Back in the fandom ~~~ I have started rewriting in pursuit of victory. Maybe by next year I'll be able to post them confidently and completely, ahahaha I'm sorry y'all. Don't worry. It is NOT abandoned. I am working on it.
See the end for notes explaining some of this stuff.
"This is it. The final problem—our final problem." The words slip out. He doesn't mean to, he really doesn't. He promised himself he wouldn't talk to him. Wouldn't confront this animal.
"Yes." His grin still sends shivers down his spine, even through the glass, even behind the thick barrier that separates them, keeping the man from strangling him with his bare hands, even though they are encased in metal cuffs. His silver hair matches his slippery grin. "Yes, I suppose it is, Meitantei."
He sees Gin every day in the two weeks before he is due in court. He doesn't have an appetite afterwards. In truth, he hasn't had an appetite since he woke up in a cell with Gin and Vodka as his only companions. But it's enough to make him vomit whatever he has consumed in the past twenty-four hours onto his uniform each time the dead eyes connect with his.
"I'm surprised you're still standing," Ai observes, a hint of pity and something like remorse in her eyes.
"I'm surprised you're still small," he returns, a mischievous glint in his. He doesn't earn a twitch of the corner of her lips. He doesn't think he's earned any lately, not since he came back to them from them, like she collapsed in front of Agasa's gate two years ago. Except he fell as an eighteen-year-old, bleeding and broken. She was only broken, not bleeding. Not really.
"You know I would never do that, unless I want to end up like you," she says. Almost, he thinks. He almost succeeded.
Sighing, she opens her mouth, but he cuts her off. "You don't have to say it."
"Thank you, Kudo-kun." She seems to stand up straighter, without fear, without that ever tingling notion in the back of her (their) minds back when he was still Conan, the paranoia that they were always around the corner, waiting to pounce. She looks refreshed, like someone has lifted a burden off her back and set her free. He's proud—she looks as brave as her sister; she is as brave as her. "Thank you. And for what it's worth, I'm sorry."
He laughs as he sees Akemi die, whispering the same sentiment. "For what?"
He doesn't know which statement he is referring to: the gratitude or the apology.
"What do you think will happen, Meitantei? Life without parole or lethal injection?" Still, after all these years, he taunts him condescendingly. Even after he has shown Gin who is more powerful, even after he won this chess game and triumphed, he still manages to evoke that chilling sensation down his spine, the sense that he is being scrutinized and targeted with every move he makes.
"Lethal injection, if we're lucky." The retort comes easily, but the bitterness in his voice is not lost in the garbled translation of the freezing, ebony phone.
The responding laugh makes his heart jump into his throat and the back of his neck to break into a cold sweat. He heard that laugh each time he lost consciousness and each time he regained it. "My, my, aren't we optimistic?"
"Shinichi," she begins, hesitating. "Shinichi, who were you talking to?"
"What do you mean?" he asks, confused. The trust that once existed between them is gone, burned into dust and ashes. And yet, she still wants to come visit him before the trial; and yet, she still speaks to him with caution and care.
He doesn't deserve her. Not after—after everything.
"I heard...They tell me you talk, sometimes. There's no one—"
"They're lying," he says quickly, and winces at the irony. He blinks, and the mask comes back up. "I wasn't talking to anyone."
She nods, suspicious, suspecting, but yielding. Her eyes hold more sorrow than his body feels and aches; he can tell how much she longs to go back in time, to stop him that night at Tropical Land, to tell him not to leave. He feels the same in his every bone and vein and artery. "How have you been?"
Somehow, just for her, he musters enough strength to plaster one of his old cocky smirks. "Well, the food is disgusting."
The problem—this, this is the final problem. Everything that's happened, everything he's done, every Holmes book he's read, every reputation he's built for himself: it all leads to this.
Somehow, in between the cattle prod and the waterboarding and the shocks and the bullets and the drugs and the hallucinations and shrinking and growing over and over again, he died. Somehow, he lost himself, that rational bird that sang and seduced him after every murderer and thief and liar because now, now…
He doesn't know—he's lost track of who talks, now. In the cell, there are only two people: Gin and himself.
"You'll die. You'll die right in that chair. Just as you did to me."
Laughter interrupts the silence surrounding him. "Aren't I already dead?"
"You—You're out of your goddamn mind. You… You've finally, finally, lost it."
"What was it for?"
"Kudo, please. Why?"
"Kudo, goddamn it, why did you do it?"
"What would you have done? Tell me, Hattori—what should I have done?"
"... I would have thought of her."
"No. No, you wouldn't. I'm telling you the truth—you listen to me, Heiji, look at me. It's not worth it. Not anymore. It's not worth—losing—everything."
It's Gin. He's standing over him—incoherently, he realizes his wrists are strapped down and his mouth is open. There's a sharp pain in his side and in his throat, and he has the delayed observation that he has been screaming.
