The sounds of the night were muted by a gentle patter of rain, over which nothing of the outside world could be heard but a distant rumble of thunder. Even though it wasn't even sunset yet, the sky was dark and getting darker. Everyone had all their lights going, trying to drive away the shadows as they'd drive a chill with fire. The streetlights outside could manage nothing more than a hazy glow, ghostly in the wet darkness, but the inside of Miyako's room was a haven of warmth and comfort. Her love of bright colors was emphasized by the fact that all her lamps were lit, making the room even brighter than usual. Her stereo was on, too, its music drowning out the grim thunder noises. She hummed along cheerfully as she tapped away at her computer, oblivious to everything but her latest project.
"What are you doing in there?" her mother called. "You can't get your homework done with all that noise!"
"It helps me concentrate," Miyako called back.
"Concentrate on what?" asked Poromon, fluttering to her side. The music of choice tonight was a series of romantic songs by her favorite pop idols.
"Oh, um.... nothing!"
"Why do you need to concentrate on nothing?" the little bird replied. "Come on! Let me look! What are you doing?"
"Just typing. It wouldn't interest you," said Miyako. She put her hands over the screen. "Go on, scat!"
"You're no fun," Poromon pouted. He fluttered over to her bed and curled himself into a pillow of pink feathers.
"Just because you're my partner doesn't mean I don't get some privacy sometimes," Miyako replied, and went back to her typing. She had finished her homework a long time ago - she'd finished most of it during her spare time at school - but she wasn't going to tell her family that when the idea of her getting work done kept them all out of her room. She was letting her creative side loose now, in the form of a novel she'd been working on for the last few months. She wasn't sure how good it was, but she had the idea that as long as she was going to be fantasizing, she might as well get something constructive out of it. She sure wasn't getting anything done in real life.
*It's not fair,* she mused, pausing in the middle of a paragraph. *It's not like I'm ugly or anything. I'm pretty enough. I'm smart. I'm fun to be around. It's not like I haven't been looking, and it's not like there's a shortage of single guys. Most of the guys I know are single! I wonder what the problem is?*
Even as she was pondering this, there was a clap of thunder loud enough to be heard even over her stereo, and then a flash of lightning that rivaled the lighting in her room. Then all the lights went out, leaving her in a dark, silent box. She sat for a moment, surprised and blinded by the sudden darkness. Now that everything was quiet, she was acutely aware of the sound of the wind and rain outside.
"Power outage!" her brother shouted from another room. "Everyone okay?"
There was muttering from somewhere else; it sounded as if one of her sisters had been trying to take a shower and was not at all pleased to be interrupted.
"Oh, great," Miyako moaned, pressing her face into her hands. "I hadn't saved!"
With a sigh, she crept out of her room - carefully; there weren't even streetlights now to illuminate things, and the daylight was fading fast. She found her mother, Mantarou, and Chizuru sharing the sofa, while her father was prowling around, tripping over and bumping into things in the dark.
"Now, where did I put that flashlight?" he muttered, feeling around inside a cupboard.
"Can't find it when you need it, won't need it when you find it," said Mantarou philosophically. "I don't see why we can't just chill here in the dark for a while. It's not like we were doing anything important, right?"
"I was doing something important," said Momoe, stepping into the room. She was just a dim outline in the grey darkness, but Miyako could make out that her sister was draped in a fuzzy bathrobe, and a towel was curled on her head. "I can't even dry my hair! I'm going to catch cold."
"You aren't going to catch cold," said her father. "Owch!" He had just tried to stand up too quickly after looking into a cupboard and banged his head.
"This is ridiculous," said Chizuru. "I had things I wanted to do today. I can't get anything done if I can't even see my hand in front of my face."
"You don't need to paint your nails again," said Mantarou. "That nail polish of yours stinks up the whole house."
Miyako went to stand by the window. She could just make out the rain, more because it was moving than because it really showed up against the foggy night.
"It looks like all the other lights around here are out, too," she commented. "There must have been a major breakdown somewhere. Looks like we're going to be stuck in the dark for a while."
"Great," said Momoe, dropping next to her sister. "That means we could be waiting for hours!"
"Found it!" their father announced. He came into the living room, waving a flashlight around.
"Why don't you turn it on?" Chizuru muttered.
"Oh. Yeah." Blushing so that he nearly glowed in the dark, Mr. Inoue flicked the switch a few times. Other than a few clicks, there was no reaction. "Looks like it's dead. Do you think the bulb is broken?"
"Great," Momoe muttered. "Now we really are stuck. Anybody got any candles?"
Chizuru shook her head. "Used them all already."
"Used them?" Mrs. Inoue asked. "What for?"
