A/N:: Yay I got some good reviews! Responses are at the end of the chapter. Please
enjoy~ Also, HUGE problems with my internet and laptop, so I'm dreadfully sorry for the late update. At least it wasn't months this time around u-u;;;. I would've definitely used my phone if I was able to upload from there, but alas, I am not that fortunate. OTL. Disclaimer:: I do not own The World Ends With You, and sadly, I never will.
Also, HUGE problems with my internet and laptop, so I'm dreadfully sorry for the late update. At least it wasn't months this time around u-u;;;. I would've definitely used my phone if I was able to upload from there, but alas, I am not that fortunate. OTL.
Disclaimer:: I do not own The World Ends With You, and sadly, I never will.Rhyme shuffled through the medicine cabinet, looking for painkiller tablets to ease her body. Nothing was broken, but she couldn't go to sleep feeling like she'd just been run over. She didn't have much trouble walking, but her bed wasn't exactly made for a hurt teenager; the springs stabbing the bruises and cuts she earned through the ordeal the day before. Sighing when she couldn't find any medicine, she spared a look at the clock; 2:43 AM.
'There's a 24-hour drug store a couple of blocks away…' Rhyme tiptoed to Beat's room and opened the door a crack to peek inside. Her brother was sprawled out on his bed, out like a light. She giggled softly to herself and swiftly made her way to her own room.
Slipping on her sneakers, Rhyme quietly stepped down the stairs. Knowing it was going to be cold, she had changed into a pair of hand-me-down jeans and an oversized hoodie. She had lost her coat when the strangers chased her down the alley and grabbed her. Rhyme frowned, remembering she lost her hat, too. Better than losing her life, she supposed.
The living room was nearly pitch black, the only light coming from a flickering street light outside. Rhyme paused at the bottom of the stairs and looked as best as she could toward the couch. Her parents insisted that Joshua stayed over until his head was better, him of course saying he was fine and that his driver could pick him up. Unfortunately for the young heir, the snow had gotten so deep that the limo would not have been able to make the trip.
Not seeing any sign of movement, Rhyme tiptoed to the door. After double checking that she had her keys, her cell phone, and money, she reached out for the door knob. The second the tips of her fingers touched the cold metal, however, a bright light flooded the room. Rhyme jumped and spun around to see a certain ashen haired boy leaning against the wall, his finger still on the light switch.
"Going anywhere, Raimu darling?" Joshua rubbed his eye, clearly as tired as she was. He had on some of Beat's clothes since his were soaked and therefore, not suitable for a recovering teenager. Rhyme had to admit, though, he didn't look all that bad in Wild Boar clothing. He was wearing brown cargo pants and a big red hoodie with the famous WB logo.
"Erm… Well I couldn't sleep. I just wanted to go to the drug store a couple of blocks away…" Rhyme fidgeted with a lose string on her sweater. Joshua chuckled softly.
"And you believed that was a good idea after what happened just hours ago?" He inquired, silently thanking the Angels that he wasn't able to sleep, either.
"Well…" Rhyme blushed, not knowing how to respond. Joshua was intimidating; especially after what Beat had told her about him being the Composer of Shibuya. "It's just… We don't have any more medicine. It's not that long of a walk."
Joshua moved a few stray strands of hair from his face and sighed. By common sense, the girl would not being feeling up and dandy after the day she had, so surely her parents should've been prepared with aspirin and all that jazz. He tapped his chin softly and observed the obviously uncomfortable child in front of him. She had been on edge around him since the incident and decided that it was only normal, but it was getting on his nerves a bit. Why it bothered him, he didn't dare place the reason.
"I suppose there's no helping it," Joshua shrugged and started pulling on a pair of red sneakers that Beat had outgrown a few years ago. After lacing up the kicks, he stood to face a puzzled looking blonde. "You aren't going there alone, and I'm obviously not getting any sleep until you do."
"But-" Rhyme wanted to protest, but before she knew it, the boy had grabbed her wrist and they were out the door.
"Before your big brute of a sibling notices we've left, please."
The dark sky was clear, the crescent moon gently illuminating the thick blanket of snow over Shibuya. The wind had calmed considerably, and Rhyme thought it was a beautiful night. Granted it was still very chilly outside, and the deserted streets weren't comforting, she felt at ease. She looked up at her escort. He was staring ahead with an unreadable expression, but she smiled at the soft pink tint on his nose and cheeks.
