This story is for Manu only. Happy birthday! We love you! (hugs and kisses)
(It takes place about four weeks after "Just one last dance")
The safest place
Story by: Jojo
Art by: Cherry
Chapter one- Aftermath
'It's been now almost four weeks that I have been myself the last time. I mean really myself. My true, seventeen year old self." A little boy thought, deep sunk in his thoughts and in his bed. "But, of course, that had been too good to be true or to last. Oh I curse that day where my curiosity overtook me and I had to follow these men in black that shrunk me with that damned pill." Conan, former Kudo Shinichi, sighed out and rolled over to his other side. He was in his bed and actually supposed to be sleeping but there were a few things preventing just that. And he was not only talking about his thoughts. But that was another matter.
'This whole affair wouldnt be that bad if it was only for me. If it was for me, then being Conan is only disturbing but not world shattering. No. It is not about me. It is about-'
"DAD! Would you stop drinking that much? You know youve had enough already and you got to stand up early tomorrow for that new client!"
'It's about HER!' Conan thought desperately and closed his eyes for a moment, seeking help in the deep breath he took.
"Rann, Shhtopp akting like your mather! I am old inaf to tak care off myshelf!" a kinda drunken Kogoro Mori answered his daughter.
"OH DAD!You are driving me nuts, I swear!" A loud bang followed and Conan was sure Ran had hit the table, hard. And, sure enough…
"Ok, sat wass mei call for bed. Gudnait!" Another loud bang could be heard and Conan was certain Kogoro had tripped over an empty beer can and had fallen face first on the ground. The little boy sighed again and closed his eyes for he knew what would happen next.
The door opened and an anything- but- steady Kogoro came inside, and hit his head against the cub board. Then he stumbled over a chair.
"Dad!" Ran whispered fiercely from the door. "Dont you dare wake Conan- kun up!"
Kogoro looked a little scared at her, turned and fell on his blanket. Four seconds later, loud snoring rose from his bed and filled the room. The door closed and Conan opened his eyes again, looking at the dark wall. He reached over and took his earplugs out that he had prepared for the nights. Oh, how he wished he could get his own room! Sharing a room with that wanna- be- oh- so- great detective was not… let's say not easy.
'But back to the topic. Yes, it's because of her. Everything in my life is because of her. My most urgent reason for turning back to Shinichi is her! Always have been her. I remember the joy I have felt the last time, thinking for a few happy moments that I could stay with her for real now. That I would be able to tell her how I felt about her. How it felt almost kissing her at that school play, and walking to school together after such a long time.' the little boy smiled dreamily before this smile suddenly vanished.
'But I also remember the pain I have felt as I realized I had to turn back. And I am not talking about the physical pain of the turning itself. I am talking about the pain that overtook me at the realization that I had to leave her again whilst having got her back the previous day. Had to leave her without being able to tell her everything, not even my feelings.'
Conan closed his eyes and the picture of their last time as young adults came into his mind. He saw a huge room, dimly lit with couples on the dance-floor, swaying gently to a song that he could only hear faintly but recognized by heart. One could almost say, it was "their" song. He could hardly bear thinking about the great time they had had, about how perfect everything had felt, how good she fit against him. It hurt him to think that even when he was there with her, actually there, he could not BE with her the way he wanted to so desperately. And it hurt especially since he knew exactly it was a lot harder for her.
Conan was laying still in his futon, listening to some distant voices of the TV. He knew Ran was again watching some movie. She did that a lot lately and he was worried because she did not sleep enough. She looked worse with every passing day.
He closed his eyes in pain and guilt for a moment, then opened them again. How he wished he could do something for her…
Ran was curled on the couch like a cat, sitting there in complete silence as she watched the movie. That's why it is no wonder that it startled her as a small voice tore through the silence.
She turned to her side and saw the little Conan standing there, in his pyjamas, looking with big and endless eyes at her. There was concern hidden in them, she could make it out clearly.
"Conan- kun, what are you doing awake? Did…Did my father wake you? Oh, I swear, I will-" but she could not go on as he quickly shook his head.
