Disclaimer: Persona3 and its characters are not my property, and I am not profiting in any way from this story.
Warnings: Implied shonen-ai, if that's not your thing, please don't read, and don't complain about something you were warned about.
Author's Note: Nothing original or terribly exciting, just your standard bedside manner ficlet. That, and I wondered who the heck looked after Minato during the typhoon. This was my fangirl-brain solution.
The entrance to the dorm slammed shut behind him, doors rattling under the force of the wind. It was as though the rain came out of nowhere. He'd been sure he had at least another couple of hours up his sleeve before the typhoon hit.
"Ha, look what the cat dragged in! You look like a drowned rat, man," Junpei called from the other side of the foyer.
"Welcome back. The weather appears to be quite turbulent today," Aigis greeted.
Minato adjusted his jacket, though it was plastered to his shoulders so it didn't do much good. A small puddle was forming on the floor beneath him.
"You got caught in the rain?" Fuuka asked shyly. He nodded silently, seeing no point in offering an explanation, especially when no one asked for one. "Um, Mitsuru-senpai and Akihiko-senpai are just preparing the dorm for the storm," she continued. "I think it's safe to say we won't be going to Tartarus until the typhoon passes."
Minato nodded again in acknowledgement. The tower was dangerous enough normally without factoring wild weather in the equation.
"I don't know about you guys, but I am excited! When was the last time any of you were in a typhoon?" Junpei asked with an easy grin, propping his feet up on the table.
"It's a natural disaster, not a holiday, idiot," Yukari scoffed, shoving his shoes to the side. Junpei's arms windmilled wildly for a moment, until he overbalanced on his chair and tumbled to the ground with a crash.
"Ooowwww, Yuka-tan!" Koromaru barked at the commotion, and Minato absently gave the dog a pat. A cold trickle of water ran down his hand.
A head of silver-white hair stuck out from around the corner. Akihiko. "What the hell was that?"
"Yuka-tan pushed me over!"
"It was your own damn clumsiness, Stupei!"
Koromaru barked again, and Ken buried his head in his arms. "Idiots…"
"If you two have so much energy, you can help me finish taping the windows!" A sharp voice floated from upstairs. Everyone in the room felt a shiver run down their spines, though Minato's was from the cold.
"How does she do that?" Yukari mumbled.
"Don't underestimate Mitsuru's hearing," Akihiko counselled, and then finally noticed his presence. "Oh, hey Arisato. When did you get back?"
"A couple of minutes ago," Yukari answered in his stead. "So, what are you going to do? We'll have the day off tomorrow for sure. Maybe we could stay up and play cards?"
"I don't really know how to play…" Fuuka demurred.
"Is it a productive activity?" Aigis queried.
"It's no problem, we'll teach you!" Junpei was eager to participate in anything that wasn't study-related. "Ken, you want to play too?"
He looked uncomfortable, glancing at Shinjirou on the other side of the room, who didn't appear interested. "I guess if there's nothing better to do…"
"I still have to make sure everything's secure," Akihiko made his excuse, and left the foyer to check the back door. For just a moment, nobody's attention was on him, and Minato was able to slip upstairs to his room, unnoticed but for a trail of water.
Once the door was safely shut behind him, he shivered, damp clothes and dripping hair clinging uncomfortably to his body. The windows rattled ominously under the typhoon's roaring winds. Rain lashed at the taped glass, distorting the image of the outside world - not that anything would be visible beyond the sheets of water.
Should he study? Normally he tried to do at least some on the nights they didn't go to Tartarus - his afternoons were always eaten up by club or student council or some other social obligation.
His body felt as though it was made of lead, though, and his head seemed to be stuffed with cotton. He was tired... so tired. It was as though he'd been trapped in five Dark Hours in a row.
Maybe he'd go to bed early for a change. He kicked off his shoes and cast aside his sodden clothes, then dragged on his pyjamas. His hair was still damp, but the bathroom on the fourth floor seemed so far away... it could dry naturally.
He was asleep before his head even hit the pillow.
