Title: Astraphobia

Author: Sarah (surrendersomething)

Rating: I'd say T. But it's a guess. Nothing too bad.

Pairing: Kirsten & Sandy

Spoilers: nothing really specific. Little line stealing in here from The Ties That Bind (cookies for those who can pick it out, hehe), but it doesn't really mention any events. Set in a time when the Kirsten & Sandy were happy, however.

Disclaimer: yada yada ding ding ding! Well done, I own nothing!

Notes: this one's been coming for a verrrrry long time. But it's taken me a damn good while to finish. So yes. Much fluffiness ensues, so enjoy. Sections in italics are flashbacks; and muchos thanks to Anna for reading through :o)

Astraphobia

The rain pummelled against the windscreen, and Sandy leant forward a little in a futile attempt to improve his vision – rain in Newport really was a force to be reckoned with, and he didn't want to learn that the hard way. Besides, he could tell there was a storm coming, which only increased his hurry. Contending with thunder and lightening and keeping control of the car was no easy task, not to mention his need to be at home.

Soon.

"… so the figures suggest that the projected income would be substantially reduced by… Sandy, are you even listening?" Matt's voice broke into his thoughts, and he offered him a brief, sheepish glance.

"Sorry, Matt. I was just… concentrating on the road, and-" he was cut off, by the shrill ring of his cell. Smiling an apology, he glanced at the screen before clipping on his earpiece and pressing answer. "Baby, you okay?"

"Are you on your way home?" she asked instantly; worry seeping through the phone line as he pictured her death grip on the phone.

"Ah, honey, you know I'll be there as soon as I can. This weather's a bitch to drive in. We're almost at the office though-"

"We?"

"Matt and I."

"Oh… 'kay," she murmured restlessly, and a brief smile crossed his lips as he waited for her next words. "I just… I need you to come home Sandy. Really need you to come home." Her words came out in a tumble, and he shook his head affectionately.

"As quick as I can. I promise. Have I ever let you down on this before?"

"Noooooo…" she replied reluctantly, and he heard her deep intake of breath as she attempted to calm herself down.

"Just sit tight. The boys are there, right?" he asked, waiting for her affirmative answer before continuing. "Have them stay in the house and the three of you can have some Cohen family time."

"They're playing videogames…"

"So go spectate. Seth'll understand, and you know our chatterbox of a son will probably have already told Ryan what to expect. I'll be there as soon as I can," he reiterated firmly, a smile crossing his face at her whispered endearment. "Love you too, baby." Hanging up, he turned to Matt. "Sorry about that."

"Kirsten okay?" the younger man asked, having taken an instant liking to Sandy's wife on the few occasions they'd met, and also having picked up on the tension in what he'd heard of their conversation.

"She's a little on edge," Sandy replied, going quiet for a moment as he negotiated his way towards the Newport Group. "She, uh… doesn't exactly like storms much."

"Oh, right…"

"Mmm. Goes way back, to when she was a kid. I just… really need to be at home ten minutes ago."

---

The television quietly played out the plot of yet another pointless late-night movie as he waited for her to get home. The clock ticked slowly around towards midnight; and although he knew there was every chance she'd have returned to her own dorm room for the night, he knew the reality was that he'd soon hear her key in the door to the poky flat he and Paul shared.

Sure enough, mere seconds later he heard the door open and then slam soundly as she made her presence known. Having noted the pouring rain, he wasn't expecting her to be in the best of moods, and thanked god that Paul had taken his own girlfriend out of town for the weekend.

After a prolonged moment of silence, he forced himself to twist round from his comfortable position on the couch, and was greeted by a sight that he found amazingly endearing… not that he'd ever mention that to her.

She stood in the doorway, hands on her hips. Her hair was plastered to her face, clothes clinging to her body in what appeared to him to be all the right places as the water literally dripped from her, forming a puddle around her feet.

"Oh baby," he chuckled softly, lifting himself to his feet and retrieving a towel from the pile he'd grabbed as soon as the rain had started.

"It's not funny, Sandy!" she muttered, failing to keep the smirk from her lips as he wrapped the towel around her shoulders, leaning in to kiss her lips quickly.

"Not even a little?" he queried, receiving a smack on the shoulder as her only response. "Okay. Not funny at all. So, in the unfunniest way possible," he continued, reaching for another towel and rubbing her hair gently, "would you like to take a shower? Not that you need to get any wetter or anything, but you're freezing."

"Ha… ha," she muttered dryly, rolling her eyes affectionately as he kissed her cheek. "A shower sounds good though," she added as he walked into the bathroom. "Nice and hot!"

"Just get those clothes off!" he called out, grinning as he heard her giggle.

