Snow White Queen
Notes: The characters are not mine, and the story is! The title is from the song of the same name on Evanescence's album The Open Door. Originally this story was supposed to come after No Way Out was done, but right now I am somewhat stuck on that story, and I think part of the reason is because I want so badly to get this one out! So, while this story takes place after No Way Out, it can stand alone, as well. This is a project very dear to me, and I plan that it will be my other big work besides Breakdown. I hope that even if you do not like the pairings I feature here, you will at least be willing to give them a try! This will detail the events that are remembered in Good Enough For You, and I hope it will be a good and satisfying explanation to the skeptics. For me, this story will detail my dream ending to the Detective Conan series.
The winter night was biting, the temperature having plunged far below freezing. The roads were slick with snow---both fresh and muddied---sleet, and ice all at once. Houses, mailboxes, and sidewalks, as well as traffic lights and street signs, were covered in thickening blankets of white. The snow, blissfully descending from the deeply gray sky, did not look as though it would cease any time soon.
It was one of the worst storms that had befallen Tokyo in ages. The meterologists were predicting near blizzard conditions for the next several days, and many people were preparing to spend a week or more in the safety of their houses.
Before they could do this, however, they needed to be sure that they would have enough food to last, and so the stores had become quite occupied as items quickly disappeared from the shelves. Then the shoppers would try, with varying success, to return to their homes. Many had to cope with automobile problems, and were stalled in various places on the way back. Still others had not been able to deal with the icy roads, and had slipped and slid until accidents were inevitable. And still others had not been able to start their cars in the first place, and were struggling to walk from their homes to the store and back. Some became very creative with their methods of bringing back the groceries, such as dragging children's wagons behind them, covered by tarps, blankets, or quilts.
One such prospective shopper shivered, pulling her coat closer around her shapely body. She smirked grimly, brushing her auburn hair out of her eyes as the wind blew harder. It was much too cold to tuck the locks behind her ears, though she was certain that even if she tried, it would quickly blow free again. She groped through the coat's pockets, searching for a scarf to tie around her head. After locating a dried-out pen, half a box of breath mints, and a crumpled piece of paper towel---to which she raised an eyebrow---she gave up in irritation. There was not anything she could use, just as she had previously known.
Behind her she was pulling one of the professor's inventions. It looked like an ordinary wagon, but in cold weather a button could be pushed that would activate a protective covering. It also came with a remote control, and supposedly could move on its own---but under the circumstances, she was not willing to trust that it would behave. And so she had opted to determine its moves herself. At least she could trust that it would not go careening into a snowbank that way. She knew that it would not hold that much, but she hoped it would be enough to tide them over until the storm passed. If it was only going to get worse, it was not likely that they would be able to go out again after tonight. So whatever she got would have to suffice.
And she had to get enough food for Kudo, as well. For the last couple of weeks, since returning to his natural form, he had been living back at his old house. He had still not told Ran about his transformations, and she had the feeling that it was no longer solely because he worried about Ran's safety. She would not be surprised if he also worried about his own. Once Ran learned that he had been lying to her for so long, there was no telling how she would react. And she could somewhat pity Kudo's plight, though she also would not blame Ran for getting angry. To be missing the person she so dearly loved, for months on end, and then learning that he had been with her all along, in the form of a child, would not be an easy thing to accept.
Both his alter ego "Conan Edogawa", and her own "Ai Haibara", had been explained to have returned home---or rather, Conan's parents had come for him, and they had invited Ai to go with them. But though that was the official story, she had the feeling that Ayumi Yoshida suspected the truth about at least her. Ayumi was mature for her age, however, and the half-frozen and disgruntled would-be shopper hoped that the child would know to keep her possible suspicions secret. The last thing they needed was for the more inquisitive Genta to learn that Shiho Miyano might, in fact, be the former Ai Haibara. Then who knew what might be concluded about Conan, as well. And if word got back to the Black Organization . . . well, then there would be Hell to pay, no question about it.
She shuddered again, this time not from the cold. She could still not understand why Vermouth, the woman whom she feared most deeply of anyone within the Organization, had not revealed the truth about Conan and Ai. Vermouth firsthand knew of both of their true identities. Any time she wished, she could attack or send someone else to . . . someone like Gin.
She subconsciously clenched a fist. She did not want to think of Gin. It only confused her, especially after their recent meetings. She could still hear his dark voice in her mind, speaking in such a twisted manner. He had not always been that way, but the Organization had moulded him into one of their soldiers, bringing out his sadistic, dangerous side in ways that likely would have not been made manifest otherwise.