"No, it was not that. I was… worried, about you. Looks like you can not sleep, so I.." he trailed off, looking at his hands. That was the moment that she realized he held a mug in them.
He gulped, not audible, knowing his cheeks must be rosy. Good thing it was completely dark with except the television as only source of light. He looked back up at her.
"I made you some tea!" he stretched his arms out and held the mug up.
Ran blinked a few times, obviously taken aback and totally surprised. But soon her gaze softened.
"Oh thank you, Conan- kun! But, you know you didnt have to!"
He nodded quickly, now smiling like the kid he appeared to be. "Yep, but I wanted to!"
She took the mug with a sweet smile. His insides twitched a little at it. She took a sip and smiled down at the boy who seemed to look apprehensively up at her.
"Its great, thank you sweetheart!" he smiled brightly at the compliment.
"You are welcome!"
"That's so sweet of you. But you really should go to bed. Tomorrow's a school day!"
He looked at her and knew better than to start arguing because she had a school day coming up as well and would probably be dead- tired again. So he did as he was told, wished her a goodnight and voiced his concern if she stayed long up herself. That was all that he could do. Secretly he wished he had mixed a sleeping- pill in her tea or that he cared not so much for her that he could send her to the land of dreams with his special watch. But he really did not want to do that. This was Ran, after all. So he would try what he could, with normal methods.
And, as he lay there in his bed, listening to the again distant voices in TV, he wondered for a moment while without thinking about it played with his watch, if he should shoot himself to guarantee a tight nights sleep. But he could not, for he would leave her alone this way. And this he did not want.
He rolled over on his stomach and listened, staying up with her, accompanying her the only way 'Conan' could.
Two days later the situation had not changed one bit. It had only repeated itself and Ran was getting more tired and weak with every passing night where she could not sleep. Not that the little boy on her side was feeling any better…
"Good morning, Ran- neechan!" a happy voice greeted the girl.
She turned. "Good morning, Conan- kun! Breakfast is almost done!" she yawned, covering her mouth with a hand for a second.
"Where is…?" he looked around.
"Otou- san is out on a case since yesterday, but I am expecting him any minute."she smiled at him.
'Case, right. Probably going for 'one' drink with some friends.' the young boy shook his head mentally.
"Get your things for school ready and when you return I will be done, too!"
"Okay!" he sang happily and did as he was told. He did, after all, not want to give her a reason to worry or get angry. There were enough things who did that already. Too many actually.
As he walked past the entrance door, he stopped. Conan could have sworn he had heard some noise from outside of it. Like as if somebody was trying to break the lock open. He quickly looked around for any kind of weapon but the door opened at that minute and a shaky Kogoro entered.
"Hoi, Conan- kuun, whassup?" he chuckled stupidly, closing the door behind him. Or, at least he tried to… It was only a little difficult to do so when one couldn't grasp the door- knob because it was being a meany and wouldnt stop dancing up and down. He soon gave up and turned to Conan. His face was red and so were his ears and especially his nose. His jacket was open, his shirt hanging loose from one side, tied together rather unluckily and his neck- tie having completely lost its way from his neck to his forehead, decorating Kogoro in a more than ridiculous way like some sort of icing to the cake.
Conan gaped at him open- mouthed, unable to believe that he could possibly be that drunk, again. He was not even able to stand for more than three seconds without swaying and even as he gaped at the older man, he could see Kogoros eyes close more and more. He would certainly have no problem with sleeping right where he stood, leaning against the wall. That guy really was unbelievable! And what would Ran think of-
"Oh no, Ran!" he whispered, knowing exactly how upset the old man will make her again when she saw him in this condition. He could not let that happen. Ran had already enough on her mind.
"Otou- san? Is that you?" he heard her scream from the kitchen. Conan turned around a little panicked. He had to do something, and that quick!
"Oji- san, there is something I have to show you!" he told the old man, a sweat- drop on his forehead.
"What issat?" the older looked curiously at him and Shinichi honestly wished he would keep that mouth of his closed. There was certainly enough alcohol in his breath to make both of them drunken.
