DISCLAIMER: The entire Detective Conan series belongs to Gosho Aoyama. This is a non-profit fanwork.
The first few times were the worst. It was only through repetition that he got used to it, that it became familiar and unalarming.
But the first time – the firs time, he could've had a heart attack. He could never forget the loud shriek piercing the night and violently waking him up. He might have let out a gasp, too.
He had expected to see firearms, enemies (drug dealers, police, whatever), blood. What he did see, when he turned on the light, was a shaking teenager covering his mouth with one hand. The light caught the boy's attention and he turned. Vodka could see he was crying.
'What is it?' Vodka asked, dashing out of his own bed and towards Gin's. The boy sat up and gestured with his free hand. By the motion of his jaw, Vodka guessed he was trying to speak. It seemed as if he couldn't get the air up his (only nearly adult) throat. 'Are you hurt?'
Gin managed to shake his head. He stared at the bedsheets.
'And you scream out like that in the middle of the night? No, it's not.'
'It was… a nightmare,' Gin stuttered, still holding one hand before his face. 'Go back to sleep, Vodka.'
Vodka did not move.
'Go sleep,' Gin insisted, glancing at him. 'Please. You need it.'
Half-heartedly, the man obeyed.
The next few times followed the same pattern. Only the setting changed – now a motel room, now the black Porsche, now an empty building – wherever they chose to try get some of their much-needed rest when in missions too long (or inconvenient in their hourly arrangement) for them to go home. Not even after learning of Gin's background did Vodka put two and two together.
So he insisted.
'It's not "nothing,"' he argued angrily in one occasion. 'It happens constantly. And you'd better not be doing it on purpose!'
'I am not! I wish I could make it stop!' Pain twisted Gin's young face. 'I wish I could…'
'But what is it? Nightmares alone? At seventeen? Really?'
'You have no idea what it's like!' The rain knocked on the windowsill, as if asking to join their conversation. It would go on for a few more hours and stop just before dawn, exactly as the weather forecast had predicted. 'Especially on days like this, when I can't take my medic…!'
Gin stopped short.
Vodka looked him in the eye.
'You take medication?' Gin nodded. 'I never saw you.'
'I made an effort you wouldn't.'
'Why couldn't you take it today?'
'Because I left it at home. I didn't think the mission would stretch on this much.'
'Is it for your nightmares?'
'Why do you take medication?'
Gin took a moment and a deep breath.
'Official name's PTSD.'
The first time Vodka asked him about the content of the nightmares, over two years later, it was at midday. They had just had a quick lunch.
'Some are memories,' Gin answered while cleaning the corners of his mouth with a paper tissue, his eyes fixed on the building before them. Surveillance did not bring down his mood as easily as most people's. 'Some are "original works," so as to say. Some are a mix.'
A while later, while following their target, he had confessed out of the blue, 'Sometimes I dream of Sherry instead of her. That's a special kind of bad.'
By that time, Vodka had already learnt of Gin's history with insomnia, especially in relation to the nightmares. After the worst ones, he could go on for days before he managed to sleep all night long again.
'Why don't you take those more often?' Vodka asked one night as he watched Gin open a flask of sleeping pills, his pulse still shaking heavily. He had refused Vodka's help.
'They're a hell of a double-edged sword, these things. I could end up addicted. Or dead. And don't get me started on side effects.' He gulped down a pill with a sip of water from the bottle he kept. 'By the way, don't you ever let me take any alcohol before or after one of these. Promise me.'
Gin nodded in acknowledgment of his response. He glanced up, then back down – hesitation glistened in his green eyes, like the thought that balanced on the tip of Vodka's tongue.
The younger man did not reply.
'Will you promise me something as well?'
'Those pills… If you ever…'
'I can't promise I wouldn't.'
Vodka remained silent.
'They'd be painless and effective,' Gin argued, his eyes still avoiding Vodka's. 'The real question is – are they what I deserve?'
'Gin, don't you say those…'
'I don't want to talk about this.'
Gin leaned back on the wall behind him and pulled the matte, insufficient blanket over his torso. Vodka pushed his own blanket to one side and sat up in the dim light. He'd crawl towards him if necessary.
'Gin, I'm serious.'
'I am too. And the pill will kick in soon enough, so let's call it a day.'
Gin buried his face into the blanket.
Vodka blinked in shock.
'Would you make that promise, if you were me?'
Vodka could not answer.
There were no nightmares that night, at least that Vodka noticed. In fact, it took him a worryingly long while to wake him up when the sun rose. The next day they simply carried on with their mission. The subject sat heavy in the air during the barely tense silences between the two men.
Vodka's curiosity had been spurred. He looked up the topic, struggled to decipher the alien technical terms, reread the same passages multiple times to try to get something out of them other than a headache – but he did not ask Gin. He did not dare to. From the glimpse he'd had, he had realized how much pain the issue caused him. The nightmares were the tip of an iceberg rooted in his insides.
Life went on. For a while, his colleague seemed to be doing better. Every now and then, Gin himself would bring things up. 'My father smoked that one,' he pointed out once while shopping for cigarettes, and fixed his eyes on the pack but bought his usual brand. He would occasionally curse in Dutch and joke that he had to learn the swear words on his own because his mother never taught him. The nightmares became somewhat rarer, from what Vodka witnessed and from what he was told and could infer.
But then Sherry left.
I know it's been quite a while since I last uploaded anything. So here comes the explanation, for anyone who is curious.
In June I graduated from my Bachelor's degree. The previous months, of course, along with June itself, were extremely busy, academically. In the summer, I took on a job while also getting paperwork done to apply for a Master's degree. The paperwork was a chaos and a nightmare. I managed to get into the Master's and will be starting soon (although I'm not done with paperwork yet!).
But, most importantly, I decided to step away from fanfiction because it was the healthiest choice at the time. Due to a number of reasons, my relationship to fanfiction was not as healthy as it used to. For one thing, I did not want to force my writing. I had come to a point of creative exhaustion and could have only kept writing by forcing myself to do so, not out of true inspiration and desire, so I decided to go on with my life and wait for the muses to come back to me instead of chasing them myself.
And the muses finally came back.
I don't know how frequently I'll write or publish. But I know my relationship to fanfiction is now healthy again.
Thanks to everyone who's been reading my fics, liking them and reviewing them during my absence. And thanks to everyone reading this. You people are one of the things I love about fanfiction.
Lots of love and see you in the next one.