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01 January 2007 @ 11:29 pm
[Detective Conan] Back Until Sunset - one shot  
And...she rings in the new year with fic. The fic that took her months and lots of blood, sweat, and so on. XD And Rae, your request is mingled in here, if that's all right. I've never written twice for a single fandom (1sentence claims not included) yet, so this breaks the tradition. First time for everything, right?

Title: Back Until Sunset (also at ff.net here)
Fandom: Detective Conan/Meitantei Conan
Rating: PG/K+
Length: 6,315 words, one shot
Character/Pairing: Haibara-centric, some Conan/Ai and Shinichi/Ran scattered around
Disclaimer: Not mine.
Warnings: No spoilers, AU
Summary: Five lives that Haibara never lived, and one that might be.

Back Until Sunset

i.


In her experience, genius was never rewarded with anything good. Prodigiousness like a bitter taste in her mouth, accomplishments like sour battery acid.

In her experience, being smart meant an end to life.

She never said she was an optimist.

---------------


Shiho’s sister was the most brilliant scientist in the Organization.

Of course, she thought. Considering their family, their parents, it was almost impossible for her to not have been adept, even prodigal. A child of geniuses, experts in the field.

And yet, her talent was being wasted. Stuck in a darkened room, a lock-and-bolts (among other things) secured laboratory, a completely white and sterile and black and dark kind of place that she thought existed only in books and the odd movie. Just like their father and mother who had died years ago, almost when she was too young to remember.

Akemi would try to remind her, tell her stories about them, how renowned and brilliant they were and how her mother had a gorgeous smile when she tried to use it and how their father always treated them like he was the luckiest man in the world, but after a while her voice would start to falter and she would turn away.

Shiho was never sure how much of it was true, anyway.

And then Akemi would wish her well and blow her a goodbye and walk out the door, leaving Shiho alone in her apartment with the knowledge that her older sister looked more and more worn every time she came and went. Also more regretful, for having allowed Shiho to find out just what she did in life, the reason why she didn’t go to school like all of the other kids, the rationale for why she never let her younger sister visit her at her own apartment.

And, she decided, it would have to stop. Because really, her parents never would’ve wanted this for them if they were as beautiful and kind and brilliant as she’d always heard. Akemi never would’ve wanted this, doing whatever secret work she was doing in those deep underground basements, mixing chemicals and conducting experiments, the kinds of experiments Shiho was sure she’d never done in her own Chemistry 101 class. Whatever the Organization was making her do, it wasn’t right.

She picked up her glass, eyeing the amber liquid losing its opacity in the dimming light, thoughts swirling in her mind like melting ice in bourbon.

It wasn’t just. It wasn’t fair. It wasn’t right.

The next time Akemi visited, two weeks later, she told her so.

“What do you mean, Shiho?”

“You need to stop this,” she said flatly. “Get out more. Have a life, like a normal person your age.”

“I have a life,” she replied, cheerfully, warily.

“Trapped in an underground laboratory, working on things that you can never tell me about, doing things you say are for my good – “

“Shiho,” she said with a lazy smile – too lazy, far too lazy – “Have you been watching too many movies lately?”

“University doesn’t really leave me time for that.”

Beat.

“You’re avoiding the topic.”

Beat.

“Akemi.”

“I knew you never should have learned about all of this.”

“It doesn’t change anything. You’re a…for the Black Organization, you do things that I know you wouldn’t do if you had a choice. Things that hurt people, things that could get you killed.”

“Shiho…”

“Go out and have fun, do something for yourself. Do the things you always told me to do.”

“…I’m sorry.”

Silence.

“You know,” her older sister started to say, smiling almost fondly, “what I do isn’t as bad as you think.”

Her sister’s eyes told her she didn’t believe her at all.

“I mean it, Shiho. For example – “

Beep. Beep. Beeeeep.

Akemi paused. “Sorry, it’s my…uhm.” She fumbled with her pocket, pulling out a cell phone. “They need me back at the – “ the smallest of brief momentary almost-not-there pauses, “ – lab.”

She said nothing.

Undaunted, her sister continued to beam at her. “My next project’s a quick one, so I’ll be done in time to come earlier, maybe next week, all right?”

Shiho frowned, her sister smiled, they exchanged final pleasantries, and Akemi left. And it was once she closed the door and thought about it again that she finally decided on a fact.

Akemi was bad at lying. And she did not need – want – to be protected any more by her older sister at this cost.

Shiho pulled on her coat and surreptitiously slipped out of her apartment.

---------------


To make a deal with the devil, you have to meet him first.

She just had no idea that he came in dark black clothes and long blonde hair and a name like bitter alcohol.

---------------


“Fine.”

She paused mid-sentence. “What?”

“Fine. It’s a deal. We’ll let your sister leave the organization. On one condition.”

“Anything.”

He smiled, sending a cold chill down her spine. “We need you to…take care of an errand for us. A small one. It might involve stepping on the other side of the law, but as long as you do it right with what we give you…”

“No, I understand. It’s fine.”

“And neither of you will ever be completely free of the organization. We have to make sure that our secrets don’t slip out through you, especially our biochemical information. You understand this, of course?”

“…Yes. As long as she doesn’t have to stay in that lab, working so much.”

“You have yourself a deal.”

She had almost walked out of the alley before she thought to turn around once more. “It will go right, won’t it? You guarantee that you won’t try to shortchange me during this, that you will offer the proper support.”

“Why yes, of course. We keep our promises. If we were going to kill you, we’d tell you.”

He grinned.

She left.

It had been too easy, she thought. Too easy.

The words promises and traitor and dead echoed in her mind, but she kept on walking.