"It's in your room, come, I'll show you!" Conan took his hand and pulled, rather hard. He managed to get the detective in his room despite his 'little' coordination problems.
"There, right behind the bed!" Conan lied to him, nudging him the best he could in the right direction.
Kogoro looked a little strangely at the boy, then leaned clumsily over the bed.
"I caant schee anysing!"
"Sweet dreams!" a quiet voice whispered right before he feel on the bed soundlessly and started snoring loudly.
"Otou- san?" Rans voice asked a little louder. Conan turned, closed the lid of his narcosis watch quickly, looking at the door. Walking over to it, he opened it a little and pulled his bow- tie to his lips.
"It's okay, I don't need anything. I have to work on that case so please no interruptions!"
"Oh, okay!" Ran went back to cooking and Conan sighed out. He turned to the older one with an expression so unlikely for an seven year old.'Gee, old man…'
'I really don't know what's wrong with me lately. I mean, there I am, watching this old lovestory on TV and right after that I start dreaming about him again. Oh my, do I really miss him that… I should stop asking myself questions that are too obvious!' Ran sighed and looked out of the big window in the room.
'It's been three and a half months already since that.. night. It feels like three years to me.
I wonder when I will see him again? If he even thinks of me a little?'
"Huh? Ah yes, Conan- kun, what is it?" she smiled down at him.
The little boy was looking at her with concern. The dark rings underneath her eyes and the occasional yawning more than gave away her current state of exhaustion.
'Oh Ran… You haven't slept at all tonight, have you?'
"I only said that it's time for us to go, right? You know, school!"
She looked a moment at him in puzzlement before his words sank in.
"You're right!" she stood up and walked inside her room to get her bag and jacket. The little boy looked after her with a concerned expression.
The whole class sat still and fell silent as the teacher came in. She was an usual good looking teacher and the class liked her. The subject was not so bad either. English had lost its fear for most of them. But, as Jodie told them what their next topic would be they all groaned out in unison.
"What?" A confused teacher looked around her class in open wonder. "Don't you like poems?"
She smiled broadly but did not wait for any answer. Instead she turned to the blackboard and wrote a name on it. Satisfied and with a maybe too sadistic expression of happiness on her face she turned and faced the class again.
"I am sure you have heard of this nice guy. William Shakespeare. Who would serve us more at the moment as him? The probably most famous poet ever to live. Now, for today we will turn our attention to some of his works and then to some well known poems and quotes of him. So, who can tell me a work of him? Or any play you may know?" She asked around and went on with her lesson, noting the results on the board.
Ran was not really paying attention. She was too tired on the first place and even if she had concentrated on the lesson, her mind would still linger around the face of a well known young boy who was way more interesting to her than the dead poet. She wondered what Shinichi was doing for about the hundredthst time this day and wished she could sleep one complete night without having to think about him. The past nights really did get to her.
Again she wondered, why the guy that owned her heart had left her alone! The image of a hall, dimly lit with dancing couples moving around the place ran across her mind. This night had been so perfect. Why couldnt he stay? Why couldnt he return to her? This night had only proven how great he makes her feel, how complete and how perfect they fit together.
Ran blushed. For a moment she almost felt her body melt with his, felt the feeling as she was leaning against his form and them fitting together so perfectly as she could have never imagined. And the feelings he was creating in her… making her feel.. and that with the most simple of touches. How save she had felt and how loved. How right…
Rans eyes watered slightly and she closed her eyes for a moment to gather herself. How she missed him. How she hoped for him to be here right now. For being able to feel this way again. This complete. Is this what love felt like? Could it?
Ran's eyes snapped open and her head shot up. She was looking directly at Jodies face.
"I asked you to read out loud that famous quote of Shakespears that I have written on the blackboard."
Ran looked confused at the teacher and then quickly on the board and read out what was written there without thinking twice about it.
"'The curse of true love never did run smooth'"
"Very good. Now, what do you think did old William want to tell us with this phrase?"
Ran stared at the words on the board with open eyes as they slowly sank in. Suddenly the bell rang loudly, saving Ran from answering. Jodie turned away from her and screamed over the noise of chatting students and ratting chairs the homework. Only Ran did not move at all. She remained there, staring at the board and repeating the words over and over in her mind.
