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29 April 2007 @ 12:11 pm
Calm Amidst the Storm (40 Nights: Kaito/Aoko)  
Title: Calm Amidst the Storm
Fandom: Detective Conan/Magic Kaitou
Author: Candyland
Theme: #39—Hear the thunder roar and the lightning flash
Pairing: Kuroba Kaito/Nakamori Aoko
Rating: PG-13
Disclaimer: All characters are the property of Gosho Aoyama. I do not own them. I merely borrow them, drop them in a blender, hit puree, and watch them dance. Yes, dance, my pretties…ahem.
Summary: It’s been three months, and you’re still afraid? Maybe it’s the storm that does it…



That sound—someone was pounding on something, somewhere.

The moment the noise penetrated Kuroba Kaito’s sleep, he sat upright in bed, hand instinctively grappling under his pillow. After a long moment, though, he realized that it was just someone knocking at the door. Well, knocking was perhaps too kind of a word.

He blinked, and glanced at the clock. It was well after two in the morning. A quick look out the window informed him that the ominous clouds that had been gathering all day had finally unleashed their fury in a full-blown storm—thunder, lightning, pelting rain, the works.

Which led him to the inevitable question: who in the world would be out in that gale, much less hammering at the front door of his apartment at this hour of the night, or rather, the morning?

He swung his legs out of bed and padded barefoot out of his bedroom and down the hall to the door, where he peered through the peephole. He could see the outline of a very familiar silhouette there standing in the darkness and rain, and breathed a sigh of tentative relief now that he knew who it was. Not worrying too much about appearances—he figured sweatpants and an overly large T-shirt were plenty decent—he unlocked the door and opened it.

And his jaw dropped as relief was replaced by alarm. “Aoko, what happened?”

Aoko was soaked, from head to toe. Her clothes were sticking to her in ways that defied decency, and her hair was drenched and clinging to her face and neck with a vengeance. And she was just staring at him with this blank, vacant look.

“Kaito…” she mumbled, seemingly confused.

Lightning chose that moment to streak across the sky, accompanied by a loud crack.

Aoko screamed and stumbled past the threshold and fell against him, wrapping her arms around him. It didn’t seem to bother her at all that she was drenched and shivering, while he had, until a moment ago, been warm and comfortably dry. Hell, it didn’t really seem that she cared; she only seemed to know that he was there, and that that he was warm and solid.

His own arms moved instinctively to hold her. “You’re freezing!” he half-yelped, startled. He stretched out a leg, hooked his foot around the door, and kicked it closed with a loud slam. “What in the world were you doing? Haven’t you ever heard of an umbrella?”

“Kaito…” she murmured again, the word muffled by his shoulder.

One uncertain hand slid to her soaked hair. She was so cold, shivering in his arms, and the water was dripping to pool on the floor around her; he could feel the edge of the chilly puddle starting to lap against his bare toes. And it felt like he was really supporting her; she was leaning heavily on him.

She needed to get warmed up, and fast.

Making a quick decision, he shifted her against one arm and slid his other arm down the back of her legs to her knees to lift her, bridal-style; it was at this point that he noticed she was barefoot. Aoko didn’t resist, not so much as a struggle, instead letting her cheek rest against his chest as he carried her away from the front door and into the bathroom.

She remained silent while he sat her down carefully on the toilet. When his arms slipped gingerly away from her, she stayed upright, watching with vacant eyes as he flipped the lights on and started digging through a cabinet. “Aoko, why in the world did you—there it is—come here in the middle of that storm?” he asked as he pulled out a dark blue towel and closed the cabinet. He paused, though, and gave her a long look. “I’ll be right back…”

Leaving the towel on the sink, Kaito darted back to his own room and plundered his own dresser in search of dry clothing. Finally, he settled on a T-shirt, pajama pants, and a sweatshirt—as cold as she was, it would undoubtedly be appreciated. The PJ pants would probably be especially huge on her, but they had a drawstring, so he was fairly certain they would stay where they were supposed to. Prizes in hand, he headed back to the bathroom, where Aoko was waiting.

