|With This Ring
Author: teainapot PM
Through tears and laughter, through happiness and tragedy, through miles and hours, the hands of Fate would tear them apart and bring them together again. SS, CA. Oneshot.Rated: Fiction K+ - English - Drama - Shinichi K./Conan E. & Ai Haibara/Shiho M. - Words: 4,349 - Reviews: 23 - Favs: 53 - Follows: 5 - Published: 07-22-06 - Status: Complete - id: 3059185
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Title: With This Ring
Pairings: Shinichi/Shiho, Conan/Ai
Word Count: 4596
Summary: Through tears and laughter, through happiness and tragedy, through miles and hours, the hands of Fate would tear them apart and bring them together again.
A/N: The parts written in bold letters happen in the current timeline, while the parts in italics are flashbacks.
Thanks to my beta, Astarael00, for her tremendous help!
WITH THIS RING
Her footsteps echoed in the narrow hallway, high-heeled strap shoes against hard marble floor. Each pound was like the ring of a bell to her ears, slow and rhythmical. She closed her eyes as the distant sound of wedding bells rushed into her, soft and pleading like a morning wind, bringing light to a bittersweet memory locked and buried deep inside the maze of her mind.
"Will you marry me?"
Shiho stared hard at the tall, lean young man in front of her for a couple of minutes that felt like hours, waiting for him to laugh and said something utterly ridiculous like 'just kidding', a mirror of her own signature joke long time ago, her way to undo the honest thoughts she never meant to say aloud. It was nearly midnight and her cab was waiting, two small suitcases loaded in the trunk. She had come to his house to say farewell, just as a form of courtesy. Because somehow, she felt like she owed him something. After all, he did save her once. Twice. Maybe more. She lost count, and he never reminded her either. For the noble, goodie-two-shoes detective, saving her was just another routine, a part of his calling.
So she rang the bell and waited, counting rows of black bars to distract her mind as she waited for him to unlock the gate. She watched as his fingers fumbled with the lock in quick, rushed motion. A minute later, a loud, screeching sound was heard as the rusty metal of the gate bars brushed against the harsh texture of the asphalt below, removing the only physical barrier between them. The chilling breeze brushed against her skin like a smooth satin fabric over her dark, chiffon blouse and long skirt. She couldn't help a shiver as icy tongues of the wind licked a small portion of bare, uncovered skin below her neck and he moved closer, wrapping his coat over her shoulders. They were standing close to each other, much too close, his warm breath tickling her skin, his knuckles brushing her cheek.
She opened her mouth; a brief, clipped thank you ready to roll out from her tongue. Before a word came out, he put the tip of his index finger over her lower lip, silencing her. The instinctive touch surprised both of them, and he let his finger linger there for a while; tracing her wet, cherry lips, admiring their vivid red like it was the most beautiful thing he had ever seen.
The walls were pristine-white and flawless; no cracks or graffiti staining their perfect paint, like the thick make-up powders and cheap lipsticks of midnight butterflies on the wrong side of the town, offering an easy getaway route for those yearning to escape the harsh lash of reality. It reminded her of long, white hallways in the syndicate's headquarters, a prison she never truly escaped in her nightmares.
She could feel the heat of the blood that rushed through his fingertips as it touched her lips, like a spell that entranced both of them. For a second, the world stopped as they looked into each other as if for the first time, forbidden lust mirrored in her reluctant gaze and his curious eyes.
A string of loud, impatient honks from the yellow cab startled both of them, pulling her from the deep end of her reverie. She broke her gaze and looked down the wet pavement below, unable to meet his eyes as she muttered her apology and gratitude for everything that he did for her—for both of them. She held his hands for the last time, wishing him luck in the future. A marriage; three kids, maybe, a house with a white-picket fence and a loving wife who prepares breakfast for him in the morning.
He laughed then; a bitter laugh that ripped apart every unspoken rule that had existed in their brief, casual partnership against the syndicate. And then he proposed to her, just like that, as if it was the most natural thing he could say on their midnight parting. There was no shade of doubt in his voice, and she wondered if he had practiced the lines for a long time and waited for the perfect opportunity to come.
