Fandom: The World Ends With You (TWEWY)
Notes: Based off of a series of Youtube movies I've seen. Also, Josh is very OOC at points, as is Neku but that's kinda expected…
Slowly opening the door, 7 year old Joshua looked into the hallway, before stepping inside, closing the door behind him. The house was deathly still. He had figured as much. He was young, but he was much smarter than his appearance let on. After taking a deep breath, he started moving down the hall. He figured his mother was sleeping upstairs, or maybe on the couch. He was hoping for upstairs; it could give him the chance to do some studying.
As he entered the living room, he smiled a little when he realized his mother wasn't there. Hurrying over to the oak piano at the far end of the room, he climbed up onto the seat and set down his bag. With a soft smile, he pulled out the sheets he had made that day and set them up carefully.
As his fingers settled on the ivory keys, Joshua couldn't help but feel a tinge of relief. His mother rarely ever came down when she was upstairs, so he probably had more than enough time to study this sheet.
The careful playing echoed through the room as his fingers pressed down on the keys and moved as if they were separate entities from the rest of his body. The sound of the piano playing filled him with a sense of contentment. It was one of the few times he was ever content like this, without his mother there to tell him not to play the piano.
What use was there for a piano if not to play it?
He was a smart kid, but still too young to understand that it had been his father's piano. And while he had often questioned about his father, he had stopped when all he received in response was a slap to his cheek. Joshua had no memories of his mother having ever been nice to him, and he had learned to do everything himself since he could talk, walk, and basically think for himself.
Considering the circumstances, it was amazing how he hadn't already strayed to drugs, alcohol or smoking. But the reason for that was much simpler than most would assume; Joshua had seen first hand the effects of two out of three, and smoking just smelt awful. He had vowed he would never resort to anything like that.
"Caaalling… Someone is caaalling…"
Joshua instantly froze for about 5 seconds, before he literally dove off the stool for his bag and started fishing around for the object emanating that all too familiar song. Laughing as he pulled out the cellphone, he clipped it open and quipped: "Hello, this is Yoshiya Kiryuu. How may I serve you today?"
"Yeah, hi, this is Neku Sakuraba from WildKat. I have this offer I wish to put through and wish to discuss this with you if you happen to have the time," came the all too familiar voice from the other end, and Joshua felt his lips curve up into a small smile.
"Depends… Do you prefer to meet in person or is it fine over the phone?"
"Well uh… …ah screw it! Josh, seriously, is that always necessary?" Neku complained from the other end and Joshua smiled.
Neku had always been his best friend ever since they were little. He had been the first who never made fun of his naturally white, almost silver, hair and his peculiar dark gray-violet eyes. Well… he did often poke fun at it, but not in the way others did. Neku was like a bundle of sunshine all the time, and it did him a load of good every time just to see him.
"Ah, sorry Neku. I know you hate formalities like that, but it's pretty funny hearing you all monotonous like that," Joshua chuckled (or giggled, if Neku had anything to say about it).
"Oh shut up, you jerk!" Neku snarled out, amidst his own chuckles. "See you at WildKat in an hour?"
"Yeah. I'll be there," Joshua said. "I'll see you later, 'dear'."
"Don't call me tha-"
Joshua hung up, softly laughing to himself. It was always fun to watch Neku get flustered, and listen to him fume. Many would say their friendship was far from perfect, but to Joshua, it meant everything in the world. Sure, they argued at times, though that was mostly Neku, but they were almost as tight as actual brothers. Joshua had gotten Neku the cellphone with some of the money he'd pilfered from his mother, and no one had looked up when he had paid, knowing who his mother was all too well.
Grabbing his music sheets, he pushed them into his bag again and grabbed a note from the small stack. Why he even bothered, he would never know, but he felt he at least had to let his mom know where he was, in case she came down all sobered up.
Once he had finished the note, he hurried back to the door and was about to open the door… but paused for a moment. Looking up to the stairs for a bit, he called out: "I'm going now…"
Of course, no response came, and Joshua silently left, trying not to look too discouraged.
He had to meet Neku at WildKat, after all.
WildKat was a small cafe in the east of Shibuya. It specialized in coffee most of all, but also served a variety of beverages for kids their age, such as soda, milkshakes, and hot coco. Still, most children rarely ever came there, not finding the place all that attractive, but to Joshua, it was his own little patch of heaven.
First time he came here had been with Neku, who had come here with his parents one day. Since his parents lived close by, he was allowed to come by whenever he wanted, and he could treat Joshua at times, too. The owner, Sanae Hanekoma, was nice enough, but he could be a bit stingy about the price of his coffee.
Everything else was okay, since that was mostly for kids.
By the time that Joshua ran into the cafe, he could already spot Neku's spiky red mane from the entrance, the other boy sitting at their usual booth, sipping on some chocolate milk (he had a bit of brown under his nose). Upon close inspection, Joshua noticed another cup sitting on the opposite side.
Smiling, Joshua walked over, trying not to appear in a hurry to meet his friend, before slipping into his seat. "Sorry about the wait. I got unexpectedly delayed," he quipped, grabbing the cup and taking a sip of his own.
"Yeah, right, and I'm supposed to believe that?" Neku asked simply, dark blue eyes half-shut in exasperation, before taking a long sip of his drink. "So, what've you been up to?"
Joshua shrugged simply. Neku knew about his mother being an alcoholic/drug addict, to a certain extent. He was smart, just not as much as Joshua. Not that he needed to be; there were plenty of things in which Neku was much better than Joshua was, though Joshua'd sooner die than admit that.
"I got you something," Joshua quipped, reaching into his bag, which he had set next to himself, pulling out the music sheets and sliding them over the table to Neku.
Neku reached over and pulled the sheets over to himself, propping them up and looking them over, all the while sipping his drink. And as he did, Joshua's right hand still held his own cup, while the other was on his knee under table, clenched in the material of his pants. He was really trying not to appear anxious, but it was rather hard.
One good point about Neku; his songs. Joshua could compose the most amazing melodies, but Neku finished them by adding the lyrics. He was young, but he was an expert when it came to writing songs. Not to mention his singing was impeccable.
Neku started humming softly, tapping his finger on the table as he did, before he closed his eyes and tipped his head back a little. Joshua had seen his friend like this lots of times before, and realized he was close to figuring out the lyrics. Biting his lip, Joshua tried to keep himself calm, but it wasn't easy, that's for sure.
And then Neku started to sing softly under his breath, and Joshua held his breath to ensure that he wouldn't miss any of the lyrics. They were quiet, but at the same time, shook him to the core.
And by the time Neku had reached the end, Joshua had nearly been moved to tears, though he managed to stop his tears before they could come. He didn't want to give Neku the wrong idea, after all.
"Huh… 's got a nice ring to it…" Neku quipped. "Think you can spare some time later today?"
"Today? I'm not sure…" Joshua moved his bangs aside. "Mom… didn't look too happy this morning… it might be best to just go home soon."
Neku was clearly torn between saying something improper for a kid his age, and trying to cheer his friend up. The redhead's family was known primarily for, while they weren't addicts, their sharp tongues. Neku had quickly picked up on many of those words.
"Oh alright… you sure you're going to be okay?" Neku asked after a while.
Joshua smirked a little bit. "What? Do I detect 'worry'?" he asked cheekily.
"Sue me; you're my friend. Of course I worry!"
A bright smile lit his face. For a moment, he hesitated, before asking: "Hey, Neku?"
"…We'll always be together, right?"
"Heh. Of course. There's no guy tough enough to keep us apart for long! Including your mom!"
"Hey, what are friends for?"
Joshua had only barely avoided his mother that night. Then again, she'd been stoned like hell, and that had made things slightly easier. Just slightly, though…
His thoughts were drifting, as they tended to do when he was on the verge of sleep. And as usual, his thoughts reverted back to Neku. He'd been having these awkward feelings at times, about his best friend. He didn't understand it himself, but he didn't let it bother him, usually, but when he was in such a state where he was half-asleep and half-awake, he couldn't help it.
He often thought about Neku's smile, a rarity in and off itself. Neku rarely ever smiled, but when he did, it was a sight that stole his breath away every time he saw it. Joshua often wished Neku would smile more often, but wasn't sure of how to approach Neku about it. He was just afraid that the single question would completely ruin his friendship with the other boy.
Their friendship was considered fragile already, so…
Joshua shook the thoughts away and pulled his blankets over his head, letting himself be lulled to sleep by the memory of Neku's voice singing one of his home-made songs.
He fell asleep with a smile on his face…
Before he was even fully awake, Joshua knew something was wrong. The house was quiet. Normally, that wasn't really a bad thing, but this kind of silence just seemed… wrong. The silence was deafening, and that was what scared him.
Getting out of bed, Joshua started to walk slowly, not making a sound. His mother could be very grouchy in the morning if he was too loud. But something was definitely off.
"…mom?" Joshua called out softly, stopping in front of his mother's bedroom. "Mom, are you okay?" he repeated, knocking on the door softly. Usually that was enough to wake her up.
Not a peep this time.
For some reason, worry clawed at his heart then, and, despite knowing his mother would get pissed, he reached up and turned the doorknob. Pushing the door open with a creak, Joshua peeked inside around the corner. "Mom…?" he called out softly. When there was no response, he dared to step into the threshold.
Walking forward, he nearly yelped when his foot bumped into something, which was sent skidding across the floor. Joshua blinked, walking forward and picking up the bottle. He recognized it as the bottle of sleeping pills his mother regularly used when she couldn't sleep.
The cap was on… but the bottle was empty.
…and it was dated the day before…
"Oh no… mom?" Joshua quickly turned and practically ran for the bed. "Mom! Mom, wake up!" he cried, jumping on the bed, even though he knew she hated that. "Mom! Mom!" He shook the woman on the bed, his mother, by her shoulder with one hand, then two, before he climbed on top of her and shook her again. "Mom! Mom! Please wake up! WAKE UP! MOM!"
But she didn't, not even when he gave her a good slap to her face. Breathing heavily, Joshua could only stare for a long moment, before he jumped off the bed and ran for his room. Back in his room, he fumbled around in his bag and quickly found his cellphone. His body was shaking violently as he struggled to dial the correct numbers. Once he had, he held it to his ear, gulping as he tried not to breathe too heavily.
He could barely remember what he told the police, he just remembered telling them the house to come to and to please hurry, before he hung up and hit the first and only speeddial. The phone rang multiple times, and the whole time, Joshua was struggling not to cry.
At the fifth ring, there was a resolute click, but it took a moment for a voice to be heard, which wasn't even the voice Joshua had been expecting. "Hello?"
"Muh… Mr. H?" Joshua choked out, blinking slightly. "Um… I… I need to speak to Neku. Please… it's important…"
"Uh, yeah, about that…" Sanae said, and Joshua felt his heart stop at that point. And he knew… things were about to get a whole lot worse.
"Wha… what do you mean? Wh…what's wrong with Neku? Is he okay?"
