|To Protect and Support
Author: EstelRaca PM
Shingo misses Ankh, probably more than he should after everything that's happened. Who could have guessed that finding out the universe is much stranger than he thought would be one of the things that helps him most? Spoilers for OOOs. Characters from OOOs, Kuuga, Agito, Decade (minor characters), and Double.Rated: Fiction K+ - English - Drama - Words: 3,923 - Reviews: 1 - Published: 10-23-12 - Status: Complete - id: 8636960
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Disclaimer: I own no Kamen Rider shows, though I've watched a ridiculous number of them.
Author's Note: This little one-shot combines characters from OOO, Kuuga, Agito, Decade and Double. Hopefully people enjoy. Spoilers for the end of OOOs are present.
To Protect and Support
The note is simple, printed on standard white paper with a laser printer similar to the one he has in his own office. The words aren't threatening—quite the opposite, in fact. The person who wrote it was going out of their way to be reassuring.
But there was no way to be reassuring when the message contained a picture of him dressed like that.
It hurts, still, thinking of the Greed—the man had stolen his body, his identity, and nearly cost him his job. Ankh threatened Hina, betrayed Eiji, and constantly, emphatically insisted that he didn't care what happened to Shingo himself.
But it wasn't true. Or wasn't the whole truth, and it had been impossible to ignore that, living with the other's thoughts so close to his own.
So bright, so vibrant, so desperate, and Shingo could never hate Ankh, even if he wanted to. He spent nearly a month grappling desperately with a grief and terrible, aching emptiness inside when they lost Ankh, and that had been a hellish time. He could share his grief with Eiji and Hina, in a way, but there was also a terribly personal component to it that he didn't feel right foisting on his sister or the man that he did-and-didn't know better than most other people in his life.
Now isn't the time to get drawn back into that quicksand trap, though. Now is the time to drown panic and think reasonably about what his next course of action should be.
Which means it's time to go talk to his partner.
He doesn't say anything as he hands over the letter. Instead he watches Gotou's face, reading the emotions that flicker by in rapid succession.
Confusion—that's the starting point, just like it was for Shingo.
Hesitance and uncertainty—he's gotten to the part about "friends" and "past time we met".
Fear and anger—he's read the meeting place and the explanation for it, a brief "so you'll be more comfortable" that sounds far too ominously threatening given the context.
And then Gotou's jaw clamps tight, his fingers digging into the tabletop, and Shingo knows that he's reached the end of the note.
"How did this get here?" Gotou smoothes the note out, words crisp, though the anger's still lying underneath his tone.
"It was delivered. The man apparently looked like a detective and flashed a badge, but wasn't familiar to the officer at the front desk. He assumed it was someone new or someone from a different department." Sitting down across from Gotou, Shingo gently lays down the picture of Ankh. Of him. Of Ankh in his body. "This was also in the envelope."
"No identifying stamps?"
Shingo just shakes his head.
"Any hits on the name?"
"No. Nothing that matches both family and given name as spelled there, though there are people on the force with both."
"Damn." Gotou stands abruptly, eyes fixed on the photograph. "Damn, damn, damn. How the hell did someone find this out? I mean, you I could understand, Shingo, no offense. Ankh wasn't exactly hiding what he was doing. But Kougami was supposed to be protecting my identity, and Chiyoko…"
"I know." Shingo sighs, eyes drifting again to the photograph. Him and not him. "What I'm not sure about is what to do. They're not asking for money. I can't tell if they're trying to be threatening or not. Do I go? Do I pretend not to have gotten it? Do I go and pretend not to know what they're talking about?"
"And do I go with you." Pacing around the small confines of his office, Gotou gnaws on his thumb nail. "Since they know about me. Or do I stay outside as back-up? Should I try to get the Birth suit? Though I don't want to fight there…"
"No." It's too infuriating watching Gotou pace while he does nothing, and Shingo finds himself standing and pacing to match the younger man. That's a quirk he can maybe-possibly blame Ankh for—the fact that his body never wants to stop moving now. Perching, pacing, watching, always active and alert even when he's just trying to enjoy a little TV, and it really gets quite annoying sometimes. "I won't fight at Cous Coussier."
