So, I'm not dead. I did manage to break the only machine I had gotten help setting up for me to be able to use with any sort of ease - and I'm still not sure how - and it was only very recently that I've managed to secure aid in getting and setting up a new one. I've had occasional moments with friends and message-or-review checking, but that's been close to the extent.

So, the bad news is that I'm having to review my own work from the beginnings, as I can't be quite sure where I left off - here's to the first back on its feet! So to speak, anyway. Also that watching Conan is a lot less enjoyable without the visuals, especially since the screen-reader thing can't actually do subtitles on videos.

The good news is, new machine, internet again (someone insisted, even if it is mostly lost on me), and a far better screen-reader than the last one. I can also kind-of read myself if I'm not too far from the screen and the letters are at least an inch tall and in a black-based high-contrast scheme, but it gives me a truly awful headache so I don't even try anymore.

Anyway, most of this chapter was admittedly completed once and I basically just had to rewrite it and get some help proofreading. Please be patient with me, but I am trying to get back to where I was... and figure out what I actually wrote out and what had just been planned out all written-like in my own brain. Sometimes I'm just not sure...

Chapter 18

At least now I'm sure things can change, Shinichi thought to himself as he stared up at the ceiling of Kaito's room, the familiar painting of the first Kaitou KID staring dramatically out from the wall.

Things had changed before, it was true. But most of those changes were more directly influenced by either himself or Kaito, and it was... in some ways, it was relieving to see changes elsewhere.

He or Kaito was probably still indirectly responsible if the cascaded differences could be traced back far enough, but it was the first time he'd seen a case in a different place with different witnesses. That was...

Important. Not good, necessarily, but important all the same. Something to be aware of, to watch out for - because the evidence was laid out differently even with the same murder weapon having been employed; and Shinichi would not, could not, make an accusation without proof. He never had, even when he'd known beyond any shadow of doubt the guilty party, because that way lay pitfalls he had no desire to lose himself in.

Being sure didn't mean being right, and being sure of the wrong thing... proof, true proof and not misread or planted evidence, was the only way to be certain his pride didn't intervene. He would rather let a guilty person walk away than to condemn an innocent.

(There had been times, when the proof was somewhat circumstantial and it only having correctly read the culprit's personality got a confession. But there had also been times when he had suspicions and nothing else, and then... then he hadn't dared make an accusation.

But a few well-placed questions could do the work for him, because he'd gotten at least one confession for expressing confusion over an inconsistent story, without ever making an accusation at all. Humans weren't exactly natural killers, on the whole.)

But it would be beyond frustrating to have to let someone he knew was guilty walk away. He was getting too used to repeats, to things staying just the same. And now... well, 'repeats' were heading away from the definition.

He sighed and closed his eyes, not bothering to take off the Conan-glasses that this iteration of Conan only needed for the usefulness. He used to sleep in them all the time, because of Ran and Occhan and the risk of being recognized, and they weren't exactly comfortable, but it wasn't half as bad as he would have objectively expected it to be.

And this was what happened when he was left to his own thoughts. Nostalgia and random thoughts, most of which were somewhat depressing.

He tried not to think about last time, when a near-stranger of an elderly toy-store owner had been able to recognize him. When even Hattori and Kaito who, then, had been complete strangers had been able to see him for who he was... and Ran and Megure had not. Nor had Agasa, at first, until Shinichi convinced him, but aside from the inventor it was Ran and Megure who'd been closest to him. Megure perhaps closer than his own parents, in his way. And Agasa had told his parents, so there was no telling what they'd have seen otherwise - but even now, years later and never having happened at all, it stung to realize how little those 'closest' to him knew him.

And Megure didn't recognize him now, either... but he was a far better actor, this time around, and with the age difference as well, he couldn't be so bothered by that. But...

The portrait swished around, and Shinichi blinked, thoughts derailed.

"Shin-chan," Kaito sighed at him, immediately sprawling himself across the bed, wearing loose blue moon-print flannel pajamas before he hit the covers. "Stop thinking such heavy thoughts. You should already be asleep by now."

"So should you," Shinichi retorted, scrunching his nose as Kaito snagged the glasses off his face and sent them sliding neatly to a stop by the alarm clock on the nightstand a bit over a meter away.

"Had to check the antidote," Kaito refuted. "It's looking good, by the way. A little luck and we might get it right this try. What has you so down, anyway?"

"Nothing," Shinichi looked aside, because there wasn't a real reason, not at the moment, not really. "Just... memories."

"Thinking about something depressing, got it," Kaito nodded, "Okay. What reminded you, then?"

Shinichi made a face and waved vaguely, not wanting to say 'the silence' or anything else equally pointless, such as 'being tiny'. Even if a combination of both were true.

He didn't feel bitter about it, not this time, but without something immediate to focus on... it was so easy to get depressed as Conan. Which... might actually mean there was a medical reason for that, come to think. Last time he'd just assumed it had to do with the circumstances, but this time the circumstances weren't that bad, and poor association could only explain so much. Besides, being Conan had been frustrating and upsetting before, but it had still given him so much that in the end he couldn't regret it.

So the upset now didn't make a lot of sense, not from a more objective standpoint.

"I think maybe I should get checked for clinical depression," he said slowly, turning the idea over in his mind. "I can't - I can't think of a reason to feel like this so often, especially since it wasn't much of a problem until..." he waved a hand at his lack of height. "I mean, usually when I feel like this, there's an obvious reason. Now it just seems like an always-there sort of thing."

