Disclaimer: The characters in this fic, such as Johnny, Shania, etc. don't belong to me; they are property of Sacnoth and Midway, so don't sue! ;.;
Dedications: God, my friends, my readers, my RP buddies, Aruze for gracing this magnificent RPG with yet another installment, X-SEED for localizing this game, and finally, all the fans that are still devoted to this series after so long.
Special dedication to: Frosty Wolf, for being a fellow avid Johnny x Shania fan – you really should write a fanfic of your own! :3
Shadow Hearts III: Homebound
After the Gate crumbled, the party members were dropped off, one-by-one.
The Native American priestess actually felt relieved that her guardian was the first to leave. She knew he would be one of the harder good-byes to get through, even though the exchange between them had been kept short and succinct. Better to get the difficulty over with rather than drag it out until the end, and neither one of them believed in wasting time on nonsensical sentiments. They could see each other again, when things settled down and they properly recovered from having just saved the world. Their group was quickly disbanding, and it would have been polite and proper for her to bid farewell to all of them, but after Natan left, she had immediately sought solitude. There was more than enough commotion for her to slip away into the background, unseen, and wait somewhere private until her muddled mind eventually righted itself.
His last words to the Garvoy princess were for her to follow her father's wise advice, to move on from the path of vengeance, find peace, and live happily.
Natan had been her constant companion for the last three years, and she got used to having him faithfully by her side, through thick and thin. If she asked him to, she suspected he might have stayed longer and kept traveling around with her, but it would be cruel of her to do that. She didn't want to restrict his life. He deserved to do what he wanted, now that their goal was finally realized. Knowing this, she watched him go, showing no visible signs of distress or even any protest when he announced that he would return to the Grand Canyon. They had exchanged a significant look before he walked away; her former bodyguard expected that it would also be her chosen destination, but she responded otherwise. She had no intention of living out the rest of her days in the other tribe, as the chief's wife.
Their engagement had been arranged when they were children. Living in two different villages, they had rarely met, but their interaction – or lack thereof – didn't affect their expectations. Even at a young age, Zonda was always so serious, but he was nice to her, and they played together whenever the opportunity came up. He didn't act immature and tease her relentlessly, unlike the other boys in her tribe. As they grew older, they visited each other more often and were still relatively compatible, even though she seemed to be notably more emotional than him. Nevertheless, that was a negligible distinction, and she had accepted the arrangement by their parents, understanding it to be a necessary duty for their tribes to unify. At the time, she didn't see any reason not to marry him.
Until the day her world completely shattered around her, glass shards that pierced her heart with agonizing pain.
In hindsight, the priestess realized it had been much easier to cope with anger than grief. As long as she could focus on her quest for revenge, she didn't have to remember the terrible annihilation, and how helpless she had been to stop it. If she kept moving and pressing forward, there would be no time to give into melancholic anguish. She was not going to let that woman destroy her with despair, not after the malicious creature had slain everyone she loved, taken everything away from her. Natan agreed with her goal and faithfully accompanied her to the very end, even when he didn't favor some of her methods along the way. She had expected Zonda to not only understand her quest for vengeance, but also give her support. Maybe part of her was even hoping that he would join them.
His reaction had stunned her – he accepted the ruthless slaughter with a passive, almost callous attitude, and then immediately proposed that she marry him and live in the Grand Canyon together.
She remembered feeling a strong wave of nausea crash fiercely into the bile of resentment rising steadily within her as she stared back at his nonchalant expression, void of emotion. Her refusal came swiftly, and then she and Natan departed that very day, determined to track down the heartless murderer to avenge all of their fallen brothers and sisters. Their journey had taken over three long years to complete, requiring travel around the entire country and even throughout the continent to the south, but now, it was over. She hadn't delivered the final blow to that woman, but watched her getting struck down by her close companion, and then the creature of Malice disintegrated into thin air, going back to where she belonged. Oblivion.
Satisfaction and fulfillment should have been hers, after that fateful fight. Instead, the Garvoy princess felt empty, as if life was now bleak and meaningless.
