Hi there..... Sigh; I just don't know when to quit. I wrote "The Window", and then I wrote its sequal "The Longest Hour"--- and I had an idea that I was just gonna have to write the next part, because otherwise how would I know whether or not poor Conan/Shinichi lived through explaining everything to Ran's dad? So here goes! Warning: No flashbacks, no lead-ins; it's a straight continuation, and if you haven't read THL you won't know what the hell is happening. Angst in the first chapter (plus a bit of silliness here and there). Things will lighten up quite a bit, but there's another story here, too; hope you like it. Please read and review--- If you don't, you are but mere fanboys. Oh, by the way: Disclaimer saith "This isn't mine, the characters belong to the magnificent and talented Gosho Aoyama, may he flourish! Don't sue me, please, 'cause it just isn't worth your time or my money!" Abayo.... Ysabet


Second Wind
By Ysabet

Chapter One: Truths and Consequences

The sounds were scarcely noticeable at first--- just tiny noises, muffled whimpers rather like what a half-smothered puppy might make if held too tightly. Against the rattle of water pipes and the distant sound of passing automobiles they were nearly inaudible, unless one listened closely.

But they were such pathetic sounds; soft, muted gasps that never quite resolved into sobs--- almost as if the sufferer were afraid that they would be heard, and sought out, and punished….. They died away, shivering into the dusty corners of the tiny over-stuffed storage room, mingling with cobwebs and forgotten dirt.

Click. The small room's lock was being unlatched; the sounds ceased instantly.

A face peered in through the narrow opening as the door slipped silently open; a narrow-eyed, slightly wild gaze scanned the small room for movement.

Nothing. Silence.

A muttered curse, then the door shut again with a sharp rattle of a turned key in the lock.

It was a while before the cries began again.


Upstairs in the living room of the Mouri Detective Agency, a great deal of explaining had just been done.

"Let me see if I understand this correctly..." said the mustachioed man carefully, leaning back against the cushions of the couch.

Three pairs of eyes followed his movements. The first pair was dark and wary, the second pair wide and somewhat glassy--- and the third, very nervous pair kept straying longingly towards the open door.

The man spoke perhaps a little too precisely, spacing his words out with great care. An observer might have been forgiven for thinking him perfectly calm, not upset at all, no, perfectly composed, thank you; only the rather glazed, glittering look in his eyes gave him away.

"You---" (and he pointed at the owner of the first pair of eyes) "--- decided to let yourself be..... reduced..... because you wanted to--- ahhh, would you mind explaining that last point again?" His words were very polite; one could scarcely notice the shaking. Beneath him the couch-cushion made tiny ripping noises as his hands clenched on the fabric.

The young girl sitting opposite from him answered in a small, rather guilty voice. "I, um, wanted to stay with Shinichi..... Dad, it was my decision and I made it on my own-----"

Beside her the owner of the third pair of eyes blinked and swallowed hard. He cleared his throat. ".....Mouri-san, it was entirely my fault---" he began......

His words trailed off as Mouri Kogoro turned a freezing glare in his direction. "You--- " he grated out (and there was a certain note of 'impending doom' in that voice that made the boy shiver) "--- I don't want to hear anything from you yet.... You'll get your turn."

The promise implied in the last phrase was enough to turn anyone's blood cold.

*Oh, this is NOT going well.....* thought Kudo Shinichi, beginning to slip unobtrusively towards the front of his seat in preparation for a quick dash towards safety. *No, not well at all.*

And it had started out so beautifully, too.....


All in all, it had been a lovely evening. The stars shone crisply down, their light filtering through the haze of neon that always overhung the city; a faint breeze was blowing-- just enough to carry away the fumes of passing cars, just enough to bring out the taste of early Autumn. It was quite late; the smaller shops had closed down already and the larger ones were beginning to bring in their signs and sidewalk displays.

"Do you think maybe we ought to go inside?" The young boy sitting on the stairs in front of the Mouri residence glanced aside at his companion, a slight frown of worry crinkling his forehead. He leaned back, resting on his elbows.

The small girl beside him shrugged, pushing back her dark hair from her face. She checked the watch on her wrist; it was too big for her, the band slipping loose despite having been snugged up as far as it could go. "It's a quarter to ten..... I would've thought he'd be back by now....." She looked down at the oversized timepiece and sighed. "Dad gave me this for my birthday last year, and it's going to be a while before I can wear it again; oh well....."

