Over the Years
It was late and Shinichi was still up, looking through all the papers Kogorou left behind. It was well past one in the morning and he had just told Ran to get some sleep. She was trying to stay by his side for as long as it took, but her eyes refused.
"Just get some rest. If I figure out anything, I'll wake you and let you know right away," he had assured her so that she would give into her body's needs. She got up and gave him a quick kiss before going to the living room to lie down on the couch.
His eyes were weary and his body felt heavy, but this wouldn't have been the first time he pulled an all nighter. However, having just drove from Tokyo to Miyazaki and then from Miyazaki back to Tokyo had taken its toll on him. He wasn't sure how much longer he would last. The rest of the information he was getting seemed to be only repeating something he had read three pages ago.
His eyes were just about to close when they caught a particular sentence that became his caffeine. In order to keep his mind focused, he mumbled the words aloud:
"July 3. Patient: Numabuchi Kiichiro. Found hiding by Mt. Fuji where suspected to have killed multiple civilians. Captured and given APTX-4869, thus turning him into a young child. Antidote: PANx-8345, component found in Chinese ginseng root schnapps labeled as ginsenosides. Outcome: Twenty-four hour antidote.
"August 22. Patient: Numabachi Kiichiro. Poison: APTX-4869. Antidote: PANx-8345-SG, Eleutherocossus Senticosus. Eletherosides present. Outcome: Pending."
Shinichi's eyes widened. He was no scientist and didn't know a lot of what Ai was saying in her reports, but he assumed the word "pending" meant that her new antidote was still working. The date was October 15, so she came up with the solution almost two months prior.
His heart began beating wildly as he jumped out of his seat, scanning through her report one more time to see if he recognized any words or formulas. Besides what he already read, nothing caught his full interest. He thought about waking Ran up and went to the living room to see her sleeping form still passed out on the couch.
He smiled and silently made his way over to her, kneeling down to be eye level with her. But she looked so…peaceful. He knew it was cliché and, in all reality, probably wasn't even true. She was too worried about her father and what he was trying to find out to get a real sleep. This was just her body being worn out, but her mind was still going at a fast pace.
He blinked a few times, the darkness of the room becoming a gentle caress to his eyes. He held back a large yawn, thinking that crawling behind Ran sounded like a really good idea.
Shinichi stood up, almost ready to do so before he changed his mind at the last second and walked back into the kitchen. The bright light made him wince. He looked at the clock: 1:43 AM. He sat back down at the table.
"Okay," he said quietly to himself, "You found that Ai might have a good lead on an antidote…but where is she located? She had to have left something…"
Flipping through the pages again, his eyes began to scan each word at a rapid pace, trying to pick up on anything that might be the Black Organization's headquarters. Or, at least where Ai was hiding. He remembered she mentioned that they found someone by the name of Kiichiro hiding by Mt. Fuji. So if this guy was actually hiding from The Black Organization, then he would try to get as far away from them as he could.
He pinched between his eyes when his eyes fell on no location. He sighed and threw all the papers over the table, wondering how he was supposed to figure out where Ai was if she didn't even leave a hint.
Shinichi turned sideways in his chair and lowered his elbows to his knees. Ran was counting on him…he couldn't just give up! There had to be something…
He grabbed a random piece of paper from the table and brought it down to his lap to read over whatever happened to be on it. It held some of Ai's formula's and other such rabble that her genius mind seemed to create on a whim. There was, however, something that caught his attention.
He squinted at an eleven digit number that was right in the middle of the page. It had a dash after the first four numbers and…if he wasn't mistaken, it looked like some sort of phone number. Under the number, in neat handwriting that seemed to match nothing else on the page, was the word "Pandora".
For some reason…everything seemed so familiar suddenly. He didn't know why, but it seemed as though he lived this moment before…maybe just in a dream. Or maybe it was something Ai said to him a long time ago. He couldn't quite place his odd sense of déjà vu, so he tried to ignore it and flipped open his cell phone.
Carefully, as though the world would end if he pressed in a wrong number, he dialed the number that was written on the paper. He tried to breath in and out slowly to calm his shaking. He never felt this nervous before…not over something like this. Something in him was literally screaming that this was going to mean something big.
