~ ooh kipper ooh ~

DISCLAIMER: This is a story about Joshua and Neku. This is not a story about Joshua/Neku. Don't worry, the protagonists do not engage in sickening fluff with each other. That would not be manly. This story involves Joshua/Neku, but not between the main characters Joshua and Neku. And besides, it's not exactly Joshua/Neku anyway - so if you're not into that sort of thing, then you're okay. If you are into that sort of thing, then...okay. And if I let either our Joshua or our Neku dissolve into a puddle of buttery goo-stuff anywhere in this fic, then feel free to bonk me into the next plane of existence. As this is my first multiple-chapter story, constructive criticism and stuff is totally wanted.

~ ooh kipper ooh ~

EDIT: WELL DAMMIT. I let him turn into butter in THIS VERY CHAPTER and NOBODY TOLD ME? UH? ACTUALLY, THAT STATEMENT IS FALSE - 0re0, man of men, was able to spot the estrogoo contaminating Neku's hideous blood. Yeah this happened a while ago but I had a reason for making him like that, only now, I realize... it was a dumb reason. So I am rewriting the first few chapters to accommodate for this discrepancy oh-so-vile! Hopefully, he's a more acceptable person now! I am so sorry I completely screwed up like a COMPLETE TOOL, jeez I am such a loon.

EDIT 2: did I seriously type the pseudo-word 'stuffs' up there, good lord

~ ooh kipper ooh ~

Rating: T for yucky stuff and Neku's potty-mouthiness.

OF NOTE IN THIS CHAPTER: Neku shoves Joshua, who is a cream puff, apparently.

It was a beautiful sunny day and Neku was pissed.

Neku wasn't good with people, and he'd be the first to admit that. He was blunt, callous, rude, and he did NOT care what Dogenzaka Hill was named after, thank you. But he was trying, dammit, he was! He had read through Friendship for Sociopaths so much, he'd memorized it. It was a good thing he had, too – the book had long since passed the event horizon of disrepair, and it was falling apart at the seams from being read so much.

That wasn't all, though – no, Neku Sakuraba was not the type to spoon up minimal effort when it came to things. He was hardcore, by golly. Had he not scavenged through the bargain bin at the bookstore for Conversation Starters and You: The Beginner's Guide to Opening Up? Had he not gone to those self-help classes? Had he not personally raided Eri's house, ransacking her room for the friendship help guides that all girls seem to come pre-packaged with? Had he not suffered a glorious beating for it, too? (Apparently, it was odd that a teenaged boy would rifle through the lingerie in search of friendship guides.)

During his scouring, Neku had discovered that there seemed to be a constant when it came to friends. The thing about friends is that friends are supposed to stick up for each other; to see each other through to the bitter, bitter end. They are supposed to do things together. They are supposed to enjoy being together. And they are supposed to respect each other's hopes and dreams and most secret wishes – according to his research, at least.

So, after much inner monologue, a lot of pacing and even more muttering to himself, Neku had finally steeled his resolve. He had picked up the lonely box of chalk on his shelf, still virgin to the taste of the pavement, and strode out the door, a never-before-seen passion burning in his cobalt eyes. He was going to ask them. He was.

He did.

They laughed.

Son of a bitch, oh, they LAUGHED.

"Aww, Neku! I never knew you had thuch a... (snort), thweet side..."

"Shiki, just – pfft! Just look at him! Look! Look at his face! He's... oh, jeez, he's serious? Ehmagawd, I have... I don't... (snerk) ...ohh... (snort) ...Shiki... help, I'm gonna explode!"

"BWA-HA-HA-HA-HA! Oh, oh, sweet holy mother a' shit, Phones – oh – you wan' me ta do WHAAT? Pla... play WHAAT? Aww, DAMN, man... Pshhhhhh, Phones – pwuftttAHAHAHAHAHA...!"

"Um... I'd love to, but uh... my brother... he looks like he's about to have a coronary right now... AND SO AM I TEEHEEHEEHEE...!"

Zetta sons of digits. Neku had spun around on his heel and stomped back off in the direction of Dogenzaka hill, muttering under his breath and hiding his glowing face in his collar. He was blushing so hard, the temperature of the city had been jacked up by about twelve degrees, his only consolation being that somewhere Joshua was probably sweating. What was so funny? What was so friggin' funny about hopscotch?

