Coup D'Etat

Ch. 7 Part Two

Perspiration beaded down Neku's forehead as he held Joshua's unresponsive body, the very act of touching it sending waves of pain through his limbs. The Composer's raw energy continued to violently bubble beneath his skin and Neku continued to draw it out, trying to prevent it from damaging Joshua's body as much as possible while he struggled with maintaining the clear barrier on his own. Protectively, he wrapped his dark, spidery wings around them, entangling them with his Composer's. To his alarm, Joshua pulse was starting to slow and his breathing became increasingly labored. Biting back the urge to cry, Neku poured everything he had into channel their combined powers into his Anguis pin, shooting massive beams at the weakening monster.

As Neku continued to assault the Noise monster with his friends, watched by a nervous Sanae Hanekoma who was powerless to do anything, two familiar Reapers appeared on the scene. More so, one angry and determined pink-haired Reaper dragging another by the collar, her heels smacking the ground when they teleported onto the scene.

"Gwaghh!! You idiot, I told you we should have left earlier! See, the hideous thing is almost dead!" Uzuki hollered as she glared at the familiar ex-Players and then wearily at the Conductor with slight envy. "I'm not getting my promotion now! It's all your fault you stupid, stupid man!"

Kariya sighed, long and suffering, as he tried to block out his partner's bitching. "The Composer ordered us to stay out of the way," he tried to placate the girl around the candy in his mouth. "We shouldn't even be here." He gave said hideous thing a look mixed with disgust and horror over his lenses and regretted having come. Once you see something, you can't un-see it, as someone wise once said.

Sanae lifted his gaze off the gruesome fight and over to the two Reapers. "Uzuki, you'll probably end up getting a promotion after this. No worries..." He trailed off when he noticed the frail condition the Composer was in.

"Argh!!... Are you both expecting me to stand here and?!...Argh!" the pink-haired Reaper growled and pulled out as long nails unsheathed from her gloves, glowing dark blue at the points. She stepped closer to the Ex-Players and began slashing at anything she could get her hands on, as well as attempting to throw cursed Psychs at the Monster to slow it down. "You stupid, stupid, ugly thing!! If I was the Conductor you'd already be dead!" she growled whilst attacking, receiving a heavy sigh from Sanae in the back near Kariya.

"Whatever you say, ma'am," Kariya sighed tiredly, putting away his bean paste as he pushed off from where he was standing to support his partner.

Shiki, Beat and Rhyme shot the Reaper duo wary looks, clearly not happy to be fighting on the same side, all of them having had unpleasant encounters with her before. Uzuki had clearly not been forgiven for Shiki, who had almost been erased by a deceived Neku, and Rhyme who had been erased by her trap, though all three were willing to let it slide for now.

"Jus' don't slow us down, Pinky!" Beat snarled.

Uzuki continued her bombardment of attacks on the power-hungry man, refusing to even look back at the ex-Players who she had once terrorized. They weren't part of her equation for victory and...speaking of equations...

"What? I wasn't invited to the combining matrix party? I should really multiply you all by zero," chuckled a youthful voice as a teenager appeared beside Sanae Hanekoma, black hat tilted as he came into focus. "Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally, but no one overthrows the Composer besides me, you stupid hectopascal. Prepare to be iterated!" He tossed the Producer a greeting smirk before rushing onto the scene, his body pulsing with the remnants of taboo energy that had remained.

"...Guess boss didn't erase him after all," Sanae chuckled uneasily, amused at the backup appearing by the moment.

Neku barely registered the new arrivals, focusing everything he had into attacking and keeping Joshua in one piece. Though, if he had paid a bit more attention, he would have fallen out of the air in shock. "C'mon, c'mon," he muttered the words under his breath like a mantra as he fired up powerful blast after blast, trying to defeat the monster as fast as possible. As if mocking him, the Timer's Music pulsed merrily in his ears.

The creature's body resembled nothing like it had, even an hour ago; most of its limbs had been ripped apart by the ferocious assault on all sides. Its body riddled with holes and scratches, it twisted, shooting off frantic lasers, and occasionally swiping at the closest teens, forcing them to scramble madly out of the way.

