Fandom: Detective Conan
Characters: Haibara Ai (General series)
Word Count: 4931 words
Author's Notes: I do not own Detective Conan. It all belongs to Gosho Aoyama. I simply borrow the characters, tie them up, and dance them around like life-sized puppets. I do wish they’d stop complaining.
Summary: She remembers a lot of things, through two childhoods. An Ai story.
She remembers being a child the first time around.
Her parents died in an accident, leaving her with only her sister for family. No one else in the world. Akemi was the only one left to her for comfort and protection, and the feeling of being cared about. Such was an older sister’s duty, Akemi would say with a conspiratorial wink.
There were others in the Syndicate, but they frightened her when she was young. They were older than she, bigger and stronger and far more powerful, and she knew what many of them were capable of, even at that age. But she also learned quickly not to show that she was afraid. That was a weakness that she could not afford. There really weren’t any weaknesses that she could afford, truth be told. There was only one that she couldn’t hide and could never let go of, and so she kept that as her public weakness and hid the rest.
Her sister was her visible weak spot, and her most dire one. And there was no way to call that a good arrangement. It meant that there was something obvious to be held over her. That was another lesson she learned along the way, and one she learned quickly.
She had fallen in with the science department. The things she saw there held an unmatched fascination for her. How chemicals bubbling in test tubes could be combined to create entirely new substances was a source of great interest to her. Many of her free hours were spent in the Syndicate’s laboratories, simply observing the scientists at work there, asking questions and listening carefully to what they were willing to tell her, and absorbing as much information as she could.
Someone must have said something to someone, for she found her studies being occupied with far more science and math than before. She still studies things like languages and history and all the other subjects, but her focus is being shifted to a specific field by those who guide her future and ordain what she will do with her life. It is a decision that she is pleased with, though, and she takes to her courses with as much enthusiasm as she will ever show in anything.
As she continued to grow up, she was placed directly into the laboratories, under the supervision of those older and more experienced than she. They were to teach her the procedures and guide her through the various experiments the labs run. That was the place where the Syndicate had decided to place her, citing that her talents would be well served and well used there.
Again, it was an order that was very pleasing to her. She rather enjoyed being there, surrounded by chemicals and formulas and equipment, seeking to create something that had not existed before, to make where there was nothing.
And furthermore, very few of the regular Syndicate members stopped into the labs on any regular basis. It was just the scientists, those who shared her love of the subject and her passion for discovery. She learned at some point that most of those regular members were under orders to not disturb the laboratory’s works unless expressly told to enter for fear of disrupting some great experiment or test.
It was a bonus for her, albeit an unexpected one. And so she spent long hours there, much preferring the company of her microscopes and data charts to the company of the others in the Syndicate. Microscopes do not require socialization or discussion of any kind, and data tables do not tend to harm or kill people. It was a most pleasing arrangement for her, under the circumstances, and so she works.
She remembers the day she was given charge of her own laboratory.
They were opening a new lab devoted to medicinal enterprises, the official word was. But she knew all the dialogue by then, and was not fooled by the wording. Medicinal enterprises meant two things. She would either be working on new treatments for Syndicate agents injured or otherwise disabled while acting on their orders and missions, or she would be doing research into new poisons.
It ultimately turned out to be the latter.
When she received her new instructions for the first time, a bug was dropped in her ear. It was a possibility that she had always been aware of, but it had never been anything with any opportunity to really come into play. But now someone had mentioned that if she kept up her good work and followed her orders, it would keep certain people happier and healthier a great deal longer.
He did not have to specify anyone. She knew immediately who he meant.
The threat itself was subtle, though. She had always worked diligently in the labs, at her science. She enjoyed doing it. There was really no need for them to make such a threat. But at the same time, she privately thought that the idea went both ways: if they wished for her to keep working as she always had, they would leave her sister alone.
She knew that she was one of the most promising scientific minds in the Syndicate. And she held information and knowledge in areas that no one else did. While she was not so brash as to think of herself as being irreplaceable to the Syndicate, she knew that she was important.
