A/N: See Chapter 1, "Beginning" for full explanation.
Weather the Weather
Hikaru and Kaoru
"...we'll weather the weather / whatever the weather / whether we like it or not."
And on she went down the hallway, hand trailing on each door and thinking of reasons not to wake the friend behind it; Tamaki slept like the dead, the Twins slept with earphones on and wouldn't hear her anyway, and...
Kaoru tended to be a lighter sleeper than Hikaru, but even so, she had learned quite a while ago that whenever they first slept somewhere new, they tended to fall asleep with their headphones on. She couldn't understand how that could possibly be comfortable for them, but there wasn't a lot about their habits that she did understand so she never really questioned it. Just accepted it. As she did most things about them all.
'Would they have their headphones on tonight?' she wondered, watching their door as if she tried hard enough she might be able to see through it. She could hear the sound of the rain pounding on the roof above her head, and tried not to think about when the lightning would start.
The inside of her closest was starting to become quite appealing, but she had sworn to herself she wouldn't go there anymore. It was a weakness, just as Tamaki had told her all those months ago. Hiding from her fear rather than facing it and living through it. She knew he was right. It would be hard, she knew it. Facing the fear time and time again, but eventually, it would stop being so frightening. Eventually, she would only jump at the sound of thunder rather than feel the blood freeze in her veins.
She didn't really need to be with anyone on these nights. She had ridden out countless storms on her own before. Still, she had never faced one, never held her ground and waited for it to pass without hiding and cowering. Could she do that alone?
She neared the door to the Twins room, close enough to press her ear against the wood, but she didn't. If they were listening to their headphones as they slept, the world could be falling down around them and they wouldn't know. Surely…surely she could slip inside and they'd be none the wiser? She didn't know that merely being in the presence of someone else would be enough to keep her from searching for the nearest closet, but it was certainly better than being alone.
But…what if they weren't? What if they woke up as she slipped inside, what would she say? She could pretend to be sleep walking, but everyone knew she was no good at acting. Plus, it was the Twins. They'd know.
Maybe Hikaru wouldn't give her a hard time. Oh, he'd definitely tease her about it mercilessly the next day, but he wouldn't kick her out then, neither of them would, and she could deal with the morning after teasing if she didn't have to face this alone, if she didn't have to hide in a closet and hate herself the next day for her weakness and her fear.
Kaoru probably wouldn't say a word. If it were up to him, he would probably pretend to be asleep, let her keep some semblance of her pride.
Was it worth it?
Before her conscious mind could come to a decision, her shadow flashed before her as the lightning lit up the world behind her and every muscle in her body tensed, her eyes squeezing shut and if she would have had a table to hide under or a closet to hide in right at that moment, she would have been inside it faster than she could say her own name.
When no sound of thunder followed the light show, and she could move again, Haruhi's hand was turning the knob in front of her and slowly pushing the door open as if she had consciously decided it.
But that didn't stop her from peering inside the darkened room, searching the shadows for familiar lines and shapes, blinking to force her eyes to become accustomed to the half-light.
She spotted the bed almost immediately, close enough to the windows to bathe it in the eerie shadows of raindrops traveling on the glass. Fearing the light from the windows in the hallway outside would brighten the room too much and wake them, she stepped far enough inside to close the door quietly behind her and the room darkened another few shades, the shadows grew and melted back into the walls, and on the bed, she could just make out the soft rise and fall of twin breaths.
From such a distance (there must have been a good 7 feet between her and the sleeping boys across a wide expanse of carpet) she couldn't tell which twin was which. She couldn't even tell how they were sleeping. She certainly couldn't tell if they wore headphones or not. So she approached, her bare feet barely leaving an indentation on the floor she traversed.
As she grew near, she started to make out shapes: a bare arm strewn over a mussed head, the face turned toward the window, a leg peeking from the side of the down comforters, clad in some soft material, the color indistinguishable in the soft blue-gray of the room. One twin slept on his back, the other on his stomach, the covers strewn away from him, as if he'd impatiently removed them, and she was close enough to trace the shadow rain as it traveled the strong line of the pale skin of his back before she realized that she was close enough…too close.
And neither wore headphones.
She cursed under her breath and started to back out of the room, knowing she couldn't stay if anything she did might possibly wake them. She was afraid to turn around and walk properly, reasoning it was better to keep an eye on them as she walked, instead of where she was walking. She was halfway across the room when the lightning flashed again and she started, hands covering her mouth to still the gasp of surprise.
And although she made not a noise, although nothing mysteriously appeared in her path to make her stumble or trip, something (perhaps the sudden flash of light) disturbed the twin sleeping on his stomach and he sighed sleepily, turning away from the window and onto his side.
She could see Hikaru's features now (and now she knew it was Hikaru), yet for moment upon moment, she stared right at where his eyes were hidden by shadow and couldn't tell if they were open or not.
And just as she was about to start moving again, she couldn't mistake the flutter of lashes and when he moved again, shifted, really, just a little, she caught the flash of amber in his eye.
He was looking straight at her.
Could he see her?
He had the benefit of the light coming in behind him, rather than toward him as Haruhi had, and if he were awake, there would be no doubt in her mind that he'd be able to see her.
