Title: A twinkle in the sky
Genre: AU
Pairing: Kusano Akira / Kotani Nobuko
Rating: PG
Words: 4,513
A/N: Something I written on livejournal for missiemae and our three month friendship anniversary way back then. For those who are updated on the Japanese/Jpop world, you may recognize a few actors, actress and dramas thrown into this story.
Disclaimer: I own nothing but the fictional stories that bring these characters together.
Warning: Not proofread. In which I fail to make Nobuta her weird awkward self in here…Sappiness...Cliché-ness...
Summary: Nobuko begins to feel weird after Mariko tells her what she heard that day with Akira confessing in the school.

A Twinkle in the sky

I.

There's something about Kusano Akira that Nobuko couldn't quite decipher. Was it his unusual behavior? He's odd gestures and squeaks? His long staring into space, at her for the most part, or was it because he was the first guy to ever see her as a person and not as someone scary, ugly or a nobody?

Shuji was special too, but he had eyes for Mariko. It was real this time, because there was a twinkle in his eyes whenever he came to visit nowadays. He uncharacteristically leaves her sappy love poems and flowers, takes her out on actual dates and pecks her on the lips with affection.

Sometimes Nobuko would find herself going on a double date with them, Akira as her significant half. Awkward tensions arise as they both looked to the side while the other two lovebirds made-out.

Akira treats Nobuko the same as usual, still affectionately calling her 'Nobuta.' Shuji has long left that phase and started calling her by her real name, but Akira…No, Akira likes that name. It was alright really.

Nobuko didn't mind. It was a special nickname she cherished also.

When time ticked by longer than usual, Akira tries to make conversation, going first at Nobuko's new look, "I like your new haircut. It looks…good on you." A stutter or two in between, but that's alright, Akira is Akira, silly, childish and imperfect.

Nobuko nods slowly, thanking him quietly. He looked nice too, in that expensive little outfit of his along with a new curly hairdo, the in-fashion of what all the celebrities were wearing. She swore she was staring straight at Yamashita Tomohisa himself. She was just too afraid to admit that he looked kind of cute. And so, she ruffles the hem of her skirt and smiles genially,

"You l-look nice too."

Akira gives off that drunken smile and looks away in embarrassment, "Majide? You think so?"

She nods again.

It was like the old days where they hang out and watch television, or talk about what to do next.

Akira offers her some soymilk.

He was the same as always, kissing his fingers and making that fox gesture, "Kon-kon, soymilk?"

Nobuko nods, takes the bottle and drinks from it, ignoring that fact that she was sharing an indirect kiss with Akira. Whatever, she was thirsty anyway, and it was his fault for spilling her drink earlier.

"Th-thank you."

II.

It was about the time when Nobuko hands back Akira's bottled soymilk that Mariko excuses them both and literally drags her to the bathroom, rather forcefully, anger steaming out of her ears somehow.

Bemused at Mariko's sudden change of visage, Nobuko tugs at her best friend's arm and stares into those furious eyes raging with flames, "N-nani? Is there something wrong? What did you do this time?"

Nobuko asks Mariko that because sometimes, she finds her long-haired friend wailing, something about having a fight with Shuji over trivial things.

Mariko squeezes Nobuko's shoulders, slides her to the side, and brings her pretty little face up against Nobuko's shy, pale one, "No, it's not me this time. It's you."

Nobuko blinks at that comment and tucks a few strands of hair behind her ear in nervousness, "Eh?"

"You don't see it?" Mariko squeaks.

"See what?"

Releasing a heavy sigh, Mariko pats Nobuko's right shoulder before crossing her arms, leaning against the bathroom sink, "Kusano-kun likes you."

Nobuko freezes. Then melts and blinks several more times before letting out another loud "Eh?"

Mariko nods her head, "For a long time now actually."

She doesn't utter a word and continues to stay frozen, listening to the wise words of the love fairy before her.