The power was out. They had a generator up in the command room they could turn on if needed, but no one suggested it. There were plenty of torches and candles and Junpei was having fun scaring the girls by holding the light under his face. Koromaru didn't appear too fond of storms, and had curled up under Shinjirou's seat. Mitsuru routinely checked the doors and windows to make sure that everything was still intact and no water was coming in. Akihiko knew everything was secure, but left her to it. Mitsuru hated being idle, and loved being cautious.
Something was missing, though. "Hey, where's Minato?"
"I dunno. Haven't seen him yet today," Junpei replied. "Maybe he's studying or playing that MMO."
"The power's out, Stupei," Yukari scoffed. "He can't use his computer."
"Maybe he is just studying," Mitsuru remarked on her way through to the kitchenette. "Unlike some people, he recognises the importance of not neglecting his studies. This is a good opportunity to catch up."
Akihiko slung his jacket over his shoulder. "I'll go check on him. In case he's forgotten to eat again or something." Minato was well known for skipping breakfast, but it was a bit weird he hadn't even grabbed something from the vending machines by now.
In contrast to the bright chatter filling the first floor, the second floor was eerily quiet, with the howl of wind and drumming of rain overpowering the usual tiny shuffles and movements of life. His footsteps sounded unnaturally loud in the hallway, but Akihiko strode past his door to the room on the end with an easy confidence. After the Dark Hour, there wasn't much left that could creep him out.
"Hey! You in there?" he asked, knocking a couple of times. There was no response. Okay, that was a little eerie.
Minato was still in the dorms, right? It hadn't stopped pouring since the night before, and the others had all seen him come in from the rain. He hadn't done anything stupid like go out in this weather, right?
He pushed gently on the door handle - they didn't usually lock their doors unless they didn't want to be disturbed. Sure enough, it swung open with a quiet creak. "Sorry for intruding. Anybody home?"
The room was dark. It took his eyes a moment to adjust to the dimness. Minato wasn't at his desk, but there was a lump on his bed. Still sleeping at this hour? He'd gone to bed early the night before!
"Hey, rise and shine sleepyhead," he said in a low voice, not wanting to startle his kouhai out of his rest.
Again, no response. Minato never struck him as a terribly deep sleeper, but what did he really know? The enigmatic teen kept to himself - despite the past few months of living in the dorm together, he remained largely a mystery.
Still, even if he was tired, it wouldn't do for his sleeping pattern to get out of whack - the Dark Hour messed with it enough as it was. Akihiko reached out and gave his shoulder a gentle shake. "Hey, wake up."
Nothing. Looking more carefully, the normally pale face was flushed, and beads of sweat were lining his brow, plastering strands of midnight blue hair to his forehead.
Frowning, Akihiko laid an experimental hand on his head, then swiftly retracted it, surprised at the warmth there. That explained it. The kid had a fever.
Of course... it wasn't so surprising - he'd been soaked when he'd arrived back at the dorm the day before, and then everyone must have kept him chatting in the foyer for at least fifteen minutes.
"Idiot, you didn't even dry your hair?" he murmured, teasing a strand between his fingers.
Okay, so they'd learnt a valuable lesson - Minato wasn't invincible. Crap, he should have intervened or something and sent the kid straight to the showers - what kind of senpai was he?
With a sigh, he stood and glanced around the bare room. There for months, and still hardly a thing to make it his own. It wasn't like Akihiko didn't understand – he was an orphan too. But no posters of his favourite band? No kendo paraphernalia? Not even some sticker photos of his many friends? Akihiko knew the other students referred to him as the 'Golden Boy', but he was pretty sure Minato would soon be outstripping him in the popularity stakes.
There was, however, a first aid kit by the sink. He rifled through it until he came to a small white towel, rolled up like a sweet bun. He ran it under the cold water until his fingers turned numb, then wrung it out and folded it three times. He hurried back to the bed, and gently, so as not to wake him, draped it across the sleeping boy's head. A soft exhale passed through those pale lips, and Akihiko fancied he saw the delicate features relax.