"This seems to be our stop," the boy paused, examining the neon 24-hour sign in the store's window. "Be in and out, won't you? I don't feel like catching a cold tonight." Rhyme nodded and stepped forward, but noticed she couldn't go much further.
"Ahh… Joshua?" He met her eyes. Was her face that pink a second ago? "I might need my hand." He looked down, realizing that his fingers were still tightly entwined around hers. Abruptly letting go, he looked away and motioned for her to go inside.
'What is WRONG with me?' Joshua inwardly growled at himself, blaming his subconscious act of protectiveness on his lack of sleep. Why did he even stop the child in the first place? He could've just let her go. The store was literally a six minute walk from her house, and no person in their right mind would be walking around to rob someone at 3 AM.
Inside, Rhyme wandered the health aisle, repeatedly overlooking the medicine she was meaning to buy. She was getting a strange feeling in her stomach, and she wasn't sure whether or not it was good thing. Something about Joshua holding her hand gave her chills, but the young girl couldn't figure the reason why. Around him, she couldn't help but feel a bit foolish, but maybe it was because he acted so mature for a teenage boy. Perhaps she was just intimidated. Or maybe… Rhyme gasped. 'No… No no I don't think so.' She bit her lower lip, startled with the stray thought that popped into her head. She needed to talk to Shiki.
Joshua tapped his foot impatiently. Surely the child knew what she was going to buy, so what was taking her so long? He hadn't even seen her approach the clerk. The knee deep snow started sinking through his clothes and his body heat was melting it into uncomfortable water. He blinked, realizing it had been a while since he was able to actually feel cold. It was almost refreshing. Often times, he would just drift into the UG and avoid the Real Ground's imperfections. He smirked to himself, the nostalgic thoughts of childhood filling his mind. Joshua loved Shibuya, but he hated where it had been going. Now that he was back and stuck, he was starting to remember what it was like just being… Mortal.
Rhyme had finally exited the aisle, her little container of pills in her hand. She had sent a quick text to Shiki, knowing the girl would see it first thing in the morning. The two needed to talk. Not just about what Rhyme had been feeling around Joshua, but catch up, as well. She hadn't been neglecting to speak with Shiki and Neku, but the two had started spending time together just alone, and Rhyme didn't want to interrupt whatever was in between them. They weren't going steady yet from what she knew, but keeping a little distance from the couple-meant-to-be was only going to be healthy for them.
The walk home was slow and uneventful. Joshua decided to avoid any contact with the young Bito sibling, save for the occasional nod. Rhyme felt like she was on pins and needles, thinking she might've angered him by taking so long in the store. In fact, she was so lost in her thoughts that she didn't even notice when he finally spoke.
"-key?" Rhyme looked up. They were standing in front of her house.
"I'm sorry, what?"
"May I have the key?" Joshua repeated, almost smirking at her innocent expression. She fumbled around for the key and handed it to him. He chuckled and led them through the doorway, returning the keychain before locking the door behind them. Sighing, he turned around to… Get punched in the face.
Spiraling in and out of consciousness, Joshua was experiencing a strong case of de ja vu. Voices swam in his ears, but he couldn't understand the words. Grabbing his head and rolling over onto his side, he could only make out blurry patterns of shapes. An orange and yellow blob got closer to him, whispering something that sounded a lot like gibberish on a faulty television set.
"… Jauh… Her…"
"… Coo… Muth…"
Strawberries and cotton candy invaded Joshua's nose. A familiar scent that put him at ease. His head was being lifted off the ground and onto something soft. It was too warm and stable to be a pillow, but at that moment he didn't care. Cold fingers brushed his bangs out of his face. It was almost like paradise. Almost. The desperate thumping in his head was just about as bad as noise.
"I didn't hit him THAT hard!"
"He's still recovering from earlier!"
"Recovering from what?"
"The fool went bat shit crazy on some thugs."
Joshua groaned, tired of the voices in his head. Opening his eyes, he came face to face with a familiar blue eyed blonde. Her face was laced with concern as she worked with loosening his bandages. He felt her breath on his face, thawing away the chill from outside and soothing his aching nose. She met his eyes and sighed of relief.
"Oh dear, are you worried about little old me?" Joshua choked out a pathetic chuckle attempt and made to sit up, but Rhyme rested her hands on his shoulders to keep him on her lap.
"Sit still for a few minutes, okay?" Rhyme moved the hair from his face again. Joshua complied, realizing that getting up may not be the best idea at the moment. Just then, he noticed three other figures standing over him; Neku, Beat, and a short haired girl with glasses he didn't recognize.