A flash of guilt passed over the boy's face; his eyes dropped, and he stared down at his shoes. At his silence, the girl looked up and her expression of impatience faded into one of mild exasperation. She sighed. "Shinichi..... Conan..... I told you--- quit with the guilt, already! I wasn't trying to make you feel bad..... It's just going to take some getting used to, that's all." She sat back, crossing her arms.

The boy looked up, offering her a wry smile. "You're telling me....." he said softly, his words an apology.

They sat there in silence as a car passed, the headlights reflecting off the shop-windows around them. Conan followed the red taillights with his eyes; his gaze trailed sideways then to his companion. *Ran..... * Her round-cheeked young face held an expression too old for her apparent years; she sat turning her hands over and over, examining their shape with wonder and a strange kind of satisfaction. Meeting his eyes, she smiled back. "So small..... I don't remember them being small when I was like this before....." She stretched out one foot in front of her, examining it critically. "And my ankles are so thin. What will other kids look like to me now?"

A chuckle made her glance up. Conan leaned back again, watching the thinning traffic; he was smiling a little as he replied. "Oh, they'll look funny, believe me. All these little pipsqueaks that you spent the last half of your life stooping down to talk to are suddenly your height, and some of them are even taller--- it takes a lot of getting used to. And they don't move like adults, either; that was even weirder. You learn a lot about body language pretty damn quickly." He tilted his head towards her, streetlights highlighting the laughter in his eyes.

Ran stretched, yawning a little; it really was growing late. "Guess I'll manage; guess I'll have to..... I wonder how my dad and mom'll take this?" The question made her companion flinch; he slowly rose to his feet as, as if in answer, a taxi pulled up to the curbside.

"Don't look now..." he muttered darkly, "..... but I think we're going to find out. Think fast."

The taxi disgorged two passengers, a man and a woman; as Mouri Kogoro helped his wife Eri from the vehicle, he leaned close and whispered something softly that made her laugh. Ran's eyes widened; she edged unconsciously closer to Conan, who took her hand in his. The couple turned towards the stairs, still smiling and talking in lowered tones---

--- where they stopped at the sight of two small, apprehensive figures. The man frowned, irritation spreading across his face. "Boy? Where's Ran?" His frown deepened as he watched the young girl edge ever-so-slightly behind Conan, who clutched her hand tighter. Slowly, slowly, Mouri Kogoro's eyes began to widen as the first unwilling glimmers of recognition struggled up from the depths of memory.

Beside him there was a gasp. "R---- R-Ran?!?" whispered her mother.....


Explanations had been--- difficult.

Long, too. Several times during the seemingly-endless conversation Conan had found himself wishing desperately that his current body had been old enough to drink….. Poor Ran had helped as much as she could, especially when her father's face had purpled with fury; but the burden of the tale had fallen upon the boy's shoulders.

He could only wish that they could have been broader.

Even as he carefully related the truth of the past year's history (leaving out certain pertinent details regarding wristwatch sleeping darts and bowtie voice-disguisers--- he did want some chance of surviving this, after all), some small part of his mind made little notes regarding his audience. The detective in his skull never quite slept….. It was interesting (in a rather gruesome way) what made Ran's parents react the most. When, as clinically as possible, he had described the excruciating pain that the capsule had inflicted on him during his change, Eri-san had winced back and her eyes had filled with sympathetic tears. Mouri-san, on the other hand, had sat stolidly; his eyes had remained fixed unblinkingly on Conan's.

And yet….. had there been a momentary flicker of something (approval?) when the boy had touched on the various schemes and strategies by which he had kept his secret?

Possibly… especially after he had explained why. The Black Organization, of course; they'd have to be careful, all of them. That momentary flicker had grown stronger when Conan had stressed what would almost certainly have happened to them all (especially Ran) if he *had* slipped up and exposed his identity.

But a moment's approval had not been nearly enough when it became Mouri-san's daughter's turn to tell her own tale.

