after beating the world ends with you and then replaying joshua's chapter over and over, i decided to try writing something.
and in present tense, too! i'm breaking all my previous boundaries over here! haha.
i hope you all enjoy it. it's in-game, day three of joshua's chapter. it's...what might of happened but probably did not.
please leave a review with your thoughts!x
It's the end of the third day. Joshua is discussing something with Ken and Neku is sitting at the stool of the ramen bar with a nostalgic stare. His eyes are darker than usual—possibly due to the fact that his head is tilted downward and casting a shadow over his face. His lips are pressed in a thin line and his tongue occasionally darts out to taste his lips. The taste is familiar but foreign; everything in this alternate Shibuya feels different. The wind, the sun on his skin, and the taste of the things he once loved. In fact, Neku can't even recognize the bland taste that was once he own saliva. It's an odd concept that many people do not even bother noticing but for Neku it's something. It's something that was once normal and perfunctory for him.
Joshua looks over at Neku who has suddenly become oddly distant. Ken has gone back into the kitchen to cook up some more 'simple' ramen, as suggested by the Prince. Joshua's blue-grey eyes lock with Neku's distant ones and he says nothing. His pale, supple lips curve up into a knowing smirk and he decides to remain laconic.
It is Neku who speaks first.
"We saved Ken's business. Doesn't that get us any extra credit? Or are the Reapers too smug and cold to see the kindness of the Players?" Neku remarks bitingly and looks back down at his untouched bowl of ramen.
Joshua says nothing for a moment. He then laughs and drags his sinewy, pale fingers through his hair. "Neku, if the Reapers were going to commend us for all the good we've done, we wouldn't be playing a game, silly."
Neku hates when he patronizes him like that. "If we're playing for another chance at life, shouldn't it go to the most benevolent person?" he snaps.
"Neku, calm down," Joshua urges as he begins toying with his ramen with his chopsticks. "We can't correct the errors in this game. We aren't the Composer, after all."
Neku winces and he clenches his fists on the counter of the bar. It's cold in here. Even in a place that he can be seen, a place that has the Reaper Decal, he still feels so dead. Because he really is. He's dead and Joshua has memories of Neku dying. It makes no sense to him.
"Now, let's eat up and get ready for tomorrow. Hopefully the Game master will provide us with a mission," Joshua hums as he begins to eat, savoring the taste of the noodles. He has always been one for the great taste of Ramen in Shibuya.
"How can you be so coy?" Neku demands as he looks over to his partner.
"How can you be so persistent?" Joshua retorts and cocks a thin eyebrow. "I'm just enjoying this," he reasons and smiles distantly at Neku.
"How can you be enjoying this!?" Neku demands but instantly quiets. Fighting with Joshua is not something he can afford right now. Mr. H said to trust your partner and Neku intends to do such.
"The day hasn't ended yet," Joshua reminds Neku. "There was no mission so I can only assume we have the rest of the day to do as we please."
"Whatever," Neku mumbles and begins to slowly eat, not really keen on anything.
"Unless you want to go fight some more Noise and risk erasure?" Joshua hums questioningly as he turns his gaze back to his partner. When he notices the slight terror in Neku's eyes he drops the subject. "Tomorrow is our fourth day together, Neku. I think we should spend the rest of the day celebrating."
Celebrating? Neku thinks. I can't trust this guy. He saw me die!...Or maybe he was just imagining how I died? That might be it but…no. I can't trust him. He's weird and fickle and gwah! Why can't I just switch for a better partner?... "And how do you propose we do that?"
"Let's go have a drink with Mr. H and spend the rest of the day with him. He has a spare room that we can just relax in," Joshua suggests with a bemused look sprawling across his face. His silver hair falls gracefully on his face, making him look like the image of perfection. Neku just stares for a long while, trying his damndest to get inside his partner's mind. He's tempted to scan him again but he thinks better of it. Not now. Right now he wasn't in the mood for any more painful thoughts from Joshua's mind.
"Coffee and pastries after ramen, are you trying to set me up for a heart attack?" Neku prods as he digs some money out from his wallet to pay the shop owner with.
"It's on me," Joshua informs Neku as he drops the desired amount of yen onto the counter.
Neku says nothing for a moment and instead watches the coins spin around on the counter. The yen was real. This shop was real. This food was real. Yet…it just didn't feel real. Neku's purple eyes watch the coins fall gracefully onto their bellies and wait eagerly for the owner to swipe them away. Neku is lost to his own melancholy thoughts of his past and of Shiki.
