Disclaimer: I do not own either BTVS, Angel or Detective Conan. Also, the first few lines of dialogue in this story are taken from the Angel episode 'Home.'
AN: Obviously, I've tweaked the Angel and BTVS timeline so that 'Chosen' takes place a couple of months after 'Home,' rather than a few days after it. Season 4 of Angel was extremely compressed, so just assume that Angel and company spent a couple of uneventful months at W&H before Angel handed over the amulet to Buffy, while the fight with the First dragged out a little bit longer after Faith showed up. In One Life or Another
“People like you, this place, that's what's wrong with the world, Lilah. I will never be a part of this,” Angel declared sharply.
Even as he spoke, however, his eyes could not help but find Connor's image on Wolfram and Hart's high-definition monitor. Connor – his son – had never really had a chance. Right from the beginning he had been ruthlessly manipulated – by Jasmine, by Holtz, by Justine, by everyone.
Now, it seemed that all Connor had left was the desire to bring his own life to an end – to stop the lies – taking dozens of other lives along with him. Angel had dedicated his life to helping the helpless, and he had rarely seen any people more helpless than those caught up in Connor's suicide attempt. Innocent bystanders, guilty of nothing more offensive than going shopping at the wrong place at the wrong time, were now trapped with an unstable, superhumanly strong and fast young man, who intended to kill them all. Connor, by contrast, was nearly impossible to restrain physically, but was equally helpless – helplessly crushed under the weight of the lies which had been his life.
Maybe he could save the people Connor was holding hostage from his son – maybe – but he could see no path which would save Connor – no path save one. Angel nearly flinched as he recalled Doyle's long-ago words: 'our rats are low.' Not this this time: this time, the price paid would be almost more than he could bear.
Angel sighed, as his voice took on a gravely quality.
“Not the way you're hoping.”
The ensouled vampire stalked towards Lilah until his face was mere inches from her own, his eyes boring into her threateningly. The former head of the Special Projects Division tried and failed to resist her instinctive impulse to swallow dryly at Angel's demeanor. She had rarely seen him this wild – this unhinged. The last time had been when he stood before the doors of Holland Manners' wine cellar, and even though she had nothing to fear from death, Lilah Morgan still could not help but briefly feel a frisson of atavistic apprehension at the terrible resolve written upon his face.
“Now let me tell you what the deal's gonna be. I'll take over this company, but in return – in return – I want Wolfram and Hart to change everything for Connor. I know that the Senior Partners can alter reality, and I want them to do it. I want him to have a life – a happy life – where he is loved, loves, and can reach his full potential after a good, long childhood, and I want him to be as far away from the supernatural as possible. I don't even want him to be on the same continent as any of the dark and evil monsters infesting this city. Do we understand each other, Lilah?”
Lilah found herself gulping once more at Angel's razor-sharp tone before taking a deep breath, calming herself, and summoning her usual, cynical smile.
“I'm sure that you and the Senior Partners will be able to work something out, boss. Please, let me take your offer upstairs for you. After all, wouldn't want to tire out the new bigwig in town before he's even taken the job.” * * *
A matter of hours later, halfway across the world from Los Angeles, Mouri Ran was sulking, as she lay awake in her bed – the hapless victim of insomnia. It was not as if she had no friends at all – after all, she and Sonoko were close as ever – but sometimes she just wished that she had someone whom she could relate to a little more easily. After all, Sonoko was a Suzuki – a member of the family which controlled many of Japan's most prestigious and wealthy corporations. By comparison, Ran was from the commonest of the common stock: the daughter of a down on his luck ex-cop who could barely seem to pay the bills most days.
It was no slight against Sonoko, but, occasionally, Ran wished that she had a friend who understood her just a little bit better – like the incredibly close, childhood friends who seemed to litter Japan's manga. Why couldn't she have someone like that?
For a moment, Ran's mind seemed to fog, before abruptly clearing.
She rolled her eyes with a quiet, fond sigh.
Of course, what she meant was to wonder why she could not have had any childhood friend at all other than Shinichi. Honestly, he was such a detective freak. What sort of young adult wanted to grow up to be Sherlock Holmes, anyway? Shouldn't he have outgrown that sort of childhood fantasy by the time he had finished preschool?
He did not even want to be a police officer – a decent, respectable, well-paying career. No. Shinichi had to be a consulting detective – a private eye, just like his idol. After Ran's experiences with her father's private eye business, to her, Shinichi's frequent declarations regarding his ambitions tended to sound a lot like repeating 'I want to be unemployed when I grow up' over and over again.
Even worse, Shinichi, frequently reported within local newspapers as a prodigal, high school detective, had developed something of a fan following in Tokyo, and, of course, had let the entire thing go to his head. Honestly, if Ran was not around to keep his bloated head from swelling up any further, she would not be surprised if Shinichi floated right off into outer space. He had even started collecting love letters, of all the ridiculous things.