Ran had spoken quietly, telling the whole thing in a detached fashion; her dark blue eyes were calm, but her hand sought out Conan's while she spoke. The lilting little-girl voice had held overtones of sadness and certainty that went far beyond what any child should be able to feel; it was unnerving. And during it all, her mother had kept touching her--- reaching out a finger to brush a cheek, to stroke her daughter's hair….. almost as if she needed to reassure herself that this was, indeed, really her child that spoke so calmly and steadily about the most traumatic event in her young life.

And through it all, Mouri-san's eyes had burned at Conan.

When Ran's words faltered and failed at the moments of her own translation into a second childhood, there was a silence….. As she took a deep breath and continued, her mother reached out again, brushing the tangle of hair back from the round, childish face. Ran stopped for a moment to smile at her tremulously, and the boy beside her felt a lump rising in his throat.

*Ran.... to hear you talk about it--- it's almost as bad as being there---* Conan swallowed, feeling the small fingers grip his even tighter. And all the while, Mouri Kogoro's eyes never left his face.

At last the tale was told, and Ran sank back against the cushions with an audible sigh of relief. "That's it, really….. I made my choice, and now I'm going to learn to live with it." She stared at her feet, noting how they no longer reached the floor. Beside her Conan sat silently, a quiet, reassuring presence.

"I know what you're thinking….. I'm too young to make decisions like this; but--- how old were you both when you started making choices that would affect the rest of your life? I mean… Dad---" Ran turned to him, her large eyes fierce; "--- you went into the police force when you were only a year older than me! And, Mom, you were married when you were my age!"

Across from her daughter, Eri drew in her breath sharply; Ran reached out, touching her mother's hand.

"I made a choice, my own choice; don't blame Shinichi for this. I made this choice; he couldn't stop me, no matter what he did. And you know, sooner or later things would've been changing for me anyway….. I would've gone away to college, or taken a job somewhere, or, or gotten married….."

Her eyes flickered sideways for a moment, and Conan felt his cheeks warm. The hand holding his tightened gently, and he shifted a little closer to her on the couch. His shoulder brushed hers. *I wonder what our lives would be like right now, if we hadn't gone to Tropical Land that night? I really wonder, Ran.....*

*I wish.....*

The girl's eyes dropped then, and the faint note of defiance faded from her voice. "I... suppose I'm not being fair to you... I've just done something that'll make me, well, a 'dependent' for another decade or so. You shouldn't have to support a child for that long." She was quiet for a few seconds, looking up at last with a rather painful smile. "I guess we could go stay with Agasa-san, if-- if you can't bear me like this--- "

*Oh, Ran..... No way. They can throw me out if they want, but not you. That's not fair.....* Conan closed his eyes briefly, feeling cold.

Mouri-san sat silent, but the look on his face said volumes. Eri-san spoke for them both, wiping at her eyes with the back of one hand. "Ran….. if you think that we'd just abandon you, you're out of your mind! We're your parents--- that won't change, no matter what else does." She attempted a wavery smile. "And as for making a choice….." The woman sighed, and her eyes suddenly seemed older than before. "I guess it's hard for any parent to ever believe that their child is adult enough to think about choosing for themselves; it goes with the job. We know how stubborn you are---" and she reached across, taking her husband's hand in hers; "--- you take after us both a great, great deal. And you're right; sooner or later you would've left home for one reason or another…." Beside her Mouri-san muttered something under his breath; his hand tightened in his wife's, making her wince slightly.

"But, Ran….. this isn't exactly what we expected you to do….."

That was all it took. Eri burst into tears and reached across, drawing her daughter's small form into her arms. For a moment Ran stiffened a little, fighting her own emotions; then she relaxed at last into the embrace, accepting the comfort that her mother so desperately wanted to give.

Conan sighed, feeling something tight and hard deep inside his heart loosen. *I guess it's okay.... for you, at least. Me? Who gives a damn about me? I got you into this, no matter what you say. I'm not needed here right now, that's for sure.* Unobtrusively the boy slid down off the couch, slipping silently away towards his room.

Even as he drew his wife and daughter close to him, Mouri Kogoro's dark, intent gaze followed him down the hall.


He hadn't expected to sleep, but somehow he had managed it (though his tossing and turning had the sheets looking like an army had marched through, complete with combat boots and tanks).

And now.... he was awake? *Uhhhh…..* Something--- a noise?--- had awakened him. Slowly Conan reached out a hand to turn on the bedside light.

