Ran frowned at the clock. Perhaps she would have been slightly less annoyed back when she thought Conan was really Conan. But knowing he was Shinichi, he really was running late for school. Even if it was only elementary school he shouldn't be tardy. (Her insistence that he attend school and do all his homework in front of her wasn't revenge for the whole Conan thing, really).
Letting out a sigh (some thing, she supposed would never change) she knocked on his door. "Conan-kun you're going to be late for school".
When she got no response, she opened the door. Her frown deepen as she saw that, far from getting ready, the boy was still in bed.
She reached over and gave him a rough shake. "Come on you, you're going to make us both late."
Conan's eye's snapped open violently. He sat up ramrod straight and in a flash of light (it went by too quickly for Ran to make out the ring) he was transformed into his older self. His chest was heaving, though Ran knew it was a 'memory reflex'. In this form he didn't need to breathe. She tried not to think too hard on that.
"Shinichi," her voice no more than a whisper, "What's wrong?" She lay her hand on his shoulder and he grabbed it like a life raft.
"A dream," he whispered, more to himself than her. "It was just a dream."
"What kind of dream-"
They were interrupted by the sound of Kogoro's footsteps. "You two are going to be late for school." he reminded in a gruff voice.
"Sorry Oji-san. Ran-neechan was just helping me find my glasses." Conan's voice echoed from the room. Shinichi shut his jaw with an almost audible snap. He stared down his nose as if his mouth had betrayed him.
Grumbling something about taking better care of his belongings and the cost of replacement glasses, Kogoro moved on.
"I didn't know you could do that. Use Conan's voice while-"
"Neither did I," Shinichi cut her off, his voice unusually heavy with bitterness. "Just one more of those things," Just one more of those things that make me a freak. He shook his head. "You head off to school. I'll be fine. If I get too crunched for time I can-" Fly. I can fly. Urgh, I can't even say it out loud right now. He shook his head.
Ran frowned uncertainly, opened her mouth uncertainly then closed it. As she left the room, Shinichi covered his eyes with his hands . He really didn't want to be Conan right now, but he didn't want to be the Phantom Detective either. I don't even know at this point which one is the real me and which one is the persona.
"Conan are you okay? You've been really quiet all day." Ayumi asked worried, her hand on his shoulder reminiscent of Ran's that morning.
He shrugged it off with a shaky smile. There was definite concern in her voice. Mitsuhiko and Genta looked at him with curiosity. Ai just turned her head. She hadn't looked him in the eye in over a week. "I'm fine, I just had a rough night."
The children's faces brightened. "Was it a ghost?" asked Mitsuhiko eagerly
"I bet it was that old woman again." Genta hypothesized.
"Did they give us a new case?" Ayumi asked excitedly.
Conan shook his head. "No, nothing like that..."
Genta crossed his arms and frowned. "You wouldn't be trying to leave us out of the case again? What, does Mr. Undead not need any help?"
Conan went rigid at Genta's words. Suddenly he vanished, the only sound being air rushing in to fill the void when there had once been a small boy.
"Was it something I said?" asked Genta.
Ayumi kicked him in his shin. Hard.
"We should talk to Ran." Ai suggested. "She's known him longer than anyone, she may have an idea what's wrong."
"So he just disappeared?" Ran sat back in the kitchen chair and closed her eyes.
"It seemed to be the word 'undead' that triggered his flight." Ai supplied.
"I should have known." She sighed. "I knew something was wrong this morning." At the inquisitive glances she continued. "He had a dream, a really bad one. He also discovered a new ability, but that seemed to make him even more depressed."
"Ability?" Ai inquired.
Ran grinned wryly at the little girl who was effectively Shinichi's physician. "Nothing major, he can use Conan's voice when he's Shinichi." Ai nodded, filing this away for further study.
"Well what was the dream about?" Mitsuhiko asked.
"I don't know."
Ayumi frowned. "You didn't ask?" Adults these days, didn't they know anything?
