A/N: …Don't ask… I have no idea where it came from. Just as a note: this story is intentionally fast-paced. I realize I could expand on it, but frankly just don't want to. The idea is up for grabs to anyone who wants it…
Disclaimer: If only, if only the woodpecker sighs…
Note: I'm pretty sketchy with honorifics. I used them very lightly and only between Ran and Conan. My apologies if this bothers you.
The phone call came suddenly and unexpectedly. For a while it remained a mystery to Ran, though she was the one to first answer it.
"This is Edogawa Mamoru," a vaguely familiar voice on the other line told her, "May I speak to Conan?"
She was surprised to say the least. Conan's parents had never really bothered to contact their son before, which was pretty odd now that she thought about it. She'd never even met the boy's father, and had never inquired about him or the rest of his family. The man on the phone sounded amiable, yet oddly strained. She quickly murmured her assent and called for Conan.
The boy's eyes widened as soon as the receiver was against his ear. Ran headed toward her room so as not to intrude. Whatever the man was calling for it was no doubt important.
Over the next few days, Conan was almost silent. He would come home from school and sit for hours beside the phone, staring off into space. He refused any invitation to go off and play with the Detective Boys and rarely even smiled. Ran knew something was wrong, and was smart enough to realize that it was something his father had told him. However, the child hadn't come to her with his troubles, and since it really wasn't any of her business she had no right to question him about it.
After three days had passed she re-thought her tactics, mostly because her father had gotten a brand new case and Conan hadn't even lifted his head when the detective left excitedly.
She stared at the door with a small frown upon her face; after all, her father had exhibited clearly that this new case would bring in a lot of money and that he did not at all care that a woman's niece had been kidnapped. When she turned at last her frown deepened, for Conan was still sitting stoically by phone. His face was unchanging and unreadable.
"Conan-kun?" she addressed him carefully as she knelt beside him. His attention snapped back to reality and he looked at her as if surprised she was there.
"Yes, Ran?" he replied, adding "neechan" almost half a second later.
"I just want you to know that if something's bothering you, you can always tal—" The phone rang. Conan leapt nearly a foot in the air and stared at it like a cornered animal. Ran sighed and answered it.
"Conan?" The same voice as before, this time sounding hoarse. Ran felt her throat grow dry as she wordlessly handed over the receiver. Although his face appeared calm, the small hands that now gripped the phone were white and shaking. He listened wordlessly for a while before saying goodbye and hanging up. He immediately reverted to staring off into space.
"Conan-kun? Was that your father?" Ran prompted.
He blinked. "What? Oh… yes. Listen, I've got to go to Dr. Agasa's for a while…" He stood up and headed towards the door, fumbled with his sneakers, and eventually made his way out. Ran stared at the closed door for a long time. Something was very very wrong…
When three hours had passed and neither Conan nor her father had returned, Ran decided to head to Dr. Agasa's herself and see what was going on. It was better than sitting idly and worrying.
She grew frantic when she discovered that he wasn't there.
"Calm down, calm down," Dr. Agasa soothed her. "Conan's fine. I'll explain everything." He sighed and looked at her anxious face with sympathy. "You see, for a long time now Conan's mother has been sick… with cancer, actually." Ran gasped. "Neither of his parents wanted to tell Conan: they didn't want to frighten him. But lately it's been getting worse and worse and frankly… she doesn't have much time left. I've driven Conan to the airport; he's gone off to be with her."
Ran breathed harshly, tears pricking her eyes. "Please say it isn't true, Dr. Agasa."
He shook his head sadly. "I'm sorry."
The walk home was long and lonely. A small ache had formed in Ran's heart and tears flowed down her cheeks freely. It just wasn't fair. Sure, Conan's parents weren't ever around. Sure, they had dumped their child with a less-than-adequate guardian. It made the love between family members no less strong. In Conan's young life he had already seen so much death; he was rarely, if ever, affected by it. But this was different. His own mother. He was too young to have to face that.
A short wail burst from her lips, and she swore to herself that as soon as Conan returned, if he ever did, she would take the best care of him that she could.
The article in the newspaper a week later was a nasty shock.
'Kudou Yukiko, 44, who has been residing in the United States for the past three years, died two days ago from cancer…'
Right there in black in white was the obituary of her oldest friend's mother. She hadn't seen the woman in a long time, but the news of her death left her feeling shocked and empty. The article went on to give some information about her life, her marriage to the author Kudou Yusaku, and the not-so recent disappearance of her son Kudou Shinichi.
The phone rang, startling her. She picked it up almost dreading what she would hear.
"Hi, is Conan there?" She was somewhat surprised to recognize the voice as belonging to Hattori Heiji. She told him no, he wasn't.
"I read -that is- I heard what happened," the Osakan detective said, "and I wanted to… tell him… I don't know, just tell him to call me if he needs anything. Or wants to talk… or something."
Her throat constricted and she knew she would begin to cry if she said much more.
"Yes, I will. Thank you, Heiji."
She hung up and had taken two steps from the phone when it hit her.
It was pouring rain the night Conan returned to the Mouri residence, not long after that. He opened the door and bent over to take off his sopping shoes before standing still uncertainly. His small frame was shivering slightly and dripping from head to toe.
Ran stood up from her seat on the couch and took a few steps toward him. At last she dropped to her knees and opened her arms for him. He dashed forward and accepted the hug eagerly. As she held him against her, not caring how wet she was getting, the boy's shoulders began to shake with silent sobs. She held him closer to her still, comforting him in the only way she could and pained that she could do no more.
"I'm sorry, Shinichi," she whispered, tears filling her own eyes, "I'm so sorry."