She leaned closer and kissed his right cheek as gently as he could, savoring the marshmallow softness of his skin on her lips. He stroked her tea-colored hair softly and pulled her closer, their eyes locked once again, emotions flooding from baby-blue eyes like a river that runs to the ocean.
She smiled sadly and spit out her answer with as much conviction as she could muster considering her trembling voice: No. Tiny drops of rain fell from the cloudy night sky, shimmering like silver curtain that separated their worlds as she ran to her cab and left forever. The scent of her perfume still lingered in the moist air; a ghost of her that refused to leave his side.
She traced the smooth, cool surface of the walls with her fingertips; recalling the soft texture of his bare skin as their bodies wrapped each other, entangled between thin and crumpled white sheets. She would trace the soft curve of spine on his back like a sculptor admiring his masterpiece as they laid in peaceful silence of the breaking dawn.
Shiho disappeared for the whole seven months, leaving no single trace but a few postcards in his mailbox. Christmas, New Year, his birthday. A part of her knew leaving him clues would only lead him to her hiding place, so she kept moving; town after town, country after county, and continent after continent. They were playing hide and seek, and the world was their playground.
But she wasn't just hiding from him.
She found Shinichi sitting on the floor outside her small, cramped apartment; a three-storey building that reeked of cat litter and alcohol. The walls were yellow; not warm, beige yellow, but dirty yellow like the color of impoverished kids' teeth in the third-world country she was staying in. The landlord would bring his precious tiny revolver when he collected cash from the tenants, because they lived in the land of war, and for the first time she felt like she was at home.
He looked at her with a pair of red-rimmed and droopy eyes, a result of fourteen-hours of jet-lag and another sleepless twenty-hour circling the town with only a map in his hand and a backpack slung across his shoulder. But even in his tired condition, he could still give her one of his piercing gazes, looking through her eyes like he could read her, like he could see past her masquerade and defenses, like he could see the fear beneath her eyes; a fear that followed her like a relentless shadow even as she closed her eyes at night.
And for the first time, it dawned upon her that he really could.
She sat next to him in the dimly-lit hallway and they spent another half an hour in blissful silence like many times before, with distant music from a room upstairs their only company. When he spoke again, his voice was hoarse from lack of water and too many hours of asking every stranger for directions.
"Will you ever get tired of running away?"
And she closed her eyes, praying that the world would disappear before she opened them again, just so she wouldn't have to grace him with an answer.
She focused her eyes on a grey double-door in the end of the hallway. The door was tightly shut and locked; the glass windows protected with brown papers. In the eyes of her mind, the dull grey turned into warm brown of oak wood, like double swing-doors in a small chapel in the outskirts of Tokyo, a place where he slipped the tiny ring onto her smooth, slender finger. The white walls turned into green bushes and rose petals in the small garden behind the chapel where she smiled at him and said, "I do."
She rose quickly and unlocked the bolts and chains on the door, doing her best to avoid his burning gaze. The door swung open and she didn't bother to slam it shut before she went to her bedroom to pack her belongings; piles of clothes, money and passport hidden on a shoebox on top of a cupboard. A pocket knife in the front pocket of her bag. When she turned to the door, he was leaning to the doorframe, blocking her. His defiant gaze told her he wouldn't move until she told him everything.
"You're hiding something," he said grimly.
"What if I am?" she shot back.
He grabbed her arm and for a second, she was taken aback by his sudden force. They were only an inch apart and she felt herself falling through the deep blue well in his eyes. Their breaths mingled together like a soft hum of music, and she rested her head on his chest, letting the sudden rush of calmness and peace wash over her.
"Tell me." He said, pleading. His voice was low and soft and his tone undemanding. She looked to his eyes through eyelashes wet with tears and the story rolled out from her dry tongue before she could stop herself.