"Ran, you all right?" Sonoko waved a hand in front of her face for a few seconds before she noticed a tear run down the cheek of her friend. "R- Ran?"
'Shinichi!' was her only thought as Ran stood up abruptly and without warning ran out of the classroom and towards the toilets.
"Conan- kun? Whats wrong?"
"Hm?" the boy turned and looked at the face of Ayumi who was looking worried at him.
"You look worried! What happened?"
"Nothing, really! It was just…a strange feeling…" he looked out of the window.
Shinichi had no idea where this feeling in his stomach suddenly had come from. It was simply there and he had no explanation for it. It felt like somebody was calling out for him in need. To be honest he had thought for a moment that it had been Ran's voice calling him.
Was she all right? Did something happen to her? Alone the thought…
"Are you really all right?" Mitsuhiko asked him from behind.
The little boy turned to look at him. "Of course, what gave you the impression?"
"Well, you are sliding restlessly back and forth on your chair." The other stated matter of factly.
"I.. I am?" Conan gulped, found out.
"Yes, I saw it too!" Genta interfered in the conversation. "You were always so thoughtful and depressed the last weeks!"
"Yeah, and you looked sad!" Ayumi added quickly.
"Don't you want to go with us to the park today, to play soccer?"
"Yeah, you might even play every position you like!" Genta offered generously.
Conan looked for a long moment at the three faces that were fixed upon him. He wished the bell would rang soon and save him.
"I.. I am sorry.. I can't.. Got to see if Ran- neechan needs something I can help her with…"
"You haven't done anything else these days!" Mitsuhiko answered him first, openly offended.
"Yeah! What's so fun about that?" Genta voiced his problem of understanding him.
Ayumi looked sad at him and he really could not stand it anymore.
"Look, we will do that tomorrow, okay?"
He nodded, putting his fake smile on but it was enough for the kids.'Right now, I only hope she is all right!'
He looked at his watch. Another twenty minutes to go.
"Conan- kun, arent you walking home with us?" Ayumi asked the little boy, a little disappointed.
He shrugged and shook his head. "No, Ran- neechan wanted to come and pick me up today!"
"Oh… okay then…"
Genta and Mitshuiko joined Ayumi and together they said goodbye to Conan, waved and were already gone.
"You shouldn't underestimate them!" a voice from behind startled him.
He turned quickly and came face to face with Haibara.
"God, you startled me! And what do you mean with underestimate?"
"You thaught them some tricks in observation yourself, so don't be surprised when they notice certain things. Not that it is really difficult to see that there is something bothering you."
"You think so?" 'and I always thought I am a master at poker face…' "Well, even I can only take as much."
"You're thinking about that girl, aren't you?"
He did not answer.
"Well, if there is anything I can help you with.." she trailed off, causing the boy to look at her with raised eyebrows. This did not sound like her at all. Was there something up?
He shrugged that thought away.
"I don't think so… the only thing that could help right now would be a certain antidote.." he looked at her and almost laughed at her dark expression. "It was a joke, cool down. I don't know myself what would help but thanks for the offer. I better get going. Bye!" he waved and was already gone.
'Oh yeah, the damned antidote would certainly be most helpful. But also too good to be true at the moment. And even if I had it, I couldn't simply use it and be myself again. Not as long as these men are still walking out there, free. Why in the world does everything have to be that complicate in my life?' he let out a long and deep sigh and walked out of the school building.
The little tantei sat down and did not have to wait for long. Soon he saw Ran's figure, that he would recognize everywhere even without looking, accompanied by another figure that was most probably Sonoko. They were approaching and even as he saw them come closer and closer he felt that something was wrong. It was not necessarily obvious to passers- by or people who were not splendid at observation but alone the way Sonoko was walking was telling him that something was not as it is supposed to be.
He stood up.
"Hello, Conan- kun!" Ran greeted him cheerily. As she stood in front of him he saw exactly that that cheery voice was a fake.
