Recovering the Self
Chapter 9: Owning up to the Truth
I'm sure I've worried a lot of people, but this story is not dead. I'm really sorry, but this has been the worst semester and I just haven't had any time to write. But, here is a new chapter to hold you over for a bit! I hope you enjoy it! It brings up new issues, but finally resolves others.
Please review! Your comments are always so humbling and inspiring! Thanks so much for them!
I do not own Meitantei Conan
The evidence was boiling right beneath the surface, and Conan knew he had to solve this mystery, and soon. There was nothing else he could do, as a detective. Even if he wasn't sure what he would do with his findings, he had to piece together the different hanging threads pertaining to his life, as terrifying as they were.
It was with this conviction that he found himself running to the Kudous' mansion, pounding on the door almost desperately, caught in a determined haze. He had to see. He had to take a look at something-to confirm something.
No one appeared to be home, but quickly losing patience, Conan decided to take a leaf out of Kaito's book. Taking a bobby pin out, he unlocked the front door, a little less expertly than Kaito would have, but effectively, nonetheless.
Shutting the door behind him, he tore off into the living room in search of the photo album he'd been looking at with Yukiko-obachan. Great. It's not here. I guess I should have expected that…
Not to be foiled so easily, however, he went to climb the staircase and eventually found his way to the master bedroom. He bit his lip, feeling somewhat guilty about his plan to snoop around the private room, but felt an unquenchable need to find out the truth. Besides, if he were right, it wouldn't be considered breaking and entering, anyway. And they had told him to consider this place as his own, after all.
Gulping once, he pushed open the door slowly, and took in the large bed in the center of an even larger room, noting plenty of touches which Yukiko was clearly responsible for. On the bedside table, there was a picture of Yukiko, Yuusaku and Shinichi, and Conan found himself examining the teenager (who appeared to be around 15 in this picture) more carefully than usual. If it weren't for the absurdity of it all considering the age difference, he would scoff at himself for not having been suspicious of this all along.
For sure, Kaito looked like Shinichi, but it was nothing compared to how the young detective resembled him, Conan. Shinichi seemed to be much less excitable than Kaito (though that wasn't difficult to imagine) and was rolling his eyes slightly in this particular picture, clearly not incredibly pleased with how Yukiko was hanging off of him. Yuusaku had one hand on his shoulder, watching the other two with amusement.
Conan stared at the three for a time, and was struck, though it didn't surprise him as much as he thought it might, that the way the elder Kudous were eying Shinichi didn't seem all that different from how they interacted with him.
Tearing his gaze away, Conan began to open and sift through drawers, finding mostly clothing, before making his way to the room's large closet. In a floral-printed box, he found what he'd been looking for. His eyes shook slightly as he picked up the large book, settled with it on the floor, and began to open it, piecing through it, bit by bit. Again, the same pictures of Shinichi, many of them with his parents, Ran or Kaito, flashed by, and he was surprised to note that several pictures seemed to have been added. Or…replaced. Rearranged, perhaps.
A picture of two young boys, one's face obscured partly by the messy-haired boy to his left who was hanging off of him and laughing as he somehow managed not to spill his chocolate ice-cream cone. Conan stared as he recognized this messy-haired child. He had caught a glimpse of this same boy that day in the ice-cream shop as he'd zoned off staring at Kaito. Looking more closely, it hit him. The child was Kaito. How could he have missed that? Heart pounding, he turned to the next page and saw another picture which had clearly been recently replaced.
It looked to have been taken the same day, but this time, both boys were facing the camera, arms looped around each others' shoulders, as they continued to enjoy their ice cream cones.
Even though he had been trying to mentally prepare himself for this, Conan couldn't help but let out a gasp. The child beside Kaito, smirking slightly and holding a strawberry cone, was…him. There was really no doubt seeing Shinichi at this age. Conan could find no discernible difference between his own features and the pictured child. He turned around to stare in the bedroom's full-sized mirror and confirmed this. But he wasn't done. Not until he had conclusive evidence. So he pushed his discoveries aside to wait until he had found the clencher.
