Title: Inescapable Nightmare

Rating: T – Language, dark themes, character death…though that's in TWEWY regularly.

Summary: If only it was a dream, and it was possible to wake up. It wasn't. Neku's nightmare was absolutely genuine. And it had cost him his friends and almost a year from his life. Implied NekuxShiki.


It was a black room, fathomlessly large and dark, pitch black as starless night.

I should have seen this coming.

Possessors of night vision would have no trouble seeing the slouched shape, huddled in the corner, head placed in his hands, blue earphones around his neck. Uncontrolled orange hair clawing gravity in defiance. Dark indigo eyes. Matching jacket. A teen.

I really should have seen this coming. Damn it. If I hadn't trusted that ass, none of this would have happened. We'd all be safe. I'd be safe. She'd be safe.

I remember it clearly. As if it was only an hour ago, a minute, a second. Not almost a year.

Springtime. It used to mean little or nothing to me. The seasons turning used to hardly deserve my attention. Only acknowledgment. Nothing more. But Shiki and I, we had been wandering through some gardens. The cherry blossoms had bloomed early, and the pink petals had drifted down from the branches like twirling dancers. I was basically hyper aware of everything going on.

But I can't recall why.

I remembered a myth I had heard somewhere. A book. Magazine. Television. Radio. Internet. It didn't matter where, but once the idea lodged itself in my head, it hunkered down and refused to budge until I obeyed its command.

The concept, you see, that had risen clearly in my mind the same way the sun climbs the sky was simple in its performance but disturbingly cliché and more emotional than I would have liked. I didn't think it was even possible for me to stoop so low – or ascend so high. Both, I thought, were out of my reach either way.

The teen clenched his fists and seemed to be suppressing tears, leaning against the cold, smooth stone wall. A sigh. A pair of shadowy eyes opened, seeing nothing but memories of the past.

I decided to do it before I lost my nerve, or worse, I simply ignored what my…heart was saying, and ended up getting sleepless nights because of it. I reached for a low bough and removed one of the delicate pink flower clusters from the limb, peeking at Shiki from the corners of my eyes. She was too busy clutching Mr. Piggy and too captivated by the pale, rose colored shower around us to pay me any attention.

Good. Because I bet you a dozen rounds with a Neoclassical Drake that I had an asinine expression on my face as I imagined that my black-brown haired friend would look better than she already did with a cherry blossom tucked right behind her ear.

So I did just that.

Of course, it took her a few moments to realize what I had presently done. Then she turned slowly, her spectacles slipping down her nose before she hurriedly poked them back up. She offered me a tentative smile. "Neku thanks!"

Well. I was already knee deep in hellfire, might as well submerge myself.

Another part of me, the more cynical part, argued against that line of thought. It made no sense.

The other part of me said "Shut the hell up."

I wish I could say I looked her straight in the eyes, but I'm not that type of person. I turned around partially and studied the drifting petals. "You ever hear the cherry blossom legend?"

"Nope." She cheerfully replied. I heard Shiki edge a little closer. "What's it about?"

Well. I could say my manhood was at stake, as Beat probably would phrase it, but the only thing at stake was my sanity. If all of this was simply a long dream, like I suspected – (me, having friends?) – Then I had nothing to lose. "Apparently they stuck flowers in pretty girls' hair."

I heard her soft exhale as she comprehended that sentence. Pretty fast too, to her credence. She didn't say anything, though I imagined she was probably blushing and trying to speak.

I was most likely blushing also.

Neku forced himself to stand up and recline against the wall, stretching tired and worn muscles, cramped from sitting for so long. Light was a distant recollection. Nothing existed here but darkness, until he deigned to appear.

I turned to face her, and froze when my mind finally took in the fact that she was only an inch away from me, so close I could feel the quick touch of her breath on my nose. Shiki almost dropped her cat, tan eyes flickering uneasily, partly hidden by a glare of light on her crystal glasses.

Before I could speak, before she could speak, someone else spoke. The least welcome person in the world at the moment.