"You're lucky I love you enough to put up with your appalling sense of humour," she pointed out minutes later, walking into the bathroom wrapped simply in the towel he'd wrapped around her shoulders. She giggled once more as he moved mock-threateningly towards her, amazed at how the mere sight of him had managed to drag her out of her bad mood.

"You're just lucky I love you full stop," he quipped, fingers trailing around the top of her towel as he pulled her in for another kiss. "How was work?" he asked eventually, smiling as she buried her face in his shoulder.

"Long. Tiring… you know," she murmured, pulling away from him eventually to turn towards the shower.

"Take your time," he offered, one hand on the door handle. "I'll put your clothes in to dry, put some coffee on… and you never know, you might just get a massage if you're good…"

"Love you!" she called out, and he smiled at the satisfied sigh that followed moments later. "How do you always get the perfect temperature?"

"Luck!" he called back, picking up her discarded clothing and depositing it in the dryer, just as the first crack of thunder echoed through the flat. Walking over to the window, he watched as the lightening tore through the sky moments later, shrugging his shoulders slightly before turning back to make some coffee. Humming to himself as he moved around the kitchen, he failed to notice her presence in the doorway, until his attention was drawn to her huddled, towel-clad figure as she whimpered slightly at the next roll of thunder. "Kirsten?" he asked softly, moving just in time to catch her as the flash of lightening caused her to slam herself into his arms, shaking violently.

"Hey. Heyyy, it's okay," he whispered, one hand sliding up her back to hold her close. "What's wrong?"

"Promise you won't laugh?" she asked shakily, glancing up for his confirming nod. "I hate thunderstorms. And not your average 'oh, they creep me out' type hating. I'm talking panic attacks, getting no sleep, stressful type of hating. And that's on a good night…and I'm rambling and it makes me sound really stupid, and-" she cut herself off with a shriek as the thunder crashed slightly louder than the previous time, and his only response was to hold her a little closer as she waited tensely for the bright streak of lightening.

And as they stood there in the middle of the tiny kitchen, he realised that every little thing he learnt about her just made him love her that little bit more.

"Say something," she whispered eventually, and as he met her wide-eyed stare, he was shocked by a vulnerability he'd never witnessed there before as she added, "you're making me nervous."

"I think you're managing that all by yourself, baby," he commented, running his fingers through her hair gently as she laughed weakly. "How about you go put some clothes on, and then we'll wait this thing out?"

"'kay," she whispered eventually, but as he went to release her she instantly grabbed hold of his hand, not moving an inch.

"So you expect me to dress you as well?" he teased gently, shaking his head slightly as her eyes seemed to fill with tears. "It was a joke, baby," he whispered apologetically, before pushing her gently in the direction of the bedroom.

He was right behind her with the next crash of thunder, and by the time the lightening flashed, his arms were tight around her waist.

They both knew his protective streak was setting in, and she'd never appreciated it more.

"I left my pyjamas in the bathroom," she commented eventually, once they were both seated on the bed. He nodded, gently extricating his hand from hers with promises that he'd be right back. But as he lifted the soft cotton off the counter, there was a simultaneous crash of thunder and lightening, and he hurried back to the bedroom to find her huddled against the headboard, towel dropped in favour of clutching the duvet around her, and as he took a seat on the edge of the bed, he found there were tears trailing their way down her cheeks.

"Come here," he murmured softly, gathering both her and the covers into his arms, wiping her tears away with a gentle brush of his fingertips.

"… think… I'm stupid…" she mumbled into his chest, snaking her arms slowly around his waist as he kissed her forehead gently. Just as she started to relax a little, the thunder crashed around them again, and he felt her breath hitch in her chest, wrapping his arms around her tighter as the lightening flashed an eerie white glow around the room. Feeling her shallow attempts for breath, he realised she hadn't been exaggerating with her earlier description of her fear.

"Relax, baby," he whispered, rubbing her back gently and pulling away slightly to look at her. "Just breathe nice and slowly… that's it," he encouraged, making her lean forward and resting a hand on her back again as her breathing began to return to normal. "Okay?" he asked, turning her to face him as she took large gulping breaths. "Oh baby, come here…"

"Sorry," she whispered, moving somewhat stiffly back into his arms. "I just, I can't…"

"Stop apologising," he interrupted firmly, kissing her soundly as if to seal his statement. "I'm not going to say it's only the weather, or that it can't hurt you, because I know that won't do you any good… but how about we wait it out together?"

