Neku's Cat

In which Neku has a cat and...meow.

Not very many people knew about it, but Neku had a cat.

She was a sooty-looking tabby cat; pewter gray, with stripes that resembled charcoal smudges. A rather scruffy creature, with slightly matted fur and small nicks and scratches in her ears. She carried herself with a sort of pride, inherent to cats, and seemed to radiate sophistication despite the rough edges. Her eyes were a clear, guileless blue – rings of virgin sky on a pelt of smog. She would have been a very pretty creature, if she had a proper washing.

The two had met one evening at the Udagawa wall mural. Neku had been admiring the graffiti, running his hands over the bold colors and striking lines, pretending there was an underlying meaning to the chaotic piece of art and trying to piece it together. There were lots of ways to find a story here. Whether it was a good story or not, how it ended, where it began – all up to you. Do what you want. When you want. It all came together again – brilliant.

Neku was trying to figure out the significance of a pattern that looked like a whirl of snowflakes when he felt something brush against his leg. He glanced down and saw the cat, simply sitting next to his foot, staring at the wall as if she, too, were admiring the painting. The cat touched his ankle with her tail again and looked up, one sky-blue gaze meeting another.

"Hello," said Neku.

The cat purred.

Neku let the cat come and go as she pleased, as per his mantra. He never claimed ownership of the cat, thinking it was best if she could go where she wanted, when she wanted, too. All the same, the cat kept coming back. Neku finally decided to call her Jeanne, because that was a name with class.

Jeanne and Neku had a very nice camaraderie going on. Neku left his window open so the city cat could come in, and she did, every night, or most nights. Neku would tell her his secrets, his thoughts, and his ramblings, and Jeanne would listen. She would touch him with her tail-tip when he was sad, crawl into his lap when he was lonely. Her purr was so much more than words could be. She gave him something to talk to other than the wall, which was nice, as walls do not purr or knead your legs when you pet them. In return, Neku gave her vanilla ice cream, which she seemed to enjoy greatly.

And then Neku died.

His window was still open, but her friend was nowhere to be found. Jeanne came every night nonetheless, but he never showed up. She laid on his bed for hours, waiting for him to come and murmur softly to her and scratch under her chin. He never did.

After a week, his scent began to fade. It became stale, old. A fine layer of dust settled over the CD collection. Ants attacked the candy bar stash in his dresser drawers. Jeanne still came, every day. She hoped to hear the drone of his headphones again. But she did not.

It had been almost a month when Jeanne gave up. He must have moved. He must have left. He was gone.

Jeanne did not return to the window that night, nor the night after.

If she had held out a day longer, things might have been different. But cats are cats.

All while he was dead, Neku was focused on not becoming...more dead. His head was being assailed with shockwaves and force rounds, new steps and pins to master. His patience was tested by a stalker, a jerk ass, and a freakin' rhino or two. He was busy, growing as a person taking up all his energy. He had Games to play, gambits to win. He did not have time to think about cats.

He would have, if he hadn't thought she'd be all right. He was slightly afraid to mention the cat anyway, seeing as how that would trigger a flow of condescending garbage

(Aww, Neku, you have a kitty? Cute!)

(...Is that so? What a twist – it seems our darling Nekkun has emotions after all. How sweet...)

(Yo, a friggin' CAT? We ain't got TIME fo'' cats, man!)

and Neku was not in the mood for taking any more crap right now.

There was plot, and there was trust-building and trust-breaking to be done, and people to decide to love and to hate and to never forgive and to grudgingly put up with and to forget about immediately. No cats. He was shot down for the second time, and apparently getting shot while you're dead has a remedial effect, because there he was in the scramble, getting tripped over.

He could remember – the stalker and the rhino. Friends?

Was there someone else, he wondered, as he dodged cars back to the safety of the sidewalk. Was there someone he was missing? It kind of felt like a gap was there, somewhere.

Nope. He couldn't remember, so it must not be important. Neku's memories were photographic, and he had them all back. If it wasn't there, it never was.

But in the meantime, he had to get home. He just remembered her – the cat – the cat – oh god, Jeanne – what happened to her?

He ran back to his apartment, but she wasn't there.

He dusted off his CDs and yelled at the ants in his sock drawer. She didn't come.

She wouldn't come.

Neku felt very sure of that.

It was a week or so later that he saw her again.

The friends (Friends?) had decided to meet up at Hachiko for the first time. Neku was as present and accounted for as he was going to get. It was happy-fun and rainbow-sprinkles, but altogether very draining. Quite honestly, Neku was wondering how the others got so much energy. Was that just how they were? Or maybe you had more moxie when you had friends. (Truly? Friends?) In any case, it was getting dark now, and Neku was scuffing his boots on the sidewalk as he ambled back to his apartment.

Neku approached the complex, thumbing his key idly, but halfway to the stairs he stopped. Just outside of the building crouched a strange kid, who was petting a cat. Not just any cat, Jeanne.

"Hey," he said, a little sharper than was necessary.

"Oh, is this your cat?" The boy turned around and brushed his hair out of his eyes. And froze.

They stared at each other for a long minute. Neku, with his photographic memory, never forgot faces. And this was a new face – a pale, childish face, hiding behind wispy bangs. So why was he getting this weird feeling...deja vu?

His eyes traveled down the length of the boy's slight frame to Jeanne, who was lightly cuffing the stranger's pants leg with her tail. Jeanne turned her head to look his way, and Neku's heart gave a sudden, painful lurch.

The boy twiddled a strand of flyaway hair. Softly, he asked again. "Your cat?"

"...No," Neku said, quietly. He turned away, stuffed his hands in his pockets, and started up the stairs. "...You can have her."

Two pairs of violet eyes watched him go.

A/N: My cat likes vanilla ice cream. So does Josh. Kind of. Ehh, it'll have to do. (Why does Joshua only like gross stuff? Is he just that obtuse? I bet Neku complains - "DUDE. How can you eat that? It's made out of bloated snake corpses and 'mystery liquid!'" - and so Josh chews with his mouth open and breathes little wet chunks of stuff in Neku's face. MMMMRRMNNNNGGGHH, AY'M IN PAAHARADAYSEE. -smack-)

Did you know that Kiryu and Sakuraba both begin with flowering trees? (a paulownia and the obvious cherry tree) A Joshua is also a tree, too - a desert tree. Suppose those rascals were actually shrubs in disguise?

Following in that line of thought, Beat and Rhyme would be a humongo wisteria EXPLOSION and a teensy 'lil wisteria sprig, respectively. Shiki would be a beautiful blossom. And Eri would be the gardener.

I think Nekutree and Joshuatree would have a growing race.