DISCLAIMER: The usual.
Author's Note: After another sleepless night listening to Bullet for Prisoner on repeat, I got the odd urge to write this. Rather... different from my usual fare, I must say. Title stolen off another song, though it has little to nothing to do with this story. This is the first and (probably) the last time I post something in this genre – make what you will of it. (Warning: character death.)
Don't Let Me Be The Last
theme song: Bullet for Prisoner by Megurine Luka
The light in the room is almost blinding as she opens her eyes slowly, feeling oddly sore all over. She blinks as she sits up, and it takes some time for the surroundings to register with her.
Ran frowns as her memory supplies her with something about an explosion, but nothing further.
So that's why she's in the hospital – though it does leave quite a few questions unanswered as well.
A familiar voice interrupts her musings. "Ran-neechan!"
She lets out a breath she hadn't realised she was holding as she watches her young charge clamber up onto one of the two plastic chairs beside her bed. It doesn't do much to change his height, unfortunately.
Ran smiles, imagining his expression if she ever tells him that.
They've been talking for several minutes when he mentions Shinichi.
Ran lets out an indignant huff, crossing her arms petulantly. "Don't even talk about that mystery otaku. He must know I'm injured, but I don't see him coming to visit me!"
"Oi, oi… don't talk about me like I'm not here, Ran!"
Huh. She stares at a bemused Conan for a long moment before realising he wasn't the one who had spoken.
Ran looks up, and Shinichi is leaning casually against the doorframe, wearing his usual expression of boredom. It changes to one of mild amusement as he quirks an eyebrow at her obvious surprise.
"What? Did you really think I'd not visit you at all?" he asks in an overly theatric manner, pretending to fall over in a dead faint as he reaches her hospital bed.
She chuckles, shaking her head, and even Conan can't hold back a small grin of amusement.
And even as she watches them fall into an overly serious debate about the quality of the chairs – the one beside Conan still vacant, Shinichi having refused it on grounds of discomfort – Ran realises that she hasn't felt this good in a long time.
She hears the sound of the door opening quite a while later, and looks up, a brilliant smile brightening her face as she recognises her two visitors.
"Kaa-san! Sonoko!" she exclaims happily. They exchange a quick glance – probably wondering about her apparent over-enthusiasm, but it can't be helped, can it? She hasn't seen them in months… or maybe really just one, but it feels like one too many anyway.
Sonoko walks forward into the room, more cautious than she'd ever seen her bold friend being. Flashing a quick grin at Ran, she gestures to the chair that Conan was occupying. "Mind if I take that one?"
Her young charge nods easily when she turns to look at him – then lets out an indignant squawk as Shinichi leans over and hoists him up onto her bed. It's not a big one, but there's just enough space for him to sit comfortably at the foot of it; and he does, all while muttering darkly about pretentious people who just happened to be older than him. She exchanges a knowing glance with Shinichi over the top of Conan's head, and he rolls his eyes as she laughs at their antics.
The fond smile is still on her face as she turns to her other two visitors, waving them over to the two chairs beside her bed. "It's fine, you can sit down now."
Eri eyes the chairs almost warily as she approaches them, and Ran shakes her head with a sigh. Leave it to her mother to treat everything with suspicion, though she supposed that spending too much time in a courtroom would do that to you.
"Don't worry, Kaa-san, they're safe to sit on. Shinichi swears he didn't put any pranks on them."
In the chair beside her, Sonoko flinches slightly – at what, Ran doesn't know. But she looks closely at her friend, her brows knitting at what she sees there. "You need to sleep more," she says, admonishing her friend lightly.
Somewhere in the recesses of her mind, she wonders if something's happened – it must be really bad, she thinks, for Sonoko to have such dark circles beneath her eyes. Then she bats the thought away and turns back to present, because her friend's welfare is much more important than anything else. Besides, if it was really that bad, she'd probably tell her sooner or later anyway.
Sonoko musters a tremulous smile, shaking her head quickly. "It's okay. I'm just a bit tired, I think. Don't worry about me." She tilts her head slightly, reaching out tentatively to carefully grasp Ran's pale hand on the bed. "What about you, Ran? How're you feeling?"
She considers the question for a moment.
"Pretty good, actually. Just no karate for the next few months and I'll be fine. Does that mean I can get discharged soon?" she asks hopefully. "Conan-kun got hurt much worse than I did, but he's fine already."
Her mother doesn't answer – only looks at her long and hard, before abruptly turning away.
Ran feels a vague sense of unease, and it's not only because of the distinct redness of the normally unflappable lawyer's eyes. "Kaa-san?"
But it isn't Eri who speaks next.