And then, there it was. A photograph to prove that his dreams were not just dreams. It was the picture Yukiko had told him was of Shinichi's trip with his father to Hawaii. Shinichi looked to be about 14 and was looking very smug as he turned around to grin at the camera from his seat at the wheel of a motorboat. To his right, smiling proudly, and even wearing the shirt Conan remembered from the dream, was Kudou Yuusaku.
Dropping the book, Conan scrambled backwards into the corner of the room, barely remembering to breathe. He just stared in shock at the photo album completely unaware how it had just shattered his world with revelations.
He didn't know how it was possible. He was 7 years old, for Gods sakes! But…what was it Kaito had said? What was it that resounded within him so strongly? Shinjitsu wa itsumo hitotsu? For despite the insanity of this conclusion, it was the conclusion that all evidence seemed to point to.
He had appeared, without his memory, apparently within the same hour Shinichi had vanished without a trace. And hadn't he found his way to the Kudou mansion, come to think of it? It had never occurred to him before, but now…it made sense that even without his memories, his legs would carry him, simply by the force of habit and muscle-memory, to wherever he considered home…
His mind was whirling. How could he have not seen it sooner? And he was supposed to be this great detective, he thought bitterly. Kaito had been worried, panicked…for so long. And yet, all along, he'd been right beside him. Kaito needn't have suffered, and it was all his fault for not picking up on the obvious signs earlier!
Oh God. Kaito. What would he do about him? Despite his revelations, he couldn't remember more than a few random scenes from his life as Shinichi. He had no idea how to be him. And he had no clue how to act around Kaito. He had felt so happy, so carefree, so content, living with him as Conan. As his little brother. He didn't know anything else. He didn't think he could be anyone else. And yet, even though he knew Kaito cared for Conan, that didn't change that fact that the young man he'd come to see as his beloved niichan missed Shinichi terribly.
He missed his…boyfriend. And Conan had stolen him away. And had no idea how to return him.
Pushing himself to his feet, he picked up the photo album and returned it to its spot in the closet, closing the door. He couldn't let anyone know he'd been here. Couldn't let anyone suspect that he knew the truth. If so, they'd expect him to suddenly be Shinichi again, wouldn't they?
But he couldn't. How was he to be Shinichi when he couldn't remember the last thing about him?
He quietly tiptoed down the stairs and with a sigh of relief at noticing that no one had returned home yet, he left the house, shutting (and locking) the front door behind him.
He scowled slightly up at the large house. It was his. It was apparently the house he had grown up in, and yet, he felt nothing for it. Sure, he thought the library was great. But he really didn't feel any true connection to the place. He wondered, as he walked down the sidewalk, if he'd ever truly been happy there?
He knew where he had been happy. At Kaito's. With Kaito, as his brother. But he no longer felt as if he deserved that title. It was a farce, after all. He wasn't really Conan. He was Shinichi, and the longer he played dumb, the longer Kaito could suffer.
But he couldn't deal with the other option. He couldn't deal with everyone expecting him to be the oh-so-great Shinichi. He just wasn't him, anymore. Not until he remembered more.
Conan's thoughts were interrupted by a yell which sounded at once frantic, relieved, and angry. He looked up to be swept up into Kaito's arms.
"Why did you leave like that, Conan?"
Conan stared at Kaito's uncharacteristically serious and panicked face, and felt guilt clench his chest at the realization that the color that had returned to his 'niichan's' face after his discussion with Yukiko seemed to have reverted once again. It looked like he'd been racing around frantically for a while.
"How could you do that? Without even leaving a note? Do you know how worried I was, Co-chan?"
"I…I'm sorry, I just…"
"I guess I should have checked here first, but I thought you knew the Kudous would be out of town for a few days again!"
Oh. Right. That's why they weren't there. In his impulsively determined state of mind after that dream the night before, Conan had spared a thought for nothing but finding answers. So he hadn't remembered that the Kudous would be away (which was, however, helpful for his particular designs this morning. But he hadn't thought to let Kaito know, either, which he felt really bad about.
