Rhyme looked up as he sat down beside her, looking thoughtful as he leaned forward, cupping his chin in his hand. "What did I miss?" he asked, glancing at her, his violet eyes sparkling with curiosity. She stared at him, her eyes growing wide, and she jumped to her feet. Beat and Neku ceased their chatting about… well, Rhyme wasn't really sure, she hadn't been listening, and they looked up at her.
"Rhyme?" Beat asked, his eyebrows raising. Neku cocked his head to the side, and his eyes flashed fast to Joshua, narrowing a little. Joshua simply smirked back at him, giving him a little wink as Rhyme's hands closed into fists.
"I'm going to get a drink," Rhyme said sharply, without looking at Joshua, or Neku, or Beat. Her head was high, and her jaw was set tightly. "And to change my bandage."
"Oh…" Beat said slowly, as Rhyme moved quickly to avoid getting in the way of the people who were sitting behind her. The fashion show had gotten a rather surprising amount of people, and Rhyme was glad to see it. Though Shiki and Eri weren't the only ones participating, it was nice to see they were getting some publicity. "I'll go with ya, then!"
"No thank you," Rhyme said quietly, placing a hand on Beat's chest as he tried to barrel past Joshua, who had to pull his legs up onto his chair so the boy didn't crush his feet. She pushed him back a little, watching as he backed up obediently, his eyes wide. "I don't want to intrude. You guys were having a conversation before, right?" She gave him a big smile, her head tilting to the side as her eyes widened.
"Bu'…" Beat gasped, and the people behind then began to complain and groan amongst themselves. Beat needed to sit his butt down. "Rhyme, are ya sure? 'Cause, like, that bandage thing? It takes more than one person, yo."
"I can handle—"
"I'll help her," Joshua chirped, jumping to his feet. Rhyme felt her entire façade slip through her fingers, and she stared at him, her lips tight.
"No," she said, backing out of the isle. "I'm completely fine."
"I insist." Joshua shook his head, following her. "Go back to chatting, my children, I can take care of the poor wounded girl."
"Uh, no," Beat growled, preparing himself to charge at Joshua. "Touch her and I'll pumble ya, ya little shit." Neku managed to catch his shirt just in time, rising slowly to his feet. "Whoa there, cowboy. Keep it PG."
"Pummel, Beat," Rhyme corrected through gritted teeth. "And he's right, Joshua. Sit down."
"Did you just say cowboy?" Joshua asked with a grin, jerking his head at Neku. His giggle was grating to Rhyme, and she backed up slowly, realizing they were getting some stares. "Cute, Neku. Very cute."
"So you decided to show, asshole?" Neku asked with a snort, peering over Beat's arm. "Nice. Rhyme doesn't seem to approve of your lateness though. Maybe you should sit your ass down."
"Hmm? Look who's talking, dearie."
"Dearie?" Neku echoed, plopping back into his seat. "Whatever, you crazy bastard."
There was a shooshing noise from the row behind them, and Rhyme took another step back. Joshua glanced back at her, his grin sliding into a frown. "I won't hurt her," Joshua said, folding his arms across his chest and looking up at Beat. "Is it a crime that I want to help?"
"You…" Rhyme hissed, biting her tongue to keep herself from saying something she'd regret. She didn't want to give Joshua the satisfaction of seeing her so distraught.
"Nuh uh, prissy boy," Beat snarled, stomping forward, earning the frightened looks from many people around him. Rhyme's eyes widened. "I'mma teach ya not to mess with Rhyme, yo."
"Beat, sit down!" Rhyme cried, taking herself aback. She stared at him, and he stared at her. They shared a look of utter shock, their faces mirroring each other. He was hurt, and she knew this, because as he stumbled backwards and fell onto his chair, nearly toppling it over as he did so, his eyes were darting everywhere except for her face. She felt her heart sink as Neku's face appeared behind Beat's, his eyebrows furrowed, and his head shaking. Rhyme read what he was trying to say very clearly.
What the fuck was that?
"Fine," Rhyme said finally, ignoring the glances of people around her as she turned away and marched down the steps. "Do whatever you want, Joshua."
He followed behind her, at an irritatingly close distance, and she ignored him. She didn't want to speak to him. She didn't want to look at him. But she couldn't bear to stay with Beat. She'd been too awful. She usually had so much patience to spare. What happened to that? Maybe it was just Joshua. Maybe she had trouble keeping up her patience when she was around. She really didn't know.
