Author's Note: the Storm Hawks series, the events concerned, and the characters are all copyright of Asaph Fipke, Nerd Corps Entertainment Inc., 2007-2009, and any other groups/people that deserve the credit. This is a non-profit work of fanfiction.
Surprise, surprise! For those of you who've read my previous works, especially-I can do more than just Sly Cooper fanfics! Indeed, I have several other fandoms-Storm Hawks happens to be one of them. As a fan of the PiperxAerrow pairing, I'm happy that the canon seems to confirm it-for those who've seen episodes like "Storm Warning," "Forbidden City," and "Stratosphere," you know what I'm talking about. For those who don't, well...those two really do seem to show concern for each other when the going is rough, and they've shared some warm moments together. They haven't done anything openly romantic together, but the signs are there...at least, as far as I'm concerned.
For those of you who prefer PiperxStork, FinnxPiper, Dark AcexAerrow (never DID get that one), feel free to turn back if this isn't your cup of tea. For those of you who support the pairing, or otherwise just like Storm Hawks...read on if you wish!
Storm Hawks: A Rain-Soaked Midnight Run
Chapter One: Unable to Sleep
The red-haired teenager rolled onto his back and thrust his feet outward one after another, kicking away the covers that seemed to fold over his body like an oppressive shroud. As they slid to the floor of his cabin in a crumpled heap, he let his toned limbs splay outward in a bid to let his body absorb what coolness there was to be had—both in the air, and on the sheets of his mattress. Emerald eyes closed again, and their owner tried his best to let the darkness behind closed lids engulf his thoughts—to let his consciousness drift away, so that the peace he sought might finally be attained.
No good. He still couldn't sleep.
With a frustrated sigh, Aerrow opened his eyes and sat up in bed. Reaching up to run his fingers through the tangled mop of his scarlet hair, the young Sky Knight cast a weary gaze over to the small hammock strung up near the cabin window. Curled up in it was his faithful companion and co-pilot—a lanky figure that seemed to be a cross between a hare and a lemur, with pale blue fur that quivered slightly as a soft snore escaped his muzzle. The surprisingly prehensile ears had folded over his eyes, as if to block out any possibility of intruding rays of light that might disturb his rest. Limbs akimbo, the small creature known to most as Radaar slept on, occasionally chittering or crooning quietly as he dreamed about…who knew? Flying the Condor, maybe. It was his fondest desire, after all—the encounter with that Sky Siren a while back had proven that.
Shaking his head slightly, Aerrow chuckled. "At least you've got no problem getting to sleep, little buddy," he mused under his breath. "Us humans don't have it so lucky."
It was the third day of the Storm Hawk's week-long vacation around Terra Tropica—after managing to fend off the Cyclonian invasion force that had tried to conquer the popular vacation spot, the team had decided to take a break and hang around for a bit. As Finn had enthusiastically pointed out, even the greatest of the Sky Knights needed to unwind every now and then…and, as he'd slyly added, the grateful citizens of the local resorts would probably be willing to offer a discount for any supplies the Condor might need. With the exception of Stork (who maintained that the surrounding jungles were home to some kind of microbe that would further irritate his apparent "rash"), the rest of the crew had agreed, and they had set up anchor. For the first two days, it had been a typical vacation—lounging on the beach, mingling with the locals, and even attending an evening luau held in recognition of their heroics against the Cyclonians.
Then on the third day, on a sweltering afternoon, the air conditioning on the Condor had broken down. It had taken some scrutinizing examination of the old vessel's internal mechanics, and some paranoid searching of the ventilation by Stork, but the Storm Hawks had ultimately found the source of the problem. It wasn't that the air ducts had been invaded by Aridian Drought Slugs (as Stork had suggested), but rather, it was thanks to the old air conditioner wearing itself out. On top of that, the low-grade Frost Crystal that was housed in the machine's core had been used up. Unfortunately, they didn't have a spare on board—by the time they'd figured out the problem, all the stores on Terra Tropica had closed for the evening. Piper started forging a new Frost Crystal, but had informed the rest of the team wouldn't be ready until the next day. On the manual side of things, Junk had only had partial success in repairing the air conditioner; a full replacement would have to wait until he could track down a shop that sold the parts he needed for a permanent fix.