As if Mariko knows what Nobuko wants to ask, she smiles and begins the short tale of a man and his [absurd] way of confessing during her morning basketball practice.

III.

Nobuta, I love you.

I like the book that you read.

I like the sidewalk you walk.

I like the top floor where you are.

I like everywhere where you are.

I love it.

Although some of her memory was blurry, her words somewhat fragmented and paraphrased, Nobuta saw it in Mariko's twinkling eyes She saw the soul of a romantic storyteller. Mariko was swelling up with tears now, joy, swoons, and squeals of, "he still loves you. I can see it in his eyes and the way he looks at you."

Either she has been watching too many Korean dramas or she was going crazy fan-girlish over the whole confession from two and a half years ago. And heck, it was the same day Shuji had broken up with her, or rather, "take a break from each other", so he says. Nobuko wondered how Mariko could withstand and talk about such a heart-wrenching day.

"I mean, he sang a song for you too. It just shows how much he cares." Mariko sighs dreamily, gazing out to space with her hands clasped together, "I wish Shuji-kun would sing for me…"

Nobuko nearly chokes at the revelation. It only made the whole date even more awkward now.

"I see…"

IV.

Akira was chirpy as usual, laid-back and high on soymilk. They were all giggling about a lame joke Shuji once heard from his friend Kenzou, "He's just as pathetic as Kusano. Can't confess to the girl he loves"

The group continues to laugh but Akira, who snorts and pinches Shuji for that statement, "Kon, I am not pathetic."

Shuji snorts even louder as he clings onto Mariko's arm, "Pfft, I swear you guys are like brothers. Both of you are single, losers, and weirdoes."

Akira springs from his seat and slams his hand on the table, "Fine. I bet you my month's collection of soymilk that I can find a girlfriend within a week."

Nobuko, Mariko and Shuji let out loud gasps, "That's so not like you…"

With another snort, Akira crosses his arms and stomps his feet, "Akira-shock! Why so doubtful? I'll prove to you all that I'm not a loser like Kenzou-kun!"

Mariko pouts and shakes her head at Akira's abrupt challenge, "Guys, please. This is really stu—"

Shuji lets out a chuckle and grins, "I accept."

"Eh, but Shuji-kun doesn't like soymilk." Mariko whines, eyes wide with shock.

"But you do, right?" Shuji beams, making Mariko melt, "Oh you remembered."

Mariko looks over to Akira's determined look for several seconds, glances over to Nobuko and winks.

Nobuko brushes it off and continues gazing out to the star-twinkling night sky.
It was going to be a long, wild week.

V.

Like the first time she found about Shittaka's crush on her, Nobuko tries to avoid direct eye contact with Akira for the rest of the night.

She really never had a problem with Akira, until Mariko ruined it all with the story of his confession.

And as if the night couldn't be any more awkward, Mariko suggests the most outrageous idea, "Nobuko-chan, why don't you help Kusano-kun out?"

Another wink and a giggle escape that pretty girl with long hair. Nobuko twitches and is about to open her mouth to reject, but Akira butts in and grabs hold of her hand, pleading with puppy eyes, "Pretty please?"

Nobuko blinks twice, unsure of what to do at her position. She was inexperienced with the game of love, asking girls out and didn't know a single thing about what girly girls do nowadays. She never bothered to look it up or ask Mariko about anything.
"Why me? I don't know the first step to—"

"You're just there to keep an eye on him, just in case he tries to cheat through bribing." Shuji interjects, avoiding the napkin balls Akira was throwing at him.
"That's right. Kusano-kun has to get the girl the old fashion way. You can do that just for us, neh Nobu-chan?"

All three gaze at Nobuko with eyes that twinkled brightly and innocently like a child, and pouts that she couldn't turn down.

"Fine."

Akira does a victory dance, bending his arms close to his chest, waves his hands like he touched something hot and sways his hips side to side, "Yay!"

VI.