Joshua's body remained limply in Neku's hold, showing no signs of recovering or getting worse.

Minamimoto joined Uzuki's side, smirking wildly at her astonished look. Since when had he returned? She didn't question it and continued her rabid attacks on the beast, the potential promotion fueling her savage attacks. Her elongated nails dug deep into the boiling flesh, dragging up pieces when they retracted. She scoffed at the hideous, bloody sight and flexed her nails before attacking once more, seemingly not too fazed.

On her other side, Kariya was derisively sending blasts of energy, wishing that he could convince the pink-haired Reaper that their help wasn't needed anymore. After this battle, there had better not be anymore excitement for a long while.

"You zeroes are sooo zetta slow!" the Taboo Reaper taunted, immediately transforming into his Noise form and began delivering brutal, decimating blows on the dying beast. He let out long roar, then cackling almost rapturously.

Beat growled as he split a stray appendage that was getting too close to Rhyme. "Pi-Face! Why the hell you helpin' us, and not dat other freak?"

"FOIL. First outer inner last, you imaginary radians, no one tries to become Composer except me!" he cackled as he continued his assault, more so enjoying the raid on the monster than actually helping.

"Now if only I had a camera," Sanae Hanekoma sighed from the back of the room, still slightly astonished at how all the 'enemies' were working together. It was truly a Kodak moment. All he was worried about was the passed-out Composer. He had never seen the kid in such bad shape.

Neku could feel Joshua's power growing weaker as the battle dragged on. Slowly lessening the power in his own attacks, Neku gently shook Joshua's body, frowning worriedly. "Hey... hey! Joshua, wake up!"

Joshua's glow was nearly out at that point, the timer having run-down to fifty seconds. His skin turned paler than usual as the battle raged on around the pair.

"Joshua!" Neku cried out, completely abandoning the fight and lowering them both to the ground. He cradled the Composer's limp body and desperately reached for his left hand, bringing the palm closer to his eyes and gasped in denial. The red digits were now visible, boldly marring Joshua's pale skin. "Joshua--!"

The Composer's body twitched in his comatose state, each second causing another round of unwanted pain to course through his already weak body.

"Phones!" Sanae shouted over the fight and rushed over as Joshua's wings dissipated, the timer continuing to countdown. "Phones..."

With less than a minute before Joshua disappeared forever, Neku became frantic. As a last ditch effort, he threw the remainder of his power into dismantling the Timer. He reached into the Composer's Music and grasped at the parasitic melody and desperately tried to wrench it loose but in had been rooted in for far too long and the effort made his head burn with agony. "Mr. H...!" Neku gasped out, "Please, you have to do something!"

"If I wasn't in enough trouble already," the cafe owner sighed as he laid a hand onto the Composer's chest, watching the seconds of the timer going farther down. "I did tell him it'd be stupid to let ya go..." he sighed under his breath to himself as his hand glowed temporarily, brows furrowing at the curse laid upon not only Joshua's hand but his body as well.

Despite most of the attackers lowering their viciousness due to the fact that the beast was seemingly becoming weaker by the second, Uzuki continued to furiously swipe away at the distorted figure, anger seeping through her nails, hollering about how it was everyone's fault this happened.

Sanae Hanekoma rolled his eyes at the pink-haired Reaper's odd way of showing passion and focused his attention on Joshua, the curse that had plagued him at first being lifted. "C'mon boss..." He eyed the timer wearily, uncertain if it was going to go away. "Don't die on me now, kid..." He looked helplessly to Neku. "You need to erase him," he gestured to the faltering beast. "In less than fifteen seconds or else Joshua ascends."

Neku stood up, but not before gently setting Joshua's frail body back down. "I can do that," he said, because there was no other choice. His sapphire-hued eyes snapped shut in preparation for his final attack. He gathered the last vestiges of his strength, but this time, he reached into his very core, tapping into the energy that fueled his own life. Neku's body began to glow, much like the Composer had before. He heard his friends call out to him as they sensed that something was wrong. He smiled down at them serenely but with a tinge of regret as he felt his human existence fade away.

Kariya quickly dragged a protesting Uzuki out of the way while Minamimoto scoffed at the Conductor and disappeared from view. Mr. Hanekoma quickly motioned at the former Players over to him, hastily erecting a barrier. He had the feeling whatever happened next would be big.