The moment Sanae spoke, Joshua froze entirely, and his phone slipped from his hand to land helplessly on the bed.
"Neku's been in an accident."
It was late at night by the time Sanae stopped the car outside the hospital. Joshua looked up once they stopped, having been staring at his music sheets the whole ride. By focusing entirely on the music and letting the music penetrate his skull deeply, he had managed to keep his thoughts away from the situation at hand.
Sanae sighed heavily and looked over to Joshua over his sunglasses. "You sure you want this?" he asked. "It's not pretty, I can tell you that much."
"I know…" Joshua admitted. He'd known the whole way there, but… "I… I have to see him. I have to make sure he's going to be okay."
The cafeteria owner watched him for a moment, before he nodded and got out of the car. Joshua quickly unbuckled and hurried out of the car, holding his music sheets close to him as he went. He hurried after Sanae after the man had locked the car, gulping down whatever was blocking his throat. He had solemnly sworn to himself that he would not cry.
It wouldn't do him any good, and it wouldn't help Neku, either.
A hit-and-run… damn, what sick freak had done that! Joshua really hoped they caught the guy and sent him to prison for life.
He followed Sanae through the white hallways, arms wrapped around his music sheets. There were doctors walking around everywhere, and that kind of upset Joshua, but there was little he could do about it, so he just walked after Mr. H to where Neku was staying.
Upon reaching the room, Joshua bit his lip upon noticing another person in the room. A person he knew very well.
"Mrs. Sakuraba?" Joshua called out softly, stepping into the room after Sanae gently pushed him forward.
Rina Sakuraba looked up in surprise, before noticing the small child. "Joshua…" Smiling amidst her tears, she crouched down, and Joshua instantly ran over to hug the woman. Not because he really needed it mind you… but Neku's mother definitely did at this point. After all, her only son was lying on a hospital bed after being involved in what could have been a deadly car-accident.
"I'm sorry, Mrs. Sakuraba…" Joshua said, feeling that somehow, this was all his fault.
"It's not your fault, sweetie, don't worry," Rina said with a sad smile, quickly pecking Joshua on his head and gently ruffling his hair. "Now come on. Neku's been waiting for you."
"He has?" Joshua asked with a smile as Rina lifted him up to sit on the side of the bed.
"Of course! You're his best friend, aren't you?"
Joshua smiled brightly at her, before turning his head. His smile very nearly faded away at the sight his friend had become. Wrapped up in so many bandages, an oxygen mask on his face, and wires stuck in his arms, the sight was nearly heartbreaking.
"Neku… Neku, honey, Joshua is here," Rina said, gently touching Neku's head, moving her thumb over his forehead. "Neku… c'mon sweetie, wakey wakey eggs and bacy!"
Neku's eyelids quivered and his expression scrunched up a bit, before his eyes slowly blinked open. Joshua nearly broke down when he realized how bleary his eyes were, as if he couldn't see at all.
"…mo…mom…?" Neku's voice sounded hazy, probably because of the mask on his face, but it sounded so strange.
"Hey honey," Rina said with a smile, before pointing to Joshua. "Look. Look who came all this way to see you."
Slowly, Neku's eyes shifted direction and focused (or so Josh thought) on Joshua. Joshua gulped, before he put on a smile at his friend. "Hey, Neku." It was all he could say at that point. He wasn't sure what else he should say.
But it was clearly enough. Neku blinked once, and then he smiled. "Hey… Josh…"
Joshua felt his smile widen, to such an extent he was almost afraid his cheeks would start hurting. Looking at his friend now, smiling despite the pain he had to be in, he had no doubt that he was going to be okay soon.
"Hey, Joshy, didn't you have something with ya there for Neku?" Sanae suddenly quipped.
"Oh!" Quickly leafing through his music sheets, Joshua finally pulled out one of his last pieces, one he had never dared show to Neku. "I found this last night when I came home," Joshua said, which, technically, wasn't a lie. He'd found it right with the rest of his old music sheets, as he always did. "I was going to show you later, but I think it's better if I… if I just hum this. Okay?"
Neku blinked wearily, as if he didn't understand the question, but then he slowly moved his hand and gave his friend a weak thumbs-up. Joshua smiled, and quickly cleared his throat. And, after taking a deep breath, Joshua began to hum his song. Neku was smiling still, and that only spurred Joshua on to keep humming.
Joshua forgot all about Rina and Sanae. All that mattered to him at that point was Neku, and he would be damned if he made his best friend cry.
"You've been standing in the cold for nearly 2 hours now, Josh…"
Joshua blinked wearily and turned around, rubbing his arms. He was bundled up warmly, Sanae had made sure of that before they left. But somehow, he just didn't feel warm with just his winter coat, scarf, hat and mittens. He couldn't really remember the last time he'd felt truly warm, since…
Turning away from Sanae, Joshua focused his attention back on the piece of rock he was facing. "I'm just… thinking…" he admitted softly. "…Remembering…"
Sanae sighed, clapping some of the snow from his shoulders. "Listen kid; it's been 4 years already. Nothing's going to change. …He's not coming back."
"I know that!" Joshua shouted, before he gulped and dropped his head. "I know… but… but I…" Sniffle. "I… I miss him… I miss him so much… I… I…" Joshua quickly reached up to wipe away the tears trickling down his cheeks. 'Isn't that typical?' Joshua thought to himself. 'I swore I would never cry in front of him… and here I am… crying and sniffling like a kid whose toy broke down…'
"Joshua…" The silver-haired kid said nothing as Sanae placed a hand on his shoulder. "C'mon. Let's get you home."
"N-no! Not yet!" Joshua gave himself a good mental slap to the face for that. "Just… just let me say goodbye… I'll be at the car in ten minutes. Please?"
Sanae looked at him for a moment longer, before he just sighed and ran a hand through his hair. "Aight, aight, fine. Ten minutes." And with that, Sanae turned around and headed back the way he came.
Joshua watched him go, before he turned back around. "…Neku… I'm going now… G… goodbye…"
Steeling his nerves, like he did every time, he turned around, attempting to keep a straight face, as he walked away from the gravestone, his feet feeling like they were made of lead. The first time he walked away had been hard enough, and it only seemed to be getting harder every time he did this.
Sniffling once, Joshua whispered: "I'm so sorry, Neku… I'm so sorry…"
He dragged his feet through the snow, not really realizing how cold it had become. As he reached Sanae's car, the man was leaning against it, waiting for him. Joshua wordlessly walked to the passenger side and climbed in, waiting until Sanae was in before buckling up.
And as Sanae started the car, Joshua leaned his head against the cold window, aimlessly staring outside. But eventually, his eyes reverted to his own reflection, and the tears that were steadily running down his cheeks.
After that one night in the hospital, Joshua had requested to stay with his friend that night. It had been arranged easily, and things had been looking up… until the middle of the night.
"Hmm… Neku? What time is it?"
"Jo… shu… a…"
"Neku? Neku! Neku what's wrong!"
"Can't… breathe… so… hot… I… I… can't…"
"Neku! NEKU! SOMEBODY HELP! Neku! Hold on! It'll be okay! You'll be fine! I swear you'll be-"
"Josh… I… I'm so… sorry…"
"Don't you start with me! Nothing's going to happen to you! You'll be fine! You-you'll be-" Sniffle. "You… you can't leave me! You CAN'T! You promised! You PROMISED!"
"Josh… I… I… l-l… you… good…bye…"
"Neku? Neku don't you dare! Open your eyes and tell me you're joking right now, you idiot! Tell me this is all some kind of joke! Neku! NEKUUUU!"
Help had come too late… by the time the doctors had come, Neku was already gone. Joshua could barely remember what had happened afterward. He could remember clinging to his best friend's corpse, crying and screaming for Neku to just open his eyes… open his eyes and smile at him, tell him everything was fine…
But he never did…
To this day, no one knew what had happened, but Joshua still blamed himself for his friend's fate. He just felt he was somehow responsible for what happened to Neku. The worst part was that he had never heard Neku's actual final words before he said goodbye. Neku's voice had cracked halfway through whatever he had tried to say, dragging his words with him to the grave without even being aware of it.
Rina had already forgiven him, Sanae too. It was just Joshua who could not forgive himself.
He lived with Sanae now, went to school, had skipped plenty of classes because of his intellect, and wrote songs in his spare times.
…well, he wrote music.
Songs… that had been Neku's forte, not his.
He had tried. Oh he had tried so hard… but the words just wouldn't come to him as they had come to Neku. He kept trying occasionally, but every time, he was just wasting more and more paper, aggravating him to such points he was often on the verge of pulling his hair out.
Joshua had tried to move on with his life, but he just couldn't. Not without Neku.
Neku's family had somehow managed, but Joshua just couldn't let it go.
Neku… had been his entire world. And with him gone…
"…Mr. H…" Joshua said softly. Sanae just hummed to show he heard. "…I want him back…"
"Yeah, I know…" Sanae said softly. Joshua had told him so multiple times already. It was probably pointless, but… he kept telling him.
"…if… if I could bring him back… do you think I should?" he asked suddenly.
Sanae blinked. "Well… I suppose it's a noble cause and all… but you shouldn't attempt to mess with Nature like that." Sanae glanced over to Joshua briefly. "It'll only get ugly if you do."
Joshua said nothing in response. Sanae wasn't even sure if the kid had heard.
He could only hope Joshua wouldn't do something stupid.
Joshua looked at himself in the mirror. He was eleven years old now. Nearly twelve. He had aged… and Neku remained forever young in his memory. Trapped for the rest of Joshua's life, no doubt. And once he died…
Biting his lip, Joshua clenched the sink tightly, hanging his head.
"…I can't do this… I can't live without you… Neku… I need you…"
When Joshua raised his head again, his violet eyes were filled with an almost desperate resolution.
"I'll get you back… I swear… we'll be together again! We'll be together forever!"
Art had never been his best subject, but he was pulling out everything he had at this point to ensure nothing was out of place now. It was a bit like making a sculpture out of clay, he figured, only he was working with synthetic skin instead of clay.
Sanae didn't suspect a thing when Joshua, started to import things from the money he earned from the job he had. He designed a lot of things for big companies, since he was such a genius, even at the age of 13.
Joshua rubbed at his eyes briefly. He hadn't gotten that much sleep in last night. He was almost done now, and he wasn't about to stop now that he was nearly there. Using a small scalpel, he began to scrape away the excess skin around the cheeks and chin. He was surprised that his hands weren't shaking.
He just hoped he could finish before Sanae came back.
Once he was done, Joshua slowly backed up, a tiny smile on his face.
Lying on the wooden, home-made gurney before him was a man of about 26 years, callused, strong hands and a figure that many men would kill for. It wasn't really bulky, but it wasn't exactly scrawny either. It was just right. Just as Joshua had always imagined it. Fiery red mane styled back into a familiar spiked haircut, while the blue clothes of Jupiter of the Monkey almost fit him like a glove.
