Disclaimer: I do not own any rights or properties pertaining to The World Ends With You. This is a non-profit fan work made only to entertain.
Neku and his friends sat down on a bench near Hachiko. They had just met up for the first time since they escaped from the Reaper's game. Despite their best efforts to the contrary, Neku, Beat, and Rhyme were having some trouble keeping from staring at Shiki. She explained to Beat and Rhyme what Neku already knew.
"My appearance was my fee..." She told them, looking down a bit. "And...I'm not really as bubbly as I was acting either. I hope we can all still be friends." Rhyme gave her a pat on the back, and Beat just laughed. "What? What is it?" She felt her cheeks reddening, thinking she was the subject of some joke that she wasn't privy to.
"Don't you get it, Shiki?" Neku asked, smiling at her. She blushed as she lost herself for a moment in his eyes, then shook her head.
"I'm shorter, I'm not as skinny, I'm shy and awkward...I'm not the girl you met in the game..." She told them. She trusted them, of course, but Shiki had never been good at making friends, and her anxiety regarding this had been gnawing at her for the whole week.
"And yet you are still our friend Shiki." Rhyme said, smiling up at her. "We weren't friends because of what you showed us on the surface, Shiki. We were, and will continue to be, friends because of who you are on the inside." Shiki smiled, relaxing a bit.
"Thanks, everyone...I feel kind of silly for worrying so much about it."
"That's cuz it is silly, yo. You're Shiki, and we're Shiki's friends. End of discussion." Neku rolled his eyes at this.
"Only you could come up with such a simple way of putting it." He told the skater, smirking.
"Thanks, Phones. Wait, where are your phones?" He asked, confused.
"First off, it wasn't a compliment. Secondly, I took 'em off. I think I don't really need 'em anymore."
"Why would you need your phones?" Beat asked, completely unaware that he had in fact been insulted for his simple outlook on the world around him.
"So," Rhyme interrupted, "Who else was injured in a car accident and spent the last few weeks in a coma?" Beat raised his hand. "I know you did, Beat. I'm just wondering, what happened with you two?" She looked to Shiki and Neku. "I mean, I doubt that you guys had the same kind of excuse cooked up for where you'd been during the game."
"Well, there was no car accident, but I had tripped, and gotten a head injury after..." Shiki stopped talking, her memory of the fight with Eri distant, but still painful. Rhyme and Beat decided not to ask, but Neku moved to ensure she'd done what she told him she would.
"You made up with her once you got out, right?" Neku asked. Shiki smiled at him softly.
"Of course. But what about you? Where were you that whole time?"
"Apparently I wasn't anywhere. I mean, nobody noticed I was missing. I just woke up in the scramble, went home, and my mom asked how school was. Next day, I'm at school, I've got the homework for the day done and ready to turn in, haven't missed a day of class as far as anyone else knew."
"Yo, man, why didn't you have to go to the hospital?" Beat demanded. Before anyone could answer him, however, they were all startled by the sound of their phones. All of them looked at the text as Neku read it aloud.
"'Reach WildKAT. You have twenty minutes. Fail and be forced to drink cold coffee. Sanae Hanekoma.' Well, we better get going." He smiled widely. As they walked together through the scramble, Neku felt a bit worried as he looked to Shiki. She was clutching Mr. Mew tightly in her arms, staring at the ground as she walked, and hanging back a bit from the group. His phone began buzzing with a text. He raised a brow in confusion, seeing as it was from the small blond girl to his right.
"I can take Beat up ahead a bit faster. I'm a little worried too, but you know her better. You hang back and make sure she's feeling ok." Neku nodded at her as he closed his phone. Beat stared at them curiously.
"Beat, can you carry me there? Quickly?" Rhyme said, acting distressed. "I have to..um..." She shifted her legs, clamping them tightly together. "Use the facilities..." Beat's eyes went wide. His sister in need was clearly a weak spot for him. He pulled her into his arms with no difficulty, dropped his board on the ground, and took off. Neku turned to Shiki.
"You ok?" He asked, putting a hand on her back.
"Wh-what? Why do you ask?" She stared into his eyes as if he had a knife to her throat.
"Let's make a deal. You answer the question, and then I'll tell you why I asked." He gave her a reassuring smile, which grew a bit as he saw her relaxing.
"I...I'm not good with people. I just pretended to be in the game. By the time I was acting like me at all again, it was a different kind of me. I had a goal, you know? Something to focus on...It's not that I think you guys might stop liking me, more like..." She sighed, frowning as she looked up at the sky. "This is the first time you guys have seen me like this...I know all of you, but I still feel like...well, not like I'm meeting new people...but like I have to make a new first impression on you guys."