---

"It's not really irrational," she commented a while later, wrapped securely in both his arms and a blanket, with her legs draped over his own as they attempted to make the best use of the tiny sofa. "The whole fear thing," she elaborated eventually, waving a hand in the direction of the window and jumping slightly at the rumble of thunder that answered – fainter than before, but still audible. He tightened his arm around her in response, linking the fingers of his free hand between hers. "I was five…" she began, interrupted by his soft chuckle.

"Bet you were an adorable five-year-old," he chipped in, kissing her quickly before tugging her back against him.

"I was five," she repeated patiently, offering him a slightly weak smile. "We'd just moved into a new house and well… you know the size of Caleb Nichol's 'houses'. There was the most terrific storm one night, and I was trying to find my way to my parents' room… but I managed to get myself lost and ended up wandering through the corridors for ages before anyone found me. According to my mom, I was huddled against a wall crying my eyes out because I thought everyone had left me." She stopped and shrugged slightly, leaning into him a little more. "Since then, it's like I can't control it. I'm just… instinctively scared."

"Well I guess we'll just have to work with it," he told her softly, bringing his hand up to run through her hair lightly. "I think I could deal with you being all needy every so often," he added, getting a weak laugh from her.

"My dad told me it was a stupid thing to be scared of – that if I was going to be that weak, I should at least pick something decent to be scared of," she added eventually, watching him bite back a scathing comment. "I guess I just… expect everyone to react like that," she finished in a rush, cuddling back into his arms.

"And I'll just have to work on changing that," he countered smoothly, adjusting his arms in response to her movement.

"Already have," she replied, tipping her head up slightly to meet his lips.

---

He entered the house with a considerable amount of noise; soaked even after his efforts to keep his exposure to the elements as short as possible. Making his way through the remarkably quiet house, he found his family mere seconds after an almighty crash of thunder - Kirsten, curled up in one corner of the sofa looking decidedly scared; Seth sprawled across the remaining space with a hand resting on his mother's arm; and Ryan twisted round from his position on the floor, a concerned look on his face as their videogame played on, abandoned.

"Sandy," his foster son was the first to spot him, and the look of relief across his face was clear. Kirsten was a notoriously strong woman, and to see her terrified had to be a strange experience.

"Dad!" Seth exclaimed happily, about to somewhat futilely point out his arrival to his mother; but before he could even open his mouth again, she was up and halfway towards slamming into his arms.

"Honey I'm soaki... okay. Doesn't matter," he ended up mumbling into her hair, wrapping an arm around her and guiding her back into the kitchen, to give them a little privacy. He could hear Seth challenging Ryan to a rematch, before turning his attention back to his wife, who was shaking in his arms. "Kirsten?" he asked softly, placing a finger under her chin and waiting until she lifted her eyes to his. "I'm sorry I'm late," he murmured softly, leaning in to drop a light kiss on her lips.

"You're here now…" she whispered softly, before jumping into his arms as the thunder crashed once again.

"I've got to take a shower honey, get out of these wet clothes. How about you come through to the bedroom, keep me company?" he asked, kissing her forehead gently before taking her hand. She nodded gratefully, and he leant into the family room. "Boys, you'll be okay for a while?"

"Sure thing Dad," Seth replied automatically, without even looking up from their game. Ryan glanced round and nodded at Sandy.

"And make sure the two of you stay inside, at least for the time being," Sandy added.

"I don't think we'll be going anywhere," Ryan replied dryly, nodding at Seth and looking pleased when he got a faint smile from Kirsten. As Sandy led her towards their room, they could hear Seth gloating over some victory or another, and she rested her head on his shoulder, glad to be away from their game.

"My head's throbbing," she offered eventually, leaning against him, smiling briefly as he kissed her forehead. "The boys were brilliant, but that game and the thunder…"

"Seth can get rather… over-enthusiastic?" he ventured, smiling.

"I think that's an understatement," she offered, clinging onto him suddenly when the thunder rumbled. With the bright flash of lightening mere seconds later, his arms were tightly around her waist again in a well-practised move; all thoughts of wet clothing well and truly forgotten.

It was only when she started shivering that the practical side of him kicked in.

"Why don't you get out of those wet clothes baby, and I'll go shower quickly?" he asked gently, leading her over to the bed. She sat down slowly, lifting wide eyes up to meet his and nodding hesitantly. "I'll be as quick as I can," he assured her, leaning down to press a quick kiss to her lips before turning in the direction of the bathroom.

He got as far as turning the shower to hot, and removing his suit jacket and tie before another roll of thunder brought her to the doorway.

