posting this late on ffn for ShinRan Week 2023, Day 5 - Secret & Trust. highly recommend moving to ao3, I think I'll be updating late on ffn a lot...
It's the smell. Her eyes water.
"Ran-chan?" Sonoko adds more meat to her bowl of rice. Slightly charred, greasy, dotted with spice. The black lines of the yakiniku grill imprinted on the side. "Ran-chan, are you okay?"
She takes one bite, eyes shut. Teeth tear up the flesh in seconds. She fights the sensations that drown out the restaurant's clamor, like bees buzzing in her ear, ants crawling over her skin in a slow death march.
"I'm fine," Ran says. She wants to call Shinichi, crawl into his arms, and listen to his heartbeat.
She can do that now. He's back, and she can do that.
After lunch, Ran takes the long way home. It's a winding route that includes a pit stop at the Kudo mansion. Shinichi doesn't wait for her to ring the bell. She can see him peek out his window, habitually cautious from darker times, and he opens the gate without delay.
His hand closes on her arm, a tight grip that floods her with reassurance. He drags her into him, and she folds around the embrace. He smells like ancient second-hand books and store-bought candles. It washes away the rest, cleanses the griminess of her calloused hands and the sweat sticking to her neck. The yakiniku was unbearably hot, and the smoke rising from blackened grills created a sickening humidity.
The library is freezing. She crawls onto the rug-covered armchair and disappears into herself until he returns.
"It was the smell." Shinichi sets down two glasses of cold water on his father's desk. It's winter. It's what she needs. "Maybe you should avoid barbeque for a while."
"How'd you figure that one out?"
"You raided Okaa-san's candle drawer. It's not a hard jump."
"My coat smells like it." The water goes down her throat like alcohol. She throws her head back with a shot of it. "I thought, did we burn everything?"
"We did," he says.
"And then I thought, what a terrible thing to worry about. Our own implications."
"Instead of the man himself." Shinichi downs the cold water until the ice clinks back to the bottom. He reaches over and grips her hand with sloppy wet fingers that scramble when she slaps his hand away. She lets him try again, and it's messy. He barely holds onto a few digits, like a baby trying to understand, to know.
"What have I done?"
"What you needed to do."
"How can you say that?"
His attention shifts from tangled hands to the wild curls in her hair. His eyes sweep the tears in her eyes, the teeth poking out to chew her bottom lip, the permanent frown. She is a crime scene of brooding worry and guilt, bound together by the yellow tape he's drawn around her. Yellow tape fences in the blood on her clothes, the bent angle of the man's neck, and the taunting note that baited her from the detective agency to the docks—all transformed to ash with a bruised, broken body.
But burnt, rotting flesh follows her like a wisp of cologne that lingers long after a man leaves a room. The snap caused by her roundhouse kick jolts her awake in the morning.
Shinichi gazes up with reverence, tempered with agony that shakes a hoarse voice. "How could I not?"
But he means, he thinks about it, too. The rage in her eyes, the glazed half-dead look in Shinichi's, the unstoppable force of that man hell-bent on killing both of them.
"His name was Gin," said Shinichi. The horizon peaked over the sea, and the floodlights chased away darkness. The sound of sirens drowned by waves lapping against gangways.
Unstoppable force, meet Mouri Ran.
"It needed to be done," she says now. Ran takes her hand back and finishes ice-cold water. It's a relief.
"No one will ever know." His voice is low, and if it were anyone else, she would think it was dangerous. "You'll be safe."
The skylight casts shadows on his features, the rigid clench of his jaw inviting. She cups it with a cold hand, the difference in warmth jarring, and brings his mouth to hers. The kiss is rough, teeth and broken lips knocking together. His hands are frigid when they find her nape and her waist. They are warm moments later. It's what she needs.
Shinichi pulls away. "Do you believe me? You'll be safe."
"Yes." Of course, she does. "It's just—to think, of all people, you allowed me to commit murder."
"I allow it," he says, his eyes dark, "because of all people, we know how to commit the perfect crime."
It's as fine as any other declaration of love.