Gin holds a needle, pressing the plunger until there's a squirt of liquid out of the edge to indicate there are no more air bubbles. He isn't looking to kill him, of course, Shinichi's known this since the beginning of his time in his hands. He's here to make him suffer, to teach him that whatever happens, Gin will always win.
He pretends to ignore the whimper that escapes his throat as Gin releases the toxin into his bloodstream.
He's always been Gin's little lab rat, from the very beginning. Why should it stop at the end of it all?
He meets with Eri every other day, the days when Ran isn't there. It's clockwork: he is brought to a colder, vaster room, walking through an empty metal hallway. He sits down in one metal chair facing a one-way mirror (obvious, considering he's been in this facility multiple times to observe the criminals he himself have put away; obviously, he never thought he would be in this very same room); five excruciating minutes later, Eri walks in, her glasses professionally masking the concern in her eyes.
Stupid, he thinks. It's beyond hope now.
"Kudo-kun," she greets, tilting her head to regard him unflinchingly. Ran's fearlessness came from somewhere.
"Are you willing to cooperate with me today? You still have a chance to avoid the death penalty."
His mouth twitches. Why would I want to do that?
Hattori had sounded desperate, like he was the one who lost all sense of hope.
He has no right to be angry at him, not after all he's done to get him out of there. But in the end, he forged his own way out, didn't he?
And look where that's gotten him. Because now, now—he is a murderer, a liar.
He remembers every detail of the day he—
He remembers. He'll never forget Gin. How can he?
Gin's eyes connects with his and after all this time, Shinichi still shivers at the sight of them. In the cell, and in the consultation room with Eri, and whenever anybody visits him, he still hears him below the murmur of everything else. The sound of his grinding teeth as the pain wracks throughout his body, dissolving into shuddering, broken laughs, until he chokes on poisonous foam, drowning out his madness.
Shinichi can barely stand over him. When the job is done, he lets go, falling, with clipped wings that would never compare to a certain Angel. Something Vermouth would say. Has probably said, once she'd heard, he imagines.
Hattori finds him on the floor, eyes staring at nothing. He tells him later he gave him a heart attack, but the ache inside him hollows deeper when Hattori calls out to him, voice cracking.
He kneels in front of him, rolling him over and checking his pulse. He wants to say something as Hattori's hand shakes against his jugular and as moments later, he hears a relieved sigh. He doesn't have any words left. He assumes Hattori will hate him soon enough.
Hattori's eyes travel up and down, cataloging every bruise, injection site, and half-healed, half-infected bullet wound he has. He thinks he hears the distant mumble of assurances, but he can't be too sure. He's too focused on Hattori's hands on his shoulders, gentle but firm. It's the first touch he's had in—he can't say—that does not bruise.
After that, Hattori sees. The empty needle by his hand, the labeled vials, the unseeing look on his face as his eyes settle on his yet again, this time with recognition, surprise, and horror.
APTX4869 comes in many shapes and sizes, including a liquid form. It is only appropriate that Gin would end the same way he ended Shinichi.
It's a blur to the hospital, and there, as well, except for the look in Heiji's face as he held him in his arms.
"A detective who corners someone with logic, but lets them commit suicide is no different from a murderer," he once said, though it's strange to think Gin is saying it to him, now. "What does this make you, Meitantei?"
"Something worse," he whispers. Something like you, he doesn't say.
Heiji is the first to visit him in the hospital. When he tells him Anokata named the facility Reichenbach, he laughs in his face, ribs aching, and falls even deeper into the waterfall.
The trial is tomorrow.
It is December.
How fitting, he thinks.
It took him two months to fall. Two months, and he falls the same day he could have risen again.
Gin unstraps him from the table. His wrists are chafed red. They must have struggled against the harsh fabric, but he doesn't remember. Pain creates another world.
"That's it for today," Gin sneers, as if the hours and hours are not enough to quench his desire to make Shinichi scream. "You'll be moved back to your home."
The cell, he means. The cell where Shinichi can do nothing but lay on cool grey stone and relish the emptiness of the concrete walls. The lights overhead are constantly dimming and brightening.
At first, there is nothing but his heavy breaths in the room as Gin puts away his toys. Then, Shinichi sees it: the vial of APTX4869, modified based on the experiments on his body, so he's been told; Gin's long fingers roughly snapping his gloves off; the needle on the table beside his chair.
He can't—he can't spend one more day here. He's been waiting and waiting for a rescue to come, but even with the information he's gathered, there's no guarantee. Gin has been tightly sealed about any situation outside of his cell and this room. He doesn't know whether the organization is on its knees and holding out until the last facility is raided because there is no honor in surrender or if Anokata himself has turned himself over at the cost of all his employees. His money is on the former; he would dread the latter because it means justice would not be served. Anokata is no rat. But he is not loyal to his subordinates. The spider would rather destroy the web he has made than risk his own life.
