Author: Jordanna Morgan
Archive Rights: Please request the author's consent.
Characters: Rachel, Conan, and Richard.
Summary: Rachel ponders the mystery that is Conan.
Disclaimer: "Detective Conan/Case Closed" belongs to Gosho Aoyama.
Notes: Based on the prompt word gnossienne, in the 23 Emotions prompt meme on AO3.
The made-for-TV movie cut to a noisy commercial. Rachel Moore quickly muted the sound, and in the semi-darkness of a living room lit only by the glowing television screen, she turned her head to look at the small figure who was slumped against her left side—fast asleep.
She was forced to stifle a giggle at the sight. Conan had certainly not meant to fall asleep on her; he just gradually sagged over into her space after he dozed off. The way his face pressed to her shoulder was pushing his glasses slightly askew, and the book he'd somehow been reading in the dim light—because the romance movies she enjoyed were never to his taste—had fallen halfway off his lap. The little boy was adorable when he slept.
Perhaps because that was almost the only time his young face looked so open and free of care.
With a sudden twinge of thoughtfulness, Rachel picked up the book and set it aside. Then, even more slowly and gingerly, she slipped her arm behind Conan and wrapped it around his shoulders. Without waking, he sighed and shifted with her movement, until his cheek rested on her collarbone.
She smiled at him, taking an irrational enjoyment in the light, warm weight of him against her. It was rare that she got to be this close to the boy. Unlike other, more clingy children she had seen, Conan had a tendency to avoid much physical contact. He maintained a very marked bubble of personal space with everyone. Sometimes it was fun to watch him blush and squirm if she invaded that space, hugging him or ruffling his hair… but beneath the cute appearance of awkward shyness, Rachel couldn't help feeling she sensed something deeper.
That physical distance went along with the rest of his nature, after all. Conan kept himself so emotionally isolated as well. Quite often, he was almost eerily quiet and intent; and when he wasn't, it somehow felt like he was trying too hard not to be. He smiled readily enough—a beautiful little smile—but only in response to other people. Left to his own thoughts, he always looked so serious.
He also didn't play with toys like other kids. Rachel had once remarked about that to her father—who, after considering it himself for a moment, replied with satisfaction that it was a good thing the little brat didn't expect them to shell out any more money for his amusements. In disgust at Richard's attitude, Rachel later bought a few age-appropriate toys for Conan herself. Rather than be excited, he seemed incredibly embarrassed when she gave them to him, and the few times he played with them felt like a deliberate and somewhat uncomfortable show of appreciation. These days they merely sat in a corner of his room, gathering dust.
What Conan did like was books, but he couldn't even be typical in that regard. He shunned the manga and storybooks beloved by his friends, and instead devoured almost any nonfiction he could get his hands on—including the newspaper, which Rachel had seen him delve into with particular focus after Richard finished with it at breakfast. With his voracious appetite for real-world information, it was no wonder the child was so unsettlingly smart.
Even when he did read fictional literature, his preference was for mysteries far above his grade level. When Rachel perused his book choices, and found herself discreetly hiding away those that contained too-graphic descriptions of murders, she worried that living with a detective and being frequently exposed to crime scenes was warping his young sense of what was normal.
But then, she knew very well that he never had been normal to start with, from the first day he appeared in her life. Whatever made him such an odd, extraordinary child, it predated his living with the Moores… and after all this time, it was still a complete mystery to her.
Conan never—truly never—spoke voluntarily of his past or his parents. It was almost as if he hadn't existed at all before the night Rachel met him at Jimmy's house. If she gently tried to question him about his earlier life, he would stammer and give vague answers, and quickly make an obvious effort to change the subject. Clearly, he didn't want to talk about it… and that troubled Rachel more than anything else.
She couldn't help thinking about his possible reasons for burying his past.
