't leave her that day at Tropical Land, if only she never asked him to take her there in exchange for what he did to her cell phone at the aquarium, if only, if only, if only. She must be steaming with anger and regret, because Shinichi's eyes turn from curious to concerned. "Ran? Are you okay?"

Without thinking, she scoffs. "Oh, I'm just fine." (We are at a wedding reception, Ran! Now is not the time to be doing this!)

Her heart breaks, because she's broken the almost peaceful, yet awkward atmosphere of the reception. Because she sees his eyes break and empty out, again, into the stranger that sits before her: Edogawa Conan? Or Kudo Shinichi?

He licks his lips before replying, cutting off her chance to say, "Sorry, that was extremely bitter and I don't hate you, but I kind of do right now, and I know it's been three weeks since...everything, but I just want you back because you don't know who you are, and I really, really, don't know what to say now that we're sitting together and there's no avoiding talking about it, since that's why I've been avoiding you for three weeks now."

"I am sorry," he whispers, clearing his throat. In a stronger tone, he continues. "If you want me to go to another table-"

He winces, and quickly remedies, "No-you want me to leave, so I will go to another table."

Half of her yells, "Fine! Let him leave."

Maybe it's her brain talking. But her heart, which was always stronger than her brain, screams and shakes and grabs at her to grab his hand. He's already getting out of his chair, hand on the table as he slowly lifts up, so he doesn't break his stitches (the way she broke his heart). He's halfway out when her hand (What are you doing, Ran? she asks herself) reaches out and stops him.

"Shinichi…" She tries to reach him before he goes off into the abyss of his eyes. He blinks, and stares at her, curious and expectant. For a second, she thinks he's back. Kudo Shinichi-the arrogant detective who was just a boy who loved Sherlock Holmes and soccer. Not whoever came back to her, broken and scarred and lying.

On the cool cloth, she can feel his hand beneath hers, shaking with effort. Or maybe with remorse. Or maybe it's a memory of them. And as much as she wants to hate him, to hate his lies, to hate every move, every decision he's made (with her father as a mere pawn in his chess game against his Moriarty, as Shinichi would say), Ran also wants to fix him, to love him, to make him alright. Because she knows this Shinichi is haunted beyond imagination by an organization that simply fed him a pill and threw him into the deepest pits of hell. She sees it in his eyes. He crawled out, of course. But some scars will never heal or fade in time.

"You don't have to leave...it's...I don't...We should talk. After. Everything."

Silence follows her crude sentence. She doesn't dare look into his eyes. She stares at his hand, a slight tremor in his fingers. It tenses suddenly, and he sits down gently, pushing his chair back into position.

"Alright."

"Okay."

She breathes, deeply, readying herself for battle.

The dishes come to them, the waiter once again bowing politely, introducing a side dish of takoyaki and two bowls of ramen. The bowls are hot, smoke refreshing the air with the smell of pork and octopus. Despite the conversation, Ran's stomach growls as she licks her lips. Mm.

She lifts her eyes to see Shinichi smirking. "Unless you plan on holding me and your appetite hostage for this conversation, we should eat and talk at the same time. Just like old times, right?"

For a moment, he was back-but after the last suggestion, something shifts in his eyes, and Ran can see Shinichi bite his cheek. "Sorry, I know...it's not…"

"The same," Ran finishes, wincing as well. She shakes her head: they are at a wedding reception, and they should...reconcile. Or at least try to. They've both been through enough.

Ever so gently, she jerks her knee into his, making him jump with surprise, his mouth (red, red lips) gaping. "Itadakimasu, Shinichi."

A look of utter shock flashes through his expression before he calms it into a neutral expression. Shinichi blinks and Ran's heart warms (her chest explodes with relief, and it's as if she can feel again and she can smell apples and sakura blossoms tingling throughout the restaurant) as her best friend smiles with relief, his eyes showing some emotion not solely filled with emptiness or pain: hope.

"Itadakimasu, Ran."

Warmth flows through Ran from the ramen (and from giddiness). Maybe, just maybe, today will be corpse-free. And maybe, today, healing will begin.

