Rating: PG-13 for now
Warnings: Spoilers for end of the game – quite possibly major spoilers for the secret reports
Summary: Unable to govern his death, he could only watch his proxy fade, his soul lingering and life to be born anew. Reincarnation fic.
Notes: Co-written with feverishlove.
It started about four days ago, when he was watching the young boy with familiar orange-brunet hair romp around on the soccer field, laughing and running with his friends without a care in the world. The warmth of the midday sun cast across the city, without a cloud in the sky… it was Sunday, so all the kids in Shibuya were out enjoying their day off from school, away from the stress and constant prying eyes of their elders.
He just turned ten a few days prior, probably still running on the massive sugar rush from all the cake and ice cream from his birthday party. Joshua had noticed long ago that Neku was having a much easier time in this life making friends and being able to connect with those around him. Perhaps it was because of the Game he had endured for three weeks, the result of the Composer's meddling and selfish needs that helped the boy's reincarnated soul find peace with the comfort of simple friendships – or maybe he had that ability all along. He was more outgoing, more adventurous and loud, but still somehow the sweet, kind Neku he always knew. His eyes were a lighter blue, and his hair had more prominent red mingling with the light, sand-colored brown, but his soul was so strikingly similar that Joshua could barely even recognize the physical differences.
Unfortunately on that day, The Composer of Shibuya was tirelessly working on pressing matters with the higher plane, unable to tend to every single matter that arose in his city – and unable to notice the storm clouds rolling in from far in the distance.
It started out with some light sprinkles, making the field Neku and his friends were playing at damp and muddy; but they were boys, so they could hardly care less about a little mud. In fact, they relished it. Soon their games were less about the soccer or misplaced basketball, and more about sliding around in the muck, shirts drenched with soil and rain as they laughed and played. Though it seemed their games would never end, one by one the children began to disappear as the rain got heavier still, their parents dragging their soaked butts back home to wash up and most likely receive a scolding or lecture about catching a cold.
Neku's parents, on the other hand, were still working. The few children that stayed outside, including the young brunet, continued to disregard the kind warning of the other parents, deciding that a little mud couldn't possibly hurt them. Worms were in the dirt all the time, and they never found one with a cold. It was perfectly safe – the adults just didn't want them to get dirty. That was the only logical explanation.
Hours passed and the dark grey clouds continued to roll in. Soon Neku had developed a cough, his clothes thoroughly soaked. He shivered and slowly made his way home, hungry and tired. It was late afternoon until Joshua had returned to his city, grimacing at the rain clouds slightly, but knew better than to alter the weather for anything that didn't have a detrimental effect on Shibuya. It was just rain, nothing more…
…Until he saw Neku, sneezing, coughing and shivering as he fumbled with the door to his apartment, unable to steadily get the key fit inside the lock, nose running and clothes dripping soil-stained water. For a moment, the Composer's heart stopped, dread invading his senses like an over-protective parent, and immediately opened the door for the drenched boy. Neku, who's mind was in a fog, barely even noticed that the door opened on its own accord, and simply walked in, ridding himself of his dirty clothes and crawling into bed without even bothering to wash himself.
Joshua could only wait beside the young child's bed, body still in the UG and completely invisible to the living. It was nearly an hour before his father returned from work, calling for his son, asking what he would like for dinner… but when he got no response, he checked Neku's room, only to find the brunet had developed a fever, his skin clammy and cheeks flushed. After a quick call on his cell phone, his wife rushed home and checked on her baby boy, getting him cold medicine and hot chicken noodle soup.
Joshua watched in silence, placing a hand upon Neku's forehead too many times to count into the night after his parents went to bed. The boy would groan and turn over, to cough or shiver, bury himself under the covers or kick them completely off – after which the Composer would cover him up again before he got too cold.
A few days passed and Neku's cold didn't get any better. A quick visit to an urgent care late one evening after his fever began to spike again, and he was sent to the emergency room with pneumonia. Every few hours he would have to be surrounded by bags of ice, as the nurses and doctor tried to desperately reduce his fever. The Composer merely watched, dread filling his senses every time the boy coughed and cried, his mind in a total haze from the high fever. He couldn't do anything – he couldn't meddle. The lives of those in Shibuya were to follow its own path without an interfering hand.