"And you're thinking chemical imbalance? Did that happen before or...?"

Shinichi shrugged, "Never had it checked," he admitted. "There was so much going on that it just seemed like a normal response, but..."

Kaito tapped his fingers against his thigh in a choppy, meaningless rhythm. "Yeah, okay. If it might be... okay. I'll make you an appointment - actual medical doctor, right? Not psychiatrist? Or psychologist, whichever it is that does the med thing."

"Actual medical doctor," Shinichi agreed. "Let's hold off on the therapist-types. Those only work if you're honest, and if I'm honest I'll get tossed in a psyche ward."

Kaito snerked, "Oh, yeah. It might be funny to watch, though."

"For you, maybe," Shinichi grumped, though Kaito's presence had him shaking the worst of the melancholy. "I'd be the one in the psyche ward."

"Don't be like that, Shin-chan," Kaito teased lightly. "I'd break you out!"

That actually was an entertaining thought, and Shinichi huffed an amused breath. "Let's not actually try that. As fun as it might be, I think we'd have a hard time getting anyone to take me seriously afterwards."

"Eh. They'd never know it was you in a few more months," Kaito waved off the concern. "And even if they somehow did, kids can get away with all sorts of things, and no one thinks anything of it by the time they're adults. The whole 'grow out of it' thing."

"I'm not convinced," Shinichi informed, but he still felt better. And this - it wasn't chasing Kaito down with a soccer ball and magic, but it was a different kind of stress relief, easy and comfortable.

"I'll refrain from insisting, then," Kaito stated with a grandiose kind of magnanimity. Then he ruined the stately image he may or may not have been going for by flopping backwards, worming under the covers in a bizarre, snakelike twist, and pulling Shinichi's undersized self into a cuddle.

Which. Was good, really, because it was easier not to sink back into those grey-cloud thoughts while being hugged. And Shinichi would never admit it, but he liked the warmth and comfort from cuddles, provided he trusted the person hugging him.

(Kaito knew that, too, and was therefore an unrepentant octopus every chance he got. Shinichi was so grateful he wasn't alone in this.)


Now that his partner had brought it up, if with a grudging sort of hesitance, Kaito paid more attention to the whens and whys of Conan-Shinichi's darker moods.

He'd long since noticed the trend, but initially dismissed it as a natural reaction to the frustration of being treated like a child all the time, again. But, as usual, Shinichi was right.

Whenever he didn't have a solid enough distraction, he got... quiet.

And while Shinichi, even the Conan permutation, was often content to watch; this was a worrying kind of quiet, accompanied by distant eyes and a shadowed expression.

And if he couldn't think of a good reason to be feeling down, well. The doctor was probably a good idea. (Kaito didn't like that fact, but at least he could be secure in the knowledge of what Shinichi thought about deliberate self-harm. No matter how depressed he got, Shinichi would never consider 'suicide' as an option.)

And hopefully it was something simple. Chemical imbalance could be treated easily enough, and since Haibara wasn't an option for 'doctor', they'd have to hope it wasn't something that the apoptoxin would interfere in.

Which. They'd have to keep a very careful eye on that. He'd bring it up away from school, when Conan didn't have to pull so much of the 'little kid' act.

Meanwhile, he'd just have to be there for his favorite critic.


Conan was caught between incredulous disbelief and resigned acceptance.

He should have known Haibara - Ai-chan, he reminded himself - would end up enrolled in school. It should be no surprise that Ayumi had seen the withdrawn, quiet girl and immediately decided to be her friend.

And, of course, where Ayumi went, Genta and Mitsuhiko followed. Without the jealousy that they'd started out harboring with Conan, as Ai was a girl.

He shouldn't have been surprised that they'd finagled themselves into an invitation back to the Hakase's place. Or maybe 'muscled', and not necessarily by invitation. He remembered those first few months with the kids - they'd been very determined.

Still, seeing them like this, back before everything, before case after case and bloody deaths and bomb-scares and looking at truly horrible parts of life had started to steal their childish naivety. They'd retained their smiles, their bright curiosity, their joy in simple things... but they'd begun to see the world with a certain level of suspicion that was better seen in those working Division One.

Of course, they hadn't quite managed to learn the caution, mainly because Conan had been dead-set on protecting them whenever and however he could, but still... these children seemed so much more innocent than the ones he'd long since left behind.

Conan's 'death' had done what no bloody murder had, and dimmed their smiles.

He regretted that.

That wouldn't happen this time, he had determined before. He would be a peripheral friend to them at most, them and Hai- Ai-chan. When Conan 'left', they would be saying goodbye to someone they barely knew, not a friend they'd come to cherish as well as idolize.

(Seeing them still hurt.)


Note that I am not trying to make light of what is a serious condition. I myself am very prone to depression and have been since I was a pre-teen. I've been to a number of therapists over the years and occasionally been on meds (which usually only make me prone to anger or anxiety, so I've not been on the same one long and haven't been on any for some time) but I've never been suicidal. This is for several reasons, one of which is that all things end in time and therefore it's logically impossible to be depressed forever. (I'm a firm subscriber of 'where there is life, there is hope', even when it doesn't feel like it, because your own feelings can trick you better than just about anything else in the world, especially the bad ones.) It helps that there are people I know love me, even if I rarely get the chance to see most of them and no matter how I feel at the time. I'm a pragmatic person, and find it easier to rely on logic when my emotions are muddling things, but I don't think most people work like that...