Sanctuary

I have a question.

I want to know whether it might be too soon to ask.

Asking that in itself, though, is like asking the question.

Maybe it's not the time for that question yet.

Maybe I'll ask it on

Another day.


Another Night

There were only another two minutes left on the clock and they were already playing under extra time.

Neku watched the soccer ball speed towards the goal, heart racing. It looked like it was going to hit its mark.

"No…no goal!" The commentator scream was drowned out by the rest of the stadium's yells.

The goalkeeper had dived to save the ball, most likely scraping his knees. He got up slowly, ball in his hands, and he made eye contact with Neku – and smiled.

"Alright, guys, let's do this!" Neku shouts.

Beat, known frequently as the guardian of Japan, kicked the ball in a long shot, which Neku received perfectly. After seven years of playing together, he knew Beat's plays like the back of his hand. He weaved around the opposing players, almost gracefully. Getting past at least three or four other players, the goal was approaching fast. His path was suddenly blocked, however, when a largely built player from the German team appeared, seemingly from nowhere. This was the player that the team had so much trouble with, during this game. Unfortunately for him, Neku was prepared.

He passed to the player just behind him and then it was all over. His team-mate's in-step drive was in the goal before their goal-keeper could even register that the ball had changed feet. The whistle signalling the end of the game went off immediately after. Neku wasn't a selfish forward and seeing that winning shoot go in felt as good as if he had shot it himself.

It was as if someone had hit turned up the volume all the way because suddenly all Neku could hear was the deafening cheers from the stadium. It was shocking and nail-biting game, pitting the underdogs against the Olympic favourites. Yet, somehow they've done it and Japan had earned their gold medal.

The win felt all the more real as his teammates tackled him to the ground. Kazemaru was being thrown in the air by the other half of their team. He could even see Beat rushing out of goal to probably join the pile.

There were countless people clustered in the stadium but Neku's eyes looked over to where their teams' supporters were sat.

Warm, watery brown eyes met with his.

He wasn't able to hear what she was shouting at him but he managed to wiggle his arm out from under him and gave Shiki a thumbs up anyway.

After so many years, of both soaring victories and staggering losses. After seeing teammates come and go, retired mentors that passed on their skills and techniques. After training day and night, sometimes even in the pouring rain. They had made it.

So, this was what it's like to fulfil your dream.

xxxxx

"My, my, seems like I'm friends with a pair of champions. I do hope you two won't let this win inflate your egos." The comment was eye-roll worthy, coming from someone who arguably had a bigger ego than both of them combined.

"Ain't that cute. I know you're jus' tryin' to hide how pride you are of us." Beat was less susceptible to Joshua's baiting remarks than he was before, something that the latter complained about on many previous occasions.

"You mean, 'proud', Beat," Joshua attempted to correct him but he was pulled into a one-armed hug by the larger man. He sighed. "I suppose, it's quite beneficial for the Kiryu heir to be associated with top-class athletes. I'll offer my sincerest congratulations for your achievements this time around. And Beat your arm's pulling at my hair."

"Whoops." Beat loosed his arm slightly to free up the long hair Joshua had grown out.

They looked like opposites in appearance, with Joshua having his curly hair tied in a (previously-neat) low-ponytail, his attire immaculately put together. Beat, on the other hand, had a low-fade undercut and was wearing a crumply red tank. Neku would have sworn it was the same one Beat had in high school if not the fact that his stature now probably meant that it would have been slightly too small by now.

The two made for the unlikeliest pair but Neku somehow thought they got along better with each other than sometimes he thought he did with them. And that was with Beat as a teammate (though, he was sure that the two would argue otherwise).

"We're back!" Shiki announced. She and Rhyme walked in with their drinks and snacks from the convenience store right around the corner. "See, Neku. I told you getting a place with a Kiryu Express five minutes away was a great idea."

