Title: Finding the Way Back
Author: Candyland
Pairing: Kudo Shinichi/Mouri Ran
Fandom: Detective Conan
Theme: #20: the road home
Rating: PG
Disclaimer: All characters are the property of Gosho Aoyama. I claim none, I merely borrow them and dress them up in frilly smocks and make them dance to my ever-changing will like the puppets they are.


Ran stirred only slightly at the first sound and drifted off again. But the second knock on the door stirred her to wake up; she sat up in bed and blinked owlishly at the darkened room around her. Through the shadow of night, she squinted at her alarm clock.

It was just after four in the morning.

The knock persisted—someone was at the front door, and they seemed quite determined to get the attention of the slumbering residents. If Conan-kun had been there, he probably would have gone to answer the door if for no other reason than to save her the trouble. But Conan-kun had gone on a long-overdue trip to see his parents. Her father's snoring would have masked the sound of a hurricane blowing by. Which meant that the responsibility fell to her. And rudeness was something Mouri Ran couldn't tolerate.

As she rolled out of bed, Ran's sleep-hazed mind vaguely wondered who in their right mind would be here at this ungodly hour, banging on the door. No immediate answers presented themselves, though, and so she plodded to the door.

Stifling a yawn, she opened the door with the intention of telling whoever it was to go away—

—and the yawn erupted into a shriek as she took in the thin, shadowed figure leaning heavily against the doorframe, one shaky hand raised to knock again. "Shinichi!"

That was as far as she got before he stumbled past the threshold, through the door, and fell against her, slumping limply into arms that had reached for him merely on reflex. She wasn't prepared for the weight, though, and did her best to lower him to the ground without injury, while at the same time she called desperately for her father.

Kogoro had first roused at the sound of his daughter's scream, and now came barreling down the stairs, convinced that someone had broken in and was threatening his daughter. But instead, he took in the unlikely sight of Ran on her knees, just inside the open door, cradling the unmoving form of Kudo Shinichi.

And Ran, now fully awake, was looking at him with wide, frightened eyes. "Tousan…help…" she half-whimpered, looking utterly lost as to what to do. "I can't move him…he won't wake up…"

In the face of his daughter's quiet plea, Kogoro didn't hesitate or ask questions. He sidestepped her, pushing the door closed before taking one of Shinichi's arms and pulling it across his shoulders. There was no resistance, no movement as he bodily hoisted the unconscious teenager from the floor, not even a murmur of protest.

Ran took Shinichi's other side, and together they moved him to the couch. They laid him out on his back, and Kogoro immediately began checking for vital signs while Ran watched apprehensively. Finally, Kogoro sat back and nodded, and his daughter released a pent-up breath.

"I'm going to call Megure," Kogoro stood up. "Something happened to him." He hesitated for a second, giving his daughter (who had dropped to perch on the edge of the couch by Shinichi's legs)a worried glance, then slipped out of the office. Every once in a while, he could actually be perceptive.

Now, finally, Ran was alone with Shinichi.

Beyond the windows, the clouds moved aside to allow the moon to shine through. The silver-white light slid into the room, kissing Shinichi's relaxed features and highlighting what seemed the remnants of a scuffle. She hadn't even noticed it until now, but he was in bad shape. There was a big tear in the sleeve of his shirt, stained red; a thin line of blood springing from a deep cut on one temple to run down the side of his face. And her heart nearly stopped when she noticed the dark bruises coloring his neck—she could make out the shadows of individual fingers. Someone had tried to…?

Gingerly, she traced the line of one of the bruises. He didn't react.

She didn't realize she was leaning over him like that, nor did she notice that she was crying until a tiny droplet of water fell on Shinichi's cheek. It was followed by another, and another, in close succession.

He had been attacked. There was no doubt about that. But why? Who? Was it related to one of his cases—a friend, a relative of someone Shinichi had put away? She didn't know, and she didn't understand.

Instead, she settled for watching him, studying him as he lay motionless. It was rare to see Kudo Shinichi this vulnerable. Even when they were children, it had been virtually impossible to sneak up on him—he had an uncanny ability to know when he was being watched or approached. There were those covert glances, those stolen moments of unhindered observation, but this was one of those precious moments where she could just sit and look at him.

Her vision still slightly blurry, she studied the way the moonlight hung over his features and highlighted everything; he seemed cast of silver, platinum, a statue of one caught in the midst of slumber, carved by the most expert and loving hand.

But he wasn't some artist's masterpiece. He was a human being—an exhausted, hurting human being. She wondered where he had appeared from this time, how long it had taken him to find the road home in this state, how much of a struggle it had been for him to fall on her doorstep. His forehead was dotted with perspiration, and his bangs were sweat-soaked; his breathing had slowed and evened out in the moments since they had laid him out there, but when he'd arrived, it had been labored and hoarse.

At that moment, she could have sworn he was dying. Now, he looked to be merely sleeping.

