like a fish out of water [Idiom]: Completely unfamiliar with one's surroundings or activity.
-Dictionary.com


Fish out of Water
By Icka! M. Chif


To say Kuroba Kaito hated fish was an understatement.

He loathed fish. He abhorred fish. He despised fish.

He ran screaming and crying like a little girl at the sight of fish.

A fact that cheered Nakamori Aoko to no end. For years Kaito had been smarter, faster and more agile than her, escaping punishment from the pranks and tricks he pulled on her on a regular basis. Learning his particularly odd secret had levelled the playing field considerably.

Not to mention giving her an opening to tease back.

It was amazing how many fish puns one could throw into conversation. The occasional fishie pens and erasers meant she didn't have to worry about her school supplies being borrowed for tricks.

And who ever invented fish patterned underwear was a genius.

Of course, she didn't do it -all- the time. That'd be cruel. She just when he was being a major pain in her neck.

Like for the past week.

She was actually a very big fan of his magic tricks, but sometimes he just showed a complete and absolute disregard for knowing when to -stop-.

Which was why it was up to her to teach him when it was time to stop.

Today's lesson included a broom, a fighting fish in a small clear plastic container that someone had left to brighten up the classroom and Kaito bouncing like a Mexican Jumping Bean around he empty classroom that they were supposed to be cleaning up after hours with her hot on his tail.

At least, it was supposed to be empty. All the desks had been pushed to the front of the room so that they could clean the floor in relative ease. And for the most part, the clean floor was empty.

Except for the mop she had dropped earlier in her rage.

"Ahhh!!" She tripped, the container of water and the fish going flying as the mop skidded across the floor. Kaito let out a yelp as the fish smacked him in the face, wiggled for a moment, then flip-flopped into his shirt.

Aoko stared from her sprawled position on the ground. Kaito stared back at her, his eyes the size of dinner plates.

::RIIIIIIIIIIIPPPPPPP!::

She screamed, scooting backwards as a large glittering blue fish tail suddenly flopped a few feet from her face.

There was a meaty thud Kaito collapsed to the ground, his uniform in tattered rags around him, the small fish miraculously flipping out of the remains of his clothing and into his container of water, safely nestled in the rag end of the mop.

Her eyes followed the tail, which varied from the large almost midnight blue scales on the back to the smaller pale blue grey scales on his front. Her gaze travelled up past the twitching translucent fins where his hips should have been, past the gills fluttering on his ribcage, up his almost human like torso and into his wide violet eyes, still slightly covered by a mop of messy brown hair and crowned by a pair of graceful fins on either side of his face where his ears should have been.

His eyes stared back to hers as he made a gasping sound, out of shock or fear, she couldn't tell.

Then he put one hand up to his throat, his mouth opening and closing in time to the movement of the gills on his sides, looking much like a stranded fish out of water.

Fish needed water to breathe.

Kaito was a fish.

Kaito needed water.

She let out a panicked high pitch scream. She was killing her best friend!!!

In a panic, she tossed Kaito over her shoulder like an overly large sack of potatoes and took off running towards the nearest body of water she could think of-

-The school pool.

***

Fortunately she remembered part way there that chlorine would kill a fish, and instead dashed to the creek that ran along side the backside of the school, filled with fresh rain water. Probably not the cleanest, but far better than the pool. There was an inlet a few feet deep beside one of the trees, just long enough for him to lie in before it curved back out to meet the current, completely out of view unless you went down to the bank. She set him down in the water and waited, his still body floating in the crystal water like Snow White in her glass coffin.

With him still like this, it gave her a chance to examine this new face of her friend. It was still unmistakably Kaito, but... different. Not bad, but definitely... what was the word she was looking for? Exotic. Definitely exotic. Like something that had fallen out of a fairey tale.

The more human looking parts of him weren't that bad either. She didn't get to see Kaito outside of the school uniforms or jeans and a tee shirt and it was kind of nice to check him out. He had a nice body, even if from the waist down was obscured by the fish tail.

She paused, shaking her head to derail that train of thought.

No, she wasn't ogling her best friends body, which if you didn't count the scales, was technically naked. And she wasn't blushing. Definitely not blushing. It was a bit warm in the sun, that's why her face was hot. Yeah, that's why...

His tail swayed a bit, and under the slow flow of the water, his eyelids fluttering in a such way that would have made him the envy of many a flirtatious girl, had they seen him. There was a slight pause as his indigo eyes opened and looked into hers, then he thrashed, looking like he was attempting to run, forgetting that he had no legs.

