Dislaimer: Again, not mine.

AND A STAR FELL

by dementedchris

I couldn't believe that Aya would do this to me.

Standing on their doorstep and blushing furiously, I tried to recall her exact words to me. "Stargazing tomorrow night. Be there at seven," she had explicitly said.  Although it was a school night, I had gotten special permission from my parents to stay out late, but not after an entire afternoon of cooking and doing the chores. When I left, I had a feeling that I didn't even have to go through the whole buttering-the-parents-up routine; I think Otousan likes it when I go out with my friends. I think they're worried that I'm overworking myself.

I guess they're right in a way. I have been a little tired lately, running myself ragged between schoolwork and housework. Which was why I jumped at the chance when Aya-chan invited me for an evening of stargazing. In all our years as friends, I never pegged Aya as the outdoorsy type – in fact she spent most of her time locked in her room typing her next novel – but you never could tell with writers. Looking at me, I guess I wouldn't strike the next stranger as a nature tripper. Sure I don't have the strength for mountain climbing or the endurance for hiking, but that has never stopped me from enjoying nature as much as I can. When Aya had invited me, I felt grateful to have such a thoughtful friend.

But I wasn't feeling so grateful now.

"Rika-chan? Are you all right?"

I had to snap myself out of it. Aya-chan's older brother Kyou was looking at me with a worried expression on his gentle face, his dark eyes peering at me from behind his glasses.

"Hai," I replied, blushing even more at his concern. I willed my tongue to say more, but it refused to cooperate. Strange, but I never felt so tongue-tied with Kyou-can before.

He hitched his backpack higher as he closed their front door. "Like I said, Aya-chan is not feeling well and asked me to accompany you instead." He paused and cleared his throat hesitantly. "I hope you wouldn't mind spending time with me."

"I hope I'm not too much of a trouble. I'm sure Kyou-chan has better things to do," I told him as we walked down the street. I followed a step behind, mainly because I didn't know where we were headed and because I didn't want him to see my face.

"Better things than spend time with you?" he asked incredulously. I blushed. He stopped in his tracks and let out a nervous laugh. When I lifted my eyes for just a peek, I could see the back of his neck turning red. "You're, ah, my sister's best friend. You're almost like my --"

Sister.

He didn't say it, but I heard the message loud and clear, the word echoing between us and hanging in the cool evening sky.

I've known Kyou for nearly half my life. But something in me has changed in the past year, something that makes me blush every time I look at him or makes me forget what I should be doing when he is around. I think Aya-chan suspects, which is why I can't believe she would force me to spend a night with her brother. Torture, thy name is Sawada Aya.

I held out the small box I carried, trying to change the subject. "Let's hurry. Look, I made us dinner." Then without waiting for Kyou to say another word, I walked ahead, hoping that my feet knew where I was going, because my heart certainly didn't.

***

At the intersection, I slowed down and let Kyou lead. We weren't speaking. Maybe it was better this way, just letting our silence do the talking for us. With every step I regretted that irrational burst of emotion I felt when he nearly called me his sister. After all, that was what I was to him, wasn't it? Aya-chan's best friend. Another little sister to look after.

"Rika-chan." Kyou said. I stopped and turned towards the sound of his voice, my eyes focusing themselves on a point near his left ear. I wasn't certain why I didn't want to meet his eyes – either because I was afraid that he would see what was hidden in mine or because I was afraid of what I would see if I looked into his. "I wanted to bring you to where I used to watch the stars with my friends from high school.  It's just a small hill, but if you don't want to go, we can find other places."

The park. The planetarium. The roof of a really tall building. Anywhere with people, I wanted to tell him. Anywhere but here with you.

But the words stuck in my throat and when I opened my mouth, all that came out was a smile and a polite "Whatever you say, Kyou-chan."

I followed him as he shone his flashlight on the trail, matching his long strides with my quick energetic ones. Maybe I was the feminine one in the group, but that didn't mean I was weak. More than anything, I wanted to prove to Kyou that I was strong enough for anything.

Maybe even love.

I blushed at my own thoughts, and concentrated on the trail. This was Kyou, I reminded myself. The older brother I never had. Of course I loved him. But maybe now things weren't as simple as they were before.