"I think you should start from the beginning again, now that I've...absorbed the information," she begins, and she sees his face still dangerously.

The last time she made this request, it ended badly-a blur of words and hatred and promises; ripped hearts and anger in her veins. I hate you. How could you?

You betrayed me. You lied to me.

I trusted you.

And that was the problem, wasn't it? How could she have been so blind, so stupid?

Ran stills, clutching the chopsticks as she slurps more noodles down her throat, waiting for an answer as she keeps her eyes fixed on him.

He has a faraway look into his eyes. He hasn't touched his drink, or the food. Instead, his left hand trembles on the table, his right hand rubbing the back of his neck.

"Okay," he says, and takes a deep breath. "Okay." Running his hands through his hair, forehead lined with nervous sweat, Shinichi begins.

"It was Gin." Ran doesn't miss the shiver that goes through him, sending chills down her spine. She doesn't miss the bitter tone he has, or the vacant look in his eyes as he begins. He needs this, she realizes: he needs to let this out, or the ghosts, the demons in his mind will drive him insane. "That day, at Tropical Land, they were there on the ride. The gymnast-she was the murderer, but not the only one there. I saw his eyes; they were cold, black...icy. I saw them again that night.

"I saw Vodka complete the transaction: some kind of blackmailing scheme with a CEO of a major company-I didn't get a good look, but I'm sure the camera did. Which they most likely took, burned."

A bitter chuckle, a trembling hand raised to the back of his neck again. "And that's when it happened. Gin, smashing my head with a lead pipe. Calling me Meitantei. His nickname for me. It stuck. Vodka would have shot me, clean in the head, but Gin wanted me to be his guinea pig. It was supposed to be an untraceable poison, masking the murder into a heart attack. No evidence. No case. Can you imagine? Twenty years from now, a cold case: murder of high school detective, cause of death: heart attack."

His hand instinctively travels to his chest. His left hand is shaking now, and she reaches over, ramen long abandoned, and clenches it. Her eyes, holding back tears, are clear: Go on. It's alright, Shinichi. Go on.

Out of his mouth escapes a half-laugh, half-sob. God, he's so broken. He's so broken; what did they do to him?, she thinks.

"Edogawa Conan. It's amazing no one realized it sooner. You cornered me, and it was the first two words I saw. But they did realize. They found out. And then, all those gadgets Agasa-hakase made for me, everything I did to catch them, all of it worked. Somewhat.

"Everything I did, everything that happened…" He trails off, locking eyes with Ran. She hitches a breath. "I'm sorry. I did it; I won't try to explain my excuse because it's useless, now. It happened. I can't go back, and I certainly can't take everything I've said and done back. So I'm sorry." His voice cracks at the end, and it breaks her, breaks the dam that holds her tears back.

She's crying now, silently, squeezing his hand reassuringly. "It's okay. I forgive you."

For the first time in her life, Ran sees something, something she never wants to see again: Shinichi's eyes well up, and his eyes are so full of pain, anguish; he turns away, blinks the tears, the weakness away.

The happy couple is dancing now, Takagi-san dipping his wife in the spotlight. The others are either eating or chattering away with each other, as well. Ran knows they were involved somehow in the takedown, as well, but she knows none of the details.

She also knows that there was a time when both Edogawa Conan and Kudo Shinichi was missing before it, before the police were involved and before the news reporters spilled the news that the reason behind Kudo Shinichi's disappearance was a large organization, and that he had been working to bring them down. They had also said that he had been found in the organization's headquarters, and that he was in critical condition at Beika Central Hospital. She knows what the haunted, tired look behind his smile is. She knows what the empty stare means. She knows, and she longs to fix him, to love him, to heal him.

"Shinichi...what happened? How did you get them?" She's also nervous, and oh-so-scared of his answer; because he scratches his head again, uncomfortable, terrified of telling her. But he needs this, she knows. He needs to let it go, let it out. She wants to shoulder his demons with him, to show him he cannot handle this alone, no matter what he's been through; that she is happy to do so, and it won't be a burden.