It looked like Akira was going to fail the bet, miserably, with a slap every time he was turned down, and if he was lucky, a gentle rejection and a slight tearful expression, "I'm sorry, I'm already seeing someone" or "You're not my type" and "Get lost loser."

Nobuko blinks at the number written on the napkin Akira received from one of the girls he tried to court, "She didn't finish writing the rest of the digits…"

"That's impossible, I swore she… Akira-shock." Akira falls to the floor, holding onto the napkin and staring intently at the half-written phone number, "I'm a handsome guy, why won't any girl go out with me?"

Nobuko doesn't know what to do now. A sad man wailing in the middle of a busy street. Her hand hesitates to make contact with his back, to stroke him down and make him feel better. Instead, she freezes a couple just a couple inches, her fingertips barely touching his leather jacket.

When she stopped trembling in fright, she finally has the courage to crouch next to him and places a reassuring hand on his shoulder. With her free hand, she makes that gesture he had taught her so long ago, the gesture that boosted her confidence, "Nobuta power, enter."

A warm smile is plastered on Akira's face, as he wipes the snot from his nose and follows her gesture, "Akira power, enter."

In the distance, Akira takes notice of a beautiful girl handing out flyers, and is captivated in first sight, takes an immediate liking to that pretty face. She has a gentle soul…

"Hara Marina. Nice to meet you."

Akira affectionately calls her 'Rina-chan.'

Although Nobuko feels happy for him, finally winning the bet and getting a date with the nice next-door girl, her heart ached and her stomach boiled with slight envy. Perhaps it was all that time spent together that she finally saw something in him. She obviously blames Mariko for that.

Mariko came to the conclusion about Nobuko's odd symptoms,

"Nobu-chan, this is what we call, love!"

VII.

Akira's relationship with Marina lasts only one month. Apparently, she couldn't deny it all anymore; her heart was elsewhere, within the reach of another man.

"I'm so sorry Kusano-kun…It's just that, you remind me of Aoki-kun so much that I—"

"It's alright. I understand. Now go find him." Akira says, hands in his pockets. It wasn't a big deal really, he knew from the start. He was serious when he said those words, his face blank and staring off intently at a tree.

Marina bows one last time, apologizing and giving him a kiss on the cheek before disappearing from his sight.

Nobuko lets out a sigh of relief when she hears about the break-up. For a while now, she began to accept that fact that she too, likes him. She just didn't have the heart to tell him yet. Mariko screams in happiness when she hears about Nobuko's new-found feelings for the man, "You two are so meant to be together!"

Thankfully, Mariko respected Nobuko enough to let her be and wait for things to fall in place.

Shuji pats Akira's back and pulls him over to the couch, handing him a glass of soymilk, "She was a great girl too…Sorry to hear what happened."

Akira kisses his fingertips and forms a fox with his hand, "Kon. She wasn't the one for me."

He turns his head and his eyes then locks with Nobuko's. For a moment there, she felt butterflies fluttering in her stomach. She looks away, flushed and pretends to read one of the Kindai magazines she found on the coffee table.

VIII.

It was Akira's 19th birthday two weeks later. And no one seems no remember that it was. Mariko and Shuji went off on another date, to watch some twisted romance movie about a girl with a dual personality.

"Tokyo Shonen? Horikita Maki-chan's in it! She's my favorite actress." Akira points outs excitedly for a quick second before shifting back to his sullen self, "Kon-kon."

For the moment, Nobuko was accompanying him, or rather, was forced to hang out with him by Mariko, "Neh, it's his special day. We're not really going to the movies. We're throwing him a special birthday party and you're going to be his escort!"

Nobuko sighs in defeat. It was impossible to back off now. Mariko had already planned out everything and made Nobuko, Akira's special lady, "So we're counting on you to keep an eye on him. I'll text you when everything's ready. Now be a good girl and make him feel as if we forgot his birthday."

