Wild Goose ChaseAuthor:
Kudo Shinichi/Mouri RanFandom:
All characters are the property of Gosho Aoyama. I claim none, I merely borrow them and dress them up in frilly smocks and make them dance to my ever-changing will like the puppets they are.
When Ran woke up that morning, she rolled over to look at the time…and found her view of her clock unexpectedly obstructed by a small white card sitting on her nightstand, propped up against the small time apparatus. With a slight groan of protest at actually having to think so soon after waking up, she sat up in bed and stretched her arms over her head in a long, satisfying yawn.
She rubbed at her eyes in an effort to banish the last remnants of sleep before picking up the small piece of paper, folded in half so it stood tent-like on the nightstand. Her name was written on the front in a handwriting she knew all too well.
Now suspicious (and a bit amused), she opened the paper. Her eyes scanned over the words written there in that same neat, familiar handwriting. It was only then that her brow furrowed while she tried to figure out what the hell it was talking about.First thing in the morning, can be a pain
Gotta go here so Dad won’t complain
She stared blankly at the message. Well, if that wasn’t cryptic, she didn’t know what was.
But Ran hadn’t spent her whole life around detectives and police without picking up some critical thinking skills. When they were in elementary school and had to do these kind of logic problems, Shinichi had always told her to just take the clue one part at a time.
Okay. First thing in the morning
—something she did shortly after waking up, or a part of her morning routine. Can be a pain
—something she sometimes got annoyed with? But if it said that it only ‘could be’ a pain, which meant that it was possibly something she usually enjoyed.
Good deal, making progress. Gotta go here
—that meant a place, didn’t it? And if it was something she did in the morning, then this was leading her to a place in her own home, she could assume. Right? Right. Okay. But it was that last part—so Dad won’t complain
—that had her a bit on the baffled side. Okay, time to put it together. Something she did in the morning that she usually enjoyed, but if she didn’t do it, her father would get irritated.Click.
Still holding the little white card, Ran headed out of her room and down the stairs to the kitchen. She felt more than a little silly, but that’s what she got when she put the clues together. Every morning, she fixed breakfast—if she didn’t, her father pitched a hissy-fit.
She looked around, slightly confused as to what she was supposed to be looking for. Nothing seemed out of place at first glance. But then she spotted another card propped up innocently on the counter. She picked it up; sure enough, her name was written clearly on the front.
curious, Ran flipped it open to find another riddle.The one thing I fear all the time
Is that you’ll decide to keep me in line
A place where you gained the art of fights
And the ability forever to put out my lights
Ooooooookay…what did that mean, exactly?
As she stood there, staring at the second card bearing Shinichi’s handwriting and a odd riddle, she found herself thinking back over all the times they had sat here in this kitchen together. So many times they had crowded around the table, playing games (when they were younger), doing homework (as they grew up), or just shooting the breeze. How many times had he taken a seat at that table and just watched her run around, stirring this and checking on that and simmering the other thing?
Even now, as Ran’s eyes grazed past the table and chairs, she could envision Shinichi sitting there, one elbow propped up on the table, his chin resting in his hand, a smile on his face as he observed her. It always made her so happy to think about him.
But it seemed as though Shinichi had set out a little game for her. The purpose remained to be seen as of yet, but Ran smirked to herself. So the great detective was challenging her? All right. She would play along and see what came of it.
She turned her attention back to the riddle. She reread it, and chuckled. This one wasn’t really much of a challenge, but just what it said and the insinuations therein amused her to no end. It was true, after all, very true. The fact that she could clobber him if he mad her angry was almost a running gag, a long-standing joke of their relationship.
Belatedly, Ran realized that she was still in her pajamas. But it looked like she was going to be out for a while. Taking both cards with her, she turned and dashed back up the stairs with intent to take a quick shower and then head out on this little adventure.
In record time, she was scrubbed down and dressed in a pale blue sundress and pastel yellow cardigan—a recent gift from Sonoko. Sandals firmly on her feet, cards tucked safely into the purse over her shoulder, she shouted a quick goodbye to her father before heading out the door. Ironically enough, in her haste to leave, she completely ignored her father’s protests that he wanted breakfast.*****
Ran had started attending the karate dojo when she was very young. Though she no longer attended (having fairly well mastered the art), she had spent many an hour there, going at a punching bag, and she had worked devilishly to perfect her moves and attacks. Her present skills spoke for themselves.
It was to this place that she now went. It was closed today, though, and she stopped at the door, frowning. If Shinichi had left a message for her there, where would it be?
Her eyes drifted over to the bulletin board hanging by the door as she tried to think…and those selfsame eyes widened in surprise. There, pinned to the board, on top of the karate competition poster and the babysitting flyer, was a small white card with her name on the front.