"Beautiful Sherry," he purred, looking her up and down as she struggled to hold the gun steady that she was pointing at his head. "Do you want to end this now?" He stepped closer, unafraid of the gun or of what she would do with it. Instead he reached out, laying a strong, bare hand against her cheek. "I can easily imagine your body, torn and broken and bleeding, as it plunges into the water, staining the waves a deep crimson that will forever mark your grave."
She was surprised that his hand was still warm, though she knew such thoughts were ridiculous. But it seemed to her that his flesh should be as cold as his heart and soul. It should not be warm, the same as other people's---people such as Agasa, or Ran, or even Kudo. Of course . . . following such a train of thought, should not her own skin be ice cold, after the crimes she had committed?
"I'll kill you," she hissed then, desperately trying to press the weapon against his forehead. She did not know why she could not seem to manage to do it. Her hand was trembling in an unmistakeable way, and she knew Gin could see it. That was probably why he was so confident. He was not afraid of her. He did not believe she would actually pull the trigger. He did not believe that she even could, if she wanted to.
He chuckled darkly, pushing aside the gun with the same hand that had touched her. "But you won't, will you, Sherry?" he replied, voicing her thoughts. "You won't, because you can't forget what we once had. You hate me, but you can't forget." Without warning he brought an arm around her waist, pulling her close to him. She barely had time to jab the gun into his abdomen before his lips were pressed against hers.
Her eyes widened in utter shock at the abrupt action. She did not even know how to react. His kiss lingered, unreturned, and though she tried to pull away, she felt something within her give a leap. Her hand came to rest gently on his shoulder as she began to lean into his firm grip. He had been her everything, once before. She had loved him so much that it had hurt, and when he had betrayed her by killing Akemi, she had been completely shattered. But then her betrayed feelings had turned to hate. Immediately she pulled away from him.
And yet there had still been that moment of hesitation, that instant where she had wanted to be held by him, to be in his strong embrace and to know that he would never let her go. It was frightening. She could not feel that way about him. She could not! They could never be together any more, after what he had done and after she had chosen her new path. He would always be in the Black Organization, and the only thing she wanted now was to be free of it forever. What they had once had, they had lost. And they could never get it back again.
She started to turn a corner, blinking back the tears that had escaped into her eyes and were threatening to spill down her face. She hated him now. She could never feel any different towards him . . . but she knew it was too late to tell herself such things. She still loved him, whether she could bring herself to fully admit it or not. Underneath all the loathing, and the fear, was the love that had belonged to him and only to him. She had loved Kudo, but it had not been at all like what she had felt for Gin. However, she was still in the process of sorting through the exact nature of those feelings. And she could not help but wonder at times if she would ever have any lasting happiness. It always seemed to fade away into the night. Of course . . . someone such as her most likely did not deserve the happiness that others received. Such happiness was probably reserved for those who had never fallen into the trap she had, with the Black Organization.
The squeal of tires brought her back to the present, and she looked up in alarm as a car swerved through the snow, completely out of control. She turned to run, but she was not quick enough. It slammed harshly into her body, and her eyes widened in pain and anguish as she felt herself flying several feet to land limply in the white snow. For what seemed a long moment she lay dazed, unable to move or even to process thought. But then she shuddered, tasting blood in her mouth. As she blinked and looked blearily and semi-consciously at the whiteness around her, she became aware that it was being colored red.
He had been quiet all evening. During the drive to the site of their assignment, the assignment itself, and now on the drive back, he had barely spoken. Instead he gripped the wheel and clenched a cigarette between his teeth, staring out blankly into the swirling flakes that were dancing all around the car. Vodka had to admit that frankly, he was worried. The blonde was oftentimes silent, but rarely this much.
Finally he gathered the courage to speak. "Bro?"
Gin grunted in reply.
Vodka shifted nervously in his seat. "Are you okay?"
"Why wouldn't I be?" Gin kept his gaze on the road, only barely glancing at his partner out of the corner of his eye. He puffed on the nearly depleted cigarette, and Vodka watched as the smoke hovered for a moment before drifting to the windshield.
"I don't know. . . ." But Vodka actually felt sure that he did. Gin had met Sherry again, nearly two weeks previous. Vodka had seen how the other was both pained and pleased by the encounter, and Gin had not wanted to let Sherry out of his sight. But during the chaos it had been unavoidable, and the redhaired woman had managed to disappear during a scare when several buildings were exploding. Gin had refused to believe that she had been caught in any of the blasts, and since then Vodka had felt the blonde's intense desperation to locate the one who had once been his lover. Gin had always wanted to find her, since she had vanished from the locked room at the base, but now he wanted it all the more. His frantic desire was almost tangible.