But it bothered her. She had no interest in hurting or killing other people; her interests were purely scientific. Yet her instructions were to develop tools to do both. Capsulated killers. Liquid death. Murder in a pill. Those were to be the products of her labor and the focus of her study.
So she took the only real avenue left to her, and structured her work and her tests carefully. Sooner or later she would have to produce some sort of product for the Syndicate’s use. But if tests failed, then they failed. If something did not react the way it was expected to, then data and equations would have to be reworked to search for an error. If experiments on lab animals yielded no conclusive results, the subject being tested would require a bit more work to make it viable.
Furthermore, as she informed one of the Syndicate higher-ups when questioned about an experiment her lab was to be running, science was a field that was always changing. Things did not always go according to plan, and reactions could not always be predicted, and patience must be exercised to achieve the greatest results.
For a long time, that was how she worked. She was careful about it, but always managed to make herself appear to be hard at work and filling her days with tests and experiments while she was truly stalling until she absolutely had to present the finished product. But she made it worth their while by giving them the best product possible; to do anything less would lead to her discredit and could potentially endanger her life. The drugs and poisons her lab created were the best in the Syndicate, and she was consistently held in the highest regard by her superiors.
Eventually she was given a code-name as a symbol of her status and respect.
She was called Sherry.
She remembers the day her sister died.
Ever since she had taken her place, she had worked with a fair amount of consistency to ensure that Akemi would stay safe and sound. They met now and then outside of the Syndicate’s property, for lunch or shopping, this and that. It was one of the few times where she found herself not minding that she wasn’t working. But her sister had always been the only one she truly considered a friend.
Then came the escapade that would come to be called the Billion Yen Bank Heist. Her sister was to be a part of that team, though she was not entirely sure why. Akemi had never gone in for that kind of job before. Those were things usually done by those of a bit higher rank. But those were her instructions, and she would carry them out, it seemed. That was the way things worked.
She heard that the heist was a success in terms of the loot carried off. The Boss and the higher ups were surely very pleased. She ignored it and continued at her work, expecting one day to come home and find that message on her answering machine, suggesting that they grab a cup of coffee, a teasing remark as to whether or not she had found a boyfriend or not, and a cheerful request for a return call.
Instead, she got the news that her sister was dead, and at the hands of one of the Syndicate’s most feared assassins. The details were few, but it seemed that something had gone wrong. Akemi had refused to turn over the money, something about trying to bargain through something…? It was all a jumble, and made very little sense to her.
The next morning, she called her laboratory and told them that she was sick and would not be coming in. It was the first time she had ever skipped a day of work. She spent that day curled up in bed in the darkness of her bedroom, trying desperately not to think about anything. But by the time the sun went down that night, she had made her decision.
When she went in the following day, she made a very simple demand of her superiors: she wanted to know why her sister had been killed. She knew how big of a risk it truly was, but there was no one left for her to care about, or to care about her. What did it matter, really?
So she refused to do any further work until she received an answer.
She remembers becoming a child for the second time.
The apotoxin she had created in her lab, with her own two hands. It was supposed to be a lethal, untraceable poison, though the final tests had not been conducted yet. When Gin had come for her, she had slipped a sample of the drug into the pocket of her coat as she rose from her desk; he had not noticed. Now she was here, handcuffed to a pipe to await her inevitable fate.
If she was fortunate, they would simply execute her. If she was not fortunate, she would be questioned as to the details of her research and her work, and if she did not come forward with the information immediately or accurately, she would be tortured. She had heard the screams of the tortured once when she was still very young, and she feared what went on in the room behind the massive steel door.
But for the moment she was alone. Which meant that she had a change to escape. If nothing else, it would be one last spite to Gin. One final way to spit in the face of the man who had murdered her sister and who would undoubtedly come for her soon enough. She knew of the man, and of his personality, and had realized that to deny him the joy of bloodlust and the rush of the kill was the best (and sometimes the only way) to get to him.
And if she died, perhaps she would be able to meet Akemi again.
There was a little voice in her head now, reminding her of the two anomalies that had happened during the course of this poison’s development. The first was a lab rat, one that had not died, but merely changed to an infant; it otherwise stayed healthy. The second was a person who had been forcibly given the poison and then vanished without a trace.