"Ignoring me helps no one, you know."
"I really don't want to talk to you," she growled, picking up her pace as she neared the snack stand. Her bandage was becoming incredibly uncomfortable. She knew she was going to have trouble explaining the cut to her parents. Beat had been easy to convince, though she knew Neku didn't buy her story of tripping and slicing her arm on some broken pipe near A-East. If she knew him, he'd call Joshua out on it the first chance he got.
"All of this over a little cut?" Joshua asked with a pout, stepping up beside Rhyme. "Does it really hurt that much?"
Rhyme wanted to shout at him, to give him a tongue lashing about the real reason behind her bitterness, but she didn't. She smiled at the young woman working the stand, pulling out some coins from her pocket and setting them on the table. The woman smiled back, and Rhyme gave her her request, a can of soda, and the woman nodded, bending backwards and scooping one out of an ice cooler.
"You know why I'm angry," she said, giving him a look as she grabbed her soda can and brushed past him. "I don't want to talk about it, either."
"You don't want to know why?"
"No, I'm done asking." Rhyme stepped carefully up onto a little wall, and pulling from her sweater pocket a roll of bandages Beat had quickly grabbed from a nearby drugstore when she'd showed up bleeding rather profusely from the arm. When they'd cleaned it up, it was only a cut, but it still bled like she'd been slashed with a knife. "I've learned my lesson."
"I'm glad to hear that," he said, pushing himself up onto the wall, his satisfaction making her want to push him off the ledge. "You're better off not knowing anyway."
Rhyme glanced away, feeling incredibly dejected. She unzipped her sweater and tossed it aside, wrinkling her nose when she caught sight of the bloody tear at its sleeve. The boy had already grabbed her arm, and was working to pry her bandages off while she found herself staring off into space. She was thinking about it. What had happened earlier, and it frightened her. So she turned her head to stare down at Joshua, who was trying and failing to unknot Beat's handiwork. He look a little irritated.
"You might want to cut it with something," Rhyme said with a sigh. He glanced up at her, his eyes glowing amethyst against the streetlamp, and she felt herself lean back a little, her own eyes widening at the strange sight. She couldn't help but stare at them. It was possible that the idea of having purple eyes was so magical, she just couldn't stop staring.
"Hold," Joshua said, jerking the tight piece of bandage up for Rhyme to keep in the air so it'd be easier to cut. Rhyme let her fingers lock slowly around it, and she broke her eye contact with him.
"I'm not even going to pretend to be surprised that you have a knife with you." She sighed as he pushed her fingers away rather harshly, as if he wanted to slap them, but he was trying to be gentle about it, and he took a pocketknife and slid the sharp edge under the bandage. He gripped her arm tightly as he angled the knife away from his face and pulled. The bandage snapped, and Rhyme hissed through her teeth as pain shot down her arm.
"I warned you, you know," he said quietly as he carefully untied the bloody bandage. She took a deep breath, nodding a little as she glanced back down at him.
"Yeah, I know," she murmured, wincing as he pulled the bandage off her wound, cool autumn air stinging the still fresh cut. There was blood caked all around her upper arm, and Joshua made a face. Rhyme noticed it, and she grinned.
"Does blood freak out the big bad Composer?" she teased, seizing the clean bandages with her good arm and unrolling a bit of it. Joshua blinked up at her face and smirked.
"I was concerned about the amount of blood loss I've caused you," he said softly, taking the wad of bandages from her and cutting a bit off. He snatched her arm and began to rub away the blood from her skin, the bandage brushing against the open wound. She yelped in pain, flinching away from him. "My brief flicker of real human emotion has passed."
"I can tell," she hissed through gritted teeth. He giggled again, and Rhyme sighed, turning to face him. "So, I know this is basically all my fault."
"Yes, you were quite dumb. I was disappointed. Even your instincts told you to leave it be, but you chose to be stubborn. A Bito trait, I suppose?"
"Maybe," she said, staring down at him as he cautiously rubbed the blood from her flesh, careful not to brush her cut again. Why was he being so meticulous about it? "Or maybe it's just my morals. I… couldn't leave you with what you were doing. I either wanted to know why, or to stop you."
"Hmm," he said, setting aside the bloody bandages and looking up at her, his smirk returning. "And how did that work out for you?"
