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: all you Johnny x Shania fans out there, despite the few numbers. :)

Shadow Hearts III: Brooklyn Twilight

By Tiger5913

It saddened the woman to think that the setting she was currently watching might be the last beautiful sight she ever saw.

She was by no means a city dweller, but as she leaned against the bridge, she inwardly admitted to the radiant magnificence of the late afternoon sun shining down onto the river, making the surface glisten and shimmer brilliantly. The beauty of nature was always an aspect frequently admired by the people of her tribe in the Garvoy Valley, and she was mildly surprised to find such a presentation in the middle of bustling, crowded New York. But the tall blonde hadn't come to her present location to be awed by the view; she was waiting for her young companion to arrive, so they could tie up a few loose ends together and hopefully continue their journey. When she heard the soft squeak of sneakers walking across the ground, she stood up straight and turned to face her ally standing a short distance from her, and they locked eyes in silence for several minutes.

He soon looked away, his gaze focusing on the same river she had just been admiring, but the woman had easily caught sight of the confusion and disarray dwelling in his twin green depths, a sharp contrast to his usual optimistic self.

Johnny… Normally, she wasn't comfortable showing emotions that made her seem vulnerable, but she tried to ask her question with as much sympathy as she could muster, "Did you decide?"

At the inquiry, young and burdened Johnny Garland sighed and heaved his shoulders a bit, his head turned down as he replied softly, "Honestly, I'm confused… Even if I tell myself they're not the same person… I don't know if I can do it." He paused and closed his eyes briefly. "I don't know if I can fight her when the time comes."

A pang of compassion ached within her at his confession, and she glanced off to the side for a moment, weakly brushing that away; she was so used to shielding her feelings that it was surprising how easily this boy brought them out of her. When she was back under control of herself, the headstrong warrior returned her attention to her companion; "Your sister… what was she like?"

The brooding teenager glanced up and took a second to consider the thought, and then went over to sit down by the edge of the floor before continuing, "Hmm… It seems like such a long time ago now. Let's see… I guess she was gentle."

He was so involved in his remembrance that he barely noticed when Shania sat down next to him, and folded her knees within her arms as she listened.

"She was always splitting her candy with me. And she'd take on anybody who picked on me." He revealed that with a slight chuckle. "We played lots of practical jokes, and when my father found out, she's the one who took all the blame." His voice suddenly fell quiet when he realized, "Huh… It seems like my sister was always doing everything for me…"

The Garvoy princess turned her head to the side in mild unease; this new knowledge he told was making it harder for her to hate someone that had given up everything to save another person, despite the end result. Masking her discomfort, she murmured remorsefully, "I can't believe it… how could she kill so many people? And try to destroy the world?"

Johnny grimaced at the thought, for although he understood that his friend held a reasonable amount of animosity toward the woman who had slain her tribe, it still hurt him to be reminded of the person doing evil deeds using his sister's body. "H-hey Shania? I know you're chasing after Lady, to avenge the members of your tribe…"

She nodded briskly in affirmation, and to this day was still shocked that it had been her bodyguard, of all people, that had revealed the painful story to the young detective in the Aito Cave. "Yes. I've thought of nothing else but defeating her. It's filled every waking thought for three years."

That he knew for some time now, but there was something else that he'd noticed a few weeks ago, and he hadn't been able to ask her about it then, but now seemed more appropriate; even so, he approached the subject carefully, "You know… I could be totally wrong about this…" she looked to him with curiosity, "but ever since we traveled… when we went down to South America, you've really been different, and weird."

There. It was out in the open now.

Shania wasn't surprised that he had seen the change of behavior in her since the party's arrival in South America – for some reason, Johnny was always extra attentive to her moods, and she wondered why he focused on her so much. In Rio de Janeiro, she hadn't been willing to admit to anyone what had happened to her, but now in private, with only the blond teenager as her audience, she was ready to reveal the terrifying truth, "I got a little surprise from Lady… at the Chichen Itza ruins. I received the kiss of Malice."

Hearing that, the boy immediately turned and stared at her, shock evident in his voice as he exclaimed, "What!"

The female shaman ducked her head slightly, feeling ashamed and a bit frightened by the evil force invading and inhabiting her body, and further confessed in a hoarse tone, "I could lose my mind at any time, like Edna… Which is why…" She paused to look down and clench her fist in frustration over the lack of control over her own life, "before something happens…"

He couldn't believe that one of his allies, his good friend – and not to mention his heart-throbbing crush – had been cursed with Malice; he too, now suddenly felt afraid that she would one day be overwhelmed by the crimson entity and turn into a horrible monster. "So, even if we defeat Lady, you could still…"

She shook her head in mystification, again inwardly cursing that woman for inflicting that vicious poison on her, but for once, her voice sounded melancholic and even almost helpless as she muttered softly, "To be honest, I don't really know."

It scared Johnny a little to hear her so hopeless and feeling uncertain of herself. Amongst other aspects of hers, he had always admired the spiritual-bound woman for the constant strength and determination that she showed throughout their journey, and now, to see her reduced to such a vulnerable state… he had to say something to cheer her up. In his mind, he frantically searched for the right words to express himself, "But say you do go crazy… I promise if you don't know what you're doing, I'll stop you!"

