Guilt Free at 3am

"Poke! Shuuuuji-kun. Wakey wakey!" Akira sings, peering at Shuuji, upside down.

Shuuji groans, throws a pillow at him and rolls over in bed.

"Go away," he mumbles.

"Shuuji! Shuuji! It's Nobuta day! Nobuta's coming!" Akira says while his make-shift hand puppet prods Shuuji in the ribs. Shuuji burrows himself deeper in his blankets to avoid the wandering hand which is venturing a little too far down for his comfort.

"Whoever let you in," he says, "I'm killing when I wake up."

"Papa gave Akira a key," Akira says with great satisfaction as he yanks the blanket away from Shuuji.

They have a short tug of war over the blanket which Akira wins quite easily because he cheats and tickles Shuuji. Satisfied with his winnings, Akira stands up and wraps the blanket around himself. Loose papers in Shuuji's room go flying as Akira tramples all over Shuuji's room, flapping his make-shift wings and singing (badly) at the top of his lungs: "Bird! I'm a bird! A big bird! A big big bird!"

Shuuji tries in vain to shh him frantically. It doesn't work obviously, as Akira just stops flapping for a moment to smile cheerfully at Shuuji and to dangle the keys in his face. ("Look, it's a worm," he says loudly before darting away from Shuuji's vengeful hands.)

Shuuji mentally runs through various ways of killing Akira and disposing of the body afterwards. He disappointingly notes that Akira never notices his glares of doom and that they've never had any effect on Akira normally (unless you were Nobuta), let alone when he's half-asleep and ready to crawl into a hole and die.

He finally settles on focusing a haggard look on Akira instead. "The sun's not even up yet. It's three am."

"So?" Akira says and 'kons' Shuuji on the nose. He seems to find this hilarious and sits down on Shuuji's bed to laugh at him.

"Nobuta's not supposed to be here for another six hours. Six," Shuuji stresses when Akira's finished laughing himself silly at his expense. He seems to be twice as bizarre as usual, and three times more hyper. (Shuuji suspects excessive consumption of soy milk.)

"I'm bored," Akira drawls.

"Bored?" he echoes in disbelief. "Can't you be bored in another five hours or something?"

Akira appears to consider this seriously for a moment, then – "Nope! Anyway, Nobuta said to be early – earlier than last time!""

Shuuji would hit him if not for the fact that he knows there's usually some purpose to Akira's madness. Akira's crazy and strange, but even he wouldn't wake Shuuji up for no reason - he's weird, not suicidal - unless there's something he really wants to say. Or, in this case, wants to say at three am in the morning for some obscure reason that probably makes sense in Akira-world, but clearly not in Shuuji-world because Shuuji-world is nice and normal and involves being asleep at three am in the morning.

He rubs a hand over his face, tired and wanting desperately to get back to bed. "I don't think she meant 'come at three am' Akira," he says dryly.

"But earlier is better," Akira protests. "We can be together longer, no?"

He's right of course, but - "What is it? You haven't fallen in love again or anything have you?" he jokes, weakly.

All of a sudden, Akira's enthusiasm seems to deflate right in front of Shuuji's eyes. He curls himself into a miserable ball on Shuuji's carpet and hugs himself tightly. Even his hair seems to droop with him. He doesn't look at Shuuji; instead he stares out of the window uncomfortably, pursing his lips in that strange way of his. He shrugs half-heartedly when Shuuji nudges him.

Shuuji feels inexplicably guilty; firstly for taking so long to realize that something was wrong (It's Akira, dammit. He's crap at hiding stuff, Shuuji should have known) and secondly, because that was supposed to be a joke – he didn't mean it to hurt.

"Akira," he says and motions to him. "Come here."

Akira crawls over and sits by the head of his bed.

"Tell me?" Shuuji asks, softly.

Akira is silent for so long that Shuuji almost believes that he won't tell him, but he sucks in a breath – as if it hurts and begins slowly. "Akira - Akira is scared."

"Scared of what?"

He looks down at his hands, then looks up at Shuuji's ceiling and swallows. He stubbornly refuses look at Shuuji. "Scared that Akira didn't completely give up Nobuta."

"You promised," Shuuji reminds him gently.

Akira looks miserable. "Head yes, heart don't know."