Shinichi's hand shakes as it closes around the needle. He is no match for Gin, not hand-to-hand. But if it's when he least expects it, maybe he can get close enough to end either of their lives.
He reaches over with his other hand and grabs the vial, almost slipping from the blood on his fingers. He pulls the plunger slowly, watching as it fills with poison. His arms feel empty, on air, and when his bare feet touch the ground, he walks on clouds.
Gin's eyes widen as he spins, arm raised in defense, catching his arm in mid-air. He's too weak, he knows, but he pushes his arm further, further, further—the tip of the needle is so close and he wants to feel the satisfaction of pushing a toxin into this man's bloodstream as he has done to him over and over again—
Somehow it reaches the back of his neck in what takes years (two years, two years of living in a six-year-old's body, two years of hiding and suffering through elementary school again, two years) but what must only be seconds. Gin is far too capable of murdering him with his bare hands; it must have been quick that he couldn't defend himself against a boy he has been torturing for months.
Gin's scream as he presses the plunger gives him a moment of satisfaction, of power, of greed. He thinks that maybe he understands why Gin had relished in his own pain.
A moment later, he is too disgusted with himself to even think of such a thing.
When Gin stumbles from the drug already taking effect, he catches him and pushes him onto the chair. The momentum makes him fall on the man, but he jerks backward out of his reach. Gin's hands are struggling now, smoke rising from his body as his fingers claw at the armrests.
He doesn't register what he's doing as he pulls back the straps and fastens them on the murderer's wrists.
Gin doesn't fight back. He's too much in pain to do so. He thinks about how much that should bother him. And yet it doesn't at all.
He watches and listens and then sees nothing and falls. Gin is dead. "I win" are his last words to his favorite experiment. The Silver Bullet has killed him, along with his organization, along with Anokata. Hattori finds him with only this in his mind: it's over.
So is Shinichi.
"I assume you'll be joining me very soon. I'll make my place comfortable for you. There is so much to discuss. I wasn't finished with you just yet."
Funny, how he did it to escape him, but only ensured they would meet again.
"Tomorrow is the trial, Kudo-kun." Eri's glasses glint in the luminescent lights overhead. These don't flicker, as the ones in his cell had. It seems as the days come closer to the trial, he remembers everything more clearly. "I will make a case for self-defense, bringing up yours and Hattori-kun's reports on what happened on the day of the raid."
"Thank you, Eri-san," he says politely, but there is no sincerity to it. There is only emptiness. If Hattori was here, he wouldn't be surprised if he came up to him and slapped some sense into him. He's not sure if it would work.
"I'm defending you whether you agree or not," she says sharply this time, tone as hard as stone. "This is not for you, Kudo-kun, let me be clear."
He looks up. She has never been anything but professional and clear since she came the first day, but now, she has a hint of deep sorrow in her eyes, a hint of desperation and frustration. A thousand words move between them: this is for your parents, Hattori-kun, Haibara. My daughter. Especially my daughter.
One blink and she returns to her objectivity. "The defense will comprise of evidence against the organization, the operative known as 'Gin', and the leader referred to as 'Anokata'; it will also include evidence of your capture, the treatment you were given, and the resulting injuries and psychological trauma. Since you are well-loved by the members of the jury, this should be enough to sway them to our side."
"Which is?" he mutters.
She cocks her head. Her hands clench tighter around the papers in front of her. "That you deserve to live your life, Shinichi."
His throat tightens, and he swallows the lump down. Closes his eyes. And doesn't say anything for the rest of the day.
The trial comes. Eri pleads not guilty for him. She does not take no for an answer.
She asks him questions. He answers truthfully, as detailed as she wants and as the judge allows. It's too show how graphic his two months were to the jury. She is confident it works. So, unfortunately, is he.
It ends sooner than he expects. The organization's lawyers have no defense against the mountains of evidence he has gathered against them. The jury knows they are corrupt, and the media exposes every last operative Anokata has ever employed and every last politician Anokata has ever pocketed.
He goes free. He walks, not guilty, as the jury says. As Eri says. As the judge says.
He's spent the week with minimal interaction inside the prison they put him in to protect him from the inmates he's put away. So it's not surprising when he successfully ignores all members of the media who come at him when he and Eri step outside the courthouse and drive away.
He doesn't know to where. He didn't plan that far ahead. He didn't plan on any of this.
"You think this is solved? Our final problem? What ten or so people decide in the court of law pretending to play God solves it?"
"Of course not," he answers, lip quivering. "Did you think the final problem even has a solution?"
"How did the great Sherlock Holmes solve it? You know how this ends. How it all ends."
"The Reichenbach Fall. The end of it all."
"You finally understand, Meitantei. What you've been setting yourself up to do all these years. Was it worth it?"
