Disclaimer- Gosho owns Detective Conan, I own Lou and Lou's Place. This fanfic is rated PG by the Motion Picture Association of America for references to graphic violence. I decided to break out the narrative style from "One Day at a Time" again, but this story is not in any of my previous universes. Thanks for inspiration go to Jo and her fic "Sub Rosa," and Icka's recent "12 Days of Murder."

Refuge

It's late. It feels later than it is, but it's still late, even if the lights and rhythms of Tokyo stretch around the clock in a way that makes time lose its meaning. Even for you, with the clock in your head moving in perfect sync with the one in your pocket, still the minutes seem warped and strange. The heat of the crowds and the warmth of the spring night make it feel like you're caught in amber, or at least thick syrup, as you make your way along the street.

It's late. The heist is over, the paperwork is done, and the Task Force is off to its customary bar crawl, though the festivities tonight have a somber tone. Underage, you simply smiled at them as they left, answering Nakamori-keibu's gruff questions with a casual comment about homework and an old movie. You're a detective, you've seen worse than tonight. You carefully leave unspoken the implication that this is why you prefer to chase thieves.

When did you first know it was going to be a bad one? ... Probably from the moment you heard Edogawa's voice, thin and high and piping above the deeper rumble of the Task Force. You avoid Suzuki
Jirokichi-san as a matter of course- the man raises Nakamori-keibu's blood pressure as it is. Add in clashing obsessions, status comparisons, and dominance games- no. As a result, you and Edogawa-kun haven't crossed paths since the Detectives Koshien, and you're just as happy to keep it that way.

You're a detective, and a Holmesian. You don't believe in luck, or destiny, or anything so gauche as curses. But you're a detective, and one of your basic skills is pattern recognition. Edogawa-kun is here, and Kid did not send the note. Past experience insists that there will be a cooling corpse by the end of the night.

And so there was, the owner of the targeted gem murdered by one of his subordinates, a man pushed to the brink of desperation by his employer's unethical behavior. The heist had been intended as cover,
simple chaos, with no intention of casting the blame on Kid. If the victim's demise hadn't been so gruesome, you might have felt some sympathy for the man. But death had not been quick and it had not been kind, and you had no need for yet another image to play in the slideshow of nightmares. Nor did Edogawa-kun, whose uncharacteristic pallor on finding the scene aroused your protective instincts in a way he wouldn't appreciate, especially if your suspicions are correct.

But suspicions can be dangerous, and you're unutterably tired, bone-weary in a way that simple sleep won't cure. You need to stop thinking for a while, and for a detective, that's a dicey proposition.

And now you're walking the darkened streets, alone in the crowd as you can't be in solitude, where your thoughts are constant companions. Eyes skipping from person to person, evaluating, deducing, but not bothering to hold onto the information, letting it flow past like water in a stream. Until you turn a corner and see the sign and the door, cheerfully set along an alleyway that wasn't here yesterday and you know will not be there tomorrow.

The sign is simple, "Lou's" written in white lettering on brown, though you're never quite sure if it's written in Roman letters or katakana. You've never been here when you weren't tired, too tired for even your perceptions to be entirely accurate. Part of you suspects that's by design. The rest of you doesn't give a damn.

You push through the door, stopping for a moment to inhale the scent- fried foods and wood smoke, like a pub back in England. Back home. The room is dim, though not dark, tables and booths half-full of various patrons. The lighting, what there is of it, is warm and golden, and a jazz quartet is playing on the small stage at one end of the room. You don't look closely at the musicians anymore than you do the patrons; a flash of white (feathered wings, like a dove's) suggests that there are still some things you don't want to know.

But the room is warm and comforting, and the music is mellow, and you can feel the day's claws slip from your soul as you cross the floor and claim an empty stool at the bar. The bartender, the only one you've ever seen, gives you a smile.

Red hair, grey eyes, skin pale and devoid of freckles, taller than you by a few inches, with a build neither weight-lifter think or runner-thin; utterly average. Hands callused from manual labor, softened in places from washing countless dishes. Mobile features, well-cut, lips quirked near-constantly in a wry smile. The scan is simple habit- you've seen this man several times. Only after bad cases, and only once ever outside the bar. That was the first time, after your first murder case, when the adrenaline and focus had drained away and reaction had left you shaking and sick on a London street corner. He'd identified himself as Lou, a friend of the family, and you've never gotten any further name from him since. But he'd been warm, and roughly kind, and you'd found yourself sitting at the bar, drinking coffee and trying for the first time to understand the inhumanity of man. It hadn't been the last. You're rather sure there won't be a last.

The fact that you've walked into the same bar- you'd take an oath on it- from doorways in London and in Tokyo is another feature you try not to think about too closely. "No ghosts need apply," perhaps, but you've been dragged to church with Grandmother enough times that… well, there are "portions of eternity too great for the eye of man." And sometimes it's comforting to know that there are things even you can't understand.

A steaming mug of tea and a bowl of corn chowder in front of you manage to raise a growl from the stomach you thought had shut down in disgust. With a grateful nod towards Lou, you take your first bite from the bowl. Talk, if it comes, is for later. For now, you're simply concentrating on the warmth slowly filling you up inside from your meal.

Halfway through the bowl, and on your second mug of tea, you hear the soft chime signaling the opening of the door. A casual glance in that direction and you stop short, because standing in that doorway is Kuroba, trying not to look haunted and failing badly at it. His hair is damp, as are the shoulders of his shirt- apparently the threatened storm had materialized after all. There are no shadows under his eyes, but you'd bet that if the light in here were better, you'd find traces of artfully applied makeup there.

Well. This is interesting. You probably should feel upset that Kuroba's managed to make his way into yet another of your private sanctuaries, but you're too damn tired. And if the Place opened its door for the man, it meant he needed something only it could provide. … Which probably means you. Bugger.

With a smirk, you place another order before turning to wave Kuroba over to join you. The wary look on his face is priceless, but he weaves his way through the tables to approach the bar. Kuroba never met a danger he didn't laugh in the face of, after all.

Climbing onto the stool next to you, Kuroba opens his mouth to say something, but you cut him off by shoving the just-delivered plate of inari-zushi into his hands. (The kitchens here are frightfully efficient, and that's something you're not going to think about, either.) Kuroba is not actually a kitsune, (you think,) but the fried tofu is sweet, and it is vegetarian. Very important, after tonight. A mug of hot chocolate arrives soon after, bringing a welcome spark back into Kuroba's eyes.

Talk will come after, as it always does. For now, you're warm and fed and alive, and the two of you are safe from the storm. Tomorrow will be tomorrow, but this is enough for tonight.

Owari

The world is big enough for us. No ghosts need apply.- Sherlock Holmes, The Adventure of the Sussex Vampire.

The roaring of lions, the howling of wolves, the raging of the stormy
sea, and the destructive sword, are portions of eternity, too great
for the eye of man.- William Blake, The Marriage of Heaven and
Hell.