Oh. He had expected this, really. *And it's better than, oh, say, being shot while sleeping, right? …..Right.*

Mouri-san sat in a chair at the foot of the bed, his eyes glinting eerily in the semi-darkness. Those eyes were fixed on Conan's face, burning like hot coals. The detective's face was drawn with weariness, but there was a grim, uncompromising set to his jaw.

*Guess it's my turn to talk now.....*

"Boy. Kudo. Give me one good reason why I shouldn't kill you for what's happened to my daughter." The cold fury in the voice made him momentarily speechless.

He closed his eyes, rubbing at them with his fingers. "I wish I could." Conan's own voice sounded bleak in his ears. "No matter what I say--- no matter what I do, no matter what Ran says..... this is my fault." He looked up directly into the burning eyes. "I've spent a year with you, living under a false name, under false pretenses," he stated flatly. "I've lied, I've lived off of your generosity, I've done everything I could think of just to keep my secret--- just to stay alive."

"I was desperate; I had lost my home, my body, my life. You and Ran gave me everything… safety, shelter, a new life. And now---" he drew in a deep, hard breath; "--- now--- God; what she's done for me--- I can't begin to tell you what it feels like." Pain knotted in his throat.

"Try." How could Mouri-san's gaze be so hot when his voice could freeze water?

Conan laughed softly, bitterly. "How does it feel? Like.... like the bottom has fallen out of my world--- again."

"Like I'd give anything, anything to make things better..... to put them back the way they were before. My life, any chances I have of a cure, whatever--- but I can't. I can't, and that's just the way things are." Mouri-san's hands gripped the edge of the chair, white-knuckled in the shadows.

"Ran's given me a gift so large that I don't know how to really accept it. She's given me her life, in a way. How do you think it feels?....... And right now, there's just one thing I can think of to tell you that might make it worth your while to leave me alive."

At the foot of the bed, the older man sat as still as stone, waiting.

Conan--- Shinichi--- fixed his eyes on Mouri Kogoro's, and all childishness had long since vanished from them. "I made Ran a promise: that I would never leave her again. She took that capsule so she could be with me, so we could stay together--- the only thing I can do now for her is keep my promise. And if you kill me..... I can't even do that." He sighed then, a long sigh, and closed his eyes.

"I love your daughter, Mouri-san. I won't let her down; I'd die first. I won't break my promise, not if I can help it."

*And if that's not enough for you, Mouri-san..... Oji-san..... I guess you'll just have to kill me, won't you? Be sure and hide my body well--- wouldn't want Ran to have a convicted murderer for a father. Don't let yourself get caught.* Conan felt oddly distant, a peculiar mixture of despair and calm flooding through him. The silence in the room was overwhelming; it filled the world.

At last he heard a faint rustle from the foot of the bed. The boy opened his eyes; Mouri-san was standing, staring at him with a strange little smile on his face. His eyes glittered.

"Fine. Fine. So you promised to stay with her? Then..... that's exactly what you're going to do." He leveled a long finger at Conan's disbelieving face. "You're going to keep your promise, boy--- Conan--- Kudo. And trust me: your life depends on it. You're going to stay right here, just like you've been for the last year, and you're going to see to it that Ran manages; that's your responsibility. And if you screw up---" Mouri Kogoro's eyes narrowed and his hands made involuntary twisting motions; Conan winced, picturing his neck in that viselike grasp.

"---If you screw up, that'll be the end for you. That's my promise, 'Conan-kun.'"

Conan swallowed hard. He believed him, all right; oh yes, he believed him. The boy sank back against the pillows as the detective moved towards the door, exiting into the dark hallway without a backwards glance.

The door clicked shut. He snapped the light off.

The boy lay back, shivering a little with adrenaline. *Right. Well, I'm not buried in a vacant lot somewhere and I'm not out on the streets; I'm still alive..... I think I'm kind of surprised, actually.* He closed his tired eyes. *You know, God, I didn't really need any more incentive to keep my promise to Ran; I really didn't. But I guess I owed Mouri-san that little conversation. I guess I owe him a lot of things.*

Sleep was a long time in coming.


Some time later…..