“Bingo!” she cheered happily, pulling out the pushpin and claiming her prize. She eagerly opened the card to see just what was waiting for her inside this time. She was only mildly surprised to find another riddle staring her in the face.Beneath a roof and windows of glass
Resides your favorite pain in the ass
A lifetime lived behind a front door
You never even knock anymore
She snickered. Only one place that could be! Not hard at all!
As she stuck the card in her purse with its two brothers, she turned and looked up at the dojo building. Once upon a time, Shinichi had taken karate with her at this very place. She hadn’t thought about it in ages, but when they were children, they used to spar together for fun. It was all in good fun, just a chance to practice, and no one ever got hurt beyond the occasional cut or bruise.
Those friendly sparring matches had come to a rather abrupt stop one day when Shinichi’s father had walked by just as Shinichi had managed to land a rather good punch on Ran. This had led to a long lecture on gentlemanly behavior, and the next day, Shinichi had told her that he wasn’t allowed to fight with her anymore because gentlemen weren’t supposed to hit girls.
Later on, Shinichi had given up karate in favor of playing soccer fulltime, while she had continued with her training. But even though he didn’t participate anymore, she could count the number of matches and competitions that he had missed on one hand. He had always been there to see her win. In fact, it was because she had won one of those tournaments that they had gone to Tropical Land that day.
Conan…it still tugged at Ran’s heart a bit when she thought of the little boy she had taken in and adopted as her little brother. She’d had so many adventures with that child, told him so many secrets…only to find out that it was Shinichi. That had broken her heart, and nearly torn her away from her best friend—from the man she loved—forever.
But the more she thought about it, the more she remembered and realized that even though Shinichi himself hadn’t been able to be there, Conan had been her small shadow, always cheering her up and rooting for her from the sidelines, calling her with his true voice when he knew that she had reached her breaking point to try and help.
He had done the best he could in a really awful situation. Once she had realized that fact, and understood the reasons…it hit her how much it had hurt him.
And finally grasping that fact had sent her flying to his doorstep in tears, and the moment he was back to himself, flying into arms that had been waiting for her, wide open. And the months that had passed since then had been so very, very beautiful.
But speaking of Shinichi’s doorstep…*****
The gate creaked slightly as they opened, giving Ran time to slip through before they closed with a metallic clang. Humming to herself, she strolled up the walkway, a path she had walked countless times before. And true to form, as Shinichi had so happily pointed out in the note, she didn’t even bother to knock. She was certain that he wasn’t there.
“Hello?” she called as she stepped inside. “Anyone home?” Her words echoed ever so slightly in the hollow hallways; otherwise, it was silent. Sure enough, he wasn’t there. Not that she expected him to be. She had a feeling that this game wasn’t over quite yet.
But if he was holding true to form—and she saw no reason that he wouldn’t—the letter with her next clue should be sitting right out in the open, just waiting for her to find it.
Aha! There it was—on the table right by the phone.
With a now-practiced ease, she flipped the note open and read the new riddle.Waking up is never a cinch
But this will give you a buzz in a pinch
Stop after school or stop on the way
This jive will get you through the day
She smiled in spite of the relative stupidity of it all. Good grief, her best friend-now-boyfriend was a hopeless nerd. But that was just one of the things she loved about him, and always had.
Again, her eyes found themselves straying to her surroundings. Without really meaning to, she started walking, drifting away from the stand with the phone. She wandered around the ground floor, room to room, finding a wealth of memories in each room.
The kitchen—Shinichi had called her once in a panic for help after he had somehow managed, while using the microwave, to set the curtains on fire. This was especially amazing because the torched curtains were on the other side of the room. It was truly amazing: Shinichi could boil water, but when things were floating in it, cooking, he just got so confused.
The library—the site of many a homework session, and the spot where she had first met Conan, now that she thought about it. When she and Shinichi were younger, the ladders that stretched up to the top shelves had provided many an hour of potentially dangerous fun for two energetic children. One favorite game had been using them as slides, a game that resulted in many a bruise.
The living room—they had gotten yelled at on more than one occasion as youngsters for jumping on the furniture there. As they’d grown up, though, screaming and bouncing on couch cushions had given way to calmer evenings spent sprawled on the couch, reading, watching movies, or what-have-you. And in more recent months, lazy afternoons passed curled together in the quiet comfort of just being together.
So much had happened between them. It was so amazing to know they’d come this far.
With a shake of her head, she pulled back to the present. That was enough woolgathering for one day—back to the puzzle at hand. Waking up, a buzz…a jive?
Someplace she would go after school? She stared, frowning, until the light bulb went on. That had to be it!
She walked back towards the entryway, reading back over the note before she moved to slip it into her purse to become part of the rest of her ever-growing collection. It was then that she noticed a scrawl on the back, and flipped it over to read it.PS. Check the machine.