Joshua smiled so widely he was afraid his face might stick like that, before he carefully removed the wires that had been stuck in the figure.
And the moment the last wire had been pulled out, the man's hand twitched. Moving over to sit on the side of the gurney, Joshua called out: "Neku… Neku, dear… open your eyes…"
Slowly, the man blinked his eyes open, and two dark blue eyes stared upward at the ceiling. Joshua held his breath for a long moment, as he slowly sat up, pushing up with his hands and looking up at Joshua.
For a moment, Joshua faltered. While the eyes looking at him were the same as the ones he remembered from so long ago, they were… blank. Same as his expression. It was almost scary. He looked like…
Shaking the thought away quickly, Joshua smiled brightly at him. "Good morning," he greeted.
The man blinked slowly, before he said in a quiet monotone: "Good morning."
Still smiling, Joshua asked: "Do you know who I am?" He had wanted to ask if he remembered, but he knew very well that he probably didn't.
"You are Joshua," the man said softly, his expression not shifting a bit.
"Yeah… and what's your name?"
There wasn't even a hitch when the man answered him.
Joshua smiled in relief. "Yeah… yeah, you're right…" Crawling forward on the gurney, Joshua put his arms around him and hugged him tightly. "You're back… you're finally back… Neku, I missed you so much…"
Neku remained immobile even as Joshua hugged him like that, staring straight ahead of him silently. Even when Joshua very nearly climbed into his lap, Neku remained motionless, letting Joshua do as he pleased. His gaze remained empty and blank, and he showed absolutely no reactions to Joshua's display of affection.
Joshua didn't even seem aware of that; all he could think about was how happy he was to have Neku back.
"I'm so glad… Neku… Neku…" Joshua whispered, feeling fatigue beginning to get to him. "I… I'm never letting you go again… never… ne…ver…"
Neku looked down as Joshua's grip on him lessened. Joshua's eyes were shut lightly and his breathing was calm and even. Neku's eyes remained empty even then, watching Joshua sleep in his lap, head resting on his chest.
Joshua snapped up in surprise at the shout. "M-Mr. H! Oh god… what am I going to do!" he choked out, leaping up from the gurney. "Dammit I have to clean this all up! God how do I-"
Before he could continue to rush around, though, he found the tray he was holding taken from him. Turning in surprise, Joshua blinked when he saw Neku. "Neku?" Neku didn't respond and just set the tray aside, starting to put everything aside. "Neku what are you-"
"Josh! C'mon! Get down will ya? Breakfast's ready!" Sanae called out.
"Ah! C-Coming! Hold on!" Joshua called back, quickly shedding his work clothes and pulling his pajamas on, ruffling up his hair before pulling on his robe and walking out of his room. Rubbing at his eyes, he yawned a bit. He hadn't really slept that much, even after…
Shaking it off, Joshua walked into the kitchen, still a bit tired. "Hm… morning…" he said.
"You alright, Josh?" Sanae asked curiously.
"Hmm… didn't sleep too well… Is it okay if I go back to bed after break… yawn… breakfast?" Joshua asked.
Sanae hummed a bit, before he nodded. "Alright. I'll contact your school and say you're staying home today."
"Thanks Mr. H…" Joshua said, plopping down in a chair and nearly dropping his head into his cereal. Groaning, Joshua managed to pick up his spoon to eat, but his mind was miles and miles away from food, so he never really noticed when he accidentally bumped his spoon into his cheek. This went on for a while, until Sanae finally decided to just help him with the cereal.
After breakfast, Joshua wearily stumbled up the stairs, only then realizing just how tired he really was. Blinking wearily, he groaned and walked into his room, shutting the door behind him and locking it on reflex.
As he turned to his room, though, he blinked in slight surprise. His entire room was spotless. Compared to how it had been only moments ago, when he had been working, at least. He'd left most of his tools lying about, since he had been a bit too focused on his work.
And if he didn't put them away…
"…Neku?" Joshua called out. Less than ten seconds later, Neku walked out of the bedroom.
"Yes, Joshua?" he asked simply.
"Um… where's all my stuff?" Joshua asked. When Neku didn't answer immediately, he clarified: "My tools and… and the materials I was working with."
"I put them back in their respective compartments." Joshua stared for a moment in surprise. "Should I not have?" Neku asked after a moment.
"Eh? Oh… uh… no that's not it. I uh… ugh…" Rubbing his eyes, Joshua mumbled: "I'm grateful… but I… I need to go to bed, I… I'm very tired, I… YAK!" Joshua flailed for a moment when he suddenly found his feet leaving the ground. Upon looking up, he realized that Neku had actually walked over and had scooped him up bridal style. "N-Neku? Wh-what are you!"
"You are clearly too tired to walk properly. This, I believe, is the best solution to the problem at hand," Neku said simply.
"N-Neku! I-I can walk by myself! Put me down already!"
"I do not agree. You are clearly in no position to walk," Neku said.
"Neku!" Joshua whined, pounding his fists on Neku's chest. But before he could say anything else, Neku put him down on his bed. "Dammit, Neku…" he grumbled softly.
Neku just looked down at Joshua with that same empty look as Joshua rolled over to face away from Neku. Silence befell the room for a moment, but then Neku began to walk away from the bed. Instantly, Joshua snapped up.
"Wait! Neku, don't go!" he called out.
The redhead stopped immediately, before he turned halfway silently. "I am not going anywhere."
"Stay…" Joshua whimpered, holding out his hands. "Stay with me… please…"
"Please Neku… Please… just hold me…"
Joshua was almost afraid Neku wouldn't do it, but soon enough, Neku turned around and walked back to the bed and sat down next to him, letting Joshua put his arms around his neck. He scooted up a bit and laid down, taking Joshua with him as he did. Joshua climbed up on top of him.
"Please… hold me…"
"Just… do as I do… put your arms around me… please…"
Neku didn't move for a moment, before he brought up his arms and placed them around Joshua, keeping him close to him. Joshua smiled softly, nuzzling into the fabric of Neku's shirt.
"Don't let me go… please…"
Joshua smiled to himself, shutting his eyes and just lying there, a content expression on his face. And just before he dozed off, he whispered: "I'm never letting you go again…"
"I've been thinking of leaving Shibuya."
Sanae looked up in surprise, but Joshua kept his eyes trained on his food, which he was quietly poking at. "Excuse me, kiddo?" he asked, just to ensure he'd heard correctly.
"I want to leave Shibuya," Joshua said, obviously putting a lot of effort into phrasing his words correctly. "I have… too many memories here. If… if I ever want to move on with my life… I have to leave here."
"Josh, you're 14. You can't just up and leave like that. No offense, but I've got no intention of leaving," Sanae said softly. He didn't want to hurt Joshua, but he couldn't go with him away from Shibuya. Unlike with Joshua, Sanae's memories kept him grounded to Shibuya, making it almost impossible for him to leave.
"I'm… I'm not asking you to come with me…" Joshua admitted, his free hand fiddling with the edge of his sleeve. "I… asked at my job if it were… possible to transfer me out of Shibuya, and… they agreed to arrange an apartment for me in Shinjuku."
"On your own!" Sanae demanded in worry.
"M-mostly… There will be someone to check on me regularly, but… I guess I will be on my own mostly…" Joshua managed around the lump in his throat, making him gulp anxiously. Sanae just watched the boy for a moment longer.
"…You really want to leave that badly?" he asked after a while.
"…well… yea…no… not really… but… but I think… I…"
"It might be best for you?"
Sanae took a moment longer to just look at Joshua. Though he liked to believe that Josh was doing better, he could only imagine the brave face that the kid was putting up so as not to worry him anymore. He had lost count of the times when he could swear that Joshua was lost in his past, only to come back to the present, close to tears.
Perhaps it really was for the best that Joshua left Shibuya behind.
"…I understand," Sanae said solemnly, causing Joshua to snap his head up.
"Then you…?" Joshua started hopefully.
Sanae just smiled at him. "Yeah. You can go if that's really what you want."
Joshua smiled brightly, before he remembered something. "But… what about you?"
"Me? Heh. Don't worry 'bout me. I'll manage. Gonna be a bit empty here, but birds have to leave their nest some time."
For a few moments, Joshua could only stare, before he smiled and got up from his chair, running around the table to promptly hug the older man, who, naturally, hadn't seen that coming. However, Sanae just chuckled and hugged the teen back, patting his back a bit before pushing him off.
"Well, you better get packing then. I don't know when you plan to leave, but still…"
"Next Sunday. Is that okay?"
Sanae just grinned at him. "No problem kiddo."
As Joshua headed upstairs, he couldn't help the guilty look that appeared on his face as he went. And a single tear fell down his cheek.
"You hang tough now, ya hear me?"
Joshua smiled up at Sanae, shaking the older man's hand. "Thanks Mr. H. I'm sorry I couldn't be of more help to you for everything you've done for me."
"Ah forget it," Sanae laughed. "You just go and pick up the pieces of your life, ya hear me?"
Josh just nodded, still smiling. "I… I'll try. I can't do more than my best, but I'll definitely try."
"Good to know." Smiling, Sanae hugged the silver-haired teen once more, before opening the door to the cab and letting Joshua get in. Joshua smiled up at him as the door shut. "Good luck with your new life, kiddo. And try to keep in touch, alright."
Joshua nodded once, waving as the cab began to drive off.
Sanae watched the cab disappear out of sight, waving until he could no longer see it. Still smiling, Sanae turned on his heel and headed back inside. He still had some work to do after all, and all that standing around was not going to do anything about that.
"Stop here for a moment," Joshua called out suddenly.
"Eh?" Doing as Joshua said, the driver looked at him curiously. "You forget something, kid?"
Joshua said nothing for a moment, before reaching over to the door opposite of him and clicking it open. And in the next moment, Neku silently got in the car, shutting the door behind him. "Sorry I made you wait, Neku."
Neku just nodded once.
"Oh. Friend of yours?"
"No change in location, though?"
"…No. The airport is fine. Thank you."
Sanae let out a sigh of relief as he wiped the sweat from his forehead, chuckling as he took a moment to look over his shop. Joshua usually helped out when it came to fixing everything up, so he wasn't really used to doing everything by himself anymore. Not that it really bothered him much, but it was just something that made him realize just how much Joshua had integrated into his daily schedule.
"Oh well. Life goes on," Sanae chuckled, walking to the back for a moment.
And blinked when he discovered a note. Frowning, he snatched it from the wall it had been taped to, he held it up to the light so he could read it.
"To Sanae Hanekoma,
I just wanted to say, I'm terribly sorry. I lied when I said I talked to my boss about moving out of Shibuya. I did talk to him, but only to say that I quit. I never asked to be transferred to Shinjuku. But I didn't lie about leaving Shibuya, though I never told you my plan to leave Japan altogether.
I really enjoyed living here, but it would be much better for me if I left everything behind. My past will always be in Shibuya, and if I want to start on my future, I have to get away from it. By the time you read this, I'm probably already on the airplane out of Shibuya and out of Japan.