"Aromatherapy!" answered Chizuru. "It's good for you!"
"Maybe someone else has some?" Miyako suggested.
"Like who?" Momoe asked. "Everyone else is going to want their own to use themselves."
"Well, I do have friends in this building," said Miyako. "I'm sure I can talk someone out of a candle or a flashlight or something... or maybe I'll just go and hang out with them."
"Fine. Be that way," said Momoe.
Mr. Inoue sighed. "I'm going to look for some batteries... if I can do it without killing myself."
"I'm going upstairs to see if Takeru's family is better off than us," Miyako said. "I'll come back if the lights ever come on."
"Are you sure you're going to be all right?" asked her mother worriedly. "It's so dark out there - you have no idea what kind of people could be lurking around..."
"Oh, honestly, Mom," said Miyako. "It's not like I'm a little kid. I can take care of myself. If anyone's out there, they're probably just looking for light like the rest of us. Besides, it's the same people out there who are there when the lights are on."
"Let her go," said Mantarou. "She's right, mom, she's not a little kid. Shoot, I wouldn't want to mess with her in the dark!"
"Well... all right," Mrs. Inoue said. "But come back as soon as the lights are back on!"
"How about if I call you once the power comes on?" Miyako replied.
"Whatever!" said Mr. Inoue. "But if you find any batteries, bring them back!"
"Okay," said Miyako. "Bye, guys! See ya later!"
Before anyone could think of anything else to say to her, she got up and dashed through the door. The family watched her go.
"You know," said Chizuru, "I'll be glad when the lights come back on. All this dark is playing tricks on my eyes. I could have sworn I saw something following her... like a little bird."
"You're crazy," Mantarou said. "All those nail polish fumes have gone to your brain."
Meanwhile, Miyako had escaped into the hallway, and almost immediately wished she'd stayed inside. At least inside the room, she'd had the company of her family. Now she was alone in a dark corridor, without a single light to help her find her way. She took a step, and her foot came down on Poromon.
"Ow! Careful!" the little bird squawked.
"Oops! Sorry! I can't see a thing," said Miyako. She knelt down and felt for him. "Here, how about I carry you? At least then you won't get hurt unless I do."
Poromon settled into her arms, and they set off into the darkness, Miyako feeling her way along the wall, trailing her fingers over doors. For a while, everything was pitch-black, and she had to rely only on her sense of touch and her memory to guide her. She picked her way slowly along, counting doors. Finally, she reached the stairwell and began climbing.
Climbing the stairs was an adventure in itself. Even with the faint light that slipped through the windows, it was still dim and spooky. Miyako was used to taking the elevator, and she felt like a trespasser as she picked her way slowly up the twisting staircase, listening to her footsteps echo off the bare walls. Outside, the storm was still raging. She almost swore she could feel the building quaking beneath her feet as yet another clap of thunder rolled by. Miyako shuddered. Normally, she liked storms, but not when she was wandering in the dark without a single human companion.
Then, just when she didn't think she could be spooked any more and was thinking about giving the whole experiment up, she heard something. Just as her footsteps had echoed going up, someone else's footfalls were now echoing down. With a gasp, Miyako jumped into the nearest shadow, heart pounding. Her head filled with stories of men who attacked in the night, and she was suddenly very aware of how alone she was, of the dark, and of how no one would be able to hear her screaming here. She stood there in a dark corner, trying not to move, breathe, or do anything that might get her seen. In the silence, she heard a voice.
"How many floors have we gone down?" he was saying.
"Just four," a smaller voice replied.
The first speaker sighed. "Still a little ways to go, then. Rats. I don't like being alone in the dark."
"Takeru!" Miyako shouted.
There was a shuffling noise from somewhere above Miyako's head. She leaned over the railing and looked up, seeing a familiar hatted head peering down at her.
"Miyako!" he exclaimed. "Man, you gave me a scare!"
"Miyako can be scary at times," said Poromon quietly.
"You scared me a little yourself," Miyako replied. "What are you doing down here?"
"Looking for you," he said. "My Mom can't find the flashlight, and I was wondering if you might have one we could borrow."
"You're welcome to it," Miyako replied, "but since its batteries are dead, it won't do you much good. I was just coming up to see if you had any candles we could use."
"Not a one," said Takeru. "Looks like we're both stuck in the dark."
"Looks like it," Miyako agreed. "Rats. I don't want to walk back home in the dark."
"Me neither," answered Takeru, grinning sheepishly. "You want me to maybe walk you back to your apartment?"
"I couldn't ask you that. Then you'd just have to walk that much further in the dark by yourself."
"Yeah, I guess that's true, too." Takeru paused, considering. "Okay, how about this? Why don't we just hang out together a while?"