"I'm so sorry, Kaito-niichan. I wasn't thinking, I-"
Kaito sighed but his expression softened at Conan's contrite expression. He gently ruffled his hair. "It's alright. But please try not to run off like that on me again. At least not without leaving me a note, okay? Remember that night of the murder case?"
"Yeah well, even if we're not in a closed area with a murderer, Tokyo is full of crime and nefarious people so…just, please, try not to drive me to an early grave, okay?"
He chuckled slightly, but it wasn't a particularly happy sound. Gulping, Conan hugged Kaito around the neck tightly, and unable to stop them, tears sprung up in his eyes. He was frustrated with himself for being so weak. After all, he was supposed to be like…what? 16? 17? But it was too much. He didn't want to think about his discoveries about his identity. All he wanted was more time. He wanted to hide away longer, like this, with Kaito.
"I promise, Kaito-niichan," he whispered, feeling comforted by the strong arms clutching him back tightly.
"Well. Now that that's over…" Kaito smiled at him slightly. "What about if we go to the park for a bit? Since it's such a pretty day, and we're out after all." He sent a slight glare at Conan at this, but the little boy just smiled apologetically in return.
"S-sure. That would be nice," he said softly.
Nodding, Kaito took Conan's hand and the two took off to the park.
It didn't pass Kaito by, however, how uncharacteristically quiet Conan was being.
Even once arriving at their destination, he noticed that the boy, rather than racing off to join the other kids in games of tag or soccer as he normally would have, seemed caught, as if caught in some internal struggle, between whether to play with them or stay and keep him company.
Kaito furrowed his brow, wondering if his scolding could be responsible, and decided to help Conan out.
"Co-chan?" He asked, crouching down beside him.
"Uh, yeah, Kai, uh, Kaito-niichan?" He stuttered, his face blushing inexplicably.
Kaito looked at him oddly for a moment before brushing it off. "Want to play one-on-one?" He asked, wincing at his altruistic suggestion, as he was not the best when it came to soccer…but at Conan's relieved, brightened expression, he felt it was worth it, and with a snap and a flurry of color, a small soccer ball materialized.
Taking the ball gratefully, Conan proceeded to clobber him in a game which quickly drew the awed stares of the other children playing in the park.
Slightly huffy at his continual losses, Kaito suggested they have a juggling competition, to which Conan rolled his eyes.
"Oh yeah. I just can't imagine who will win that!" Conan snarked.
"Oh? And what about that soccer game, chibi tantei-kun? Was that not just as clearly predictable?"
Conan laughed, relieved that things seemed to be pretty normal between them so far. Perhaps it wouldn't be so hard to continue being Conan after all.
Of course, this assumption would be put to the test sooner than he had imagined.
Things he had thought little of, with nothing but a passing discomfort before, seemed embarrassing and absurd now.
Such as bath time. Conan resolutely locked Kaito out of the bathroom while he did his ablutions that night, ignoring the older boy's pout.
It wasn't that he minded that nightly routine, exactly, but the confusing feelings it always awoke in him, now that he could put a name and a reason to them, absolutely horrified him. No, he would not take advantage of Kaito's innocence of who he really was. So it was necessary that he push him away in certain ways. He couldn't feel bad about it. He just desperately needed to buy time to sort things out.
That was the first night.
The next evening, when Kaito entered Conan's room for their nightly Holmes-reading, he found the boy already dressed for bed and settled down, engrossed in his book.
"Hey, you started without me?" Kaito said it lightly, but he couldn't deny the slight twinge of hurt he felt at seeing the boy appearing not to need him to perform the, perhaps unnecessary (considering the boy's reading skill) but undeniably soothing ritual they had begun.
Conan looked up at the book and said "Oh, well I know you don't really like Holmes, niichan, so…it's fine. I can read on my own."
"Oh, but I don't mind, rea-"
"It's fine. You need to get more sleep, niichan. I'll go to bed when I've finished my chapter."
Sparing him another smile, Conan then returned to the book.
Kaito stood there, watching him read, a dull ache in his chest, before nodding and muttering, "Well, alright then. Goodnight, Co-chan."
