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.
Shadow Hearts III: Spread My Wings
Installment: Set Alpha, Part 2
There were fleeting moments where Johnny wished their journey wouldn't end, so he didn't have to say good-bye to her once it was over.
He strongly doubted the rest of the group would stay in touch with each other after the final confrontation. Oh, sure, they might promise to keep up with letters, but that would only last so long.
Who knew if Shania even liked written correspondence? What if she preferred face-to-face encounters? Where would she go, once her goal to take down Lady was realized?
There had to be a way he could ensure they remained in contact…
The flowing trickle of red was deep, the dark shade an all-too-familiar reflection; she quickly transformed into the ocean spirit and healed his wound.
She remained in that form a little longer than necessary, feeling her mind slowly piece itself together, moving away from the edge of insanity. It would be a constant struggle this point onward, fighting against the effects of Malice.
"Thanks," Johnny expressed with a somewhat sheepish grin as the soothing blue warmth washed over his fatigued features, "You didn't have to do that."
After reverting back, the spiritualist nodded briskly. "Be more careful from now on."
She felt a sickening wave of repulsion burning through her veins upon realizing that she had to stay away from all of them… especially Johnny.
She had seen the way Ricardo reacted to his lover being infected with Malice. Sometimes, it seemed like he wished he had joined her in death. Not that Johnny's feelings toward her were quite so intense, but it was completely plausible for him to be reckless.
Apart from Natan figuring it out on his own, no one else had to know. They couldn't do anything to help.
She had to deal with this problem… alone.
The young detective quickly scanned the room and saw that everyone was entranced by Ricardo's soothing tune… even the headstrong priestess, he realized with a small frown.
Johnny enjoyed the mariachi's music, and guitars in general – he had one in his room at the agency – and was eager to hear an encore song. He had to admit, though, that he felt somewhat relieved when Shania refused, reminding him of their mission taking place early next morning.
If she liked guitar music… then maybe he could play a song for her someday. A special one, with just her as his audience.
They lay together on the roof under the bright veil of night, and Johnny pulled her closer to keep her warm as she pointed out the major stars that hung high above them.
"That one's… Cancer, right?" He recited from memory, squinting an eye to isolate the particular group.
"Yes," she replied with a soft smile, "Do you remember what the Taurus constellation looks like?"
His gaze searched through the sky for a few minutes, and then he shook his head, appearing sheepish.
"Check a little further east," Shania suggested, punctuating her words with a kiss to his neck.
She was growing far too comfortable with staying there, and after expressing her concern, the detective stubbornly insisted, "Shania, your home is here, with me…"
Slowly, she shook her head, knowing full well that he was trying to spare her feelings. "I need to earn my keep. I can't keep taking advantage of you, nor Lenny."
Johnny frowned. "You're not. But if it's a job that you want… Hmm…"
"Hey, you and Natan were hunting monsters for a while, right? Maybe you could do that again. But get paid this time, of course."
…Now, that wasn't a bad suggestion.
Even with how open Johnny was, he still managed to surprise her constantly, making the priestess reluctantly admit that she couldn't always read him as thoroughly as she wanted to.
They had a spoken agreement to be honest with each other, and yet, there were times when she could tell he was holding something back from her. It occurred most commonly at night, when they were huddled together in bed. She could only make guesses on what might be bothering him, but didn't know for certain.
Whatever the problem was, she would get out of him, one way or another.
Shania couldn't fully suppress the urge to shudder as Gilbert's rotting carcass dissolved right in front of their eyes; wordlessly, Johnny covered her bare shoulders with his jacket.
Frowning slightly, she started to take it off, intending to tell him that she wasn't cold, but he raised a hand, the gesture stopping her words from forming.
"I know," he murmured quietly, and then shook his head, "Don't be afraid, Shania. I'm not gonna let that happen to you…"
She had no reply for him. She just tightened her grip on his warm jacket and pulled it closer around her body.
The monster was too close for him to get away, even though he tried; with a flutter of blue and purple feathers suddenly obscuring his vision, he sensed her protection surrounding him.
When the battle was finished, the young mage quickly healed his companion, as worried eyes searched along her form for any other injuries even after the spell had faded.
Shania waved off his concern, barely phased by the attack. She had more than three years of fighting experience over him. The boy was still learning. "I'm fine, Johnny. You could cover me some time, if you really want."