Vodka did not know what Gin planned to do if he found her again. What really was there to do except to fulfill their mission and kill her? Still, Vodka had his doubts that Gin would go through with it. And if he did, the heavyset man feared that Gin would never be the same. Once he would pull the trigger that final time, there would not be any turning back. As long as he shot her only to incapacitate her, there would always be a next time. Perhaps he wanted to prolong her pain. Vodka did not doubt that, but he had to wonder if Gin was also deliberately holding back from finishing the task. If she died . . . if she was no longer there as a goal for Gin to achieve, how would he handle it? Vodka knew Gin enjoyed the chase, looked forward to it, even. And sometimes he wondered what the complete reasons were behind it. Did Gin truly not love her any more, or were those feelings still there, buried under the hate?
Vodka could easily recall when things had been different. For nearly six years, all three of them had lived in Chicago, in the manor that Gin and Sherry had grown up in. Those years had been awkward for Vodka, living under the same roof with a girl with whom he had never gotten along, but he had endured it because Gin was his partner and it was something that had to be. If circumstances had been different, though, and if he and Gin were not bound by the Organization, he wondered if he would have done the same thing and lived there with them. Sherry had always been mostly indifferent to him, when she was not outright disliking him, but she had known that he was wanted there by Gin and so she had been willing to coexist with Vodka.
Of course . . . without the Organization, it was likely that none of them would have met in the first place. Funny . . . how things worked.
"You're thinking about her, aren't you, bro?" Vodka knew he was taking a chance by even asking, but at this point his desire to know was taking precedence over any concerns of what would happen to him if Gin became furious.
The other's eyes narrowed. Still he did not speak, but as he removed the cigarette stub and placed it in the ashtray, he did something Vodka had not expected.
He smirked in an eerie way, as if amused by either Vodka, the question, or something else entirely. "Do you think I'm a fool, Vodka?" he mused, leaving the more rich area of Beika City to go through several of the surrounding neighborhoods. It was the quickest way back to the freeway, and from there they could return to the base and wait out the worst part of the storm. A good night's rest sounded relaxing, after the eventful evening from which they were coming back.
Vodka was taken aback by the question. For a long moment he simply gawked at the green-eyed man, too stunned to even begin to think of a reply. He could feel his mouth working, but no sounds would emerge. At last he succeeded. "Why do you ask that, bro?"
Gin shrugged. "Because I keep pursuing a course that's both ridiculous and hopeless," he answered. At the corner he had to stop for a semaphore, and he took the opportunity to light another cigarette. He did not have to say what he meant.
Vodka bit his lip, watching Gin before gazing out at the white mists. There did not seem to be other cars around, though they had passed one, as well as several varied people on foot. "It's our mission," he mumbled helplessly. "We're supposed to catch her. . . ."
Gin chuckled. "Though it seems to me that I'm chasing ghosts from the past," he answered. The light turned green and he pressed on the accellerator again, cruising carefully under the semaphore. A clump of snow fell off the thick cord, landing on the roof as they did so. Vodka jumped. Gin paid little attention.
"I don't know what to tell you, bro," Vodka admitted quietly. Gin had acted like this for the past two weeks---the smirking, the odd remarks, and the all-around feeling that he was amused in a self-depreciating way. On the outside he seemed relaxed when he entered these moods, but Vodka had the distinct impression that Gin was hiding unimaginable pain behind his smirk. Gin missed Sherry, and after seeing her again, his feelings had only increased tenfold. He could never say so, but he seemed to know that it was unnecessary to do so, and that Vodka knew what he needed to. And while Vodka was honored to be so highly trusted by someone whom he greatly looked up to, that did not lessen his fears that he could not help Gin when it counted.
"Well," Gin grinned, "that makes two of us."
Vodka mulled this conversation over in his mind, suddenly realizing that he had not answered Gin's original question. And he did, at least, know the answer to that. He looked back to his partner. "I don't think you're a fool, Gin. . . ."
The grin did not disappear. "Oh?"
Vodka wondered if Gin believed him, or if he had known all along that Vodka would give this reply. "No, I really don't," the stout man confirmed. "You loved her. . . . And . . . I don't know . . . you want her back. It's only human." He shifted again, feeling uncomfortable. He knew what he thought might be going on in Gin's mind, but he also knew that he did not actually know for certain. Perhaps the other's smirk was because Vodka was so very far off track.
Now Gin looked thoughtful, if not disbelieving. "Human, eh?" he repeated. "Are people like us even human at all, Vodka?"