It was heart-wrenching to look at that droopy face of his, where he would rest his head on the arm of the couch they sat on and stare off into space, quietly singing the 'happy birthday' song to himself, "Happy Birthday to me…"

With a steady sigh, Nobuko reaches over and tugs at his arm sleeve. He glances over, with those innocent eyes of his, "Hmm…?"

Her heart beats twice as fast at that adorable curious look of his.

"Let's go to the park."

IX.

When the confetti pops and scatters everywhere, the loud scream of "HAPPY BIRTHDAY!" and balloons popping, Akira finally smiles, warmly and happy with tears, "You actually didn't forget!"

He rounds up everyone (which only consisted of Shuji, Nobuko and Mariko) and hugs them all around the neck, "You guys are the best!"

With Nobuko in the middle, Akira rubs his cheek against her hair in pure delight, oblivious to what he was doing to her, "Thank you!"

In the dark of the night, they celebrated Akira's birthday at the park. It was their special place, where they would share first kisses and watch the pretty twinkling stars upon the sky.

Halfway through the party, when it was time to open presents, Akira was high on soymilk, swaying here and there and tripping over the kiddy see-saw.

From Shuji and Mariko, Akira receives the complete DVD box set of his favorite show, 'Delicious Gakuen.' Akira screams loudly when his eyes fell upon the cover, throwing his arms into the air with excitement, "Yosh! Shuji to Mariko is the best!" He gives the two each a bone-breaking hug and a sloppy wet kiss on the cheek for Shuji.

"Hey! Stop that…You fool…" Shuji complains, smacking Akira's head while wiping his wet cheek in disgust and looking away in embarrassment. When the midnight struck, Mariko decides to drag Shuji off, telling Akira and Nobuko that she forgot something in the car.

But of course, Nobuko catches Mariko's grinning face. It was all a set up, to get Nobuko and Akira alone so that they would grow closer together.

Akira turns to Nobuko, his hands casually resting inside his pockets, "Neh Nobuta, thanks for…being here, celebrating my birthday. I really appreciate it."

Nobuko nods at his words of gratitude, trying hard to hide what she got for him behind her back, "N-no problem."

With nothing else happening for several minutes now, Akira turns and is ready to leave, thinking the party is over.

Nobuko watches him, frozen in place, gripping at her present, her heart thumping rapidly again. She doesn't want to end this night just yet, not when he didn't receive a present from her. And so, she runs after him. He gave her that look, the one where he seems fine on the outside but definitely sad in the inside.

"Wait!"

Akira turns his body slightly and is tackled down by Nobuta, falling into his arms. Nobuko wraps her arms around his neck, standing at her tip-toes to reach him. She doesn't want to let him go. She melted, feeling week at the scent of his heavenly cologne.

He embraces her back just as hard, sighing into her shoulder and squeezing her as if she was his teddy bear.

"Nobuta?"

She pulls back abruptly and shows him her present to him, with her head bowed and arms stretched out, "Happybirthday." Her words were fast and her voice stuttering, as if she was back in her pre-produced Nobuta stage.

Akira doesn't immediately open his present from Nobuko. Instead, he smiles and gazes up towards the night sky in awe.

Nobuko follows his gaze and surprisingly, finds the both of them watching a meteor shower together for the first time.

X.

"Make a wish." Akira says, leaning back against the tiny yellow monkey bar.

"It's your birthday. You make one first." Nobuko replies, not taking her eyes off the beautiful sight.

Akira intertwines his hand with Nobuko's small one and squeezes it tightly, "Let's make one together then. Close your eyes…"

Nobuko does as she was told without hesitation and makes her wish, "I wish I…"

Just as she was about to finish her train of thoughts, she feels something warm covering her lips. Her eyes flutter open and to her surprise, Akira's lips were locked with hers, his eyes closed. His free hand trails behind her back and he thrusts her forward, closer to him.
It was as if he knew what she was going to wish for…

"Ummm…" She was suffocating, as if she didn't know how to kiss. She was out of breath, flailing her arms now and hitting his arm, moaning.