"Look at me," he says.

Akira jerks his head up, eyes dark with a hurt and uncertainty that makes Shuuji's heart clench - in sympathy or pain, he's not sure. Akira should not look like that – not happy, crazy and poignant Akira who drinks too much soy milk, steals from other people's bentos on a regular basis and who's one of Shuuji's best friends. The world would be strangely out of whack with an unhappy Akira.

It's not right. It's not Akira.

"You know," he says suddenly, and the uncertainty in his voice makes Akira frown sceptically.

"You do know," he says again, sure and confident this time. This is Akira, his best friend. He knows Akira. More importantly, he knows Akira well enough that he can say Akira knows himself better than anyone else ever could. And Akira is resolute in a way that Shuuji's never been. It's one of things that Shuuji likes about him. Akira's always honest; he's always truthful even when the truth hurts him or someone he likes. He stands by everything he says because he always means it with every fibre of his being. That's the kind of person Shuuji wishes he could be and knows he's not.

"I know?" Akira echoes.

"Akira's heart is pure," Shuuji says, and lays a hand over Akira's chest, feeling his heart thudding under his fingers. "Akira always knows his own heart."

He smiles at Akira. Not the smiles he uses with their classmates, but the secret Shuuji smile, the one that he rarely gives. It's the one that begins slowly at the corners of his lips until it grows and breaks out across his face, wide and free and he shines.

"Tell me," he says.

Akira frowns and thinks for a bit. He opens his mouth to speak and pauses in indecision. He sends Shuuji an agonized look.

"Akira," Shuuji says, softly. "You know."

"I – I know?" he says hesitantly, continuing on when Shuuji nods encouragingly. "I – I gave up on Nobuta. I said I did. I did. Say it. To Shuuji. Give up. Right."

"Right. You did."

"I – I did. Shuuji!" he says suddenly and grabs Shuuji by the shoulders, shaking him. "I did! Heart gave up – head and heart! You're right Shuuji! Super right!"

Shuuji laughs. "I'm always right, idiot."

There's a distinct pause, while they stare at each other (well, Akira studies Shuuji, and Shuuji tries not to fall asleep now that the crisis has been averted). Then, Akira's face clears over, and he says wonderingly, "I - I do know - Shuuji's the best. The best – best everything!" And with that, he cups Shuuji's face in both hands to give him a big, wet kiss on the lips. "Akira Kiss, one hundred percent success rate!"

Shuuji goes bright red with embarrassment. He swats at the hands that try to squeeze his cheeks and furiously swipes at his mouth with his hand. He makes a face. "What the hell is a hundred percent success kiss? Anyway, all I can taste is soy milk. Definitely not one hundred percent at all."

"Soy milk is good for you!"

"Whatever. Now shut up and let me sleep already."

When Nobuta comes by six hours later, having been let in by a tired Koji, Shuuji is still in bed, sleeping soundly. Akira is perched on the side of his bed, watching him, hand clasped loosely in Shuuji's.

"AKIRA," Nobuta says as she shuffles into Shuuji's room.

Akira looks up and says to Nobuta solemnly, "Shuuji's the best."

Nobuta nods in agreement and says, "Best everything" which makes Akira grin widely and flap his hands animatedly (but forgetting that he's still attached to Shuuji so all that happens is a strange one armed flap).

"Two as one?" she asks quietly.

Akira doesn't even have to think. "Three as one," he says decisively and slides a hand into Nobuta's. "Connected, ne?"

Nobuta regards their hands for a long, silent moment, and then nods again, firmly this time. Akira nudges her, gesturing with the hand in hers to Shuuji's limp hand hanging off the bed. Taking the hint, Nobuta reaches out and pulls Shuuji's hand to her by his pyjama sleeve.

"Yay!" whispers Akira, almost vibrating with excitement. Shuuji mumbles when the bed shifts under Akira's bouncing and he sleepily opens his eyes to regard Nobuta and Akira with a small smile.

"What are you two doing?" Shuuji says as he yawns and sits up in bed. "Something weird again?"

Nobuta smiles. Or tries to, at least.

Shuuji tries in vain to hold back a smile as Akira giggles.

"Um, we'll work on that some more," he says, and pats Nobuta on the back.