He was going to be in trouble for this later.
Ran, he knew, would be worried when he failed to show up on time. Would be livid when he finally did show up. And a part of him felt a stab of guilt and regret – was he forever doomed to hurt her?
But the rest of him, the parts that had been creaking and threatening to crack all day, told him that Ran could wait. Would have to wait.
Because if he fell apart in front of her then a lot more stood poised to fall than just his masks.
And he was oh so close to falling apart right now.
He wasn't even sure why. Not really. It had been a day like any other, elementary school, hanging out with the kids, a murder.
For him at least.
So why was he unravelling at the seams?
Just another day. But all at once it was just too much and too difficult to deal with.
So he'd ran. As fast and as soon as he could get away with it.
Not his own house, because that was currently taken over by a man who might very well be the enemy. Not to Agasa's, because even if the kids weren't there than Haibara was and he just couldn't deal right now.
And not, certainly, definitely not, to the agency where Ran would soon begin to wonder where Conan-kun was.
He'd ran, of all places, to a library. Because no matter how public, or how busy, a library always had places to hide. Forgotten crevasses, abandoned nooks, hidden crannies.
He had secreted himself away into one such corner. Not to be easily found or noticed.
Upon finding his safe haven he had curled in on himself, fine tremors raking his tiny frame.
He didn't cry. Had never, not once, cried over the mess his life had become and he certainly wasn't about to start now. But there he nothing he could do about the shaking, and precious little he could do to control his gasping breaths.
Just a moment, he told himself. He would stay here, like this, for just a moment. Then he would pull himself back together, pull his masks back on, and go back to Ran.
To being Edogawa Conan.
But he needed this. A moment in which to allow himself to feel the cracks and the chinks in his armour. To poke dangerously at them, like scratching a not yet healed wound.
Because he had to know where the cracks were.
You can't fill – even temporarily – cracks that you can't find. Can't hide them, can't repair them.
Unacknowledged, unknown cracks were the most dangerous. They could catch you unawares, could bring the whole crashing down around you when you aren't expecting it.
And he could not afford it.
No matter how much it hurt to do this. To sit and think and feel.
And if he was doing this just a touch more often as of late, if there were more and more cracks each time, then he could do no more than he'd been doing. Find the cracks and fill them, as best as possible, and never ever let himself fall completely apart.
Because if he did he wouldn't be able to put himself back together.
And so he sat there, just breathing, taking a moment to take it all in and keep it there.
Just one moment.
That was all.
It was the best he could do.