3/12/06

Disclaimer: The characters in this fic, such as Johnny, Shania, etc. don't belong to me; they are property of Aruze, so don't sue! ;.;

Dedications: God, my friends, my cousins, my readers, Aruze for gracing this magnificent RPG with yet another installment, and finally, X-SEED for bringing this game to us American fans.

Special dedication to: aegis, for supporting and fueling my desire to write fics of this pairing. :)

Shadow Hearts III: Breaking The Ice

By Tiger5913

It was attraction at first sight.

Well, maybe more like lust. Although, considering the teenager's naïve nature and lack of experience, it was just a mild case of lust. The first time he was introduced to the headstrong woman, he had met her breasts before her face. But it was innocent wonder, rather than perversion that had driven him to look there, and even partially accidental that his eyes happened to fall to that area… He had glanced away after a moment with an obvious blush in his cheeks, but she didn't seem to notice what he'd done, and the young detective was silently relieved, having seen the twin weapons strapped to her hips.

Afterward, when the foursome had arrived in the Grand Canyon and the Native American shaman announced her special ability, he felt really glad that she didn't know…

But it was also at the Grand Canyon that he learned about her status: she was engaged to marry the chief of her tribe village. The blond teenager was crushed after he heard that… and he only felt a little bit better after Natan had explained the situation. Despite their age difference, he still liked the woman, and definitely was hoping to get to know her and befriend her while they were journeying, but it seemed as though that was the limit. Even if he started having feelings for her and tried to be her hero, protect and rescue her from the growing-dangers in the world, he doubted that he could ever be together with her.

The young detective was brought back to the present when the spiritual fusionist stirred on the bed and shifted slightly, her first sign of life since she'd fainted at the Grand Canyon. Everyone was worried about her, seeing as she had been unconscious during the entire trip back to New York with her guardian and the estranged ninja both carrying her along the way. The sixteen-year-old had wanted to help them with that, but the other men wouldn't let him – they probably didn't think he was strong enough for the task. As the trio walked on for days and days, traveling across the country, he could only trail beside them and hope that she was okay and would soon awaken.

When the group finally returned to New York, the young detective invited his friends back to his agency, and insisted that his unconscious ally rest in his bed upstairs. Not surprisingly, Natan was hesitant about the idea at first, but that was the only room with a bed – the housekeeper' pull-out couch downstairs wasn't exactly comfortable. So while the Native American woman slept upstairs, the others stayed on the first floor and sat around, occasionally talking amongst themselves while waiting for her to recover. Although the blond teenager had already gotten a couple of new small cases since his return, he didn't want to leave, just in case she woke up while he was gone.

Seated in a chair next to the bed, he studied his comatose companion with both concern and curiosity shining in his eyes. When she had fought with the earth spirit at the altar in the Grand Canyon, her allies were forced to stand back, for they couldn't interfere with the battle. They watched and were relieved when she won, and then she had absorbed the power of the earth spirit, but fainted not too long after fusing with the form for just a few minutes. The young detective found that quite strange, for he had seen the woman fuse with her mystical Thunderbird spirit several times, and she'd never passed out from it.

And yet, here she was now.

But just then, the Native American princess emitted a small, drowsy moan, and her observer quickly turned his attention to her. Was she going to wake up now? She shifted on the bed and turned her head to the side, facing the blond boy as her eyelids fluttered once, and then opened fully to focus on him. His initial reaction was to greet her with a hearty grin and ask her how she was feeling, but he seemed to lose his voice when she forged eye-contact with him. He'd never seen her in such a casual, unguarded state; she always seemed so strong and independent, even cold at times, since she rarely showed any warm emotions or affections.

"…Johnny?" she spoke up after a long moment and breaking the silence, while inwardly wondering why her ally appeared to be in some sort of stupor.

"U-uh… huh?" Johnny Garland stammered in reply with a faint flush – she had finally caught him staring – and then he quickly tried to recover. "Oh hey, Shania, you're awake! A-are you okay?"

She nodded slightly and gradually sat up, letting the blanket fall into her lap, which unshielded her upper body. That simple action almost caused the young teenager to look at the same place that he'd gazed at before, when she had first introduced herself to him. But after reaching the brilliant conclusion that now wasn't an appropriate time to ogle her, he purposefully stopped and sheepishly chuckled a bit. He redirected his line of sight back to her face, making a mental note to be more careful where he looked, and was almost instantly distracted again by her gorgeous features. Not only did the spiritual fusionist have elegant, piercing eyes, she also had such soft-looking pink lips that were slightly pursed and enticing him… He just couldn't win.

"…Is there something on my face?" Shania asked him suddenly, a slight edge in her voice.

"N-no!" He shook his head enthusiastically and even waved his arms in a negative motion for stronger emphasis. "I was just… uh… thinking about how long you've been unconscious. I mean, it's just that I've never seen you faint after changing into the Thunderbird form."

The flicker of annoyance left her expression as she seemed to accept his answer, and then she admitted quietly, "It only happens the first time."

"'The first time?'" he repeated in question, completely mystified.

She closed her eyes briefly and nodded. "Yes. The energy that I use to fight the spirits, and then to absorb and control their powers… The whole ritual makes the first fusion a little tiring."