He could only watch.
"Sanae," Joshua whispered as his Producer appeared beside him, standing beside the hospital bed, his dark violet eyes watching the pale and flushed boy with concerned eyes.
"There's nothing you can do, Boss. He's not even the same Neku you knew – may be the same soul, but he won't remember you." Sanae replied as he shoved his hands in his pockets.
The silver-haired man didn't reply at first, letting the silence engulf him. "I don't care if he remembers me – he's still Neku."
Mr. Hanekoma shook his head, turning his back to him. "You can't meddle with stuff like this. The higher ups will get mad."
"…What if he dies?" Joshua whispered, reaching out to gently stroke the side of the sleeping boy's cheek. "He's so young. He's barely lived at all."
"That's life, Boss."
The Composer didn't reply.
"I'm going back to the River… don't do anything stupid, 'aight?" Sanae didn't wait to hear a witty retort from Joshua, and merely left in a small flash of light.
"Neku…" Joshua whispered with a pained expression, standing there for the rest of the night in utter silence.
After rushing around the house to get ready, not even paying any regard to her makeup, clothes, or hair, Neku's mother, Tsuki, made her way to the hospital to check up on her son. Her husband had told her tirelessly the night prior that pneumonia was, at times serious, but not often fatal. Tsuki didn't listen, however. She had heard enough stories of bereavement to know that her son's condition was serious—after all, Neku was only ten, his body was weak and still growing.
At nine o'clock sharply, Tsuki entered Neku's room, her cheeks flushed and red from the crying she had gone through the night prior. Although most hospitals allowed parents and guardians to stay through the night, Neku's doctors advised her not to—his condition was severe and he needed to rest in complete silence away from any stress. So she left…and now she was back, worse than she had been the night before.
She found her son resting lifelessly on the bed, eyes tightly screwed shut. His skin was horridly pale and his usually cheerful lips were turned into an emotionless expression. His chest rose and fell at random intervals, proving that he was undergoing difficulties breathing, even in his sleep. Her heart stung and she quietly crept over to her slumbering son, gathering the chair nearby.
"You're so brave," she whispered, her messy red hair falling in her eyes as she reached out to stroke her son's hair. "So brave," she repeated, willing herself not to cry once more.
Neku's eyes fluttered open drowsily, his body aching all over. "Mom?" he asked in a barely coherent mumble.
"I'm here," she stated reassuringly, forcing a smile onto her exhausted lips. Her skinny fingers continued sifting through Neku's hair as she sat close to his bedside, humming a lullaby under her breath. "Did you sleep all right?"
"Yeah… I guess," Neku answered in a hoarse voice, his throat dry and itchy. " 'least I slept."
"Of course," Tsuki responded and continued stroking her hand through Neku's hair. "I wish there was something more I could do for you…"
"It's okay, Mom. I'll be fine," he stated quietly, eyes shutting. "I'm strong." His voice was drenched with childish naivety that caused his mother to mentally wince. All children thought they were invincible at this age. Her heart stung even more.
"I love you," she stated after a moment of silence, her eyes shut as well. "So much."
"I love you too, Mom," Neku responded at once, voice drained and body craving sleep again. He wasn't about to complain about how warm he was feeling or how much his body was hurting. He wouldn't. He didn't want to worry his Mother any more. "Tell Dad I love him too if I don't see him before you do."
"Of course, Neku," Tsuki responded, fighting back tears. "He'll be here after work."
"Was he here last night after you left?" Neku asked in a whisper, body flush against the bed as the morning light slipped into the room, barely noticeable on his skin.
"No dear, he left a few minutes before I did, don't you remember?" Her lips turned into a frown.
"I…thought he was here. It sounded like him, anyway. Maybe it was just a doctor," Neku reasoned and childishly nuzzled the pillow his heavy head was resting on. "But it really felt like Dad…He did that thing with my hair. You know…that you sometimes do…push my hair behind my ear."
"Maybe you were just imagining it," Tsuki stated and did the action Neku had narrated regardless, wanting to hug her son so badly.