Hopscotch was serious business for Neku Sakuraba. He didn't think it was funny at all.

So here he was now, slouched over on the top of Pork City, stewing in his juices. His eyes were closed, he had the small box of chalk gripped firmly in his trembling hands, and he was clearly trying very, very hard not to smash the thing in between his quivering palms.

This chalk meant something great. How come they couldn't see that? Let's set something straight, here - Neku wasn't the type to run around and pull cutesy girl behaviours out of his ass. He wasn't a creep. Asking his compatriots to play hopscotch with him was not a typical thing, okay. Neku was not some blue-eyed troll doll of a boy who goggled uselessly after asinine kiddie games. He did not constantly rope in the rest of his posse to play stupid games for girls, all to further his personal metamorphosis from a shut-in to the protagonist of a slice-of-life harem comedy.

Really, the injustice of it all was crippling. Neku just wanted to break something.

He screwed his eyes shut, trying to calm his crazy tits with cold logic. Hey, maybe they were just pulling his leg! Ha ha! Ha!

Damn, they should know him better than that. Neku absolutely loathed being the object of well-meaning mockery and good ol' fashioned ribbin'. Perhaps they weren't as great of friends as Neku had thought. His anger deepened into despair - maybe he was just getting played for a chump by a bunch of assholes? 'Twould be a fate worse than any death conceivable, that.

A sadistic vision presented itself to his mind's eye: himself, with eyes squirting forth absurd amounts of tears, smashing his friends' heads in with a baseball bat while wailing hysterically.

...That seemed a little extreme, so he focused on crushing the chalk box between his hands.

The cardboard crumpled slightly from the pressure, but with a noisy PAFF of chalk dust, it tumbled out of his grip and landed on the ground. Neku glared at it for a minute before losing heart entirely, slumping back against the railing and closing his eyes to the world.


The hell...? What was that? It sounded like a cross between a hiccup and a gasp, and Neku would sooner kiss a Wall of Grizzly's butt before he let himself forget who exactly hiccup-gasped in response to surprises, never mind forgive him. Neku's eyes snapped open, already narrowing.

There was the sound of nice shoes scuffing along in a mad rush to get to the stairwell, but Neku beat him to the punch. "Joshua."

He responded in falsetto. "Actually, I'm Bridgette, and I came up here for lunch break, but it seems you're having a moment so I'll be off then tally-ho pip-pip -"

"Cut the crap, Josh. I know it's you." Neku sighed raggedly. He was really not in the mood for mind games right now. Nevertheless, Neku shifted his position so he had a clear view of the other boy.

Joshua looked very miffed, to say the least. The boy was shorter and stockier than the gangly Neku, and his Natural Puppy clothes were a few sizes too big and hung slackly on his frame, giving him a slightly rumpled appearance. His lint-colored hair was perfectly awful as usual, a bit longer than last time – which was about a month or two ago – but the usual cowlicks stuck up everywhere, and it was clearly still cut wrong. It looked almost as if Josh had attacked his head with scissors – for the "greater good," presumably.

From their distance of a few meters, his eyes looked dark gray, but Neku knew from careful attention to the Results screen that Joshua's eyes were actually a nice sort of dull violet. They were all screwed up, anyway, and overall he looked pretty perturbed, in the way that people who've just had their winning streak broken do.

His teeth were also kinda crooked.

"Howdy, Neku." Joshua said in his girlish, reedy voice, giving a lax wave in greeting. He folded his arms and eyed the box of chalk. "What'cha got there, partner?"

That was one of Joshua's many annoying habits – talking like a gay cowboy. "Go away."

"Wow, you're fun. ...That time of month again already?" Joshua remarked quizzically, fingering his chin.

Neku wanted to kick something. "Go. Away."

There was a flash of something in Joshua's ambiguous eyes, but it was gone before it could be identified as anything other than a nervous tic. "Hmph."

For a moment, the wind ceased, and the weight of silence hung heavy in the air.

After a while, Joshua shifted his weight from one foot to the other, looking uncomfortable. "So... Is something wrong?"