Akira pulls away and rests his forehead against Nobuko's. His eyes were twinkling, his smile gentle, "Kon. Wow, you taste like raspberries."

Nobuko touched her swelled lips, still tingling with Akira's touch. She begins to hyperventilate with her heart beating at an inexplicable rate.

Of all days to kiss her, why did he decide to do it on his birthday? And most of all, why did he wait so long to make a move on her?

She turns her back to him and buries her face into her hands, blushing madly now.
Akira chuckles, that stupid laugh coming out of his mouth, "Nobuta, I never told you this…but I've always liked you."

Well duh, he practically sang a love song for her.

He confessed, finally, with stutters in between. Perhaps it was his wish to have the courage to do so.

Trembling at his confession, Nobuko twitches. She was going to get Mariko for this.

XI.

The meteor shower was still flying above, "I know Nobuta feels the same way." He adds after a long silence.

How? When? Why?

It was quite obvious that Nobuko was still inexperienced with all these sappy stuff. She never got pass the kissing stage and Akira stole that from her. That fool stole her first kiss.
And so, she turns, fire in her eyes and slaps him square on the face, hard. Akira slips from the monkey bar dramatically and falls to the dirt ground with a thud, "Akira-down."

There's a rustle in the bushes nearby and Nobuko knows its Shuji and Mariko, both spying on her and Akira. Those fools. She ignores them and begins marching towards the swing set in the park.

But of course, Akira stops her before she could go any further, "Hey, what was that for?" He tugs at the end of the red scarf hanging loosely from her neck. It was quite cold tonight, and she decided to wear it. She regretted doing so now.

"Birthday slaps. You'll get eighteen more after that." She quickly lies, focusing her attention on the details of Akira's choice of outfit.

An expensive brand, black leather jacket over a grey hooded sweater, a white wife-beater, the same orange and brown necklace from high school along with another black necklace with only a reddish heart hanging at the side, a nice belt-buckle that matched with his jeans.
"Eh? That hurts more than punches!" He complains, rubbing his sore cheeks.

Nobuko grins, "Exactly."

XII.

Mariko wasn't very happy with Nobuko, "You foolish girl, you ruined your perfect chance!"

"He stole my first kiss." Nobuko counters, crossing her arms in front of her chest, "He deserved it. The birthday slaps."

Nobuko's only best female friend frowns and squeezes the teddy bear Shuji gave to her, "You can't avoid him forever."

It had been a long, agonizing week since she last talked to Akira. She avoided him at all costs. Thinking of him made her head hurt.

"Shuji-kun says Kusano-kun misses you. All he's been doing is getting himself drunk on soymilk, feeling down and playing with that pig keychain you got for his birthday."

Nobuko wasn't ready to face him, not after what happened that very night.

"I'll visit him later then." She lies, so that the basketball prodigy would stop pestering her with guilt trips.

Mariko lets out a heavy sigh and springs from the couch, dragging Nobuko along by the wrist, "No, I want you to go and make-up with him with lots of kisses and tears."

"W-what? Wait, why? He was the one that stole—"

"Enough with the excuses! Now go before I whoop your pretty little head." Mariko forces Nobuko out of their apartment, throwing a jacket and scarf and then slamming the door on her.
There was the sound of a lock as well as chain sounds, indicating that Mariko was definitely not going to let Nobuko in until she made her journey to Akira-land.

Nobuko knocks on the door and a hiss is heard on the other side, "Why are you still here? Didn't I tell you to go see Kusano-kun?"

"Umm…I need my money to ride the bus…"

XIII.

Nobuko stands in front of Akira and Shuji's apartment door, just staring silently at it, her fist hovering just inches away to knock.

The door opens in a blur and Akira, who doesn't notice her bumps into her. Apparently he was in a hurry to go somewhere, as if someone had called him out.

The impact of Akira's body almost makes Nobuko fall back, but he captures her just in time before she could hit the floor.

