Neku pays more attention to the world around him, now. He used to just glaze over everything, but that was before the Game, and the Game changed things. He needs to look at the world and observe it and see all the things he might have missed, before, because one day he might wake up and be too busy fighting for his life to pay attention to anything anymore.

Dying, it can change a person.

xxx

Shiki is so glad to see Eri again, she can't even remember why she was ever jealous. She runs up and hugs her, burying her face in Eri's neck, and it takes all her willpower to not just burst into tears right there. As it is, Eri's confused by the outburst; they just saw each other a few days ago, right?

xxx

Rhyme is cheerful, just like always, and Beat is just happy to have her back and safe. He teaches her to skateboard, and she teaches him to dream.

xxx

Joshua leans against the mural in Udagawa and sighs. Typical. He's been waiting here every day for two weeks, and Neku still hasn't shown up. What he really wants to do is just show up in Neku's room one night, because if they never talk, then Neku isn't ever going to forgive him. But Sanae has warned him against it twice already, and Joshua's willing to listen, for now.

If Neku doesn't show up sometime soon, though, his patience is going to wear thin. Joshua doesn't know what Hanekoma's so worried about, anyway; he already confiscated Joshua's gun.

xxx

Shiki and Eri high-five when they win the design contest for the school mascot, and neither of them let go when they bring their hands down.

xxx

Neku does show up, eventually, though only after being reassured by Mr. Hanekoma that Joshua doesn't have a gun anymore, to Joshua's annoyance. He's not that untrustworthy.

"Actually, yes, you are," Neku says.

"But I thought we were partners, Neku."

"Just because I trust you doesn't mean I should."

"Hmm. That doesn't make you all that bright, then, dearest Neku."

"Whatever. I still don't forgive you, you know."

"But why not? I did save Shibuya and all your little friends. Shouldn't you be grateful?"

"For killing me? Twice? No thanks. You know, you could at least say you're sorry."

"But Neku, I'm not sorry. Shibuya might be gone now if I hadn't chosen you as my proxy. You really should be thankful."

"You won't even apologize, and you want me to forgive you? That's bullshit, Joshua. Either admit that you were wrong or get the hell out of my face." Neku pulls his headphones on from around his neck, and walks away.

Joshua almost kicks the wall in frustration before he remembers his dignity.

xxx

Hanekoma looks up from his book when the door to WildKat slams.

"How'd it go, boss?"

Joshua stomps past him. "I'm going to the Tin Pin world. Come pick me up sometime, will you?"

Hanekoma just shakes his head. Kids these days.

xxx

"You know," Shiki says one day, "Maybe you should forgive him, Neku."

"What for? He wouldn't even apologize. If I never see that bastard again, it'll be too soon."

"But he did seem to want to talk to you. You ought to give him a chance."

"Yeah, man," Beat says through a mouthful of curry, "Hear 'im out."

"Sure, whatever," Neku mutters, but he doesn't mean it.

xxx

Joshua sits on top of one of the buildings in the scramble, absentmindedly reading the thoughts of passersby.

Ohmigod, I heard the Prince is going to be at the ramen shop today! I just have to be there!

Wearing dresses is so much fun. I should do this more often, y'know?

Dammit, I hate that bastard! Asshole wouldn't even say sorry…Well, maybe I should give him another chance…I don't know...

Joshua jerks his head down to look, only to find that he'd been reading the thoughts of an angry looking girl. Probably bitter over an ex-boyfriend. He doesn't know why that makes him so angry, and he's not sure that he really wants to.

Idly, he twirls the gun he'd swiped from Yashiro. He lets it fall down to the scramble. It's in the UG, and there's not another game until next week, so she'll probably find it there eventually.

It's not fair, he thinks. Neku and Shiki and Beat and Rhyme all got what they wanted, in the end, so why can't he?

He knows he's being childish, but he can't bring himself to care.

xxx

Eri advances on him, a predatory grin on her face. "Oh, c'mon, Neku. Please? Just this once?"

Neku looks around frantically, but he can't find an escape route. "Shiki, stop her!" he says, but Shiki's too busy giggling into her hand.

"It'll be fun! C'mon, it's just some clothes from Lapin Angelique. They'll look great on you, I promise!"

"Help! Shiki, I know where you keep your sewing supplies! Don't let her do this! Shiki!"

Shiki's still laughing.

xxx

"Hello, Neku."

"I'd ask what the hell you're doing in my room, but I'm assuming that annoying me is what."

"Now now, there's no need to get so defensive."

Neku glares at him. "You know, this could be considered stalking."

"Whatever you say, Neku."

"Joshua, what do you want?"

"That's a rather broad question, don't you think? There are quite a few things I want, though I doubt you'd be interested in hearing all of them."

"Don't fuck around with me."

"What I want is for you to forgive me."

"And you think this is going to help?"

Joshua leans against the wall and tucks his hair behind his ear. "Well, you never know. You could surprise me."

Neku opens and closes his mouth a few times, but in the end, he can't figure out what to say. He punches Joshua instead.

Joshua wasn't expecting it, didn't have time to dodge, and he ends up with a bloody nose to show for it. "Fine," he says, because what else is there to say, really? "Come find me when you want to talk."

"You're the one who won't talk!" Neku yells, but Joshua is already gone.

xxx

Hanekoma will listen to them complain over coffee, but he won't offer advice, because there are some things even he doesn't know. And sometimes, things are just the way they are, and there is nothing you can do about it. Not every problem has a solution, once you mess with the numbers enough.