"Neku, are you all right?" Joshua asks as he stands up and snakes his hands into his pockets. He stares at Neku with that ambiguous smile and Neku can't help but look away in confusion. When he does not receive an answer, Joshua taps his chin thoughtfully. "Perhaps the music coming from your headphones is too loud." He sighs and shrugs, shaking his head from left to right. "You and your music, Neku."
Neku is torn between hating how often Joshua calls him by his name and actually enjoying it. He lived a life where he went unnoticed—which was fine by him. Yet here was this scrawny kid, calling him constantly by his name, as if it were some prayer. And maybe it was a prayer. Joshua had said that he wanted the strongest partner.
"Let's go," Neku decides as he gets up and tosses the shop owner a distant smile. He remembered what Shiki had told him—become friends with the shop owners and they'll give you great discounts! So it was worth trying, right?
Neku winces at the memory of Shiki and tries to ignore the girl's cheery face. He tries to forget her stuffed cat and her smile and the way she almost broken down in tears talking about her friend. Neku didn't understand her jealousy. He had never been close enough to a person to feel jealous. And yet here he was, standing next to the enigmatic Joshua, wishing that he was as clever as the teen next to him.
"Good," Joshua says in regards to leaving. He tosses Neku that infamous smile and heads to the door, humming a tune under his breath.
Neku sighs and follows. What else can he possibly do?
Josh greets Mr. H like he did times before. The teen gracefully walks over and initiates a conversation as if it is the easiest thing to do in the world. Neku lingers by the door; hand on the doorframe with a puzzled look. He doesn't get the connection between the two but he figures it's nothing bad. Mr. H is apparently in the business of saving people's asses because both the teenagers had apparently been saved by the black-haired man. Neku mentally laughs at that. The one thing he and Joshua have in common is Mr. H. He pauses. Maybe that similarity isn't all too bad? As he had decided earlier, if Mr. H thought Josh was okay, maybe he wasn't as bad as he had earlier perceived.
"Yo phones, what're you doing over there? You're letting in a draft, man," Mr. H complains as he sits down behind the counter of his café. He tilts his glasses off the bridge of his noise just slightly and watches Neku intently, as if he knows far more than he should.
Neku sighs and walks over, hands resting deep inside his pants' pockets. "Didn't want to intrude," he mumbles and takes a seat next to Joshua on the stool. And it's just like earlier. Silence overtakes them at the counter.
"Josh says that you're fighting is exceptional. You must have gotten good, phones," Mr. H compliments with an endearing smile. He chuckles to himself, as if he had just cracked the world's greatest joke. Joshua plays along and laughs as well, hand resting on his cheek.
Joshua's eyes wander over to Neku who appears distant once again. This isn't unusual. "Mr. H, I was wondering if you could lend us your spare room until the day ends? Neku here seems a bit tired from all our adventuring and I would rather not wear him out."
Great, Neku thinks rather spitefully, he's talking like I'm not even here! Some partner he is… Neku just scowls and remains silent.
"Fine with me, Josh. Take your time. I wouldn't want my favorite two players getting erased on me," Mr. H laughs, almost knowingly, and nudges his head to the right.
Neku looks and allows his eyes to trail down the nicely furnished hallway. He can see the room that his friend mentioned. Neku turns his gaze back to Mr. H and allows himself to smile a bit. The bright colors of the café are giving him a slight headache and he hopes that perhaps the spare room will take his mind off the inevitable weight on his shoulders—and the vibrant colors that were laced about on Cat Street.
"If you guys need anything, feel free to call down to me," Mr. H says as he nonchalantly runs his fingers through his prickly hair.
"Thank you," Joshua answers with a breathtaking smile. The skinny teen slips off the stool, flashes his friend yet another award-winning look, and begins to walk down the hallway, as if he knows the way by heart, which he probably does.
Neku watches Joshua as he walks away. He sits there, pondering everything that had happened so far and what might happen in the future. His eyes follow Joshua's body and once again he feels the unfamiliar emotion that had evaded him his entire life up until this week—jealousy. He's confused and he just sits there, arms resting limply by his sides. He just doesn't get Joshua at all and is quite envious of his brilliance and grace. He's got the looks and the brains and Neku feels so inferior compared to the devious teenager.
"I think he likes ya, Phones," Mr. H interrupts Neku's deep thoughts with an observation. A snicker appears on the man's lips as he watches Joshua enter the room.
"Excuse me?" Neku turns his attention back to his friend, his eyes slightly wider than before. "Likes me?"