Unfurling his massive wings Neku rose soundlessly into the air until he was level with the monster's head, gathering his power at his fingertips. "Die," he said simply, unleashing a brutal, blinding blow that instantly vaporized everything it hit.

The screeching of the monster as it disappeared from not only the UG but existence itself was ear-splitting. It was as if someone had turned the speakers up on full blast and was purposely shoving them against your eardrums. The hissing noise evaporated after a few seconds, being replaced with a loud rumbling that echoed throughout the room until everything quieted the horrendous melodies of death and destruction fading into the walls—it wasn't the first time these walls had witnessed such an ordeal.

The red digits blinking on Joshua's left hand faded, having stopped at three seconds. His body twitched some, being low on energy and exhausted beyond belief. His glow had given out and now he looked like nothing more than a simple teenage boy lying on the cold ground.


Joshua groaned audibly, his well-deserved rest being interrupted by a loud clapping. The silver-haired Composer wearily lifted his head from the pillow his arms made, staring into the white haze around him. Well, at least he wasn't dead. Maybe in a permanent coma, but not dead. But now crazy-man was back and applauding him with that smirk of his. Lo-vely.

"Get out of my thoughts and leave me be," Joshua groaned doggedly, letting his chin rest back down on his arms.

"Your Conductor risked his own life to protect you and Shibuya," the dark-haired man stated, walking silently over to Joshua once more in a similar fashion to earlier. "Pretty righteous of him, don't you think?"

Joshua sighed, gaze averting as he remained laying on the ground. He paused, eyes glancing to his left hand. "…the timer's gone?"

"That it is," the other responded with a rather melancholic smirk. "If it hadn't been for your army, you'd be erased by now."

"And here's me playing the world's tinniest violin," the Composer grumbled and allowed his violet eyes to temporarily slip shut. "If my timer's gone, and I never gave up my position, what are you doing here again? Come to rant about how powerful and grotesque you were? Trust me, I've dealt with worse."

The man chuckled and smirked deprecatingly at Joshua. "The name's Damian."

"Mm…so only after we defeat you we learn your name? How cliché," Joshua yawned, eyes slipping back open. "It's not a native name, so I take it you're not from around here?"

"Good job, Composer," Damian snickered and mockingly clapped his hands together, dark hair falling in his eyes. "I came here a few years ago," he explained.

"And you just had to get your hands on the throne, hrm?" Joshua asked lamely, head tilting to the side as his silver hair covered his distant eyes.

"Of course. Who would pass up an offer? The city was fading…it was nothing like back home. I saw that and decided to try and claim it. Who hasn't dreamt of ultimate power?" the other questioned, eyebrow quirked.

"Neku," Joshua answered automatically, staring down at the white floor with a frown. "Now that you're…erased, I take it…you're going to become Noise for good, you're aware of this, right?"

"Fully," the man quipped with a heavy sigh. "If I had any energy left, I'd try and dethrone you right now."

"In my own thoughts? What an amusing idea," Joshua cooed and relaxed once more. "Sanae told me he helped you…you are aware that you betrayed one of the best to ever inhabit this city, correct?"

"Of course I know," Damian sniggered and hunched his shoulders. "He's the reason I was so powerful. His training…Damn, the guy really thought I was gonna end up your Conductor," he tsked. "Too bad you're stubborn and only had one guy in mind. So…I had to just take the throne by power."

"To which you failed, I know. This is getting old, I want rest," Joshua complained, eyes rolling.

"I'll leave you to that," Damian decided, glancing down at his fading arms. "Just don't screw up this city that much, okay Composer?"

"I assure you I won't," Joshua grumbled and closed his eyes once more, vaguely aware of Neku's music playing in his ears. It was so relaxing…so lulling. The Composer didn't even notice the man fade away, nor did he notice his consciousness slowly returning to his body. Neku's melody pounded in his ear, making him forget the city entirely for those few moments. And frankly, it was some of the best minutes of his life.


Completely exhausted and wings gone, Neku plummeted down from his position, landing heavily on the glassy floor, a few feet away from his Composer, facing the ceiling. "Is he ok?" he managed to ask, directing the question at the Producer.