With an uncertain future and nothing concrete to live for, the headstrong warrior was finally able to address the deep sorrow that had been building up inside of her for so long. She did nothing to stop the tears from flooding her eyes and spilling down her cheeks; her body followed the same direction and folded, gradually easing along the wall to the floor. In her hands, she tightly clutched the protective dreamcatcher that her mother had made for her many years ago, and strapped to her hips were her father's tomahawks – her only remaining keepsakes of her parents. From the last conversation she had exchanged with her father, he was clearly disappointed in her, for the decisions she made. Would her mother have reacted the same way? Was she dishonoring both of them now, disrupting their peaceful afterlives?
Time was lost to the grieving woman as she continued to mull over her past. The light in the room continued to dim as her shadow extended, growing larger with the oncoming darkness.
"Shania!" She was so oblivious to her surroundings that she started upon hearing her name suddenly called, causing her head to lift up with a bewildered expression. A split second later, the room was instantly flooded with light, and before she could compose herself, the exuberant teenager dashed right over to her side. "Hey, we're going to-… Huh? What's wrong?"
His speed really was a little too impressive sometimes.
"Johnny," the tall blonde breathed softly out in response while turning her face to the opposite side to nonchalantly wipe away the remaining tears, "I'm sorry. I was just… a little caught up in old memories. That's all."
She couldn't see his expression, but heard the obvious concern in his voice as he followed up with, "Are you sure you're okay?"
"Yes," she nodded for emphasis and calmly stood up, displaying her usual robust exterior. After inserting her mother's treasured dreamcatcher back into the folds of her clothing, she insisted firmly, "I'm fine. You needn't worry."
Once her cheeks were dry again, she glanced back to see Johnny Garland staring very intently at her, bright green eyes boring into her cool blue pair. He didn't seem to believe her claim, from the way he was paying such close attention to her. But then, that wasn't unusual behavior for him.
Shania adamantly tried to avert his focus; "What were you saying when you came in?"
The young detective frowned slightly even as he recalled, "Oh, yeah. We're going to Hollywood right now for Master Meow. Frank just went back to his ninja village in Brazil. He said 'bye,' and told us to keep protecting the States on our end. "
She nodded in response to his news, and felt a faint smile of relief tug at her lips for the sake of her comrades. They acted friendly toward her, and she was grateful to them for their help in hunting down that woman over the past few months, even if it was too late now to repair fragile bonds. After receiving the Kiss of Malice from Lady, the infected Garvoy warrior had forced herself to emotionally detach from the rest of the group. If watching Edna Capone's deterioration into insanity was any indication, Shania had been fully convinced that she would only end up hurting them, and deliberately acted indifferent – even belligerent – at times. Natan knew her well enough to not be bothered by the shield she had erected to close them off for their protection, but Johnny was much more determined than she initially assumed.
"So, where are you gonna tell Roger to drop you off?"
The priestess hesitated at receiving that question, and then slowly shook her head before replying, "I don't know. I haven't decided yet…"
Silence fell between them, and her line of sight shifted back toward the window, gazing out at the moving sky as the airship continued to fly steadily over the country.
"Um, Shania?" Her companion suddenly muttered just then, looking down to stare at his shoes, "Do you remember when we were talking on the bridge in Brooklyn?"
Of course she did. It was right after the group had discovered the truth about Lady's identity as Johnny's sister, and before they left for the Gate on Roger Bacon's airship. Alone together, they shared personal, private information with each other. The conflicted teenager had told her about his past relationship with Grace, while Shania revealed her foreboding ailment to him. In the end, they both resolved to stop the other if one of them ever lost control and went insane from the Malice inside their bodies. It was also the same place where Johnny had surprised her with his invitation to return to his detective agency in New York with him, when their journey was over. Right after that, she had been astonished a second time when Johnny kissed her, and then he ran back to his agency without waiting for her response.
She hadn't answered him, not then. There were too many uncertainties at that point. But now that their goal had finally been realized… she would need to tell him, one way or the other.
"Johnny, you don't really need my help with your business," she admonished softly, "You have Lenny."