Neku did not grace him with an answer.

"...You can tell me," he said awkwardly, trying his best to sound friendly. (He sounded like a rusty gate, but that was to be expected.)

Josh felt his ears turning pink and inwardly cursed his wretched skills at teleporting. Many a time during Week 2 had he warped into the air, the picture of grace, and rudely bonked his head on a passing Easterraven. Maybe, if he had landed on the floor below just now, like he had intended to, he would never have learnt of Neku's agony of the soul. And ignorance is bliss, is it not? His psyche grumbled to itself.

The young Composer (whoops, spoiler) was only extending his tender heart-hands to Neku's because of Mr. H, actually. The barista had tracked Joshua down and basically promised him many hideous, pain-filled shenanigans would come to the boy on swift wings if he didn't promptly organize his shit and make some friends.

What prompted such a violent reaction out of the otherwise-chill Angel? Apparently, seeing Neku parade around with his friends day in and day out, juxtaposed against Joshua's unflappable laziness, had worn away on his nerves until the breaking point. "Why can't you be more like him? He's happy! He's successful! He doesn't smell like something crawled in a sewage main and died there!" Mr. H would probably snap and dump coffee in his cornflakes if Joshua decided to be belligerent about this, and dealing with an angry Angel was like being constantly henpecked by a lovecraftian monstrosity from beyond the void, only worse - and so, it was all-around far easier to just do what Coffee Man said.

Albeit begrudgingly.

Neku narrowed his eyes, suspicious. "...Why do you care?"

"Well..." Josh thought this over for a second. He couldn't exactly outright say he was letting himself get bossed around by Mr. H, lest his image be weakened.

Neku glared at him with a tabulating look in his eyes. They told all: I'm waiting.

"I saw them mocking you. Frankly, it wasn't very civil." Joshua smirked. "Besides, laughing at you is my job."

"Typical asshole," Neku sighed, as if disappointed. "Seriously, bug off. It's none of your business."

"Brr," said Joshua, which was rather odd, considering that it was nice and warm outside.

There passed another period of muggy silence, broken only by the sounds of the city below.

Eventually, Joshua gathered his forces and tried again. "That's kind of harsh of you, you know. But! I will respect your wishes, and change topics."

"My wish is for you to go away," Neku reminded him.

"I said respect them, not grant them." I'm not a fairy, you know, he thought with a touch of exasperation. A pause. "So... what's in the box?"

Neku was giving him the silent treatment, which was unacceptable. And irritating.

"Correct me if I'm wrong, but..." Joshua leaned over obnoxiously, until his nose was inches away from Neku's deadly hair spines. Neku, understandably, recoiled. "...My sensors are detecting sidewalk chalk."

The Proxy stared at Joshua for a few seconds, incredulous. "You're just gonna keep bothering me until I tell you, aren't you? Upping the ante on annoying with every passing round, right?"


"Wow." Neku rolled his eyes. "You have the mentality of a third grader." He sighed. "Well, if you're just going to bug me 'till I tell you anyway..."

He showed Joshua the slightly-crumpled box of chalk, confirming the current hypothesis.

"It's for hopscotch," he explained.

"Hm. That's nice," said Joshua flatly. And then, after a moment of furious brain-racking and coming up short, he said: "What, pray tell, is this so-called 'hopscotch?'" Privately, he was hoping it was related to butterscotch. Mmmmmm...

Neku looked up at Joshua, bewildered. "Wha- are you seriously telling me you don't know what hopscotch is?"

"N-No," snapped Josh, a little too quickly.

"Really, now?" Neku raised an eyebrow.

"It's just that," Joshua began. "when you've existed as long as I have, the mind gets crammed full of information – so much, in fact, that things sometimes get misfiled or lost in the heaps and heaps of knowledge, and to find certain things is a trivial pursuit. In regards to this... 'hoscpotch,' I assume it's one of your trite mortal pastimes, and thus nothing of importance... But I'm sure I'd remember it and all its entailings if you just refreshed me on the basic concepts."

Snort. "You don't have any idea, do you?"