"Maybe…" Neku trailed off some. "Go get something to eat, Mom. I'll be fine while you're gone."
"…Need anything from the cafeteria? I'll sneak it in," she stated as she arose from the chair, eyes gleaming hopefully at her pale son. "Anything at all and I'll get it for you, Neku."
"I'm all set," he whispered and smiled warmly, albeit exhaustedly, at her. "Just go eat," he urged.
"All right…I'll be back in a few minutes."
With that, and a quick kiss to his forehead, she left the room, leaving Neku once more in uncomfortable and frightening silence. He lay there groggily for a few moments, chest heaving. A random urge to cry came upon him out of nowhere, causing the young boy to bit his lip and force the hot tears away. "I won't die," he whispered to himself, hugging himself pathetically. "I can't die…Mom and Dad won't let that
The light filtering through the curtains rippled just slightly, though nothing in the room seemed to change. There was a small breath of cool air, before something warm brushed against Neku's forehead, soft and comforting, strong and protective. It was barely noticeable - but still there, as it had been constantly at his side since he first set foot in the hospital. Joshua watched the boy with tired eyes - he never needed to sleep, being dead did come with a few privileges - but his lethargy came from worry and dread, constantly preparing himself to see the worst happen to Neku... this small, frail little boy he adored so much. He told himself he wouldn't let anything happen to him - he couldn't. But...
"I won't let you die." He whispered, though he knew the brunet wouldn't hear him. Perhaps he was talking to ease his own troubled state. "I won't... I'm right here. I'll always be right here."
Although Neku could not hear the words, nor distinguish the feeling of a hand from his own fever, the other's presence continued to comfort him. HIs troubled blue eyes fell shut as he laid there in complete silence, a warm feeling spreading throughout his body. Not one of a painful fever, but one of comfort. Perhaps having his Mother here now had brought it on?
"Why am I so sleepy?..." he asked himself as his mind threatened to shut off completely. "Maybe...I just need a nap," he mumbled and allowed his mind to drift off, a deep sleep engulfing him. However, unlike most sleep, this one did not let him go and rendered his mind completely unable to leave the dreamworld. He had fallen into a sickness-induced sleep that kept his body in a comatose state, hoping to heal itself by these means.
When Neku's mother returned with a muffin and milk in her hands from the cafeteria, concern flickered in her eyes. "His little body can't handle this," she whispered to herself as she sat down beside his bed, cradling her scant food with a frown on her face. "At least in his dreams he won't be in too much pain..."
She closed her eyes and reached out with her free hand to stroke Neku's sweat-coated hair. "I love you," she repeated in the eerie silence. "And I'll be here when you wake up again, I promise."
However, nearly five hours later, Neku had still not awoken from his slumber. A few nurses had come in to check on the boy, and Neku's mother had shooed them away, telling them that her little boy needed rest to recover. They apprehensively left, leaving the grief-stricken mother to herself. It was not until the Doctor himself came in that Tsuki realized that the sleep Neku was experiencing was far more than his usual slumber.
"...His body has shut down," the doctor deadpanned as he checked a few tests and Neku's forehead with a frown. "His body is trying to recover and fight off the sickness... I'm afraid he won't awake until he's better." ... If he gets better.
Tsukui's heart dropped. "And if he doesn't?..." she whispered, surprised that she would even ask such a thing.
"...I'm sorry," the black-haired, stoic doctor mumbled as he held the folder close to himself and looked away from the boy. "I'll increase his meds...hopefully that'll help." He left the room to fulfill that spoken order, leaving Tsuki sitting by Neku's beside, tears appearing in her eyes once more.
Joshua had known, the moment Neku had slipped away from consciousness, that there was a good chance he would not wake again. His soul was in turmoil, the light bright but rippling with unease as if caught in waves, tossing him about with disregard. He didn't want to believe it, he couldn't... Neku was too strong for this - he would fight it, and he would win. But the hours passed, and the moment the doctor gave his final words and tears sprang from his mother's eyes, suddenly, his optimism faded. Death was lingering in the room, he could sense it... he always could, when a person was fading.