"You're right, also worth paying a bit more for space, seeing as how everyone's probably going to drop in on us a lot." He watched as the normally lazy Nimew scampered up to welcome Shiki home, purring against her leg. Neku figured the old cat was probably hungry. "That and this was one of the few nice apartments that allowed for pets."

Rhyme helped hand over the drinks while Shiki, also seeming to realise what Nimew wanted, went to get some more cat food out.

"Oh, Shiki while you're there can you check that I switched off the rice cooker."

"Sure...give me a sec. Yup, it's off Neku."

"Great, 'couldn't remember if I did it or not for a minute there."

"You're all good."

As Shiki came over to join them around the short table they were sitting around, a small laugh escaped Rhyme.

"What's up, Rhyme?" Beat asked.

"Sorry, just that I was thinking how nice it was. Shiki and Neku look like they're pretty much fully settled into living together now." It was a genuine observation.

Neku shrugged. "It wasn't that different from staying over at her place. Shiki's stayed with me before too so there weren't any big surprises."

"And how often were your stayovers, Neku?" There was a suggestive tone to Joshua's question. This time Neku did roll his eyes.

"A normal amount, Josh."

Shiki was now, too, immune to Joshua's teasing. "I was a bit nervous at first, honestly. But Neku's pretty diligent with all the housework. I think my work-area is a lot messier than his areas. So, yeah, moving in together was a lot more normal than I thought it would be."

"Tha's 'cause you two've been together for so long, ain't cha?"

That was one of the reasons Neku would chalk it up to. He was simply just comfortable with being around Shiki. Neither of them held any pretences around each other. Their experience together all those years ago meant there was no reason to ever hide anything from each other and they never felt the need to. They may have had very minor disagreements here and there but any of those were resolved by sitting down and just talking to each other. Neku had already established that he wanted to talk to Shiki. About anything and everything.

"Probably."

"'Probably', he says. Look at that grin on his face, it's making me queasy. Must you flaunt your affection for each other all the time?" said Joshua. "He didn't even acknowledge us cheering at the match, did he Rhyme?"

"I waved at ya', Josh," Beat said. "You saw me wave at you guys, right Rhyme?"

"Sure did, Beat." Rhyme smiled. "I took a lot of pictures of you guys during the match."

"See? It's not always about you, Josh."

"And that is where all errors begin, dear Neku."

Laughter rang out through the room.

Neku smiled as he looked around at his friends. Honestly, the big celebrations they had over the week were enjoyable. He didn't even mind the interviews he had to do for the press or all the autographs that he had to sign. But he preferred this an infinite amount to that, just hanging out at their place with his closest friends.

"Oh! Speaking of settling in, I found something while I was unpacking our last box." Shiki's eyes glinted behind her glasses in a way that Neku wasn't a hundred per cent sure he liked, especially since he wasn't sure what she found.

She disappeared to their room for a moment before returning with an object that made Neku's stomach drop.

"Oh no."

It was a photo album that Uncle H somehow managed to put together. He told Neku that it was the second part of 'Kyohei and Akane Sakuraba - Exposed!'. Neku had kept it in his room and hid it away securely but forgot to hide it away again after moving here. Shiki had a dangerous amount of humiliation ammo in her hands right now.

He tried to shoot her his most pleading look.

Without words, her expression conveyed to him that, no, this was too good not to share.

Well. If it was going to make her happy, it wasn't that bad.

"Bwahahaha! You were a crybaby, Neku!"

Right, well there were those.

The album turned out to be more of a 'Neku Sakuraba - Exposed' type of deal. There were pictures of him with his parents when he was still a baby. They died before he was old enough to remember them but it looked like there was a time that he must have been happy with them. It looked like they were around to at least still see him have his first steps. There were a lot of pictures of him crying, that said. There were also a few more pictures of him in his childhood and he vaguely remembered where some were taken. When he first received this album, he wondered if perhaps some of his other relatives besides Uncle H. had indeed tried to put in more effort with him than they let on. He ended up reconnecting to some of them, after some encouragement from Shiki. It seemed that his perspective on some things could change, just as much as he did.