I promise I'll write when I have the chance and once I have my life back in order, but I must ask that you won't try to find me until then.
Thank you for everything you've done for me,
Sanae could only stare for a long moment, before he clenched his hands and gritted his teeth. "Joshua…"
Joshua stared out the window of the plane solemnly, watching how the streets he had grown up in got smaller and smaller the longer he looked outside. He'd been thinking of leaving for nearly half a year, but he would have never thought he'd actually leave like this.
Was he really ready for this?
He blinked when a single finger reached out for his eye and wiped away the stray tear that had escaped. Allowing a small smile, Joshua turned his head to face Neku. "What was that for?" he asked a bit cheekily.
Neku watched him blankly, before he opened his mouth and said: "There was only one, so I thought it would be better to just wipe it away. … Or was I mistaken?"
"No…" Joshua shook his head with a small smile. "No, not at all." Looking behind their seats, Joshua took note of the people behind them, before he pushed down the armrests between him and Neku and tipped the seats back a bit.
Neku didn't question it and leaned back on the seat without a word. Joshua smiled and crawled over so he could lie on top of the redhead. Neku brought up his arm and placed it around Joshua's shoulders, keeping him in place without forcing him. The silverette said nothing and just shut his eyes contently.
Though Neku was still about as emotionless as a rock, he was learning how to react to small things Joshua was doing. When Joshua was upset, Neku would hug him without a word, when he was having difficulty with some of his homework, Neku would come over and help him, even if it wasn't technically allowed. Oh well, no one would know, and besides, Neku only pointed out the obvious at certain points. Not all the time.
And it wasn't like it mattered now; he was leaving all that behind.
He was going to start a whole new life…
Things had changed. That much Neku knew. But his systems could not provide him with the solutions to the problems that seemed present around him and Joshua. It was obvious that he was upset, but not in the way that he had been years ago. Then, he would've shook and either threw a fit or dropped onto his bed to try and sleep.
Now, he just walked through their house, trying to get some work done, or he would go outside to the cherry blossom tree that grew out in their yard. That tree had been the main reason Joshua had chosen this place. Joshua always looked so happy when he was standing under the tree.
Neku could only watch Joshua as he did the few chores he had. Joshua didn't really give him that many chores these days, so Neku eventually just started with cleaning up whatever he could find. Yet somehow, he got the impression that, Joshua's mood was partly his own fault.
When they just moved in, after showing Neku the tree, Joshua got that look on his face that he was wearing far too often these days, he had taken Neku back inside.
There was one thing that Neku now knew he could not do as well as Joshua would have liked. He couldn't sing to save his existence, if Joshua's reactions were anything to go by. He wasn't sure what Joshua had been expecting, but Neku's monotone voice had caused such an unusual expression on the silverette's face that Neku couldn't help but wonder what was so important about singing.
He could understand that Joshua enjoyed making music, which he used in his current job, but he didn't understand the importance about singing. Couldn't Joshua do it himself?
Neku had never really been informed by Joshua about what was normal when it came to singing, and he wasn't sure if he should bring it up somehow. But it had seemed so important to Joshua, even if Neku didn't understand why.
He blinked when he heard Joshua groan in pain, rubbing his temples. Realizing the problem, Neku quickly fetched a glass of water and an aspirin, walking over to where Josh was sitting at his desk, working, and handed both items to him.
"Huh…? Oh… thanks, Neku," Joshua said with a small smile, popping the aspirin in his mouth and guzzling down the water in one go.
"…Are you upset?" Joshua blinked and looked up.
"Are you upset?" Neku repeated simply.
Joshua looked at him for a moment, before he smiled softly. "No… no, I'm not upset. I just have a headache. That's all. Probably been sitting too much in front of the screen again."
"…" Neku wanted to say otherwise, but he found no reason to argue, or to question Joshua.
Said man finished what he had been working on, shut off the computer and stood up. "Well, it's getting late anyway. Let's go to bed, shall we?"
Neku nodded and followed after the silverette. Joshua was now nearly as big as Neku. Maybe about 2 or 3 inches shorter, but they were about the same height now, even if Joshua was a little more lithe than Neku. That's why Joshua had eventually bought a king sized bed for them both, even if Joshua usually used Neku as a pillow, rather than those on the bed.
Joshua rubbed his head once more, and then just dropped himself on the bed, not really caring that he was still fully clothed. For a moment, Neku debated on what to do, comparing options, before he walked to the closet and pulled out a change of clothes, which was just some fresh boxers for Joshua, and walked back to the silverette.
Said man was already sleeping, so Neku would have to do this himself, but he had already figured that that would be the case.
Gently, he flipped Joshua onto his back, causing his head to loll to the side a little, but Neku decided not to bother too much. Neku just focused on the task at hand and methodically undid the buttons of Joshua's jacket. Carefully bringing up Joshua into a half-sitting position, one hand supporting the man's head, he tugged the jacket off. Joshua snorted a little in his sleep as Neku put him back down.
Neku ignored the sound and tugged Joshua's shirt out of his pants, slipping it up to rest under Joshua's armpits. In order to get it off, Neku moved Joshua's arms to above his head, and proceeded to slide it off over his head and arms. Neku barely reacted when Joshua gave a whine and shivered briefly, figuring it was the sudden shift in temperature.
The redhead merely focused on the task at hand, pulled off Joshua's socks before reaching down and popping the button of Joshua's pants and undoing the zipper. When Joshua let out a soft cry, though, Neku instantly backed off. He wasn't sure what he had done, but he had no real intentions to wake Joshua.
When nothing else happened, Neku reached out to continue what he had been doing, tugging lightly on the material so it slipped over his legs. Joshua moaned quietly, and Neku glanced at him briefly, before moving away to put Joshua's clothes away.
"Nn… Ne… Neku…"
Neku stopped what he was doing and looked back curiously. "…Joshua?" Worried that something was wrong, he walked back over to the sleeping man, who had started twisting and turning. Getting up on his knees, Neku leaned over Joshua, looking at the man's face and searching for anything that would indicate pain or discomfort. "Joshua?" he asked softly, reaching for his forehead to take his temperature.
It was a little higher than normal, but thankfully not dangerous. Joshua whimpered when Neku moved his cool hand across the surface of his face, though he couldn't understand why. Shouldn't it feel good when he was feeling so hot? Instead, it only seemed to pain him.
"Ne…ku…" Joshua whispered.
"…I'm right here, Joshua. I'm right here." Neku blinked a little when Joshua's hand reached out, but he didn't try to stop Joshua when his hand touched his face, moving around his head to the back, curling into the spiked red tresses. "Joshu-"
The word was cut off when Joshua pushed his head down while at the same time cocking his head up, connecting their lips together. Neku wasn't sure what to do in such a situation. Joshua had never told him what he should do when confronted with what was happening to them both now. Should he wake Joshua up or just wait until it was over? But how long would this take?
When Joshua's arms came up to circle his neck, Neku could sense something in Joshua's body that made him realize something.
Joshua was definitely asleep, but he was so lost in his dream, a feat Neku had never understood since he never dreamt at all, that his body believed he was awake. What did Joshua call something like that? "Sleepwalking"? No, that was when you started to walk around while asleep. But this was technically the same thing, wasn't it?
And Joshua always said that you were not supposed to wake a person sleepwalking, and just go along with them.
"Neku…" Joshua moaned against Neku's lips. "Don't… don't go… don't leave me all alone… please… you… you promised… don't go…" he begged, lightly kissing all over Neku's face.
"I'm right here," Neku said softly. "I'm not going anywhere. I won't leave you. As long as you need me, I will always be here for you."
"Always. Now and forever, and no man will ever break us apart."
The smile on Joshua's face then was one he had never seen before, and Neku had a feeling he'd said just what he should have said. Joshua buried his face in Neku's shoulder, humming happily, pulling Neku as close to himself as he could. Neku let him, and even put his own arms around Joshua.
"Mmm… I love you, Neku…" Joshua whispered.
Neku frowned a little. He'd head that word before, this "love", but he couldn't exactly place it. Joshua had said it was difficult to explain, so Neku hadn't really pressured him on it.
Shaking it off, Neku just made a note to look it up later when he had the chance, before he rolled onto his side, keeping Joshua close to him, who clung to him like a child would to their favorite teddy bear.
Neku couldn't understand what was happening to him… but something had changed.
He just didn't know what.
The first thing Joshua was aware of when he woke up was the fact that there was a peculiar taste on his tongue. It was somehow familiar, but at the same time, a totally new sensation. Blinking open his eyes, Joshua peeked around for a moment, before his eyes settled on the immobile figure he was curled into. Neku's eyes were still shut and as always, he didn't seem the least bit bothered about Joshua clinging to him like a koala.
Smiling softly, Joshua moved his head a bit, murmuring softly: "Neku, dear, wake up."
Neku blinked once, before gazing at Joshua with dark blue eyes. "…Good morning," he said after a short pause.
"Hmhmm… good morning," Joshua greeted back, sitting up and rubbing at his eyes. Neku sat up as well, and suddenly put his hand on Joshua's forehead. Josh blinked. "…What's that for, Neku?"
"You had a bit of a fever last night. But it seems to have passed already," Neku stated simply.
"…a fever?" Joshua couldn't really remember that.
"Yes. But since it's passed now, I see no reason to fret about it."
"Hmm… kay, if you say so, Neku." Joshua chuckled. Neku could be such a mother hen at times. He wasn't aware of it, of course. He probably just thought that it was only natural to be this protective about Joshua, because…
Shaking that off, Joshua got out of bed, yawning a little as Neku stood up as well.
"Ugh… today is… Saturday, right?" he asked, as Neku handed him his clothes, one by one.
"Okay… Neku, I need to go to doctor's office for a bit. See if he can prescribe me something for this headache I've been having."
"Alright. Do you want me to bring you?"
"I'd appreciate it."
Numb. That was the only word that could properly describe how Joshua felt at this point. Things shouldn't have turned out this way. He had just gone to get some advice for his headaches. The doctor had said they couldn't help him with the things available at their tiny clinic, so they patched him through to the local hospital.
It shouldn't have turned out this way…
"Wh…what? Could… could you please repeat that?" Joshua asked breathlessly.
The doctor looked about as miserable as Joshua felt. This was probably as fun to tell as it was for Joshua to hear. "We've located a tumor on the upper side of your right brain. I suspect it's been there for about a year already. It might be possibly to remove it through surgery, but the chances-"
"No." Joshua's tone was firm and steady, unlike how he felt. "No. Absolutely not. I don't know what the chances are, but no one's coming anywhere near me with a knife. Ever."
"I understand. In that case, all we can try is-"
"Chemo, right?" Joshua didn't like the thought of that any more than he did surgery. "I'm sorry, but… no. Just, no."