And so, in the end, there was really nothing for it but to ride out the heat. Nothing to do but wait for Piper's little Frost Crystal to be completed, and for the shops to open the next day. Though the sun's descent had thankfully ended the heat wave that had rendered the Condor interior nigh-uninhabitable, there was still a lingering humidity that made falling asleep difficult. Even now, Aerrow could feel a slight sheen of sweat coating his sleek figure—even stripping down to his boxers hadn't helped as much as he would have liked. Like it or not, it looked like he was stuck awake.
Once again worrying the tangled strands of his spiky red hair with his fingers, Aerrow cast a glance out the porthole and ruefully admired the sky, a mysterious display of midnight ebon that was scattered by the myriad lights of stars. On a narrow ledge of the terra that was visible from this angle, a few palm trees were visible—from the way its wide leaves were rustling, there had to be one heck of a wind outside.
That's when the idea struck. As long as he was awake, and wasn't likely to fall asleep anytime soon…
Why not? It wouldn't be the first time I've done a midnight run.
With a faint grin, Aerrow strode over to the dresser and pulled it open, rummaging around for his flight suit and gear.
Five minutes later, the teen Sky Knight was fully dressed in the azure-and-russet hues of the Storm Hawk uniform, complete with the reinforced metal plates that protected his chest, knees, shins, and forearms. For good measure, he'd secured his twin energy daggers to his belt—not that he anticipated any trouble, but he wanted to be ready in case it found him. Grabbing they key to his Skimmer from where it lay on his night-stand, Aerrow cast a thoughtful glance at the slumbering form of Radaar, then decided against waking his co-pilot. It wasn't like this was an emergency, or anything…besides, he imagined it wasn't easy getting to sleep in the first place, what with all that fur.
Nothing wrong with a solo run, he figured. I'll be fine.
That decided, Aerrow pushed the door open and stepped out into the hallway, turning to make his way towards the hangar. He didn't bother flicking on any light switches as he made his way through the metallic corridors—after all this time, he knew the Condor by heart. From his cabin, he strode past Junko's room, pausing to crack a wry grin as he heard the muffled sound of the powerful Wallop's snoring making its way through the steel door. Evidently, Radaar wasn't the only one who'd been able to find some sleep despite the lack of air conditioning.
Good old Junko. I guess you're used to this kind of heat.
Moving on, Aerrow made his way to the bridge. From experience, he knew that it was faster to get to the hangar from there—he'd lost count of the times he'd led a charge to the Skimmers to hold off a surprise attack. As he stepped through the doorway, the scarlet-haired teen couldn't help but pause a moment to admire the view; the reinforced glass walls gave the helmsman a breathtaking view of the skies, and tonight was no exception. Through the transparent barrier, Aerrow saw the lush jungle and beaches of Terra Tropica floating nearby—at Stork's insistence, the Condor had anchored on a jagged precipice along its southern side. Beyond the Terra, the night sky was scattered by stars…a black velvet cloak set with gleaming diamonds. With the thick indigo-violet clouds below, and the enigmatic vigil of the moon, the vacation spot had taken on an exotic and mysterious allure.
For a moment, Aerrow was so caught up in the sight that he failed to notice that he wasn't alone on the bridge. That changed quickly enough when someone spoke off to his right. Soft and feminine, the voice was familiar as it was surprising.
"Aerrow? What are you doing up?"
With a start, Aerrow turned. He knew that voice. "Piper?"
Sure enough, there she was—Piper, the Storm Hawks' first officer and crystal specialist. Presently, she wasn't wearing her usual flight suit; her slender, athletic figure was clad in baggy pajama pants and a curve-hugging top that left her midriff bare, exposing a taut stomach. The distinctive orange headband was there, however, keeping Piper's wild azure hair out of her amber eyes …pale orange pools that seemed to fit their owner's cocoa-hued visage perfectly. She was leaning against a nearby railing, a leather-bound book loosely held in one hand as she turned her attention to Aerrow. Knowing her, it was probably a tome on rare crystals and their properties…Piper had a natural talent in the field of forging raw crystals into useful ones; a complex subject that few had truly mastered.