"You're way too pretty to pack such a punch, you know?" The words were spoken in good humour. "To think our fearless leader is struck down by something as simple as a common fever." The only response was the patter of rain against the window. He dragged the chair from the desk over next to the bed, sitting on it backwards and resting his crossed arms on top of the backrest.
"You'll have to wake up sooner or later. You need to eat and drink something. Probably should get some medicine into you as well." Their first aid kits were at least always well stocked – it came with the territory.
After a few minutes, he turned the hastily fashioned compress over. Heat still radiated from the flushed skin, and the sweating wasn't really getting much better. Akihiko fetched another towel, and caressed the side of the boy's face with it, dabbing the sweat away with a practice born from years of boxing.
He jerked away at a sudden noise from the door. "Minato-kun? Akihiko-san?" Yukari. "I'm coming in, okay?" The door creaked open and the girl leant into the room, face illuminated by the warm light of a flickering candle. Akihiko hadn't realised how dim the bedroom was until them – his eyes had adjusted to the darkness with ease. "Oh! Minato-kun!"
"What's up? Out of the way, Yuka-tan!" Junpei pushed his way in from behind her, and over his shoulder Akihiko could see Aigis, Mitsuru, Fuuka, and even Shinji lurking in the background. He guessed when he took so long to return, the others came looking to see what the hold up was. Minato was, after all, the glue that held them together - they were naturally worried.
"Sorry, I should have come to tell you," he said. "Seems like he's sick. Running a bit of a fever."
"I see." Mitsuru had pushed her way to the front of the group, and now regarded them with crossed arms and what to most people looked like a displeased expression. Akihiko knew her better, and read it as concern. "Has he woken up?"
"I tried, but he wouldn't respond."
"Dude, that's really bad! He needs a doctor!" Junpei had taken off his cap and now fanned the sleeping boy – rather ineffectually – with it.
"But how are we going to get a doctor in this weather?" Yukari fretted.
"Don't panic," Mitsuru ordered, even as Yukari and Junpei seemed about ready to risk their lives braving the typhoon. "He probably just caught a cold."
"But… can't colds sometimes turn really dangerous if they're not treated?" Fuuka asked meekly.
"We have some medicine that should at least tide him over, and so long as we keep his temperature down and make sure he takes in plenty of fluids, it should be fine." She sighed, flicking a stray strand of long red hair out of the way. "There's not much else we can do until the weather clears, anyhow. Akihiko, do you mind keeping an eye on him?"
He was going to volunteer away. "Sure."
"Why him?" Junpei challenged.
"Dorm regulations state that girls shouldn't be hanging out in the boys' rooms. Yes Aigis, that counts for you too. And I don't trust you to sit still for that long, Iori."
The girls started to protest, and Junpei rubbed the back of his head. "Ouch." Shinji, Akihiko noted, had already vanished from the hallway.
"I am not technically a female," Aigis protested. "I should be by his side."
Akihiko wisely refrained from commenting. Dorm regulations hardly meant much where S.E.E.S. was concerned – they spied on 'people with potential' while they slept, after all. It was much more likely that Mitsuru didn't trust anyone else to be sensible about looking out for Minato while he was ill. Aigis didn't understand the human body well enough, Yukari was prone to freaking out, and Fuuka had a history of sickliness – it wouldn't do to have her catch Minato's cold.
"Rules are rules!" Yukari huffed. "If I can't stay here, then you can't either! Come on, we should let him rest." She grabbed the robot's arm and practically flounced out of the room. Annoyed at being robbed of the chance to play nurse, he guessed. Girls could be so weird sometimes.
"Thanks, Akihiko," Mitsuru said, following after them. "Let us know if his condition changes." At least there was one girl with her head screwed on straight.
"You got it." Then the door closed with a soft click, and the room was quiet again. Akihiko reoriented himself in the chair by the bedside, settling in for the long haul.
Minato was a good patient – he did nothing more than sleep for the entire afternoon. He might have been dead if it weren't for the faint flush on his cheeks and the soft rhythm of his breath. The thought made Akihiko twitch, recalling a few of the close calls they'd had in Tartarus, when one of them had been knocked out, lying unconscious on the floor, food for the shadows. Never Minato, though. The senior wasn't so prideful not to acknowledge that his kouhai had him beat when it came to fighting Shadows. If there were anything capable of knocking Minato out, the rest of them wouldn't have a hope.