Then again, she reflected with a smile, at times, he could be rather sweet. Sometimes, he even managed to be pretty cool – not often, mind you, but it had been known to happen. Ran would just have to hope that tomorrow, when he was treating her to a trip to Tropical Land, she would be spending the day with her sometimes cool, childhood friend Shinichi, rather than the famous Heisei Holmes. Stranger things had been known to happen, after all.
Ran had no way of knowing that, after tomorrow, both her life and Shinichi's life would change forever – again. Two men dressed in black and a lethal, untraceable poison would reshape the lives of Mouri Ran, Kudo Shinichi, as well as the countless others caught up in their wake, for years to come. Kudo Shinichi would die less than a day after his true birth. Yet, from his ashes, Edogawa Conan would be born – a man in the body of a child, who would change the world forever. Two Months Later
Miyano Shiho knew that she was dead.
In truth, ever since she had boycotted her research for the Organization, she had known that her end would not be far away. However, even knowing that her path took her ever nearer to being within the reaper's grasp, the young woman had known that she could not continue any longer. She could not construct another untraceable killer – not for the murderers who had taken the last of her family away from her.
The thought of Akemi brought a tear to her eyes: just one solitary droplet. Perhaps, in another place, in another time, she might have cried more for her dear, departed sister, but not here – not now.
The brown-haired, blue-eyed teenager was hand-cuffed to a drainage pipe, awaiting her executioner. It would probably be Gin. That sadist had always reveled in the satisfaction of the kill. Ultimately, the identity of her murder mattered little. One way or another, within a few hours, she would be dead – a now useless and dangerous pawn discarded by the shadowy criminal enterprise which bent every tool on Earth to its mysterious designs. Like so many other deaths in this cruel world, her end would be at the Organization's whim, unless she took her fate into her own hands.
They had not found it when they had searched her person – the single dose of Apotoxin 4869 which she had managed to hide away beneath her clothing. An optimist, considering her unvoiced suspicions regarding Kudo Shinichi's fate, might have hoped that the pill might be her salvation, but Miyano Shiho's view of the world was not so rose-colored.
Even if it was possible to survive a dose of Apotoxin 4869 – reverting to a younger body which could slip free of the handcuffs holding her – there was no reason in the world to suppose that she would be one of the lucky few who could endure the poison she had invented. After all, was she not a monster – a woman whose hands were, if only indirectly, stained with the blood of hundreds of innocent lives? She was hardly the kind of person whom the Kami would bless with a one in a million miracle.
No, she reflected, raising her single dose of the Apotoxin towards her mouth, this drug would not be her salvation. It would be her killer. However, at least her end would be by her own hands, on her own terms – not at the incomprehensible whims of the Organization's faceless boss.
As Miyano Shiho swallowed the pill containing Apotoxin 4869 – her greatest invention – and waited for death to claim her, a faint voice spoke up in the back of her mind. Are you ready to be strong?
Miyano Shiho could not even summon a mirthless laugh at the foolish sentimentality which had apparently claimed a part of her mind in these, her final moments. As if she had ever had any choice but to be strong – drafted into the service of the world's most cunning criminal organization before she had even celebrated her thirteenth birthday? Of course she was ready – ready to end it all by her own hand – ready to at least prevent her former employers from controlling her fate in her last moments.
As she felt the first traces of the Apotoxin's effects upon her body – shaking, shivering and her vision blurring – Miyano Shiho's last moments on Earth were spent contemplating the nature of strength. She had always considered herself strong – she had to be – but was this truly strength? Was taking her own life truly the act of a strong woman?
Perhaps, she idly mused, taking Apotoxin 4869 had another, unintended side-effect – making one contemplate meaningless philosophical quibbles in her final moments. It was too bad that she would not survive taking the drug, Shiho reflected, as it would have been interesting to discover whether or not Kudo Shinichi had shared her experience. After all, as a scientist, even if the drug she had invented repulsed her, she could not helped but be intrigued by the problem of understanding its side-effects.
Finally – mercifully – as her body smoked and melted away, unbearable pain lancing through her every nerve, Miyano Shiho lost consciousness. She would not wake up – at least not as the eighteen year old scientist, Miyano Shiho.
For weeks after her transformation into her new, eight year old form, Miyano Shiho – now calling herself Haibara Ai – would experience terrible nightmares of vampires, demons and a thousand other monsters. She would also feel a powerful urge to go out into the darkness, in order to hunt down the creatures of the night. Ruthlessly, she would quash such foolish impulses.