"You know, just walk around a while. I don't think anyone's out here but us. Everyone's in their rooms waiting for the storm to blow over. We'll have the whole place to ourselves, just about."
"I guess that would be cool," said Miyako. "That okay with you, Poromon?"
"Fine, I guess," he answered. "Where are we going?"
TK grinned. "How about down to the lobby to see if the snack machines still work?"
"Now you're talking!" said Poromon, eyes lighting up.
"At least its something to do," Miyako replied. "Come on, let's go!"
"Wait for me to catch up first!" called Takeru.
Within a few seconds, he was at Miyako's side, and the little group began clattering down the stairs. The footsteps that had sounded so ominous by themselves made a companionable noise now that they had company, and Miyako grinned.
"You know, I wasn't really scared of the storm," she said.
"Sure you weren't."
"I wasn't! I just don't like being alone in the dark!"said Miyako. "Besides, you were scared too!"
"You were so!"
"I was not! I wasn't scared at all. You just startled me," Takeru said primly. "I happen to like the dark."
"You? I thought you were the one who got so riled up about the powers of darkness."
"That's different," said Takeru. "This isn't evil. It's just... nature reminding us were not as cool as we think we are. It's a reality check. Besides, have you ever noticed how different people act in the dark? Someone who's usually brave loses their nerve; someone who's usually shy might come out of their shell. Its like, in the dark, all the rules don't apply anymore. You can act in ways you'd never act when the lights are on. A lot of hidden stuff comes out when its dark."
"Like Halloween," said Miyako.
"Right! When the lights go out, that's an excuse to run around and act crazy."
"I can see why everyone would act crazy," Miyako commented. "When it's so dark like this, you can believe anything could be out there. You could believe in ghosts right now."
"It is a little spooky," Takeru agreed, surveying the shadowed halls. "All it would take is a little noise to make people think they're haunted."
"Yeah. All we need now is for someone to scream," said Miyako.
They looked at each other as the same thought hit both of them at once. They grinned, then began running up the hall as fast as they could, clattering down the stairs to dash up the next hallway, then back down the stairs again, whooping like banshees the whole way. A few people put their heads out the door, trying to discover the source of the ruckus, but the culprits vanished into the shadows as quickly as they came. Poromon and Patamon joined in the game, adding their squeals to the uproar and trying to outfly each other. Miyako concentrated on matching her friend stride for stride, running alongside him until they both gave out, laughing breathlessly, somewhere on the third floor. They made the rest of the journey at a walk, leaning on each other as they tried to catch their breaths while giggling uncontrollably at the same time. At last, they reached the lobby on the ground floor and collapsed onto a bench, still gasping with laughter.
"We're both crazy," Miyako said, when she could finally speak again.
"I told you people go nuts when the lights go out," Takeru replied. "You gotta admit, that was fun. I haven't done anything like that since I was just a kid."
Miyako grabbed the brim of his hat and pulled it down over his eyes. "You are a kid!"
"No, I'm not!" He took the hat off and began trying to put his hair back in order. "And don't mess with my hat, kid."
"Humph! That's no way to treat a lady. And you're usually so polite," she said, pretending to be annoyed.
"Well, how about I make it up to you?" he replied, getting up to inspect the snack machines.
"Are they even working?" asked Miyako.
Takeru gave them an inspection. "Looks like it. They're probably hooked into the emergency generators. That's funny. We don't have light, but we do have junk food."
"I'd rather have candy and no light than light and no food," Poromon commented.
"Good thing we don't have to choose," said Takeru. He fished through his pockets and dug out a handful of change, counting it out and judiciously studying the machines' offerings with the same care he would have given a menu in a gourmet restaurant. He must have had the same feeling, because once he'd fed the change to the machines and returned with his selections, he returned to Miyako's side wearing a playful grin.
"Table for two, my dear?" he said, with exaggerated courtliness.
"That sounds just lovely," she answered, falling in with the sally.
"Wonderful. The chef has prepared an excellent repast for us tonight," he answered, trying desperately to keep a straight face as he handed over a pair of candy bars with a bow and a flourish. It wasn't easy, as the Digimon were both stifling snickers and Miyako herself was trying to cover a grin. As he straightened up again, the rest of the candy he'd been holding slipped out of his grip and pattered to the floor, and he burst out laughing himself.
*I never knew Takeru could be like this,* thought Miyako, giggling as she watched him try to manage an armload of candy and sodas. *I always thought of Daisuke as the fun-loving one. It's good to see him laugh like this.*
"What are you thinking about?" Takeru asked. "Your eyes went serious for a minute there."