Another flash of lightning surprised her into movement, a slight jerk only, nearly imperceptible, but that was enough.
Hikaru blinked several times and what little light there was played in the lines of a frown. He rubbed at his eyes, and lifted his head from his pillow, leaning forward as if to better inspect the space she occupied. Finally, he simply sat up.
"Haruhi?" he asked, his voice thick and drowsy with sleep and disuse.
She had a very clear desire to tell him he was dreaming and quietly slip out the door, hoping he'd buy it, but then he pulled his legs over the side of the bed and ran his hands through his hair, frowning at her worriedly.
"What is it?" he asked, the hoarseness of his voice making the query sound whispered, urgent. "Are you alright?"
"I'm fine," she replied, and turned, hoping she'd manage to leave the room before he gathered his wits enough to come after her, but then the lightning flashed at the window behind her again and she froze and he realized what was wrong.
She felt his warmth at her back even before she'd unfrozen from waiting for the thunder.
Hikaru's hands took hold of her shoulders even before she could react. He waited a moment until he felt the tension leave them as the time passed and the thunder didn't come. Without saying a word, he turned her around to face him. When she looked at him, about to argue, he smiled at her so softly that the words stalled in her throat. He looked over his shoulder to find that Kaoru was already awake and sitting up on the bed, his expression hooded in shadow. They shared a silent conversation, the way they often did, and when Hikaru walked around behind Haruhi and started to lead her gently in the direction of the bed, Kaoru wasn't surprised. He merely lifted the covers from the bed and waited.
It wasn't until she was close enough to see the sleep still in Kaoru's eyes warring with concern that she realized how close Hikaru had led her. "Wait," she stopped walking. "What are you doing?" she asked, her own voice hushed for some reason as she shot a look at Hikaru over her shoulder, his warm hands on her shoulders preventing her from turning all the way around.
Unexpectedly, Hikaru's hands trailed down her bare arms and wrapped around her waist, pulling her against his chest from behind, tucking his face against her neck. "You're about to drop on your feet, Haruhi," he answered, his voice still low and sleepy, but less rough. "But you can't sleep because of the storm, right?"
Haruhi turned her face away, her gaze falling on Kaoru who was looking at her patiently.
"Trust us," Hikaru said, loosening his arms from the embrace and letting his hands rest on her hips, fingers absently picking at the folds she had made of the waist of her too long pajama pants. "It'll be okay." She looked up and met his eyes again, feeling something tight in her chest release at the thought she wouldn't have to do this alone. He started to lead her back toward the bed and she must have made some unconscious move of hesitation because suddenly Kaoru was there, on his knees, near the edge of the bed, his hand held out to her.
"Just so you can fall asleep," he said, his own voice so like Hikaru's but softer.
And maybe it was because she really was tired, physically tired from lack of sleep and emotionally tired of being afraid and maybe it was simply because she didn't want to be alone, but whatever the reason, in the end why Haruhi allowed Hikaru to lead her to their bed, it was her hand that reached out to take hold of Kaoru's, and her impulse that raised her legs so she could climb onto the soft mattress, still warm from Hikaru's body.
And despite their teasing and flirtation, in the end, she trusted them, deep down, to keep her safe. She never thought to doubt that. When she felt Hikaru climb onto the mattress after her, she didn't tense or worry, simply crawled further to the middle, Kaoru's hand still holding hers, and let Hikaru lead her backwards onto the mattress, his hands leaving a trail of warmth on the nape of her neck as he lowers her onto the pillow that still smelled of their shampoo.
Before she could get settled, however, a series of flashes without thunder exposed the room in their bare eery light, and Haruhi's eyes went wide and frightened, her body tensed for a moment, and then Kaoru laid down next to her, gently pulling her hand across his chest and tucking it on his right side so that she is left with no choice but to curl up on her side, pressed against his left, her cheek resting on the sleep warmed skin of his chest, just above his rib cage.
"Close your eyes and sleep, Haruhi," Kaoru said as the fingers of his left hand began running rhythmically through her hair.
Behind her, she felt the mattress shift as Hikaru spooned up against her back, raising the covers over all three before wrapping his arms around her middle, hooking his legs with hers.
"It's okay," Hikaru whispered against her shoulder blade, his lips ghosting over the sliver of skin exposed by the sleeveless tank top. "Nothing can happen to you here."
"We won't let it," Kaoru promised, his voice reverberating through his chest, seemingly cutting through Haruhi's consciousness.
Haruhi, unused to feeling so enclosed, held her breath for a few moments, blinking at the expanse of smooth slightly muscled chest, and let herself feel everything around her. The cotton-jersey blend of the sweatpants Hikaru slept in, the warmth of Hikaru's chest against the thin cotton of her tank top, Kaoru's fingers threaded up in hers, his skin under her cheek, the smell of them wrapped around her, their very life enfolding her, and finally, finally, the soft rhythmic rise and fall of Hikaru's breathing behind her, and Kaoru's steady, even heartbeat beneath her, and she sighed.
She closed her eyes, immersed in these new and yet utterly comfortable sensations and the thought occurred to her, from some very far away place, that here, in this warm, living haven, she couldn't know if it was still raining, let alone hear the thunder.