Scars and scratches all over again
Ai glared at the back of her captor. It was all she could do with bound hands and feet and silver shimmering duct tape covering her mouth. So, she concentrated on giving Vodka the best death-glare she could muster up, even if he couldn't see it. She was sure he felt her gaze burning holes into him. The paralyzing fear that had overwhelmed her as she'd felt his fleshy hands grabbing and silencing her had changed into anger.
Anger at herself for being so careless and letting herself be captured by an idiotic stooge like Vodka of all people.
Anger at said stooge for feeling the urge to revenge Gin instead of going into hiding or even better – run into some police officers and just leave them all the hell alone!
Anger at the whole situation at hand that forced her to watch helplessly how Vodka used her as bait to lure Shinichi into a trap.
She just hoped that someone would knock enough sense into the stubborn detective to prevent him from running headless into his death. She didn't want him to come to her rescue if it meant that he would get hurt again, but she knew he would come anyway. It was just who he was – always standing up for his friends and beloved ones, no matter if he himself was already at his limits. And that was exactly what she feared. Shinichi wouldn't go down without a fight, but he was in no condition to go up against someone like Vodka. 'Just for once, Kudou – don't be your usual reckless self and ask for help. There is no need for you to get hurt because of me. I'm not that important.'
Watching the man from her seated position against a wall, she compiled what she knew about him. First of all, he was well-known as Gin's longest partner ever. Gin had had other partners before him, but Ai couldn't remember any of them. She'd heard that most of them died during missions, but everyone in the BO knew about Gin's tendency to get rid of his partner if latter turned out to be useless for the Organization or if Gin was just annoyed by him. Since she got to know the silver-haired agent, Vodka had been his shadow.
That Gin had endured Vodka that long by his side meant that the broad-built man had to have at least some qualities and skills that made him worthy. For sure he wasn't the brightest bulb in the box, but he compensated this lack with sheer strength and absolute loyalty. Where Gin had been the sharp strategist, Vodka had been the one to carry out the tasks that required two strong hands that didn't mind to get dirty.
As long as this bulldozer of a man had been guided and held in line by Gin, he just had been his partner's extended strong arm. But now he was on his own, and his only intention was to let his enemies pay for Gin's death. Ai was really anxious about his behavior that was so atypical for him. It seemed that he had thrown all caution to the wind. A man in this state of mind was unpredictable.
Vodka turned to her. "The time is almost up. So, little Sherry, what do you think? When will your prince be here? I've heard that he is a bit wrecked right now, but don't you worry-", He kneeled down beside her. "When I'm done with the both of you, you will feel no more pain."
He reached out to her with a strange distant look in his eyes and she wanted to get away from him desperately. "I only wrote that he could save you some tourture if he comes here in time. I said nothing about the condition you would be in by then."
Ai's breathing sped up. Eyes wide, she tried to bring distance between herself and the hand that aimed for her throat, but with the wall behind her, she had nowhere to go.
"Stop it right now!", echoed a voice out of a more shadowy part of the warehouse.
Vodka turned to look at the new arrival. He blocked Ai's field of view, but she recognized the voice right away.
'No! What are you doing here? Run! Run and leave to live a happy life with your detective. He fought so hard to keep you out of this. Don't throw that all away!'
"What do you want? You are not who I ordered to come here," Vodka shouted at Ran. He moved a bit and Ai saw the girl standing a few meters away in a fighting stance and with her arms outstretched before her chest as if she was aiming. Ai needed a few seconds to realize that she was holding Conan's tranquilizer-watch. She had no idea if Ran had any shooting experiences, and she couldn't recall haveing seen the girl with a weapon before. With her karate, she was more a close-quarters fighter and a very skilled one at that, but karate wouldn't help her against an armed opponent at this distance.
'I hope you know what you are doing, Ran, and whatever you're up to, do it now or you will lose the moment of surprise.'