At first, he was a little pissed at this condescending garbage Neku was putting out, but then a plan flickered in the back of the boy Composer's mind. Joshua flicked his hair haughtily, the way he did when he was greatly annoyed, cranking the bitch dial to over eleven. "And just where did you get that preposterous hypothesis, hm?"

Neku grinned slightly. "It's hopscotch, not hoscpotch, Beat."

"Gyah-HUH!" Josh recoiled as if stung, hiccasping, reeling in horror at the revelation. He really played it up to the maximum, falling to his knees, gripping his head, moaning and wailing. "R-really? Really? What? How? How could this happen?" With shaking hands, Joshua clutched at his unbeating heart. "No... no! Impossible! I refuse to live as this, a failure, a disgrace! I have dishonored! DISHONORED! I can't live with the shame! The agony! OH, THE HUMANITY! It's too much - it's all too much! I'm going to kill myself over THIS!"

Neku laughed a little. "Heh... You... don't have to do that, you know."

Joshua froze mid-theatrics. "Eh?"

"But... thanks." The Proxy looked slightly cheered, anyway.

JUST AS PLANNED, thought Josh, even as he teetered back and forth. He managed to collect himself before he fell over completely, and reclaimed his balance, even if it was a tad shaky. "Ugh... fine. You got me. I'm completely clueless. If you'd care to enlighten me, please do." He took a moment to gruffly smooth out his shirt and rub his silky-suave demeanor back into his skin like a lotion.

Neku rattled the box a little. "Basically, you draw a bunch of squares and hop around in 'em."

"Sounds like a fun time," Joshua said with a hint of sarcasm.

The orange-haired boy wonder glowered. "It's a little more complex than that, you know. There's more to it."

"I should hope so. I like my hopping with a bit of depth."

Neku sighed and opened the box. In a flash Josh was upon him – no, not like that, fangirls – and had ripped the box from his hands.

Joshua clucked his tongue. "Well, what do you know. Chalk." He sounded disappointed for some reason.

"I already told you it was chalk. Give it back," Neku growled. Joshua took his time, but eventually handed the box back to the rightful owner. Neku snatched it back and took out a utensil of choice – it was kind of strange how he looked over each stick before choosing one, since the chalk was just plain white. "All right, so here's what you do..."

Brandishing his chalk stick, Neku attacked the concrete, swiping this way and that with a look of ferocity written on his face in bright vivid colors. It reminded Joshua vaguely of a certain third party and his Taboo Noise refinery sigils.

"...There," Neku muttered, sitting up on his knees and surveying his little chalk design, wiping his forehead. It was starting to get a little warmer out, much to Joshua's displeasure. Neku didn't really care though – he was greatly anticipating kicking the hundred pounds or so of jackass that was Josh at a totally intense hopscotch battle. Why he was so fired up, I will never understand, because everyone knows hopscotch is about the most terrible game ever invented. "Okay, so you take a rock or something to be a marker, and you stand on this square here..." Neku got up, to demonstrate. "And then you toss the marker, like so... and then... wherever it lands, you have to hop there and pick it up."

"Hmph. Predictable." (He had no idea, really, and Neku could tell. They had been partners, after all.)

"BUT. Here's the catch – you can only hop on one leg. Unless, there's two squares, which means you can use both feet. BUT. There has to be one in each square. Also, if it falls outside the squares... you have to hop over and pick it up without leaving the hopscotch thing! And, after you pick it up... you have to do it again until you hop to the end of the chalk thingy, and then you have to turn around and do the same thing back." Neku explained all this cockamamie garbage while tossing a Black Venus pin around, hopping around on one foot and making a fool of himself.

"You're making a fool of yourself," Joshua informed Neku.

Neku glared at him before deftly hip-hopping the last few spaces back to the beginning, chalk box bouncing at his side. "Your turn."


"Your turn!" Neku snapped, pressing the pin into Joshua's palm with conviction.

For a brief span of time, Joshua stared at Neku as if he were from the moon. Then, "No."

"Huh? But, Josh..."

"No, no way. This is stupid." Joshua regarded the chicken-scratch chalk design with disdain.

Neku looked at Joshua forlornly for a second, and gave him a little shove. "That's never stopped you before."

