Normally, I would post this with It's A Wonderful Life, but it is kind of longish, so.
Warnings: Post-game, so Spoilers?
Rating: PG, language.
Notes: So, I decided to do a fic where everyone doesn't remember (it seems the more likely course for Joshua to take, after all), but Neku's a persistent asshole, so he does.
Barely a month after the Game ends, no one but Neku remembers anything. It surprises Mr. H, but Neku is just glad that he still has someone to talk to. He trusts Joshua enough, but he makes for terrible conversation, and Neku still hasn't seen him since the Game ended, anyway.
Neku sits down at a table in the corner of the Wildkat Café on the morning of Day 30 of his shiny new life (it isn't that he's been counting, exactly, but it is surprisingly difficult to forget the day he came back from the dead), and orders an over-priced coffee.
He has a sketchpad under one arm, and two pencils in his pockets. He trusts the quiet, smooth atmosphere of the café to do the rest.
Neku starts with a quick sketch of two people. They are Players, he decides. Their lives begin to fold out in his mind as he fills in the lines, making them individuals.
The girl is strong, confident, and athletic. He's got her decked out in the best Wild Boar gear for fighting Noise before he realizes what he's really doing. Neku erases her hair, shortening it to a more practical length. He writes "Tsubame" under her outline.
The other Player is a boy, quick and smart. Snarky, Neku thinks. He gives the kid a bit of Dragon Couture and a watch from Pegaso.
Neku has the first few pages roughly outlined before he leaves at closing time.
He makes a habit of coming to the café and working on what is quickly working its way up to being a proper manga, on days he's not hanging out with Beat and Rhyme or Shiki and sometime Eri. Their memories are re-written to trivialize their three weeks in Hell, and it makes Neku's stomach roil every time one of them mentions an event that happened at "that summer camp thing," where they apparently all met and became best friends.
Of course, being around Mr. H so much, it was inevitable that Neku would run into Joshua eventually.
Neku wants to kill him, wants to hold on and cry, wants to tell him he's a fucking asshole for disappearing for so long, but Neku could have visited. Instead, Neku nods and waves politely, and returns to sketching out Day 3 of Tsubame and Yuki's adventures in the Game.
Joshua talks with Mr. H in low tones about something. Neku doesn't even try to listen. When they finish, Joshua comes to sit beside Neku, watching the speech and details form on the page.
"No one else remembers, anyway," Neku says, feeling that he has to explain himself.
"You're not supposed to," Joshua admits.
Neku feels the world stop turning. He drops his pencil. "You're not--"
"Let's just say I forgot," Joshua replies, cutting Neku off soon enough to maintain a certain level of plausible deniability about the contents of the rest of the sentence.
Neku breathes. He hadn't realized that he had begun to hold his breath. "So, I can kind of see the appeal of the Game," he says after a moment, picking his pencil up again, and attacking a blank corner of the page.
"The thrill of life-or-death against this?" He gestures in the general direction of the rest of the café with his free hand. "There's no contest." Then, for Mr. H's benefit, he adds, "No offense to the café, of course."
Mr. H shrugs and brings Neku another coffee. They are all free after the first three, ever since Neku's continued presence began to attract the occasional customer or two.
"I can also feel the appeal of the mundane life," Neku continues, so Joshua doesn't get any funny ideas about guns and his head. Again.
Joshua sighs. "And I thought I had made some real progress with you."
Neku rolls his eyes, but he can feel the urge to smile tugging at the corners of his lips. "Have you considered joining us at Hachiko?" he says after a moment. His hand darts to the other side of the page to fill in some shading around a Noise attacking Yuki.
"What would be the point?" Joshua watches Neku's fingers flit across the page. The side of his hand was picking up a bit of a silver sheen from the graphite on the page.
Neku shrugs. "What else do you do with your life? Composing can't take all of your time. Having friends won't kill you, I mean, look at me."
Joshua smirks. "As I recall--"
"Okay, it got me Erased. Once. And whose fault was that?"
Joshua openly laughs at that. "Bitter, are we, Neku?" he replies, sarcasm positively dripping from his voice.
Neku opens his mouth to protest angrily, then he stops and takes a deep breath. "Bullets hurt," he says instead.
Joshua watches him sketch for a few more moments. Then, he stands to leave. On his way out, he says, "I suppose I could try to see the appeal of the mundane life." It's as good as a promise that he will be at Hachiko on Monday. Neku smiles to himself, and can't stop even when his pencil breaks and he has to go home because he can't find the other one.
(A/N: And, of course, Joshua has the other pencil, and will give it to Neku next time Neku enters the UG. It's an accessory with +1337 to every stat. Obviously. Silly Neku, running around with that in the RG where there are no Noise to fight.)