AN: Well…this was definitely an unexpected result. But I do not like to disappoint when there is a demand, so I did pen a second part. It answers absolutely no questions, but adds onto what had already happened. In hindsight, I thought it needed this closure. A lot of you asked about Ran, so I offer you this in good faith. I hope it measures up, and I apologize for it taking me this long to actually finish it.
I don't own Conan or any related characters, and I apologize to any who were mad about me, ya know, letting Gin and his Blonde Hair of Evil shoot Conan in the head or anything…
The Unexpected Goodbye
From the moment her eyes had opened that morning, Ran Mouri had known that today was going to be…different. Something was off. Something was wrong. Horribly, horribly wrong. And it wasn't the same kind of 'wrong' that had plagued her since Shinichi's disappearance all that time ago.
She went through her daily routine as usual, but her entire world seemed tilted. She was very on edge, unsure of what it was that was really bugging her. School and classes took eternities upon eons; she thought vaguely that she heard Sonoko trying to talk to her, but she couldn't remember anything that might have been said. The minute her last class was over, she bolted from the classroom and out onto the streets.
She did not go home immediately, though.
It was a gray, gray day, dreary and chilly. She shivered slightly, looking at the sky. It would probably rain eventually. But she didn't want to go home. She just wanted to figure out why everything felt off-balance and out of whack and just plain wrong.
And why, when she thought of that feeling of unease, did Shinichi's face leap into her mind…
She'd felt a pang earlier, a strange ache that had quickly swelled into a nearly-unbearable agony. And again, her thoughts had clouded over, leaving only her best friend's image, crystal-clear and vivid in her mind's eye. Had something happened to Shinichi?
She shook her head; she was thinking too much again. Trying not to let her mind wander again (especially towards certain areas regarding certain teenage detectives), she looked down at the book under her arm. Reading. Reading was good—a distraction. If only she could focus on the words printed there…
She meandered, pretending to stare at the pages. She was trying to read them, she really was, but the pages seemed blank before her eyes. What was wrong with her today?
Where was Shinichi when she needed him?
He'd always been there before, but now…
Not just now, but for so long…he hadn't been there.
No, she shook that thought off. If he could be here, he would. She was certain of that.
No more thinking like that.
She squared her shoulders again and tried to settle her attention on the volume in her hands.
It wasn't working.
She started at the sound of her name, and then froze. The book fell from nerveless fingers and thudded to the ground, where it lay closed and forgotten. She turned slowly to stare at the speaker, the one who had called out to her. That voice. She knew that voice as well as she knew her own name.
Her lower jaw fell, and she swallowed hard. "Shinichi…?"
It was as if the thought itself had summoned him. He looked exactly as he had that last day, at Tropical Land, before he had all but vanished from her life, a memory reborn and standing before her. Sneakers, jeans, a yellow sweatshirt and a green jacket over it. Exactly the same…
Then she really noticed his expression. He looked…lost. Confused. Uncertain. Sad.
And then it broke into the weakest parody of a smile she had ever seen. "Hey, Ran…"
She stared at him for a minute before words began to burst from her without her consent. "Where have you been?" she demanded, feeling like a mother scolding a child. "I've been worried sick about you." Her tone trailed off into something calmer then. "You haven't called in ages…and it's been so long since I've seen you…"
He moved towards her, a few tentative steps, still leaving a sizable gap between them. He seemed afraid to move much closer as yet. "Ran, listen, I don't have much time, so—"
"You never have time," she huffed, more than a little angrily, and regretting it. She treasured every moment she could steal with him now, she shouldn't be leaving it with harsh words. "Why isn't there time? Do you want to get back to your case that badly?" The last was said a touch bitterly, and again, she found herself regretting her tone.
"It's not the case this time…" he answered softly.
She shook her head, confused. "Then what?"
"Ran, after this…" Shinichi paused, and she saw him swallow hard before he whispered, "I…I don't think I'll ever be able to see you again." The words dropped into the space between them; even as soft as they were, Ran heard him perfectly.
"What? That's crazy!" she protested, despite the fact that she had just gone icy cold inside.
"It's true," he confirmed quietly. "This is it." It was a brick thrown through a window—shattering. Around them, the storm finally broke loose, and the rain fell, a reflection of what Ran felt at that moment.
