i.

For those first few weeks after he returned Shinichi physically could not take his eyes off Ran.

…well, okay, not physically, and there'd been half a stuttered explanation somewhere around the sixth time she'd caught him at it, that he'd almost forgotten how (beautiful, breathtaking, kickass) she looked from here, and–

Ran had waved off the rest of it, and told him (blushingly, honestly, …mostly blushingly) that she didn't mind as long as he didn't mind Sonoko teasing him mercilessly like she had the entire new Fusae collection on the line.

Shinichi had spluttered.

Sonoko merely grinned even wider, though at least she hadn't cackled.

Anyway.

It wasn't like Ran had much place to say anything, since she hadn't been much better herself. Still isn't, really – sometimes she finds herself staring even now, the dizzying relief of finding that seat taken instead of vacant not entirely faded.

Perhaps oddly enough it was often here that she'd felt his absence most keenly; here in their classroom, instead of home at the agency or in the town or even among the towering library of the Kudo mansion. (The one place where the glasses brat hadn't been constantly tripping over her feet, as Sonoko would probably put it, and she'd be right.)

ii.

At any rate all this is the main reason why she notices his slip, at the first crime scene they stumble upon after those same few weeks' worth of reprieve.

(Ran hadn't been sure until that point whether there'd simply not been any cases or Division One had just decided not to call Shinichi in – although judging from the enthusiastic greeting Megure-keibu gives them it seems like the former? Probably.

Well, the takedown of an entire underground criminal organisation would put a damper on even the most murderous of intents, she supposes.)

Fortunately it's not a (literal) bloody murder or anything. Their main task here seems to be for Shinichi to figure out if the deceased's heart attack had been as innocuous as it seemed, since she'd been the sole owner of a historical artefact collection valuable enough to warrant the suspicion of foul play – Ran had told Shinichi as much, along with what other bits and pieces she remembered from seeing the collection at a museum downtown, but mostly she's content to watch him work.

(She hadn't realised that she'd missed this, that this was something she could even have missed, but she supposes that being a detective is as much a part of Shinichi as the rest of him so it only makes sense.)

That's when she catches it: a slight tensing of his shoulders, visible even with his back half-turned towards her, and yet more obvious given how (assured? unworried, relaxed even) he'd been ever since they arrived.

His gaze flits to her for a long second – then the moment passes, and he turns away to wave Megure-keibu over.

Ran closes the short distance between them and slips her hand into his. "You alright?" she whispers softly.

Shinichi's gaze is a little abstracted as he tracks the inspector's progress over, but at least he doesn't pretend not to know what she's asking. "Yeah, just – later?"

Ran gives his hand a light squeeze, then steps aside to give him room for his deductions. "Of course."

iii.

"You're going to say that I'm being – I dunno, paranoid or something," Shinichi says afterwards, his gaze sheepish. "Or just plain dumb."

(His hand had found its way back into hers at some point. Ran definitely does not mind.)

"Not unless you're really being ridiculous," she answers decisively. "What's that thing that Ai-chan said? It's not paranoia if–"

"–there's statistically significant evidence?" Shinichi finishes with a snort, and shakes his head. "Yeah, not quite at that level yet, my thoughts just got away from me. I mean, I was just thinking about how much easier it is now, not needing to hide behind anyone else to solve a case anymore, and then the next thing I knew I couldn't think of anything but the last time we were really at a case together, just the two of us, before–"

Ran doesn't say anything, just tangles their fingers together and holds on tight.

"I don't think I could bear it, if anything like that ever happened again," he finishes quietly.

They'd slowed to a stop at the pedestrian crossing. Ran turns to look at him, hesitant in the filter of a red light.

"This isn't the first case you've solved as yourself since then, though," she says slowly. Even now the echo of Tropical Land is enough to cool any blush that would've usually risen to her face at the memory of Kyoto.

"It's not, yeah. I guess–" he adds, pauses, "–I didn't really have the time to think about anything but the cases? Among… well, other things."

Ran knows he mostly means like not letting you find out the truth by that, but what flashes through her mind instead is how terrible he'd looked during most of those cases, pale and pallid and pained, and now it's she who can't help the convulsive clench of her hand, because he's not the only one who wouldn't be able to bear it all over again.

"Ow," he complains half-heartedly, but even when she loosens her grip with an apology he doesn't let go either.

(The traffic light must've turned green at some point, Ran thinks, because it's red again now but they're the only two people left standing on this side, holding hands and watching and waiting.)

"That just means I'll have to make extra sure that I don't let go," she tells him. "No matter what!"

Ran doesn't know what kind of reaction she'll get to that but she doesn't expect Shinichi's bubbling laugh.

"What?" she huffs.

Shinichi shakes his head with another chuckle, and pulls them both across the intersection, reflected green dancing in his eyes as he looks back at her. "Just – ask Haibara sometime what she had to do, the last time you said something like that. If Occhan doesn't have an aneurysm at us first, that is."


do i think a lot about the highway post-shiragami case? the answer is yes