I want to thank Yemi Hikari for betareading this story and being so positive towards it.

No, this is not an Ai/Conan pairing. I wont say more though, read and learn.

The story is AU and it is a one-shot.

Disclaimer: I do not own Detective Conan, that honor goes to Gosho Aoyama


Gone

In the hallway of an apartment building in the Beika district, a woman stood in front of one of the apartment doors. She was thin, almost unhealthily so, and of medium height. Her hair was reddish blond, reaching her to the waist. Her dress was fashionable and she wore a pair of small glasses over her light blue eyes

The door was opened and another woman stood at the threshold. She was about the same age and height as the other. Her look was a lot healthier though, like she actually ate more often than once in a while. Her shoulder long, dark brown her was held in place behind her ears, with a pink headband. She looked fondly at the other woman with deep, sparkling, blue eyes.

The two women gave each other a friendly hug, before smiling at each other, with warm, heartfelt smiles.

'It has been a long time, Ayumi,' almost whispered the woman with the reddish blond hair.

'Too long, Ai,' answered Ayumi fondly, before inviting her friend in.

They walked to the living room, where a man sat in a wheel chair. He was the same age as the women, although unusually low for a man his age. He was thin, much more so than Ai, there were no muscles in his arms and legs as they had not been used for a long, long time. His hair was a tone darker than Ayumi's, short and well tended. Big round spectacles covered his blue eyes.

Ai smiled sadly and walked over to him. She had never gotten used to seeing him like this; it still pained her and gave her a pang of guilt, even after more than twenty years. The memory that sometimes haunted her dreams still, appeared before her eyes.

Blood. It ran down his face. It made his hair so sticky. She looked him in the eyes. They seemed so sad. He forced himself to smile at them. 'I suppose this is the end, Haibara,' he whispered weakly.

Ayumi was sitting beside him, holding his hand, and had been fighting back her tears. At his words she began to sob, unable to hold her feelings back any longer. Genta and Mitsuhiko were standing a bit away, too shocked to be able to react. Ai, standing by his head, was in denial and at his words she built herself into a rage.

'Don't you say that. Don't you dare say that!' she shouted at him. At the same time she could see it, the glimmer in his eyes, the glimmer that defined him; it was fading, fading to nothingness.

In an attempt to shake of the gloomy memories, she squatted down in front of him, so he could see her face, giving him what she hoped was a warm smile.

'It is good to see you, Conan-kun,' she began, even though Ayumi was out of ear shot. It was long since she had stopped calling him Kudou. In the beginning she had, whenever she thought no one could hear, but there had never been a reaction. It was as if Kudou Shinichi did not exist within him anymore, as if he never had.

'I suppose this is the end, Haibara.' As time went by she had realized that those words held so many truths. It had been the end of so much, but most importantly, it had been the end of Kudou Shinichi. He was gone and he would never return. Ever.

'You look stunning today, Conan-kun. Ayumi really know how to dress you to look your finest, don't you think?' No answer, his only reaction, a slight movement of his pupil, acknowledging her presence. She had not expected anything more, but there was almost that small hope. It had been crushed yet again. He never spoke to her. He had not uttered a word to her for more than twenty years, why would he begin now?

A sad smile crept onto her face. Tears flew down her cheeks as she cried silently. She felt Ayumi's comforting hand come to rest on her shoulder. Ai wondered yet again how Ayumi managed living like this and had to smile at her friend's strength.

It did help, Ai knew, that Conan actually talked to Ayumi now and then, although it was mostly short replies. It was better than nothing, for he never spoke to anyone else. To be precise, there had been one other - the keyword being, had. Mouri Ran. Not surprisingly. But as the years went by, he spoke less and less with her, until he had completely stopped about seven years ago. Ayumi was now the only one that could get a verbal response out of him.

Mouri had been heartbroken. Not only was Shinichi still missing, after fifteen years he had still to give a sound – not that he could, as Ai knew just too well. Now Conan, who Ran thought of as a beloved brother, would not speak to her at all. Her protests had been weak and half hearted when it had been suggested that Conan live with Ayumi.

'I have a little gift for you, Conan-kun,' Ai said, pulling the smile back on. She pulled something out of the bag she had put on the floor and laid it on his lap.

It was a book. The title read A Study in Scarlet, in English. It was worn at the sides and looked quite old. Behind her Ayumi gasped.

'Is that…?'

'The English first edition of the very first Sherlock Holmes story,' Ai finished the sentence with a smile.

'How did you…?' Ayumi was at a loss of words.

'I have my contacts,' Ai smiled secretly. She had promised not to say too much. It might raise questions like, why did Kudou Yusaku go through so much trouble to acquire this book for a distant relative? They could not afford having anyone poking around Edogawa Conan's relations to the Kudou family.

'His eyes will sparkle when I read this book for him!' Ayumi almost squealed and stroked Conan's hair fondly, causing his lips to curl upwards in a half smile.

'I would love to see it,' Ai said with a warm smile as she watched them. Ayumi truly loved him, and Ai hoped with all her heart that his feelings were mutual. She could not know for sure, she had been unable to read him ever since that day.

At first Ayumi was a bit perplexed by her words, but after a few moments, she nodded her head. She gestured for Ai to sit down and turned Conan's wheel chair around to face the couch. She picked up the book from Conan's lap and set down beside Ai. Carefully she opened it and began to read out load, haltingly at first, not used to the old English, but soon the words flowed steadily.

Ai studied Conan as he listened to the story. His lips curled up again, this time into a real smile. His eyes that had been so empty, that had almost seemed dead, began to glow with joy. Looking at them, she could almost see the boy she had once known as Kudou Shinichi in those eyes.

Almost.


I hope you enjoyed it and I'd love to hear your meaning. I will be very glad if you give me a review!