"Do we bring anyone else in on this?" Gotou stops pacing for a moment, turning to face him completely. It's a vulnerable position, a questioning position, and Shingo appreciates what it means.
Gotou trusts his judgment on the people at the station and on the force. It's something Shingo finds touching every time it happens. "No. We'll keep it as quiet as we can. We tell Hina and Chiyoko—they'll be our back-up at the café. Otherwise… Date and Eiji are still out of the country. I don't suppose Satonaka would be willing to help us?"
"Sure, if we give her our first-born children." Gotou shakes his head. "I don't want to bring the Kougami Foundation in unless we have to. It's too hard to aim them in the right direction."
"You know we're talking like we're going to go meet them."
"Ah." Gotou gives a small, grim smile. "Given the present they sent us, I don't see that we have much choice."
The café's full of people when Shingo walks in. Friday is a busy day for lunch and dinner—people have time, and people have money, and they're eager to enjoy both. He knows what table he wants, though, as soon as he walks in the room.
They all have drinks in front of them. They're all talking, just like the other groups that are present.
But they're talking quietly. They lean in toward each other to make the comments, and their laughs are quiet when they're vocal at all. More often they're half-smiles or crooked grins or satisfied little smirks.
He's pretty convinced he doesn't like the group at all, but he approaches them anyway. The odds are only five to one at the moment, and he has Gotou waiting outside for any signs from Chiyoko that things have gone badly in here.
"My name's Izumi Shingo." He manages to say the words evenly, with a calm that would do any detective in a hostile situation proud. "I believe you invited me here."
One of the older ones—a man who still can't be more than in his mid-thirties—stands up and bows politely. "We did. We're grateful you decided to come. Please, have a seat. Would you like to get something to drink?"
"Ah…" He stares at the seat that the one in a red leather jacket shoved out for him. "I suppose a water would be fine."
A third man, with fluffy black hair, flags down Hina and asks for a water for him. The stranger smiles at Hina as he speaks, revealing crooked teeth, and somehow it doesn't look quite as threatening as it did when the five were talking amongst themselves.
"You don't know what to make of us." One of the two women in the group smiles, leaning her elbows on the table and fixing him with a rather intimidating stare. Really, he shouldn't want to cower away from someone who's probably a good half-meter shorter than he is. "You keep trying to assess us as threats. Makes sense, but not really your style. Who was it that sent the letter?"
"I delivered it." The first man who had spoken, the older, very clean-cut man, raises his right hand slightly.
Giving him another quick once-over, Shingo nods to himself. He could see the man passing as a detective, as honest-looking and respectable as he is in a suit.
"Yeah, but you're not the problem." The second woman grins at the man. "No offense meant, Ichijou, but you're not exactly intimidating. Not when you don't want to be, at least. I mean, I'd hate to be anyone you're targeting with a projectile weapon, but until it gets to that point you're just kind of sweet and shy. So who botched up the intro letter?"
Silence descends on the small group, until finally the one who had flagged down Hina flicks a guilty glance toward the one in the red leather jacket.
The first woman grins triumphantly and pats fluffy-hair on the hand. "Thank you, Hikawa. Now, Terui, what did you tell our friend that makes him want to look at us like that?"
Red-leather scowls, arms crossed over his chest. "Don't question me."
Shingo isn't sure exactly why, but the two women and fluffy-hair burst into laughter, while the other—Ichijou, that's what he'd been called—studies the tabletop while trying to suppress an amused smile.
Clearing his throat, Shingo draws the group's attention back to himself. "I think I'm missing something."
"Undoubtedly." The first woman sits back in her chair. "I suppose the first order of business is introductions. My name's Ozawa Sumiko, formerly of the Tokyo Police Force."