"I..." Ran faltered. "I would have asked Conan the moment I found out he had a nightmare. But Shinichi - to treat him that way would have been humiliating. I just don't know." A redness started to form around her eyes that she was well practiced at keeping in. "I know how to take care of Conan and how to deal with Shinichi, I just don't know which I'm supposed to be doing." It felt odd being so frank with children, but the truth was that they were the only one who understood. All to well.
Ayumi's frown evened out and she patted Ran on the side. "Treat him like Shinichi; we can take care of Conan, right guys?"
A loud affirmative echoed from the rest of the Shonen Tantei.
The trap door to the attic creak eerily as the four children peeked around the attic of the old Kudo house.
"Are you sure he's here?" Mitsuhiko asked, nervously. This place looked like a haunted house. Totally ignoring the fact that they came here looking for a half-ghost.
"My source say he comes here when he's upset." said Ayumi confidently.
"And what source would that be?" Kudo Shinichi's voice rang from the rafters.
The children jumped but quickly hid it. "That is a secret." Ayumi responded indignantly.
The Phantom Detective shrugged and once again rested against the rafters. For once he made no effort to hide his teenage form from them, displaying not the least bit of shyness or shame. "Why are you here?" he asked in a tired voice.
"Because we're worried about you!" Ayumi answered in a petulant voice.
"What's there to worry about?" he asked, bitterness again in his voice. "Not like anything could hurt me. Can't kill what's already dead."
The harshness of his words shocked his friends, who were used to nothing but supreme self confidence coming from their friend.
"You're not dead." Ai responded a little desperately.
"I have no pulse and I'm not breathing." Kudo answered matter of factly.
"But you are hurting." Ayumi followed up, drawing strength from Ai. "The dream's hurting you, isn't it?"
She knew she had hit the mark when his posture stiffened. "Ran told you about that?" he then shook his head. "I don't want to talk about it."
"You promised." Mitsuhiko reminded. "You promised us no more secrets."
"We're you're friends baka!" Genta interjected. "Stop shutting us out."
The aggression seemed to flow out of Shinichi and was replaced by a quiet sadness, "I dreamt I was at a funeral." He began, "I was sitting next to Ran. You guys were there, so was Agasa, my parents, the police, basically everyone I knew. It was a western style funeral with a casket, but I couldn't see who was inside. I sat with Ran while the preacher talked, but I couldn't here what he was saying. After he was done everyone got up and started laying roses on the casket. When I got up to the front I still couldn't see who was in the casket, so I asked Ran whose funeral it was. She said-" he broke of, wincing, then shook his head, "She said it was mine. I was dead so I had to be buried. She picked me up and through me in the casket, which was then dropped into the grave. Everyone started throwing flowers at me and I couldn't get out. Then the hole started to fill with dirt and...and I woke up. The dream was right though." He sighed. "I'm dead, just pretending to be alive. I started to die the night I was poisoned. I don't belong here anymore."
He expected a response, of course. Ayumi would defend him from his own words, she had such blind faith in him. Ai would point of that he was still technically alive when he was Conan, even though he shouldn't be. Mitsuhiko would back up Ai. He was expecting anything but...
If he wasn't a ghost, Shinichi surely would have gotten whiplash from how quickly his head turned to stare at the large boy. Genta didn't apologize. Genta never apologized.
Genta had just apologized.
"I just get frustrated sometimes, we all do," Genta continued, staring at the floor. "We know you're trying to protect us, but you're still leaving us out, just like the other grown ups and it hurts 'cause you're one of us too."
One of us...
"But I'm not a real kid. Conan's not real."
Ayumi pouted. "Really, so I imagined the boy who wouldn't stop till he proved to Megure-keibu that we weren't lying about finding a body."
"And I imagined the person who protected us from that RC plane with the bomb on it," added Mitsuhiko, his grin at odds with Ayumi's pout.
"Yeah, so I musta imagined the guy who drove us off the top of an exploding building in a fancy car!!" Genta added all but cheered at the memory.
Shinichi shook his head, his other worry coming to the front. "If Conan is real, does that mean Shinichi isn't?"
Ai smacked her forehead. "For the love of...Are you really expecting elementary school children to have the philosophical and psychological answers you're looking for?"