The shield that had been erected before Neku's final attack dimmed and the teenagers rushed over to Neku's side, Sanae trailing in the back. He frowned at the Conductor, shaking his head, before crouching down to inspect Joshua. He reached out and touched the pale boy's forehead and then the vein on his neck, testing his pulse. Dark brown eyes lifted from Joshua's dreary and landed across his body to Neku.

"He's fine, kid," the café owner assured Neku, a weak smile on his face before looking down to the Composer. "So stubborn, boss…"

"Neku, are you all right?!" Shiki asked for what felt like the hundredth time. Her hand reached out and brushed back his bangs, staring worriedly down at him.

Neku gave his first partner a lopsided smile. "I'm ok, Shiki," he said softly. He lifted his head an inch to smile at the Bito siblings as well. Rhyme beamed back, discretely wiping away her tears on the sleeve of her sweater. Beat on the other hand was not so discretely trying to hide that he had begun bawling like a baby. "Thanks for coming." His head fell back against the floor with a thump, making him momentarily see stars. He closed his eyes once more and concentrated. His smile grew wider when he reached out for Joshua's Music and felt the Timer's clear absence.

"You look like you need a lot of rest," Shiki lectured, her stuffed cat back in her arms as she smiled down happily at Neku. "If you don't…Mr. Mew will get you," she warned playfully and leaned down to quickly hug the laying boy before sitting back up, clearly still shaken.

"Yeah…" Rhyme agreed quietly. "And so will Beat, right?"

"Of course, man, ya gotta rest and get better, ya look like crap," Beat stated, his arm coming up to cross over his wet eyes and cheeks. "Don't going doing 'dat again, yo… Phones, you scared us, man."

Neku laughed, basking in the feeling of having all his friends at his side. Unfortunately, the only thing missing from the scene were Joshua's smug remarks. At the thought, Neku's mirth faded somewhat. "Will he be waking up soon?" he asked quietly, there being no question of who he was talking about.

"Should be," Hanekoma responded as he passed a glance to the slumbering silveret. "If he isn't awake in five minutes, prod him," the barista urged with a chuckle, glancing around the room, inhaling deeply at the peace that now spread over Shibuya. He figured Joshua would need to fix a lot of the Music once he awoke.

"Hate to cut this short," Sanae began again, "but I kinda left the shop unattended..."

"Mr. H!" Shiki chided with her hands on her hips. "Surely this is a lot more important! Besides, your shop is always empty!" Beside her, Mr. Mew copied her pose.

Mr. Hanekoma chuckled and rubbed the back of his neck. "Well yah, Shiki...but I don't like leaving the place unlocked like that. Besides, Phones is fine."

Neku watched the exchange, looking tiredly amused as Beat jumped in berate Mr. Hanekoma. Suddenly, he tensed as he as angry footsteps began to approach. Turning his head, he saw Pinky stalking towards them, looking as if she was about to throw a tantrum, now that the treat was gone and the Composer wasn't lucid enough to rebuke her.

"You!" the pink-haired Reaper hollered as she pointed a finger in the Conductor's direction. "You stole my promotion! I can't believe you! You're alive!" she complained, pulling at her hair in utter rage.

"Uzuki..." Sanae warned in a chuckle, glancing away from the teenagers briefly to eye the Reaper. "Now's not a good time--"

"Wait, what's Pinky goin' on 'bout?" Beat blurted out, having picked up on the strangeness on the conversation. "'Course Phones is alive!" Shiki and Rhyme nodded vehemently beside him.

"Actually..." Neku said sheepishly, though it wasn't exactly a good time to admit it, "I think I died during that last attack."

"...What?!" Shiki screeched, her eyes widening. "What do you mean died?! You're...You're right here in front of us!!..."

"Um..." Neku floundered for words, wincing at his big mouth. He attempted to explain. "Shiki, we're in the UG right now. I was here before because Joshua raised my Frequency but... well..."

"N-neku..." Shiki whimpered and closed her eyes, willing back her tears. "Does that mean...we can't see you anymore?"

"What? No!" Neku exclaimed, alarmed at how everyone suddenly appeared close to crying. "I'll still be able to visit!"