---------------


Whatever can possibly go wrong, will.

She should’ve known, really.

---------------


Her parents never would have wanted this for them (for her) if they were as beautiful and kind and brilliant as she had heard.

Funny, that was her one and only thought at the moment.

She stood in front of Gin, suitcase stashed safely in a place he couldn’t guess, and he aimed a gun at her with a very steady arm full of malice.

“You can’t negotiate with us.”

“You’ll never be able to find the money,” she shot back.

“It’s only a matter of time.”

She backed up.

Another evil grin promising a thousand more evil deeds. “Do you want to dream a nice dream?”

She heard the bullet.

In the end, she had heard it over and over since the day she decided.


ii.

Load, aim, fire. Duck, readjust. Reload, aim, fire.

She rolls and spins and leaps to the next stack of boxes, sticks her head out, and fires. And keeps going, over and over and over.

Like clockwork. The perfect click-click-bang kind of clockwork that always hits the targets in the red circles of the head, the chest, the heart.

She’s the youngest, the quickest, the most accurate, the best damn field agent they have.

And they know it.

She knows it too.

“Sherry.”

She finishes off with a side roll, comes up on her feet with her hair in her eyes and still holds onto the gun tight. “Gin.”

He smiles, one of those cold, lazy drawls of a smile that signals something important, meaning that maybe he’ll tell her all of it, or maybe it’s so classified that even she shouldn’t know, signals something dark and dangerous and shot full of adrenaline and death and his kind of fun.

Despite all the bodies in her wake, she’s still not sure if it’s her kind.

“We have a special job tonight.”

She matches him smile for smile, lets her blood run as cold as his probably does. “Oh?”

“Yeah, straight orders from the boss. Someone,” he turns and twists his mouth as though he’s trying to spit without swallowing, “is getting in the way. He’s getting a little too close to everything whether he knows it or not, and with this one, we don’t want to take our chances.”

“Sounds dangerous.”

He grins.

She ejects the cartridge, making a clicking sound. “So? When is it?”

“Tonight. Any conflicting plans?”

“None.”

---------------


He’s just a kid.

She doesn’t need a special squad; there’s the standard black car and two backups. It’s not as if they’re taking out a guy dangerous in the guns and bodyguards and explosions sense. And not even in the cover of dark night and tequila and intoxicated hands sense, either. The kid’s just seventeen.

Almost her age.

He had gotten away a few too many times, and was one of the only students his age – or anyone for that matter, really – with the resources to stay on the hunt. One witnessing of a shady transaction and apparently what must’ve been a near-death situation, and suddenly he’s more than a little interested in what they are. As though he suddenly managed to find out just from a glance that they were no mere dealers in the dark.

But tonight, his guard’s down. He’s with a girl; her intel says she’s his childhood friend. Bad night for her to be with him, but there’s nothing Shiho can do about that. After all, she’s authorized to take down civilians if needed, but she doesn’t want to.

Time erases most things, anyway. She would know. Knows. Has known.

Even her strawberry blonde hair blends into the night as she slinks towards the gate. The target emerges from the park, on his way home. She was hoping that maybe, just maybe, the two would split up and go separate ways. Having someone so close by always increases the rate of failure.

And that’s it and nothing else, she thinks in response to that little nag in the back of her mind.

She carefully twists the silencer onto the barrel, makes sure everything is nice and clean and shiny and ready, because she’s not gun-shy and she wants this to be a one-shot-surefire kind of kill.

Load.

They stand at the gatepost, talking. She’s on the outside, street-side, and she can’t get a clean shot.

Aim.

The girl’s expression changes to one of incredulity and annoyance, and she’s marching down the street with the boy close behind – but not covered any more, no more overlapping silhouettes. Finally, a chance. One that she’s going to take, and make.

Fire.

She takes care not to look at the girl’s stricken face, not to hear her screams tearing the air, not to think about the boy’s (painless, lack of) suffering as she slips into the getaway vehicle and flees into the night.

---------------


“The target?”

“Dead.”

“Good. The press will think it was done by one of the suspects in a case he was working on, then forget about it. The boss thanks you personally.”

“Have him come over here sometime if he wants to ever deliver it himself.”

“He’s a busy man.”

“Of course.”

---------------


She walks into her office and throws her coat on the chair, the gun on the desk. They don’t need her to take it to disposal this time, and she’s glad, because it’s a good gun. Steady and unique, and there’s that little scratch on the end of it where the metal shines silver instead of black from an altercation a while back. Her personal favorite one.

Her desk is perfectly organized, with just one folder sticking out. She picks it up, fingers the photo of a young promising high school student, the one that didn’t know how high he could fly before the wax would melt and his wings would shatter.

She reads the name one last time. Kudo Shinichi. It’s only fair to do justice to the dead, anyway, especially someone like him. Acknowledge them, honor them. As much honor as she being his killer can give him, anyway.

There’s a nagging feeling at the back of her neck, as though he was more than just this little upstart threatening to take down the Black Organization. More than an almost nameless face in the crowd of her (dead) targets. But like with all of her nagging feelings, she shoves it aside.

She burns the photograph to ashes, but the face is already burned into her memory by then. It will always be.

After all, burn marks never fade.


iii.

“Oi, Haibara!”

She continues at her pace as he races to catch up with her, panting from celerity. “Haibara, didn’t you hear me?”

“Of course, Kudo. Who couldn’t?”

He glares at her smirk. “Yeah, but…”

She smirks. He glares. Again.

They walk the rest of the way in amicable silence, punctuated by scowls on his part and mere amusement from her.