"Anyone care to tell me why the composer is here in the first place?" Neku crossed his arms and looked accusingly at the older Bito sibling. Beat glared at him for a second and turned his attention back to Joshua and Rhyme.
"Where'd ya'll go? I was flippin' out, so I called Neku and Shiki over to the hood," Beat busied himself with the back of his head again. "I thought you know, something happened again."
Rhyme explained the story to Beat while Joshua lay there, feeling out of place. He wasn't used to people standing above him, save the Angels. And he couldn't really understand Shiki's appearance. He knew her look was changed during the game, but he didn't expect her to look so… Different. Her fashion sense was quite the opposite of how he imagined. He figured since she was friends with a so-called designer to be, she would've picked up on a little more. The confusion was making his brain ache, and Neku glaring daggers at him wasn't all that soothing, either.
"… And so here we are. Joshua just went along so I'd be safe. I'm sorry for worrying you guys," Rhyme bit her lower lip lightly.
"So why is Joshua even here?" Neku frowned, displeased about the possibilities running through his head.
"We thought you got into trouble! I got your text saying you needed my help," Shiki frowned, as confused as Neku was. "After Beat called us, we ran here as fast as we could!"
"No! Joshua has been nothing but nice to me, I promise," Rhyme protested. Joshua scoffed at this slightly. If so, why had she been so on edge around him? Neku threw a disbelieving look at Rhyme and raised a hand to her forehead, which she promptly swatted away. "I'm not going insane, Neku. Joshua…" Rhyme sighed, subconsciously fingering the band-aids on her face. "… He saved my life."
"WHAT? He took mine," Neku growled, his resentment toward Joshua glowing in bright, frightful colors. "And let's not forget his little minions could've wiped you off the face of the world permanently."
Shiki put her hand on Neku's shoulder as silence passed through the group, no one really knowing what to say. Rhyme lowered her head and busied herself with Joshua's bandages. He had taken to fiddling with a loose thread sticking out of Rhyme's sweater. Whatever happened to Rhyme wasn't his fault. Keeping track of every player in the Game wasn't exactly his duty. No. His job was to run a fair chance back to life for everyone. If there were any problems, Megumi would inform him. Anything went amiss, Mr. H would investigate. And unlike his former Proxy's ticket into the Game, he didn't go out and take a gun to Rhyme's head.
Joshua avoided Neku's death glares, deciding to focus on the rebellious string of Rhyme's sweater. He hadn't expected to see Neku during his little stay in the RG, so this whole fiasco just threw him off. Him. The Co-… Well, ex-Composer of Shibuya. Of course Neku would be upset, but he had heard the thoughts going through his head the day he reunited with his little friends. Perhaps when reality hits, there's just a few things people can't get by, no matter how long they think about it.
"Hey, Phones?" Everyone's eyes turned to Beat, who was looking as if he'd been a mouse cornered by three oversized cats. "Don't get me wrong here, aiight? But anyone who saves my lil' sis is okay in my book." Neku's eyebrows shot up, as well as Shiki's and Joshua's. Rhyme smiled, grateful for Beat's intervention. "And 'sides. You should've seen how this kid looked. It was insane! Like someone just shook the Composer out of him and he went nuts."
"Mmm… Not too far off the mark, I'm afraid," Joshua mumbled. A pause ensued after the older Bito's speech as all heads faced down to look at the two still on the floor. Neku sighed, his eyebrows knitting together.
"How about explaining what happened to make you two," Neku gestured to Beat and Joshua. "- Best buds." He stretched out a hand to Joshua, which he reluctantly took and stood up, as slow and efficiently as he could manage. The lot followed Beat to the kitchen, but Shiki pulled Rhyme off to the side.
"Alright, I guess you weren't in trouble. So what was with that text?" Shiki whispered, adjusting her glasses. Rhyme bit her lip and glanced at the kitchen doorway.
"It's about Joshua," Rhyme answered, pulling on her sleeve a bit. "You see, there's this feeling I get around him. I thought it might be because Beat told me he was the Composer, but I don't think I'm exactly frightened at all. He's actually really nice and-" Shiki gasped and covered her mouth to suppress a squeal. Rhyme jumped, a tad startled.
"Rhyme! You - Oh no, DO you?" Shiki exclaimed, perhaps in the loudest whisper imaginable.