"B-but you're dead," Shiki reasoned with a huge frown on her face, looking far more worried than before. "I know Reapers can visit the RG but..."

"What?!" Beat hollered, "No way, you not thinkin' of joinin' them, are ya? Trust me, it was horrible, yo!"

Neku gaped at him, mouth moving wordlessly. How the hell was he going to break it to them? During his confusion, Rhyme reached out and held onto Neku's hand as if worried that he would disappear. "Neku..."

By that point, Joshua had stirred, eyes fluttering open weakly. He had listened to bits of the conversation and remained quiet up until the inquiry about Neku's position and what was to come of him. Slowly, the Composer sat up, rubbing his eyes as his vision drifted between clear and fuzzy.

"He's the Conductor now. He took Megumi's place," the silveret stated languidly from where he sat, trying to adjust to life once more.

"...Good going, boss," Sanae sighed and worried his bottom lip with a shake of his head.

There was a stifled, uneasy silence. "Come again?" Beat asked stupidly.

Joshua wasn't a good people-person, it seemed. "I said he belongs to Shibuya now," he stated more vaguely.

"Joshua..." Neku began, his relief at the Composer's awakening drowned by his annoyance, "Shut up." Uzuki fidgeted at being ignored, but was now reluctant to voice her anger. Quietly, she tiptoed away to where Kariya was waiting for her.

Joshua's eyes darted irritably to his Conductor and then to the group of teenagers. "He's mine now. I'm afraid that there's no changing that fact."

A tick developed on Neku's brow. "You're making things worse," he hissed, still lying on his back. Shiki looked to the Composer and back to Neku and gasped, covering her mouth and apparently coming to the wrong conclusion.

Beat's eyebrows shot up to his hairline. "Whoa, whoa, whoa...! You... Prissy-Britches... you guys are...?"

"Oh my," said Rhyme, turning pink.

Joshua paused, eyes blinking rather innocently at the teenagers before what they were saying registered in his head. Did everyone assume they were dating? He bit back his initial response. "No," he stated, though there was a strand of almost melancholy attached to his statement that he doubted any of the teenagers would notice. "He's the Conductor. That's what I was referring to." He was vaguely aware of Sanae's surprise at his honesty.

"Oh," all four of the teenagers replied, Neku included (who appeared utterly baffled at the fact that Joshua hadn't said something else). Shiki sounded just a touch disappointed.

"Wait... Conductor?!" Beat exclaimed again, "Like Shades was?" He turned to Neku in alarm. "Hey, dis guy didn' trick ya into it or nothin'?"

"No!" Neku denied, with surprising vehemence. "I agreed to it!"

Joshua rolled his eyes. "Daisukenojo, he agreed fully to it. He saved Shibuya and you should be honored to consider him a good friend of yours," the Composer lectured and folded his arms to his chest, still irked by the others.

"Bwaaah!" Beat shrieked, leaping backwards and almost knocking Mr. Hanekoma over. He muttered a half-hearted apology, and coughed, trying to regain his composure. "'Course I'm... hon... honored to be his friend!" He turned to Neku with earnest eyes. "An' I mean it, Phones. If ya chose dis, then it's cool wid me. Right guys?"

Rhyme and Shiki nodded eagerly, smiling at the red-haired teen. Shiki faltered though, gaze traveling over to Joshua. "...can he still visit us sometimes?..."

"If he must," Joshua sighed dramatically. "He can't be gone from the UG for too long. He is it's Conductor," he reminded slightly sardonically and closed his eyes, not wanting to talk anymore.

"Phones will be able to spend time with you guys, don't worry," Mr. Hanekoma assured them, fixing his glasses some. "We better be heading back...don't know how staying in the UG for long periods of time is gonna affect you kids..."

"You guys..." Neku said, forcing his words past the lump that rose up in his throat. "I... I can't thank you enough. I'll come see you as soon as I'm better."

"We'll be waiting," Shiki said with a gentle smile before wrapping her arms tightly around the other, despite the awkward position. "We'll be here anytime you need us. Once a partner, always a partner," she reminded softly in his ear with a gentle giggle.