"That's stupid." Neku responded flatly. She stared at him in disbelief. "It is. I mean, the whole reason I asked if anything was wrong is that I thought something important was eating at you. I get that you were worried, but I thought it was something bigger." She blinked, attempting to process this.
"Like how Mr. H sent us his invitation like it was a reaper mission. The game was hard for all of us, and even though we beat it, I thought maybe the way he worded the text made you uncomfortable." Shiki nodded, thinking for a bit.
"It was pretty hard on us, wasn't it?" Neku nodded, smiling. "Even so...I wouldn't have changed a bit of it. I owe you a lot, Neku..."
"The hell you do." He replied, smirking at her shocked expression. "It's not like I had to carry you through the game. And heck, you did at least as much for me as I did for you. I mean, now I've got friends. Back then, I couldn't stand people." He thought for a moment, then held out his hand to her. "So, if you'll accept my apology for being such a dick, we'll just call the whole thing even." Shiki giggled a bit, and gave his hand a firm shake.
"Deal." An easy, comfortable quiet descended on them as they finished their trip to the coffee shop. As they entered, a familiar voice shouted to them.
"Shiki! Pho—where'd the phones go? Ah, whatever, good to see you kids again. In honor of your victory over the game, the whole first round's on the house. Come on." He waved them towards the table that Rhyme and Beat sat at, smiling with an impenetrable sense of serenity.
"Thanks, Mr. H." Neku told him, making sure to give him a high five as he walked past the barista.
"Thank you." Shiki added, bowing a bit, clinging tightly to Mr. Mew.
"Well, damn. Aren't you just a chunk of adorable? Anyway, the Bitos have their coffee, how do you two take yours?"
"Black." Neku said plainly, taking his seat.
"Um, two creams, please...And don't skimp on the sugar..." Shiki smiled up at him. Neku watched her a bit, thinking about how much more comfortable she seemed. He knew it wasn't really because of him, but he totally understood the change in her demeanor. Something about Hanekoma just made people feel at peace, and ready to just be themselves. Once they got their cups, Neku looked to the rest of the group.
"If anyone wants another one, second round's gonna be on me." He told them, taking a sip. The group sat around and made small talk, generally enjoying one another's company. After nearly an hour, they decided to go their seperate ways, seeing the sun beginning to set outside.
"So, see you guys again soon, right?" Neku asked.
"Yeah, of course!" Rhyme told him.
"Time might change, but we'll find you at Hachiko." Beat slapped him on the back.
"Actually, could you meet me there tomorrow, Neku?" Shiki asked.
"Sure! Looking forward to it." As they all went their separate ways, Hanekoma examined a note in his pocket, sure that the coast was clear.
"Waiting and seeing how I clean up my mess...Well, I guess that's more lenient than I was expecting." He flipped open his phone, and hit the contacts. "Yo, Josh, we need to talk."
It was late in the evening by the time Neku got home. His mother gave him a quick hug, and told him there was a large package for him that she put in his room. Curious, he took a look. Opening the box, the first thing he spotted was a note.
"Thanks for helping me see my mistake. Here's some souvenirs, as thanks and as an apology. Keep on slamming. Joshua." Neku smiled, looking inside. Nearly every piece of clothing he'd worn in the game was inside. The few items that weren't present weren't meant to be worn by men anyway. But on top of all the folded clothes, he picked up a large case, popping it open.
"Heh...thank God...I was starting to think I'd have to build a collection all over." He went through his Pins, making sure all of them were there. He was shocked, however, to learn that one he hadn't expected was in the case. The player pin glinted in the light as he flipped it in the air like a coin.
"Well, I guess it wouldn't be the same without my skull." He placed the pins back in the case, and unpacked the box, moving clothes to his closet. By the time he was done, a knock came to his door.
"Neku, sweety, don't stay up too late. You've got school in the morning."
"Thanks, mom." He told her. "I was just unpacking."
"Oh, what was in the box, by the way?" She asked, examining the room, trying to spot anything new.
"Oh, uh, I went to a Tin Pin Slammer tournament sponsored by 104, and I got a huge gift card, last week. These are all the clothes I picked up." His mother smiled at him, pulled him into a hug, and kissed him on the forehead.
"I'm so proud of you, Neku. First I learn you're finally making friends, and now I find out you've been competing in a game that you enjoy...Did you win?" She asked, smiling.
"Uh, Fifth place...First prize was a trip to, um, Okinawa." He felt his stomach turn. He never liked the idea of lying to his mother, but there was no way he could risk trying to explain everything. "Anyway, like you said, got school tomorrow. I better hit the sack." She nodded, and backed out of his room, closing the door.
Neku smiled, and looked back at the box. "Thanks, Joshua..." He mumbled. He climbed into bed, and turned off the light.