He gulps his pride down, and she can see that he knows what she is trying to do. With another reassuring squeeze of his hands, he starts: from the moment he told the Professor, to meeting Heiji, to seeing them everywhere-the paranoia-and to meeting Haibara Ai; no, Shiho Miyano. He tells her about Chris Vineyard and Pisco and Tequila. He tells her about Chianti and Korn and Kir and Rye and double agents. And then…

"The finale. The takedown. We knew there was no other way-this battle; the war that had been fought for decades, now: we knew it wouldn't end cleanly, without bloodshed. The agents...all of them, all those alcoholic codenames-just pawns, just pieces of the game. Vodka, a knight; Gin, a bishop; Vermouth, a queen; Rum, a king; and Anokata-he called himself my Moriarty, you know? Controlling all the pieces of the game, controlling me…"

Shinichi breathes in, breathes out. Ran does the same. She takes his hand, lifts his shaking palm, pressing it to her cheek. "I am here for you. I will always be here for you, Shinichi."

She loves him so much. Damn it, she loves him, so, so much. She already forgave him a long time ago, she knows. But she knew the hurt, the pain wouldn't go away in a second. She knows this pain, all his scars and demons, will never go away.

"The plan was working perfectly. Just like the time with Vermouth-but...Haibara, that self sacrificing, hating martyr

"It was supposed to be me. It should have been, but she-she didn't want to entertain the possibility of more blood on her hands. A reasonable reaction. We were more alike than I ever saw. She always saw it, I'm sure, but I...I was too arrogant, too self-righteous of a prick to understand that I would have done the same things she did."

He tries to hold a smile with her (but his eyes are red, red, red, and it looks like he's bleeding tears in the light of the restaurant). "Sorry. I should tell you this in a way that makes more sense."

Ran nods at him firmly, encouraging him to go on.

Shinichi breathes in, breathes out. Ran does the same.

"Four weeks ago, I identified the top members of the organization: Vermouth, we already knew; but Rum was a different issue. After we discovered Rum, who was watching me closely, I connected the dots to things Haibara told me, the drug, and New York, and identified the top of the organization. Anokata.

"I was excited. Truly. Nervous, yes, but I just wanted to get the antidote, bring the whole organization down, and go home. To you. For you."

Ran feels heat rising, and she's sure by the way his eyes flit away from her that both their faces are as red as the lighting.

"So we made a plan-I made a plan. This was personal. Gin and Rum were both suspicious of me at the time. Rum had deduced my identity because he was researching the victims of APTX-4869; he had moved in within a block of my old home. We knew Gin was involved because, in turn, Akai-Okiya Subaru, as you knew him-was watching Rum's movements closely, as well.

"I…" He sighs, bites his cheek in hesitation. "I was angry. I wanted revenge for what Gin did. He and I...we both made it personal. I was one of his only victims who survived-perhaps the only one that got away from him alive. And I...I don't think I've ever hated a man so much.

"Until I met Anokata. My plan-it involved...me, in the lion's den. I knew they wanted information. I knew they thought Akai-san was dead, and that I was another threat on their list. Like Vermouth, Rum was the only other person who thought I would be their...as they called it, Silver Bullet. The person who could take the organization down.

"The thing about bullets is that you can only use it once. You shoot the gun, you've done the damage, but you've also crushed the bullet."

Shinichi's Adam's apple bobs up and down, and Ran waits for him. She always does,
willingly. She always will.

"Rum lured me into a trap: he watched me in action, took live videos that connected him to Gin, Vodka, and Kir. He offered to drive me home to the detective agency-I accepted. I had everything in place: all the data inside my head I had put inside a flash drive that the FBI would find, knowing I was abducted. I didn't want Hattori involved, but, of course, he caught on, and he worked with the FBI to find it and unlock it with people only I trusted. I didn't know this at the time. I knew they were working at full speed, and that I only needed to hold on; I already asked them, since the battle was heating up, to keep an eye on you and to place a full detail in Poirot's 24/7, and they listened. I needed to trust them to keep you safe, so I did.

"They had me for a week, in their headquarters. I served two purposes: to distract them, to make them think they were one step ahead; and to make them have less security at their labs so the police could storm them easily. I just needed to keep them from knowing our plan and act helpless.