He lifted his chin and scratched the back of his head, appearing sheepish as he stammered, "It… it's not just that…"
Even as open as he was, there were times when Shania truly couldn't figure him out. First and foremost, she didn't understand why he was so dogged when it came to her. What had she ever done for him to deserve his devotion, his protection, his admiration?
Deep down inside, she could admit to herself that she felt a strong sense of guilt when it came to Johnny. How many times had she dismissed his efforts and pushed him away, no matter how hard he tried to get closer and help her? After the revelation came from Roger in the basement of the former Garland residency, the blond teen was distraught, and Shania found herself reaching a hand toward him in comfort, without initially realizing her own action. When she became aware of it, she withdrew her arm and reluctantly assumed her new hard exterior to fire an insensitive remark at Johnny. The crushed look on his face that came as a result of her bitter inquiry had stung her conscience with raw guilt.
In spite of her calculated coldness toward him at specific parts of their journey, he still selflessly risked his life for her – and her alone! – when there were so many others counting on him to survive and succeed. He had promised, in front of her father's very presence, that he would protect her, and the world. Very bold, maybe stupidly so, for a young man his age to knowingly burden himself with that severe level of responsibility. But even though acquiring Tirawa and its fetish statues had cured her of the Malice, Shania knew she was still tainted, deadly poison to his innocence. She couldn't risk destroying him, as she had almost done to herself, with dark vengeance completely blinding her to everything else for over three years. Johnny deserved… better than her.
It was for his own good, she decided internally, and then snapped a curt response at him in the present, "You're better off without me. I'm going to weigh you down, and you know it. If it isn't the Malice, then something else will eventually come up. Live your own life, and forget about me."
The headstrong warrior purposefully turned away from him, intending to walk out, fully aware of his stunned silence. She didn't want to see the devastation on his face at her cruel rejection, sadness that she was causing yet again. She couldn't chance faltering and accidentally confess that she had grown fond of Johnny over the course of their journey together. He was so different from Zonda, Natan, and all of the other reserved powerful men that she was used to encountering throughout her life. The blond teen had his own special source of strength and resilience, not as obvious to the naked eye. Nevertheless, she had been stupid to let him pull her out of the Gate, giving Johnny that small ounce of hope, and fooling herself for thinking she might have a future. She should have stayed behind after all, to repent for the sins she had committed.
"Shania!" He blurted out unexpectedly, his cheeks staining bright red as he boldly declared, "I love you!"
That stopped the surprised blonde right in her tracks. Icy blue eyes went wide with shock as she slowly turned around and asked, "What did you say…?"
"I love you," he repeated softly, his face looking completely serious, "I've always thought you were amazing. I don't want us to… never see each other again, after this. I'm not ready to say good-bye to you yet… maybe not ever. But even if you don't like me that way… it's all right. I won't ask you to do anything. You can just… stay at the agency till you feel like going home."
Exactly where was "home" now? Her home had been destroyed three years ago. The tribes in the Grand Canyon and Moana Village were distant relatives of the Garvoy, but not real and true family. It took only minimal interaction for her to realize that she didn't fit in with them; their perspectives and mindsets were too different. In some aspects, they were just as passive and resigned as Zonda, which led her to wonder exactly which family lineage they had branched off from. If she conformed into a suitable mold, they could get along better, but then… she wouldn't be herself. Prior to the annihilation of her tribe, she was duty-bound to behave a certain way and fulfill specific expectations, as the chief's daughter; now, she was a wandering spirit with all the freedom to choose.
Shania swallowed past a painful constriction lodged in her throat and murmured with conflicted reservations, "Johnny…"
The determined detective pushed on, as if she hadn't even spoken, "You're not gonna weigh me down, and I don't care if something else does happen. We'll get through it, together. Just like when we took on that sun spirit. Besides, we promised we'd look out for each other, right? I can't do that if you wander off and disappear. So, please… will you come back to New York with me?"
At her notable hesitation, Johnny quickly assured her with reddened cheeks, "You don't have to decide right now. Just… think about it. I'll, uh, come back later, okay?"
He flashed her a small, weak smile, and then swiftly disappeared out the door, leaving Shania alone with her thoughts.