Frowning, she looked at the answering machine. Sure enough, the light was flashing. With a shrug, she pressed the playback button and listened. She was only mildly surprised when Shinichi’s voice cheered over the speaker.
“Hey, Ran,” he said, “just wanted to let you know you’ve reached the halfway point. Hope you’re hanging in there—I planned this just for you. You’re doing great! Keep going! See you soon. Love you.” And then the machine beeped and went silent.
And she smiled again. A hopeless nerd. That was Shinichi. Her
Shinichi, the man she’d fallen for.*****
There was a particular coffee shop that had opened when Ran and Shinichi were in their second year of middle school. It wasn’t a big or fancy place, but it was a friendly, cozy atmosphere, with good drinks and equally good snacks. The two friends had been taken with the place from the moment they had first set foot in the door, frequently stopping there after school.
It was to this little café that Ran now headed, having translated Shinichi’s riddle to refer to it.
She walked in and waved at one of the waitresses who she knew on a first-name basis. Then she looked around. Where would he have left it? Every other place, it had been left right out in the open. But there really wasn’t anywhere here that would work. So where…
“Excuse me, Ran-san?”
Ran turned to see the waitress she knew standing beside her. “Oh, Hikaru-san!”
Then she saw that Hikaru was holding out a small, folded piece of crisp white paper to her. The waitress grinned broadly. “A very charming, handsome young man came in earlier and asked me to personally deliver this to you when you got here.” She gave Ran a conspiratorial wink. “But I’m not supposed to tell you anything else.”
Ran laughed and thanked her. Hikaru bounced back to work, and Ran claimed a seat on the end of one of the big, comfy couches to read the newest note. She was developing quite a collection of these.A favorite of favorites, an obsession or craze
Where we studied during our school days
Ran sighed at the riddle, and let her eyes wander over the warm golden paint, dark wooden paneling, and pictures on the walls. She paid special attention to one wall in particular, a section that was painted pale yellow, and covered with writing. This was a segment of the wall that many called the Couples’ Corner, where a couple could write their names and “make it official.” As this was a place popular with teenagers and college students, it had become a much-loved tradition.
Inching closer, she reached out and slid her fingers over one set of names. Mouri Ran and Kudo Shinichi. They had inscribed that there one night, several months ago. That night…
Ran smiled softly, remembering. It had been not long after Shinichi had come back to her for good and they had started officially dating. They’d written their names on the wall in marker just as they were leaving, to the sound of applause. Regulars at the place knew what the wall meant, and new additions were always acclaimed; Ran herself remembered cheering on more than one occasion for just such a thing.
And now, as she stepped outside, she paused in front of the large front window.
This was the spot where they had first kissed.
One magical moment…also spent blissfully ignoring the café occupants watching through the window, all of whom had seen the young couple sign their names to the wall. The diners in the coffee shop all clapped and cheered loudly enough that they could hear it straight through the glass. Ran ignored them in favor of what was right in front of her.
Sighing happily at her most treasured memory, she looked back down at the card in her hand.
A favorite of favorites? Where we studied? Then it clicked, and she realized how big of a no-brainer that one really was. Especially for someone who knew Shinichi as well as she did.*****
This, Ran reflected, was by far the easiest wild goose chase she had ever been on.
She darted up the steps into the library nearest her house. She knew this place like the back of her hand; after all, this was the library that she and Shinichi had always frequented for their scholarly and research needs. A quick check at the computer catalogue was all it took, and she was off into the rows and rows of shelves in search of her prize.
“Let’s see…” she mumbled to herself, dragging her finger across the row of spines. “There you are!” Triumphantly, she withdrew the one she had been seeking: The Sign of Four.
Sure enough, a white card, the same as the others, fell loose and tumbled to the floor at her feet.
“Score for me!” she cheered, picking it up and eagerly reading the next clue.Mark as the seasons continue to change
Lead to a conclusion not so strange
A precious place we’ve long since had
Of memories shared, both good and bad
Ran stared at the riddle for a long moment before it clicked. Of course—that had to be it.
Sherlock Holmes…Shinichi’s favorite. That’s how she had deciphered the riddle and known where to go. The Sign of Four
was Shinichi’s favorite amongst his favorites, those being all of Doyle’s novels. It was one of those things that was so very easy to predict about him.
In the days since his return, he had actually gotten better about sharing his mystery obsession. Granted, he still rushed off to solve his cases (though she could usually get a very nice apology later), and he still shared with her whatever the details were of his latest case. But she had come to treasure those details more and more—it was Shinichi. Just one of his quirks.
And the Holmes babble had actually slowed a bit. Not that Ran minded it in small doses—which was more along the lines of what she was getting from him now. But those irritating long-winded explanations of “Why Sherlock Holmes Should Be King of the World” were now things of the past.