As she tried to process this, she was startled to hear herself giggle. "Shinichi…what are you talking about?" She took one step towards him, and belatedly realized that she was trembling. "You're here now, aren't you?" Another tentative step. "Just stay. Please…don't leave me again, please…" She swallowed, and when she spoke again, her voice seemed to have lost all semblance of volume; her next step was more wobbly, and she nearly fell over. Her own body was betraying her now. "I—I missed you. I miss you so much…Shinichi…" Two tears escaped—the first ones she had shed during their talk.
She didn't even see him move. He had been meters away from her. Had he moved, or had he materialized, standing in front of her, several feet away…an arm's length away…a finger's width…
A strong embrace enfolded her, wrapping her up in its warmth and depth, and she clung to the comfort it offered, sobbing. "Why? Why?" She was a broken record, stuck on that one hopeless thought; she felt like a child, trying desperately to understand why something bad was happening, yet unable to make sense of even the simplest of explanations. "Why, Shinichi? Why?"
"I'm so sorry…" his voice was almost as ragged as hers. "I can't stay…I'm stealing this time now as it is…but I couldn't leave without saying goodbye to you one more time…" His fingers dug into her back, his arms pulled her in as tightly as possible.
It was over far too soon for either of them, and Shinichi reluctantly loosened his hold on her.
Ran, on the other hand, wasn't letting go. "No," she whimpered. If she let go, he would walk away, disappear again for whatever reason, and she would never see him again, if what he was saying was true. And she knew deep down that it was.
This was it.
"I have to go—"
She clung to him more fiercely than ever. She felt him shiver slightly beneath her hands, felt his hesitation, and then his hands on the sides of her face, tilting her head back; she met his eyes, and found herself drowning in their sapphire depth and then…
His lips blanketed hers, claiming them possessively. Her heart froze, and for what felt like ages, she didn't even have the presence of mind to return the kiss. But then something stirred, and instinct kicked in, and her foggy mind gave up the struggle for independent thought. There were too many other things surging through her to leave room for rational thinking.
It was nothing like she had thought it would be, kissing Shinichi, and yet at the same time, it was one of the most intense, amazing, exquisite experiences she had ever known, as the rain continued to fall. So beautifully sad…
And again, it was over too soon.
His lips lingered, barely touching hers, for another second before he slowly pulled away. Ran was startled to realize that it was actually painful when he moved back. But she wouldn't let go of him.
"Shinichi, I…" she trailed off as her throat closed off against her will, and her voice wouldn't come out. She wanted to tell him the truth—how she felt. And even now, she just couldn't say it. She had never felt so pathetic in her life.
His expression was pained. "I—my time is up…I have to leave."
Instead, she took a shaky breath as more tears escaped from the prison of her eyes and trailed down to mingle with the rain on her face. "Do you really have to go?" she whispered.
He leaned forward and brushed his lips against her forehead. "I'm so sorry, Ran…goodbye…"
Before she could protest, Ran felt dizzy. She tried desperately to fight it, but it engulfed her, swallowing her and dragging her down to the blackened realm of unconsciousness, a force she could not resist. Her knees buckled, and her grip on Shinichi's jacket loosened against her will, and she fell forward, still wondering why.
The last conscious thing she was aware of was the feeling of arms around her, not letting her touch the wet pavement, and that strange, incomprehensible blend of warmth and heartbreak that she would never forget. And her thoughts mingled and mixed with the thoughts of another at the entry to her dreamscape as she passed beyond the gate into the darkness.
I love you…
With a jolt, Ran Mouri opened her eyes, and was confused almost immediately.
Where was she…?
As coherency returned, she recognized the ceiling above her. This was her father's detective agency. She was on the couch. At home. She could hear the rain falling beyond the window. But if she was inside, why was she damp…she had been somewhere else, so how had she gotten here…
Ran shot up, sitting upright and looking around in a panic; the cover someone had laid over her fell to pool in folds around her waist. Shinichi had been there, they had been outside on the sidewalk in the rain. Their conversation…
"After this, I don't think I'll ever be able to see you again…"
Ran's heart splintered anew and fell apart, and she clutched at the blanket and sobbed, the broken, agonized cries of lost love and devastated friendship and of dreams that had been destroyed forever. She fell backwards onto the couch, curling up on her side and burying her face in a pillow, placed under her head by some thoughtful soul.
She didn't know how long she stayed there; she did not move, nor did she think save for remembering Shinichi's tearful words—I don't think I'll ever be able to see you again—and that too-brief moment in the rain, when her most precious, most guarded dream had come true.
But if it was real…then…
He was gone? For good?