Holmes had fallen to protect Watson, his wife, Ms. Hudson, Mycroft, and everyone he knew. He had fallen to protect the world from the malicious intents of Moriarty's web.
Shinichi fell at the behest of Moran, a tool at Moriarty's hand but a powerful one nonetheless. And yet, Eri has given him a net at the bottom of Reichenbach.
He still feels as if he is drowning.
They go to his childhood home, and his parents are waiting for him. Ran isn't. Neither is Hattori.
The latter, he expected not to come; the former, he wanted not to come.
His heart breaks further at the broken look in both their faces. His mother, as always, is vocal and expressive, crying and taking his face in her hands and tucking his head into her neck. His father looms behind her. He would have thought, of all people, he would be the most disappointed. His father has always led by example, his strong moral compass and superior detective skills inspiring his son to take after him. Instead, his eyes splinter like glass as tears spill from his eyes.
"I'm sorry," he says clearly. It only makes his mother cry louder, the sound reverberating in his chest.
"You have nothing to be sorry about," says his father, and he imagines protesting like a teenager as he is supposed to do but refrains to spare his mother.
There is a buzz from the intercom. He stays in bed, knowing his parents will answer it, as they scared away all the press yesterday.
About ten minutes later, there is a knock on his door. "Come in," he mutters, readying himself for a conversation with a weeping parent or another trying to hide their grief. He doesn't blame them. They did lose a son.
The door swings open, revealing dark skin and a baseball cap. His heart sinks and he loses all the battle armor he's put on. He looks away from him. "Hey, Kudo."
The friendly tone, weary but hopeful, gives him pause. The last time he and Hattori spoke, he couldn't answer him, too ashamed at his anger and disappointment. "Hey," he says softly, because he knows Hattori deserves better. His voice is hoarse and rough, and he realizes he hasn't said a word to anyone since he came home and apologized to his parents.
"So," he starts, settling down next to him on the bed without permission. He's always both admired and been irritated at this particular trait of Hattori's: impulsive, rash, and brave all at once. "I'm sorry."
This startles him. "For what?"
Hattori's eyes settle on his, and they are gripping, hard, and serious. "For yelling at you. For putting all that on you when you've been hating yourself from the moment I finally found you." He shrugs, and the next part throws him back into the room with a needle rolling at his fingertips and Hattori's cracking voice calling his name. "For not finding you sooner."
He shakes his head. "It's not your fault, you know that."
"It's not yours, either."
He laughs so harshly, so abruptly in the quiet setting of his bedroom, that it frightens both of them. He hears the broken laughter erupt into foaming chokes. "How?"
"You spent two months there. I saw every part of the facility, read every medical chart and police report. I would have broken in a week."
"You don't know that."
Hattori sighs. "No, but I do know this: it would have driven any man insane, and you're still here."
His hands grip his shoulders again. "It's time to forgive yourself. It's time to solve the final problem—"
Shinichi flinches. Maybe he's been talking to Gin too much, out loud, everywhere; maybe he's been letting him follow him around too often, a reminder of his hunt and his victory over him. A reminder that Gin won, that even though he triumphed over him and sent every last bit of the organization to maximum security prisons all over the world, Gin still managed to defeat Shinichi in a different way.
"His power over you, your guilt, should not rule your life. Let us help you," Hattori finishes.
Shinichi breathes for what it feels like the first time in three months. Everyone who he's saved—everyone who remains by his side, no matter what he has done to them and what he has done to push them away—they were here and he had never noticed their presence. He never wanted to.
Hattori looks wise and old, older than eighteen and older than most. His chin is held high as he waits for his response.
"I thought you hated me," he chokes out. "I hate myself."
"How could I ever hate my best friend?" Hattori asks, and stays as the dam breaks open and Shinichi sobs against his shoulder.
"Our final problem. Did you solve it?"
A scoff. "I thought I told you how this ends, the only way it ends."
"I found another way out."
"I stop listening to you. I stop hearing you. I stop responding to you. It's simple."
A chilling laugh. Someday, it will stop terrifying him to his core. "Logical, isn't it, Meitantei?"
"Yes. It is."
Cherry blossoms fall from the sky. Ran smiles as he interlaces his fingers into hers, and Hattori smacks the back of his head when he stares too long at her with admiration, his own hand held loosely in Kazuha's.
It is spring.
How fitting, he thinks, and walks with his friends into dusk.
Thank you to my beta, Halg. Three AM writing does not go well sometimes.
"The Final Problem" is the short story by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in which Sherlock Holmes dies by falling off the Reichenbach Fall with Moriarty; it was published in December 1893. This is why I made many, many references to Holmes lore and why I wrote that line - "It is December. How fitting, he thinks."
Anyway, thanks for reading. Wanted some Shinichi angst. I always do.