"Aw man Ai, not you too!" Genta moaned.
"Why not," Shinichi asked dryly. "They're doing better than I am. Kids can see the straightforward truths that grown ups get all tangled."
Ayumi, Mitsuhiko, and Genta beamed. "Told ya, you're one of us, even when you're grown up."
Mitsuhiko thought for a second. "No one's one thing. Everyone has a bunch of different sides to them. You just have a bunch of different sides that you don't usually see together, like being a kid and an adult. Or being a ghost and being alive. And when you're showing different parts of yourself, you use different names, kinda like a screenname on the Internet."
Shinichi shook his head, and for the first time that day grinned. "You guys...are really smart, you know that?"
Genta's indignant "Well DUH!" had everyone laughing. Shinichi finally jumped down from the rafters, landing silently on the floor, though he hadn't floated or gone intangible. "Guess I should change back now."
"That's okay," said Ayumi, surprising everyone. "Why don't you show us around? I bet you've got all sorts of secret passages. And we didn't explore here before because you said not too."
"Well if you'd found any pictures of me from ten years ago, I'd have a lot to explain. That was before I'd come up with my cover story of being my own cousin." Shinichi reminded them. He then plucked at his orange jacket. "If I'm going to be...this me for a while I think I'm gonna change first. I hate this outfit."
"Better call Mouri-chan too," Ai added.
A flash of guilt crossed Shinichi's face and he nodded before disappearing down the trap door.
"Okay everyone, listen up." Ayumi said in her voice that let everyone know she meant business. "Conan is still hurting and, I think, confused. And the only way I think we can help him is to show him that Conan-kun and Shinichi-niichan are the same person, by treating both of them the same."
Ai nodded, "His compartmentalization, though once necessary, has caused a bit of an identity crisis. Added to that the further confusion he feels about being something he believes to be unnatural, something that shouldn't even exist, a total separations of his identities is no longer...healthy." At the three blank stares she summarized "He is disturbed by being half ghost and confused about who he is. This is bad for him." Understanding dawned. "As Ayumi said, we should try to help him reconcile his identities as Conan Edogawa and Shinichi Kudo, at the very least by making him feel he doesn't have to be one or the other around us." The three nodded, the last vestiges of Mitsuhiko and Genta's jealousy having been erased by the disturbing conversation they had just had with their friend.
Conan needed them.
The rest of the day passed relatively pleasantly. Ran came over and she and Shinichi gave the children a tour of the house (which did indeed have three secret passages and a priest's hole.) Ran pulled out some old photo albums and they laughed at the embarrassing pictures Yukiko had loved to take.
Shinichi had changed into his old blue suit. Though he didn't dye his hair or hide his eyes like he normally did when trying to appear human, he still acted the part of a normal person (ie not floating and opening doors instead of walking through walls). The only supernatural trait that was demonstrated was when the kids had eagerly demanded a demonstration of his new 'power'. Though his newfound ability to speak in Conan's voice when transformed had no practical purpose, it still greatly amused those present. Ai said nothing, but took note when Shinichi absently began to eat snacks with the rest of them, despite the fact that a body made of ectoplasm shouldn't be capable of ingesting food.
She could run tests when he was feeling better. Right now it was time for her and her advanced vocabulary to whoop all her friends at Scrabble.
That night, as Conan tucked himself into bed he smiled at the thought that he had very good friends.
And none of them wanted him buried.
AN: Another angst chapter. I've got to stop doing these. It was mostly inspired, of all characters, by Arsene Lupin. I once heard a description of him that basically went that he had worn so many fake identities, he had forgotten which one he really was. Throw in Shinichi's logical mind still trying to wrap itself around ghosts existing, much less him being one sometimes, and we've got a recipe for some serious issues.
It was also a time of growth for the ST, both in the realization that this super hero thing isn't all fun and games and they needed to help their friend, and in Shinichi's perception (he doesn't even realize that he's starting to see them as equals, thus talking to them about things you just don't say in front of kids).
So anyone have a clue who Ayumi's source is? :)