As if Vodka and Ran had the same thought as Ai, two things happened at once. Vodka pulled out his gun to train it at the girl, while Ran raised her hands just a bit and pushed the trigger-button on the watch.
Ran watched the taxi leave. After it rounded the corner, she was alone in the street. It had been a warm day and the sun crept slowly down to the line of the horizon, painting shadows over the asphalt. It would have been a peaceful sight if not for the fact that Ran was here because of a kidnapped girl. A girl she'd came to care for as some kind of little sister and recently as a friend.
She looked at the note in her hand again, checking the address for the umpteenth time. The warehouse she was looking for had to be further down the street. The tense feeling in her gut intensified while she walked down the sidewalk, looking left and right for anything suspicious.
Could she really pull this off? What if she endangered Ai even more? She just wasn't made for this kind of stuff. Shinichi would know what to do now – how to approach the warehouse, how to face the criminal and how to rescue Ai. All she, Ran, had as a plan was to go there and act on the situation, maybe use the watch. Fear suddenly flooded her whole body, turning her legs into a wobbly mess and she had to lean against the next wall. Sliding down into a crouched position with her head resting on her knees, she needed several minutes to calm down.
'Stupid, stupid, stupid! Shinichi isn't here and that's because I wanted it this way.'
Had he ever been this scared? He made it look so easy when he hurled his deduction into the culprits face; no matter if he was a teenager or an eight-year-old. No matter if it was a burglar or a murderer. Shinichi always pushed forward, not willing to draw back just an inch.
'You can do it, Ran. You have to!'
Taking a few steadying breathes, she got up again. 'He did everything to protect us. Now that he can't, it's my turn.'
Hands clenched into fists, she continued her way towards the place Ai was held captive. The thought about the girl gave her anger and determination a new boost. She remembered how helpless Shinichi sometimes had been because he was trapped in this small body. For Ai it was no difference. Despite being a grown up and independent teenager, currently she was stuck as a grade-schooler and therefore had to face a significant lack in physical strength. She needed protection, and right now Ran was the only one who was here to help her. She wouldn't let her down.
Ran pushed the trigger-button on the watch.
Well, that wasn't entirely correct. Though there wasn't a needle shooting out of the watch to send Vodka to dreamland, his gun hadn't any problems firing a bullet in her direction. Aiming at him had cost her the precious seconds to dodge it completely. With a little outcry, she clutched her upper arm where the bullet had graced her and dropped the watch.
'Oww - that really hurts. Why didn't the watch work? Jamming? I hoped to at least weaken him to get close enough for a well-placed kick against his head.'
Any further planning had to wait, because Vodka was about to shoot at her again. Ran searched cover behind one of the broad concrete pillars just in time before the rounds hissed left and right from her, cracking little splinters out of the concrete.
"Come out!" Vodka's rough voice harshly cut through the air.
'I'm dead, I'm so dead.' Terrified and with shaking hands, Ran leaned against the pillar. Despite better knowledge, she inwardly called out to Shinichi for help again. What had gotten into her? All she'd managed was to worsen the situation. She had nothing to face the man who waited for her with a raised gun. 'What can I do? What?'
"I hate to repeat myself!" Vodka shouted and dragged Ai up. "If you are not in front of me in three seconds, I will put a bullet through her head! One..."
Ran's mind was blank. The metallic click of the weapon as he cocked it was unnaturally loud in her ears. She was paralyzed with fear. She wanted to move, but her limbs refused to obey her.
Nothing, absolutely nothing in her life had prepared her for this kind of situation. Her tournament wins and fighting skills meant nothing, all the cases she had been to with her father and Conan, all the crimes and dead people she had seen... She had thought they had hardened her, had made her tough enough to deal with this.
Had she really been that wrong?
"No!" she yelled and leaped out of her cover, now standing just a few steps away from the pillar.
"Don't!" She pleaded out of breath. "Just - don't." With sagged shoulders, she raised her gaze and looked at Ai. The girl showed an expression of horror. 'I'm so sorry Ai-kun, that this is all I can do for you right now.'