" 'Course man, we got yo' back," Beat stated, lightly thumping his chest with his fist with a grin as he looked to Rhyme who nodded firmly to her brother's words.

Neku returned Shiki's hug as best as he could. "Thanks again." He paused, remembering something. "Uh..." he spoke up again, with a little bit of dread. "Could... could one of you guys tell my dad I'm staying at Joshua's?"

Shiki instantly burst into a round of small giggles, hand flying up to cover her hand. "S-sure Neku," she stated through her innocent laughter, earning an odd look from Joshua. "It's just..." she began in explanation. "When we went to see if he knew where you were, he said to check at his boyfriend's house," she giggled.

Neku's dread turned to outright horror. He felt like curling up into a ball and hiding his face. "Oh... I see."

"I assume he was...mistaken?" Shiki asked innocently and playfully swatted at her friend's shoulder before getting to her feet along with her friends.

Neku covered his face with a hand. "Shit," he said. Now he'll never be able to convince his father that Joshua wasn't his boyfriend.

Joshua giggled quietly under his breath and leaned over to aimlessly play with a lock of Neku's hair. "It isn't that bad, Neku"

"He's not your father," Neku complained, still lying down and feeling more exhausted than when he was actually fighting.

"If you want me to, Phones, I can talk to him?" Mr. Hanekoma suggested with a sheepish chuckle, looking at the Conductor with a shrug.

"...please," the redhead intoned pitifully. He gave the hand in his hair a playful swat.

Joshua smirked and let his fingers entangle with the swatting hand, staring down at the red-head.

"Heh...uhm..." Shiki trailed off, her face turning a soft red. "We'll just...get back to the RG now...we'll see you soon Neku. Have fun with your bo-- I mean Joshua!" she stated and waved her hands frantically before grabbing both Beat and Rhyme by the arm and dragging them next to Mr. Hanekoma.

She gave him a nod to signal they were ready.

"I'll talk to you boys later. Feel better soon, Phones..." Sanae hummed with a salute before allowing the light around them to flicker.

Neku watched them disappear from the UG, feeling as though he had missed something terribly important. "My what?" he echoed.

Joshua simply giggled, eyes trained down on Neku as he toyed with the captured fingers before he was interrupted by a loud clearing of a throat. The Composer visibly twitched and glanced over his shoulder at the pink-haired Reaper and her partner.

"About that promotion, sir?..." she stated, feigning a look of utter loyalty and innocence.

Joshua sighed, not wanting to deal with anyone at that moment besides his Conductor. "We'll see, Uzuki," he grumbled, making a mental note to tell Sanae to erase her and Kariya's memory of this part hour. It was too big of a gamble having them know his identity...despite the fact that Joshua suspected Kariya already knew...

Uzuki groaned audibly and nodded albeit her fury. She looked to Kariya with a scowl. "Let's go--I'm starved."

"Right away, ma'am," Kariya said with a slight chuckle. "I guess I owe you a bowl of ramen for standin' you up last time." With a placating hand on the small of Uzuki's back, he firmly steered her to the exit, twisting back to give a salute. "Later then, gentlemen."

Neku watched them go with a quirked eyebrow. "That was really surreal," he confided in Joshua.

"Indeed it was," Joshua agreed, eying the pair with a snicker. Perhaps he could spare Kariya's memory...he always did like the orange-haired Reaper among all the drones. His gaze turned down to Neku.

Now that the two were alone, (Minamimoto having gone off somewhere as soon as the monster was erased) Neku looked up at the Composer and offered him a wry smile. "I'm glad you're not dead."

"I'm glad that you're not erased," the Composer returned, pale digits sweeping over Neku's in a constant melody.

"You scared the crap out of me when you did that glowing thing," Neku admitted, his eyelids slowly becoming heavy. He was surprised that he stayed awake as long as he did.

"Mm...I had to do something. It's my job as Composer," Joshua reminded as he allowed some of his returning energy to filter into his Conductor. "If you'd like to sleep, you can. I'll leave you to yourself."

Neku fought a yawn, and barely triumphed. "You were going to say something before Psycho came," he remembered. "What was it?"

"...I was?" Joshua feigned innocence.

"Yes," Neku pressed, looking stubborn. "You didn't think I was going to forget that easily, did you?"