Still, one rat against the dozens she had tested did not bode well for her odds. And she did not care.
Saying one last prayer, she swallowed the pill.
What happened next was unlike anything else she had ever experienced. Her body was on fire, she was sweating, and the world became white-hot and fiery. Her nails scrapped across the floor, her bound hand clawing at the air as she gasped and tried to see through the whiteness that swallowed her vision. Was this what it felt like to die? Was this what Akemi had felt?
When things cleared, she was not dead. But she was a great deal smaller. And her hand was free of the chain, having been small enough to slid right through it. She sat up and looked around the room, then down at herself. She was a child again, exactly like the transformation the rat had undergone. Her rational mind immediately classified this as just another anomaly in the experiment.
Her instincts told her to run.
She made one stop in the records room. It was far enough away from everything else that she could enter with little risk of being seen. She tapped into the database, and she edited one name, changing the status of one Kudo Shinichi from missing to dead.
If her hunch was correct, this would buy her (and possibly him) both time and opportunity.
Having done that, she fled the Syndicate and the laboratory that had been her home, her workplace, her solace and her sanctuary for so long. But there was no time for sentimentality or emotions. Every moment she lingered there was a moment closer to discovery and death.
She knew exactly where she was going. She just had to get there without being caught.
She remembers her first day of school.
Oh, she had taken classes before, and her studies had always been very important to her. She loved learning and finding new things and understanding them. But she had never taken her studies in a school like this. A real school, with real classmates and real teachers and real desks and everything like that. And nothing of the Syndicate to be seen anywhere.
She was looking for someone in particular, though. A fellow student. Male. Brown hair. Blue eyes. Glasses. She had a vague idea of what his face would look like as well, given that she had seen pictures of his adult self. It was just a matter of finding him.
The teacher introduced her to the class, though the name she gave was not her true one. She had not gone by her true name in far too long, save for one person who kept her grounded and reminded her that she had not always been Sherry. But that person was gone, and so was Sherry, and now only a pseudonym remained. A fake name for a fake child. It was only fitting.
The class started murmuring immediately, and she heard various boys commenting as to how cute she was. It made her feel strange. She had never had anyone really comment on her looks before, save again for that one person who teased her about how she would never find a boyfriend if she didn’t dress up a bit. Oh well, it couldn’t be helped. Children were children.
But at least being at the front of the room like this gave her an opportunity to look for her ultimate target, and look she did. And she spotted him rather quickly, sitting near the back. There was even an empty desk right beside him.
She ignored a large boy who was gesturing towards the vacant seat beside him and made her way to the desk beside the other boy. Ignoring the looks she got from the other students, she sat down. The bespectacled boy, whom she knew to be named one Edogawa Conan, was staring at her in surprise.
He didn’t suspect a thing, it seemed.
And that was the way she wanted it for the moment.
She remembers when she first met the children.
They called themselves the Detective Boys. And, she observed, though Genta claimed to be the leader, they followed Edogawa around like a group of ducklings trailing after their mother. It was actually rather endearing, and a bit of a relief. For all that they seemed determined to make her their friend, they did not seem aware at all that there was anything unusual about her.
Perhaps they had noticed that she was a bit more aloof, and rather smart for her age, but to the rambunctious seven-year-olds those things mattered little. All they saw was a new girl at their school, and all they thought of was making sure that she was not lonely.
It was another one of those strange experiences, particularly for one who had tried so hard to keep her world small so as to keep out those with whom she did not want to associate. For a long time, her kingdom had extended to the walls of her lab. And she had liked it that way.
But now she was being swept up in a mystery. A student at the school had left a message asking for help, and the Detective Boys responded with enthusiasm, more or less. A bit less from Edogawa, to be fair. But he went along with it, acting for all the world like an older brother keeping an eye on his rowdy younger siblings. Given the way the children responded to this, it was part of their routine, and no one even batted an eye at it.