Vodka's words turned her attention back to him. "Good decision. Now tell me - where is your detective-friend? Too much of a coward to come here himself? I have to say, I've expected more of him than to send his girlfriend to get his job done."
"He's not - a coward," Ran pressed out through gritted teeth. He made a mistake to badmouth Shinichi, as it brought her fighting-spirits back to life.
"Whatever. I want you to call him and tell him that if he doesn't show up here right away, he will be responsible for your death and for Sherry's as well." To enforce his words he shoved the gun painfully against Ai's temple.
"I - I can't," Ran admitted whispering.
"What was that? Are you deaf or stupid? Did you hear what I just said? Call him!" Rage gave Vodka's face a dark shade of red.
"I locked him... in his room... and took his phone away. He can't come." Straightening her back, she stared him straight in the eyes. "And even if he could - I wouldn't do it! I would never sell a friend just to save myself and I won't allow that you hurt Ai-kun any further!"
Vodka blinked at her a few times; then he laughed. "So, you won't allow it? Then please tell me - what are you going to do about it? In case you've forgotten - I am the one with the gun here and I just have to bend my finger to end her pathetic life."
Mistake number two that fueled her anger even more - mocking her and belittling a friend. "Pathetic? I think you've got it really wrong. Ai-kun is strong and kind and she is..."
"Ai-kun?" He cut through Ran's words, scoffing. "I really couldn't care less how she's called these days, but a name won't change who she is and always will be. A drug-designer, a cruel, heartless scientist and a betrayer." He let Ai fall back to the floor, changed targets and pointed his gun at Ran again. "Is such a person really worth it? To lose your life? You know - I don't give a damn about you. Now that you can't lure the snoop here, you are useless."
His finger tightened around the trigger. "I'm sure your death will break him. He'll be easy prey."
Ran's vision zeroed in on the gun. Everything around her was muted. She didn't hear Ai's muffled screams or the shot itself. She saw the muzzle flash and the small trail of smoke. She smelled the gunpowder and felt the cold sweat on her hands.
The impact didn't come front the front but from behind, and sent her flying to the side. The rough ground scraped the skin on her bare upper arm that was already bloody from the gunshot-wound.
Suddenly, the sound was back and she heard Vodka's swearing, and strained breaths from someone standing next to her.
She didn't need to look to know who was by her side. Just like back then at the case with the fake Shinichi, she could feel his presence with every fiber of her being. Relief washed over her, closely followed by panic for his safety. Her eyes, which she had closed during her fall, shot open and there he was. In a posture close to her own when she'd aimed with the watch at Vodka. Only it wasn't a tranquilizer-watch in Shinichi's hands. It was a real gun.
"Just look what the cat dragged in," Vodka greeted the boy disdainfully. "You look a bit worse for wear. You sure you won't keel over - detective?" His voice dripped with contempt.
Ran looked closer at her friend and was alarmed about the paleness of his face that seemed to be even whiter in contrast to the blood that trailed down from under his hairline over his cheek. He still had said nothing. Maybe because he struggled to catch his breath or because he tried to analyze the situation, but she could see him gritting his teeth - his eyes sharp and bright.
Vodka laughed. "What now? Are you going to shoot me or not?"
Shinichi would have loved to do just that a minute ago when he sneaked through the open gate, crossed the dim warehouse and had seen that Vodka held Ran at gunpoint. The man had been so concentrated on his target that he didn't notice his approach. Something had snapped in Shinichi. Screw his ideas involving the bowtie and the transmitters. All he wanted to do was to provide the BO-agent with an additional hole in his head.
But Ran stood in such a bad angle that he couldn't shoot without risking hitting her or Ai. So, he did the next best thing and shoved her out of the way just in time. The bullet had grazed his temple slightly. 'Well - make that two scars on my head.'
Unfortunately, now Vodka was quite aware of his new company. His gun pointed at Shinichi while the latter aimed at Vodka, a good five steps seperating them. A stalemate - again. Last time it had ended in a suicide but he didn't dare do count on that kind of outcome a second time.