Another noise. *Urrrgh…..* Awake. *Now what?? Oh….. right. Her turn. This is gonna be grim.*

His visitor had pulled up a chair beside his bed this time; that was probably what had awakened him. And the light was on, too. Eri-san was a very efficient woman.

Ran's mother sat looking at him calmly, wrapped in an oversized bathrobe of her husband's. *Looks like the reconciliation's going well, anyway.* Her eyes were reddened with tears and lack of sleep, but their gaze was needle-sharp. Conan sat up, pushing the covers back. *Oh shit; this is a mother, RAN's mother--- not much chance of being cut any slack here. I… think I should be more worried about what she's going to do to me than about what Mouri-san had planned.* He opened his mouth, trying desperately to think of what to say.

That was when he noticed the kitchen knife in her hands. It was small, shiny, and undeniably sharp-looking.

*Eeeeep.* The boy felt himself go pale.

*Murderers, Black Org operatives--- fine; I can handle them. Angry mothers with knives--- nooo….* He froze, feeling horribly vulnerable.

Eri-san leaned forward, pinning him with her stare. In a low, deceptively gentle tone, she spoke: "My daughter and I have just spent several very informative hours together. I'm not going to ask you for an apology or an excuse--- from everything she's told me, nothing you said could have changed her mind once she'd made it up." The older woman sighed, her eyes momentarily distant. "Ran has always made her own decisions….. always, even when she was--- small. I can accept that. And I suppose that, in time, I'll get used to her being like she is now. I'll have to, won't I? I'm her mother."

Her face was so like her daughter's….. There was that same look of unshakable determination, for one thing; that expression that told you that, no matter what, she would do whatever she had to do to keep her word.

Conan really wished that she would put the knife away.

Eri-san's gaze hardened, her eyes boring into his. "There's just one thing I wanted to make clear between us, Kudo Shinichi. And that's this: If you break my daughter's heart, I will kill you. Do you understand me?" Her hands tightened around the small, sharp blade in emphasis.

He could only nod.

She smiled at him briefly, brightly, tucking her cutlery into the bathrobe's pocket. "I thought you might." Standing, Ran's mother stretched a bit and turned towards the door. "Goodnight then….. Conan-kun." As she turned the knob, she looked over her shoulder at him. "You know, Ran really does love you."

He had to try twice before he could find his voice. "I know. I--- love her too."

Still smiling, she nodded calmly. "Good. You had better."

The door clicked shut behind her.

Conan lay back in the bed again, deflating like a balloon. *And I'm supposed to sleep after that? Thank God Ran doesn't have any sisters or brothers--- they'd be lined up down the hallway for their little chats.* He turned off the light with a slightly shaky hand, then sank down between the sheets.

*God. Most parents have fits when some guy takes their 'little girl' away from them; I'll bet I'm the first one in history to nearly get killed for giving her back.*

He pulled the covers completely over his head and tried to sleep, resolving silently to be very, very nice to Ran's mother for the rest of his life. Women were much more direct than men about their intentions.


Some time even later…..

*Urrrrghhh? What--- now who wants to talk to me? Do they want to kill me too?* There had been another noise. *Ran??*

No; the room was dark. But over by the window----- a figure, face pale in the moonlight-----

Conan blinked, then blinked again. There was no-one there. No-one; the window was empty. *But--- huh; I could've sworn….. I thought I saw somebody standing there, somebody small; a boy? a girl? But nobody's there. So what the hell woke me up?*

But the room *was* empty, or at least he thought so; he turned on the light to make certain. Nothing, no-one.

*Just your imagination, Kudo. Now you're making up anxieties; you're gonna need a psychiatrist if you keep this up.* Like he needed something else to worry about….. The boy snapped off the light for the fourth time that night and tried, again, to sleep.

But as he slid slowly downwards into warm, comforting darkness, Conan couldn't quite escape the feeling that unseen eyes were still watching him from the shadows…..


So..... Whatcha think? I'll have Chapter two out as soon as possible; this is going to be interesting to write. And if some of you think that maybe Mouri-kun was being a bit harsh on Conan--- well, put yourself in his place, and add in HIS temper! Errrrgh; I think I'd have hightailed it for the hills, myself. Anyway, hope you liked Chapter one; stay tuned, same Bat-time, same Bat-channel..... Ysabet