Shania glanced up at him the instant he declared that, as she was utterly surprised by his enthusiastic passion, and seeing the honesty in his eyes, the way he looked at her with such fierce protectiveness, she believed him.

"No matter what, I'll stop you!" He repeated once more, not faltering one bit despite placing himself in the difficult situation in which someday, he might have to end the life of the women that he cared deeply about, even though he didn't fully understand his feelings for her… But her comparison of herself to the sad demise of Edna Capone allowed the boy to fit himself into the other half of the puzzle, "Just like Ricardo did."

It was truly touching for her to realize that he would go through all that just for her sake, even despite the difficulty and his own conflicted feelings; the female shaman turned and looked to Johnny with a gentle, appreciative smile. "I'm glad you feel that way, and I'd do the same for you."

"Yeah?" The boy asked with a bit of wonder in his voice, as well as a hint of pleasure, seeing as he didn't know that she cared for him like that, more than just a mere battle ally and journeying companion.

The admiration in his eyes was too easily detectable, and once again, made his affections for her very obvious. And she would be lying if she claimed that his feelings weren't mutual… but for the time being, it was too dangerous to let him get close to her while she was still cursed with the threat of Malice. So reluctantly, the Native American woman arose from her seat and broke the soothing mood. "I think we should head back. This time… I'll end it!" Without waiting for his response, she began to head for the street leading back to where his detective agency was located.

Johnny stood up as well, gazing after her retreating form with some sadness and longing in his expression; he had hoped that they would spend more time with her, just sitting around and talking like friends, but he understood that she wanted to get onto the final battle and hopefully defeat the malicious inner force haunting her. However, his mind was nagging him to ask her something that he didn't have the guts to until now, and so he quickly called out to her before she left the area, "Shania?"

She stopped and turned back, curiosity on her face.

Now that he had her undivided attention, the teenager suddenly grew bashful and looked down at the ground while he inwardly gathered courage to turn his secret desire into words. "Do you think… when this whole thing is all over… um," he lifted his head and bravely met her eyes as he finished, "that you'd help me? And work with me in my detective business…!"

Shania was startled by his surprising question, but seeing the bashful expression on his face, she could tell that it had taken him quite a bit of courage to ask that request of her, and that he was being completely earnest. But even though she had grown fond of the young detective throughout their journey together, she didn't know how to answer him; after all, she couldn't help him if the Malice took over her one day… And yet, his suggestion wasn't half bad an idea, for after she killed Lady, the Native American woman wasn't sure what to do or where she should go then, since she had no family or home to return to. Maybe she would take Johnny up on his offer, but only after she made sure that her body was relieved of Malice… and so with that decision in mind, for now, she merely chuckled in response to the boy, and then turned to walk away.

Okay, that hadn't gone as well as he'd hoped; and true to his ever-stubborn nature, he hastily ran after her in pursuit of a more definite answer, and when he caught up, seized a hold of her arm and stopped her from leaving once again.

She sighed in slight exasperation, but by now, she was used to his antics, and so she halted and patiently pivoted to face him. "Yes?"

It vaguely occurred to Johnny that perhaps she wasn't willing to promise him anything because she didn't want to hurt his feelings, but regardless of that, he wanted to tell her the affections that he had for her, and finally, he was brave enough to do so. Well, maybe not quite… "Uh, Shania? Can I tell you something?"

The spiritualist nodded at him with a questioning look.

He took in a deep breath and exhaled slowly, and then spoke softly, "Just in case something does happen to you… and I don't get another chance to tell you this…"

Shania waited for him to finish his sentence, but was caught off-guard when he suddenly gave her arm a gentle tug, strong enough to bring her face down closer to him, and just as she was wondering about his action, he quickly leaned forward. His eyelids slid down to a close as his mouth pressed briefly against hers, and his grip on her tightened just a bit as sweet pressure was applied to her lips; shock stunned her, and the kiss was over before she could recover and react. When she pulled back, she vaguely realized that Johnny was blushing furiously, and released his hold on her to awkwardly scratch the back of his head as he gave her one of his trademark grins with pink spotting both of his cheeks. Her eyes staying locked with his, she slowly straightened up and searched for something to say, strangely finding herself speechless, but the young detective didn't seem to mind her silence, and waved at her once before breezing around her form and running for the exit of the small alleyway.

"Um, see you back at the agency!"

When he disappeared from sight, she finally found her voice and cried out in slight frustration, "Johnny-!"

The blonde woman remained in her position for a few minutes after he'd left, collecting her thoughts on what had just happened, and when she raised a hand to touch her own lips, she was surprised to find that she was smiling.

The End

Author's Note: First kiss, first kiss! Now, I was debating for quite a while on whether or not to put that in, but finally, I decided that I just had to. Hey now, if Johnny had the guts to ask Shania to work together with him, why can't he go an extra step and just fess up about his feelings? This boy has gone through quite for her, and I thought that it was time he finally got somewhere with his pursuit. The cutscenes during the Tirawa side quest certainly showed his steadfast devotion and dedication to her… Well, this was just my little tribute to Johnny's adorable crush on Shania. I hope you guys enjoyed the read, and please leave a review to let me know what you think!

With love for my fans,