Anata - To a spouse. Think 'Darling'.

Long Life

By Icka! M. Chif


~ The light is going blue. ~
~ Morning approaches. ~
~ The pain´s still here. ~
~ I´m empty - empty - empty. ~

Morning. He hated mornings. And afternoons, and night time too. But mornings were the worst. It mean that he was alive for another day, stuck inside this pit they called a laboratory.

He sighed as he sat up from the bunk, run a hand thru his hair as the other reached for his glasses. He didn't need them, never had, but they were a familiar comforting presence. A shield, or a mask, just something to distance him from his surroundings.

Resigned for another day, he climbed out of the bunk and started the morning rituals. Get dressed, make the bunk, do some exercises to keep limber and then the worst part of it... the wait.

The cart was late today, giving him to wonder if they were going to do the starvation test on him again. It didn't matter how many times they did it, the results were always the same. He'd get weak, get even smaller, then die after about a week. A day later he'd wake up, alive again and ravenously hungry.

But lately they'd been ignoring him. They must have gotten bored with him, he figured. He'd lost count of how many times they had killed him over the past 2 decades, trying to unlock his secrets.

Immortality sucked. Big time.

Finally he heard the cart coming down the hall, and jumped up to walk over to the clear plastic wall that adorned one side of his room.

"Your newspaper, Boy." The guard commented, passing it thru the small door, along with breakfast.

"Thank you!" He chirped, picking it up, doing his 'cute kid' act for the heck of it. The guy merely grunted and walked off. Conan ignored his reaction, he'd probably be replaced in another few months anyway. The guards were frequently changed, so that none of them realised that he wasn't 'growing up', or get an attachment to any of the 'test subjects'. Not that he'd seen any. But logic dictated that there were.

And the occasional screams.

He picked up the newspaper and the bland stuff that they thought was food and walked over to the small table. The newspaper was one of the few things that kept him sane sometimes, his only link to the outside world.

At one time, they had allowed him access to the internet, but that had been taken away when he had gotten bored one day and taught himself how to hack into other computers. He had gotten the newspaper since then, and the occasional mystery novel. From the psychology sessions they put him thru occasionally, he figured it was because they didn't want to deal with someone who was completely crazy and couldn't be killed.

He sat down at the table and unfolded the paper, flipping to the humour section. He was just enough of a kid a heart to want something amusing to start the day off with. The rest of the newspaper and the crossword were for after the funnies.

He often found it a bit amusing that the obituaries were next to the comics. He had learned of the deaths of his parents, the Mouris, Megure and of Agasa that way.

That was also how he found out about the birth of Hattori's second kid, Azumi and Genta's marriage, and Sonoko's wedding. He still never heard the word 'Chibi' without flinching because of her.

He have that page a cursory glance, then paused. A name in a small article caught his attention, not more than a footnote towards the bottom.

Ran.

A lead weight seemed to attach itself to his heart, tugging it towards his stomach. He quickly scanned the article, a bitter taste in his mouth that had nothing to do with breakfast.

She wasn't dead. Yet. There had been an accident, and she was in the hospital. She probably wouldn't live much longer, a day or two at the most.

Such articles weren't normally in the Obituary section. Conan sensed Hattori's hand in this.

A faint part of his mind noted that the paper was being crushed in a white knuckled grip as he remembered the last time he had seen the Osaka detective. It was the last time he had seen any of his friends, period.


~ Sounds of the world, ~
~ Of laughter and tears. ~
~ I´ve nothing left. ~
~ I´m empty - empty - empty. ~

They had been smart. Instead of hunting him down themselves, they had allowed the best detective anyone could find to find him first.

Hattori Heiji.

It had been about 12 years after Hiabara's death, and he had been walking around Osaka, debating where to travel from there. He had been around Japan twice now, and visited Hawaii once. Being a kid had some definite perks as far as traveling. All he had to do was say he was looking for his parents, and he could ride just about anywhere for free.

And if he couldn't do that, he still was a detective. Finding and stopping the occasional robber was easy enough to do, and kept his wits sharp. And if there were a few yen notes missing when the police finally found the crooks, they weren't going to complain, much less notice most of the time.

Ran's words haunted him frequently. It wasn't the life he would have chosen if he had a choice, but it was a decent life. But she had been right. He was lonely.

He been pondering this when he had suddenly felt himself being lifted by his jacket and turned around to face a dark skinned man in his early 30s. "We have been very worried about you." The man growled.

