Closing Up
SONGFIC. POST GAME. ANOTHER DAY SPOILER. It's been ten years, and nothing's really changed in life. It's only until Mr. H is smiling at his leaving customers does he realize that a person is more than just a customer anymore. "It's time to move on."


Amaya's Note:
THE WORLD ENDS WITH YOU belongs to Squeenix/Jupiter. LULLABY FOR YOU belongs to Jyongri. I tried to make this as angst-worthy as possible. And yes, Sakura can be from Naruto if you'd like. But if you don't then it isn't. Wow, look at all those tags on top.


one-shot

There may not be an answer to this too
Why the sky is blue
Is the change in me all true
Now that you are next to me I have no fears
And all I know is that I want to be with you

"See ya, Mr. H!" A girl called out as she walked through the door.

"Later, Sakura!" The barista replied. He walked from behind the counter to the now emptied table. He slowly picked up the coffee mugs still warm from the caffeinated liquid. Slowly because he knew that he wasn't the only one here.

It was like this every October 5. When the last of his customers left, Mr. H would stop being the barista or the CAT designer he is and become Sanae Hanekoma. Just that. No one else.

He stifled a 'yuck' when he saw that one of the schoolgirls that were here before left him yet another love note written on a tissue. He used the note to wipe up some spilled coffee. An awkward feeling ran up Mr. H's back; he was being intently watched.

Sighing, the man turned with a half-smile to his friend. "How long're ya gonna sit there? You're usually talkin' by now."


Sometimes it's easy to
Forget the times we weep
The moment makes us weak
And all the shame I seek
Memories exist for all the precious days my heart still wants to keep
Somewhere deep inside of me

The boy didn't answer with a 'yeah' or an 'hmm.' In fact, he didn't answer at all. He just blinked solemnly at Mr. H before turning back down to his cup. A tear ran down the boy's face before it was lazily flicked away. Something wrenched in Mr. H's chest as he took a seat in front of him. "Hey, Neku. You in there? I don't wanna be talking to a corpse."

"I might as well be one!" Neku snapped, jerking his head up. His face was puffy and his eyes were red. Crying, yet again. Sluggishly, Neku came back to his senses and lowered his temper. "Sorry," he meekly whispered.

Mr. H understood. He nodded. He wasn't mad. He felt for the kid. Today was that day. You couldn't let a kid think about something that happened twelve years ago. "Hey, tiger," Mr. H started. Neku reluctantly looked up from his coffee, once again banishing another tear from his face. "How old are you now?"

Neku's emotion seemed to change for a second from being caught off guard. "Twenty-five. Stop calling me tiger." He added the last part almost smiling.

"Ahhh, I see." Mr. H teasingly sang. "My little Phones wants to grow up."

A lullaby for you
Don't you worry baby
I'll be here by your side
May tomorrow be wonderful too
Close to you I hope to stay
Endlessly from today
Even through cloudy days
You are not alone

"Shut up." Neku joked, attempting to swipe at the barista's head.

"Ah ah aah. Would a college student be hitting me, a senior? You could get sued for that." Mr. H continued to tease. He liked his October fifths to be like this: hanging out with Neku when, out of all the other days, was decent and honest about what he really felt.

After the Game, he had been like this as well. But, like he mentioned earlier, October fifths were special. Something changes in Neku, and it's been going for the good and the bad. Thing's had been quite normal as well. Shiki (to no one's surprise) got together with Neku and Rhyme had gone off with Beat to a skateboarding competition somewhere in the states. Mr. H also knew that Neku had always been silently hoping to see Joshua again someday.

He wasn't sure if it Neku wanted to give the Composer a long-ass lecture about why he shouldn't kill people anymore or if he really, honestly to goodness talk to him.

By now, the duo had fallen into an abysmal voicelessmoment. The barista would occasionally sneak a peek at what Neku was doing, and every time, he'd see him sulking to himself. Neku inwardly sighed, letting another tear run down his face. He looked as if he wanted to talk but was unsure about what he should say. "Hey Phones, ya got somethin' on your mind?"

Neku solemnly nodded. "You said that not everyone who dies is sent to the Game right?"