"No. And that's my final decision. I appreciate that you're trying to help, but I'd much rather just spend whatever time I have left the way I want it to, not tied to a hospital for half that time, maybe longer." Shaking his head, Joshua added: "I just can't do that. Please understand."
The doctor looked like he was about to interject, but the look on Joshua's face was more than enough to stop that. "Alright… I can prescribe some painkillers for the headaches you'll probably be having."
"Thank you… Can I go home now?"
"You sure?" the doctor asked. "If you get a headache while driving…"
"No, it's okay. I had a friend drive me here. Thanks anyway, doctor," Joshua said, as they both stood, shaking each other's hands after the doctor gave Joshua the required prescription.
The walk out of the hospital was a blurry one, but as he stepped outside, he blinked at the rain that instantly pelted down on him, soaking him through in almost a second. And he found himself stopping to gaze up to the sky.
His thoughts were all screwed up at that point. He just couldn't wrap his mind around the fact that he might not live for much longer. He had purposely not asked about how long he had left, but maybe he should have. At least it'd give him an estimate of when exactly he'd have to really start worrying.
When someone put a jacket around him and held him close, Joshua snapped out of it, looking up into solemn blue eyes. "Neku…"
Neku didn't ask anything, silently guiding Joshua to their car. Joshua let himself be guided, too dazed to really object. Though he did reach up to lightly hold Neku's hand, needing that support right now.
Neither of them said a word as Neku gently helped Joshua sit in the car, before he walked around and sat down in the driver's seat. But they didn't leave immediately. Neku just sat there for a moment, as if contemplating his options. Joshua stared at Neku for a moment, before he bit his lip and leaned over to rest his head on Neku's shoulder, feeling hot tears beginning to leak from behind his eyelids.
"Don't… don't talk, please… just… just hold me for a bit."
The redhead didn't question him and put his arm around Joshua's shoulders, holding him close. Joshua managed to keep his sobs down a minimum, but he couldn't help the occasional sniffles. He knew that everyone would eventually die, but he wasn't ready for it, yet. There was still so much he wanted to do, so many things he would never get to do, and so many places he wanted to see…
His hand curled into Neku's shirt, as he bit his lip so as to not start sobbing. "Neku… take me home… please."
Once they were back home, Joshua just sat at his desk for a long time, a cup of tea in front of him, which had cooled down by the time Joshua would actually remember its presence. Neku had left to do some shopping, on Joshua's request, leaving Joshua on his own for a moment.
Now that he realized that he was really going to die… much sooner than anticipated, at least… he actually started thinking about a lot of things.
So much, in fact, that he'd pulled out an old box from the back of his closet, to gaze at its contents silently. He hadn't done so in ages, yet he'd felt the urge to do so and just look at it so that he could think.
There were several things in the box, most of which he should've thrown out but had never found the nerve for.
Giving a heavy sigh, Joshua silently put it back and settled behind his computer. Calling up an internet site he had stumbled across once, he started to read a few of the articles, thinking long and hard.
"Should I… or shouldn't…?"
For a long moment, Joshua's fingers hovered above the return key. But then he steeled his nerves and pushed down on the key before he could change his mind.
'I… I have to do it now… or I'll never…'
Joshua nearly jumped at the voice and whipped around. "Neku… you surprised me."
"…Are you all right?" Neku asked, shutting the door behind him.
"I'm fine. Really, it's nothing to worry about, Neku," Joshua assured him, but his voice cracked as he said that. Neku was supposed to be someone he could be honest with, but here he was, lying to him.
Nothing was "fine" and it probably wouldn't be for a long time.
Neku blinked once when the doorbell rang suddenly. Sitting up, he turned in the general direction of the door, before looking down to Joshua. Joshua was still asleep, and would be for a while longer.
As the doorbell rang again, Neku frowned and stood up, grabbing his robe as he headed for the door. Once he had put the robe on properly, and tied the sash, Neku wordlessly undid the latches and opened the door.
Standing there was a man holding a small box, which obviously would not have fit through the mailbox, so Neku could guess what this was about. The deliveryman looked up as the door opened. "Good morning. Neku Sakuraba?"
Neku blinked once in slight surprise. As far as he knew, Neku wasn't known to anyone outside of his and Joshua's house, and no one really knew his name, much less his surname. "…Yes."
"Package for ya, sir." Neku silently accepted the package, looking at it a bit strangely.
"…Thank you," he said eventually, having heard Joshua say the same multiple times before.
The man merely tipped his hat and headed back to his truck. Looking down at the package, Neku realized that it was indeed his name written on it.
Stepping back into the house, he closed the door, and turned the package around in his hands. He wasn't sure if he was allowed to open the package; it did have his name on it, but did that really give him the right to open it?
For the longest time, Neku was torn between going to Joshua to ask if it was alright, and just opening it up.
He fiddled lightly with the tape, contemplating the options a little further, before he just opened it, carefully, keeping the paper intact so that he could later prove his name had been on it.
Inside the package a dark blue velvet box, one he didn't recognize from anything he'd ever seen, though it seemed familiar, somehow. Setting the wrapping on the table, Neku solemnly opened up the box and looked inside.
Inside the box rested a single silver ring, its plaid band twisted into an eternity symbol, numerous small sapphires embedded in it. Whatever he had been expecting, this wasn't it, that's for sure. Reaching inside, Neku looped his left ring finger through it, as if that was the most logical thing to do. As he held up his hand, Neku looked at the ring for a moment.
It was a perfect fit.
"Hmm… Neku? Who was that?" Joshua called out sleepily, rubbing at his eyes as he walked out of the bedroom.
Neku looked up silently, before he held up his hand. "Someone came to deliver this to me. Though I do not know why."
Joshua blinked a bit sleepily. "Already? Huh… didn't expect them this soon…"
"…What do you mean?" Neku asked, then blinked when he noticed something sparkling on Joshua's left hand. It took him less than a minute to realize it was a matching ring. "…You sent the ring?"
Neku was silent for a moment, before shaking his head. "No. But may I ask why?"
Joshua hummed a little, before he smiled and walked over, hugging Neku tightly. "Just felt like giving you something special. Matching rings seemed like a nice idea at the time."
For a moment, Neku remained immobile, before putting his own arms around Joshua. Something else was behind those rings, but Neku wasn't sure if it was his place to ask about it. Joshua seemed so happy that Neku was even wearing the ring, and he didn't really want to ruin that right then. Joshua's good moods became increasingly less as time wore on, and Neku was sure that something was wrong.
He had to know, but he couldn't ask.
Beeeep… Beeeep… Beeeep…
Joshua sighed softly. He couldn't believe he was actually doing this, but… he deserved to know, at least. Somehow, he could feel he wasn't going to last much longer.
He was 37 now. Twenty-three years had passed since the last time they had spoken to each other, and he wondered how he was doing. Though… he didn't think he'd be ready to actually meet the man in person. That was something he wasn't sure he was prepared for. Leaning against the booth, Joshua sighed heavily.
"Yo, Hanekoma speakin'," came the familiar voice suddenly, and Joshua smiled a bit.
"Hey, Mr. H, how you doing?"
"Josh! Damn, kid, ya nearly gave me a heart attack!" Sanae laughed. "How ya been?"
Joshua laughed. "I've been fine. Now that I actually got a job where I can do what I love; compose."
"Yeah, you mentioned that in your letters. What were those girls' names again?"
"Shiki and Eri. Eri does the designing, Shiki does the sewing." Joshua had to smile, remembering the two girls. They were best friends since childhood and had always dreamed of making their own brand of clothes. And Joshua's music seemed to really bring the clothes they made to life. "They're amazing. The feelings they put in their designs… Someday they're going to be the newest rage, Mr. H. Just wait and see."
"If you say so, Josh," Sanae chuckled. "As long as you're happy with the way things are going."
Joshua fell silent then. This was the point where he had to tell him… but how was he supposed to break it to Mr. H? Knowing him, he'd probably try to convince Joshua to take the surgery or chemotherapy, and Joshua just didn't want that.
"Josh? You okay there?" Sanae's voice called out, shaking Joshua out of it.
"Oh, yeah, I'm fine. Just thinking for a bit. Been doing that a lot, lately. Dunno why," Joshua lied and he could just about kick himself for that. "So… how have you been doing Mr. H?"
Joshua could NOT believe what he had done. He had just had an entire conversation with Mr. H… and had never once told him the truth about his own condition. In the end, he hadn't had the nerve to say it.
Sighing, Joshua grabbed the horn again and dialed another number he knew by heart.
"Hey, Neku. Can you come pick me up real quick? I think a headache's coming up and I don't want to risk the trip…" His headaches had gotten worse over the past year, which had to be another sign. "I'm at the phonebooth outside the video store."
"Alright. I'll be there in 15 minutes."
"Thanks… and Neku!"
"See you in fifteen."
Joshua sighed heavily as he hung up the horn. What was he doing? Neku wasn't even human. After nearly 24 years, he could finally admit it to himself. The Neku he had been living with this whole time was not the same as the one he had grown up with as a kid. And yet… he couldn't let go of him.
Because he really did love Neku. His only regret was that Neku could not respond to such emotions… because they were not made for robots.
Taking a deep breath, Joshua headed out of the booth to wait outside. But as he did, he groaned as his head started pounding. 'Dammit… not now…'
Rubbing his temples, Joshua grumbled a few things, before he stumbled…
And then… darkness…
"…" Neku wasn't sure how to respond to that. Joshua had never really told him that, nor had he ever explained what was supposed to be said by the other.
"See you in fifteen," Joshua said just then.
With that, Neku hung up the phone and hurried out of the door. He had said he'd be there in fifteen minutes, but that was quite a lot to ask of him. There were chances he could still make it if he hurried.
Getting into the car, Neku started it up and solemnly drove off. As he did, he got to thinking…
This was the first time Joshua had said those words when he was actually awake. He tended to say those three words quite often when he was asleep, often followed by his name. Neku never questioned it, nor did he bring it up. He could never find the proper time or place to do so. It just never seemed like the right time.
As he looked up, he realized he'd reached his destination and silently parked, before getting out and looking around. After a moment, he noticed Joshua next to the phonebooth he had mentioned. But then his eyes narrowed as he noticed the look on the man's face, and how he was cradling his head.
And then he stumbled forward onto the road…
Neku didn't even hesitate and rushed forward. Before the car could even get close to Joshua, Neku snagged the silverette and yanked him out of the way and off of the road in seconds flat.
While the car that had nearly rammed into Joshua honked by angrily, Neku merely ignored it and everything else, focusing instead on Joshua. The silverette had lost consciousness by the looks of things, even though his eyes were still slightly open. Carefully pushing them shut, Neku finally just stood with Joshua held securely in his arms, ignoring the questions from people around about doctors and ambulances.
Instead of putting Joshua in the passenger seat, he put him in the back, laying him down and ensuring the belts kept him in place without causing damage to him, before shutting the door and getting in the driver's seat.
He looked at Joshua once through the rearview mirror, noting just how pale he was, before starting the car and driving off without a word.