It’s always been like this, was always like this as far back as they can remember. Back when they were very little, when the other kids had been, “Hi, who are you? Do you wanna play with us on the slide?” they had been…different, much to the wariness of the teachers. Different in the “actually, Kudo, the sky’s blue because of the visibility of the light spectrum, not because it ‘just is’ – do you ever think about anything besides the last case in the newspaper?” and the “…” that inevitably follows.

Kids like them aren’t supposed to have banter like that at age seven, really. But then again, they’ve always been older than the rest, with Haibara clearing through science classes with a yawn and Kudo at the top of his class for everything except her domain of study. And then everyone else grew older and here they are now.

Of course, their peers take and interpret their relationship differently.

Not that they ever hear those “married couple” jokes. One glance from Haibara the first time, even if it hadn’t been close to an angry glare of hers, and no one bothers to mention it anywhere within earshot ever again. Still, they are close. Kindred spirits, a loopy classmate had called them. But it kind of fits. In a nonsensical, deranged kind of way.

They walk downtown together all the time, her backing him up when he’s on another one of his great detective highs, as she amusedly calls them, and they’re repeating this routine when it happens the first time.

There’s a body of a high school student, a girl, and it’s always murders like these that are the most grisly and the ones where Kudo seems almost pale, almost affected. But she only sees a glimmer of it in his face before he walks ahead, meeting Megure.

The girl’s friends are standing at the side. One has short blonde hair held back with a headband; one of the ones that seems like she could talk you for a mile a minute and, depending on her mood, never hit upon the same subject twice. The other, presumably her friend, has long dark hair, cloudy eyes that aren’t quite dry, and is, well, beautiful.

Kudo pauses before interrogating them, pauses to look at her, this new girl, and she looks back at him and there’s this something that Haibara can’t quite place before they blink and he asks the standard procedural questions like nothing ever happened.

For some reason, her eyes narrow. Like a reflex.

She doesn’t remember the case details too well afterwards – the girls went to find their friend, couldn’t find her at her home, and turned the other corner and there she was. And there were tears and alibis and suspects and ex-boyfriends and who would ever want to do that to nice, sweet –

She focuses on the actual case details. Fingerprints, blood, DNA. Spatter patterns, bloody footprints with strides that grew longer and longer, the crumpling of the body against the wall, a meticulously wiped lead pipe many meters away left almost as an afterthought. Four directions to run, one intersection, no witnesses. Things like that, she would handle.

Kudo’s got his grim thinking face on like a cap and has drawn himself up in the chair in that bent-knee position. She glances at him and flips through the evidence one more time, gives him one of her loaded parting shots that may or may not help him solve the case, and tells him that she’ll see him tomorrow before she locks the door behind her.

He gives her the same flustered, harried goodbye that he always does.

---------------


The next day, that girl’s there again, that dark-haired girl with eyes like oceans and voice drifting a league away, and Haibara can’t help but notice her, notice him, notice everything in the room and how she has this weird feeling like something’s not right, like something doesn’t belong. Like maybe it’s herself, or the girl, or herself, or the scenario. Or herself.

Those two are giving each other looks again and for once, a smirk isn’t playing on her lips as she watches him. They talk and they walk and she’s on the outside looking in, in a weird kind of way as though she’s been used to it for so long and it’s always been this way, even though she’s never met this girl before, never not been at Kudo’s side in one capacity or another.

They part without saying goodbye and he’s back at her side before she knows it, and suddenly, she’s sure that things will never be the same.

Her beliefs are confirmed when she’s standing on his porch, waiting for him to go inside, and suddenly he’s standing a little too close and there’s this voice whispering in her head along the lines of haven’t you known what you’ve always wanted? and he opens his mouth to maybe say something and she suddenly finds that she just has to rush home next door right now, she’s sure she thinks.

But she doesn’t move fast enough; she never moves fast enough and she probably even moved a little closer and then, there they are and there they were and did he really just kiss her? And the moment passes and he gathers up what’s left of his courage and says, “See you tomorrow, Ai,” before zipping inside. Or maybe he didn’t; she blinks and he’s gone and she’s left standing on the porch alone and it’s always been the same and now, it’s not.

She’s not the type to touch her lips with a sense of wonder (or a sense of what the hell, for that matter), but she almost does it anyway.

---------------


Next day, case closed; the culprit’s aired out in the open after another demonstration of the modern day Sherlock Holmes’s dramatic flair.

Always, always suspect the ex, but never for the actual murder. There’s an overplayed cliché that they’ve stumbled on for the thousandth time.

The girl from before is bowing to him, thanking him for finding the killer. He rubs the back of his head, saying it was nothing. The girl’s short-haired friend whispers something into her ear that makes her redden, but he doesn’t really seem to notice. Everyone smiles; he turns and walks away, the girl stares off at a point somewhere beyond his shoulder before moving along herself.

Shinichi’s back at her side and Haibara is through with picking at just what feels so wrong about the whole situation, why she feels like the odd person looking in or the bystander to a beautiful disaster.

After all, she has her home, her life, and that mystery-loving idiot, so how could there even be a problem, anyway?


iv.

“I’m home.”

Bustling around in the kitchen when she had entered, her mother wiped her hands on a towel and strode casually over to her. “Hello, Shiho. How was your day?”

“Fine. I got a 100 on the chemistry test.”

“As to be expected,” she smiled. “Snacks are on the counter. Akemi is studying for her exam day, so she’s taking up the library. And your father won’t be home until late tonight, he has a meeting. But he says the supplies you wanted will be shipped over as soon as possible.”