Mr. H's eyes widened. The question he'd usually asked was somewhere along the borderlines of 'What do you do when you lose something' or 'How do you get over it?' The question he'd asked this year was a tad bit off. "Yeah, kid. Where're you going with this?"

"Sanae," Neku addressed. Yeah, Mr. H was really surprised this time. This was first, Neku directly speaking to him. "Is...is there some way you can tell me if he made it?!" Neku gushed. At that moment, the boy broke down and cried.

Sweet dreams I do not see
'Cause darkness scares me
Is it because I'm still fifteen
Or the loneliness in me
Wish I may I wish I might
Sleep soundly through the windy nights
Just to dream of you tonight

Mr. H could tell that there was almost no end to the streaming tears on Neku's face. A lump formed in his throat and was only able to speak garbled words. Soon, the tears that were on the verge of falling on the older man's face as well. Neku was crying. Sanae was crying. The barista was in a state of shock. He had no idea what to do. He didn't have any kids of his own. He didn't care enough to try and understand that feelings were tangible and most likely breakable. But as if their minds were one, Mr. H nodded, stepping over to Neku and embracing his head.

Neku buried his face into his chest, sobbing like a child. Slowly, he stroked the boy's head, inaudibly humming a lullaby he thinks his mother told him. By the way Mr. H breathed in and out, Neku could tell he didn't have the answer to his question. They awkwardly sat there for a while, passer-byes not even noticing the two crying. "I—I'm sorry, Phones. I don't." Mr. H croaked.

Quietly, he enjoyed the warmth that radiated off of Neku. It almost made him feel like a father, like there really was special bond between the two. Neku buried his face into Mr. H's chest, crying harder.

The boy gasped for breath, summoning up the courage to say what's been clogging up his throat. "It's ok, Sanae. I...I forgive you."


A lullaby for you
Stars will always gracefully watch over 'til it's bright
May tomorrow be wonderful too
Take my hands and promise me
That we'll be all right

The barista widened his eyes. Had Neku really just said that? He looked down quietly. Neku's weeping had calmed to almost a cease. "Thanks, kid. You've changed."

A nod. A smile. Yeah. Neku does agree that he's changed.

"Would it have been different...if he was still alive?" Neku solemnly asked. A small grunt comes from the belly of Mr. H's stomach. He understood this night, like the other night.

"Explain it to me again, Neku." Mr. H requested. "Tell me, how was your friend?"

Neku released himself from the barista's warm grasp. Mr. H stood up onto his feet and walked over to the counter, tossing a tissue to Neku along the way. "He was nice."

"Obviously." Mr. H scoffs. "Would you have hung out with him even if he were mean?"

With a chuckle, Neku shakes his head. "Of course not. He was the only one with guts to come up and talk to me." Neku slowly explained to Mr. H. Memories of his friend flashed through his mind. "He was the one who told me about your Udagawa Mural. We probably would've never met if I never met him."

"Him?" Mr. H questioned. He'd retreated to the kitchen to resume his cleaning. "I thought you'd at least had a name with the guy."

Neku stood up, silently following Mr. H's trail to the room. He leaned against the door sill, shaking his head again. "I tried so hard to forget about him, but his face is still there. I mean, it's like I killed him."

Freezing in place, Mr. H realized what kind of night this was going to turn out as. He sighed. "But you didn't. Hey Phones, we've gone over this already. It's not your fault your friend is..." He trailed off. Sure, Mr. H was a Producer in the Reaper's Game, but he'd never actually had any hands on experience with death like that. "It's not your fault he's...dead."

Sliding down to his feet and hugging his knees, Neku let another tear slip out of his eye. "He told me about the tag just a week earlier." A small glint of excitement appeared in Neku again; Mr. H smiled at that. "And then he'd arranged for me to meet him there that night. We were gonna go out to a movie that just came out."

"Do ya remember the name of the movie?"

Neku stuck his hand into a bowl of water and flicked the liquid at the man. "That was 12 years ago, dumbass. Do you remember what you dreamt about that night?"

Mr. H pulled out a towel and rubbed his face dry. "Touché. Keep talking."

"Well, that was the same day you had released the mural. The Shibuya Media had been set on fire with the news. Reporters were everywhere photographing the graffiti. You gotta remember that." Neku spoke. Mr. H slowly concurred. That day was one of his best. "I saw him across the street."