"Kaito!" She snapped as he inadvertently splashed her with water. "If you don't stop getting me wet I'm gonna hit you!"

Okay, so her bedside manner probably wasn't the best, but it was efficient. And she didn't have her mop handy to knock some sense into him.

It worked. He comically froze, having flipped over on his belly, the only things sticking out of the water was a pair of wide violet eyes, his reddish-brown mop of messy hair (still somehow defying gravity despite the fact that it was dripping wet) and a semi transparent blue dorsal fin that raised and lowered in time to his breathing.

She crossed her arms and glared at him with all the half soaked dignity that she could muster. "I swear, you're acting more afraid of me than I should be of you."

He blinked, drifted forward slightly, looking puzzled. "You... you're not... afraid?"

His voice echoed strangely in her head, as if she hadn't -heard- it with her ears, but still had heard it. It took a second for this to fall together with a very important fact.

You can't talk clearly underwater. Even if you are a magician.

"I-I can hear you in my head!" She gasped, staring at him wide-eyed in surprise.

Kaito shot her an exasperated look, fear and surprise replaced by vague annoyance. "It's called 'Telepathy', stupid. How else are you supposed to talk underwater? Sign language?"

Her jaw snapped shut, the sudden new shock replaced by familiar anger and irritation as she growled. A stray thought hit, making her eyes widen again. If he could speak directly into her mind, could he tell what she was thinking?

"Oh, relax." Kaito looked distinctly grumpy. "I'm not a mind reader, I can't hear what you're thinking."

There was a slight pause, then an almost muttered "Except when you think really really loud..." in the back of her head that she got the feeling she wasn't supposed to have 'heard'.

She opened her mouth to snap at him for it when it dawned on her that if she said nothing about it, she might 'hear' more. So she asked a different question instead. It was a useful trick that worked well around her father. "So... how..."

He looked irritated, blowing a few bubbles through his mouth in frustration. "I suppose you're gonna pester me until I tell you anyway..."

"Exactly." Aoko shot him a stubborn look. "And I think it's only right, considering that I just saved your life."

"SAVED my life?!" He looked at her incredulously. "You're the one who nearly killed me in the first place!"

"Well how was I supposed to know?!" She snapped back. "You never tell me anything!"

"I don't suppose the rather obvious avoidance of FISH might have tipped you off." His tone was so dry it made the Sahara Desert look like a rain forest in comparison. She glared in return.

They sat in stubborn silence for a minute, each glaring at each other like they had a million times in the past.

Kaito capitulated first. "Fine." He sulked.

She nodded, shifting her legs to the side in a more comfortable casual pose.

"You know those stories about mer-people who shed their fins to walk among humans occasionally?" He started, looking away reluctantly.

She nodded.

"Well, that was Mom's Great Great Great, I don't know how many times 'Great' Grandmother and Grandfather. Great Grandpa was fishermen who stole her veil so that she couldn't turn back into a mermaid and return to the sea and tricked her into marrying him. Great Grandma wasn't exactly pleased to be married to someone who made a living killing her cousins-"

"Cousins?" She interjected.

"Fish." He clarified, looking somewhat less than pleased at the interruption. Usually he almost welcomed a chance to expound upon a story. "So she passed a bit of a gift/curse to her sons, and her children's sons, and their sons."

"Which would be where you come in."

"Right." He nodded. "Mom came from a long line of daughters on that side, so she didn't think it would happen, but if any of the males of that side touch a fish, well..." His tail flipped up, sending a spray of water into the air.

"Why would she do that?" Aoko asked. "If your Great Grandfather was a fisherman, wouldn't that be a help?"

"How do you feel about cannibalism?" He grumped.

"Oh." If he was part fish, that would make him related to fish, wouldn't it? No wonder he didn't like the smell of cooking fish, it'd be like watching a family member getting roasted. "Ew."

"Exactly." He blew a few more bubbles, glaring past her shoulder the entire time. She could catch little snippets of what sounded like muttered cursing in the back of her head, now that she was 'listening' for it.

"Okay, that explains why you don't -like- fish, but that doesn't explain why you completely freak out at just the sight of them." She pointed out logically.

He grumbled some more, shifting around in the water. The fins and tail may have been suited for the water, but he didn't quite seem to know what to do with his arms. It wasn't like he could play with a deck of cards or some minor trick like he normally did to occupy his hands when he was nervous.

"I'll tell you, but I don't want anyone else hearing about it, okay? And no teasing either." He muttered darkly.