She hadn’t moved. She was still sitting on the toilet, arms wrapped around her stomach, shivering.

“Aoko?” he knelt down next to her again. “Here—these’ll be huge on you, but they’re dry.”

She just sat there, that same empty stare in her eyes.

Oooooooh boy… Kaito swallowed hard after a very long moment. For the moment, at least, Aoko wasn’t in there. She needed to get warmed up, but she didn’t seem to be really in there at the moment. Which left him with two choices: let her freeze, or take care of the problem himself.

In other words, he really had only one option.

Their long-standing friendship may have recently started budding into something more, but he was relatively sure Aoko would not appreciate any, ah, liberties. Well…she could kill him later, if she was even aware of what was going on. He didn’t like it at all; even if his intentions were entirely pure, he still felt like he was taking advantage of her. But…

Taking a deep breath, he just started talking to her as he slipped her wet T-shirt up over her head. “Hey, Aoko, what happened, anyway? It’s cold out there—why would you go running out there like that? You could have just called—did something happen?” It was mindless chatter, really, but it gave him something calming to focus on.

By now, he already had the loaner shirt over her head and was threading her second arm through the sleeve. She wasn’t helping him at all, but she also wasn’t resisting. He debated for a moment before slipping his hands under the back of her shirt; it only took a moment of fumbling with the clasp and a bit of maneuvering before he was able to pull the damp undergarment out through one sleeve.

One obstacle overcome.

Now came the more interesting part.

It was one of those rare moments in his life when Kaito hesitated. He did a quick once-over: the T-shirt was huge on her. Came down halfway to her knees. Would it be possible…yes, yes it would. Just had to be extremely careful.

It was definitely an exercise in caution, but finally the pajama pants were securely where they were supposed to be. Modesty and chastity remained intact. Kaito was proud of himself.

Now far more confident, he went about getting the sweatshirt over her head. He was also pleased to note that she seemed to be coming around a bit more. She was moving, and actively watching him. As he pulled her arm through the second sleeve, she reached towards him with that hand. “Kaito…”

“Hey, welcome back!” he cheered, stretching his other arm over to pluck the towel from the sink, where he’d left it earlier. He unfolded it and dropped it on her head without ceremony. “Was kinda worried that you might not be in there. Are you warming up at all?”

“Yes…” she nodded, causing the towel to bounce up and down. It tilted, suggesting that she was looking down, most likely at her new clothes. “Did you really…?” There was, surprisingly enough, no anger in the question, only curiosity.

“I did. Thought it might help you warm up. But I didn’t look!” he added quickly. A mop-chase was not something he wanted to do at this hour, especially given the circumstance.

“Okay.” That was all Aoko said. She wasn’t moving a lot, either; she just sat there and let him towel off her hair. It was rather unnerving, how passive she was being.

Kneeling next to her again, he slid the towel back from her face to sit on the top of her head. Her bangs were a damp mess, and her face was still so pale. “Aoko, what happened?” he asked, fingers absently brushing a stray strand of wet hair back from her forehead.

“I was scared,” she said honestly.

The storm outside chose that moment to raise its voice in a cacophony of thunder and lightning.

Aoko screamed at the sound of it and dove forward. Kaito instinctively caught her and sat back to keep them both from tumbling over backwards onto the tile floor. Neither budged; the only movement was the dark blue towel sliding the rest of the way from Aoko’s head to the floor.

“Aoko,” Kaito said quietly, “it’s been three months. Why are you still so afraid?”

She shook her head against his shoulder. Either she didn’t know, or she wouldn’t say.

His gaze drifted past her towards the tiny bathroom window; the look in his eyes grew distant with memory, and for a rare moment, his mask slipped away. “Maybe it’s the storm that does it.” He paused. “It was storming that night, too, wasn’t it?”