"That night…after the celebration was over; I found a crystal wine glass in the basement, next to the computer. It was filled with—"
"Sherry," he said with unexpected calmness. She jerked her head up, lips trembling.
"How do you know…?"
That night, as the sudden wave of shock and fear began to rein over her senses, the wine glass slipped from her shaking fingers and dropped into a thousand shards to the ceramic tiles below. She crouched down; picking the shards one by one, letting the sharp edges cut into her skin, hoping the pain would wake her up from the surreal nightmare. But she wasn't dreaming.
"I found a piece of glass with your blood on it," he said softly, "I had it tested."
"It could be just a normal incident."
"You always wore gloves before."
He touched her chin with his fingers and she lifted her head up, looking straight at him solemnly.
"It would never end," she whispered in a defeated tone. "We would never be free."
"You are hiding from their shadows," he replied, "but why we should we run from something that would follow us everywhere anyway?"
"What's your idea?" She laughed bitterly, "Just sit back and wait until they press the trigger?"
Deep inside, she wanted him to answer the question, to dispute her worries like he always did before. But the eyes that looked back into hers didn't belong to the same boy who believed in sunshine and happy endings and she wondered when he had changed and why she never realized it before. She didn't have much time to think about it before he kissed her, quick and gentle, like cotton candy tickling her lips.
And then came the harsh sound of the wooden door slammed shut, followed by a loud screaming match which reverberated through the narrow hallway, reminding her of the world of broken dreams they lived in, a world painted with red blood of people they love. She tore herself away from his grasp and grabbed her suitcase, ready to run out the door and out of his life again—but he moved faster.
"It would never work," she said. It would never work because the price to pay for loving someone in her life is too high, and she couldn't afford it anymore. She didn't say the last part aloud, but the beads of tears that rolled down her cheek said more than enough. Suddenly, he released his grasp and took the suitcase from her hands, heading to the front door.
"Where are you going?"
"If you leave," he said, "I'm going with you."
She looked at him with incredulous stare for a long time; ignoring the sound of broken plates and crying infants that echoed through the thin walls. Time moved as slow as a feather dropping to the earth before she could move her legs and cross the room, pushing her lips against his, feeling the taste of his tongue mingled with the salty taste of her teardrops. It was the most beautiful taste she had ever known.
The heavy door opened with a loud clang that echoed through the hallway, and the stoic man motioned for her to get in first before he closed the door behind him and flicked on the light. The room was large and sparse, with four white walls that reminded her of a fairy tale about a boy who was imprisoned in an ice castle by an evil queen. And, she thought, maybe Death was the evil queen.
The man excused himself politely; telling her to call him if she needed anything. She nodded with a weak smile and waited until the door clicked shut again before she stepped closer to a lone figure in the middle of the room. There, laying on the gurney, eyes closed like a sleeping baby, was the boy—no, the man—that was her rock, her strength, her weakness.
She observed the rise and fall of his chest, his soft and labored breathing, and the steady beeping of the heart-rate machine in his side. Slowly, she traced his cheeks with the back of her fingers, feeling the warmth of his skin against the cold temperature inside the room. She twisted her lips into a wry smile as she realized that his hospital garment—and the blouse she was wearing—were both white. White as the snow, white as the doves, white as their suits on the wedding ceremony, white as the rose bouquet in her hands.
And she found herself reciting their wedding vows.
(I will be yours in times of plenty and in times of want.)
They were trapped inside the cave all night long as the snow storms unleashed its wrath outside. Conan was thankful that he had brought Kogoro's lighter along with him as an afterthought that morning. They gathered the wood, lit the fire, and wrapped their tiny bodies close together in effort to produce more warmth. Her soft, silky hair tickled his neck like a delicate paintbrush, but he didn't say anything.
The chilling air slit through their bones and she couldn't help a shiver. He wrapped his jacket around her wordlessly, and she looked at him, questioning.
"You only have one jacket."
"You need it more," he replied simply and steered his gaze to the dancing flames of the bonfire. Their quietness was soon interrupted by the growling sound of his stomach. Haibara looked at the boy's face from the corner of her eye; his face pale and tired.