Not that she ever would have admitted it to him, but by the time she had gotten him back, she would have honestly listened to him prattle about Holmes for a month straight if it had meant that he was back, in person. If it meant that he wouldn’t disappear yet again.
She shook off her reminiscence. They had both grown up…in more ways then one. In Shinichi’s case, it was actually physically. But mentally, emotionally—they had survived hell, and come out far more mature and far wiser for it. And what could have torn them apart had actually brought them together once and for all. They had survived the Conan fiasco sound and whole; they could survive anything.
But back to the task at hand. She knew where she was going next, and unless she had missed by a long shot, her answer should be waiting for her there. Their most precious place.
Adding the card to the continually-growing collection in her purse, she replaced the book on the shelf and left the library with as much decorum as she could muster. But the minute she was on the sidewalk, she took off at a dead run. She knew exactly where she was going.*****
Ran sprinted through the park’s main gates, heading towards what she knew was the final spot—she had figured that the clue could only mean one place. She’d run all over town. She should have known that eventually, she would wind up here.
There was a certain sakura tree in the park that she and Shinichi had claimed as “theirs” a long time ago. Even when they were children, that had always been their meeting spot, their special place, the place they would go to sit for whatever reason. If there was ever a place for them that referred to the changing of seasons and “memories shared,” that would be it.
Not all the memories of that tree were necessarily good, though. The day her mother had left, she had run there in tears. And somehow, Shinichi had come to her there; he had walked by, whether by a tip-off, intuition, or sheer dumb luck. They had been there for a long time while she cried out her heartbreak to him. That was back before she had really
realized just how much he meant to her…
But if she was reading it right, then this was it. It had said that it would lead to a conclusion, after all. And so she flew towards her destination, now certain that she was finally going to find out exactly what was going on here and why he’d set this up.
There were surprisingly few people in the park for that time of the afternoon. And the people who were there paid little attention to the young woman running amidst them. Those that did saw that she was flushed prettily with excitement and exertion, her long hair streaming behind her like a chocolate-colored banner. She ran with little regard for her purse banging against her knees.
The tree came into view. Pink sakura blossoms drifted on the breeze, caught in the sunlight. It was so very picturesque. Ran steps quickened even further as it drew closer. She was so close to whatever prize was waiting for her there. She had to get there…
Finally, she skidded to a halt, feeling the grass give slightly beneath her feet. She was panting for breath, but not noticing it overly much; her attention was more focused on the figure leaning against the tree, waiting for her. With slower, slightly shakier steps, she moved into the shadow cast by the branches overhead, moving towards that person.
Shinichi watched her with a soft smile. He cut a fine figure, in khakis and a light blue button-up against the pale pink of the sakura blossoms. He was leaning against the tree, one hand stuffed casually into his pocket, the other hanging by his side, holding a bouquet of bright red roses.
“You found me,” Shinichi said happily as she drew nearer; he watched as she came closer, finally moving into arm’s length. And without another word, he offered her the roses.
She reached out with both hands to accept them; the smile that shone on her face was nothing short of brilliant, brighter than the sun itself. She buried her face in the roses, inhaling deeply to breathe in the sweet, sweet fragrance. The deep crimson petals brushed against her skin, a contrast to the faint pink flush painting her cheeks and the blossoms. All in all, at that moment Ran made for a very pretty picture.
After a moment, she looked back up at him, her eyes sparkling with happiness. “Shinichi…” He was still somewhat shy when it came to being really sweet and romantic, but every once in a while, he still managed to pull the rug out from under her in ways she had never imagined.
“Did you like the game?” he asked. “Remembering?”
And finally, it clicked. The places she had been sent running to. Her house. The coffee shop. His house. The dojo. The library. And now the sakura tree. Their special places. Their precious memories. Their life together. Every place she had gone, she had found herself remembering the many, many ways their lives had intertwined as they had grown up.
After all, they had always been together. Even when she didn’t know it.
One of his hands slid up her arm to cup her cheek while the other covered her hands around the rose stems, and he leaned against her; she felt the tree trunk, blessedly solid, beneath her back. A dip of his head was all it took to claim her for one loving kiss. The bouquet was trapped between them, but Ran suddenly didn’t mind if they were a little bit squished.
When he finally relinquished his possessive hold on her lips, it was by a mere inch. And then he caught her eyes with his own, and smiled, knowing that she finally understood what he had done and why she had been led on what had initially seemed nothing more than a wild goose chase—he had given her the gift of their most precious memories.PS. The fluff…the fluff eats at meeeeeee! This ended up a LOT longer than I had originally anticipated, but overall, I’m very pleased with the results. The hardest part was writing those riddles, though.
I send this chapter out to magic_truth, who writes some AWESOME Shinichi/Ran stuff, and always says such nice things about my writing. Go read! Much love!