"You're tending to the aftermath, I suppose," she sighed, leaning her head back. She swung her legs back and forth as Joshua placed his hand over her cut. Rhyme looked at him sharply, her eyes widening, and she moved to jerk her arm away.
"Calm down," he hushed, as his hand began to glow a little, a soft incandescent light glimmering beneath his palm. Rhyme felt all of her previous fear and rage wash away, and she gaped at him, her eyes growing wider and wider. Her shoulders slumped, and she felt herself relax a little, though her shock had yet to wear off. A soft, warm feeling came over her, and she swallowed hard, something like fear knotting in her stomach.
"What…" she gasped as he let his hand drop, and she peered down at her arm. The cut was, as expected, completely gone. No scar, nothing. She looked back up at him, shaking her head fast. "Why would you do that?"
"Because I'm a kind and compassionate person, Raimu Bito," he grinned, jumping off the wall and winking at the orange haired boy who was watching from afar. The gesture that returned to him was not quite as friendly. Joshua laughed to himself and spun on his heel, doing a little bow and extending his hand up toward her. Rhyme stared at him, debating whether or not she wanted to forgive him for his previous behavior. Of course, he'd just healed her. She felt like all of the evidence that backed up her rage had been wiped away. So she managed a little smile, giving him a nod of acknowledgement, and reaching down to press his palm against his.
She jumped down, grasping his hand and stumbling to a halt, smiling at him. She needed him to know that she was grateful. "You shouldn't have done it," she said quietly, her smile still carefully in place. "But thank you, Joshua."
"You know," he said, his head cocking to the side as he let go of her hand and stepped back. "You don't have to thank me. I hurt you, so it's only polite that I took it back."
"I don't care." Rhyme shook her head and stuck her hands in her pockets. "Thank you. I didn't expect it from you, and I think I misjudged you."
"Well that's good to hear," Joshua laughed, his high pitched giggle floating in the air, and Rhyme sighed. "I mean, I was sure I wrecked your good image of me earlier, but I'm very glad to know this is untrue."
"No, I'm still mad at you for doing that," Rhyme said, pursing her lips. "Not hurting me, what you did to—" Rhyme stopped herself and glanced around. She knew that she couldn't talk about this here. "For what you were doing before that."
"Well that's something I can live with," Joshua smirked as Rhyme brushed past him, tossing her dirty bandages into a garbage bin. "Oh, and Rhyme, before you go rejoin the misfit parade, do you mind taking something?"
Rhyme spun around, her cropped blonde hair spinning around her head as she blinked slowly. "What?" she asked flatly as he stepped forward and grabbed her arm, shoving something into her palm. "Whoa, what are you doing?"
"Well, it is your birthday soon, is it not?" Joshua asked as he patted her on the head and stepped away. She blinked and stared down at her palm.
"Um," she said quietly, confusion taking over her mind. She closed her fingers around the necklace and nodded slowly. "Yeah, in about two weeks, though. Why are you giving me this now?"
"Rhyme," Joshua said, giving her a look that made her feel like her intelligence was lacking. "I have more important things to do than to attend such a morbid event."
"Morbid," Rhyme repeated incredulously, ignoring how rude his reply was. "How on earth are birthdays morbid? They celebrate life."
"That's one way of looking at it." Joshua shrugged and turned around, glancing at her out of the corner of his eye as she slowly clipped the chain around her neck, examining the key that hung from it with dull interest. "Personally, I think birthdays are just like numbers on a clock counting down the years until you die."
"Okay," Rhyme said slowly, dropping the key and stepping in time with him as he walked up the stairwell. "That is morbid. But you don't have to worry about that, right?"
"No, actually!" He flashed a grin, and stopped. Rhyme paused and looked back at him, her pale eyebrows furrowing. "But you do."
At this Rhyme's eyes widened a little, and she frowned deeply. "Is that a threat, Joshua?"
"It's nothing but a fact, really," he giggled, stepping forward again so he was directly beside her. "You're going to die."
Ha ha ha, Angie. Here is a small fact. You are going to die.
And thus Dani realized this story is either going to end up never being finished, or taking FOREVER to finish. I think I'm just writing it for the lawls now, you know? It's a fun distraction from White Knight.
This obviously takes place in the past, since Neku's in it. A few weeks before his funeral, I think? I don't remember what chapter that was. I decided to make it Rhyme's birthday around this time for convenience.
Also, I have a thing with keys. =/ Keys and watches, seriously, I'm a freak.