She was a woman of science, not some child who might quail at the imaginary monsters under her bed. Considering the trauma she had recently endured, having a few nightmares was not particularly surprising. Haibara Ai already had more than enough real monsters chasing after her without adding Count Dracula or Frankenstein's monster to her list of enemies.
So she pushed the dreams, and the occasional, odd impulses, out of her mind. After all, she had an antidote to work on, elementary school to attend, frequent mysteries to solve and a shadowy network of criminals to evade. She had no time for fantasies. Unfortunately for Haibara Ai, much as she might be willing to ignore it, the world of fantasy was far from willing to ignore her. * * *
Six weeks after Miyano Shiho's transformation, a flight from Los Angeles landed at the Narita International Airport.
Buffy and Dawn had originally intended to spend their summer vacationing in Europe, but a call from Giles had altered their plans. Apparently, the spell Willow had cast in order to determine the identities of the hundreds of newly awakened slayers had identified an eight year old girl living in Tokyo: Haibara Ai.
It was bad enough to have untrained teenagers, prompted by their new instincts, going out at night to hunt for vampires without any experience or guidance, but none of the Scoobies could stomach the idea of an eight year old girl sneaking out in order to die alone in some graveyard. Thus, feeling partly responsible for the changes Ai was undoubtedly struggling through, Buffy had volunteered to travel to Japan in order to try and keep the youngest of the new slayers from getting herself killed. As Dawn was still her ward, the youngest Summers had joined her for the trip.
In many ways, Dawn's presence was a blessing. When she had volunteered to help Ai with her adjustment, Buffy had not immediately considered the fact that, in Japan, people spoke Japanese. Thus, Buffy, whose knowledge of Japanese was limited to 'konnichiwa' and the odd phrase she had picked up from watching monster movies, would probably have been in something of a bind without her younger sister.
Dawn was hardly fluent in Japanese, but, with her usual flair for picking up new languages, the youngest Summers had torn her way through a book of common Japanese phrases, and then began devouring Japanese newspapers and television shows, in the week since she had found out about their trip. With Dawn along, Buffy could at least hope that they would be able to successfully ask for directions and read street signs. God willing, Ai and her guardians would understand English. If not, this might be a very painful trip.
Waiting for the suitcase she and Buffy were sharing to arrive at one of Narita Airport's many baggage carousels, Dawn was taking the opportunity to review what they knew about Ai once more. It was not much, but she wanted to be sure that she remembered it all correctly for when they went to meet the young girl.
“Okay. So she's eight years old, has recently started at a new school in Beika City and lives with this Agasa guy. What was their relation again?”
“No idea. Willow couldn't find any living relatives of his, so I guess he must just be her guardian for whatever reason.”
Dawn raised an eyebrow.
“Okay. That's kind of weird. What about her early life? Parents?”
Buffy shook her head.
“Dawn, it's like I told you. There's something up with her records. Willow thinks they've been tampered with or altered, for some reason. She guessed that Ai might be in the Japanese witness protection program, although she said that, if she is, then whoever put together Ai's new records was really sloppy.”
“That doesn't really sound like witness protection.”
“Yeah, but Willow couldn't come up with any better guesses when I last talked to her. I guess we'll just have to try and figure out what's going on when we talk with Ai.”
“What about why she became a slayer? I mean, everyone else who got activated was at least twelve years old. Has Willow come up with anything yet?”
Buffy sighed, getting a bit tired of having to respond in the negative all the time.
“Nope. Wills still can't see any reason why she got activated. She says that she might be able to figure something out if she examined Ai in person, but, unless Ai's willing to jump on a plane to Cleveland, I'm kinda doubting we're going to find out much more about what happened to activate her anytime soon.”
“Oh, that'll go over well. Hello, small child who I have never met before. Please come on a plane with us, halfway across the world, so that our friend can perform experiments on you.”
“I wasn't quite planning on putting it like that, Dawnie.”
“Yeah. And just how were you planning to put it? I mean, unless this Agasa guy is like the worst guardian ever, I can't imagine any way that 'I want to drag your ward off to Cleveland' could possible go over well.”
“The plan, Dawnie, was to not ever, ever mention it for a good long while.”
“Okay. I guess that could work. Even so, this whole thing is pretty strange, don't you think? I mean, her records, her guardian, the fact that she awakened at all: something about this whole thing just kind of smells funny, you know?”
Buffy smiled, as she watched her sister's face wrinkle up cutely.
“What I know, Dawn, is that our luggage has just arrived,” Buffy declared, effortlessly lifting their suitcase off of the luggage carousel. “And that means that it's time for us to go find a taxi. As for Ai, well yeah, there definitely seems to be something odd going on with her, but come on. We just finished fighting off an army of ancient vampires who planned on completely wiping out every human being on the face of the Earth. After that, how much trouble could an eight year old girl possibly be?”