“It was,” she affirmed softly, not daring to move away from the safety of his arms. “I was having a nightmare about it, and the thunder woke me up, and…I just panicked. I didn’t even know what was the dream and what was reality. Next thing I know, I’m here with you.”

Thunder. Lightning. It was one hell of a storm.

And they’d been unlucky enough to get caught out in it.

Through the curtain of rain, Kaito could see the dark form, and knew instantly who it was and what it meant, though it was merely a silhouette in the storm. He saw the person raise an arm, holding something. Pointing something…

Behind him, he heard a questioning gasp.

Instinct kicked in, and he lunged to put himself between Aoko and the monster on the other side of the street as there was a loud crack that was definitely not thunder or any other part of the storm…


The storm raged again…and the bathroom lights flickered and went out.

“Crap,” Kaito cursed under his breath.

Still nestled under his chin, Aoko whimpered slightly. “I hate the dark.”

“Aoko, it’s been three months. You can let it go.”

“No, I can’t.”

In truth, Aoko felt like a fool. Running out like that in the middle of the night, only to fall over on his doorstep, all because of a stupid nightmare! He probably thought her a complete idiot…but it felt so nice to be with him like this, even if it was dark and storming so viciously.

Warm.

Safe.

And suddenly, she was very tired.

It had to be the storm. It had been storming that night, too…that had to be it.

Kaito shifted, and she found herself scooped up in strong arms. She let herself be carried along through the darkness with nary a protest, and then he lowered her gently to the bed. Were it anyone else, she would have panicked. But her body seemed to have gone numb, all energy gone.

Slender fingers again brushed damp hair back from her face. “I’ll be right back,” he whispered. “Just a minute.” The mattress shifted as his weight moved, and she watched his shadow move across the room to the door.

Kaito moved down the hall back the bathroom and set about reordering things. Wet clothes were draped over the bathtub for more effective drying, and the damp towel was used to mop up excess water before it, too, was hung up. He generally didn’t like to leave messes that like. With the power out, it was the best he could do.

He made one further detour, down to the kitchen. Upon retrieving the flashlight from a drawer there, he headed back towards the bedroom, where Aoko was still waiting. At least now they could have light until the power came back on. He wondered if perhaps she’d fallen asleep.

When he got back to his room, though, he found Aoko sitting on the edge of his bed, feet on the floor, turning something silvery over in her hands. She looked up as he entered, and held the item in question up for him to see, though he was already quite sure he knew what it was. “This was under your pillow,” she said, running one thumb slowly over the barrel of his card-gun. “You’re not over it either.”

He snorted. “I never said I was.”

“You keep telling me to let it go, though,” she replied with a sigh and a shake of the head, slipping the weapon back to its place under the pillow. She swung her bare feet back up onto the bed and curled up, pulling her knees up to her chest. “Hypocrite.” The word was not harsh, simply blunt.

Kaito was silent, then sighed quietly. “Perhaps.”

“You still don’t trust me.” It was a statement, not a question, laden with far more bitterness and sadness than should have ever come from one such as Aoko.

The rain stung as it washed over the new injury gracing his left shoulder; the water dripping down off his sleeves was dyed pink-red into the puddles on the soaked concrete. He ignored the ache, and focused on keeping Aoko behind him and the assailant as far away as possible.

And Aoko just kept saying his name. “Kaito! Kaito? Kaito…”

Meters away, another voice addressed him as well, but not by his own name. “TOICHI!”

What to do, what to do…

Yet beneath the ever-thinning mask of Poker Face, underneath that ever-growing well of inner panic, there was some cold, detached part of himself that swore that if that monster so much as laid a hand on Aoko, he would not be responsible for his actions…


Kaito didn’t respond, but strolled to her side and took a seat, cross-legged, on the bed by her feet before offering her the flashlight. “Here. It’s not much, but it’ll do until we get power back.” She accepted it as a starving woman would take bread, and he had to bite back a laugh at the way she clung to it.