“That’s okay,” she shrugged, stacking the day’s mail onto the larger pile of papers cluttering the hall table, balancing them onto tens of envelopes in all sizes and languages. “I’ll be back down in a second, then.”

“All right.”

---------------


She hears what everyone says about her family.

Her father, Miyano Atsushi, is one of the most successful businessmen in the chemical engineering field, and her mother, Elena, is the gorgeous and beautiful foreigner with enough knowledge in the sciences to surpass even him. Probably charmed him with just those two assets, people joke.

Her sister Akemi is the pretty college student branching away from the family field to get a degree in English, among other writing and literary-type subjects. She’s close to getting a deal with a publisher, Shiho heard last. People talk about how wonderful and sweet and kind she is, too.

And then, herself. She’s the family’s whiz kid, the one who can probably surpass both of her parents easily one day. The one who’s already worked through the higher level classes at the university nearby without so much as breaking a sweat. But unlike her sister, the social recluse. The mysterious blue-eyed strawberry blonde, they whisper. Smart, dangerously perceptive. Could do anything she wants to, really. A genius.

Her family’s brilliant, more than most people would ever ask for.

Shiho’s fine with that.

---------------


A knock on the door. “Time for dinner. Tell your sister too, would you?”

She nodded in reply and left her room, headed for the library. Opening the doors, she blinked.

“Akemi?”

A head popped out from behind the large swaying stack of books. “Yes?”

“…Dinnertime.”

She laughed nervously. “Ah, uh, all right. Just – give me a moment.”

Shiho did her Akemi, not again almost-smirk, and stepped out, waiting for the inevitable crash.

There wasn’t a sound. Not at all.

She laughed inside, knew it was coming, that it’d only be a matter of time, and her eyes settled on the table outside the door stacked yet again with more papers. Papers and letters and forms and empty once-sealed envelopes, like every other table in their house.

Letters in languages. Her mother was a linguist. Her father worked with people from all over the world. “ Ming tian ni men liang ge yao lai, jiu dian zhong.” “On n’a reçu pas le produit que vous avez promis. Dépêchez-vous.” “bossu wa…”

Meeting at nine. Latest product that their company created. Happy co-workers and bosses. It was all exotic, so much more than “your mortgage payment has been overdue” and “the library hasn’t received your fines yet” and “due to a fault in the plumbing, your water bill…”

Crash. “Uwa!”

She sighed, dropped the letters back on the table in perfect arrangement. “Akemi, do you need help?”

There was a muffled, “No, I’m fine. Go down to dinner first and tell mom I’ll be…slow, all right?”

“Okay.” She shook her head with a small smile and headed downstairs.

Table set for four, picture-perfect posterity. Steaming dishes in the center, silverware nice and shiny, set in flawless rows.

Shiho didn’t understand why her mother bothered to leave a place for their father if he was going to be late again. After all, he would eat somewhere else tonight. And if he did eat her mother’s cooking, she could just take out the dishes then. It was a purely needless, symbolic gesture.

Her mother was pacing the foyer the next room over, muttering into the phone with a frown and wrinkling her forehead. She hated wrinkles.

Shiho peered into the doorway.

She looked up, mouth frozen around an “o” or “no” – or was it a “you”? – that hadn’t quite emerged yet, looked almost flustered for maybe a moment. “Go on and start, both of you. I’ll be there in a minute – we have some complications with our latest shipment.”

Nodding, she stepped back behind the doorway, stood still for a moment.

“No, I’m telling – I mean, we do have it done. He’s meeting with a client right now, that’s why he won’t be home for a while. Look, do you know how hard it is to manufacture and produce something like this? It’s not easy engineering. No…yes, yes, I know. I promise you – “

She turned and walked away, cut herself a portion of the meatloaf.

Her family was busy, hardworking, diligent. She was used to it like clockwork and oranges, wouldn’t have it any other way, couldn’t see any other kind of life.

---------------


Saturday mornings.

Sunlight streams through windows and little girls dance on sidewalks. Joggers move to the beat of their walkmans and puppy dogs growl in the yard.

Shiho takes her sweet time in getting up, languishing in the sunlight and resting her head on the windowsill, and then she finds herself outside in the midst of it all. And her father’s there, her father’s home, and he’s prying open the patio umbrella and sticking it in the table stand while her mother brings out a tray of lemonade and tumblers.

She’s six or twelve or fifteen and it’s all the same, really, it’s all kind of flowery grass and smooth sky and her sister’s dancing under the one large elm tree in their yard and days like this she doesn’t have to do anything but smile like she means it.

Their school textbooks sit gathering a weekend’s worth of dust on their mahogany desks as they sip lemonade without the need to contemplate how they know the sky is really blue.

(it’s not all prisms and dark light, did you know? she wants to say out loud)

---------------


The door swung open and closed with a well-oiled creak as 1:30 rolled around on her alarm clock, announced in big bold blinking red lines and numerals.

Whispers soon followed, whispers passing through the thick white walls. “Atsushi?”

“Elena, it’s me.”

Hushed voices, always hushed voices. “How did it go? Are we – “

“Shh, shh. Everything’s going to be fine.”

Rooms and walls away, Shiho liked the sound of that. It had a nice ring to it, like “there’s a logical reason for everything” and “don’t worry, we’ll always be there” and “whatever life throws at you, it’s all for a good reason”.

She believed in these bromides all her life and without regret; she lived with prosperity and genius, talent and charm and smiles. What wasn’t there to believe?

(She almost makes it sound like denial, she realizes, but honestly? There’s nothing to be in denial about.

That’s how good it is.)

---------------


Her sister’s crying; she fell out of the large elm tree and her arm looks like it shouldn’t naturally be at that angle.