The door crashed open with enough force that it was a surprise it stayed on its hinges. Kogoro Mouri sprinted in, soaked from head to toe. He looked frantic, yet surprisingly somber as he finally located his daughter. Apparently, he had been calling to her.
And he began to speak, an explanation that she barely heard, yet inscribed on her very soul.
A syndicate of crime.
Two men in black coats.
An untested poison with an unexpected and utterly devastating effect.
When his torrent of hurried words faded away, Ran could only nod mutely to show that she had heard him and understood what he was saying. Displaying a rare good sense and an uncommon application of tact, Kogoro simply said, "We can talk later, okay?" He then leaned down and gave her a quick hug; if he noticed that she was a bit damp, he made no comment, and left her alone again.
Ran's eyes stared straight ahead at the wall, vacant and unseeing. She couldn't even breathe, couldn't think…emotions and images assailed her heart and senses, a tsunami that left her drowning in its horrid waves. Memories from childhood lead into memories of more recent events, flowing into a clear recollection of what she was now sure had to be a dream.
If Shinichi was…gone…then there was no way she could have…no way that she had…
It had been a dream. A mere fantasy. Wonderful, but not real.
Silent tears still slipping down her face, Ran looked down at the fabric in her hands, what she had thought was a blanket—and paused. After a moment of processing, she recognized it. Shinichi's jacket. The green one with the hood—he had been wearing this on the day he had disappeared, and when they had—
—for the second time in as many minutes, Ran's mind completely shut down.
"After this, I don't think I'll ever be able to see you again…"
But if Conan was Shinichi, and Shinichi was Conan, and…dead…then…
Her eyes widened as it clicked. And Ran slid backwards to curl up into a tight ball on the couch, clutching desperately at Shinichi's jacket; her eyes closed as tears she had yet to shed glistened and sparkled wetly on her eyelashes.
"After this, I don't think I'll ever be able to see you again…"
Conan…Shinichi…I lost you both.
…I'm all alone…
She wasn't one hundred percent certain how she got back outside, but she lacked the presence of mind to really question it. Instead, she somehow found herself right back on the sidewalk outside of her father's agency, wandering away from home. She wore no jacket, no coat for protection against the storm; her hands were clenched in the dark green fabric of a sweatshirt that had once been Shinichi's.
The rain continued to pour down all around her, beating against her slight, hunched frame with merciless, punishing force. She accepted it, walking silently and aimlessly up and down streets, not caring that she was getting soaked, and not knowing where she was or where she was going.
When her tired legs would carry her no further, she somehow stumbled numbly to a bench. The streets were vacant, void of people because of the weather. The now-soaked cloth in her hands probably bore permanent creases from her fingers; she drew it closer to her and stared at the pavement in front of her, watching the raindrops splash into puddles, shattering against the sidewalk.
Though the rain and air around her was frigid, she felt vaguely warm. But that soon gave way to not-feeling. She was numb. She couldn't feel her body at all now…yet as images danced in front of her and her vision faded in and out, white to red to brown to black and back again, she couldn't help but wonder why it all still hurt so much.
Ran didn't know how long she was sitting there in the storm. But she knew faintly that it had been a very long time. She barely heard her name being called, hardly saw her father in front of her or felt him giving her shoulders a gentle shake. And then there were others, hands and faces. A blanket was thrown around her shivering shoulders, and she was effortlessly gathered into someone's arms and carried away from the bench. She did feel someone trying to pull the jacket from her fingers, and she thought she whimpered pitifully for them not to take it, because it was left alone.
Her unfeeling, fevered body finally gave out on her, along with her shocked mind and broken heart, and Ran Mouri fell away from herself, into what should have been a safe place, lost in the darkness of her own soul. Yet as she tumbled down into the inky blackness, tears still fell.
And it still hurt…
"Ran, Ran, Ran…" Shinichi's voice chided her gently. "What're you doing here?"
She stared at him blankly, uncertainly, not quite able to believe. Around her was what looked like a field; her ankles were swimming in flowers that stretched as far as the eye could see, in every color imaginable. It was as beautiful as she was torn apart.
"Shinichi, where are we?" she asked, tearing her eyes away from him long enough to look around.
"They said it was called Dreamtime—and don't ask who 'They' are, because I can't tell you," he replied, joining her in letting his gaze drift to take in their surroundings. "They told me I could meet you here…" His expression grew troubled. "They told me you were in trouble, Ran…"
She ducked her head, feeling faint. The fragrance of infinite flowers around them was thick, heavy, overwhelmingly sweet, almost intoxicating, and the sunlight was warm. It was soothing, lulling…
"What happened?" he asked. "They didn't tell me."