"Well, I -"

Neku's gaze hardened, and he shoved Josh again - and it was a little less friendly, this time. "Come on, you prissy little wimp. You can strut around in Dragon Couture heels and a denim miniskirt, but you can't play hopscotch?"

"To be honest, Neku, that requires a completely different skill set-"

"Excuses, excuses." Neku scowled and resorted to the most juvenile of blows: petty name calling. "I bet you're too scared, ya big sheep-head!"

A nerve was struck. "Sh-sh-SHEEP-HEAD?"

Neku's eyes glinted like steel, lighting up with schaudenfreude, and he gave a final shove that sent Joshua staggering. "Heh, yeah! You wooly-bully lambsan! Afraid you'll scuff your shoes? Huh? You big cream puff! Sheep-head! Sheeeep-head!"

Suddenly, somewhere, deep within the cloudy crevices of Joshua's fluffy head, in the darkest, most cobwebby corner of his brain, something snapped.

"I... am... not... a... SHEEP!"

Eyes glittering with fury, Joshua stepped onto the first square, conveniently labeled "1." He chucked Black Venus with a soulful grunt ("Ha-ah!") and watched it fall, landing over somewhere by the air conditioning unit.

...Which was a good three feet abreast of the last chalk square, number 12. Joshua blanched.

"Har har har!" Neku cackled. "You have to hop over and pick it up without leaving the hopscotch thing!"

Joshua shot him a look. "Thank you, Neku." prat.

He returned his attention to the stupid pin. Well, he was Composer, after all. He could just lean over and pick it up, right? Shouldn't be too difficult, seeing as how this was just a silly little children's game, intended for silly little children. A silly, trite pasttime of the death-doomed, that was all. Joshua was about to take a step forward when a sharp jab in the ribs, courtesy of the Proxy, reminded him of the "rules." Hmph, well, so be it. Hopping it was, then.

Hop. Hop. This is stupid. Hop. Two feet. Hop. Wobble... ("Gyah-HUH...!") wobble... stagger... regain balance... gather forces... hop. Hop. Hop. Two feet. Hop – oh holy bajeebus, that was one foot only, wasn't it-! Wobble wobble wobble, thrash arms like a windmill, do not fall Josh, do not fall... hop. There!You're done, Josh. Now, was that so hard?

Most definitely. Of course, the fact that his feet were unusually small made things no easier for him. Joshua narrowed his eyes, panting slightly, and reevaluated Black Venus, which was watching him – mocking him – from halfway under the a/c unit, a good meter away. Now for Reduction 02. Get ready...!

Joshua bent over and leaned forward, wobbling. Neku had prowled around to this end of the hopscotch thing and was now watching Josh like a hawk, presumably to prevent the Composer from just levitating the pin into his hand. Oh, Neku. You bother. Joshua thrust out a hand, but he was still too far...

A few more inches at the knee would do the trick...

There... and now...

Just a little bit forward...

Almost there...


At that moment, several things happened.

Elsewhere, in Sunshine Burger, Shiki Misaki turned to Eri Whats-her-face and mumbled in a guilt-ridden voice, "Poor Neku, I guess we really hurt hith feelings, huh?"

"I know... Hey! We should all make him apology cards!" Eri said brightly, dipping a fry in her milkshake.

Shiki perked up immediately. "Yeah! With glitter! And thtickerth!" After some thought, she added, "...LOTTH of thtickerth!"

Back on top of Pork City, Neku let rip a massive sneeze that could have made Beat jealous.

Poor Joshua was not prepared, and the resulting shockwave shattered his delicate balance. He pitched forward, made kind of a funny jump/spasm with his foot, yelped, reached out and grabbed Neku's shorts in the hope of saving his face from a bad romance with the concrete, and –

The next instant, they were gone.

A/N: ...What? You expected fluff and tears, and you got hopscotch?

...Well that line doesn't really work anymore since I changed it.

So: in the beginning, this chapter was meant as bait. Neku was acting like a moonish waif in order to lure people in with the promise of fluffy yaoi garbage!

but it kind of is a huge fucking disgrace to everything Neku is and ever will be so

we can do without

also it alienates people who don't like that kind of thing, sorry