Everything I did, I did it for you.
When he sees Joshua pointing a gun in his face, again, all he can think of is the tragedy of it all. They'd been friends, hadn't they? There was a bond between them, a bond Joshua was planning on shattering.
Why? Why why why why why. The only thing going through his head was a bunch of whys .
Why did he do this.
Why is he going to shoot him again, why did he do it in the first place.
Why me? Neku asks himself. Why me?
There is an almost startling contrast between Joshua and Neku. Neku's shock of orange hair, his purple and yellow, he is almost like a light. Joshua's disheveled mane of ash-blond, his pale blue shirt and dark jeans; there's no contrast, he is simply there, it seems. He exists to make Neku's death even more unpleasant. He seems physically weak and he is simply infuriating.
Seems downright useless from the start, really, but he soon proves Neku wrong. Considering his knowledge of...well, everything, Neku should never have trusted him, “trust your partner” be damned.
It's just...they had so much in common. Joshua was the first person Neku had ever met who knew that truly getting to know others was impossible and other people were a waste of time. Did he really believe that, though? Or had he just been humoring Neku? Pretending to agree? Nothing is clear anymore. Nothing is sure.
Neku knows nothing anymore. Nothing. All he knows is he's been used, tossed aside. Betrayed.
Because it's been over a year, and Joshua still hasn't shown.
Shiki is stroking his orange hair, looking concerned with the forlorn expression on his face. He isn't crying, isn't making a sound but she can read his face and the way he sits, his chin on his knees and arms wrapped around his legs. He isn't the strong teen he was at the end of the Extended Game right now. He is a sad, confused, lost boy. He is a little bit scared.
But he isn't crying. He doesn't cry.
“Neku,” Shiki murmurs, “it's alright. You're fine.” She leaves out the part where he's better off without him, but it's okay because Neku knows. He acts as if it isn't true sometimes but he knows.
“Neku,” she coos as he lays his head on her shoulder. He loves her, sort of, the way he might love a sister. If he had one.
He's grateful for her, though he never says it. If not for Shiki, Neku would have lost. The Reaper's Game, his life, everything. And she helped him open up...a little. She's still there for him now. That isn't to say beat and Rhyme are not; he just prefers to share his problems with Shiki, when he's willing to share. He listens to her, she listens to him. It's a nice relationship.
“I'm sorry,” she whispers.
It reminds him of Joshua, her fingers in his hair, and after she apologizes it's just too much. He buries his face in his knees again and his shoulders slowly start shaking.
He doesn't cry, he doesn't, but it hurts and it's too much, too much.
And he shouldn't, but he does.
He's running,a grin on his face for the first time in so long, and he's excited. It's only been a week, but after spending what seems like so much time together, it seems almost strange to be alone.
Hey, did I mention? I've got friends now! We're getting together for the first time in a week.
It's a sort of inner monologue directed at Joshua. He hopes the boy is listening, wherever he is.
See ya there?
He hears Beat and Rhyme calling for him, also grinning, waving for him. They talk for a while; Rhyme shows him her pendant, Beat looks as if he's about to cry, everything is wonderful but they're not complete. Not yet.
Then Neku feels someone tapping his shoulder and he turns.
She isn't beautiful the way Eri is; dark brown hair and glasses and a skirt that isn't falling off her hips, but Neku likes Shiki better this way. She's more...real, somehow.
Everyone talks. There's giggling and laughter and hugging and the words aren't important, not really. It's the fact that they're here, they made it; they survived and they're together. That's what matters.
They get lunch at Sunshine Burger and everything's great. Fine. It's beautiful, really, eating with friends under fluorescent lights instead of alone in front of the TV. It's been years since Neku's known this feeling. It's unnerving, sort of, but he gets over his discomfort because deep down he feels better than he has in years.
They sit by the statue afterward, close together with Shiki taking pictures. “I'll email these to all of you,” she says, smiling, holding out her phone for another photo. She takes pictures of her with Neku and Beat and Rhyme, of Neku with Beat and with Rhyme and with Beat and Rhyme; and she takes pictures of all of them, together, all smiles and no trace of the hell they just got out of.
Smiles, smiles, smiles. It's dark now and everyone waves goodbye, part ways, promising to text and email and keep in touch; let's meet up in a week!
It's only when they all leave and he's on his way home that Neku realizes Joshua never showed up. He stops and stares at his feet. It suddenly feels like there's a weight on his chest, like he wants to cry. But he doesn't, and he won't. He refuses to.
He refuses to let Joshua break him down again.
Time is moving slower now.
What Joshua's telling him – that he's the Composer, that he's responsible for everything – it barely sinks in. He's numb. Neku doesn't... He can't...
He is at a complete loss for words and his train of thought has slowed to a stop.
He can't. He can't understand. He won't.
He refuses to believe.
But as the bullet goes through his skull again, he has no choice.
It's been over a year.
Snow falls; creating not so much a blanket but a veil, covering just enough to obscure what's beneath it. Neku thinks it's sort of pretty, the glistening snow crunching beneath his feet. He wishes he could share it with someone, but Shiki and Eri are off who-knows-where and Beat and Rhyme are off on some family venture.
It's like the holidays two years ago. He's got nothing and nobody. Whatever.
“Oh, you haven't got nobody, dear.” A familiar giggle follows these words and Neku turns his head slowly, half-afraid he's dreaming and half-afraid he's not.
“Ah!” Neku shouts, lurching forward a bit.
“Or would it be more proper to say you don't have nobody?” Joshua continues, his finger rubbing his lower lip thoughtfully. “Hmm.” He shrugs and shoves his hands in the pockets of his jacket. “The word 'nobody' really throws a wrench into things, doesn't it?”
“Joshua, what are you doing here?” Neku asks, scowling slightly. What he really wants to ask is why did it take you so long?
“I just wanted to see my darling proxy again,” Joshua says, He wraps his arm around Neku's shoulder and pulls him closer. “As for why it took me so long...”
Neku blushes a bit; he'd forgotten about the whole mind-reading thing. He should get back into the habit of carrying his Player Pin around again. Joshua giggles.
“Well, the higher-ups weren't too pleased with what I'd done. They insisted I stay out of the RG.”
“But you're here.”
“Rules were meant to be broken on occasion.” Joshua shrugs again. “Besides, I doubt there'll be any sort of repercussion.”
Neku wants to ask why. Why he did it, why he picked Neku, why he came back. But he figures he's got plenty of time and besides, he sort of just wants to...
Enjoy the moment.