"This is one of my favourites, isn't he just precious!" Shiki pointed at one that had Neku pouting and crossing his arms, clearly not wanting to be photographed.

"He certainly is," Joshua chimed in. "Aw, look in this one, he's just about to start middle school."

By now, the group of friends were crowded around Shiki, who was flipping through the pages.

Eventually, they got to pages that Neku did not recognise. He looked at Shiki, questioningly.

A smile played at her lips. "Surprise! I added some photos that we took together since these stopped before you got to high school and there were a lot of pages left to fill."

There were a lot of pictures of them from their time at Ebisu high. Some Neku recognised as being clippings from the school newspaper club since they took quite a few of the soccer team. However, there were also quite a few that must have been taken from her phone or sent to her by the others. Since she wasn't in the same school the ones of him nodding off in the library definitely could not have been her. He pointed at it and all three of his schoolmates looked away.

One that stood out for him was one that they took when he was in his third year with the others. The five of them were just talking and he and Shiki were holding hands. She was there because it was the day of their last school festival. He remembered that their schoolmates thought that her coming into school was big news. It might have had something to do with the fact that a lot of people had been nosey about him. He enjoyed being the captain of the soccer team in his third year but that meant that a lot of people were interested in knowing who it was that he was dating. It didn't help that Joshua and Rhyme were the student council's president and vice president at the time. Beat even had a few fans of his own too.

When he mentioned this, Shiki insisted that the attention was due to her sneaking in Nimew into the school. As if on cue, Nimew climbed onto the table as if wanting to have a look at the picture too.

"This was when I still had short-hair," Rhyme commented, tugging at her hair, which was now slightly past her shoulders. "Wonder if I should get it cut again…hm you've never grown it long, Shiki, have you?"

"Nope. I have considered long hair once or twice but I like it short." While still keeping it the same length, Shiki had changed the way her hair was styled several times when she wanted to try something new. Currently, however, her hair was not miles different from what she had in the picture.

"Who took this one?" Neku asked.

"It was Eri," Shiki said. "She asked whether she could come to the festival too, remember?"

"Right." Neku did remember that. "Too bad she couldn't make it tonight."

"Yeah, she and Mina had a date night planned but they've both sent their apologies in advance. Ai also had plans already so she sent in a message too," Shiki added. "We've all been so busy with our new line just released we all ended up making plans when we got the chance."

"How is that going, by the way?" Rhyme asked.

"Reception has been really good." Shiki grinned, enthusiastically. "The marketing campaign Mina planned really panned out well for us."

"Makes sense. Your last two lines were a big hit...and what happens twice, happens thrice."

Her smile turned a bit more sheepish but she thanked Rhyme. It was good to see Shiki feeling great about her successes. To Neku's mind, tonight was to celebrate Shiki's achievements as much as his.

"Hope you're not going to be too busy, Shiki dear," said Joshua. "I'm still getting that exclusive design you promised, correct?"

"Of course, Joshua! Wouldn't dream of skipping out on that," she answered, sweetly. "That and we get a lot of good press whenever you wear something we design."

"Likewise, Shiki, likewise."

Something that Neku discovered along the way was that Shiki and Joshua shared love for mutually beneficial business deals. They were pretty formidable when they wanted to be…

"Man, I love you guys."

The four turned to stare at Beat, who seemed a little red in the face.

...

"...How many cans has he had?" Neku dared to ask.

They turned to count the cans on the floor and then decided that it was one too many.

"I'll get him some water." Rhyme insisted on being the one to get the water but Neku told her guests shouldn't have to get up.

She was persistent, though so they both ended up in the kitchen.

Rhyme had already been here before to visit since their place wasn't too far off from where she was doing her master's degree but Neku was still surprised when she seemed to remember which cupboard they kept their glasses in. She always had a keen memory, though. "I've already told this to Beat," she said, "but I'm proud of you two. You two were amazing on the field."

"Thanks, Rhyme," said Neku, though he was slightly taken aback by the sudden praise.