Joshua sighed. "It's nothing," he assured and dropped Neku's hand, getting to his feet.

"Fine," Neku relented, feeling too sleepy to argue. He closed his eyes. "You should think about getting a carpet. My back's really hurting."

Joshua rolled his eyes. "I told you, I never planned on decorating this place," he murmured, back to Neku.

"'Never planned' is past tense," Neku pointed out, his voice getting quieter.

Joshua paused. "What are you getting at, Neku?"

Neku lost the battle and yawned. "What I meant was... a lot of things can happen unexpectedly... I never planned to be your Conductor, so... it doesn't hurt to try new things."

Joshua closed his eyes. "You've never seemed the type to like new things," he mused.

"You can't open up your world if you don't try new experiences," Neku murmured, his words beginning to slur.

Joshua remained quiet for a moment. "But what if those new experiences destroyed everything you worked so hard to get?"

"Well..." Neku cracked an eye open and regarded the Composer tiredly. "Maybe they might. But there's still a chance that you might find something even better."

Joshua sucked in a deep breath. He had almost been erased...Neku had almost left his life entirely. The silveret inhaled deeply once more, hands flexing by his sides. "...I love you."

"Oh," Neku said. Then he sat up suddenly wide awake. "... Is this another one of your jokes?" he asked.

Joshua flinched, his eyes narrowing impulsively. "If you think it's a joke," he began seething but calmed himself quickly. "Do you think it's a joke?"

"I... I..." Neku's mouth worked soundlessly. His first impulse was to say "yes", but something in Joshua's eyes held him back. "'re not joking." The meaning of the words hit him like a bulldozer.

"Good job, Neku," Joshua murmured with an eye-roll and shifted his gaze to the right. "...I'm going for a walk..." He turned back around, unable to look at Neku, not liking this sudden lack of control he had over his emotions.

Neku wanted to call after him, but was unable to think of anything to say. "...see you soon...?" he managed, hating how feeble his voice sounded.

Joshua walked quietly over to the door leading into the adjoining room, but paused. His mind hurt but it paled in comparison to the pain centralizing in his heart. It took him a moment of standing there before the brilliant Joshua Kiryu realized what the agonizing throbbing was. He chuckled weakly at the mere thought. To think that he actually had to think about what the pain was when it obviously was that of his heart breaking without his say.

Back outside, Neku sat in the middle of the Room of Reckoning feeling like an utter bastard. He growled in frustration and pulled at his orange hair. He realized he had hurt the Composer with his silence but he had been far too confused to say anything. Just what was he supposed to say to something like that? It wasn't even because it was Joshua saying The Words; in all fifteen years of his life, Neku Sakuraba had never gotten a single confession.

He punched the floor. Worse still, he basically rejected him right after he encouraged him to confess, with his stupid talk of trying new things. He was thinking about carpets, for heaven's sake. Shakily, Neku got to his feet, mindful of the healing wound in his abdomen and started to limp in the direction of Joshua's rooms. It would only make things worse if Neku avoided him.

Joshua stared up at the ceiling once he arrived in his room. He lifted a pale hand aimlessly, mentally drawing notes into the air. His eyes remained devoid of all conviction--he had lost the ability to openly display negative emotions, namely grief and depression. Still, the apathy that shrouded him was more than enough.

Then came a timid knock from the door. "Joshua?" Neku questioned, muffled through the wood. "Can we talk?"

Joshua sucked in a deep breath. "Come in," he stated simply.

The handle turned and a head of messy spikes poked in. "Uh, hey," Neku said sheepishly.

"Hello, Neku," Joshua responded, resting uncomfortably against his bed.

Neku looked around the lavishly decorated room, stalling for time. He stepped in, carefully closing the door behind him, looking everywhere but at Joshua. "About... about what you said..."

Joshua breathed in and then out. "What about it?"

"I..." Neku hadn't gotten much more eloquent then when Joshua had confessed to him. He took a deep, steadying breath. "I... I don't hate you," he managed to say.

"That's good," Joshua reasoned, hand lifting to aimlessly play with one of his silver hair, being no more eloquent than Neku was.