Kaito closed the door, eyes narrowed slightly. Biting the inside of his cheek, he walked into his room, pacing around, trying to get this incessant itch out of his mind. For the first time in several days, he took out the picture of himself and Shinichi, taken on their one-month anniversary (after the day they had finally officially started dating, though Kaito had considered Shinichi his long before that), and stared at it as he collapsed back onto his bed.
"What should I do, Shinichi?" He whispered sadly, gazing wistfully in the direction of Conan's room.
"I miss you." He lightly touched the image of his boyfriend and sighed. Particularly after his mostly silent communication with the Kudous, he was almost certain that Conan was Shinichi, however he had come to be in this state…and, though it had been difficult, he had somewhat come to terms with it. With being patient, and waiting until Conan remembered him. Because in Shinichi's absence, he had Conan with him, and the boy had wormed his way into his heart so completely that he definitely made it easier to deal with.
But now, with the way Conan had suddenly closed off, the way he had begun to push him away, it brought up a new slough of worries along with bringing back his longing for his Shinichi more strongly than ever.
He could definitely attribute the changes in Conan to his regaining some adult memories, but what if he never fully remembered him? What if Conan grew up again, mentally at least, seeing him as Kaito-niichan, and not as Shinichi's Kaito? What if he had lost Shinichi by semi-adopting Conan? The thought was too horrifying to consider, and Kaito angrily stuffed the frame back in his chest and pushed through his father's portrait, plunging into planning his next heist.
It was the idea way to push his troubles away, to focus on the intricacies of his Kaitou Kid persona. With all thoughts set to casting aside any worries about Conan and Shinichi, he began to draw schematics and heist notices with a fervor rare even for him.
The following week passed in much the same manner, and each days seemed more painfully slow than the last and without any revelations to speak of.
For Conan, school had become both a nonsensical chore and an escape for him. He knew, now, why everything seemed so ridiculously easy. Of course the Junior-high school anthology seemed simple. He was in high school, after all! And not just any high schooler, but a well-known detective in his own right (not to mention the son of a famous actress and mystery writer). School work seemed pointless, and even his friends began to irk him at times, as he began to notice their childish behavior with a new perspective.
At the same time, at school, he could easily trick everyone into thinking he was fine, just by using the poker face Kaito had taught him. Not so at home.
It was painful, having this knowledge, and part of Conan wished he had never gone that day to the Kudous' house to piece together clues to his identity. It had been so much easier, before, to put strange feelings or inklings off to happenstance, but now, he could not help but watch Kaito's silent depression with a thick wad of guilt and responsibility lodged in his chest.
Their banter had dwindled, leaving them with long, awkward pauses during mealtimes, and Conan found himself excusing himself, more and more, to run up to his room to read, forcing himself to ignore the pained and hurt look in Kaito's eyes.
He knew he was being selfish, and he hated himself for it. But he couldn't get himself to stop hiding. He felt so vulnerable, knowing he should feel like Kudou Shinichi and yet knowing only how to be a child.
And so he was stuck in this awkward place in the middle.
Because, to be honest, though he pretended to be asleep when Kaito came in to check on him before bed, he would soon after feel the strongest pull to rush into Kaito's bedroom and crawl into bed with him, just as he had a week earlier, to get comfort for his nightmares. He wanted the comfort he had felt when he saw Kaito only as his brother. But he couldn't rightly any longer.
But the thought that due to his own insecurities and awkwardness, that he was losing his treasured relationship with Kaito filled him with fear.
It hit him that he needed someone to talk to. Keeping this secret closed up inside of him was eating him alive. With these thoughts swirling, he drifted off into a fitful night's sleep.
A slight reprieve from the unbearable awkwardness came when Conan was able to focus on an interesting tidbit of information he'd discovered from his friends at school to throw at Kaito.
"Yeah?" Kaito looked up, somewhat surprised, his bagel halfway in his mouth. It seemed like it had been forever since Conan had taken the initiative to ask him something during breakfast.
"I heard there's a Kaito Kid heist tonight," he said, grinning.
"Oh, yeah, that's right," Kaito smirked.
"Are you going to go? Can I come?"