"I'm really happy that you two kept chasing your dream. Beat's got a lot of determination but I think that you being there really helped give him a push."

Neku thought of all the times that Beat had been there for him. He was the first one to reach out to him when he first came to Shibuya.

"Beat's pushed me just as much." Neku picked up the other glasses of water that they were bringing out to the front. "I don't think I'd have got this far without him. And hey, we're not done yet. We may have won but there are other things to chase out there."

"Sure are. And I'll continue chasing my dreams too," Rhyme declared.

There was the smallest glitter of sand that appeared around Rhyme but not for longer than a breath, then it was gone. Neku wholeheartedly believed she would accomplish anything that she set her heart on.

They returned to see Shiki holding up her hands in front of Beat's face and asking him to count the numbers on her hand. He only got it wrong by one so in Neku's mind, he wasn't doing all that badly.

Hm, where had Joshua gone?

After placing the glasses down he went out to the balcony to find Joshua staring out at the city.

"You really left, Shiki to deal with Beat on her own, huh?"

Joshua gave him a weak wave as he joined him to lean his arms on the railing. "Don't be dramatic. Beat's getting way too sentimental at this point and while I know you and Shiki might like that, I've had enough of my fill of that already."

He briefly wondered what Joshua meant. Though, if he was talking about being sentimental..."Oh, did you see your dad today?"

"Yes, we had lunch. He didn't quite say it in so many words - he spent quite a large amount of the time talking about some aliens he thought he spotted last week - but he's thinking of retiring in two or three years," Joshua said. "Told me I would take over when the time came. If I wanted to, that is."

"And...what did you say?" Neku asked cautiously.

"I said that I would think it over."

That sounded like a wise decision to make.

"Of course, I do fully intend on taking over but it's nice to have Father fret over whether I'm going to or not. I think I'll let the idea of him having to choose someone else marinate for a little bit."

And that didn't sound out of place for Joshua to do at all.

"I hope you're not planning on leaving your dad hanging for too long," Neku said.

Something about the lop-sided smile Joshua had on told him that he planned to leave it for as long as it amused him for. "Now, now, the Other one is going to be upset if I do. I've already told Mother about my decision, so it might reach my father's ears earlier."

"How is the Other Guy?"

"Pretty quiet nowadays. Though I think he's developed a bit of a sweet-tooth. I keep finding crumbs in my bedroom every now and then."

While it sounded like a complaint, it looked as though Joshua was pretty content with how things were going.

It looked like the Kiryu family were going to be the kings of convenience for a long time coming.

"Oi. Whaddya two think you talkin' about? Without me!"

Neku felt Beat pull him into a head-lock. Joshua somehow managed to avoid this one. "Oh, you can handle this for a while, Neku dear."

"Joshuaaa," Beat whined. He flapped his unoccupied arm about, seemingly annoyed that it didn't manage to get the other man. "Hmph, who needs him. He ain't part of the team anyway!"

Beat had that heaviness that one did only when they were drunk and didn't quite realise how much they were leaning on someone. Neku tried to subtly shuffle out of Beat's grip.

He couldn't quite shake him completely, so Neku resigned to being stuck here for a little bit. Turning his head slightly, he looked back into the room and saw Shiki give him a helpless shrug.

Oh well.

"Neku. You're. My best friend. You got that?"

"Yep, got it. Loud and clear."

"Aight. Love you, man."

"..."

"Phonesss!"

"Okay, okay, love you too. Geez."

At that, he finally let go of Neku who could finally breathe again. Beat turned around and jumped up. "Yo, I love you guys!"

"Love you too, Beat." The others echoed, monotonously, not even looking at Beat and then diving straight back into their conversation.

Right, so Beat had reached this stage of sentimental.

The man leaned back, resting his elbows back against the rails. He went uncharacteristically quiet for a little while. To the point that Neku was starting to feel a little concerned. Had Beat maybe had too much? He looked as if he was going to nod off.