Conan stared. Hattori had grown since their last meeting, and not just up. He'd filled out as well. But the mischievous twinkle was still in his eyes. He flailed about, trying to wiggle out of his jacket to run, but Hattori had too tight of a grip. That not working, he settled for second best. Playing dumb. "W-who are you?!" He asked, allowing his voice to quaver.

Hattori beamed. "I knew it was you! C'mon, Kudo. You have a lot of explaining to do."

Conan glared, allowing himself to drop the kid act for the first time for many years. "Kudo's dead, Hattori."

The larger man's grin didn't waver as he tucked him under an arm and started to walk. "Then I guess I'll just have to talk to you."

Conan wiggled some more. "Put me down! I can walk!"

"If I do, you'll just run." Hattori pointed out calmly. "And if that happens, Toyama is going to have my hide."

"Toyama?" Conan blinked, looking up.

Hattori pulled out a familiar looking bag on a string from under his shirt collar. There was a solid gold wedding band on it. "Kazuha. 8 years in a few months."

He stared. "Kids?" He finally asked, a portion of his stomach turning cold as he realised just how much time had passed for his friends.

"Shin-chan, just turned 6."

"Shin-chan?" He echoed.

Hattori grinned fondly. "Toyama's idea. Since you and Ran were never going to have kids, she decided to name her after you."

Conan froze at the mention of Ran.

Hattori noticed it. "We'll talk later." He said, not un-kindly.

Conan nodded. "Alright. Where are we going?"

"The park." Hattori pointed. "It's lunch time. Are you hungry?"

"Not really."

"Too bad. Toyama made lunch today. She's gotten better at cooking since you last saw her. It's actually edible now."

"I'd hope so."

Hattori snickered at the comment.

"Heiji!" A woman, about Hattori's age and still very pretty, waved.

A little girl in overalls squealed and ran over. "Touchan!"

"Shin-chan!" Hattori smiled at the little girl, who paused to stare at Conan. "Who's he?"

"This a friend of mine, who's joining us for lunch." Hattori said easily. Kazuha gasped as she recognised him.

"Hello." Conan said, ignoring Kazuha in favour of their daughter. "My name is Conan. Edogawa Conan."

"I'm Hattori Shinako, but you can call me Shin-chan!" The girl said proudly, causing him to smile. She had gotten her dark colouring from her father, but the sweet smile was definitely her mother's.

"Nice to meet you!"

"Why don't we sit down and have our picnic?" Hattori said, catching his wife's eye. Kazuha nodded, smiling again. It was a bit strained around the edges, but still friendly toward him.

"Okay!" Shin-chan agreed. "We found a good place! Come and see Touchan!"

Conan was amused to see both Hattori and Kazuha pulled along by the spirited girl. She was going to be a handful when she got bigger, if she wasn't already.

Lunch was nice, a friendly affair. Talk had been kept to the lighter subjects and what Shin-chan had been up to at school. Conan felt himself relax and actually enjoy himself and the company for the first time in years. He missed his friends.

It was over all too soon, Shinako being called to play by some friends, including one boy Conan noticed that she glomped on to quickly, obviously her best friend. Conan grinned at that. She was probably already following her parent's footsteps.

"I'd like to introduce you to somebody." Hattori said cheerfully, placing a hand on Conan's back. "Anata, meet Kudo Shin'ichi."

Kazuha stared. He glared at Hattori. "I told you, Kudo Shin'ichi is dead. I'm just Conan."

Hattori waved it off. "It doesn't matter what you call yourself. You're still Kudo to me. Always have, always will."

He glared at the taller man for a moment, before shaking his head ruefully. "You never change, do you?"

"Ha!" Hattori laughed. "Looked in a mirror lately?!"

Conan fought the hysterical giggles that threaten to spring up. If he thought about it too hard, he'd probably go insane. So he changed the subject instead. "How's Ran?" He asked softly.

"I heard from her last month." Kazuha volunteered. "She was in England at the time, on a book signing."

"Book signing?" He echoed.

"She's been travelling with your parents since about 6 months after you... disappeared. She wouldn't tell anyone what happened, until after she was attacked."

He swallowed the lump down in his throat. "Attacked?"

"People dressed in black." Hattori said, serious once more. "They broke into the remains of Agasa's lab as well. Not that there was much left in the crater there."

"Trust Hiabara to be through." Conan said dryly.

"Hiabara?"

"It was her funeral pyre and last wish. To destroy any record or evidence of APTX 4869."