Kaito nervously began to juggle oranges. "Hm. I actually have something to do, Co-chan, so…I fear you might have to sit this one out. I was actually planning on asking Yukiko-obachan to watch you tonight. Is that okay?"
Conan narrowed his eyes slightly. "What do you have to do?"
"Oh, you know. This and that. I have a huge project for class and then…I promised an old friend my parents I'd meet with him. I'm sure he'd love to meet you, but it just isn't the best timing…" He looked hesitantly at Conan, hoping he'd take his weak excuse.
But the boy nodded agreeably, surprisingly not asking anything else, though his eyes narrowed significantly for a moment.
"What about that autograph your mom wants?" He asked slyly/
"Oh, that," Kaito smirked, waving his hand flippantly. "Not to worry. The friend I'm visiting lives near an acquaintance who never misses a heist. I'll just pawn it off on him."
Conan nodded, but Kaito couldn't help but feel somewhat shaken by the boy's easy acceptance. The kid was planning something, he knew that much…
But he was unaware of just how determined Conan would be to follow through with this plan. Because the thought of going to the heist had made something very clear to the teenager-turned-child. His suspicions about Kaito and Kaitou Kid were part of it, but he just knew that the frustrating week of closed doors and dead-ends and no revelations would turn around if he were to go to the heist.
But to accomplish this…he looked up at the bubbly blond actress as she walked out of the bathroom, smiling as she sat down beside him on Shinichi, er, his bed, her arm around him. He knew perhaps he could try his luck at making it on his own, but if he could convince her.
But she wouldn't let a kid go, would she? But if she knew he realized the truth…
He looked up at her. She wasn't the first person he would have chosen as his confidant, but…she would have to do. After all, he was pretty certain she already knew who he was. Her behavior, and that of Kudou Yuusaku's, said that much.
Looking her in the eyes, he said, suddenly, "I'm going to the heist tonight. And I'd like you're help."
She blinked at him in slight surprise, but then just squeezed him around the shoulders and said, "Co-chan, you wouldn't want your niichan to worry, would you? We promised Kaito-kun to keep you here, sweetie. Maybe next time we'll all go together, alright?" She smiled at him sweetly.
He shook his head slowly.
"No. No, I don't think so. I think it needs to be this time."
"Huh? What are you saying, darling?"
"Because it might help. I have a feeling, you know, that it'll help." When she didn't respond, he looked up to meet her eyes, and she almost gasped. The strong, knowing determination in his eyes was so obvious, so blaring as he said, "It might help me feel more like…me."
Her eyes widened, and her heart began to pound. Struggling to keep her voice steady, she said, as nonchalantly as possible, "You think, sweetie? Why do you say that?"
Conan's eyes didn't stray from hers for an instant. Looking at her directly, aware of the weight of what he was admitting to, of what he was asking confirmation of even beyond the facts he had already accumulated, he said, voice quiet yet strong and clear, "He was my rival, wasn't he?"
Yukiko couldn't move for several seconds, just staring down at the little boy who looked so much like, who was…who was her son. And now, it seemed, even he had…
"You…you remember?" She squeaked, eyes wide in questioning.
Slowly, Conan shook his head, but answered, "I don't remember, but…it's the only explanation I can figure from everything. Bits of memories, photographs, the way I am, the way you treat me, just…" and he once again looked her in the eye, pleading with her to answer him truthfully. "I am, aren't I? I'm your son, aren't I?"
Yukiko dropped to her knees before him, gazing at him in a painful kind of awe, and then, slowly, nodded almost imperceptibly. A single tear trekking down her cheek, she leaned over and pulled him to her chest, wrapping her arms snugly around his little body. "You are," she whispered. Holding him tightly, desperately with one arm, she let the other hand move through his hair, and said, voice soft, "You're exactly right and…it's going to be okay. Everything will be back to normal soon, Shin-chan."
Conan flinched a little, and Yukiko pulled back and looked at him in slight surprise. He shook his head, and smiled apologetically. "Sorry," he muttered. "Could you not…call me that? Yet, at least? I…I really don't remember being him, and that name just…" he frowned and his eyes begged her to understand. "It feels like it belongs to someone else, oba-um..k-kaachan…"
Yukiko's heart cried out as she heard him use that word, to hear him refer to her, once again, as his mom…it made everything else seem so trivial. He was her son, and he knew it, now. At the moment, that was all that mattered to her.