Quietly, she told him what little she actually remembered—wandering into the rain and cold, sitting numbly on the bench, and finally passing out. For some reason, she felt slightly ashamed.
Shinichi tapped her forehead with one finger and made a tsk-ing noise. "You're not supposed to be here yet!" He shook his head. "You've got quite some time before you get to come here for good." Then his expression turned to worry. "Ran, you can't do that kind of thing to yourself. If you get pneumonia, whose going to tell your father which end of the beer can to open?"
He was rewarded when she chuckled ever so slightly at the jab, though her expression did not change; it stayed desperate, frightened, heartbroken.
"It's not that I don't want you here with me, Ran," he went on. "But it's too early for you. Hell, it's too early for me to be here. But the point is that you've still got a lot of living to do. You're going to get married and have kids and a career or whatever you want to do. See the world, die an old lady." He grinned wickedly at her. "I bet you'll be one of those really cute old women."
Ran blushed. She recognized instantly that he was trying to make her feel better, but she just couldn't let him go. It wasn't that easy, and she told him as much, eyes downcast.
He moved closer to her, reaching out. "Hey," he pulled her to him and kissed her forehead, "don't sweat it so much. You'll come back here again someday, and then you'll have all the time in the world to spend with lil' old me. Okay?"
"What if I need you?" she whispered into his neck.
"I'll hear you, even if I can't be there," he promised, patting her back. "Does anybody else think this sounds horribly clichéd?" He chuckled lightly, betraying how he really felt; the laugh faded into a sigh, and he pulled back to look at her. "I love you…"
She stared at him for a minute before a sad smile found its way onto her own face. "Shinichi…"
"…I love you," she whispered in reply, not objecting as he leaned down and kissed her once again, gentle and sweet and magical. It ended, and she felt a pull that she realized that she was being taken away from this place, away from Shinichi.
"So…this is goodbye?" Ran said shakily, the thinnest thread of panic sewing through her tone.
He visibly wavered before pulling her close again. "I think we can steal one more minute…"
And he kissed her again as the flowers and sunshine and Shinichi faded away into darkness.
Be happy, Ran…
The first person Ran saw when she wrestled her eyes open was her father, leaning over her, concern etched into his every feature. But some of that concern shifted to relief as he realized that she was finally awake. "Otousan…"
"Ran," he sighed, "don't scare me like that!" He half-whined, and she reached up and patted him affectionately on the cheek. He was always so clumsy about expressing his concern, but she knew he had probably been frantic over her.
As she pulled further into consciousness, she became more and more aware that she was sick, probably from sitting out in the rain. With that awareness came the misery that accompanied illness. And she coughed and managed a weak smile. "Did I really do something that stupid?"
"Your father called us when you disappeared and didn't come back," Megure-keibu suddenly appeared behind Kogoro, and Ran felt a pang of guilt. As if everyone didn't have enough on their minds…
"Ran…you know what happened?" her father asked, unusually quiet.
She nodded once, mutely. "Yes…I know…"
"I just can't believe it," Megure sighed. "Conan…"
Ran could. And it occurred to her that she really wasn't surprised to find out about Conan. She had suspected as much so many times already. On some level, she had always known; she realized that now.
"Ran-kun," Megure held up something dark green. "You had this when we caught up to you, and you were pretty adamant that we not take it as long as you were conscious." He offered it to her. "I take it's something important?"
She reached out quickly and plucked it from his hands, pulling it close to her and hugging it tightly. "It is important. Very important. Thank you."
"After this, I don't think I'll ever be able to see you again…"
"What is it?" Kogoro asked, looking skeptically at what seemed a wad of fabric.
"I love you…"
Ran's eyes grew misty again, and she sighed as she smiled softly, remembering flowers and warm sunshine and warmer kisses and a promise for an eternity. "Shinichi's…"
"Be happy, Ran…"
She ignored their startled, bewildered looks, and said nothing more.
PS. And so it ends. This was for everyone who asked about how Ran handled the news, because we can logically assume that she would be told. And I love this kind of ghost story, where someone comes back to calm a loved one…I just think it's romantic and beautifully sad, all at once. Yes, I am a hopeless sap. Thank you for reading, and thank you for your patience with me in getting this written. Until next time!