His confession resonated inside her mind, over and over, leaving her just as breathless as the very moment he exclaimed those words. Her chest started to ache, prompting the stunned woman to inhale sharply while grabbing onto the nearby windowsill for steady support, when strength suddenly seeped out of her legs. Her head tipped down and she closed her eyes, trying to calm her breathing even as her stomach fluttered without reason, an invisible feather stroking the inner walls of her belly. She knew Johnny had lusted after her since the beginning, with his eyes glued right to her chest and that telltale flush of his cheeks during their introduction, but to find out his feelings toward her actually extended this far… it was surreal.
Images flooded her mental eye behind closed lids: Johnny reaching out toward her when the spiritualist had collapsed from forging a pact with La Sirene. The persistent teenager following her around Rio de Janeiro, when she had been impatient to keep pursuing that woman without rest. His mortally-wounded body falling to the floor after Killer had stabbed him, and the deadly red light that was finally unleashed from its dormant state. The twilight beauty of the sparkling water stretched out underneath the bridge in Brooklyn, its brilliance paling when compared to the light of affection that shone in his eyes after he kissed her. Johnny standing courageously by her side, facing down the fearsome sun spirit without any fear or hesitation on his face, and then making a firm promise to her father's fading voice.
Suddenly, there was a warm spot growing on the side of her thigh, practically burning through the thickly protective material of her shorts. Curious, Shania reached into her pocket and pulled out the Sky-Blue Ring, a stark reminder of her fiancé, and the arrangement that he was waiting for her to fulfill. In spite of how she felt toward Zonda now, it wasn't too late for her to return to the Grand Canyon and tell her former guardian that she had changed her mind. Loveless marriages were relatively common, for the sake of greater benefits; few couples were fortunate enough to actually share that strong of an emotional bond with each other. Even if she wanted to, did she know how to love someone? Johnny had apparently figured it out, and decided to accept her into his heart.
Additional stops were made around the country, but Shania didn't budge from her spot, continuing to muse in silence.
Night had fallen by the time the blond detective stepped back into the room and announced, "Ricardo's gone. We went to Edna's grave, and he took off after putting flowers on it."
"Mmm," she affirmed with a slight nod, still staring out the window into blank space.
The soles of his shoes creaked over the ground as he walked toward her. "We're the only ones left. Roger wants to know where to go next."
Time was up. Johnny had extended his invitation, and it was her choice to accept or reject. She could go with the much safer decision, or take a risk. Fulfill her duty, or walk her own path.
The Garvoy princess exhaled evenly and finally turned away from the view to glance at her companion with an impassive expression. "Yes?"
He held something out to her, in his hand. "Here, take this."
She stared down, vaguely recognizing it as one of the tools he utilized in battle, and inquired, "What is it?"
"This is a cell phone," he explained, opening up the compact device to show her a small screen, "It's like a portable telephone. You can call me from anywhere, anytime you need me."
Slowly, her gaze lifted to meet his, and she replied candidly, "No thanks. I won't need it."
His expression outright fell at her refusal and his shoulders deflated; Johnny was always so earnest with his thoughts and feelings, much like an open book. Even if he tried to be secretive around her, Shania felt fairly confident that she could still find out, simply because she had gotten to know him much better, since their first meeting. They had learned many things about each other, endured many hardships together, and grew closer than she ever would have expected. Only Natan was more aptly in tune with her changing moods and hot-headed impulses, seeing through her blatant barrier of stern toughness, but Johnny could easily surpass him with minimal time and consistent effort.
"Okay," he mumbled in a dejected tone and hung his head as he tucked the phone back into his jacket, "You can, uh, just tell Roger where you wanna go, and he'll take you there…"
When she could see his face again, and identified the way he tried to show bravery by forcing a smile for her sake, Shania knew she had made the right decision.
"Johnny," she called his attention as he started to turn toward the door.
She wasn't going to disappoint him, not now.
"I don't need that phone because… I am going back to New York with you."
His mood took a complete reversal as bright green eyes suddenly lit up with joy and excitement. Shania almost felt like laughing at the astonishing sight, taken back by how rapidly his spirits had lifted. Was that really all it took to make him happy? It couldn't possibly be this easy.