"Let Haibara go!" Shinichi demanded with a clear and steady voice. If Ran hadn't seen his condition with her own eyes, she couldn't have told that anything was wrong with him.
"Snotty brat! Why would I do that? Just look at you - you're even too weak to stand straight. And from what I've heard about you, you're not capable to hurt anyone – let alone kill me," Vodka scoffed.
"I think Gin would disagree with that." Shinichi casually tilted his head. "That bullet back then surely did hurt – at least he seemed to be not very happy about the hole in his back." He smirked, satisfied with his opponent's reaction.
Vodka stared at him unbelievingly. It was impossible. He knew that Gin had died in the burning building, and that he had only been in the headquarters because of this damned sleuth. But he just had been at the wrong place the wrong time, hadn't he? There was no way that…
"Yes, I shot your partner," Shinichi stated coolly with a smug grin on his lips. He had to repress the urge to turn to Ran, who'd let out a shocked gasp. He knew that his words and behavior hurt and shocked her, but he had to block out his concern about her feelings right now. All that counted was that he distracted the man in front of him long enough and stall for time for the backup to arrive. And he really hoped that Megure would be here any minute, because Vodka didn't look like he wanted to talk any longer.
His remark about Gin might have off-balanced him a bit, but at the same time Shinichi had seen something flare up in his eyes that was dangerously near to insanity. Maybe he'd underestimated the bond between the partners and maybe that would turn out as fatal. He really didn't need a man who fired wildly all over the place. He needed to keep him in the conversation. As long as Vodka was focused on him solely, maybe...
"As for partners," Shinichi began nonchalantly. "Any idea where Bourbon ran off to? I know some officers who would like to have a word with him and a private eye who has even more to say."
Vodka's reaction wasn't exactly what he'd expected. "Bourbon? Ha! I can tell you were he is, but that won't help you unless your officers can speak to ghosts."
Shinichi frowned. "He is dead? But he wasn't found in the burnt down building or anywhere else."
"That's because he didn't die in there, duh. Actually, we are not very far away from the place Gin blew off his head. The guy had been too careless, so we had to... dismiss him." Obviously pleased with his clever pun, Vodka grinned widely. "But we left him in good company. Well, maybe not 'good' company if you'd ask Bourbon, but company nonetheless."
'Company?' Shinichi had a bad feeling about this. 'Please - don't let him say-'
Shinichi's breath caught in his throat. No matter how unlikely it had been that Akai was still alive, up to this point he had hoped that his assumption would be proven wrong. The loss of the FBI agent stung him deeply, had he been an ally and a friend.
This whole thing didn't turn out as he had hoped for. Instead of being the one to keep the upper hand, it was more of a back and forth between them. The scale was tipping in favor of the one - then the other.
A strangled noise from Ran brought him out of his stupor. "Ran, I want you to leave," he said without looking at her.
"You - what? No! I won't-"
"I said leave!" His voice was hard and tolerated no backtalk. Her presence distracted him, and he wanted her out of harm's way before the shit was going to hit the fan.
"He's right, girlie. Go." Vodka could be generous about that. After all, he had the two people he'd wanted. "As I've said, you're not important. Maybe I'll come for you later again."
Mistake number three – talking to her like she was a stupid little girl. Everything piled up in her. What had happened to Shinichi, the moments when she thought she would lose him during his change, Ai's kidnapping, the feeling of being helpless and hating it, the gun – threatening to take Shinichi's life. She shook from fury, adrenalin pumping through her body.
Before anyone could react, she shot up from the ground and threw herself at Vodka with an animally outcry. The man didn't know what had hit him as she slammed her shoulder into his stomach, making him stumble back and effectively pressing the air out of his lungs. Both of them tumbled to the floor. He must have triggered his gun in surprise, and she heard a pained grunt behind her.
She spun around wide-eyed, terrified of what she might see. "Shinichi!"