Neku winced at how bad his words sounded. "That... that didn't come out right. What I meant was..." He trailed off again, not really knowing what he had meant.

Joshua paused and glanced over to Neku, eyes settling upon the Conductor. "Hm?"

"I... I don't know, alright?" Neku decided to be honest. He held a hand to his head, feeling dizzy. "You know what? Forget this; scoot over."

Joshua blinked and did as instructed, shifting on the bed to allow Neku beside him. He said nothing.

Neku climbed in, and realized the bedcovers were probably worth more than his house. "I'm way too tired right now, so I'm going to sleep. And since I lent you my bed, you have to lend me yours." He made himself comfortable lying next to the Composer and pulled a sheet to his chin.

Joshua rolled his eyes and smirked lightly at his Conductor. "...Did you read the note I gave you?" he questioned calmly.

"I never got the time to," Neku muttered, burying his face in Joshua's soft pillows and made a delighted noise in his throat.

Joshua shifted closer, watching the red-head with amusement. "Read it," he urged.

"Ugh..." Neku groaned, shifting around in the bed. "Can't you just tell me? Notes are for people who aren't lying right next to you."

"Read it," Joshua reiterated, hand reaching out to lightly touch Neku's hair.

"Lemme sleep," the Conductor's voice came out in a soft whine.

"It's short, I promise," the Composer cooed and stroked his hand lazily through Neku's hair, still a bit uneasy.

"...will read it when I wake up," Neku mumbled out, about to drift off, lulled by the Joshua's ministrations. "'s nice."

"Fine, I'll just tell you," the silveret huffed, fingers drifting in and out of the strokes. He shifted closer, placing his mouth near the Conductor's ear. He was silent for a moment, struggling with the two words he had refused to say to Neku once. "...I'm sorry."

For a moment, it looked like Neku was already asleep. Then he opened his eyes and simply looked at the Composer for what seemed like hours. "I'm never going to sleep at this rate, aren't I?" he said finally. With some effort, he propped himself up on his elbows. He hesitated for a moment, before he did the only thing he could think to convince the other that he was sincere. Pushing himself closer, he brushed their lips together in a brief and clumsy kiss. "I forgive you," Neku stated quietly, cheeks dusted a pale pink.

The Composer's eyes widened and he just laid there in shock, blinking illogically at his Conductor, lips tingling still. "Neku..." he began, his voice quiet and shaky. His heart rate jumped a few hundred beats and he found it hard to breathe all of a sudden. He said nothing more and slipped his pale up and onto Neku's cheek, letting his thumb stroke against it briefly before he pulled his Conductor closer for a chaste kiss, letting it linger as he allowed the sensation of Neku's lips to register in his head as something real.

Neku blinked bemusedly before closing his eyes and enjoying the sensation. "I don't hate you, Joshua," he murmured against the other's lips.

"Then what do you feel?" Joshua breathed softly as he brushed their lips together once again, refusing to break contact with his Conductor.

Neku grinned into the kiss. "What do you think?"

"Hm...I don't know," Joshua hummed, giving a gentle nip to the other's bottom lip.

"Well, since everyone's been saying it," Neku reasoned lips parting slightly to give Joshua better access, "They've probably seen something I missed."

"Maybe you're just too stubborn to admit it," Joshua suggested in a murmur as he gave a deft lick to the teen's lip teasingly.

"Maybe," Neku said agreeably. Feeling bold, he ran a hand through Joshua's silvery locks and marveled at the softness.

Joshua sighed pleasantly against the kiss, an actual smile forming on his lips as he pressed them to Neku's once more. "Perhaps Sanae won't have to convince your father otherwise after all..."

"Dad hates it when he's wrong, anyway," Neku laughed. He broke the kiss and rested his head on Joshua's shoulder. "Are you going to let me sleep now?"

"If you hadn't just saved my life, I would say no, but considering you're the hero yet again...I'll let you," Joshua decided, hand trailing gently down Neku's side as he breathed in his scent.

"Mmkay," Neku mumbled. "This time, be here when I wake up." And finally, sleep claimed him.


That's all for now, folks, though an epilogue is currently in the works. In the mean time... if you have a moment, it would be really, really nice if you could tell us what you think. Thanks for reading!