What followed was a rather interesting case that led them to a group of counterfeiters. Small-time crooks, she thought dryly. Nothing at all like what the Syndicate could have churned up. Still, they had kidnapped a boy, and Edogawa seemed bent on them, especially when he learned that the woman in charge wore black. Again, she shook her head and observed.
But when the moment came and the gun was in her hand, she recalled one of the lessons she had learned at a young age, and took her shot. It was almost insultingly easy, right on the mark. And to be honest, it was worth it for the look on Edogawa’s face.
She realized that there were other instincts that were still beaten into her very being. When the police arrived, she trembled. They were the enemy, or so she had been taught. But overall, it seemed that the only trouble she was in was for firing the gun. The portly Inspector was scolding her for that and that alone, asking how she could do something so dangerous.
Before she really realized that she was doing it, she wrinkled up her face and put on the teary eyes and started to hiccup a bit. And sure enough, it worked. The man backpedaled furiously to comfort her and assure her that it was all right, at least no one was hurt, just don’t do anything that reckless again.
…it almost surprised her, really. It seemed that this police officer was a good man.
But the best part came during the walk home with Edogawa Conan, when she told him who she was. And she just couldn’t keep herself from messing with his head a bit by insinuating that the good professor was in some sort of mortal peril.
He was angry. She knew he would be. And she couldn’t fault him for it.
…but the boy had already proven to be quite fun to play with.
She remembers when she became an adult again.
An encounter with a Syndicate member left her trapped, and she had precious few options. A quick conversation with Edogawa had given her a solution: drink a certain type of alcohol for a temporary reprieve. She knew to trust him now, and did as he said.
And again the world went white before her eyes and her body became engulfed in flames. She knew the risks, but there was no other alternative. If Gin came when she was like this, she had no way to fight, and it could give him a clue as to the location of his other missing victim, Kudo Shinichi. She had to suffer through the pain, just another part of the penance she would have to endure for her past sins.
Being back in an adult body was strange and alien after so much time spent as a child. It took her a moment to find her feet, and she secured herself clothing in the form of a spare janitor’s jumpsuit. And she escaped from the room, wondering if she was actually home free.
She should have known better than to be so naïve. Gin was a far better hunter than that. And he tracked her up to the roof and fired. The first two shots were not killing blows, and she knew it. He was playing with her. She was cornered and defenseless and injured; her blood had already been spilled to stain the white snow. There was nothing she could do—
Light. She saw light, and heard a voice, and suddenly she had an escape. And she ran, ran from Gin and Vodka and the past and her memories and the horror of everything she had seen and heard…
By the time they got downstairs, she was already starting to undergo the change again. Edogawa hid her in a closet while she transformed back into her smaller body, and she collapsed in a shaking, terrified heap on the floor. Something covered her, and she cracked her eyes open to see that it was his jacket. He had wrapped it around her.
They had survived this encounter, by some miracle. She almost couldn’t believe it.
She remembers the day Ayumi asked about her family.
They were walking home from school, having ditched the boys (as Ayumi put it) to have some quality girl time (as Ayumi also put it). It seemed a quaint thing, amusing and childish, but somehow all of Ayumi’s little quirks managed to be so endearing. The child was innocent and eager and determined to be her best friend, no matter what.
They had gotten some juice and were sitting on a park bench, enjoying the beverages and the nice weather and watching the man on the opposite sidewalk wrestling with his stubborn dog when Ayumi spoke up and asked her if she missed her family.
It was an innocent question, really. Innocent curiosity. But it hit her like a punch in the chest.
Akemi. Akemi was her family.
But Akemi was dead. Could she really explain that to Ayumi?
She looked at the girl. Ayumi was everything she was not. Ayumi was untainted and unaware of the truest cruelties of humanity. She had never known anyone like Gin, and knew nothing of such people. And despite her best efforts to remain aloof and not get too attached because she knew that such bonds were dangerous and that things could end at any time, the girl had walked right past her walls as if they did not exist, and taken her hand and pulled her along to go on all sorts of adventures.
And Ayumi was the only one permitted to call her by her first name, save for the professor. The adults did it simply because she was a child and that was the way of the world. Ayumi had express permission, the only one of the elementary school children to hold such a power.