"Oh," she said. "I was just... looking at the rain. I always loved thunderstorms. I always wanted to be able to just stand outside in one - no raincoat or umbrella or anything, just me with the wind and the rain and lighting all around me. I always thought it would be so exhilarating... My brother says its just my fascination with getting into trouble."
"I never thought you had a fascination with getting into trouble," said Takeru.
"You don't?" she asked hopefully.
"Not really," he answered. "You might find it anyway, but you never go looking for it. If anything, I always thought you wanted to stay out of trouble. You're one of the ones who always wants to find a better way than fighting. I respect that about you."
"Really? Wow. I didn't know anyone respected me."
"Well, now you do," Takeru replied. "So... do you ever go walking in the rain?"
"No," said Miyako, blushing. "Mom says I'll just get all wet and catch cold. I would feel kind of silly, I think. Two people walking in the rain is romantic. One person walking in the rain is just crazy. You're lucky to have someone."
Takeru gave her a blank look. "Huh?"
"Aren't you seeing Hikari?" asked Miyako, puzzled.
"Hikari? No! Who told you that?"
Miyako blushed. "Daisuke."
"And you believe everything Daisuke tells you?"
"I guess not. But it sure looked like you were. I mean, you're with her all the time."
"That's true," said Takeru thoughtfully. "Hikari's been my best friend since we were both little kids. We fought monsters together. We're in the same classes. Our brothers are best friends. We can't help but be together all the time. She's special to me... but I never really thought about dating her. She is pretty and fun to be around, and we get along together pretty well, but... I don't know. I just never felt like I wanted to ask her out. I'm happy the way things are. It would just be awkward... And why are you being so glum, anyway? Last I heard, I thought you had a thing for Ken."
"Sort of," Miyako replied. "But that was before I knew anything about him. Ken's got more versions than a bunch of Windows software!"
Takeru laughed. "That's a way to put it! What do you mean by that?"
"Well, he just keeps changing. When I first saw him, it was on TV, when he was doing his perfect-person act. How could I not love a perfect person? And then I found out he was the Kaizer, and the Kaizer wasn't perfect at all, and I was so mad at him...! And now he's something else again, and I don't know what to make of him. I never know what to say to him, I'm always afraid of hurting his feelings, and there are times when I just want to smack him and tell him to grow a spine. He's going to have to change again before we'll be anything but friends."
Takeru laughed a little. "Ichijouji Ken, version 4.0."
Miyako laughed, too. "Well, I've got to admit, even if we've got compatibility issues, the packaging is nice!"
"You think so, huh?" asked Takeru. "Okay, then. What's ideal?"
"None of your business."
"Oh, come on! Please? I promise I won't tell!"
Takeru did such a good impression of a wide-eyed little child that Miyako just had to laugh.
"Oh, all right!" she said. "Hmm... What's ideal? He'd have to be nice-looking, of course. Someone I can laugh with, but not a total cut-up like Daisuke. Someone I can rely on. Someone who'll be my friend on Monday morning when I'm not wearing my makeup and my hair's a mess, not just on Friday night. You know what I mean?"
"Yeah," said Takeru. "I know what you mean."
There was silence for a moment, as they sipped their sodas and thought. Takeru stared out the windows, watching the sheets of silver rain come down through the twilight. Miyako watched Takeru out of the corner of her eye, wondering why she had never noticed the color of his eyes so clearly. They were the same shade of blue as an approaching storm, and just now, looking into them, they gave her the same sense of exhilaration.
*Weird,* she thought. *Why didn't I notice... When I was describing my ideal, I could have been talking about him...*
"Takeru," she said, "answer a question for me."
"You said you'd never felt like asking Hikari out before."
"Was there ever someone else you've wanted to ask?"
Takeru blushed. "I don't want to say."
"Come on! I answered your question!"
"Okay, okay," he said. "I've never really thought about it much before, but... just now, I was thinking I'd like to ask if you'd walk in the rain with me."
She smiled. "I'd like that. I'd like that very much."
He got up and offered her his hand, and she took it, following him out into the storm. Immediately, they were hit by a rush of water, soaking them in and instant. Miyako yelped, laughing as the raindrops tickled her skin, and Takeru put his arm around her to keep the wind at bay. For a moment, she simply stood with her face to the sky, enjoying the sensation.
"Is it like you imagined?" asked Takeru's voice in her ear.
"Even better," she answered. "If this is what happens when the power goes out, I think I could really learn to love the dark."
"What darkness?" he whispered back. "I don't see any darkness."
"Neither do I," she said.
And as the sun slipped below the horizon at last, the city became perfectly dark, hiding
from anyone who would bother them a boy and a girl kissing in the rain.