Joshua was literally burning up by the time Neku got him in bed. His temperature was way too high, and the towels Neku was putting on his head were dry in a matter of minutes. Also, while Joshua was naturally pale, right then, he looked liked a ghost.
Pulling out one of the towels in the bowl, Neku wrung it out to get the excess water out and placed it on Joshua's forehead after removing the other towel. Moving his silver hair aside, Neku silently watched Joshua the whole time, keeping a careful eye for any signs of discomfort. After a moment, Neku moved away and pulled a cable from the nearby computer, and pushed the USB port into his own neck before turning his attention back to Joshua.
While keeping half his attention on the man, he started accessing the internet through the cable in his neck to look for some kind of explanation on what was wrong with Joshua that could cause such headaches. Joshua never really said what was wrong after he had left the hospital to see if something could be done about his headache. Neku had never asked, since Joshua had clearly not wanted to talk about it.
After a moment of searching, Neku closed his eyes and removed the cable from his neck, not having found anything that might've explained things, besides heavy "migraines" but Neku wasn't sure if that was what was wrong. It was a possibility, of course, but he wasn't sure it was the right one.
Reaching into the bowl, Neku pulled out another towel, wrung it out again, and replaced the by now dry towel with it. Neku had already removed Joshua's clothes, not sure if it would really help, but he was doing the best he could, at least.
When Joshua groaned softly, Neku focused on the man's face, noting the shivering eyelids. "Ne… Neku…"
He silently took the silverette's hand in his own carefully. "I'm here, Joshua. Don't worry. I'm here."
Joshua groaned again and slowly opened his eyes. However, Neku recognized the look right away. He was still asleep, but his mind had woken up before his body again. This had happened multiple times after the first time, which never really bothered Neku too much. The only thing he couldn't understand was why Joshua had to kiss him every time he was like this.
"Neku…" A small smile appeared on Joshua's face, and he was already reaching up with one hand. But Joshua was weak at this point, so his hand shook as he did, making Neku reach out to hold Josh's hand and bring it up to his cheek. Joshua's fingers were hot, but Neku didn't say anything about it and just held his hand in place.
And when Joshua attempted to move his head, Neku moved instead, placing his lips over Joshua's, like the silverette had always done before. This seemed to satisfy Joshua, as he made a soft humming noise from the back of his throat.
Neku really didn't know the significance of their actions, but if this would help Joshua in any way, he would do whatever it took.
Moving away slowly, Neku looked down at Joshua, who was smiling, still. "I… love you…" the man managed to get out as his eyes began to fall shut again. Neku frowned softly, quickly digging through a couple of the files in his memory.
He'd looked up several ways to react to the phrase on internet, and he'd been debating for a while which of them was the most proper response.
Right now, his list had been narrowed down to two choices.
Blinking once, Neku finally just crossed out one of the two options and opened his mouth. "I love you, too."
Joshua whined when something cold was placed on his forehead, wearily blinking his eyes open. He was a little surprised to see Neku setting a small towel in a bowl of water, before he seemed to realize that Joshua was awake.
"How do you feel?" Neku asked him, and Joshua nearly flinched at the monotone with which the question was asked. Why had he never paid attention to that before?
"Not too good…" Joshua admitted. He had a very bad headache, and he was definitely burning up. That probably explained the towels Neku was placing on his forehead at regular intervals. "It's so hot…"
Neku placed his hand on Joshua's forehead, making Joshua hiss a bit at the cool touch.
"Neku…" When the redhead looked up, Joshua winced at the empty gaze in his eyes. "…could you get me some tea, please?"
"Sure." Neku got up and headed out the room to the kitchen, leaving Joshua alone with his thoughts.
Joshua stared up at the ceiling, lost in his thoughts. Why had he thought it was a good idea to make a robot in Neku's likeliness? What good had it done in the end? Nothing. The Neku he was living with now was nothing more but an empty shell that merely existed. It didn't live, didn't enjoy, and all it thought about was doing what it was designed for…
To be there for Joshua.
'How could I have been so stupid?' Joshua bit his lip. 'Did I honestly think that… I could bring Neku back? Was I even thinking? Probably not… if I made the mistake to mess with life the way I have…'
But as he thought back to the times before he actually created Neku… remembering that loneliness, that feeling of utter hopelessness… despair…
Maybe it was only natural he would resort to such acts.
Blinking, Josh turned to face Neku, who was standing there with a cup in his hand, looking down at him silently. "What's wrong, Neku?" he asked quietly.
Neku sat down on the bed slowly. "Are you feeling upset?" he asked after a moment.
"…No… yes… I mean… ugh…" Joshua didn't even know himself anymore.
Before he could say anything more, Neku reached out with one hand and wiped away the stray tears that had escaped his eyes. For a moment, Joshua wanted to believe that Neku wasn't… a robot, but one look at his eyes, and that hope was shattered. He just couldn't bring himself to believe it any longer.
"…No, never mind… Ugh, could you help me sit up?"
Something had definitely changed, of that Neku was certain. But if someone asked him what had happened, he would be unable to come to a reasonable conclusion. For a while, things had seemed to look up, but that had all been a mistake on Neku's part.
Joshua started to spend more and more time on his own now, sitting under the cherry blossom tree. Sometimes he stayed there for hours and Neku would be forced to go to him and collect him by the time evening came.
And after a while, even that was something he was no longer allowed to do.
Joshua was distancing himself from the redhead so that he would not be in pain when the time for farewell came. Josh had to constantly remind himself that Neku wasn't real, and while it might not hurt Neku, it would definitely hurt him if he wasn't careful and stayed as far away as he could, for now.
Of course, there was no way that Neku could know, since Joshua didn't tell him even half as much as he used to. It had started out slowly, but now Neku would be lucky to get more than 3 minutes of talking from Joshua. Neku wasn't sure how to approach the matter, since Joshua tended to wave the matter off like it was nothing.
This change in behavior was almost surreal, and, quite honestly, it confused the hell out of Neku.
Glancing outside, Neku gazed at the tree through the glass, frowning a little. Joshua was out there now, doing whatever it was he was doing out there these days. He had seemed off all day, too, and it was starting to worry Neku. If something was up and Joshua didn't tell him about it, how was he supposed to help?
If Joshua didn't need him anymore… did that make him… obsolete?
Sitting down in a nearby chair, Neku tried not to think about that too much. If he became obsolete…
Stopping that thought, Neku silently looked around the room for a moment, thinking of something to do, before he stood up and walked over to the computer. Joshua had left it on by the looks of it. He often sat behind the thing these days, making Neku wonder what he was doing. Joshua kept telling him not to touch it, but surely it would be all right to shut it off?
Turning on the screen, Neku waited for it to boot so he could save all of Joshua's files before shutting it off. Whatever it was Joshua was working on, it was probably important.
Neku was about to move the mouse, when he noticed a small message.
cherry_blossom_memory. MEM completed
Neku recognized the extension right away; it was how his memory was stored on his memory banks. But he couldn't remember anything labeled "Cherry Blossom".
Looking back, Neku debated on what to do, before he silently reached for the USB port. What he was about to do would very much ensure that Joshua would be pissed as hell at him, but for once, Neku couldn't really bring himself to think about it.
Instead, he brought the port to his neck and plugged it in.
Joshua sat under the shade of the cherry blossom tree silently, lost in thought. He hated to be alone like this, but honestly, he'd brought this upon himself. Pulling himself away into a world where Neku was still alive, where it was just the two of them, had ensured that he had pretty much cut off any and all connections to the outside world. Even Eri and Shiki weren't really his friends, even if he would've liked them to be.
They could go on without him. If he died, they'd mourn for a bit, then move right along with their life.
Something that Joshua apparently couldn't do…
And now that he could feel death steadily approaching him, he wasn't sure he'd ever have the chance. He still couldn't tell how long it would take, but it definitely wouldn't be long now… that much he knew.
Biting his lip, Joshua curled up pathetically against the trunk. "Neku… I miss you… Please come back…" he whispered, despite knowing it was a lost cause.
He wanted him back.
The rush of data through his circuits caused Neku to gasp sharply and grab onto the desk for support so he wouldn't fall. Neku couldn't make heads or tails off of things at first, but then something changed, not just in his circuits, but physically as well.
His eyes became a lighter dark blue, the pupils becoming darker so they were actually black and the reflections of the light gave them an actual 'alive' look to them, especially when they were opened wide in a combination of shock and surprise, with his mouth hanging up as he gasped and panted for breath.
Those memories… they struck a chord with Neku, somehow. They seemed… familiar…
A small redhead turned around to face the silver-haired boy. "Oy! C'mon slowpoke! Hurry up!"
"Sigh… I don't do the whole sweating thing, Neku," said the other boy with a small cheeky smile.
"Joshua! What happened to you?" the redhead asked, lightly touching the other boy's cheek, which was definitely bruised, and his eye wasn't looking much better.
The other boy flinched away and covered that half of his face. "It's… it's nothing…"
"LIKE HELL IT'S NOTHING!" the boy shouted angrily. "Who did this to you! How'm I supposed to beat 'em up for this if I don't know who to go after!"
"Be-because… mom did this…"
Both boys locked their pinkies together, grinning like idiots as the cherry blossom petals fell slowly around them, surrounding them like a protective mother would.
"You still have this?" the silver-haired boy asked, plucking up some kind of orange plushy.
"HEY!" The redhead snatched it back quickly. "Don't touch him!"
"Really now, Neku, I thought you were too old for stuffed animals."
"He's different!" the other boy shouted. "Flyx has been with me since the day I was born!"
"That old? So why can't you throw him away? Isn't he a waste of space?"
"Shut up!" Angrily, the boy bopped the silverette with the plushy.
"Hey! What the!"
"See? Now you've made him mad!"
"GAK! Neku what are y-GYAHAHAHAHAHAHA! STOP IT! NEKUUUU-AHAHAHAHA! STOP!"
The silverette laughed as the redhead blew bubbles into his chocolate milk. "Heheh. Neku, you're being childish."
"So? It's fun! You try it!"
"I am not!" Grumbling as the redhead imitated a chicken, the silverette put his lips to the straw and blew.
"…You know? This IS fun!"
"Do re mi fa so la ti. C'mon, it's not THAT hard!" the silverette sighed theatrically.
"Errr… what was that first one again?"
"Hey! I don't care what they're called! I know what they sound like on paper so shut up!"
"Sigh… you'll never cease to amaze me."
"Shove off, jerk. You're on my side of the bed…" the redhead grumbled sleepily, lightly pushing the other boy.
"Sorry," the silverette said softly, curling up a bit.
The other boy peeked out with one eye, taking note of the other's light shivering, before sighing and yanking him over. "Get over here."
"Just shut up and sleep," the redhead grumbled, curled around the silverette protectively. The smaller boy seemed a bit confused, before he silently put his arms around the other boy and closed his eyes, a soft smile on his face.
"Whatever Josh… sleep."