"Why, Neku dearest, I do hope I'm not interrupting anything?"

He said it with the inflation of one innocently questioning, but when I slowly turned to look at him, he had his customary sneer that meant he was anything but coy. He knew exactly what he was doing. As usual.

"Josh." I said simply.

We had gotten to a fight recently, Joshua and I. He had been ''intrigued'' as he put it by my ''unusual tendencies'' in the UG. Namely, I defied a crap load of Rules and even beat a Conductor. Unusual. Almost unheard of. Josh wanted to ''test me'' to see what made me so special.

I refused. He seethed, threatened, got dangerously close to losing his temper. Shibuya had trembled in the face of his fury.

I had not. I hadn't beaten the damn Game three times to be dragged back in by some prissy, arrogant, self-confident ''demigod''.

"Can we help you, Joshua?" Shiki. Polite as always.

"Yes, you can. I'd like to know if my dear former Partner changed his mind. Did you?"

"No." I snapped shortly.

His purple eyes burned with private humor, sadistic and sardonic, behind their shaggy veil of ashen gold locks. "Are you sure?"

"Damn straight." I felt Shiki tense behind me. What was she expecting?

What was I expecting?

Joshua blinked. Joshua smirked. Joshua removed the cell phone from his pocket. "Smile."

Before I even had a chance to react, before I could draw a breath, the grand Composer of Shibuya clicked his orange psyche and flashed a white light that completely blinded me for a second.

One second was all he needed.

Bang!

Another bullet. I felt it lodge itself inside my heart, and there was absolutely no chance of surviving. Josh's aim was fatally perfect. I stumbled backward, eyes already closing. A gray mist was tearing into my vision. Pieces fluttered away like demented moths. My hearing began to fade, sight also, everything was acquiring a distant, dreamy haze.

Maybe I was right. This was all a dream. And maybe I was finally waking up.

I heard Shiki's horrified scream, heard her swear – though at fate, Joshua, or both I don't know – and I felt her catch me before I hit the ground. I vaguely registered my heart's blood seeping into the light red of the sakura blossoms.

Wait…that wasn't right…

I vaguely registered my heart's blood sobbing and holding me tightly to her chest. But by then I was too far away to recognize anything but the soft laughter.

Then a cherry blossom storm swept the Composer and myself away.

This would not be the first time Neku had revisited his memories. Everything before his death had acquired a strange, clear picture. As if it was simply a high definition television that he could play his innermost thoughts on.

The teen didn't have time to cry or even to curse Joshua, any ancestors he might have, any kids he might have, or anyone or anything he might care about. This was because the sound of footsteps echoed abruptly in the great chamber.

Neku's entire body tensed like a bow string, his muscles stretched so tightly, he thought he would simply snap, breaking inside and out. Instead, his system pumped adrenaline into every cell he had, infusing him with enough energy to glower furiously at the Composer as he sauntered in, bringing an uncanny globe of ivory light with him. It hovered above his head like a tiny lantern, illuminating the gloom.

In its radiance, Neku looked even more ragged. His clothes had tears, his hair was badly unkempt, and his eyes were startling close to that of a cornered, rabid wolf that had lost its family. "Josh," he snarled, backing into the wall.

He quirked an eyebrow. "Honestly, Neku let me get you some clothes."

"You bastard. Now what do you want? Can't you just leave me alone? I can't play your precious Game!" He continued, ignoring the Composer entirely.

Joshua let him rant for a bit before interjecting in a placating tone, "I only have one last experiment, my dear Proxy."

"What? What else can you possibly do to me? Take from me? What?" Neku wheezed, his breathing becoming ragged.

"What do you mean?" He asked innocently.

Neku swore at the top of his lungs. "What do I mean? What do I mean? You made Beat and Rhyme move away –"

Strangely, upon hearing Rhyme's name, Joshua flinched.

"You sent Shiki and Eri across seas, and now I'll never see them again! You sent Noise after me, Reapers, tried strange Pin psyches on me...Need I go the fuck on?"