"Here." She passed him a small piece of cheese-bread; the only food left in her backpack.
He looked at her with big, blue, innocent eyes and stated the obvious, "But you only have one left."
She gave him one of her rare genuine smiles and replied, "You need it more."
(I will be yours in times of sickness and in times of health.)
He was a terrible cook; a fact widely known by every single person who ever tasted his culinary creations. However, he was willing to spend two hours in Professor Agasa's messy kitchen and consult a pile of old cooking books to make an edible porridge for his sick friend.
He put the bowl next to the couch in the basement and watched the tiny girl as she slept; the back of her hand covering her eyes. Gently, he removed her hand from her eyes and brushed her forehead softly. He sighed in relief knowing that the fever had gotten slightly better and was about to leave the room when he heard Haibara murmuring her sister's name, her voice soft and slurred like a little girl who dreams about rainbows. After a moment of hesitation, he leaned closer and kissed her forehead softly. He was about to sing a lullaby, but then he remembered his singing capacity and refrained from the idea.
(I will be yours in times of defeat and in times of triumph.)
"Look," she yelled as harshly as she could, unleashing the anger that had been boiling in her chest after being detained and deprived of food for the last 18 hours, "if you dare to die before we get to the hospital, I will spit on your grave, you hear me?"
Her voice was drowned by the murmurs of paramedics and wailing sirens of the ambulance they were riding in. They had managed to take down the syndicate, but not without a price. He'd dived and taken a bullet meant for her, and her clothes had been smeared with his blood, red against white.
Haibara didn't remember the last time she had prayed for anything after the devil killed her sister, but two hours later, when the paramedics announced that the detective would survive his wounds, she fell to her knees and prayed in gratitude.
(I will be yours in times of joy and in times of sorrow.)
"Yaaaay! Tokyo Spirit wins!"
The three kids and one faux-kid cheered in unison as the Regional Soccer Championship in Tokyo ended with the triumphant win of Tokyo Spirit against Big Osaka, 4-3. Only one girl was missing from the jolly celebration that occurred after the blowing whistle signaled the end of the suspenseful, two-hour game.
The four-eyed detective found the tiny scientist working alone in the kitchen; her back turned toward him. He didn't need his super-smart deduction capability to pick up that Haibara wasn't in her best mood just by looking at her tense shoulders and the fact that she was rubbing the shiny surface of the sink over and over with as much energy and devotion as if she was washing a racing-car's hood covered in oil and grease and the most stubborn dirt on earth. The girl had disappeared from their slumber-soccer party soon after Higo, the key player from Big Osaka, missed his mark on the tight penalty shoot-out between the two powerful teams.
"Hey, it's just a game," he offered a weak attempt to console her, even knowing that he would fail miserably.
"Yeah, right, just a game." Haibara shot back, her attention still focused on the imaginary grease. "Like they wouldn't burn him at the stake for missing that penalty shot. It was just blind luck or nothing, that's all."
"He's going to have a hard time, I suppose," he leaned his back to the kitchen counter and bit his lip to suppress a snicker as Haibara tossed the empty liquid soap bottle to the garbage bin with less grace than usual, "but they won't—uh, what you said just now?—burn him at the stake. People will soon forget about it, after bigger scandals happen, and trust me, you won't have to wait too long for it."
"How would you know?" she asked, looking irritated. "You never—"
"I've been there, okay? Shot a goal and got a brief hero-worship before I flunked the penalty spectacularly."
She turned to look at him and crossed her arms in front of her chest in annoyance, "That was different. You were in high school. This is a national game; watched by more than a thousand audiences all over the region, covered by all major TV stations and local newspapers—"
"Whoa, someone's been reading a different kind of magazine nowadays, huh?"
Haibara considered smacking the small boy just to wipe that smartass look off his face, but decided that such an action would only arouse unnecessary concern from Ayumi and the rest of the kids.