"Heehee. Yes sir."
Hands were twined together, as if they were afraid to let go. And technically, they were. The oxygen mask covering the young boy's face made him seem all that much more sick, the tubes in his arms adding to that even more. The look in his eyes was weary, and very much afraid, even if he would never admit to it.
"I'm right here," the silverette said firmly, lightly squeezing his hand. "I'm not going anywhere. I promise." Smiling softly, he added: "There's no man tough enough to keep us apart."
"…jerk… that's… my line…"
"Should've put a copyright on it."
The other boy laughed weakly.
"Hmm… Neku? What time is it?"
"Jo… shu… a…"
"Neku? Neku! Neku what's wrong!"
"Can't… breathe… so… hot… I… I… can't…"
"Neku! NEKU! SOMEBODY HELP! Neku! Hold on! It'll be okay! You'll be fine! I swear you'll be-"
"Josh… I… I'm so… sorry…"
"Don't you start with me! Nothing's going to happen to you! You'll be fine! You-you'll be-"Sniffle. "You… you can't leave me! You CAN'T! You promised! You PROMISED!"
"Josh… I… I… l-lo… you… good…bye…"
"Neku? Neku don't you dare! Open your eyes and tell me you're joking right now, you idiot! Tell me this is all some kind of joke! Neku! NEKUUUU!"
Neku blinked, feeling his entire body shake at the assault of memories, as something began to slide down his cheeks from his eyes, before splashing down on the desk, followed by multiple others of its kind;
For the first time since he was created, Neku was crying, the assault of all those memories too much to handle as he realized the truth; the reason why he was created.
He was supposed to be dead, but Joshua couldn't handle that… And… it seemed that Joshua had come to realize what he had done, and that he never should have. No one was meant to mess around with life, after all.
Neku gasped sharply, reaching for the left side of his chest, which was burning painfully, and he choked on his tears as he fell down to his knees, starting to sob as he realized that all this time, Joshua had devoted his entire life to him, and he, unknowing that he was, had been unable to provide him with that which he wanted… needed.
Letting out a cry, Neku wished feverishly that Joshua was there for him, instead of the other way around. He needed that right now, but did he really have that right?
Dammit, why did his chest hurt so badly?
Shakily pulling himself back up, Neku sniffled as he wiped away his tears, or tried to, at least, they just kept coming, before he started to walk… only to yowl when he walked straight into something that had been hiding under the desk, knocking it and its contents over.
"Ah snap!" Neku found himself cursing, quickly getting down to the ground to clean it up, picking up the first item he came across… and paused.
What he was holding was an old, stuffed animal; a flying fox, to be precise, a type of bat that was known for flying out into the sunset, and was also the same color as a fox. The plushy had several stitches on its body and where its wings connected to the body.
"…Flyx?" Neku found himself saying, putting his hands under the plushy and moving its wings up and down as if were really about to fly off.
"Flyx has been with me since the day I was born!"
"Must be… that scratch got there when he crashlanded onto the traintracks… he just managed to get between the tracks to avoid the train coming in…" Neku whispered, running his thumb along the stitching on its belly. Gulping down whatever was blocking his throat, Neku clutched the small creature close, sniffling a bit. "…?" Blinking, Neku brought Flyx up to his face and took a deep whiff. "…Joshua?"
Joshua's scent was definitely all over it, that much was clear. But why?
Shaking it off, Neku hugged the stuffed animal close, his lips curling up in a small smile.
Until he spotted the rest of the contents of the box. Blinking, Neku picked up a newsclipping.
"'Child dies in hospital after a hit and run'… ! Ah!"
It was getting dark. He had to hurry and get home before the sun disappeared completely. But the lights were NOT making it easy. It was almost like they wanted Neku to be late. Grumbling under his breath, Neku hopped up and down a bit to keep moving, so that he could sprint off the moment it turned green.
And as soon as it did, he ran to the other side.
But then there was a honk and Neku, stupid that he was, stopped and turned…
Neku choked on air. After that, he only remembered pain, having difficulty breathing, and darkness. Voices and sounds barely penetrated his ears, they were just there. But then he had heard Joshua's name and… all that white had hurt his eyes. But he could see Joshua, looking at him from within that sea of white.
God… he should've never stopped running. Maybe then he…
…wait a minute…
"How do I know…?"
If he was created from what Joshua knew, those memories included, how could Joshua have known how Neku had died, and what he felt at all those times? In fact, all of those memories appeared to have been taken by a third person that had been around, and yet Neku could perfectly remember how he had felt when Joshua had showed up with a bruise on his face, remembered every single argument they ever had…
…and even the lyrics that Neku always made to Joshua's music…
Since the moment he was created, Neku had only been able to speak in a droll monotone, and singing had definitely not worked with such a voice.
Taking a deep breath, Neku called to mind a single song that he had heard on the radio countless of times before. One that both Neku and Joshua had enjoyed very, very much.
You hear the
You hear the
Let me go
What's on my shoulder?
Little by little, I feel a bit better
Let me know
Set me free
I feel a bit older
Just once more unto the breach
Dear friend, once more"
Neku paused and came to a sudden realization that made him smile widely. "I… I sang. I actually sang!" he whispered, feeling a few tears trickle down his cheeks. "Joshua…! I-I have to tell Joshua!"
Neku was about to jump up, when he noticed something else. A music sheet.
Cocking his head curiously, he picked up the sheet and looked at the notes, silently humming them to himself without even being aware of it. Halfway through, Neku stopped, suddenly realizing what song it was.
"This is the one…"
"Oh! I found this last night when I came home," Joshua said, holding up a few music sheets. "I was going to show you later, but I think it's better if I… if I just hum this. Okay?"
It took Neku a little longer than usually to process the question, but once he understood, he somehow managed to give his friend thumbs-up. Joshua smiled, and quickly cleared his throat. And, after taking a deep breath, Joshua began to hum his song.
This was that song… but he knew this hadn't been put into the memory file. He didn't know why, but… it hadn't, and yet he remembered…
"…was he planning to forget about this?" Neku wondered, a small frown on his face.
He remembered the emotions that Joshua had put into the song when he had first heard it, the sadness, the hopelessness and despair, but also the hope he still carried, that quiet wish that said he wanted Neku to get better as soon as humanly possible. It was like he was singing him to sleep, and telling him at the same time he'd always be there in case he woke up.
Carefully zipping up the bag, Neku slung the heavy bag over his shoulder, smiling as he adjusted it a little, before heading out of the house. Joshua had told him to stay inside while he was outside at the tree, but he was beyond caring.
Patting Flyx's head, whom was secured on his belt, Neku smiled a little, and started the trek up the hill toward the tree that was waiting there.
Joshua silently rocked where he sat, still curled up and suppressing his sobs as he remembered his own past. He couldn't understand why he was having such troubles letting it go. Maybe because with Neku, he only had pleasant memories, up until the day he died.
The only pleasant memories he had, in fact…
He couldn't even remember when his mother had been caring, if at all. His father… hell if he knew what happened to him. He'd looked; but he seemed to have vanished from the face of the earth somehow.
Neku had made him forget his troubles, by always being there by his side. Now that he wasn't there…
"Are you gonna sit there all day or are you gonna get up sometime this century?"
Joshua flinched at that sentence. The last time he'd heard that had been…
"Are you gonna sit there all day or are you gonna get up sometime this century?"
Joshua blinked as he looked down from where he had been staring up through the pink petals. Neku was standing right there, grinning cheekily with his arms crossed over his chest, that familiar brown plushy secured to the boy's belt.
Smiling, Joshua said simply: "Oh, sorry, Neku. Was just thinking for a bit."
"'Bout what?" the other kid asked, walking over and plopping down next to him.
"Everything and nothing, I guess…" Joshua admitted. "…Like, what happens when we die? Does anyone know the answer?"
"Dude, that's too deep in the thought puddle for me," Neku grumbled, leaning his cheek on his knuckles, elbow on his knee.
"Hehe. I'll bet. You probably wouldn't dare go under too far."
"I'll have to, actually."
Before Joshua knew what had happened, the redhead had grabbed him in a headlock, digging his knuckles in the silverette's scalp. "To drag your sorry ass outta there when you're going too deep!"
"ACK! Neku! Stop it!" Joshua laughed, trying to get loose from his friend's grip.
Blinking slowly, Joshua brought up his head, and was more than a little surprised to see…
Said redhead was standing there with his arms crossed and that same cheeky grin on his face, head cocked just slightly, and that all too familiar plushy secured to a dark brown belt. "Seriously, get outta that puddle before ya drown yourself."
This couldn't be right…
Joshua knew that, even if he wished for it, this couldn't be real. The Neku alive now would never say anything like that; he had no memories of it, nor the heart to say them the way he just had. There was just no way…
Letting out a heavy sigh, Joshua dropped his head down again so that his forehead rested on his knees. "God… not again… stupid tumor induced dreams… I don't need any of this…"
Neku froze the moment he heard what Joshua said, feeling his entire body turn to ice. "Tumor induced… what!" Neku whispered, feeling a touch of anger rise from the pit of his stomach. "What did you just say?" he asked through gritted teeth, even though he'd heard him fine the first time.
"Go away… I'm not in the mood for this…" Joshua sighed out.
Neku snarled and promptly dropped down to Joshua's level, snatching the other man's head in his hands. "Hey what are you?" But Neku hardly gave Joshua the time to finish and forcefully turned Joshua's head, his eyes scanning rapidly until they, regrettably, found what he was looking for; a braintumor.
"Oh god…" That damn well explained the constant headaches Joshua had been having; that tumor was in a place where it pushed down hard enough to cause a very prominent migraine, and could probably cause some hallucinations, too, considering it was on the right half of his brain.
Joshua frowned and ripped his head loose. "What was that for? I told you to-"
The first thing to register in Joshua's mind was 'what the heck!' and that was quickly followed by 'OW! That hurts!' since he had just gotten bitchslapped by Neku, of all people.
'…wait… dreams… don't hurt, do they…?'
Joshua slowly turned his head, his cheek burning from the slap it had received, tears stinging his eyes because of it. Neku was panting harshly, his face contorted into a glare that Joshua knew all too well. However… it had never actually been aimed at him.
"You… YOU GODDAMN IDIOT!" Neku screamed, snagging Joshua's shoulders in his hands, giving the silverhead a rough shake. "WHY THE FUCK DIDN'T YOU EVER TELL ME? WHATEVER HAPPENED TO NOT KEEPING SECRETS FROM EACH OTHER!"
"I-I…" Joshua started, tears pooling in his eyes rapidly. "I-I couldn't… I… I didn't want you to… I… I…"
Neku stopped his shouting, glare quickly fading upon seeing those tears. Growling softly, Neku quickly set aside the bag on his back and dropped down to his knees while pulling Joshua towards him in a tight hug. "Stupid…" he grumbled, rubbing Joshua's back. "That's what you are, you know that?"