"Yashiro Toko, currently of the Tokyo Police Force." The second woman offers him a quick smile.
"Detective Ichijou Kaoru." The older man inclines his head as he speaks. "Tokyo Police Force."
"Detective Hikawa Makoto." Fluffy-hair's grin is wide and open, completely friendly and inviting. "It's nice to finally meet you."
"Detective Terui Ryu. Fuuto police force, but not the Fuuto you know." Terui looks away, shoulders hunching as though he's uncomfortable. "There is a Terui Ryu on your Fuuto's police force, but we haven't approached him yet. I find it too… disconcerting."
"I…" Shingo looks around the table, frowning in bewilderment. "I have no idea what's going on. And we searched for your name in police records. We didn't find it."
"Same name, different kanji." Rubbing at the back of his neck, Terui looks at Hikawa. "Do you want to explain it?"
"Ozawa knows more about the technical aspects—but I'll try to make it as simple as possible." Hikawa places his hand over Ozawa's, and she closes her mouth reluctantly but with a self-deprecating grin. "Basically, we're police officers from various alternate, parallel realities who all work with Riders."
"Or, in some cases, are Riders." Ichijou makes the quiet interjection, looking from Hikawa to Terui in a way that makes the implication of his words clear.
"Riders? Kamen Riders?" Frowning, Shingo glances around the table again. If it's true, if they are Riders, then it's a very important piece of information for them to just give away. Ichijou nods once, and no one contradicts him or appears to be uncomfortable or lying. Everyone looks serious—not grim, not frightened, but serious, like this is a meeting of a comfortable taskforce that has a well-known agenda and is right on track. "Like OOOs? Like Double?"
"You know Double?" Terui blinks, the first hint of surprise and confusion on his face. "How?"
Shrugging, Shingo takes a drink of water, giving himself a moment to study the others again before responding. He sees no reason not to tell Terui, though, especially if t might help him figure things out. "We worked together on a case once."
"The Nobunaga fiasco?" The puzzled frown stays on Terui's face. "I didn't think that happened in this world."
"Nobunaga?" Shingo's eyebrows shoot up. "As in the Nobunaga, or—"
"Supposedly." Shrugging, Terui takes a sip from his glass. "I wasn't very involved with that aspect of the case, but it was weird enough that we usually use his name to refer to it."
"Ah." Rubbing at the bridge of his nose, trying to decide if he's really getting a headache or not, Shingo shakes his head. "I can say that so far I haven't run into any famous historical personages or their descendants, and neither has OOOs, to my knowledge."
"Good. Hopefully it stays that way." Terui raises his eyes to meet Shingo's. "It's how we ran into my world's version of OOOs and you… well, the Greed that possesses you."
"Possessed." Shingo drops his gaze, staring into his glass of water and breathing carefully until he's certain his voice won't give away his feelings. "Ankh died. He sacrificed himself to help Eiji stop the apocalypse."
For a long moment no one speaks. Sorrow spreads across the table, everyone's eyes looking away from him, and quiet murmurs that Shingo recognizes from a dozen wakes for fallen officers slip from their lips. At first Shingo can't even place who's saying what, or even which phrases are being used, but there's comfort in it anyway. It's a simple thing, an impersonal thing, but it's the first time Shingo really believes them. These men are cops, or close enough as makes no difference.
After a few seconds Yashiro reaches over and places her hand atop his, just for a moment. It breaks the spell, snapping sight and sound back into focus, and Shingo finds himself looking into her earnest brown eyes. "I'm sorry, Officer Izumi. That must have been difficult for you."
"It…" Shingo looks around, makes sure that Hina and Chiyoko aren't close enough to hear. He shouldn't trust these people, probably. He should make them prove that they are who they say they are before bearing his heart to them. He does believe them, though, on the same instinctual level that loves and mourns Ankh, and maybe it's that closeness which allows the words to keep coming. "It's been awful, in a lot of ways. I'm glad he did it. I'm glad he lived up to his potential. But I miss him, somehow. He stole my life, but I still miss him and mourn him like he was a friend."