"Uhm…" Rhyme blinked, trying to fathom her best friend's excitement.
Shiki let herself calm down. It couldn't be, could it? Though she had to admit, Joshua wasn't bad looking, if anything just a little feminine. He's the kind of guy that could pull off Pegaso Atelier or Dragon Couture wear, and those stores had really trendy, albeit expensive clothes. She was guessing the Wild Boar wear were lent to him by Beat; the oversized baggy skater not fitting well with Joshua's face, or personality for that matter. Well, with the bandages on his head, it was hard for him not to look a little badass. He seemed to come a long way from the Joshua she saw at the end of Neku's third Game if he earned Beat's respect, andeveryone deserves a second chance, even the Composer of Shibuya.
"Rhyme, tell me," Shiki leaned close to her friend's face, whose eyes widened with a mixture of fear and confusion. Shiki squeezed Mr. Mew closer, bracing herself for Rhyme's answer. "Do you have a crush onJoshua?"
A/N:: For some odd reason, I'm finding a lack of motivation for this story. Fortunately, that is easily fixed with some time playing my Nintendo DS ^-^. Hope this chapter was worth the wait, and I'll try to update faster, and/or on a schedule. Again, criticism and such is greatly appreciated. Especially if you have any insight or think I may have taken everyone to a new level of OOC, because I having a feeling maintaining IC-ness is going to get difficult. I shall try my best though! The Legendaerie LT:: I did visit the forum, yes :D. Quite entertaining, but I've never posted/commented in the times I went :O. Thank you again for the review! I'm completely ECSTATIC that you're liking the story so far :]. Liber-T.E.A:: Thank you! I had a lot of fun imagining and writing that part :D. The Infinite Dani-Chan Replika:: Lol! Well that is because, I didn't want to do the whole cliché boy saves girl, girl is stuck in bed, boy goes to visit, sits by her bed side and keeps her company thing. And well, I needed to continue the story somehow, and I'm just not creative or patient enough to include the massive pain she must be going through hehe u-u;;. If it accounts for anything, under her sleeves and pants are endless amount of skull band-aids? ;;;. Mewglegrrl:: Thank you so much! I'm trying my best. Though it's getting just a tad more difficult keeping everyone IC with each chapter I write hehe -. Kipper Snack:: Your review made my entire month LOL. One, because I thoroughly enjoyed being taught by an extremely ghetto Geology teacher with the name Lightbourn sophomore year. And two, your review was extremely random and had me giggling all day when I first read it haha. UPDATE- -Sapphire00Moonlight-:: Thank you for your review! And haha I hope I can keep the characters A/N:: Thank you all for reading so far, and I hope I continue entertaining you :]]. Oh, and I COMPLETELY missed Umbrella Beach's and -Sapphire00Moonlight-'s reviews at first because I had this typed up for a while and well, didn't check. OTL.
Umbrella Beach:: Why yes, Joshua does :D. And haha yay I'm not an overly excited freak xD. And okie I'll drop by again and comment next time around just don't eat me hehe ;;.
The Legendaerie LT:: I did visit the forum, yes :D. Quite entertaining, but I've never posted/commented in the times I went :O. Thank you again for the review! I'm completely ECSTATIC that you're liking the story so far :].
Liber-T.E.A:: Thank you! I had a lot of fun imagining and writing that part :D.
The Infinite Dani-Chan Replika:: Lol! Well that is because, I didn't want to do the whole cliché boy saves girl, girl is stuck in bed, boy goes to visit, sits by her bed side and keeps her company thing. And well, I needed to continue the story somehow, and I'm just not creative or patient enough to include the massive pain she must be going through hehe u-u;;. If it accounts for anything, under her sleeves and pants are endless amount of skull band-aids? ;;;.
Mewglegrrl:: Thank you so much! I'm trying my best. Though it's getting just a tad more difficult keeping everyone IC with each chapter I write hehe -.
Kipper Snack:: Your review made my entire month LOL. One, because I thoroughly enjoyed being taught by an extremely ghetto Geology teacher with the name Lightbourn sophomore year. And two, your review was extremely random and had me giggling all day when I first read it haha.
-Sapphire00Moonlight-:: Thank you for your review! And haha I hope I can keep the charactersin character.
A/N:: Thank you all for reading so far, and I hope I continue entertaining you :]]. Oh, and I COMPLETELY missed Umbrella Beach's and -Sapphire00Moonlight-'s reviews at first because I had this typed up for a while and well, didn't check. OTL.