Vodka shrugged helplessly. The words he wanted to say would not come. Gin had baffled him. And he slumped back into the seat, admitting defeat.
"I thought so," Gin smirked.
Suddenly he sobered, throwing on the brakes as the Porsche slid over a rough patch of ice. Vodka gasped, flying forward and then back against the seat as they spun about before careening ahead into the heavy drifts. Subconsciously he gripped the door handle, his knuckles turning white. He had to wonder if they were going to die. He heard Gin muttering a curse next to him, and out of the corner of his eye, he could see that the blonde was braced for a crash.
When it came, it was more of a dull, flat thump. As the car came to a complete halt, the shaken occupants slumped back, each relieved and somewhat confused. What had happened? What had they struck? Amid the harsh snow, visibility had neared almost to zero. At least, that was how Vodka felt. When it finally dawned on him that they had hit a person, Gin had already determined that and was getting out of the car. Vodka swallowed hard, shakily undoing his seatbelt as he opened the door and went to follow. As he stepped into the snow, Gin's voice stopped him in his tracks.
"Sherry. . . ."
Sherry? Vodka silently cried in disbelief. They had hit Sherry? Suddenly he felt overwhelmed. Quickly he hurried to catch up to his partner, his thoughts tumbling over and over in his mind. How badly was she hurt? Was she . . . dead?
Gin was feeling even more bewildered than Vodka. As soon as he had exited the car and seen the blood, his thoughts had returned to the encounter with the chemist on the hotel roof. And as he walked forward, the snow crunching under his feet, he discovered a body crumpled in a snowbank under a tree. He froze as he caught a glimpse of red hair, not consciously aware that he had whispered her name. His thoughts tumbled over each other before arriving at the same possibility that Vodka had reached. But no . . . that would not be true. She could not die like this, because of an accident, because of something that had not even been meant. . . . If she died, it had to be deliberate, being fatally shot by Gin's gun.
Did he want her dead at all? He growled, pushing the thought out of his mind as he made his way over to her.
She moaned, coughing weakly as she tried to look up at the man towering over her. In her failing vision, she could make out a blur of black and golden, and she weakly gripped at the snow. It was Gin . . . she knew it was Gin. He had found her, through this bizarre coincidence. Or had hitting her been on purpose? No . . . he would not want to damage his car. She smirked in spite of herself before feeling a new twinge of fear. He would kill her now. . . . He would kill her, and then go after the others, even Ayumi. . . . None of them were safe in the end. The Organization would win, as always. . . .
He bent down in front of her, and she felt his strong hands upon her body. Instinctively she jerked away, wanting to be able to move, to get away from this man who frightened her so badly. But she could not budge, and his hands came down again, checking her over for injuries. They went along her neck and her back, before traveling to her limbs. All she wanted was to make him stop, to make the pleasurable sensations go away, to not be enjoying his touch somewhere in her mind.
"Your spine isn't damaged," she heard him murmur, and she could smell the ever-present cigarette smoke on him. He had smoked for years, since he had returned from Japan and brought Vodka with him, when he had been twenty. . . .
Weakly she coughed again, struggling to get out the words that were running through her mind. "Why do you care? You'll only kill me anyway. . . ." But not until they were out of her mouth did she realize that she had managed to speak.
He brushed away some of the disheveled reddish locks from her face. For a moment she almost thought she saw a flicker of sadness in his eyes, but then she knew it was only an illusion from her blurred vision. He would not be downcast. This was what he had wanted. She shut her eyes tightly. Why could he not simply kill her and have it done? Why did he have to torment her by tauntingly shooting her, or by touching her in ways that would make her remember? He was so cruel. . . . She hated him. She hated him almost beyond her wildest imagination. And what she hated the most was that some part of her wanted him there. "Go away," she choked out, her voice a strangled sob. "If you're not going to kill me, then just leave me here to die. Haven't you punished me enough? Haven't you had enough fun yet?"
There was a long silence, and she wondered for a brief moment if Gin had left. But no, she would have heard. He was still there. He was always there, haunting her. He would never leave.
She gasped when she felt herself being lifted into Gin's strong arms. She reached up, grabbing at his shoulder as she forced her eyes open again. She could barely see him, with the combination of the fierce snow and the impending unconsciousness. But she could feel his heart racing as her head fell against his chest. It was strange . . . how she somehow could feel safe in the grasp of such a twisted and possessive man. As oblivion blanketed her, she had the distinct impression that he was not going to hurt her. It was ridiculous, the thoughts that could fill one's mind when injured.