"Ah, so I can't even shower alone these days!" he offered teasingly, smile fading when he noticed the fear in her eyes. "Close the door," he offered softly, pulling her in a little further. "At least give us some privacy." She smiled gratefully, leaning tensely against the sink and watching as he removed the remainder of his clothes, stepping into the shower with a contented sigh. "You know, honey, its days like these that I can actually appreciate your need to have the shower this hot…" he called out, nearly jumping out of his skin when he felt bare arms wrap around his waist; and the soft, familiar swish of her hair against his back. "Jeeesus honey, you scared the hell out of me…" he breathed, turning around and instantly regretting his words when he noticed the hot tears on her cheeks as each terrifying roar of thunder got closer and closer together.

"I can't… I just…" she whispered,

"It's okay," he murmured, touching a finger to her lips. "I'd never complain about a beautiful woman in my shower, even if she is crying," he added with a smile, sliding his arms around her waist and pulling her towards him as she managed a weak laugh.

"You're lucky I love you enough…"

"…to put up with my appalling sense of humour? I know," he finished with a smile, as she sniffled slightly. "Come here," he offered eventually, guiding them both under the stream of water and smiling slightly as he felt her relax a little. "This might be a technique I'll have to remember," he offered teasingly as her arms wound around his neck. "Something to add to my list of the few ways to relax Kirsten Cohen," he added, resting his cheek against her hair.

"Whatever works…" she offered softly, knowing that she could've stayed in his gently rocking arms forever, and wasn't going to be offering arguments any time soon.

---

Her attempts to stretch subtly without awakening a dozing Sandy failed, and as she reached up to run a hand gently through his hair he blinked rapidly, inadvertently tightening his hold on her. The boys had sloped off to their rooms hours ago, as soon as the thunder quietened to a dull roar – Seth to his own bedroom, and Ryan to one of the guest bedrooms at Kirsten's forceful insistence. However she and Sandy had stayed sprawled on the sofa, as had been tradition ever since that very first night when they'd talked until the rain stopped falling.

Some nights they talked. Talked about anything, everything. But some nights, like this one, they lapsed into a silence that could only come from spending so many years in the company of the same person.

They didn't need words – just the feel of his arms, or her lips was enough.

"Sorry, baby. Didn't mean to wake you," she murmured, reaching up a little to accept the sleepily affectionate kiss he dropped on her lips.

"No worries," he offered softly, leaning down to kiss her again before glancing over his shoulder to the window. "Hey, it's stopped raining completely now honey," he pointed out, smiling as she craned her neck to see out of the window.

"Good," she offered whole-heartedly, punctuating the word with another kiss before settling back into his arms. "Sandy?" she murmured eventually, shifting a little to look up at him. He smiled, brushing a strand of hair off her face.

"Oh, so now you're feeling talkative?" he questioned teasingly, bringing his hand down to rub her shoulder gently.

"I just… never really thank you, for this," she said thoughtfully, gesturing to them. "I get so caught up in the… neediness, I guess; that I forget…" He smiled, dropping a kiss on the only part of her face he could comfortably reach – her nose. A soft giggle escaped her lips before she snuggled into his arms, weaving her fingers between his where they rested on her stomach. "But seriously… I don't know how I'd cope if you weren't here," she added, turning her face into his neck and breathing deeply.

"You don't have to thank me, it's what I'm here for," he said softly. "Besides… it's the one time you really are a hugger, and trust me honey I'm not passing up the chance to cuddle with you," he added, feeling rather than hearing the chuckle that escaped her.

"Ruin the moment," she muttered in amusement, lifting her head to kiss him quickly.

"Aside from the fact that I hate seeing you so scared, I like it. You're always particularly affectionate, you know... mmm, like that," he added, between the quick kisses she dropped on his lips.

"Are you implying that… I'm not… usually?" she queried, a smile crossing her lips as he pulled her closer.

"Did I mention that I also get to play the big strong protector, too?" he asked, cleverly dodging the question.

"My hero," she muttered dryly, raising an eyebrow at him. "And nice dodge, too," she added affectionately.

"I aim to please," he countered, pulling back against his chest as they lapsed into silence again, punctuated only by her occasional yawn. It was only when he noticed her eyelids fluttering slowly shut several minutes later that he moved, receiving an irritated moan from her as he gently pushed her upright. "Baby you don't want to fall asleep on the sofa, trust me. Because I won't carry you…" he told her softly, lifting her up and smiling as she wound her arms around his neck sleepily.

"Love you…" she murmured, pressing her lips to his neck as they made their way to the bedroom. Crawling into bed instantly, she burrowed under the covers, a sleepy smile crossing her face as she felt his side of the bed dip… and soon after, a warm arm around her waist.

There was nothing like falling into bed with her husband, even if it did follow an evening of cowering in his arms.

And if he held her just that little bit tighter, she wasn't going to complain.

fin.