"Language, dearest." Joshua chided softly.

"Language?" Neku echoed in an incredulous tone. He laughed harshly. "Language is the least of your problems! I'm going to murder you!"

"Oh…Hm…maybe I pushed you too far." The Composer assumed a pensive position.

Neku gave a wordless growl and pounced, only to have the sphere vibrate and knock him back with a fantastic translucent beam of pearly white energy. The Proxy staggered back to his feet, drawing in gulps of air, letting anger and hate saturate his body's internal workings.

"I can call them all back. I have connections with all the cities that I sent your friends to." Joshua paced the floor. "I've tried for almost a year now, Neku, but I can't honestly find what makes you special. Your Soul, your Bravery, everything is so…extraordinary. Peculiar. But I have one more test, and after that, I swear on my word that you will be free."

"Your word," Neku scoffed, too tired to say anything more intelligent than a derisive ricochet.

"Sanae doesn't like this method." Joshua admitted.

The teen grimaced. He remembered the Producer's shocked expression when he realized that Joshua was basically torturing Neku, but the Composer had done something, exactly what the Proxy never learned, to keep the Fallen Angel from interfering.

"Sanae didn't like this to begin with. He won't stand back anymore, even with my…advice." The violet eyed entity winked at Neku. "He says this is the last experiment, or he's flexing his Producer powers, my word or not. He's been in a foul mood as of late. Almost worse than you."

Neku resisted the urge to be juvenile and stick his tongue out, too worn out. "Last thing? And you'll bring my friends back?"

Joshua walked straight up to his bedraggled Proxy until they were only a millimeter away. "I swear." With that he let Neku retreat several large steps before sneering again. "This won't hurt…much. But it's for your Shiki dearest, so be strong. Hehehe."

In the soft, omnipresent glow of the white orb, Neku watched, wide eyed, as jagged dark Reaper wings extended themselves from Joshua's shoulders and back. They were larger than any pair he had seen before, grayish-black, with their deadly tines bristling with dagger sharp white feathers.

"What are you going to do?" Neku croaked, wondering if he was about to witness Joshua's Noise form. He had never really thought about the Composer having an inner monstrosity before that he could call at will.

"Do? Why, I intend to change the fate of Shibuya." Joshua suddenly darted forward and grasped Neku's arms, letting barbed tattoo wires sink into the teen's flesh. The violet eyed entity smiled as he thrashed in pain, trying to pull back, but unable to break the Composer's grip.

Then, to add fuel to the fire, the spiny, twisted wings climbed their way skyward before angling themselves down and burying their tips into Neku's entire body.

Exploding agony. It rippled and obliterated, eradicated and destroyed, tore apart piece by painful piece everything that made Neku, Neku.

His Soul was being shaken down and examined, one by one. His Music, which he had never even heard before, swiftly blasted into disharmony, sending Neku to the borderline of the endless oblivion beyond the Game and Erasure.

A white force kept him from falling, but he was dangerously close to the edge, almost unconscious. His subconscious registered Joshua's forced intrusion into the most private of his sanctuaries – his mind.

"Neku, what do you think of this outfit?"

"Yo, Phones! Get the hell over here, Rhyme's taken a fall!"

"Would you mind modeling for me, Neku?"

"Beat and I are getting by. Parents aren't fighting so much, you know?"

Not only were his memories ravaged, inspected, then tossed aside, but the wings had submerged themselves into his very body. They siphoned off his energy and examined everything like some sort of demonic filter. In. Out. Thrown away. In. Out. Thrown away.

Time was nonexistent. Just an eternal purgatory composed by the Composer, singing its deadly song. All of his secrets laid bare, everything he had ever felt for his friends, for Joshua, for Shiki, his parents. Life. Mr. Hanekoma. Broken. Shattered. The pieces were scattered like dust on the wind.