What are they going to do with the information, anyway? How could they use his grief to hurt him any more than they already could with the photo they have?
"If there's ever anything we can do to help, just say the word." Ichijou's voice is quiet but resolute. "If you need anything, even if it's just to talk, we're here. That's why we wanted to contact you—to contact someone on this world, at least, but we usually find it more… comfortable and helpful to find an officer if we can."
Shingo shakes his head. "I still don't understand."
Ichijou shares a glance with Hikawa and then continues speaking. "There was an… incident that left the walls between realities thinner than they normally would be. The Rider worlds are connected now, for better or worse. It means our enemies can travel between worlds if they figure it out, but it also means that we can help each other. We can warn each other about threats. We can assist each other. We can be there to talk about things that you couldn't talk about with other people—about the stress of being a Rider, about the stress of working with Riders, about facing down the apocalypse, about losing people… about caring for people who may or may not qualify as human anymore."
Ichijou blushes when he's done talking, looking down at the table. Terui smiles, just a slight change in his expression, and claps the other man on the shoulder, not saying anything.
Yashiro grins, though there's a sadness hidden in the smile, and nods toward Ichijou. "Basically what he said. We're used to dealing with some odd things. You're the only one here who's ever been possessed like that, but there are other Riders who have gone through similar things. We could introduce you to some of them, if you wanted."
"I…" He studies the group again, and finds himself relaxing and smiling. Maybe coming to meet these people was a good idea after all. "I think I might take you up—"
The sound of gunfire from the street breaks the moment, and everyone at the table stands between one heartbeat and the next. Shingo's fairly certain he's never seen so many revolvers drawn in one place, though that's partly due to the fact that Ankh had control of his body during the time that the police were actually considering responding to the Greed threat.
Terui takes point, Ichijou and Yashiro offering him cover as he rolls through the door and into the street. Ozawa and Hikawa help Chiyoko and Hina herd customers towards the back of the café, talking in low tones to each other about a truck and emergency withdrawal as they do. Shingo finds himself with nothing to do, so he follows the three who had gone out the front door, his revolver held ready at his side.
Gotou stands with a gun in each hand, and Shingo knows that he didn't requisition them from the station. He wonders how many weapons Gotou liberated from the Kougami Corporation for situations such as this. A thin trail of blood runs down Gotou's left cheek, and he has the gun in his right hand focused on a stranger while the one in his left hand flicks from Terui to Ichijou to Yashiro and back.
The man Gotou's facing off against doesn't have a gun, but he does have tentacles twining around both his arms, and Shingo figures that makes them about even.
"Shingo!" Gotou relaxes just slightly on seeing Shingo, relief and hope infusing his features. "What—"
The man with the tentacles lunges forward, one wrapping around each of Gotou's arms and forcing the guns down. The tentacles pull Gotou's hands out to the side while the stranger's fingers latch onto Gotou's throat, lifting the man into the air.
Shingo levels his revolver on the attacker's face. "Let him go."
The man snarls out what might be words, but he doesn't let Gotou go.
"Ashikawa, drop him." Terui holsters his gun and stalks over to the man, swatting at an errant tentacle as he does. "You're attracting attention we don't need and frightening our allies."
Tentacle-man—Ashikawa—reluctantly lowers Gotou to the ground. Shingo moves to stand at Gotou's side as the man sputters and coughs, blinking away tears so that he can aim at Ashikawa and the others again.
Ashikawa glowers at the gun, and the tentacles pull back into his shirt until he looks human again. "He started it. He has a sniper-rifle up on the roof over there, and he was aiming at Yashiro."
"You're an idiot." Yashiro slaps the back of the man's head, turning to Shingo and Gotou and bowing low. "I apologize. This man is Ashikawa. He's my responsibility." Her tone drops lower, so that it won't spread beyond their small group. "He's a Rider on our world. He has… difficulty, sometimes, controlling himself when he's upset."