He was down on one knee, a red blotch grew on his jeans under his hand that was clutching his thigh. He gave her a weak grin, panting. "It's ok, I don't think he... hit anyth… Watch out!"
His yell made her head snap back to Vodka, who was about to get to his feet again. She was too close, and in an awkward position to hit him again, so she rolled over and shielded Ai, who lay next to her.
Shinichi just had seconds to steady himself and bring his gun back up. His wounded leg didn't improve his condition, but he was a good shot, and this time it wasn't Conan but Shinichi who was holding the weapon. He didn't aim to kill, just to put Vodka out of commission, even though a little part of him wouldn't mind if the shot would turn out deadly. He shoved the disgust for this thought aside and concentrated on his target.
The shot went off and the bullet pierced all through Vodka's shoulder. He screamed and his gun dropped to the floor where Ran grabbed it.
At the same time, the warehouse suddenly was filled with yells and commands. Policemen in protective gear secured the area and took the BO-member into custody.
Shinichi locked his gun and placed it on the ground with slightly shaking hands. 'As usual they arrive just after the real fun – glad you made it though.'
Relief let him feel the exhaustion and pain at last, making his body heavy, and his legs gave out from under him.
Two arms caught him from behind before he could hit the floor face first. He was so tired, so damn, damn tired.
'No - can't pass out now. I have to make sure that Ran and Haibara are okay.'
He concentrated on the strong hold of the hands on his arms, tried to place the voice that was calling his name, and fought back the black spots that danced across his vision and dimmed his eyesight.
Finally, his eyes worked the way they were supposed to again, and a male face materialized above him. "Ta- Takagi-keiji… " he rasped out. "Good to see you... You're almost a bit late."
Takagi sighed. At least the teen seemed to be fine enough for the moment if he still could crack jokes like that. "You're one to talk, Kudou-kun. What did you think, running off on your own again?"
With the officer's support, he carefully got up in a seated position, so he could overlook what was going on around him. Suddenly, he felt warmth enveloping his back and shoulders, and Ran's scent filled his senses.
"Stupid detective-geek!" she sobbed. "Here I went through the trouble of keeping you save, and you still end up running to my aid. And look at you – your got shot again."
"Um, I think you are in good hands, so I'll…" a flustered Takagi stammered and got up rubbing the back of his head. "Just make sure to report to Megure-keibu later. I will try to keep him off your back until everything has settled down a bit. Believe me - you don't want to face him now."
Remembering the Inspectors voice on the phone, Shinichi cringed. No, he wasn't looking forward to this conversation.
"An ambulance should be here any minute, so let them tend to your injuries," Takagi added befor he left.
Shinichi looked up to him gratefully. "Will do. Thank you." He turned to make sure Ran hadn't received any injuries he hadn't noticed. "Are you okay? What about Haibara?"
"I'm fine, don't worry. It's just a scratch and a few scrapes. As for Ai-kun-"
"Thanks to you two, I'm totally fine." The small girl made her way over to them after Satou had made sure that she indeed was alright. Her face was reddened were the duct tape had been ripped off, and her wrists showed chafed rope marks, but basically that was it. "Though for a few times I thought we all were going to die. Really – what got into you, barging in here without a plan or backup?"
Shinichi gaped at her before he realized her words for what they were. It was the closest Ai would come to tell them that she'd worried for them and he grinned cheekily at her. "You're welcome, Haibara. I'm glad we made it in time."
Ai blushed and mumbled something that could have been a "Thank you, Kudou-kun, Ran-san," before she ran off to Agasa who had been called by Satou as well as Shinichi's parents and Ran's father, and waited with them on the entrance of the warehouse.
Sirens and blinking lights announced the arrival of the ambulances. Four paramedics jumped out of the cars and hurried to their patients carrying medical equipment and stretchers.
Ran surveyed how one of them cleaned Shinichi's head wound after taking care of the bullet wound on his leg, while another tended to her arm. Both teens winced a bit as the antiseptic came in contact with abused skin and bleeding grazes.