"Hahah, calm down, Phones," Mr. H urges and flashes Neku a warm look. "It's rare that Josh takes a liking for someone. Usually he's snappy, sarcastic, and bitter towards people. He ain't a people person."
"Really? I never would have guessed," Neku mutters and shakes his head. "But he is those things to me, so I don't really see how you think that he likes me. I'm just his partner. Friendship isn't required."
Mr. H smirks some more and leans his elbows onto the polished counter. "Phones, ya listen to me good, okay? You know I'm a perceptive man, right? Well, I know for fact that Josh likes ya. He has that twinkle in his eye when he's around you. Not an evil twinkle, cause I know when he's up to no good, but an almost joyous one. He treats you like an equal and not an lesser. Phones, he totally digs you."
Neku gulps and just stares at Mr. H. When he's finally comprehended the words, the brunet just slowly nods and tries to absorb the information. "So you're suggesting that he values me as a friend?"
"A trusted friend," Mr. H adds with a wink. "Or maybe more."
"…Excuse me?" Neku reiterates with a hint of almost fear.
"Oh come off it, Phones."
"Come off what? I really don't get it, Mr. H. I'm not a people person either," he murmurs and shrugs his shoulders.
"All right, I'll tell ya. Just don't tell Josh I told you any of this." He took a deep breath and pushed his shades back up over his eyes. "Josh has never been serious with anyone before. I've known the kid for quite some time and he's rather ardent about keeping himself isolated from anyone who wants to get close. The kid's some kind of tricky box, I guess. If you can't figure him out, he just doesn't bother with you. He makes up all these witty remarks about how life is so much better by yourself and all that crap, and yet he's lonely. He doesn't say he's lonely, but he is. An old man can only provide him so much company."
Neku sighs and looks down. "At least he had you to confide in and spend time with."
"Phones, did I say you could interrupt?"
Neku winces. "Sorry," he mutters. I won't even bother trying to get him to say my name. He never has before.
"Josh says things to keep people away from him. He doesn't mean half the things he says. He wants people to stay away from him. He wants to live in his own little world. That's why he likes the UG so much. I mean, he could see players when he was alive and all that, but I guess he likes it here. I don't know," Mr. H sighs and looks at Neku hopefully.
"But," he begins again, "What I'm really getting at is that you need to live for today. Live your life. Let people in, you know? Josh ain't that bad of a kid. He's a genius and kind at heart. Give him a chance and you'll be surprised."
Neku sighs and holds his head. "Well, if you can trust him and speak of him so highly, I guess…" He trails off some.
"Now, go see him."
"…Just one more thing."
"Yeah, Phones?" Mr. H asks as he spots a few customers strolling in.
"When you said 'more', what did you mean?"
"You denser than a rock or something?" Sigh. "Ask him yourself. I have customers. Now shoo!"
Neku groans and slips off the stool. He heads down the hallway to where Joshua supposedly is. Once he reaches the room he closes the door absentmindedly behind himself and looks around. Thankfully the room is painted in duller colors than the main area. It relaxes him. His purple hues catch sight of Joshua lounging on the couch and he can't help but avert his gaze for reasons unknown.
"What's with the face, Neku?" Joshua pries as he sits up straight and watches his partner.
"Just contemplative," he murmurs back and goes over to sit beside his partner. He absently begins to mess with his phone.
"I never did thank you properly for doing as I pleased these past few days," Joshua muses and turns to Neku with a shimmer in his eyes.
Neku notices this and instantly thinks back to what Mr. H had told him about that 'glint'. Neku's eyebrow arches and he keeps silent. "You don't need to thank me, okay? I don't like people owing me anything," he grumbles.
"Ah, but I do," Joshua chuckles and smiles.
Neku isn't sure what to do at this point. "…Sleep. I need sleep."
"All right, whatever you want, Neku," Joshua answers and motions to the bed over in the corner of the room. "I'll take the couch. You rest up, partner. Tomorrow is going to be a big day."
"Sure it is," Neku mumbles as he gets up and walks over to the bed.
"Sleep well," Joshua hums as he tosses the brunet another smile, this one rather…flirtatious?
Neku clears his throat awkwardly and just continues over to the bed.
It's late… the days of the game have never extended this far before.
Neku stirs in his sleep, eyes fluttering open. The room is dark and it takes the teenager a few moments to process where he is. Oh, Mr. H's. He sighs some and snuggles his face back into the pillow. When he realizes that his headphones are rather uncomfortable, he lifts his hand up and slips them off, idly tossing them across the room so he can better rest. Tomorrow was going to be a big day. In fact, every day was a big day when one was playing the Reaper's Game. He sighs into the pillow and wishes just to be back in the real world.