"Ran," Sonoko begins haltingly, and she can feel her hands tremble against her own. "The brat, he – "
The feeling of dread only increases tenfold as Sonoko's voice falters, fails; she was right, something must have happened. Something about Conan-kun? But –
Her mother's voice, measured and steady, breaks that train of thought.
Kisaki Eri looks at her daughter, meets her gaze squarely. Hates herself for what she is about to do.
"Conan-kun is dead, Ran. He died in that explosion."
Sonoko is clutching her like a lifeline, sobbing her heart out. "Ran, oh Ran…"
She doesn't react, doesn't do anything – hasn't since Sonoko threw her arms around her one minute ago, since her mother spoke a full minute before that.
Ran sits there, unseeing. She doesn't know what to do.
She wants to get up, get out of this room and call Shinichi to show them that he's perfectly fine, alright and okay. She wants to go back to the detective agency, and tell Conan all about this stupid prank. She wants to hug Sonoko back and tell her that she's being stupid, because… because…
Her thoughts stop, stutter to a standstill.
Then she almost smacks herself on the forehead, because the solution is so simple she can't believe she hasn't seen it before. Ran turns –
You're wrong, they're right here!
– and stares at the empty, empty space at the foot of her bed.
"They're not, Ran."
She doesn't even realise that she'd said it out loud until she hears that.
Somewhere on the edge of her vision, she can see that Eri is crying as well, tears falling down her face. "I'm sorry, Ran… so, so sorry…"
But it is all Ran can do to sit there, frozen in more ways than she could count, gaze unmoving on the same spot.
Impossible, Ran decides, shaking so hard that the world seems to tilt on its axis for a brief moment.
Out in the corridor, several people look up as one of the many doors swing open ever so slowly. A man gets up, a trifle unsteady on his feet as he stumbles towards one of the two emerging figures – then he pauses for a fraction of a second, hesitant as he takes in her expression.
It's a far cry, a pale echo of her usual sternness. Her hair is a mess, strands of it escaping from the usual neat bun to fall around her face. In the stark lighting of the hospital corridor, her face is pale as a ghost's, or maybe the walls around her; she sways on her feet, and without thinking, he steps forward and catches her before she can fall.
Beside them, the Hondou boy stands as well, almost brushing past them as he helps Sonoko to a chair. His voice can be heard in low, soothing undertones, as can her shaky breaths, caught on a sob; but none of it matters to them, at least not right now.
A silence settles over them, oddly comforting if not comfortable.
If she catches the faintest hint of sake on his breath, or the waver in his stride, she doesn't mention it. Nobody does.
Her breathing steadies gradually as she stays there, leaning against him. And slowly, almost tentatively, he brings his arms up to encircle her back – carefully, as if he's afraid that she might break as well if he tries too hard.
"Every day," she whispers softly, almost inaudibly, her face pressed into the rough fabric of his suit that's just starting to dampen. "Every single damned day for the past month, and she – she still…"
"I know, Eri."
His voice doesn't tremble, even as hers shudders and breaks – or maybe it does, but he doesn't allow himself to hear it. He refuses to.
The silence again, broken only by the quiver of her breath and the murmur of his voice. He blinks hard as he rests his head on her shoulder; if his vision is blurred ever so slightly, it's not by tears, because Mouri Kogoro does not cry.
But what he does do is hold his wife – ex-wife, whatever, it doesn't matter – just that much more close to him as he feels her shudder against him.
He blinks again, and looks everywhere else in the narrow corridor but the ward where their daughter is sitting on her bed, unresponsive, catatonic.
The sun shines brightly behind Ran's closed eyelids as she wakes from her slumber. Carefully, she straightens, sitting up on the thin sheets of the hospital bed. A frown crosses her face briefly – there's a deep, gnawing ache, and something nags consistently at her brain. Had she forgotten something?
The thought disappears like morning fog as she turns to the bright voice, alive and cheery as always.
Ran's face brightens. "Conan-kun!"
2nd Author's Note: I leave the finer details of what happened to your imagination. (Which is hopefully not quite as sadistic as mine...) Somewhat inspired by the Sherlock fic Coping Mechanism, which I am very subtly nudging you to go take a look at.
3rd (and last!) Author's Note: As always, thanks for reading, and do tell me what you think – like I said, new genre and everything, plus I haven't written much, if at all, for these few characters. (Even if you absolutely hate it and want to send me a death threat, I don't exactly mind... I think o.O) As for those of you who've read Once Upon A Train Station: I'm now working on a couple more scenes, possibly including Hakuba as well. If all goes well, I'll have a new chapter up for that series some time soon. Your patience is appreciated!