Aoko crossed her arms. "Oh, yes." She said sarcastically. "Once I worm all your little dark secrets from you, I'm gonna go running around the school shouting them at the top of my lungs."

Sarcasm was a wonderful art she had learned from him. It was only right to thank him with it.

This time he actually looked at her when he glared. She figured that counted as an improvement. She smiled back, wiggling her fingers at him in a cheerful wave. He wrinkled his nose back at her. Aoko didn't mind, she'd successfully temporarily distracted him, which was a minor victory in her book.

His tail splashed around again. "When I was really little, before I met you, I fell into one of those goldfish tanks at a festival. You know, the ones where you try to scoop a fish out with the paper net?" He looked away again as she nodded.

"It's silly now, but at the time, I was just barely small enough to fit into the tank, and then there were all the fish in there too... and there was no way out of there either."

Kaito hated to be trapped, always had been ever since she'd known him. He preferred to be moving around. To be penned up in a small space, with no way out and pressed in on all sides by a bunch of goldfish must have been a nightmare for him as a small kid.

He shrugged, causing his scales to ripping in interesting ways. "Dad got me out and to a local koi pond, making it seem like a big magic trick. Mom says that I normally avoided fish to begin with, but after that..."

"You run screaming for mommy."

"Do not!" Kaito retorted. A muttered commented added with a great deal of dignity: "I just get the hell away from them."

She laughed as he sulked. Sensing this wasn't one of his normal funks, she dipped her fingertips in the water and splashed him with a few drops. "Geez, you're grumpy. What's wrong? I'm not going to tell anyone, if that's what you're worried about."

He gave her a flat-eyed glare. "Aoko, what do I really really detest being around?"

"Fish."

"Where do fish live?"

"In the water"

"Where am I?"

"In the wa, ohh..."

"Yeah."

She felt kind of stupid, but that was probably his intention. "So how long before you, ah, change back?"

He sulked, a mental grumbling coming from him. "Low tide."

"Low tide?"

"Yeah, something about the moons pull on water or something. I don't know." He didn't exactly looked pleased about it.

"Kaito..." She leaned forward so that they were almost nose to underwater nose. "Don't tell me you're scared of your fishie self."

"I am not!" He shot back, indignant. "I just don't like it all that much."

"Why not?"

"Aoko?" He gave her another one of those 'duh' looks.

"Yeah?"

"Where are my clothes?"

"Uh..." Aoko paused, sitting up again. "On the classroom floor." She couldn't help but to helpfully add: "In itty bitty pieces."

"The low tide is probably in about an hour. What do you think happens then?"

"... oh." She sat up and blushed, desperately trying to think of something to say other than 'We get a free show'. He'd change back to his normal self, without the modesty the scales provided. And still have to get home somehow.

Fortunately, her blushing seemed to be enough of an answer for Kaito, who nodded, looking even more uncomfortable than he had before. She couldn't quite tell if he was blushing or not, the blue of his face did a good job camouflaging it if he was.

"That's no problem." She dismissed it. "All I have to do is grab some clothes from your house and come back here before you change and we can head home, right?"

He stared at her as if he'd never seen her before. "... you're really okay with this, aren't you?"

She shrugged, rising to her feet and brushing the grass off her skirt. "Well, it is kind of my fault that you're currently in this situation, so it's only fair I should help you get out of it." At least that's what her father always told her. "And what are friends for, besides getting each other in and out of trouble?"

"Alright." He lifted his head out of the water to flash her a grin. "Maybe we can pick up some ice cream on the way home-?"

"Chocolate?" It was more of a statement than a question, but one that still made her smile.

"Of course!" He waved. "See you soon!"

She waved back and started walking, a muttered comment from him following her, about hoping that she was this comfortable with what he had inherited from his father's side of the family...

-Fin-

Of course, he's talking about the Kaitou Kid there...

Many many thanks and glomps to Becky Tailweaver for late night brainstorming over this story and mermaid anatomy. The telepathy idea was all hers.

Ysabet's the one who put the idea of Aoko ogling mer-Kaito into the Voices' heads. Many thanks for 'Ichthyphilia' as the title, even if it got changed at the last moment. ((GLOMPS!))

Thanks also to Paghan for sending us into paroxysms of laughter after telling her about the low tide idea. Something along the lines of: "Picture it: Naked Kaito stranded waaaay up on a beach. Can't you just see it, he grabs the nearest thing handy to cover himself, some seaweed, wraps it around and gets a case of crabs! CRABS!"

Really, this was supposed to be about fishie Kaito, not nekkid Kaito. #^^# It just happened...