Shinichi smiled at her sheepishly. "Seems like we both can show off some new scars, huh?"
"Shi-ni-chi," she scolded him. "That is not funny. And you still can be glad that your hair will cover them or your forehead would look like a Morse code by now."
"Hey, hey, a little bit more sympathy here. Can't you see I'm in pain?" He groaned a bit theatrical as he was lifted onto the stretcher, eliciting a worried glance from Ran before she realized that it was mostly show. If not for the paramedics and the bandages around his head, she would have smacked him right now.
He sniggered as he read the threat in her face. "Oh, and by the way – you owe my one for the needle you shot in my neck."
With that she was left speechless while Shinichi was carted off to the ambulance where he allowed himself to finally give in to the rest that he needed.
She went over to her father to keep him from biting some officer's head off because the poor man couldn't tell him how his daughter was doing. Absently, she touched the gauze on her arm. Shinichi was right – they both had been scarred during these days.
Mentally and physically.
The visible sings would just remember them how they had overcome all obstacles had fought back together successfully.
Together – finally.
ooOO The End OOoo
A/N: It's a warp! Yeay! *celebrate*
Thank you so, so much for reading my story and hanging on to the end and a special 'Thank you!' to my reviewers!
So let me recap for you: 33 Chapters, 146 pages in MS Word (Never - never would have guessed that it would turn out that long and keep me busy for almost a year. Wonder why I've been so troubled back in school when my English teacher asked for 150 words for homework o.O – let's make it 74.000 and then some. Muhaha!)
19 Main-cast characters in action: Kudou Shinichi, Kudou Yukiko, Kudou Yusaku, Mouri Ran, Mouri Kogoro, Hattori Heiji, Haibara Ai, Agasa Hiroshi, Megure Juuzo, Takagi Wataru, Satou Miwako, Akai Shuichi, Jodie Stirling, Gin, Vodka, Vermouth, Bourbon, Kaitou KID, (Kaneshiro Genichiro)
6 Original characters: Kaneshiro Kiyoshi (son of the boss, though he just was in the background story for his father), Akamoto (mad, annoying scientist), Jashura (scientific assistant + Ran's disguise), Sakai (scientific assistant), Hirata (doctor), Sasaki Yoshiro (cab driver)
3 climaxes: the headquarters, the change, the revenge
7 deaths: Amuro Touro - shot by Gin (chapter 16), Akai Shuichi - shot by Gin (chapter 17), Akamoto - death in explosion (chapter 19), Sakai - death in explosion (chapter 19), Kaneshiro Genichiro - suicide (chapter 21), Vermouth - shot by Gin (chapter 21), Gin - accidently shot by Conan (chapter 21)
What I've learned: - Every character tends to develop a life of its own. They tapdance on your ideas and laugh in your face. Basically, they just do whatever pops up in their crazy minds and ruin whatever plot you came up with... can be kind of a pain... - I suck at writing action scenes! Really - I don't want any sympathy for it, it's just something I've realized I have to work on if I ever want to write something like this again. Makes me wonder why I wrote this action stuff in the first place... Oh yes - because the story didn't work without it and I just had to pull through. :) - Stuff about apoptosis, hormones, blood cells, hang-gliding... It got me a few wry looks when I read all this scientific details on the beach while we've been to Bali. Think my hubby's mind crossed thoughts like: 'What the f***?' But he knows me for a while now and I think he got used to my antics XD - I hate writing endings. It gives me a nostalgic feeling and I always struggle to find a good last line. There always is something more to say, but I have to end it somewhere. (Though who knows - maybe I'll write something else based on this story) - And last but not least: A big big bunch of English vocabulary.
So, I hope you enjoyed the show, be careful not to leave anything behind in your seats, and maybe you'll find some time to leave me a comment. I really would appreciate it.
The 'Scars-Series' continues! Check out:
Guns and Gems
A detective went into a bank...
The Red Room Murders
What makes life worth living