It didn't take a genius to figure out why Shania was upset when she realized he had saved her last, of all his comrades.
He still felt surprised, though. He had tried to appeal to her logical side by telling the truth about his confidence in her esteemed abilities. Unfortunately, that didn't seem to be enough to persuade her, but in the end, it was just the monster's demonic influence affecting her emotions so deeply.
She wasn't actually jealous… right?
Ironic, if that was the case, considering how highly Johnny regarded her, easily paling in comparison to his other companions.
The idiots were probably trying to get a rise out of him, but he wasn't bothered by their comments, and just casually continued pushing the shopping cart down the produce aisle with Shania strolling beside him.
"Uh, let's see…" he mumbled absently while reading the list, "we gotta get a gallon of milk and a carton of eggs from the cooler. Can you grab those, Shania?"
"Hey, she's got the eggs," the crudely irritating remark was made to his back, "Didn't you know that?"
"Just ignore 'em," he told his girlfriend, and then made a gesture at the glass doors.
Hearing the notification sound, Johnny flipped open his phone – and promptly almost dropped it upon seeing the screen – since when did Shania learn how to send picture messages?!
Curiously, he studied the image, bright green eyes widening in awe at the waterfall scene that she had sent him.
"Whoa! That waterfall looks amazing!" He exclaimed once they were both on the phone. "Where are you, Shania?"
"I thought you might like it," she replied with a smile in her tone, "This place is called Yellowstone National Park. It's located near the Grand Canyon."
"The Grand-…oh," he suddenly trailed off.
Although she had a very headstrong and stubborn nature, she was fairly low maintenance and rarely asked anything of him, but he was more than happy to provide for her even without being prompted.
"Are you trying to win me over?" She teased one afternoon when he had presented her with a new coat.
"What? No!" He shook his head in adamant denial. "It's not like that… I just don't wanna see you get frostbite in the winter. It can snow in New York City, you know…"
"Maybe you could keep me warm, Johnny," she suggested candidly.
His face reddened.
Their new partnership began with smiles exchanged under the warm glow of sunlight, and then they stepped out the door to solve their first case together.
Johnny had hoped for a more challenging task than chasing after yet another lost cat, but as it turned out, the darn thing was just refusing to come down from a high tree branch. He coughed awkwardly and glanced off to the side as Shania reached up and wrapped her hands around the stubborn feline, pulling it off.
"Thanks, lady!" The little boy beamed happily at the tall blonde; she smiled back at him.
Over the course of their journey, his eyes had started to harden, little by little, and after the final battle, she saw a much older Johnny.
If Shania was actually cruel enough to tease him, she might have made a remark about how he could get closer to matching his chronological age. Mentally and physically, he was still sixteen years old, but his eyes had lost a notable amount of innocence from the first time they met. Though, considering everything he had gone through, it was completely understandable.
Johnny would be forced to grow up overnight… just like she had.
Perfection was as simple as curling his arms around Shania and staring into her eyes across the pillow they shared, knowing that he would wake up with her by his side.
She was becoming such an integral part of his life that, on occasion, Johnny wondered if things were moving too fast. For her – not him. Most people didn't think it was possible for someone his age to already have fallen in love, but they were speaking out of ignorance.
He knew what he wanted, and he wouldn't be dissuaded. In time, he hoped Shania would feel the same way.
She hated disappointing him, and could only maintain eye contact for a minute before she was forced to look away from the shadows clouding over his face.
The Garvoy princess shook her head in emphasis. "It won't take long… but I can't put it off anymore."
"I get that, but…" he frowned and folded his arms over his chest, "It's a hassle to go all the way there again. You sure you can't just mail it back to him?"
"Johnny," she chastised, propping both hands against her waist, "Don't you think that would be rude?"
"Okay, okay…" he grumbled reluctantly.
He didn't think she would seriously give into his request, but here they were, flying over the city while staying in the darkness to avoid too many spectators.
Johnny had felt embarrassed at first, needing to have the spiritualist carry him in her arms as she kept them afloat. Though, it didn't take him long to get over that in favor of staring awestruck at the scenes below them. Despite having lived in New York City for over a year, Johnny had never seen it from a bird's eye view.
He mused, "I wonder what Chicago looks like, from above…"
Johnny noted with intrigue that the priestess could be soft-spoken and patient when the situation called for it, which belied the devilish ferocity she displayed toward obtaining her goal.