It wasn’t much for light, but even the dim glow was enough to help break up some of the gloom. Aoko visibly relaxed with the introduction of the light, though she still jumped every time the storm raised its voice. But they sat in the silence for a while, listening to the rain falling.

The silence vanished when Kaito finally chuckled lightly.

“What?” Aoko asked, a bit surprised.

“I wish you could see yourself right now,” he smiled. “You’re so cute sometimes…and now you’re blushing.” He leaned back, bracing his weight against his hands, and gave her a Look. “Doesn’t hurt your cause any, though.”

It was the truth, though. She was still sitting with her knees pulled up to her chest and her arms wrapped around her legs, the flashlight clutched in one hand. Her slender form was swimming in clothes that were far too large for her, and her hair was all over the place—almost reminiscent of Kaito’s own gravity-defying mane. She looked like a little girl playing dress-up. It was incredibly endearing.

“Are you warm enough?” he asked. “Do you need anything else?”

Aoko shook her head fervently. “No, I’m all right. You’ve done plenty already.” One hand reached out to gently touch his left shoulder before she seemed to realize what she was doing and withdrew her arm immediately. Her gaze dropped; suddenly, she looked embarrassed. “I’m really sorry about all this, Kaito. You shouldn’t have to deal with my panic attacks like this.”

He reached out and patted her arm. “Hey, what’s a little lost sleep between friends?” She still looked so down, though. On a whim, Kaito scooted forward and reached out. “C’mere.”

Aoko hesitated for only a second before she acquiesced, leaning forward a little bit to let her head rest comfortably in the crook of his arm. “We’re okay now, aren’t we?” she asked softly. “Aren’t we?”

“Yeah, we’re okay now,” he nodded. His other hand moved to the back of her head and began gently combing through the damp tangles. That simple motion, combined with his warmth and the slow, steady beating of his heart near her ear, was soothing enough that Aoko felt herself begin to relax. The flashlight dropped from her fingers onto the bed as she began to slowly drift away…

Through the haze of encroaching sleep, she felt Kaito move, felt herself being leaned sideways while his fingers cradled the back of her neck, and then the pillow was under her head. In moments, gentle hands had pulled blankets around her for protection against the chill that seemed to be invading the room.

“Kaito?” she murmured his name without meaning to; her eyes stayed closed. She was cold again.

There was a brush of warm fingers against her skin, followed by the feather-light touch of a kiss on her forehead. “I trust you,” his voice said by her ear. He really was magic, wasn’t he?

With or without the damned monocle.

She caught his hand and refused to let go. If the nightmares came back…it was still storming out there. Aoko didn’t really want anything specific at that moment—she just wanted to not be alone then. The storm brought back that awful memory…

Kaito seemed to understand. He always did.

The bed shifted as she felt him move, and then arms slid around her from behind. Instinctively, she moved to give them both the most comfortable position. One arm around her waist, the other around her shoulders and neck, the backs of her knees against the front of his, his heart pounding against her back in a steady, constant rhythm.

“Don’t tell your dad about this, okay?” Kaito whispered against the back of her neck; his breath tickled. “I really don’t need him to be coming after me with a shotgun. So…please? Our little secret?”

Aoko pushed sleep away long enough to nod before she once again let herself be lost to sleep, to the night, and to the warmth and comfort of Kaito’s caring arms.

Outside, the storm continued to rage. Yet they slept peacefully.

No more nightmares.




PS. After the angst of the last one, the plunnies demanded ambiguous fluff…and lo, there was ambiguous fluff! I’ve had this scene in my head forever and a day—it had to get written with someone or I was going to go crazy. And my Kaito hand-puppet asked, so he and Aoko got the scene!

But with this story, I’ve finished one-eighth of the Nights challenge! No, I don’t have a life, why do you ask? Thanks bunches for reading, everyone. Much love!