"Nobuta." He seemed breathless, disoriented. His pretty curly hair was in a mess, and the buttons on his shirt only buttoned halfway. Nobuko couldn't stop staring. She begins breathing heavily, blushing hard at the fact that her lithe flat body was pressed against Akira's firm, big one.

"What are you doing here?" His voice was squeaky, high, as if he was actually more excited to see her here than curious.

A crash is heard and everything before her disappears. Akira fades and she is back staring at the vanilla colored apartment door, with the number 305 staring straight back at her.

She frowns, slowly bringing her hand back down. Of course. It was all just a daydream, something that would happen like a happy ending of a movie. Or more like a wet daydream where Akira would lean down and nip her ear in a love scene.

Nobuko shakes her head, getting the dirty thoughts out. Taking a deep breath and letting it out slowly, Nobuko finally musters up enough courage to knock on the door.

One knock, no one answers. Another knock, again silence. A third knock, shuffling is heard. And then the door magically slides open, and up pops Shuji in his PJs, a part of his hair up, rubbing his eyes,

"Nobuko? Yaaawn. I assume Mariko-chan made you come here for Akira, right?"

Nobuko nods.

Shuji stretches and scratches his head, his eyes droopy, and slow in responses, "You just missed him. He's says he's going to see the countryside for a week. If you leave now, I think you can still catch him at the bus sta—"

Nobuko was already on her way, racing down the hallway and out the doors.

XIV.

When Nobuko says Akira's name, she practically yells, or as if he stomped on her feet and she was forced to cry out a word.

She's running down the street, excited, sad, and anxious all at the same time. In the distance, she sees him, with a group of people scattering and skittering to get in line and inside the bus, bags and backpacks hanging from their shoulders.

Nobuko loses her balance, out of breath and trips over her own two feet. When she reaches her destination, it was too late. Everyone was already in place, inside and sitting and the door shuttles close. It drives along the street, and off it goes, along with Kusano Akira, the man of her dreams, her fated, her one and only.

That stupid fool. Always going off and doing foolish, abrupt things. And to add, last minute.
Well, she tried. She'll just catch him next week then. Yes, she was very casual about Akira's sudden departure. And so, with a heavy heart, and tears rounding up at the corner of her eyes, slowly turns and walks down the street, ignoring the sting on her bloody knee.

Ok, so she lied. She couldn't bear to see him leave without a word. She wanted to see him. She couldn't wait another week. She was a few minutes too late for that. If only she wasn't so stubborn about that stupid stolen kiss…Then they would be...

"Nobuta power, enter." However, when she did it, this time, her arms were trembling, her knees shaking and the tears dropping like rain. She misses him already. She missed that goofy face of his, and the way he would stare off into space.

"Nobuta!"

XV.

She freezes at the voice, calling out for her. She recognizes it and glances over her shoulder.

Just like the movies, he's standing before her, panting, his bag next to him on the ground. He didn't really get on the bus and was now waiting for her to say something, a name, or let a sigh of relief.

She doesn't say a word. No, she doesn't have to say anything, because he knows, he can see it in her tearful eyes.

Yes, Kusano Akira made Kotani Nobuko feel this way, a friendship that turned into a crush, which then slowly blossomed into love from a mere confession that came out through someone else's mouth.

She jumps into his arms and buries her face at the crook of his neck. And she utters his name with affection, a whisper, "Akira, I like you."

With a warm smile, Akira kisses her forehead and looks up to the twinkling stars as she recites those very same words he sang for her almost three years ago, "I know."

He knows. He knew of her feelings. He knew she'd go after him. He knew since the very beginning. Love is an experience, and Akira had already went through all those awkward phases. Of course, Nobuko was bad at hiding them, and Mariko was loud when it came to the shy girl's love life.

I like the book that you read.

I like the sidewalk you walk.

I like the top floor where you are.

I like everywhere where you are.

I love it.

"I know."

~owari~