"We're going to have to go." Terui frowns at the people starting to gather to stare at them, and though it may be just Shingo's imagination he thinks they back away a few steps.
"Yes." Ichijou also holsters his weapon. "I'm sorry that our conversation ended like this. We don't mean to cause you more trouble. We just want to… have a connection here. To give our Riders and those who support them other options."
"Our enemies have joined forces in the past." Ozawa's voice comes from behind him, but Shingo manages not to flinch as she and Hikawa join the group in front of them. None of them are armed, now, and Shingo also lowers his gun, though Gotou doesn't.
"And even when we're not fighting monsters, it can be good to have someone to talk to about the crazy things that have happened." Hikawa smiles. "Or about the crazy things people are saying."
"Or both." Ichijou glances around. "We do really need to go, but we'll be back. If you want to follow us, to see how we travel, that's fine. If you don't ever want to see us again, stay here and ignore our messages. That's completely within your right. Just… consider the possibility that we might be good allies."
"We will." Shingo pushes lightly on Gotou's raw wrists, and the man reluctantly lowers his guns. "I think we'll stay here, for now, to try to defuse this situation, but I'm looking forward to hearing from you again."
There are nods, waves, and, from Ichijou, a thumb's up as the other officers turn and thread a deft way through the crowd, keeping Ashikawa at the center of their group, Yashiro's hand on his arm. Then they turn a corner, heading onto more deserted streets, and are gone.
"What is going on?" Gotou glares at Shingo.
Wincing at the blood on Gotou's face, the raw, red areas around his wrists, and the bruising already starting to come up on his throat, Shingo shakes his head. "Let's go get you cleaned up, and I'll try to explain it all."
They get the next letter two weeks later.
It's stamped this time, not hand-delivered, and it lists a deserted quarry rather than a restaurant as the meeting place. There are multiple signatures at the bottom—Ichijou, Ozawa, Yashiro, Terui—and the diction of the letter shows that there were multiple authors.
"I still think this is foolish." Gotou frowns at the letter, pacing back and forth in front of his desk. "We can't trust them. Even if the gist of their story is true, and there are other Riders in other worlds, getting involved with them when one set of villains almost managed to destroy our world is asking for trouble."
"You're right that it might be dangerous. There are things out there we don't understand." Running his fingers over the envelope, Shingo smiles before standing to shrug into his jacket. "But I trust them. I believe what they told me, and I want to know more. As for the monsters… it's never the heroes that create the monsters, any more than it's the police that create the criminals."
Gotou sighs, reaching over his desk to grab his own suit jacket from his chair. "You trust people too much. You know that, right?"
Shingo pauses for a moment, his hand on the door. It's not the first time Gotou's told him that, and Gotou's not the first one to utter the words. He should be more wary. He's a police officer—he's a detective. He sees the darkest parts of the world for a living. He knows what people are capable of. He knows what monsters are capable of—hadn't a Greed stolen his body? Didn't they almost destroy the world?
Except Ankh was more than a Greed, more than a thief, more than a monster. Ankh was desperate desire, yes, but it was a desire for life, for sensation, for touch, for companionship, and it had been that desire that ultimately saved the world.
"I know I trust too easily." Holding the door open for Gotou, he lets the other man head out first. "I wouldn't have it any other way."
Shaking his head, Gotou scowls. "You're crazy."
Probably he's crazy for still doing this job, for mourning for Ankh, for trusting these people from other worlds.
But it's a better kind of crazy than the other possibilities, and it suits Shingo just fine. "You're following me."
Gotou turns to look at him, and a slight smile dances across the other man's face. "I never said that I wasn't crazy, too."
Shingo laughs, pats Gotou on the back, and continues to smile as they head toward the specified rendezvous point.
Let whatever monsters will be come for them.
With the people he has at his side, Shingo's not afraid.