Her eyes were redder than they had been this morning and puffy. He knew immediately that she must have been crying before. At his look of concern, Ran only smiled and patted his head. "Don't worry, I am fine! Really!"
"Ah, Mori- san!" Conan's teacher called as she saw Ran. The latter smiled and turned to greet. "May I have a word with you?"the teacher went on.
"Of course!" and they disappeared inside her office before the helpless Conan could do anything but stare. He then looked up at Sonoko, his worry written all over his face.
"Have been a bad boy?" Sonoko teased him, but with less effort and fierce than usual.
He shook his head in 'no' and instead of bothering with her stupid question, asked what burned inside of him.
"S-Sonoko- neechan, what happened?"
The older girl looked down at him for a few, long moment. She saw how serious he was and decided against teasing him more. She kneeled down and told him the story.
"…and then I found her in the toilets, crying her eyes out. I really don't know what has gotten into her but it was scary and it took me some time to calm her down. When I asked her what was wrong she only said that she was tired, having had little sleep for the last couple of days. If you ask me, that was not really convincing but she would say no more!"
Conan looked up at her with wide eyes, his brain racing.
'Shakespeare… 'The course of true love never did run smooth.'…I think I have heard that before somewhere… and.. when I think about it… it is not so stupid, is it? True love… No doubt Ran, who had obviously been thinking about Shinichi…about me, for so long, associated the sentence with… oh, poor Ran…'
At that moment, Ran returned, thanking the teacher again. Sonoko stood up and they started walking home together.
"What did she want? Did the pimp do anything?" Sonoko asked, ignoring Conans death- glare.
"No. In the contrary! She said he is very good in school, as always. If I help him a lot, she asked." Ran smiled and ruffled Conan's hair gently.
"Oh people, I gotta go this way!"Sonoko noticed and they stopped walking. She walked to Ran and suddenly hugged her. The surprised girl held her back. "Ran, will you be all right? I mean, really all right?"
Ran only smiled at her, trying to reassure her friend. "Of course! Don't worry!"
Sonoko observed her features just a little longer, then nodded and walked away, waving goodbye. Ran and Conan continued their walk home, with him suddenly taking her hand, completely unconscious of his actions. Something inside of him had told him to help her aching heart the best he could.
"Did… did she say anything else?"
"Well, she added that she had noticed the last few weeks that you are rather quiet and seem sad sometimes."
The boy stared up at her with raised eyebrows. "She.. she did?" 'Am I that miserable at acting?'
Ran nodded. "I said it's probably because you miss your parents. But Conan- kun, is there something bothering you? You really seem more quiet the last weeks and more.. well, mature."
She looked down at him. Her worries were honest and visible on her face. He hesitated but shook his head.
"No, it's nothing!"
"I know what it is, though!" Ran claimed suddenly, taking him by surprise. He started sweating. "What?"
She paused but eventually continued. "I guess, it's got something to do with what Shinichi has told you the last time, right?" she told him, very quietly. He looked stupefied at her.
"H- how do you mean?"
"He told you to take care of me, right?" his jaw dropped open. "Conan, you were so helpful these days. Doing whatever I want and whatever it took to help me out. Do you think I did not notice? I do not know what I would do without you, my little sweetheart. But you have to look after yourself as well. It's not your fault that I am so weak.."
"No, you are strong!" he muttered and she smiled sadly at him.
"If only I really were strong."
"You are!" he persisted.
Ran looked at Conan with a look he could hardly define.
"I have to be strong, Conan- kun. I have to…"
"Ran… neechan…" the latter he absentmindedly added.
"It is still funny. You are so good at school but I never see you learn! You are simply clever, aren't you? I think you deserve something special. A gift or something. How about you tell me what you would like to eat tonight, whatever it is! Or do you have another wish, sweetheart?" Ran smiled so beautifully down at him, the only thing he wanted to tell her was that he wished she would always smile on like this forever. But he only tried the best he could to smile back and shook his head.
What do you think Manu? And what do you guys think? Let me know! For all those wondering about the "art made by.." it is simply ecause there are pictures to this story as well, and all can be viewed on my homepage. Please review, next chapter won't take long.