It made it weird to see him now, so vulnerable in sleep. It wasn't like he hadn't watched him sleep before - through the monitor when the mysterious transfer student first arrived – but he didn't know him then like he did now. He hadn't been a comrade, the field leader of S.E.E.S. Akihiko tilted his head, pale eyes tracing the delicate curve of a collarbone, and stifled a chuckle. It didn't look like he had any muscles to speak of. "Like I said before. Not fair a guy as delicate-looking as you can pack such a mean punch. No wonder the Shadows keep picking a losing fight. If you were a girl I'd-"
He stopped that train of thought abruptly, and shook his head with a wry grin. Too much time spent sitting idle. When was the last time he just sat and let his thoughts wander? These days he was always busy with something – schoolwork, S.E.E.S., boxing, or checking up on wayward old friends. He could bring in some candles and catch up on some studying, he supposed, but it would be hard to concentrate between changing the cold compress on Minato's forehead every ten minutes. Besides, staring at Minato was far from boring.
The afternoon grew long, and soon what little natural light made it through the clouds vanished, and he was forced to fetch some candles from downstairs. When he came back, his patient was groaning, tossing and turning in the bed. The damp towel had fallen to the floor.
"Arisato! Are you okay?" Slightly alarmed, he dumped the candles on the desk and hurried over to check his temperature. No real change. Minato was already calming down – probably just normal shifting in his sleep. "Hey, don't get comfortable. You've been sleeping all day." He shook his shoulder again, and was gratified when those grey-blue eyes sluggishly opened, though remained dull and half-lidded.
Akihiko resisted the urge to punch the air in victory. "You're awake! Come on, can you sit up?" Without waiting for him to try to do it on his own, he pulled the limp form into a sitting position, being careful to keep the pillow against the headboard. Once up, Minato seemed capable of keeping his balance, though his head lolled as he blinked sleepily.
"Water, water…" Akihiko muttered to himself, too busy to be relieved at the first sign of life from his kouhai all day. He filled a cup and placed it on the bedside table, where it went ignored. "You'll need something to eat, too. Wait there for a minute – there should be something in the kitchen I can whip up real fast." His brow creased at the thought of having to cook, but something simple should cover it. "Don't go back to sleep!"
He hurried to the door, but it turned out he needn't have worried. In the hallway just next to the door sat a steaming bowl of chicken soup. It smelt far too good to be the efforts of one of the girls.
Akihiko felt his mouth twitch into a smile, glancing down the hallway at the shut door. His timing was too remarkable to be coincidence. He must have been listening out for movement.
"Hey, looks like you're in luck. Instead of my lousy cooking, Shinjirou made you chicken soup. Aren't you spoiled?" Minato blinked again. The water remained untouched on the bedside table.
He tried to press the spoon into one of his kouhai's pale, clammy hands, but the fingers were unresponsive and it slipped from his grasp onto the bedspread.
"Come on, you've got to at least eat and drink a little bit. I've got some medicine too." The blank grey stare didn't inspire confidence that Minato was actually conscious.
Akihiko sighed, setting the bowl on the increasingly crowded bedside table and running a hand through his silver hair. "…You're not going to help me out here, are you?" A small huff in response, which might have been a cough if it weren't so quiet. "…Okay then, but this'll be our secret. More embarrassing for you than me, but the girls would kill me. And Shinjirou wouldn't take either of us seriously ever again." He chuckled to himself as he ladled a spoonful of broth and held it up Minato's lips. Thankfully, they parted, and his kouhai seemed aware enough to at least swallow.
He shook his head ruefully as he gathered another spoonful. "Are you sure you're not just teasing me?" The glazed grey gaze shifted in his direction, and then proceeded to focus on a point somewhere over his shoulder.
Unfortunately, he only managed to coax about a third of the bowl into the dazed junior before he turned his head away, expression tightening. "Had enough? Okay, but you at least have to swallow some medicine."