"Th-that's great!" Johnny exclaimed, bounding forward to grab her hand without warning, "You won't regret it, Shania! I'll make sure you're comfortable and you'll have whatever you need, for however long you wanna stay!"
His enthusiasm could be a bit childish sometimes, but overall, it was refreshing to see him being so expressive with little need for restraint. A mild smirk of amusement creased her lips right then, and she pointedly looked down at their joined hands, directing his line of sight to that site.
"O-oh… sorry about that," he apologized and quickly let go of her, a healthy blush staining his cheeks once again, "I'll, uh, tell Roger to set course for New York. We're pretty close, actually!"
"All right, Johnny," she replied patiently, "I'll get ready before we land."
He beamed a sweet, earnest smile at her, before immediately whirling around to sprint down the corridor while yelling loudly, "Heeeeey, Roger! We're going back to New York! How fast can your airship go?!"
Hearing his zealous exclamation, Shania just smiled and giggled softly to herself. She briefly turned her head to take one last look at the dark night sky out the window, and made a mental note of the stars glowing vividly back into her eyes. She reflected on what her father and Natan had told her, and then distinctly recalled the pure eagerness on the young detective's face when she calmly relayed her decision. Even now, she couldn't help wondering: was she going to end up being a burden to him after all, despite his confident protests? Hopefully not. She still felt uncertain about where the future would lead, and chose to write it by her own hand, one page at a time… maybe with a little help from a certain companion.
That woman almost took her life away, but Johnny had given it back to her.
Two weeks after the ominous Gate in the sky had disintegrated, Lenny Curtis strode over to the ringing phone in the agency and answered it, listening intently to the caller; "Yes? This is Garland Detective Agency. Yes. Yes. Yes, right, I understand. We'll be right there."
He hung up the receiver and peered out into the living room, directing his attention to the blond lazily lounging on the couch. "Master, we got a call from a guy named Baker in the 3rd borough. It seems they're missing their sweet little kitty cat, and they want us to run over there and find it!"
Johnny immediately slumped down in his seat after hearing that, and pivoted his head to display a tortured look on his face, griping, "Man, again?! I told you not to take those kinda jobs."
"I know; you don't have to remind me," he replied while heading toward the couch, and quickly offered upon reaching the other's position, "I'll go with you if you want me to."
A feminine voice suddenly drifted down from the second floor to enter their conversation, "Will you stop being so selfish?"
"Huh?" Both butler and master were surprised, and they peered up at the staircase just then.
"I'll be going with you," Shania declared as she descended from his bedroom, and paused briefly on a step to flip back stray blonde bangs. A delicate smile curved her lips to punctuate her request; "'Kay?"
The young detective played it cool, casually rising to his feet and agreeing, "That settles that." He started walking away from his comfortable spot, calmly instructing Lenny, "Take care of things while I'm out."
"Easy for you to say…" was his grunted response, but he resumed his duties without further complaint.
They strolled toward the exit in unison, where Johnny grabbed the knob and twisted it, pushing the door wide open. Sunlight briskly spilled inside the room and illuminated their faces as they turned toward each other, smiling fondly to signify their new partnership.
With that brief moment of warmth passing between them, the two stepped outside onto the bustling streets of New York City, ready to solve the new case together.
Author's Note: Wow, it's been so long since I've written an actual Shadow Hearts fanfic… O_O And the last one I did was based off the bad ending. Go figure. But I've always wanted to write a story about the good ending, and here it is! ...Finally! XD Chronologically, this story follows my other fanfic, Brooklyn Twlight. There is no doubt in my mind that Johnny would be the first one to confess, although I believe Shania truly reciprocates his feelings. Regardless of which ending, she goes to New York, so she is obviously bound to Johnny. I tried to expand a little on her relationship with Zonda, as my curiosity had peaked when he claimed she was his beloved. Sorry to all Zonda fans, but I hope Shania gives him back his ring. Johnny x Shania forever! Thank you so much for reading, and please leave a review to tell me your thoughts!
With love for my fans,