More importantly, she was one of his closest friends—it had been that way ever since their childhood at the mountain-top orphanage where he had grown up, alongside Finn and Radaar. Sure, Radaar was his faithful co-pilot, and Finn was the sharp-eyed wingman who could always lighten the mood with his jokes…but somehow, with Piper, it was different. How, exactly, Aerrow couldn't say for sure…maybe it was because when things got bad, she was always a little more worried about him than everyone else (with the possible exception of Radaar, but that was different). Maybe it was because he didn't know a lot of girls that were as talented and brilliant as she was.
All Aerrow knew was that things just wouldn't be the same without her.
Feeling strangely awkward, Aerrow ran his fingers through his scarlet hair as he cocked his head to one side. "I take it you couldn't sleep, either?" he asked Piper.
The crystal expert shook her head with a lopsided smile. "Nope; it was too stuffy in my room," she replied. "On top of the sounds my crystal forge was making, I couldn't go to sleep…so I came out here." Tapping the book in her hand, Piper lowered her head and sighed ruefully. "I was looking for a way to accelerate the process, but so far, I can't find anything. I'm sorry."
Aerrow shook his head, walking over to her. "Hey, don't worry about it," he said with a good-natured grin. "Thanks to you, we don't have to spend the extra money to purchase a whole new Frost Crystal." He paused, giving her a reassuring pat on the shoulder. "Believe me, Piper, no matter how much Finn might've complained about the wait, we're lucky to have you."
Piper looked over to him, a gentle smile touching her lips. "Thanks, Aerrow," she replied softly as her amber eyes found his. "It's nice to hear that."
The red-haired teen felt his heart do a quick jump. Maybe it was the way her pale orange eyes reflected what little light there was, but they seemed to have an almost hypnotic quality as they held his gaze. The softness of her voice, normally so bold and lively, was a surprising and gentle melody. And the way she smiled…something about it made his pulse quicken. He'd only seen her like this a handful of times…once, when he comforted her after her new friend turned out to be Master Cyclonis in disguise; another time, when he'd given her the Oracle crystal he'd found in the heart of the Forbidden City. And then when he'd come back from the stratosphere, when they'd stopped Ravess' Exo-Pod…
Each time, it had been just the two of them, if only for a moment. And though he didn't often have the time to think about it, Aerrow cherished the memories of those times spent with Piper. She was one of his closest friends…but sometimes, he couldn't help but think that there was something more to it than that.
"So, um…why did you come up here?"
Blinking as Piper's voice brought him back to reality, Aerrow found himself looking into his first officer's eyes, and realized he must have been doing that for a few minutes, now. It was hard to tell, since the bridge was so dark, but he could have sworn…was Piper blushing, slightly? Given the way she was gazing back at him…
Abruptly, Aerrow found his voice. "Oh. Well, since I couldn't get any sleep, I was thinking of grabbing my Skimmer and taking it out for a little training flight." He paused a moment, then gave Piper a smile. "Want to come along?"
He wasn't sure why he'd asked, exactly…but from the way Piper blinked in surprise, then smiled and slowly nodded, he was glad that he had.
"Sure! Just give me a few minutes to get my gear, and I'll meet you in the hangar!" With those words, Piper slipped through the door. Pausing in the doorway, she looked over her shoulder. For a moment, pale orange eyes found their green counterparts once again, and a small smile touched the crystal expert's lips…and then she was gone, disappearing down the hallway as she made a beeline for her room in search of her flight suit.
As he watched Piper go, Aerrow found himself smiling. He'd originally meant this to be a solo run…but somehow, he was glad that he was going to be having company for this midnight flight.
To be Continued…
Well, there it is, people! As always, comments and critique are always appreciated. To those of you who prefer characters to BE in-character, let me know if you found my depictions of either Aerrow or Piper to be lacking in that regard. I'm always open to input on how I can improve. : ) Thanks in advance!