As soon as he had that thought, however, Beat spoke again. "We really did it, huh."

"Yeah...we did."

If there was one thing that Neku could say about Beat throughout all these years, it was that he worked harder than anyone he knew. Maybe he had been more apathetic about goals in the past but once he had set his mind on this, he never gave up. What he told Rhyme earlier was the truth, there were many times that Neku had wondered whether he had chosen the right thing to do. Each and every time Beat would blast those worries away.

"Hey, I told Rhyme that we still had things to do," Neku looked Beat in the eyes. "We gonna go to the world cup, aren't we?"

"Das' the real challenge. I'm all in."

He held out a fist up to Beat, who immediately bumped his own against it.

Beat deserved to celebrate as much as he wanted, Neku thought, he earned it.

After a bit of coaxing, he managed to get Beat back into the room with the others; he wanted to shut the sliding windows before too many bugs took the chance to fly in. While Beat sat back down and Joshua chided him for a little while, Neku, Shiki and Rhyme tidied up the place. They spent a little while longer looking at the remaining pictures in the album before the others decided they were going to take their leave.

While Beat had sobered up a bit, it seemed that he had forgotten his keys somewhere.

"This isn't the first time and it probably won't be the last time he forgets them," Rhyme said.

"He can stay with us for the night," Shiki offered.

"I'm sure he wouldn't want to impose on you lovebirds," said Joshua. He couldn't resist that one, could he? "He can stay at mine. I haven't had anything to drink so I can drive us there. I'll drop you off back to yours too, Rhyme."

"Thanks, Joshua. Sorry that he has to always stay with you when he forgets his keys. If I wasn't staying with roommates and had enough space, you could've just dropped him off with me."

"No worries at all, dear. My apartment sometimes feels a bit too big for little ol' me."

"Josh's place is massive, dude. You have to see it sometime!" Neku had been before, with Beat there but probably no point reminding him. "And he's always got tons of food in the fridge."

"It's sounding to me like you've crashed at Josh's place a lot. How many times have you lost your keys, Beat?" Neku asked.

His answer came from Joshua instead."Oh, you know. A normal amount, Neku." There was a wink that accompanied that statement.

Neku was too tired to ask him to elaborate on that one.

"Byee Nekuuu! Bye Shikiiiii!" Beat said his goodbyes loudly as Joshua and Rhyme dragged him out of their place, with their own calls of goodbyes.

The quiet that prevailed through their home, compared to the noisiness from only moments before was starkly different. It wasn't an uncomfortable, quiet, however. Neku nodded his head towards the bedroom and Shiki followed him back.

She jumped onto it, plopping herself facedown. "Ahhh, I'm so tired!" Her words were a bit muffled but Neku got what she said.

They had showered before the others arrived so Neku changed straight into the shirt and shorts he slept in. "We didn't do much but it was pretty tiring, huh?"

She turned onto her side. "Maybe we're getting old Neku."

"I think it's just that the whole week has been tiring."

"True." Shiki stretched out her arm, indicating that she wanted Neku to help her back up. With a tug, she hopped back up to her feet and went to get changed too.

Once they finished brushing their teeth, Neku took a leaf out of Shiki's book and let himself flop onto their bed. His arms were outstretched and Shiki took that opportunity to lay her head against his left arm and snuggle up against him. He kissed the top of her head. "Isn't it a bit warm for this, don't you think?"

"Nope, this is perfect."

As if to emphasise that, she also wrapped an arm around his side and placed a gentle kiss against his collar bone. "You think we are acting too much like lovebirds?"

"Don't know. But so what if we are, anyway?"

"We're going to be getting more press with you being a household name for Japan." She mock-sighed. "And you already have so many fans, what am I going to do when you have more?"

"You're rising up as a designer too, Shiki. I'm sure I've got some fans to fend off of yours too."

"Maybe but soccer fans can be a little scary."

"You could always threaten them with Piggy."

"Mr. Mew, may I remind you, is retired from fighting!"