Father scoops her up in big, strong arms, wrapping her up in safety and security. Mother stands at the side, her soothing tones rising and lilting, and Akemi’s eyes slowly close.

They rush Akemi to the hospital, and after a few hours the doctors rush her right back out with a shiny new white cast. Shiho’s not an artist but she uses the plaster as a canvas, scribbling words with meanings and doodles with designs.

“See? Everything’s okay,” Elena smiles as she sweeps into the room and gently hugs her daughter. “Everything’s going to be fine.”

“You’ll be back up in that elm tree before you know it,” Atsushi says, hand on her shoulder.

Shiho just keeps doodling faces and phrases, knowing how long it takes bones to mend.

Akemi laughs at the pictures.

---------------


There was a call at 6:30 in the morning.

“Hello? …Yes? Yes?”

Shiho thought her father sounded…not the same. Like something wasn’t right. Like something had gone wrong.

His voice reached a high note of an emotion that she couldn’t identify, before it dropped completely and she couldn’t hear him through the walls any more.

She closed her eyes.

---------------


It’s like a fall off of a high-storied building. You fall and you fall and you fall, and every story, you think, “Everything’s okay. I haven’t hit the bottom, so everything’s okay.”

And you fall and you fall. “Everything’s going fine.”

But sooner or later, you’re going to make impact.

And sooner or later, everything won’t be okay.


“That’s a morbid story,” Akemi says.

“I found it in a movie,” Shiho replies.

“Well, that’s Hollywood, isn’t it?”


---------------


She came down for breakfast to find stacks of official papers on the table, red, manila, and white envelopes all in misshapen rows, sharply juxtaposed against the eggs-and-bacon normalcy of weekend mornings.

“Good morning, Shiho,” her mother said as she pushed the salt and pepper shakers to the side, moving rapidly around the kitchen.

“What’s…going on?”

“Oh, nothing,” she said. “Your father and I just have to get some…business taken care of. It shouldn’t take long.”

---------------


There are always signs. She always sees them.

The thing is, whether she really sees them. Really ever did, ever does.

That’s the whole difference, isn’t it?

---------------


Doorbell.

She looked up at the walls of her room, heard the front door open.

Muffled voices.

How strange, she thought.

“You can’t turn your back on the organization, Elena, Atsushi. And the organization never turns its back on anyone, either.”

Two pricks of sound.

Pricks?

Silence.

What was this feeling?

Unconsciously, she backed up, away from the door and against the wall. But in the end, doors are made to be open, as the figure striding in proves.

Blonde hair, large eyes, a grin that spoke of a thousand crimes and a thousand times he enjoyed it.

A pistol with a long silencer attached, pointed at her forehead before it was lowered to the ground.

A deepening smile. “Well hello there.”

She could only try to scream.

---------------


A neighbor realized that the newspapers were piling up outside of their door. Even when they left on vacation, that never happened before, he thought.

After they failed to answer the doorbell, he called the police to check on them.

They broke through the door and stormed the house to find a strong smell of bleach, broken threads of duct tape, and four missing bodies.

The Miyanos were never seen or heard from again.


v.

“Mmnph?”

“Haibara, stop trying to talk. You’re sick.”

“…sick doesn’t mean mute.”

“Haibara. You’re running an extremely high temperature of 39.5. Any more and we’re going to have to take you to the hospital. You have to rest.”

“…Kudo?”

“What?”

“…you’re an idiot.”

“…Well, thanks.”

---------------


She dreamed of delirium, of reality. Of the past – making the APTX-4869, seeing Akemi’s death in the papers, betraying the black organization and leaving for good.

Of the present – coming to Kudo for help and to aid him as well, settling within the Detective Boys’ group, nights spent working on the antidote. Watching Kudo blunder through whatever it was he had with Ran, watching him confide in Heiji and Agasa-hakase, and growing closer to him.

Closer?

She laughed within the delirium. Ridiculously cheesy. That wasn’t her, was it?

And the future…?

---------------


The door creaked open.

“Feeling better?”

Just him.

“Yes…a little. I feel somewhat coherent.”

He checked her temperature again, and the thermometer did not feel as blissfully cool as it had before. “Yeah, you’re definitely doing better. Good thing it was only a fever – I was worried for a second.”

She smiled wanly. “That’s something right there.”

He sat on the bed, smoothed back her hair. And she realized.

“You’re…you took an antidote. You look like you’re seventeen.”

He laughed. “Well, yeah, since you made it and all. And we took down the Black Organization, remember?”

“Then why…”

“Maybe we should get you checked out at a hospital after all.”

She glared. “I’m fine. Just…things are hazy.”

He put his hand on her forehead, and she blinked. “I’ll leave you to rest for now, then.”

---------------


The present that she had dreamed was actually the past. She just couldn’t remember.

Creating an antidote with most likely permanent effects, storming into the Black Organization’s headquarters and defeating them utterly, a battle akin to Holmes and Moriarty without the demise of the hero.

Afterwards, he went to Ran, and then…and then…?

(did she even have to ask?)

---------------


“Why are you here?” she mumbled as she awoke.

“Shh. You’re supposed to be sleeping.”

“So are you,” she replied.

“Ah, well.”

Companionable silence for a moment.

“Why did you…and Ran…”

She can feel him stiffen despite the distance. “We’ve been over this.”

“We have?” Strange, she can’t remember.

Hand on her forehead, cooler than before. “You’re going to get worse at this rate. Sleep it off.”

She finds that she has no energy to protest, and instead goes back to her slumber-induced musings.