I let out a soft gasp as I stumbled on a piece of loose rock. Kyou caught me before I fell, his right hand gripping my left arm while his other hand steadied the small box that held our dinner. "Are you okay, Rika-chan?"

Now I am, I wanted to answer. But of course I wasn't stupid enough to say that out loud.

"Domo," I murmured, adding a small smile. "Thank you for catching me."

***

"I always start with Orion," Kyou confessed. "For me it's the easiest one to spot."

We had settled down on the grass and he had handed me his battered binoculars. I focused them on the general direction he was pointing. I wasn't a complete beginner at astronomy.

"Alnitak, Alnilam and Mintaka," I enumerated, naming the three stars that hung in a straight line as Orion's Belt. The words sounded very foreign to my ears but I wanted to show Kyou up. I sneaked a peek at him from the corner of my eye.

He looked impressed. "Not everyone knows that."

I tried to play down the pleasure that I felt from his words. "I like watching the stars. But honestly, Orion's pretty much the only constellation I know."

"Well, to Orion's right, just above Bellatrix, is the constellation Taurus," Kyou jumped in enthusiastically. "You can tell by that bright star over there. That's Aldebaran. To Orion's left, you can see Gemini and Canis Minor and Canis Major. That star below Orion is actually --"

I couldn't help it. I laughed.

Kyou turned red and fell silent. I was at a loss for words. "Oh, Kyou-chan, I'm sorry! I didn't mean to laugh, it's just that you were so excited when you talked about them when you're usually so shy."

He was sitting so still that I was suddenly afraid that I had really offended him. "Gomenasai," I whispered, unsure whether he could hear me but knowing that my simple apology carried with it all my sincerest emotions.

"It's hard to find someone who will listen," he said finally.

I hung my head.

"But it's harder to find someone who can make you smile, ne?" Kyou turned to me, a soft smile on his face. "I'm glad I can make Rika-chan laugh the same way she can make me smile."

I was warmed to the tips of my toes, feeling so much joy course through me that any more and I would end up in the heavens, a beacon of light so many light-years away.

***

"So do you believe it?" I asked Kyou as he walked me home. "That Artemis was so in love with Orion that she couldn't keep the sky lighted with her moonlight?"

We were walking together now, so close that my shoulder occasionally brushed against his arm. He was quiet for a few minutes, and I thought to myself, This is the Kyou-chan I knew. Steady and silent, always dependable. I always thought that if people I know started changing, I'd be completely lost, that I wouldn't know how to act or how to catch up. But Kyou didn't change. I didn't change. We just happened to find different sides of each other's personalities tonight.

I didn't have to be quiet, responsible Rika. And it was okay.

"I believe that it's possible for people to forget what they're supposed to do when they're around certain people," he replied.  "But I think, if it were really love, people won't forget who they are. If it were really love, the other person should make you feel wholly yourself. Do you know what I mean?"

Hai.

"Look, a shooting star!" I exclaimed, pointing as a faint streak of light shot across the sky.

"Where?" Kyou asked frantically, his hands fumbling for his binoculars.

But I wasn't listening. I closed my eyes and made a wish.

When I opened my eyes, he was smiling down at me. "I missed it. What did you wish for?"

"Orion," I answered.

He didn't ask me any more questions.

***

"Thank you for the lovely evening," I told him as we stopped in front of our house.

"It was my pleasure," he replied. He hesitated, opening his mouth for a moment but turning away the next. I thought he was going to leave.

Kyou stopped. He was looking up at the star-filled sky as he spoke, "Maybe we can do this again, ne?"

I smiled. "Yes, and we can make sure that Aya-chan is feeling much better."

He looked at me. "Maybe we shouldn't invite my sister along."

"I'd like that very much."

This must be what that shooting star felt as it plummeted across the heavens – an undeniable exhilaration of letting go, of letting yourself be, and knowing in the end, that someone was bound to catch you.

END

Notes: Please tell me if they were OOC, I'd really appreciate it. Feedback is food for the soul and is highly appreciated. Please send to dementedchris@lycos.com.