"It worked for the long run. But not without sacrifice. Gin had his fun with me first: he wanted to know how much I knew, how much I told other people since they knew I worked with the FBI. Mostly, he wanted to know where Sherry-Haibara was. He taunted me, always calling me Meitantei. He…"

He pauses, steadying his breath and his gaze, letting it settle on her. "I'm not sure if you want to hear about this."

"Yes, of course I want to, idiot."

"Okay," he laughs breathlessly. Success, Ran thinks. He's letting all of it go, today. He needs it. But her success is short-lived: he's nervous, scratching the back of his head, readjusting his chair. His frown is obvious, and so are his eyes. Always, his eyes: emptying out before her again and again and again.

"He tortured me. It was...I was scared. Truly. I don't think I've ever been more scared than ever before-He…

"Sorry. This is hard." He clears his throat, but she's always there, clenching his hand reassuringly, her eyes pleading with him to go on. She can do this. She feels her own throat clench and her eyes on the verge of welling up; but if he can do this, certainly she can for him.

"There were a lot of things he used...He did anything to make me talk. It was a nightmare. All that kept me going was...if they still have use for me, they wouldn't go after you, or Hattori, or Kazuha, or my parents. I gave them false information every once in a while to keep them busy. It worked to keep them off the real trail-to keep everyone involved safe. When they found out I'd lied, they were even angrier. Turns out they had a lot more painful, hallucinative drugs than just the one that shrunk me.

"I met him, during that time. The boss. He came in-didn't want to get his hands dirty, just wanted to see me. The Silver Bullet. He knew all along: he was just playing with me, like a cat with a mouse that's already dead. He just wanted to see if I could find him or not. As if this was a game. He wanted to play with me, play with my mind."

His voice is bitter beyond compare, angry and fuming. "My Moriarty.

"Then the day came. I didn't understand what was happening, I was out of it. And...Haibara. No. Shiho was the distraction. She had made a temporary antidote, and she offered herself up to Gin. He was about to execute me. He had his gun in my face, he was angry and done with me-then the door opened. Vodka and Rum dragged her in, and she smiled at me. Gin….took one look, and grinned. He took his time killing her. I don't think she was dead until the fifth bullet."

His voice cracks and he's not there anymore, fading away before her; and Ran understands he's going back in time, that he's seeing things that he's seen before, losing himself in his demons. His eyes yell self-hatred, punishing himself for things he could not have done.

Ran holds his hand throughout it all, squeezing it though it tremors in her grasp.

They broke him. They broke him into so many pieces, and now they're right in front of her, not Edogawa Conan, not Kudo Shinichi; no, now she's the detective, she has to solve this jigsaw puzzle and put him back together. He won't be the same. Of course not. But she'll fix him into the person he'll become. She will be there through everything.

Ran lets go and stands up, walking over to him. He stares into the bowl of ramen. When she puts her hand on his shoulder, he flinches ever so slightly before facing her. "Sorry, I...I'm okay, I'll just-"

"No, it's okay," she whispers, pressing her hand on his hot cheek. "Shinichi, please. Listen to me. It's not your fault. There's nothing you could have done."

Shinichi starts to shake his head, but she doesn't let him.

It's difficult to stay angry at Kudo Shinichi. Especially when he's her best friend, lover, and a broken, scarred man.

It isn't easy to love him, with his arrogance, stubbornness, and attractiveness to death. But he has always, always been there for Ran: whether growing up with her, or stuck in a child's body; whether through a payphone or a cell phone or wearing a knight's mask at a school play.

For Ran, there was only ever one choice, no matter how long he'd make her wait. She loves him, so, so much, and she will never let him go again.

She presses her lips to his. Tears travel down their necks, into each other's mouths as they slip in and out of the kiss, his hand caressing her cheek gently.

When she pulls away, she recognizes him. Kudo Shinichi: broken, scarred; but healing. And she will always help with that. "I love you. I will fix you, Shinichi. I love you."

And with his own voice, the voice she has always longed for, and the eyes that are curious, pained, but hopeful, eyes that are his, he whispers it back.


Happy ending. Ish.

Review?