After they had saved her crew, the little pirate captain took a quick liking to Shania, always eager to talk to her whenever their party stopped by for a visit. The curious detective stood back and watched their exchanges, smiling how smoothly they were able to connect.
Sometimes, he wished that Shania would give him similar treatment, even though he really didn't want her to think of him as a kid.
In spite of her brave claim, Shania was slowly beginning to feel overwhelmed by all the Malice surrounding them, and the blond detective knowingly placed a hand on her arm to offer support.
"I'm fine…" came her expected reply, but to his surprise, she didn't move away from him.
"It's hard for me too," he confessed in a hushed tone, so that the rest of their party couldn't hear his words, "Just stay strong for a little while longer, okay? I'm here for you."
She nodded, feeling reassured by his show of strength. "Likewise. Let's hurry up and finish this."
He was crazy, she decided, staring at Johnny in awe for a full minute before they prepared to fight the fierce sun spirit together.
"You shouldn't be so eager to rush to your death," she snapped to him afterward, "You're young. You still have many years ahead of you."
"I could say the same to you," Johnny shot back boldly, "We're the same age, remember?"
"That doesn't mean-"
"You're being selfish, you know," he interrupted, "thinking no one's gonna miss you if you die."
Shania readied a reprisal on her tongue, but pursed her lips together instead, and looked away.
Moonlight slipped into the room through the window, making her smooth skin glow and drawing the entranced blond closer to her wild beauty.
He tipped his head down, nuzzling her bare shoulder with his nose, and then started to kiss his way over to her neck.
"You're not tired, Johnny?"
"Not yet," he replied somewhat cheekily, tucking his face right next to her throat.
"You should find a way to use up that energy," Shania quipped with a slight smirk.
"Yeah," he agreed, "Wanna help me out?"
She turned to look at him. "I have a few ideas in mind…"
This was her most beautiful form, the blond absently mused as he stared at the new spirit, particularly transfixed by the colorful flow of long hair cascading down her back.
Her eyes had darkened to a deep shade of purple, instantly ensnaring him with a single enthralling gaze. She gravitated toward Johnny, levitating rods chiming in pleasant melodic tones at each delicate movement.
La Sirene drew her legs up and tapped a curious finger against her jaw while silently observing him. This boy bore an emotional attachment to her host.
She would take care of him, as the spiritualist desired.
Johnny was trying – and failing, as usual – to tame the uncooperative part of his hair when his girlfriend walked by and casually flicked his cowlick with a teasing smirk.
"H-hey!" He griped, and pivoted to point one end of the comb at her. "You're not helping!"
"Let it be, Johnny," she drawled calmly, "You're making a big fuss out of something so small."
The blond detective bristled a little, but stubbornly returned his attention to the mirror.
"Besides," she sauntered up to him from behind and lightly brushed her lips across the wayward lock, "…I think it's kind of cute."
Getting the question out had been nerve-wracking enough, and the wait that followed felt like an eternity, but when Shania smiled at him in affirmation, his heart practically exploded with a myriad of emotions.
Luckily, he had already gotten her father's blessing after they defeated Tirawa together. Lenny was astonished, but supportive.
Shania requested that they travel to the Grand Canyon, so she could tell Natan the news in person. Maybe even bring him back with them, to make the most of their trip.
Johnny wrote to the rest of their former companions, inviting them all to attend their wedding.
End of Set Alpha
Bonus: Handcuffs, Johnny x Shania – dedicated to Frosty Wolf
"You're late again."
That was the only warning he received before his wrist was abruptly cuffed to the back of the chair.
Johnny stared dumbly at the silver chain of links. "Wh-what's this for…?!"
"I'll ask the questions, Johnny," the dominant blonde asserted, "Now, tell me what was keeping you away this time."
He lowered his gaze. "I was… looking for something…"
"Looking for what?" She fired sharply.
He shook his head. "I can't tell you… not yet."
She threw the key down by his side, and then immediately went to the window, flying into the night.
End of Installment
Author's Note: Ack! I'm still here, I swear! Sorry for the long wait on this update! D: Now, with finals out of the way, I should have more time to work on SH:FTNW fanfics! The ideas are in my head, patiently waiting to come out. XD Be sure to check my profile every once in a while for teasers of the fics that I'm currently writing! Anyway, I hope you readers enjoyed this remaining installment. Please leave a review and tell me what you think!
With love for my fans,