A week after he wakes up sprawled over the concrete of Scramble Crossing and discovers that there is not a bullet lodged in his heart and he’s verily, painfully and totally alive again, Neku meets up with the only good thing that came out of playing a colossally stupid cosmic game and for about a month after that, everything’s cool. Okay, more than cool: it’s absolutely really fucking cool, because Shibuya apparently hasn’t exploded yet and doesn’t look like it ever will and there’s something dorky and fun about wolfing down chili dogs to Beat’s drawling skater boy stories, or leading Rhyme by the hand while she balances on the top of railings and talks about stuff that girls twice her age don’t even bother thinking about, or standing in between Shiki and Eri while they bicker over whether Neku should wear plaid or pinstripes or some other pattern that Neku hadn’t known existed until that moment.
Since it’s more than cool, it stings, just a little, when he wakes up one day (as usual) and cuts class to wander through Shibuya (as usual) and he turns a corner and two frantic-looking kids run through him rather than into him. The day after that, it’s the flicker of a figure that might have been a person standing by the Statue of Hachiko, scared and alone, scanning the crowd of folks who can’t see them, can’t see anything but their own two feet and maybe their cell phones and sometimes their lovers, for someone who can. The flickers are replaced by other flickers with brutal speed, with every new mass of bodies that come between Neku and what he should not actually notice anymore.
He thinks it’s a fluke, maybe some after-Noise still jammed up in his ears and over his eyes, but the next day brings another sighting, and so does the day after that, and the day after that.
A second shot at life after working too damned hard and losing too damned much, and somebody up there thinks he’s doing the Game’s Number One Star a favor by never leaving him the fuck alone. He wonders, idly and just once because he’s an idiot that way, if they’ll hear him if he talks to them, but then he smarts up fast and figures that he kind of really doesn’t want to know.
Nearly two months and a hell lot more Close Encounters of the Dead Kind pass before Neku builds up enough courage to talk about That Thing to Beat and Rhyme and Shiki, That Thing that brought them together but probably isn’t the best thing to talk about in the first place. That they take it well doesn’t make him feel any better, and the fact that he seems to be the only one who can still see the Reaper’s Game makes things just a tad worse. Their sympathy (and maybe pity?) is in the awkward thump of Beat’s hand on his back and Rhyme’s small and warm hand over his own and Shiki’s eyes, and abruptly, he knows that this will be the one thing that he’ll never be able to share with people he walked through hell and back with.
Sometimes, sometime after he’s finally somewhat used to the fact that he’s the formerly dead kid who can see currently dead people, Neku finds himself looking for another face in the ghostly host, tuning his ear for a all-around condescending chuckle that he’s sure he’ll never hear on anyone else and his eyes for his eyes so clear and violet that they shouldn’t be on anything remotely human. Every time he catches himself doing it, he spends the day shaking and angry and ashamed at himself for being angry in the first place. He’s only fifteen but he’s been around long enough to know that it’s stupid to look for the person who strung you along so hard and cut you up so deep. Yet he’s looking. He’s looking every single time he spots even a glimpse of color against all that gray and desperate, chasing every single almost-possibility around street corners just to see another Player take down a Wall, or turn into Noise, or both.
No forgiveness and absolute trust, Neku tells himself, but he’s between stuck between two worlds now and there’s no Colossal Composer Craphat in sight. He’s never going to get a chance to slam his fist against that face and maybe – just maybe – that hurts a little more than it ought to.