Tiring enough to make her pass out for three weeks..? Huh, maybe that's why… "O-oh. I get it," he responded with a small, wry grin. "Is that why Natan and Zonda didn't want you to go get the earth spirit?"

Instead of answering right away, a smirk of amusement creased her lips as the blonde-haired woman contemplated her young companion for a moment. He was pretty sharp, she noted, to have already realized the two men's similar attitudes toward her, and not to mention his innocent, boyish charm was refreshing and even appealed to her… just a little. The fact that he had malice glowing on his dagger whenever he fought had made her suspicious of him at first, and she wondered if he was somehow tied to the monster appearances. But after journeying with him for just a short while, she could tell that he wasn't malicious at all; he was too kind and caring.

"Natan is protective of me," she revealed with calm acceptance, but a slight frown marred her eyebrows when she retorted, "But Zonda is just overbearing at times."

"Really? Well, that makes sense. He is your…" Johnny suddenly had trouble getting the word out, "…fiancé."

"Yes, by our parents' arrangement, but…" she sighed a bit, presumably in exasperation, before continuing, "He and I are very different. We can get along as comrades, but probably not as husband and wife."

For whatever reason she as revealing this personal information about herself, the blond American felt a twinge of pride that she'd decided to trust him with it. "Yeah, I know how you feel, Shania. I mean, about following what your parents want you to do."

The woman gazed at him with mild curiosity, surprised that they shared this particular commonality. "Oh? And what do your parents want you to do?"

He squirmed uncomfortably before answering quietly, "My father wanted me to take over and run his company. He… he and my sister died in some kinda accident a few years ago… I don't remember much about it."

Her expression softened a bit at hearing that, for she emphasized with his situation. The boy was so young, and already orphaned; maybe like her, he often felt lonely as well. But what had happened to him would have explained the uncharacteristic vulnerability she occasionally caught in his eyes.

"But! I didn't want to just live off of my inheritance and sit around doing nothing, so I opened up this detective agency. Lenny's been bugging me lately about working in my father's company, though, but I still don't want to go there," he declared firmly, although he sounded less stubborn when he finished with, "…Not yet, anyway. Maybe someday, after… Well, just not right now."

There was an enigmatic side to him that Shania was seeing for the first time; he was different from her as well, but he could understand her situation and her feelings. Maybe there was more to him than what she had initially presumed…

The Native American woman was a very private person that indulged her inner thoughts to very few people, but something about the way he had asked her those questions… Was it the concern in his voice, or the earnest curiosity in his eyes that had compelled her to tell him the problem with her engagement to Zonda? Either way, she was wrong to have pegged him as a young, naïve boy that was too innocent and clueless to deal with the malice atrocity currently plaguing the world. He had apparently already dealt with his own harsh reality, and didn't become consumed by the grief of losing his family… his actions certainly weren't driven by malevolent intentions, such as vengeance…

"Err, Shania?" Johnny inquired timidly after noticing her lack of response. "Am I… boring you?"

"Hmm? Oh, no, you're not boring me," she informed him warmly before admitting, "I'm sorry, I was just thinking… it's a little stuffy in here. I think I'll go out for a walk."

"Are you sure? I mean, do you feel okay enough?"

Shania nodded firmly. "I'm better now. Don't worry, Johnny, I won't be out long. I just need some air."

"Um… all right, if you want to," the young detective relented, and then asked excitedly, "You want some company? I can go with you and show you around the city!"

She was about to refuse outright, since she really preferred to be alone with her thoughts, but seeing the eager expression on his face, instead she replied, "Not today, but next time."

He looked at her a bit skeptically. "Really?"

"I promise." The blonde-haired woman assured him, and then pulled back the covers as she slid her long, slender legs over to the edge of the mattress. "You can go ahead and tell Natan and the others that I'm all right. But before I leave, I'd like to bathe. Where is the bathroom?"

Johnny gulped nervously, momentarily distracted by the sight of even more bare skin revealed; but when he was able to regain a hold of himself, he pointed in the direction of the lavatory.

"Thanks." She told him, and then stood up from the bed to start walking over to the room. When Shania passed by the teenage boy, she paused in her step and gently placed her hand on his shoulder. "…And thank you for being concerned."

That one little comment sent his young mind reeling into overdrive, and when he lifted his head to gaze up at his beautiful companion, he was stunned to see her smiling down at him. He pivoted to watch her disappear behind the door of the bathroom, and when she was out of sight, he released a shaky sigh. Suddenly, he realized that his face felt hot, his mouth was dry, and he could hear his heartbeat thudding in his ears… what in the world was this feeling? Shaking his head to try and clear away the foreign sensation, Johnny rose from his seat and began his descent down the stairs to the first floor.

The short, yet exhilarating conversation they just shared had left him a little confused about himself, but he was sure of one thing. If there was a next time that Shania fought to acquire another fusion, and should she faint again, he wanted to catch her.

The End

Author's Note: Here it is, folks, my first Johnny x Shania fic, yay! Hehe, I grew fond of this pairing when I saw their interaction in the introductions cutscene, and after two days of brainstorming, this is what I came up with; I didn't do too badly, right? Heh, heh… Well, I intend to write more Johnny x Shania fics as I venture further into the game and get more background information on those two. Anyway, I hope you readers enjoyed this fic, and please leave a review to let me know what you think!

With love for my fans,

Tiger5913