She then considered his request and felt a little twinge-of hurt and perhaps irrational (or not so irrational)- loss. She wanted, so desperately, for him to be her Shinichi again, but…and she smiled, again running her fingers gently, lovingly through his hair…she had Co-chan. And that was good enough. More than…
"I-I understand, Co-chan," she whispered, and when he smiled at her, she pulled him in again, kissing him lightly on the cheek.
When she finally released him, he grinned somewhat sneakily. "So, will you let me go to the heist, now?"
Hands on her hips, Yukiko glared slightly at him, leaning in, "Hold on, mister. You didn't come out to me just to get me to let you go to the heist, now did you?"
Conan grinned, but shook his head, his smile turning more genuine. "No." At her dubious expression, he said, "Well, maybe partly. But," he then said more softly, "I do feet that it's about time. About time I talk to someone about it, to really get some answers, and to be more honest about my own suspicions…but…" and his grin turned slightly mischievous again. "You'll let me go, right, Kaachan?"
She frowned a little. "Look, Co-chan, I know you're curious, but you're still a little boy right now, and I st-" at his frown, she softened. "Well, I'm coming, too, then, okay? You're not leaving my sight!"
"But kaasan…" Conan whined, meeting her grin…His face then stiffened.
"What's wrong, sweetheart?"
"It's about…niichan," he said softly.
She watched him in slight concern, mouthing the word 'niichan' after he did, the gist of what exactly was wrong coming to her somewhat.
"It's just…" He bit his lip, fidgeting a little before looking up to meet Yukiko's eyes. "I really can't remember him…that way, that is. I've been trying, kaachan…I really have…to see him that way, to remember what it used to be like, but I just…" He put his hand to his head and shook it. "But all it does when I try to pretend he's not my brother is pull us apart. Even though I know I should, I don't see him that way, so if I don't see him as my niichan, then…"
He shook a little, but then his lip set more firmly and his eyes blazed up at her. "I love him too much, kaachan. I can't break our relationship…it's just…it's everything to me. He is. But I can't see him any way other than as my brother! I must be a horrible person…"
"No! Shi-Co-chan, you're not! You're just in a terrible situation, but you're doing your very best! I'm… very proud of you," she whispered the last as she hugged him gently.
Not quite responding to her words, Conan said, looking up at her pleadingly, "I'm sorry. I know you miss Shinichi-nii…uh, Shinichi, but…I can't be him yet. I can't be him for you, and I can't be him for Kaito-niichan…right now, all I can do is try to remember and hold on to niichan…as my brother…even if it's wrong, that's all I can do…and besides," he added quietly.
"Yes?" Yukiko gently rubbed her hand through his hair.
"I know he's been pretending, too. I know he knows more than he lets on, but it will probably be easier for him to keep pretending if he thinks I don't know…If he realizes the truth, it just…I can't bear to watch him suffer. I can't bear it!"
"Co-chan…" Yukiko sobbed almost-silently, pulling him closer. She then asked a question which had been bothering her for the last few minutes. "What about me? Isn't it weird, then, calling me kaachan?"
To her surprise, Conan relaxed a little at this, and smiled up at her, shaking his head. "With you, it doesn't feel wrong. I think because I felt like you and oji…uh, otousan…were family from the beginning…and I'd never met anyone that could be my mother, so…" He shrugged. "So, well, it isn't a big stretch. It doesn't cause any weird feelings or anything. But still…my memories are all splotchy. All I have are feelings, and most of them are so confused, I…"
And then he lifted urgent, pleading eyes to hers. "Please, okaasan, don't let Kaito-niichan know, okay?"
She nodded, biting her lip.
He then looked up at her, his face brightening with a smug, mischievous glint in his eye.
"So…about that heist…"
What did you think? So, there is the long-awaited ninth chapter! Hope you enjoyed it! Please let me know!
Till next time,