Getting Minato to swallow the medicine was even more of a trial, as the first time he tasted it he scrunched his face up and spat it back out, leaving Akihiko with a couple of slimy capsules in his hand. The second go, he held that delicate – far too delicate, he couldn't get over it – jaw shut with a finger, and that time his patient swallowed.
"Look, you've made a mess," he said, not without fondness. He grabbed a tissue, and made to clean the remains of soup off his face.
He'd just intended to swipe the bit of liquid that had trailed from the edge of his lips, but to his surprise, Minato leaned into the touch, and he wound up cradling the side of his cheek, thumb gliding over the velvety skin.
Starved for comfort, he guessed. He could understand it. He was an orphan too. Was this what it was like for a mother tending to her ill child? Couldn't be, he decided. It was something else.
Belatedly, he recalled his purpose, and dabbed the rest of the soup away. "There," he said, a little more brusquely than intended. Minato blinked drowsily. "You can go back to sleep now." If he'd even been awake in the first place. "Here." He guided the midnight-blue head of hair back to the pillow, and drew the covers to his chin. Once Minato was settled again, he took the empty dishes to the kitchenette and cleaned them, though his mind kept wandering back to the sensation of smooth, warm skin under his thumb.
He was broken out of his thoughts by footsteps heading through the common area. "Ummm, Akihiko-senpai?" Yukari asked, peeking around the corner. The flickering candlelight made her face look strangely gaunt.
"Yukari-san," he greeted with a friendly smile, even though inwardly he was twisting himself into knots. Did she know? Then had to ask himself a moment later – know what?
Relief flooded through him. Of course that was all she was worried about. "He woke up briefly, managed to get down some soup and medicine. He should start improving soon."
"Oh. That's good, right? Um, do you need any help? I can finish those dishes for you."
"It's okay," he assured her. "I'm almost done. And don't worry about Minato. He's tougher than he looks." And there was that image again – that delicate curve of the collarbone; the flawless, pale skin beneath his fingers.
"Wha- who said I was worried? I just wanted help out, is all!" Face red, she all but fled the kitchen. Akihiko stared at the dishes for a minute, before realising he'd been cleaning the same spot for the past five minutes, and hurriedly finished up. Then it was back to Minato-minding.
The evening dwindled away, and the typhoon raged on. Akihiko brought some books to study by candlelight – if only so Mitsuru wouldn't accuse him of sitting idle when she inevitably checked on them – but found it unusually difficult to concentrate.
The clock struck midnight, and the Dark Hour rolled in. Feeling a bit self-conscious after the way his thoughts wandered that afternoon, he stared out the window as he kept quiet vigil by their quiet leader's bedside, books long abandoned.
The Dark Hour was even creepier in the midst of a typhoon. The rain took on a sickeningly blood-red hue, and the clouds turned an iridescent green. Despite the visible colour, neither gave off any light. At least no one was out on the streets in this weather - the absence of upright coffins was a comforting change.
Minato's breathing evened as the evening wore on and he found himself needing to change the cold compress less often, but unluckily the thermometer was electric, and so didn't work in the Dark Hour. Akihiko let his hand rest on the warm forehead for a moment. It felt a little cooler – a good sign.
Then he caught his eyes straying again, and snatched his hand away.
Brow furrowed, he crossed his arms and stared at their peacefully sleeping field leader, beginning to begrudge him his untroubled slumber. Akihiko wasn't stupid. He'd grown up quickly, and could recognise the burning fire in his chest for what it was.
A desire to protect. He felt it for all of his comrades, but it was uncommonly focused on the slight blue-haired boy sleeping restlessly on the bed. It bordered on irrational, fanatical, and mixed caustically with a healthy dose of respect and a deeply buried affection.
He'd been ignoring it; had almost forgotten about it, in fact. It only reared its head occasionally, and those situations were always so stressful he'd quickly buried the thoughts in the midst of everything else happening. Concern with Aigis' arrival. Fear when separated in Tartarus. Camaraderie when fighting a particularly strong Shadow.