Finding a place to feel at home
You are not alone
Maybe I'll turn back to stay
Where I came from only yesterday
Whisper that the past is gone eternally

Setting down the towel and hopping up onto the table, Mr. H listening intently to Neku. The boy continued. "We were on two sides of the curb. I was on the side with the mural, and he was crossing the street to come over to me. And then..." Neku stopped and Mr. H didn't have to ask to know that he had drifted off to sleep. It was always at the same part.

'He doesn't want to admit that all he could do was stand there.'

Mr. H tilted his head back, not being able to agree any stronger with Shiki's words. It had only been recent that she had found out Neku's tragic past.

'If he does, then all he'll be able to do is feel even less worthless.'

Neku's friend stepped onto the street, and the car sped by. A cry was heard long before Neku could realize what had happened. The car flipped over, crushing his friend under the engine. He was dead.

"That's where you're wrong," Mr. H muttered to himself.

"You say something?" Neku asked, his head still buried in his arms.

"Hey, kid." The barista said rather gruffly. Neku looked up to him almost innocently. Sighing, Mr. H jumped off of the table and kneeled down to him. "That was twelve years ago."

Neku's eyebrows furrowed together. "How the hell can you say that?! I was ther-"

"You WERE there, Neku." Mr. H quickly interjected. "It's time to move on. I'm getting worried."

"Screw you. Worried for what?"

Mr. H pulled Neku up, led him to the restroom, and faced him to the mirror. "What do you see?"

A lullaby for you
Don't you worry baby
I'll be here by your side
May tomorrow be wonderful too
Close to you I hope to stay
Endlessly from today

He responded with a confused look. "I see...me?"

Mr. H chuckled, but quickly recomposed himself. "Of course you do. Now, what does 'me' look like?"

Neku sighed. "Me looks like me." Turning around, he revealed a face of immeasurable anger. "Where the hell are you going with this?"

"Neku. Look into the mirror again, but this time, tell me what you looked like twelve years ago."

The boy gasped. Slowly, he faced himself in the reflective glass.

'Hey, Neku! Bet you didn't know about CAT's Udagawa Tag!'

'Pfft, CAT doesn't have a tag at Udagawa.'

'Geez, I thought you followed CAT's every step. It's new and they're revealing it today!'

'...'

'Haha! Your eyes are so wide! Listen, let's go meet up there tonight. We'll go out to a movie.'

A lump formed in Neku's throat. He tried his best to shove the memory out of his mind.

I hated you for dying. You...you make me feel weak.

Something warm embraced him. Neku glanced over his shoulder to see that Mr. H had left the boy to his own reflection. Someone...something was giving him a hug.

A thought ran through his head. Neku had a feeling that this was...he was hugging him. "Missed you, man." Neku called out. The greeting echoed eerily through the restroom.

A car screeched outside and the noise reverberated off the walls. Neku decided it was his friend responding back.

"Neku! You okay in there?"

The embraced feeling dissipated as he let out a calm sigh. "Yeah, Mr. H." A chill ran down his spine. Was it because he was alone? Or maybe because of the memories haunting his every move?

The barista strolled into the restroom, leaning against the door pane. "Look, I'll check the records to see if your friend ever made it to the Game, okay?"

Even through cloudy days
You are not alone

A smile wove its way onto Neku's face. He walked to Mr. H, patted his shoulder and proceeded to the exit. "Nah, I'm fine, Mr. H. Check if you'd like, but don't tell me."

Heh, something's probably screwed with his mind, the man thought to himself. He grinned as he saw Neku open the glass door and look up to the stars. Quietly, he added something to that thought. "Hey, Josh, wish that execution had happened later just so that you could see this..."

"It was never my fault, was it?" Neku asked out of the silence.

"What, you two becoming friends?" Mr. H asked, although he already knew what Neku had really inquired. The boy chuckled. "Well, once ya think about it, it kinda was."

Neku waved his hand in the air, dismissing the question. "Thanks, Mr. H."

"Ha, don't mention it, boss."


You are not alone


Amaya's Note:
Ugh. Not my best work. Notice 'execution' and 'Josh' in the same phrase coming out of the Fallen Angel's mouth. Yeah. Hint hint at a sequel.