"She succeeded. Nearly took the neighbourhood with her." Hattori commented.

Conan blinked. Hiabara was never one for doing things by halves, but he hadn't expected her to be that through. "What happened to Ran?" He asked, putting the conversation back on track.

"After the accident, your parents adopted her. They're impossible to track down most of the time anyway, both they and her parents felt that she would be safer that way." Kazuha explained. "She even changed her name. Kudo Ran."

He thought his heart was going to stop right there. His parents had accepted her as part of his family, even if he had never been able to propose. Kudo Ran. She had chosen his last name, even after all he had done to push her away.

"They even go as far as to introduce her as their 'Daughter-in-Law'." Hattori grinned. "They're very proud of her. I don't think they could have found anyone better to act as their travelling secretary."

He gave them a small smile. "Is... is she happy?"

"As much as she can be." Kazuha assured him with a small smile. "She misses you."

"I miss her too." He whispered, looking down.

There was a small silence, except for the sounds of the children playing.

"Oh!" Kazuha broke it, reaching for her purse and frantically digging thru it. "I have something for you!"

"For me?" He echoed, puzzled.

Kazuha nodded, pulling a small folded paper bag out of her purse. "Now I know why it wouldn't let me leave today until I took this with me. This is from us and Ran."

Conan took the small package with unsteady hands. "I... uh, T-thank you." He stammered, blushing faintly.

Both Kazuha and Hattori smiled. "Open it." Kazuha urged. "We've been waiting too long to give it to you to wait on formalities."

"... okay." He blushed again, opening the bag with trembling fingers. Inside was a omamori, like both Kazuha and Hattori wore. He pulled it out, examining it in the sun. It was green, with blue embroidered threads running thru it. "Oh."

"The bag is from us. What's inside is from Ran." Hattori urged gently. "Open it."

He nodded, carefully opening the small silk bag. Inside were a small metal locket and a piece of paper. He swallowed once and carefully pulled out the locket and opened it.

2 pictures lay inside. One side was a picture of Conan. The other side was of Ran, taken right before he had left. He remembered the day. Sonoko had been playing with a camera and had taken pictures of everyone.

"There's a catch under this one." Hattori added, moving closer so he could slide a fingernail under the picture of himself. The picture popped up, reveal another one under it.

It was himself as Shin'ichi.

"She didn't want you to forget." Kazuha said, sliding next to him. "Either her or yourself as Shin'ichi."

"Ran..." He clutched the locket and the omamori to his chest, tears threatening to spill. Kazuha wrapped an arm around him, giving him a loose hug. He sniffed, his throat too constricted to speak for a moment.

He was grateful that they waited until he could speak again before moving away. He'd missed this, the close contact of friends instead of the casual touches of strangers. He put the locket back inside the omamori and slid it over his neck, tucking it into his shirt. It was comforting, like having a piece of Ran with him. "Thank you. I-if there's anything I can do..."

"Maybe tell us what's going on." Hattori said with a touch of dry humour. "We got a message after Asaga's lab blew from a frantic Ran. She thought we might know where you were, since I was always calling you 'Kudo'."

"All she was able to tell us was that you were gone, something about being immortal." Kazuha finished. It wasn't hard to tell that the two of them had been together for a long time, even if they hadn't been married for very long.

"Watch." He reached over and took a knife that had been packed in the picnic basket. He held it up for a moment, and then plunged it to his forearm, cutting a line down it. Red blood gushed out, dripping down his hand. Both of his friends looked horrified at the voluntary self-mutilation.

With near-clinical detachment, he used a napkin to wipe off the excess blood off his arm and showed it to his friends. The cut healed under their startled gaze, without leaving a scar.

"And that's what it's all about." He said calmly, wiping off the knife before returning it to the basket.

Hattori grabbed his arm and inspected it close up. "It... you... You really can't die, can you?"

Conan sighed, looking much much older than his small form. "No. Well, yes. I can. But I keep coming back."

"Coming back?" Kazuha looked at him with wide eyes. "How many times have you died?!"

"Yesterday made 3."

"WHAT?!"

"Shhhh..." Conan motioned for them to calm down, looking faintly embarrassed. "I got hit by a car. I'm fine now."

"What's it like? Death, I mean." Kazuha asked, curiosity sparkling in her eyes.

"I don't know." He admitted. "It's like... falling asleep. You just... drift off into the darkness. And then you wake up, pick yourself off and keep going. Over and over and over again. I imagine it must be different for other people."