No... he won't lose Neku again. Not like this. He's so young and so full of life, finally living and playing and smiling like he never did in his previous life.
Tenderly the Composer walked over to the opposite side of the bed, glancing at the boy's grief-stricken, crying mother. "Neku..." He whispered, reaching down with a careful hand to tuck some of the soft orange locks behind his ear. He tried his best to smile, lips pitifully turning up ever so slightly as he held back tears of his own.
Let the Angels strike him down. He could hardly give a damn. Hundreds of years of selflessly sacrificing his freedom and life for his city, he should be entitled to one moment of selfishness. And if not... he was prepared for that too.
"Naest'l... Mjnklor t's lun..." He whispered, voice slipping into the RG, his ethereal form shimmering as he placed two gentle fingers upon the boy's forehead, at the center of the storm buried in his soul. Slowly his fingertips began to glow, the light becoming the faintest glow to the eyes of the living. "Kjr'vet tus..."
Neku's hand twitched as he laid there, mind slipping in and out of sub consciousness. A groan escaped his lips as the young boy felt life trickle back into his body. How, he wasn't quite certain nor did he care. His eyes opened and a soft groan escaped his lips. "M-mom?" he gasped, lurching forward somewhat.
"Neku!" his mother exclaimed, eyes going from filled with melancholy to hope. "You're alive..."
"Of course," he whispered drowsily as he offered an exhausted smile to his mother. "Why wouldn't I be?"
"Neku..." She burst into tears and hid her face, not wanting to bother her son. She silently prayed to the heavens above, thanking them for the miracle that had been bestowed onto her son.
Joshua let out a shaky breath he hadn't known he had been holding, finally able to smile without hiding behind a mask. It had worked... it really worked. He was able to get rid of the fever like would dispose of Noise... just, simply, erased it.
He would be fine.
Without another word, Shibuya's composer turned to leave, facing the window that allowed the light of the sunset to peek through the curtains, washing his colorless form with warm hues of red, blue, and violets. He could finally rest now... but he knew he was in for a lecture when he would return to Sanae in the River. If the Angels punish him, so be it. He was too relieved, and overjoyed to care.
Unbeknownst to the living, Shibuya's Composer left, engulfing the room in hope and happiness. Neku's mom clasped her son's hand tightly, willing her tears to stop. She shot her son another warm smile as she stroked the back of Neku's hand, never once allowing her gaze to leave from her son's, and never once stopping her words of gratefulness to the heavens above.
After a moment, the Doctor from earlier that day entered the room along with Neku's rather distraught father. The brunet's eyes were bloodshot and his usually pristine looking clothes were wrinkled from a day of worrying and tense concern. When his blue eyes fell upon his son, a look of utter relief crossed his features.
The Doctor arched a brow, falling silent as the parents of the boy happily hung close to him, whispering words of love and thanks. The Doctor rubbed the back of his head with confusion. Never before had he seen a boy exit that comatose-like stage so quickly. Quietly, the tall man walked over and stretched his hand out to check Neku's pulse and head, finding no fever and irregular heartbeat. How was that possible?
As Neku's father ruffled Neku's hair, Tsuki's gaze wandered off to other part of the room, wanting to stare out at the sun she had been ignoring for the past few days. Her gaze locked with a rather unusual shimmer followed by what appeared to be a dissipating form. Her breath hitched inaudibly as she wathced whatever had been there disappear without a sound. She smiled to herself, looking back to her son. 'Maybe he truly does have a guardian angel after all...'
Down underneath the city, within the Shibuya River, the silver-haired Composer smirked as he walked passed Sanae, who had already begun to lecture him of the trouble he'll be in for meddling with the living - but he didn't listen. He didn't care. Neku was safe and well - that's all that mattered to him.
"Boss, you listenin'? Your ass is gonna ge-" The Producer was cut off by a chuckle.
"Guardian Angel... I've been demoted." Joshua mused with a smile, obviously not paying attention to anything Sanae was trying to drive into his boss' thick skull.
"I dunno... kinda like the sound of that."
Kind of a short first chapter, but the following ones should be a tad longer. Each chapter will be a different age for Neku – and they don't necessarily go in order!