"Trust me, high school or not, mad soccer fans will always be mad soccer fans."
"But they didn't crush you like a bug, huh, Teitan-High golden boy?"
"Not really," he said, eyes looking up, "but I remember a couple of not-very-nice-letters slipped into my locker every morning for about a week or so. It's not like I had time to read them. I mean, there were mid-term exams and such things."
He might've been extremely sleepy and exhausted after having a soccer-watching marathon over the past three days, but he could almost be sure Haibara did smile a little bit, even if it was just a twitch at the corner of her lips; that it wasn't just his imagination taking over.
"It just had to be all about you, right?" she snorted and walked past him; joining the others in their post-game euphoria.
(Until death do us apart)
It was early Sunday, and they were both sprawled on the bed sheets like two lazy kittens. He traced invisible circular patterns on her stomach all the way up to her bare chest with his fingers softly, like a surrealist painting tracing white canvas with his wet brush, thick with paint and oil.
"I had a dream," she said in a low, husky whisper.
"My funeral," Shiho smirked slightly when she saw the grim expression on her husband's face, "What? It was just a dream. I can't control what I dream about, right?"
Shinichi sighed, and she continued, "You give a long-winded eulogy and all the mourners fell asleep and I have to rise from my grave as a ghost to wake them up."
He snorted a little in amusement; his fingers brushing her long, silky hair, "There's no way I could make a boring eulogy about a girl who escaped death more times than the luckiest cat in the world."
"Make your speech short and simple, okay? Keep it under thirty minutes."
They both laughed for a moment, and he pressed his lips gently into a smooth curve in her neck, eliciting a soft moan from her lips. He looked at her with a warm smile, but she could see something else in his eyes; a quiet fear and sadness. She brushed the feeling off as quickly as it came, not wanting to ruin one of the rare peaceful moments they could share amidst their hectic daily life.
"Would you promise me something?" he asked her reluctantly.
"Sure." She shrugged, her brows furrowed in mild confusion and curiosity.
"Even if it is ridiculous—outrageous, even?"
"Anything." She nodded with a soft smile.
Looking back, she wished she had been more careful with her promises.
Gently, she slid his garment up to his neck and leaned her head against his chest, feeling the warmth of his skin on her cheek. She closed her eyes and let the rest of the world disappear as she listened to the steady beating of his heart; lending her the strength to finish what she had came for.
When she opened her eyes, the room had become blurry to her sight, veiled by a coat of tears. She brushed the tears away and took out a small syringe hidden inside her make-up purse. Inside the tiny object was a poison that would stop his heart from beating. The transparent liquid would leave no trace in his body and the autopsy would rule it as a natural death.
Leave it to the syndicate's new generation of lab slaves to create such a masterpiece.
She bit her lip until she could taste the blood on her tongue, trying to stop her trembling hands as she slid the needle into his veins. She stood at his side until his pulse stopped completely, until she couldn't cry or feel much of anything anymore. She pressed her lips into his for the very last time, letting her tears stain his cheeks.
Just like the first time they kissed.
When she finally reached their apartment again, it was almost midnight and the rooms were dark and empty. She didn't bother to turn on the lights as she opened all the windows in the living room and sat on the couch alone. The night breeze greeted her, swirling soft strands of her hair like the smooth caress of his fingers, telling her he would never leave her side, no matter what.
A long time ago, he made her promise that when the past finally caught up with them, she would never trade an innocent's life for the sake of his. She knew he wouldn't be able to live knowing that the blood that rushing in his veins once belonged to another beating heart, people with someone to love and someone who love them. She knew the guilt would destroy him slowly and painfully, and she wouldn't be able to watch him suffer in such a way.
Shiho touched the smooth bump of her stomach; another life waiting to come out and see the world, not knowing the sheer cruelty and tangled webs of her parents' past that would, undoubtedly, catch up with her sooner or later. Shiho didn't know if her unborn child would grow up loving her or hating her, but she prayed that her child would never, ever know that her father's life had been traded to save hers.