"Alright, alright."

Shiki shifted, most likely wanting to find a slightly more comfortable position. Neku was able to move his arm to cradle her lower back, pulling her slightly closer against him.

"Thought you said it was too, warm?" she asked, with a little bit of cheek.

"Yeah but it's okay since it's you."

Come to think of it, there was a major perk of moving in together. He got to see Shiki without her glasses a lot more often. She was cute enough as it was with them but there was just something about seeing those eyes before he went to sleep and being the first thing that he saw when he woke up.

"Hey. I love you."

He felt her squeeze him tighter.

"I love you too."

Although their Souls weren't technically supposed to be in a pact anymore, there were still instances where Neku could still feel what emotions Shiki was having. This was one of them and he could feel a sense of peace and the kind of warmth that permeated through his chest.

Warmth...wait a little too warm.

Not you, again.

Nimew had made his way into their room and was now curled up upon Neku's chest.

"Can't he see that we're trying to have a private moment, here?"

"Aw, Neku, he just wants to share in the love." Shiki's smile was a bit impish and he knew she still took amusement at his love-hate relationship with Nimew.

"He could share in the love from the cat bed I bought him."

"Don't worry, you're still my number one, Neku. Though, Nimew is a very close second."

"Fine, I'll take that."

Their soft laughs eventually turned into light snores.

While it had been a busy day for them and their bodies recovered from the fatigue the week had brought them, they had returned to end the day within each others' arms.

Just another night in their sanctuary.


A/N: Tadaa! It's been exactly seven years since I posted the last chapter of Sanctuary (excluding the bonus chapter, of course). I read through Sanctuary again before writing this I see that in I cried while writing the author's notes in my last chapter. I'm not sure how well my writing has aged but I'm still very proud of this fic. I think that I did the best I could back then and was somehow really disciplined with my posting schedule. I admittedly can't say the same for some other fics of mine...haha…

Anyway, I hope everyone has been doing well, or at least as well as we could be in this current situation. Since I last posted a Sanctuary chapter we now have had an announcement for the twewy anime and an announcement for the twewy sequel. I actually sometimes have to pinch myself because I still can't believe this is happening.

For the chapter itself, we're pretending the Olympics went ahead this year, okay? Because I've had the first section of this planned out for at least two years and I refused to scrap it ahaha. Grr covid, trying to ruin my planning. Something I realised while rereading to write this chapter - I hadn't actually let Neku and Shiki say 'I love you' to each other properly…? Maybe I thought it was too cheesy, as a teenager. But no. No more. Cheese is good. I'm serving up cheese with cheese sauce on top of that. THEY LOVE EACH OTHER AND WILL SAY SO. So there you have it. Also, I feel like this chapter was less of a 'things happen' in it one but rather just me wanting to return to these versions of the characters, which I hope you guys enjoyed anyway.

Thank you to everyone who has supported this fic for so long. Special shoutouts go to the TSOS Shibuya gang who are still writing amazing fic. And of course, Tash, who I want to say thanks for usually being the first to read any of these chapters and essentially be there to help with feedback. Shanna, Heart-chan and Crow too, ofc. Shoutouts as well to Mandi, Alto, Kazea, Aya, Rusa and everyone else on the neshiki discord server. I'm glad to have gotten to talk more with all those fellow neshiki fans out there.

That's all from me, hope everyone can keep safe and wishing you all a very happy new year!

- Dina (30/12/2020)


Pseudo Poem Perspective

Neku Sakuraba - before asking Shiki to move in with him.

Omake:

Coco, Kazemaru and Neku - Part 2

"You might've been able to shoot that in yourself, Neku."

"Maybe. But it was a risky angle and a definite win if I passed it back to you."

"Either way, you two were, like, totes amazing!"

Neku smiled and extended a hand out to him. Kazemaru shook it, with a smile of his own.

Coco placed her hand on top of both of theirs.

Their bond may not be the same as before but time was enough to mould it into something new.

