Joshua looked weird when he was sleeping. Or rather, he looked different, quiet and completely without pretenses. Neku couldn’t remember a time when he had woken up before Joshua, during the Game or more recently, when the other had gotten into the habit of using Neku’s room to crash when he was close by. It was strange that he had to sleep in the first place, but as Joshua had informed him, with an exasperated air like it should have been obvious, all things needed to recharge in some manner, even the Composer. Neku had never actually seen him asleep though, so a sight of Joshua this unguarded was rare.
He had stolen all the blankets at some point during the night, wrapping himself into a little cocoon with only his head peeking out, but Neku always kicked the covers off anyway, so he didn’t exactly mind them being taken. Joshua looked softer, almost, when he wasn’t wearing a smirk, and his hair was spilling across the pillows.
Rain was falling hard outside, hitting Neku’s bedroom window in a steady pit-pat, and he wanted nothing more than to flop back onto the mattress next to Joshua and fall asleep again, but that would have to wait until the weekend. He watched the rise and fall of the blankets in time with Joshua’s even breathing, appreciating the calm, the little moments where it felt like forgiveness would be okay, at the very tip of his tongue. They were fleeting, and Neku would drudge up some memory or Joshua would take things a little too far over the line before too long, but there was progress. Little increments, bit by bit, until there was a noticeable change.
Joshua made a low, discontent noise in his sleep, jerking Neku from his thoughts. He shifted under the covers, restlessly, lips pursed and the bridge of his nose creased, very slightly, a milder version of what Neku came to recognize as distaste from Joshua. A bad dream, maybe? Unthinkingly, he reached out to graze his fingertips lightly over Joshua’s cheek, growing a little bolder when the other didn’t show signs of waking. His skin was so soft, softer than Neku could garner before from moments of accidental contact or scuffles, and the brief, flustering thought of what it would feel like if he pressed his lips there flickered across his mind. Worst of all, he caught himself smiling when he realized Joshua had relaxed against the touch, in deep and easy sleep once more. Snatching his hand back, Neku moved to get out of the bed, careful not to jostle it too much. He decided he might as well take a shower before the other woke up and decided to peek in on him. Neku really didn’t put that past him.
He emerged a short while later, already clad in the shirt and pants of his school uniform, to find Joshua had just woken up, covering a small yawn with the back of his hand. He took one look out the window at the weather and wrinkled his nose, expression changing to one of faint amusement when he turned his attention to Neku.
“You’re different without your hair gelled,” he remarked, head tilted just slightly. “It’s a good look.” Neku shrugged by way of explanation, unwilling to divulge the fact he might have wasted too much time in his morning routine watching Joshua sleep to have any left over to style his hair as usual.
“Aren’t you normally gone by now?” His tie was missing from its usual spot on the back of his desk chair, and he let out a small, frustrated sigh, wondering where else it could be. There was a pause, and then a soft rustling of the sheets, before Neku felt something loop around his neck and tighten snugly, Joshua having seemingly—or literally—read his mind.
“My, my, eager to get rid of me this morning, are we?” He adjusted the tie, fingertips lingering at the skin above Neku’s collar. “Afraid I’ll snoop around in your things if you leave me alone too long? Some secret you don’t want me to find?”
“No.” Neku glared, squirming away from Joshua’s touch. “And where did you find my tie?”
“Under your bed. Really, Neku, you should keep better track of your things.” Joshua gestured dismissively, giggling. “But relax. I should get going since it seems I overslept, so you have nothing to worry about.”
“Oh.” He let out a breath, eyes drawn just a second to the place on Joshua’s cheek where he’d had his hand earlier, before he ducked down to pick up his bag under his desk. “See you later?” Neku couldn’t help the questioning lilt at the end, since he was always, always unsure when it came to Joshua, but really, when was the tipping point where he started wanting to spend more time with the other rather than less?
“Yes, Neku. You’ll see me later.” The statement was, shockingly, without any mocking tinge, almost affectionate, but before Neku could utter anything in response, Joshua’s form flickered, like faulty reception, and he vanished entirely.
That evening, when Neku returned from school and settled on his bed to do some sketches, he noticed his pillows smelled like coffee and lavender and smoke, like Joshua, and he closed his eyes for the briefest of moments, just to take it all in.