He pressed the last digit and held the phone up to his ear. The phone was silent for a whole twenty seconds before it began ringing. The loud noise made him jump, and it seemed to echo through his brain and down to his heart and stomach. He felt like passing out and throwing up. He felt like ripping the skin off his chest and pulling at his hair.
'What is this feeling?!'
The phone rang four times. Finally, the phone was answered. Shinichi found himself holding his breath as he waited for a greeting. What was he supposed to say anyway?!
That was all the other person said on the other side of the line. It came so fast it was like a flutter in the wind. He couldn't even tell if who said it was a male or female. He suddenly went into detective mode and narrowed his eyebrows. He looked at the paper he still held, pronouncing what he read:
It sounded like heaven. Like that was the password to get into paradise and beyond. For a brief instant, he felt like he could have been talking to Kami himself, the man above having waited for his call for ten years.
The person didn't answer for a long moment. Shinichi was beginning to wonder if the line dropped.
"I am about to tell you an address."
It was a female's voice. This time he was sure of it. But the voice was cold and disenchanted. It was like what she was saying was of no big concern, and yet it meant everything.
Shinichi grabbed his pen quickly and placed his hand over the paper with the number on it. Usually he would be able to remember every little detail of what was told to him, but with his heart beating in his ears, he wasn't taking any chances this time.
The female quickly read off an address to him, his hand dancing over the paper as he scribbled it down as fast as she was saying it. Her voice defined the end of the address, the tone alone telling him that that was all he needed to know.
"Is this A--" but before he could ask her anything, the line went dead and all he was left with was a big, empty silence. He set his cell phone down and studied the address he wrote, memorizing it just in case something ended up happening to the files.
He wasn't tired anymore. He wanted to rush to this address and know what was there. He was almost positive that it was Ai who was on the line with him. He didn't know any other female that could have that voice…that steel-gun voice…
Standing up from the table again, he went back into the living room to see that Ran hadn't even moved. He promised her that he would wake her up once he found out anything…and this was definitely something! However…he knew that if he told her now, that she would want to go with him. He wasn't sure he was willing to risk her safety over some lead he got within a minute time frame.
No…he just had to go. He had to go without her and hope for the best. He really believed that it was Ai who he called and that she was waiting for him at that address to help him.
He kneeled down beside her again. His smile was gentle and his eyes were extremely calm. He reached up and ran two fingers down the side of her face, feeling the smooth skin of her cheek. He never thought he could ever love someone this much…even when he was half way across the country loving Ran. What he felt then was nothing to this moment.
Ran clenched her eyes shut before slowly opening them, finding that she was staring directly into Shinichi's eyes. She moaned lowly and brought a fist up to her eye to wipe the sleep out, "Shinichi? What time is it?"
"It's almost two," he practically whispered, the expression on his face never changing.
She yawned and stretched, flopping her arms back down afterward, "Did you find anything out?"
Shinichi paused only for a brief moment, "Yeah…I gotta go, Ran."
"Go?" This caught her attention. She sat up quickly, looking down at Shinichi still on his knees, "What do you mean go? Go where?"
Again, his face stayed the same, "I just have to go."
She looked at him strangely, not following what he was trying to say. Though it was dark in the living room, the light that spilled in from the kitchen was enough for her to see the brightness in his eyes…and the serene look in his face. It should've brought a soothing tranquility to her, but instead it sent a shrill of terror through her spine. Why did he look so calm?
"Shinichi…why are you looking at me like that?" She didn't even bother hiding the fear in her voice.
He grabbed both of her hands in his, running his thumb along her ring finger on her left hand, enjoying the texture of her engagement ring, "Because I love you."
"I love you, too, but…" Ran responded immediately but then trailed off, not even sure what to ask him.
This was the most important moment of their lives. She could feel the tension hanging in the air…she could feel his uncertainty and fear, but she couldn't see either of those emotions expressed in his face. She wanted to cry…she could feel the emotions boiling around in her stomach, but they wouldn't make their way to her eyes. Never before had she been so aware of what was not actually there, but what could actually be felt through a mental state.
Shinichi raised himself higher on his knees until he was once again eye level with her. Without hesitating, he leaned in and kissed her on the lips. It was so gentle she wondered if it was even happening.