Putting it Together

"Yes, yes, thank you. Glad you held onto that photo of Neku."

Hanekoma smiled as he looked down at the picture he had in his hands.

Hope you're watching over him from up there, Kyohei, Akane.

He's a good kid.

Eri and Mina

The pair raised a toast to each other.

"I almost can't believe everything is going so well for us."

"Your and Shiki's designs are to die for, Eri. I definitely can believe it. Besides, I think Ai was saying that we 'had to succeed with this line' or she would lose it."

"She had her work cut out for her, while she was negotiating with the outlets this time, huh?"

"She did. But hey, why are we talking about work again? This is supposed to be our night off!"

"Sorry, Mina, you're totally right." Eri reached across the table to take her hand. "I did book us a great place, didn't I?"

"That, you did. I've been craving the food here for forever. If we're going to do a date night, french food is my pick, every time." Mina squeezed Eri's hand back. "Oh, okay, not to distract you from this but two o'clock."

"Two o'clock? Oh, oh gosh, what is he wearing?"

"His poor, poor, date."

"I know. I mean hopefully he's a nice guy - "

"Ladies," the waiter asked. "Are you ready to take your orders?"

"Sure are!"

Free Nights and Ai

Ai had been waiting for this concert for months.

The fact that this coincided with the end of their line release was the icing on top.

Waving her lightstick up in the air she chanted out the lyrics to the song.

And at the end of it she cheered for her favourite singer of all time.

"Hype-chan! Hype-chan! Hype-chan!"

Rhyme and Reasons

It really wasn't like Rhyme to oversleep.

Perhaps, it was the excitement from getting together with her friends to celebrate last night.

Still, that was no excuse, especially after she had all those things about taking her dream seriously!

Well, maybe I could...

She summoned her sand to elevate her just so that she was slightly hovering above the ground as she made her steps forward.

As long as no one spotted her, it wouldn't be too bad.

She hadn't actually used her powers to get to uni on time before but...nothing ventured, nothing gained, right?

Beat and Joshua

"Dude, why am I in your bed again?"

"Because, dear Beat, you refused to sleep on the sofa and I did not have the strength nor the patience to kick you out."

"Ah, sorry, man."

"..."

"..."

"Okay, I'm going to try and get a few more hours of sleep since I hardly had any last night."

"..."

"..."

"So, uh, why's that?"

"Because your snoring is comparable to that of a wild boar's."

"Oh. Sorry, Josh."

"..."

"..."

"..."

"Forget it. I'm more hungry than tired right now. Get dressed, to return the favour I expect you to keep me company while I get some breakfast."

"Sure, thing man. Hey, you still got that shirt I left last time?"

With the number of times that Beat forgot his keys, Joshua started to wonder whether Beat was doing this on purpose to take the opportunity to freeload.

...Then again, Beat wasn't really the scheming type.

That was his own thing, after all.

The Adventures of Nimew - Part 7

It seemed his subjects had taken him to an even grander abode.

Such as what he deserved.

There was a lot more space here for him to roam around.

His humans sometimes locked the door so he couldn't get into the room, however.

He often scratched at it - how dare they corner him off from his own territory.

Hmph.

At those times he laid on the sofa instead.

Fine. He would wait.

They had to feed him eventually.

I Love You

Neku and Shiki said it to each other often enough.

Some say that saying something too many times makes it lose its meaning.

They didn't really think of it that way, though.

If it was true every day, why not simply say it?

"Hey, Neku. Just calling 'cause you've left your spikes at home."

"Wow. My spikes, really?" He checked his bag. "Damn, you're right."

"Haha, you'd think the best forward in Japan wouldn't forget something as important as that."

"I think you're actually onto something when you said we're getting old. I haven't gotten that far so I'll run back."

"Alright, I'm already heading out to work but I'll see you when you get back home later. Love you."

"Love you, too."

They were both smiling as they hung up.

While all their exchanges were precious, the 'I love you's' said over the phone always had a particularly special place in their hearts.