Sighing, she told Ayumi that her only family was very far away, and she did not know if she would ever get to see them again. But, she added at the girl’s crestfallen look, she was happy here. The professor was her family now, and Edogawa and Ayumi and the boys. That was all she needed to be happy.
It was a bit of a lie. To be truly happy would mean that there was no longer an enormous black shadow perched on her shoulder, ready to strike at any time to take her away, and to hurt those who she had dared to grow close to. To be truly happy would mean that she could restore Edogawa to Kudo and thus right that wrong. To be truly happy would mean that she was free of the Syndicate’s last chains of fear.
But it was worth that little lie to see the girl smile, relieved. And it brought a genuine smile to her lips to hear the girl promise that no matter what happened, she would be her sister and her best friend, and they would always stick together.
It was official. Ayumi had gotten under her skin, and she had the feeling that it had changed her.
And she sincerely believed that she had been changed for the better.
She remembers when she realized it.
It was stupid, really, what made her realize it. They were at the professor’s house; Edogawa had come over, as well as the three children. They were all sitting around, sipping drinks and listening to the good doctor talk about his latest experiment and offer them horrible riddles that inevitably made them all groan. All in all, it was a good afternoon.
What actually made her realize it at all was simply when Ayumi (sweet, innocent, eager Ayumi) held her glass up to the doctor with a wide smile and politely said, “May I have more to drink please?”
And for whatever reason, she broke.
She set her own glass down on the table and hopped from her chair and left the room, ignoring the startled questions following her and Edogawa’s penetrating glance and the doctor’s worried look. She walked until she was sure she was out of earshot before she sat down on the floor, her back against the wall, and curled up, her knees to her chest.
And she cried. She put her arms on her knees and pressed her face to them and just wept.
This was what it felt like to spend time with friends. With real friends, people who cared about her and her well-being and how her day was and all the little things that everyone she had known in the Syndicate had written off as being stupid or irrelevant. They did not know her as Sherry, a code-name of the Syndicate and therefore a good person to try and rub elbows with. They simply knew her as their classmate, a smart girl of foreign descent who lived with their good friend, the professor, and who went on cases with them and solved mysteries and liked to tease Conan-kun.
Even amongst children in the Syndicate, there was little time for playing or telling jokes or anything of that nature. Everything was business. The children were taught in accordance with the roles they were intended to fill, their minds shaped to fit the appropriate mold.
Light footsteps were coming towards her. If she had to guess, it would be Edogawa. Somehow, it didn’t bother her too much to think that he might see her like this. Of the others, he was the one least likely to question simply because he understood the most. There was nothing that she needed to explain to him.
…perhaps that meant that he was her greatest friend after all. The one who had accepted her despite what her work had done to him and the pain that had been caused for him and those close to him by the poison she had been forced to create. He asked few questions anymore, and at times she saw his masks truly come down and she saw him as few others did.
In hindsight, that went both ways. There were only two other people who had seen her as he had and who had seen past her cool mask and cold demeanor. During her stay in his home, the professor had come to know her inside and out, and he had her complete trust as one would trust a favored uncle or beloved grandfather.
The other was her sister, Akemi.
She would find the antidote to the apotoxin, she resolved. Not for herself, per se. She had no family and no home to return to, whereas he had a whole slew of people eagerly awaiting his return. She would find it for him. She had made that her mission early on because she thought that perhaps it could make up for what her work had done to him. But now, after everything they had gone through...
Could finding the antidote even begin to repay him for everything? For looking out for her and protecting her and simply being her friend? No, she did not think so. But she would find the antidote for him as penance, and as repayment, and as a favor to a very dear friend.
That was to be her purpose now, and she would stay that course to its end. When she reached the end of that road, there had to be another one waiting for her. She just had to find it when the time came.
By the time he came into view, she had calmed herself and was ready to face the world again. Mitsuhiko commented worriedly that her eyes were red, but seemed relatively satisfied with her explanation that she had left because she had gotten something in her eye. And while Edogawa smiled approvingly at her choice of words, she turned to the professor and asked if he might regale her and her friends with another of his fine riddles.