---------------


Haibara thought that things were going well between the two reunited teenagers. Due to their plans, she had to take the antidote, but it didn’t mean that she was going to simply integrate herself back into society, and their high school society at that.

Then one weekend, instead of his usual date with Ran, he had come over to Agasa-hakase’s instead, sitting in the living room. She shrugged it off, until the pattern repeated itself.

She found it odd at the time.

---------------


She wakes up and finds that she can’t recall the rest, except that now he’s here taking care of her when she’s sick and shouldn’t he be with Ran and she really can’t remember what happened between the three of them, not at all.

Except that he’s here. And not with Ran.

And how strange, because that was never supposed to happen, was it? Never could have happened?

She knows what this means, but that doesn’t mean she has to confront it just yet.

(because if she does, maybe it will slip away)

---------------


“Any better today?” he asks, drawing open the curtains slightly.

She winces at the light. “You’re not supposed to blind sick people.”

“Yeah, you’re better now.”

He kisses her on the forehead, and it almost feels right.

She could live like this, perhaps. Of course she could.

Hadn’t it been what she wanted, anyway?

---------------


She still expects to find herself staring at the red numbers of an alarm clock and realizing that it was all just a dream.

Any day now, she’s waiting for it. Because there’s no way things just turned out ideally for her, there’s no way, there’s no way. And so, she waits for the day when she’ll wake up, waits to keep that will-be shock akin to ice water on her face at bay.

She’s still waiting.

And she’ll always be.

(this is not your average kind of happily ever after the end the end the end)


vi.

There was no going back. Either they brought down the Black Organization tonight or everything was over. Over. A key in the lock, implosion of a building, no escape from the explosion kind of over. No second chance.

The doors loomed large in the distance.

Did we get everything set up? Is our information correct? What if we encounter traps?

Did we have enough time? We didn’t have enough time.


She stares at the doors and wants to run, wants her feet to stay cemented on the ground, wants something and anything and everything and she’s never wanted much at all and now she wants and what’s going to happen now?

“You ready?” he asked.

She breathes in, breathes out. Breathes in.

I’m not ready, I’m not I’m not I’m not let’s run let’s hide while we still can –

Breathes out.

“I am.”

He grins mirthlessly. She nods.

They open the doors, run past the doorway, run and run and run.

There’s no turning back.

There never is.

---------------
------------------------------

If you couldn’t tell, the five premises were: if Shiho and Akemi switched places, if Shiho was an assassin instead of a scientist, if Haibara and Ran switched places, if Shiho’s parents were alive, and if Haibara got her happy ending. (At least, I’m guessing this will never happen in canon, so.) And the one that could be shouldn’t need an explanation.

Guh, I’m still not sure if I have her personality down in these, especially in III and V. With AUs, it’s just…harder. And stuff. I’m making excuses again whee. Personally, I think II and IV came out the best, so yeah. All in all, I’m glad it’s done, since I think I’ve been working on it for at least three months off and on, and…stuff. Yeah.

Major thanks to Dex for dealing with the beta jobs that I swamp her with. Comments and reviews at either place are absolutely adored, and I’d really, really like feedback of all sorts on this one, so. Thanks for reading, and drop a line :D

(And if you're interested in keeping up with my fics, feel free to friend or join absolution_sky, my fanworks comm. :D)
 
 
our hopes and expectations: thoughtfulthinking strategy
black holes and revelations: Fire Emblem in the background
 
 
( let's conspire to ignite )
Raerae00 on January 1st, 2007 10:20 pm (UTC)
Found it here but reviewed (and favorited) on FF.net. I suppose it's because FF.net is more lasting since I never bother adding things to LJ memories. Bad habit, but I'm not about to break it.

Nothing lasts forever; why make two lists?

Something like that. Jeez; it's been about five minutes since I've read this and I'm still talking stupid. Maybe I'll go finish that English essay due tomorrow as a cure.

...Or not.
a regular decorated emergency.: Sam - microphonesdarkenedsakura on January 2nd, 2007 05:27 pm (UTC)
So I'm guessing it fulfilled your request all right? XDDD

Huh, it seems like more people than that like Ran, especially considering all of the pairing love. I don't think Shin/Ran's unique enough to warrant people loving it as much as they do only because they like Conan.

Man, the writing style part was funky. I just kept changing and changing things and I was wondering if the jumps were annoying or hard to shift between or whatnot, but I guess not.

Hey, if it gets you writing anything, that's good, isn't it? It's amazing what can be churned out sometimes. And ack, I hope the talk stupid thing doesn't influence your essay for the worse D: ;;;

Thanks for the comments and the fave - guess it means I'm finally getting somewhere with my writing, or something. XD
randomaicoholic: The cutest pairing everrandomaicoholic on January 2nd, 2007 11:04 pm (UTC)
I like Ran myself but the Shinichi/Ran pairing didn't appeal to me at all...
For the fic, I've already reviewed it and favorite it.^^
a regular decorated emergency.: Real - upon the silencedarkenedsakura on January 3rd, 2007 07:27 pm (UTC)
I think she's pretty okay. The problem my friends have with her is that she doesn't really have much of a unique personality, especially compared to some of the other characters. But I have no idea. Maybe I'll try writing something with her next.

Ah, are you Claude le noctambule? Didn't know that. Thanks for the comprehensive review, it's great to know which exact parts people like the most XD
randomaicoholic: Ran/Shiho foreverrandomaicoholic on January 4th, 2007 06:33 pm (UTC)
True, Ran is not the kind of character who could be fascinating, she had most of the time the classicalrole of the love interest of the main character, and since her love story with Shinichi is not original or fleshed at all(in my opinion), it could be hard for some people to be interessed by her.
Ran is a lovable and sweet character but she is don't have much of a unique personnality(Gosho is the one to blame for that, he could have put more effort in his main pairing, dammit!-_-;).
So, besides the fact I'm half-Ran fan, I tend to agree with your friends...

