I have so many stories I should be getting done, but this plotbunny wouldn't go away.

Disclaimer: Not my game. Just my fic.

Neku Sakuraba is a music lover in every sense of the word.

Sometimes she can hear what he's listening to through the thick headphones, and is surprised at what she sometimes hears. While the occasional techno or rock song is certainly expected, she has heard almost everything filter through, from hard rock, to smooth jazz, and even the occasional easy listening. At first, this revelation shocks her, but then she thinks she shouldn't really be surprised. While he no longer sees a need to shut the rest of the world out, that doesn't mean he no longer needs his music. Quite the contrary, in fact. The only real difference is that now he'll turn his music down and listen if one tries to speak to him.

She's always found it an interesting quirk of his. He happens to be in one of her classes, which she's never noticed until after the Game. Even at school those headphones are firmly in place, just shut off. If he hadn't removed them when they'd all first met at Hachiko after their ordeal, she would think that he was afraid to take them off. Now she knows that he doesn't need them, that they don't make him more comfortable with the world around him, but that he just likes his music, and thus the headphones are always in place.

As she continues to watch him, she begins to pick up on little things. How his mood affects his music, for example. Oddly enough, when he's in a bad mood, he plays techno, rock, rap, or any other fast and upbeat music. When in a good mood, the music is slower, more mellow. It isn't very long after that that she begins to notice that this music is heard more often when he's with her. He seems to know that she knows this, and sometimes smiles to himself and turns his music up louder when he can see she's straining to hear it. He's going to make himself deaf by doing this, she's sure, but she appreciates the gesture nonetheless.

Another thing she's noticed is that the boy is completely incapable of embarrassment. If someone comments on how he looks or what he's wearing, he simply blinks at them and watches them leave. No shame, no blush, maybe a little irritation, but nothing more. When Beat teases him for all the time he spends with her, he simply shrugs. He's caught her staring at him more than once, and aside from a curious raised eyebrow, she hasn't received any other reaction, despite the fact that she turns bright red every time he catches her. Not that he's apathetic about it, or even annoyed. He doesn't seem to mind, and never asks as to why. Probably to keep from embarrassing her, even when he's the one being stared at.

Do what you want, when you want, how you want. That's all he lives by. His only beliefs. How can someone so inherently simple seem so complicated to her? He's a mystery to her. Not that he's secretive, Neku is an open book for anyone who cares to give him a second look, it's just that said book seems to be written in a completely different language. He's hard to understand, but he's willing to let you try. He's honest, sometimes to the point of brutality, and she can always expect a straight answer from him. Unlike many other people in Shibuya, he never changes himself or who he is to fit in. He's Neku, and if no one likes who he is, that's their problem. She has to admit that she's always admired this about him, and wishes that such things came as easily to her.

He never defends himself against insults. He feels he doesn't have to. Insult Neku all you want, but his friends are off limits. She remembers one particular event when he was out shopping with her and Rhyme, and a couple guys made a passing comment on the two girls. The glare he gave them not only scared them away but even mildly scared her. She doesn't remember what he called after them as they left, but she does remember that both she and Rhyme were unable to stop giggling until they left the store because of it. He's very good at snide remarks and comebacks, and she knows from experience that this is one aspect of him left over from before the Game.

Not that the Game changed him completely. In fact, he's mostly still the same person, just a lot less… prickly. He's also grown a bit of a sense of humor, and when he's in the mood to do so, can tell the best jokes she's ever heard. She's even seen Sanae Hanekoma collapsed on the counter of his café in hysterics from one of Neku's jokes.

As she sits on the train beside him now, both on the way home at the end of the day, she notices that, in rare fashion, his headphones are shut off and simply hanging around his neck as he looks out the window at the city going by. With a smirk, she asks him if his MP3 player has died, and he looks at her for a moment before replaying that no, it isn't dead, he just wants to listen to some real silence for a while. Looking around, she notices that they are the only ones on the train, and apologizes for breaking the silence, to which he replies that he doesn't mind.

It isn't long before they reach their stop, and move to get off. She's staring at him again, and he catches her again. She blushes and looks away, and he simply put his hands in his pockets and walks on with her, headphones still around his neck. After a while, she can't stand the silence anymore and stops walking to look up at him. He stops at well. "Doesn't it bother you?" she asks him.

He blinks at her in confusion. "What are you talking about?"

She almost says that it's nothing and moves on, but picks her courage up at the last second. "I know you're aware that I stare at you a lot sometimes. Doesn't that bother you? Do you want me to stop?"

His eyebrows raise ever so slightly, but he offers no further reaction. "If it bothers you, then yeah, you should stop."

She scowls at him. "The question was, does it bother you, and do you want me to stop."

He gazes calmly back at her and replies, "And the answer is that if it does bother you, then stop. I'm not going to tell you what to do."

She sighs, suddenly remembering how difficult he can be sometimes. "That doesn't answer my question."

He sighs in response, and takes a couple steps closer to her and looks down at her. "No, it doesn't bother me. But since you're asking, something about it seems to be bothering you. Do whatever, I don't mind either way."

Before she can respond, he reaches out, puts a hand at the back of her neck, and pulls her into a short kiss before pulling his headphones up over his head and turning them back on, waving at her over his shoulder as he continues on to his apartment.

She stares after him in shock, catching a small smile over his shoulder at her before he rounds the corner and is gone.

And she can't help but notice that for the first time since she's met him, there's a little red on his face, just over the bridge of his nose.