"Oh. I'm sorry." Kazuha looked crestfallen.

"It's okay." Conan gave her a wistful smile. "I think I'm getting used to it. I just wish I was a bit... taller."

Hattori laughed, shattering the tense atmosphere. "Once a shrimp, always a shrimp, eh Kudo?"

"Humph." He snorted. "I can still deduct circles around you, Hattori."

"That'll be the day." Hattori snickered. Kazuha rolled her eyes and started giggling. After a moment, Conan threw his head back and laughed as well.

Their laughter died down after a few moments, leaving them still grinning. "So what have you been up to? 12 years is a long time." Hattori asked.

"Traveling mostly." He shrugged. "Nothing really exciting. Haven't seen the men in black in a few years, I think they may be loosing interest."

Hattori's phone chose that moment to ring. He shot them an embarrassed grin, answering it. They waited as Hattori talked softly to the people on the other end. He hung up after a few seconds. "They need me back at the office." He said, shame faced.

"Police?" Conan queried.

"Ex." Hattori corrected, with some pride. "Didn't want to follow my father's footsteps, so I'm a Private Detective. They still hire me frequently as a 'Specialist'."

Conan nodded. Hattori had done a good job for himself.

"Tell you what." Kazuha leaned forward, her eyes sparkling. "Why don't you have dinner at our house tonight? We can talk more there."

He hesitated, torn between 2 conflicting impulses. He wanted to spend more time with his friends, get to know them again. But at the same time, he was afraid that he might bring the Black Ops. down on them as well. He was probably pushing his luck as it was, and he didn't want them hurt.

"I'll try." He promised, standing up.

Hattori's eyebrow rose. "Of course, you do realise that if you don't, I'll be forced to track you down and drag you to dinner, kicking and screaming."

"Ha ha ha..." Conan laughed nervously, sweatdropping. Hattori would too. "Alright, I'll be there. Barring any unforeseen incidences."

"Deal." Hattori held his hand out and they shook on it, both smirking.

"See you then, Conan-kun." Kazuha smiled gently.

"Actually, these days I go by 'Ranpo Pan'." He corrected with a smile.

"'Ranpo' I can understand." Hattori said, puzzled. "But where did you get 'Pan'?"

"The boy who never grew up." He grinned, turning to trot away. "Peter Pan."


~ Heaven is forbidden ~
~ But I´m going soon ~
~ Kiss me one last time ~
~ before I take my flesh away ~

Things after that were a blur. He remembered being grabbed on the edge of the park, and people shouting. He thought he remembered Hattori and Kazuha screaming, but it might have been his imagination.

He'd woken up in this cell.

And remained here since. The boy who never grew up had turned into the boy who never left.

Out of sheer boredom, he had devised several ways of leaving, but had never used it. He had no place to go even if he did left, and staying meant that other people couldn't find him either.

And he had seen what happened what when people got close to him. They got hurt. Or died. It was better to be alone. Safer this way.

Or so he had thought.

Loneliness, a constantly ignored companion reared it's ugly head. Ran would be leaving this world soon.

He'd never be able to forgive himself if he didn't see her again. He couldn't have been there for her in life, but he wasn't going to give up the chance to say goodbye. He owed her that at least.

Resolve firmed, he quickly skimmed the newspaper and ate his breakfast, his mind working furiously as he set about planning his escape this place that had been his tomb for almost over half his life.

It was time to live again.


~ Heaven is forbidden ~
~ But I´m going soon ~
~ Kiss me one last time ~
~ Kiss me one last time ~

Ran lay still, on the bed. To the others, she must have appeared to be old. But in his eyes, she was as young and as beautiful as the last time he had seen her, back in her father's apartment. She turned to look at him as he crept into the room. "Shin'ichi?" She called, as if she had been anticipating his arrival.

He walked forward, ignoring the confused looks of the people around him. "I'm here, Ran."

She smiled at him, reaching a hand out for him. "What? No 'Ran-neechan'?" She teased, her eyes clear and bright.

He took her hand, carefully twining his fingers with hers as he stepped closer to the bed. "No. No more 'Ran-neechan'." He agreed.

"Good." She beamed at him. "I'm glad."

He gave her a small smiled back, placing his other hand over theirs before bowing his head. "I'm sorry Ran." He whispered. "So very sorry."

"Shhh. It's all right." She assured him, running a hand across his head. "I understand."