And that's when Neku notices he isn't alone.
His pale hand touches something warm—flesh. His eyebrows furrow together and he tilts his head to the right to inspect what is behind him. And when he realizes what, or more importantly who, it is, he nearly gasps and kicks.
But instead, he remains silent.
Joshua is sleeping soundly, eyes shut and arms dangerously close to Neku's body. His shirt is more undone than usual, exposing almost his entire milky, flawless chest. Neku realizes he is staring and instantly scolds himself for staring at his partner, and potential killer, with such interest. But then he pauses. Joshua looks so innocent, he couldn't have killed him. If he had, why would he want to be his partner? Neku bites his bottom lip and just stares at the slumbering teen. In his sleep, Joshua looks so much more at ease and peace. It's a pity, really.
Joshua's eyes open and a small smirk appears on his lips. The moonlight is leaking in through the spare bedroom and illuminating their bodies. Joshua smiles, like an angel almost, and stares back at Neku. He doesn't seem at all bothered by their sleeping arrangements.
"It isn't Day Four yet, Neku," Joshua whispers in reassurance and keeps his gaze on Neku.
Neku nods lethargically and watches Joshua for awhile. "When did you get here?"
"In the bed?" Joshua suggests and he receives a nod. "Hours ago. You invited me in."
"…I did?" Neku blinks and then the memory floods back. "Oh yeah…"
"Silly," Joshua teases and extends an arm.
Neku freezes, his body becoming stationary for a moment. He watches in confusion as Joshua's hand drifts through his hair, brushing back his untamed spikes. Joshua can hear the gulp that echoes through Neku's body and the increased beating of his partner's heart. A smile crosses Joshua's face as he repeats the action, watching in amusement as Neku fights off his instinctive urges. After a moment, though, Neku produces a dilatory response.
"What are you doing?"
Joshua chuckles quietly under his breath and allows the pale hand that had been stroking Neku's hair to wander down to the teen's jaw. "You aren't wearing your headphones while you're awake. I assume that's significant."
"I was trying to sleep now go away," Neku mutters in his own defense. And it's oddly nice to hear Joshua's silky voice without the background music beating in his ears.
"You're always so defensive. I can't blame you, though. People aren't worth your time," Joshua notes and allows his thin fingers to trace the contours of Neku's face. He smiles in somewhat pleasure as Neku shudders. He can feel the shudder enter his own body.
"Or I'm not worth their time," Neku mumbles maliciously. "Just please stop talking. I need rest so I'm not erased."
And Joshua realizes he has made a silent breakthrough. "Silly Neku," he decides and brings his hand to cup Neku's warm but oh so cold cheek. "I'm your partner, you can trust me," he urges. "Whatever I do is for your, our, best interest. It may not seem it, it may seem selfish at the time, but it's for the best."
Neku has no idea what Joshua is going on about. He's too busy leaning into the new touch that his partner provides. And it feels so sinfully right that he just can't look away from the teen that he thinks is mentally insane and yet so angelically gifted.
"And now I'm going to kiss you, Neku. You're welcome to push me away if you'd like, or you can just sit there. Either way, I'm going to kiss you," Joshua enlightens with that persistent cockiness. He grins and then tilts Neku's chin up slightly and presses their lips together.
At first Neku wants to pull away. He wants to smack Joshua upside the head, draw out his pins, and burn a few new holes in the cocky boy's body. At first he hates how he's talking to him like some sort of friend or daresay lover. However, as Joshua's lips just touch his, just touch, his mind dissolves and his anger subsides for the moment.
Neku feels his body heat, then cool, then heat up again. He lays there in stun, confusion, and happiness. His lips hesitantly move back against his partner's. He had never given relationships a thought, so therefore his sexuality was still up in the air. Shiki had been nice and thoughtful but there was something about Joshua that kept him on his toes and intrigued him. And that intrigue allows Neku to massage their lips together hesitantly, afraid that he would be reprimanded for such unseemly conduct.
But he isn't. Joshua's hand threads into Neku's hair as they kiss gently, the moon glimmering in the distance behind them. Neku can feel his barriers breaking as he gets chills from the amazing kiss. He pushes closer and closes his eyes at last, allowing himself to be engulfed by this new pleasure that only Joshua had brought to him.
"Trust me, Neku," Joshua urges as he kisses Neku again, their hot breaths mingling.
Neku tenses, then relaxes, and tenses again as he returns the kiss. "…I do."