Et oui, je suis Claude le noctambule.^__^
M.O.N.A.: Hold Me - Cran_mouri82 on January 6th, 2007 10:22 pm (UTC)
Thank you! I, for one, love Ran-chan dearly (hence the screen name!) but also agree that Gosho could REALLY stand to flesh her out--and her relationship with Shin'ichi--much more. Their central romantic conflict of loving each other but not getting a chance to act on it is something universal, something a lot of people can relate to. THAT'S Ran and Shin'ichi's main appeal . . . but as you said, that's not enough. Flashbacks could've helped tons here, but so far all Gosho's flashbacks have done are include some cute moments; they've still taken Ran and Shin'ichi's closeness for granted.

It's never too late until the series' end, of course, but let's pray this temporary shift to new Magic Kaitou chapters will get Gosho thinking about that not-so-little problem. -.-*
randomaicoholic: Hakuba/Lightrandomaicoholic on January 6th, 2007 11:27 pm (UTC)
Glad than even Shinichi/Ran fans could be agree with me about their pairing.^^
But personnaly I don't think adding more flaschback would fleshed their romance. The thing which bothers me the most with this pairing is the fact their closeness are taken for granted by Gosho(to use your own words), so more flaschback of their childhood to prove than "OMG they were destined to be soulmates since the early beguining or their commun live!Their LUV IS SO PUUR" would made me hates the pairing more...
I would prefer if Gosho would have the guts to broke the secret's barrier between them.
Honestly, fifty volumes with the same "OMG Will ran discover Shinichi's secret or not?" is enough.
If Shinichi trully loves Ran, why didn't he decide to trust her instead of getting her away of his real life? Dammit, he should know better than anyone than Ran is not a poor damsel in distress, neither a dumb bimbo who could not made a step without her lover's help. She had discover Jodie's secret by herself, she had put her own life in danger to protect Ai, and she had made this decision with her own free will without asking Shinichi's permission. Shinichi should listen Haibara whan she tell to him than Ran is stronger than what he had always thought, dammit!
But keeping in mind Gosho's lazyness with romance, I think it would be a dream to see him put Shinichi and Ran relationship on a different step. Sigh...-_-;

Sorry for the rant...^^;
M.O.N.A.: Cute Mug-Cran_mouri82 on January 8th, 2007 07:05 pm (UTC)
No, feel free to rant . . . sometimes we have to just let it out. XD

In Aoyama-sensei's defense, it's still reasonable to think of Conan not telling Ran the truth. Among other things, Conan KNOWS Ran's the kind of person who would get involved and, for her safety, wants her to stay out of it. On the other hand, why Aoyama had Haibara keep Ran's Hallow'een Party rescue to herself leaves me rather baffled; why not have Ai tell Conan about the event that, I dunno, changed her mind about what Ran could handle?! He's been skimping a bit on Haibara's character, too, wasting her after the same Hallow'een Party . . . but that opens another can of worms, so I'll shut up now. ^^*
randomaicoholic: Melancholiarandomaicoholic on January 9th, 2007 04:41 am (UTC)
"Among other things, Conan KNOWS Ran's the kind of person who would get involved and, for her safety, wants her to stay out of it."
It was more and more hard for me to stand this (poor) excuse any longer.
First, Conan would be a pretty hypocrite person if he thought that(And he thought that, that's the worst!). When he had taken the first antidote created by Haibara, he had put his own life in danger, had put Haibara's life in danger, in fact he had put Ran's life in danger as well.. And for a very stupid and chilidish reason(But well, we could said this mades him only human).
So it is a severe double-standard in my opinion to consider than Ran is not worth to be trusted.
And besides all, Conan put Ran's life in danger every day of his life with the way he had choose to fight the BO in using Kogoro. In black impact, Conan was close to have made Ran lost her father.
If he has half a brain(and Shinichi is not a moron), he know pretty well than he had put Ran's life in danger, so why continue to hiding the truth to her(and made her suffer more longer)? The excuse "I've made that to protect her" is not valid in my opinion. If he wanted trully protect her so much, he would have not stayed in the Mouri's house after black impact events.

"On the other hand, why Aoyama had Haibara keep Ran's Hallow'een Party rescue to herself leaves me rather baffled; why not have Ai tell Conan about the event that, I dunno, changed her mind about what Ran could handle?!"
Good question. Maybe than Ai didn't wanted to see Conan feeling guilty in thinking he had put Ran's life in danger whitout knowing it?

M.O.N.A.: Shin/Ran My Sacrifice-Cran_mouri82 on January 9th, 2007 05:48 am (UTC)
All I can say about the first part is that it's not a matter of Conan not trusting Ran. Granted, the way the whole set-up with Conan moving in with Ran and Kogorou seems awkward, but that's the way Aoyama established it (in a bit of a rushed manner) from volume 1. And it was Agasa's idea, so I'll choose to blame him *snicker*, though you're right when it comes to Conan's choice to stay after his parents wanted him to move out; even that choice has it's positives, though, since Conan didn't know much about the syndicate at the time, but only knew he didn't want to really leave Ran. *shrugs*

But with the second comment . . . it was totally Ran's idea to check up on Jodie-sensei and see what was up to the point of hiding out in her trunk. If anything, Conan could feel badly about not realizing it, though he even tried keeping her at a distance by having Agasa say he (as Shin'ichi) didn't get a Hallow'een party invite.