He shook his head. "It's not all right. I couldn't stay with you here, and I can't follow you where you're going."

She relaxed against the pillows, her face serene. "Then how about I follow you, Shin'ichi?" She asked, closing her eyes.

"Ran?" He whispered, feeling the pulse under his fingers fade. "Ran!?"

There was no response, her body was still. "Ran...." He rested his cheek on her arm, not bothering to stop the tears that leaked from his eyes. Behind him, he could hear people shift and move. Someone broke out into sobs. He ignored them, feeling numb, so very numb and cold, even as someone quietly announced her time of death.

A faint glimmer on his hand caught his eye. At first glance, he thought it was a stray tear that fell. He blinked, and realised it was red, too bright to be blood.

It was a shimmering red thread.

He gasped as it began to move. A part of it was anchored to his pinkie finger, as the rest began to float upwards. He blinked, unable to believe his eyes as the other end became visible. Ran was floating above the bed, the red string tied to her little finger.

She smiled at him, glowing faintly as the years ran backwards, until she was a little kid again, about his size, dressed in a plain white kimono that hid her feet. She grinned, hopping down from the bed to stand next to him. "Where shall we go, Shin'ichi-kun?" Ran asked, in a high lilting voice that he knew so well.

"Ran?" He asked, disbelieving.

She nodded, a faint blush gracing her cheeks, even as he realised he could see partly thru her.

He glanced between the girl in front of him, and the woman on bed, then down at the string that lead to the girl. No one else seemed to notice the young girl. Ran sighed, looking amused as he did a few double takes.

"Bake.... bakemono..." He whispered, eyes widening, finally resting his eyes on her. Ran was a ghost.

She nodded, tugging on the string, which in return tugged on his hand. "Come on, Shin-chan. Where do we want to go?"

He gaped for a second more, then shook his head, a grin forming. Ran was a ghost. There wasn't any way to get rid of her now. "I don't know." He said honestly, reaching out to take her hand. There shouldn't have been anything there, but it felt warm to his touch. "Where do you want to go?"

"With you?" She grinned as they walked out of the room without a backwards glance. "Every where!"

He nodded. "Works for me."

After all, there was a whole world out there for them to explore.

And all the time to do it.

Fin.

Notes:

This takes place about 38 years after 'Immortality'.



The Lyrics are 'Flesh', by Jan Johnson (Tilt Mix) off of the 'Essential Selection Vol. 1, Fatboy Slim & Paul Oakenfold'. It's on disk 2, Paul Oakenfold. (nice music to work to, by the way) Didn't plan on it being there, it just kinda slipped in and stayed.

The legend of the Red Thread is featured prominently in the first Conan movie. This was inspired by a little snippet after the credits showing Ran and Shin'ichi with their pinkies tied together with a glowing red thread. Conan pops up, and there's no thread on his little finger. He face faults and comments that he guesses that it's not there while he's still Conan. #^^#

'Ranpo' -the other half of 'Edogawa Ranpo', one of the two mystery writers Conan took his name from.

Bakemono is a Japanese ghost, as far as I could find. Usually means a person who was so tied by hatred or anger that they can't leave this world. There are also stories about people who were worried about loved ones, so didn't leave. In this case, Ran is one of the later.
It can also be used as a general term for spirits, deamons, etc., etc., in general.

The Plain white kimono is called a 'katabira'. They were used in Edo-period funeral rituals. In ghost stories, they often hide the feet of the ghost. Urm... think back to the one ghost picture of Conan in ish 35, File 5. (He's got the characteristics of a 'yurei', or vengeful ghost in that pic. White kimono, outstretched arms, no legs and a 'hitaikakushi', or forehead cover. It's that white paper triangle on his forehead.)

No clue where Hattori Shinako came from. She just kinda popped in there. Think that 'Shin-chan' Is also what Shin'ichi's mother calls him...
Conan probably shouldn't have been calling her mother 'Kazuha', since that wasn't her name anymore, but don't think he would have been comfortable calling her 'Toyama', even in his head.

Omamori: It's like carrying around protection with you. You've probably seen Hattori's by now. I have one that was given to me at the Golden Pavilion in Kyoto (it's a golden yellow too! ^^;;). And, like Hattori, the only times I've been seriously hurt has been when I don't have it with me. Coincidence? Don't think so. *grin*

"That's what it's all about" *sings* "Ya do the hokey pokey and you turn yourself about...."
Really gotta wonder about the Voice's sense of humour sometimes... ^^;;