If he'd remembered, maybe he wouldn't have been so quick to volunteer to look after Minato while he was sick. Wasn't he just letting himself grow soft? Was he strong enough yet, to allow himself that sort of responsibility again? Normally he didn't question these things, but when faced with the quiet blue-haired boy, found himself forced into doubt.
The bloody rain lashed at the glass, and the howling wind took on a creepy likeness to wailing ghosts. And yet the thing that scared him the most was messing everything up with the pale, still figure, fast asleep in front of him. Losing him. Not being strong enough to protect him. Minato being too strong to allow his protection.
He changed the compress, and pushed a stubborn strand of hair back out of the way, fingers lingering a bit too long. To hell with it – he was unconscious; did it really matter? Impulsively, he slid his fingers through the silky locks, ruffling them the way Junpei did sometimes. He couldn't figure out whether Minato minded or not – he was a hard guy to read – but always sort of wanted to try it himself. Akihiko was the kind of person to mind personal space, so he'd never had the chance before. How would Minato react, if he were awake for it?
So many months, and he still barely felt like he knew Minato at all. His own fault. He'd tried to keep his distance, remaining the good senpai and nothing more.
Maybe they would go away on their own, these troubling feelings.
Akihiko scoffed to himself. Unlikely. It only took one little misstep like this, and he was back to square one. Besides, running away wasn't his style.
If these feelings lingered… then perhaps when the Dark Hour was finished, when midnight simply led to 12:01… then maybe he could do something about it. At the current rate, they ought to be done before graduation. It would be the best time. Yeah… he could confess at graduation. He liked the idea of that. It was a bit more traditional than his usual gig, but it was a good milestone. A time for change.
"On graduation, okay? I'll tell you then. It's a promise," he murmured, hard carding through the dark, silky hair.
In the eerie yellow candlelight, he fancied he saw the trace of a smile.
The birds twittered brightly in the trees outside the dorm, and watery sunlight filtered through the blinds. Minato blinked, and sluggishly pulled himself from bed.
His body felt creaky – the same sort of feeling that settled in his limbs when he spent the entire of Sunday studying. And then he realised he had no idea how long he'd been asleep. He had some vague recollection of waking up at least a couple of times, some notion of shuffling to the toilet once or twice, and…
His brow furrowed. There was something else. Something important he was supposed to remember.
The outside hallway reverberated with the muffled thumps of footsteps running down the stairs, followed by a sharp bark. Junpei and Koromaru.
He was going to be late.
The morning kept going wrong. Nothing in his room was exactly where it was supposed to be, a scratchy feeling lingered in his throat every time he yawned, and it wasn't until he showered that he started to feel remotely human. Somehow, he managed to lurch downstairs in time. According to his watch, it was Tuesday. How did that happen?
His answer arrived when he came down the stairs. Yukari lit up like it was her birthday. "Minato-kun!"
Even Mitsuru had a smile for him. "I see you're up and about again. You've been sleeping almost non-stop for four days."
Junpei waved from the dining room table, mouth half-stuffed with toast. "Yeah, man, we were really worried! Aki-"
At that moment, the boxer breezed past, giving him a sunny smile and a quick pat on the back. "Hey, good to see you up again. Knew it couldn't keep you down. You missed the whole typhoon."
"Oh wow, yeah! We got Saturday and Monday off and everything! It was awesome! Don't you think so, Ken?" Junpei crowed.
Ken was as serious as ever. "I don't think so. It scared Koromaru, and it's not like we won't have to make up the work…"
Minato wasn't listening. He was looking at his silver-haired senpai heading out the dorm. Decision made, he hurried forward, catching the door before it closed behind the senior.
Akihiko looked back, expression coloured with surprise. "Arisato?"
He fell into step beside the senior. "I thought I'd walk with you today."
Akihiko grinned. "Want to race? Wait, you just got better. We can take it slow. There's a while before class starts."
He nodded in agreement, and closed his eyes briefly, breathing deeply. The autumn air was crisp and fresh on his face, and the measured, confident footsteps of his senpai echoed pleasantly in his ears.
It was barely autumn, but for some reason, he was suddenly looking forward to spring.