He looked so thin. She didn't know why she thought of that, or if it was even a trick caused by the meeting of moonlight and shadow, but she really thought he did. Shinichi had always been lean, but there was a fine line between lean and gaunt, and he had marched past it. Was he eating well enough? If the dark circles under his closed eyes were any indication, he certainly hadn't slept well for quite a while. Was he not taking care of himself, wherever he was?

She realized belatedly that her fingers were slowly outlining the contours his face, running down his cheeks, outlining the sharp chin, drawing the slender line of his neck (trying not to shiver at those bruises), tracing his eyes, nose, lips…and wondering why…

He winced.

Her hand snapped away, pulling back lest she be caught.

For the first time in the fifteen minutes or so that he'd been laying there (and had it been fifteen minutes, it felt like a heartbeat or an eternity, she wasn't sure which…), he moved. A spasm seemed to surge through his body, and his head shook frantically from side to side with such force that she was afraid he would hurt himself. And then he was still again, save for his face, contorted and struggling for some unknown goal, reaching for a prize only he saw. A slight groan escaped him.

Blue eyes, almost silver in the moonlight, inched their way open and blinked, confused, before finally focusing in on her. The startled, near-panicked expression that had taken his face slid into relief. "Ran…" Shinichi murmured, as if he'd been expecting to see someone else; one hand moved unsteadily from his side and reached up towards her. "It's…it's really you, isn't it?"

Without thinking about it, she took his hand in her own. "It's me. Who else would it be?" she laughed a little, humorlessly, at him, and at herself, and how foolish they both really were.

His fingers paused at the contact with hers, then slid past them to reach up and gently let his fingers slide over the smooth, slightly damp skin on her cheek. "You're crying," he whispered.

It hit her then that more tears had escaped from the prison of her eyes to run free down her face. She wanted to protest, but only a little choked sob came out, and she could only manage, "Baka…"

He stared at her, then looked around. "This is…your house. How did I get here?"

"You knocked on the door," she explained, inordinately proud of how steady her voice was. "You fell in when I answered. You've been unconscious for the last few minutes."

Shinichi's brow furrowed as he thought it over. "That's right…I wanted to get here."

"Why here?" she asked.

"It's safe," he said, "and you're here."

"Oh…" she didn't know what else to say.

It was silent for a long moment before she summoned up the nerve to speak again. "Shinichi?"

"Hmm?" he said groggily, and she wondered if he had been falling asleep again.

"What happened to you?" Ran half-begged. The lack of answers was hurting her more than she would ever admit to. "You're hurt. You've been gone so long…what's happening?"

When he answered after a short pause, there was something in his tone that sent a shiver up her spine, leaving no room for arguments or doubts as to his sincerity. "Don't ask, Ran. It's better if you don't know. So please—don't ask again."

Concerned, and now no little frightened, Ran searched his eyes for an answer she honestly didn't know if she was ready to hear. She saw no answer, but she saw a world of other things—things he would have carefully shielded, had he his normal level of impenetrable self-control, but were now right there for anyone who thought to look for them.

Secrets.

Shadows.

An unnatural fear that darkened his eyes.

Whatever he had been through—whatever it was that kept him from her now—he was fighting it. He was refusing to let it break him, unwilling to give in to this darkness that hung persistently at the edges but was allowed no further.

He averted his gaze uncomfortably under her scrutiny before his eyes suddenly widened, as though a horrifying thought had just occurred to him. "I have to leave. Tomorrow. I can't stay here…" he tried to sit up, but didn't make it too far. A combination of Ran's hand on his shoulder and the betrayal of his own body forced him back down.

"You're in no condition to go anywhere," she said firmly, ignoring her breaking heart. "You're not moving tonight." Her expression turned from authoritative to plaintive then. "At least stay here the night so I know you've had at least one good night's sleep…" So I can stay beside you…so I can watch over you…so we can be together, even if it's only for a little while…

He was quiet, and for a horrible moment she thought he would refuse. But instead, his grip on her hand tightened. "Will you stay?" he begged, the barest hint of a whisper, clutching her hand desperately. The fingers brushing her cheek trembled slightly. He was scared of something.

Ran's free hand moved to brush his damp bangs back from his face before leaning down and gently brushing her lips against his forehead. She pulled back a little and smiled softly, sadly. "I'll stay right here. I promise."

He smiled, a mere ghost of the confident smirk she knew so well. "Someday," he whispered, holding her gaze for one last moment before his eyes slid shut, "I'll find my way back to you. For good."

Ran smiled. "Go to sleep." He did not answer, but silently obeyed.

She kept her word. She spent the night curled beside the couch—not the most comfortable of beds, but she was surprisingly happy and slept soundly. Her fingers remained tangled in Shinichi's, not daring to let go. Maybe he would disappear again tomorrow, and she would again be left wondering. But for tonight, at least, he was here, reaching out to her. For tonight, he was home.

And that was enough.


AN: Yup, joined up. Decided to follow fireblazie's lead and toss these up on this site for your consideration and hopeful enjoyment. They won't all be this heavy, I promise. We should run a full gambit of genres here. Thanks for reading!

BTW, this goes out to fireblazie--your fics rock, and it's because of you that I found out about and get to write 30 Kisses. You're awesome!