Joshua was at a loss. Neku shouldn't be here… he was dead. He knew that. But… the way Neku was holding him was so familiar…
"Ne… Neku…?" he questioned quietly.
"Hmhmm?" was the solemn, but familiar, reply.
Josh wanted to talk, question what the hell was going on, but he just couldn't. It was all just too much too soon, and he found himself sniffling, before he clung tightly to Neku, crying and sobbing loudly. And Neku just held him, making gentle shushing sounds and rocking the silverette in his arms.
"It's okay… I'm here, and I ain't going anywhere…" Neku whispered, running one hand through Joshua's silvery hair, smiling softly as the man began to calm down slowly.
Joshua sniffled as he began to mumble softly. "This can't be… you can't be here… you're… you…"
"I'm not dead, Josh," Neku quipped simply, startling him. "I just took a leave of absence, that's all."
"Don't ask… I can't explain this either." Smirking cheekily, Neku added: "Too deep in the thinking puddle."
Joshua felt himself smile in spite of himself. He knew that this couldn't be real, but… it all felt so real. Just this once, he wanted to actually believe that he wasn't dreaming. He needed it so badly…
And just then, Joshua's ears picked up something he thought he wouldn't hear ever again;
His voice was a little heavier than it had been as a child, which was to be expected, but it was the same in every other way. And just as he had as a child, Joshua found himself holding his breath anxiously, desperate to catch every word that Neku was singing.
But it was over far too soon, and Joshua breathed softly, only a few stray tear falling down his cheeks. For a moment, Josh was afraid to move, but then he finally raised his head while moving back so he could look Neku in the eye. "Neku…?"
The redhead merely smiled and shrugged. "Kinda hard to forget those, don't ya think?" That brought a small smile onto Joshua's face, even if it looked extremely fragile, but it was enough for now. At least he wasn't crying anymore.
Neku was suddenly struck by this sudden urge coming from the back of his mind, and, without really thinking it over, moved forward and covered Joshua's mouth with his own.
Joshua wasn't aware that it was humanly possible to forget how to breathe, but that's what he was going through at that point. In fact, it was like he'd completely forgotten how to think and could only feel.
After a while, Neku moved away and just looked at Joshua for a long moment. Joshua could only blink, twice, before bringing up his hand to his lips.
"…wha… what was that for?" he asked slowly.
"Hmm…" Neku seemed to think for a few moments, before he quipped: "You just looked real kissable just then." But before Joshua could complain, Neku smirked and leaned forward so their foreheads were nearly touching. "Plus, I felt like it," he said simply, planting a quick peck on Josh's nose.
Joshua had absolutely nothing to say to that. For one of the few times in his life, he was absolutely speechless.
Neku merely chuckled and pulled Joshua into a hug. "Hmm… I love you," he whispered softly.
The silverette flinched at those words for a brief moment, not really believing what he was hearing, before he relaxed and smiled, trying not to cry again. "I… I love you, too."
"Hmm… I know, Josh, I know."
When Joshua blinked his eyes open again, he found himself staring up through the cherry blossom petals. Letting out a silent groan, he whispered to himself: "I knew it… dammit, I knew it…"
At that voice, Joshua jumped. Or, he would've, had he had that freedom. As he became more and more awake, he realized he was lying on something soft, which was also keeping him in place. Or, to be more specific, he was lying on someone.
Turning his head to look up, Joshua found himself looking into curious, dark blue eyes, one eyebrow cocked up in silent question. "Neku! I thought… I…"
Neku merely smiled a bit and ruffled Joshua's hair. "Hey, I said I wasn't going anywhere, didn't I?"
"Well… yeah, but…"
"No buts, you jerk," Neku chuckled, and Joshua couldn't help but chuckle as well.
"Heheh. Alright, have it your way, Nekky."
"Hey! Quit calling me that!"
"OW!" Joshua yelped when Neku suddenly tugged on his hair. "Grr! No tugging, Neku!"
Neku just laughed and stuck out his tongue cheekily.
Joshua smiled. This felt… familiar, and he could almost swear that nothing had ever happened between him and Neku. Could almost swear that Neku had never died at all. And, for a moment, he actually forgot about his problems, just like before.
Upon hearing Neku speak up, Joshua cocked his head back to look Neku in the eye. "Yeah?"
"I was wondering…" As he said that, Neku reached over for the bag he had brought with him, holding it out to Joshua. "Could you play something?"
Joshua blinked, before realizing what kind of bag Neku was holding up. Looking at Neku in surprise briefly, he was about to ask where the hell Neku got it, since he'd actually hidden it for several years now, but finally decided better of it. Sighing softly, Joshua took over the bag and grumbled: "If I must…"
Unzipping the bag, Joshua carefully pulled out the gorgeous synthesizer he'd gotten from Mr. H as a parting present all those years ago. Compared to the newer models, this one was rather old-fashioned, but it still worked fine. He'd played it dedicatedly for several years after, before he had just… lost the will to play.
He wasn't really sure if he could still do it, but he figured it was like riding a bicycle; you never really forget how to do it.
As he set it on his lap, however, his eyes caught sight of a music sheet and Joshua just froze.
"…? Joshua?" Neku was a bit surprised when Joshua just froze up like that, gently touching his shoulder. "Josh, are you okay?"
"…I'm fine…" Joshua managed to get out, tucking the music sheet away, as if hoping Neku hadn't seen it. "Anyway, what did you want to hear?"
Neku said nothing for a moment, before he reached out snagged out the music sheet Joshua had 'hidden' from him. "Why do you think I packed this one along with the synthesizer?" Neku asked instead of answering the question.
"But I… I can't play this…" Joshua whimpered.
"Because it's… it's…"
Neku silently put his hand on Joshua's forehead, shushing him before he could start to panic. "Hush, now… it's okay. I know what song this is… and that's why I want to hear it. Please…"
There was no way Joshua could deny Neku his request, even though he wished he could, so he silently set up the music sheet, clipping it shut so it wouldn't blow away in the wind. But as he did, he was tormented by voices of the past…
I found this last night when I came home
With his hands shaking, Joshua set his fingers on the keys, taking long, almost painful breaths to try and stay calm.
I was going to show you later, but I think it's better if I… if I just hum this. Okay?
He willed his fingers to press down, but they just wouldn't budge.
Neku? Neku don't you dare! Open your eyes and tell me you're joking right now, you idiot! Tell me this is all some kind of joke! Neku! NEKUUUU!
…he couldn't do it…
"I can't do this!" Joshua whimpered, feeling close to tears. "Neku, I-I can't!"
"You can!" Neku said firmly, gently placing his hands over Joshua's. "You just don't want to."
"It's okay… Joshua… I forgive you."
Three words. Three simple words. Even simpler than the ones he had uttered to Neku in response, but for some odd reason, they seemed that much stronger.
And, as if that had been all, Joshua's body stopped shaking, and his fingers merely rested easily upon the ivory keys. Neku's thumbs smoothed out the back of his hands, gently loosening up the tense muscles there, and Joshua finally relaxed entirely.
And then his fingers moved…
He could feel Neku's smile against the back of his head, as his hands traveled up his arms while Joshua's pianist fingers continued moving elegantly across the keys. Joshua barely had to look at the notes on the piece of paper for his fingers to hit the proper keys. It just… came back to him naturally, as if he had never attempted to erase this song from his memory.
But what surprised him more was when Neku's voice wafted through the air, almost making him pause in his playing. Almost… but he kept going, feeling his own lips curve up into a smile as Neku sang…
"Kawatta no wa boku na no ka, keshiki na no ka, fuan dakedo
Tonari ni mamori taikimi ga ireba ii to ima omotta
Wasuretai koto mo aru keredo, furikaeru to, yowaku naru kedo
Omoide wa kokoro no takaramono dakara soba ni aru no sa
A lullaby for you
Ashita no hikari wa matte iru kara
May tomorrow be wonderful too
Te wo tori aeru chikara ga areba
Nemuri kara sametemo, hitori ja nai"
God this was actually making him tired…
Joshua shook his head, willing his fingers to keep playing, but he could just barely keep his eyes open. When Neku's hand touched his forehead and gently pulled him to lay back, he blinked sleepily. But Neku just smiled reassuringly. "I'll be right here by your side when you wake up… just go to sleep, Josh…"
Smiling softly, Joshua hummed a bit. "Mmkay… love you…"
"Love you, too. Now sleep, you little idiot."
Joshua just smiled, and curled up against Neku as the redhead set the synthesizer aside. And as Joshua began to doze off, the last thing he heard was Neku's voice, still singing that same song in the same way as he had hummed it to Neku all those years ago.
This is how things should be… how they should have been all along…
The way it… should have… gone…
Joshua's thoughts slowed down eventually as he fell asleep, slowly.
…but unfortunately, that wasn't all that slowed…
Neku just held on to Joshua, silently singing to the silverette, never really noticing how Joshua's breathing started slowing down as time wore on. It was getting hard for him to focus on a lot of things, too, so he completely missed when even Joshua's heart began to slow…
He just kept singing even when Joshua was no longer there…
"Nemurenai no wa kodomo dakara, kodoku dakara, heiki datta kedo
Yume wo mina gara yoru wo sugoshitai to kanjita no wa hajimete sa
A lullaby for you
Hoshi wa kanarazu kagayaku kara
May tomorrow be wonderful too
Itsuka wa idaku kibou ga aru kara
Te saguri no yami demo, hitori ja nai"
He didn't realize that Joshua had died, since he had enough difficulties to simply keep singing. Neku clung to Joshua, ensuring that he would not leave, because he felt his own consciousness slipping away.
Gulping down whatever was blocking his throat, Neku willed himself to just keep singing, his eyes falling shut slowly, though he was still smiling softly.
"Kioku no naka de, kizami ikite yukitai
Mousude ni the past is gone eternally
A lullaby for you
Ashita no hikari wa matte iru kara
May tomorrow be wonderful too
te wo tori aeru chikara ga areba
Nemuri kara sametemo, hitori ja nai"
But as time wore on, Neku's voice became quieter… and quieter, until it was barely audible over the breeze, his systems slowing down until they just stopped altogether. Yet even as that happened, Neku never stopped smiling, never having realized what had occurred…
That day… without anyone knowing about it, Joshua and Neku… passed away, together, under the shade of a single cherry blossom tree.
To be honest, it was a miracle (Kiseki)
A robot had obtained a heart (Kokoro) and sang out all of his feelings
But a Kiseki never lasts for more than a moment…
The Kokoro was too much for him to withstand
In the end, his systems short-circuited and he would never move again
However, even at the end of his life, his face was lit up by a smile
And for a moment he looked like…
Really did look like…
Based off of a Vocaloid story on Youtube from Rin and Len Kagemine. The first story is Kokoro, which is from Rin's (the robot's) POV, the second is Kokoro Kiseki, which is from Len's (the doctor) POV, while the last one, Kokoro & Kokoro Kiseki is a combination of both. All three of them were posted by "kaitoyoiko".