In the final analysis, there are some gaps and confusions, especially for us fans. But Conan's certainly not a bad love interest, just a flawed one . . . and I, for one, am looking forward to when the manga addresses that a bit more.
M.O.N.A.: Akemi/Ai Always-Cran_mouri82 on January 2nd, 2007 04:10 am (UTC)
Ohmygoodygoodness! This was all kinds of AMAZING! (Can't help but gush, sorry.) Despite the greater difficulty of characterization in AU, you nailed Shiho! This is an example of what AU should be: maintaining the original author's characters, plot, and landscape, but with the delicious twist of "What If?" I just can't praise this enough! This is going into my Memories with the quickness.
a regular decorated emergency.: Bleach - Uraharadarkenedsakura on January 2nd, 2007 05:41 pm (UTC)
Wow, I, yes. Extremely flattered like whoa. That was one of the main things I was worried about and now I feel more reassured. Thank you loads and I'm glad you liked it as much as you did :D
Space Captain Zurabethjuneaddams on January 2nd, 2007 06:38 pm (UTC)
Beautiful.:D
a regular decorated emergency.: Ruby Moondarkenedsakura on January 3rd, 2007 07:28 pm (UTC)
Thanks, glad you liked!
flipthefrogflipthefrog on January 2nd, 2007 08:05 pm (UTC)
Oh, wow.

I just found this on manycases1truth, and I just have to say how much I loved this. It felt real, which when you get down to it is the true test of whether an AU succeeds or fails, and this one succeeded.

One thing, though... there's some small problems with your Chinese grammar (although the third one is still my definite favorite out of the set). If you meant to say "You two should come over at 9:00 tomorrow," the correct translation is "Ming tian jiu dian zhong ni men liang ge ren yao lai." But, if you got your translation from somebody with more experience than a second year Mandarin student, then definitely go with theirs, because I could tell what was going on just fine.

Again, great story.
a regular decorated emergency.: Linali - sleepdarkenedsakura on January 3rd, 2007 07:23 pm (UTC)
Haha, no, I wrote it. All the languages I used were the ones that I knew something to moderately something about. Buuuut though I'm a kinda sorta native speaker, I haven't really used the language for years, and now that we've moved back I'm still brushing up on it. Actually, I'm looking at that sentence again and I have no idea what I was thinking when I wrote it, because it looks wrong to me too. So I guess I'll fix it later.

Thanks for the heads-up, and glad you liked it :D
descrimedescrime on January 4th, 2007 06:23 pm (UTC)
I liked all of these. I think you had Ai down fine in all of the possibilities. My favorite line was the first:
In her experience, genius was never rewarded with anything good. Prodigiousness like a bitter taste in her mouth, accomplishments like sour battery acid. Because that sums up how twisted Ai's life was so well.
a regular decorated emergency.: Ran - when it snowsdarkenedsakura on January 5th, 2007 06:46 pm (UTC)
I'm glad she was in character. Otherwise, that whole endeavor would've been slightly pointless. XD Thanks, and glad you enjoyed.
Space Captain Zurabethjuneaddams on August 14th, 2007 11:05 pm (UTC)
Read this a long time ago & reviewed, but was sort of braindead so I didn't say much.

I think what made this a memorable story, above all, is the authenticity of the angst. It comes off subtly and naturally. It's not tearjerker stuff, but the haunting feeling and poignancy lasts longer.

Technical wise: I love the prose; it's spare and lean ( wise approach, since it helps to balance the darkness of the story) and clearly has been well-thought and edited. :D

Content-wise, I love the last vignette ( before the closing scene) because it was so appropriate as the last piece.

The four previous vignettes are variably grim and melancholic, but the last one holds an illusion of a happy end, yet it's also the most devastating of all because...she finally, probably, have her chance of happiness in the palm of her hand and yet she couldn't make herself believe it. It's like someone with a traumatic scar who undergoes a surgery, survives after a lot of painful process, only to find the scar still there as she looks at herself in the mirror. Someone like Ai, I think, depends on 'it's going to be over someday' kind of hope to carry herself through the hell-hole of life, and finally coming to the end of the tunnel to find, well, no light, realizing that the problem was never about the 'it' or the world or the men in trenchcoats or her unrequited love but herself, something she could never escape...that was the lowest point possible, and the pessimistic, half-surreal tone of it all is just..perfect, as is the open-ending. It gives a sense of finality without trapping the fic in a static conclusion. <3

.....uh, sorry if this is tl;dr. Blame rae00? XD

a regular decorated emergency.: Veronica - :)darkenedsakura on August 15th, 2007 11:27 am (UTC)
I, wow. I don't think I've ever gotten a second comment before from someone. That makes me feel pretty awesome. I'm never convinced of my writing, 'cause I'm always :\ about it, so...yeah, I dunno what I'm trying to say. *babbles* XD

I can never do tearjerker stuff. I'm also never sure about my prose, either - though my style's grown to be a lot funkier than this. I actually liked how I did this one, more or less. I also never know what I'm doing when I'm writing, but I love to see what people make of it. In the end, maybe I unconsciously do all of these things anyway, so, yeah, you know. I love seeing interpretations. So uhm, I'm really glad you liked it so much XD

And you can blame everything on Rae, don't worry about it. :D
Space Captain Zurabethjuneaddams on August 15th, 2007 02:04 pm (UTC)
your icon!! <3

Mourns the cancellation of Veronica Mars* T^T

Raerae00 on August 16th, 2007 09:07 pm (UTC)
*delurks*

*whacks you with a pillow*

*lurks*