It all became too much. The flashing visions that were racing through his mind – good and bad, recent and old – were above Neku's endurance. After a half minute of dazedly surveying his life with a detached interest, Neku Sakuraba retreated deep inside of himself and collapsed.


"Wake up, dear."

Neku forced himself up, supported by his elbows. They were in the Dead God's Pad, with the same piranha Noise fish and the same crappy classical music on the radio.

"Wha…?"

He felt…stripped clean. As if he was a bone some canine had gnawed on a little too much. Each breath hurt, though the pain was quickly fading. He realized he was on a red couch; Joshua crouched beside him, concerned. At least his memories were intact.

"Too far," the Composer mumbled, eyeing him almost pityingly.

"Bastard."

"I know."

Seconds stretched into minutes.

"You're healed." Joshua sounded almost uncomfortable.

Neku sat up and examined his arms. No scars. No deep bite marks from the wings. Completely gone. He rubbed his skin, relieved, quickly seeing that his clothes were repaired too. "There. Done. Let me go." He tried to sound forceful, but the teen was still too tired to properly curse the Composer out. That would come with time, he reasoned.

"Yes. Of course." He started clicking buttons on his phone.

"Josh?"

"Hmm~?"

Neku smiled bitterly. "Find what you were looking for?"

His fingers paused. Resumed. "No."

"Hell, that pain was for nothing?"

The purple eyed entity shrugged. "Yes. And no. I've told your friends that you are miraculously returning to life."

"'Miraculously' my ass."

"However," continued the unperturbed Composer. "I'm irritated that I can't figure you out."

"You said so yourself. Figuring people out isn't difficult; it's impossible."

"But that's with people themselves. Not your little 'defect'." Joshua argued.

"Maybe it's the same thing."

This made him stop. He blinked violet eyes before resuming his typing. "Only your friends know you were with me. They were very…annoyed. Everyone else assumes you went somewhere overseas, possibly the Americas."

"Gee, thanks."

"Sarcasm will get you nowhere," Joshua giggled.

Neku didn't reply, he just leaned back and sighed. "Send me home. I'm exhausted."

"…My apologies, dear."

"Not. Accepted."

"Oh well. I'll 'send you home' only if you say please."

Neku sat bolt upright, jerking his body painfully. "When hell freezes over!"

Click.

Joshua said to the empty place where his Proxy had once sat, "Good enough."

~***~

Three days.

Three days was all it took for his friends to find him in Shibuya, and anyone that might have been near Hachiko's Statue at that time would have thought a canon had gone off in the city, so loud were their celebrations.

Tears were shed, hugs were exchanged, even a delighted kiss on the cheek from Eri, which forced Shiki to do the same, though Rhyme jokingly declined to repeat the performance.

Neku was relieved. He didn't need a kiss from every girl.

The teen was taken places to eat and shop, bustled everywhere by his friends begging for answers to their questions. When he told them what Joshua had done, Rhyme had narrowed her eyes and Beat swore explosively, promising to teach prissy boy some manners next time they met.

Joshua wisely kept out of the way, watching from the UG, thinking hard.

At one point late in the evening, Shiki had pulled out a specially made T-shirt emblazoned with a pair of blue earphones against a black background. "I designed this," she said quietly to Neku. "And I made it for you. For when you came back."

Touched, Neku accepted the gift and turned his back to remove his shirt, pulling the fabric over his head and tousled hair, keen to try it on. A startled cry from everyone made the teen twist instinctively around to look at his back.

The T-shirt dropped from his hands to land in a crumpled heap on the floor.

Across his back, flat but so lifelike he swore they were real were a pair of Reaper wings. Black. Fringed with white.


So. A spontaneous oneshot written by me to appease my sister.

Divine Wolfe: That's me! I helped with the descriptions and story flow, and I Beta'd it!

Right. Take the ending as you will. I actually don't like writing that much. But I may do a sequel – though I doubt it. This boy doesn't want to be a writer. Open endings are interesting. I prefer them.

Divine Wolfe: Drop a review, will you?

Or don't. I honestly don't give a damn.