Conan's father never showed himself at all, and Rachel had only briefly met his mother twice. The woman gave her a strange, uneasy feeling—and when she came for her son, his reaction was far from the happy surprise the Moores expected. He even pretended not to recognize her at first. She brought him back the very next day, and while his behavior with her was amicable enough then, it was still suspicious that he would so eagerly prefer what was, in effect, an adoptive family rather than his own flesh and blood.
Going away with his mother had so clearly not meant going home to him… but returning to the care of the Moores did. Ever since then, Rachel could only wonder why. Conan's reticence about his family meant she would get no direct answers from him, and she didn't want to upset him by pressing the issue. Not when she couldn't know just what sort of fragile ground she was treading on with his past.
"Hey, Rachel, your weepy movie's back on."
Startled from her thoughts, Rachel looked up at her father, who was currently sprawled in his armchair with a beer. She quickly raised a finger to her lips and hissed, "Shh. Don't wake Conan."
At her side, the boy remained bonelessly limp and relaxed. Good.
"Eh?" Richard lowered his voice to a half-whisper, in deference to his daughter's wishes. "The rugrat's out cold, huh?"
"Yeah." Very gently, Rachel passed her right hand over Conan's hair. "You know… I wonder about him, Dad. About what he's been through in his short life."
"How do you mean?"
"I don't really know. It's just, the way he's such a serious little kid. He never talks about anything from before he came to live with us… and he wanted so badly to stay here, instead of going back to his parents." Rachel took a deep breath, and it trembled very slightly. "Dad, you don't think… he might have been abused in the past?"
At that suggestion, Richard's head tilted. Even in the mostly-dark room, Rachel could see a shadow pass through his eyes.
Of course, Richard himself was not the most gentle or affectionate person in Conan's current life. He often griped about looking after "the little freeloader", and the boy's too-curious penchant for poking around crime scenes had earned him many unpleasant encounters with Richard's knuckles—which, honestly, may have been for his own good, as well as the integrity of important evidence. But even so, Richard was a father. Having only raised a daughter, Rachel suspected the man didn't quite know how to cope with a boy instead… but when it really came down to it, that didn't mean he failed to care.
"…Nah, I wouldn't worry about that, honey. He's just a little freak who thinks spending all his time watching a famous detective at work is more exciting than life at his own home."
From the tone of Richard's voice, and the expression on his face, Rachel knew he was saying that to ease her mind. She knew her words had made him start to think—and she was glad for that. If he really thought there was anything to be looked into, she could trust him to do it, even if he was embarrassed to let her know.
With a rueful smile, she gazed down at Conan, nestled peacefully in the crook of her arm.
It ached that so much of his past and personality were sealed behind those firmly closed doors. Even though he had chosen her company over his own parents, he still wouldn't let her know him the way she would have wished. Whatever the reason, he was brilliant, and brave, and not at all an ordinary child; but he was self-conscious of that fact, always trying to be what was expected instead of what he was. Rachel wondered what he was so afraid of letting her see.
Now that he was finally in a place where he was loved, was he scared of what she would think if she knew his secrets?
Of course, she herself may have given him a reason not to be quite himself around her. She could imagine that she might really have frightened him, in those early days when Jimmy's absence was still a painfully new hole in her life, and she had overreacted to the way Conan's cleverness reminded her so much of him. Maybe Conan was deliberately trying not to arouse any more of those crazy ideas in her mind.
In the end, all she knew was that her guesses meant nothing. The important thing was the life Conan had now. No matter what had shaped him, or why he guarded his past so closely, she could do her best to make sure he was safe and happy in the present. Maybe that was enough for him to build his future on.
And maybe someday, he would feel ready to trust her with the things he kept locked in his heart.
Impulsively Rachel leaned over, and pressed a light kiss to Conan's forehead. The sleepy little imp did not awaken, but snuggled up to her side, his small fingers tangling in her shirt as he unconsciously pulled closer.
She considered carrying him to bed, but decided against it. Just this once, while she had the rare chance, she was content to hold him until he woke up.
After all, the shy little boy's reaction was sure to be priceless.
© 2015 Jordanna Morgan