'Is this whole thing a dream?' she questioned herself, sure she was seeing Shinichi's face close to hers, 'How am I to know when it doesn't even feel real? Why is he acting like this?'
"Shinichi…" she breathed out his name as he pulled away, finally seeing a flash of pain through his eyes. When he sat back on his knees again, an unknown force caused her to slip off the couch and sit on the floor with him. He was still holding her hands, and he lifted them up so both of their palms were flush against each others. Ran could only describe it as Shinichi trying to transfer his love and courage into her. He finally intertwined their fingers together and grasped on tightly.
'Why is the silence so loud…?' Ran questioned, closing her eyes when Shinichi leaned in and kissed her again. He only lingered on her lips for a moment before moving his lips to her cheek, her eye, her forehead, her nose, back to her lips again…his small kisses were making her shiver at every touch.
He unwrapped their hands, his hands then traveling up her arms before he cupped her face between them, staring in amazement as he watched her kiss each of his palms. His left hand went to the back of her neck and he again leaned forward to kiss the spot in front of her ear.
She gasped lowly and clenched her fingers around his shirt. She never knew a guy could be as gentle as he was being. But…where did it come from? What was his purpose behind it all? Though he was igniting warming flames within her, there was a small voice in the back of her mind telling her to ask questions before it was too late.
"Shinichi…" she whispered his name again, voluntarily tilting her head to the side so he would have easier access, "Where do you have to go…?"
"Shhh…" he hushed in her ear, causing her whole body to shake.
"Iie…Shinichi…I need to know…" her breath kept getting caught in her throat, but she was determined to keep talking, hoping that he would finally answer her.
"Ran," he finally said her name, stopping his light torture to pull back and look at her shining, passionate eyes, "I love you."
She opened her mouth to respond, the reply always waiting on her lips like a bird ready to take flight after having been kept in a bird cage all its life. She wanted to tell him a million times over that she loved him just as much and wanted to be there for him…for whatever he was hiding from her at the moment.
"I've always loved you," he continued before she could say anything, "And I'm sorry it took me so long to finally tell you the truth about everything. And I'm sorry that you had to get mixed up in all of this as soon as things got complicated again. All I wanted was to finally make you happy like you always deserved and find a way to make our lives work together for once. My timing with you was always off, however…and I don't want to make you any more promises if I'm not one-hundred percent certain I can fulfill them. But I want you to know…that everything I ever did was for you. I tried, and I'll keep on trying, to make everything perfect for you. That much I can say."
Tears were finally brimming her eyes, "You're scaring me…"
He wiped away a tear that slipped down her cheek, "Now's the time to be strong, Ran. Don't be afraid; be confident. Don't be sad about not knowing the future; be happy because of right now."
Ran sucked in a choked up breath, "I need you to tell me where you're going."
"You can't come with me." This was his simple response to something bigger that she felt she had no right to question.
"When will you be back?" She began shaking, not sure if she was ready for the answer.
He only smiled again. And that was his answer. He kissed her again and pressed his hand to the back of her head as he lowered her to the soft, carpeted floor. The whole time he loved her, she couldn't even question his full motive. He touched her and kissed her like he might never get to do it again. She accepted all his desires, responding to him as though he were a god coming down to ease her pain and make everything that was evil disappear from her sight.
She wished it would never end, for when it did, he would slip out of her arms and walk into the darkness that she felt was enveloping both of them. She would be left in a life similar to the floor she lay atop of presently…soft, yet cold. How she could describe it in any other way, she wasn't sure.
So when it all happened, when it all actually ended, she could not feel surprise or resentment…only a cold loneliness that clenched at the uncertainty in her heart. She watched him dress in silence, not even bothering to cover any bit of herself. Her heart was as bare as her skin, and she could tell that Shinichi saw it as he turned to go.
If there were any actual words spoken between them, she didn't remember. The words would have went in one ear and out the other, never to do a turnabout for her to try and comprehend.
When she heard the front door open and close, she knew that her lack of words may have been the thing that prevented her from going with Shinichi. Her will to fight had been low from the beginning and she was now wondering "why?" all over again. Grabbing a blanket from the couch, she pulled it down to the floor and wrapped it around her naked body.
'Please Shinichi…' she said in her mind, what she wished she would have said to him before he left, 'Come back to me safely…'